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The Key to the Kettlebell Swing? Patience, Young Grasshopper

I think half of what I do every day is to help people relax.  That's not what you may expect to hear.  But whether it's breathing in a corner, slowing someone down on a drill or exercise, or just trying to be a calming presence, I've realized that most people need to work on this important skill.

That's because movement, strength, and power all require a dichotomy of tension and relaxation.  It's something I didn't fully appreciate when I was younger, because I used to tell people to "Squeeze. Err'thang."  But the secret to good movement - and being more athletic - is the ability to get tight and then relax.  It's a balance that martial artists have been preaching for centuries.

While I could write this post about any movement, the kettlebell swing is where this balance is most noticeable.  A great swing is made up of power and patience - or tension and relaxation. If you fall to either side of the spectrum, your swing won't look very good. That said, most people understand the idea of getting power behind their swings. But they don't understand the idea of relaxation and patience.

 

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Exercise Confusion

As a newly-minted personal trainer, I was always very concerned about what my clients were thinking. Are they having a good time?  Are they entertained?  Am I progressing them fast enough?

Fast forward to today and I'm still concerned about my clients, but in different ways.  I care much less about novelty, especially if they are still mastering the basics (and to some degree, aren't we all?).  As such, I often hear a variant of this phrase: "We tend to do the same things over and over and over again."

As I usually respond, "Yeah. That's the point."

After all, I wouldn't describe myself as an exciting guy.  I like my Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise on Monday nights, deadlifts on Wednesdays, and Chipotle on Fridays. (*The risk of foodborne illness from Chipotle is probably the most excitement I have in my life.)

 

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Own Your Overhead

The secret to happiness is picking heavy things off the ground.  

Then putting them overhead.

And yes, I'm only half joking.

I've written about 30 blog posts on the former, but I haven't completely covered the latter. Here's my attempt to change that.

It's hard to write about pressing weight overhead because ~50% of people struggle with owning that position.  Sometimes it's a stability problem or a mobility issue - both of which are secretly stability issues. For others, they may be "cleared" to press overhead, but they suffer from back or shoulder pain.

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Beast Untamed

I remember it vividly.  I hit a brick wall.  

Only it wasn't an actual wall.  It was my two failed attempts at pressing the Beast - a 48 kilogram (106 lbs) kettlebell.  Yes, it's pretty much a person.

It occurred two weeks ago when I attended a StrongFirst Kettlebell certification. During the certification, StrongFirst offers "The Beast Tamer Challenge," which is exactly what it sounds like.  The challenge is made up of the following:

-A strict, one arm military press with a 48k kettlebell. 

-A dead hang, tactical-style (thumbless grip) pull-up with a 48k kettlebell.

-A single leg, pistol squat with a 48k kettlebell.

You don't receive anything for completing it.  A handshake, respect, and the right to call yourself a Beast Tamer. That's it. Less than 50 men around the world have ever completed it.  On the women's side, the challenge is all three movements but with a 24 kilo (53 lbs) bell.  Less than 25 women have ever completed it.  

I guess you could say I was shooting for the stars. Weighing in at 188 lbs, the 48k bell was 56% of my bodyweight. I would've been one of the lighter Beast Tamers to complete it.  Would've.

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The Death of the Bench Press (And What to do Instead)

This title isn't a joke.  A form of click bait, yes.  But a joke?  No.

You're skeptical.  I get that.  How could a meathead like myself throw in the towel on benching?  

But this isn't an overreaction to headlines that NFL teams are adopting Turkish Get-Ups instead of bench presses. And if someone's stated goal is to bench more weight, well guess what?  We're going to bench.  

But if someone's goal is to move better and feel better?  Forgive me, Lord Schwarzenneger, but we probably won't bench. Ever.

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