5 Reasons to Love the Windmill

12 07 2013

sexy-kettlebell-2A few weeks ago I wrote 5 Reasons to Love the Turkish Get Up, and you lot seemed to like it, it’s become the most viewed post I’ve written to date.

So thank you.

Today I want to talk about it’s cousin, the Windmill.

The windmill is a cool lift but one lives in the shadow if it’s bigger sibling, the Get Up.
Both have huge benefits for mobility, particularly around the hip. And both tick major boxes when it comes to both shoulder and core stability.

But the Get Up just looks cooler, so get all the attention meaning poor Windmill here needs a leg up.

So lets highlight a few reasons why you should be giving it some attention.

First a video:

Now the writing:

1 – Mobility

The Windmill is a great mobility drill.
When you lower into it you are stretching out that rear hip in a manner that we rarely hit in the field of exercise. When we are in the gym we pretty much stick to moving in the saggital plane, ie forwards and backwards. We don’t go off on angles very much at all.
But what about outside the gym, on the field or the matt?
The windmill takes the hip through a range of motion often restricted by tightness/weakness.
This makes light windmills a great warm up drill.

2 – The Hip Crease

When we initiate the movement we fold into the hip crease. Back in my Kung Fu days this was called the Kwa and being able to open and close the Kwa was the key to generating power.

Now, lets lose the kung foolery and stick to simple terms.
Sitting back into the hip crease on one side becomes a snapshot of almost any athletic power based endeavour.
Look at a thrower or a boxer at full extension, they have folded into the front hip.
Look at an athlete cutting and changing direction, they (should) sink into and explode out of the hip (as opposed to torquing the knee and snapping their ACL)

This is NOT a windmill, it IS a side bend. A windmill involves the hip crease

This is NOT a windmill, it IS a side bend.
A windmill involves the hip crease

The windmill is not the be all and end of of this hip fold, but it certainly a great way to bring people’s awareness to the fold and how to use it. The straight leg nature of the stance is giving a nice stretch as we learn the hinge, so double bonus.

If folding into the hip crease is of interest to you, focus on it during split squats, it adds and almost spiralling feel to movement.

3 – Shoulder Stability

We spoke about this with the Get Up, but here it is again with the Windmill.

The Windmill is an overhead support, it’s not really a lift as far as the shoulder is concerned. But there is movement at the shoulder as the torso changes angle.
Essentially your shoulder does the kind of action your physio gets you to do with a teeny tiny dumbell, which non of us actually do because it’s booooooooorring!
Yet, disguised in the form of the Windmill, we have similar movement…and because it’s a support, rather than a lift, we can load up a wee bit……

So from a shoulder stability point of view, the windmill rocks. Between this and the Get Up, you’ll probably do more for your shoulder health than any amount of standard physio.

4 – Core Blimey!

Have you ever really loaded up a windmill?
I mean REALLY loaded it up?

I don’t mean, “Oh this is a bit heavy” heavy
I mean “nnnnnnnnnnnnghaaaaaarrrrgggghhh!!!” heavy.
The kind of heavy that you have to have moment to yourself after.

The best way to do this is with a very heavy object in the top hand, then reach down and pick up something even heavier with the bottom hand.
Try it (with care and common sense of course) and just feel what happens to your midesction…..

5 – The Fun Progressions 

Windmills are part of a family of lifts that go along a kind of continuum.
We start with the basic windmill with the bell held low, this is the initial learning stage. Then the windmill proper with the bell overhead and then the double windmill with weight above and below.
From here it gets old school.
You can start on the Side Press, the Bent Press (or screw lift) and even use it as a 2 Hand Anyhow lift.

Bent Press by Mike Mahler

Bent Press by Mike Mahler

Keeping things simpler is adding it to an other lift to make a complex.
A Wild Geese favourite is the following:

Snatch – Turkish Get Up – Windmill

Here’s how it works:
Get a large kettle. Snatch it up to the lockout, then perform a Get Up in reverse, when you get back to standing, perform a windmill. Bring the bell down, swap hands and repeat.
We do this anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes continuous work.

Try it, it’s as fun as it sounds.


Dave Hedges

Monday Mobility – Walkout to Scap Up

8 07 2013

It’s Monday again, so it’s time for a dose of Monday Mobility.

In case you missed it, last week we looked at opening the hips, you can read that HERE.

Today’s mobility drill is a corker. It is a combination exercise that ticks a lot of boxes, check this out:

  • Hamstring Length
  • Core Stability
  • Scapula Function

It’s big drill, perfect for warming up with.

Here’s how it goes:

Have fun with it.


Dave Hedges

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Rotational core strength – the key to knockout power

27 03 2013

In an athletic sense, rotation and indeed, counter rotation, is a key player.

Power is best generated in our bodies by using spiraling actions.

If we take a throw or a punch, we can clearly see that a right handed athlete will plant their left foot forwards, turn the hip, rotate the spine, stretching the core musculature and shooting the right shoulder forwards which propels the arm.
A runner uses the shoulders turning in opposition to the hip to both balance and develop more speed.

We’ll assume you have already developed a good level of core stability.
This means you can plank for 2mins, you can do a decent barbell squat (front or back) with a significant amount of weight and you can deadlift heavy stuff from the floor.

Now, lets talk rotation.

And counter rotation.

If you’re a coach/trainer, then you must have heard that the role of the core musculature is to prevent movement, rather than create it. In the gym, this is fine, but in the real world of athletic performance, there is more to it.
Thomas Myers, the author of the incredible text Anatomy Trains, talks about the spiral line of the body.
Here’s an illustration:

The Spiral Line of the body

The Spiral Line of the body

Now look at that line, and pay particular attention to the lines through the front of the torso and back of the hips and legs. These are the lines that real power comes from.

Not Andy Bolton powerlifting power, but Chuck Liddell knockout power.


The development of rotational power comes as part of a complete training program, a program that includes the basics of Squats, Deadlifts, Pull ups, Overhead Presses, Rows and Horizontal presses.
The simplest way to start the development of rotational strength is to work unilateral, or single limb variations of each of the these staples.
So try single leg squats and deadlifts, standing one arm overhead work and rows. Stick a barbell in the corner and do some landmine presses and rows.
These all ask for counter rotation, they will build on your established base of stability and help prepare for more intense rotational movements.

The top tier of rotational movements are:

  1. Heavy Bag work
  2. Medicine Ball Throws.

The problem with both these is in they require serious quality control. If you haven’t spent time under a good coach, you may be better off with other methods, but if you can get genuine instruction and have the discipline to keep to the instructions, then these are all you need.
Keep the reps moderate in order to maintain quality. As soon as fatigue becomes a factor and the punch/throw slows down, we’re no longer gaining benefit.

For everyone else, try the following (in no particular order):

  • Standing Russian Twists
    I talked about these in a previous post and received a few questions about them. So here we go in a little more detail:
    First of all, Maria, one of my regulars ans the current team captain of our Kettleheads Girevoy Sports Team, once described these as “twisty on the belly’s”, this was after her first introduction to the lift.
    That ought to tell you all you need to know, both about Maria and about the lift!
    I like these as they are performed standing, as are most athletic actions, they also require the feet and hips to turn as if throwing a punch or a ball. 
    Start with an angled barbell held in both hands. Now rotate to one side, lets say the left. Turn into the hip on that side and allow the now rearmost (right) foot to turn. The bar will come down to your left hip.
    Now quickly reverse this power out of the left leg and hip, rotate back to centre and raise the bar back to the start point. Lower the bar slowly but explode back to centre.
    Pretty soon after adding these into your training, no one will want to hold pads for you!
    Russian Twist TopDSC_5484
    Try 4-6 reps per side.
  • Plank with arm excursions
    Take a standard plank, the body held in a straight line, supported on the toes and elbows. You know, the “rest position”
    Now take one arm and slowly bring it take it of the floor and bring it across your waist. Hold this for three seconds and replace the arm. No wobbling allowed.
    You can also take the arm out the side, or the front. These double as rotator cuff drills, assuming you have the core strength to do them!
  • One Arm Push Ups
    Possibly the closest an exercise gets to actually throwing a punch. The force vectors through the body are almost identical, ie the load passes from the working arm, diagonally across the body and into the opposing leg.
    For the combat athletes training with me, this is the go to drill for both horizontal pressing strength as well as rotational power.1 Arm Push Up 4sWe mostly work these in the ladder format:
    1 rep each side, 2 reps, 3 reps and so on until we hit a max, then repeat from 1 rep
  • Kettlebell Single arm swing or snatch
    Watch this clip and pay attention to the hip and waist, see how they move in a whip like fashion to accelerate the kettle overhead, and then solidify to stabilise the bell in a lockout.

Take care with rotational work, be sure to develop a solid base first.



Top 5 Core Strength Exercises

14 03 2013

Last week we did a fair bit talking about the core, its function and some training methods for it.

Today I want to expand on by talking about integrated core training. In other words, rather than using specific “core training” exercises, why not use exercises that tick multiple boxes, including developing the torso strength and stability of juggernaut.

Anyone who has trained with me or had a program written by me will know that I don’t really add in much specific core training, yet they always develop a damn strong torso, stiff enough to give and take serious punishment. And if combined with sensible eating, a damn fine washboard appearance.

So here we go with a Top 5 of integrated core training exercises:

1 – Turkish Get Up.
This is a big player. This requires mobility, stability, patience and strength. This is a lesson in control, particularly if you load it up.
Since Mr Grey Cook and friends used the Get Up as a movement screen I’ve noticed that people are now harping on about perfect this and slow that and keep the weight light.
We’re talking about the get up as a strength training drill. It’s the same exercise Mr Cook uses, but with a different emphasis. The old time strongmen wouldn’t look at you until you could do a get up with half your bodyweight. So for me that’s the 44KG kettle.

get up 3
As always, minimum standards should be for other people, so go heavy, build this lift and I guarantee you won’t regret it.
My best so far is a 7′ barbell loaded to 55kg. I will get 60kg before long!

2 – Renegade Rows
Sometimes called plank rows. The first time I came across this, I fell in love. I love exercises that tick more than one box, and this ticks a whole lot of them!
We are talking about a rowing action, which means it is already awesome, and adding in shoulder stability and if you go heavy, a shed load of rotational stability. In most sport it is rotational strength and stability that is the key player in performance, the renegade row will get you there!

Renegade Row

3 – Everything Unilateral
Be it rows, presses, push ups, squats or deadlifts. Try them on one side only from time to time. This is easy, if you’re training military press today, follow it with some one arm presses. If you’re squatting, do some split squats, lunges or single leg squats for assistance work.

4 – Standing Russian Twist
Get a barbell, load it on one end and stick the other end in a corner, or as we do, into an old car tyre.
Now with the end of the bar held in both hands, twist and lower it to your hip, return to centre and repeat on the other side.

Russian Twist Top DSC_5484

I talked about rotational strength being of utmost importance in most sports, especially the contact sports such as MMA & Rugby. This exercise trains that rotation in a standing position. Put some weight on the bar and you’ll suffer, but the rewards are astounding!

5 – Weighted Bear Crawls
This isn’t something you’ll see very often, but you should!
The core is the foundation around which we move the limbs. Most of our movement follows and X pattern, ie, our left arm moves with our right leg.

kb bear
Be it walking, running, throwing or punching, our hips and shoulders move in opposing directions, it is up to the core to both create and resist this action. Crawling is a great way to focus in on this.
Hold a heavy kettle or dumbbell in each hand as you crawl and you’ve got a beast of an exercise.
We usually put this in the warm up or as a finisher, either way don’t be shy with the weight, but move in a coordinated fashion.

I personally guarantee adding these into your existing routine will give you an edge you never thought possible.

Have fun


6 Core Training Methods.

8 03 2013

In the last post HERE we looked at core stability in a static position, which is a great place for anyone, particularly beginners to start.

Now lets add in some movement.

The role of the core musculature is to work reflexively in order to stabilise the spine. This means it must be able to respond in the blink of an eye to any force that is placed on it, be a force generated within our own body (throwing a punch) or a force being received from the outside (receiving a punch)

Any and all sporting actions, actually scratch that, any and all actions require the muscles in the core to fire. We don’t fire them consciously  they kick in as a response to whatever it is we are trying to achieve.

So why not train them with exercises that challenge them in a reflexive manner?

Here’s a few examples of how to do this:

1 – Round the World
Most kettlebell lifters will be familiar with this, but it can be done with a weight plate just as easily (maybe not quite as easily due to grip requirements..)

Simply pass the weight from one hand to the other in front of you, continue it round and swap it behind you so as to trace a complete circle around the body.
This is standard practice in many of my warm ups as it trains the body to constantly adjust to a shifting centre of gravity.

2 – Weighted carries
Dr Stuart McGill, the worlds foremost expert on low back and core training calls the farmers walk “a moving plank”

And he knows a thing or two.

So grab a kettle or a dumbell, hold it by your side and go for a bimble. Simple eh?
Do a powerclean and walk with the weight up at shoulder height as you meander round the room.
Hold it locked out overhead as you walk. Just ensure with this final variation you keep the shoulder locked down, you should feel the weight through the back rather than in the shoulder.
These three variants are super simple and require a single weight, which will load the body on one side asking for greater levels of stability from the core region.

This is how Dan John does core work

This is how Dan John does core work

But can we use two bells? Damn right!
Be aware that you now potentially have double the load, so take care, especially as you pick, put down and turn around.

Then try off setting the bells, hold one high and the other low, ie one overhead and the other by the side. Obviously swap at regular intervals.

3 – Pretty much every bodyweight exercise ever invented.
(Barring the silly ones used in your local Aerobics class)
In the last post I already mentioned that moving in the plank position is usually called a push up, this should give you a bit of a clue.
Many who first start out on Pull Ups and Chin Ups are often caught out on how much they feel their lower abs work.
Bridge for the posterior core
Roll on the floor for dynamic stability in every plane
Animal Movements, well, that’s too big a list for one wee post, but come along to my bodyweight workshop and you’ll get the idea. I must also get back working on the Animal eBook I promised….

4 – Lifting Heavy Stuff
Especially Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead press (standing), Windmills and Turkish Get Ups.
Heavy lifting requires the core to stabilise against an external force. Not only that, but a force that is changing its vector as it progresses through the lift. Perform the lifts unilaterally and core activation goes up even further.
This is particularly apparent in the Get Up, there is so much movement in the lift the core musculature really must form a solid unit in order to get yourself up from the floor and onto your feet while holding something heavy in your outstretched arm.

If it's good enough for Iron Man.....

If it’s good enough for Iron Man…..

And by the way, once you can do a Turkish Get Up, get that thing loaded and stop pansying about with babyweights. You should be able to work the Get Up with a weight heavier than you can press, and we expect you to get at least 1 rep with half your bodyweight.

5 – Hittin Fings
When we talk about the core being reactive and switching on in an instant, few things are better at creating this effect than hittin stuff really hard.

As I work out of a martial arts studio and many of my clients are martial artists, this is kind of bread and butter to us. We rarely use hitting as a core training drill as the guys spend hours hitting the bags and pads as part of their regular training. We do though have them smashing a tyre with a sledgehammer.

For non martial arts types, learning to throw a decent punch into a heavy bag is one of the most satisfying things you can do, it’s also “functional” in case you ever have to knock anyone out! But really, a punch requires the core musculature to stretch and contract to get power moving from the hips into the shoulders and then become a solid unit on impact to drive the power through the target.
A good bag session should leave you with sore abs and tired legs.

A step up again is to punch with some kind of restriction, try holding a weight in the opposite hand as you punch, or punch from a seated position  These will force you to stabilise even harder in order to generate force.You can see the punching drill with a kettlebell towards the end of this clip, in fact you can see points 2, 3, 4,and 5 all in one workout:

6 – Directional Changes
sprint absQuick changes in direction are a great way to challenge to core region. This where things like sprints, shuttles, agility ladders, battling ropes and reaction drills come in. When we move quickly we move around our midsection. A proper gait pattern will see the shoulders and hips swinging in opposite directions, meaning that the muscles in between them, ie your core, are constantly flexing and extending. The more vigorously you do this, ie sprinting, the harder then flex and extend.

Now suddenly change direction.

Assuming you have good basic strength, mobility and running mechanics, sprinting with direction changes will do wonders for your midsection. If you aren’t a runner or have tight hips, stick to the agility ladder as the smaller movements have less inherent risk than when in full flight.

The battling rope is a great core developer as well as mean cardio, to create a wave in the rope, you must first create that wave within your body and that takes control to do, especially as the arms are moving independently.

Have some fun playing with each of these suggestion.



Ask Dave: Why is core strength so important?

28 02 2013

Over the weekend I was over in Galway as a guest of the inimitable Sarah Smith, owner of Galway Kettlebells, where I taught my bodyweight training workshop.

The workshop is always a blast to teach, each time I run it I’m more than impressed by the level of questions that get asked.
On this one though I got a doozy.

A 17 yr old martial artist was on the course, a bright wee lad who is relatively new to the whole fitness / strength & conditioning world.
So often the best questions come from those with the least knowledge, and like I said, this was a corker.
He asked,

“So why exactly is core strength so important?”

Usually I am asked about developing core strength, this is the first time I’ve been asked one of the most important of all questions, “Why?”

To really answer, first of all we all need to be on the same page as to what exactly the “core” is, I personally use three definitions dependent on the context I’m working from.

Lets go over these three definitions:

1 – The Water Bottle Concept

This idea came to me while teaching seminar on Kettlebells to group one day. I asked the group, who were mainly young fitness instructors for their opinions on how to define the “core”
Needless to say I got a lot of blank looks followed by stumbling descriptions and a lot of pointing at the stomach.
At that moment I grabbed my water bottle and used it to illustrate a simple view of the core as a singular unit as opposed to a jumble of parts. Here’s a short version how the speech goes (for a full version, get the Level 1 Kettlebell Manual):

A plastic water bottle, even an empty one, can support a good portion of my bodyweight without any issue. Assuming I can balance on it, it can support my entire bodyweight with a degree of deformity occurring.
Now if put the tiniest hole in the bottle, or simply unseal the lid, it will collapse under a fraction of that weight.
How does the sealed bottle hold me up where an open one collapses? It is after all the same bottle made of the same thin plastic.

A sealed empty plastic bottle supporting a 10kg plate

A sealed empty plastic bottle supporting a 10kg plate

But if we remove the lid....

But if we remove the lid….

It’s the internal air pressure that supports my weight. The walls of plastic merely present the air escaping so that there is sufficient pressure to support me. As soon as the air finds a way out, through a weak spot in the plastic, the bottle collapses.
This is almost exactly how our abdomen works when we are generating high levels of force. The air pressure in the torso stiffens the body so that the hips and shoulders can use it as a platform to push from.
The water bottle even helps us with the anatomy.
The front side is our Rectus Abdominis, or “6 pack.” Directly opposite this on the back of the body is the Erector Spinea. The sides represent our obliques.
The label illustrates the Transverse Abdominis nicely as it goes around the bottle, albeit on the outside rather than the inside.
The base of the bottle is the Pelvic Floor and the lid represents the Diaphragm.When all of these elements are working together, we are strong. Individually they are pretty much useless.

How does this help us?
It shows us how the core works as a unit, stiffening to both protect the body ans also to transfer force from one end of the body to another.
For our martial artist, that means when his fist lands, the core stiffness so that the force is transferred not just into, but through his opponent with minimal recoil reverberating back through himself.


2 – From the Hips to the Shoulders

I don’t use this one as much as the water bottle idea, but I find it useful for getting the contact athletes and fighters to reconsider their training needs.
It’s a simplified version of the next definition that follows this.
The way I like to illustrate this is with 2 pens and an elastic band.
Put a pen through the band and hold it steady, now put the other pen through it and start twisting. After a few twists hold that pen steady and release the bottom one. What happens?

That’s right, the bottom pen spins as the band unwinds. That’s exactly how a Thai boxer throws a kick, wind the top so that the bottom whips around.



Now if the bottom pen is out hip and the top pen is our shoulder, then the band is our core. What connects the hip to the shoulder? A whole host of muscles, including everything talked about in the Water Bottle idea and adding in the Glutes, Lats, Rhomboids, Traps and so on and so forth.
Look at thrower, be it shot put or baseball, doesn’t matter. See how the et their hip all the way around so the torso is twisted like our elastic band visual. Then, as the torso teaches its maximal stretch it snaps the shoulder through, whipping th arm out and propelling the
ball at rocket speed towards the target.
Every muscle that was involved in that stretch can be construed as the core. It’s not just your abs, it’s the entire connection between the hips and shoulders.

3 – The Spine

This is the real core.
It is a series of 33 bones, 24 of which are able to articulate against the bone above and below it. The spine can flex, extend and rotate, essentially moving in each and every plane. It also protects our spinal cord and acts as an anchor point for a huge amount of muscle.

If we really want to talk about our core, we have to talk about the spine.
In the world of power generation and athletic movement, the spine is a BIG player. Let’s use throwing a punch as an example:
A punch starts in the ground, we extend our rearmost ankle and knee which pushes our rear side hip forwards. This all happens fairly fast with each joint accelerating the next.
Now assuming our abdominal muscles have enough elasticity and strength, the hip turning while the shoulder is stationary will torque the midsection, the spine will become twisted and many the muscles the attach to the spine will either become lengthened (stretched).
The spine then will unwind, releasing that stretch and literally slingshotting the shoulder forward throwing out the arm and knocking out the person opposite you.

If you get nothing from that other than the word “slingshotting” I’m cool with that, just as long as you use that word at something today in conversation. Drop me a comment letting me know how you get on….

Cue one of my favorite self defence coaches, Mick Coup, talking about the punch:

The flexion / extension of the spine in the saggital plane is used by strongman and Kettlebell lifters during presses and jerks to propel weight efficiently overhead with a whip or wave like action.
Combine the forward flexion with rotation and you have a tennis serve, reverse it and you have a suplex throw.

Really, the spine is the core. Muscles are designed to move joints and the spine has 24 articulating vertebrae, as well as the sacroilliac, the atlas and others. That’s a lot of joints, all of which needs to be controlled by muscular contraction.

Now, does the core need to be strong?


It also needs to be mobile, or “elastic” as I prefer to think of it.
So don’t just do your strength work, be sure to do some mobilisation work too.

I hope this offers some food for thought, I’d be fascinated to hear your opinions on the topic.
I’ll talk about strengthening the core in another post.



Integrated Strength for Combat Sports

3 12 2012

punchStrength is important. We know this.

Yet how many guys do you know who are monsters in the gym yet can’t seem to apply this strength in the outside world, be it during a rugby match, a fight or any other physical endeavour?

I’ve known plenty. During the years I worked as a nightclub doorman I stood beside many huge monsters. I’d listen to them telling stories of their gym prowess, how big then benched that afternoon, numbers that I could only dream of hitting.
Yet whenever it kicked off, it was me, the smallest of the crew, that they relied on.
So why could these huge guys with massive bench presses not apply this strength to a real world scenario?

They never looked to integrate that pressing power with the rest of the body.
This is a huge mistake in my book.

Coordinated movement is powerful movement. Watch a fighter move, see how fluid they are? Do you see excess tension? No, they are graceful, cat like.
Their muscles fire in a coordinated fashion, they work synergistically, they move the way they are designed to, not the way some body building protocol is telling them to.

So in terms of upper body, coordinated strength, I don’t favour the bench press. I still use it, it’s is great for maximal strength, but it needs help. And the top exercise for real upper body power, the kind of power that travels from the feet, via a strong and tight core into a powerful shoulder, well that is the One Arm Push Up.

For a long time this was my primary upper body movement. It’s still an integral part of my own training and it is an essential part of all my fighters and rugby players routines.
Each person I’ve introduced to the drill has discovered their striking or throwing power has gone up and their injury rate has gone down.

During yesterdays Bodyweight Training Workshop I videoed the teaching points, including the progressions into the One Arm Push Up.

Here’s the clip:


And for your viewing pleasure, here’s me suffering through a One Arm Push Up set after a kettlebell press workout.
You’ll notice two things about this workout:

1 – I’m using the Ladder protocol, my prefered training method with this drill. A ladder set goes as follows: 1L/R, 2L/r, 3L/R. This is one set, I performed 3 sets of this. To progress either do more sets or add rungs to the ladder (1,2,3,4)

2 – I’m swapping hands in the bottom position. This amplifies the intensity of the exercise as it removes the stretch loading f0r the first rep on each change.

Here’s the clip:

I can’t recommend the One Arm Push Up enough if you are a fighter or involved on contact sports.




Develop Cat Like Agility with Animal Movements

27 11 2012

Last week I asked my facebook members what they would like to work on in their training.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who included Agility as one of their answers.

Too many attend gyms, lift weights, get stronger and leaner and in doing so become locked into the movement patterns they train the most. It’s not just the gym population but runners, cyclists and even many martial artists.

People become locked into the movements that they train in the gym at the expense of all other natural movements.
Hence we have cyclists who can’t run or jump. We’ve Judo/Jiu Jitsu players who walk around hunched over, we have strength athletes that can’t lift their arms over head and so on, so forth.

So to hear people recognising that agility is an important part of fitness makes my heart sing!
If you play a “chaotic” sport, such as rugby, Mixed Martial Arts and a few others that require constant changes in posture, changes in direction, height changes, speed & power generation in a variety of directions, then you’re probably going to be fairly agile already. But most sports are becoming more and more contrived, meaning the people that play them are becoming more and more locked into certain movement patterns which leads to losses in mobility and as a result agility.

And that’s those who play sports. What about those that simply lift for general fitness/aesthetics?
I was at another friends gym a while ago and was surprised at her own lack of athletic movement even though her I highly rate her strength training routines and the aesthetic results they give.

But without an athletic outlet, you simply end up looking good while standing still.  For me, that’s just not good enough, we need to look good in motion. We need fluid, cat like movements, not stiff muscle bound actions.

And the best way to do this?
With animal based bodyweight drills.

Animal movements have been a staple of traditional martial arts conditioning since day dot. And for good reason.
Animals run, jump, crawl, roll and simply enjoy their bodies. Animals don’t “train” they play.
And while, yes, we do need progressively programmed training, we must never forget to spend time playing.

Animal movements invite us to get on all fours and crawl, to roll, to spin, to jump and to flow.
and while they are doing so they train the body to move in various directions, not just the saggital plane.
They are joint mobility, they are asking for strength and power to be produced in unusual directions, re wiring the nervous system, developing coordination, endurance and with gentle persistence, agility.

During this Sundays bodyweight workshop I’ll be sharing a host of animal based drills taken from the Asian martial arts that ask you to roll, crawl and jump, forwards, backwards and with a little imagination can be combined into universal patterns.
All while having a bit of fun.

There are still a few places available.

Event: Bodyweight Workshop – Equipment free strength & fitness from the martial arts and more.
Location: Wild Geese, Magennis Place, Pearse St, D2
Times: 1000 – 1600
Cost: €50pp
To Book: email info@wildgeesema.com



Renegade Row – Pulling Perfection and Core Control in One Move

5 07 2012

Got Back?

Many years ago one of the lads brought a “fitness” magazine into the martial arts academy where I was training. As usual it was more ads and nonsensical articles than anything useful. Except for one article.

There was one article in it that was worth the price of the magazine, in fact this article formed the cornerstone of my next training phase as I prepared for my Kenpo 2nd dan.

It was a dumbell circuit, this was the time before I found kettlebells, and it was awesome.
It had a few staples, Thrusters, High Pulls, V-Sits etc but there was one drill I’d never seen before. They called it a push up/row.

I’ve since learned it is better known as the Renegade Row.
And I fell in love with it there and then.

The Renegade Row is one of my all time favourite exercises. It is essentially an upper body pull, like any other row except that we perform it in a plank position.
While this may reduce the total weight we are able to use, it does factor in several other issues.

It asks us:

  • How stable is your core?
  • That shoulder, is it stable?
  • How brave are you?

To do this lift you must first be strong enough to hold a one arm plank. That means a torso that is stable enough to hold itself strong and steady in an unstable position. And thats before we add weight.
Once we start adding weight these demands skyrocket.

We must press all our weight through one bell, this requires the shoulder to be properly anchored and stable, it requires a straight wrist and a tight core.
Then we start to pull. Instantly you’ll feel the strain in the abs, you’ll find the weight is distributed diagonally through the supporting arm and the opposite foot, torquing the spine and trying to unbalance us. But no, we are athletes, we train to be able to counter rotation, to maintain balance under load and still perform. These are stresses we enjoy because when we throw a punch or shrug out of a tackle, these are the forces we will likely encounter.

So the renegade has been a staple of my training ever since.

I use it over a variety of rep ranges.
Lighter bells for conditioning, often combined with a push up.
Heavy bells for strength.

Progress into these slowly, but do use them. Rotate them into your pulling workouts on a regular basis and you won’t regret it.

Check the video for more and a full demo:


Stabilise the Shoulders, Strengthen the Waist and Mobilise the Hip all with this exercise

11 05 2012

The kettlebell windmill.
A very commonly performed drill, and rightly so. when done well it has many benefits not least of which are:

  • shoulder stability
  • core strength
  • hip mobility & strength

So it’s a drill worth learning, and worth learning well.

Set up as follows:

  1. Feet approx shoulder width, maybe wider if needed.
  2. Legs straight, and kept as straight as possible throughout the drill.
  3. Core braced tight.
  4. Shoulders pulled back and down.
  5. Arm on the working side pointing straight up, eyes fixed on this hand.
  6. Other arm acting as a guide following the inside of “unloaded” leg.

Simple eh?

The most common mistakes are not looking up and overbending of the legs.
If you don’t look up it becomes very difficult to keep the chest high and also stabilise the kettle if it is in the top hand. You are essentially putting the back at risk as well as running the risk of loosing control of the bell by simply not looking up.
Over bending the legs is often done as a compensation for a lack of hip mobility. While not too serious in most cases, people with poor glute function end up twisting themselves into all sorts of weird positions, knee valgus (bowing in) is particularly common. Don’t be confused, we don’t need perfect locked out knees, just try to keep them as straight as possible. If this means a reduced range of motion, so be it. Have patience and work on slowly and gradually adding depth.

But how deep should you go?
Thats down to the individual. Go as far as you can safely manage and no further. As you loosen up your range of motion will gradually improve, just have patience.

Here’s a video clip detailing and demonstrating the lift:

Take care with this, learn it slowly and carefully, it will reward patience and persistence.
Most people do well starting with the kettle in the bottom hand before graduating to the top position and finally doubles. Going too hard too soon will cause nothing but pain.



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