Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse Six

The spirit that never dies
is called the mysterious feminine.
Although she becomes the whole universe,
her immaculate purity is never lost.
Although she assumes countless forms,
her true identity remains intact.

The gateway to the mysterious female
is called the root of creation.

Listen to her voice,
hear it echo through creation.
Without fail, she reveals her presence.
Without fail, she brings us to our own perfection.
Although it is invisible, it endures;
it will never end.


Strength.  The production of strength.  Produce.  To produce.  To create.

Strength:  1.  the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.  2.  mental power, force, vigor.  3.  moral power, firmness, or courage.

Produce:  1.  to bring into existence; to give rise to; cause.  2.  to bring into existence by intellectual or creative ability.

OK.  Now that we got that cleared up!  Strength is a creative act.  It is an art and a science.  Like most things, strength lends itself well to the Yin and Yang.  Positive and Negative.  Male and Female.  Black and White.  Strong and Weak.  Opposites that are symbiotic.  You can't have one without the other.

This verse is about creation.  In our case, we are searching the Tao for insights into our training of strength.  What can Lao-Tzu teach us about tapping into the creative energy of the Tao to further enhance our practice of strength?

Why feminine?  Because mother is the most creative.  A mother brings life.  A mother nurtures.

The spirit that never dies is called the mysterious feminine.

This mysterious feminine spirit that never dies is the foundation of force production.  The production of force is a creative act.  When you combine that with the science that develops the skill of strength, you have a one, two punch.

In Pavel Tsatsouline's book, Power to the People: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American, Pavel teaches that Tension = Force.  "Force and tension are essentially the same thing.  That is why neurological, or 'bulk free', strength training can be summed up as acquiring the skill to generate more tension."

In Pavel's book, The Naked Warrior, he says, "The skill of tension generation is the most important variable in getting stronger-it is much more important than the building of muscle mass."

Although she becomes the whole universe, her immaculate purity is never lost.

Strength as a skill...  Imagine an individual pressing a heavy Kettlebell overhead in a slow and controlled movement.  Imagine one executing a perfect Deadlift.  There is purity in that and for the lifter in the moment of pressing or pulling, there is a silence.  The mind quites as it enters this Zen like state of focused tension and strength.  In these moments, the lifter, whether they know it or not, is connected to the spirit of creation.  In this instance, we're referring to the feminine nature of the Tao and the Tao itself.  However, this connection can lend itself well to God, Buddha, Krishna, Allah or any higher power of your choosing.  Case in point:

Although she assumes countless forms, her true identity remains intact.

This creative act of Tension to produce Force and then using the moment to connect with sprint is also a calling to see if you can carry that connection into other aspects of daily life. 

The gateway to the mysterious female is called the root of creation.

For some reading this, it may pull at your ego strings a little bit as it does challenge how we look at and see the Higher Power.  I contend that God is neither male nor female, but both.  The Bible states, "Let us make man in our image."  The "us" part usually refers back to God as a King and also lends itself well to the Holy Trinity.  But what is the image of God?  God made man and woman.  Both are aspects of the image of God.  Thus God created a whole person capable of experiencing body and soul and being a divine expression of the wondrous mystery that is God.  This verse will perhaps offer us a chance to see God in a different light and connect with God on a different level.

The gateway for us is in the silence of the mind.  That is where the creation starts and where strength of body, mind and spirit will begin to flourish.

Listen to her voice, hear it echo through creation.  Without fail, she reveals her presence.  Without fail, she brings us to our own perfection.  Although it is invisible, it endures; it will never end.

In Wayne Dyer's Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life, he talks about creativity this way:

"Being creative means trusting your inner calling, ignoring criticism or judgment, and releasing resistance to your natural talents.  Read the 6th Verse paying particular attention to these words: 'Without fail, she revels her presence.  Without fail, she brings us to our own perfection.'  Then choose to let go of the doubt and fear you've harbored within you regarding your capacity to harmonize with the creative power - a power that's not only greater than your individual life, but is life itself."

Next time you find yourself under a heavy weight, be it a Kettlebell, Barbell, or life issue, use the combined strength of yourself with the Higher Power to press on.  Take advantage of the silent mind and feel the connection.  For me, I have a little prayer/saying when I press a heavy weight overhead, I say, "OK, I'll press and You pull."  It always feels a little lighter when I do that.  The weight is always at it's heaviest when I try to do it by myself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I love the smell of Kettlebells in the morning...

7am.  Sunrise today was at 6:43.  The sun had been up for 18 minutes and I was enjoying the pain in the morning air with Hindu Squats and Double Kettlebell Snatch.  10 sets of 10 reps each with 1:30 to rest.  Warmed up with Super Joints and got down to it.

In my last post re: this workout, I was concerned that I didn't own this set up.  I felt the form wasn't there due to early fatigue.  Since then, it seems I have adapted well and increased my conditioning enough to say it's time to drop :15 seconds and see how that goes.  I was ready to go early, each set.  Owned it!

Mucic of choice was New England Contra Music: Farewell to the Hollow: New England Tradition

I forgot how beautiful a Spring morning can be.  And how nice to know it's 8 am and you're already smoked!  The day just got started off with a bang!  Pura Vida!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sometimes it really is just all in your head...

Warm Up:  Super Joints and Pumps from ETK

Session:  Double 24 KB Front Squats with Renegade Rows.  10 x 5 with 2:30 rest period.  Down 30 seconds from last time.

Finish:  Hanging Leg Raises 5 x 5

Music of choice:  The Young Dubliners

Thoughts:  When the brain is ready to quit, know that you got at least another 3 to 4 sets in the bank.  Don't take that crap the brain dishes out.  Just got one more.  One more set, one more rep.  One rep at a time.  Keep at it until all the work is done.  You know what needs to get done.  You know what you are capable of.  If you're brain decides to fight you through the last 3 sets, well then that's just the brain's problem and has nothing to do with me finishing this work. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse Five

Heaven and Earth are impartial;
they see the 10,000 things as straw dogs.
The sage is not sentimental;
he treats all his people as straw dogs.

The sage is like Heaven and Earth:
To him none are especially dear,
nor is there anyone he disfavors.
He gives and gives, without condition,
offering his treasures to everyone.

Between Heaven and Earth
is a space like a bellows;
empty and inexhaustible,
the more it is used, the more it produces.

Hold on to the center.
Man was made to sit quietly and find
the truth within.


This is a challenging verse, wouldn't you agree?  And although it may prove difficult to weave Kettlebell training and the practice of physical strength into this verse, I'm sure you can already tell that what Lao-Tzu is suggesting and asking of us will require an enormous amount of strength.

Let's identify a few items to fully understand the context.

The 10,000 things refers to all the observable things in the world, the physical side of things.  

In modern day speech, a straw dog is something of a scapegoat.  In Asian tradition the straw dog is a ceremonial prop.  Something to use for the showing of reverence but discarded after the ritual.

A "bellows" is according to Wikipedia, a device for delivering pressurized air in a controlled quantity to a controlled location.  It's that do-hickey that looks like an accordion which is used to fan a fire!  Remember that one for later.

The book I'm using to read the Tao and get some help and inspiration in interpreting the meaning is Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life  by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  The subtitle is called, "Living the Wisdom of the Tao."  In this book, Dr Dyer challenges us to look at the Tao as a guide to living daily connected to spirit.  For me, this book is as much a strength training book as Power to the People and Enter the Kettlebell.   With out developing a strong spirit, a strong body will never manifest.  You must train each one equally.

This particular verse of the Tao challenges us to look at the world through the eyes of God.  Eyes where there is only love and no one is excluded from that love.  To see the world where everyone is equal and the same.  No one is more special than the next.  The other challenge is, can we give of ourselves equally to everyone regardless of who walks through the door?  I see this as a very prevalent trait in the RKC community.  People always willing to help, share thoughts, ideas and through this spirit of community and giving, the RKC has and is changing lives.

This impartial aspect of the Tao can lend itself to the practice of strength.  Like the straw dog, your training should be venerated and focused.  Intense and given 110%.  After though, discard it.  It's over now.  Continue moving forward.  Whether you hit your goal or failed miserably is of no matter.  Did you train with all your heart?

Recently on the DragonDoor forum I read a post where a person was struggling with a lift and reaching his goal.  He felt as if he was going backwards.  There was discussion of over training and  proposals of new more effective programs.  Hitting your goals is important.  It's an essential piece of the development puzzle.  But what happens if you don't?  You must remain impartial so as not to be defined by your goal.  If I can just dead lift "X" then I'm strong.  What if you don't?  What if you couldn't dead lift.  When we allow our accomplishments to define us, we are not living in harmony with spirit or the Tao. 

When we have earned wisdom, share it without condition.  Offering your treasures to everyone.  This doesn't mean work for free.  This means that everyone willing to listen and learn should be privy to the wisdom.  Tangible things like money are abundant and inexhaustible.  There is plenty for everyone.  The idea that one needs to get as much of the pie as possible is short sighted.  You can always make another pie.

Your strength comes from inside you.  It resonates deep in your center and in the core of your being.  Uh-Oh, I'm using exercise terms here.  Your core.  The center of your being and doing.  Look at the breath.  Look at power breathing and tension.  That all comes from the center.  The core.  Like the bellows, you bring in air and force it out with tension and pressure to create force/strength.  The air that goes in is infinite and inexhaustible.  Abundance abounds.

Look with in yourself to find your strength.  If you are strong inside, your body will respond in kind.  True strength can be found in reserving judgment and extending kindness in the unlikeliness of places.  The last line of Verse 5 pretty much sums it up for me.

"Man was made to sit quietly and find the truth within."

Phew...  I welcome your comments and discussion.

And then there's that...

Gloomy morning.  June Gloom in March.  Getting my head in the game was challenging but worth it.

Warm Up:  Super Joints, Hardstyle Locks, Halos, Pumps, Shoulder Bridges.


Box Pistols & Bottoms Up Presses with 24kg Bell.  Alternated.

For the Box Pistols I used a High Step 5 tier box dropped down to 3 tiers.  I'm feeling more and more comfortable with this tier and can see myself dropping another tier soon.  10 attempts, all pretty solid.

With the Bottoms Up press, my left hand is still weaker but catching up quick.  Lat shelf is dialing in, stability from the abs and glutes plugged into the rooted legs is coming along quite nicely.  10 attempts and pressed out 8 times up and back to the rack.  Missed it only twice.

Spent 20 minutes on these two drills and then moved on to...

Ladders alternating Negative Free Pistols & Bottoms Up Press with 16kg Bell.

Added a tier to the box, got a lighter bell and did 5 ladders of 1,2,3 in 20 minutes.  That was refrreshing and quite rewarding when form and technique with a little added conditioning allow you to squeeze in a whole extra ladder in the same time it took you to do only 4 the week prior.

Music of choice:  David Arkenstone's Atlantis.  This CD is great for slow grinds and exotic lifts.  The music is reminiscent of times long ago when there were Greek and Roman warriors sailing the Aegean sea and heading off to bring Helen home or conquer Egypt.  This is music of myth and legend that lends itself well to feats of strength.

All in all it was a very good session.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Am I taming the Bulldog or Is the Bulldog Taming Me?

It was a late Tuesday morning. Last week's Bulldog session got 6 sets of 3/3 Bulldog Cleans and 9 sets of 12 Swings. My goal for the Bulldog Session this week was 10 sets of 3/3 Cleans and 10 sets of 12 Swings. Results? Close, but no cigar, however better than last week, so I can't complain.

Warm Up: Super Joints and the warm up from Enter the Kettlebell.

The Workout: Bulldog Cleans 5 x 3/3 then 1 Arm Swings 5 x 3/3
                        2 Hand Swings 10 x 12

I would Clean, rest a minute, then Swing. After 5 sets of Cleans, my form wasn't all there. In the Clean, I felt the hip snap was loosing it's snap and I was feeling like I was going to start to attempt to muscle 88 pounds of round iron. So I down shifted to 1 Arm Swings to focus on the hip snap. Generating that weightless feeling with the bell and making the "zip it up like a jacket" part seem easy when it floats into place.

This is where Yoda and Jedi philosophy apply to Kettlebells...

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”

The application of Force and using the Force, as well as the Tension to tame this 88 pound nemesis.

The Cool Down: Came from Relax into Stretch plus I did some stretches for the back from Beyond Bodybuilding.

The good news is I got the full 10 sets. Next time around, I'll shoot for 6-7 sets of Cleans and 3-4 1 Arm Swings and I think I'll hold the volume on the 2 Hand Swings until I can hit 10 sets of 3/3 Cleans...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday Night at the Park

Monday nights training consisted of:

Warming up with Super Joints, plus Wall Squats, Halos and Pumps from Enter the Kettlebell

The workout consisted of 10 superset of 10 Hindu Squats immediately followed by 10 Double Kettlebell Snatches using 16kg bells.

The cool down came from Relax into Stretch plus some Hanging Leg Raises.

The music was supplied by Scott Joplin again.  It triggers the Sandow in me...

The last time this workout came around, I set the Gymboss timer for 1 minute of work (30 seconds per exercise) and 1:30 rest.  I set a goal to do 1 minute of work and 1:15 of rest.  After considering it further, I felt like I didn't fully own this time frame.  I want to finish the 10th set and know that each snatch and squat was executed perfectly.  That I owned the workout.  When I looked back at last Sunday morning, I felt like I didn't fully own it.  Last weeks session quickly evolved into a mind game of maintaining good form and pushing through the building fatigue.  So I decided to keep the time from the same.

So how did I feel this time?  Better than last time, but not where I want it to be.  The last couple set were the real work.  I'm more confident with this workout than the last one.  I think I'm going to repeat this time frame once more for good measure.

One thing for sure I'll tell you about this workout, it is a slam dunk full body workout.  This morning, my legs are toast, the shoulders are a bit fried and the glutes and dear abbies are making me aware of their presence.  If you ever have (or have had) a go at this workout, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Morning Sunshine and German Volume Training for an Irish Girevik

Friday morning started off with a bang.  Last time I did this workout I found myself invoking the Dropkick Murphy's to get the job done.  I also committed to this workout, to keep the rest times between 2:30 and 3:00 minutes.

For those of you just tuning in, I've been writing on HubPages for about 6 months and most of my material there has been about a personal challenge to myself.  That challenge is to go through all 101 workouts from David Whitley's ebook, 101 Kettlebell Workouts.  He offers a free copy when you subscribe to his newsletter over at  The work I put up on HubPages is mostly article style where as here, I can simply "blog."  Currently, I'm working through the German Volume Training section of the ebook.  Stacking is waiting in the wings with a menacing grin...

So, where was I?  Yes, Friday morning.  Sunshine.  German workout.  Irish Girevik.  Got it...

The warm up is joint mobility drills from Pavel Tsatsouline's DVD, Super Joints.  It works for me because it looses me up and helps me prepare my mind for the task at hand.  I also did a couple Turkish Get Ups to get the blood flowing.

The workout itself consisted of Double Kettlebell Front Squats alternated with Renegade Rows with no rest between the drills.  I did 10 sets of 5 reps.  I set the stop watch for 3:00 minutes.  After a set, I'd walk around or jump in place a bit, maybe some lite jogging, shake out the tension and when there was :30 seconds left on the clock, I'd reset so at 3:00 even, I'm back to work.

The focus for the Squat was on four things.  Pull, Pry, Drive, and Lock.  I'm actively pulling myself down.  I'm prying my hips apart and knees out so I can squat between my feet (thank you Dan John).  At the bottom, I drive with the heels and at the top we lock, ala Hardstyle.

I think Pavel puts it best when he says "strength is a skill" and to "practice strength, don't workout."  Sure, we call it a workout, but my goal is to finish stronger.

At the RKC in February 09, Mark Reifkind was talking about his yoga practice and how it related to Kettlebell training.  He quoted Bikram Choudhury at stated that, "the pose does not begin until you want to get out if it."  I guess for me, that means my workout started after the 6th set.  If you'll recall, last week it was the 6th set and beyond that the workout started because I needed to fire up my Irish blood with a little Celtic Punk to close the deal.  So this week I started working after the 6th set and with a reduction in rest time.  So there we have the small, gradual, finish stronger, improvement that I was looking for.

The best part about this Superset of Suffering is that every muscle gets hit and worked.  In addition as the rest time compresses itself, it become one hell of a conditioning session as well.  Well executed Kettlebell training is a true triple threat in the fitness world.  Strength, Conditioning and Fat Loss in one session.  Next time around, I'll see if I can go 2:30 for the rest period.

I finish off with some stretching and hanging leg raises.  Normally I work on Friday's but my wife and I had a day off together which resulted in a football sized Fajita Buritto from Abuelita's Mexican Restaurant in Topanga Canyon and a nap on the beach.  Perfect post workout meal and a Pura Vida afternoon!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Tao of The Kettlebell - Verse 4

The Tao is empty
but inexaustible,
the ancestor of all.

Within it, the sharp edges become smooth;
the twisted knots loosen;
the sun is softened by a cloud;
the dust settles into place.

It is hidden but always present.
I do not know who gave birth to it.
It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of all things.


In Wayne Dyer's book, Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life, he calls this Fourth Verse of the Tao Te Ching, "Living Infinitely."  One of the things I love and admire about Wayne Dyer's writing and teaching is how simple and accessible he makes God.  Which is really the tone of this Verse.  This Verse has God written all over it.  "The ancestor of all", "hidden but always present", "twisted knots loosen."  Whatever an individual's belief in a higher power are, is not the issue here.  The issue is the acknowledgment that, whether it's God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, or The Force, there is a higher power and ultimately, that higher power, has a consciousness far beyond our limited capacity as humans to grasp it.  At least fully.  And this has to do with strength how?

Let's dig into the Verse a little and see what we can find...

The Tao is empty but inexaustible, bottomless, the ancestor of us all.

Approach your strength training as such.  Empty can also mean open.  Leave your ego out of the practice of strength and be open to new ideas and techniques.  Be inexaustible and bottomless in your quest for knowledge of strength.  And in your practice as well.  If the Tao is bottomless, then there is no end in sight.  It is inexaustible, meaning the fire of the Tao will never go out.  The ancestor (creator) of us all, then there is an abundance of everything and all is possible.

Can you connect or reconnect to this source of everything?  The Bible tells us that God made man is His image.  When you look at science, we are all made up of tiny atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, hydrogen, water, and so on and so forth.  All being held together by what?  Gravity?  Yes, but isn't it all just some happy accident?  I doubt it.  Regardless, there is a powerful energy out there.  And we are a part of that energy.  We can choose to connect to it in this life or wait until our own candle extinguishes, but mark my words, we all will be rejoined with this energy sooner or later.  You, I, we are a part of and a piece of God.  God made flesh.

The challenge now becomes allowing yourself to tap into and get to know the infinite side of yourself.  When you become aware of this side, thoughts of "I can't" or "it's too heavy" suddenly don't apply anymore.  "Ifs" become "whens" and "shortage and lack" ironically become lacking in your life and thoughts.  Whether your training to complete the Right of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell, tackle all the protocols from Viking Warrior Conditioning, or achieve a Four Hour Workweek, having this connection with your infinite self will do nothing but bring your dreams and goals clearly into sight.

Within it, the sharp edges become smooth; the twisted knots loosen; the sun is softened by a cloud; the dust settles into place.

Within it (the Tao) sharp edges become smooth.  When you allow the energy to flow into you and are connected to the infinite side of yourself, your strength too will flow smoothly.  With this connection, the knots, the things that have tied you down in the past, held you back will loosen.  The things that burn you, will be extinguished.  The dust settling into place is permission to turn your dreams into goals, perform at your absolute best and then let it all go, allowing that which already exists to arrive right on time.

It is hidden but always present.  I do not know who gave birth to it.  It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.

God is a mystery.  Trying to fully understand God is like trying to fully understand gravity.  God, like gravity, just is.  There are a lot of theories about it, but no one proof or solution.  One thing that is common and definite is that they both keep us together.

The question I have for myself and for you now is:  Can the cultivation of strength, through the physical body, be a gateway - like meditation - to connect with your infinite self and the infinite source, our common ancestor, the father of things?

I know my answer.  What's yours?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday Evening at the Park

Enjoying Daylight Savings Time and the pain all on a warm Tuesday evening.  Soccer players to the left of me and baseball to the right, I fired up a Chieftan's CD in the old boom box for a 20 minute session of Box Pistols and Bottoms Up Presses.

After a warm up that consisted of Joint Mobility, Turkish Get Ups and some Club Swings and Swipes, I got right into it.

There we 10 attempts per side of each drill and as a practice session, this went quite well.  I felt I had more power in the ascent during the Pistol.  Getting down is OK, coming back up is hard.  This time I didn't have to rock back so much to get momentum to come back up, nor did I have to spot myself with the opposing leg.  I definitely felt more powerful and more in control.  I'm staying tighter longer and really driving with the heals.

The Bottoms Up Press came along nicely.  Again, I have left this area of the park looking like it got shelled like a WWI battlefield, but of the 10 attempts, I felt 6 were very solid and could almost pass as a real live 24kg Bottoms Up Press.  2 were "iffy" and 2 just flat out sucked.  Bottom line is I'm looking for 10 solid singles.  Am I there yet?  Almost.

After 20 minutes of grinding heavy and Irish Harp, we switched gears a bit.  Added a tier to the box (High Step) and switched to a 16kg Kettlebell for ladders.  4 Ladders of 1,2,3.  Negative free Pistols and more BUP's.  Set the timer for 20 minutes.  Next time, I'll see if I can hit 5 Ladders of 1,2,3 in 20.

This session reinforced the rooting I talked about last time as well as reminded me to keep the other Lat tight when Bottoms Up Pressing.  Tension on both sides.  For pure strength I always try to review two books when ever I need a reminder.  Power to the People and The Naked Warrior both by Pavel Tsatsouline.  Both books are loaded with tips, tools and techniques that can show immediate improvements in any strength practice.  But for me, these two books have come in real handy and keeps me getting better technique in both drills.  Pavel says it quite clearly, "Strength is a skill" and "practice, don't workout."

Pretty much sums up my Tuesday evening.  That and a lovely dinner of BBQ Chicken and Coleslaw for me and the Mrs. at our favorite BBQ place...  Good eats and Pura Vida!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tonight's Strength Practice

Daylight savings time begins with a trip to Balboa Park after work.  The sun beginning to set, The Young Dubliner's on the boom box, the Bulldog staring menacingly at me, waiting for me to make a move.  Ultimately the questing arises, am I taming the Bulldog or is the Bulldog taming me?  I think it's really just a half full/half empty thing... 

Each session begins with Joint Mobility.  A little Qi dancing from Tiger QiGong today was tossed in for good measure to allow the strength to flow.  Between that and the Celtic Rock, the energy and testosterone level was high.

Bulldog Cleans 6 x 3/3
Bulldog Swings 9 x 12

So?  Who's taming who?  Chicken or Egg?  Today's goal was 10 sets of each.  I didn't complete the goal.  Bulldog 1, Dave 0.  I did however do sets of 3 Cleans verses last weeks 2.  Bulldog 1, Dave 1.  I stopped early because I felt like the form was slipping and I was beginning to muscle 88 pounds of iron.  Finish stronger and live to fight another day.  Bulldog 2, Dave 2 (that's a point for wisdom).  Upped the swings to sets of 12 from sets of 10 last week.  That's puts us at a tie.  Next week I'll do the 10 sets of both 3/3 with the Cleans and 12 with the Swings. Ultimate Goal, 10 sets of 5/5 with the Clean and 10 sets of 15 swings.

As with most untamed dogs, love and disciple is the key.  Train hard, train smart, and train well.

Today I felt confident in my hip snap with both the Clean and the Swing.  I also felt nicely rooted in the Swing.  Adding an extra rep to the Clean was challenging.  Which is why I stopped at 6 sets.  This is practice.  If I wanted to "workout", I'd have gone to the gym and hit the Elliptical or something like that...

I will continue on next week and work on improving the hip snap and firing the glutes with avengeance.  Also, as the volume increases with the Clean, guiding the bell into place and taming the arc all take on a whole new meaning.  An 88 pound Kettlebell is not a toy but a tool to develop the body, mind and spirit.  Mark my words, it will rise above me.  Rise like the Great Pumpkin on Halloween.  Slowly with determination and an air of grace.  

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse Three

Putting a value on status
will create contentiousness.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will
cause the peoples hearts to remain undisturbed.
The sage governs
by emptying minds and hearts,
by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.

Practice not doing...
When action is pure and selfless,
everything settles into its own perfect place.

What can the Third Verse of the Tao teach us about strength?  Lao-Tzo is imparting ancient wisdom about Ego and leadership.  The Ego is something of a mystery to most people and has been to me for many years.  As you start to unravel the mystery, you realize that who you think you are, very well might not actually be who you really are.

Putting a value on status will create contentiousness.  If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal.

What's most important to you?  The pressing of weight?  The Rite of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell?  200 Snatches in 10 minutes?  My current goal is to press half my body weight.  That's a priority.  What is not a priority is to be able to say, "I can press half my bodyweight with one arm!"  The priority for me is the cultivation of strength.  It takes a strong mind and a strong body to achieve that.  It does not have to be about getting more for the sake of more.

And what about your current level of strength?  Where is it at now?  Are you stronger now than you ever were?  What has transpired to get you to where you are now?  Be grateful of the past for it has helped shape who you are today.  Even the negative stuff.  How you respond it far more important then what happened.

What you have or what you can do is not, nor does it define, who you are.  If you define yourself by your possessions or your accomplishments, what will you do when you loose them?  Some of the strongest people I know, most likely cannot press half their bodyweight or crank out 200 Snatches in 10 minutes.  My father, for example, is a man of great strength.  He worked long hours to support his family.  My mother battled cancer with the heart of a warrior.  One of her many lessons taught to me through her passing was strength is something that you are and it comes from a well too deep to comprehend in this world.  Gandhi?  Very strong.  Mother Teresa?  Another powerhouse of love and light.  My Nana?  Mightier then them all.  Strength is a part of who you are long before it manifests itself in the physical body.

By not displaying what is desirable, you will cause the peoples hearts to remain undisturbed.

Once again; clearly, Lao-Tzu was an RKC.  Carry your strength with modesty.  Teach by example.  There is no need to impress.  Instead, be impressive.  Allow your strength to flow through you and exemplify itself in your thoughts and feeling before it becomes part behavior and actions.

Pavel Tsatsouline has said, "When we say strength, we mean Kettlebell.  When we say Kettlebell, we mean strength.  In the same way,  Wayne Dyer has said, "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way."  So stop me if you've heard this one before, but...  "There is no way to strength, strength is the way."

The sage governs by emptying minds and hearts, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.

It seems that Lao-Tzu is teaching us about leadership.  Not necessarily leadership in terms of political figures, but in terms of personal leadership and how we as people teach others just by our interactions with them.  One individual can effect many.  By living free of the demands of the ego and adopting an attitude of service and gratitude, we can change hearts and minds.  A scientific look at this can be found in Power Verses Force by David Hawkins.  Hawkins looks at the effect of individual's energy patterns and how the more positive they are, the more they counterbalance the negative energy the exists. 

When you incorporate this into the practice of strength, what happens?  You become strength.  Since strength is the way, you bring an attitude of service and gratitude to your practice of strength.  Consequently, you wind up bringing strength itself instead of the expectation of strength.  Instead your ego pushing you to do more for the sake of more, you allow more to happen naturally and insinc with the natural rhythm of life.  Strength is cultivated and grows.  Like the great oak, you can not make it grow faster.  The same is true of strength.  Know that it is already there and allow it to rise to the surface.

Practice not doing...  When action is pure and selfless, everything settles into its own perfect place.

This in itself will take practice and strength.  For now, Pura Vida!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Breezy Sunday Morning... Doing it Old School!

This was the set up for Sunday morning.  What I like to call doin' it old school.  It's an adaptation of a dumbbell routine I read in a Sandow book.  I'm going to do a whole blog and video on this routine later, so keep an eye out...

A little light dumbbell work, some club swinging and casting, push ups, sit ups, a turn with the chest expander, squats and a little core work.  The purpose of this routine is to promote movement, circulation and to prepare the body for what is to come, which today was Hindu Squats and Double Snatches.

The Gymboss timer came out to play today as well as Scott Joplin's Greatest Hits.

1 minute of work, 1:30 seconds of rest.

10 Hindu Squat and 10 Double Snatches (16kg Kettlebells) in 1 minute and a minute and a half of rest.  10 rounds.

Finished with Hanging Leg Raises, and Relax into Stretch a bit and headed off to work.

The warm up was, as it always is, fun and a great way to get going.  The workout itself quickly evolved into a challenge.  By the 6th set the inner debate was me walking a fine line between getting the work done and getting the work done right.  Most of this was mental.  Push aside the building fatigue, recognize it is there, but now it's time to dial in, dig in, and own it.  Each Snatch crisp and clean.  Each Hindu Squat fluid and smooth.  Fast and loose in the break time, Hardstyle in the work time.

Next time this workout comes around, I'm going to try resting 1:15 and see how that goes.  Volume will stay the same.  This is a workout for explosive strength, training the difference between squatting and hinging, and strength conditioning.  Very good work...  Pura Vida!

Friday, March 12, 2010

GVT on a late Friday morning...

Warm UpSuper Joints and 2+2 TGU's with 24 kg Kettlebell

Work done:  Double 24 kg Kettlebell Front Squats and Renegade Rows 10 sets of 5.

Rest Taken:  3:00 - 3:30 minutes between sets.  Total work time about 45 minutes.

Cool Down:  Bretzles, Hanging Leg Raises, Relax into Stretch.

Plan for the next time:  Same numbers, less rest.  Will try 2:30 - 3:00 rest time between sets.

Thoughts:  Well, I posted the following on Facebook today:

"I'd like to take a moment to personally thank The Dropkick Murphy's  for their assistance in today's Kettlebell Workout. If I hadn't have dropkicked Bob Marley out of the CD player around the 6th set and dropped these fellows in, I don't know if I'd have been able to finish the whole 10 sets. Celtic Punk and Kettlebells Front Squats with Renegade Rows goes good like Corned Beef and Cabbage..."

So basically, I got the beatdown.  That being said, I'm not as sore as I expected.  I also felt really well dialed into my form and the technique felt pretty solid.  As I mentioned, I will start reducing the rest.  The volume is right where I want it, anything over 5 reps on either one of these drills seems...  I don't know; excessive?  I'd rather compress the rest to promote a little strength based conditioning and endurance, rather then push the volume to a point where I could have an easy opportunity to allow volume to compromise form. 

Because that's really what we're after here, right?  Good and propper movement.  Building stength on a solid base and foundation.  Confidence in the skill which translates into confidence in ourselves.  Strength that filters into all the other aspects of daily life.  That's the key principle to Pura Vida Kettlebells anyway.

Today's workout felt good.  Really good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monday Afternoon Strength Practice 3/9/10

Box Squat Pistols and Bottoms Up Presses...

...Was on the menu for Monday afternoon's strength training.  I have a 5 Tier High Step that I use for the Box Pistols.  The plan is straight out of Pavel's Naked Warrior.  I'm practicing singles down to the box, and then coming back up.  When I can get 10 really clean singles, I'm pulling off a tier and starting over.  So far I've removed 2 tiers.

Alternating in with the Box Pistols is the Bottoms Up Press using a 24 kg Kettlebell.  Also the goal is 10 really clean singles.

Warmed up with Super Joints and 16kg Arm Bar/TGU combo.  3 per side.

I set the stopwatch to count down 20 minutes and got to work.  In that 20 minutes, I made 8 attempts (16 total when you count left and right).  My left side seems weaker than my right so I'm starting with the left.  Box Pistol Left, Box Pistol Right.  BUP Left, BUP Right.  Resting as long as I need.  So, yeah, 8 attempts.  I say attempts because that's really what happened there.

I've just recently gone down a tier on the box I'm using and this is my second real practice session with BUP's for the 24.  Leaning more forward in the Pistol is helping.  Warming up and stretching the hamstrings before training helped.  And of course more tension.  Getting down is OK.  The real struggle is getting back up.

For the BUP, it's a clean followed by, am I rooted enough to press?  If yes, please continue, if no, re-clean and try again.  Needless to say, being well rooted suddenly has more significance to the performance.  Both for the Pistol and the Press.

So after 20 minutes of making 2 real nice heal impressions in the grass and leaving part of the park looking like a unwrapped golf ball, I reset for another 15 minutes of practice.

I added a tier to the box for Negative Free Pistols and got a 16kg for BUPs.  Negative Free Pistols means that you do your Pistols with a really positive attitude...  And you go down on two legs, then back up on one.  The order of business was 20 minutes of ladders up to 3.

Did 3 Ladders of 1,2,3 in 15 minutes.  Stretched and hung on a high bar, did some hip and ham stretching and called it a day.

What did I take home from this session?  Rooting became the theme.  It became evident after the first 20 minute session when I started pushing the ground away from me.  Not in the Pistol however, in the Press.  As I became and felt more connected with the ground, I suddenly felt more sturdy and stable.  Go figure.  So, plug that into the Neg. Free Pistol as well and instant strength.  Amazing.  What's interesting is when things you do in other lifts (Front Squat, Deadlift, etc.) start worming their way organically into other skills.  So next time around, I will incorporate that more into the heavier session and see how it goes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

GVT Strangth and Power Training - 3/8/10

Last nights training:

Bulldog Cleans 10 sets of 2/2

alterneted with

Bulldog Swings 10 sets of 10

Resting as long as it takes to feel that I will accomplish the task at hand as perfectly as possible.

You know, there's a big difference between Cleaning 24kg's of round iron and Cleaning 40kg's of Big Ol' Round Iron...  there shouldn't be, but for now there is.  Owning the Bulldog requires patience and perseverance.  Most people with proper training and some practice should be able to Clean their Snatch weight bell with relative proficiency.  It requires the strength and power of the Swing with the finesse of the Snatch.  I am currently developing the power to have the finesse...

Swings.  Hard Swings.  Hardstyle Hard Swings.  Heavy Hardstyle Hard Swings.  My time to man handle the Bulldog.

Music of choice to boil my Irish blood to wreak havoc on my Russian adversary:

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 2

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce eachother.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with eachother.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality
and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.

When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.


The Second verse of the Tao, by Lao-Tzu.  Much like the fortune from a cookie or the horoscope from the newspaper, can we find the relevance to ourselves?  Is there something we can gain from this verse that can help guide us along on our quest for strength?

This verse touches on duality and paradoxical thinking.  That you can't have one with out the other.  Notice though that it starts with "Under Heaven."   Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty, only because there is ugliness.  Under heaven means here on Earth.  Up above, in the world of spirit, all is one.  There are no opposites.  God knows nothing of ugly.  To him, it is all beautiful.

For us under heaven, we cannot define one with out the other.  How can we know light without dark?  To know strength we must first understand weakness.  This goes for the body and the spirit.  Where are you weak?  For the Girevik, how is your Swing?  Where are your weaknesses?  Do you have leakage?  Now the next question comes about; do you have the inner strength to push aside your ego and embrace your weakness in order to cultivate it into strength.

Being and nonbeing produce eachother.  The difficult is born in the easy.  Long is defined by short, the high by the low.  Before and after go along with eachother.

We are strong and weak at once.  How else would we know the joy of 200 snatches in 10 minutes without first failing beautifully.  How can we truly appreciate pressing half our bodyweight without the bell resting in the rack position and simply laughing at us?  It is our weakness, that makes us strong.  It is the identification with, then integration of weakness that allows to become strong and stronger.
So the sage lives openly with apparent duality and paradoxical unity.  

As a practitioner of strength, can one live with their weakness?  Can one, as an instructor or teacher teach without judgment?  Can the sage, see the dichotomy of weakness and strength allowing them to flow and then fuse the weakness into strengthRecently, I saw a quote from Goethe that defines a good teacher and shows the merging of what this verse is about:

"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that."

There is no judgment here.  This is allowing what already exists to blossom.  And so it goes with strength.  We already have the strength we need.  With the faith of a mustard seed, I can move mountains, right?  In Pavel Tsatsouline's Power to the People, Pavel talks of  mother's deadlifting a car to save their child?  The strength is already there.  Allow it to flow from you, grow out of you, blossom upwards.

The sage can act without effort and teach without words.  

All this line tells me is that Lao-Tzu was probably an RKC.

Nurturing things without possessing them, he works, but not for rewards; he competes, but not for results.

This line touches on something that I see as incredibly beautiful.  It is also an amazing opportunity and challenge to do what Wayne Dyer calls, detaching from the outcome.  Working but not for reward?  Does that imply working for free?  No, it means you do your absolute best every step of the way, regardless of the outcome.  The outcome is irrelevant because you are in this moment and in this moment, the outcome isn't here yet.  If your goal is to press you're half your bodyweight, is your focus on perfectly pressing the bell you can press now or is your mind wandering away from the task at hand?  What moment are you in?  Be here in this moment and just press.  Just be.  The reward and the results will arrive right on time if you only just focus on doing what needs to be done now, which, for example, if you're doing the Right of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell, is 5 ladders of 5 rungs with your current weight.  

When the work is done, it is forgotten.  That is why it lasts forever.

For today, because that is all there is, practice your strength with a knowing and understanding of your weakness.  Weakness is what gives you your strength and without it, you'll never know how far you've come.  Focus on being as strong as you can be in this moment.  Whether you succeed or fail is of no consequence as long as your effort and your passion was full at 100% in that moment.  Learn from the past, learn from your weakness, but choose not to allow it to dictate your next move.  The future stronger you, with the help of your previous weaker self will merge to guide you in your quest. 

After your training, take what is needed to improve and release the rest.  Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to improve.

As Lance Armstrong puts it, "Live Strong."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

German Volume Training Continues with...

Hindu Squats and Double Snatch.  This morning took care of 10 sets of 8.  No rest between drills except for the time it took to move to the bells for the Snatch.  I set the 16's down and marched back about 10 yards.  Did the Hindu's and then jogged over to the bells for the Double Snatch.  Then I'd give myself 1 minute to breathe a little before getting back at it.  I think next week I'll have no problem hitting the 10 sets of 10.  From there, I'll start compressing the rest.  Perhaps, the gymboss timer will emerge soon.  What nice about this is you get to train for explosive strength, getting in your conditioning, while getting in a real nice whole body workout.

I don't mean to toot my own horn but this workout wasn't very hard.  Granted it wasn't easy either.  It felt good to be able to dial into form and function and nail each rep with precision and not have to worry about too much fatigue.  So in that respect, it feels good to be at this level of conditioning.

Where I'm lacking and what I worked on is the Hindu Squat propper.  My balance ond coordination is improving and I am getting into the grove of pulling my self back and down, weight on the heals, then on the balls of the feet and up on the toes.  My breathing was in sinc and it felt fluid.

Switching to a Double Kettlebell Snatch is challenging in the fact that now there's a hip hinge and not a squat.  It's like flipping a switch in your mind and a good test of your ability to adjust your movement patterns.  Reciently I saw a video of someone throwing the bells back into the hike position of the Double Snatch instead of racking and and then back swing before snatching again.  I remembered doing Double Snatches at my RKC and Pavel told me to rack before Snatch, so I'm going with that.  Tossing them overfist and creating that kind of arc looks like an appointment with a chiropractor waititng to happen.  Besides, slowly guiding them to the rack position after an explosive movement is Hardstyle at it's finest.  I am lacking a little flexability in my left shoulder, so I will be working on that during the week.  Looks like some Arm Bars and TGU's for a warm up are in order.

Come Monday evening I'll play around with the Bulldog some.  Cleans and Swings.  Lots of rest if necessary.  Then Tuesday I'm working on Pistols and Bottoms Up Press.

The way I'm working the GVT now is 2 sessions of moderate weight and higher volume (10 sets of 5 - 10 reps) and then 2 sessions of heavy drills low reps (10 sets of 1-3).  Size and Strength woven together.  Soon I will start to reduce rest periods to keep the conditioning in check.  More to come...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

German Volume Traininng with KB's 3/5/10

Yesterday was a GVT day.  After warming up with a little joint mobility, I did 10 sets of 4 with 2 minutes rest.  The exercises in question was a superset of Double Front Squats and Renegade Rows with a pair of 24kg Kettlebells.  Last week I did 10 x 3 and next week I'll shoot for 10 x 5, but with a 3:30 rest and then I'll start compressing the rest times.

This combo of pain came to me in a lucid dream disguised as an interview between Geoff Neupert and the Iron Tamer David Whitley.  The suggestion was to superset Kettlebell Front Squats with Renegade Rows.  This interview was months ago, but I stored it in the recesses of my mind for later use.  I also wrote it down because things tend to get lost in the dark recesses of my mind.

Yesterday the focus was on the Squat (as always).  For me the Kettlebell Front Squat is one of the best "ab" exercises you can do.  Couple that with the Renegade Row and you got a complete full body workout.

For me the Squat has 3 major parts.  Pull, Pry, and Drive.  You want to actively pull yourself down into the squat.  Then pry the knees out so you can, as Dan John puts it, squat between your feet.  From there, drive up from your heals and finish with the Hardstyle Lock.  The core needs tension at all times during this drill.  That was the focus and it felt pretty solid yesterday.  Sometimes I'm not all that confident in my squat, but at Pura Vida Kettlebells, we will show the building of true strength of the body will lead to strength of the heart.  Perfect practice make perfect and builds self-confidence.

The Renegade Row worked as a great compliment to the Squat.  Continuing with the strong core theme, maintaining a straight spine and tight midsection are the two prime factors of this drill.  From there it's about generating enough whole body tension to be a tripod long enough to lift one bell and set it down.  The real benefit in the exercise is in switching sides.  This is good for getting to know the body and how it moves and also how to move your own body.  Who would have thought that a drill called a row could have such tremendous benefit for shoulder stability?  Keeping the ball in it's socket, the lats tight, glutes and abs tight.

After that, I went and did some hanging leg raises, stretched out a bit; hip flexor, cobra, Brettzels and went on with my day all the while cursing and praising David Whitley for this evil suggestion...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 1

"The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.

The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things;
as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;
ever desiring; one only sees the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway
to all understanding."


The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese classic text.  Written approximately 5,000 years before Christ by a man name Lao-Tzu.  I don't speak Chinese, so I'm going to have to trust in what I have found so far on-line as to the translation, but let's take a look at the words in the title.

Tao means simply "way"

Te can mean "virtue."  Te can also mean "character" or "inner strength."

Ching basically means book.

Since a part of Pura Vida Kettlebells is going to be about exploring the development of inner strength through the training of the physical body, what wisdom can Lao-Tzu share with us as we journey down this path or way?

Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life, a book by Wayne Dyer attempts to show the wisdom of the Tao and how you can apply it to modern daily life.  What if there was wisdom specific enough to strength training that is, in some way, hidden deep with in the verse?  What does Lao-Tzu have to teach us about strength?

Let's look at the first verse of the Tao, for now and see what we find.

"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao." 

Or, the way that can be told is not the eternal way.

"The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Similar to man's search for happiness and God, there is no "way" to happiness.  There is no "way" to God.  Happiness and God are the way.  In the same respect, there is no "way" to strength, strength is the way.

"The Tao is both named and nameless.

Perhaps strength is not as it was?  Perhaps strength needs to be looked at from a new perspective and paradigm?  Having a name and not having a name doesn't make sense.  It's a double-negative or paradox.  What it reminds me of is the Yin-Yang.  Black AND white flowing together.  The strength of the body flowing together with the strength of the spirit to create one whole being.

How often do we see people who claim to be strong of spirit yet weak in the body.  And how often do we see people strong in the body yet weak in the spirit?  Somewhere these individuals got lost along the way.  At the very least, they are not whole.

"As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things."  

Here we start to see the blending of physical and spiritual.  There is a continuation of this paradoxical thinking.  Now it is time to open up to the things we don't always understand.  Time to allow the great Spirit to flow into our lives and finally trust that there is purpose behind every event.  If there is no way to strength because strength is the way, how do you label that?  You don't.  When you merge it into the physical world it births only 10,000 things.   A limit.  ALL things verses 10,000 things.  Sooner or later, the physical will join with the spiritual.  You can do it now and begin to connect with that side of who you are or you can wait until you die and do it then.  But why limit yourself?  What can you gain by merging with spirit in this life, now?

"Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;  ever desiring; one only sees the manifestations."

This reminds me of another spiritual teacher of mine, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He said, "Let go your conscious self, and act on instinct...  You're eyes can deceive you, don't trust them...  Stretch out with your feelings..."  The point?  Yes, the point.  There is a huge difference between doing something and trying to do something.  Take a look at a giant Redwood tree.  Do you think that tree tried to get that big?  How about a daisy?  Did the daisy try to grow and blossom?  Now look at the Kettlebell Snatch.  What is the difference between trying to snatch a Kettlebell and just snatching a Kettlebell?  Might be hard to describe, but you know it when it happens.  When you have no desire to snatch it, your hips pop at the right level of force, your arm gently guides the bell upwards and you punch through, like the daisy, effortless, because like Nike, you just did it.  As an RKC, I can teach the snatch, but it will be up to my student, to know the snatch.

At some point you will have to let go and trust in your ability and strength to get the movement.  It is when you are not trying or thinking about it that it happens.  When you are open to and receptive to all that is around you.  When you know it so well it becomes you and you become it.

"And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding."

What mystery is he talking about?  The mystery of the Kettlebell Snatch of course!  What?  This verse is about flow and allow.  It's about having the strength to not hold on but instead let go.  It is about opening yourself up and connecting to some force greater than yourself and letting that force work through you.  When you're two thirds trough a workout session and you want to quit, do you have the strength to push through, like the daisy?  When the weight seems to heavy and it's not rising any higher, do you have the strength to root yourself like the Redwood, stand tall and rigid and press upwards?  Would you allow the Great Spirit to spot you?  To reach down from heaven and pull while you push?  Can you feel the difference between trying and doing?

So in your strength training, practice letting go.  Practice being strong.  There is no try in strength.  You are either strong or you are not.  A strong body will flow into a strong spirit if you allow it do so.  Enjoy the mysteries of growth and strength.  Walk through the door.

Pura Vida!