Archive for May, 2010

Kettlebells and Grip for Power and Strength: Seminar Review

On Sunday May 2nd I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a seminar put on by Laree Draper of Dave Not only did it have three great RKC Kettlebell instructors, Dave Whitley and Mark and Tracy Reifkind, lunch and a DVD of the event was included and it was all right in my own backyard.

Now don’t kick yourself too hard for not attending because I am going to filter through my numerous pages of notes and present you with the wisdom passed down from these three great coaches.  So sit back and let’s get ready to learn.

Dave Whitley

If you have been following the iron game for a while, then the name Dave Whitley (aka The Iron Tamer) should come as no surprise to you.  I was very excited to meet and learn from Dave because this was going to be my first opportunity to do so, and he didn’t disappoint.  For those of you who don’t know Dave, he went from his early years as a KFC employee to being Master Level RCK instructor and Old Time Strongman performer; and what a performer he is.

Logan awaits the "Nail and the Balloon" feat of strength

Dave’s morning session consisted of performing several feats of strength from the classics such as, card tearing and horseshoe and nail bending to two feats I have never seen before live which left the crowd speechless; rolling up a frying pan into, what he calls, a Redneck Hotdog Cooker, and performing a Turkish Get Up with a kettlebell while leveraging a sledgehammer.

Want a "Redneck Hotdog Cooker?" Simply roll up a frying pan

Dave related these feats of strength into lessons we could learn from Old time Strongman training.  According to Dave, the two basic principles for getting stronger are:

  • Practice
  • Progressive overload

Dave states that, “Strength is practice.  If you practice poorly the result is poor movement.  Movement is King.  Adding strength to a dysfunctional movement pattern will add to the dysfunction.”

Progressive overload is simply doing more over time.  Dave explains this is best achieved through:

  • Working primarily with multi-joint movements
  • Starting out almost too light with the weight and progressing very slowly, adding little by little
  • Tracking progress with a workout journal

Dave later applied the first principle of strength and explained how to use the second during our afternoon session when he completely dissected our get-ups and touched on the windmill and bent press.

Dave does a get up while leveraging a sledgehammer

Where feats of strength are concerned, Dave states that isometrics are missing from too many training programs.  His gave an example if one could not bend a certain grade of steel it is useful to try and bend it anyway.  This helps apply proper execution of strength in certain positions during the bend.  Working on the set up and generating strength tension in a proper set up will eventually help get those bigger bends.

For more information on Dave and his philosophies on strength, check out his website at

Tracy Reifkind

At this seminar we had to earn our lunch and to do this we had to pass a workout concocted by the Queen of the Kettlebell Swing, Tracy Reifkind, RKC.  Tracy first told us of her kettlebell origins from simply using the swings to incorporate into a weight loss routine for herself and then it turned into an obsession.  She not only performs numerous swing sets for over an hour during her own training, she has formulated a system to get her clients to progress towards the same thing.

Tracy The "Queen of the Kettlebell Swing"

After her introduction, we briefly went over the 2-hand swing, 1-hand swing, and how to alternate hands during the swing.  She then went into how to perform a certain number of repetitions during a designated time interval.  If we needed to get 12 reps in 15 seconds of work we were taught how to lock down our lats and reverse the kettlebell safely into the backswing to get the next rep done quickly.

After her crash course, we grabbed our kettlebell and we were off.  2-hand swing ladders consisting of a determined amount or reps over 15 seconds of work and then 15 seconds of rest.  We then mixed it up with 2-hand and alternating hand swings, trying to get a certain number of reps for time.  At the end of the 50 minute workout, many of us were toast and every one of us did not smell so good.

Despite how difficult it sounds to perform, Tracy continued to emphasize her main point which is simple, “Do what you can.”  With this type of program she can train several people at once even if they are at different ability levels.  If you only get a few reps during a certain time interval, then you stop; if you are tired, sit one out.  Everyone is always in the same workout and it’s easy to track your progression (remember what Dave Whitley said), when you add more reps, sit less work reps out, and loose some body fat the positive progression is on!

For more information check out Tracy’s blog

Mark Reifkind

If anyone can talk about the Lats; The Super Muscle, for an hour and a half and make it sound interesting it’s going to be Master RKC Mark Reifkind.  To quote Dave Whitley “Mark has forgotten more information than I have ever learned.”  After hearing Mark speak for a few moments you realize this is true.

Mark stated that, “All movement of the body is done through the intricate connections and interactions of muscles.”  By just looking at the various origins and insertion of the lat muscle you can easily see why he calls it “the bridge between many joints.”  Though the muscle is readily used in so much of our human movement, he states that, “It is very hard to activate.”

Mark explains how to use the lat during the press

Mark gave us several drills and cues helping us to activate and utilize our lats for different moments for superior strength increases.

Deadlift – Lats help increase strength by locking down the upper body when they are close to the body drawing the shoulders back and the chest up.

Kettlebell Swings – Lats are responsible for optimal kettlebell control.  If you do not use them, by connecting them to the body during the backswing, or locking them down at the top of the swing, moving a kettlebell through the swim motion properly is not going to happen.

Perhaps the most obvious case for poor lat activation comes during the kettlebell press, yes the press.  Mark emphasizes that if someone were to press a heavy kettlebell for one repetition, they best learn how to engage their lats or, most likely, they will not get the weight up.  Some of Mark’s keys to getting the lats to aid your press after a good clean are;

  • Pretend you are “squeezing a sponge” again the side of your body, this will tighten up your lats
  • After cleaning the bell and squeezing the sponge try some rack walks where you take the kettlebell for a walk around the gym a few times
  • Try a few “lat bumps” to initiate the pressing movement.  When this happens the shoulder should pull downward allowing it to be stable and the press to be strong.
  • Think about pressing with, what Mark calls, a virtual shoulder; the wrist is completely straight, you should press back, through the contact point of the kettlebell, and through the muscle belly of the bicep rather than with your shoulder.  If you think too much about the shoulder performing the movement, it will have a tendency to rise up making the joint less stable and the lats inactive.
  • At the top of the press, further work the lats by actively pulling the kettlebell back down to the racked position as if you were going to perform a chin up.

I can’t say enough good things about the equality of instruction that Mark Reifkind delivers.  Check out Mark’s site here

If you really want to learn from great kettlebell instructors I suggest you seek these three people out.  I am glad I took this opportunity to learn from them and I walked away a better instructor than when I walked in.

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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 Kettlebell Training 4 Comments

Should You Supplement? Is Your Multivitamin Stacking Up?

We have traveled down a long road in this Should You Supplement series and hopefully the articles have helped you out by thinking more about your health through nutrition and to even take some action and make some changes to make you better.  Now I am not going to lie and say I have the perfect dietary habits, I do occasionally indulge in some less than optimal food choices and I am not going to ruin a party by saying “sorry I can’t eat that.”  However, I always try to moderate less than optimal choices to a bare minimum.  I always try to keep my health in mind by choosing from a wide variety of healthy foods, making sure I consume plenty of essential fats and do some minor supplementation of nutrients that I feel are important to have in my diet.

In this final installment I am going to touch upon a supplement that many of you already take; a multivitamin.  Taking a multivitamin is a pretty good idea and numerous studies have shown that supplementing with one helps maintain optimal health by combating free radicals with anti oxidants, building a strong immune system, and even boosts your energy.   The market is saturated with different brands and even different formulas.  There are some for men, women, teens, seniors.  Even your pets have a multivitamin formula targeted for them.  With all of these different brands and formulas how do you find a good product?  The answer may be a little simpler than you think.

How does your multivitamin stack up?

First thing to understand is that like most things in life, not all multivitamins are created equal.  Inferior nutrients and inappropriate amounts can create a low quality product where the nutrients are not absorbed and used properly by the body.  The best place to start is to divide the multivitamins into two categories; synthetic and whole food vitamins.

Synthetic represent the vast majority of the multivitamins out there.  You can spot them easily by reading the label.

Now let’s compare that to a good quality whole food label

Like other processed food we have talked about in the past; big confusing words, and a long ingredient list means the product is highly processed and, in this case, synthetic.  If it does not come from a food source, you may not want to use that product.

You might be asking what’s the problem with synthetic vitamins anyway?  Synthetic vitamins are composed through a variety of individually constructed compounds referred to as isolates.  These isolates can be simply understood as something that works by itself and does not combine and complement with other vitamins to make for greater potency and utilization within the body.

Synthetic vitamins may also have serious side effects and health risks associated with them.  Wait aren’t multivitamins supposed to enhance my health?  In theory “Yes,” but sadly this is not the case for many synthetic multivitamins.  For example, when reading the synthetic vitamin labels you may come across words like “acetate”, “bitartrate”, “chloride”, “hydrochloride”, “nitrate”, and “succinate.”  These are all salt compounds used to increase the stability of the nutrient.  When doing research for this article I found this comment from the Balanced Body Wellness Centre and if it’s not enough for you to go into your cupboard and throw out your main-stream market multivitamins then I do not know what will be.

In reality, synthetic vitamins are just safer drugs. Many are made from coal tar derivatives, the same stuff
that causes throat cancer in tobacco smokers. Like drugs, synthetic vitamins suppress the Autonomic
Nervous System (ANS) and cause the symptoms you experience when the ANS is out of balance.
However, neither synthetics nor drugs address the problem’s root cause. Synthetic vitamins — like drugs —
may improve certain conditions for a short time but they can’t nourish your body…

…some supplement companies use products contaminated with pesticides, bug parts in the herbs, or foreign
materials in the vitamins. Furthermore, some companies actually use the wrong part of the herbal plant.
And legally they can still sell it.

As mentioned earlier, good whole food multivitamins have something going for them that the synthetics don’t; the ingredients do not work in isolation, instead, they complement each other and work in conjunction to have a greater health benefit to the body.  Whole food sources contain many extra co-factors and phytonutirents (compounds that effect health but are not deemed essential nutrients) that interact with each other and create a more usable nutrient with many health benefits.  To understand this point further, while I was doing my research, I learned that “Carrot Root, which can be found as one ingredient in high quality multivitamins, contains over 200 nutrients and phytonutrients.”  This is a great example of huge difference between isolates and whole food compounds.

When I first started college and got into the health and training world I was on a quest to find the most effective supplements on the market.  My friend and I scoured the internet forums, got to know some of the best sports nutritionists in the industry and asked them about certain products.  Most agree that eating a healthy and balanced diet filled with vegetables is key to health and longevity, but supplementing with a good, whole food multivitamin add some insurance in case we are deficient in some essential nutrients.

Back in college there were not as many whole food multivitamin choices around as there are today, but I still take the same one after all of these years; Catalyn by Standard Process.  Catalyn is highly recommended by many top nutritionists.  The product has been around since 1929 and is derived from 15 different whole food sources in small, usable doses.  The product is great and I can’t recommend it more.  If you want more information about the product check out the information here

As we conclude our journey through nutrition and supplementation, we can simply boil it down to this.  Make sure we get our diet in check first by eating a balanced diet consisting of plenty of whole foods choices.  We can then add a few supplements that our bodies need and are hard to accumulate during the day like Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, and a good quality whole food multivitamin.  If we are able to do all of these things we can almost guarantee a healthier, better quality of life for ourselves.


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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 Nutrition 1 Comment

Ask Me Anything: The Prowler

Q: Hello I have seen your images and videos and I have a few questions about that sled device that you guys push around during training.

  • What is your primary objective for using the sled? Single leg strength, improved speed or just to kick their asses?
  • Whatever your prime purpose is, how do you make your decisions about how much to load the sled? Do you want them to be able to just keep it moving (more strength) or almost sprint with it (more speed)?
  • Also, for a group, I would assume any weight would be too much for some and not enough for others. How do you manage that or do you not care that much about it?
  • Can they be used on grass or just the blacktop?  If you do use it on the blacktop does it wear out fast?

A: Thanks for the great questions.  The sled, that I believe you are referring to, is called The Prowler and it is made by Elite Fitness Systems. Check it out here.

Primary objectives of The Prowler can be a few things. General Preparation Work (GPP) which gets the people using it “in shape” without a ton of running or other activities that can put more stress on the joints. Also, it is a great posterior chain (all the muscles of the back of the legs; glutes, hamstrings etc.) training tool. When they use The Prowler they are generally in the “athletic position” which trains hip extension via the muscles mentioned. The Prowler helps to properly coordinate those muscles and makes them stronger. Therefore, you have a stronger, faster and potentially, “less-of-a-chance-of getting-an-injury” kid. Most sports require great strength in the hip extending muscles.

Weight or speed? I am from the school that you should only move the amount of weight that allows you to maintain decent speed of movement and one that does not technically break down. If the weight is too heavy then they will be moving at a snail’s pace and most likely have to alter their body position to accommodate for the heavy weight. Generally speaking, if you want to focus on strength, load it up within the parameters mentioned above and if you want to work out their GPP and cardio keep it lighter and have them go longer.

For bigger groups with different weight pushing abilities you can have the strong kids move faster, within their technique, and have the weaker kids move it slower, but the weight should be something everyone can do. You may also have the stronger kids push on the lower handles in front and the weaker kids push on the higher ones. The low bars are a nightmare for anyone at any weight. If you want to feel the quads blasted and have a sick stomach at the end of your workout, the low bars are where it’s at.

One protocol I like to do is set a group of 4 people about 75ft.apart (2 on each side) and have them take turns going for 5-10 min in relay fashion. The weight is considered light but their conditioning will be trained like no other.

I have used the Prowler on grass. It works ok if the grass is short and dry.  The grass makes gaining traction to push the Prowler harder, especially if you plan on using the low handles.  Obviously the blacktop is better and I have not worn my skid plates out yet, but they do sell replacement pads.

Thanks for the questions, hope it helped.

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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 Articles No Comments


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