Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 11

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
it is on the hole in the center that 
the use of the cart hinges.

Shape clay into a vessel;
it is the space within that makes it useful.
Carve fine doors and windows,
but the room is useful in its emptiness.

The usefulness of what is
depends on what it is not.

There is much strength in this verse.  I promise.  We all tend to come from places of isolation.  Even in the womb we were alone.  When we are sad or feel weak we tend to want to be left alone.  You can also look up to the sky on a clear night and feel very alone.  Even when you're right next to someone.  Space is vast.  Yet so is the table.  When you look at a solid object through a microscope, you will eventually realize that it is made up of mostly empty space.  Yet, when you look at space, it would be if it weren't for the galaxies, stars, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids that populate space.  Could there be a table without the atoms and molecules that make up the table?  Could you do a pull up with just you biceps?

If the center of a wheel doesn't fit, the cart can't roll.  If the cart can't roll, where can you go?  But what about the middle?  The center of the wheel.  The Gap.  The space between.  Without that "empty" space, there is no wheel.

In Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention, he begins his chapter on Connecting to Intention by quoting Thomas Troward.  "The law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things which float naturally, and then intelligently asking why they do so."  If your vessel is too heavy, if it has holes, if its shape is not deep enough, it will sink.  You will not get yourself or your goods very far down the stream if the boat don't float.

A beautiful home that is empty.  The space is there to be filled.  Filled with people, laughter and love.  Without the void, the space, there is no house to fill with love.

And so it is with our practice of strength.  The space between.  The top of the Snatch, Press, or Get Up.  Any drill really.  At it's halfway point; the moments when a Kettlebell is weightless.  Without these parts, the Snatch doesn't exist.  And what muscles are involved?  Can you really isolate your bicep when you curl a weight?  What happens when you ask you lats for help with a press?  Separate parts are weak.  When you work your body as a whole, you are stronger.

For those in the field of strength and conditioning, this is simply stating the obvious.  For those new to strength and conditioning or those who have read too many bodybuilding magazines, this idea of working the body as a whole might seem either new or primitive.  First off, there is nothing wrong with primitive training.  Secondly, the body, as most things, like the cart, works better as a unit.

So what about this gap?  The void?  They say the music lies in the space between the notes.  Let's go back to the Kettlebell Snatch because that is Kettlebell music if you ask me.  There's these moments where the bell is weightless as it rises to the surface. It is there that you punch up and through to complete the movement.  Then there you stand.  Tall and proud, Kettlebell straight overhead, paused.  From here it's a gentle toss over and through, back to a swing, hike, Snatch again.  And so it goes.  On and on and in those moments of weightless iron and repetition, can you find yourself in the Gap? 

The Space Between.  This is where you can commune with spirit.  Many religions practice mantra to silence and focus the mind.  For me, the Snatch is like a mantra.  I take all my pains, prayers, intentions and pour them into my workout.  There with in enjoying the pain and pushing through mental and physical barriers I have been able to transcend the physical.  My training is more ritual to me then just mere exercise.  My training is as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical one.  I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that.  And it is in this way of communing with spirit that we will truly experience our self as in this universe and as being a part of it instead of isolated from it.

This Weeks Training

Sunday morning was my Medium Day.

After warming up with a little Super Joints and the ETK warm up of Wall Squats, Halos and Pumps, I got into my Clean and Press Ladders.  5 Ladders of 1,2,3 with the 32 kg bell I humbly call Ivan.  In between rungs I practiced Pistols.  Going as low as I could while maintaining some semblance of control.  Finished with Bulldog Swings.  Dice rolls for time; rolled a 7; did 7 minutes of 7 Swings.  Got 7 sets.  Lucky me!

Monday was Variety.

Practiced with the Clubbells.  Qi Gong Recharge to get going and worked on Movements 1,2 and 3 from Club Swinging Essentials.

Wednesday was Heavy.

Warmed up with Super Joints.  Then practiced some Overhead Squats with a 35 lb. bar, stretched out the Hips, and got in a few TGU's with a 16kg bell.

Then it was on to Clean and Press ladders. 5 x 1,2,3,4.  For the Pistol practice, I wanted to work on the eccentric portion.  Since I was down at old Muscle Beach, I worked on stepping up onto a waist high balance beam while eliminating as much momentum as possible from the movement.  I matched reps with the press.  Felt good.  I'm now officially chasing the 5 x 1,2,3,4,5 or 150 reps.

Finished with Bulldog Swings.  Sets of 7.  Wanted 12 sets in 12 minutes.  Got it.

Friday was back to Light.

Goblet Squats and the RKC Arm Bar, TGU, Windmill combo to get things going. Used a 16kg for that.

Light day is Clean and Press Ladders and a 3 Tier Box Squat Pistol.  3 Ladders of 1,2,3 with 32kg.  Then it was on to Snatches with the 24kg.  14/14, 12/12. 10/10, 8/8, 6/6.  Took 9 minutes.

In Conclusion

A great week in training.  I isolated some leakage in my press, felt stronger in my Pistol practice and my Swings and Snatches are doing fine.  Want to work on increasing the volume with the Bulldog and get the Snatch numbers up.  Shoulders are a little sore but the Club Swinging and TGU's are a Godsend.  I plan to back off just a bit before starting my run at the 150 reps.  I have no desire in hurting myself and going backwards.  Better to pull back to go forward.  Will spend the next week working my Old Timey Physical Culture Routines, Kalos Sthenos, Pistols, and Club Swinging Essentials.  I may press on Tuesday or Wednesday but only if I feel completely up for it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

ETK "Easy" Day - 6/10/10

The call this the easy day or the light workout.  For me it's about grinding out a near perfect rep each and every time.  The higher the volume the more one tends to sacrifice form and slip into muscling it just a little bit.  Fatigue sets in, form slips a bit.  To press perfectly each and every time is the goal.  Then again, to press 40kgs perfectly is also the goal.  On higher volume days with the 32 the ladders will climb.  5 ladders of 1,2,3,4 is the current target.  Then it'll be 5 x 1,2,3,4,5 or 150 total reps.  So when there's an easy day or light day, my task is to not only perform a perfect rep but an ultra super duper extra perfect rep.  Hell, they're called "grinds" for a reason.  Slow the "f" down and grind.  Flare the lat, pull the shoulder down, push yourself away from the bell, squeeze the glutes, brace the abs, pull the kneecaps up, spread the floor with your feet, tssssssstt!  That's a press.  Do that everytime...

Clean and Press Ladders @ 32kg 5 x 1,2 = 15 x 2 = 30 reps x's 32 = 960kg's pressed

Then Pistol practice...  after every rung, I did the, "just go as low as you can under complete control until you loose control, fall on your ass, roll back, pop up, grab a pole and try to not fall back on your ass again while maintaining the static tension and stretch your hamstrings" pistol. 

I'm getting deeper before the falling part.  I can almost sit down on one leg and it seems that I'm using the pole less for the static holds, so not bad.  Not great either but I'm not letting this one go.

On to the "light" Snatch session.  I followed the David Whitley "push yourself but don't be stupid" philosophy and since today was strictly a day to work on ultra super duper extra perfect form, I decided that each Snatch should be as clean and as crisp as the first one.  No iffy Snatches.  Set the timer for 15 minutes and in EDT fashion got as many perfect sets of 6+6 as I could.  Meaning I didn't allow myself to rush the rep or the set.  Each rep was it's own rep.  Stay in the moment of that rep.  Everything clean and solid.  Crisp.  Such a great adjective for the Snatch.

Ended up with 10 x 6+6 24kg Snatches = 120 reps or 2880 kg Snatched.  Felt good.  Real good.  Looking forward to 200 in 10.  I can taste it.  I can taste this 1/2 bodyweight press.  I can taste the Pistol.  Clearly, I'm hungry...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Heavy Day and a Visit from God...

After working with two clients, it was my turn.

Superjoints to get the ball rolling
TGU's 2/2 @ 16kg, 2/2 @ 24kg, 2/2 @ 32
32 kg Clean and Press 4 ladders of 1,2,3,4
Bulldog Swings 1 x 26, 1 x 24
Pump Stretches, Hanging Leg Raises

Today God stopped by to let me know I am on the right path.  He was, however, disguised as a 72 year old former Russian soldier.  He said his name was William, but that didn't fool me. 

William looked at my 32 kg like he just saw a pet from childhood.  He was walking 2 little lap dogs through the park.  He was short and stout.  His accent clearly Russian.

"That is 2 pood," he said.
"Yes it is," I replied amazed.

William then went on to talk about trianing with Girya's in the Army and as well as the weightlifting.  He said guys like us were called "Culturists."  He talked about, "large American man of strength...  what was his name?  He came to Moscow.  I saw him do demonstration.  Very strong.  Anderson, I think..."

"Paul Anderson?" I asked.

"Yes, yes.  You've heard of him.?"

"I have.  He was a very famous guy."

When we shook hands, his hands we rugged, warn tough, and warm.  His grip still strong as ever.  It was such a pleasure to meet this older Girevik and to see his eyes light up as he went back to a time long, long ago.   

So, what did I mean by comparing this guy to God?  I have had too many coincidences in my life to believe in accidents.  When two people converge like this it is not by accident.  William showed up today as God's way of letting me know I'm on the right path.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Easy Like Sunday Morning... on a Thursday

Whenever you have an opportunity to quote Lionel Ritchie...  take it!

Thursday started with a warm up of Joint Mobility then light Clean & Press ladders of 1,2 for 4 rounds using the 32.  In between ladders I practiced the Pistol.  Lowering myself as low as possible under as much control as posible and to my suprise I got pretty low under much more control than I've had in the past.  Once I got down to bottom, I'd stretch the extended leg and practiced genetating as much static tension as possible trying to stand back up.  A few close calls with getting out of the hole, but we're still quite far from the cigar.  Clean & Press felt pretty solid. 

Snatch session after was 12 sets of 6/6 with no time limit.  Just looking for 144 solid reps.  Next week I'll see how fast I can get those 12 sets of 6/6...  Each set felt strong and tight. 

Cooled off with some mild stretching and hanging.  All in all good training was had by all.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday Heavy

Tuesday at the park, Rite of Passage heavy day.

Warmed up with Pavel Tsatsouline's Super Joints and the warm up drills from Enter the Kettlebell.  I also tossed in a few Overhead Squats, Turkish Get Ups and some Goblet Squats for good measure.  It looked like this:

Face-the-Wall Squats: 3 sets of 5
Overhead Squats: 3 sets of 5
Goblet Squats: 3 sets of 5
Halos: 3 sets of 5
Pump Stretches: 3 sets of 5
TGU's 3 left/3right 16kg bell

Now for the work:

32kg Clean and Press 3 Ladders of 1,2,3,4 alternated with box pistols.

Press Volume looks like this 3 x 10 total reps per side which ads up to 60 reps or 1920 kg's pressed.  In pounds that's about 4233 lbs pressed.

Anybody else having a Rainman moment or is it just me?

The Clean and Press is coming along well.  Today I put my focus on pushing myself away from the Kettlebell and exploding out of the clean. 

So it looks like I may have found the only acceptable use for a High Step in the RKC community.  I will accept any and all insults and teasing, but know this; for Box Pistols, they're great!  Here's how I put it to use:  I laid out each rung of the step, the lowest being two rungs.  For the first rung of the ladders, I'd do 1 Clean and Press left and 1 right then head over to the high step for a very low Box Pistol; 1 left, 1 right.  For the second rung, I did 2 Clean and Presses left and 2 right then set the step at three rungs for 2 Box Pistols left and right.  3 Clean and Presses left and right and 3 Box Pistols at 4 rungs.  Then I'd finish up with 4 Clean and Presses left and right and 4 Box Pistols left and right.  As the volume increased, the height of the box increased so I could stay 100% focused on tension and lowering myself under control and not worry about too much fatigue.

Wrapping it all up with Swings.  The dice roll came back Snake Eyes so I did a Power to the People tribute.  1 set of Bulldog Swings to near failure.  24 reps.  Caught my breath and did 22.  Took another breather and on a whim knocked out 20 more for good measure.  

I cooled down with some Hanging Leg Raises, Stretched out a bit and am looking forward to tomorrow's Active Recovery which will involve some Club Swinging Practice.