Tag Archives: strength skill
The kettlebell snatch is one of my favourite movements.
While there are many subtle tweaks you can apply in your form they all stem from two styles of snatch with a kettlebell:
1 – Hard Style
2 – Sport Style
The first is meant to generate more ‘power’ and make you stronger overall while still getting a good solid amount of volume in and increasing your work capacity.
The second is all about efficiency of movement so that you can get the most reps in a given time period (typically 10min in the snatch section of the Biathlon, only one hand change is allowed).
You might want to know which is better.
The classic answer is this; it depends on the goal.
While this is indeed the case it’s a cop out answer for people who don’t want to state a preference. Over the years I’ve done both many times and these days I lean towards doing the sport variation more.
Why you ask?
Because it feels more comfortable with the sport bells.
When I grab my cast iron ones I will often opt for the hard style snatch as the handles and dimensions are more forgiving for it.
Here are the two in action side by side:
Notice how the sport style on the left emphasises fluidity and pacing which the hard style is more about oomph.
Both are good, both have pros & cons, you simply have to decide which is better for you and your goal.
Snatching works well in many ways.
– Ladders: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 both arms
– Time Blocks 5-20min
– Intervals 30/30-60rest
– Straight Sets 10×20 per arm
– Pacing per min: 60 seconds for 15 reps L/R x10min
The options are endless.
Snatches work best when largely focused on density in training.
One things both can agree is that there will be a great benefit to your shoulder health, strength, conditioning, body composition and overall athleticism when this glorious movement is added to your training.
Hitting some snatch work 2-3 times per week will truly be a massive benefit.
Do you love volume?
Smashing yourself in to a sweaty heap of mulch?
I do, truly I do.
My body however, well it no longer tolerates what it once did.
These days I could tell you exactly what will happen if I ramp up the amount I’m doing.
Week 1 – Feels good
Week 2 – Feels better
Week 3 – Death Reheated
The drop off rate is alarming, and that isn’t at a high intensity either.
Ironically if I was to play with loads at 80%+ with 5-25reps daily I can sustain that for months and make progress.
GTG style also works very well.
^^ This would be on one or two movements per day.
A session may look like this:
A1 – Press x6x2-4
A2 – Carry x60 seconds
A3 – Pull x6x2-4
^^ 1-2min rest between each movement
Creep that up by a standard volume increase, say
Week 1 6×2-4
Week 2 7×2-4
Week 3 8×2-4
Then these days bad things would happen.
Funny how sometimes that which we truly enjoy doing just isn’t good for us.
That being said I’f I was to have a high volume session I’d have to look at training every 3-5days.
By high volume I mean like I used to train only a mere 5-6 years ago.
Trade offs, trade offs, trade offs.
It is a struggle to let go of something you became so accustomed to.
I’d be that guy who was a true work horse.
If something wasn’t progressing then I’d simply do more work, there was endless energy and nothing slowed me down.
*Life looks over – “Aha, do I have a surprise for you.”
We only have so much that we can give.
So why is it why always try and give more than that which we have?
We could be here all day discussing that.
Our attitude of – “I just need to do a little more’
It’s a foolish one, seriously, the only person ho cares how hard you work in the gym is you, all the people looking on in awe will forget you the second someone else catches their eye doing more than you.
If you view of yourself is similar to mine form thee days of old, please heed my words.
Don’t break yourself.
It’s just not worth it in the long run.
Unless you are a paid athlete, like a legitimate one, not an Instagram one, they don’t count.
Working yourself in to the ground isn’t worth it.
For us average folk we can make leaps and bounds training every 3-5 days with higher volume/intensity styles of training.
Now there are many ways to train, I’ve shared plenty.
Some of which I’ms are you’ve seen and thought – I like that, I will try it, for 3 weeks, then got bored as results didn’t come as fast as you felt you deserved and thus you reverted back to your comfort zone of what you always did.
“Foolishness Dante, foolishness.”
In fact I’m going to extend a withered hand.
All you need do is ask and I’d happily write you something to do of the next 6months for free.
It would be something you’d question because it’d be very different from what you’re doing (I’m willing to bet).
The question is this though, would you be willing to give it an honest go for 6 months or would your addiction to more get the better of you?
I guess we’ll see.
Strength Training for Ladies:
Lift the heavy thing + solid nutrition = all the gains.
That’s essentially it.
I suppose we could look at some details as well.
You know what, to me the fact that more women are lifting is a very good thing because of all the benefits it offers, however we need to look at a few things to maximise what can be gained.
In the beginning days you’ll find these two main differences between the sexes when it comes to training due to genetics.
*If you’ve found different please do share your experience.
Ladies tend to do better with a higher volume of total work and their RM loads are not that far apart.
Men on the other hand don’t handle quite as high a volume and their RM loads can be dramatically different.
We shall tackle the volume in a second, first the loads.
Lady – 5RM = 100kg, 1RM = 107kg
Gent – 5RM = 100kg, 1RM = 120kg
This has bene linked in with overall levels of neurological strength and MU firing rates, plus the initial difference in LBM when looking at beginners on both sides of the fence.
Of course as training starts to progress this gap lessens, however one thing that does seem consistent is that ladies handle more total volume far better than the gents do (faster recovery etc).
Strength itself is a skill.
You have to learn to express your strength, regardless of how much base strength you have, if someone knows how to get everything ‘just right’ they will surprise you with just how much iron they can shift.
The most optimal rep range for this is 1-5 reps.
In regards to optimal sets, that’s where things get interesting as in an ideal world it will be answered as such – how many you can handle with good form.
That might be 5 sets, it might be 50.
Many who follow the tome of hypertrophy will start to bang out statistics and ‘evidence’ or ‘studies’, which is all well and good, however strength is a different animal.
You want to lift a heavy load, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as you can.
When I’ve trained ladies in the past who wanted to get strong this seemed to work very well for beginners put o the intermediate level (as a general starting point).
2-4 reps x 10-30 sets x 3-10RM
The weight east set would change in some rather sharp and random ways.
Not what people expect, here is what is may have looked like if the reps were static (for simplicity).
2 x 7RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM, 3RM, 3RM, 9RM, 7RM, 5RM, 4RM, etc
^^ One or two movements (compound focus)
Throw in some conditioning work in the form of sprints, kettlebell snatches, complexes, PHA bits and pieces and you’ll soon find yourself or your female clients getting the results they’ve always wanted.
*I found many ladies enjoyed full body work and responded best to it for when they were after an overall aesthetic look and strength.
Here is an example session:
W/U – Mobility Flow (or KB complex flow)
Skill – 15sets of Bent Press practice 1-3 reps
Strength – 10-30 sets S/S Clean & Press + Chin 2-4 reps
Conditioning – L/C, Rope Climb Hold, Swings – 10Min
C/D – Mobility or Yoga Flow
A lot of volume, a lot of practice and varied loads each and every set.
Easy on paper, in practice no so much.
The aim of getting stronger is the goal of many.
One little gem of information for achieving it though is this; you leave a session feeling stronger than you did when you entered, like you could do more however you don’t.
Leaving something in the tank and feeling strong is key.
Doing the will allow you a higher frequency of training and that will yield results far faster then you could imagine, if you’re willing to leave a little in the tank every session.
Obviously there will be some days you push a little harder than others, however this shouldn’t be the status quo, despite what fitness rags tell you.
Apply the philosophy of ‘same yet different’ as well and you’ve got a very potent mix for progress.
*S-Y-D = Zercher Squat, Front Squat, Back Squat -they are all squats and while the same they’re still different.
Now go, become strong.
Sadly squats were not on the cards today.
Well, at least not with a bar.
The adaptation was simple, yet sinister.
100 total reps of Pistols.
This was 50 per leg with half being working sets of 32kg (5×5) and recovery sets at 50% of that (5x5x16kg).
In-between each set of pistols was a set of swings with 32kg hitting 15-35 reps per set.
Seems easy on paper, in reality not so much.
You are never short of the ability to train if you’re honest with yourself.
Of course if you feel like a rest day or are jammed working/traveling, cool to skip a day, however just skipping the gym because of being lazy isn’t a good path to go down.
One way to get around the dogmatic view of –
“I can’t get to the gym to do XYZ exercise.”
Think about movement patterns: Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Locomotion (loaded carry) or Movement (crawling, climbing etc) at the simple level, hitting one or tow of those daily will be life changing for most people.
We have gotten stuck in the gym mindset.
Meaning we can only get the results we want when we go to the gym, this isn’t true.
Now if you are to say that one can only get specific results desired from training in a gym (or with specialist kit) then that is a different topic with a valid point and requires more discussion.
If the goal is simply to feel better, move better, look better and stave off the cold hand of the reaper a little longer, then there is no inherent need for a gym or specialist kit, not really.
Don’t get me wrong, specialist kit is great and makes training good fun and easier to adhere to.
Not to mention of the tools are there then they should be utilised because that is what tools are for.
What do you do when your normal routine is compromised?
I look forwards to reading your answers below.
I’m not pinned, I’m doing pause reps….
Believe it or not I’ve sad this before.
Once because I was genuinely doing paused reps and people were rushing over.
The other time I was legitimately stapled by the bar in a bench press and felt a little silly as I had only moments before declined a spot.
In the more modern realms of lifting the eccentric-less styles of training have taken quite well and gained in their popularity.
Think weightlifting as an example.
In fairness most power related sports don’t really have a heavy eccentric component in them, some do however not the ones most people are enamoured by.
The stronger they get concentrically with out looking at how much they can stabilise and lower, the closer they edge towards injury.
Many have never heard of the term strength deficit before.
As such let us delve in to it for a spell.
Eccentrically you should be able to handle around 30% more than you can lift concentrically for all things to be considered equal, or at least not to be on the brink of royally snapping your shit up.
When this number starts to drop below 30% things need to be looked at, if yours is 20% or lower then you may have a problem.
A good example is that of an average runner.
Potentially strong in the quads, the hamstrings/glutes not so much.
They need the hamstrings to allow them to achieve their full potential for running, along with helping any potential change of direction that may occur in the blink of an eye.
Make them try some sprinting style drills that involve moving in anything other than a straight line and they’re more often than not very slow, or the go for it and something goes ping.
How do you know if you have a strength deficit on a lift?
The 4+2 method is a great way to find out what it is.
I got this from Poliquin.
Actually there is probably an article, hang on.
^^ There you go.
I wonder how much thought you give to the eccentric portion of your lifting?
Perhaps you’ve taken up the current in thing of ‘tempo work’ – tempo bench, tempo squats etc, which is actually just lifting normally truth be told.
If you were going to do tempo work then your lifting owed be done to a metronome.
Training eccentrically with maximal/supra-maximal is very taxing, best suited for 3 week blocks maybe 2-3times per year for most people.
Having a focus on the eccentric portion of your lift however.
Well that is something you should always have in mind for all you lifts, unless specially programmed otherwise by your coach.
What is the optimal ‘everyday’ eccentric pace?
4-6 seconds seems to be the sweet spot because it allows for a decent load to be lifted multiple times so that you’re not missing your volume/intensity needs.
Concentric should in my opinion always be performed as fast as possible (with control, obviously).
The top end of a lift you can choose to pause there for a second to re-brace/stabilise or just go straight in to the next rep if you’re already in the groove.
At the lowest part, of the end ROM, like the top you can just crack on or you can utilise a pause.
^^ A minimum of 4 seconds in the hole will greatly debilitate the stretch reflex (stored tension/potential kinetic energy and all that jazz) meaning you need to generate more tension/force to get the weight back up.
^^Klokov has had a method named after him for his length pauses, the ‘Klokov squat’ it looks like this: 1 rep x 6-10-X-0 tempo. They’re horrid yet so so much fun.
Try using this little gem in your programming and let me know of all the gains you make.
– Pick 1-3 main lifts
– Accessory work will be 2-3 sets of AMRAP
– Rest as needed
Week 1-2: Acc – 6×6-8: tempo 8-0-X-0
Week 3-4: Int – 8×2-4: tempo 2-6-X-0
Week 5-6: Acc – 6×6-8: tempo 6-0-X-0
Week 7-8: Int – 8×2-4: tempo 2-4-X-0
Week 9-10: Acc – 6×6-8: tempo 4-0-X-0
Week 11-12: Int – 8×2-4: tempo 2-2-X-0
Week 13 – Deload
Week 14 – Test new RM on the lift(s) you focused on
As always leave any questions below.
We all hit a wall at times with progress.
Given I’ve been here several times I’m going to share with you some of the methods I used to overcome mine.
First up, shoulders.
More specifically, pressing overhead.
There is little else quite as impressive as putting a heavy weight over head.
Ideally you want to be able to press your own bodyweight with crispy clean form.
Many can’t because they’re just too weak.
Or too heavy, might be a combination of both, who knows.
The three go to methods in my arsenal are as follows:
Negatives – High MUR, allow overload of CNS, good fun
Partial Presses – Teaches high tension, helps with confidence to grind through sticking points, looks cool
Plyometrics – Improve RFD, improves CNS connections, makes great fodder for Instagram video
How do you apply these?
There are many ways, I will give you some easy to apply ones immediately.
Push press (or push jerk) a heavier load than you can strict press overhead.
Aim for 2-5 reps, each rep you will aim for 6-10seconds on the negative portion of the lift. If a rep negative is less than 6 second stop the set, if it happens on the next set you’re done for the day with these.
Sets, well starting off with 3-4 is good, aim to bulk to perhaps 6-8 total, rest as needed between sets.
Don’t just let it drop though, stay tense and almost aim to pull the weight back down.
You will need Pins for this of block son some description where you can place the bar on.
Simple set the bar at your sticking point and press away.
Given the reduced range of motion 4-8sets of 4-6reps work well for this, you may also be abel to utilise heavier loads than normal as well, just make sure you keep total body tension in each rep.
*You can also set partial ROM, you’d need two sets of pins for this, say giving you 4inches of movement, you press from a pin just below your sticking point to a pin just above your sticking point. You’d drive the bar in to the top pin AS HARD AS POSSIBLE, for as long as possible, then repeat until you hit momentary muscle failure, then rest 5min.
Personally I’ve found launching a medicine ball as high as possible in the air works well.
You’d so as many sets as possible while maintaining speed, reps would be 2-3 per set as the focus is on acceleration. Rest 1-3min.
If you’re more advanced you can look at handstand depth drops – look up the book ‘Plyometric Training, achieving explosive power in sport, Hatfield & Yessis’.
*Please note all of the above, unless stated, are to be done while leaving a couple of reps in the tank, strength is a skill and you should see the above as PRACTICE not a workout method, if you want to get strong.
There you have it.
Some simple methods for breaking a pressing plateau that can be performed in most gyms without the need for specialist kit.
Be sure to get in remedial work in the form of lateral raises, reverse flies, t3 raises and so on, these areas are often neglected and can be the cause of tension (strength/power) leakage, they will be covered in the future so keep your eyes open for that post.
Next time; Deadlifts.
There are 5 main kettlebells to work with.
For anyone worth their salt that is.
A great tool that hits every aspect of your being, in every way imaginable.
The big 5 are as follows:
48kg = Beast
40kg = Bulldog
32kg = Badger
24kg = Fox
16kg = Rabbit
*The beast has always been called the beast, the others picked up names via the SFG/RKC/Kettlebell Communities and they’re awesome.
8kg jumps a truly mammoth task to achieve.
Such jumps require a good amount of time to achieve, this is where a lot of people lose their drive with kettlebells, the results are not fast or flashy and you need to be willing to invest years of your life in to them.
In the modern world patience is in short supply.
Which bells of the above can you handle?
Those are the standard milestones that many should aim to achieve in regards to kettlebell work.
If by the end of a long journey you can swing (single arm), snatch, press, pistol, chin & get up the Beast for multiple reps there is a good chance you’ll have a body that is built to last for a very long time.
We do have 4kg jumps in-between the lager bells, and these are useful, when it comes to kettlebells I wouldn’t recommend anyone goes up in less than 4kg.
If you just read that and are sat thinking 4kg is too much then you need to rethink your life because clearly being strong both physically and mentally are not high on your agenda, this needs to change.
There are no set in stone names for the middle bells, some have floated around, yet few have taken like the main 5 above.
What do you feel they could be called?
Leave your thoughts below.
These simple pieces of kit are hard to beat in regards to the multiple elements of fitness they hit when using them, mobility, balance, tension, skill, power, and so much more, for the average person there would be little need for any other kit, well, perhaps a pull up bar (or chin/dip station to hang some gymnastic rings on), other than those additions, you’d be golden.
Of course you could add in ropes and other such bits of ‘functional’ training kit, however if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years it is this.
Less done better trumps more done poorly.
Once upon a time I squatted everyday for a year.
Each day I would warm up with multiple sets of low reps and finish on a heavy-ish single with crisp form and good speed, the type of squat varied each day, some days there would be some back of sets (2-3) & reps (2-5).
This little gem helped me hit a 3xBW squat.
The effectiveness of training daily, or rather daily practice of a movement was indeed something incredibly valuable, yet the hard part was not doing too much, even though it was done everyday.
On days that felt strong I might have gone a tad heavier, and on the weaker ones there was simply an easier squat variation used that was less stressful.
When people hear this, this question that often follows:
“Is it good to train every day, won’t you overtrain?”
I get asked things like this a lot and it is fair.
My answer is always this:
“It’s fine to practice everyday.”
Our bodies are meant to do daily activities, however that isn’t training, or at least not the training many consider worth their time.
Too many people are fatigue seeking.
In doing this they destroy their potential for progress.
Over the years we made the mistake of listening to those who claim amore was better, harder was better, unless you’re sore for 27days straight post one training session you didn’t do it right.
All this is doing is playing up to a mental bias, if you think about this logically for a second you will see the fault in it.
Let us look at these two days for example, which do you feel will yield more progress:
*Calories are set accordingly, sleep is at 6-8 hours per night.
Option A – You train 365 days out of the year (yes, you get some Christmas Day gains too), waving the volume/load each session allowing for heavy/light days (peak/recovery) and the majority of your training if satisfyingly tough (medium days).
Option B – You 150 days out of the year because each session you go as hard as you can and require a few days to recover due to being sore/fatigued. Every session you give it your all, you never let up, not even once and go as heavy as you can each session (fatigue defining just how hard that is).
Of the two options which do you think will yield more benefit?
While both will provide you with progress, one allows you to auto-regulate and flow with the go, the other is power by conventional wisdom and ego meaning you need to do all you can.
From experience I can tell you that the overall results in regards to strength, hypertrophy and aesthetics are actually not altho different, honestly it ends up being pretty damn close.
So what is the difference?
Again from experience I will tell you this, the first option I was never sore, my form go incredibly sharp on all of my lifts due to the consistent practice and life wasn’t affected. The second option was great for saving time however being sore for days and then sometimes to being recovered enough to train properly again made it a grind and not that enjoyable.
In essence what I am saying is this; it doesn’t matter what you do so long at you do it with intent.
Personally I prefer the daily practice element because it is aimed at being a life long thing.
You will also find you can gain more total volume over time and maintain your progress with more ease than if you take the ‘go hard or go home approach’.
Which option is more appealing to you and why?
Have a think and leave your answer below.
Always be ready, you never know when you may have to jump to action.
How often are you told to make sure you thoroughly warm up before a training session?
Since the earliest days of lifting we have had it engrained that we need to fire up the body, or as it can be know now – RAMP.
Raise the Pulse
Activate the desired muscles
Mobilise the required joints
Potentiate the nervous system
One common practice these days is that you find people spend 30min or more warming up sometimes, which is just excessive really.
If you are an individual who is of immense strength then perhaps 30min is what you need, however from the majority of people 10min would be more than sufficient, most can do just fine on 5.
In some cases you may find you can literally step up to what ever it is you’re about to lift and just lift it with no warm up, which from experience is around 70% of your comfortable max, honestly.
A great many people have become enamoured with trigger point work, foam rolling, excessive dynamic stretching and other things before they even grab the bar and start lifting.
While a warm up is always advisable in some form, if you plan on squatting then warm up with squats and simply warm up in to your working sets, if you feel some strange stiffness else where then in-between squat sets do some gentle stretching/dynamic work (10-20 seconds).
The obsession with a comprehensive warm up is getting a bit mad now.
There is an old saying – “You play how you practice.”
Seeing training as practice is a good mindset to have because it means that you will always be ready to lift something of a decent weight without any real effort.
Think about it logical for a second, in the days of manual labour being common for a career, how many of them did a warm up before they started a days graft?
None, that’s my guess.
If they have do lift beams of 70kg, then they had to lift beams of 70kg, there was no option of smaller ones as a warm up, if there were smaller beams they’d leave those until last and get the heavier more taxing ones out of the way first.
The next time you go to train try and keep keep your warm up to 10min or under and aim to maximise your time by being as productive as possible.
Here is an example of a sub 5min general warm up:
– 20m of crawling and 3-5 chin/pull ups
– Turkish Get Up 3 each arm (increase weight each get up)
– 3-5 single deadlifts or squats increasing weigh each time
Alternatively, try 5min of kettlebell snatches with a light to medium bell, trust me you’ll be ready for anything after that.
If you have a day of pressing then simply add in some single presses to the mix and boom, your ready to go.
As per routine there is always 30min of reading before bed, sometimes more.
The book that was randomly grabbed was called ‘Beast Tamer
How to Master the Ultimate Russian Kettlebell Strength Challenge’
It is geared around completing the Beast Challenge.
1x Pistol, Single Arm Press & Chin/Pull Up with a 48kg kettlebell.
While looking through some of my old highlights and making newer ones, as you always get more from books when you look at them multiple times, I say this nice simple training protocol.
It combines the PTTP/GTG concepts and is remarkably simple.
*Power to the People & Grease the Groove*
– Living in the Gym
It is based on 5 days training per week.
Each day you will do the following in the gym.
A1 – DL (DL variant) 2×5
B1 – Double Kettlebell Press 2×5
You can vary the loads as needed, set in simple progression protocols, perhaps follow the Easy Strength ethos and much more, that is down to your preference/ability/need.
That was the PTTP part.
As for the GTG, it’s easier on paper than in reality.
Every hour perform
2-3 Pistols each leg & 2-3 Pull Ups (you can add in 2-3 single arm push ups too if you feel your recovery can handle it.)
Now it might not seem like much, however doing 2-3 reps of each every hour, 5 days per week soon build up the volume.
In regards to training days you can do Mon-Fri with rest on the weekend, or the variation I tend to give people is Mon-Wed-Rest-Fri-Sat-Rest, this give you the chance if using ES to go heavy more often when feeling strong due to the days off in between.
All in all a cracking little protocol.
As with anything though you will need to plan in your progressions, vary the loads and track your progress because it’s easy to forget that the idea of this style of daily practice is to progress and become strong without ever feeling like you’re putting in too much effort.
If this is something you find interesting, give it a go.
I’d also advise getting a hold of the book as well, it’s less than £5 and well worth the investment.