One Arm Kettlebell Work – What to do with your other hand?

by Charlie Manganiello, SFG II

I can’t help, but think of the scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby (Will Farrell’s character) does an interview and he keeps holding his hands up while he talks because he doesn’t know what to do with them.

ricky bobby

Most people feel the same way when they first learn one-arm kettlebell lifts. I know I did. What do I do with my other hand? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! Does this arm even belong to me? Why does my free hand take this funny claw form when I’m pressing weight overhead? Am I turning into an animal…I hope I’m an eagle…bald or golden though?

I digress.  

We’ll get back to the eagle later. First, let’s look at the importance of being mindful of that rogue arm and hand. There are two types of kettlebell lifts – ballistics and grinds. Ballistics are explosive, like swings and snatches. Grinds are slow, like presses and get-ups. Each require different techniques to give your other arm something to do. This isn’t just busy work either. Employing the right techniques will actually make you stronger and more efficient, even though that arm isn’t doing all the heavy lifting.

We’ll start with ballistics. Let’s take the one-arm kettlebell swing for example. You should always start a one arm swing with both hands on the kettlebell. Why? This will square your shoulders and you won’t start off in bad form before you even start the swing. Right before you hike the kettlebell between your legs, you’ll let your non-working arm drift off to the side. Make a fist and clench. Think of your arm being inline with your torso. As you swing, think of the non-working arm mirroring the working arm. It goes up, it goes down. All in one fluid motion.  It’s just like a shadow or that annoying brother who keeps following you around. Just for the record, I was the annoying brother.

By mirroring the other arm you’ll keep your shoulders square throughout the arc of the swing. By keeping your shoulders square, you’ll avoid rotation of your neck, back, and spine. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that rotating your torso with a heavy load, moving at high speeds, in varying planes, may be bit of a problem. “Houston, we have a problem. We tried for lift off, but we were left grounded because we thought it would be a good idea to put rockets on a wet noodle.” Don’t be a wet noodle.

At the top of the swing there are two types of finishes. The first way is to have your non-working arm finish the same way your working arm does at the top of the swing. Both arms out in front. Think vertical palm plank. The other way, the more badass way, is to finish your non-working arm in the “fighter” pose. As your non-working arm comes up past your hips, instead of letting it float out in front of you, you’ll tuck your arm in close to your chest and make a fist. Think of how a boxer looks in the ring.

Both are allowed, but personally I prefer the fighter pose over the other. Do some experimenting and see what works best for you. I like to think people who aren’t familiar with kettlebells, look at me and think, “Wow, that dude looks like a kettlebell ninja.”

However, with the kettlebell snatch you only want to mirror your working arm so much. You don’t want to end up with both arms overhead. Not only would this look terrible and ruin your snatch technique, most folks don’t have the necessary shoulder mobility to pull it off. This is why the “American Style” swing gets so much criticism (two handed swing that ends up overhead instead of at chest level). With the kettlebell snatch you’ll do all the same steps as before at the bottom of the swing, but you’ll stop your non-working hand somewhere just past your hip. Don’t think about this too much. Let that arm float out there and it will stop where it needs to naturally. As you begin your next rep and the kettlebell is somewhere around your waist, get right back to mirroring the working arm as you hinge. Again, by mirroring your working arm your shoulders will stay square, the hips will load big and you’ll snap that kettlebell up overhead with ease. Have you ever seen someone jump high with only swinging one arm back? I rest my case.

Now for the grinds and the eagle talon you develop when you’re pressing a heavy kettlebell up overhead. Don’t worry you aren’t the only one.

Just promise me one thing. Don’t ever have a gun in hand while pressing a kettlebell overhead. What do I mean by that? While digging around the depths of the internet, I found numerous articles about involuntary hand clenching causing accidental shootings, even by seasoned gun handlers. In a short and concise article, Greg Ellifritz, explains this eagle talon phenomenon. To be clear and fair to Greg, that’s what I’m calling it. I don’t think anyone calls it this, but if you hear it at your gym, know it came from me.   

Here is what I gathered. There are all sorts of ways one can involuntarily clench their hand. You could lose your balance or trip, you can be startled, or one hand can be closed or clinching (I.e. holding the handle of a kettlebell) and the other will spontaneously mimic the other hand. Unless you are doing your workouts on a tightrope, while watching the Blair Witch Project, we are really only dealing with a clenched hand causing the other to do the same.

Instead of letting your hand do whatever it feels like, you should close the ‘strength loop’ by making a fist and send more strength to the loaded arm. This is called muscle irradiation. If you create more tension in other muscle groups that energy will spill over and make you stronger and more stable. Robert Ruxandrescu has a great article that explains this and the tension techniques you can use.

In short, there are a few key muscle groups that you want to fire when pressing weight overhead or for any big lifts (squats, deadlift, turkish get-up, etc). He mentions forearms, abs, and glutes. I’ll add one more, the quads. By tensing all these muscle groups, it makes the Central Nervous System (CNS) feel safe and you’ll generate more power. Have you ever tried to jump and kick as high as you can, with crocs on your feet, on a wet linoleum floor? The CNS does not feel safe and will shut it down before you do your best Bruce Lee impersonation. Sometimes, 18 year old males can trick their CNS into trying it anyway. “Hold my beer CNS, and watch this!”   

Being able to tense these major muscle groups while performing your lift, is something you need to practice. Just like practicing free throws. It will take some time to feel like you’re firing everything at once. At first it will feel like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. However, if you practice it enough, it will become second nature and you’ll feel the strength in your lifts. A quick tip: it can be hard to clench your bare hand. Try squeezing a hand towel or water bottle. It may feel better and stronger at first when you’re learning.

One really great way to practice full body tension is the hardstyle plank. It’s hard enough to practice while you still learning a new lift like the press. In the hardstyle plank you can focus just on tension. This is also a great core exercise and puts a little spice on the traditional plank.

The hardstyle plank is hard, if done correctly, and you’ll hold it for about 10 seconds. No more two minutes planks. Remember, if you’re “feeling the burn,” you’re not training strength. In this plank, you’ll be on your forearms, elbows and shoulders in-line, feet about shoulder width apart, and on your toes. When the timer starts, draw your knee caps to your hips (tensing the quads), pinch the penny (tensing the glutes), brace for the punch (tensing your abs), and squeezing your fists. You should be quivering and don’t forget to breath. Take small sniffs of air through your nose and purge air out through your mouth with a “tsst…tsst…tsst,” then take another sniff of air. We call this breathing behind the shield. (To make the “tsst” sound, put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, flex your abs, and force air out).  

Now relax. Much harder than the zumba plank eh? Put these hardstyle planks in between sets to reinforce this new skill. These tension techniques should be used any time you’re doing one arm kettlebell work. Weather it’s a ballistic or a grind. It could be during a one arm swing, snatch, turkish get-up, one-arm front squat, bent press, etc. When you are swinging mimic your arm and when you have something heavy in hand, clench that fist, and tense your body. Remember, just because your other arm isn’t doing the lion share of the lifting, it doesn’t mean it can take a siesta. Put that arm to work and recruit all your muscles for strong and safer lifts.   

 

 

 

 

Why Doing Push-Ups as Part of a Burpee is Stupid

A few months back, I had a young visitor to one of my classes, and one of the exercises we were doing was the burpee. Each time his hands hit the floor, he did a half-push-up with a low hip dip, which slowed him down enough that he was getting about two-thirds the reps of athletes in their fifties. I showed him how we like to do burpees, and he said “Oh, I forgot you guys do the easy kind.”

The burpee is a conditioning exercise. It’s not a measure of your manhood. It’s not a competition. And it’s not a good time to do push-ups. There are any number of variations to the burpee, from adding a push-up, to jumping up to a pull-up bar to add a pull-up, to holding a medicine ball, to wearing a weight vest. We are well aware of the existence of these variations, and we don’t do them. It’s not by ignorance that we came to this choice.

I won’t argue that adding a push-up to the burpee doesn’t make it harder. It does. And so would holding your breath, or putting vaseline all over your hands, or wearing swimming flippers. I will argue, though, that it’s likely that your push-ups already suck and you don’t need to do a bunch of jumping around to make them worse. On the same token, the push-up always is the weak link in the burpee, which takes a great conditioning exercise, and makes it more a test of your upper body pressing endurance.

If you think the burpee is too easy as it is, simply jump higher, move faster, and stop every fifty reps and do fifty push-ups while you rest your bad ass.

Adding more to a good thing is not always a gooder thing…unless you eat at Taco Town.

It’s Not You, It’s The Plan

by Charlie Manganiello

Ok, bear with me here. Let’s pretend your workout plan is a person you’re in a relationship with and you sense a break-up coming. This person is thinking it has been good for a little while, we’ll say it’s been great for two months, but the honeymoon phase is over. They are beginning to have doubts. Not normal doubts, but the “I’m in over my head” type of doubts. The person they originally liked and wanted to date just isn’t that person anymore or maybe never was. They are thinking “Wow, we just aren’t compatible.”

You see where I’m going with this…

If your workout plan or gym routine could talk, it might sound something like this. “I’ve really enjoyed our time together. The first couple of months you were knocking this New Year’s resolution out of the park! Seriously, you were killing it! We’ve had a blast, but you just aren’t the person I thought you were. You’re coming to the gym less, you’re cutting corners, I barely see you anymore. It’s not you, it’s me. We just aren’t a good match and I’m breaking up with you. I wish you the best. I know this really great workout you should try.”

Painful, right?

Now, you can take this one of two ways. People are usually pretty hard on themselves both when they fail at relationships or workouts. The inner dialogue goes right to the negative. You tell yourself you suck, you’re a terrible person, and you’re just a big heaping pile of shit that can’t be successful at anything. I know it’s harsh, but we’ve all been there.

Another way to look at said relationship, the more logical (but often overlooked) way, is to look at why it failed. Did I pick the best plan for me? Was I realistic in my approach? Did I bite off more than I could chew or put on more plates than I could deadlift?

Listen, if you are starting a new plan and try to go from zero to one of those sculpted dudes in the movie Magic Mike XXL, you’re most likely going to fail. People try the same approach with the Powerball all the time. Friends will say, “No way you can win!” And they’re probably right. However, someone has to win at some point and they do, but the odds are NOT in their favor. Let’s put the odds in your favor.

I’m not saying don’t try a hard workout, but let’s look at how you can pick up a sustainable workout that leads to those mega workouts you see your friends doing.

For example, I live in a very small rural western town. I live four blocks from my gym. I work at that gym. I’m single. I rent a small apartment. I don’t have any kids. I don’t have many reasons or distractions to keep me from working out. However, it is still hard for me to get my workouts in, life happens, willpower and motivation can wane. I’ve skipped or pushed workouts to other days and I LIVE FOUR BLOCKS FROM THE GYM. FOUR BLOCKS PEOPLE! I should have no excuses! For the most part I keep to my plan, but remember I am an outlier, I’m on one end of the extreme where most people don’t reside. Most people don’t work at a gym and live within skipping distance. Seriously, I could even moonwalk to the gym, that’s how close I live.

Let’s take my brother for example, and I imagine this goes for most people. Yes, I’m making a generalization here. I know your situation is different. You’re special, but let’s take a deep breath now.

He has to commute 45 mins each way to work. That’s only if the roads are clear and there’s no traffic. He has to wear a suit every day and travels a lot for work during the week. In those three sentences I’ve told you he has, best case scenario, 3-4 hours less than I do just by getting ready for work, traveling, and commuting. Now add on an 8 hour work day on top of that, eating, sleeping, and just existing. It’s super hard for him to get a workout in. Not to mention a commute to the gym.

If I gave him this kick ass workout plan I knew worked, but involved two-a-days and lots of time at the gym he would fail before he even started. I’m not saying he couldn’t get there with some serious habit changes or maybe even lifestyle changes, but that takes much more time and he chooses to have a job that far away from his house and chose that lifestyle. Remember, we are starting small. We can think bigger once we kick the crap out of the smaller plan.

Instead of telling him he has to have more willpower and motivation I told him this: “We must pick a workout plan that works for you. Let’s get really simple.” No need to schedule 2-hour mega workout sessions. My brother used to be a competitive runner, but he’s been out of the game for a while. I told him, and this is very important, “Don’t base past success and past fitness on how you feel today. You’re just not there and that’s OK. We can get there, but it will take time.” Here’s the workout I gave him. (This workout is from strength coach, Dan John.)

5 Rounds (No Rest)

15 kettlebell swing

5 squats

3 push-ups

Don’t be fooled on how easy it looks. It covers all the major movement patterns and packs a serious punch. I said once you feel good at 5 rounds gradually work up to 20 rounds. Add a round or rounds when it makes sense. Once you hit 20, start over with a heavier bell. The original program also mentions you can increase the number of push-ups to make it harder, but first make sure everything else is being executed with perfect form. Here’s a link to the workout I’m referring to.

He was skeptical at first, but I told him to try this for 30 days and if he didn’t see results or feel more fit he could fire me. As I write this article we are just about a month into our plan. He’s up to 10 rounds with a 45lbs kettlebell and is feeling stronger. He’s even excited about it! He bought his own kettlebell and gets the work done in 30 to 45 mins. He is now working a plan that he really can’t fail at. He doesn’t have to drag his ass to the gym after a long day. All he has to do is stretch, warm-up a bit, and knock this thing out in his living room and he’s done with it. He does it most days with a rest day here and there. He’s working at a load that isn’t trashing him for days after the workout. He is continually progressing, slowly of course, but he’s moving forward. Remember, a body in motion…you know the rest.

Stop trying to follow a ridiculous training plan you found on curlsgetthegirls.com and simplify your workout. Pick a plan that works best for you. The plan I suggest in this article is a great start. Your plan may even be just to walk 20 minutes every day for 30 days.

You can’t just get more willpower or motivation like you can just ask for extra guacamole on a burrito. It comes with habit change and takes time. It doesn’t just happen. Even with simple plans you’ll lose sight from time to time. It is very important to not be so hard on yourself, block out that negative inner dialogue, and attack the next day.

To quote, dare I say a book I’ve read more than once, The Hunger Games, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”

Choose strength!

Can eating too little actually damage your metabolism?

[from Precision Nutrition]

There’s a lot of discussion in the fitness industry about whether crash dieting can cause metabolic damage. In this article, we’ll take on this interesting topic and separate fact from fiction. We’ll also teach you exactly why crash diets might be linked to struggling to maintain your weight in the future.

Despite working out consistently and intensely, plus eating carefully, you’re not losing weight (or not losing it as fast as you’d like or expect).

Or you were losing weight consistently… until recently. Now you’re stuck — even though you’re working as hard as ever.

Or when you were younger, you were super fit. Maybe you did fitness competitions. Maybe you did some crash diets. But now, even when you put in the same effort, you just can’t seem to get as lean. [read more]

Willpower Doesn’t Work.

Trying to make a big physical change is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get to hitting your first pull-up or to drop ten pounds…the work is much more than you’d like it to be. I don’t want to tell you not to try, but chances are you’re going to be just as successful as you were last time. If you’re like most people, that’s bad news.

Each year, millions of people worldwide declare their desire to make a change as we move into January. They make an attempt at the change, but they make it backward, dooming themselves to failure. What do I mean by backward? I mean they try to change their physical makeup without changing their mindset or behaviors.

James Clear has a great description of how we set it up backward in his ebook Change Your Habits. He shows that most of the goals we set are appearance or performance based goals, which are fine, as long as you change your identity first. Check out the graphic below.

Excellence is a result of habit. Think of Ted Williams as a kid trying to get anyone and everyone in his neighborhood to pitch baseballs to him. Think of Ted Williams hitting so many balls he broke his bat, and then continuing to practice with rolled-up newspapers late into each summer night. By the time he was old enough to play professional baseball, he’d hit more balls than any veteran in the league.

We see the result, and we think that getting motivated is the key, that if we put in a few weeks of “Rocky-like” workouts we’ll somehow be able to shortcut our way to magical results. Look at it this way: think of how many people you know and understand that each one of them has something they’d like to improve about their body. Now, think of how many of the hundreds of people you know are successful in doing so. Depressing isn’t it? It’s because they chase the result instead of the process.

Last month was the big chance to win the Powerball jackpot of $1.3 billion. I knew many people who bought tickets hoping that they’d be the lucky winner, even though they were 30 times more likely to be elected president of the U.S. than to win the money. The result is sexy, the process is not.

So what is the process? Start with how you view yourself. Most of us have a voice inside our heads that rationalizes bad behavior and tells us that we are somehow different enough from everyone else that we get to play by different rules…that “x” is harder for us than for other people, and therefore we get a break and it’s OK that we don’t succeed.

“It’s harder for me to work out because I have kids.”

“I have an injury, so I have to take it easy.”

“I don’t have the same kind of willpower that you do.”

If you can’t break free of the view that you’re a snacker, or a beer drinker, or a smoker, or someone who doesn’t exercise, you’re going to have a hard time doing those things. On the flip side, once you decide you are one of those things, the process becomes easy.

Willpower doesn’t work. Motivation doesn’t work. Changing the little things does.

Handicapping the 2016 Elemental Winter Bouldering Competiton

Wyoming Bouldering SeriesIndoor bouldering competitions have been a staple of Wyoming winters for more than fifteen years. The mostly informal Wyoming Bouldering Series takes place each winter and features at least one competition in several different towns. The Lander competition is the smallest venue in the state, but frequently sees the most intense competition.

For many years in the past, the men’s comp ended up being a head-to-head fight between local legend and all-around talent BJ Tilden and Casper’s plastic climbing-only specialist, Colby Frontiero. In the past couple of years, though, the tides have changed. The aging Tilden has been dogged by injury and a hectic work schedule and hasn’t been competing well. Frontiero has moved away from climbing to pursue making a living and developing his aerobic fitness.

Needless to say, the torch looks like it’s been passed. Young, strong Chris Marley is poised to be one of the best boulderers in the country. Zack Rudy is a solid high performer. Young Kian Stewart improves his bouldering by 1-2 grades per month. Add to that the growing talent pool that stands behind the grill at the Lander Bar, and we’ve got a wide-open field.

Image result for bj tildenBJ Tilden 3:2 Last year, I wouldn’t have even given him 20:1. This year, though, he’s returned with a vengeance and has had the good sense to avoid skiing this winter. He’s fresh off a send of Necessary Evil (14c) and has racked up hard boulder problems all January.

 

Zack Rudy 2:1 He’s been quietly amassing power all year, training in the early hours of the morning and late at night. For more than six months last year, he faked an injury to take the spotlight off his training. Watch out.

 

 

Chris Marley 1:1 One thing is for sure, Chris is getting stronger. He’s the odds-on favorite, assuming he doesn’t have to work.

 

 

Colby Frontiero 4:1 It’s been a tough year, but Colby is still hanging with it. He recently flashed Exodus (12d) in the Killer Cave, which is not indicative of his power…but did he build the endurance the smart way or did he do too much ARC training this year? If the comp featured big moves and compression problems, I’d put him in the top three. Unfortunately, the comp is all about scrunchy, crimpy, low traverses.

Danny Baker 75:1 Where has he gone? Once a promising young climber, now just another victim of a capitalist economy. But seriously…where has he gone?

 

 

Tony Stark 2:1 His day has come. Top three, and maybe better than that. The only thing that will affect his kicking ass is his work schedule.

 

 

 

 

Vance White 15:1 Another climber who I wouldn’t have put in the top twenty last year, this man is on a huge comeback. Bouldering isn’t his strong suit, but he has won these things in the past.

 

 

Tom Rangitsch 12:1 He’s 45 or something, but climbing better each year. A two-month secret Spanish training camp might work in his favor.

 

 

 

Justin Loyka 12:1 He’s strong as hell, but he lacks the killer instinct of the hard boulderer. A couple more years, and he’ll be top five.

 

 

 

Caleb Romsa 3:1 The WBS series leader, Caleb has performed well in each comp and is capable of winning. Other climbers will have to work very hard, and Caleb have an off competition, to unseat him this year.

 

 

Ben Sears 15:1 Can establishing dozens of new routes get you trained up for a bouldering comp?

 

 

 

Jesse Brown 1.25 million:1 Where have you gone Jesse Brown?

 

 

 

Brian Fabel 45:1 Too many lunch meetings? Too focused on winning the Advanced division? If he takes the brakes off, he’s going places.

 

 

David Lloyd 5:1 David keeps moving up the rankings, consistently climbing well. This might be his best competition yet.

 

 

 

Ace Ashurst 3:1 He’s been getting better every comp. It’s only a matter of time before he wins one of these things.

 

Taylor Herron 10:1 The young strongman is still developing his power, but the time is coming. All he has to do is remember to completely fill out his scorecard…

 

 

 

On the women’s side, things are harder to predict. The competition has been inconsistent the past couple of years, but there are some really exciting new faces to watch out for.

Ashley Lloyd 3:2 Come on…Who’s going to beat her?

 

 

 

Sierra Lloyd 1:1 …except maybe her?

 

 

Emmy Voigt 3:1 She’s got what it takes to win, and she’s been doing it for 15 years. The big question: will she make the drive to Lander?

 

Ana Junker 8:1 Route climbing has its advantages and disadvantages. Just how well has she trained power this winter?

 

 

 

Mandy Fabel 10:1 Let’s see that old college try one more time, Mandy.

 

 

 

Don’t Cheat

“What we practice in here becomes a habit, and if my habit is to always do less, that’s how I’m going to behave in the field.” – Mark Twight

Your days are filled with choices. Each day, you get to decide how you’re going to eat, if you’re going to train, and what you’re going to do when you train. Each meal, each workout, and each rep also presents you with a choice: you can go through the motions, or you can be present for each and every moment. The difference between success and failure comes at the point when things get hard. When the weight is no longer comfortable, what do you do? When your cravings lead you away from your diet plan, what choice do you make? How often do you do something you’re not proud of?

One of the great gifts of my life is to constantly be surrounded by people making progress. How does a sixty-some year-old woman hit lifetime deadlift personal records? Choice. How does a life-long overweight man see his abs for the first time since puberty? Choice.

The gym is a magical place – it can act as a foundation for everything else you do in your day. For the time you’re training, you can have a pure experience of success: you come in, execute your session as planned, focus on doing everything right, and walk out the door with a win. By winning here, you can keep the momentum going. You trained right, so you eat right. You make the right choice when the 8pm hunger comes on. You sleep as much as you’d planned. And sooner than you think, the thing you wanted starts to become reality.

But what happens if you cheat? Studies show that the vast majority of exercisers over-report how much they train and under-report how much they eat. Other studies show that those people don’t make progress near as often as they think they should. How do you make sure you execute with perfect discipline? Is there a method for going big before you go home? First things first:

1. Have a plan. You should have a detailed plan for reaching whatever goal it is you’re pursuing. Don’t have time to plan? Skip your next workout and get a calendar out. You should be looking 4-8 weeks down the road at all times. Your plan should include goals, such as “lose 1 pound by November 6” or “climb 20 or more problems each climbing day this month.” Your workouts should be detailed enough that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for copping out. Oh, and put your favorite exercises at the end.

2. Don’t get too “motivated.” Start with simple rules and goals. Starting a fad diet or vowing to train every day require too much change for most people. If you kill it the first month, turn up the heat a little next month. Remember that your chances of successfully completing goals and inversely proportional to the number of goals you set.

3. Don’t you even think of cheating. If you set your goals right, completing them will be hard, but not impossible. Do every workout you planned. Do every rep. Follow the food list. When bed time comes, you should be proud of your efforts, not vowing to start again tomorrow.

Today is the easiest it’s ever going to be.

The Least You Can Do

 

The least you can do is the most you should start with. It’s tempting to “go big or go home” when it comes to starting or re-starting a fitness plan. You’ve done it before – bought a book, dropped $120 on the Insanity program (obviously having forgotten what Einstein said about insanity), or bought a piece of equipment off late-night television. You did the program faithfully for a day or so, then something came up, then you started again, and then you stopped for good. It’s not your fault – well, sort of.

The problem you ran into is that you tried to assume too many changes at once. Being a creature of habit is helpful, and allows you to be more efficient in life. Being a creature of habit also makes changing habits hard. You’ve heard the stat: try to change more than one habit at a time and you’re more than likely to fail. The crazy thing is that by only choosing one habit to change, there are still many obstacles to success.

sugar2One of this mistakes we make is thinking that a habit change is only one little change, when in fact, it is made up of many small changes. For example, quitting eating sugar might seem simple enough, by the reality of the habit is that you eat sugar many times a day in many different situations…this makes it several habit changes. You would be better served to break it down into more discrete elements, such as “no added sugar” on foods, or “avoid packaged sweets” – each of these choices being easier to keep track of and prepare for that simply avoiding all sugar.

Additionally, starting out with additive changes is a good idea. Don’t think about taking things out of your life, but make sure to add habits instead. Our first recommended habit change is to start taking a multivitamin and a fish oil tablet each day. You simply get one of those weekly pill boxes that old people have sitting on their kitchen counters, put two pills in each box, and then take them right after you brush your teeth in the morning. You added something very simple, and tied it to a habit (teeth brushing) that you already had established.

Additive changes are useful, too, because they can push out some bad habits. For example, if you are on the coffee – soda – beer hydration plan, simply setting a water2water-drinking goal can make a world of difference. Fill a 2-liter jug with water, and plan on drinking it each day. As you adapt to having more water in your diet, you’ll notice that you don’t drink as much soda, or coffee, or beer, simply because you can only drink so much.

Regardless of the habit, make the changes as small as you can stand at first, and add to them only when you have a new habit firmly in-hand.

 

In-Season Strength by Charlie Manganiello

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and the air is getting warmer. You’ve probably even dusted off your race schedule and summer goals on the calendar you’ve been staring at for the last six months. Unless you’re an ice climber or skier stuck in the Northern Hemisphere, the “in-season” is upon us. In some way, shape or form, you are striving to perform well in a triathlon, run a half-marathon faster than last year, bike 100 miles without killing yourself, or send your hardest route to date. Maybe, you’re even planning to run your first 5k. Regardless of the goal, you’re looking to perform your best on game day.

Now stop…

Remember all those early mornings and late nights at the gym strength training? All those sessions, just dreaming about running through the Wind River Range, crossing the finish line at a race, or clipping the chains on your latest send? You were probably thinking, just a few more months and I don’t have swing kettlebells for the whole summer, I don’t have to pick up a heavy barbell only to drop it again after lifting it two feet, or even think about doing another Turkish get-up.

You probably see where this is going…

Wrong!

Strength training is still important, even during your sport specific season. To not strength train in-season is like putting money away for retirement for eight months out of the year and then proceed to spend part of the money saved the other four months on frivolous items. With this cycle you’ll have a very hard time saving money, and with strength training this cycle makes it hard to stay strong. Why not maintain all your hard work instead of letting it all go just to start over again?

Studies have shown that once you stop training, strength can diminish in as quick as two weeks. I’m no accountant, but if you also stop saving money, you’ll save less. You should strength train like you save money. Some months you can sock more away and other months you put just a little away, but at least it’s something. How can we stay strong without spoiling game day performance? We will reduce the volume of our strength sessions by two-thirds to one-half, but still lift heavy.

For example:

Lets say your training weight for the deadlift is 185lbs and you did that at 5×2 or 3×3 (or whatever set/rep scheme that was around 10 total reps). For in-season training you will perform the same lift at the same weight, but at 3×2, 5×1, or 2×3. Instead of doing 9-10 reps you’re doing 5-6. The volume is lower, but you’re still handling the same heavy weight. By doing this you’ll never be far from strength. You should perform this twice a week (maybe as little as once a week) and work it into your training so it doesn’t interfere with your scheduled events, most likely a Monday and Wednesday or a Tuesday and Thursday.

Remember to stick with the four major movements when strength training.

Hip dominant/Hamstring – Deadlift or RDLs
Knee dominant/Squats – Front Squats or 2 Kettlebell Rack Squats
Pull – Pull-ups or some variation of the Row
Push – Bench press or Military press

There are lots of options to progress or regress each movement and that’s fine, but just stick to the principles. You should pick one of the four patterns to focus on and put the other three in between sets as “fillers,” just to grease the groove. Rotate to another movement pattern after 4-6 weeks.

Don’t forget to add these in every sessions as well:

Total Body – Turkish Get-up or Farmer Carries
Anterior Chain (AKA: Core) – Hardstyle Plank or Ab Wheel

Remember, these session should be approached like you’re practicing strength. You are not working hard in these sessions. Let me repeat. You are not working hard in these sessions. You are barely breaking a sweat or maybe not sweating at all. At no point are you increasing weight, even if it feels easy. You can attack the numbers once you start your off-season training. Your session should clock in around 30 minutes after you’ve properly stretched and warmed-up.

Save money and lift heavy weights often. Don’t lose what you’ve already worked so hard to gain.

Strength be with you!

Respectfully,

Charlie Manganiello