Friday, December 21, 2007

K-Bell Sport, Bodyweight Athletics and Movement Training Boot-Camp!

On December 1st and 2nd, I had the honor of teaching alongside Steve Cotter at a fitness event we host in Fenton, MI. We covered joint mobility, k-bell sport movements, chi kung and a ton of bodyweight exercises. The later was especially unique in that the exercises Steve taught were full body movements that challenge not only your conditioning, but damn near every athletic skill as well – speed, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility etc. Very unique stuff!

In addition, we had a great group of folks to work with and also were ecstatic to have Jared Sevik and Scott Helsley on board as co-instructors. Both of these guys are fantastic teachers coupled with being extremely gifted athletes.

Check out Jared’s Site and e-book at:

Check out Scott’s BLOG at:

Anyway, it was a great weekend and we were fortunate enough to have our film guy there to film the event. The DVD should be available in the next month or so but in the interim, check out the below highlight clip!

If you are interested in our next event – shoot me an e-mail at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CSI - Miami

Since I competed in the chair press and got 52 reps at the World Kettlebell Championships in Miami earlier this month, there has been a lot of speculation/investigation as to how this happened. To be honest, I am not sure how it happened either – thus, the title of this article. The title is also reflective of the on-going investigation involving Steve Cotter and I breaking every traffic law in Miami. However, according to our friend Jay Armstrong, because it happened in a rental car, it didn’t happen. It may also reflect a certain magenta singlet being reported stolen by the Russian team but found later in Marty Farrell’s hotel room covered in tequila and lipstick…..I know, I know….disturbing.

Oh well, to back up, let me describe the event first. The chair press involves cleaning 2 x 32kg bells, sitting down on a bench and then having 10 minutes to press the bells as many times as possible. The only place to rest is in the rack position. To watch a video of me competing in this event in Miami, go to the below link:

Anyway, this has generated a lot of questions for a couple reasons. First, I did not train specifically for this event at ALL. I viewed this as a fun event and even had a good time joking with everyone while it was happening. Second, outside of doing demo rep’s for new clients, I have done ZERO pressing over the last 2 years. My focus has been centered on the competition lifts and assistance exercises – jerk, snatch, swing, jump squats, etc.

Even when I was pressing, I would describe myself as a strong presser but lacking stamina. A typical workout would be the basic 5 x 5 with 2-3 min rest periods. Granted, I did these with the 40kg bells but it’s still a long ways from the type of conditioning needed to do 52 reps with the 32’s.

So, we are back to the question – “Where did it come from”? I have some ideas and am going to break them down into 3 areas: physical, mental and nutritional. No worries – I won’t go in some crazy direction and reference power crystals, supplementing with Grizzly saliva and/or linking it back to the “Bowflex”. However, after every workout, I do watch the movie “300” on my couch alongside a life-size cardboard cutout of Mike Maher to raise T-levels. Cmon, don’t act like you have never done it!

Physical – I have to credit Valery Fedorenko in this regard! Despite being a lifetime athlete/trainee, I did not see huge increases in my competition numbers until I trained with him and implemented his methods. Focusing on the competition lifts/assistance exercises, training for time, transitioning to a more fluid/relaxed style of lifting etc has resulted in HUGE improvements in my conditioning and technique.

As it relates to the chair press, I think all the over-head work done for time at such high volumes via the jerk and snatch carried over to this exercise. As an example, when doing a 10 minute set of jerks, you have nowhere to rest but in the rack position or over-head. Thus, my shoulders are under varying degrees of tension the whole time. As for the actual jerk, although it is predominantly a leg exercise, I’m confident the ballistic nature of the lift for high volumes creates quite a bit of neuromuscular activity in the shoulder area. All of this I believe has contributed to my shoulders being conditioned to fire at a descent strength level for extended periods of time.

In addition to the above, Valery also teaches what best can be described as a fluid style of lifting. This promotes efficiency and thus higher work capacity. As an example, some k-bell schools of thought suggest generating maximal force on each rep. This is analogous to someone telling a boxer to make every punch a knockout punch. The end result – he/she fatigues sooner. Valery suggests only being tense where you need to be. To relate this back to the chair press, I only used the minimum amount of energy needed to press the weight up and used almost no energy bringing the weight back down. This translated into more reps!

Furthermore, the subtle hand and shoulder positions taught in the AKC approach are congruent with better mechanical leverage and thus less muscular fatigue. Again, this was something I was mindful of during my event.

Although this describes how I indirectly improved my chair press through the core competition lifts, going forward I will train the chair press directly since it will be a continued event at competitions. The training method will remain the same though – timed sets at a designated pace with a focus on mechanical efficiency.

Mental – Once again, I have to credit Valery in this area as well. The AKC style of lifting promotes lifting at a designated pace. Pacing may not sound like a big deal to some, but is incredibly important factor in achieving big numbers. As an example, when I pace myself around 8 reps per min, I can do 85 reps in the jerk over a 10 minute time-frame. If I sprinted from the beginning of my set to the end, I would not get that number and probably wouldn’t last the 10 minutes either. As a result, this type of lifting, builds patience and a relaxed mind set. I carried this over to my chair press set – approx. 5 reps per min for 10 minutes. Had I rushed and chose to go 15 reps a minute, I know my number would have been much lower.

Additionally, long sets with no breaks build mental toughness – period! There is an immense difference between racking a set of bells and not setting them down for 10 minutes vs. doing a set, putting the bells down, doing another set etc.

Nutrition/Recovery - I view training in a holistic sense and thus feel success/progress requires a multi-dimensional approach. In addition to the actual training its how you eat, sleep, think, manage stress etc. An area I have really made some significant changes in is nutrition. I worked with the guys here at VIP Nutrition in Flint, MI to put together a nutritional/supplement plan that would fully support my training. In a nutshell, I ensure I eat 5-6 meals a day with quality protein/carbs and supplement with a good multi-vitamin, amino acids, desiccated liver tablets, EFA’s and glutamine (I like Beverly Nutrition’s products In addition, per Mike Mahler’s advice, I added zinc, L-Carnitine “good fats” and ZMA before bed to keep my t-levels in check. Did I notice a difference in my performance and recovery? – Absolutely!!! I also took Mike’s suggestion on adding a sports massage at least a couple times a month to speed recovery. For more information in this regard, check out Mike’s website at

There you have it!!! If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at

Friday, August 10, 2007

Momentum Fighters

Momentum Fighters

A friend of mine recently sent me a book entitled “A Fighter’s Heart” by Sam Sheridan. It is the story of a Harvard graduate who travels around the globe in an effort to train with some of the best martial artists and fight camps in the world. Although I am only half way through, I very much recommend it as a good read. He offers a lot of insight into not just the fight world, but into the human psyche as well.

At one point in the book, he references “momentum fighters”. These are competitors who dominate when plan A is working but are so broken when it fails they can’t get to a plan B. You can see it in their eyes, posture, everything – they just can’t get over the emotional disappointment and figuratively (if not literally) throw in the towel.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think how this applies to almost everything – school, work, working out, parenting etc. It’s so easy to be excited about a game-plan and the expected outcome. Conversely, it’s a enormous bummer to have it fall apart and be left wondering what to do next.

To connect the concept to training, watch people’s behavior in the gym. You will see some folks almost every day for a month and then they disappear. When asked what happened, they respond with something like “Well, I missed a couple days and just couldn’t get back into it.” Something happened that stopped their momentum and they weren’t able to get that motivational inertia moving again.

No judgement here – obstacles are tough for everyone. I don’t care who you are, dealing with a setback like an injury, sickness etc can really throw you off track and make you feel like all the progress you made is now coming to a halt or even going in reverse. In my experience, this is when you have to act quickly to prevent any bad momentum from building. Assess the situation, come up with an alternative game plan and quickly execute – even if you are not yet fully confident this is the best way to go. The reason being is that it at least puts you in a position to halt the negative and start moving things toward the positive – you can always correct as you go.

I think another component is being aware of your emotioins and avoid feeling too high or, of course, to low. If you get too excited about an action and it's resulting outcome, you are setting yourself up for a long fall if/when it doesn't work. At that point, feeling motivated about changing game plans is going to be tough. Thus, although everyone is different, for me it works best to keep the emotions centered/level. This makes me feel as though I am emotionally mobile and ready to make smooth transitions to another game plan if needed. But like I have mentioned in earlier BLOG's - easier said than done. Like everything, this is a work in progress for me.

Fear & Bravery

Fear & Bravery

My 13 year old son and I went to the movies last week and watched “300”. Afterwards, my son made the statement “You know Dad, I don’t think anyone is that brave. If that was for real, they would be scared”.

It’s funny how you think when you are a kid – “brave people don’t experience fear.” Furthermore, you think - “well, I get scared…..hmmm….I must not be brave”.

My explanation to him is that fear is always a constant in any confrontation regardless of whether it’s on the battlefield or in a school hallway between classes. The trick is to accept the fear, manage it and use it. The best warriors, fighters, and athletes throughout history are those that can deal with this emotion and find a way to use it as a performance enhancer or at the very least, become good at neutralizing its negative effects.

Now, I have been teaching martial arts since I was a teenager and have said the above many times – “It’s okay to feel scared, accept it, make friends with it and then use it!” Easier said than done! Saying you are going to control your fear and actually doing it are different things entirely. I remember reading up on all this fear stuff when I was a teenager and then trying to apply it to an upcoming kickboxing match. Yep, I was still scared shitless stepping into the ring…ha ha I thought doing all this visualization stuff would damn near eliminate it – Not! (quick Borat reference) Like anything else, you have to practice it, make it a habit, and only then will it progressively start to work.

That is why I love the martial arts and Kettlebell Sport so much. They put you in situations that regular life doesn’t offer and thus provide you with a way to practice dealing with fearful emotions on a consistent basis. The end result – you get good at it.

I know some of you reading this may be thinking, “Yeah, I can see where competing in a martial art or boxing match would be tough, but what’s scary about Kettlebell sport?” Well, grab two 53lb bells or two 70lb bells and snatch or jerk them for 10 minutes without setting them down. Next workout – you will be thinking to some degree “this is freakin hard, I am nervous about doing this”. In addition, as you improve, your set’s become longer and thus uncomfortable for a longer duration. It’s as much a mental battle as a physical one. You have to get good at turning down the volume on that negative inner voice and become almost monk like. To view an example, click on the below link to watch a clip of Valery Fedorenko doing 130jerks with two 70lb bells for 10 minutes.

Taking it to the extreme, do you want to get so good at handling fear you completely eliminate it? I don’t think so. Over the years, I have had the privilege of training with some elite martial artists and they all said to experience fear to some degree is not only expected, but good. Otherwise, you end up competing emotionally “flat”. So again, manage it and do your best to use it as something to stimulate better performance.

Anyway, after filling my son’s cup with all this wisdom, he responded with “Um, can we stop by Pizza hut”. And here I was fearful that he wasn’t listening 

Going to Darker Places

Going To Dark Places

I know – kind of a freaky/scary start to my entry today. However, I am not talking about haunted houses, Elm Street, Pilates or guys who wear Capri pants. Instead, I am talking about asking yourself those tough questions that take you to the darker places in your mind. Those questions we don’t like to ask, and especially answer, because it means feeling bad. Emotions such as guilt, disappointment, embarrassment, anxiety/pressure to change and a host of other shitty feelings are waiting there for us.

So, what do we do? We don’t “go there” and configure a number of rationalizations and excuses to make ourselves feel better – “I would work out more but I don’t have time”….. “I would lift heavier weights but I don’t want to be muscle-bound”…“I would try that kettlebell class but I will probably just get hurt”. The list goes on.

The real reason, in my opinion, almost always point back to a double-edged sword called fear. Fear of change, fear of injury, fear of embarrassment and fear of the truth. The later is especially important and possibly the most scary. When we go to those dark corners of our mind, look under the bed, and are worried about what we are going to see staring back at us, it’s that – the truth.

However, that is a great starting point/opportunity. Asking those tough questions, facing those demons, taking accountability, feeling un-comfortable and making some disciplined changes.

Thus, the comparison of fear to a double edged sword – it can burn you up or be the starting point for monumental change. The decision is 100% under our control and 100% our choice to make.

It just has to start with making a commitment to regularly visit those “dark places” and learn to be okay with feeling uncomfortable. From my experience, if something is uncomfortable, it probably has value. As an example, I have been training GS (Girevoy Sport) now for a little under a year. If you are not familiar with this sport, it is brutal - the ultimate test of strength/endurance. For more info on GS, go here - Anyway, in training I was avoiding constructing my workouts the way I should for a simple reason - it was hard and meant more discomfort. Instead, I rationlized going with a different program that was difficult, but still not what I truly needed to get the results I wanted. So, I made the change, my workouts became more difficult/uncomfortable.....BUT.. now I am getting better results than ever. I just had to be straight with myself, make the change and be okay with paying a bigger price for a better result - totally worth it!



Amongst top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors, a statement I often hear is that success in grappling/fighting lies in the “transitions” - The ability to smoothly, effectively and repeatedly transition from one position to another until a submission is attained. It’s not just changing positions but how you change positions that really matters.

Being that I have always been fascinated not just by mixed martial arts, but on how to train for mixed martial arts, I have noticed that the ability to make successful transitions is just as important in that arena.

As an example, MMA athletes need to be able to be able to accelerate explosively (ex. striking) and be able to exert a high degree of slow strength for extended periods of time (ex. clinching). I like to equate this to the need to be both a Ferrari and a tow truck. But, MMA athletes also need to have the ability to successfully transition back and forth between these two modalities without fatiguing – explode in with strikes, clinch/battle for position, shoot for the takedown and hold/maintain the position once on the ground etc.

From my experience, that is where the difficulty lies. I have worked with fighters who can hit the mitts all day, wrestle/roll on the mats all day but fatigue once they have to repeatedly make that transition from ground to standing or vice versa. Solution in a training drill – hits the mitts non-stop for a min, crank out 10 burpees/sprawls, roll for 2 min, 10 k-bell snatches per arm and repeat. This resembles an actual MMA bout and I am big believer in the adage – the way you train is the way you react. If you are making consistent transitions in a fight, then your body has to be conditioned in training to make those same transitions.

Staying on the topic of transitions, I believe this also extends into general life. How well do we transition from being a parent to being a competitor to being a spouse to our job/career? Do we do that well or do we tend to get stuck in one mode and never really get out of it? Do we change our roles but are not entirely smooth about it?

I believe this is where transition meets balance. For me, I don’t think it’s possible to be truly balanced in all the different areas of my life if I am not able to smoothly make the transition between the different roles that are important to me and those I care about. I am not always successful in doing this but am determined to making it an on-going goal of mine.