Building a Workout part 1 – Movements


hands upI’ve been fielding a few questions of late regarding the topic of how to construct a workout.

This is quite a big question. But one well worth answering.

To be honest, there’s no one simple answer as there are as many workouts as there are people training.
But as with all things, there are basic principles which can be applied almost universally.

I’m going to start with a quote I stole from reading Dan John’s work, but seeing as he stole it from Dan Gable, I’m sure he won’t mind!

“If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it all.”

So there, you go.

Everything you need to know about training, life and love in one simple sentence.

Dan John

Dan John

But lets look at it from a training perspective.

1 – Movements.

Like many strength and performance coaches I view the body as a series of movement patterns rather than individual muscles.
This view isn’t idea if you’re a body builder but for athletic and even pure fatloss, it’s a winner.

The basic movement patterns are:

Upper Body:
Vertical Push – Military Press and the like
Vertical Pull – Pull Ups, Pull Downs
Horizontal Push – Push ups, Bench Press
Horizontal Pull – Rows

Lower Body:
Hip Hinge or Lower Body Pull – Deadlifts, Swing, Clean
Squat or Lower Body Push – erm, Squat. And lunge etc

Yes, it’s a simplistic model, but it honestly works a charm as long as each box gets ticked on a regular basis.

We can also add in spinal actions, especially rotary motions as well as flexion and extension.
But the big guns are in the list above.

So to put together a solid workout or program we may choose:

Military Press, Bent Over Row and Squat.
or
1 arm clean & press, Inverted Row and Double Kettlebell Front Squat

All the other movements can be ticked in the warm up, but we focus on the three main movements with vigour.

Next time we train it may be:

Bench, Pull Up and Deadlift.
Or
Push Ups, Pull Ups and Kettlebell Swings.

Simple eh?

You can expand on this anyway you wish according to your individual training wants and need, but the basic principle will never change. Tick all the boxes, but emphasise certain ones more as your actual training focus for that day / week / month.

Right now, my own training at the moment looks like this:

Every day:
Empty Barbell – Deadlift, RDL & Bent Over Row, High Pull, Clean, Front Squat, Press, Overhead squat. All for 5-10 reps depending on the day.
Barbell Power Clean to Front Squat, work up to my daily minimum then see where I go. I usually aim for around 10 reps at this weight or more with whatever rep range suits ( 1 x 10, 10 x 1, 2 x 5, 5 x 2, 3x 3 etc….)
Then I’ll do a few other movements to plug the gaps. My current choice is from:
Day 1: Kettlebell Snatch
Day 2: Dips & Chins
Day 3: Ab Wheel Kettlebell Long Cycle

You’ll see how each box gets ticked. Obviously the emphasis is the lower body with the clean & squat every day, but each other movement gets hit during the warm up and at least one other time in the week.

Of course, this is just my training at the moment.
But it does serve as an example of how I build training programs.

I’ll cover a different aspect of developing a workout next week.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Stretching, When and How to Implement It


stretchingI don’t know if you noticed, but on the Facebook page where I post links to articles I like, there were four posts all about flexibility, mobility and the value of stretching.

This wasn’t on purpose, maybe my own tightness’ were annoying me so I was attuned to articles popping up about stretching. I know I’ve had a few of my guys in the gym that I’ve been giving specific stretching advice to over the last week. Especially when it comes to internal rotation at the hip and thoracic extension in the spine. But that’s for another day.

Today then I want to offer some of my own thinking on some of the points raised in these articles. In doing so I hope to answer a few questions that have been thrown at me in response to the articles.

Now, I’m not saying I’m smarter than the authors, I just have my own opinions. Much of my opinions on the topic are based on me growing up immersed in the martial arts. Even now a huge proportion of my clientèle are involved in some form of martial art. So as much as I always disliked stretching, it is embroiled in me, it is part of my culture.

So what are these articles?

No 1: EFS Classic: Flexibility/Mobility: An elitefts™ Roundtable Discussion

First of all, check the list of names contributing to this discussion, that’s a proper who’s who.
It is Alwyn Cosgrove though that is closest to my own viewpoint, but he’s also a martial arts black belt, so that probably explains that. Jason Ferruggia also talks along similar lines to my own thinking. But reading other opinions, sometimes opposing opinions is extremely valuable.

No 2: Dispelling the Stretching Myths

Truth be told, upon rereading this it doesn’t tell me much new, it certainly doesn’t “dispel” any myths. What it does do is go some way to explain the science behind stretching, more in this in a while….

No 3: Gray Cook and the Toe-Touch Discussion

Now, I’m definitely not as smart as Grey Cook. I’m currently working through his “Movement” book and it’s seriously opening my mind.

No 4: This is 60 year old BJJ Black Belt and former world champion turned strength coach, Steve Maxwell. It’s not really an article, but it’s a video that asks a few questions of the viewer…

Now, there’s a stack of info there.

So what’s it all about? Are the scientists right? What about the anecdotal evidence? And did you see how strong, fluid and mobile Mr Maxwell is, even though he’s old enough to be your Dad? Can you move as freely as that?

Stretching works.

A lot of research carried out recently says it doesn’t (check Pubmed), but a few thousand generations of Yogi’s and Martial Artists say it does.

The truth is, it’s a tool, like everything else. Yes, you need to develop strength, yes you need speed and power. And yes you need mobility and flexibility.
Steve Cotter talks about Strength and Flexibility as two sides of the same coin. In his mind they are complementary and should be trained in tandem.
I think he’s onto something.

To start your workout, or even your day, you need mobility work. Call it Dynamic Range of Motion (DROM) or Joint Mobility or whatever, just systematically move through each joint in the body. Make sure to take in some basic movement patterns, such as the hip hinge and squat as well as the movements you’ll be using in your workout/sport.

Here’s an example:

or maybe a more flowing yoga based set:

Stretching is to be held for later in the day. I liked Jason Ferruggia’s take on this, stretching is best used several hours after training, but do take some time to stretch directly after training.
Straight after a workout, I like my guys to get on the foam roller, usually we roll the areas just trained. Straight after rolling we stretch. Stretches are held for a minimum of 60 seconds. We may use contract-relax or PNF methods, but always hold statically for a period before releasing the stretch.

In the evenings, get on the floor in front of the TV and go through any problem areas. Hold stretches for longer, up to 5 mins per stretch. No, that’s not a typo, it actually reads five minutes, but two minutes and up is cool, as long as you register change.
These stretches must be uncomfortable but never painful. Only go deeper when they become comfortable.

Regardless of what the scientists will tell you, this works.
The static work I advocate was taught to me by Anne Dempsey, a very smart lady who teaches Yoga, Somatics and Pilates. Anne told me about Yin Yoga, a style fo yoga where poses are held between 2 to 5 minutes at a time. It;s very gentle and forgiving, yet incredibly effective at opening the body up.

So lets put this into a brief timeline:

AM and/or pre workout – Mobility

Post Workout – PNF / Contrast-Relax / Dynamic or Ballistic type stretching

Evening – Yin style static stretching

What stretches should you do?
Stretch where ever you need it most, for most people I come across, thats the Quads, Hip Flexors, Piriformis and Pecs. I doubt your much different. I’m not!

Regards

Dave
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Ask Dave: Why is core strength so important?


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.

punched_face_02

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.

BOOM!

BOOM!

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.

spine
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?

Abso-fecking-lutley!

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.

Regards

Dave
http://www.WG-Fit.com

A Refined Display of Power


Yes, before you ask, the title of this post is a poor play on the title of Pantera’s iconic album.

Pantera-Vulgar-Display-Of-Power

But it’s pretty apt after the weekend’s excitement down at the Irish National Kettlebell Sports Championships hosted by Tramore kettlebells.

If you’ve never come across Kettlebell sports then I’LL give you a very quick overview.

- It sucks
– It is brutally hard
– It requires a degree of mental focus and tenacity that is unlike anything else.

The sport requires a lifter to put up as many reps as possible in a ten minute time period as possible.
The lifter who does the most reps with the most weight wins. Simple.

At least on paper.

The events are:
Biathlon- a set of jerk followed by a set of snatch
Long cycle- a single set of Clean & Jerk

Most amateur male lifters compete with 24kg bells, a pair for the jerk, a single cor the snatch.
During single arm lifts the bell can only be swapped to the other hand once.

At no point in the set sure the bells allowed to touch the floor, rest on the shoulders or pretty much anything that takes pressure of the lifter.

Like I said, it sucks.

Yet people are flocking to the sport.
On the weekend I had two lads lifting in the biathlon event. Matt, a first time competitor and Phil who’s becoming an old hand having represented Ireland in international competition last year and has once again qualified for the Irish squad with a personal best on the jerk.

Here’s Phil’s personal best performance on the 24kg Jerk:

Young Matt stole the show though.
He’s a young university exchange student over from the U.S.
He’s no stranger to training with kettles but had never done the sport. Kind of like someone who lifts barbells but has never done power lifting or weightlifting competition.
Matt was both the youngest and the lightest of the men lifting. He weighed in at 65kg and stood on the platform with a pair of 20kg bells
He put up 62 reps, at 68.7kg bodyweight. He followed this by snatching the 20kg bell for 105 reps.

It was awesome seeing this young man put his soul into those two 10 minute periods, stepping of the platform fit to collapse both times. I received several comments complementing his spirit and tenacity from other coaches.

Kettlebell sport is a test of a person’s mental endurance as much as it is about the physical demands.

If you think you have, or if you wish to find out if you have what it takes to survive in Kettlebell Sport, and in doing so wish to build a near bulletproof physique and “old man” strength, come see me.

There are several short 5min events being run around Ireland with the next major open event taking place in Kilkenny in July.

Regards
Dave :
http://www.wg-fit.com

Learn to Train & Succeed with Bodyweight Training


Pistol Squat

Bodyweight Training workshop
8/9/12 – Tramore Kettlebell Fitness

Due to popular demand I’ll be running a Bodyweight Training workshop.
This will be held at my friend Gan Power’s gym, Tramore Kettlebell Fitness.

You may have noticed over the last while I’ve been training almost exclusively with bodyweight exercises (read my training log here). Now while there’s been a massive emphasis on high rep squats, but there’s a lot of other exercises and drills I’ve been using that you may not have heard of.
It is also worth noting that most of my guys, even my strongest BJJ lads, are often humbled by some of the bodyweight drills I give them. In my opinion the use of bodyweight exercise is more useful to an athlete as they need to control their body moving through space. Sitting still and lifting an external weight may offer greater load, but it offers less proprioceptive feedback and requires much less intramuscular coordination.
Big words I know, but come along on the day and all will be explained.

Book your place today click here

Martial Arts inspired training methods for building genuine strength & power, not just “gym strength”

Over the course of the day I will share over 20 years of training experience from my roots in traditional martial arts, the physical training methods found in Karate, Aikido, Goshin Jitsu (Ju-Jitsu). The training I learned from the strength & conditioning coach at my school who looked after a top 15 schoolboy rowing team.
We’ll look at bodyweight training methods from Chinese martial arts, some of which were taught to me by top coach Steve Cotter.
We’ll show how to work the entire body in a balanced fashion with zero equipment. We’ll look at the best exercises for building strength, endurance, work capacity.
We’ll look at various methods for programming the exercises to suit various wants and needs. Are you a fighter? A fitness enthusiast? Do you need power or endurance? Are you looking for metabolic conditioning?

All avenues will be discussed. Including, and probably most importantly, how I integrate bodyweight training into a multi modality training program. How I combine external loading and bodyweight loading to create incredible results for my athletes.
an considering my athletes are nearly all involved in contact sports, be it martial arts or team sports, they can’t afford to have second rate fitness levels.

The workshop will cover (but not limited to):

Real explosive power

-Push Up variations to work every aspect of the body
-Squat variations
-Unilateral training
-Martial Arts strength training secrets
-Integrated core training
-Total body conditioners
-Agility
-Bodyweight for explosive power
-Mobility
-Much, much moreDate: Sept 8th,
Times: 1000 – 1600
Location: Tramore Kettlebell Fitness,
unit1,1 riverstown, business pk
Tramore, Ireland

Cost: €50

For booking:
email info@wildgeesema.com with Bodyweight Workshop in the subject line

Workshops & Seminars


This Sunday I’m running the Level 1 Kettlebell Lifting Workshop from 11am at Wild Geese HQ.
There are a couple of spots left open if you wish to attend.
Price is €35 and includes a copy of the Level 1 PDF Manual.

These workshops are highly detailed, so it is recommended you bring a pen and paper, even though all the info is in the Manual. Nothing beats your own notes taken at the time.

In September we have just confirmed our guest presenters for an Injury Prevention and Strength Training for MMA seminar.
We have four presenters, each with unique expertise in their particular fields:

  • Paul Cox – Strength & Mobility using the Kettlebell
  • Dave Hedges – Program design and Bodyweight Training
  • Mark Sexton – Injuries, how to manage, prevent and rehabilitate them.
  • Anne Dempsey – Yoga & Somatic stretching for flexibility and mental focus.
The provisional date is Saturday 24th September.
Places will be limited, so let me know asap if your interested.
That’s all for today,  I’ve got all my computer and internet bugs sorted out so will be updating this blog on a regular basis once more.
Regards

More feedback from Steve Cotters Irish visit


Some of the other attendees from last weekends workshops have been updating their own blogs with details of their own experiences.

The first entry comes from a good friend of ours Kieran Dolan who owns and runs Dolan Fitness down in Tullamore, Co. Offally. If you click this image it’ll open a new window with his article in it.

Click to read Kieran's article

Then we have another piece from the rather lovely Marianne Kane, this was her first visit to Wild Geese and first time training under Steve, but I have to say she impressed with an open mindedness and work ethic. Clicking on this image will take you to her page:

And if you just want to see a couple of videos, well here they are:

As you can see it was a tough weekend, lots of work got done, lots of great info and knowledge was passed on and every one had a ball.
Steve will be back, we’re looking at two potential dates, either a midweek event in October or a full weekend early next year. Drop me a comment or an email if you’ve a preference and I’ll get things organised with Steve.

Regards

Dave
http://www.wg-fit.com