Bullet Points and a Brew 5/17/17

Hey there. Remember me? I’ve been AWOL due to some busyness and some laziness. Time to get back on track and start putting these out. I was able to get on a rope for the first time this year this past weekend. I was able to sample two different crags for the first time. I’m always amazed at just how much rock is in this area. I’m truly lucky to live in an area that’s covered in sandstone.

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The Buffet Wall. Photo: Bob Butters c/o Roots Rated

In terms of performance, I’ve got a long way to go endurance-wise. I’ve been putting in some basic work, and had faint hints of some fitness, but the weekend was a big motivator to really get after it. Speaking of getting after it, let’s get after some bullet points.

The Bullet Points

There’s a reason Dan John considers a loaded carry one of the fundamental human movement patterns. Not sure about that? Read this article, and start carrying stuff. You may learn something.

If you aren’t recovering adequately, you’re not getting stronger. It’s as simple as that. This article had some interesting videos that describe some science behind recovery, and some novel ways to address how you recharge for your next training bout.

This article came out a couple weeks ago and I immediately tagged it as an article for one of these posts. Mark Anderson has been climbing and coaching for a looong time. There’s gold in these here lessons. Go find it.

The Brew

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Beer Geek Breakfast, Mikeller

Mikeller is a microbrewery based out of Denmark with a really interesting mode of production: They’re a gypsy brewery. They travel around and make their beers in various breweries. It’s an interesting concept, and apparently doesn’t affect the quality of their beer, as this one of the more highly rated stouts around. I’ve always been on the lookout for this one, and it finally appeared at one of the bottle shops around here.  (Thanks Sigler’s!). It pours an oily black with a finger of tan, thick, bubbly head. A very roasty aroma fills the room almost immediately, lots of malts and coffee. It’s roasty and rich, with a Russian Imperial stout-ish malt character in the taste, with some present but subtle coffee. It’s definitely different than the coffee bomb that is your standard coffee stout. The taste finishes out with a pleasant bitterness. On the palate, it’s as good as it gets for a stout, with a thick, velvety mouthfeel. It’s a delicious beer that lives up to the hype. Coffee and stout fans will enjoy this one immensely.

That’s it for this week.


What’s Happening

kettlebell-course-chattanooga-tn

Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.

Coaching

I deliver efficient and effective programming that gets the job done without demanding too much of your valuable time. I have some open spots for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please apply. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

Social Medias

Like what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Like the Facebook Page and share with your friends!

Bullet Points and a Brew 4/20/17

It’s that time of the week again. It’s been a solid week of coaching and training for me. Tennessee Bouldering Authority had an awesome 17th anniversary party, full of beer, pizza and dynos. It was a good time. It’s the best climbing gym in the Chattanooga area, and each new wall tweak or pad shuffle seems to make it better.  If you live in the area and haven’t been, you need to check it out.

 

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I’m going to try and get out on a rope this weekend, and it sure will be interesting to see just how pumped I get. I’ve been toying with some endurance work, but nowhere near the amount I need to to start building some fitness…yet. Regardless, it will be a great day outdoors.

Let’s get into the Bullet Points.

The Bullet Points

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This is a slightly different Podcast than you may be used to from the Power Company. We’re releasing an arsenal of Proven Plans this week. They’re a really unique offering offering personalization and individual coaching at a level of affordability that’s tough to match. I’ve never seen anything else out there like this, so if you’re looking to take your training up a notch this summer, it would be worth your while to give them a look. This podcast breaks down the Proven Plans structure with the coach who oversees the vast majority of the program. It’s full of some great concepts on coaching, relationships, and designing effective training programs. Check it out.

Adding a reaching element to core training improves shoulder function, helps tie together systems running throughout the body that are responsible for movement, and frankly, are less boring than direct core work. You’ve heard of one of the exercises, but I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of the other two. Time to change that.

Upper back mobility is critical. It allows for proper shoulder mechanics and makes sure the lower back isn’t called to do more than its proper share of work. The Cat-Camel exercise is a common exercise to develop this quality, but it’s often done incorrectly. Dr. Quinn Henoch breaks down some of the finer points of the movement.

“Do Move. Do Grow. Don’t Stop”

It’s easy to find someone on the interwebz to tell you that you’re doing something wrong. People selling the “my way is the only way” approach on social media are ubiquitous. These do’s and dont’s are a little bit different, and are well worth the read.

The Brew

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Fall of the Rebel Angels, Burial Brewing Co.

Burial is a fantastic small brewery out of Asheville, North Carolina. Whenever we make a trip to that city, the brewery sits solidly in our circuit of must visits. This offering is a Saison ale blended and brewed with Chokeberries…yeah, I’ve never heard of those berries either.  It ours a dark rose gold with a finger and a half of bubbly white head. The aroma has a strong sour character with dry yeast hiding underneath, mixed with hints of fruit. On the taste, it’s dry and bluntly sour, with a nice funkiness. I’m not really getting a whole lot of chokeberries, but I’ve never had a chokeberry, so I’m not really sure what they taste like. It’s a nice dry sour that’s refreshing for this time of year, that’s for sure.

 

 

That’s it for this week!


What’s Happening

kettlebell-course-chattanooga-tn

Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.

Coaching

I deliver efficient and effective programming that gets the job done without demanding too much of your valuable time. I have some open spots for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please apply. You can find more information here.

 

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

Social Medias

Like what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Like the Facebook Page and share with your friends!

Bullet Points and a Brew 4/5/17

Hot and a chance of tornadoes.

That’s the weather in Chattanooga today, so it’ safe to say we’re working our way deeper into spring. As spring arrives, so does a renewed focus in Jiu Jitsu and sport climbing. I’ve got a match with a competitor from Knoxville in a week and a half, so I’m trying to develop some conditioning and sharpen up my game to put on a good showing April 15th. I’m excited to get back on the mat again!

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I made sure to look as intimidating as possible

I’m also starting to work to develop some endurance for route climbing. I’ve set up my plan, so now it’s time to go to work. I recently finished reading Logical Progression by Steve Bechtel. It’s chock full of ideas to structure your training, and I’m playing with a few. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Let’s get into the Bullet Points.

The Bullet Points

Feast your ears on the first “Board Meeting” Power Company Climbing podcast featuring all four members of the team. In the episode, we talk about where we get our sources of information. The Board Meeting episodes are a bit more laid back, so expect some solid information paired with some laughter.

Will Anglin is the head climbing coach for Earth Treks in Golden Colorado. He’s full of intelligent training ideas and ponderances. This article introduces rules that you should follow if you want to be a better climber. A concise and fantastic article.

Many individuals live in a state of extension in their lower backs. At worst, it can lead to pain and spinal injury. Oftentimes, it’s just mild discomfort. However, lacking the ability to control spinal position is a problem. Here’s an an avenue to address it.

Too often, it’s easy to jump into a certain corrective exercise or mobility drill to address joint funkiness. Maybe, the cure is just to step back and evaluate technique. This article addresses the bench press and some technical points, and includes some GOLD pressing variations at the end of the article. Like the majority of Tony’s work, it’s full of actionable information while being an enjoyable read.

The Brew

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Rum Barrel Aged Siberian Black Magic Panther, Westbrook Brewing Co.

Disclaimer: I had a cold and couldn’t taste much when I cracked this open. Of course, I didn’t have this realization until right after I opened it, but o well.

This beer is a big, boozy stout from Westbrook. It poured black with a dark chocolate colored head and a boozy aroma filled the room almost immediately. It had a strong aroma of Rum with some sweetness. The flavor was full of roasty and bitter malts, some candi sugar sweetness, maybe some vanilla and caramel flavors, and rum pronounced throughout. Super boozy. It’s not a surprise this is a 12% abv beer. A big, burly beer that is aggressive. It was good, but a bit too in-your-face and not quite balanced enough for me.

That’s it for this week.


What’s Happening

kettlebell-course-chattanooga-tn

Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.

Coaching

I deliver efficient and effective programming that gets the job done without demanding too much of your valuable time. I have one open spot for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please reach out ASAP. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

Social Medias

Like what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Like the Facebook Page and share with your friends!

Bullet Points and a Brew 3/23/17

It’s that time of year. It seems as though the cold days and winter friction are leaving us, so sessions on boulders such as the one above might be in danger of getting pushed back to next season, at least here in the south. It’s all good though! It’s time to put on a rope, realize my endurance sucks, and work on improving it. It’s also time to dig back into Jiu-Jitsu and continue that journey of improvement as well.

Let’s get into the bullet points.

The Bullet Points

Earlier this week, I published a piece that hopefully will the start of a series. Scientific journals are incredible informative, but synthesizing that usable information can be a pain. I try to do some of the work and break articles down into actual english in this new series. The inaugural article examines a study exploring cardiovascular fitness and blood flow characteristics in the forearm, and relates these two factors to sport climbing performance. Check it out.

Eric pops these out on a regular basis, and they’re always gold. This edition contains thoughts on video analysis, assessment, and ways to progress anterior core stability drills.

Mark Seigrist shared this article in a few groups I’m a part of (thanks Mark!) and it’s incredible! This interview opens a window into the mind of an individual who was one of the first to train specifically for climbing, put up an insane amount of hard climbs, and undoubtedly responsible for some of the directions the evolution of climbing has taken. A must read if you rock climb.

“Maybe lifting all the weight possible like a weightlifter is not the end-all-be-all to being a top athlete”

I’m all about lifting weights and getting stronger. However, I don’t have any illusions that that’s the most important aspect of performance training, especially in skill-based sports. Strength training has its place, but training like a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter doesn’t necessarily mean that performance in a given sport will increase. It’s up to the coach to figure out a way to make training “measurable” and continue to improve that metric. Some good thoughts from some smart people.

….I’m still gonna keep picking up heavy shit, though. You can do both.

The Brew

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Blueberry Weisse Weisse Baby, Westbrook Brewing Co.

Westbrook’s Weisse Weisse Baby is a Berlinerweisse style beer. These beers are light, slightly tart and super refreshing. The folks at Westbrook took the base beer and aged it in wine barrels with blueberries. It pours a crazy purplish color with a thin white head. The tartness is definitely present, with a wine-grape like character. The blueberry flavor slides in during the back half of the taste, and is nice and mellow. While fruity, there’s still a dryness to the overall taste and the fizziness makes it really refreshing. I probably should have waited to crack it open during one of the 100 degree days of summer, but oh well. It’s a great beer.

 

 


What’s Happening

kettlebell-course-chattanooga-tn

Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.

 

Coaching

Nobody wants to waste time in the gym when they could be outside or developing the specific skills for their passion. I deliver efficient and effective programming that gets the job done without demanding too much of your valuable time. I have two open spots for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please reach out ASAP. These spots will fill up. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

Social Medias

Like what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Like the Facebook Page and share with your friends!

 

Gettin’ all Science-y: Edition 1

…So you don’t have to.

The scientific method is arguably the most important process in terms of furthering our knowledge that’s been developed in human history. Objective glimpses into conditions to reinforce or refute an idea we may have are critical to discover the way things are, or the best way to do a certain thing. In modern times, the results of these glimpses (experiments and studies) are published in a variety of journals. It’s important to be up to date with the current research to make sure training programs and metrics are on target to ensure better performance. There is one problem, though.

They’re a pain in the ass to read.

And it’s necessary! The scientific process requires thorough (often tedious) recording of pretty much everything involved in the research process. This allows the next group of researchers to replicate the study, if need be, or continue to progress the line of thinking that spurred the original study.

This series is going to be my attempt to read certain studies that apply to outdoor sports, or just ones regarding effective strength training that I find interesting. After I read them, I’ll try and deconstruct them and write a recap in layperson’s terms, summarizing the experimental design and actionable information that stems from the study. (This is for selfish purposes, too. By breaking these down, I’ll be able to retain and apply the concepts as well. Getting better every day, right?)

Let’s dig in!

The Study

Hemodynamic and Cardiorespiratory Predictors of Sport Rock Climbing Performance

Fryer et al. 2017

The Background

Dr. Simon Fryer and others recently published this article examining aerobic system factors, blood flow factors, and how well these factors relate to sport climbing performance.

In the past, early climbing energy system research was performed with treadmills. Obviously, there’s not a lot in terms of specificity, so while early research provided good signposts to continue research, definite answers didn’t really exist. Treadwalls were then utilized, but oftentimes the research methods didn’t map out well to the energy system demands of sport climbing.

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A standard treadwall

In addition, as modern sport climbing has progressed, routes have gotten steeper and more demanding in terms of finger strength. Due to the smaller (relatively) size of the forearm muscles, some current thinking has been pointing to idea that the aerobic and blood flow characteristics of the forearms are one of the focal points of climbing performance.

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Flexor Digitorum-The muscle the researchers monitored for the study

This study took climbers from three different ability levels and tested four factors: forearm recovery capacity, peak VO2 on a treadwall, maximal forearm deoxygenation, and a VO2 max on a traditional treadmill.

The hypothesis was that the forearm recovery capacity, treadwall peak VO2, and maximal forearm deoxygenation would be the best predictors of climbing performance. Since treadmill VO2 max wasn’t listed in the hypothesis, it is implied that treadmill VO2 max isn’t a huge predictor of climbing performance.

How they did it

Four physiological responses were measured to perform this study. Two of the factors (maximal forearm deoxygenation, and peak VO2) utilized a treadwall, while one factor (VO2 max) was measured on a treadmill. The final factor, forearm recovery capacity was measured using a dynamometer handgrip procedure that fatigued the muscle and measured time of recovery.

One thing I thought was interesting was the accepted way for a climber to report their ability level. The method backed by the research is referred to as the 3:3:3 method, which is basically 3 redpoints on 3 separate routes of the same grade, all within the past 3 months. The researchers used a variation of this method: 3 redpoints of 3 separate routes of the same grade, within the past 6 months. Because the study was conducted in Spain, and since the weather to climb in Spain is pretty much perfect, a larger window of time was used for reporting ability level.

The researchers separated the study into two days. The first day, the climbers came in to perform the treadwall test. This test involved climbing a particular route on the treadwall. The route climbed was selected based on the climber’s reported ability level, with goal of all climbers reaching failure within 6-12 minutes. While the climbing occurred, a breathing mask of sorts was utilized to obtain a VO2 peak measure. During this session, an infrared device measured the maximal decrease in the oxygen content of the blood in the forearm muscles.

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While this is on the wrong muscle, this is a good example of the setup used to monitor the forearm muscle

After 3-7 days rest, the climbers came back in and performed a treadmill VO2 max test, using a breathing mask device to collect the necessary data. After that, the subjects performed the handgrip test to measure forearm recovery capacity.

What they found

After collecting and performing statistical analysis of the data, they found that the data taken on the treadwall plus the forearm recovery capacity test were significant predictors of climbing ability. They did not find any significant relation between the VO2 max obtained via the treadmill.

The Takeaway

While it’s not surprising that the more climbing specific measures were more predictive of climbing performance, some could be surprised that non specific aerobic fitness isn’t a predictor of sport climbing ability.

Digging deeper into the climbing specific side of things, it was discussed that the total body aerobic fitness measured via VO2 peak and the forearm aerobic capacity measured in both the treadwall and handgrip tests separately come into play in sport climbing performance. It was mentioned that perhaps total body aerobic fitness is key up until a point, and then the limiting factor becomes forearm aerobic fitness, which makes sense as walls get steeper and holds get worse.

How Can I Use This?

This study shines some light on how we can structure our “cardio” to be as effective as possible for climbing performance. While running and cycling are fantastic for cardiorespiratory fitness, it might be more beneficial to perform more specific conditioning protocols such as ARC-ing or other similar climbing drills.

In terms of strength training, energy system work that stresses the back (in the good way), shoulders, and grip are likely the way to go to supplement climbing specific work.

One way to go about it?

Snatch Volume Work.

Set a timer for 12-15 minutes and do sets of 15 snatches on each arm. Set the bell down in between sets and rest as long as you need. As always, good form is paramount, so make sure the appropriate sized bell is used. As you progress this protocol, you could do so by either working for a longer period of time, or try and get more sets of 15 done in the same time.

 

Learn More

Here’s the citation and link to the abstract if you want to read the full study.

Abstract

Fryer et al. Hemodynamic and Cardiorespiratory Predictors of Sport Rock Climbing Performance, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

doi 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001860

Bullet Points and a Brew 3/15/17

Back at it! It’s been a couple weeks since the last edition, and they’ve been enjoyable ones at that. A couple weeks ago I headed out to Arkansas to do some bouldering at the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. I was blown away by the rock quality and quantity. I can’t wait to go back!

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Corey crushing “Jeff’s Prow”

 

 

 

 

 

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Hard moves and bullet orange stone. “Orb Weaver”. Photo: Oz Song

After that, I was lucky to have my brother come down for his first taste of the amazing bouldering in the Chattanooga area. The weather held out for some great days at the staple areas of Stone Fort and Rocktown. I was happy to put down a long term project “The White Face” at Stone Fort on Saturday. I’ve been playing with an experimental hangboard protocol and have been really happy with the results. The fingers are definitely feeling stronger and it seems to be a pretty sustainable system for long term development. I’m putting together a piece detailing the concepts, so be on the lookout for that.

The bouldering season is winding down, so it’s go time to try and put some final things down before the temperature rises, the harness goes on, and I get way too pumped and fall off holds I shouldn’t. I’m psyched! Let’s get into the bullet points.

The Bullet Points

Movement strategies, fractals, neurodevelopmental sequences, and how “opposite” patterns aren’t all that different. Cool stuff here.

Climbing is hard. If you recover well, you get stronger. If you don’t, you plateau or get hurt. This article detailed some implements that can be useful to optimize recovery and continue to improve.

I like deadlifts. That’s not a secret. I think a deadlift variation is one of the most effective movements a person can do for health and athletic performance. Kevin Cann breaks down two of the most popular variations.

The Brew

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Bible Belt, Prairie Artisan Ales

A collaboration between Prairie and Evil Twin Brewing, this stout is inspired by Prairie’s Bomb! and Evil Twin’s Aun Mas’ Jesus Stout. Both are fantastic beers, so I was excited to try a spiritual blending of the two. It pours black with a brown head, and the aroma immediately starts to fill the room. The aroma is full of coffee, chocolate, licorice, and some smoke. The flavor is big, smoky, and roasty. Chocolate and coffee fill in the back middle of the flavor and a subtle heat is present after the swallow. For a 13% beer, the alcohol is very well hidden. This one is a winner.

 

That’s it for this week.


What’s Happening

 

Tactical Strength Challenge

We are hosting the Tactical Strength Challenge again at Scenic City Strength and Fitness! It will be held April 8th all around the world. Six weeks out! The three skills tested are a max powerlifting-style deadlift, strict pull-ups or flexed arm hangs depending on your division, and a 5 minute snatch test. It’s an awesome event and a lot of fun to push your limits and cheer on everyone else. If you’re interested, reach out to me ASAP so we can answer your questions and get your registered! You can register here.

Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.

Nutrition, Performance, and Strength Coaching

If you’re interested in coaching, I can help. I offer strength training, Functional Movement Screen consulting, performance training, or some combination of these programs. I have three open spots for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please reach out ASAP. These spots will fill up. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

The Readiness Manifesto

Note: This was originally intended to be a short piece. A few conversations that occurred throughout the period I worked on this coupled with the writing process that usually raises more questions than the original motivator morphed this article into one of the longest pieces of writing I’ve done. It details a large part of my training philosophy. 

If you needed to do something physically strenuous, right now, with no warmup, could you do it? Would you tweak something? Or are you ready to get after it?

I think it’s one of the most underrated qualities we can address in our training. There’s a lot of writing, research, and social media content about the “perfect warmup”. What happens if your training lays a lasting foundation that minimizes the need for an extensive warmup? Before you get all up in arms, please realize that I’m saying “minimize,” not eliminate.

3 separate, yet related aspects of physical conditioning need to be addressed to build a body that’s resilient to injury and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Our resiliency can be considered a bank account of sorts.  Everyday life, training, and performance situations all can be considered “withdrawals” from this bank account. What happens when we overdraw?

We get injured.

If we follow this logic, we need to make our bank account bigger by addressing Accessible Range of Motion, The Level of our Strength Skill, and our Conditioning.

Accessible Range of Motion

“If it’s important, do it every day”-Dan Gable

Adequate mobility is an absolute necessity for resiliency and readiness. Notice I didn’t say suberb mobility, but enough to get done what you need to get done. Vigilant mobility practice means daily mobility practice.

One of my favorite mobility drills is the Brettzel. It addresses multiple qualities including proper breathing, hip mobility and thoracic spine mobility. Thoracic spine mobility has a direct effect on our shoulder mobility. Structurally, the hips and shoulders allow greater mobility than any joint in our body, so it’s important to spend some time priming that mobility and developing the ability to control the movement of those two joints. This is a way to get that done.

I’ve been teaching this movement for a while now, but I recently learned a progression into the full Brettzel that I really like. It’s patient, and allows the individual to stop at the point that’s most beneficial to them. If we have to grit our teeth and force ourselves into a position, positive change is impossible due to the stress of holding that position.

The Brettzel Progression:

  1. Lay on your stomach, with your head on your hands. Inhale into your belly fully, and continue to inflate your chest. Relax and exhale fully. This is called crocodile breathing. Your goal should be expanding in a 360 degree area around your midsection. No chest breathing without expanding throughout the midsection as well.
  2.  Bring a leg up with the knee bent 90 degrees-ish to the side. The knee needs to be above the hip, for reasons I will address later. There will be space between that same side hip and the ground. Continue crocodile breathing and make that space smaller on every exhale. If you start holding your breath or straining, you are pushing into it too hard. Back off and relax into your stretch
  3. After a few breaths, bend the straight leg back from the knee. Reach back with the opposite arm and grab that foot. Continue crocodile breathing. On the exhale, gently pull that leg up and flex that glute. You should feel a stretch in the front of that hip. If you feel it in your back, stop. Concentrate on extending through your hip. Let the leg drop back down on the inhale. Repeat for 3-5 breaths (or more).
  4. Straighten your opposite arm, roll onto the side of your straight leg and use that arm to grab your knee. This is where the “knee above the hip” concept is important. If it drops below the hip, you will encourage movement through the lumbar spine. That’s bad. Don’t do that. We want to move through the thoracic spine only, so keep that knee above the hip.
  5. As you breath (still in the belly) relax into greater rotation on the exhale. Rotate through your upper back, and through the leg where you are grabbing the foot. Never force it. After 5-8  (or more) breaths, slowly release the tension to get out of the stretch. Don’t just let go.

At ANY point you feel a cramp, have to hold your breath, or feel you’re trying too hard, that’s your stopping point for the day. That’s where you need to spend some time (hint: probably more than one session) developing some mobility there. Be patient and work the process.

Here’s a video of the progression

 

An individual’s range of motion varies from person to person. Every movement, especially movements under an outside load have a cost. If said movement stays within our baseline range of motion, the cost of that movement is negligible. If we go outside of that accessible range, the cost starts to make an impact on our bank account. The bigger our baseline range of motion, the chance of that happening shrinks.

Strength Skill Level

High skill strength practice requires a few elements to be present. 1.) Multijoint movements 2.) A substantial external load to these movements 3.) The necessity for focus.

I don’t consider a bicep curl to be strength practice. Sure, you might increase the biceps ability to generate tension via nervous system adaptations or increasing the number of fibers in the muscle, but movement through just one joint has very little relation to the activities we do every day. We seldom interact with our outside environment via the movement of a single joint.

A lightly loaded or unloaded multijoint movement doesn’t qualify as strength practice in my mind either. For strength practice to increase our resiliency, the external load needs to encourage a high level of tension generated via the muscular and nervous system. As we increase our ability to generate high levels of tension, what used to be hard becomes easy. We need to use high amounts of tension less frequently as we go throughout our day.

Motor Control is often overlooked in the quest to build strength. This involves the demonstration of strength coupled with timing and coordination. Again, frequent practice helps develop this quality. In a controlled training setting, we have the opportunity to mindfully practice coordination, timing, and fluid movement.

What’s a movement that involves multiple joints, external load, and the necessity for mindful movement? The Turkish Get Up is an unparalleled example of a movement requiring all of these components.

 

Addressing the components of multijoint movement, training under external load, and focused practice develop our skill of demonstrating strength. As we improve this skill, the demands of everyday life stop encroaching upon this threshold. The further away from that threshold an outside demand resides,  the smaller our withdrawal from our resiliency bank account will be.

Conditioning

Our body has 3 basic energy systems. Aerobic, Lactic/Glycolytic, and Alactic. Although all three work together, the needs of each individual situation dictate which system is utilized the most.

Our alactic energy system is responsible for short duration, explosive activities. A short boulder problem, exploding into a double leg takedown or throw (pick your favorite japanese throw name, judo folks) in a jiu-jitsu competition, or a short set of kettlebell swings or snatches are all examples of utilizing this system.

Our lactic or glycolytic system is where we “feel the burn”. A 400 meter sprint, enduro-route at the Red ( or any route over 50 feet for me, at this point in time), or the third overtime in the EBI finals in jiu-jitsu would all be heavily drawing from this system.

The last, and often overlooked system in terms of training is our aerobic system. Resting, recovery, “refilling the tank” and longer duration, low intensity work draw from this system. Hanging off of a jug and recovering on a route, holding someone in guard and recovering in a jiu-jitsu match, or resting between attempts on a boulder problem should all be windows where the aerobic system can do its job.

Ideally, from a longevity standpoint, it’s a good idea to expand the Alactic and Aerobic energy systems and not spend a whole lot of time in the Glyocolytic arena. It’s an incredibly stressful system for the body. A simple way to develop the “bookends” of our energy system is sets of swings on the minute.

For example: Do a set of 10 explosive, crisp kettlebell swings, and rest the remainder of the minute. 10-20 minutes of this will make up a great training session, and shouldn’t leave you too destroyed, if you selected the proper weight.

Throughout life, performance, and training, we rely on our energy systems to give us the fuel to go about our activities. If the respective system is not robust enough for the demands of a given situation, the cost to our resiliency bank account increases.

Which Category Do I Need To Address First?

It’s important to realize the concept of a limiting factor. Let’s invoke the all-knowing wikipedia:

“Limiting Factor- an input or variable in such that a small change in it from present value would cause a non-negligible change in an output or other measure of system”

Time is a non-replenishing resource. We don’t get it back. Therefore, it’s ideal to find how to make the most effective change with the least amount of time and effort involved. If one method makes a given amount of improvement in 2 days, while a separate method makes the same amount of improvement in 2 weeks, it’s a clear choice that the first method is the ideal method.

Here’s where we need to set our ego to the side. Sometimes, you may not be the best person to find your limiting factor. If you aren’t sure where you need to spend your time, you need to see someone who can tell you. This could be via a Functional Movement Screen, a Physical Therapist, a knowledgeable coach, a Muscle Activation Techniques specialist, a Chiropractor, etc. There are an insane amount of ways you could go about this. So many disciplines boil down to the same basic principles, so find one that works for you.

Our perception is subjective, and ideally, an objective system to find the limiting factor will provide more accurate results. Everyone is different, and to be honest, everything works. What matters is that you find a way to step outside of your own judgement, and objectively discover where you could make the most improvement in the smallest amount of time.

So take a step back and ponder this question: Could you get up and get after it right now with little prep? It might be time to put in the work so you can.

 


Looking for guidance concerning your limiting factor? I’ve got a few spots open for distance coaching, and offer in-person coaching if you’re in the area. Learn more here.