Editor's Note: Today's guest post is from my good friend and fellow SFG and OS Coach Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer” Salkin (seriously, that's what they call him). Aleks, aside from being one strong dude, is one of the most knowledgable coaches I've ever met. Listen to him. He knows his stuff. And check him out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alekssalkintraining
There are a few truisms in life that you can always rely on…
“The only guarantees in life are death and taxes”
“The people in life who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind”
“You’ll never amount to jack if you don’t squat.”
That last one I made up myself, and while it may not immediately seem to ring true to everybody, on a physical level at least I can say I’m pretty damn sure it’s a fact.
Physical culture – while never completely dead – is making a resurgence thanks to the extraordinary efforts of people like Pavel Tsatsouline and his crack team of SFG leadership, not to mention the countless others who are preaching the Gospel of strength and the virtues of mastering your body via your ability to bend/crush/and lift things at your will.
Central to your all-around physical development is your ability to squat. It’s equally important as a position of rest as it is a full-body power move.
Master SFG and co-founder of the Original Strength system, Geoff Neupert, has referred to the squat as the “grand daddy of grinds”, and as much as I didn’t want to agree initially, I couldn’t agree more. He has pointed out that in the past he got a separated shoulder from a bicycling accident and couldn’t bench or military press. Instead he squatted and did good mornings and within a few weeks was back to lifting as usual and lost nothing on his bench and only 5 lbs on his military press.
Similarly, my friend and former Marine Chris Davis has made it his mission to squat like a madman, and as a result his upper body strength has shot through the roof as well, including the ability to snatch the Beast (106 lb kettlebell) for reps – a feat he could never come close to before.
You don’t have to like squats, but you have to do them if you want true, full-body strength.
-Aleks Salkin, SFG, SFB, OSS
Strong legs and a strong midsection help to transfer the forces from the ground in all manner of athletic movements including twisting, throwing, punching, and kicking, and if you look like an upside down pear with twigs for legs, you’re not going to be able to exert your will on a darn thing.
That, and people will ask you if you even lift because of your chicken legs.
If shame doesn’t at least get you to at least consider dropping a few of the myriad of chest and biceps exercises in your program then nothing will.
So, by now you’re probably convinced – you need to squat. But maybe you already do and you don’t need to be convinced. If so, perfect – this article was written with you in mind, because squatting rocks, and the only thing that rocks harder is squatting more.
In my quest to juggle the never-ending amount of fun exercises I want to do with the ones that I NEED to focus on for any given program I’m doing, I’ve come to find out a few things: the best exercises out there are the ones that maintain or improve other exercises.
One example: my friend Aris DeMarco is a ninja at pullups – he can easily chin himself with either arm. After a few months of doing no pullups but continually bringing his deadlift higher and higher, he could still do a one-arm chins no problem.
Deadlift is a winner.
But another surprising winner is the crawl.
Yes, you heard me right, crawling.
As in, crawling on all fours.
On the ground…
The benefits of crawling are legion, and I’ll get to those in a sec, but first you’re probably gonna want me to prove I’m not full of crap, so here you go…
For about two months I put squatting to the side (shame on me) and started crawling a lot.
Like, a whole lot.
Every type of crawl I could do, I did. This went on for quite a while.
Now, prior to this my max rep set with two 24 kg kettlebells was 10 reps. Nothing special.
One day, I got a wild hair up my you-know-what and decided to have a go at a max-rep set just to see what I could do.
Much to my surprise I nailed 20 reps, and only the last three were tough. Not only that, but I was able to recapture my previous pistol PR of 70 lbs on either leg without doing any pistoling for even longer.
While neither of these is a high-level feat of strength at my height/weight/age, it should give you pause to think about what YOU can glean from it as you work toward your own feats of strength and endurance.
If I put any exercise to the side for too long I start to suck at it big time, regardless of how good I am at it (pullups are a good example). This was the first time I ever actually got BETTER at an exercise without practicing it.
The culprit was the crawl, and if I hadn’t believed in how awesome it was before, I sure as heck did now.
Now, what I did was a little extreme, so I’m not going to ask you to stop squatting – heavens forfend!
Seriously, keep squatting, keep pulling, keep pressing, just start crawling.
Not only will it work the wonders I mentioned earlier in this article, you’ll also start to notice the following…
- * connects the body together
- * reinvigorates the vestibular system
- * builds real-world strength that transfers into weight training
- * builds a heart and lungs of elastic iron
- * melts fat like ice in a furnace
- * bullet proofs your muscles and joints
- * carves mental toughness into your brain
- * inures you to the questioning stares of (probably jealous) strangers
- * re-imbues you with lost coordination
- * and makes you feel better and more energetic when you're done
If there’s any move that’s all-in-one, this is it. Big time.
So, how do you make it a part of your regular training?
I’m glad you (theoretically) asked.
While I’m normally a believer in keeping your training as minimalist as possible, this is one example where I actually think you shouldn’t take anything out, but should simply add the crawl.
The reason is simple… I mentioned crawling helped my squat big-time.
I know others have said it has helped their kettlebell swing.
Others have said it has sky rocketed their military press.
Others have said it’s helped them nail their one-arm/one-leg pushup or pistol for the first time.
Yet others have said it’s helped their mental toughness and conditioning.
Really, the list of what it will help you with seems to go on and on, so why not keep everything where it is and see what crawling helps you with the most?
Let’s say this is what your program looks like:
A1) clean and press
B1) double kettlebell swing
Keep it exactly as it is, but between each exercise for your active recovery add crawling – around the room, from one side of the room to the next, doesn’t matter. Just drop down, relax, and crawl keeping your head up.
A1) clean and press + crawl
A2) Squat + crawl (side note: I highly recommend backward crawling before a set of pullups. They really prime your lats)
A3) Pullup + crawl
B1) double kettlebell swing + crawl
Take careful note in your training journal how your body starts feeling/looking/moving from before and after you add the crawls in, and when you get “that feeling” (you’ll know it) attempt a PR in whatever exercise you’d like.
Sound too good to be true, but that’s how it is.
I don’t expect you to take my word for it at all – try it out now and drop me a line on my Facebook Page as soon as you start noticing things shifting from “any which way” to “your way”.
It’ll probably be sooner than you think.
Now get at it.
Aleks Salkin is an StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor (SFG), StrongFirst-certified bodyweight Instructor (SFB), and Primal Move Fundamentals Instructor. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy, until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He is currently based out of Jerusalem, Israel and spends his time spreading the word of StrongFirst and calisthenics, and regularly writes about strength and health both on his website and as a guest author on other websites. Find him online at http://www.alekssalkin.com.