Happy New Year.
I'm writing this at a hotel in Niagara Falls where I spent the beginning of the New Year with my family. It's early in the morning on Sunday and it seems like the whole hotel is asleep. It's a great time to reflect on what I learned in the past year and to look forward to what's coming in 2011.
As I sit in my little quiet corner watching the daylight start to develop, I came to the conclusion that there are 5 things that I am going to focus on when it comes to my program writing and my own training this year.
I'd like to share them with you…
Chris Lopez' 5 Lessons for 2011
1. PRACTICE, Don't Train.
I used to be one of those trainers with more balls than brains who tried to kill their clients each and every time out.
Never really focusing on strength or progression, it was always "Kill'em! Kill'em! Kill'em!" using met-con style workouts. Get your sweat on and get your heart rate up and focus on doing more volume.
I trained myself and my clients that way.
The problem, was that it was difficult to chart progression. And that people were dreading the workouts. I instilled a drill seargent mentality into myself and a feeling of FEAR in the people that I worked with. I was the guy you go to "to get killed".
That reputation did wonders for my business at the time (because we live in a messed up society where everyone views exercise and a good training session with pain and punishment), but did nothing for my clients who would end up fatigued and – because of the high-volume – injured.
The important thing to understand about kettlebell training (and strength training in general) is that each exercise is a SKILL that needs to be practiced.
Much like practicing for a sport, you are not getting any better when you are doing things wrong because you're forcing reps due to fatigue.
This means that you need to end your set of military presses when your form starts to deteriorate. That you should never train to failure and that as much as you want to push yourself to get MORE in, you should really be pushing yourself to maintain form.
Brace your abs. Squeeze your glutes. Pull your kneecaps up to your crotch. Fire your lats, power breathe and maintain perfect form as you drive that KB over your head.
Don't bend and twist your body out of alignment like some circus contortionist just for one more rep. It isn't worth it.
Practice DOES NOT make perfect.
PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect – don't practice mistakes.
2. Focus On Performance – Set Goals
Nothing is worse than blindly going into a workout with the sole intention of trying to gain a sweat and to kill yourself (see #1 above).
You need to have a purpose – a goal.
Much like how you gave yourself some New Year's Resolutions, you need to set goals for your training. And these goals must be as specific as possible.
"Get back in shape" is NOT a specific goal.
"1-arm military press ‘the beast' (a 108lb kettlebell) by June 15th, 2011" is a specific goal. Now you have a destination (your goal) and can accurately draw a map (your plan – workouts, nutrition, schedule) on how to get there.
For me, my goal for the first half of the year is to get back to weighing 175lbs while maintaining a 31" waist by June 1st, 2011.
This means that I'll be trying to gain muscle while trying to put on as little fat as possible. I've drawn out a plan for myself whereby I re-evaluate my progress at the end of every 3 weeks to make sure that I'm getting stronger, gaining size and still staying within a waist circumference of 31-32".
I'm recording every workout and every meal and my sleep schedule to test and track what's working and what isn't. If something's working, then I'll stay with it. If it's not, then I'll re-evaluate and change things up.
I've broken things down into little goals along the way so that I don't get overwhelmed by my ONE BIG GOAL.
I suggest you do the same thing.
Write your ONE BIG GOAL down and then break it down into little goals or steps. Write everything down. Track your progress. Assess what works and what doesn't for you and keep making gains SLOWLY.
3. Use Double KBs More Often
I've been using Geoff Neupert's Kettlebell Muscle Program for the past few weeks with INCREDIBLE results. In this program, using double-KBs is a MUST.
The workouts are gruesome, but great. My manhood gets challenged as much as my grip.
Training with 2 kettlebells has opened my eyes to a whole new world of training. Not only do you have more weight to manage, but you are also challenging your nervous system more when you're doing highly technical ballistic movements like a double-KB snatch.
One of my favorite "quick but dirty" workouts these days is doing double-KB cleans with the 32kg bells for 50 reps in as few sets as possible.
That's well over 140lbs that you're trying to move and will build some impressive upper body armour in a very short time.
4. Use "Weighted" Bodyweight Movements/Exercises
I'm done with high-rep training for the winter and am focusing on getting stronger. And with the way I train – exclusively using only KBs and bodyweight movements – that means that I've got to add some additional weight to my chins, dips, push-ups and pistols.
The fact of the matter is that being able to do 20 chin-ups is a great feat, but you're not going to get strong by trying to add more and more reps to your chin-up numbers. You need to be able to move some heavy poundage.
Yes, I like being able to do a lot of chin-ups, but what if I'm hanging off the ledge of a 50-story building with one of my kids hanging on to my shoulders?
Stop laughing, it could happen. And if it does, I'd like to comfortably say that I could pull myself and my 90lb 12-year-old up and save both our lives.
The only way to do this would be to train doing heavy chin-ups with either a weight vest on or by attaching a KB to a weight belt (or by having my 12-year-old jump on my back and see if I can bang out a few reps).
Now that's functional training.
5. TRAIN MORE, Workout LESS
After reading about the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) in Tim Ferriss' "The Four Hour Body", I'm convinced that our culture is obsessed with the "more is better" philosophy.
Buy one get one FREE. All you can EAT. Supersize me.
Having or doing more is NOT the answer.
The concept behind MED is that your body only needs a specific amount of stimulation (read: exercise) in order to acheive its goal. Anything more than what's required is excessive.
It's wasteful – both in time and in energy – possibly risking overtraining and injury.
The trick, however, is to find what is enough for your body to tolerate and therefore get the maximum gains without your efforts being wasted. How do you do that? Well, it's different for everybody and is a matter of self-exploration and self-experimentation.
For me, I recognized by the way my body performs when I train 3 x per week as opposed to 4 x per week. As much as I love to train, trying to go 4 x per week was making me excessively sore, dipping my motivation and getting me sick.
Instead of looking forward to my Day 4 workout, I was dreading it and trying to justify some way of skipping it.
Now, finding my MED, I've found that my strength levels, immune system and motivation are great when I only train 3 days per week.
Much of what we want to achieve when it comes to our bodies is highly dependent on our diets and our lifestyle. I think training only plays a small percentage in that equation. Our goal, should then be to only do what's required to give us our desired outcome when it comes to training and to focus more on what we consume (or don't consume) and to manage our stress levels and lifestyle.
What about you? What's your outlook for 2011?
Chris Lopez, RKC
P.S. Get your 2011 started off right with the TT Kettlebell Revolution. Click HERE to get it.