Thursday, July 28, 2011

Detoxification -- Results so far....

I have been doing a detoxification since the 17th, and the results are simply AMAZING. Here are some findings as of now:

* Lost 7 lbs in 8 days. I am not trying to lose weight. Most of my clothes are already too big. I can't keep up with getting stuff altered. I am not feeling any of the effects of depletion or undereating. The detoxification still supports heavy training.

* Cravings are virtually non-existent. Just never feel hungry, except maybe post workout.

* Have not had a Diet Soda in 11 days. I can't believe that. I used to drink many per day. That right there is big savings. I think this also prevents cravings and maintains blood sugar levels. Also, it can't be good to put that stuff in your body. Also, it is acidic (about 1/10th as much as acid rain). Your body runs best in a slightly alkaline environment.

* My energy is way up, but not in a strung out, coke-head kind of way. More like a quiet focus.

* I haven't had any processed meats of any kind. Any meat that I did have, I made, with the exception of going to Tun-Du-Ree for curry. Big savings. Also, I have used what I saved on diet sodas to get better cuts of meat.

* Maintained schedule of double kettlebell lifting, teaching, and boot camp classes. If a detox suggests not training, I am not doing it. It might as well suggest not breathing. This is a based of real food and supports heavy lifting.

* Sleeping great. I am tired when I am supposed to be tired and awake when I am supposed to be awake. When I am asleep, I stay asleep.

* I feel light on my feet. During one of the boot camp classes, I set a volume and intensity records for double under rope skipping. I am still not great at it, but definitely improving.

* I have avoided getting stuff to eat at gas stations (Hess, 7-11, and Sunoco are my favorites). I am definite getting meats from better sources. A lot of time I go in, not because I am hungry, but because I am bored. I don't want to just fill up and drive away. When I am inside is when I decide to buy something. Cravings and social eating are easier to manage on this detox.

* I do supplement with protein, fiber, and Omega-3s. A lot of time, I have felt hungry about an hour later (think Chinese take out). Not this time. In fact, I have to will myself to eat pre-workout.

I'll update when I hit the three-week mark. As a right now, the results are incredible, and I am learning about my body and the effects food have on it. If you are hitting a plateau and you are training hard and eating fairly healthy, you should try a detox.

As always, if you have any questions, contact me ( directly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The kettlebell swing is a MOVEMENT, not a LIFT...

Before anyone gets any ideas from the blog post title, I am not AT ALL hating on the kettlebell swings. I have probably done over 125,000 of them, and still do about 600 per week. I just wanted to make a distinction between the kettlebell swing and other exercises.

If you look at the kettlebell military press or front squat, there is a definite minimum starting and ending point. Whether you are lifting 16kg or 64kg, these points are the same. The same cannot be said for the swing. In the swing, the completion of the swing is simply to extend the hips and knees. The bell goes as high as it goes, you don't lift it. I may go up to shoulder level, it may only go to waist level, who cares! The swing is a back-to-front 'projection' of force. The bell goes up, not because we are "lifting" it, but because it is connected to our torsos through our arms. For this reason, treat the swing as a MOVEMENT, and not a LIFT.

What are we training in the swing. Primarily, we are training the hips and glutes, and to a lesser extent the quads. Other muscle are activated to stabilize in the lift, like the abs, obliques, rhomboids, lats, and rotator cuff. If we are primarily training the legs, why would anyone care how high the arms lift the bell? Why would anyone make that the criteria for the swing?

So, you might ask, what is the purpose of the kettlebell in the kettlebell swings. Simply, it gives us an object to exert force against, kind of like the purpose of the floor in a pushup. Pushing against air is not going to generate any tension.

In a military press, if you press a 32kg vs. a 24kg, are you using 33% more force/tension? I would argue that you are indeed. Can the same thing be said about the swing? No. Because the kettlebell swing does not have a fixed end point. If I swing one 24kg bell, the bell will go up to about shoulder height. If I swing two of them, they simply don't go as high. I am exerted similar forces, but with heavier swings the object that I am exerting the force has twice as much mass, so it won't be accelerated as much. I am most certainly not doubling power production or calories burned.

On day I was working with a petite female, and had her swing a 16kg (35lb) bell instead of the 24kg (53lb) bell she said she normally used. She actually said that the 16kg was harder. Here is why that would be:

* In a heavier swing, she is limited by grip strength. Grip strength is not a bad thing to train, but there are a lot of other ways to train it. She may even hold back on the swings (i.e., less force) to take pressure off of the grip.

* She is also limited by her ability to counterbalance or "anchor" the bell. It is a significant percentage of her body weight. The harder she swings the bell, the harder this become. This means is that she may subconsciously mute swings to keep her balance. Not what we are looking for, unless you are training for ego, pounds lifted, or impressing your Facebook friends.

* In this lighter swing, she is limited by her cardiovascular system and her glutes and hamstrings, and not the relative size of the bell or her grip stength. The lighter swings, at least in this case, give me more of the training effect I'm after since now she can really go ALL OUT.

I have done swings with a Beast in one hand and a Bulldog in the other. This is well over my body weight. My normal swing weight is 32kg (sorry, this bell doesn't have a cool name). Am I swinging with 2.75 times the force? Well, if I am truly doing Hardstyle swings, the answer is an obvious no, as I use full effort on all my swings. In my workshops, I demonstrate swings with and 8kg, 24kg, and a 48kg in succession and point out that the MOVEMENT should look the same and done with full intent. This is also the reason that swing MOVEMENT, no matter how heavy, all take about the same time, about 1.5s/swing. If you doubled the weight of a squat, the LIFT will definitely take longer. Pavel has registers forces over 500lbs swinging a 24kg bell. Would they be over a half ton if he swung a Beast? No.

In summary, the purpose of the kettlebell in the swing is to give you something to exert force against. Because it is an open movement and not a lift, added weight DOES NOT proportionately increase force generated, and in fact, may even decrease the force output. Are heavy swings bad? Not at all. In fact, they can be very helpful in dialing in the movement. Just keep in mind that the kettlebell swing is a movement and not a lift. Keep in mind that added weight in the swing doesn't mean the same as if you add weight to your military presses, squats, snatches, cleans and jerks -- these are lifts.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heart Rate Monitors, what are they good for?

I recently got a Polar FT7 heart rate monitor, after 25 years of training without, or flying blind as some would say. Guys like Marty Gallagher and John Schaeffer swear by them. I used mine for a while after first getting it. My opinion on them is that they are good for what they do, but I would hardly call them essential. Even when training clients, there are much better indicators of intensity than heart rate, including:
* Panic breathing,
* Degree of sweating,
* Rep speed,
* Facial expression and trapezius tension, and
* Technique degredation.

I like using the heart rate monitor as a "objective" proxy for exercise intensity. Generally speaking, the higher your heart rate is, the more intense the effort is. This for example, allows you to objectively compare the intensity of TGU vs. 20kg snatches vs. 40kg swings vs. DDR. I like it for this purpose.

What I really don't use it for is counting calories. It is not that I doubt the accuracy of it, to the limits that I understand it is an estimation, but that I really don't have any need for the information. I don't really plan diets by the calorie. If I look at what I put in my mouth, I don't know what the calories are exactly. I don't know what my basal metabolic rate is. Using what Cornell University taught me about significant digits, it would be pointless to calculate my exercise to the nearest calorie. I better way it is eat for you are going to do/what your body needs. I have never found calorie counting to work simply because they are just estimates anyway.

In common fitness parlance, they are talk about different exercise zones related to heart rate, including:

* the Fat Burning zone: 65-75% of Max Heart Rate
* the Cardiovascular Conditioning zone: 80-85% of Max Heart Rate.

I don't pay much mind to this for a number of reasons:
1) I would rather focus on doing the work instead of what my heart rate is. I can look at the heart rate after.

2) Since a relatively small number of fat calories (for most people) are burned during exercise and most are burned at rest, why would I micromanage fat burning during exercise.

3) Max Heart Rate is an estimate based on age, and while that is true for the general population, that is definitely not true for the:
* Trained or
* Sick/Deconditioned
==> Well, these are the two groups I work with the most. Since the Max Heart Rate is an individual thing, why wouldn't I treat it that way.

4) There are other better indicators of exercise intensity (see above) that are less intrusive and more illustrative.

I tried the HR monitor with a lot of different activities:
* MaxVO2 snatches: 20kg x 8 rep cadence for 30 minutes
==> Average HR: 161; Max HR: 179; Cals: 425 (14.20/minute)
* Sissy Test (325 Burpees and 325 32kg KB swings in 46:25)
==> Average HR: 170; Max HR: 184; Cals: 761 (16.45/minute), I still don't give two shits about burpees
* Lying Down -- Heart Rate: 55-58
* Sitting -- Heart Rate: 61-65
* Walking -- Heart Rate: 72-90
* KB Military Presses: Typically at the end of the workout my HR is in the 85-100 range.
* DDR: 110-150, but I hit 200 during a 5 minute boss song after doing swings.
* Continuous 24kg snatches/burpees combo: Average HR: ~ 160; Max Heart Rate: 179
* Barbell Squats: After: 110; Right Before: 77

What I have found is that the HR monitor is just a too to measure your heart rate. It does give you a gauge on intensity. It is too much of a hassle to use everyday, unless you have no clue how to gauge performance and other physiological factors. Try it out, you will learn something. But don't be a slave to it. The heart supports the performance of the rest of the body, it is not the goal. Keep it in that perspective.