Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One-On-One with Dr. Cobb

Z-Health is back in town as we finish hosting another R-Phase. What a privilege to be able to host these things and pick Dr. Cobb's brain. He's one smart guy.

I met with him about my right knee. Long story short: (on the right side) fibular head locked down, cuboid locked down; (on the left side) lacking arm/hand supination and extension. Cause: too much pronation work. The loose body in the lateral gutter of my knee--he couldn't find it. He said it was probably just scar tissue that broke loose and the body just absorbed it. (I'm not surprised--I took a high dose of Wobenzyme enzymes the night my wife worked on it for just that purpose.) Solution: work in supination work both in my training sessions and my GPP days.

I didn't sleep well last night--only about 4 hours and then tossed and turned from about 230am to 645am when I got up. So after meeting with Dr. Cobb, I was wiped. The sympathetic response I get from our sessions always gets me too. So I went home, ate, and laid down for about 45 minutes. Got up, chugged about 24oz of H2O and a cup of coffee and went back to work. Decided to make today a GPP day (which it was supposed to be anyway, but yesterday on the platform felt so good that I just didn't know...) and test out some of the solutions.

Here's what I did today:

Reverse Lunges: 20+20
V-Grip (semi-supinated) Chins x10
The Pump x10
2 Rounds. 60s rest between rounds.

This was very interesting. My knees were still a little sore on the first set of lunges. But on the second, they felt fine. No pain, no discomfort. The Pump was very interesting as it forces finger and wrist extension which I badly need. Lots of stretching in the forearm flexors on this one. I will keep this as one of my GPP days and see if I can work up to 5 rounds.

I'm also going to start including rows with a supinated grip into my platform sessions.

Now I'm going to officially stir the pot:

If you are performing Z-Health, you have no need to follow the road that the industry is laying out for you which is the following: Stretch the tight muscles, strengthen the weak ones, perform pre-hab and activation drills before the main training session and after. Z makes this obsolete because it is all of that and more, much, much more. How do I know? Because both my clients and I boarded that train and it was a sllooowwww moving one. Z is instantaneous. Z works. I am living proof. Period.

Alright, done stirring the pot for now. All I've got to say is get on the Z train as soon as possible.

Back on the platform tomorrow. Heavy jerks, squats, and pulls. Can't wait!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Loose Body = Tight Knee

I've had problems with my right knee for the last 18 or so years ever since I dislocated the patella wrestling. Of course, having a tough coach and not wanting to disappoint him, I iced it for the rest of practice and wrapped it the next day with an ACE bandage. No rest. No rehab. Fast-forward to last night. I was flexing my quad while lying prone on the bed and felt a sharp pain in the quad tendon.

It's good to have a wife who's a physical therapist. She wanted to see it and work on it. She found what she termed to be a "loose body"--some scar tissue, a chunk of broken patella, a piece of cartilage, or some sort of calcification.

"No wonder your IT Band is so tight on that side," she said.

She recommended that I go get an X-ray or MRI.

It's very interesting because I seem to have taken one step forward, but two steps back: My squat feels almost textbook perfect. But I can no longer perform a pistol without right knee pain and lunges are also pretty much out. So, maybe I performed those previously in a compensated manner--my left and right pistol, although relatively of equal strength, never felt the same. Same with the lunges. The squat being the least complex of the three, I'd say I may have lost some degree of freedom, but it was compensated freedom, since the squat feels almost symmetrical for the first time ever.

GPP Day:

Light, light KB snatches to get HR up. It's been awhile since I've done these and the shoulders are already taking a pounding with the bar. No need to hurt myself on these.

24kg: L+R, 5x10+10, 60s rest, varying foot postions. Easy. Fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

LIFE: A Problem to be Solved or an Adventure to Live?

I must admit, I tend to view life as the former: A Problem to be Solved. This has served me well in many areas: lifting, business, and...uh...hmmm...Upon further inspection, my view has been a more than a little bit myopic: I've missed having fun because such situations didn't fit into life's equation. My wife has been more than a little upset at me more than once.

What has all this to do with strength training? Simple. Because strength training is strength training, not working out as most tend to view it, there are lessons to be learned on every rep of every exercise of every training session. Training is an adventure, not a problem. I've have lived my entire training life as a problem. Since I was 15, it was always for something, toward some goal, a part of some bigger equation. When I took up weightlifting, it was consuming: I had to lift more all the time. More, more, more, more. I failed to learn and more importantly, to enjoy. This problem attitude led to two things: training as a duty and injuries.

Not being on the platform the last two years due to injuries has taught me a lot, most of which I only just realized this week. It was Peak Week--the goal was to lift 80% of my previous competition maxes (which by the way, are 6 years old--I can't believe it's been that long), from above the knee, completing each lift in the power style, or 90 degrees of knee bend or above. Not only did I Power Snatch 105kg, but I also hit 110kg, which the last time I lifted that, I believe was last December at Rif's place, and I weighed 20lbs more.

However, I got buried with 180kg on the Back Squat. 170kg x2 was no problem--it flew up. But my body just shut down on the 180kg. It went down fine--felt strong. But when I went to stand up, it was as if somebody shut the power off. So I had to jump out from underneath it. My legs were a little jello-y after that. I knew I was tired. But still, the last training cycle that had 160kg in it was in Feb. of '05 and on that first set, I tore my right quad tendon--not completely, but just enough to know that the right hip problem was serious. That was the last cycle with 160kg in it. So, after not squatting for 22 months, rehabbing 2 hips and 2 knees, and being 20lbs. lighter, I'm feeling pretty good about the 170kg for a double Back Squat. However, this miss had it's toll on my CNS.

I fell 5kg short on the clean--I didn't finish the planned training week out. I was really tired Thursday after the snatch and the squat. I was definitely overreaching; my desire to lift was diminished, I had restless sleep, and I was getting irritable. Of course, life off the platform had a lot to do with that. So yesterday, I took the day off. Still feeling beat by 5pm, I decided to stimulate the ol' parasympathetic nervous system: I jumped on the foam roller and then performed some static stretching. When I got done, I was wiped. My wife was tired and went to bed early. I ordered a pizza and watched a DVD. Here's the interesting thing about the pizza: I ate 7 out of 8 slices and saved one for my wife. But I was still hungry--really hungry. Something to pay attention to in the future.

Now, normally, I would've beat myself up for not being able to finish the week. But now I see it as a learning experience. I had a lot going on in both my businesses last week--some pretty big stressors. That stuff affects what happens on the platform whether I believe it or not. No big deal though. Just have to adapt the training program to life outside of the training program. And, I'm still pain free.

Because of this attitude, I was able to listen to the needs of my body over the last four weeks. So I jumped on the platform today and made it a light day. (This next cycle is going to be 12-24 weeks of gaining strength and putting muscle back on.) Because it was light, I was able to concentrate on what was going in inside each rep of each lift. And I learned a lot--things I can apply tomorrow on the platform and for every subsequent training session hereafter. It felt great to not only move, but to move, or attempt to move, correctly.

There's something truly fun about the feedback you can get from training. And today really was fun. I performed two lifts I've never performed before as part of a training cycle. (I only performed them because of reading I've done and feedback I've received both in the past and over the last four weeks.) I listened to what each lift, each movement was telling me and the position of my body during/through those lifts. My goal is to perfect those movements with the lighter weights so as the load increases, I'll be able to perform them correctly. And because they're assistance exercises designed to be applied to the snatch, when I start performing the classic snatch again, I'm hoping that what I've learned will have transferred.

The really fascinating part of this whole experience is I never would be in this position if I hadn't gotten injured and then focused a lot of my training on kettlebells--not because I wanted to but because it was the only thing I could do without pain. Because of the offset loading and unilateral nature of KB training, you are really exposed to the sensation of your muscles contracting and working, much more so in my opinion than barbell lifting. If I hadn't had this experience, this opportunity, I wouldn't be back on the platform enjoying myself. Because of the KBs and the lack of progress using traditional methods of rehabilitation, I became interested in Z-Health and used the joint mobility exercises to re-educate my CNS. Both of these systems/tools, allowed me to experience the adventure that is training. What started out as a problem to be solved truly has become an adventure to live.

The New Cycle:

My new cycle will probably be 4 days on the platform: 2 days of light work focusing on speed and positional work (50-80%) and 2 heavy days (70-100+%) focusing on well, going heavy--gaining strength. Reps on speed work will be 2 per set and all other sets will be between 3 and 6 reps to produce maximum protein [re]synthesis. Two days each week will be devoted to GPP and recovery. GPP will be jumps and KB swings and recovery will be foam roller, static stretching, and sauna.

Today's training session:

A. Power Snatch from below the knee: 50%/2 x 12 sets; 45s rest
Believe it or not, this position was very taxing on my hamstrings.

B. Pressing Snatch Balance: 5-7x5; 90s rest
bar/5, 40kg/5, 40/5, 50/5, 55/5, 55/5, 60/5;
55kg was probably the perfect weight today. Legs felt very worked after these.

C. Snatch Pull from above knee, medium grip: index fingers on the ring: 4-6x4-6; 90s rest
60/6, 70/6 x4
Good positioning all the way thru: 1) long spine the whole lift; 2) finished the lift on my toes with big chest; 3) got the bar to float the whole way up and hang right under my chin

More training tomorrow but with my weightlifting partner.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's the Little Things That Count

One of the benefits of being part of the RKC community is the access one has to minds much more powerful and experienced than my [your] own. Today, even though I'm getting back into "platform shape," I experienced a PR today. I power cleaned 125kg from the hang position just above the knee. (Granted, that's not a heavy weight. But, I've only been back on the platform 3 weeks. This is the second day of my 4th week.) Now I've cleaned that weight probably 1000 times from that position before, but always with straps. Today, for the first time ever, I did it with a hook-grip. For me this is actually a real PR too, not just something I'd never "tried" or done before. (Undoubtedly from the combination of the thick handles on the KBs and the Z-Health mobility drills.) In the past, I could never hook anything over 100kg--it was just too uncomfortable/painful on the thumbs.

My point is, I would've missed noticing this PR if it were not for my friend, Mark Riefkind, SrRKC, (Rif) whom I have the good fortune of knowing and only being a phone call, e-mail, or blog away. Because of his own journey through "Kettlebell World," he has experienced many PRs and passed on the vision to me to see "the little things" that actually are PRs, things I--and perhaps you, have never achieved before.

No matter how many reps I perform, or how many hours I train clients, I am constantly amazed at what I can learn--how much I don't know. Without the RKC community, I'd have never run into Rif and would have missed the "little" PR I experienced today.

I am very thankful to be a part of the RKC community. Thanks to Pavel, John, and Dragon-Denny, and anyone else who is responsible for the Dragon Door Training Forum.

Back to those "little" PRs: They are hugely important to my training and should be to yours. They keep me motivated and indicate progress, no matter how slight, especially in the middle of a very difficult training periods. I believe in the past, I've missed them. Had I noticed them, I think I'd have a lot less gray hair and would undoubtedly be further along in my training than I am now. I probably would never have gotten as injured as I did either.

There's a saying: "Don't sweat the small stuff." That has it's place for sure. But in light of today's PR, I prefer, "The Devil's in the details."

Oh yeah, I can't wait to see how the increased hand strength is going to play out in the future.

Today's training session:

Power Clean, from above the knee:
70/3, 90/3
105/3, 110/2, 115/1
110/3, 115/2, 120/1
115/3, 120/2, 125/1

140/2, 150/2, 160/2
150/2, 160/2, 170/2

Looking forward to 130kg on Friday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Peak Week

The goal this week, is to lift 80% of my competition maxes from the hang position just above the knee and perform the "power" version of the lifts: 105kg Snatch, 130kg Clean, 130kg Push Press. Also, I intend to back squat 180kg x 1.

This is to set up the next 8-12 weeks where I'll be training for hypertrophy and by default, regain some of my conditioning, thus allowing me to realize more strength gains in future cycles.

Here's how today's training session went:

Power Snatch from above knee:
50/3, 70/3;
80/3, 85/2, 90/1
85/3, 90/2, 95/1
90/3, 95/2, 100/1

The 100kg for a single was fast and high. I barely dipped my knees to catch it. It felt surprisingly good. Thursday, I will hit 105kg and shoot for 110kg x 1, which I haven't done since I trained at Rif's last Christmas and weighed almost 20lbs. more.

Back Squat:
90/3, 110/3;
130/3, 140/2, 150/1
140/3, 150/2, 160/1 (This wave was the easiest.)
150/3, 160/2, 170/1

The last wave, everything felt good until the 170kg. It felt like I couldn't get into my lift hip so it was ugly. I still got another 10+kg in me though. I'll hit 180kg on Thursday. Admittedly, my mind wandered after the 160/2 and I started thinking about work. I wasn't in the moment. I'll have to do something about that.

Knees felt good today. Only 1 or 2 painful reps on the squat today, which is a pleasant surprise because they were sore all weekend. I can squat fine now, but lunges still give me grief. No idea why. I'll pick Dr. Cobb's brain when I see him next weekend.

Looking forward to tomorrow's training session. Had some high quality RDLs last Friday--160kg for a three triples--easy ({140/3; 150/3; 160/3}x3). These always bring the cleans up, so shooting for 125kg for a single tomorrow, maybe even 130kg. Come to think of it, it'd be nice to finish out this cycle with 140kg x 1. We'll see: No need to be greedy.

I must say, for the first time in a very long time, I am really enjoying my weightlifting training. Must be the pain free thing. I do miss my KBs though. Right now, I just don't think my CNS can handle too many things. I'd like to plug them back into the hypertrophy work--maybe some complexes at the end of every training session. I dunno--have to wait n' see.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Compression v. Spinal Lengthening: Different Applications for Different Training?

I'm fortunate enough to have been exposed to some very good training materials: teachers, mentors, and colleagues in the trenches. Three who come to mind who've influenced me are Alfonso Duran, my second weightlifting coach; Pavel Tsatsouline, who introduced me to kettlebells and clarified much of the systemization and methodology that Alfonso taught me; and Dr. Eric Cobb, creator/developer of Z-Health. So my current thinking and stances on training are probably more a reflection of their influence combined with almost 15 years of experience in the industry.

Pavel teaches compression as part of the RKC system, not only for performance, but also for safety. Try pressing a heavy bell without compressing the ground, your joints, muscles, breath, and focus: unless you have another/alternative method, that sucker just ain't goin' up. But here's the problem I see: too much tension and too much compression actually make you weaker. It shuts down the joints and overstimulates the sympathetic nervous system producing the exact opposite effect you're looking for. Now, in fairness to Pavel, he has spoken about this and produced multiple DVDs and books covering various aspects of this subject, but many in the RKC community only focus on the tension and compression.

Dr. Cobb teaches spinal/axial lengthening for maximal strength, speed, and performance. (Incidentally, so does Pavel, just a different variation and in conjuction with compression.)

The question I struggle with is this: Are they both right? Is one more right than the other in some instances over others?

Here's an example: As a weightlifter, I am currently using axial lengthening only. No compression whatsoever. Here's my rationale: I must be as fast as possible under that bar. I slow myself down when I use high-tension techniques. I even use axial lengthening when squatting and pulling. Why? Because, unlike the other strength sports, the olympic lifts require a very high degree of athleticism. Athleticism is the perfect blend between tension and relaxation. This blend must be automatic. Generating tension, in my experience, is a conscious decision. For slow grinds like deadlifts and squats in powerlifting, tension--high-tension, is a very, very good thing. But not for weightlifting. Too fast. Too athletic.

Upon what am I basing my ideas? Well after studying hours and hours of training hall tape, recalling my early experiences as a novice weightlifter and the rantings of my first coach, weightlifters only, or simply, "stretch out" at the start. They try to touch the crowns of their heads to the ceilings. This is axial lengthening. When watching them squat, they wedge themselves between the floor and the bar. In fact, they also do it on the lifts as well: wedging plus axial lengthening. From my vantage point, this is a combination of Pavel's and Dr. Cobb's philosophies.

Based on the above observations, this is the way I am currently thinking:

1. Compression/high-tension techniques should be combined with axial lengthening for slow grinding lifts, like the military press, bench press, squat (unless your an olympic lifter) and deadlift, etc.

2. For ballistic exercises such as the olympic lifts and their kettlebell cousins, axial lengthening may actually be better. It's been my experience that I'm faster, stronger, and have better endurance if I perform these in a "long spine" position without the high-tension techniques.

The only problem I forsee is that in my humble opinion, it's just plain ol' much easier to teach a client high-tension techniques than to "feel" long spine. It's just much easier to feel high-tension than long spine. Perhaps it's just going to take time for me to get my clients to adjust to long spine.

I will have more on this later, I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ten Percent

...that's the difference in performance I figure that preceding training sessions with Z -Health makes. I had a lot on my mind yesterday as I approached the platform. Instead of leaving it outside, I took it with me. Lost in thought, I changed and didn't even warm-up; went straight into lifting.

I couldn't figure out why everything felt awkward--notsomuch heavy, just out of postion and awkward. Couldn't find the right positions; hook grip felt weak; pull was off. Ended up using straps. Some may argue those are sure signs of CNS fatigue and I would agree if I had performed my Z AND been lifting maximally AND had those same issues. So, in that light, the rest of this week's training sessions will be very interesting, especially Friday when I clean again.

Here's yesterday's session:

P.Clean from above knee:
70/3, 90/2, 100/2
(105/2, 110/2, 115/2) x3

100/3, 120/3
140/3, 145/2, 150/1
145/3, 150/2, 155/1
Didn't perform another wave here. It was at this point I realized I hadn't done any Z and rather than keep on pushing, I thought I'd cut it. As I said, Friday will be interesting.

Extra Session

About 4 hours later hit this with the KBs:

Complex, 2 rounds w/ 2x24kg
Swings x5
Snatch x5
Clean & Press x5+5
Rows x5

Reverse Lunges w/ 16kg, waiter's postion, 10+10; these didn't feel so good on the knees. No pain, just discomfort.

Weight's been dropping lately, even though I've been eating. Stopped at Cookout and got 2 Huge Cheeseburgers. Mmmm good. Went to bed an hour later.

Looking forward to overhead work and pulls today. Feel really good this morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Two Weeks Is Always Enough

I've never had the good fortune to be one of those guys who can make progress on a 6 week program, or even a 4 week one. I always seem to peak out at the end of the second week. Some may argue I plan it that way. But even when I was coached, that always seemed to be the case. Week 1 was a break in and I'd feel great at the end of Week 2. As I'd make it into Week 3, I'd tend to drag and then crash and burn--miss weights that should have been easy; fail to complete training sessions.

Mark Riefkind (Rif) made this comment/asked me this question on my last entry:

"the only issue I see with your ramp up is that on each of the days the same basic structures are used in very similar ways. systemic/accumulated overload is what I am concerned about.where is the kb work fit in? "

My answer is very simple: I use the basic structures/templates for 2 weeks then change/modify them for the next 2 week cycle. For example, on the back squat for the last two weeks, I've been using ascending ladders, 1-2-3 for a given weight, adding 10kg and repeating for 2-4 more sets. This next 2 weeks, I'll use a 3-2-1 format, increasing the weight in 10kg jumps the first two training sessions, then 5-10kg jumps the second two training sessions. The goal is to peak, hit a new training max, and then back down for a few cycles of hypertrophy work to try and fill out my weight class.

Here's today's session:

Power Snatch, from above knee
60/3, 70/2
(80/2, 85/2, 90/2) x3

Avg Load=85kg
Avg Int=65%

Back Squat
110/3, 120/2, 130/1
120/3, 130/2, 140/1
130/3, 140/2 (3), 150/1; Meant to only hit 140/2 but miscounted--in the moment, ya know.

Avg Load=134.4kg

Total Session Volume=4084.4kg

As far as KB work, it's "catch-as-catch-can." I get it in when I feel like it. I hit about 3 extra workouts last week:

1. Bodyweight Bulgarian split squats 2x10+10 (Th)
2. KB alternating press: 2x24kg/5+5; 2x32kg/5+5 (F)
3. Clean + Press, L+R w/32kg/6x5+5 (Su)

And of course, Z-Health multiple times per day. I can always tell if a training session was valuable if my SI function is still perfect. If it degrades, then the session was too much for my CNS.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Too much too soon? Tomorrow will tell.

I've been pushing up the volume this week. I hit 95kg on the power snatch from above the knee today. I caught these with very little knee bend. Speed and power are up. Felt good.

Then I back squatted.

I must admit, I had a number in my head I thought I should be able to hit. I also must admit that I failed to listen to the "new" voice of caution and reason that has appeared since Z-Health. This is a very good voice to listen to as it provides a series of checks and balances. So, I listened for most of the squat session. Then, I focused on the number. The good news is the knees held up; not pain free for every rep, but most of them. Lots of Z between sets. Felt the right VMO, gracilis and adductors kick on--much more than they ever used to. I'm curious to see what tomorrow brings though: I felt some "interesting" tension across my SI's on my last 2 reps of the day. No pain though.

Here's the training session:

Power Snatch, above knee:
55kg/2, 65/2, 75/2, 85/2;
60kg/2, 70/2, 80/2, 90/2;
65kg/2, 75/2, 85/2, 95/2

Avg Load=75kg
Avg Intensity=57.6%
Total Volume=1800kg

Back Squat

Avg Load=130kg
Avg Int=65%
Total Vol=3900kg

Did some Z as a cooldown. Took away any discomfort. Overall, today felt good and I'm very happy with my progress. Two more days of training this week: Clean on Friday, Jerk on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel after 6 days in a row on the platform.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Power of the Series...

When I was in Ukraine in 1994 training with the weightlifters at the Institute of Physical Culture in L'viv, I noticed something very interesting about their training: They rarely performed sequential sets with the same weights on the same exercises. They were constantly adding and subtracting weights. And these guys were strong. I watched a 60kg lifter strip down to his underwear from his street clothes and snatch 120kg with no warm-up--he was unable to hold it and missed it behind, but that's beside the point.

Fast-forward 12 years and after reading Pavel's works, I understand what the Ukrainians were doing: they were training in series. They were "waving" their loads and repeating them--little micro-cycles within each actual workout.

Yesterday, during my snatch workout, I worked upto 70% of my max after only 3 training sessions. I haven't touched that weight in months--probably six or so.

Here was the workout:

Power Snatch from above the knee:
50kg/2, 60/2, 70/2, 80/2
55kg/2, 65/2, 75/2, 85/2
60kg/2, 70/2, 80/2, 90/2

Avg Load=70kg
Avg Int=54%

My speed was great and the weights never felt heavy. Every time I dropped back down to start another series, it felt as if the bar moved even faster.

I think the appropriate use of the series within my training sessions will not only get me back to my previous max's, but beyond. I'm looking forward to that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fly Like an Eagle...

Was thinking about this song today while doing snatch pulls. Just sets of 3 but really trying to get them to float/hang in the air. Weight was easy, long spine is getting easier to move in and through. That's the key: Speed. When you watch elite international lifters, they make the weights look effortless, except for the top end weights, which look like they might exert a slight bit of effort. 60kg looks almost exactly the same as 180kg. Not so with US lifters. Not sure why that is. Maybe it's too much work ethic on our part. Maybe it's structure of the training programs. I dunno.

Here was today's workout:

Push Press: (70kg/2, 80/2, 90/2, 100/2) x 3 series; 24 total lifts. Again, average intensity was 50%.

Snatch Pull to Throat from above Knee: (70kg/3, 80/3, 90/3) x 2 series; 18 total lifts.

Woke up this morning with a nice all over, even soreness, especially across the upper back--from the RDLs, which is why I do them--specific upper back strengthener. Hammies a lil' sore too. I forgot how sore the Olympic lifts make me when I first start back into them. My goal is to do just two exercises each day, training sessions lasting approximately 30-40 minutes, six days a week.

Extra Workouts

I also feel the need to keep my hands on the KBs, primarily for extra work/recovery. Lots of unilateral work right now in the form of complexes. The goal is to help the myofascial winding/unwinding. My goal is just 2-3 extra workouts per week of only 1 complex per side. Once I get comfortable with that, I'll add a day, then start adding sets. Here's the complex I performed Monday morining. It took me about 80s and then I rested 120s before performing the other side.

With a 32kg:

Hi-Pull x5
Snatch x5
C+P x5+5
Rev. Lunge x5
Row x5

Felt good. I'll probably repeat that tonite after work.