Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday in the Park

Strapped my 24kg and 12kg kettlebells in my bicycle bugger and headed off with my boys for the 4 mile ride to the park to meet Todd Pigram for some kettlebell fun.  I last saw Todd this winter, training in full winter gear in his garage at a whopping 20 degrees Fahrenheit.   What a difference a few months makes....sunny and mid 70's today.  As I pulled up to the park, we both did a double take, as Todd and I have had significant changes in our physiques over the past several months thanks to kettlebells alone.  After catching up on our training, Todd pulled out his two 32kg bells and we headed to the beach volleyball courts to play.

Today was a Grind day for me:

24kg MP 10L/10R
Double 32kg Front Squat x 5 reps
Double 32kg Renagade Rows 5L/5R

Did 3 sets of the above circuit.

Also did a set of 32kg snatches 5L/5R after seeing Todd throw the 32's around like they were 16's.

Did more work on my juggling skills with the 12kg.   Almost perfected the behind the back flip today.
Finished up by playing some touch football with the boys before packing up the kettlebells and heading back to the bike trail for our 4 mile return trip home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Snatch Day

Continued to work on my 10 minute SSST preparation:

24kg Snatch 10L/10R x 10 sets.  40 seconds rest between sets

Went well.  Left shoulder a little sore today.  Corkscrew descents seem to aggravate my shoulder, so switched to hard style descent.  Grip was beginning to fatigue by the tenth set.  Also focused on pressing the contralateral heel into the ground during the swing forward/hip snap.  I find that this really helps the kettlebell fly up to the overhead position.  More about this later.

Yesterday, I did full R phase Z health and shoulder mobility drills.  I need to do Z more frequently.  I always feel so good after completing the routine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baseball, Apple Pie, and Kettlebells

Tonight, had to hussle the kids to swimming lessons followed by baseball practice and fit in some grinds.  Solution.....throw the kettlebells in the trunk.  Pulled them out at baseball practice and did the following (to many odd looks):

24kg Windmills 5L/5R
Double 24kg See-Saw Presses 5L/5R
Double 24kg Front Squats x 5
Double 24kg Renegade Rows

Did the circuit 5 times

24kg Overhead walks 50 yards each arm x 2 sets

Finished with a bit of H2H work with a 12kg.  Trying to perfect the behind the back flip as described on Logan Christopher's new kettlebell juggling blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swings & Double LCCJ

Wasn't able to workout until after dark.  Pulled the car out of the garage and hit it:

32kg 1 Arm Swings 10L/10R on 1 minute x 15 sets
Double 16kg LCCJ 10 reps (about 1 minute) with 30 second rest x 5 sets

Swings felt great today.  300 reps with the 32kg was a PR.  Conditioning and grip strength are clearly improving from the snatches.  The upward gaze is also making a difference.  I might need to start looking into the Bulldog for swings.

LCCJ are tough.  This was my first attempt with doubles.  Very tiring.  Great fullbody exercise.  I really felt it in the triceps today as well as the forearms.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kettlebells and Grilling

Took the day off from work.  Spent time with the kids.  Fit in some grinds while grilling dinner:

Double 24kg See Saw Presses 5L/5R
Double 24kg Front Squat x 5 reps
Double 24kg Renagade Row 5L/5R

Did the entire circuit 5 times.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Phonebook Tearing

I received new phonebooks today.  What to do with the old phonebooks is always a big question.  I decided to make my first attempt at tearing a phonebook.  Now granted I used a small suburban one, my first attempt was a success!!! 

Snatches and Weight Loss

Snatch day today.

24kg 10L/10R x 10 sets with 50 seconds rest between sets

Felt very good today.  Corkscrew descent with hook grip coming along very well.  No hand pain.  No problems with grip strength.  This is probably a combination of the corkscrew descent and 50 seconds rest between sets.

Workout was short today because of visitors and trying to get yard cleaned up.  Found that weeding in the rock bottom squat position was much more comfortable than bending over!

Weighed in a 199lbs Friday......haven't weighed under 200lbs since 8th grade!   I have continued a slow, steady weight loss over the past year with total of 15lbs dropped.  This is essentially all from kettlebells.  No diets used.  With the upcoming RKC in September, this weight loss could be significant as I am now very close to the 198lb weight class cutoff.  With the drop in weight, my required snatch test numbers will drop from 74 to 64.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Overhead Squats

Grind day today.  My lats are very sore today, I suspect from the pullups and pushups yesterday.

24kg Windmill/Overhead Squat 5L/5R
24kg MP 5L/5R

5 sets of the above circuit.

I am surprised how much better my overhead squats have become since I started working on my shoulder mobility.  I am able to keep the bell overhead, arm close to the ear, and make it to rock bottom on the squat.  Couldn't do this last summer.  I might have to give the sots press another try soon.

Day off tomorrow.  Plan to start toward my next goal of 200 reps in the 10 minute SSST.  Will use Dave Whitley's program again.....10 sets of 10L/10R with 50 seconds rest between sets this week.  Each week thereafter will decrease the rest period by 10 seconds until I get to test day.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

KBA Workout of the Day

Saw Pam MacElree's workout of the day and thought I would give it a try:

40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest

Snatch L
Snatch R
Push Up
Pull Up
H2H Swing
Goblet Squat

Only made 3 rounds - 24 minutes continuous work.

Finished with double 24kg overhead walks - 30 sec on/30 sec off.  These were quite difficult.

Used a stretch band to aid in the pullups as 40 seconds straight is more than I can do at this point.  Even with the band it was still very difficult.  Used the corkscrew descent with the hook grip on the snatches.  Went well.  I also really like the LCCJ.  Great full body workout.  Also allows me to continue to work on my hook grip descents from the rack instead of the overhead position which is a bit easier.

After dinner tonight, while putting away the kids' toys, my 32kg was calling......"snatch me, snatch me".   I proceeded to do 5 half snatches on both the left and right side without difficulty.  I will need to work these into my routine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Short grind workout tonight:

24kg TGU  - 5 minutes

A1.  SeeSaw Press Double 24kg 5L/5R
A2. Double 24kg Front Squat x 5 reps
A3. Pullups x 3 reps (various grips)

4 cycles of above

Double 24kg Farmers Walk 30 sec on/30 sec off x 4 sets

Monday, June 16, 2008

5 Minute SSST

Had another brutal weekend call and did not manage to workout at all, however, this did give my left shoulder a bit of rest.  My last Grind day (with the 32kg) flared up my left biceps tendon insertion into my shoulder.  I am feeling much better today.  For the past several weeks I have been working toward the 5 minute SSST with a goal of 100 reps with the 24kg.  I had been working sets of 10L/10R with a progressively shorter rest period.  Today was the day for the full 5 minute test:

24kg 5 minute SSST - 102 reps (PR)
24kg 2 Handed Swing Tabata Protocol - score 14

My snatches went very well.  Used the hook grip with hardstyle technique and my hands feel great.  My conditioning prep was good, heartrate not too high.  Probably could have gone longer or at a faster pace.  Felt it the most in my grip by the end.  Need to keep working my grip strength with farmer's walks and hook grip pullups.  Will also work on perfecting the hook grip with the corkscrew descent which may help preserve the grip.  Overall I was happy with the effort.  Now time to work to the next goal....... 24kg 10 minute SSST for 200 reps.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Not much time to work out today......

32kg 1 Arm Swings 10L/10R on the minute for 10 sets
32kg 2 Arm Swings 20 on the minute for 2 sets

With the high humidity I had some trouble gripping the bell today and had to switch to two handed swings to finish the 12 minutes.  Continued to use the upward looking eyes with neutral neck during my swings with continued benefit. 

Left shoulder a bit sore today from my 32 kg C&P two days ago.  Probably not a great idea to push the shoulder yet, especially with the upcoming RKC cert.  This would not be a good time to hurt myself again.  I think I am better off sticking to the 24kg, except for swings where the 32kg is safe. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Eye in Swing

I have been reading a interesting book called Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  The basis of the book is that muscles work together in organized groupings connected by myofascia and not as individual units with specific origins and insertions.  This philosophy allows one to gain an understanding of how full body movements are interlinked and how pain in one specific area (ie. the elbow) can be caused by a silent problem distally or proximally along the specific myofascial line (ie. shoulder or wrist).  At the same time, I have been performing the R-phase Z health exercises and have begun to notice that the myofascial lines and philosophy of Thomas Myers are very complimentary to Z health.  When using Z health for rehab purposes, one is instructed to focus on the joint causing pain as well as the joints above and below.  Does this sound familiar?

Dr. Eric Cobb (founder of Z-health) published an interesting article on the DragonDoor site a while back describing how eye position alone can help improve your swing via neural reflexes.  His basic premise is that the extraocular muscles have a high number of nerve endings and that specific eye positions can trigger full body muscular responses.  In short, the eyes up position (with a neutral neck) stimulates back extension and the eyes down position stimulates back flexion.

This very same "reflex" is discussed in Myers book.  In particular he is describing the myofascial line called the Superficial Back Line (SBL) which is responsible for extension of the back.  Each myofascial line is composed of a series of muscles that are connected by myofascia and therefore cause the muscles to work together in order to complete their function.  The SBL is composed of the plantar fascia, gastrocnemius, hamstrings, sacrotuberous ligament, sacrolumbar fascia, erector spinae, scalp fascia, and ends at the ridge of the frontal brow (just above the eyes).  Myers demonstrates how contractions of the extraocular muscles with specific eye movements are transmitted to the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull.  "put your hands up on either side of your head with your thumbs just under your skull in back.  Work your thumbs gently in  past the superficial muscles so that you can feel the really deep ones under the occipital ridge.  Close your eyes and look up and down (without moving your head) and you will feel little muscles moving at the base of your neck."

Now whether you believe this connection between eye movements and back flexion/extension is a neural reflex as proposed by Dr. Cobb or due to a myofascial connection as described by Thomas Myers is not important.  The take home message is that an upward gaze can help strengthen your swing.  

Try this eye position experiment with the kettlebell swing as described by Dr. Cobb in his above mentioned article:

1. Begin in a normal swing position
2. While maintaining a neutral neck position, move your eyes only up to focus midway on the wall in front of you and initiate the swing.
3. As the bell comes up and you hip snap, allow the eyes to maintain their focus on the midpoint of the wall in a neutral head position.
4. As the bell starts down, maintain your neutral neck position, while keeping the eyes fixed on the same spot.  As the bell drops further, this will naturally move you into an eyes "up" position at the bottom of the swing.  This helps facilitate the extensor braking action and initiate the hip snap.

I feel that the upward eye position has made a significant improvement in my swing.  Give it a try. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Daily Grind

Lot of running around with the kids today after work.  Didn't get to work out until close to 2100hrs.  

24kg TGU 5 minutes
32kg C&P Ladder 1,2,3 x 3 sets
Hook Grip Pullups 1,2,3 x 3 sets

I alternated pullups with C&P.  Did C&P 1L/1R followed by 1  pullup, C&P 2L/2R followed by 2 pullups etc...  32kg C&P really make me focus on full body tension.  Alternating presses with pullups works very well.

Short and sweet workout.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Snatches and LCCJ

I was looking forward to my snatch workout all day since I wanted to try the new "hook" technique posted on the DD forum yesterday by Jordan Vezina.

Warm-up: 24kg 1 arm swings 10/10, high pulls 10/10, MP 5/5
24kg snatches 10L/10R x 6 sets with 10 seconds rest between sets
24kg LCCJ 5L/5R x 12 sets with 30 seconds rest between sets
Double 24kg Farmer Walks - 30 seconds on/30 seconds rest x 4 sets

The snatches went very well.  Absolutely no hand pain for the first time I can remember.  I used hardstyle technique and was able to crank out 10 reps per side without any hand pain.  The hardstyle technique is faster than the corkscrew technique.  Instead of 1 minute to complete 20 reps (corkscrew) it only took me 50-55 seconds using hardstyle.  

Per recent discussions on the DD forum, I thought I would give the long cycle clean and jerk (LCCJ) a try today too.  As I discovered, the clean is also an excellent exercise to work on the hook grip (actually easier than the snatch since the bell is not falling such a long distance).  The LCCJ is a great full body workout, including the legs, and I am sure I will be feeling this one tomorrow.

In order to improve my hook style grip, I have decided to also start focusing on grip strength training.  Today I started with some farmer's walks.  My forearms and hands are still tired now!  I also plan to use the hook grip on pullups, instead of holding the bar with the palm, to further strengthen my grip.  

That is all for today

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rest Day

Took the day off.  Went to the pool with the kids and tried to stay cool.  We have been in the high 90's and humid for several days.

Did shoulder mobility exercises tonight.

Great post on the DD Forum today by Jordan Vezina discussing technique to save the hands while snatching.  His video clip is absolutely awesome.  I have been attempting to figure this technique out on my own for many months and just recently have begun to make strides.  I just wish I had seen this video a year ago.  It would have saved my hands much trauma.  Played around a bit with this technique tonight......huge improvement on hand wear and tear.  I am now looking forward to my next long snatch day!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Circuit Training

Did a modified workout from Dave Whitley's 101 Kettlebell workouts today:

24kg Windmill 5L/5R
Double 24kg Front Squat x 5
24kg C&P 5L/5R
32kg 2 Handed Swing x 20

Moved between all 4 exercises without rest, this was one set.  1 minute rest between each set.  Completed 5 sets.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Received my new 24kg kettelbell on Thursday.  Sanded down the handle to smooth steel and waxed with paraffin last night.  Also did some shoulder mobility work last night.  Very excited about the doubles work that can now begin!

Worked out early today to avoid the heat.  Was still in the mid 80's and humid at 0900.

24kg snatches 5L/5R/5L/5R  x 6 sets - 20 seconds rest between sets
24kg see-saw presses 20 yards x 4 sets

Snatches felt great.  Really been focusing on catching the handle in the "hook" grip on the descent in order to preserve the hands.   Today was my best effort.  For the first time my hands aren't dog meat and I think I could snatch tomorrow if I had to.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rest Day

Complete R-Phase Z Health
Shoulder mobility drills

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Today's workout:

24kg snatch 5R/5L/5R/5L x 7 sets - 30 seconds rest between sets
24kg swing Tabata Protocol - Score: 14 (20sec work/10sec rest x 8 sets.  Score is you set with the lowest number of reps)

Working on my 5 minute SSST with a goal of 100.  Each week I am dropping 10 seconds of rest time as per Dave Whitley's Dragondoor article on training for the SSST.  In 3 more weeks I will attempt the full 5 minute SSST for the first time.  The Tabata protocol makes for a very tough 4 minutes.  In order to keep the reps high you have to focus on actively hiking the kettlebell between your legs on the way down, instead of letting gravity do its job.  This not only drives the heartrate high, but is a killer on the grip. 

Monday, June 2, 2008

Todays Work

Another quick grind before complete darkness set in:

24kg MP 5R/5L
24kg Windmill 5R/5L
Pullups 5
24kg/16kg Double Squat 10

Did series 3 times through.  Mosquitoes are starting to get bad!

Finished with shoulder mobility work:

Overhead Stick Stretch
Stick Shoulder Extension
Overhead Stick Shrug
Scapula Pullaparts
Wall Slides

3 Sets of each exercise.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shoulder Mobility and Stability

About 3 months ago, while training for the RKC Snatch test doing long sets of 20L/20R with the 24kg I injured my left rotator cuff.  I am not exactly sure about the mechanism of the injury, but I was working on the corkscrew descent when I felt the pain.  The following day my shoulder range of motion was severely restricted secondary to pain.  I had my shoulder examined by one of my orthopedic surgeon friends and was diagnosed with a partial rotator cuff tear.  I described kettlebells to my orthopedic friend and told him that I was doing high volume snatches.  His response was to give up kettlebells.  This was not an acceptable answer.
I took 2 weeks off from exercise and was in a deep funk.  Kettlebells had changed my life.  Before marriage/kids/busy job I was a faithful gym rat.  However, once I married and introduced kids into the mix along with busy medical residency and fellowship training and then a new job, working out became more and more difficult. About 18 months ago my father introduced my wife and I to kettlebells and things have never been the same.  I am now able to work out at home in a short period of time.  I have lost weight, gotten stronger, and my aerobic conditioning is the best it has been in many years.  After my injury, I was worried I had lost everything!

That is when I began to communicate with Mark Reifkind, Senior RKC.  He shared with me his philosophy concerning rotator cuff rehab which is excellently outlined in the following two articles:                                  A New Component to Rotator Cuff Care
                 From Handstands to Bench Press to Jerks

After reading these articles and talking to Rif I started the following shoulder mobility rehab program (all exercises are described and demonstrated with youtube links in the above mentioned articles):

Overhead Stick Stretch
Stick Shoulder Extension
Overhead Hang
Wall Slides (These are described and demonstrated in exercise #7 in the following link to Mike Boyle's article The Essential 8 Mobility Drills )

I was absolutely shocked at how poor my shoulder mobility was when I first started these exercises.  After several weeks, however, I began to notice a significant improvement.  These exercises were also supplemented with a heavy dose of Z-Health exercises.  As my mobility improved and my shoulder pain subsided I began to introduce shoulder stability exercises including:

Overhead Stick Shrugs (see Rif's articles)
Scapula Pullaparts (see Rif's articles)
External Rotator work with stretch bands
Kettlebell Overhead Walks
Kettlebell TGU

(For those of you without a squat rack in your basement, the overhead stick shrugs can be done kneeling in a doorway with the stick gliding over the doorway molding.  This simulates the squat rack very well)

Three months post injury, I have made almost a complete recovery.  I have returned to snatching and pressing the 24kg without problems.  In fact, I think that all of my overhead lifts have benefited from my improved shoulder mobility and stability.  I continue to work the above mentioned exercises 2-3 times per week and hope that these improvements will prevent any further shoulder related injuries.

Workout today was quick.  Had a very brutal weekend call with long hours spent in the hospital:

32kg one armed swings 10L/10R on 1:00 minute x 12 sets

Felt great!