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June 2015

The Problem With Your Kettlebell Snatch

Chalk_kbI can usually pinpoint the moment someone's Kettlebell Snatch (KS) is breaking down; usually even before they know it.  Because the KS is such a complex ballistic movement it's easy to "build in" problems into the technique without knowing it.  Issues can build upon one another, and often do, because a fundamental aspect of the technique is not sound or hasn't been developed sufficiently.

In the case of the KS, a technique that everyone wants to do, the key factor in your success or failure is going to be how efficient and effective your backswing is.  If your backswing doesn't allow you to load the mechanism to generate power through the hinge then you are going to do it somewhere else.  Where you might ask?  How about in your hand, arm, neck, shoulder or your upper or lower back.  All of these areas are not primary force generators - but they will have to be if you are not using the backswing.

Take a look at the following short video.  In it I'm doing a KS with three different kettlebells. What I want you to look at is not only the backswing on the loading phase but also on the recovery phase.  They should be so similar that they are almost impossible to tell apart.

If you want to improve your KS then work on your backswing first because where you start (the backswing) will directly effect where you end up (the Kettlebell Snatch).


Indian Club Training

Indian-clubsAs I mature, which translates to "getting older and more cranky", I am always looking for different ways to improve my movement quality while opening up joints and mobilizing damaged tissue.  One of the best ways I have found to get my chest, shoulders and upper spine moving (the way they are supposed to) is by using Indian Clubs on a daily basis.  I have a set next to my desk that I use while I'm writing to not only give myself a mental break, but to also "reset" on my back and shoulders from long hours in front of the computer.  I also have a variety of Indian Clubs that at the gym that I use as part of my own personal warm-up before each and every training session.

If you've never worked with the Indian Clubs I strongly suggest that you look into them.  They are a relatively inexpensive addition to your training equipment and will quickly pay for themselves when you realize that you are moving and feeling better.  If you are already using them - then good for you - you're already ahead of the curve! 

BTW - click on the image below to watch an animated GIF of me swinging two different sets of Indian Clubs.  Watch carefully and you can see which shoulder I am currently rehabbing! :)


The Zombie Snatch

Zombie-Photo-08Training for the Zombie Apocalypse?  Need to get some speed and power behind your katana sword so that you can lop heads off the pesky undead?  Looking for an edge over the walking dead when the shite hits the fan?  No problem!  All you need is The Zombie Snatch!

The Zombie Snatch (ZS) is a hybrid of the traditional Kettlebell Snatch.  A combination of the Dead Snatch (a Kettlebell Snatch that starts "dead" from between the feet) and a Half Snatch (a traditional Kettlebell Snatch that is pulled back into the Rack as opposed to sent back between the legs).  The ZS could have just as easily been named "The Half-dead Snatch"; but I think "Zombie Snatch" has a nice ring to it.

As a variation of you the traditional Kettlebell Snatch it will help you develop several attributes that will improve not only your Snatch technique, but your Swing, Rack and Press.  Because of the "dead" starting position you will need to explosively drive through the hip hinge.  This extra attention to driving through the hinge will translate to more speed in other techniques as well as relying less and less on pulling the Kettlebell out of the backswing.  You'll also find that you will develop a more ballistic punch through at the top of the Snatch as opposed to a "flip and slam".  There is little or no arc in the ZS so it will also help you learn the proper trajectory for the conventional Kettlebell Snatch.  The ZS makes the Kettlebell travel close to the midline and hug the body so it makes for a very fast, tight and efficient movement.

The ZS is a lot fun to train and will give you something "the same, but different" to do when it is time to work on your Kettlebell Snatch technique. Enjoy the training and you never know - it might just come in handy when zombies attack!


Bowling Balls?

Bowling-ballI am working on a new project and I need your help!  I am looking for some people who have used bowling balls languishing in the closets or basement and want to donate them to me.  If you have a lonely bowling ball (or two or three) that you want to see in a fun and loving home, please let me know!

I promise to take good care of them and make sure they get the love and attention that they deserve.  Thanks!

Frank Ciavattone - A Weightlifting Legend

I spent this past Saturday at York Barbell attending their annual Strength Spectacular.  It's always a great event and I always come away inspired and reinvigorated with my love of iron - this trip proved to be one that I will always remember.

With the Powerlifting competition going on in the main auditorium at York Barbell there isn't a whole lot of room for anything else. So each year a couple tents are put up outside to handle the strongman competition and other events.  This year I found myself returning to one tent in particular - the one that held the competitors in the United States All-Round Weightlifting Association National Championship.

It's hard to explain what USAWA athletes do other than to say that they do more "old school" strength lifts that are outside the boundaries of Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting.  Things like the Zercher Squat, One-arm Deadlift, and the Pullover and Press are among a long list of lifts that are performed by these athletes.  Coming from all walks of life, the athletes that I met on Saturday ranged in age from 14 years old to 87 years old; that's right, 87 years old and competing in a weightlifting competition!

One man that stood out from the crowd not only because of his size, but also because of his big heart and passion for iron, was Frank Ciavattone.  Frank is a legend (look up the word and you will see his picture) in the weightlifting world.  Frank has been a professional wrestler; given the title of "Worlds Strongest Man"; and has competed in weightlifting competitions for over 40 years and has amassed thousands of trophies for his effort.  I got the chance to talk to him about the USAWA, his career, and his love for iron. We also talked about his family and his health, which has challenged him with three bouts of cancer which he has successfully battled.  Frank was at the championship to lift for the last time, after 40+ years of competing, and I had the honor of being there to share the moment with his friends and fellow athletes.  It is a moment that I will be hard pressed to forget...


F-ing Ticks!

TickI know that this has nothing to do with Kettlebells, CrossFit, etc.  Sometimes I like to post things that I think will be useful to to you regardless of what you do - and this is one of those times!

For some reason we are experiencing an overabundance of ticks this year.  They are getting on the dog, the kids and even me from time to time. The dog is on tick prevention medication (and it doesn't seem to be doing a whole heck of a lot) but the kids and I aren't.  So after every trip into the woods or playing in the backyard we have to do a quick scan to make sure we aren't bringing any "guests" into the house uninvited.

I usually dose the little beggars with New Skin and they decide to get the heck off.  This is the first time I've seen this method and it's worth knowing about if you don't have any New Skin handy and want to get the tick off as fast as possible.


Who's Training Your Trainer?

TrainTheTrainerWorking with a trainer is a great idea for many people.  A good trainer can give you the fundamental skills you will need to make the best out of every minute you spend in the gym.  Developing good habits and techniques, while keeping you moving forward, are what trainers do on a daily basis.  A good trainer is not a cheerleader, cheering you on as you run on the treadmill; instead they are a coach, giving you feedback and direction while constantly refining your skills.

But who is training your trainer?  Is your trainer located in a "big box" gym where they are certified internally and the majority of the training is on how to sell more training, not make you stronger and move better?  Or is your trainer working on their own or have their own gym?  Are they certified by a recognized organization, not a mail order or Internet-based certifying body, and are they working with you outside their skill set on things that they don't have any experience with and you are their "guinea pig" until they get it right?  This is a dangerous situation and one that is encountered way too often...

Do you want to know what the sign of a great trainer is?  They are constantly working with their peers and their mentors to improve their skills.  It's not about learning the newest pole dancing yoga craze, but spending time delving into the basics of the strength and conditioning game.  Practice, under the watchful gaze of a more seasoned trainer, can improve anyone - even your trainer.

BTW - if you walk into a gym and the walls are plastered with certificates from their trainers attending certifications then you are at risk.  Many trainers think that chasing paper makes them better trainers but all that it really proves is that they have never spent the time and work to get good at any one thing. Beware of the trainer with tons of credentials - they are looking for the shortcut to expertise and excellence. 

"Quads of Fire"

Today's WOD ("Quads of Fire") was a great one!  We had a large number of people run through it and got some great feedback on the workout.  This was once again one of those workouts that you would underestimate until you are in the throes of it...


Cardio Assault

Fan bikeIf you are looking for a brutally effective cardio protocol then you need to look into what Marty Gallagher and Dr. Chris Hardy have come up with involving the Fan Bike.  It is a brutal protocol that will hit every aspect of cardiovascular training in a very short period of time - around 15 minutes of hard work that you will be hard pressed to complete!

The protocol includes leg-only, arm-only, legs and arms, forward and reverse (pulls and pushes), and much more to get the most out of your training time.  Remember - this is not a casual ride on the bike - it is a full-out Cardio Assault that will leave you breathless but anxious to try it again!

Check out the Part One and Part Two of this protocol on the Strong Medicine blog.  Then get your butt on a Fan Bike and tear it up!