Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My thoughts on the TSC....

I recently had the opportunity to be a "guest judge" at the Tactical Strength Challenge in Palm City, FL. My duties as a judge was to:
* Conduct the weigh in
* Make sure that all three events (deadlifts, pullups, snatches) were performed and counted to standards. Included in this was a pre-event meeting to clarify the written rules and provide an opportunity to answer questions.
* Record and report the results
* For the deadlift, put the weights on the bar and indicate "lift" or "no lift"
* Count pullups and snatches

I was directing the training for one of my clients and he had someone else following the program. I am proud to say that they set 5 PRs between them.

Some insights:
* Jamie Munson set a PR in the snatch with 134 24kg snatches in 5:00. That is exceptional. Jamie was already a great snatcher (previous PR was 128). The training plan of "snatching alot" was not going to increase his numbers. I design his snatch training with the following goals:
- Make sure that he can go the entire five minutes (he did)
- Eliminate hand switches (had him start 25L/25R). If you waste time up front, you don't have time to get it back.
- Use dead and hang snatches to improve snatch efficiency.

* Jamie also set a new PR in the pullups. The important thing there was doing different types of pullups. Heavy weighted ones for low reps and body weight ones for higher reps. Also, you need to include non-pullup exercise for higher rep ranges to train the lats.

* Dan got made the magic number of 100 snatches with the 24kg (actually he got 110). He really just blasted through it and gave it all he had for 5 minutes. He got a good number of reps early, and took breaks only long enough so that he could keep snatching fast. Impressive effort.

I could not help thinking about the RKC snatch test, and for bigger, stronger guys (he pulled 460 with ease), the new test (100 reps in 5 minutes) is much much easier than the old test (74 snatches with one hand switch). Since there are no weight classes, for bigger guys this becomes a much easier test. I always thought that this made the test real easy for anyone in the 190lb+ rep range, now I am convinced of it. With Dan, to increase his snatch number - I would focus on about 3 technique things and he would hit 125 snatches with ease.

* Dan was worried that he never maxed out his deadlift prior to the competition. I said that was a good thing. You only get one good DL max every 3 months, don't waste it outside of competition. Dan easily DLed 460 even though the higher he ever DLed was 425. The DL is very hard on the CNS, and if you are doing a lot of other stuff, you will get overtrained. We worked the DL with Good Mornings (hips/glutes), Speed Box Squats (glutes, quads), Rack Pulls (to feel "heavy" weight), and Speed DLs. It works as long as you don't mess with the system.

* There were a number of spectators (7 friends and family, plus onlookers at the gym). Definitely brought out the best. Also, I think having an impartial judge made the event seem more like a sport and brought out the best in the participants.

* For anyone hosting a competition:
- Get a location with a lot of space
- For the DL, tell the competitors how you are going to indicate a good lift. What I told the competitors is that: 1) I soon as I got to my position, they could lift whenever they wanted. 2) My signal for a good lift was to say "DOWN" and wave my hand in a downward motion.
- Have a separate person counting snatches and keeping time. Very hard to do both.
- If you are taping, think of where you are going to have the camera, the judge and the athlete.
- If you are at a public space, clear it with the gym owner.

* Thoughts for the next TSC. Sometimes you have to take a step backward and to go forward. For the deadlift, we are going to take some time to experiment with different foot and hand placements. Jamie did not look comfortable/confident in deadlift stance. Stance is an individual issue, and not enough time was devoted to building the foundation. I am going to do some work where I have him set up fast, and see what he does naturally.

* This brings me to another point. If you get a "system" for training, don't mess with it or try to optimize it. I see this all the time on the Dragon Door forum and it drives me nuts. Sample posts are:
- "Can I substitute high pulls for snatches in ETK?" (you can if you want torqued up elbows).
- "Can I do TGUs for 10 minutes prior to presses?" (you can, if you want to practice weaker presses)
==> The programs are tested, do them. If you are not stronger than the person who designed the program, you have no business changing it. Also, this are typically the same people who switch programs every two weeks.

* If all goes well, I am going to be competing in Elite next year. Jamie asked why I don't compete in the open. My reasoning was this:
- The DLs are the same
- The pullups are functionally the same, only the loading is different (BW vs. BW + 25lb)
- The snatch test is a real kicker. The 24kg snatch test is about eliminating all wasted time through improved technique. The 32kg snatch test is about getting stronger, increasing work capacity, and improving technique. Remember, we don't get any money for this contests. It is not about placing, it is about setting targets that will make you a better athlete. For me, the 32kg snatch will make me a better athlete.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TSC Results, Palm City/Stuart, FL

Men's Open:
Dan Rukeyser: 406-436-461# DL/ 14 Pullups / 110 Snatches
Jamie Munson: 386-411#-miss 430 DL/ 21 Pullups / 134 Snatches

Womens Novice:
Stacy Ferrari: 215-226#-miss 255 DL/ 0 Pullups /100 Snatches

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Claude Pepper SCC Balance Workshop....

I was recently asked by one of my personal training clients to do "balance assessments" at a senior citizen center in New Port Richey, FL. I really don't specialize in balance, but I did help this particular client with her balance.

When she initially came to me, she wanted to improve her balance. Most trainers would have immediately put her on the bosu or stability ball, but I did not. I have always said that improving balance needs to be done in the following sequence:
* Improving posture/body alignment
* Improving strength, then
* Improving balance (or "balancing strength")

If I teach balance prior to body alignment, they won't be able to balance well. If they are not strong, they may be able to be "balanced", but not "stable", and their "balance" will have no carryover to sports performance, fall prevention, etc.

What I simply did was to find a "balance screen" and just use that to find balance flaws. This was similar to the FMS (Function Movement Screen) that is becoming more commonplace in person training and kettlebell instruction circles. I used the Berg Balance Scale, which is a 14 step test (each test is graded on a 1-4 scale) to determine the types of situations that could cause someone to lose balance. It was illuminating to the 16 seniors that I tested. Each test took about 10-15 minutes to perform.

Some of the most common recommendations were:
* Improve thoracic mobility, both extension and rotation of the thoracic spine
* Improve hip mobility and strength
* Be watchful of effects of high blood pressure meds, esp. with moving of the head
* Shoes that provide better proprioception and awareness and better fit

The screening was very well received at the center, and I would like to do more of them. It is always a good day to deal with 16 people in a half day period and give them something they can use for the rest of their lives. If it prevents one fall that would normally break an arm, dislocate a shoulder, or fracture a hip, it is worth it, both in hard and soft dollar contexts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tactical Strength Challenge location announcement.

September TSC 2009 Poster

If anyone is interested, I am going down there to judge. Contact me at (813-951-7470/ if you are interested.

Friday, September 11, 2009

115lb Barbell TGU; (24kg + 16kg) MP; Double 16kg BOSU Front Squat

Three new PRs:
115lb Short Barbell TGU -
These are really hard. In making the video, you notice how much slower you have to be when approaching your maximum. As Mark Henry said, if you want to be really strong, you have to have that slow gear.

24kg+16kg one hand MP -
I haven't been doing much pressing, but hopefully I am that much closer to pressing the beast. The two bells help with forearm verticality and getting the shoulder back (both from having to keep the bells on top of each other). Hopefully I can get the Beast Press does by the end of the year. My right shoulder is not there yet, but did get a set of 4 at (16kg + 16kg)

BOSU ATG Front Squat (2 x 16kg) -
I did not take a video of this, but I did not want any of my KB friends to see me within 30yds of a BOSU. Plus, it really was not that hard -- just new.

Bodyweight has stabilized to 181.2, lowest was 179.5. Goal is 170 by Nov 11 (9 weeks).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Continued weight loss success...

and not that wimpy weight loss either.

Down from 194 to 179.5 since 7/5/2009. My major lifts (box squats, bench press, deadlifts, and KB lifts are all improving). I did not stationary cardio during this weight loss. Only KB Ballistics, Dance Dance Revolution, and speed bowling.

George Selvie (All-America DE from USF) plays DDR

From 9/8/09 edition of TBT:



The secret to the continued prog­ress of South Florida defensive end George Selvie as a feared pass rusher? Playing the Nintendo Wii game Dance Dance Revolution to work on his footwork. “During the summer, we lift in the mornings, so I got bored during the day,” Selvie tells tbt*. “I got me a little Wii, a little Dance Dance Revolution .” Selvie said he made a “Mii” character to look like
Michael Jackson , and Jackson’s song Black or White is Selvie’s favorite to dance to. Laugh all you want, but Selvie believes the footwork could make a difference: “You’ve got some steps you have to do that are pretty hard, pretty fast.” Selvie started his season off with one sack and seven total tackles in the Bulls’ opening 40-7 win Saturday against Wofford.

Mendoza line reached/Performance Goals

I finally hit below the 180 mark. Down 179.5 lbs (weight loss in the last 10 weeks, 14.5). More importantly, my big lifts are unaffected - still destroying the mullets in the gym. I have other posts in my blog that detail my success and document some of my workouts.

My new goal is to be down to 169.5 by Nov 11 (nine weeks out). That is lower than the weight I graduated HS at. That should put my BF at around 7.2%. I will be incorporating some Return of the Kettlebell (RTK) doubles work into my training. This is why I am replanning. Fast weight loss + RTK is a recipe for disaster!

Performance based goals:
* 2.5xBW DL - in two weeks
* 3.0xBW DL - by COY
==> Was able to DL for the first time today and 415 went up easy.

* Pass RKC snatch test with one hand (100 snatches in 5 minutes). I have done 80 in 3:35 with right hand. I call this "clowning the snatch test".
* My shoulders have been troublesome for any BP and KB MP goals at this time. Working the PT to get better
* 2/3 BW Barbell TGU (current PR, 110lb @ 184, or a 59.8% BW TGU). By end of September.
* Bowl a 300 game and 800 series (within one year)

Notice there are no "work out x many times" or follow a good diet. That is because those are not performance goals, they are process goals. While they are important, they are determined by your performance goals. Also, think of it this way: If I go to the gym 6 times a week, but my lifts don't improve it either means one or two things:
* I am overtraining, or
* My training is not effective (and since I wrote my training plan, I would then be an idiot)

Today's workout:
Box Squats (1" below parallel): 135, 185, 225 x 1 x 2; 245 x 3 x 2; 265 x 4 x 2
Leg Press: 4,6,8,9 pl/side x 1 x 10 (these felt good)
Lunges: 85 x 1 x 5L/5R; 135 x 1 x 5L/5R
Leg Curls: Stack x 1 x 10 (this felt really strong)
DL: 185, 235, 285, 335 x 1 x 3; 285, 415 x 1 x 1 (felt strong, but need to look at tape)

DDR: 35minutes
KB work: 32kg swings x 4 x 15; 24kg snatch x 20L/20R

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two RKC Instructor Reviews....

One from an athlete:

I want to thank you for the training provided over the last three months. My goal was to compete and place well in the April 2009 Tactical Strength Challenge ( ) and to ensure my body composition was not compromised by doing so. Both were achieved as my placing moved from 36th place to 5th place in the Open division while maintaining a weight in the mid-180 range.
My deadlift improved from 365 to 425 (60 pounds). My pullups improved from 16 to 19. My snatch count improved from 123 to 125. I am very pleased with the performance and am considering a move to the Elite division.

Your blend of Westside Barbell methods to help my deadlift was helpful, particular the heavy dose of good mornings and rack pulls. The speed deadlifts kept my form and speed in check. In addition, the renegade rows helped both my pullups and reinforced the need to stay tight which, as you stated, was my problem in prior competitions. Finally, the head position tweak aided the deadlift and the snatch numbers.

Faizal, you took the time to fully understand my strengths and weaknesses and that made a huge difference in program design. That is much appreciated. The regular training log review sessions minimized the issue of you living in the Tampa area while I live on the other side of the state.

I look forward to the next competition, your training guidance and hopefully competing with (and maybe against) you in the September 2009 Tactical Strength Challenge!

Jamie Munson - Palm City, FL

The other from a "senior lady" looking to get healthy:

I am a senior lady who has had a weight problem all my life. I was having medical problems from this weight and needed to do something about it. I had never exercised and did not have a clue how to go about it. Faizal has worked with me and taught me how to do full body work-outs, advised me on healthy eating and thanks to his excellent instructions as of todays date I have lost 82 pounds and have no reason not to believe that I will not reach my goal of a 100 pound weight lost. When ever I wasn't sure about anything he always had an answer for me. With his help I look forward to going to the gym and a new healthy life style. I know I couldn't have done it with out all his help and knowledge. He is a great young man and made exercise fun. Thanks Faizal I couldn't have done it without you.

Janet R. Torrey - New Port Richey, Florida

Beach Workouts, Group Training

I am very busy today so I am going to keep this short:

* Due to the success of the intro sessions, Bayshore Kettlebells is now offering semi-private training for $25/session on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 PM. Multi-session discounts available. Location: XpertFitness (2607 W Azeele St., Tampa, FL 33609). It is a good way to get introduced to KBs.

* My workouts for this week so far have been pretty short. Some heavy lat work and bench pressing, as well as some KB skill stuff.

* I did pistols on both legs at Barnes and Nobles today. I don't know if I could do it again.

* One great reason to use kettlebells, they are portable. I was able to go with my girlfriend to the beach. Have I told you how much I dislike the beach? Well, I did the following with the 24kg that I bought:

1) Some snatches in the bay in mid-thigh deep water. While I felt safe, the waves and sand moving beneath your feet make it a non-safe environment.

2) "KB TENS" - doing sets of 10 of every ballistic exercise I can think of.
- Swing, Hang, Dead, Side and Front, and Hand-to-Hand snatches
- Swings
- Cleans, Dead Cleans, and Hand-to-Hand Cleans
- Jerks and Long Cycle Clean Jerks
==> After every set, like in golf, I had to smooth out the sand because my feet were sinking. On a 92F day with no shade, I sweated a lot. 240 repetitions total.

3) Windmills - not an exercise I do very much, but with the sand TGU and armbars are out of the question.

* No weigh in...will post a weight next time that it is appropriate.

* Fall bowling league starts today. Goal: 213 average. I am switching to 15lb equipment to better match up ball speed to revs. My rev rate is lagging and switching to a lighter ball with help that. One of my friends at the gym trading a session/discussion with me for two new bowling balls: A Black Widow and a V2 (retail value, about $330 - how is that for appreciation).