Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Jerk Day

Really focused on getting my hand deep into the bell today after receiving an email from Patrick Baeder.  He sent me the following image in response to my post concerning ulnar nerve compression.  He said my handle position was likely following the red line, while focusing on getting the hand deep into the handle would allow the handle to follow the blue line and therefore avoid the ulnar nerve compression.  Practiced with 20kg OAJ first, then double 20kg jerks.  With my hand deep in the handle, not only did I avoid 5th finger numbness, but it seemed like the bell was locked in place.  The bell was no longer rolling around in the overhead position.  I felt very stable, like the bell was one contiguous unit with my arm.  I noticed almost no rotation of my shoulder on the ascent.  Then I moved up to the 24kg bells and had a similar experience.  My lockouts felt very crisp.  I also focused on contracting my triceps during the lockout which was a helpful cue.  Tonight my triceps are already getting sore. 

Warm Up
OAJ(20kg) 15/15
Jerk(20kg) 15
Jerk(24kg) 8 rpm x 5 minutes
Jerk(24kg) 8 rpm x 4 minutes
Swing(32kg) 20/20 x 2 sets
Renegade Row(24kg) 10/10 x 2 sets

I plan to continue to work with the 24s for a while with this new technique and hopefully can transition back to the 28s in the near future.  I will try to shoot some video soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Short One

Short, easy workout today:

Warm up
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 16 rpm x 6 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(32kg) 10/10 x 2 sets

OAJ were done slowly and with focus on not rotating my arm externally during the ascent.  Most reps were clean and felt good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back Off Week/Fifth Finger Numbness With Jerks

This week is a back off week.  However, given all of the input I received from my recent jerk video, I have plenty to work on with the lighter weights.  This week I am planning to drop to the 20kg and 24kg bells and to tinker with my hand position in the bell and in my rack.  I am also going to focus on preventing my arms from externally rotating at the top of my jerk which is leading to my unsteady lockouts and ultimately will limit my ability to jerk heavier weights for reps.  Today, I had a good session.  I worked my OAJ with the 20kg and 24kg bells working on externally rotating my hand in the rack and resting the bell in the angle of my forearm and bicep.  This works well for me in OAJ and I think helped me launch straight upwards without rotating my shoulder.  However, I found this position difficult to get into with double bells.

Warm Up
Various OAJ sets with 20kg and 24kg bells
Jerk(20kg) 15 reps
Jerk(24kg) 5 minutes @ 6 rpm - stopped at 4 minutes due to finger numbness
Swing(32kg) 40/40 x 1

My 5 minute jerk set was going well until the 4 minute mark when I had to stop due to complete numbness in the 5th finger of both hands.  Now this has never happened to me in the past, but I also was working on getting my hands deeper into the angle of the bell which changed the position of the handle along my palm.  Given my symptoms, it was clear to me that the kettlebell handle was compressing my ulnar nerve.

As the pictures above show, the ulnar nerve runs through Guyon's canal which is formed by the pisiform and hamate bones of the hand and the ligaments that connect them (as seen in the picture on the top).  The picture on the bottom shows the muscles of the palm of the hand in relation to Guyon's canal and the ulnar nerve.  It is no surprise that the kettlebell handle could compress the nerve in Guyon's canal leading to the numbness of the fifth finger and the lateral aspect of the ring finger (4th finger).  My symptoms resolved shortly after putting the bells down, but persistent irritation of this area can lead to inflammation of Guyon's canal and more long term sequlae.  I obviously need to work on my hand positioning in order to eliminate the irritation of my ulnar nerve or I could run into some serious problems that might jeopardize my ability to continue training.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Snatches/OAJ (Video) Delayed Entry From 4/25/09

Was on call this weekend with several other commitments.  I was able to squeeze in a workout on Saturday and took some video of my OAJ as requested, but didn't have time to post things until tonight.  Snatches went pretty well.  Increased my rate to 16 rpm and dropped down to 6 minutes.  It is amazing what an extra two reps per minute does to one's heartrate!!

Warm Up
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 10/10
Snatch(28kg) 16 rpm x 6 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(40kg) 10 Right/8 Left
OAJ(32kg) 10/10

After watching this clip in slow motion, I think I can see what is happening.  I don't think my grip is the problem, I think my grip looks out of position overhead because of the external rotation of my forearm/wrist/hand.  In the rack, in this clip, I feel like my hand is deep into the handle and that the bell is resting on the hypothenar muscles of the hand as it should be.  If you watch the ascent, by eye level, my hand/wrist/forearm are already externally rotating and the trajectory of the bell is heading laterally.  This forces me to bring the bell back medially after I lockout in order to support the weight with my skeletal system.  I think this is what is causing the "wobble" in my lockout.

The real question is how do I break this habit?  I was thinking of adding double 20kg push presses to my workouts in order to start grooving the correct path of the bells on ascent.  Any other suggestions?

Friday, April 24, 2009

28kg Jerk 7 Minutes @ 8 RPM with Video

It has been about a month since I shot my last jerk video, so I decided to record another workout. Per request from March, I shot clips from the front and side and attempted to include more of my body.  I decided to bump my rate up to 8 rpm.  Things went pretty well.  I really felt it in my legs by the last minute.  I think this is a combination of needing my legs more with the heavier weights and not being able to fully lock out my knees in the rack.  However, the side shots do suggest that I am pretty close to getting knee lockout in my rack.

Warm Up
Jerk(20kg) 10
Jerk(24kg) 15
Jerk(28kg) 7 Minutes @ 8 rpm
Jerk(28kg) 4 Minutes @ 6 rpm
Swing(40kg) 15/15

I still appear to have some elbow float laterally, but I think it is better.  My lockouts seem crisper.  I think I am consistently launching my elbows from my pelvis on each rep.  This is much improved from last month.  I no longer leak power on my first dip.  I think that is why I have suddenly made such a large jump in my reps.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

8 Minute Snatch with 28kg

Decided that it was time to move my snatch duration to eight minutes in order to keep pace with my jerks.  Felt good today and decided to give it a go:

Warm Up
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 10/10
Snatch(28kg) 14 rpm x 8 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(40kg) 8/8
OAJ(32kg) 15/15

Once again, I stopped 2 reps early on my last hand(right side) secondary to hot spot.  In my eyes, it is better to stop early than tear the hands.  Totals were 56 left/54 right.  Things felt well until the last 30 seconds on each hand when I begin to lose my grip strength followed by lack of back swing/double dip.  This will improve with more training.  OAJ with 40kg weren't as crisp as last workout.  However, the 32kg OAJ were very solid.

Trying to decide if I should continue pushing 6 rpm on jerks and 14 rpm on snatches to the full 10 minutes or just drop down to shorter sets and start working 8 rpm jerks and 16 rpm snatches.  May just do 1 more week at current rates, then take a back off week and bump up my rates.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jerk Breakthrough

In my short GS journey, I have gone from favoring the snatch and struggling with the jerk to now enjoying the jerk more than the snatch.  This transition has been purely related to improved jerk technique.  My first major breakthrough in the jerk came when I discovered how to rest in the rack....supporting the weight of the bells on my skeletal system with my elbows on the anterior superior iliac spine.  Being able to truly rest in the rack provided my first jump in jerk numbers.  This improvement allowed me to hit 92 reps with the 24kg bells at the Arnold Classic.
Now I have transitioned to the 28kg bells with a new goal of reaching CMS numbers.  I have struggled with my lockouts and have had difficulty figuring out how to improve them. Catherine Imes suggested that my weak lockouts were likely a symptom of one of the following problems: i) disconnecting at the hips and elbows during the first bump leading to a power leak or ii) not dropping under the bells quickly enough during the second dip.  She has recently written an excellent article on the AKC Blog concerning this specific issue.  This week, I have had my second major breakthrough in the jerk.  Like Catherine mentioned, I have discovered how to overcome a power leak during the first bump.  I am now consistently launching my elbows off my pelvis on the first bump and the bells are flying overhead into a crisp lockout!!!  I have hit two eight minute sets at 6 rpm and I feel I will hit 10 minutes very soon.  Using this new technique, I am now doing one arm jerks with the 40kg with ease, where previously I struggled to get 2-3 reps per side.  I am looking forward to my jerk days and am excited about the upcoming improvements in my numbers.
Today's workout went like this:

Warm Up
Jerk(20kg) 10
Jerk(24kg) 15
Jerk(28kg) 6 rpm x 8 minutes
Jerk(28kg) 8 rpm x 4 minutes
Swing(40kg) 20/20

I will post some new video of my jerks soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Snatch Day/40kg OAJ

Had a jerk break through yesterday.  Made a slight change in my technique on the first dip that is consistently allowing me to launch my elbows off my pelvis and the bells are flying upward with ease.  Watching video of the European athletes, I have noticed a slight hyperextension of the lumbar spine during the explosive upward movement after the first dip.  In some of the athletes this is more exaggerated than in others (especially the lighter weight athletes).  I tried this technique by accident, but it is going to make a huge improvement in my jerk numbers.  Today I decided to give the 40kg a shot with my OAJ assistance work.  I had only tried to jerk this monster once before and I could barely manage 3 reps each side.  Today, using my new technique,  the thing was flying overhead and I easily hit 10 reps per side.

Warm Up
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 15/15
Snatch(24kg) 15/15
Snatch(28kg) 14 rpm x 7 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(40kg) 10/10
OAJ(32kg) 15/15

Snatch set felt better than last week.  I completed the full 7 minutes without much trouble except for the last 2-3 reps per side.  OAJ felt great.  After using the 40kg, the 32kg felt very light. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jerks: 8 minutes with the 28kgs

Back feeling good today.  After working in the yard for the majority of the day, I decided to squeeze in a workout.  Like usual, I had an awesome performance for a day that I really lacked motivation.  8 minutes of jerks is a personal best with the 28kgs to date:

Warm Up
Jerk(20kg) - 10
3 Position Drill (20kg) - 2 minutes (4 reps)
Jerk(24kg) - 10
Jerk(28kg) - 6 rpm x 8 minutes
Jerk(28kg) - 6 rpm x 4 minutes
Swings(40kg) - 20/20 x 1 set

I had originally planned to do a 6 minute set with the 28kg, however, I was feeling so good at 6 minutes that I went for 7 and then 8 minutes.  I probably could have squeaked out 1 more minute.  I really felt like I was consistently launching the bells off my pelvis on almost every rep, which made a huge difference.  Tonight, I am really feeling the fatigue in my legs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back Off Days

Tweaked my low back in a non kettlebell related injury on Monday night.  Took Tuesday and Wednesday off.  I am feeling much better today.  Decided to get in a short workout with the bells today to keep the blood flowing.  Will get back on the training plan this weekend.

Warm Up

OAJ - 16 rpm
Snatch - 20 rpm
OALCCJ - 10 rpm

All done with the 24kg bell.  Did 1:30 min with each hand and then rested for 1:00 minute prior to the next exercise.  Did the circuit twice.  Got the sweat flowing.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Home early from work today.  Was able to squeeze in a workout before the kids' bus arrived:

Warm Up
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 12/12
Snatch(28kg) 14 rpm x 7 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(32kg) 10/10 x 2 sets - paused in the overhead position for few seconds each rep

Had to stop about 4 reps short on the right hand because I developed a hot spot on my right hand.  My father brought his Kettlebell Foundation DVD series during his visit.  The compensatory movement DVD is excellent and has only confirmed my tight hip flexor issues.  The good news is that this DVD provides some great stretches to improve this trouble spot.  Hopefully, with a few months of working these stretches I will be able to straighten my legs in my jerk rack.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jerk Day/Sandbag Jumpsquats

On call this weekend.  Parents in town for the holiday.  Managed to squeeze in a short workout this afternoon.

Warm Up
MP(16kg) 10 - tried to focus on grooving my jerk ascent and descent without rotating my shoulders
Jerk(20kg) 10
Jerk(24kg) 10
Jerk(28kg) 6 rpm x 6 minutes
Jerk(28kg) 6 rpm x 4 minutes
Swing(40kg) 30/30 x 1

I have been trying to think of ways to incorporate the jump squat into my training since I do not have a barbell/plates in my home gym.  Jump squats are not safe to perform using kettlebells.  My father suggested using a sandbag.  So.....this weekend I used this article from Ross Training to make a 100lb sandbag.  I bought two 50lb bags of sand from Lowes for $7, a roll of Duck tape for $3.50, and 12 contractor garbage bags (3 Mil) for $12.  I filled four bags with 25lbs of sand and placed them inside an old duffle bag laying around the house.  Total cost $22.50.  Filmed some video of a set of jump squats.  The hardest part is clean and jerking the bag into the correct position.  Did this yesterday and my quads are just beginning to get sore.

Friday, April 10, 2009

7 Minutes of 28kg Snatch

Decided to move up to 7 minutes of snatches today.  Went pretty well.  Grip held up.  I have really been trying to work on my "ok" grip which makes a big difference.  My left arm struggled more than usual.

Warm Up: shoulder stick work, Brettzel, Thoracic AP glide/circles
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 10/10
Snatch(28kg) 14 rpm x 7 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(32kg) 20/20 x 1 set

Thursday, April 9, 2009

3 Position Drill Video

Another jerk day today:

Warm Up: Shoulder stick work, Brettzel, Thoracic AP glides
Jerk(20kg) 10
3 Position Drill(20kg) 1 minute
3 Position Drill(24kg) 2 minute x 2 sets
Jerk(28kg) @ 6 rpm x 5 minutes
Jerk(28kg) @ 6 rpm x 5 minutes
Swing(40kg) 20/20 x 2 sets

Below, I have included video of the 3 position drill.  

As described earlier, this drill was developed by Sergei Rudnev to improve the overhead lockout position in the jerk.  Each of the 3 positions is held for 10 seconds each: Position 1: rack, Position 2: overhead lockout in half squat following second dip, Position 3: overhead lockout with straight knees.  Each rep takes 30 seconds.  I think this drill is going to make big improvements in my overhead position.  Give it a try.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Warm Up: Shoulder stick work, Bretzel, AP Thoracic Glides
Snatch(16kg) 10/10
Snatch(20kg) 10/10
Snatch(24kg) 12/12
Snatch(28kg) 14 rpm x 6 minutes - 1 hand switch
OAJ(32kg) 8 rpm x 2 minutes each hand
Renegade Row(24kg) 10/10 x 2 sets

Snatches continue to improve.  I am getting closer to increasing time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Goal

In competition setting, at weight class of 90kg, using 28kg bells:
Jerk: 73 reps in 10 minutes
Snatch: 70 Left/ 70 Right in 10 minutes - 1 hand switch
Target Date: WKC World Championships, August 31st, 2009 - Chicago, IL

Work out today: 
Warm Up - Shoulder mobility stick work, Bretzel stretch for thoracic spine, Anterior/Posterior thoracic glides
Jerk(20kg) 10 reps
3 Position Jerk Drill(20kg) 2 minutes x 3 sets
Jerk(28kg) 6 rpm x 4 minutes x 2 sets
Jerk(24kg) 8 rpm x 5 minutes x 1 set
Swing(40kg) 25/25 x 1 set

Out of necessity I have decided to focus on my lockouts.  I am going to focus on shoulder and thoracic flexibility by creating a stretching program to address these areas prior to each workout.  Taking a suggestion from Tom Corrigan, I also have introduced the "3 Position Drill" originally developed by Sergei Rudnev.  In this drill the bells are held in the rack for 10 seconds, then held overhead in the partial squat following the second dip of the jerk for 10 seconds, and finally held for 10 seconds overhead with legs straight.  I performed this drill using the 20kg bells and found it challenging.  This drill really forces one to find a comfortable overhead position and works on the needed shoulder strength and flexibility.  Also, during all of my work sets, I held the bells in overhead lockout for several short breaths prior to bringing them back to the rack.  Lastly, I will continue to focus on not externally rotating my shoulders during the lockout.  This is going to take some work as I will need to re pattern my CNS from years of barbell military presses.

I can already tell the "3 position drill" is going to be very helpful.  Just in one session, I have found a better overhead position which allows me to relax.  This translated to much stronger lockouts during my 28kg jerk sets.  I can only imagine what is going to happen after several months of working this drill.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Returned home from a week in Florida tonight.  Had a great time with the family and was nice to be in a warm climate.  This break also provided a nice training break for me.  I had begun to develop a chronic "bursitis" pain over the left hip and this lead to a sore left ankle which developed about 10 days prior to my vacation.  I am guessing this is related to my jerks and most likely has something to do with my rack position.  I need to spend some time trying to figure out what is leading to this pain.  Currently, I am pain free after my week off (both the hip and ankle).  It was nice to see my bells waiting for me in the basement and I decided to put in a short workout tonight:

1 Arm Jerk 2 minutes Right/2 minutes Left @ 16 rpm
Rest 1 minute
Snatch 2 minutes Right/2 minutes Left @ 16 rpm
Rest 1 minute
1 Arm LCCJ 2 minutes Right/2 minutes Left @ 10 rpm

All done with the 24kg. Felt good to get the blood flowing.