Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline.

Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the work towards your goal that will help determine your success.

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White belt to black belt mastery:  Process and building the foundation of success.

When it is our desire to learn we do so as a beginner. Through our studies and with a patient and disciplined approach we continue our growth. This takes us to new levels as represented in the color of our belts. But deep within the levels or belt colors lies lessons beyond what we see or experience or for that matter what the belt color might tell us or others. The true mastery is going beyond the lesson of the belt and observing and learning the deeper lessons being offered.

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Teachers and being a student: The best teachers are students.

The best teachers have teachers. Even the master has a teacher. Yes it is possible to learn something from anyone, any situation. But learning from a master provides a level of understanding that goes far beyond learning in random situations and circumstances of daily life. Teachers have a wisdom that can help convey and teach lessons that go beyond the experience. Teachers can help to understand what is beyond say the movement or sport. Learning from an experienced teacher and being open minded like that of the white belt mentality will provide more wisdom than can ever be obtained otherwise.

Preparation: 

When setting a goal it is important to be clear what it is you wish to achieve. To broad a goal and it will be difficult to set in place a plan and properly prepare. As the great coach John Wooden once said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing for failure’. Additionally preparation provides a number of other potential benefits when it comes time to achieve your goal. In cases of performance it can help alleviate many of the stressors aka much of the noise that potentially will hamper or hinder you potential. Understanding what lies in hand and ahead is a powerful way to set your minds potential and adjust your attitude to a place/vision of success.

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Know your limitations:  We all have them regardless of what you may believe.

These limitations are an opportunity to empower oneself. They offer us a deep insight and understanding of who we are and what it is we need to be our best self. Respect the limits, know the limits, understand the limits and move within and beyond.

Become your best self, there’s nothing to achieve: 

Contrary to popular believe there is nothing to achieve other than that in which you have determined worth achieving. If you allow others to determine what is important you will not be living your truth but theirs. While we may see something another is doing or has done as a source of motivation it is important that it aligns with our true self, our true nature. In a world where everyones ‘achievements’ are easily shared it is easier to be distracted and become derailed. It is difficult to ignore what are some amazing human feats and the potential that exists, but it is crucial that we understand how these relate to us before allowing them to impact our direction and choices.

Practice: 

To be good we must learn, we must study, we must observe, we must listen and by all means we must take this into a daily practice. Practice must be clear and directed. One must practice with attention to detail and an open and critical mindset. Practice should not be taken lightly, it is the foundation of success. “All practice takes hard work but not all-hard work is practice.” Practice helps not only develop the skill but also the mindset of success.

It’s not always fun: 

Truth be told, training, practice, preparation and the process is not always enjoyable and it should not be. The essence is the moment, being present and be challenged. Moving the body and mind in a healthy way requires learning how to do so. Most skills take time and have a significant learning curve. Many of the tasks along this curve will be less than enjoyable and leave you wondering if its worth it. I can say that if it is important enough then yes its worth it. Its not always the goal that we are chasing but we don’t often understand this until we are deep into the process and training. As Bruce Lee famously said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

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Deadlift PR, 570lbs

In July of 2016 I committed to a goal of establishing a new deadlift PR. I had a great system and structure to follow and a coach I knew whom would support and guide me.

My plan was simple

1)Deadlift once a week based off percentages from prior 1 rep max.

Note for the initial phase I only had an old PR from 2010, not exactly reliable. However I knew I could pull 505 & figured this would serve to guide me to build a base, test and set the parameters percentage wise.

All deadlifts were to be done in singles, aka 1 rep only sets.

Structure looked like this

Week 1: 70% for 15 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 2: 75% for 12 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 3: 80% for 10 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 4: 85% for 8 singles, 1 every 1.5 minutes

Week 5: 90% for 6 singles, 1 every 2-3 minutes

Week 6: peak week, 101% and new PR and basis for next wave %

This is a program inspired from Westside Barbell and taught to me by my coach/friend Mark Reifkind. I had done it before and it works for me. It allowed a straightforward approach and a way to control factors such as volume, intensity and load. Of course I had flexibility to adjust as needed.

The last cycle Coach Rif suggested a change, adding in a heavier week at 95% for 3 singles followed by a back off week at 80% then peak week. Due to some scheduling I asked to use back the day and therefore split the 85% into 2 weeks doing an 82.5 & 86.5%. I must say this felt like a great modification even if not in original plan.

The 80 & 85% weeks are most difficult in terms of combined load, volume and intensity. Those can be seen as nuts and bolts weeks but truly it is subjective.

Programs like these demand a lot. One must be consistent week in and week out. One must recover as well and pay attention. As a natural and raw deadlift athlete these loads add up. You will get stronger but you should be smart and conservative in your estimates when starting. Build a strong base and then progress using the %. Adjust reps and rest if need be but only if you feel at an uncomfortable risk. But keep in mind getting strong and lifting heavy always has a level of uncomfortable risk.

The new PR is an awesome feeling. Completing a goal and doing the work to get there is quite rewarding. The discipline that it takes to complete such a goal is one of the great lessons learned during this process. Week in and week out doing what is prescribed and  knowing in advance what lay ahead can seem daunting. But I never was scared, never deterred, never worried about whether I could or could not. I knew if I followed the program, listened to my body and made adjustements as need be (which Rif made a major adjustement in mid cycle) that I could accomplish my task. This was not a ego based or false based confidence but a deep understanding of self related to mindset, physical ability and right amount of desire.

Now days as a “Masters Athlete” i find myself more focused than ever. I chose to continue to learn and grow as a beginner. I chose a blend of things that I feel I am deficient in and things I was to excel at. I have goals and I have many yet that lie ahead which I am training at this time. I keep moving towards a level of understanding and if I am lucky some day mastery.

This is not just personal, its professional. I am committed to both excellence in personal and professional and they certainly intertwine and compliment on another. More than ever I want to be a better teacher and coach and feel that leading by example is key. Allowing my actions to speak and support my words. I hope this program does just that. This goes well beyond a Deadlift PR but it sure does feel good! Celebrate your successes! Accomplishing goals big goals is something that does not happen often, thats why they are truly an accomplishment.

A graphical representation. Linear progressions. Seems so simple and in many cases it is. Don’t let people fool you, linear progressions work.

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Here is a week by week layout

Weight

Reps (all single reps)

70%

315.00

12

75%

365.00

10

80%

405.00

8

90%

455.00

6

Peak

505.00

2

70%

335.00

15

77%

385.00

12

85%

425.00

10

95%

485.00

6

Peak

515.00

2

70%

355.00

15

75%

385.00

12

80%

415.00

10

85%

440.00

8

90%

465.00

6

Peak

535.00

1

70%

375.00

15

75%

405.00

12

80%

430.00

10

85%

455.00

8

90%

485.00

6

Peak

550.00

1

70%

385.00

15

75%

415.00

12

80%

440.00

10

82.5

455.00

8

86.5%

475.00

6

90%

495.00

4

95%

520.00

4

80%

440.00

10

Peak

570.00

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S.M.A.R.T., Structured, Progressive Training = Results

In some circles the idea of progressive training is rather poo poo’d. While there is a case to be made for those whom choose to do as they wish rather than plan, I am a big believer in planning and preparation.

First lets start with a simple idea known as S.M.A.R.T., a method used for goal setting.

smart-goals

I have rarely if ever met an athlete of any caliber whom did not wish to improve their performance. Whether this be a 1 rep max, a time related goal, etc. most if all athletes train with the idea of getting better. What I know the best athletes in the world is they all have a plan in place to do exactly this. There is little left to chance or error. Minuscule details and 100th’s of seconds can be the difference between gold and no medal at all. I believe this point is clearly evident in many sports especially observed in the Olympic events such as track and field, swimming, ice skating, skiing, gymnastics, etc. And what must also be noted is not always does the ‘best athlete’ or even the ‘best prepared’ athlete win.

The reason this topic came to my attention was a bit of self reflection. While I am not competing on a particular stage, I am always competing in the gym and training against myself. I have specific goals with easily measurable aspects and achievable outcomes available. All of these goals and potential outcomes require attention to detail and very specific programming. While there is room to play and have fun, this is just more part of the process and something enable as such. And just to be clear, achieving goals is fun.

So looking at my numbers over the last number of months and even couple years I have specific examples of measurable and achievable goals I have reached and continue to surpass to new goals which are as a result of prior outcomes.

Example 1 is the Kettlebell 1 arm Swing. For the past 3 years, nearly every Saturday I have done some sort of variation in terms of reps, sets and weight with this movement. The programming is done by our Coach Mark Reifkind and as he will tell you we PR nearly every week in some way or fashion. In laymen terms we are consistently improving our performance and it is backed in real effort and numerical statistics. And note we have successfully completed each test day over the length of this timeframe.

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Example 2 is the Deadlift. Since July of 2016 I started back on a deadlift program. It has been 6 years since my last program cycle which resulted in a PR of 560lbs. My current program is based of a specific rep number and total each week based of a percentage of my PR which I most recently achieved. At the end of my 5 week cycle I will attempt a new PR which at this point I have successfully achieved at the end of cycle. Note the last lines 455, 481.5 and planned PR attempt have yet to be completed at this time. What is important is that regardless I will do the work at 455 and 481.5 and take a 545 minimum attempt because this is the planned work and end of this cycle, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

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(Notations ex: 70% for 1 rep every 30 sec x 15 reps. The black numbers aka 7/19 is the date of the lift). What these numbers show is the importance of planning and setting realistic goals. Also, the first cycle was arbitrary meaning I choose to work off what I felt was reasonable considering my past and present. Cycle 2 I simply added 20lbs to each week sans week 4 where I wanted to feel a bit more weight as an specific adaptation. Cycle 3 (515lb) and 4 (535lb) are based of the cycle 2 and 3 PR’s respectively. This will be the case for cycle 5 and beyond.

Example 3 is Gymnastics. Currently I am following the gymnastics bodies foundations program. Since June of this year I have spent an average of 5 days a week training progressions and movements based off the programmed laid out before me. I have had to be humble and patient to allow my body to adapt to the physical demands and stressors of not only the current movements but what lies ahead. I have a specifics goals, with a measurable program which has set out achievable results. This program is far from easy, quite demanding on time and getting more so as I continue to improve. And, yes week by week I just get better setting more PR’s and most important improving my competence in the movements.

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The point of this article and the examples to show how Smart planning and programming in a progressive manner produces true results. Week by week, training session by training session I know I am getting better. This is not just by feel but by specific application of in terms of numerical performance, statistics and overall physical performance. Setting PR’s of week in and week out feels great and it is truly a testament to my training and the planning. And yes it is simple progressive resistance training based of real numbers. I realize this approach to movement and training is not the most appealing due to the structure, it does produce results.

A personal philosophy of mine is to simple to work to get a little bit better everyday in all aspects of my life. Having structure and goals helps to make this possible as does having a tremendous support system and coaching. As a coach myself I value the expertise of other coaches and thus use their wisdom and experience to help guide me along my path. The commonality amongst my 2 coaches is they both come from a gymnastics background and know and understand the value of structure, planning and preparation. The results speak for themselves.

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I love Kettlebells

I love Kettlebells

There reasons are numerous so let me start by saying that I am biased. Since 2002 when I was first introduced to the Kettlebell to current day they have been apart of my health and wellness program personally and professionally.

I have accomplished personally numerous goals  around strength and conditioning as a result of the kettlebell and with the kettlebell. But even beyond this is my professional success around teaching the Kettlebell to thousands of people in 1 on 1 and class settings. The success of my students brings me far more joy as I get to share something I am passionate about, believe and know my shit thanks to learn and training with the best of the best.

Even though I do not teach at certifications which I must admit is a bummer because they are amazing experiences. And, even though I have no direct affiliation with any organization I  am as passionate as ever to continue to share in the various platforms in which i am fortunate to do so. Especially thankful to Apple Computers and the community we have created for the opportunity to work with a stellar group of people and athletes.

So why else do I love Ketltlebells

  1. Work capacity. Hard to find a tool where one can move an object over a wide range of motion, with good mechanics, under duress and recover so quickly. It is amazing how my students push the envelope in terms of weight moved under time constraints. 45 Minutes of the on the minute work using the basics in various complexes and combinations with simple patterns produces enormous results.
  2. Recovery. It amazes me how these same students come multiple days in a row, multiple times a week. Again same basic movements in a varying patterns and yet they recover and perform as asked.
  3. Fitness personified. I know my crossfit friends can appreciate working under intensity and performing consistently day in and day out. These Kettlebellers are super fit.
  4. Limited injuries. work capacity, recovery, programming, efficient mechanics, intelligently designed tool that allows a person to use physics to assist with all the above.

Again I can on, but 14 years later my love and appreciation for Kettlebells only grows. So many to thank for helping me along this path to realization. And, I love seeing all the newly minted teachers sharing their education and passion and expanding awareness around the brilliance of the kettlebell. Even if it is just a part of a larger movement pool, it is a tool that will only help increase your likelihood of achieving your fitness and health goals.

Motivation

Motivation

Inspired by a conversation with friends I decide to look within myself to better understand what motivates me to train my body and mind.

I think back to my younger days as a youth into college and my early 20’s to 30’s and it was clear, I was an athlete competing in sports. This made motivation easy. But, truth be told I never understood when I was competing what it took to be my best. Because of this I never achieved anywhere near my potential. Today, through years of competing, coaching and training I have a much different understanding of what it takes to achieve ones personal best as an athlete.

First, I do not consider myself a competitive athlete in terms of competing in a sport. What I am is competitive within myself. I am interested in learning, exploring and experiencing all sorts of different fitness and athletic endeavors. Currently I am learning the sport of Weightlifting and have put a focus on these particular movements. Highly technical and skilled movements they take a tremendous amount of energy, time and focus which I am glad to dedicate. Because I am not competing in a meet anytime soon I continue to practice my yoga and others forms of movements.

One thing I have embraced is the idea of enjoying the process. As a friend said to me, we are healthy and fit and it is a privilege to be so, therefore we should train and explore. I could not agree more, it is a privilege to be of sound mind and healthy body.

Another aspect comes to be a role model for my patients, clients and students. I am a firm believer in actions more so than words. We are inundated with words these days with ample forms of content available. I, personally cherish forming relationships and the direct contact I have with people both as a student and a teacher/practitioner/coach. Therefore, as a student I reach out and do my best to learn from others in all forms of movement.

But I understand my true motivation is intrinsic. I do this for me, myself as I value and appreciate  the internal effects I receive from being disciplined, studied, and consistent. I value exploring the depths of my person inside and out. I value that I will one day be a role model for my wife Sara and I’s children. I value my wife and want to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally in order to be the best friend, husband, father, partner possible. Movement not only keeps my physical body healthy but also my mental and emotional states of being. This is why yoga and meditation are so crucial for my well being.

Note, I am of the meditation concept along the lines of Vipassana. To quote Gil Forsdal “Insight meditation aka Vipassana is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience.” This is the idea of mindfulness or concentration/focus on the moment and the task at hand. For those of who train or have competed you most likely know of this feeling even if never described as such or understood in this manner. When I move I feel very connected to the moment and use it as a way to build my meditation practice.

This is why when I train I enjoy distractions. These distractions challenge me to stay in the present moment and focused on the task. I believe this is a valuable tool for any athlete to develop as 99% of the time you will compete in an foreign environment surrounded by all sorts of distractions. The athlete must not allow these to interfere with their task at hand.

It is conceivable that I will one day compete in a game, on a platform or in a race. Maybe it will be for fun or maybe it will be because of a higher goal of testing myself, whatever it is, it is the process and journey to the depths of myself that interest me most. Sure, I love seeing big numbers, feeling more fit, getting better, etc. these are absolutely wonderful experiences and things I believe that should naturally come with right action aka consistency, health, discipline and a good program design. Nothing beats the feeling of inner peace for me and the love I have for my family, my clients/patients/students and my simple peace that I am of a sound mind and healthy body.

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The Power of The Body and PNF techniques

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a crucial piece of movement application. I use this daily in my practice and teachings. Too me this is far more important than foam rollers, yoga tune up balls, band assisted stretches which are good but only as good as your ability to know how use your body. The body itself is a powerful tool, the most powerful especially when combined the power of your brain and body working together. Learning PNF will get you further in all aspects of a healthy, pain free body and for high end performance.

This is a great summary from an article Bandha Yoga – The Scientific Keys

“Sports medicine experts long ago perceived that this particular reflex arc could be carefully manipulated to lengthen muscles. Using this knowledge, they invented a technique called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), or facilitated stretching. It is the most powerful method for gaining length in muscles to improve flexibility. Yoga uses stretching, so why not use PNF in our practice to deepen the asanas?

It is important to remember that any powerful tool, including yoga itself, is a double-edged sword (like a surgeon’s scalpel). If used carelessly, it can cause injury. This is also true of facilitated stretching. The key to using techniques like this is to apply them slowly and with care. They are like a tincture of medicine, so use less muscular force rather than more. 

Facilitated stretching works as follows: after warming up, we take the target muscle into a moderate stretch. This establishes the muscle’s “set length”—a measure in the brain of how far the muscle can lengthen. Stretching a muscle produces tension at the muscle-tendon junction and stimulates the Golgi tendon organs located there. The key to PNF is to then gently contract the same muscle that we are stretching. This combines the biomechanical event of positioning the body into a stretch and the physiological event of intentionally contracting the stretching muscle to amplify the tension at the muscle-tendon junction. The Golgi tendon organs fire more intensively, producing a powerful relaxation response. We then stop contracting the target muscle and “take up the slack” by going deeper into the stretch. The net effect is a new set length.”

 

Kettlebells: Movements, Rules, & Structure

Kettlebells, The Movements, The Rules, The Structure

The movements and rules relate specifically to the kettle bell classes I teach at Apple Computers. Each morning, Monday-Friday I teach one Kettlebell class for Apple employees, their families and contractors alike. This class is 45 minutes in length and is open to anyone. There is no levels, there is no intro, beginners classes, etc. This makes things a bit tricky as I can have a highly skilled kettlebell athlete and a newbie. Therefore I devised a system that could easily allow and adapt for whatever comes my way. Classes vary between an average of 15 students up to 24 students.

The 5 core movements
Squat
Press
Clean
Swing
Snatch

The Other Kettlebell Movements
Renegade Row
Windmill
Turkish Get Up
Floor Press
Side press
Lunge
Swing Squat
Deck squat
Halo
1 leg Deadlift
Arm Bar
Bottoms Up Clean
Bottoms Up Press
Bottoms Up Squat
Overhead Squat
Farmers Carry
Rack Holds
Overhead Holds

Other movements:
We have no pull-up bars, no barbells, etc. So we have basic gymnastic movements and of course Kettlebells at are disposal. We use a good variety of core based gymnastic movements combining static holds with dynamic movements including:

hollow body hold
hollow body rock
superman
hollow to superman
boat pose
L-sit
Front Lever or ‘leg lifts’
Planks and variations
Pikes (sliders)
Jack Knifes (sliders)
Crawls
Crow

Why no Turkish Get Up as a core movement, because my classes despise them and I do not think them essential but do believe they are an excellent movement. I ask the class to do 5 reps on each side in the warm up.

General Rules of Thumb for the Grinds aka Squat & Press
Complete 5 reps of 5 sets/side

once you can do this move up one bell size and aim for

3 reps of 8 sets/side

General Rule of Thumb for Swings
2 Hand Swing
Start with 2 hand swing.
Complete 20 reps for 5 sets. General is 100 swings minimum/workout. Class average is 100

Next

1 Arm Swing
Complete 10 reps x 5 sets/arm of the 1 arm swing

If you can successfully do this, then we introduce the snatch.

Snatch
Base goal is 5 reps x 5 sets/arm.

Next Steps:
From here we simple work bell size, reps/set, sets, time components for all the movements.

Other Rules, Etc.
Bell Size:
We have limited number of bell sizes for the class. The class can hold up to 21 people so we sometimes have to share or adapt to a different weight, lighter or heavier.

Double Bells:
We love double bell work. Ideally reserved for more advanced athletes, those comfortable with the 5 basics and add in the Renegade Row. The doubles serve as a great variation on the 5 Core moves and open many more options in terms of complexes and loading schemes relative to the body.

Complexes:
These are brilliant and the bells lend to making these an important part of the programming. We do a lot of couplet based complexes such as Clean Press, Thrusters, Squat Cleans and even triplet based such as clean squat press. But the possibilities extend far beyond this and here are some more convoluted examples. Note these can be done with one or 2 bells.

Man Makers (row, row, hop forward, clean thruster, hop back and repeat).
Swing, Clean Thrusters
Swing, Clean, Snatch
Snatch Thrusters
Crawl, Man Makers
Crawl, Row, Swings

There are many more to add to this. the key from my perspective is to find a flow and rhythm while being creative.

Shoes, Gloves, Wristbands:
No Shoes unless Chuck Taylors, Nanos, or other hard sole flat shoes. My classes all go barefoot.
Why Gloves are frowned upon, if it keeps people coming to class then so be it. These are working professionals not professional athletes. I will say no gloves help give a better grip.
Wristbands, same with gloves. If you know the technique you should not need wristbands.

Intervals:
All classes use time to help manage work to rest ratios and relative intensity. Students are encouraged to work within their capabilities, being sure to observe the first rule of being safe and effective.

Examples
On the minute
Tabata: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest x 8 rounds
30sec/30sec work to rest
15sec/15sec work to rest

Class Structure:
Students do their own warm up as most arrive early.

Recommended Kettlebell based warmups include:
Turkish Get Up/5 reps a side
Windmill/5 reps a side
Halo/8 reps per direction

First Part: The Grinds/Strength, Cleans, Presses, Squats and Rows

Examples
Clean & Press/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
Squats/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
-less reps equals more weight and vice versa

Second Part: Ballistics/Strength & Conditioning
Advanced Athletes:
Snatch/OTM/1 bell/5-8 reps a side/10-15 sets

Beginners: 2 Options
2 Hand Swing/OTM/1 bell/20 reps/10-15 sets
1 Arm Swing/OTM/1 bell/5-10 reps a side/10-15 sets

Third Part: Core or Burner aka WOD

Example: Tabata of 2 movements (alternate)
Pushups
Hollow Body Rocks

This is my general layout and approach and all within 45 minutes. I have been sharing our workouts on various social media forms so I hope you enjoy. Any questions please reach out.

kettlebell workout

kettlebell workout

Kettlebell ComplexesAdvanced Class Sample