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Mix it Up and Succeed!

October 21, 2004 09:27 AM

Conventional wisdom indicates that you must train for one goal at a time. Do not mix strength with endurance. Do not mix your strength micro-cycle
with your hypertrophy phase of you meso-cycle. Do not incorporate explosive
training into your macro-cycle during your third trimester unless the full moon rises early. And so on the advice goes. Life however is not so compartmentalized. And while we must specify goals and tailor our training to the needs of those goals, we can incorporate multiple mediums into our training. By using a medium for what it is meant to train, multiple modalities fall into place in the context of a complete training program.

A Solid Foundation
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Don't build a house on
Sand. Lead pants aren't good for swimming. (Aren't clich?s fun!)
The truth in the clich?s above is the idea that without a solid foundation
(and the right tools for the job), the best training program will fail. And
the right base for a conditioning program is basic strength training.
Your squats, deadlifts, military press and others are the right starting

Arthur Jones (yes-the father of Nautilus) recommended a barbell routine of squats, military presses, stiff-leg deadlifts, chins, dips, curls, wrist curls, and single leg calf raises. Performed three days per week for two sets per exercise the routine is a great starting point. Power to the People! is another basic routine that succeeds in building a base of strength for future conditioning.
This foundation should focus on building as much strength as possible. In general, a stronger athlete has the potential to be a better athlete. At this point it is a good idea to introduce joint mobility drills to teach the individual to effectively and efficiently control their body. See Steve Maxwell's Joint Mobility tape and Pavel's Super Joints for more details. I have found that most people are simply disconnected from their own body and cannot move well enough to effectively apply their strength. Address this early with your clients and they will reap the benefits.

The Next Level
Once a base of strength has been built the individual will be ready to take a step up. Kettlebell training provides this step. By incorporating something as simple as the swing and the Turkish-get-up, you will bridge the gap between strength built and strength applied. The elusive quality of explosiveness is the application of strength is a rapid manner. KB swings train the efficient projection of force from a solid base and then an effective reduction and redirection of that force. The Turkish-get-up teaches efficient movement against resistance. Does that sound like something everyone should be trained to do? Incorporate the KB training either on separate day from your basic strength training or as a piece of that routine. Start with light swings and a few TGUs to prepare the body for training. Another option is to finish the workout with a ten-minute set of KB ballistics to increase conditioning. Also remember that cycling two weeks of strength with two weeks of ballistics is a great way to mix it up and is good option for that easily bored individual.

Get a Grip
Even though the previous level addressed grip training as a function of the drills involved, grip training deserves its own level of training. Outside of soccer, name a sport or activity that will not improve due to increased grip and wrist strength? Grip training refers to a variety of exercises, feats, and drills that incorporate hand and wrist strength. Barbell wrist curls are a 'grip' drill. Bending nails (a personal favorite) incorporates grip and wrist with upper body strength. Heavy-duty grippers are a great test of crushing strength. Sledgehammer levering is an effective wrist strengthening move. Pinch grip can be trained with block weights, plate pinching, and even just a 'pony clamp' from a hardware store. What you must do is decide which aspect of grip you would like to improve and choose a select number of drills to address those goals. I am finding that a two-handed plate pinch (or block weights), along with grippers and bending provides a great grip base. Incorporate these drills as part of your basic routine at the end of the workout. Train these drills just as you would your squat, heavy, low rep and focused.

Just like the guys on TV
Picking up something heavy is just a visceral need in my opinion and
nothing is a better demonstration of this than the Strongman competitions.
Atlas stones (round stones placed on platforms), tire flips and kegs are just a few of the tools of the trade. This training places you in real life awkward lifting situations under a great load. The controlled atmosphere of a power rack is a far cry from a round unforgiving stone on the ground. The base of strength built in the weight room will help but you have to 'get real' in order to move that stone. There are strongman competitors that are monsters in the weight room and there are marginal weightlifters that are great strongman competitors. You
will not know which you are until you try. Strongman training can be done as a separate day of training where you pick an event or two and go at it for a day. This is probably the best method because something like stone lifting will work you from end to end and wear you out. Find someone in your area with the tools and know how and get together for some shared kettlebell and strongman training. Check or the 'power and bulk' forum for information.

All mixed up and Stronger

Barbells for basic strength/powerlifting training, Kettlebells for explosive strength and strength-endurance, Strongman training for applied strength and odd object training. The right mix is determined by your goals. If you are an aspiring Girevoy Sport athlete then strongman training will not benefit you. If you are a powerlifter, than high rep kettlebell lifts will not enhance your 1RM. As with any recipe, the key is mixing the parts so they enhance the mix, not sour it.

Jeff O'Connor, RKC, the winner of the 2001 North America's Strongest Man, 275lb. division, watches Brett Jones bend the famous Red Nail TM.
Photo courtesy Richard Freeman, MD, RKC

Certified Red Nail™ bender Brett Jones, RKC Sr. specializes in putting together custom strength programs with kettlebell training, powerlifting, Strongman, and grip training mixed just right for your goals. Contact Brett through