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Sunday, May 22, 2011

A note on "Getting over the Hump"

It is a task of every person to specialize in something, be it mental, physical or spiritual. In every arena of specialty there is a point to dig in, to push and work toward greater comprehension, to re-delegate time and energy to making it through the tough spot. This is what separates earnest interest from "just a passing phase." This is "getting over the hump."

If you don't know exactly what you want to specialize in, here is my suggested starting place: What do you take the extra time to learn about? What fascinates you, and has always fascinated you? What will you loose track of time doing? This is where you stand a good chance to excel.

If you've read this far you may be wondering, What does this have to do with kettlebell fitness, Christian?
I'll tell you. Lately I've had the great satisfaction of hearing how extremely difficult kettlebell lifting actually is. Many athletes dabble in the beginning, but few will "get over the hump" as one expert trainer put it.

It's true, there is the awkward beginning of completely re-aligning the lower body posture in the chair squat, add to that the never-easy chest opening experience of wall-squatting, and then there is a weight to pick up. The initial learning curve will either enthrall or disenchant people.

And that's not the end. Next there is the brutal wrist-banging experience of learning to clean the weight. Enter the time and efficiency component. We have a finite amount of physical strength to focus on any one training session, so if "putting on the glove" solves it, great! You have the makings of a true kettlebell athlete! For most of us, bruise-free cleaning is a matter of going back to the beginning, re-learning the leg work of one-arm swings, and humbling ourselves to lesser weights as we embark on building more skills.

If you are at either of these major humps in kettlebell lifting, I offer this thought. Giving a season to kettlebell skills training will improve your focus and coordination for many other athletic pursuits. Great teachers acknowledge that training a form until boredom sets in is the only way to breakthrough. There are seasons to all things, the key is being present with the current.

Finally, consider the story of my kettlebell coaches Ken Blackburn and Steve Cotter. They are currently in Russia at a kettlebell sport training camp, learning from world class coaches and athletes. In one meaningful facebook post, Steve mentioned the humbling experience of having his form efficiently dissected on the first day of camp. This is a guy who rose to fame several years ago with his impressive kettlebell-specific DVD series, including Encyclopedia of Kettlebell Lifting, joined forces with his fellow trainer (Blackburn) to break the RKC mold and sweep the world with International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation in the course of 2 years, all the while hosting and competing in Kettlebell Sport Competitions.

If you really want to get over the hump remember this: It's never too late to learn and build on what you already know.

Best wishes to all for a fantastic season,
Christian Goldberg

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mobility and Auxilliary Exercises for Lifters

It's almost Kettlebell Skills Clinic time again, and by request I'm doing a two-hour session to teach joint mobility and auxiliary exercises to weight lifters. This is a sorely needed clinic in weight lifting circles.

Mobility and range-of-motion is a down played part of physical fitness. Leave it for the yogis, right?
Guess again. It is an actual fact that low-back (particularly sacral) pain is directly related with neck pain. Shoulder, particularly deltoids pain is typically a problem of incorrect alignment within the shoulder joint. If you are an athlete with chronic problems in these key areas, you have not incorporated enough flexibility into your workouts. Much pain and suffering can be alleviated with just a few recovery exercises in between sets.

Okay, so maybe you can boast the ability to squat your hip bones down to the floor. Can you do it with your arms locked out overhead? If so, excellent! Teach me how you did that! If you are like the rest of us, there are some gaps in your conditioning due to a top or bottom heavy lifting program. I mean literally, most lifters focus only on working body parts they want to build up and ignore the rest. A well-rounded athlete will put the extra 10 minutes into strengthening the underused angles before ending a workout.

I don't profess to be a world-class trainer, but I've got some ideas to pass along to gym folk and casual exercisers alike.
Take my Joint Mobility and Auxiliary Exercise Clinic Saturday May 14th at Flatirons Crossfit, 4847 Pearl Street. 11:30 am - 1:30 pm
For $20, it's the best price you'll get for long-term injury prevention and workout know-how.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kettlebell Safety and Definitions

It's worth doing at least once on my new blog. I welcome comments and discussion on the following opinions.

Build up gradually. No matter your previous training, work gradually when changing exercise formats or increasing work days to allow muscular structure to build naturally. 
  • Newbies may start with 1 or 2 kettlebell workouts per week and can build up to 3 workouts/week within the first few months. 
  • Seasoned athletes can start with 2 or 3 and work up to 5 kettlebell workouts per week for a deep conditioning phase. 
  • As a peak training phase, 6 kettlebell workouts/week is brutal, intense and will not last as a long-term program.
Warm-up and recover. Use joint mobility and dynamic stretching to prepare your joints and raise your core temperature. Between sets, use dynamic stretching and range of motion drills to normalize the muscles around your joints and safely slow your heart rate down. If your technique deteriorates at all, stop. Rest and recover before resuming exercise. Do not work your arms or legs to the point of failure.

Practice the new and technical stuff first. If you have recently learned a new technique, put it at the beginning of workouts until it is familiar. Moves you have practiced before, such as Turkish get up and screw press, can be a dangerous challenge if attempted at the wrong time in a workout. If you need a spotter for specific lifts, don't practice without one.

Grinding work (defined as lifts that start with the weight at a stationary position, such as deadlift or squat). Select a weight that will be a challenge by the end of each set. Sometimes body weight is enough!

Super set (defined as practicing exercises that require different primary muscle groups back-to-back, such as shoulder press, followed by squat, followed by bent over rows). For a very efficient workout, make a circuit with 4 to 6 exercises that all require a different muscle action. Work through your circuit 3 to 6 times.

Momentum work (defined as exercises that initiates with the weight in motion and uses of a specific muscle firing sequence to propel the weight through it's entire range, such as kettlebell clean or snatch). Momentum sets work best when isolated away from grinding sets, as the breathing patterns are different.

Finish well. Sustained stretching and physical therapy-type drills are appropriate after a work out. Deck rolling, cobra stretches and neck recovery are excellent habits at the end of a training session. These little things will support total rest and prevent over-use stress from building up over time.

Have plenty of drinking water, a source of quick carbohydrates or protein after your workout.

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