Viking Push Press vs. Standard Push Press

One of the services I offer is distance coaching and many of my distance coaching students have fat loss and body composition change as one of their main goals. In my opinion, the best way to get lean (in addition to a clean diet, of course) is with kettlebell snatching. The problem is, especially with distance students because I don’t have my eyes on them all the time, is that people many times just aren’t ready to start kettlebell snatching and I don’t want to program them into distance programs if I can’t have my eyes on them. In this case, for added conditioning, I often program Viking Push Presses in a Viking Warrior Conditioning style training. (For more information on Viking Warrior Conditioning you can check out Kenneth Jay’s book by the same name.)

When a student sees the “Viking Push Press” in their program the first question is always “How is this different from a standard push press?” It’s an excellent question because the exercises are, in fact, very different and for very different goals.

As mentioned earlier, the Viking push press is a great tool for improved body composition and is a high intensity, high rep quick lift. The push press is a way to get a heavy bell over your head and you wouldn’t perform NEARLY as many repetitions as in a programmed Viking Push Press program. We like to say, “If you can’t press it, push press it. If you can’t push press it, jerk it. If you can’t jerk it, bent press it.” The idea is, for example, you can strictly press a 24kg bell you would push press the 28kg to get used to having it overhead and for a heavy exercise focused on athletic power production. Conversely, the Viking Push Press is done a bell (or two) lighter than your strict military press bell with a narrower stance many reps as fast as you can.

The 5 O’Clock Squat

When I was coaching with my friend and colleague Joe Bogle last weekend, I happened to notice that he had a fantastic squat. Squatting is a basic human movement pattern (if you don’t believe me, watch a toddler pick something up) but it seems to get lost when we become adults and sit for hours on end – either at a desk, on a couch, or even driving.

Many times, I see people who try to stay above parallel (which was a tip based on a research project in the 80’s whose findings were eventually proven incorrect) and it causes them to either allow their knees to come excessively forward which can be bad on the knees (remember, “Squats don’t hurt your knees. The way you squat hurts your knees.”) or cause them to hinge back into almost a deadlift pattern and not a squat and with the front loading of a kettlebell goblet or kettlebell front squat can cause unnecessary.

As Joe beautifully demonstrates in the video that goes along with this post, you will see that as he descends into the squat it’s like he is standing by a clock and aiming his butt toward 5PM. This is a clue that even the person with zero fitness background can visualize. You can use this cue to help people be aware of a target for which to aim in the descent of their squat.

colleague Joe Bogle last weekend, I happened to notice that he had a fantastic squat. Squatting is a basic human movement pattern (if you don’t believe me, watch a toddler pick something up) but it seems to get lost when we become adults and sit for hours on end – either at a desk, on a couch, or even driving.

Many times, I see people who try to stay above parallel (which was a tip based on a research project in the 80’s whose findings were eventually proven incorrect) and it causes them to either allow their knees to come excessively forward which can be bad on the knees (remember, “Squats don’t hurt your knees. The way you squat hurts your knees.”) or cause them

When I was coaching with my friend and colleague Joe Bogle last weekend, I happened to notice that he had a fantastic squat. Squatting is a basic human movement pattern (if you don’t believe me, watch a toddler pick something up) but it seems to get lost when we become adults and sit for hours on end – either at a desk, on a couch, or even driving.

Many times, I see people who try to stay above parallel (which was a tip based on a research project in the 80’s whose findings were eventually proven incorrect) and it causes them to either allow their knees to come excessively forward which can be bad on the knees (remember, “Squats don’t hurt your knees. The way you squat hurts your knees.”) or cause them to hinge back into almost a deadlift pattern and not a squat and with the front loading of a kettlebell goblet or kettlebell front squat can cause unnecessary.

As Joe beautifully demonstrates in the video that goes along with this post, you will see that as he descends into the squat it’s like he is standing by a clock and aiming his butt toward 5PM. This is a clue that even the person with zero fitness background can visualize. You can use this cue to help people be aware of a target for which to aim in the descent of their squat.

to hinge back into almost a deadlift pattern and not a squat and with the front loading of a kettlebell goblet or kettlebell front squat can cause unnecessary.

As Joe beautifully demonstrates in the video that goes along with this post, you will see that as he descends into the squat it’s like he is standing by a clock and aiming his butt toward 5PM. This is a clue that even the person with zero fitness background can visualize. You can use this cue to help people be aware of a target for which to aim in the descent of their squat.

6 Steps to Success

Disclaimer: I was looking through some old notebooks (I have a composition book problem) and found some notes I took at who knows what fitness conference/mastermind/training years ago. So like when I teach kettlebell workshops, I didn’t come up with any of this on my own, but I’ve been fortunate to have spent time with people much smarter than me who have shared their knowledge and wisdom.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” –  Christopher Reeve

BELIEVE

The process of success is conceive – believe – achieve. Once you conceptualize what you want to accomplish, there is a very important step of believing it will happen that must occur before you achieve success in your goal. You have to BELIEVE in yourself. You are what you believe. Bombard your brain with positive affirmations and program your mind for success. If you think it is, it is.

GOALS

Be unsatisfied (not dissatisfied.) You must always be on journey towards something. I had a quote on my computer screen for a while that said, “Comfort makes cowards of us all.” We must constantly be taking baby steps out of our comfort zones to expand in what is comfortable to us. The circle gets bigger one tiny risk at a time.

BE ABLE TO TAKE RISKS

If you want to be great, you have to take risks. The pain of not trying is worse than the pain of trying and then losing (caterpillar quote.) Every time you have an experience it will elevate you to a higher level. A level of understanding, a level of compassion, a level of love… If you’re not willing to open the boxes of the gifts of experience that are given to you, you’ll never be great at life.

OVERCOME ADVERSITY

There’s always a silver lining. Failure is not the opposite of success, but steps along the way to success. If you try and fail, you’re still trying. You never fail if you sit still and don’t DO anything or try to make a difference. “I didn’t fail 1000 times trying to invent the lightbulb, I found 1000 ways to not make a lightbulb.” -Thomas Edison

YOU MUST TRAIN MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY

The mental piece is often neglected. Visualize! See yourself making the lift or crossing the finish line. Your brain doesn’t know the difference. Also focus and live in the moment. There is no such thing as multi-tasking.

YOU MUST WORK HARD

This does not mean overtraining in the gym. Please don’t take this as meaning the “Go hard all the time!” mentality when strength and endurance training but there are no free rides in life. You have to pay a price to be great. If you’re willing to work hard you can do anything. You have to push yourself.

100 Days

Today I have some good news. 100 days ago I decided to stop drinking. Although, thankfully, there was no life ending or life ruining rock bottom, my life had been spiraling out of control and it was only a matter of time before there were serious, irreversible consequences. I waited until day 100 to really come out and say anything because my in person and social media friends would probably range from reacting with “What are you talking about?” to “Good – I was worried about you.” to “Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

My decision was made the day before my 37th birthday on November 29th, 2016. I woke up that morning after a Thanksgiving weekend bender and thought, “ Why am I throwing away my life?” If I continued drinking I would be mediocre in life at best and cause serious damage to myself and others at worse. It had to stop. That was it. I had had enough.

The thought of living life sober was very scary. Basically, when you have been numbing your feelings and quieting your thoughts without processing either you have to learn to live life again. There has been anxiety every “new” experience – new even though I had done them 100 times just never sober. The first concert, the first date, the first football game, the first holiday… but a few months in and after checking off some boxes, it was ok. And I know it’s always going to be ok to navigate life situations sober. And people who are just meeting you really don’t care if you’re drinking or not. They have their own issues to deal with. (I’m meaning that from the standpoint as worrying if people will think you are weird for not drinking, not what your friends who know you’re in recovery would think if you went off the wagon.) I was afraid I wouldn’t have fun but life has been so much more fun because of the freedom and peace of mind I have living life sober. And life isn’t perfect. The goal isn’t to not have problems the goal is to have better problems. I am so grateful for my better problems.

On day one, I met with one of my best friends, Joseph Mole, who said, “We need to give you purpose in life. We need to figure out a way to combine your passion for volunteering with your passion for fitness.”

I thought, “Hmm. I know someone who I think does that.”

Then I called my colleague and friend James who is the lead trainer at a gym in Utah that focuses on fitness as part of addiction recovery. I felt something that made it clear that it’s my calling to serve this population through fitness.

And here is my exciting news. This week, I filed for an LLC and once it is approved I will apply for a 501c3 designation and found a non-profit focused on fitness programs for recovering addicts. I’m not sure exactly what it will look like or even how it will come together, but I’m taking the first steps toward my bigger vision of a sober fitness community.

I wanted to take a minute and write a post sharing with my friends where I am. It’s a good place. It’s a much much better place than 101 days ago FOR SURE. And if you struggle with an addiction of any kind, you can talk to me (or please talk to someone) and you can move past it. Problems don’t go away, but the problems get much much better.

Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

This week, a friend and former gym member started private training with me. She bought 10 sessions back in November during my annual Black Friday sale. It’s taken her until now to get started because, like so many people, she has been sacrificing herself for the people in her life whom she loves. She is caring for an elderly and very sick family member. And her children. And her husband. And herself. Barely herself. It’s noble. It’s from a great place. But it isn’t sustainable.

Another former student has had 2 children and a promotion at work within the last 4 years. She is a mother and a wife who works 14 hour days. She called me this week. “Something has to give. I can’t do this anymore without doing something for myself,” she said.

Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First.

You’ve heard the cliches:

You can’t give from a place of lack.

You being hungry won’t help someone starving in Africa.

If you truly want to give someone love, love yourself first.

Self care is not selfish.

But they’re true. If you give give give your tank will be empty. Find SOMETHING for you. Whether it’s a half hour kettlebell session three times a week or 10 minutes of meditation before the rest of your family wakes up, find something to recharge. Both you AND the people who care about you and who you care for will thank you. Put on you own oxygen mask first.

Goals Go Beyond Resolutions

As we venture into February, many of us have already left our New Year’s resolutions far behind. Why is it that we can’t seem to stick with a resolution longer than a couple of weeks? Usually the problem is the resolution is in the lack of sustainability.  Quick fixes are fine for a jump start, but if we don’t transition into something that works with the 80/20 rule (80% of the time we stick with it/ 20% we don’t – because life happens) then what is the point?  As far as picking a general long term diet, you have to figure out what works for you and what is sustainable. Choosing an eating plan that involves real, unprocessed food is never a bad idea, but there are many many to choose from and you have to pick one that fits into your lifestyle and lets you enjoy food, not feel tortured and deprived.

The same goes for exercise.  There are certain 90 day programs that have you go hard, hard, hard every day for 90 days – and you may get great results in that time – but then what after those 90 days? It’s not sustainable.  You have to pick something that works for you, that you enjoy, and that you can stick with far beyond the initial time period. Anything works for 6 weeks. Tell me what still works three years from now.  Many of the “quick fix” programs are just too much for the average person to handle over a long period of time without injury or at best, burnout. Twenty pounds may be lost in 6 weeks but then time off is taken and weight gains of those twenty pounds and more come in the next 6 weeks.  I would much rather someone find something that they enjoy and can stick with for months, lose 5 pounds a month for 4 months and then continue losing those pounds until they reach their goal. They have a much better likelihood of keeping it off because the training is sustainable. There are many different ways of eating and exercising – and I certainly have my favorites – but which one really works for you?  The one you stick with.

Hello, 2017!

More importantly, goodbye 2016...

This morning after teaching my Wednesday AM kettlebell class, a student brought up the fact that he was looking over his Facebook feed and decided he has never seen people hate on a year more than 2016 is being hated on. I had to agree with the 2016 shaming. We are at the time where a generation of super talents are dying – some untimely and some not so untimely, but it simply sucks when legends die no matter their age. The election, well I’ll leave it at I personally would not have been joyful and excited for either candidate to win (seriously, where is Kid President when you really need him?) I speak for myself (and too many friends and colleagues who share my disappointment) when I say that this year I did not advance personally or professionally at the rate I would have liked to and where I am at the end of 2016 is nowhere near where I had hoped I would be when planning how the year would play out. But you know what? Life happens in cycles. We have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. And at the end of the day, we have so much to be grateful for. I’m happy to end 2016 and begin 2017 with a new outlook on life and determination that this too, shall pass. Where can we go but up?  Let’s not get discouraged at the state of the world but come together and make 2017 our best year yet. It takes a low like 2016 to make us realize how amazing life CAN be if we stick to it and wake up every day determined to be the best versions of ourselves we can be. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gandhi. Thoreau is credited with, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” I’m taking these words to heart as we venture into the unknown that is 2017. Whether your goal is professional, financial, spiritual, physical, or some combination of 4, we can do this. Don’t stay discouraged. We’ve got this. And if 2016 was a great year for you, congratulations. Keep it up. Let’s map out this upcoming year and share our successes at the end of next December!

Host a Healthy (and Delicious) Trader Joe’s Holiday Party

Just because you are making the healthful decision to do a stick to a healthy eating plan during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in your room and not be social. Trader Joe’s has many options for you to throw a dinner party that anyone can enjoy!

Beverages: Trader Joe’s has a great selection of sparkling waters to serve in wine glasses. Garnish with lemons and limes.

Pre-Dinner Snacks:

Put out some bowls of Just Mango Slices and nuts of your choice. Trader Joe’s has a large selection and most are compliant. Double check the label for added sugars just to be sure. Get some of the Jicama sticks and make some easy guacamole by mashing up ripe avocadoes and mixing with Salsa Autentica.

First Course:

Make an Asian inspired “fried rice” bowl with cauliflower rice, broccoli florets from the frozen department, an egg, and and diced organic chicken breasts. Add a splash of coconut cream.

Main Course – On the Grill

Let the star of the show be some grilling! Trader Joe’s has a great assortment of organic meats to grill and vegetables you can roast. Drizzle your choice of veggies with olive oil and put them in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Dessert:

Get the Very Berry Cherry Blend in the frozen section and some fresh limes. While still frozen, pour the berries in a cup and squeeze lime juice over them. Mash with a fork and serve. You’ll surprised how delicious this is!

These are not the only Trader Joe’s options for compliant menu items for a “fun for anyone” dinner party. They are all label compliant so you don’t have to think about it but if you veer off of this list, make sure you check the ingredient list for sneaky sugars and grains!

 

 

 

 

 

How Heavy Should I Go in a Turkish Get-up?

Here’s the thing. We teach get-ups very light. That’s because students are moving around for the very first time with a weight overhead. And so of course, there is a danger of dropping a very heavy weight onto your very vulnerable face.

But once a student owns the movement and learns to use his body as one unit — the way it is meant to work — a much heavier bell can (and should) be used. The get-up is not just a light warm-up mobility exercise (although there are definite benefits there). It should also be a serious strength exercise once the student owns the movement with confidence.

StrongFirst Certification Get-UpWhere Did We Get Confused About the Get-up?

“Naked” get-ups, shoe get-ups, and very light get-ups are all great teaching tools as well as good practice and mobility work. I think when the awesome book and DVD set Kalos Thenos came out people lost interest in heavy get-ups almost completely, replacing them with the light get-ups with neck/shoulder rotations and the high hip bridge — much like when people gave up heavy snatching altogether when Viking Warrior Conditioning came out.

I am not saying the Kalos Thenos get-up is bad — on the contrary, I think it is a great drill for both newbies and advanced lifters, as well as an instructor tool to screen movement problems, asymmetries, spot tight hip flexors, and the list goes on. But when a whole type of get-up is abandoned, then a crucial part of the picture is missing.

StrongFirst Get-Up DemonstrationStrongFirst’s Expectation About the Get-up

Kalos Thenos get-up yang is the heavy get-up. StrongFirst is first and foremost a “School of Strength” and we should get moving with some heavy weights overhead. As Master SFG Brett Jones said one weekend as we were getting ready for the SFG Level II Certification, you should have the ability to own different kinds of get-ups. You should be able to high hip bridge and low sweep — as well as many other kinds of get-ups. It’s all about body control and strength.

Note on Differences

The heavy get-up will look a little different. You will probably have to sit more into your hip to get under the weight for more leverage when coming up into the kneeling position. Your breathing will be more of a power breathing style. The high hip bridge is probably out of the question if you are maxing out. A max-weight get-up looks very different from the Kalos Thenos get-up — and that’s okay.

Teaching Get-UpGet-up to Heavy

So how do you work on getting up with a heavier weight? You do some drills to make sure you know how to use your body as a single unit.

Kneeling and half-kneeling press drills take out some “cheating” and force you to lock into place. You may feel your abs working extra hard on the opposite side (the body is set up like an “X” but that is a whole different story that I will let Tim Andersen tell here.)

After you do these drills, try something heavy. In the four classes I observed today at my gym, we set eleven personal records after doing various half kneeling press drills. Some of those records were set by newbies (who are expected to move up relatively quickly), but others of those were from students who had been with us for years. One student who has been coming for three years did her first get-up with a 16kg — and made it look easy!

Heavy Get-UpThe Bottom Line

The Kalos Thenos get-up is a fantastic way to perform the exercise, but it’s not the only way to train get-ups. Just like you can use Master SFG Dan John’s Easy Strength program to pattern movements with lighter weights in order to train for a personal record, you can increase your mobility and stability with the Kalos Thenos get-up in order to get-up with some substantial weight above head, and it will help increase your other lifts as well.

Your Get-Up Homework

If you are trying to press a certain weight, get-up with that weight or even one bell heavier. Getting used to moving around with that weight overhead and using your whole body to connect to support it will get you your gains faster.