In today’s instalment, Franz talks about how he earned the RIGHT to be able to stay in single-digit bodyfat and still EAT WHATEVER HE WANTS (and how you can earn the right too).
We also go into some bodyweight training topics, we delve a little into how women should train (more on that in Part 3) and we also talk about how kettlebell training helped him recover and get healthy again after a double-disc herniation.
We pick it up from where we left off on Tuesday where Franz talks about why Movement & Strength are the foundation of any good training program…
CL: So it’s move better first and then it’s get stronger. And the stronger you get the bigger your glass is the more you can put into it. I remember Dan saying back in October, and I’ve read it a couple of times as well in some of the articles that were written.
FS: I don’t want people to think you need to become like a power lifter. You definitely don’t. And obviously there’s a lot of overweight kind of obese looking power lifters. I’m not condoning that. But I’m just saying that it might be counterintuitive to a lot of people, especially people that are kind of new to the training industry or just don’t have a lot of experience with that.
But you can actually get super, super strong and not get big.
You can actually get smaller. I’m not extremely big. And I find that often when I lift really heavy I don’t get bigger. I actually get leaner, and sometimes actually get a little smaller. But it is counterintuitive for a lot of people. Even look at Pavel. Pavel is not a very large man, maybe strong as an absolute ox.
But there are some people out there that obviously do want to get big and put on muscle. And there are definitely ways to do that. And one is just to eat a lot more food. But for people that want a leaner look, I guess what you call skinny strong where you’re skinny but you’re just like absolutely strong. They’re getting strong from low reps, between three and five reps. As long as the volume’s not too high you won’t gain a lot of muscle. And the muscle you do gain is not going to make you look like Andre the Giant.
But it will metabolically keep you lean – guys like that can pretty much eat whatever they want – well I’ll talk about myself, for example.
I can eat an obscene amount of food, and I do. I go through periods of time where I just go crazy with food. But because of my activity level, because of my job, I’m on my feet, I train, I teach kettlebells, I lift fairly heavy for me, metabolically I don’t really have a challenge just because I’ve earned the right to be able to eat calories because I’m doing the things that would allow me to burn those calories. So anyway, I just wanted to clarify that about that lifting heavy thing.
CL: That’s good advice for women lifters who are interested in really getting lean as well. You mentioned that you find that you actually get leaner or you don’t get those big bulky muscles. And talking about strength and relative strength is a great segue to the next question, because I’m interested to know how bodyweight training plays a role in terms of you getting your clients strong in terms of getting the clients to move well. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you program your clients using bodyweight specific exercises?
FS: Yeah. I think if you’re not doing bodyweight training you’re really missing a huge segment of movement and exercises that could not only help you lose fat, but I think there’s tremendous health benefits from just being able to move your body in many different ways, in space, in time, in all three dimensions. That definitely should be a piece, a nice percentage of most peoples’ training program.
I don’t agree that you should only do bodyweight training. I do think there are tremendous benefits from actually putting extra load. But I don’t think it’s an either or thing. I think they’re complementary towards each other. But again, I’m pretty simple with my bodyweight exercises, at least with some of the stuff that I do in my kettlebell classes.
We do lots of different types of plank variations. It could be just your static plank, side plank, plank on the elbows, plank on the hands. I usually just like to get people comfortable with just their own bodyweight in a plank position, because to me if somebody can’t do a plank they’re not that functional. If you can’t hold a plank for 30 to 60 seconds, you just don’t even have the core endurance or just the stamina to even be able to do the movements that would get you to lose fat.
So doing things like planks, I definitely think that most people need to be able to do a chin-up or a pull-up. Everybody that walks into my gym is going to do pull-ups and chin-ups, everybody. So whether somebody weighs 250 pounds and needs to use a band, or we get a rock climber that weighs 90 pounds that can crank out 20 pull-ups. That’s fine.
But it’s a skill that I think hormonally there’s something about doing chin-ups and pull-ups and pulling your own bodyweight up to a bar. And I don’t even really know why it works, but I think because your feet are far away from the bar it’s such a full body exercise. Your abdominals are engaged. Your hips are engaged. At least they should be engaged if you’re doing it right. That it just seems to integrate the whole body, which to me means that yes the body’s burning more calories, but the body learns, it actually becomes more integrated.
That integration makes the person a better athlete. If they’re a better athlete I know that when they leave they’re going to move a little bit better. When they move a little bit better that means their habits change. When their habits change that just means that they overall probably start to shift the way that their metabolism works. Their cells work better because they’re more integrated.
So bodyweight exercises I think are just something that should be done. We could argue and debate on which ones need to be done. I like bear walks. I like a lot of the ground-based stuff. I have a background in the Functional Movement Screen in the CK-FMS, which is more of a corrective kind of assessment. And a lot of the correctives that we teach are ground-based. We do rolling patterns, crawling patterns. So even though those aren’t necessarily used as fat loss exercises, I actually think they’re pretty powerful at getting people to kind of tap into being comfortable to using their own bodyweight.
And a whole different avenue, a whole different angle, would be that I have a lot of executive clients that when they travel, especially if they travel to foreign countries. They might go to Mexico. They might go to South America. They might not have access to kettlebells. And in fact they don’t have access to kettlebells. So they do bodyweight exercises.
It might be something as basic as, “Okay, Mr. Smith. You’re going to do these five exercises. This is your travel program. You’re going to do squat thrusters, and you’re going to do 10 squat thrusters. And then you’re going to take a 30-second break, you’re going to go do 10 prisoner squats with your hands over head, take a 30 second break, you’ll go into 10 pushups, 30 second break and then you’re going to go into 30 jumping jacks.”
And they might do that circuit five to six times, and that’s fine. They’ve gotten great mobility work in, a lot of strength work in, endurance. It’s kind of a sandwich of a lot of different bio motor qualities. And it was done with nothing. It was done with their bodyweight. So definitely bodyweight needs to be explored more in this industry. And I think we’re starting to see that there are even certifications that are just having people do bodyweight stuff.
I actually just recently took a certification with Erwan Le Corre. He’s a French guy who started a certification or a movement, it’s called MovNat. But it’s all based on bodyweight. It’s all based on using your bodyweight and climbing and running and crawling, and something along the lines of what Paleolithic man or primitive man would have done.
But I have to tell you Chris, it was absolutely very,very amazing. Just using your body in different ways has tremendous benefit. And metabolically from a fat loss perspective, I think the fact that if you just take somebody, put them into different crawling patterns, maybe climbing patterns. Maybe doing a bear walk on a log. Just the fact that people don’t do that, just the fact that they’re doing something different, that alone makes it worthwhile. It stimulates your body.
And some of the leanest people that I’ve seen are pretty darn good with their bodyweight. Pretty darn good. Gymnasts, rock climbers – they don’t have a lot of bodyweight. I look at those athletes and say, “Eh.” And you can even say sprinting. Really sprinting is kind of a bodyweight exercise, maximal power out, put maximal force production.
So yeah, so bodyweight training is something that I think everybody should be doing. Again, you need to qualify what types of body weight exercises you do. But in general, just doing things like planks, pull-ups, chin-ups, bear walks, that would be a good start for most people.
CL: So let’s shift our focus back to kettlebells now. So I want you to think of the biggest myth that you can think of that you’ve had in your experience with kettlebells, that a client has maybe come up to you and said, “Yeah, but can you do this with kettlebells? Can you do that?” And can you dispel it for us and give us the truth on it?
FS: I think one of the biggest myths that I hear from clients or from new clients, and definitely from people that aren’t clients that are potentially thinking of becoming clients, is that kettlebells are bad for your back. “Oh they’re horrible. They’re going to wreck your back. Oh, that looks terrible. Man, that’s going to destroy my back.” That’s a myth.
Kettlebells done improperly or incorrectly, sure that can hurt your back, as can barbells, as can dumbbells, as can people who run marathons with horrible technique and crappy shoes. Pretty much anything can hurt you.
But I think the fact that kettlebells, because it’s very dynamic and it’s kind of an awkward looking shape, people automatically assume that it’s bad for your back. I am a two-time disc herniation club member. I’ve had two disc herniations prior to getting into kettlebells. So I came into my RKC training with a pretty mangled back, L4, L5 pretty much gone.
If you would have told me that surgery would have helped me and that would have gotten rid of my pain, I would have done it.
But the turning point came probably about the second year, maybe ’05, when I really started dialing in my swing technique. And I started to learn the subtleties of moving from my hips. I had thought I was moving from my hips but I wasn’t. And when I really had some training and I had some of the seniors look at me and spend some time with me, my back got significantly better. Not only did it get better, but my pain was gone.
And since then, I cannot tell you the improvement in my back health and just in my overall body function. And that really came from doing an exercise that from an outsider might look completely dangerous. But it’s actually not, because if you can get yourself to get into the postures and positions, which is not easy to do, but if you can get yourself to get there the swing is not only safe, it’s actually healing.
It’s actually healing to your body because you’re teaching your glutes, you’re teaching your abdominals, you’re teaching all of the muscles around the back to actually do the work which allows the back, the lower back and the lumbar spine, to not be the main show. The issue is that most people make the lower back the main show. And yeah, “Oh, I hurt my back doing kettlebells.” Well, it’s not the kettlebells’ fault. It’s the way you were doing it.
So if you can take somebody like me, an athlete who’s pounded my body, sprinting. And now, I’m going to be 40 in a little over two years here. And now I’m getting stronger. I’m getting more mobile. My back’s getting better. What am I doing? I’m focusing on swings. I’m focusing on deadlifts. I’m focusing on posture, breaths, body position. So there’s got to be something there.
But not only with me, with lots of people, many of my clients that have had worse back injuries than me have gradually been able to kind of come out of these kinds of back injuries. And oddly enough, things like swings become corrective exercises.
I don’t necessarily start somebody there. But I would say that that’s a myth that is probably as prevalent now. It’s just not true. Does that mean that every low back patient should immediately start doing swings? No, it does not. But it means that they need to look into moving their bodies in a way, first slow and under control, but trying to figure out how would they get their body into the position and to really learn that as a habit so that when they leave the gym the other 23 hours they’re moving their body better.
They’re moving their body well.
And then those injuries start to subside. It means they can train more. It means they can train heavier. It means they can lose more fat, be more athletic, go back to playing golf. So I would say that that’s probably the first myth. Do I have time to go over myth number two, Chris?
CL: Yeah. We’ve got more than enough time. So yeah, go right ahead. I’d like to hear number two for sure.
We’ll be back with part 3 on Friday where Franz goes into Myth #2 and how he trains when he doesn’t have any time (sound famliar?).
p.s. Looking for a fat loss program that emphasizes Movement & Strength? You should check out the TT Kettlebell Revolution…