Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Power of the Kettlebell Swing

I came across this article yesterday on Breaking Muscle about the "What the Hell?" effect of the kettlebell swing from Craig Marker. It couldn't have come at a better time either.

Due to training at the YMCA for the time being, I've gotten away from using my kettle bells as much as I usually do. Until recently, I did swings and goblet squats every day as part of my warm-up regardless of what I was doing. The swing is a great way to start your workout (or even your day!).

I normally do something like 8-12 swings followed immediately by 3-5 goblet squats with the same bell (usually a 36 or 40kg). I've also done an extended set where I do not put the weight down. For example:

10 Swings + 8 Squats + 8 Swings + 5 Squats + 5 Swings + 3 Squats + 3 Swings + 1 Squat

This warm-up is great for any type of workout:

1. Gets the hips and glutes firing - especially important for squats, deadlifts and cleans.
2. Combats the bad positioning from sitting all day - this goes back to #1, but if you sit a lot during the day, the swing is a great way to enforce the neutral position.
3. Loosens up the whole body - the swing is a full-body movement, and will get the blood flowing really quick
4. Goblet squats open up and reinforce proper positioning for squatting - prying goblet squats allow you to sit in the position, work on getting more upright and pry the hips open. If you're squatting or even deadlifting, this position is important. I've found that my knees tend to cave in much less on heavy weights if I warm up with goblet squats.

Pat Flynn's Swing video:

Hope everyone had a great weekend and is ready to start the week off right!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Squat Saturday! #squatsaturday

I'm bringing back Squat Saturday. It was my favorite day and should be yours, too. The Squat Saturday series will not just be pictures of awesome squats, but will also tackle a squat variation or issue each saturday. 

The squat is the King of all exercises. Being able to squat is an essential movement, and everyone should be doing some sort of squat. There are many possibilities from back squats, front squats, overhead squats, goblet squat, kettlebell squat, Zercher squats, belt squats, pistol squats, and the list goes on. So even if you can't back or front squat well, there are endless possibilities to do to build your mobility until you can squat with a barbell. 

Untamed Strength: Alan Thrall's How to Squat. This is a GREAT how to video that covers just about everything you can imagine about squatting. His other videos are great and entertaining as well. He is very detailed about the movements and covers footwear. 

 It's Saturday! So get in the rack and squat!

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Throwback Thursday!


Astrakhan, Russia 2009

Costa Rica 2009


Yesterday we had a team meeting about goals and planning for large accounts. We have a lot of accounts and large territories, so prioritizing your time and targets is essential. One issue that we run into is that we tend to dive right in, and sometimes we lose sight of the goal or the strategy. At this point we can get stretched too thin, hit a grind and lose sight of where we want to go. We need to step back and see the big picture before we develop a plan. 

The same holds true in health and fitness. While you may not need to develop an intensive business strategy, you need to have a goal and a way to get there. This is the 

4 Steps of Developing a Plan:
1. Define a goal - this is your desired end state; the goal should be clearly defined, specific and actionable. 

2. Create a strategy - this is a broad strokes overview of how you are going to accomplish this goal. 

3. Assign tasks & create a timeline - every goal should have a realistic timeline in order to maintain accountability; tasks in this case are days in the gym, diet/calories per day, etc. 

4. Identify and deploy resources - tracking system or online trackers, articles, forums for advice, personal trainer (if you want). There's a lot of resources for free online. 

Obviously this is more geared towards business, but this process applies to any goal, professional or personal. 

Get after it!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy International Women's Day

To all the ladies out there, Happy International Women's Day!!

Russian Bear Routine Revisited

One of my personal favorite routines in the "Russian Bear Routine" from Pavel's Power to the People. I've used it in a could different ways and periodized it as well.

I'm planning out a training cycle using the base protocol for the big lifts and adding supplementary work in. The basic scheme is a top set of 5 reps (heavy but a PR and not to failure), then a set of 5 with 90% of that weight, and as many sets as you can do with good form for 5 reps. Some days you may get 10 (or more!), some days maybe 5 or 6. Once your form starts to go, call it a day. I like this because it's self regulating and you can get a lot of volume done as well.


Back Squat:
315 lbs x 5 reps (rest 5 minutes)
283.5* lbs x 5 reps (rest 2 minutes)
252* lbs x 5 reps for as many sets as you can maintain form (rest 1 minute between sets)

*If the percentages make numbers like that, just round up or down depending on the next closest multiple of 5, so 285 lbs and 255 lbs.

I have taken this a step further and implemented some periodization, working to a training block with sets of 5, then sets of 3 with a final week where you push a PR. I usually work two exercises per day with the Russian Bear protocol, then add appropriate accessory work.

There's different ways to implement the protocol, all dependent on how often you want to work. I've squatted twice per week using the Russian Bear, one day being the protocol and other either squats or front squats for speed and low volume. I wouldn't deadlift more than once per week due to the volume. Power cleans, snatches, swings, or anything of that nature would be fine. I have actually used power cleans, keeping the reps to three.

Here's a good basic outline for the routine (I prefer some assistance work so that could be added as well):
Elite FTS: Russian Bear Routine

Here's a really good variation of the routine from Evolve Lab:

Russian Bear Program: Foolproof Path to Explosive Strength and Muscle Gain

An issue that I have come across while researching the routine was injuries. There's a lot of volume and the frequency is quite high using mostly compound lifts (deadlifts, squats, presses, etc). There's a few reasons for this, but one big reason I see is the lack of assistance ("bodybuilding") work. This is common for a lot of the Modern Lifting Bro routines. 

This is the reason I prefer to add assistance and "bodybuilding" work. For a long time, I never did much assistance work, and 90% of what I did was some sort of squatting, pulling, pressing or cleans and snatches. And I paid for it. Assistance work is essential for strengthening weaknesses, fixing imbalances and helping with recovery. If you've ever seen Pumping Iron, you know the scene where Arnold talks about the pump and coming:

I will do a whole post about assistance and pump work and why it's important, especially with a routine like this, but do not be afraid to add curls, calf raises, cable movements or any other lifts of your choice for sets of 8-15. Don't go overboard as the volume is already high, but 3 sets of 8-15 reps with a moderate weight is a good range. 

Feel free to post results or experience with the routine! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cholesterol in food not a concern, new report says

From CNN Health:

Cholesterol in food not a concern, new report says

"Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told CNN: "The idea we need to limit saturated fat and cholesterol shifted Americans from a well-balanced diet to high-sugar diets, which made people eat more and get fatter."
The reality, according to Nissen, is that only 15% of circulating cholesterol in the blood comes from what you eat. The other 85% comes from the liver. "So if you go on a diet," he says, "you're not changing your cholesterol very much."

The paleo crowd has been saying this for years. I won't get into the specifics of Paleo or Primal eating or my personal thoughts on it, there's a lot of things they do correct. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction away from the "low fat" dogma that has persisted for decades in spite of evidence to the contrary. 


It's been right at a year since my last post. In the meantime, I left the military, moved completely across the country and started a new job in medical diagnostics. It's been an eventful year. I learn something new every single day, especially as I try to succeed in the world of professional sales. Fortunately, 

Due to this I've gotten away from "training". Most of what I do now would be classified as exercise, which is fine as I'm on the road all day and I'm not worried about pushing boundaries right now. I shelved my weightlifting shoes for about 10 months and just wore them again for the first time this week (and paid for it!). I still do cleans and clean-based complexes regularly, squat about twice per week and deadlift 1-2 times per week. If I deadlift twice, one day is heavy and the other is for speed or something like clean-style pulls, where the weight is pretty light. I've added in the occasional trap bar deadlift as well since I'm working out at the Middletown YMCA (gets me out of my water heater room). 

I'm looking at doing the Tactical Strength Challenge this year in April. I'm cutting it close on time, but all I really need to do is add kettlebell snatches again. The TSC consists of three events:

   A three-attempt  deadlift
   Max rep Pull-ups
   Kettlebell snatches for max reps in 5 minutes (24kg)

I do plan on writing a lot more now. I have some thoughts and reviews I want to post, which won't be anything groundbreaking but just my experience that can hopefully help some people out. There's a lot of subjects, so I will try to keep it focused on training and nutrition. 

One of my professional goals for the year was to get involved more by doing outreach events and races. This was mostly geared towards my job to meet people and make connections, but there is also the social aspect and keeping active outside the gym. I have a list of 5K races I want to do, so hopefully I can get the word out about the blog. 

I'm also going to get the T-shirt designs up within a few months. I had some ideas I never finished, so that will be linked once I get the designs finished. 

By the way, completely unrelated, but I really want one of these: