Ido Portal Training Book (alternatives)

Ido Portal

Look, I know there are a lot of people out there that want Ido to publish a book, manual, or even compile notes from one of his MovementX seminars.  I’ve been checking the Ido Portal website for over 2 years waiting for the “store” link to produce some content.  I am a fan of his work, I’ll admit it.  A book, poster, manual… something… anything Ido.

We will buy.

But, the reality is that there hasn’t been any buyable content generated from Ido Portal, and quite honestly, I am not sure that there ever will be since Ido is an ever evolving teacher.

Putting words on a page that will stay there forever doesn’t seem like his style.

So, instead of combing through Ido’s old blog in desperate search of a place to start (which I have done out of curiosity), it is important to explore other resources that are well known for being superior in their respective niche’s.

Here are a few to get you started…

Gymnastics/Ground Based Movement

There aren’t many training tactics that will get you more functionally strong than gymnastics-based drills, particularly ring-based gymnastics work.  If you enjoy a systematic approach to training, and want to establish bodyweight self-dominance, these resources is must have for your library.

Barbell Training (all by Mark Rippletoe)

All of the books listed above were written by Mark Rippletoe, a few of the early editions even date back to 2005, 2007 and 2009 which in the fitness realm might seem ancient.  However, don’t be fooled by the bland cover art and no nonsense titles because I will tell you without hesitation that all of these books hold up to this day.

Barbell training is barbell training, not much as changed, and Rippletoe has been doing it long enough to give a world-class perspective on technique and progressions.

Whether you’re a beginner in search of a logical starting point or an expert lifter with years of training under your belt, it never hurts to go back to the basics.  Don’t confuse “basic” training with “ineffective” training.

Strength is one of the foundational pillars for physical development and always will be.  Ido talks often about the importance of building strength to support more technical forms of movement.  It’s essential.  You’ll find many references to Ido training heavy deadlifts and back squats.

Remember, single arm chin-ups and handstands are impressive feats of strength and athleticism, but they are also upper body exclusive feats.

Deadlifts and squats are important elements to a great training program.

Kettlebell Training

Pavel Psatsouline deserves credit for igniting interest in kettlebells in the Western hemisphere.  And while kettlebells have put a bad taste in some people’s mouths in recent years (anything that becomes too mainstream gets negative press), it is important to understand that kettlebells remain a brutally effective training tool.

Any fitness tool or tactic that catches fire in the mainstream is going to inevitably breed some really bad products and programs.

Pavel continues to publish fantastic content to this day, under the StrongFirst brand.

Sport Performance

Mark Verstegen and Mike Boyle are juggernauts in the sports performance arena.  Core Performance and Functional Training for Sports are two of the first performance enhancement books I ever read.  Both books completely shifted what I thought I knew about my time in the weight room.  My only regret is that I found them when I was finished with my collegiate athletic career.

Anything written by Verstegen or Boyle is going to be quality, they are both highly recognized and respected brands within the performance enhancement community.

Eric Cressey is the new-school of sports performance.  His brick and mortar training centers, Cressey Performance, and consistently packed with professional athletes from all sports.  He is a highly sought after strength and conditioning coach, fantastic book here.

Body Care/Maintenance

Becoming a Supple Leopard is a practical guide to fixing yourself.  Sounds funny to say, but that is exactly what Kelly is going to help you do.  Not every piece of advice in Becoming a Supple Leopard is going to apply to your situation, but you’ll find a goldmine of tips and pearls throughout the pages.

The Roll Model is a guide to self-massage, re-establishing mobility, tension relief and eliminating unwanted aches and pains.  Jill teamed up with Kelly Starrett for this book.  If you constantly feel like you need a massage, it’s time to learn how to treat yourself, at home, whenever you want.  Your bank account will thank you.

Gray Cook is a legend in the movement world.  Gray was one of the first to apply a scoring system to movement quality and use that scoring system to quantify an action plan for body imbalances/weak spots.  This book was published in 2003, but if you’ve never used any of Gray’s drills, particularly the “chop” and “lift” drill progressions, you’re in a for a treat.

Establishing symmetry in the body is a noble pursuit that will keep you healthy and performing at a high level for a long time.

 

There you have it, alternatives to keep you busy until Ido decides to publish his training philosophies.  But don’t hold your breath on an Ido Portal book anytime soon…

 

 

Kyle

You Watch! Crawling Is Going to Be All the Rage in Fitness

Quick Tips

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You wait, just wait, crawling is going to be all of the rage in the fitness industry. It’s going to spread through the websites, blogs and then infect it’s way into print media like Men’s and Women’s Health, etc.

It’s coming, and there is probably little that anyone can do to stop it.

Why? Because it is NEW, and as consumers, we love ideas that are NEW. We are fascinated and engulfed by new ideas, trends and material goods. The editors of big magazines know this quite well. They know that we get weak in the knees for what is perceived as the latest and greatest.

But, does crawling actually hold up? Or is it just another “new” trend that will temporarily satisfy the thirst of the average fitness enthusiast.

My personal opinion…

… crawling is going to hold up for the long-term.

Why? Well, because crawling is a ground based, deconstructed and completely stripped down activity that is fundamental to a young human being’s (infant’s) progression to more advanced activities like walking and running.

As infants, we literally had to crawl before we could walk. We had to learn how to walk before we could run, etc.

Tim Anderson has recently coined a term that he calls “reset”. I love the term, because by calling for a “reset” he is asking for humans to re-establish lost function by going back to our roots, ground based movement. Crawling, rolling and planking are all forms of ground based movement. Tim is asking for us to leverage our body’s natural interaction with gravity and the ground surface.

Ironically, shortly before finding out about Tim and his efforts to endorse low load ground based movement done properly, I got on the same kick.

I started to notice how physically challenging it was to perform what are normally fast paced exercises, slow. Slowing it down and moving through a full range of motion was- and still is- extremely difficult, and it seemed to be very effective at highlighting weak points throughout range of motion of any given exercise. Identifying these weak points gave me some valuable insight about what I was missing in my training by blasting through all of my exercises and workouts.

The world is stuck in an “extreme”, “high tempo”, “explosive power” and “fast paced” vortex of fitness right now. Except for “extreme”, I believe in the three other phrases. They have a valuable place in a workout and a program, at the right place and the right time. Everything has some value it seems, it just a matter of how it (and when) it is applied. If you apply the world’s greatest exercise to a person that isn’t ready for it, you’re putting them at risk. If they are ready for it, you’ll take there performance to the moon.

We trick ourselves into thinking that we are moving properly when we rush through exercises. Even if the exercise is being executed technically sound at a fast pace, that DOES NOT mean that you are going to be able to execute it in a technically sound manner at a slower, more controlled tempo.

Watch a pro football player work through a session of yoga, many of them cannot hold positions longer than a split second. They are all fast twitch with very little stability and grace. Gray Cook proved it when he made a bunch of NFL guys perform a 50lb/50yard slow and controlled overhead carry. Most of the players involved failed to complete the challenge, yet can overhead press 1-1.5x their bodyweight without batting an eyelash.

The mountain climber was the lightbulb moment for me. I’ve done my fair share of mountain climbers. I greatly value the mountain climber in my work capacity training sessions, using it primarily as a “filler exercise” to actively recover in between two more demanding movements. Before, I had hardly paid attention to anything but how fast I could whiz through 30-50 reps of mountain climbers, driving my knees to my elbows without breaking at the lower back junction in the process.

One day, I slowed it all down. I attempted to “pull” my knees through to my elbows as opposed to violently driving them forward.

You know what I found? I was ridiculous weak once I flexed my hips beyond the prone/horizontal 90 degree mark in the range of motion. I was weak, and I could pinpoint the exact point in the movement where I was weak. The only way that I could complete the movement in full was to compensate, and I wasn’t about to stroke my ego by cheating the movement.

After my run in with mountain climbers, I really started to gain interest in dabbling with other low load movements that are primarily ground based. These movements were typically isolated to a lateral, supine or prone position. Sometimes the movements were transitional/segmented, moving from a supine to prone to lateral all in one shot. This, to me, is the progress of things. You start working isolated movements, gaining control of these movements in an isolated fashion and then you slowly begin to integrate the patterns to work more complex movements.

More complex movements require a greater recruitment of muscles, dynamic stability and mobility and thought. Integrated movement takes integrated thought, which is a rarely spoken of benefit of complex movement training. We exercise our mind as much as we are exercising our bodies.

So, the movements slowly evolve from isolated to complex, all the while we must learn to turn our muscles on and off gracefully as we maneuver our bodies through space.

Gymnasts have mastered this type of movement expression, and I am growing to value practicing it more and more every single day. Movement is second nature for a gymnast. They have established high level movement through consistent repetition.

Drills like crawling, dynamic planking, slow frog hops and turkish get ups make me feel more like a human capable of executing 3-dimensional movement and less like a robot lifting weights to no end. I enjoy knowing that my traditional weight lifting is translating to something more valuable than six-packs and bulging biceps. Both of which mean absolutely nothing in the real world. Well, I guess you’ll look cool in those Summer time still shots, but it doesn’t mean you can move.

All of that weight lifting should translate into something greater than, well, lifting more weight.

Translating isolated resistance training into improving your ability to move with grace, strength and unwavering stability is a noble endeavor. It can be hard to stay on this path, especially when our society provides so much temptation to build the perfect body, or what we perceived as the perfect body.

This is obviously my personal opinion, don’t let it stop you from leaning out.

Crawling is a reset movement activity. The first time I really started to employ crawling patterns into my own training and encourage others to do the same, it was about 4 years ago. We used to have our group athlete training sessions crab walk and high crawl as a fun warm up. I saw it as a time to get the core, shoulders, and hips firing all at once. The crab walk would be performed with forward motion until I said “stop! hold!”, at which point the athletes would drive their hips to the ceiling, effectively creating a “human table-top”. Creating a level table top required that the athlete actively contract their glute muscles while actively stretching their pecs and anterior shoulder. There is some core activation hidden in their also, as the torso muscles work to protect the spine.

Quite honestly, I think that the crab-walk+tabletop combination is one of the best warm up drills out there. Crab walking, to me, is a supine variation of a prone crawl. Infants move around frequently on their butts. They push with their arms while pulling with their heels, supporting the weight of their body with both upper and lower as they “scoot” across the floor surface. There is value in training this movement pattern in adults who have lost the ability to do so.

Sometimes we have to take a developmental step backwards to regain control and start to take steps forward in present day.

We’ve discussed- almost at nauseating length- that sitting causes a lot of metabolic and structural issues with humans. The longer and more frequently we sit, the more our body seems to take on the shape of the sitting position, even in the standing position. We start to hunch our shoulders, our hips remain tilted forward and our lower back gets creased like a bi-folded letter home to Mom.

Once in this position, we attempt to walk, run and do other physically demanding activities while being confined to these un-ideal postures.

Is it more complicated than this? Of course it is, but what most people really need to know is that sitting is slowing breaking our bodies down to nothing, sometimes beyond the point of any ability to repair. One day you might even find that surgery is the final intervention to fix years of poor alignment and compensation.

Attempting to express athletic-like qualities such as strength, explosive power through forced ranges of motion with poor posture many times requires compensatory movement be present as a temporary solution to completing such activities. If you remember, compensatory movement compounded with high reps and high load can rip a person to shreds over the long term.

It been said that workout injuries are just “unfortunate”, when in reality, they were staring us in the face from the beginning, looming in the darkness waiting to be identified. Obviously, those who feel the pain of that disc exploding in their back will one day wish they would have taken the time to identify movement flaws. But the damage is done.

The next time you engage in a warm up prior to a workout, try prone crawling for 1 minute straight with ideal crawling posture. Shake it out for 30 seconds and then complete that 3-5 more times. It might scare you how challenging crawling really is. The stress placed on the upper body is tremendous, especially if it is a new stimulus. It’s easy to fatigue quickly from the waist on up while crawling, in my experience.

Not to be gross, but if you’re someone who gets off on working the core muscles to exhaustion and that “deep burn”, crawling is definitely for you. Keep your back flat and your belt line zipped up and tight, and you’re going to feel every synchronized step of the hand and foot ripple right through your torso.

In fact, I would recommend trading that marathon abdominal training session for about 10 minutes of dedicated crawling. If you’re rolling your eyes, stop. Try it and report back to me. Let me know what you think.

I recently watched a video where Tim Anderson crawls an entire mile without breaks, in a low crawl position. That’s incredible, as you’ll soon find out when you give it a shot. If you make it to the end of his video, he remarks that his ipod shut off right from the start but he was too mentally focused to quit and reset it. Nothing like crawling for nearly an hour straight listening to yourself wheezing from fatigue.

My cues for ideal crawling posture are simple:

– Keep back parallel to the ceiling, stomach parallel to the floor.
– Keep eyes looking down or roughly 12 inches forward toward direction being travelled.
– Keep spine in a neutral, braced position, pulling your stomach out of anterior tilt.
– Simulate a full glass of water on your back as you crawl, preventing any spillage.
– Make each hand and foot contact as quiet, soft and graceful as possible.
– Have fun and work at it.

Start crawling. Use it as a tool not an entire workout.

Leverage it’s ability to be a safe alternative to core training, and a important developmental step to restoring your body’s desire to move without compensation and pain.

Start slow, build from there, and remember that it is process.

Cheers to crawling around like an infant!

KG

Morning Confessions

Quick Tips

I was walking around my kitchen this morning, groggy, sucking down water like I just crossed the Sahara.

It suddenly hit me that I was groggy because I consumed too many craft beers last night, chatting it up with good friends. I also stayed up until about 1am watching late night television after consuming those beers. Prior to consuming all of the delicious craft beers, I ate a bunch of fajita at a local Mexican restaurant.

You probably don’t care about any of that, but the point of me sharing this info is to convey that I am completely transparent and honest about my life, as you should be with yours.

I maintain a health related blog and I drink beer and stay up late… there I said it. Can I go now? 🙂

I’m not perfect, nor do I really want to be. I used to feel really bad about the fact that I carry myself around as a die hard ambassador of quality/effective movement , healthy eating freak, beer drinking socialite who enjoys playing hockey, video games and surfing the net for interesting reading or just nothing at all.

It’s not perfect and I obviously am consciously aware that it isn’t, but I have found that if I can identify a healthy balance, I can make it all work. I can balance it all out so that I don’t lose in any one category. It makes me happy, it makes my life enjoyable without being a complacent lazy ass or being a complete stiff.

I don’t want anyone reading this blog to think that I am preaching a perfect lifestyle, because I am not, and I myself don’t lead a perfect lifestyle.

I am healthier than most, sure, but mostly because I have adopted habits that I maintain second nature that are conducive to a life of health. I am deeply fascinated with how movement and nutrition can transform a person’s body into just about anything that they desire. It takes work, but anyone can do it, whenever they want.

On that note, it does get slightly more challenging to change one’s body as we age, but that is life. Don’t ever use age as a crutch, it’s so lame to hear the old, “Wait until you are my age!” remark or the “When I was your age I could do just about anything”.

Honestly, it’s annoying. Save it. I will in fact see how it is when I am older because aging is inevitable, but I won’t ever live in the past. That’s called denial. If you’re older and you’re struggling to make noticeable changes to your body or your performance, please either: a) be realistic with it, or b) re-evaluate your game plan and your execution of that game plan.

While I was consuming those delicious, full calorie, robust and flavorful beers last night with my good friends, we got talking about hockey (naturally) and how even the more simple game plan that is executed to perfection still holds up over the new-age finesse garbage that is being implemented to hockey teams around the country. Play your offense, neutral zone and defensive systems extremely well (right down to the smallest detail) and you will beat teams that have all of the talent in the world but no game plan.

Pure execution of the game plan.

If you’re stagnant and struggling to make forward progress with performance, weight loss or muscle-fat-swap, chances are quite high that you have the wrong game plan for your desired results or you aren’t executing your game plan to the fullest. Both will leave you disappointed in the end.

As long as you’re giving your best effort regardless of your age, that is best practice in my opinion. Don’t go to bed with regret. Regret is your mind telling you that you sold yourself short. Regret- as I have often mentioned on this blog- is a terrible feeling that doesn’t go away quickly. It stays with you until you either make the situation right or you learn to forgive what’s been done.

Taking care of yourself on the front end of life pays massive dividends in the later stages of life.

I often am told that starting a family pursuing a career is going to give me a big gut…

… no, it won’t actually. I have a personal agreement to myself that I refuse to dishonor.

Why? Because I know too much. If I let go of exercise and nutrition now, it would be pure negligence on my part. I would have to have the knowledge of what the positive path is and still choose to go in a different direction. I can’t do that, not at this point. I know way too much. The information has been absorbed and now I leverage it daily.

See what I am saying?

If everyone spent a small amount of time reading 1-2 quality books on both exercise and nutrition, it would open up a whole other world. You’d be consciously aware of what needs to take place. Once you understand and absorb a vital piece (or pieces) of information on how to maintain (or improve from your current point) quality health and also what can destroy it, it now comes down to a personal decision. Once you have that information and you understand what it takes to stay fit, now it’s all on you, not your 5 kids and their hockey tournaments, your wife or your dog or your perceived lack of time or resources.

We are all busy, some more than others, but we all have an equal opportunity to stay healthy. Some people have a ton of time to stay fit and others do not. Some have money and access to a big box gym with fancy equipment and some have no funds and zero equipment.

One thing is for sure… anything that is important to you needs to be held sacred. It needs to become high priority. At some point you might have to put your foot down and fight for what is important to you. If that means having a sit down with your significant other to identify solutions to ensure your daily dose of exercise or a success plan for nutritious family meals, than that is what needs to take place.

Letting go of health projects that you’re giving up and waving the white flag. You’re choosing to follow an easier, less resistive path. It conveys that it just wasn’t quite important enough to you to stay with it.

If you find yourself falling into or at the bottom of this pit, work to be mindful of what is going on by taking small a step back outside of yourself and your situation to re-evaluate and re-motivate yourself. The fire can dim or go out in all of us. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But it obviously isn’t, because the CDC health statistics are still ugly as hell. We have work to do folks.

I have to admit that as much as I want to spread the word of health, I don’t want to project that I am religious about it. I don’t eat and breathe health 24/7… 365. I am human, and I want to enjoy some of the vices that life has to offer.

I cheat meals often. I personally make sure that 35+ out of 40 meals a week are health conscious. When those 5 cheat meals present themselves, I dive in with virtually no regret.

Why? Because I am human. I earned it.

What no one usually sees is how I leverage a hard training session prior to the cheat meal and then also first in the morning after the cheat meal. I cheated, now I go to work. This method has worked for me like a charm. It’s my agreement to myself. I will enjoy what life has to offer, but I will have the discipline to burn it off ASAP, no questions asked.

I also am very consciously aware of what I look like in the mirror, both front and back. In other words, I check myself out. Hahahaha, it sounds funny to admit this and I might regret being so honest, but it’s true. I know what baseline for my body is, and any variance in a positive or negative direction I can easily detect. I am so connected to my body that I can literally palpate my stomach and feel if things are getting a little “loose”. If I am moving in a poor direction, I tighten up everything. By tighten up everything I am typically referring to consuming more water, more sleep and focusing hard on nutrition. Sleep and water are overlooked components to staying lean. Both are vital.

I never weigh myself, mostly because weight doesn’t mean shit. It really doesn’t. A better measurement might be your cardiovascular resilience and what is your muscle to fat ratio? Are you strong? Can you handle your bodyweight? Can you perform hard labor without tapping out in the first 30 minutes? Why aren’t doctors clinic doing physical performance testing and reporting that to the health insurance companies? If more clinic knew how to conduct movement screens and performance tests on patients we could finally stop relying on drugs for artificial health, and move back into genuine health. Natural health.

It won’t happen, but it’s worth discussing.

No, I have to pipe up and make a few more comments… seriously, if you’re composed of a lot more muscle than fat, chances are quite high that you are fairly healthy. Right? I mean, it’s not necessarily that simple but if you eliminate the fat that is suffocating your internal organs, you’re obviously better off.

We need to carry fat to survive, but excess fat is unhealthy. Eat in such a way to keep fat retention to a minimum and improve physical performance. Get purposeful exercise training daily and surround that will low intensity physical activity like biking, walking, etc.

It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that does it?

But don’t confuse my statements above… people who are lean, fit and healthy have died from heart attacks, cancer and other unexpected causes. When it is your time, it is your time. But also realize that keeping yourself lean and moving whenever possible gives you the best opportunity at a long life.

Here is another little confession (maybe more of a personal rant): I can’t stand folks who argue against my methods, especially when the words are leaving the mouth of someone that hasn’t moved aggressively in years and eats boxed or fast food for nearly every meal, or read a bogus article slamming resistance training in the local newspaper and wants to have it out with me because they know my lifestyle habits.

I have found that these types of argumentative people are usually in some sort of denial, large or small, or they are close friends or family just looking to get a rise out of me.

If they are the former, they’re tricking themselves, looking to bring other people down to their level so they can see eye to eye. The conversation usually includes a comment about how they “could get back into shape whenever they want because it’s so easy, yet almost a decade has passed with zero improvement”, or they are trapped in their old perception of themselves saying “I used to bench 300+ and could run a sub-6 minute mile, in high school/college”.

Really? Benching, while being an important pattern to develop physically, is kind of a joke really. It used to be the common measurement of a “man”, but no more. It’s a dead statistic to brag about. Running 6 minute miles is impressive, but when those words are leaving the mouth of someone that ran that 6 minute mile about 10 years and 150lbs ago, it’s hard for me to take seriously. These are the same people that have a deep desire to show you their high school letterman’s jacket. Maybe there medals from Little League. You peaked too soon my friends. Waaaaaaayyyyyy too soon.

Again, no offense to anyone overweight, that is not the point here.

If you did take offense, don’t be so sensitive! Harden up!

I used to be pretty vocal, standing up for myself in these situations. Now I politely listen to what they have to say, hearing out their personal opinions and story if they choose to share it with me.

I smile and realize that their punishment fits the crime. Again, it’s mostly denial speaking in these conversations so it’s in one ear and out the other for me. Not really worth my time.

It’s kind of like receiving financial advice from a bankrupt financial advisor.

Ok, so what else can I confess? I think I am pretty well tapped out for now. I am sure that as soon as I hit the “publish” button on this post I will come up with a whole slew of other topics that I could have ranted about, but for now, this works.

Cheers to keeping honesty as your best policy!

KG

“Soft Workouts”: Using Workouts to Recover From Workouts

Quick Tips

“Soft workout” is a name that I gave to movement sessions that follow a more intense movement effort from the previous day.  Ideally a person will find a way to move around every single day, no matter how significant that movement is.  Just find a way to get up and get the blood flowing.

Today, my body is feeling the effects of yesterdays Thanksgiving Day Workout.

I have to admit that besides the high volume, it was a phenomenal training session.  It reminded me of my college hockey days when we would have “bag skate” conditioning sessions.  Your lungs were in your throat and it was hard to bend your knees beyond the lockout position, but finishing the practice strong gave you a sense of accomplishment.

725 reps is an accomplishment (at least I think it is)

Here is how long it took me to finish the workout:

Thanksgiving Day Workout Time

A shade over 24 minutes.  Not bad in my mind.

A few observations things:

  1. Multiple breaks were needed to gather myself and ensure exercise technique was satisfactory.
  2. Vertical Pulling (chin ups) were the weak exercise, which is why I ordered them first in the sequence.
  3. 10 pistols on each leg is draining.
  4. Push Ups were the easiest of the exercises.
  5. Keeping the kettlebell swing rep scheme below 10 reps allowed for focus on aggressive hip extension (“hip snap”).
  6. Push Ups and kettlebell swings felt like filler exercises.
  7. Full burpees will jack up your heart rate as fast as any other exercise on the planet, and all you need is your body and a motivated attitude.
  8. One ascent through the rep scheme is more than enough.
  9. My muscles failed me before my cardiovascular did.
  10. This kind of training is too much to sustain over the long-term, or ever.  Special occasions only.
  11. Hardly any equipment was needed, almost completely portable.

The ascending reps was kick ass.  Early on in the workout I  enjoyed transitioning from movement to movement, turning my mind off to the exercise that I just finished and turning it on to the next exercise.  It kept the session fresh and interesting.

As the reps continued to increase beyond 5+, it began to feel more like a traditional training session where a certain amount of time is spent at a station/exercise before moving on to the next.  By the time  I arrived at 8, 9, 10 reps of pistol squats, my body was showing serious signs of fatigue.  Most of the rest breaks that were taken during pistol squats.

When you’ve accumulated massive amounts of fatigue, the execution of pistol squats (which is takes balance, strength and alignment for successful completion) becomes extremely challenging.  Each rest period last no longer than 15-20 seconds to regain composure and move forward.

All in all, it was a burn out session.  As I mentioned in the previous post, most of my workouts are nothing like yesterday’s massacre.  Typically they are short burst but well managed in the fatigue department.  However, testing will power is also important to me and the human body is capable of withstanding a lot more stress than we think.

I deemed the structure of the workout to be safe for my fitness and technical know-how, so the only thing left was mental will power to keep going despite being wiped.

Now let’s talk “soft workouts” for a second.

For me, soft workouts are sub-maximal physical efforts that are a full body experience with the intent to recover, repair and restore.

Again, they are heavy in taking joints through a full range of motion and contain movements that address all planes of possible movement.  Since stumbling on Ido Portal’s ground based tumbling drills, I tend to crawl around for the majority of these sessions.  Alignment and bodily tension at key points make the drills serve a valuable purpose, not to mention I am typically sore from the previous days effort.

Also, I have to say that low load Turkish Get Ups are amazing the day after a tough workout.  The Turkish Get Up accomplishes so much in one exercise.  It really packs a massive punch.  Joints are taken through a wide range of motion through several planes and the core is constantly under tension and challenged in these same planes of movement.  Low load Turkish Get Ups will give you a chance to focus on technique.  It gives you a chance to slow the drill down and be in the movement, every single segment on the way up to the top and on the way back down to the bottom.

Each phase of the movement can be held for a brief period of time to re-train strength and stability in various positions.  It’s important to be strong and stable throughout a wide range of motion.

Again, I consider low load Turkish Get Ups to be a perfect “soft workout” exercise.

Although you may be sore heading into a “soft workout”, you’ll find that engaging in full range of motion movement will relieve much of this soreness and deliver nutrients where it’s needed.  Nutrient delivery equals repair and recovery.

A soft workout can also include other movements like push ups, dive bombers, bodyweight squats, jump rope, inverted rows, resistance bands training, walking, etc.

If you have a suspension trainer, adjust your body position so that the angles are less vertical to your anchor point, which reduces the amount of load for each rep.  Take each exercise through a full range of motion with this lightened load.

Aerobic activity is also great for “soft workouts”.  I leverage my Schwinn Airdyne all of the time to serve this purpose.  Biking is low impact and mindless.  If you have access to an Airdyne, you get the benefit of dual action upper and lower body engagement.  Now you can flush your upper extremities also as you push and pull the arms.  During an aerobic bike session, my heart rate elevates to a manageable level (as verified by my Polar HR monitor) and I can watch hockey on my iPad while I do spin to pass the time.

What’s better than that?

The only rule is keep the volume and intensity low, which is essentially the opposite of what took place in the previous days workout, right?  Keep the volume and intensity low.  You’re recovering actively so that you can engage yourself in purposeful workouts once again in the coming days.

“Soft workouts” also include a boatload of soft tissue work using the foam roller, lacrosse ball and tiger tail hand massager.  High volume/high intensity workouts can cause significant muscular damage, so working to increase blood flow to these areas will speed up recovery and reduce soreness.

After soft tissue work, I highly suggest a quick session of yoga or static stretching to change the length of the muscle after we worked hard to change the density during massage.  I continue to value static stretching, despite the digital fist fights breaking out all over the internet about it’s effectiveness.  I feel better after long duration static stretching.  At this point post-athletic career, if it makes me feel better, I do it.

If you find value in something, do it.  If it’s important do it every single day.

Unless you’re using athletics to earn your living, static stretching is probably also a good choice for you.  Any reduction in muscular power from holding stretches for longer periods of time will probably go unnoticed in your performance.

If you’re stiff and stretching makes you feel great afterwards, why the hell not?

After a “soft workout” I hydrate like a maniac.  Cold ass water and lots of it.  Actually, let me rephrase that, I hydrate like a maniac before, during and after a “soft workout”.  I also make sure that I consume a protein based shake at some point.  The shakes that I leverage are similar to what Precision Nutrition has designed.

There is a ton of nutrition in these shakes, and quite frankly, I am thankful that I am aware of how effective they are because nutrition is the foundation of all.

If you’re thinking about getting into liquid nutrition, I suggest getting a decent blender.  I prefer mine so thick they are one level before the need to use my teeth to consume.  If they are thick, it feels like they have substance.

I use a Ninja blender, which works great (yes I know it’s an “as seen on tv” product).  A lot of liquid nutrition advocates and professional chefs recommend blending with a Vitamix.  If you have the money, go with the Vitamix.  The Vitamix is industrial strength and will blend anything with ease.  You could probably liquify a Ninja blender inside of a Vitamix if you wanted to.

Bottomline:  If you just want a kick ass blender and need to allocate money elsewhere, buy the Ninja.

“Soft workouts” are an essential piece of the fitness pie.  But they need to remain soft.  It’s important that we don’t take unnecessary steps backward because we seek the adrenaline of insane workouts all of the time.  Give your body a chance to repair itself instead.  Work low load movements and make sure that your nutrition is on point.  You’ll be fine.

Cheers to recovering from 725 reps!

KG

Hand Walking/Crawling Exercises: Demanding More From Your Upper Body

Quick Tips

6 years ago I watched Jon Hinds strap his LifeLine Power Wheel to his feet and proceed to walk on his hands 100 yards down entire length of a football field.

I have to admit I thought the entire sequence was pretty badass.  The feat also seemed like something I could achieve… wrong.  It’s way harder than it looks.

The LifeLine Power Wheel boasts that it’s core activation is top notch, and that is supported with a study composed by CSU-Sacramento students.  The two other training tools that were compared to the Power Wheel were quite weak in my opinion (Ab Revolutionizer, ab straps).  

However, it appears that based on muscle activation (through surface electromyography (EMG), the Power Wheel performed extremely well.

When you watch YouTube videos, especially how-to exercise videos, it can be hard to find value in what the performer is showing you.  You watch it, roll your eyes and move on the the next suggested video.

I did exactly that with Jon’s hand walking video 6 years ago.

It’s a damn shame.

But, fast forward 6 years and I am an advocate spending more time loading the upper body via static/dynamic various of crawling, handstands and hand walking.  I think we need to stress our upper extremities in a similar fashion that we do our lower extremities.

Battling ropes are an example of a tool have added tremendous value to the average trainee’s tool box.  Battling rope drills are primarily executed in a standing position, involving timed (or rep based) work sets that are highly metabolic, recruit a ton of muscle for completion and train the upper body to produce repeated effort force in a way that is extremely unique.

But, battling rope drills don’t require our upper extremities to support the weight of our body.

Sure, the shoulder is not a load bearing like the hip or the knee, but we should be able to support and stabilize a percentage or even our entire body with our hands and arms.  Please don’t ask me to give “functional” examples of how drills such as handstands transfer over into real world activities until you yourself perform a series of 1-minute inverted holds yourself.

Doing so might make you feel like you like a weakling whether you are an avid exerciser or not.  I sure did.

—> What can you attribute to the difficulty of a hand walking/crawling/stands?

New stimulus?  Yes.  Very challenging regardless?  Absolutely, every single time.

The average workout just doesn’t stress the upper body in the same way that it tends to stress the lower body.  It makes sense since humans are bipedals.  Keeping our lower extremities strong, mobile, stable, and capable of sustained and high level repeated physical effort serves us very well.

But we need to be strong, stable and mobile movers in many different positions, not just with walking and running.

Hand walking, crawling, handstands and other upper body support drills stress the upper body much differently than push ups, overhead pressing, Turkish Get-Ups.  In the past, most hand walking drills were exclusive to gymnasts and other tumblers.  It’s amazing that it has taken so long for this type of training to leak out to the general population.

But, it’s here now and we need to leverage it.  It’s a tool (or maybe a strategy is a better description), and like all training tools, it serves a purpose in our physical development.

Handstands.  I have been a huge fan of hand walking and crawling for years, but have more recently begun to see amazing value in practicing handstands.  Simply kicking your feet up to a wall and holding that position with assisted support from your feet is extremely challenging and beneficial for overall physical improvement.

Ido Portal Handstand

Try it for yourself.  Go.  Now.  Try it.

It feels unnatural to support yourself vertically and I believe this is a good thing (unless you are experiencing pain).  You’re acclimating yourself to a new movement skill.  I am all about safety in training because it keeps us moving for life, but exploring uncharted territories of movement will bring you back to your childhood roots, where exploring is encouraged and crucial for overall development.

Fast forward to our adult years.  People who are hesitant to participate in certain physical tasks haven’t exposed themselves to that stimulus before.  They haven’t explored, so the movement seems risky, difficult or in some cases unfathomable.

Much of this handstand talk is probably coming from Ido Portal’s training philosophy, which is fine because I love the tenacity that Ido is bringing to the movement community.  He doesn’t dabble with movement, he is movement.  That’s pretty cool.  Devoting your life’s work to becoming the best mover possible, and then teaching the progressions on how to get to that level to others, is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Kudos to Ido Portal.

In my own training, I have divided my hand walking/crawling into two different categories:

  • Horizontal walking/crawling
  • Vertical walking/crawling

Both of these have two sub-categories that can be broken down even further:

  • Static (not moving)
  • Dynamic (moving)

I haven’t felt the need to progress any further than the bulleted points to be honest.  Hand walking/crawling is a supplement to my current training regimen, not the entire training regimen itself.  It’s a skill that I am looking to develop starting from ground zero.  The decision to keep hand walking/crawling as a supplement to the whole is based on my current goals.

My warm-ups have proven to be prime time for practicing and experimenting with various progressions of hand walking/crawling.  80% of the time I am crawling, which is what I would consider to be a horizontal-dynamic drill.  Something like this…

If you slow down while performing a basic bear crawl and do it properly, you may notice that you aren’t as connected as you thought you were.  Timing and an upper/lower body connectedness are two main keys to crawling properly.  The core serves as the conduit between the upper and lower body.  You’ll also notice that crawling isn’t as easy as it looks, as it can be extremely taxing even at shorter distances.

If you’re looking for a core workout, start crawling.  Start with a basic static hold.  You’ll find that  supporting yourself in this position activates your torso musculature like the 4th of July.  Progress to dynamic crawling slowly, working on the the timing of your opposite hand/foot.  Again, feel the burn in your stomach.

Here is Dewey Nielsen working through the ladder of crawling progressions…

—> Why should you incorporate more crawling and hand walking into your training?

1)  It’s fun.

I never thought that I would tout “it’s fun” as the top reason for crawling and hand-walking, but it really is.  Both provide a unique challenge that we can look forward to.  Pursuing specific goals in your training will keep the fire going in your belly.  Otherwise, it’s easy to begin flaking out on training.

I have recently dropped a few barriers with regard to my viewpoints on training, and what it means to “workout”.  For sometime, I felt unfulfilled in my workouts.  It seemed there was a piece that was missing.  I felt like a robot going through the motions.  Start a set, do the reps at a particular tempo using a particular weight, stop, rest, rinse, repeat.  It was nauseating.

Crawling and hand-walks scratched that itch.  Now intentionally incorporate warm-ups packed with plenty of crawling and hand walks.  It’s open new doors for me as I know it will for you.

2)  Loading the upper extremities uniquely

Moving yourself around using your hands/arms is a new training stimulus for many.  Even holding yourself against a wall for a brief period of time puts a valuable stress on your upper body to support the weight of your body.

3)  Balance

Horizontal or vertical crawling/walking are activities that require constant body correction.  Reflexive stability is a hot topic right now, and crawling/walking works reflexive stability nicely.  Keeping the hands connected to Mother Earth is advantageous, creating a closed-chain training scenario.  Crawling is both simple and more complicated than we think, especially when we realize how dysfunctional we have become from our lack of movement.  Holding a wall supported handstand requires stability, strength and balance.  A free-stranding handstand is the perfect expression of balance.

4)  Connecting the core

Not six-pack abs.  Chasing six pack abs should be furthest down on most people’s list.  The torso musculature’s main job is to protect the spine.  Our core is supposed to activate when it senses that the spine might be in jeopardy.  Our torso lights up (activates) to keep our bodies stabile and in control during these movements.  Lightly palpate (touch) your stomach while in the assumed basic bear crawl position, tell me what you feel.

5)  Primal movement

We had to crawl before we could walk.  Crawling isn’t a fitness progression, it’s a human life progression.  Regressing back to crawling can help to restore lost movement patterns from which we can build a bulletproof body.  The body’s wires can easily become crossed, don’t make the mistake of blowing a fuse by skipping the crawling section of the progression book.

6)  Low impact

Crazy is the craze right now.  Extreme, hardcore, tenacity and intensity!  But not everyone wants crazy workouts, and crawling fits the bill nicely for those who seek a bodyweight challenge without the risk of injury.  Although it’s possible to hurt yourself doing just about anything, crawling/handwalks are extremely low on the injury potential ladder.  Your joints will applaud your choice.

7)  Movement

To take an unofficial idea from Ido Portal’s training philosophy…  Just start f’ing move people.  Stop over thinking it and engage in full fledged movement.  Explore what your body can do in space.  If you’re embarrassed to do it in the public gym, do it behind closed doors in your basement or garage.  As I have said before, movement is the benefit of moving.  So keep moving every which way.  Caution… be prepared to be humbled at first… you might need to lubricate your joints and blow off the cobwebs for a few sessions before it starts flowing and feeling natural.

So there you go, the most un-organized 1600+ word article ever written on crawling/handwalking.

Stay tuned for how to get started with crawling/walking and where to slip it into workouts…

 

 

Cheers to exploring the upper body’s ability to move!

KG

Look! Movement is the Benefit :)

Quick Tips

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 6.59.07 PM

Non-traditional movement has been the name of the game lately.

Pure ground based locomotion and flow.

It’s not that I don’t have time for more mainstream forms of movement, because I believe in that also,  but I am becoming increasingly intrigued with other methods of movement training.  I almost used the term “time-tested” instead of mainstream.  It might have been a better description, but admittedly, 95% of my personal workout habits and the habits which I recommend to others seeking movement regimens are in fact, mainstream.

A simple blend of squats, lunges, hip dominant hinging, upper body pushing and pulling in a vertical and horizontal fashion will set you up for success.  Add in some chops and lifts and you have got yourself a damn good routine.  It’s all in how you organize it and tweak the variables to best fit your goals.

A squat is a squat, but with a few tweaks here and there, you can make the squat conducive to building a number of different human physical qualities (strength, endurance, power, etc), all completely different from each other.

Always remember, in the beginning… establish mobility, establish stability in that new-found range of motion, then begin the process of building strength.

It’s a layering effect.

This is a recipe that works every single time for the person that is willing to be diligent in their training efforts.

Are you that person?

Because here is the reality:  Movement works every single time.  100% effective.  It’s people that fall short.

Movement works.  People don’t do the work.  Shame on us.

Over the past few weeks, I have progressively integrated more and more Ido-style movements into my pre-work training block.  Maybe I shouldn’t refer to these movements as “Ido-invented” (after watching some of his videos he probably would deny they are his but were there from the beginning of time), but he was one of the first (and still the best that I’ve seen) to make sense of less mainstream forms of movement.

He is a mover, in every sense of the word.

From one-arm hand stands and other hand balancing, single arm chin ups, planches and twice bodyweight back squats, Ido can move with flow and move load if necessary.

Planche training

Planche

I keep referring to Ido’s teachings as “movement”, and that’s because it is.  He neither specializes nor generalizes.

I guess I never really stopped and thought about it, but most of what is published and preached today is purely about fitness.  Even Yoga, with it’s cult like following, doesn’t necessarily make a person MOVE better.  It might help a person increase flexibility and improve range of motion, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will move better.

You have to practice movement to improve your ability to move.

Now, I will say that I don’t necessarily believe that the mere act of practicing movement is going to grant you access to better movement.  It may open a few doors to becoming a better mover, but I also think that each person needs to be real with themselves and their own situation.  Some folks have got some real compensations, imbalances and dysfunction going on.  Who knows where or how these issues manifested themselves (a lot are from sitting too long) but they are there, so it may be completely necessary to address these movement restrictions before you’ll ever be a great mover, or even an average mover.

The Functional Movement Screen is a great system for evaluating yourself, and your ability to move.  Why?  Because it is systematic.  You grade your movement quality, and lesser quality scores in any given movement pattern has a roadmap of corrective drills that you can use to clean up that movement pattern.  In essence, you can correct faulty movement rather quickly.

Realistically, you can perform a poor man’s movement screen at home on yourself.  It will always be better to have a knowledgeable FMS certified trainer evaluate you, but hey, we can DIY.

Use a big mirror or better yet film yourself performing the tests from the movement screen.  Don’t feel dumb filming, you can delete it immediately.  The filming of your movement capabilities is extremely valuable.  What you “think” you’re doing isn’t always what you actually doing movement-wise.

Take your video and compare it to some perfect screens (which you can easily find on YouTube) and take note of the differences.  Most people will notice that their overhead squat is a lacking, rotational stability nearly impossible to complete and the inline lunge makes you feel like you’re balancing on a tight rope.

Cleaning up these patterns will make you a better mover, and probably decrease the likelihood that your dysfunction manifests itself into an injury.

However, cleaning up the screen doesn’t mean that you’ll all of the sudden be a great mover.  You have to practice moving to be a great mover.  Are you sick of me saying move?  Mover?  Movement yet?  Sit tight I’ll drop those terms a bunch more in the coming paragraphs.

In many cases, I have substituted ground based crawling variations (supine and prone) and walks in  place of my go-to dynamic warm up.  I haven’t felt like I am sacrificing anything by doing so.  My joints still move through a full range of motion and my muscles are activated in a low-impact fashion.  I would even argue that my time is being maximized by practicing my movement flow using Ido’s training drills versus my standard cookie cutter warm up.

I’ve actually exited many of these warm-ups in a pool of sweat, even before beginning what I would consider to be the “work” portion of my session.  Interesting.

I’ve quickly found that I am ridiculously weak in certain positions, uncoordinated and all around uncomfortable as I work in some of the Ido Portal warm-up drills and ground based training.  It’s an ego check for sure, especially since he refers to many of these flow-like drills as being “beginner”.  Ha!  Soreness has also been a product of the unfamiliar movements, although it’s never a goal.  Unfamiliar movements almost always produce soreness because your body hasn’t experienced it yet.

I am reminded – as I continue to force myself to become more vulnerable by the day with Ido’s training idealogy- of how a newbie to the workout scene feels at first.  It’s an emotional uppercut showing up to a personal training session or a group class (even training by yourself behind closed doors) knowing that you’re going to struggle to complete what is being asked of you.

But the key is to keep coming back.  Keep grinding.  Keep learning.  Realize that it’s a process, just like everything else.  And as a process, you’ve got to work at it, consistently and in a focused manner.  Leave your feelings at the door and work.

We’ve become detached from our bodies and desensitized to our physical abilities.  In fact, many of us no longer have a relationship with our body, and our physical abilities.  Things that we could easily do as kids are now foreign and seemingly impossible.  But all of that can be regained.

One major takeaway from the my small bit of reading Ido’s work is this:  We’ve got to establish a lifelong relationship with our movement.  Every one of us.  We will all start at different points and need different adjustments along the way- and this makes sense because we are all individually unique- but you’ve got to make sure that you start and find a way to make it stick.

Enjoy the challenge of learning new physical skills.  Embrace the frustrations and work out the solutions on your own.  If you find yourself stuck, hop on the computer or tablet and search out a solution.  The internet is packed with incredible free information that can get you where you need to go.

I suck at many of Ido’s locomotion drills right now.  I’ll admit that.  I filmed myself and I look stiff and the opposite of gracefully.  But that will change with time and practice.  It’s frustrating to know that I am practicing something that I am not good at (yet).

I think many people may find that they actually like dedicated workouts more when you a aiming to develop a certain movement skill.  Pursuing skills transforms a person’s daily workouts into a journey instead of a dreaded 60 minutes of robotic physical activity that we feel we need to participate in to chase the idea of “fitness”.

A movement journey may not have an end point.  But that is the beauty of it.  You achieve a goal and begin planning and preparation for the next goal.  One day you look back and realize that over the course of time you hopped over barriers that you never imagined you would hurdle.  That’s an incredible feeling to evaluate significant forward progress, especially when looking at where you started.

People often ask me what the benefit of an exercise is, or which exercises will best target a specific area of the body…

For a long time I couldn’t find the exact words to answer this question in a way that felt true to myself… but try this one out because I think this might be where I stand…

Ido Portal Movement

 

 

Cheers to getting uncomfortable in your movement endeavors…

 

KG

What is Ido Portal’s Training Philosophy Doing To Me?

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Ido Portal

I’ve been following Ido Portal for nearly 2 months and I’m starting to question how we “practice” fitness, what it means to be “fit”, how we get to the point of being considered fit, what humans should be able to do movement-wise, and on and on  and on.

I have to admit, thought process-wise, I am going through a shift.

Ido makes incredibly great points about movement and body control.  It’s a raw thought process, completely stripped down to just… movement.

The point that Ido conveys time and time again is that we should be able to move freely.  He references movement patterns, but I know from reading through his blog and watching his YouTube videos that he isn’t referring to the “safe” movement patterns that we fitness professionals beat into the ground.  He’s expanding far beyond that thought process.

Here are some snapshots of Ido-style movement…

I realize now, more than ever, that the modern-day human really doesn’t know how to handle their body.

We are slaves to sitting in chairs, cubicles, in front of the television and in cars.  If you really stop and think about how much we sit on any given day, it’s nauseating.  Even if we have no choice but to sit for our careers, when the weekend comes we still choose to grab a lawn chair and sit, sit at the bar, sit at restaurant.  Sit.

I can partially throw myself into this group also because I have to sit down to write on this blog.

I consider myself to be an athletic dude, but watching some of these videos leads me to believe that I have handicapped my own movement performance.  I am not even in the same realm as some of the people that have been under the Ido Portal tutelage for as few as a few months.

I can squat (ass to grass) and rest in the squatting position for long periods of time, elevate my arms overhead without breaking at the low back, and exhibit rotational range of motion at my thoracic spine when it’s required… but integrating of all of these elements into a free-flowing long sequence without making it look painfully difficult was humbling for me.

The low lizard crawl is a basic locomotion pattern in the Ido Portal Training Method, and it’s basically used as warm-up!  I am here to tell you that it is humbling how difficult it is to crawl 10-15 yards like this (fast forward to 1:56)…

Are the followers of the Ido Portal Method been practicing different techniques than I am?

Yes, of course.  They are following strict progressions that allow for a appropriate movement education.  A repetitive approach to learning movement in a progression-friendly manner will ensure that no fundamental steps were skipped along the way, all while achieving desired results.

The human body will adapt and increasingly better how we ask to move, or how we don’t it to move.  That is why a lot of people have back pain, poor hip mobility and loss of muscle activation from sitting.  But humans naturally want to stand up straight, so in order to make this possible, we compensate to achieve.

So I think that over time my movement will begin to flow like some of his videos, but it is going to take some work, some practice, dedication and time.

Many of Ido’s students YouTube videos display what I would consider to be “test-outs” or results from following his teachings, so I think that it’s important (when watching these videos) to keep in mind that there was an incredible amount of dedication and work put in prior to shooting each person’s testimonial of the Ido Portal Method.

It didn’t happen over night, in a week or in a month.

The other night, I was trying to find the words to describe my perception of how we pursue health and wellness, and where I stand on the matter.  It’s a difficult topic to discuss because there are so many elements that combine to form, health.

I continue to find myself veering away from “safe” more and more.  Now, I don’t mean that I am moving toward “unsafe” and negligent, but I really am questioning why we do what we do in the gym or outside of the gym (wherever we train).  It’s cookie cutter and robotic in nature.  It’s lacking exploration.  Reps, sets and rest cannot be the pot of gold at the end of the movement continuum.

Who established these rules that we follow so closely?  Science?  Industry leaders?

Do we continue to teach and preach these methods because that is what the masses want?  Or are we lacking in our own understanding of more complex movement patterns, integration and improvisation?  Are we aiming for the wrong target?  What does fitness mean anyways?

We aim for reproducible results- and I don’t think that we should be aiming for anything different- but we have become robots in our pursuit of fitness.  The entire idea is skewed.  Everything that we preach for people to do is cookie cutter and safe.

There is very little room for anyone to stray from the path, and if you do (as I am exploring currently), you’re branded and thrown out to the wolves.

We preach moving within our means, avoiding compromising body positions and alignment, moving weight safely, employing safe rep and set ranges for maximizing our goals, adequate rest to perform that work safely, etc.  Safe, safe, safe.

Before you label me a hippocrate, let me say that I actually also believe in safe.

Ido Portal’s methods of movement might be right for everyone at some point, but maybe not at this moment.

The human race have never moved less or eaten worse.

We sit more, we move less. We are walking time bombs with regard to our ability to move effectively or for any duration (endurance, etc).  We eat food created in factories, food that has never seen the earth’s soil, food that contains ingredients that we cannot pronounce much less identify… and because we eat so much of this food, our body’s have become a reflection of these poor choices.

Make no mistake, we are what we eat.

But the problem is that we don’t even know we are heading down a path of self-destruction.  Eating crap has become the norm, and we don’t even know it.  But food chatter is outside of the scope of this blog post.  I’m not a nutritionist nor do I really want to be.  I’ll end the nutrition talk here.

We walk around commenting that a person is “in shape” if they don’t cast a bubbly shadow on pavement on a sunny day.  Not everyone needs to have a six-pack, but we are desensitized to what health looks like.  “Lean” is almost taboo is some areas of America, and the world.  One look back in history will show that most of civilization is getting bigger.  And by bigger, I am not referring to taller.

In many instances, our body shape is actually limiting our ability to move.  Yes, the amount of tissue that we are carrying on our bodies are preventing us from moving the way that we are supposed to move.

Studies like this support my bantering…

I started thinking like this a few years ago, and I thought I was crazy, because my background is strength and conditioning.  Strength and conditioning workouts and programs are EXTREMELY structured, and EXTREMELY safe.  There is very little room for movement exploration in the eyes of strength coach.  Strength based programs, as I mentioned, are extremely structured.  You work through phases that place focus on building different athletic qualities (hypertrophy, strength, power, work capacity, etc).  The reps and sets are calculated, training days, rest, etc.

I got trapped in that way thinking for everyone, athlete or otherwise.  More like handcuffed.  To the point that I felt like if I explored anything outside of a 4-phase workout program, a barbell squat or a systematic approach to “core training”, then I was a Looney Tune.

Then I picked up a kettlebell for the first time.  Kettlebells had been around for a little while, but they were still considered taboo by some of the leaders in the strength and conditioning industry.  After executing some kettlebell swings and some turkish get ups in a hotel room after a performance conference, I realized that movement was different from exercise.

Movement is different from exercise.

This is movement:

This is exercise:

I was strong, but my integrated movement was shit.  In fact, I wasn’t graceful at all.  My muscles were powerful and my joint were mobile and stable, but I had zero grace in pure movement.  I was powerful, strong and stable within the confines of identified movement patterns, but when I challenged myself outside of these confines, I was at beginner level.

Again, I realized that movement is different from exercise. I was certainly moving when I exercise, but I was trapping and limiting my ability to move freely with traditional exercise.

In fact, I don’t even like the word exercise.  I use it but I don’t like it.  I use the word “movement” on this blog over and over again.  I would even prefer to say “train” or “practice” or “drills” over the word exercise.  Exercise makes me cringe.  “Exercise” makes me think of automated robots on a treadmill.  I don’t want to be an automated robot.  I want to move.  I want to move because I enjoy moving, and seeking out new methods of movement is challenging.  I want to move in an unrestricted 3-dimensional manner.

I’m not going to discard structured movement training using such drills as push ups, squats, and lunges, because they have their place.  But I am damn well going to explore un-traditional forms of movement from here on out.  Climbing, hanging, swinging, etc.  Full integration of movement play and practice starts now.

We fitness professionals think that we know movement and that we are teaching people how to be “functional”, shame on us.  We stop our teachings at “flat back”, “shoulders down and back” and “pressurize your core”!

I learned a long time ago, after crumpling up and throwing away probably 2-3 books worth of writing material that I should trust my thinking.  I feel that I should trust my thinking now.  I have grown to appreciate being exposed to new ideas that initiate an evolution in my own thinking.

Why be trapped?  Go explore, go move…

Oh and here is that picture that I promised some 910 words ago…

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Cheers to stumbling onto ideas that open our minds!

KG

It’s Just a Kettlebell Swing and Suspension Trainer Workout

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A few months ago, I wrote a post titled:

—>  It’s Just a Kettlebell Swing Workout

Kettlebell Swings

That has been my most popular post on this blog, by far.

I wrote it because I wanted to convey how simple a workout can be, and probably should be for most people.

Totally stripped down.  Nothing but a timer, a towel and water bottle, and a kettlebell of a decent weight.  You could make the argument that a “totally stripped down” workout would only involve bodyweight exercises, but that’s beside the point.

A lot of people avoid physical activity because of two things:

  • Time
  • Preconceived thoughts and anxiety about how the workout will feel.

Simple workouts are time effective and aim to limit anxiety.  You look at the agenda for the workout and say to yourself, “Oh, I just have to focus on kettlebell swings today.  I can do that”.

If you have a kettlebell or have the means to acquire a kettlebell for the future, I will ALWAYS encourage you to make the purchase.  Don’t wait, don’t peruse, don’t over-analyze.

Just buy and be done with it.  You won’t be sorry.

Well, I take that back, you could be sorry… if you buy it and fizzle out and using it.  Then it’s just another heavy object holding a door open.  What a shame that would be.

Anyways, I wanted to build on that post, because I felt that the workouts displayed were rock solid, and applicable to a large population of readers.

They are simple, yet brutally effective.  I would consider them entry-level workouts, however, I have to admit that I continue to use the 15sec work/ 15sec rest (24 rounds) kettlebell swing protocol to this day.

The only difference is that I have climbed the ladder in weight.  When I started with the protocol, I used a 20kg kettlebell from LifeLine Fitness.  I then climbed to the 24kg kettlebell, then to the 28kg kettlebell and now on to the 32kg kettlebell.  All were purchased from LifeLine Fitness also (yes, I promote these guys heavily, they make equipment worth buying).

Don’t be fooled by elaborate training protocols.  Keep it simple and be detailed.

A simple workout/program executed to perfection will trump the world’s most complex/perfectly written program done poorly.

Stay in the “simple” zone, do it right.

That being said, I would like to say that kettlebells and suspension trainers are a match made in heavy.  For roughly $300, you can outfit your home with a Jungle Gym XT and a nice variety of kettlebells ranging in weight.

The combination of a suspension trainer and kettlebells is magic.

Seriously, they are match made in heaven.

Let’s look at workout that I’ve employed over the years…

Kettlebell + Suspension Trainer

A workout like this is complete.

The kettlebell swings alone are enough to initiate a tremendous training stimulus, but when paired with the other movements, the workout is magic.  Push, pull and ballistic movements for the upper and lower body are all represented here.

With high volume workouts, I typically choose simple rep schemes.  It’s annoying trying to remember how many reps to complete in the middle of round, when you’re real focus should be on controlling your breathing and fatigue.  Once you experience this frustration, you’ll wish that you would have picked simple rep schemes.

After completing each round, I would rest anywhere from 45-75 seconds depending on your conditioning level.  Don’t be a hero and rest for 45sec in the first round if you can’t handle it.  This decision may bite you in the ass in the later rounds when your fatigue levels spike.

Fatigue accumulates throughout the workout, just as it does for every workout.  It’s inevitable that it’s coming, but timing it so that you complete quality work while you can is the idea here.

The number of rounds that you complete is depends on your ability to complete quality work (exercise technique, complete reps, etc).  If your form breaks, you make the decision to rest before re-engaging, or you pull the plug on the workout altogether.

Safety first, always.  Form good habits.

Put this workout in your back pocket for now, load it in the chamber when you need a challenging high tempo training session.

 

 

Cheers to ST’s, BW’s and KB’s!

KG

(PS:  I turned on “Location Tagging” so that you’ll really believe that I reside in God’s Country… Eau Claire, WI)

My Philosophy: Great Point Alwyn Cosgrove!

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When I initially read  Alwyn Cosgroves post (shown above) I immediately felt that it was too good not to share. 

Once I established my training philosophy, I was set for life.  I was set to teach others and also to execute for my own benefit.  

It doesn’t matter what equipment is around, what I have access to or what I don’t have access to.  

I can accomplish something even though I don’t have everything.  

Sure, my ideas and preferences will evolve, but I think that much of what I believe makes a great program and workout is solidified.  I am not sure (at this point) how it can get much better, without sacrificing certain things that I morally cannot consciously sacrifice.  One of those being safety of myself, or the you guys.  

I write about kettlebells and suspension trainers on this blog A LOT.  

But it’s not for any other reason than I believe whole heartedly that the combination of kettlebells and suspension trainers make for insanely effective workouts, especially since they fit into my training philosophy so well.  

Kettlebells provide loaded (resistance), ground based movements that are primarily (not all) completed in a vertical standing position.  The bold print is a part of my training philosophy.  I could substitute “kettlebells” for a whole host of other fitness equipment, and things would be just fine.  

Movements like kettlebell swings and turkish get ups are world class for building a variety of qualities, at the same time.  

Suspension trainers are an entire gym in a box, weighing in at less than 2lbs tops.  Equipment-free bodyweight training is great, but suspension training makes it better.   Suspension trainers allow for the leverage of a person’s bodyweight against gravity.  My favorite benefit of the suspension trainer is the fact that you can PULL!  Inverted rows (aka: body rows) and chin ups (supinated and neutral grip) are all made possible by two straps with handles.  

Get rid of that shoddy kitchen chair set up that you’ve been using for so long…

But as stated in Alwyns commentary above, kettlebells and suspension trainers are just tools that I use to to implement my philosophy of what makes a great workout, program, etc.  I am not exclusive to any piece of equipment.  That’s not my style.

The fact is that most equipment works wonderfully.  

It’s the user (aka: you) that has the opportunity to make the magic happen.  

I know a lot of people that own a complete set of kettlebells and the best suspension trainer money can buy, but they don’t have a philosophy, or any sort of guidance on how to use it.  In turn, they are stalemate in their efforts, or on to the next fashionably trendy workout tool.

For most people who are beyond their days of athletics, the total body approach to training is probably best.  I know that there are upper body/lower body splits and a thousand other ways to organize your weekly training, but total body is effective in short windows of time.

Time is probably our most precious commodity.  We can never get time back.  Once a minute passes, that minute is gone.  Same with days, weeks, and months.  Time keeps moving forward at the same steady pace regardless if we want it to slow down or stand still.

That being said, leveraging a total body workout, using a smart philosophy to structure the workout is (in my personal opinion) the best approach for accomplishing goals of fat loss, building all around strength and many other athletic qualities using time management.

But, it must also be said that paying attention to your nutrition, specifically what you shove into your mouth and drink, is the most time effective way to stay lean.  

My advice to all of you is this:  Treat tools are tools, not philosophies.

Gravity decides what an object is going to weigh, humans decide how the object will be shaped, how the weight is distributed and to some degree how the tool should be used best.  An example of how a tool should be used best is in fact, the kettlebell.  You can swing a dumbbell, sure.  But your first time swinging a kettlebell will lead you to believe that dumbbell shouldn’t be swung.  

Kettlebells are the standout choice for swings and many other exercises.  

But I can in fact swing a dumbbell.  I can also perform a turkish get up with a dumbbell, or a sandbag, or a filled milk carton, or a loaded backpack, etc.  It might not feel the greatest, but I can do it because it has weight and a handle to grip.

The tool is not the philosophy.  It is an augment to the philosophy.  A supplement to your training philosophy.  

Again, I can perform a squat with any tool, or no tool.  If I don’t have a two, it’s bilateral air squats or for an added loaded and challenge, it’s pistol squats.  

Therefore, pay attention to more important aspects of your workout such as:

–  Consistent progression of loading.

–  Rest

–  Time under tension

–  Range of motion

–  Sets/Reps

–  Heart Rate

–  Movement patterns

–  Exercise progression

–  Your goals, needs, abilities and dysfunction

-etc…

These are things that can you can use to imprint your own philosophy of how an effective training session or long-term program should be designed, regardless of what equipment you have or don’t have.

Very simple thought pattern yet often overlooked.  Thanks Alwyn…

 

Cheers to philosophies and sticking to them…

 

Kyle

Ido Portal QOD (Quote of the Day)

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With all of the rage about WOD’s, WMD’s and DTF’s, whoops…

I thought that I would post a quote from one of Ido Portal’s YouTube videos.  I love this guys philosophy on exploring movement.  Referring to Ido as a jack of all trades wouldn’t be fair, because in modern society we often think of someone like this as being “sort of” good at everything, but a master of none.

Maybe I’ll start posting SWOD’s, “swing workout of the day”.  Or BOD’s, “breakfast of the day”.  Maybe TOD’s, “television of the day”.

But through watching his few YouTube videos and reading some written word from Ido, it seems that he has it all figured out.  I like his approach.

P.S.  I’m still unsure about the everted ankle jumping, but hey, I don’t need to agree with everything that everyone says.

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My personal feeling on this statement is quite simple…

Why subject yourself to proving this statement incorrect?  When your ability to move is taken from you, what if you cannot get it back?  Or worse?

Don’t bet the farm, keep moving people.

 

Cheers you moving because you can…

KG