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January 2014

Cardio and Fat Loss

Gerbil WheelYou've been lied to for years and years and it borders on a conspiracy.  I'm not talking about the Illuminati or Elvis being alive and living in a trailer park in Florida - I'm talking about the fallacy that cardio is the best way to burn fat.  It's a bold faced lie that trainers, gyms and companies are perpetuating to get you to hire their trainers, buy their equipment, their shoes, and other crap that you don't need.

Can you lose weight doing cardio?  Sure you can and here's how: get on a treadmill and run for hours, and hours, and hours. You will lose weight but is it the weight you want to lose or are you wasting away and training your body to store fat as opposed to sloughing it off?  You tell me... how many "aerobic bunnies" do you see at the Globo Gym doing hours and hours of cardio and not changing their body composition one iota?

I'm not saying that cardiovascular capacity is not important because it is. What I'm saying is that if you are really interested in burning off FAT then you need to step back and look at the research behind fat loss.  Check this out (from a blog post by Rachel Cosgrove on

  • December 2006, Canadian researchers reported that just two weeks of interval training boosted women's ability to burn fat during exercise by 36%.
  • In January 2007, a six-month study was published showing that adding aerobic exercise had no additional effect on body composition, over diet alone.
  • In June of 2007, a twelve-month study was published which had the subjects doing six hours of aerobic exercise per week, training six days a week, for one year. The average weight loss was only three pounds for that one-year period.
  • According to a British study, levels of Human Growth Hormone, which assists in building muscle and burning fat, skyrocketed 530% in subjects after just thirty seconds of sprinting as fast as they could on a stationary bike.
  • Australian fitness researchers had eighteen women perform twenty minutes of interval training on a stationary bike – eight-seconds of sprinting followed by twelve seconds of recovery – throughout the workout, three days a week.

The women lost an average of five-and-a-half pounds over fifteen weeks, without dieting. Similar groups performing forty minutes of moderate cycling, three days a week, actually gained a pound of fat over the same period. Two of the heavier women who did intervals dropped eighteen pounds.

  • In a side-by-side comparison, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario measured fitness gains in eight interval exercisers – using twenty to thirty minute cycling workouts that included four to six thirty-second sprints – against eight volunteers who pedaled at a lower intensity for 90 to 120 minutes.

Kind of shoots the whole "cardio for fat loss" thing right in the butt doesn't it?  How about these observations from Dan John (also from a blog post by Dan John on, one of the most respected strength and conditioning coaches in the world:

  • The better you get at an exercise, the less effective it becomes as a fat-burner.
  • Combining ground-based exercise like push-ups or planks with kettlebell swings can make for a fast and effective fat-burning workout.
  • For a complete program, mix planks or push-ups with sprints of various distances.

So how do you really burn fat?  Are you really ready to sign up for hours and hours of cardio that is going to give you dismal lackluster results?  I don't know anyone who has the time to devote to something that is not going to give them significant results. Or are you interested in putting in some concentrated time that is going to help you burn off fat with a blowtorch?

Ready for the secret? Follow these easy steps:

  • Keep your workouts short and intense
  • Combine multiple height changes as part of the workout, i.e. Burpees
  • Do load bearing exercises that involve multiple joints, i.e. Kettlebell Swings, Cleans, Snatch, etc.
  • Mix it up.  Don't do the same workout for weeks at a time; remember that efficiency in the workout makes it less effective at fat burning.
  • Clean up your diet or don't even diet - change the way you eat to include only real food (meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc.).  NOTE: the best advice on eating I've ever received was from none other than Dan John: "Eat like and adult... period."



Whacked Out Wednesday Number 001

This is the first in an ongoing series of "Whacked Out Wednesday" postings that I will be doing.  Each will be a video or picture of someone doing something "questionable" in regards to strength, conditioning, fitness, or just exhibiting Darwinian stupidity with heavy objects.

Our very first posting:


Flexibility Baselines

Are you flexible enough?  I mean really - do you have the flexiblity you need in order to do CrossFit, use Kettlebells or even safely exercise?  Knowing what your baseline flexibility should be can save you from a world of hurt; from excess soreness, to injury, and even surgery.

According Al Kavadlo's article on the Chronicles of Strength website you need to have a certain amount of flexibility in order to safely move forward and build a strength base.  His baselines include:

  1. Touching your toes with your knees locked and hips back
  2. Full squat with heels on the ground
  3. Overhead arm reach while lying on your back
  4. Standing hip stretch
  5. Shoulder stretch and reach

These five drills will give you an idea where you stand and give you somewhere to start working on your felxibility requirements.  While there are other areas that could be included in this list I think that it covers the areas that most athletes need to work on and will benefit from if they develop these attributes.

Check out the following video to see Al demonstrate each of the drills:


CrossFit, the Kettlebell Snatch, and Burpees

What do you get when you have two of the top male CrossFit athletes and two of the top female CrossFit athletes competing in a workout that is a combination of Kettlebell Snatch and Burpees? A mess...

The Kettlebell Snatch is a great strength and conditioning technique that has specific loading parameters and movement standards that ensures not only the safety of the athlete but also reinforces good movement, power generation and power absorption.  When you attempt to make the technique "more efficient" in order to get more reps per minute/round/etc. you are diluting the movement and diminishing the returns you will get from training with it.  Not to mention the fact when you make it "more efficient" you are going to rely upon secondary and tertiary power systems to mobilize the load and stress the body in was that are going to be counterproductive in the long (and sometimes short) term.

The Burpee is probably the most reviled body weight technique in any gym.  Done properly it will leave you gasping for air with your arms and legs torched. Done improperly it looks like the athletes been tasered or is suffering from a fit.  Burpees are supposed to be a combination of the squatting, pushing, and jumping movement patterns that also rely upon mid-line stability and hip snap to develop power and mobility. A well executed Burpee trains the athlete to create, absorb and redirect energy dynamically. A poorly executed, or "more efficient" does none of these things for the sake of getting more reps done in the least amount of time.

Check out the following video and see what the best of the best in CrossFit do with two staple training skills.


It's All in the Hips

Mark Bixby, RKC Team Leader, put out a great video on how to mobilize and use your hips to a much higher degree than you currently are.  In this video, number four in the series, Mark demonstrates some great ground work that are not only fun to practice but will open up your hips and lower body.  Enjoy!



What?!?!  Another freakin' acronym?  What the heck does "S-S-G" mean?  It means more than the three letters combined and it could be the key to unlocking your athletic potential and extending your longevity.

S-S-G stands for Swings, (Goblet) Squats, and (Turkish) Get Ups.

So?  What does it mean to me?  A whole lot... and I'm talking about everyone from your grandmother to your buddy in the USMC. Really?  How can S-S-G apply to that broad a spectrum of people? Easy! Because the skills, strengths, mobility and conditioning benefits of these three techniques can have a positive impact on anyone and everyone.  This applies to the young and old, strong and weak, flexible and inflexible.  There is something within each of these techniques that will improve your quality of life in ways you can't even begin to imagine.

Think about what the Kettlebell Swing does for you? It creates strength, stability and mobility in the whole posterior chain. It gives you the ability to generate power quickly and the ability to manage it dynamically. The Kettlebell Swing develops the "hinge", a movement that is sorely lacking in most training programs, but one that will make a huge difference in your performance. NOTE: Check out this video of my friend Pat Flynn performing Two Hand Kettlebell Swings for a great example of how to execute this technique.


Think about what the Goblet Squat does for you? The Goblet Squat creates the perfect platform for practicing the squatting movement pattern and establish strength, mobility, stability, and flexibility in the "hole".  For those people who have said that "squatting is dangerous" or is "bad for your knees", the Goblet Squat lets them safely experience the movement without being excessive loaded.  Many people who have squatted for many years, and have used heavy loads, find that the Goblet Squat is "gentler" to perform and actually helps them loosen up cranky, ankles, knees and hips. NOTE: check out this tongue in cheek video by Dan John on the "creation" of the Goblet Squat!


Think about what the (Turkish) Get Up does for you? That's a loaded question and one that would take a lot more space than I can devote to the answer but let's start with this: head to toe integration, control and strength.  The Get Up is a study in positional and transitional strength; integration of the upper and lower body; and the development of tension throughout the body.  There are a lot of exercises that you can do but not many will give you more than the Get Up.  NOTE: check out this great video of Neghar Fonooni doing a Get Up with a 28 kg (61.6 lbs) Kettlebell (at a body weight of 123 lbs):  


BTW - in case you didn't know this the HKC (or the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) offered by Dragon Door is based upon these three tremendously powerful techniques.  If you are interested in getting stronger, moving better, and adding years to your active lifestyle then I strongly suggest you look into getting this certification for yourself or finding an RKC or HKC to help you develop these skills.  It will be an investment in a stronger and healthier you that you won't regret!

Get Up Dissection

We have been doing a lot of Turkish Get Ups (or just plain old "Get Ups") lately and everyone is making rapid improvements.  Some of you are finding that there are transitions that are improving and others are finding that the shortcuts that they had learned from other instructors are holding them back from making improvements.

The Get Up is a highly technical skill that needs to be approached slowly and with a keen understanding of the composite movements that will lead you to a successful completion.  Yes, there are many ways to do the Get Up (just check out the number of varieties that you can find on YouTube), but if you intend to progress with increasing loads you are going to have to train in a technique that allows you manage the load safely and effectively.  Being able to do a Get Up with ten percent of your body weight is a great start but if that technique will not support fifty-plus percent of your body weight then you may need to look at what you are doing.

Check out the following video.  It's an impressive display of strength but those of you who have been analyzing your Get Up will see that there are some transitions and tensions skills that need to be addressed.  I'm not going to give out any hints; if you've been training with me you'll see them!