Do some new stuff with your program, you wil be happy you did

A priority motion as I do more BJJ is hip extension and spinal extension and this is my new favorite way to train it. In the last week I have had three days with the axle snatch and each time I am getting more comfortable with the movement and the timing.

Have you added any new movements in your training lately? What are you doing differently?

So Why Kettlebell Sport? Guest post by Chris Peil

Having recently popped my Kettlebell Sport/Girevoy Sport (Girevoy Sport is the Russian name, I’ll refer to it as ‘GS’ from here) cherry many of my friends and family have asked me, ‘so what’s it for, why Kettlebell Sport?’ As most people like simple, potted answers and quickly wish they hadn’t asked if you go into detail I tend to stick to, ‘it’s fun’, ‘it’s challenging’, ‘it’s rewarding’ or ‘it’s efficient’. When I say; ‘it’s efficient’ this tends to lead to more discussion about what I mean and has inspired me to put pen to paper and explain why I am convinced GS, as a single activity, is the king of efficiency.

When I was working in the education side of the fitness industry trainee instructors were taught that fitness has five broad components, muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and motor skills. The components are all linked and you need to have the minimum level needed of each to complete a task. Let’s say the task is running a ten minute mile. You would need enough muscular strength to stand and propel your body forward at a fast enough pace. You would need enough muscular endurance to maintain that strength level for the ten minutes. You would need enough cardiovascular fitness to provide the muscles with oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide fast enough to keep the muscles going for the full ten minutes. You need enough flexibility around the joints to be able to adopt a running gait that won’t lead to injury within the ten minutes. Finally you need enough balance and co-ordination to run! Safe to say the average person is easily strong enough to run a few paces and probably flexible and skilled enough to run, even if not ‘optimally’. That means the challenges provided by sustained running are generally on the cardiovascular system and muscular endurance in the working muscles. Those are the components where overload and adaptation will occur. Flexibility, motor skills and muscular strength will not get overloaded beyond the base level required and will quickly stagnate.

Olympic weightlifting, by comparison, is made up of single reps of maximum weight lifts. A high level of muscular strength is clearly needed. A high level of flexibility and motor skills are needed too as the movements are through big ranges of motion and challenging to balance and co-ordination. Olympic lifts do not, however, challenge muscular endurance or cardiovascular fitness much at all as the activity doesn’t last long enough. Overload and adaptation of these areas will be severely limited by only training Olympic lifts.

GS is made up of 3 competitive lifts, snatch, jerk and long cycle (clean and jerks). Each lift is performed for maximum reps in ten minutes. Assuming that you were to train these lifts, and these only, here is how I see GS benefits the components of fitness. GS uses ranking tables with rep targets related to bodyweight. Lifters use different weights of Kettlebell depending on how advanced they are to achieve their rank. This means that weights up to 40kgs per hand can be used in competition. For people unable to lift 40kg in one hand easily, muscular strength can be overloaded and developed by gradually progressing the Kettlebell weights used for GS. As the sets last up to ten minutes muscular endurance is required and can be significantly developed with sustained GS training. For any activity to last a duration of minutes it must have a large aerobic component so the cardiovascular system is challenged and developed too by GS. The three lifts require the ankles, knees, hips, spine and shoulders to go through significant ranges of motion so flexibility in these areas is required and will be developed and maintained by GS training. Finally, as it is performed standing and involves dynamic movements so GS requires well developed motor skills and will help develop and maintain balance, co-ordination and spatial awareness.

As you can see, GS represents a kind of ‘best of both worlds’ for developing all round physical fitness. That said, there is more to fitness than the concept of components. Many exercise theorists believe for improvements in the components of fitness to be relevant they need to be developed in relevant movement patterns with relevant firing sequences, through all planes of movement and be full body. Well as a single form of exercise GS excels here too.
The idea of movement patterns is that we move naturally through six broad patterns. We squat when we stand up and sit down. We bend when we bend down to pick something up. We lunge when we walk, run, side-step or start a throwing movement. We push with the upper body to open doors, push trolleys and grapple. We pull to open doors, pull trolleys and grapple. Finally we twist in almost all movements. We also tend to produce force most often when standing up. This means a bench press that is done lying down and involves predominantly the upper body pushing is of limited use to real-life situations.

In GS the snatch has a bend pattern combined with a twist and a transverse lunge, a pull, another twist and a push at the end. Jerks involve squatting and pushing patterns and the long-cycle bend pull, squat and push patterns. As you can see the three GS exercises cover all movement patterns, whilst standing up, in an integrated fashion. This means the benefits gained from GS training will cross over very well to real world demands.

In the real world we move in three planes of movement and many argue exercise that doesn’t cover all three is of limited real-world use. Three planes of movement means we move forwards and backwards/up and down (saggital plane) but also side to side (frontal plane) and twisting (transverse plane). Most traditional gym exercises can be criticised for being just forwards and backwards/up and down. This is pretty fair as until the recent ‘functional fitness’ craze regular gym users were rarely seen doing side to side or twisting exercises. Although GS is predominantly saggital plane like many traditional gym exercises this isn’t the whole story. The snatch has significant controlled twisting making it fantastically transferrable to daily movements and sports like tennis, golf, martial arts etc. The long cycle also has a subtle but significant lateral hip movement in almost all lifters. As a result GS performs pretty well in terms of planes of movement too!

‘Firing sequences’ refers to how the brain co-ordinates multiple muscles to ‘fire’ in complex orders and timings to bring about the desired overall movement. In English, the difference between swinging and hitting a ball and swinging and missing could be the brain’s ability to get the body to do what it wants, when it wants. Like anything else if you don’t practice complex movements you won’t be very good at them. I think it’s pretty obvious using two weights like kettlebells that are off-centre weighted and are used dynamically requires accurate firing sequences which will keep you sharp for day to day activities and sports. Sitting in a fixed path machine or lying on a bench isn’t going to do the same! To top it off, as GS is done standing and holding the kettlebells in the hands pretty much every muscle in the body from fingertips to tiptoes has to play its part somewhere in the movements for them to be successful.
Add to this GS involves accelerating and decelerating the kettlebells and absorbing their impact, all very useful and natural qualities to develop for sport and real life that most forms of gym based training don’t cover. Some people talk about open vs. closed chain movements and which are of most use in training. There is much debate on this but generally (but not exclusively) the lower body is used naturally for large powerful movements that propel the body, closed chain movements, and this is the case with GS. The upper body is generally (but not exclusively) used to exert force on external objects, open chain movements, and again, this is the case in GS. If you don’t believe me on this think about why the feet and hands are different in humans, it’s for their different functions. Once more GS reflects and develops the qualities used and needed in good natural movement.

Chris on the plaform

Now, if you’re still not convinced, GS has a couple of final tricks up its sleeve! From a purely practical point of view very little space or equipment is needed to reap the benefits. The equipment is cheap and durable by fitness equipment standards making GS very accessible. As the equipment is portable and ten minute sets can provide such an array of benefits in such a short time-frame it is a very easy activity to integrate into modern life.
Finally, a widely recognised benefit of exercise is improved mental wellbeing connected to both physiological effects and the perception of achievement. As we’ve already established GS will have profound physiological effects so that box is already ticked. The GS ranking tables provide a clear progression structure for all lifters. Progression is essential to keep physiological benefits coming. Participants may not be so motivated to keep improving in other activities without ranking tables. Crucially, the ability to work towards recognised ranks is fantastic for sense of achievement and enjoyment of the process. Ranks could make GS a great activity for mental well being and self-esteem. In addition, the nature of the three lifts themselves requires commitment, particularly the first few times using a new weight. This makes GS an intrinsically challenging and therefore rewarding activity.

So there you have it. Most people will still prefer the short answer but as far as I can see no other single physical activity can touch the overall benefits of GS. Now all I need is to get good at it…

Chris Peil is a competitive kettlebell lifter who participates in the biathlong, long cycle clean and jerk, and the Strong Sport KB lifting event. He is currently a personal trainer in the United Kingdom and has worked with a large population ranging from internationally ranked track and field athletes to football to everyday folks who wish to improve their lives. You can see his youtube channel here and contact him if you have questions.

Getting caught up

The last month has been a roller coaster for me.

Mighty Mitts 2013 and the Arnold Classic
What an amazing experience. The experience was so great I have struggled to even start this article over the last few weeks. There are so many things I could say about it I worry I will fail to impress how valuable each aspect of it was.

The competitors were absolutely top notch. It was excellent to meet each of them and to spend time with the Sorinex team over the weekend.

The contest was split over Friday and Saturday afternoon, each day featuring one event. The day 1 event was a medley of the toughest collection of events I have seen in a single medley. Each one of them was an upper level feat of grip strength to accomplish. The second day was a frame hold with a beautifully made Sorinex frame with 2.5” diameter handles. The frame opened at 380 lbs and that was so tough it stopped over 6,000 men from lifting it even an inch off the floor while on display at the booth.

My score had me and two others tied for 4th, so the breaker was on time. I was the slowest of the three and took 6th place day 1. On the second day I took 5th place tying with Wade with a 400 lbs frame lift.
I can’t describe how cool it was for me to lift on a stage at the Arnold in front of thousands and thousands of people watching.

The highlights of the Arnold
First was hanging out with Dennis, Mike, and Pat. They are such an inspiring group of men to spend time with.
Meeting the Sorinex team was really fun. It is no surprise that Sorinex is as successful as it is after meeting the people who make it happen. The amount of labor they put in to The Arnold is staggering. They set up a number of sports invest tens of thousands of dollars to get the events on stage. Richard and Bert sponsor athletes to bring the best talent possible for each event. I hope members of the grip community can appreciate what they do for us.

I met so many people. For all of you who came up and said Hi, I was happy to shake your hand. It was awesome to have breakfast sitting next to some of the strongest people in the world, like on Friday morning when Andrew and I sat at a booth next to Ed Coan. Crazy.

After the expo I drove to Michigan and spent a weekend with my family. My Dad sent me home with the best BBQ pulled pork I have ever tasted. I am trying to get him to offer it domestically via overnight, you would dig it.

Over the last month I have returned to a more global approach to training. December and January was completely focused on grip specific to the contest. Resuming my BJJ schedule has been the highlight for training.

I have several new articles to be released over the next few days.

Words and Pride, a guest post by Peter Baker

Adam gave me free reign to post anything as a guest on his site. My first question was “What the shit should I write about? I just wrote a piece last night.” I felt damn near spent. Later the same day, we spoke and the subject of male pride came up and the statement that was said off the cuff in the context of a different point was something along the lines of “I don’t know where it comes from.”

Now, I don’t think male pride is necessarily a “bad” thing. Pride is something I feel most humans have, and perhaps even more have not enough. (I also don’t feel that female pride is bad, for what it’s worth). The detriment of pride is when it causes you to do dumb shit. Foolish pride, if you will. Allow me to give you an example.

My girlfriend Arielle goes to the gym fairly often—often enough to win Best Lifter at the last meet we competed in, which happened to be her first meet. One of the movements she tests that a lot of you are familiar with is the Reverse Hyperextension. Our gym has a machine for it, and given her history it tests well for her. She routinely uses 100lbs for many reps on the machine. I don’t know what a “benchmark” for this exercise is (you know how guys in the industry say you should be able to do x amount of reps for y exercise, right?) but I do know that I can maybe get five reps with 100lbs.

Often times, when Arielle decides to Reverse Hyper, she sees some male dicking around by the machine, not sure how to use it. She will offer to help them out, and when she loads the machine with her desired weight, to demonstrate and explain the movement, they get hesitant, they decline the offer and move on to something else. Probably curls. Here, foolish male pride prevented them from learning something that might have been useful for them later on in life.

Another instance of hilarity is when she uses the dumbbells for benching. One time, some guy saw her using the 40lb dumbbells, felt it necessary to change his weight from 25lbs to 60. We could theorize that the foolish pride here could have forced this guy to overreach his limits when he wasn’t ready but neither she nor I followed up with Broseidon to check and see if it was worth it.

Pride can be a very slippery slope

I think one of the associations with this type of thinking could be the language (and in turn, the categorizations involved with the language) we use. We speak of “Man” and “Woman.” These categories are nebulous, much like Black or White as categorizations are nebulous—my cousin was born to a white mother and black father, so on any government document he could just as easily check “W” or “Black,” and for all I know, he might have done both to fuck with them.

What do you think of when you think of a “good man?” She married a “good man.” My father was a “good man.” Do you think that these “good men” provide for their family? Are they honest and dependable? Sure, why not. The list goes on for what a “good man” might do.

What do you think of when you think of a “good woman?” My mom was a “good woman,” my therapist was a “good woman,” and so on. Did these “good women” provide for their family? Are they honest and dependable? Sure, why the hell not.

So what makes the two categories different? I would argue that they are not, only that the big difference is the language we use.

A fitting description would be to use the biological terms of “male” and “female.” With the archaic views of males being bread winners and females being stay at home wives, it was easy to type cast “men and women.” In the previous examples, the males were being stereotypical “men” and Arielle was being a blasphemous “woman.” Of course, the latter statement is a crock due to the dated categories, but from a biological perspective, she was strengthening her anatomy, and most of the time strengthens that which are better suited biologically female attributes—I think it goes without saying that from a strength sport perspective, we know that females have a huge potential to get a really strong lower body in relation to their bodyweight.

Those terms—honesty, dependability, etc. are terms usually spoken about “good men” with some sort of reverence. Let us consider now our politicians. Most of them are males. A sizeable majority of them are not dependable, nor are they honest. Are they really, as the category dictates “men?” Bad men? Some would also argue “not men at all.” Still males.

Here’s another valuable experience I had nine or ten years ago. I worked in a news paper mail room, and I had to carry shit around a lot. One of my coworkers was named Harry Harris. Sounds like a stereotypical manly name. We would classify him as a homosexual black man. Harry identified himself as “Queen Solomon.” Queen Solomon told me in very clear terms that he was NOT a man, but that he was a male. I didn’t recall this until now, but it makes sense. He didn’t like to do things associated with archetypical males (but would, begrudgingly, if the job required it). Though Queen Solomon was not a man, I came to find him a very respectable and honest person.

So, part of the disconnect on foolish male pride is the categories themselves. I think another part of it is that we feel like we need to live up to these archetypes. Get told all of your life that you are a “woman,” the “fairer sex,” or whatever nonsense is out there, you might grow up believing it. You might not become the human you can be.

Get told all of your life that you don’t want to be doing “womanly things,” or that you don’t want “to play ball like a girl,” or just generally have associations of femininity being associated with negativity you will start to believe it, and you will start to live it.

With both instances, you will be in for a rude awakening. You might be rolling in Jiu Jitsu class (as a male), and some tiny female might get paired with you. You might be doing what you know (how limited it is) and this female might do what appears to be four back flips and land with your arm all of the sudden in an arm bar having you tap for dear life. This happened to me.

Or you might be fucking around at the gym, and some female will out lift you in something and it will hurt your pride, if you box yourself into these categorizations too much.

I am not saying all categorizations are useless. Everything can have a use. But to stick by one mold is to stop evolving—is to stop thinking. I think Frankie said that you stop thinking once you start knowing. To know what makes a “good man” or “good woman” is fallacious. To know what is associated with a “good person” is less fallacious (though still subjective). Every situation is a special case and different things will be applied in different ways.

Sometimes, the archetypical breadwinning “man” might be your mom or spouse. If it makes sense, why not? Maybe she has a better work ethic than you, or makes more money. No big deal. It’s only finding the mEA for your survival if you happen to be in a partnership. This isn’t a call to eliminate the words “man and woman” from your vocabulary. Merely just a vehicle to get you on a path to think about the language you use in life.

Peter rocking out in concert

Peter Baker can be found at Death Metal and Deadlifting his blog covering topics such as hoisting iron, boobies, and the totality of training with the Gym Movement Protocol. He is available for consultation in Tampa FL for strength training, fat loss, musical instruction, and performance.

The Arnold Classic – Write Up On The Way

A spread of the action from the Arnold Classic


When I return to MN I have a big ass post to put up…for now I want to share a few pics


Lifting double 45 lbs plates pinched in one hand and the famous Jowett Anvil in the other at the Sorinex Booth at the Arnold Classic


With one of the strongest men to ever walk the Earth – the incredible Mark Henry and one of the best performing strongmen ever Dennis Rogers