The Benefits of Jump Rope Training

cardio, Motion

Jump rope training is packed with benefits.  Jumping over that tiny little rope can improve muscle strength and skeletal integrity (through medium ground impact force).  

The calories burned while jumping rope are high compared to other activities and including jump rope training in a workout regimen is a great way to get a potent cardio training effect with the body in a standing position, versus seated cardio machines.  

Lastly, jump ropes are inexpensive, versatile and simple to integrate with other training methods to increase the challenge and scope of your workouts.

Several years ago I wrote an article called:  Jumping Rope:  The Undeniable Negatives.

The article came off a bit, safe and cautionary.  To be honest, I was a lot younger then and my writing style wasn’t as clear and to the point as it is now.  Regardless, I feel some of the points made in that article are valid.

Jumping rope can be tough on the muscles and joints early on.  I don’t recommend a sedentary individual reach for a jump rope to initiate their exercise regimen.  If your body hasn’t been exposed to impact in a while (maybe never), jumping rope will annihilate your lower extremity muscles in the days afterward.  

But cautionary tales won’t be part of this article, so let’s get into the good stuff… 

… the benefits of jump rope training.

Inexpensive

If you’re looking for an inexpensive piece of fitness equipment, jump ropes are the ticket.

The last jump rope I purchased set me back $7 on Amazon over 3 years ago.  

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Inflation.

The same rope is still kicking ass and serves as a valuable part of my pre-workout warm-ups, occasionally making appearances inside of metabolic conditioning workouts.  

36 months of use divided by $7 cost-to-own equals roughly $.19/month.  

Previous to my $7 jump rope, I purchased a $30+ jump rope from LifeLine Fitness which turned out to be a piece of shit for the cost.  

In the early 2000’s, LifeLine was considered to be the “functional fitness” company, so I was surprised at the quality and design of their jump ropes.  Durability was terrible and there was no way to adjust the length of the rope.  

So, when it was time to find another rope, I went with the thinnest cable based rope I could find and I have had no issues yet.  

Side-thought: One downside to jump ropes is they are a one-trick pony.  In other words, you can only really jump rope with a jump rope.  But hey, for $7-$15, who cares, it serves it’s purpose without breaking the bank.

Cost comparison to other popular forms of equipment-based cardio:

Jump Rope:  $7-$40

Concept2 Rower:  $950

Assault Airbike:  $799+

Versaclimber:  $2000+

Treadmill:  $900+

Jacobs Ladder:  $2500+

Non-Treadmill Running:  $50+ for shoes (dependent on weather)

* To be clear, I’m not advising you to stay away from any of these machines.  For machine-based cardio, each ranks high on the effectiveness list.  I personally own both a Concept2 rower and the Assault Airbike and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Environment/location/equipment friendly

I’m going to tackle this benefit in bullet point fashion.

  • Jump training doesn’t require a lot of room to train.
  • You can do it on the spot.
  • You can pack it up and travel with it, taking it anywhere.
  • You can train inside (not weather dependent)

If you’ve got a 6×6 space with a 7ft2inch high ceiling, you’re clear for jumping rope.  I know this because 70% of my workouts take place in my home basement, where space is limited but adequate for twirling a rope.  

Scalable for everyone

Any great piece of cardio training equipment is scalable to a wide range of skill and fitness levels.  Most are, but some are not.  

Beginners who are new to jump rope training can start with the basics:  two-foot jumps, alternating jumps etc.  


Turning up the intensity is simple:  turn the rope over faster.  

Don’t confuse “basics” with ineffective.  Exercises are best scaled to match fitness level, the challenge is therefore proportionate no matter how fit you are. 

Advanced jump rope training can include various single leg jumps, mixed medley jumping and double-unders (turning the rope under the feet twice per jump).  

High knees (running in place) while jumping rope is extremely taxing when performed for intervals of 30-60 seconds per work set.  A workout designed with 10-15 intervals will make you a believer in the cardio training effect of jumping rope.  

Just like a beginner, if an advanced trainee wants to increase the difficulty of their training sessions all you need to do is 

Duration of jumping rope can be adjusted for both beginners and advanced alike.  Adding a minute to a jump rope workout every week or two can have you jumping for 15-20 minutes in no time.  

However, once you hit 20 minutes of continuous jumping, I suggest adjusting the movement complexity of the jump or cranking up the tempo of the rope versus adding more time.  

Jump Rope Posture

As stated earlier, I love cardio equipment like rowers and airbikes, but these machines put people in a seated position to operate.

If sitting is the new smoking, and a lot of people are sitting too much throughout most days as it is, I don’t want you to come home and sit down to exercise.  This would be contributing to the epidemic.

Jumping rope puts a person in a standing position with shoulders pulled back and hips forward.  

It is difficult to jump rope with poor posture.  Doing so will likely limit the speed you’re able to turn the rope and also the jump technique.  Plus, it will be uncomfortable to hunch over and jump.  

Any physical activity getting a person uncoiled from the seated posture is a great option.  

Great for Pre-Workout Warm-Ups

After some basic stretching and mobility work, grab a jump rope and work through roughly 5-10 minutes of medium-intensity rhythmic jumping.  Work a medley of jumps:  two-foot jumps, high knees, single leg, back and forth, side to side and lower body boxer twists.  

I promise you will find little else as simple and effective to get your body and mind prepared for a workout.  

Again, getting the blood flowing pre-workout in a standing position is ideal.

Impressive calorie burn

Jumping rope can burn up to 700 calories per hour.

But here’s the deal, I don’t think anyone should be jumping rope for 60 minutes, it’s too much volume.  If you have the attention span and endurance to turn a rope for 60 unbroken minutes, you’re a badass.  

In terms of training volume and ground contacts, 60 minutes of jump rope training is sort of like running a marathon every week.  There are obvious dangers associated with both (overuse, overtraining, lack of variety, etc).

I don’t recommend choosing exercises based on calorie burn, it can develop favoritism toward certain activities while and excluding others.  Balance is the key.    

However, jump rope training does use up an impressive amount of energy which means a larger amount of calories being burned in the same amount of time when compared to other popular activities like running, cycling and swimming.  

Weight Loss/Fat Loss

Jumping rope consistently can help you look better naked.  See reasons above for why.

Jumping rope burns calories.  Increasing calories out compared to calories taken in is a scientifically backed strategy for both weight loss and fat loss.  Calories in versus calories out.  Of course, the quality of calories taken in will influence the rate of weight loss and fat burning a great deal also.

Combine a decent nutritional regimen with some quality jump rope training and you’ll see a major shift in body composition.  Intermittent Fasting is hot diet pattern right now.

Cardio Integration

This is the real reason why I love jumping rope.  Supplementing jump rope training in with rowing, biking, running and bodyweight metabolic conditioning workouts keeps workouts challenging and fresh.

Fact #1:  If you look forward to your workouts, you’ll keep training.  

Fact #2:  If you despise your workouts, you’ll fade to doing nothing quickly. 

Jumping rope after pre-fatiguing your body with other exercises provides a great challenge.  When muscles are tired, posture degrades, so turning the rope while huffing and puffing demands an increased level of focus.  

Here’s quick and dirty bodyweight and jump rope workout for you to try:

10 Squats

10 Push Ups 

1 Minute Jump Rope

10 Lunges

10 Body Rows or Pull Ups

1 Minute jump rope

8 Hollow Body Rocks

Complete 5 rounds as fast as possible.  Record your time and re-test in a month or so.

If you completed 5 rounds, the numbers break down like this:

  •  10 minutes of jumping rope
  •  50 squats
  •  50 push ups
  •  50 lunges (per leg)
  •  50 body rows/pull ups
  •  40 hollow body rocks

If you’re in the market for developing work capacity and burning fat in the process, simple and effective workouts like this are essential.  

Splitting up the jump rope into 1-minute bursts will make you feel like you’re hardly jumping.  But as the numbers show, you actually accumulated 10 minutes worth.  Not bad.   

Over the course of the next few months, you’ll see an increased number of full workouts posted to this blog, and my YouTube page.  If you’re interested in following along, I suggest you subscribe for updates.  

I’ll be keeping things fresh for a long, long time.  

If you got some value from this post, I’d like to expose you to several other popular posts my readers have enjoyed:

Now, stop reading and thinking, grab a rope and go crush a workout. 

 

Cheers to the benefits of jump rope training, 

Kyle 

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Metabolic Conditioning: The Bear Barbell Complex Workout

20 minute Workouts, Quick Tips

“The Bear” Barbell Complex is as close to flowing barbell training with a barbell that you’ll ever get, or at least I have ever gotten.

I’ll assume that “The Bear” is referred to as “The Bear” because of how difficult the workout is.

This complex workout leverages barbells.  Barbells are mostly thought to develop pure strength and power.

The barbell was manufactured to work well for moving heavy weight.  Moving heavy weight creates the ideal training stimulus for building strength.  If a person moves the barbell fast enough across a set distance (Point A to Point B), the barbell becomes a tool that enhances an individuals power.  Think cleans, snatches, jerks, etc.

  • Slower moving + heavy weight = Strength Development
  • Fast moving + medium/heavy weight = Force Production = Power Development

Although barbell training might not be an appetizing fitness solution for a lot of people, taking some time to learn and practice the basics of barbell training can pay a person back ten-fold over time.

My guess is a lot of people avoid barbell training because of the intimidation and unfamiliarity factor, or for some, the uncomfortable sensation of iron grinding against the skin.  Barbell work will develop tough hands over time.

The callouses I cannot help you with… but if you want to know more about barbell training, buy Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe.  Read a few pages, practice, read a few more pages and practice some more.  There is a wealth of knowledge in Starting Strength that can help you establish the emotional confidence and the technique to play around with the barbell a bit more.

It’s important not to be afraid or intimidated by the barbell.  When people think of barbell training they usually picture a 300lb tank-of-a-man squatting 500lbs, yelling like a maniac during every rep while his friends stand around yelling like maniacs during every rep.

You’re partially right if this is your initial mental picture.  But barbells, and how we use them to develop physical qualities has evolved a lot over the years.

Like any other fitness tool, barbells can be leveraged for other purposes also.

In particular, I enjoy using the barbell during work capacity directed training sessions (aka: metabolic conditioning) or at the end of a workout for a short burst finisher.  Think high reps with lower loads, or a highly concentrated amount of work done in a short time frame, or unique mixture of both.

When I re-stumbled onto the The Bear Barbell Complex a few weeks ago, I reintroduced myself to a style of barbell training that I used to use quite a bit, especially when available workout time was limited.

“What is The Bear Complex?, you ask.

Come a bit closer and let’s take a look…

Barrier to Entry

Tools: Barbell and plates (bumper or standard metal work fine), clock timer such as the GymBoss.
Skill:  Working knowledge of the barbell based exercises listed below.

The Exercises

#1: Power Clean

#2: Front Squat

#3:  Push Press

#4: Back Squat

#5:  Behind-the-neck Push Press

Workout Structure

–  Each movement is performed for 1 repetition before immediately moving into the next exercise.

–  1 Cycle =  1 repetition from #1-#5 in alternating/descending order.  After exercise #5’s rep, return back to exercise #1.

–  1 Round = 7 Cycles

–  Perform 5 Rounds

–  Rest 90 seconds after finishing each round.

–  Barbell weight is dependent on:

  • Weakest lift (the weakest lift determines the appropriate load, which should be sub-maximal)
  • Exercise technique and know-how.
  • Reaction to fatigue (which correlates closely with the deterioration of exercise technique)
  • Advanced Women – 95lbs
  • Advanced Men – 135lbs

The Extended Break-Down…

There are 35 reps of every movement being performed throughout all 5 rounds.  Just 35 reps.  If you consider the volume of a more traditional work-rest training session, where a squat is performed for 8 reps x 3-4sets, the volume is not much higher.

The weight used is also much lighter than a more traditional work-rest set and should be determined by your weakest lift in the complex.  For a lot of people that is going to be the push press, possibly the power clean (grip). I’m asking you to perform 5 reps for each round.  The barbell load should be a sub-maximal, which means that you should be able to push press that barbell for 8-10 reps comfortably.

My suggestions on weight for men and women are not the law.  Adjust the weight to what is appropriate for your current fitness level and know-how.

Every exercise is performed for a single rep before moving into the next exercise.  From rep to rep, you’re alternating between different movement pattern throughout each cycle.  It’s important to understand this aspect of The Bear Complex, because it’s one of it’s features that makes it so physically taxing.

Elevation Change

The barbell begins on the floor and travels to chest height after the clean and during the front squat.  After the front squat the barbell moves overhead after the push press.  The barbell then transitions from the front of the body to the back of the body on the descent down from the push press.

At this point, the barbell rests on the shoulders while you perform a back squat.  At the top of the back squat, the barbell is forcefully pressed overhead once more, and caught back into the front rack position at chest height.  The barbell is guided back to waist height and eventually back down to the floor to prepare for the next cycle, starting with a power clean.

The training stimulus elicited by moving the barbell up and down, front to back, movement to movement creates a large metabolic training effect.

Performing single rep of a movement pattern, followed by single rep of a completely different movement pattern, while bundling a bunch of different movement patterns together in a row (creating a “cycle”) is extremely fatiguing.  It’s provides a unique training stimulus for the body to cope with and also laser-like focus for the mind to keep up with since every rep involves a different movement pattern.

‘Single-rep-alternating-movement-pattern-workouts’ have proven to be an effective variation of traditional complex training, where exercises are performed for multiple repetitions before moving on to the next movement pattern.

If you’re accustomed to sectioning off your complexes, doing 6 reps of one exercise here and 6 reps of another there before moving on, alternating movement patterns with every rep will be a shock to your system.

It’s reiterating once again that alternating the movement pattern on every rep requires great skill.  The barbell is constantly changes levels, stopping and starting in different positions.  The transitions can be brutal.  There’s a high level of focus needed here.

The Fatigue is Coming…

During The Bear Complex, the first few reps/cycles usually don’t feel too rough, but the wave of fatigue that bites you in the ass somewhere around cycle 5, 6 or 7 can be overwhelming.  Possibly so much so that executing all 7 cycles for any 1 round is just plain unreasonable if you’re new it.  Don’t be afraid to remove your hands from the barbell to take a break and to gather yourself.

Loaded conditioning is a fantastic method to burn fat and develop high level work capacity which has great transfer into sport and becoming more resilient toward real life labor, but fatigue can break down your exercise technique.  Don’t be a hero here, be smart.  If 5 rounds is too much, do 4 rounds.  Be reasonable.

Movement technique first and foremost, forever and always.

Pay Attention to your grip integrity

Alternating movement patterns and transitioning the bar to different resting positions can fry your grip.  Consider that the bar is moving from the floor, to chest to over head, to shoulders, back to overhead and finally back down to the floor position.  That’s a lot of bar movement.  Don’t be afraid to walk away from the barbell if your grip starts to slip.  A quality grip is needed for the cleans.  Attempting to pull a barbell with a poor grip can be dangerous, and the fatigue that’s been created with slow your reaction/recovery time.  Again, rest for a few seconds, gather yourself, then complete the work with a solid grip.

If you’re a tenacious sweater like I am, also be aware of any sweat rolling down your forearm and into the hand/barbell interface.  Don’t push through this situation either.  Dry all surfaces with a towel and continue on.  Maybe consider using a no mess chalk solution such as HumanX Chalk Balls to help maintain grip.  Chalking your hands has come a long way.
.

This workout is advanced 

Complex training in general is an advanced form of training.

Any exercise scheduled in a complex must be an exercise that you have a familiarity with BEFORE you enter the workout.  You must have experience and proficiency in executing each of the included exercises on an individual level before you attempt a workout like The Bear Complex.  If you don’t know how to perform any one of the exercises, The Bear Complex is not the place to learn.

Explore…

If you’re looking to add in some variety to your training, give The Bear Complex a legitimate shot.  Be honest with your rest periods, your exercise technique and the structure of the reps, cycles, rounds.  Also be honest with weight that you choose to use.  There’s no shame in lessening the load if you need to.

Cheers to The Bear…

Kyle

(Video Coming Soon)

The Gym is Dead to Me

Quick Tips

It’s not really, and it never will be, but the point here is that the gym reminds me of a jail cell.

When I first started training, it was very traditional.  Barbells, cable machines, stationary bikes and treadmills were the ticket.  It was how people stayed “fit”, strong and athletic.

Again, these tools still work, but the deeper you go into the rabbit hole, the more you question why building high functioning bodies has to be such a cookie cutter process.

Barbells will never go away.  Why?  Because a barbell’s design is perfect for lifting heavy things off of the ground, loading up the squat pattern and building explosive power through exercises like the clean, snatch and push press.  We need tools like barbells.  Barbells are safe.  A quality barbell isn’t going to break mid-rep, and there are a series of checks that a person can run through to make sure that  replicate their technique every single time.

But what I am beginning to question- and the better term might be “explore”- is why movement should be so cookie cutter.

Because that is how I am seeing it these days.  It’s cookie cutter.  We preach posture, we preach exercise technique, we preach moving within manageable ranges of motion.  But how about this… let’s get out of the gym and move.  Forget about all of the in-depth information, get off of the couch and out of the house.  It’s sunny and 80 degrees outside and it’s a prime opportunity to use your god-given right to move yourself around.

If you’re a newer to training , and you cannot handle your bodyweight… the load that you carry around with you 24/7/365… forget about barbells, cable machines and kettlebells.  You have bigger fish to fry than worrying about the next great exercise.

When I left the gym I started to LOVE training again.  When you’re done with organized athletics, working out just for the sake of working out is a sure-fire way to burn out.  Boredom sets in and you start to wonder what all of the effort is for?  A six-pack?  Honestly, who cares.

Six packs are nothing without function.

You can have a rippled six-pack and blow out your back in a heart beat, tear a rotator cuff, etc.

It’s like, “Congratulations, you can see your stomach muscles through your skin, but you can’t run a mile or pull yourself up to a bar or pull yourself out of Quasimodo posture”.

In fact, these days, I think that dedicating your training to achieving a six-pack is comical.

Once you get in this “I’m training for a six-pack” mindset, you’ll go insane trying to get it or attempting to maintain.  It will elude most people not because their workout program sucks, but because their eating habits suck.  You wouldn’t believe how hard that is for people to swallow (no pun intended).  If you want a six-pack and don’t have it despite insane physical efforts, it’s most likely because your eating is not conducive to having a six pack.  Ok?

It would be like if you started a business only with the goal of getting uber-rich and but ignored your customer service.

It’s short-sighted.

Get yourself out of the gym and start moving more.  What do parents tell their kids when they are inside for way too long?… “Go play outside”.  Adults should take their own advice.

Once you’re outside bodyweight training is an amazing method to leverage when you use the correct formula.  Climb some stairs, hills or jog flat ground.  Get your heart rate up and get the blood circulating rapidly.  Mix in some squats.  If you cannot squat, grab onto a pole, hinge your hips down and back, keep your chest tall without folding at the lower back and feel the movement.  Use the pole to help groove that squat pattern, and what it should feel like.  Gradually let go of the pole and continue to “feel” the movement.

Face the wall squats

“Face the Wall” squats are great for learning technique.

If you cannot perform a certain movement- and I use the squat as a common example because it seems to give people the most trouble- you have got to practice it.  Occasionally, you’re going to find that your internal wiring is all mixed up.  In this case, you need to implement corrective exercises, which I why I promote The Functional Movement Screen so much.

Everyone should be able to squat, among other things.  This isn’t a circus move that is exclusive to fitness buffs, this is exclusive to all humans.  If you cannot squat, you need to figure out why and restore your ability to squat.

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Gym memberships.  We seem to think that just because we buy a gym membership we have just bought ourselves a fit body.  But you haven’t.  What you did is you bought yourself a gym membership, a contract that says you can walk into a brick and mortar structure where a bunch of fitness equipment resides, waiting for the next person to pick it up, push it, pull it or run on it.

But most people who purchase memberships never go.  Buying the membership is the easiest part of the process.  Anyone can hand over a credit card, swipe it and feel great about their decision.  Especially credit cards, because when you don’t physically see the money being handed over, the impact of the purchase is dampened.

The real work begins when you make it a priority to go that gym over and over again.  Daily.  Every other day.  Or at least on some kind of consistent schedule.

But most people burn out or never commit from the beginning.  Out of the gates hard and fizzle, or they purchase the membership and never go in the first place.  But they have the membership, so they will go “someday”.  The membership is comforting because they always have it in their back pocket, never to be used… but it’s “there”.

Ido Portal

In the back of my mind, I have long thought movement should be explored.  We should be able to execute movements that require power and strength, yet exhibit a stable full range of motion and gracefulness regardless of the environment or the obstacle.  And let me tell you something flat-out, one brief glimpse at how life happens in real-time when you are actively engaged in movement (outside of the confines of the gym) will reveal that you need to be able to adapt to the unknown.

However, I also believe that exploring movement should be done unloaded.  External loading in really awkward positions can cause injury, and that erases any ground that you’ve made.  Move with your body, and your body only.

Unknown stress, unknown range of motion, etc.

You’ll never be running on a trail and find a barbell neatly loaded with a chalk container sitting next to it.  You’ll find a rock with shitty hand holes for gripping that is weighted heavier on one side than it is on the other, and wet.  Or maybe that rock isn’t on the running trail, but it’s a part of the magnificent landscaping in your yard.  Maybe you’re gripping 40lb bags of mulch carrying for 30 yards up an incline, shoveling gravel or raking a 2 acre yard.

You cannot train for this stuff.  You can prepare, and barbell training and other more traditional forms of gym work can aid in your completing of these tasks, but we have to develop succeed in raw movement.  It’s life.  Movement is part of life.  So I have embarked on my dabbling of increasing my ability to move, mixing in Ido Portal-like methodology (logo seen above, great logo).

I believe that there is something to be learned here.  Getting out of the cookie cutter mindset and into the movement mindset.  Exploring the bear crawl, moving into a lateral lunge flowing into a crab crawl, gorilla hops and then into single leg pistol followed by a pull up to a bar where you pike out and lower yourself with a graceful strength.

Got that?  🙂

I value the building of systematic strength.  I value programs that are geared toward making damn sure that strength progress and conditioning progress can be measured and evaluated.  We call this “periodization”.  We move through 3-4 week phases where focus is placed on building a certain quality, such as strength or hypertrophy.  But all of this work needs to transfer over into the unknown, into life.

Systematic strength building and conditioning will always have a place for every human, and I will never stop promoting that to athletes, Mom’s and Dad’s and the elderly.  We should place some focus on this method of building physical fitness.

But once we leave the gym, we have to realize that movement is more than bending over to pick up a piece of iron, grunting, standing up with it, then dropping it back on the floor.

Blip on the fitness map

Fitness is a blip on the movement map.

Fitness doesn’t mean that you can move.  

In fact, I really don’t know what fitness means?  Who’s considered fit?  The powerlifter who can pick up 1,000lbs in a deadlift?  The marathon runner who can win the Boston marathon?  The UFC fighter?  Usain Bolt?  The kettlebell guru?  The Crossfit Games champ?

I know this might not make sense right now, but fitness does not mean that you can move.

Ah, the gym.  It’s really dead to me at this point.  I value the tools found in the gym, particularly cable machines that can be used for movements that cross the midline, such as chops and lifts, but not the gym itself.  I think there are better places to train.  Places that inject an energy into your sessions.

With the evolution of  training equipment that is capable for training outdoors, I’ve never been more motivated to explore movement in different environments, using different tools and lately with others who value the same approach.  It’s a great bonding experience to train outside with someone else and finish the workout together, just as it is to climb a 14,000 foot mountain, bike 100 miles or complete a marathon.

SUP ATX Stand Up Paddleboard

With the popularity of unique outdoor activities like stand up paddleboards on the rise, I’ve never felt more justified about my decision to leave the gym in my rearview.

Come join me out here.

Cheers to movement and your ability to do it anywhere!

KG

Jumping Rope: The Undeniable Negatives (Part 1)

Quick Tips

Summary:

  • Jumping rope can be hard on the joints if done excessively.  
  • The learning curve can end up turning people away.  
  • Don’t let me talk you out of jumping rope.

Jumping rope is a low cost, medium to high-skill activity people have been leveraging to build impressive cardio fitness for a long, long time.  Particularly athletes in the combat sports, boxing and mixed martial arts.

As a cardio enhancer, jumping rope is making a resurgence.  

Modern day metabolic conditioning is giving the jump rope a reason to play a large part of many high-intensity workouts.  

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When you’re a kid, you jump rope… 

As a kid, I can vividly remember jumping rope in elementary school.  We had a yearly fundraiser called “Jump Rope for Heart”.  All the kids brought their jump ropes down to the gym, they pumped some 90’s dance music, and we jumped for hours.

I was never the best rope skipper in the gym, but I could hold my own by showcasing classy moves like crossovers, single and alternate leg hops, and even surviving in the infamous Double Dutch vortex.

As a kid, you don’t over-analyze the value of jumping rope.  You jump because it’s fun, not because you want to know how to burn more calories or lose weight.  Jumping rope provides an outlet for kids to burn off extra energy while

Jumping rope provides an outlet for kids to burn off extra energy while

But then adulthood stumbles in.  Jumping rope is no longer cool, it’s taboo.  

When you’re a kid, you move for the fun of it, when you’re an adult, any movement beyond what’s necessary becomes a chore.

As we age, many ask less and less from our bodies.

The “fun” part of hopping over the turning jumping rope seems like the furthest thing in adulthood.  

“You want me to what?  Uh, no thanks”.  

Exerting on purpose as an adult becomes a depressive thought.

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But when mainstream media picks up on the trends, it often reignites our interest in old training methods.  

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Naturally, we head to the sporting good store and buy a badass jump rope. 

But before you start jumping, let’s work through a couple of hang-ups I have with jump rope training.  Particularly if you haven’t exercised in a while.  

1)  Repetitive ground impact and overuse injuries.

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Any activity overdone is going to put you at risk for overuse injuries.  

Too much of a good thing is generally a bad thing.  Drink too much water, bad thing.  Eat too much broccoli, bad thing.  Exercise too much, bad thing.

Overuse injuries certainly aren’t a jumping rope problem per say.  Overuse injuries often occur because of excess volume or intensity (or both combined) relative to what the tissue tolerance is capable of managing.  

If you’ve ever run barefoot or with minimalist shoes without some kind of pre-workout up, the extreme soreness you felt in the days after is a perfect example of impact forces overwhelming the tissues without any shock absorption.  

In other words, physical stress beyond what the body is acclimated to can create some painful issues.

As for jumping rope, it’s the ground impact forces doing the damage.  Every single jump places strain on the legs, particularly the calves and ankles.

How much strain?  Roughly 300lbs of impact is directed toward the foot and ankle while jumping rope, as measured by lab tests.

But this isn’t 300lbs just one time… it’s 300lbs multiplied by thousands of jumps per workout. Thi can be a recipe for injury if your body is not acclimated progressively.

If a person is spinning a jump rope at an average of 100-120 revolutions per minute, a 10-minute workout can add up to about 1,000-1,200 jumps.

Jumping rope for 10 minutes is nothing like running for 10 minutes.  These are two completely different stresses.  Time seems to stand still when you jump rope.  10 minutes can feel like 30 minutes.

Many websites recommend “20-minute jump rope workouts for toning”, but I am extremely hesitant to encourage anyone to jump for 20 minutes as a starting point.

Start with 1 minute unbroken, then 2 minutes… 5 minutes… 10 minute, etc.

10 full minutes of jumping rope without stopping for breaks is a commendable feat.  Once you hit 10 minutes, it’s time to go harder or increase the difficulty of the jumps (1-foot, side-to-side, running).

Now, the impact forces of jumping rope are far less than running. 

If you haven’t jumped 1,000+ times in a while, or you’re a de-conditioned individual who hasn’t engaged in moderate to high physical activity in some time, you stand a high likelihood of sidelining yourself after a short duration of jumping rope.  

Jumping rope is a sub-maximal variation of plyometrics (jump training), which can be very high-impact. Plyometric training is best kept to reasonable volumes during a workout.  Most high-level athletes are jumping anywhere from 25-40 foot contacts per workout in the off-season.  

Lesson:  Work into your jump rope training, progressively adding minutes to each session.  If you’re a beginner, consider jumping from less than 5 minutes cumulatively per workout.  You can always build up.  

2)  Learning curve versus training stimulus.

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Here’s a realistic scenario…

You go out and buy a jump rope to whip yourself into shape.  You get that baby home, rip it out of the packaging and head to the garage.  After you put on your workout playlist, get ready to turn the rope over like Muhammad Ali.  

Wham!  You catch your feet and stomp the rope on the very first turn.  Hey, no problem, it’s the first time in a long time you tell yourself.  Here we go again…

Wham!  Shins this time.  Wham!  Ceiling got in the way.  Wham!  Back of your head, not enough tension on the twirl.  Wham!  Toes again, but somehow this time the rope tied a knot in itself.  

Next thing you know, the rope is 10 inches shorter and you’ve wasted 45 minutes jumping 25 times.  Ouch.

Don’t laugh now.  This is a real scenario, I’ve seen it happen to coordinated athletes, so I know it is happening to the average Joe and Jane all over the world.  

The training stimulus of jumping rope comes from the accumulation of a massive amount of jumps per workout.  In other words, getting hung up on your toes every fifth turn isn’t going to allow for any real training effect.  You won’t be exerting long enough to accomplish much.  

I applaud your spirit and motivation, but we have to consider one thing…

Jumping rope is a skill.  And like any skill, we all have a unique starting point and learning curves of various lengths to become better at that skill.  Some will acclimate to the rhythm faster than others.  Here’s another important thing to consider:  some of us have a higher resilience for knowing that we suck at activities, yet continue to practice until the day we move passed the “suck” stage.  

It’s kind of the same reason more people aren’t millionaires.  When the resistance waltzes into the equation, the life is sucked out of us.

That’s why I always preach it’s important to get to know yourself.  When the process takes a turn from sunshine and roses to shitstorm, are you quick to fold?  

If you’re terrible at jumping rope AND you have a tendency to shut down at first encounter of resistance, consider saving jump rope practice for after normal gym work, when you have peace of mind that some quality work was put in.  

But don’t let me turn you off from jumping.  Get after it.  But beware, you may not have the workout of your life on the first go around.  

If your goal is to get into shape ASAP, and for many people it is.  Riding the struggle bus for 15-20 minutes a day just to turn a rope 10 consecutive times without stepping on it won’t sound like fun to most people.

Therefore, it may be worth considering that the jump rope can take a backseat to bread and butter activities like running, cycling, rowing or lifting weights.  Even a potent bodyweight workout should be considered before re-engaging with the rope of death.  Talk about defeating.  

Again, jumping rope is a skill.  Expect it to involve failure, slow progress, and patience.  

If you’re lucky, you’ll hop right into it.  If you’re not, I warned you.  

Lesson:  Treat jumping rope like a skill.  Dedicate a small amount of time before or after your main workout to improving your jump proficiency.  Don’t make the mistake of putting all of your eggs in the jump rope basket, only to find out you can only manage 10 seconds of continuous movement before you smash your toes.

This tip will save you a lot of frustration.

3)  Cardio benefits over-hyped.

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Yes, jumping rope burns calories, but so does doing the laundry or making the bed.

Yes, jumping rope can improve cardiovascular function, but so does push mowing the yard.   help reinforce posture during exertion.  

Yes, jumping rope can be a decent reinforcer of upright posture, but so is waiting in line for public transit.

Compared to other forms of physical exertion like running, rowing, cycling, kettlebell swings/snatches, burpees, or smart bodyweight circuits, jumping rope delivers less bang for you cardio conditioning buck.   

Some of this circles back to the learning curve and the barrier it has to a reasonable training effect.  

I’ve seen some awesome videos of Ross Enaimat spinning a jump rope so fast I wasn’t even sure it was still in his hands, but not everyone is Ross Enaimat.  

 

He’s got over a million views on some of his YouTube videos from people eating popcorn watching him sweat, aspiring to have his conditioning without putting any effort in.

Returning to my previous point about training effect, head out to your local hill for some incline sprints or pick up your heaviest kettlebell and swing away.  

You’ll probably find time is better spent elsewhere to get that conditioning stimulus.

Adaptation sadness…

At some point, you’re going to experience diminishing returns on your efforts.  This is called adaptation.  It’s a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s good because you’ve established an efficiency at a certain skill, intensity, and duration.  It’s a bad thing because now, you have to push yourself harder to keep progressing.  

Adaptation is bound to happen with any activity you commit to doing on a regular basis.  It’s only a matter of time.  

When you reach this adaptation point, it is important to remember that jumping rope is no different from any other form of exercise.  You have to re-adjust the variables in order to continue progressing and break out of your adaptation, moving forward to the next level of adaptation.

The problem, once again, circles back to the issue of learning curve.  Once you’re a pro with single hops and the duration of jumping is hovering around 15-20 minutes, personally, I feel it’s time to figure out how to leverage the next progression in order to save your precious time.  Unless you love jumping rope that much.  

So how do we progress?  Well, you could…

  •  Buy a weighted jump rope
  •  Increase the tempo of the jumps (turn the rope faster)
  •  Decrease base of support (single leg hopping)
  •  Mix and match various jumps (front to back, side to side, boxer jump, high knees, etc)
  •  Move on to Double-Unders

Adjusting any one of these variables will progress the training stimulus and keep you away from stagnation.

Wrap Up…

You’ll notice that this post is more of a cautionary tale than anything.  

Personally, I jump rope before almost every single workout.  I love it.  It get’s me in a standing position and it serves as a great warm-up prior the tough part of my training sessions.  

Jumping rope is not a bad activity.  But, it’s important to know how it could be bad, and where the disadvantages are.  Probably the most important part of this article is the warning about overdoing it.  The impact can leave you limping for days afterward.  

Some of you will be able to pick up a jump rope and get after it aggressively from the start.  Others won’t make it 3 consecutive turns without tying a noose around your ankles or blooding up your toes.

Get to know yourself, your current physical conditioning level, and make a decision if jumping rope is right for you.  If it is, schedule some practice time before or after a workout to hone your jumping skills and acclimate your body to the stress.  

This article would be a real let down if I didn’t recommend at least one great resource to related to jump rope training:

If you found this article while searching for alternatives to high-impact activity, I highly recommend you to check out these posts:

Cheers, 

Kyle 

I Am Physically Prepared: Reasons Why I Stay in Shape Year ‘Round

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Life of a personal trainer.  

It’s funny, between the ages of 18-22 years old, I didn’t really value my fitness.  The fitness that I did have was a byproduct of being an athlete in a sport that places high demand on conditioning and the ability to repeat those high intensity efforts, therefore I really didn’t know anything else.  Having strength and being conditioned was a part of life, as it is for so many athletes.

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When you play a college sport, you quickly find that you have to stay in shape damn near year ‘round.  For hockey, there is a period of down time between the end of the competitive season and the beginning of off-season training, but it is quite short.  Maybe a week or two at the most.

When you’re not on the ice, building aerobic/anaerobic capacity along with hockey specific skills, you’re in the gym building qualities like strength and power.  The efforts put forth in the gym are designed to boost to on-ice performance, as is any off-season training program for any sport.

After I graduated from college, the byproduct of fitness that I had enjoyed from athletics also left.  Training was no longer mandatory for the rest of my life, it was optional.  Many of you know what this feels like.  It’s strange, because everything is so regimented for so many years, and all of the sudden it just stops.  I no longer needed to keep myself even remotely close to the sort of shape that I did when playing, however I chose to keep up with it.

I trained smarter once I was done with college than I did when I was under the supervision of a full-time paid strength coach at the University. 

I learned that there was a whole other world of training methods available that we athletes had not be exposed to.  It’s still frustrating to think that our programs were a tweaked variation of the basketball or football team’s strength and conditioning program, but in reflection doing something in the gym was better than doing nothing.

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Fast forward a few years, about six to be exact, and I still train hard 3-5 days per week.  My training frequency (days per week) varies depending on my professional career schedule and other activities, but for the most part I am able to workout as much as I would like.

I love it.  I am grateful that I have taken care of myself post-college athletics.  It has allowed me to run races with buddies or skate with current college hockey players without stressing about my physical abilities.  If you think this sounds silly, I would bet that many of you have turned down the opportunity to run a race or play a sport because you thought that you weren’t fit enough, saving yourself some sort of embarrassment.  I’ve pulled that one myself.

I call it being “physically prepared”. 

Being physically prepared is nothing special.  In a recent post about aerobic conditioning, I shared a pie chart showing how my workouts are divided up between strength, aerobic and anaerobic interval training.

The chart is accurate at the present time.  But if for example, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to pedal a Century Ride (100 miles) with him, I feel confident that I could do it with very little additional training.

Why?  Because I am physically prepared.

If I travel to Colorado to join a buddy in climbing a 14’er (14,000 ft mountain) I am confident that I can handle it no problem.

Why?  Because I am physically prepared.

I think you get the point.

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For most of the year, my training has no other purpose than to:

1)    Keep my body capable of handling short or no notice physical stress.

2)    Keep me lean and mentally self-confident (there is a large mental component to why we workout in the first place).

3)    Keep pushing myself to avoid giving in to the stereotypical  activity levels that supposedly come with adulthood, career and family.

4)    Make a small time commitment for a large ROI with my day-to-day health and ability to fight off sickness throughout the year.

Subconsciously, I also train with the motivation to do my best to avoid Orthopedic issues later in life.  I don’t want to find myself lying on the operating room table (having a joint replacement) because I was lazy.  That’s an expensive mistake that will hit you hard financially and physically.  Our bodies are sophisticated but at the same time we are also a bunch of pulleys and levers, and keeping the right amount of tension on each pulley and lever will help avoid going under the knife.

I also never want to be a statistic on the nightly news that shows deaths from completely preventable disease.  I won’t be that person either.

Bottom line:  You’ve to strengthen and condition yourself with the future in mind.  Always in mind.

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Yikes.

All of us are going to have a different opinion about the amount of fitness that we should keep.

Constantly making an effort to improve your strength and power, cardiovascular capabilities, joint range of motion and stability in those joints will keep you moving for the long-term.

Fitness should be tailored to each individual.  You should maintain a fitness level needed to successfully move through life pain-free and safe-guarded against injury while meeting the physical demands of day-to-day life without worry or hesitation.

But in my own case (and many others I am finding) keeping a lifestyle that is full of movement whenever and wherever makes the journey a lot more exciting, and I call it being physically prepared.

Cheers to joining the physically prepared!

KG

3 Conditioning Workouts to Check Your… Conditioning.

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One of my favorite things to do when I am training in a commercial gym is to use machines for everything but what they are intended to be used for.

Take the infamous Smith Machine for example.  I have never performed a Smith Machine specific exercise on this piece of equipment, and I never will.

The Smith Machine

The $2,000 “coat rack”

Why?  Because…

1)  I am an able bodied individual and should therefore be working with free weights.

2)  I value moving the through a natural range of motion with and without external resistance. (Smith machine is guided on tracks)

Squats, lunges, curling (I don’t even know how this would work) rowing are not for the Smith Machine, assuming you are an able bodied individual.  A Smith Machine to me is a glorified Nautilus machine.  They make great coat racks and leaning stations for recovering trainees in most gyms.

However, I have used the Smith Machine to execute movements such as:

  • Inverted rows (2 arm and 1 arm)
  • Plyo-like Bench Throws
  • Lateral torso holds
  • 1-Arm Push-Up progressions
  • Mountain climber progressions
  • Hip mobility warm ups

I may have to whip up a post about how to leverage a Smith Machine for executing different movements, we’ll see.

But whatever, this post wasn’t intended to bash Smith Machines.

The goal here was to provide you with some non-traditional ways to use some common pieces of equipment.

Enjoy…

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Better use of treadmills… Incline + MPH

—> Treadmill Hill Sprints:

  • Set the speed of the treadmill to 8-10mph.
  • Set the incline to 8-10 degree of inclination.
  • Sprint for 15 seconds, step off and rest for 15 seconds (this equals 1 round)
  • Perform 10-12 rounds.

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The greatest low impact conditioning tool of all time.

—>  Stationary Bike 20:10 Protocol (I will not refer to it as the Tabata Protocol!)

  • Set the bike to medium resistance (you should be able to pedal around 90-100 rpm)
  • Spin as hard as possible for 20 seconds, follow that will 10 seconds of rest (this is one round)
  • Complete 8 total rounds and check fatigue levels.
  • If you have more in the tank, complete another 8 rounds or modify as needed.
  • *** I have commonly modified this type of workout to 6 rounds x 2-3 sets with 2 minutes rest in between.
  • Stay seated the entire time.

 

—>  5 Mile Ride for Time

I have talked about this conditioning test before on this site, somewhere, but it deserves to be talked about again.  Here are the specs on this challenge:

  • Ideally you’ll use a Schwinn Airdyne, but you can use any other stationary bike in a pinch.  Make sure that the bike has a mileage gauge on it, otherwise you won’t know when you’ve completed the 5 miles.
  • Set to light-medium resistance… and GO.
  • Again.. pedal pedal pedal and keep pedaling.  There isn’t much else to say here.
  • Chart the time that it takes to ride the full 5 miles, record it, attempt to beat it the next time around.
  • *** On the big fan Airdyne, my best is 11min30sec.  It was a bear.  I think my friend and fellow strength coach Joe Gorshe (Bemidji State Hockey) finished around 12:15-12:30min if I am not mistaken.

 

—>  Kettlebell Swing Breath Ladder

  • Grab a kettlebell that you know you can swing for at least 20 reps.  
  • Match the number of swings with the number of breaths for each round.
  • Set the kettlebell down after each round of swings and take an equal number of breaths.
  • Begin the next round of swings once you finish your breathing reps.
  • ***  This is high volume swinging, but shifting focus to calming your breathing really slows things down nicely
  • Focus on your swing technique.  Move from hips, stay tall and rigid at the top of the swing.

Kettlebell Swing Breath Ladder

 

 

—>  Closing thoughts…

A couple of these methods incorporate interval style training.  Go hard during the work sets of an interval training session.  Rest is coming don’t you worry, but go hard when it is time to work.

Always wear a heart rate monitor if you can.  It’s a great way to gauge your efforts and your ability to recover from those intense efforts.  It also keeps you honest during your training sessions.  Monitor your progress, how long it takes to recover, how high your heart rate reaches during each work set, etc.  You can learn a lot about your conditioning levels/progress by checking keeping an eye on this information.

On the treadmill conditioning workout, remember that the incline of the treadmill is going to require that you drive your knees all the way through with each stride.  If you get lazy, even just for one stride, you could catch your toe on the belt of the treadmill and get spit off and look ridiculous.  Avoid this.  Drive your knees, drive your arms, extends you hips with each powerful stride.

Use your head during these training sessions.  Don’t be afraid to scale the intensity down to suit your needs.  There is no shame in that.  It’s a process, you’ll get there.  If you have questions on how to go about doing this, just ask… I will field any and all questions…

 

Cheers to building up your conditioning!

 

KG

*** Coming up next:  The next Saga in the Coach Hacker series…***

5 Hot Trends in the Fitness World

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I always enjoy reading “list” style article from other writers, so I am making a conscious effort to put out more list style articles.  I have to be careful on how I word the titles however.  My major beef with article that are constructed in the list format are when they appear like the following:

“3 Best Foods to Eat for Fat Loss”

“10 Best Resistance Band Exercises”

“5 Best Butt Shaping Moves”

What is the common trend that you see there?

The word “best”.

I have trouble with the word “best” these days.  I used to be the kind of guy that would give out information about what I thought was the best, but I have since realized that just about everything works.  That being said, there are definitely exercises that I would select over others for most people.  But I still don’t feel comfortable saying that there is any one “best” of anything.  It’s a human malfunction, not an exercise malfunction.

I am guilty of it myself.

So I am careful on how I am going to word these “list” articles.

Moving on…

Physical culture has evolved tremendously over the last few years.  Products and methods have continuously improved our industry.  Naturally, the information being dispensed to the public has also become much more applicable.

Below are what I feel are 5 red hot trends in the fitness world

1)  Metabolic training.

I can’t really use any more description than that.  We have officially entered the age of Cardio-Strength, Met-Con (metabolic conditioning) and work capacity based training for getting lean and regaining control of our bodies.  It’s a trendy method, and rightfully so.  I myself have trained using incomplete rest periods and high volumes of work in short amounts of time for years.  The results are undeniable.  I don’t like to generalize statements, but the kind of aesthetic look that metabolic style training produces seems to be highly desirable by the public.  People want the lean and athletic look.  As with any trendy method, metabolic conditioning is also heading toward the dangerous realms.  There are always individuals who will take ideas to the extreme, and we are seeing this currently with metabolic conditioning.  Over-training and injuries have never been so prevalent, yet people seem to think it is part of the gig.  It doesn’t have to be.

2)  Suspension Training.

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Yes, TRX first hit the mainstream a long time ago.  Close to 6-7 years actually before finally hitting it big time.  Jon Hinds at LifeLine Fitness has been promoting his Jungle Gym suspension trainer for years prior to that.  What is amazing is the evolution of how we are using the suspension trainer.  It’s become a go to tool for rehab, developing and regaining mobility and stability and also yoga like movements.  It’s arguably the most versatile piece of training equipment in fitness right now.  Every home should have one.

3)  Paleo.

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Paleo is the hottest trend in eating, and I have to say that I have been eating ridiculously close to Paleo for quite some time.  Paleo is clean eating.  Whole food, lean meats and plenty of plants.  Although I feel that some professionals have really enjoyed the marketing appeal of a term like “Paleo”, I cannot argue with the eating recommendations.  If you want to strip fat and get yourself out of the “sick, overweight and heading for preventable disease category”, Paleo is a fantastic option.

Here is a link to Robb Wolf, a trusted name in the Paleo world: Robb Wolf

4)  Animal Movements.

This is something that I am HIGHLY interested in at that the present time.  I will be reporting back on this in future posts.  I would like to call it ground based mobility training, but that doesn’t even do it justice.  After watching a few video clips from the folks over at Primal Move, I was hooked.  I see so much value in it.  Strength and Conditioning coaches have been gravitating to Gray Cook and his Functional Movement Screen for assessing athletes and general population clients alike.  I can see this building on the findings of Gray’s FMS.  Moving joints in a range of motion like the video below would be a tremendous addition for so many people…

5)  Self-massage.

It’s never been more simple to perform self-maintenance on your body.  Tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls have around for ages, but the information on how to use them was really lacking.  Sure, guys like Mike Boyle and others were promoting foam rolling sessions as a pre-workout method for eliminating trigger points and changing the density of muscle before changing length.  Some will argue against the effectiveness of stretching statically, and I am not even sure where I stand on static stretching at the present time, but no one should argue against the effectiveness of relieving oneself of restrictions (aka: knots and sticky tissue).  Trigger Point Performance, a company out of Texas, has really taken the concept of self-massage to the next level.  There educational seminars and products are fantastic.

Where is physical culture heading next?  Who knows, and that is the beauty of it.  We read, learn and apply daily.  The landscape of the fitness industry is constantly changing, and I really like that.

 

Cheers to being trendy (in a good way)…

KG

I Love Kettlebell Swings

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Over the years I have found that I like certain movements more than others.

My favoritism toward kettlebell swings has nothing to do with my swing technique, efficiency, any muscular dominance, body composition, etc.

I just like kettlebell swings.  Actually, I love kettlebell swings.

Talk to anyone who has been training for any length of time, and their disclosure initially might be that a balanced program is the best approach (which it is), but dig a little bit deeper and they will spill the beans that they have favorite exercises also.  It’s natural.  Just as people tend to favor certain brands of clothing, so do we favor and enjoy certain movements more than others.

—>  I wasn’t a jumper, but now I am…

I used to be the guy that would watch other people jump off the bridge first.  I would watch them hit the water, then determine if I should jump based on their experience.

What I’m saying is that I used to have mentality that was rather conservative when it came to training tactics.  Eric Cressey mentioned in a recent post on T-Nation that he is approached with a lot of crazy workout shit at conferences.  Some of it has worth and makes sense, and some of it is flat-out nuts.

I thought kettlebell swings looked flat-out… nuts.

That was the strength coach mentality in me though.  Any new method or piece of equipment was required to make it through a very fine mesh filter before I ever thought about implementing it into our programs.

—>  Humbling myself with swings…

My first experience with any “swing” type movement pattern involved a 45lb dumbbell mixed into a circuit.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was working out with a friend and colleague in Michigan, and we thought we would mess around with a modified swing to see how it felt.

Honestly, it felt good.  It felt unnatural, but that was because it was new.  The new feeling was to be expected.

Fast forward a couple of years, I finally got my hands on a kettlebell at a Perform Better conference in Chicago.  The heaviest bell they were selling was a 20kg, which equates to about 44lbs.  It felt heavy as hell.

Keeping my pride intact, I didn’t dare swing it at the conference.  I saved that moment for my return to the hotel room.  I will say that carrying that little guy through the sky walk out to the parking garage really sucked.  It was basically a 3/4 mile farmer, waiter bear hug carry.  Makes me laugh just thinking about how disgustingly sweaty I was.

Once I returned to the hotel room, I geared up and worked my way through a proper warm up.  I had no idea how to swing a kettlebell, but I understood movement:  hip hinging, breathing, etc.

That 20kg buried me.  

This is the same 20kg that buried me a few years ago.

  • My grip strength felt inadequate.
  • My hip snap (hip extension) felt inadequate.
  • My conditioning felt inadequate.

—> I had a Lance Armstrong moment…

Now I know that implementing new training methods can make a person feel somewhat deconditioned.  A perfect example of this would be the transition from cycling to running.  Take Lance Armstrong for example.  When he got off of the bike and took up running, everyone thought (based on his world-class conditioning) that he would finish quite high in the New York Marathon.  He finished with a time of 2:59:36 in 2006 and commented that, “without a doubt was the hardest thing physically that I have ever done”.

Lance Armstrong, despite whatever feelings you have toward him after confessing to taking PED’s, is a world-class athlete.  Even without PED’s, he is in the top 1% of athletes in the world.  Don’t forget that.  He is world-class physically in his sport.  But, the interesting thing here is that the transfer of his bike conditioning into his running conditioning helped, but not nearly as much as many sports performance experts thought.  Based on endurance related stats on him, he should have finished in the top 20.

—> Back to my love of swings…

Short story long (yes I just said that)… that is exactly how I felt swinging that piece of cast iron that day.

Since that time, I have submerged myself into the kettlebell world, trying to get a true grasp of what place the tool has in the fat loss game, strength and conditioning for athletes arena, and generally seeking to acquire a larger respect for the tool.

Kettlebells are a device that aren’t going to disappear.  They are here to stay.  Gyms across the world are starting to offer their members access to kettlebells.  I think that’s both very cool and very dangerous.

Cool because we are introducing people to ground based movement.  Dangerous because a lot of people can’t move properly without kettlebells, much less with kettlebells.  There definitely is a danger factor there.

I typically swing 3-4 days per week.  The volume of swinging varies from workout to workout, but I value the kettlebell swing so much that it now has a permanent place in my daily warm-up and workout.  In the workout, I have used swings as an important puzzle piece in complexes and circuits, and also as the ONLY puzzle piece on occasion.

Yes, sometimes my workout will only involve kettlebell swings and I love that.

A kettlebell swing ONLY workout puts the simplicity back into training and staying lean yet functional.

A single movement workout puts the “art” back into training because my focus is on one thing and one thing only… my swing technique.  I have really come to appreciate the discipline required to put sooooo much effort into perfecting a movement.  Maybe I will be a world-class kettlebell swinger, maybe not.

What I do know is that the kettlebell swing is an incredible movement worth learning more about.  If you’re an evidence based exerciser, go grab a bell and swing it for 4-6weeks with decent form and tell me what happens to your body composition.  “Evidence base” that you turkeys.  I maintain my stance on the results-based approach.

—>  A nice little kettlebell article…

There was a kettlebell article that came out a few years ago that showed the effectiveness of kettlebell training, and you can find that paper by clicking on the link below:

—> Twice the Results in Half the Time?

*Please just read what the researcher found and not the program that they recommend, yikes.

kettlebell training picture

Zoning in on the perfection of one movement reminds me of my days as a youngster participating Tae Kwon Do (yes I am a black belt… or was a black belt).  The martial arts are an incredible example of progression, discipline and art.  High level martial artists practice the same movements over and over and over and over.  Most people would fizzle out on that in short time.  The mind control required to perfect the basics in order to earn the right to progress to the complex is such an admirable thing.

The modern-day strength coach will roll his/her eyes at this, but hey… I could give a rip because it’s my blog.  Don’t like it?  Change the channel.

As for the rest of you… give the swing a try.  Don’t judge it until you try it, and when you finally do try it, take the time necessary to learn the technique.  Your technique will not be perfect on the first set.  However, progressing at a reasonable pace with attention to detail will quickly put you in a position to integrate the kettlebell swing into your own training programs.

Cheers to swinging the fat off your body…

KG

Completely Un-Organized Kettlebell Training For Fat Loss and Athlete-Like Conditioning: Part 1

Quick Tips

I am a huge believer in following a system.  Sticking to the game plan if you will.

There is nothing like a well executed game plan.  If you have ever played sports you know what I am referring to.  If you are fortunate enough to have a career with an employer (or as an entrepreneur) that preaches game plan for success and then the entire company comes together and follows through on executing it, well, it feels damn good.  

Sticking to your systems is the best way to measure your progress.  A system can tell you where you have been and also points you in a focused direction of where you are going.  For a beginner or even a novice aspiring to reach new levels of health and wellness, there is nothing more effective at creating change than executing a system to perfection.  

I love systems.  Did I say that already? 

But let me ask you something that I often think about in my own life…

  • What’s wrong with being sporadic about your exercise selection, sets, reps, interval length, rest periods, etc?
  • Does everything have to follow a set system?
  • Can I still maintain strength and conditioning levels and leanness improvising workouts?

I know those seem like a silly questions, some that most people will never think about, but after you make so many visits to the gym, work through workout after workout following a set progression to an end goal, systems get boring.  

Once I took a step back to get a deeper understanding of how and why we humans move, what our movement options were once we choose to train movement and what seemed to be the most effective at creating total body change… I realized that building high functioning lean bodies can be achieved in a completely un-organized way.  System-less if you will.  Cross-Fit does it in every single workout.  Besides following their two days on, 1 day off (rinse and repeat) training schedule, they seem to be building some pretty resilient humans.  I can’t say that I agree with everything that they are teaching and coaching, but the system-less approach seems to work pretty well for them.

If I can ever focus long and hard enough to put the final touches my books (they are coming I promise), you’ll find that I love simple advice.  Once you become more than a recreational exerciser and decide to invest time in learning about more serious forms of fitness and nutrition, topics can get really complicated, confusing and blurry.  The fitness and health pool is really deep.  There is a lot of conflicting advice, methods and even research.  

But it doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing and blurry.  At least I don’t think it does personally.

I spent years (and still do) reading heavy literature for no other reason than I enjoy reading it. I have a major chip on my shoulder from years and years of personal athletic endeavors that had no real guidance in strength and conditioning.  I didn’t know what a power clean was until Senior year of high school.  That sucks, because I no know what a dramatic difference a simple program can make a young athlete.  It’s incredible.

Sorry, sidetracked for a second there… Where was I?

Oh, I know…  I was just about to finish discussing the title of this post.

I love systems and I love simple training and eating advice.  Give me the meat and potatoes of what I need to know and I can figure the rest out as we move forward.  “Learn by doing” kind of thing.

I have also found that I love the concept of physical preparedness and completely un-organized kettlebell training.  I love heading to the basement, drawing up the workout based on my goals, and getting after it.  Sometimes there is good flow to the training session and sometimes it is full of sticking points, causing a much choppier workout.  Either way, I really never know what I am going to be doing until I get down there.  

However, that being said… I do stick to some key guidelines that help me get away with this un-systematized approach.  Here they are:

1)  Train big movements with challenging resistance

2)  Multi-planar core training

3)  Mobility Mobility Mobility

4)  Conditioning using many different methods

5)  Rest and recover harder than I workout

 

1)  When I say big movements, I am talking things like squats, kettlebell swings, snatches, presses, pulls, etc.  Stop messing around with tricep extensions and bicep curls, you have to eat your main course before you can have dessert.  

2)  I train my torso region in all directions and planes of movement.  I train my core for force production and force absorption.  I train my core to reinforce stability I can transfer as much force with any energy leaks from my lower extremity to my upper extremity.  

3)  Mobility.  I train mobility so that I can experience life as it should be experienced physically.  Loss of mobility is a prerequisite to pain through faulty movement  Loss of mobility is loss of life to me.  

4)  I condition myself with as many methods as I have resources.  When I was an athlete, I conditioned myself using set methods.  Running early in the off-season, slide boarding and then biking as the season drew closer.  It was scheduled and systematic because that was what my sport (hockey) demanded.  It made sense.  But, now I don’t have a sport.  I simply want to be physically prepared for anything.  It feels damn good to go for a 50 mile bike ride, run a 10k or play hockey 3-4 nights a week without feeling like a slug.  I use many methods to achieve both aerobic and anaerobic-like qualities.  I want to be able to endure long duration activities as much as short burst activities that get my heart rate sky high.

5)  I rest and recover much harder than I train.  Sleep, tissue work, hydration and nutrition are all important to me.  I am what I eat, drink and how I recover from my training sessions.  The green light isn’t always on.  You have to learn how to sit at the red light patiently until it is time to accelerate once again.  Rest, recovery and regeneration.  

Do you see what I am getting at?

I can train myself using a simple set of rules to keep myself lean and athletic, without experiencing the boredom of a system.  Training smart and slightly sporadic will keep me athletic for the rest of my life.  Sure, age will catch up with me as it does everybody at some point, but each training session will be fresh and purposeful.  Movement longevity is something that I am fully invested in, and I encourage you do invest in the same. 

I will say this however, I HIGHLY recommend systems to everyone.  You’ll never get better results as you will when following a system step by step.  My books leverage systems.  Systems get results.  They keep the main thing… the main thing.  Following a system takes discipline, and discipline is something worth developing throughout life.

I treat myself like test rat for variations of time tested methods.  I enjoy seeing if my 5-mile Airdyne ride for time improves or suffers after I train high repetition kettlebell snatches for 3-weeks versus metabolic body-weight circuits.  That kind of comparison scenario is interesting to me, but it isn’t for everyone.

(Any strength coach that reads this is going to grind their teeth)

 

Cheers to moving more and with purpose,

 

 

KG 

 

 

 

A 10 Minute Non-Traditional Treadmill Workout

10 minute Workouts, 15 minute Workouts

If I absolutely had no choice but to run on a treadmill, which I have been forced to do before, I have a plan.

But there are some important things I would do before, rather than just jumping on cold.  They are:

1)  I would self massage using a foam roll and lacrosse ball on my feet thoroughly.

2)  I would work my corrective exercise and pre-hab

3)  I would mobilize the hell out of my joints to deliver nutrients.

4)  I would turn on (activate) on musculature that will be engaged in my running efforts.

5)  I would work through a series of dynamically oriented stretches.

6)  I would make sure my inexpensive heart rate monitor is properly placed around my torso and the watch is reading the signal clearly.

7)  I would begin at  a slow running pace focusing on arm swing, breathing and smooth strides.

8)  I would begin jogging on the treadmill, progressively increasing the speed of the treadmill until I reached about 80-85% of my max run speed (about 5 min), then I would step off and get ready for the following workout…

 

Heart Rate Based Treadmill Conditioning:

Details/Rules

  • Set the treadmill at speed and incline that requires a full stride (7.5-9.5mph @ 2.0-8.0 incline)
  • I prefer increasing incline over speed.  Reason? Increased heart rate and forced knee drive and emphasis on arm mechanics.
  • Practice stepping off a couple of times, face plants are hurt and are embarrassing.
  • Get a heart rate monitor. I use the Polar FS1, the most simple/inexpensive model they make.
  • Stay tall when you sprint.  Core engaged and vertically tall.
  • “Cheek to cheek” on arm swing (butt cheek to face cheek).

 

Procedure

*  Complete 8-15 rounds depending on your current conditioning & peri-workout fatigue level.

  • Sprint 30 seconds.
  • Step off and rest until your heart rate recovers to 130 bpm (beats per minute).
  • Sprint 30 seconds.
  • Step off and rest until your heart rate recovers to 130 bpm (beats per minute).
  • etc…

Why so much emphasis on heart rate?

Let your heart rate monitor, your body’s natural physiology, tell you when you are ready to go again.

How hard are you working?  Let your heart rate monitor tell you.

 

A few words on treadmills…

I have to admit that I am not completely anti-treadmill.

What bothers me about treadmills is that they remind me of hamster wheels, and people use them like hamster wheels.  Same workout, same speed, same incline, same distance, same music, reading the same magazine… Same same same.  “Same” is the enemy of progress.  Trust that.

image credit: movnat

 

Also, recognize that there is an incredible difference between:

1)  Running on a treadmill where you are simply keeping up with the speed of the belt and

2)  Running on a real world landscape where you are having to put true force into the ground to create movement.

If it is nice outside, and right now it is, get your ass outside and perform a similar workout.

If you do head outside, be prepared for the intensity to be jacked up ten-fold if you are shooting for the same structured workout as I described above.  Real world sprinting is fatiguing, especially when organized as a timed effort combined shorter than normal rest periods.

 

Is aerobic training bad?

There is nothing wrong with aerobic training assuming you are progressing, moving toward your goals and avoiding overuse injuries.

But why not challenge yourself a bit, melt some fat, preserve the lean healthy tissue you worked so hard to develop, and increase aerobic AND anaerobic pathways all in one shot?

Did I mention how time effective this type of training is?

Here is a great visual depiction to support my case…

 

What is so non-traditional about my workout you ask?

Well traditionally, a)  Most people don’t use heart rate monitors (they guess) and b)  Most people coast or “relax” on the hamster wheel for a few miles for a light sweat.

That being said, my workout is non-traditional.  I am asking you to let your heart be your rest/work indicator along with requesting that you put forth an effort that is unfathomable for a lot of the population.

 

See you soon…

 

Just getting warmed up.

 

(P.S. As an end thought… if you are able to read any book or magazine comfortably while training, you aren’t working nearly hard enough)