Thursday, January 31, 2008

Off to San Diego...

Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at The Sporting Club tomorrow and Intermediate KB workshop at Iron Core on Saturday - Let the fun begin...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Classic American PL cycling and getting "stuck" on a number...

One of the issues with my first plan for the PL meet in March was the fact that I got stuck on a number. That number was 5. 5 sets to be even more exact. Why? I'm not quite sure but I had become enamored with 5x5. Usually I shift volume and stay very low in volume but I got "stuck".

Looking back at it - on consecutive weeks I hit four pretty damn hard weeks of squatting and should be very happy with my results. Now with tweaking the form and getting serious again I will be going after a more classic PL cycle.

Each week I will work up to a work set of 2 reps and add a bit to the top set each week (basically working back from a goal double that I want to hit at the end of the cycle) for each lift.
Squat and bench on Monday - DL and some assistance work on Thursday - and KB swings in between.

Simple is best.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The wider the base the higher the peak...

After I finished the AAU meet in October I just kind of "worked out" for November and December giving my body a break from the heavy loading etc... Then I decided to hit the ADAU meet with 12 weeks to go (enough time really) but what I am finding is that I have let a lot of mental crap and form changes work their way in to my squat. Like I mentioned in my last blog I have been trying to treat my heavy weights light, my set up and tension are off, my stance has varied, and my legs don't feel like they are recovering well....and so on and so on...

Now I have to keep in mind that I hit a new 5 rm by 10# and hit 475 for two sets of three with a wider stance - but all of that is off of a very narrow base. My last squat cycle the Ryabinyakov was a 15 week routine that put down a very good base so my peak was also good. I tried to short change the peak and jump a level in my squatting.

What I need to do is work on that base with limited heavy days - todays training put it into focus.

Squat 445 x 3, 475 x 1, 405 x 3, 605 x walk out and hold, 405 x 3, 315 x 3 paused

Bench (paused) 225 x 3, 3, 275 x 2, 225 x 3, 10 (set of 10 not paused)

The paused squats need to make a come back to cement my tension and position in the bottom of my squat. Paused benches make for good speed work and tension in the bottom. The walkout and hold was spur of the moment to try to feel some increased tension and weight on the back.

So I will be re-tooling my routine and looking to have more back off and variation in the routine.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quick training...fixing the squat position...

Had a chance to slip in the gym and fiddle with my squat position but instead of staying light I kept putting weight on the bar - I guess I'm consistent in that aspect.

Squat - 405 x 2, 455 x 2, 475 x 2, 495 x 2

495 was not perfect on depth but the bar felt good on my back and my stance was way closer than it was on Monday. I actually measured the two different squat racks and the one I was in on Monday is a good 4-6" wider than the one I was in today. The one I used today is the one I am in the most and have adapted my set up to that specific width the other rack allowed me to step out of my normal width. I also am discovering that I am mentally thinking the weight should be light so I am short changing my set up and pressurization. So instead of treating my light weights heavy so my heavy weights feel light - I am trying to treat my heavy weights light and that is not a great way to go about it.

Basically you are never done learning, improving and enhancing your form - which is why I get such a kick out of people saying they have "mastered" a movement or exercise. It just never happens.
Cleaning up the Clean...

One of the most frustrating exercises for people learning Kettlebell training is the Clean. Bruised wrists are no fun and the Clean can bring them on - so here are a couple of tips to clean it up.
(just can't help the puns)

First cheat curl the KB to the rack position (use your left hand to assist the bell to the right shoulder for example) - get comfortable with the rack position (your thumb should point toward your shoulder).
Second - when you drop the Kb to hike it behind you your upper arm stays glued to your ribs and your thumb will point behind you.
Third - when you perform the hip snap to bring the KB back to the top - your upper arm stays GLUED to your ribs and your thumb rotates back to pointing to your shoulder.

What should happen is the KB will have a very short or "tamed" arc and the KB will come around the wrist and arrive gently at the top. Remember that the hips are still the mover of the KB and it is not a curl and even though the hips still finish they don't need to put the same energy into the clean as they do the swing.

Have fun cleaning up the clean.
A new Applied Strength website...

Very soon this blog will function as the home page for my website, so you could say that I am switching over to a "blogsite". This will allow me to quickly and efficiently update my blog/site - get comments, questions and offer responses etc...

So welcome to the new Applied Strength website.

A HUGE Congrats out to Donnie Thompson!! An RKC and World Champion Powerlifter (and a first class nice guy) - Donnie recently set a new World record for the total in powerlifting at the IPA Columbus Pro-Am with a mind blowing 2850 total.
For the record that is - 1,155 squat + 900 bench + 795 deadlift!!!

I remember meeting Donnie years back when he first met Pavel at the Arnold fitness classic in Columbus,OH. At that time he was missing the PL meet at the Arnold due to a back injury - well Donnie was Pavelized and the rest as they say is history!
Congrats Donnie!

Congrats out to Adam Glass who recently joined the Red Nail Roster by officially bending the Red nail under certification conditions.
Adam is a seriously strong individual who will be reaching the top level of the bending world. This is only the beginning as he will be attending the RKC in April.
Check out his blog for unique training and bending information.

Rick Walker is at it again - hitting a 700 squat with briefs and a belt!
Strong stuff Rick but you really shouldn't hold back on your blog - tell us what you really think ;)

Rif continues to be Rif - consistency in training, advice and progression - check on Rif's blog to see how someone with 35+ years of experience continues the journey.

For me:
FMS Pittsburgh is tomorrow - it will be a small but great group of people.
Next week: Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at The Sporting Club in San Diego on Feb 1. and an Intermediate Kettlebell Workshop at Iron Core in La Jolla Feb 2.
Then the San Jose RKC!

My training is continuing for the ADAU meet in March as I thankfully drop to sets of 3 in training. Sets of 5 are just annoying!

That will about do it for today (unless I get to train later).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Video review...

Took some time this morning to review my squatting videos and think I was certainly a bit wider on my stance yesterday. I will shoot some current video in the next couple of weeks for comparison.
Seems when I get a little wider with my stance I try to get a bit more upright as well which doesn't exactly help matters so I will be nailing down my foot spacing over the next couple of sessions. The Scientific Process goes boink....

Now - if I can end up "out of position" - what are the chances that the average trainee is setting up differently for their lifts?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Training today - "the sun doesn't shine on the same dogs butt every day"

Squats 405 x 5, 475 x 3, 3, 455 x 2, 405 x 5

Bench 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 275 x 3 (paused)

Not the best day and not what I had planned - I wanted 475 x 5 but what I discovered on 455 was that my stance was wider than normal. The mats inside the cage were uneven and I ended up stepping too far to the right in order to miss the crack in the mat - didn't realize it until late in the game but hey - that's the way it goes. In the future I need to move the cage and get centered. When something feels off - it usually is. Once I made the correction on my last set if felt like an empty bar - which is how it should feel.
How to progress to a heavier KB but still keep a low volume approach?

A great question from the forum and here was my answer:

Lots of ways to go here:
1)With the new "in between" weights you have less of a jump then the traditional set so you can progress through the "tweeners" with the low volume approach.
2)Adding platemates or ankle weights to the KB for a "microloading" approach.
3)Change the leverage - two KB in one hand press, bottoms up press, single leg press
4)See-saw press, kneeling press and other press variations
5)Use the heavier KB for TGUs and other drills
6)add Bands - jmpstretch or lifeline

My top two would be to change the leverages and add the bands - of course this assumes that you have screened and assessed your shoulders in a program similar to my DVD with Gray Cook - Secrets of the Shoulder - which by the way will be a great workshop in San Diego Feb 1st.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"It isn't Cardio if it isn't plugged in!" Geoff Neupert

David Whitley had a great post on the forum about people being confused about kettlebells and "cardio" training and I thought I would add my 2 cents worth.

Geoff's quote above pretty much nails the issue down. People perceive "cardio" to be what you do on a treadmill, elliptical, etc... but cannot conceive of weight training like kettlebells being a cardiovascular activity. Why?

Because of the message coming from the general fitness industry which separates cardio and strength work and perpetuates the myth of fat burning zones etc... (yes I said the fat burning zone is a myth). Exact heart rate zone training can be tailored for elite athletic performance (think Lance Armstrong - who had a team of exercise physiologist testing and perfecting his heart rate zones for optimal performace but NOT for "fat burning"- oh and are you Lance?) but for the purposes of general fitness and fat loss heart rate monitoring is simply a safe place to start and provides general guidelines.

Also - you sell fewer cardio machines and have to provide space for people to move if you don't promote the "hamster wheel" form of fitness to people. The fitness club industry would have to clear space and actually teach people how to move - not going to happen. Hence the Geoff Neupert quote of it having to be plugged in to be considered cardio.

Kettlebells are cardio training. How is a weight training movement a cardio drill?
Let me first ask you a question:
What is the purpose of your heart and heart rate increase during exercise?

To provide oxygen to the working muscles.

And kettlebell swings and snatches work a LOT of muscles in a rhymically repetitve fashion along with rhythmic breathing. You can't beat this form of "cardio".

But - the proof is in the pudding so if you don't believe me - visit a local RKC and start swinging.

Only one spot left for my San Diego Intermediate KB workshop on Feb 2 and the early bird discount ends on January 19 - oh wait that's tomorrow! Better hurry...

We still have space at my Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at The Sporting Club in San Diego on Feb 1 - contact Paul David for details -

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Only 1 spot left for Intermediate KB workshop at Iron Core


Secrets of the Shoulder Workshop at The Sporting Club in San Diego still has spots available so you can contact Paul David for information -

Training today:

Squats w/ doubled over monster mini bands
335 x 3, 3, 3

255 x 3, 275 x 3, 295 x 3, 275 x 3, 3

515 x 1, 1, 1

Quick one today since I had to fit it in between appointments - maybe 45 minutes for the workout.
mikka bouzu and some interesting research...

I grabbed this off of Boris' Squat Rx blog and I absolutely love it -

mikka bouzu is a Japenese saying that means "Three Day Monk" and describes the individual who launches into a new goal or activity with grand plans and enthusiasm but has lost steam is looking for a new "shiny thing" in a very short period of time.

Kind of describes the way most people approach their fitness goals - Thanks Boris

Also - Boris had a quote from The Tao of Pooh and it reminded me of just how much I like that book and need to get a copy and visit the 1000 Acre Woods again.

And from the New York Times - a study that just facinates me...

What this means is they took the brain waves and activation patterns of a chimps brain and used that to provide the pattern for making a robot walk. This is Sci-fi come to life and may yield hlep for the paralized and expand our understanding of just how powerful thought and patterning the brain is to all that we do.
Thanks to Frankie F. for finding this one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Deadlift assistance exercises...

I threw out a caution on Aaron Friday's blog about deadlifting off of a 4" platform and was asked what I feel are the top deadlift assistance exercises. Here we go:

#1 - Get screened for restrictions and asymmetries - FMS, Z whatever you choose but you should have a pain free and full toe touch.

#2 - Deadlift - sumo or conventional - you will not know where your weak links are until you start hitting near max weights so don't start thinking you've got the lift mastered - because you don't. You have to put some time in with your hands on the bar pulling respectable (for you) weights.

#3 - Squat - Classic barbell powerlifting style back squats - nuff said.

#4 - Kettlebell Swings - speed training for deadlifts

#5 - Deadlift off of 1" - 2" elevation - that is correct something as little as 1-2" beyond your normal range will do the trick and give you a strong start and make the lift feel a little shorter.
The biggest mistake I see is people going off an elevation that changes their form and rounds their back because they do not have the mobility to get into a proper position. You will not get good carryover and will likely get hurt. So standing on a 45# plate should be enough elevation to put you "beyond the range".

There you have it - nothing fancy and no secrets.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Training today...

Squat 425 x 5, 465 x 5, 425 x 5, 5, 5

Bench w/ doubled over monster mini bands
225 x 3, 2 , 3

A good day - a new 5 rm on the squat and stronger on the band bench today.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Only 3 spots left!!

My Intermediate Kettlebell workshop at Iron Core in San Diego only has 3 spots left so if you are interested in attending now is the time to register.

Also look into the FMS Pittsburgh and the Secrets of the Shoulder workshop Feb 1st.

I'll be in Chicago this weekend for an FMS presentation so i will be blogging again on Sunday or Monday.

Jan 26-27 FMS workshop in PittsburghRegister on (go to courses and workshops and you will see the dates mentioned for an FMS workshop)email me at with any questions.

February 1 Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at the Sporting Club in La JollaEmail Paul David - for details and to register.

February 2 Intermediate Kettlebell workshop at Iron Core in San Diego

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Observation on walking and on "throwing up" from training...

As I sit and watch people walking on the treadmill I have a few observations to share:

Face the fact that walking is a daily activity that is not that intense.

Face the fact that you will reach a speed walking where you will no longer be walking - it will be some hybrid "fast walk" that has the shoulders rounded forward, weight shifted forward and a very altered gait - This does you no good!

Yes you can alter the treadmill walk by moving the elevation etc...but you will still run into the altered gait hybrid thing.

Walking CAN be a great activity but it quickly loses "exercise" benefit - so don't start yelling at me as an "anti-walker".

Walking MIGHT be a great place to begin an exercise program - IF you don't bring any asymmetries, restrictions and/or joint mobility issues to the activity.

Walking IS a great addition to and part of an overall healthy lifestyle - IF the above joint/asymmetries issues are taken care of.

Walking on a treadmill is NOT the same as walking outside - outside you have the actual proprioceptive, visual and vestibular input of moving your body through space - on the treadmill your body is expecting that input but not getting it - this is confusing to the body and that is why people will typically get "dizzy" for a moment when they stop the treadmill.

Accept that walking is walking and use it as the wonderful daily activity that it is but you will need something additional for continued Cardiovascular benefit.

Such as: 10-20 minutes of Kettlebell swing/snatches/complexes or 10 minutes of interval work on an Airdyne bike or Concept 2 rower - Then finish your training with a 20-30 minute walk and ENJOY the walk - don't try to make it something it is not.

Also there was some question today on the forum about whether throwing up as a result of a workout is or is not a desirable thing:
In my opinion it is not a desirable thing and is unnecessary.

Anyone can make someone throw up - it means very little and isn't that hard to accomplish.
Simply put together a circuit or exercises with very little rest and viola you will have your throwing up. So what?

Actually coaching someone to improve their movement skill, coordination, strength etc... takes talent and skill. Actually guiding someone to the successful attainment of their goals takes intelligence and skill. Making someone throw up takes none.

A very small percentage of the human population needs to visit the ragged edge of human performance and even then you can accomplish a lot without the puke.

What if you actually trained with your results in mind - not the workout?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Training today:

Squat w/ doubled over monter mini bands
315 x 5, 5, 5

245 x 3, 265 x 3, 285 x 3, 305 x 2, 245 x 3

DL standing on a 35# plate
425 x 2, 2, 2

Felt good today - the new bench groove is working out well.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Training today:

First day of the new cycle

Squat -
415 x 5,
455 x 3, 5
415 x 5, 5
405 x 5

Bench with doubled over monster mini bands
225 x 3, 205 x 3, 3

Did a grip demo in between a couple of my sets of squats

Glad to make it through this session - didn't feel great going in and the weights felt "heavy" and after bailing out after 3 reps on the first set of 455 pissed my off and I needed to hit it for 5 the next set - which I did. So it ended up a good day.
Like I really need to post this but...

A good article on MSN about machines to avoid - all of them in my opinion.

At least Stuart McGill and others are putting the information out there - now we will see if it changes anything.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Question of the day...

Swing height? How high and why?

Swings are the center of the RKC universe as Rif has so eloquently stated and as such they are essential to master. One of the recurring questions is how high to swing the Kettlebell during swings. My answer is - between waist and shoulder height with an "ideal" of chest to shoulder high.

The swing is about projection of energy not elevation of energy. So if I feel like putting a kettlebell overhead I will snatch it not swing it. Can you swing to the top? Sure - as long as you got there by projecting the kettelbell along its arc of movement and did not "lift" the kettlebell to the top. But most people will begin to lift instead of swing and miss the point of the exercise.

In the swing the movement is more important than the motion - meaning a short, crisp hip snap will provide far more benefit than an incomplete hip snap with a lift of the kettlebell with the arms. Try doing a "progressive" swing where you start with shorter hip motions (but always finish the hips) and gradually over several reps increase the amount of hip motion and kettlebell motion. See where your "best" swings are occuring. I am willing to bet it will be at chest to shoulder level.

And here are three more tips to improve your swing:
Tip #1 - Connect the arms to the body
Stand straight and tall like you have finished a swing and hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder level - now bring the arms down so they connect to your body and are tight against your ribs. Leave your arms there and push your hips back like you are at the bottom of a swing and then reverse the movement with the hips leaving the arms on the ribs until the hips bump the arms off.
Tip #2 - Hike the kettlebell
If you have connected the arms to the body as described above then hiking the kettlebell will come naturally. On the descent with the KB do not let it pull away from you toward the ground but rather connect the arms to the body and hike it back behind you high and tight in the groin.
Tip #3 - Hips lead the race
Once you have connected the arms to the body and hike passed the kettlebell you begin the swing by extending the hips. Obvious - however, you should finish the hip snap/extension long before the kettlebell reaches the top of the swing. And once th kettlebell is decending again and you have reconnected the arms to the body - it is the hips that push back first. Put the hips at the lead of the hip extension and the push back (once the arms have reconnected) and you will gain power and coordination with the swing.
Once you have mastered these tips on the swing try implementing them on your snatches and see if you don't get a great carryover.

And my upcoming workshops...

Jan 26-27 FMS workshop in Pittsburgh
Register on (go to courses and workshops and you will see the dates mentioned for an FMS workshop)
email me at with any questions.

February 1 Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at the Sporting Club in La Jolla
Email Paul David - for details and to register.

February 2 Intermediate Kettlebell workshop at Iron Core in San Diego

Friday, January 04, 2008

The plan for the next PL meet...

I have decided to make a run at an ADAU PL meet in Erie, Pa on March 29, 2008. Despite a hectic travel schedule etc...I think I will be able to make this work - its all in the planning and adapting!

So the basic plan is this - there are 12 weeks from this Saturday till the meet - subtract one week for rest before the meet and one week for the unknown and I have about 10 weeks to prepare.
The plan will follow a similar format to the Ryabinyakov squat cycle I used late last year leading up to the AAU meet.
Squat will be made up of three - 3 week cycles where I will squat 5 times in each three week sections (with two of those being band squat sessions).
1st three weeks = 5x5
2nd three weeks = 5x3
3rd three weeks = 3x3
Bench will follow a similar format:
1st three weeks = 5x3
2nd three weeks = 4x2
3rd three weeks = 2x2
Deadlift will be once a week:
alternating weeks of pulls with 35# plates maybe 3 x 2
and pulls with heavier singles maybe 3 x 1

I have some ambitious goals for my squat and hope to actually bench what I am capable of in the meet - the judging in the ADAU is strict! so I need to be dialed in for sure.
This will be the next step in the journey to Raw Elite.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Todays training:

Squats 405 x 5,5,5,5,5
Bench 315 x 2, 1, 1
Dips 100# x 3, 125# x 2, 100# x 3
Pull-ups 45# x 3, 70# x 2, 45# x 3

Felt good - squats were fun and I moved my bench grip out to middle finger on the ring and found a really nice groove.

Jan 26-27 FMS workshop in Pittsburgh
Register on (go to courses and workshops and you will see the dates mentioned for an FMS workshop)
email me at with any questions.

February 1 Secrets of the Shoulder workshop at the Sporting Club in La Jolla
Email Paul David - for details and to register.

February 2 Intermediate Kettlebell workshop at Iron Core in San Diego

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