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Additional research in that supports KBs as an alternative to traditional weightlifting exercises and powerlifting
exercises.   Researchers at Long Island University found that a 10 week program that featured 2 KB sessions/wk, divided into 5 cycles of 4 days each, was successful at creating “significant improvements in 3RM clean and jerk and 3RM bench press.” (J Strength Cond Res 27 (2): 477-484, 2013)

Now if I was going to compete in a traditional lifting competition, I wouldn’t scrap standard routines and focus on exclusively on KBs.  But the study does give support to the coaches or individuals that are limited by space and budgets and can’t manage a full Olympic barbell set, benches, platforms etc.  One of the things I like about KBs is that I can line them up next to the wall in my garage and still have space for the vehicles, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, Frisbees, and assorted family paraphernalia.  They are also very portable, so I can throw them in the back of the Suburban and head to the park or to a friend’s house where we can pool resources.  

If you or a client thinks they can’t afford the space or cost of weightlifting equipment, consider adding a couple KBs into your collection.  Maximum effect in minimum packaging.

 
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Following last week’s post of “slow & steady”, I think we
need to re-assess our self-grading.  I think we often can fall into a habit of getting down on ourselves if we feel like we’re not training enough, doing as much as we “should”, or not
meeting some self-imposed standards.   Even small efforts or incremental steps can pay off towards your long term fitness or skill goals.  
 
I was reading an article about an Outdoor Circuit Training program on Swiss Army Recruits (Journal Strength & Cond Res, 26(12): 3418-3425, 2012).  The researchers added one 50 minute outdoor circuit workout to the “standard” training protocol of 1X/week for 70 minutes (How this level of “standard” training can be considered reasonable for army recruits is beyond me.  Maybe since the Swiss will never be called on to defend anyone or
anything, they can enjoy lower levels of fitness in their military?).  The group that performed the additional training showed “significantly greater improvements in trunk muscle fitness, postural control, and total physical fitness score” compared to the control
group.  
 
What strikes me is that they didn’t have to go to some super-duper, Cross-Fit, Ironman, Olympic, Paleo, high intensity, metabolic, split 7-day regimen in order to make significant improvements.  They added one 50 minute session.  Granted, they were inexperienced and barely fit to start with, but hey, a little extra effort showed big results.  If you are fairly fit and decently trained, results may vary.  But maybe finding 50 (more) minutes to stretch each week would help you recover or recuperate.  Or a 30 minute walk after dinner.  Or 20
more pushups at the end of each workout.  Or one more serving of vegetables.  Developing the habit and taking the initiative is often more important than the actual event or what you’re doing.

Training should be a long term initiative and we’re looking for progress, not perfection.  It can be easy to get discouraged, especially as you age. I know that I can’t train 5-6 nights per week for 2-3 hours a night like I did when I was in College.  Life, jobs, family, kids, travel all have an influence on what you can do/not do.  I always encourage people to do what you can, when you can.   It all counts, so get out there and do
SOMETHING.


 
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Just a quick one for today - link to a great message from Ross Enamait that relates to multiple areas. Not just fitness, but martial arts, careers, family etc.  Guess what? There are no fast, easy, painless solutions. 
Things take hard work and dedication, as well as time spent.  Even then there are no guarantees.  There are times when bad luck and trouble screw up all your well
intentioned efforts.  Life isn’t fair.  Get over it.

But, the reality is that if you want results, you have to work for them.  Often for a long
time.  That may be an unpopular message for many living in today’s instant gratification society.  But it’s a message that a lot of people need to hear, pay attention to, and live by.  If you already are, good for you. Continue on that critical path.  If you aren’t, then figure out why not, what’s holding you back, and commit to make a change & embrace the journey.  It’s time well spent.


 
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I stole the headline from one of the most influential
audio courses I ever listen(ed) to: “
The Art of Exceptional Living” by Jim Rohn.  (There are a bunch of Jim Rohn clips on YouTube, but if you want the audio course, find it here).  I don’t know how many times I listened to that program in the past 25 years, but it always inspires me to keep striving and growing.

One of the stories Jim tells centers around the old saying “An apple a day…….” Obviously the finish to that sentence is “…keeps the doctor away.”  Jim asks “What if that was true?”   What if something as simple as eating an apple a day influenced your health?   Is that suggestion easy or hard to do?  It’s easy.  Then why don’t most people do it?   It’s also easy NOT to do.   

The secret to achieving goals, whether it’s in fitness, business, life, quitting smoking, improving your family/relationships, whatever, is not one big magic thing.  It’s often a few simple daily habits that make a difference. You just have to do them.  Easy things. Like pushups.  Easy to do, but also easy not to do.  

I have to admit, I haven’t been diligent in doing my daily pushups.  Granted, I’ve done 2,396 YTD, but that’s a pretty sorry average of ~ 27 per day since I’ve been keeping track. 
It’s better than zero, but not what I’m capable of or should be doing.  Even if I’ve just eaten my 2nd Thanksgiving dinner and feel like Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s  Meaning of Life, I should be able to bang out 50+ pushups before I go to bed.  

So, I will spend the next several months cranking out more pushups and getting my
average up.  It’s easy to do; I just need to do it.   
 
What’s something easy that you should be doing?

So why aren’t you doing it?


 
Here’s one from Anthony Diluglio at the Art of Strength.  A “Ropes Gone Wild  Workout” that combines two of my favorite tools - KBs and ropes, and one of my favorite places - outside.  This one can cover it all – UB, LB, Core, posterior chain. 

All sorts of variations could be done using this as an “anchor”exercise.  Add in some BW sets.  Or have a 2nd KB at one end of the park, drag a KB away (forward or backward) as shown, then sprint back to the other KB and bang out some swings, C&P, snatch etc.  
You can do it for multiple timed sets to mimic your competition rounds (ex. BJJ, wrestling, boxing, MMA), for distance, or one long timed set (ex. as many sets/reps as you can get in 15 minutes). 
 
I’d suggest doing this one at a park, a beach, sand volleyball court or somewhere you don’t mind scuffing up the turf (neighbor’s yard after dark?).  Have fun.

 
I put together this quick workout using sandbags and KBs to use as a finisher after doing some technical/skill drills.  It’s fundamentally a basic pyramid structure, as I increase the weight used, I decrease the reps (or in this case, the length of the round).  The weights don’t have to be exact, just in the ballpark.  If you have access to a full rack of DBs or lots of free weights, those would work too.  The only rule is that during the round, either you and/or the weight have to be moving.  

Round 1 - 5 minutes x 25% BW             
     3 minutes rest

Round 2 - 3 minutes x 50% BW    
    1 minute rest

Round 3 - 1 minute x 75% BW             
    5 minutes rest (if you’re going to repeat)

So here’s how it looked for my rounds.  Round 1 I used a 50lb. sandbag. Set the countdown timer for 5:00.   I started out with some Clean & Press, then some Rows, Squats, Shouldering, and finished with carrying in assorted positions for the remainder of the time.   Rest 3 minutes.

Round 2 I used a 90lb. sandbag.  To be completely accurate I should have used 95 lbs., but I can only go in 10lb. increments with my current sandbag setup.  Timer set for 3:00.  More
cleans, rows, squats & shouldering, finishing with assorted carries. The key is not to put the bag down and to have the entire time under tension.  This is great for developing work
capacity.  Rest for 1 minute.

Round 3 I used two 70 lb. Kettlebells.  Timer set for 1:00.  In this case I just cleaned both KBs and started walking with them in the rack position. After a while I dropped them down to finish with a Farmer’s Carry.

There it is. 13 minutes of very functional fitness, lifting, carrying and moving weights in different planes, stressing the body in a wide variety of motions.  Easy to modify this
according to your ability or equipment that’s available.  Add time to the rounds, increase or decrease the weight, increase or decrease the rest intervals.  

Enjoy

 
A quick note to start off 2013 on the right track. 

I have a confession to make.  I need to do more pushups.  I know, I know, we all do.  But I feel bad when I don’t work them into my regular routines.  But after 30 years of punching, my shoulders aren’t as forgiving as they used to be and higher volumes of pushups seem to aggravate them more often than not. 

So over the Christmas break I decided to invest a hard-earned  $0.99 for Martin Rooney’s Pushup Warrior” app for my iPad.  It includes 120 pushup variations, 60 workouts, a Pushup of the Day feature, and quick, short videos that demonstrate the variations.    I’ve been a Martin Rooney fan for years, like his “Warrior Cardio” book, and anything else he writes. 

I may not get to a new variation every day, but I plan on using this app throughout the year to add some pushup variety to my workouts, maybe as a starter or finisher, and just force me to get some more reps on the ground.  Check it out; I think you’ll like it. 

 
Finally getting thru some of my back issues of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Just a quick note on an article from the August2012 issue.  The “Association of Maximal Strength and Muscular Endurance Test Scores with Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Body Composition” by Vaara, et. al.  discusses commonly used physical performance tests that are supposed to evaluate max aerobic capacity and muscular fitness.  We’ve all
seen these or been subjected to these, for example, 1-minute pushups, sit-ups, 1RM bench press, BW squats etc.  
 
They can each serve their purpose and are especially useful when testing large groups with little or no equipment necessary.   In this article articipants were asked to perform as many reps as possible in 60 seconds for the push-up, sit-up, and BW squat respectively.    What did they find?

 “The results suggest that the performance of repeated squats is mainly dependent on aerobic (and anaerobic) capacity rather than on maximal  strength characteristics, whereas push-ups depend also on maximal force of the upper extremity muscles.”

 The takeaway message for me was to know what you’re testing.  By administering a 1-minute pushup and squat test, you get a quick assessment on upper body strength and indication of aerobic capacity.  Quick and dirty, easy to administer and count. Simple is good.

 
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I’ve noticed lately that I need to work on my conditioning as it relates to competing/performing timed rounds. So I whipped up a workout called the “Power of 3’s”.

Warmup
5 minutes Stinger techniques (over/under, side-to-side, circular punching, Stinger/elbow/knee, etc.)

3 alternating sets of Suspension Trainer inverted rows & Slam sets on the Mook Jong

Workout
3 “stations” 
a) 3 pushups (any variety)
b) Sandbag shouldering, 3L/3R
c) KB Complex: Swing/Clean/Snatch, 3L/3R

Complete the circuit as many times as possible in 3 minutes, 1 min. rest, 3 rounds total
 
That’s it.  Quick and dirty, got the heart pumping, up and down from the ground, changing planes, compound exercises.  You can scale the difficulty with longer/more rounds, shorter rest, changing the exercise variation, adding “stations”, weight of the sandbag, weight of the KB, # reps etc.  



 
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Interesting article in a recent Strength and Conditioning Journal article that reviewed the research pertaining to “The Biomechanics of the Push-up: Implications for Resistance Training Programs.”    A  couple of takeaways:


 

Table of Push-up variations for novice, intermediate, and advanced exercisers:

Novice variations
:  Wall push-up; Torso-elevated push-up; knee push-up

Intermediate Variations: Standard; Wide base; Narrow base; Rapid countermovement;   Torso-shifted forward; Torso-shifted rearward; Feet-elevated; Upper-body suspended (e.g. TRX); Hands on stability or BOSU ball; Perfect Pushup; Handle grip; Fall (from knees); staggered base; alternating side-to-side; one legged; between-bench

Advanced Variations: Clapping; Self-assisted one-arm; One arm; Weighted vest; Weighted
(plates on back); Elastic band-resisted; Chain (draped over back)

Interesting tid-bits:
Wide base activates the pectoralis major to a greater degree than other positions, narrow base optimizes activation of the triceps.

It’s more challenging and demanding for shoulder girdle stabilizers to perform push-ups with feet elevated on a bench and hands on ground than with hands on stability ball and
feet on floor.

Hands on the stability ball significantly increased activation of triceps, also increased pec, rectus abdominis, and external oblique activation compared to pushups on a bench from
same angle.

The “Perfect Pushup” handgrips do not seem to increase muscular recruitment when compared to standard pushups.  (If you buy these, you should probably by a Shake Weight to go with it).

Clapping pushups outperform standard, slow eccentric, 1 hand on med ball, staggered hands, hands on 2 balls, 2 hands on 1 ball, rapid countermovement, 1 arm, and alternating
plyometric variations in pec major and triceps activity.  

Bottom line is that you only probably need 3 variations for maximum effect – standard, hands and feet on the ground; feet elevated on a bench; or Clapping push-ups if you’re really advanced.   All the other equipment, balls, handles and gizmos are interesting variations to keep things from getting stale (and help sell corner-filling dust-gatherers), but they aren’t necessary if you’re just looking for results.  Sure it’s not sexy and awe-inspiring to just drop down and bang out sets of pushups on the floor, but very few things in life are.  Keep it simple.

(Original article can be found in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, Vol 34, #5, Oct 2012, www.nsca.scj.com)