Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lunch time fun

Today I sucked up the heat and headed outside. I quickly found a pull up bar sitting in a small shaded area near a very large tree. I didn't have as much time as the workout required but I made the best of it.

In about 25 min. I warmed up, worked on some skills and almost made it through a VO2 max session. I had to stop 5 min early as I ran out of time. Better than nothing!

Pistol 16K 1 x 5/5, 1 x 4/4, 1 x 3/3 alternated with
Pull Up 16K 5 set of 3 reps
1 leg DL 3 x 5
VO2 max Snatch - 9 reps x 30 sets

The first 10 sets or so seem so simple it is like a nice warm up. That ends really quickly. LOL.

I have to confess I actually planned to do this 2x per week all month. I blew it off. Now I will pay for a few weeks as I adjust to the protocol.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I keep going back to the old Army recruiting commercial...'Some people do more before xxxx in the morning than most do all day. Actually it has been true for the past 18 years but this past month has been crazy.

I was up at 0330ish, after a snooze, to get ready for a bike ride, the gym with the fat-bodies (actually only 2 are fat, the others are just weak) and then my own workout. All before 0700.

The best part is the reward, a fantastic meal at the best chow hall (galley) in the Navy for $2.10. The best chow hall must be a relative term. I tend to think it is an oxymoron. How can something so terrible be the best? I can actually stomach breakfast at the place. Some bacon, toast (that I cook), hard boiled eggs, glass of water and a large cup of 'truck driver' coffee.

Z drill
Ride 20
Z 10 min warm up
DL - 135 x 10, 295 x 5, 245 x 5
Bench Press 135 x 5, 185 x 5, 155 x 5
Pull up BW 5 x 6 reps + 5 hanging leg raises.

At lunch, misc. kettlebell exercises for demonstration/instruction.

Note: I still dislike the bench press but I am very weak at it so must keep working it.

Read some more PTTP last night. I learned more new stuff.

Remedial UPDATE:
One month of supervising this program:

The fat people are still..FAT. I can't control all the twinkies, pizza soda they eat! They probably drink Gatorade too. Because it is healthy -- another blog post in the making, yea?

The two Marines that were struggling with pull ups showed huge improvements.

One Marine started at Zero Pull ups. I saw him do 4 sets of 3! He should be off the program in a few weeks as he has to do at least 3 on the PFT.

Core strength and the pull up are friends!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Perhaps it's not wise to do heavy deadlifting the day before a scheduled long ride. On my ride this morning, I felt lethargic during the whole thing. The pace was a little quick for me and I feel every mile ridden. I turned of and took a short cut home cutting off about 10 miles from the total. I'm not over trained but I am tired. Heck I was tired yesterday AM when I got up after sleeping through the alarm.

Either way, I plan to change my weekly lifting schedule a little so I am rested before I attempt to ride longer distances. I will do my Friday workout on Thursday and do some 'light' work like the VO2 protocol on Friday. The good news is I only have 1 more remedial day this month and I can get back on a regular sleep schedule.

Ride 30

Friday, July 25, 2008

Read it again...and again

It never fails, I always manage to get something new out of Pavel's books. The next time I read the same book, I learn more and so on. This week I found a copy of Power to the People sitting in an envelope by the door that I borrowed long ago. It has been sitting waiting for me to send back under a pile of mail. When I started purging the advertisements, and clearing the bills, it was there.

OOPS, sorry Dan, I can assure you it will arrive soon, I decided to purchase my own copy.

I thought I may as well read it one time more before I take it to the post office since it was in my hands; calling me like Tolkien's Ring of Power. 'Read ME.' So I did and I learned some new stuff. In fact I am amazed. This time when I read the book I noticed it talked about low volume. How low? 2 sets. That is very low. I could have swore it said 5 sets, my mistake. Perhaps I just didn't read the chapter on cycling and volume the last 5 times I read the book.

So LESS IS MORE! Keep reading, it doesn't say do 2 sets of light weight. What PTTP says is do a set that you can do 5RM. RM means that you do 5 reps barely but leave some in the tank. This is some real weight. I tend to think that if I struggle to get the 6th rep, I have a 5RM. PTTP also states that the second set should be 90% of the first set.

Today I applied my new lessons from PTTP. The second sets probably aren't right at 90% but I will adjust. I'm sure the weights are fairly close. I will actually do accurate math before I do the workout again next week.

DL: 135 x 5, - 275 x 5, 225 x 5
BP: 135 x 5, 185 x 5, 165 x 5 (185 was difficult)
Pull Up: #25 x 5, #25 x 5, BW x 5, BW x 5
Hang Leg Raise: 5x5

Couldn't resist some added sets of BW pull ups as I believe volume here is a good thing.
.....Remedial PT update.....

Here is the update on the remedial guy that couldn't do any pull ups. In 3 weeks he has gone from 0 - 2 easy pullups. It will be another few weeks before he hits 3 but it will happen soon enough. The planks have helped. Here is how we've broken down his training for this event.

Planks 5 sets x 30 sec - 2 days per week

Pullup GTG with 1 pull up. When he couldn't do any, he jumped and held himself up as long as he could. When we do this at remedial, I let him take a 3-5 min break between sets. Going to all out failure is not allowed. He is doing pullups 6 days per week.

Today we started some pushups between sets. This will not be done the day before the PFT which the students take every Wednesday (by order of the CO). The frequency of this event has worked wonders.

On Friday AM we do Tabata sprints at the track. This is 20 sec run, 10 sec rest x 8 sets.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


During chow today I gave a fellow Marine a class on kettlebell basics. This was a pleasure for several reasons:
  • Open mind
  • Positive attitude
  • Willingness to learn
  • No complaining
Let me say that he is going to continue to work on his skills as he decided to add this to his toolbox. This is what I am looking for in a student. I will no longer accept anything less.

wall squat
military press
get ups

Not sure how many sets or reps.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

FInding the Groove


This morning, I finally started feeling the correct groove in the bench press; it's about time. I was concentrating on keeping my shoulders packed which is by far the most stable position for any pressing. Not sure why it took me this long to remember this fact. The stability certainly makes the lift feel better.

What do I mean by packing the shoulder?

Put your arm out in front of you, palm down. Extend your shoulder out - forward. This is not packed. Now roll your shoulder back into its socket. Think of pulling back with your scapula. With your shoulder packed, you can emulate a bench press or push up by bending the elbow and moving your hand towards your chest. Keep your shoulder packed in the socket. It is the same when you press or move your hand back out. Keeping the shoulder packed, move or press out. As I said earlier, this is a strong and stable position.


Z 10 min
Dead Lift - 135 x 10, 225 x 10, 310x1, 225 x 5, 225 x 5
BP - 135 x 10, 155 x 10, 175 x 5, 175 x 5
Pull up -- BW 5 set x 6 reps
Hanging leg raises - 5set x 5 rep

Z drills, through day
Coc Grippers No.T - 1 x 10/10
No. 1 - 2 x 5/5
No. 1.5 - 1l, 1r (actually closed them)

Monday -
ride - 20 miles

Saturday -
Ride 50 miles

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Do you want one of these plates?"

I walked into the Gator Gym this morning and headed for the platform. I noticed HM1 from the physical therapy clinic sitting on a bench under the rack. Heck, I couldn't miss him, he is huge -- thick. I thought to my self, this is going to be a good day.

The amount of weight Doc had loaded on the bar for his bench work was impressive. He layed on the bench and lowered the sagging bar and pressed 5 times. I just calculated and it was #495.

I did a warm up set of dead lifts and was looking for some weight to add to my bar. Doc asks, "Do you want some of these plates?" As he strips off 90lbs for the next set. He has a plan and will execute it which is more than I can say for others pushing 'metro' weights this morning.

Unfortunately, I didn't even use the plates DOC set aside for me. I turned around to help a Marine with his pullups. In that minute, someone took the plates and mounted them on another bar. I simply improvised, adapted and overcame with some other size weights.

Z 10 min
Z drills
Dead lift 135x5, 185x5, 185x5, 5(245 x 5)
Bench 135x5, 135x5, 5(155x5)
Pull up BW 5x5 + hanging leg raises 5x5

185 feels really light and 254 feels like 225 did earlier in the week. Too fun.
The bench still doesn't feel comfortable. I will continue to ease into the groove day by day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gym Story

Tuesday is a remedial PT morning for the month of July. So up before the birds. While I didn't even hear a bird this morning, I did see 5 fox along the road on my morning ride.

Z Drills
Ride 30 miles 15 am/15 pm
Z 10 min warm up
Front Plank 5x30 sec. -- (with the remedial)
DL - 2 sets 135 x 5, 2 sets 185x5, 5 sets 225 x 5
BP - 135 - 5 sets x 5 rep
Pull up 5x5
Hanging leg raise - 5x5

Lunch time: Z drills/RIFGA

The Deadlifts are coming along quickly. The weight feels good with each pull. My grip was the first to go. I'm easing into the bench press and the DL. Notice the past few entries. I haven't gone above 135 in bench and I will probably hang with 225 for a while. It is not because I can't push my body beyond these numbers. The fact is these lifts are very form specific. I need to find a groove, spend considerable time in the groove and then move up the weight.

It does NO good to toss some weight around with improper form. More gains in strength are made using correct form.

This reminds me, I HATE the gym on base. There are a few people that know what they are doing and do it properly. These guys are usually from 'the teams.' Then there is everyone else; the other 90% of the gym patrons. They read some propaganda from latest metrosexual fitness magazine and hit the gym. If I was counting reps for any of these people, I would still be on 1.

My friend and former training partner Dan (MGySgt Ret.) used to laugh at my disgust every time we went into the gym. He was wise and he usually helped me avoid the gym with the exception of inclement weather. Here is story from one rainy afternoon in Feb 2007:

Dude and two buddies hit the gym one afternoon because the Chief said. They obviously had never taken to the iron and Dude volunteered his "expertise." Dude lifted some in his sophomore year of football and now 5 or 6 years later, he is the duty expert. His knowledge of weight training surpasses everyone else in the gym. The testosterone is thick in the atmosphere as Dude loads the barbell at the squatrack with 225. He gets under the bar and lowers himself and the weight about 5 inches, grunts, repeats 3 times and rams the weight back to the rack. Next dude pops on 310 and tells his buddies he needs a spot.

Dan and I look at each other but say nothing. Nothing needs to be said. I am thinking that the emergency number on base is x4444. We diligently keep working on our Deadlifts.

Now dude gets under this weight with his buddies on either side of the barbell. Like a powerlifting world record attempt. Mind you, niether of the spotters has ever spotted before. He takes a step back and grunts his way down about 4 inches and back up. Dude chants,"YEA, that's how you do it."

I received more exercise (abdominal) from laughing at this dude. Dan and I finished our workout in silence. Other than a few snicker here and there. As we walked out of the gym, Dan was still laughing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Plank

Someone said the early bird gets the worm. I guess it's only true when you don't get up before the birds. This month I am monitoring the remedial PT program. It is a program designed for those that are fat, weak or both. The political correctness and niceness with this program went out the window at 0330. This is the time I have to wake so I can ride my bike to the base and have a training program of my own.

The good news is I get to test my RKC teaching skills on these people. It is nice to have a few guinea pigs to hone my skills. We have been working on pull ups this week. One person can't do 1 pull up. OOPS the minimum standard is 3! Another couldn't do any but is now up to 4 he will be off the program soon.

One of the assistance exercises in the RKC II manual for the pull up is a front plank. While working the front plank this morning, a light bulb went off in my head. Check it out:
  • All 4 subjects I worked with this morning are very weak with the pull up.
  • All 4 subjects struggle to hold a proper front plank for more than 20 seconds. Their bellies begin sagging and back arching down.
  • I conclude that the inability to do pull ups is directly related to core strength.
I have to ask, why in the world would someone do lat pull downs and arm curls to get better at pull ups?
Wouldn't time spent improving core strength (back, belly, hips, shoulders etc.) be more useful?

Here's how to do a plank.
  • Get in the push up position on your elbows.
  • Tighten your entire body, thighs, butt, back, abs.
  • Your pelvis should point towards your belly button (kinda).
  • Look at the ground.
  • Take shallow breaths.
  • Hold the position for time.
  • Start with 30 seconds and do it 3-5 times. Increase the time as required.

Practice today:

Ride 30 miles - 15 am/15 pm
Deadlift 135 x 5 - 5 sets: 185 x 5 - 5 sets
Bench Press 135 x 5
Pull up / hanging leg raise 5x5 each

See, I work my core and have no problems with pull ups.

Z drills/NWU
Rest day

Ride 30

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keep Practicing

(Photo of Combat Center Band 2005: Courtesy of Kevin Follis) I am left front.

With the release of Mr. Gallagher's book, I predict a large number of people abandoning their basics and jumping on a bandwagon of barbell exercises specifically the DL, BP and SQ. I say this for two reasons. First, it is a very fascinating and motivating book. Second, it is a "shiny new thing" for some people to try. Why not? A different modiality isn't always a terrible thing.

Here is some advice:
Keep doing and practicing the basic exercises that keep you mobile, agile and flexible . Stuff like the kettlebell swing and turkish get up. Practice them often. Practice them until mastery. Practice them until you master teaching them. Then practice them some more with a different point of view. When you think you have them mastered, keep practicing, teaching and learning. Eventually you my achieve complete mastery of the movements.

Ponder this:
When you think you have something simple mastered and stop practicing it, you will quickly loose mastery. WITHOUT FAIL!

The musicians in the symphony orchestras ARE masters of their chosen instrument as most of them are progedies. With all their given talent, they still practiced all of the simple things millions of times for million of hours. Nearly all of them will say the following:
  • If I don't practice one day, I will know.
  • Two days, the person next to me will know.
  • Three days, everyone will know.
I can tell you from experience that all of the above are true. When I was a working musician, I could not take even one day off the Horn.

Three time Tour de France winner Greg Lemond wrote something like this (this is not exact): If I take a day off the bike, it takes me 2 days to get it back. If I take two days in a row off, it takes me three days to get it back. If I take 3 days off, it takes weeks to return to form.

This comes from an elite athlete. There is truth to what he said.

During a long bike ride in the begining of June, I decided what type of training the second part of the calendar year would entail. The plan is to get strong before I start adding to my cycling base in the fall. So, the logical choice is to spend a few months practicing the deadlift, pull ups and the bench press. Not to mention maintaining some cycling fitness and kettlebell form. Thus the small break after RKCII.

Practice: (as you see, it is a PTTP set up)
ride 20
DL 135: 5 set x 5 rep, 185: 5 set x 5 reps.
BP 135 5x5 - I'm taking this really easy!
PU BW 7x5
hanging leg raise 5x5

Z drills x 4

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rest and Z

Since I was "rained out" I finished my rest period with some more RIFGA and Z Drills. Things are coming along on both fronts. My flexibility is improving slowly and with consistent practice, I may even be able to walk properly.
"We were able to get both of his glutes to fire (via Z Health ankle work) and both hamstrings (ankle and elbow work) and I did some hands on work on a scar on his left ankle..." Mike T. Nelson
I've also been reading my RKC II instructor manual. There are some hidden training gems in the manual that didn't get covered at the cert and they aren't in any other book. In addition, I've been reading Marty Gallagher's book, "The Purposeful Primitive." Stay tuned for more information from both books and a review of Mr. Gallagher's book.

Speaking of Z Health, Mike Nelson put my testimonial on his blog. He also describes what we what he did for me.

Z Health is amazing and so simple to do. It takes very little time out of the day. Maybe I should not tell anyone about it; I can have a competitive advantage. Actually I really want to have full mobility and I don't want to take any NSAIDs because I have pain due to immobility.

There is one caveat of Z Health and now that I think of it, everything else. In order for a system or a plan to work effectively, you have to do it consistently. Nothing works without consistent practice. The rewards are great for those that are consistent in practice.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 4 & 5 Training Update

Quick note:

The smoke has been pretty thick so no bike for me. Perhaps I should check out a gas mask from the CIF, dawn - clear - ride! This would get me on the road. I do know from experience that running with the gas mask is NOT too comfortable. I don't think riding 2-3 hrs on a bicycle with it on would be too much fun. It is tempting though!

Both days -

assigned Z drills x 4
Z 10 min warm up

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Z Session last week

Last Thursday shortly after I checked into the hotel in St Paul, I headed up to White Bear Lake to work with University of Minnesota PhD candidate, RKC and Z Health practictioner Mike Nelson on some Z Health. My goal was to ensure that I was doing the drills correctly.

We discussed my injury history (all of it) and Mike watched me walk back and forth across the room about a dozen times. This assessment told Mike several things that were confirmed with some other tests. I have several problems, some were simple others were unknown to me.

I had a hammie not firing, an ankle locked, an elbow with less than full ROM and I could go on. After a few drills, my ankle and hammie were unlocked. Just what I needed after spending the day on an airplane. As an added bonus, my back was pain free for the first time in a month.

This was all fixed with some ankle tilts, toe pulls, wrist rotations and elbow rotations. I will be doing prescribed movements several times per day for the next month or so. Then I will get assessed again.

If you haven't tried Z health you owe it to yourself to try.

Recovery D-3

I am calling this week the recovery week. Not that I'm tired or even sore. The fact is my hands are done and need the time off to heal. It goes back to the mantra take care of your hands! Keep the callous in check and there will be no worries. I attempted to do this and failed so went through 2 days of RKC II with torn callous and blisters. I must say, it makes lifting kettlebells and doing pull ups very difficult!

Z 10 min warm up
Ride 30 miles
Practice Z drills 4 times

It was nice to get back on the bike today. I'd only ridden a few times in the past few weeks. It was a great ride but tiring.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Train Your Weakness - Fix the basics

It is easy to say and harder to do. I often tell people to practice the stuff they suck at. It is also one important lesson from this past weekend. TRAIN YOUR WEAKNESS. The other lesson that was drilled was the basics.

It is difficult to improve and have balance in all areas if you only work on the things you are already good at. This goes for anything and it goes for everything. In music, it is essential to practice the most basic things attacks, long tones and scales. In kettlebell training, the basic thing is the swing. It is the basis for all other movements and techniques.

In the RKC II Instructor's Manual Mark Rifkind writes,
"Chek's progression of training went like this:
1. Mobility/flexibility
2. Stability
3. Strength
4. Endurance
5. Power.
Skipping any of these steps or being deficient in one and trying to jump ahead would result in problems or deficiencies eventually."
I am focusing on the first two in the coming weeks.
Z 10 min warm up
other perscribed Z drills 3 times today.

Foam Roller


I completed the RKC II certification this weekend. It was a great time and I learned so much that my head is spinning. Not such a bad thing. I am sore phsically at all. My ability to recover keeps improving!

The course covered the basic level I skills including swings, clean, press, snatch, TGU and squat. We spend most of Friday reviewing these skills as some participants clearly did not spend any time honing these skills. It was disappointing.

Pavel taught in depth classes on the pull up, pistol, bent press and windmill. These skills are very challenging! In fact they are nearly impossible to do without basic strength and mobility in all joints.

Other classes were given in the FMS (functional movement screen), muscle length and tension, working with special popluations and of course Kenneth Jay's VO2 max protocol and boost program. Of course we went through first day of the protocol. TOO FUN.

You can read more about the cert from these blogs:
Kenneth Jay
Brett Jones

What's next for me? I am working on the plan for the 2nd half of the year.