Archives For November 2012

I really wanted to do this with some video….but since my flight is delayed and I’m fighting the olfactory overloading from this fresh bread behind me and trying no to go eat it and subsequently crap myself, I figured I’d turn on this overly dramatic sounding new mumford and sons album and try to sound smarter than i am and post about how I like to make swings more better, IMO.


The classic swing is a hell of an exercise. This is not a swing bashing piece. Getting someone to swing very nicely can be huge for back health, glute development, power, endurance, and sweet hip thrust dance moves. However, it is NOT that athletic.


Please tell me what ATHLETIC endeavor pushes through your heels? cue crickets…..

“don’t get caught on your heels!” “stay on your toes!”…these are not coaching mainstays for silly reasons….it’s because you’ll get beat on the field if you get caught on your heels.

Now , I’m not saying the swing won’t help people with athleticism-if that’s what youve read you’re reading comprehension sucks. I’m being exaggerative on purpose.

So….the swing isn’t all that athletic, by itself. Especially, IMO, if you are tense and hardstyle the entire time. It should be tense at the top, and tense at the bottom, with relative relaxation during the ‘moving’ aspects of the swing. That’s athletic, being able to switch gears. Seeing the hardstyle practiced in presses, deadlifts, squats, cleans so frequently ends up showing people being hardstyle in EVERYTHING that they do. They simply contract and overly muscle through all their movements….I have to imagine that hardstylers are the WORST dancers ever.

**an important note: at RKC/SF events, relaxation and fast and loose is emphasized….yet MOST candidates seem to glaze over this aspect for the sexy big press numbers. Don’t, not if you want to move well and athletically.

Learning the hip hinge sequence is the most important part of the swing for people, because it’s true that many cannot load into the hips adequately and the inability to do so may place people at an increased potential for knee/back injuries. So I’m NOT saying don’t swing. It is the foundation for the next couple drills I’ll describe below, and the drills shouldn’t be done UNTIL the traditional swing is money.

Swings w/triple extension

In this swing, you will finish at the top of the swing on your toes, aka triple extension. The swing already sorta looked like a jump, and now it does so even more. For added excitement do it on a slight incline with toes above heels, or put toes on a firm surface an inch or two above your heels. Stolen from Gray Cook via Jeff O’Connor.

Walking swings

This has two options. 1. As you swing up, step with one leg WHILE the bell is rising, then bring the other leg up also. 2. Swing the bell and at the peak, quickly step 1,2 and be ready for the next back swing. Not stolen from anyone, although LOTS of people do these I think. Start with small steps, but once you focus on powerful long steps, it really hits the lead leg glute noticeably.

One handed step back swings

Also has two options. 1. On the backswing of a one handed swing, swing to the outside of the leg that doesn’t step back (so step back left and swing back right handed outside right leg). 2. On the backswing of a 2 handed swing, swing on the inside of the leg that doesn’t step back. Haven’t seen people do these, but I’m sure other people are.

Why do I think these are more athletic?

1. Athletes must be able to move, reestablish a solid base in which to be athletic from, and then explode. The traditional swing never changes base of support, and that is NOT athletic. Each of the above methods cause you to demonstrate quickness, timing, and the ability to move the base of support and then reestablish that athletic stance before generating the power portion of the drill (the swing).

2. #2&3 have a rotational element to them, and that’s a good thing. That’s all.

Other benefits

So I spent 40 days where I averaged 200 swings a day (as high as 500 as low as 100). After 3 weeks of that, swings weren’t tiring in the legs/glutes….just the forearms. I managed 75 continuous swings with the 44kg, and 125 with the 32kg before forearms just couldn’t take it anymore. BUT, I started doing walking swings, and 20 reps would have me breathing hard and get my glutes fired up again, this is a cool thing. My GF, who we are turning into a kettlebell princess, had the same experience.

So, in summation, since my plane is boarding….if you are really efficient at swings…make them more interesting, and I don’t just mean heavier or more.


Crawling Plus

November 19, 2012 — 3 Comments

Woah, it’s been 7 weeks since I blogged. I don’t actually think anyone is worse off for the break, but thanks to everyone who keeps harassing me to add more info. Here’s why I haven’t: I’ve been working at Trader Joe’s, at a brand new sports club in San Diego, with my online clients (I have two open spots), leading a couple workshops back east in DC & NYC, and finally teaching a KB Cert for KB Athletics. So I’ve been busy, it’s also one of the reasons why we haven’t done a BA podcast in a while!

On to today.

More and more we see people crawling in different exercise schools of thought. When many schools of thought come to the same conclusion you really should pay attention, because there is a reason, even if it is not agreed upon by each of the schools. Crawling seems to be rehabilitative in nature, be it because of it being a developmental pattern, because of opposite limb coordinated movement, crossing the midline deliciousness for the brain, or my favorite idea, that functions of the body are asked to be performed when in closed chain vs open chain when they aren’t.

The functions of our muscles were learned by anyone who studied an anatomy book based on their origin and insertion points, and what actions they perform in anatomical position. Biceps flex for instance in the anatomical position, because the proximal end of the arm is ‘fixed’ while the distal end moves. This flips when the distal end becomes ‘fixed’ such as in a crawl, and the bicep (and other “stuff”) has to perform completely different functions than what is normally listed in a physiology book.

That open vs closed chain idea isn’t new when we are talking about leg exercises (seated curl vs kb swings) and we generally agree that the way our bodies are asked to move and the functions that the muscles of the leg perform are different when we are standing vs sitting.  The same is true for the upper body though! And that doesn’t seem to be discussed much at all.

When the hands become the fixed point one’s muscles act differently to move or stabilize the rest of the body. This is one reason that big lat pulls don’t equate to pull-ups. This also is the reason that a big bench doesn’t always make for solid pushup performances. Well….the different actions of the muscles is one reason…the other large reason being the increased activation of stabilizer/deep muscles when in a closed chain.

So…this leads to…what do we do? We crawl. Forwards, backwards, sideways, downhill, uphill, uphill backwards, on thin surfaces, dragging something, and my favorite: crawling backwards uphill.

BUT, we can do other things as well. We can get into closed chain positions and perform tasks. For example, the plank row. This is your plank but way more interesting. Try it.  The other thing you can do is create a stable base in a quadraped (or three point) position and move external objects. This requires the shoulder and to a lesser extent the hip complexes to stabilize enough to be a strong base for you to move the external object around. These drills will make a ‘strong’ person feel very weak very quickly.

The other thing that may happen, and I can’t say this for sure, is we might see people get into a more centrated position when we ask them to perform external load moving tasks. I believe this may be because our structures and not perfectly functioning muscular systems are ‘strong’ enough for us to get into positions where the joints are in ‘poor’ positions (crappy scapular position, crappy hip/rib tilting) and perform crappy looking crawls/planks. But throw an external load such as the sandbag in the video below onto the demands of the plank, and the body MUST get into a better position in order to accomplish the task. I’m fully aware that it may not always happen in this fashion, but I’ve seen it work out more often than not. I only came to this because of attending Charlie Weingroff lectures where he demonstrates how to ‘fix’ a crappy scap position by putting some real load ontop of it! Also, if someone is scared that loading someone who may initially not have optimal position in these crawl drills, don’t be. These are basically self limiting exercises and it would be hard to hurt oneself. They would simply get to tired to keep going, as I basically did at the end of this video.

Check it out.

Crawl sand bag push: notice how awesome this is, you have to lower yourself into a quasi one arm pushup, maintain core integrity and push over head. If one didn’t have the upper body strength on the support arm, they would lower to knees, or forearm. Or realistically not get this rx’d.

Plank row to back crawl: this is just too good. There is ‘magic’ in going from forearms up to the hand.

Horizontal snatch: yep, look at it…it’s basically a one arm snatch horizontal to the ground. You can emphasize near full hip extension as swell.

Side pulls: Josh Henkin would be mad that I’m doing these fast, and in fact slowing them down makes them much more challenging. I do those also.