Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Strength is the New Black

Every day my inbox is filled with newsletters from different strength and fitness 'gurus' with the latest tips on how to excel my performance or maintain my masculinity by proving how strong I am with the latest training protocol. Its official: strength training is in BIG TIME!

Some might find it strange that as a strength and conditioning trainer I am even writing this blog entry. I guess what is niggling me is the new style of online strength training marketing (by this I mean training for absolute strength). When it comes to training there is nothing new under the sun. Simply carefully packaged and regurgitated information. The best training systems or protocols have been in place for some time. Are new systems and protocols really 'new' or merely refined or slightly modified versions, with a heavy dose of 'bling' to make it more palatable? Don't be fooled by the hype. The individual and their commitment to training is far more important than the training system. There are NO QUICK FIXES.

My final thoughts? Strength training is valid, but be clear what your training goals are, be clear what your sport or activity requires and stick with that. Its easy to be tempted by something more glitz and glamorous, but Sometimes the best training program doesn't require a radical upheaval of what you are already doing, merely minor adjustments here and there. If absolute strength training is the new black, I'm wearing red.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

IKFF Kettlebell Certification London 2008

First Thoughts...

Thirty participants. Two world class Kettlebell Coaches. Two days. One venue. One purpose. This was the weekend of September 6th, the venue was The Generating Company in the docklands. The space was usually inhabited by circus performers and acrobats, but that day Gireveks from all over Europe lay siege to the venue, eagerly awaiting the IKFF's first ever UK course.

Each time I train with Steve Cotter I take away a nugget of information that penetrates my understanding a little more deeply, despite the high level information throughout the rest of the workshop. This time it was going back to basics with the Kettlebell swing and its effect on my snatch technique. As anyone who has done a 10 minute snatch set can testify, one of the first things to give out is your grip. Now while strengthening your grip can only have a positive affect on your endurance in the snatch, sometimes the weakest link can be found a little further down the chain.

For me it was the lower phase of the snatch (that is the swing part). While I was aware of the involvement of the posterior chain, especially the hamstrings and glutes in the elevation of the bell through their elastic recoil(the stretch- shortening cycle) I hadn't previously taken full advantage of that fact. Steve mad a point of emphasising the back swing; that is actually accelerating in what would typically be considered the deceleration portion of the swing.

This had the effect of consciously activating the stretch shortening cycle and enabled the bell to be elevated with far more considerable ease than heaving the bell overhead by forceful contraction of the glutes and quadriceps while extending the spine. This reduced fatigue in the lower limbs and the subsequent tendency to then apply upper body mechanics to 'muscle up' the snatch, thus smoking your grip.

I had a bit of an 'aha!' moment. You probably can't appreciate the dramatic effect this simple adjustment had on my technique by just reading about it. It will make sense when you actually do it, and when you get it you know its right, because it feels right - your body instinctively knows. So for the past month I have been breaking down the snatch to its constituent parts, and working on extended timed pieces on the swing (double handed and single arm) and the clean, laying down a new foundation to a far more effective snatch.

If you're truly into Kettlebells and haven't trained with Steve Cotter or Ken Blackburn, I urge you to do so. I don't care if you are a complete beginner or a qualified Kettlebell Coach, your time and money will be well spent. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such accomplished Kettlebell Coaches and authentic people. I know that by putting into practice what I have learned not only will those that train with CJS Fitness gain from it, but on a personal level, I too can only be better off for it.