Monday, November 19, 2012

Blog is Moving...

Hey Friends.-

     I decided to move my blog over to the All About Kettlebells site.  You can find it at

See you there!

Train Hard but Train Smart,


Monday, October 8, 2012

Should I Snatch Heavy?

Back in May, I wrote a blog about whether we should go heavy or light in a Turkish Get-up.  The answer is "yes."  The same holds true of the kettlebell snatch.

When Kenneth Jay's book, Viking Warrior Conditioning, came out a few years ago many people in the RKC family just stopped snatching heavy.  Now, I am a fan of the Viking Warrior Conditioning protocol of 15:15 secs work: rest ratios of relatively light snatching for 20-40 minutes.  I did this program 2-3 times a week for about a month and was very lean as a result.  I'm all for VWC if done with proper form (there were many instances of short changed snatches that didn't finish at the top in an effort to get more in quicker but that is a different point) and if paired with heavy snatch days.

The heavy snatch is the yin to the light snatch yang - a phrase I also used to describe the relationship between the light and heavy get up.  They both have benefits and they both are important.  While you can get your heart rate up and get lean with both (If you want the science behind VWC, grab the book.  Kenneth explains it much better than I could) the heavy snatch will give you more power production. You won't get as many reps in, but you won't need to. Efficiency is a good thing!

How does this fit into a training program?  If you are designing a snatch intensive program, I would make one day a week more VWC style and do a whole bunch of light snatches (8 or 12kg for women, 16 or 20kg for men) for a long period of time (20-40 minutes with a 15:15 secs work:rest ratio) and then on another day, I would do 10 minutes of heavy snatching with the same work:rest ratio, but with a heavier bell.

Do your snatch practice AFTER your grinds.  This way you are not only safe, but you can go all out without worrying about saving energy for the slower strength exercises.

Should you snatch heavy?  Absolutely.  There is a place in your training for both light and heavy snatching and if one is left out, an important piece of a well rounded program is missing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Whole30 Experience

I've written about going grain and dairy-free before and spoken about how much better I feel without them.  I've also talked about how I discovered dairy breaks out my face and gluten makes my stomach hurt.  I was slowly stripping away the inflammatory foods but had never done a full Whole30 before July.

The Whole30 is not about fat loss, although you probably will experience fat loss if you do a Whole30.  It's about healing your gut, getting your hormones in balance and making yourself healthier by fueling yourself with the right foods.  The biggest change for me was the best sleep I have had since high school when I played two sports and more energy than I knew what to do with (seriously, I was ANNOYED at how much energy I had.)  The combination of energy and good sleep caused me to have better weight training sessions than I've had in a long time which led to muscle growth.  Over the course of my Whole30 I went from 16.3% body fat to 13.8% and I only exercised 9 times in those 30 days.

When I started the Whole30, I was already grain, legume and dairy-free.  I would indulge in dark chocolate almond sea salt bars and occasionally gluten-free cupcakes on the weekends but I thought I was in a good position.  All I had left to give up was added sugars, seed oils, and alcohol.  And wow, what a difference that made.

Let me back track a second and say I also like coffee.  I like coffee but I have the personality type where coffee doesn't really affect me.  I like the taste of coffee. You might say that is BS - and I thought it was too - until I did was Dallas and Melissa suggest and self-experimented.  I gave up my beloved coffee for 30 days.  What sparked this coffee quitting was the fact that I was having serious sleep problems.  I would fall asleep easily but would wake up around 3AM and not be able to fall back asleep before I was up at 530AM.  It was awful.  An interesting thing happened when I gave up coffee.  I had ZERO withdrawal symptoms, the same sleep issues, and 30 days later when I added coffee back in, I couldn't tell any difference.  It wasn't the coffee.  I think it was denial that kept me from experimenting with giving up wine, but after the Whole30, I KNOW that wine was the culprit.

When Condition Kettlebell Gym decided to do this as a group, I decided that I wanted to participate instead of just moderate.  I knew it was time that I got out of the habit of going to the pub next door and doing my accounting with a glass or two of wine... that would into a glass or two at a networking event later.  I knew I needed this challenge to break myself of the wine.

The transition was not too difficult - again, it was just a matter of preparing my own food and not drinking. But the energy was insane.  That may sound like a good thing, but it was extremely annoying to me.  All I wanted was a glass of wine to calm myself down.  It made me revisit hobbies, it forced me try new ones, I got back on track with things that are important to me like getting to Bible Study and organizing my apartment.  And by Day 29 - I was waking up after 8 hours of sleep without and alarm clock... just like I heard was possible.

The Whole30 has seriously changed my life.  The only things I have added in in the last 3 weeks are local, pastured bacon/sausage that has a small amount of sugar in the curing process and wine.  And I realize exactly what the wine is doing.  I'm not talking a lot of wine! I had ONE GLASS on Monday night and woke up at 3AM... ONE GLASS.  Now, instead of casually drinking it throughout the week and being sluggish and not sleeping - which affects EVERYTHING, I only drink it on the weekend... because I LIKE it and poor sleep on a Friday when I can sleep late on a Saturday is not the end of the world. At least I know it's side effects and can make a decision as to whether it's worth it.

The rest of the "stuff"?? I don't care if I ever eat grains or dairy again, and I haven't had a "dessert" in almost 2 months. I'm too afraid that I will get addicted to sugar again, that the dessert - even if it's "compliant" isn't psychologically worth it.

I highly recommend doing a Whole30 to learn how the foods you eat affect you - not just for fat loss...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How Heavy Should I Go in a Turkish Get-up?

One thing that I have noticed over the last few months is that there is some confusion on how heavy to do Turkish get-ups.  We TEACH get-ups very light.  We do that because students are moving around for the very first time with a weight overhead.  The newbie is not confident and there is a danger of dropping a weight on his head until he understands the movement.  Once a student owns the movement and learns to use his body as one unit - the way it is meant to be used - a much heavier bell can be used.  I believe that in our class, it's an instructor problem.  We haven't communicated that the get-up is not just a light warmup mobility exercise (although there are definite benefits there,) but that it should also be a serious strength exercise once the student owns the movement and has confidence.

"Naked" get-ups, shoe get-ups, very light get-ups are all great teaching tools as well as good practice and mobility work.  I think that when the awesome book and DVD set, Kalos Thenos came out people gave up heavy get-ups almost completely and replaced them with the light get-ups with neck/shoulder rotations and the high hip bridge - much like when people gave up heavy snatching altogether when Viking Warrior Conditioning came out.  I am not saying the Kalos Thenos get-up is bad - on the contrary, I think it is a great drill for both newbies and advanced lifters as well as an instructor tool to screen movement problems, asymmetries, spot tight hip flexors, and the list goes on... But it's when a whole type of get-up is taken out that some of the picture is missing.

The yin to the Kalos Thenos Get-up yang is the heavy get-up.  The RKC is first and foremost a "School of Strength" and we should get moving with some heavy weights overhead.  As MRKC Brett Jones said last weekend as we were getting ready for the Level II cert, you should have the ability to own different kinds of get-ups.  You should be able to high hip bridge and to low sweep - as well as many other kinds of get-ups.  It's all about body control and strength.  

Note: the heavy get-up will look a little different.  You will probably have to sit more into your hip to under the weight for more leverage when coming up into the kneeling position.  Your breathing will be more of a power breathing style.  The high hip bridge is more than likely out if the question if you are maxing out.  It looks very different from the highly regarded Kalos Thenos get up - and that's ok...

So how do you start working on getting up with a heavier weight?  You do some drills to make sure you know how to use your body as a unit.  In class today, we did the workout in the picture below.  I adapted it from a training that RKC TL Andrew Read came up with when we were teaching a workshop in Minnesota last Fall.

The press drills take out some "cheating" and force you to lock into place using your body.  You may feel your abs working extra hard on the opposite side (The body is set up like an "X" but that is a whole different story... Let Tim Andersen tell it here.)  After you do these drills, try something heavy.  In the 4 classes that I was around for today, we set 11 PR's... and some of those PR's were newbies (who are expected to move up relatively quickly) but some of those students had been with us for YEARS!  Elaine Wade, for example, has been coming since 2008 and did her first TGU with a 16kg - and made it look easy!

The bottom line is the Kalos Thenos get-up is a fantastic way to perform the exercise, but it's not the only way to train Get-ups.  Just like you can use MRKC Dan John's Easy Strength program to pattern movements with lighter weights in order to train for a personal record, you can increase your mobility and stability with the Kalos Thenos get-up in order to get-up with some substantial weight above head, and it will help increase your other lifts as well.  
Homework:  If you are trying to press a certain weight, get-up with that weight or even one bell heavier.  Getting used to moving around with that weight overhead and using your whole body to connect to support it will get you your gains faster.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kettlebell Burn Classes

Just a quick note to let you guys in on what we have been doing lately.  Here is an example of our short and sweet Kettlebell Burn! classes inspired by Geoff Neupert.

Joint Mobility Warm-up (on own)

3 TGU's: 1 light, 1 medium, 1 heavy (I used 12kg, 16kg, 24kg)
3x3 presses per side (16kg)
3x3 deadlifts (two 32kg's)

12 minutes: 20 swings on top of each minute (6 minutes 24kg, 6 minutes 16kg)

Stretch on own

We were in and out in 30 minutes!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grinds vs. Ballistics

One of the questions that always comes up in the monthly Kettlebell Fundamentals workshops is "How many reps should I do?"  The answer to that question is "It depends." Sr RKC Doug Nepodal likes to say "5 or less or 20 or more" - but what does that really mean?  It means if you are doing a grind, the general rule is do 5 reps or less and if you are doing a ballistic, the general rule is 20 reps or more.

In kettlebell training, grinds are the slower exercises - you know, the ones you "grind through."  Presses, deadlifts, and even get-ups all fall into the grind category.  These are exercises you would do for lower reps at an appropriate weight.  I tell my students if they get 5 or more grinds in a 30 second interval then they can more than likely move up in weight.  I would rather see one repetition where someone had to connect and use their body as unit instead of 10 where he was repping out lighter weights using just one muscle group. And you can even get your one up with a heavy weight then drop down to a lighter bell, but if you can do ONE with good form then do it at least once a week. 
I like to say that presses are one of my favorite ab exercises because to get a heavy press above my head, I have to squeeze my abs very tightly.  As Pavel says, "Muscles are social creatures.  They work harder when they work together." The more muscles you use, the more weight you can move.  Simple as that.
 Once you understand the concept of full body connection and using your whole body as a unit, you can go back and play with lighter weights using the same connectivity and do a program such as Dan John's Easy Strength, but you must first grasp the concept of not isolating muscle groups and using your whole body to lift.

The grip in the grinds is a closed hand grip squeezing the handle.  When you close your grip and squeeze the handle tightly, you maintain greater tension and can move more weight because again, you are using more muscles.

Ballistics are the quick lifts - the ones where you have to maintain a balance of tension and relaxation.  The swing and snatch are the two most common kettlebell ballistics.  In these exercises, you want to do as many as you can until just before your form goes.  Because ballistics are explosive and dance back and forth across the line between tension and relaxation you can do more reps.  There is that split second at the top of the swing where you can "rest" before the next hike and snap and that moment of "relaxation" is important to keep you going. Swings that are all tension all the time are very ugly and make your neck ache afterward.  At the top of the swing and snatch, stand up tall, don't chicken neck and make sure your face is relaxed.  As MRKC Jeff O'Connor says, "Ugly faces don't make you stronger!"
There is a place for heavy ballistics and a place for light ballistics.  Make sure to make time for both.  For example, a whole bunch of light snatches such as in Kenneth Jay's Viking Warrior Conditioning protocol will shred you and make you lean, but unless you are going heavy at least once a week you probably will sacrifice some strength in that lift.
The grip in the ballistics is looser than in the grinds - you can even have an open grip at the top of the snatch!  When you crush grip the handle in the quick lifts, the handle rubs your hands as it turns and causes callouses.  The arms are more of a guide in the ballistics than a driving force so you don't have to squeeze the bell tightly.
**Note: for more information on the balance of tension in the kettlebell swing, check out an article I wrote for Dragon Door called How Hard is Hardstlye in the Kettlebell Swing.

So, how many reps should you do?  5 or less heavy reps for the grinds and a whole bunch of ballistics as long as form is not compromised.  Once you understand how the body works as a unit, play around with different bell sizes on different days - just know that you have the potential to lift a great amount of weight when you are connected and not isolating muscle groups.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Program Design for General Physical Preparedness

We often get asked, “How do I put together a program at home?” or “How do you put your classes together?”  The simple answer is we make sure to include both grinds and ballistics within the 7 basic human movement patterns.

Grinds in kettlebells are the slow exercises – the ones you want to perform for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, such as presses and deadlifts.  Ballistics are the quick lifts, such as swings and snatches, that are to be performed for as many reps until just before form starts to be compromised.

When I think of the 7 basic human movements, I combined lessons from MRKC’s Dan John and David Whitley.  Dan’s 5 movements are:
1.     Push
2.     Pull
3.     Hinge
4.     Squat
5.     Loaded Carry

After assisting an HKC with MRKC David Whitley, I added
1.     Rotation
2.     Counter-rotation (fighting against rotation.)

When training for general physical preparedness (without a certain goal in mind,) you start with some get-ups (which fall into many categories) and fill in the blanks.  Plenty of exercises fall into two categories. And you can use one bell or two.

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but here are some examples of each movement.

Push – you can do any of the numerous press variations (military press, floor press, etc… )You can even combine push and counter-rotation by doing a one-sided floor press. If you don’t want to use a bell, you can do pushups.

Pull – Any of the row variations (rows, renegade rows, single-leg rows, etc..) or pull-ups fall into the pull category. 

Hinge – Any sort of deadlift, swings, cleans, and snatches all are hinges.

Squat – Goblet or front squats are the most common.  If you feel advanced you can do pistols weighted or unweighted.

Loaded Carry – According to Dan John, this one’s a game changer.  Farmers carries, racked carries, waiter’s walk (overhead carries.)

Rotation – Russian twist, ribbons, overhead rotation (bell locked out overhead and rotate from your spine, not hips)

Counter-rotation – One sided suitcase deadlifts, one sided floor presses, renegade rows, alternating swings)

So here might be a simple class or an at-home total body training:

Joint Mobility
4 TGU’s each side
2 laps farmers carries, 2 laps racked carries

30 seconds work with 30 seconds rest for 3 rounds:

Alternating Swings (ballistic, hinge, counter-rotation)
Military Press Left (grind, push)
Military Press Right
Row Left (grind, pull)
Row Right
Snatch Left (ballistic, hinge, counter-rotation)
Snatch Right
Russian Twist (rotation)
Goblet Squat (squat)

That is the secret.  Every class is pretty much the same but different.  The trainings change day to day without “random acts of variety.”  There is a template that we follow that gets maximal strength, mobility, stability, and fat loss results!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Paleo Diet: Not Just for Fat Loss

For almost a year now, I have been recommending the Paleo Diet to my students for fat loss and have slowly become stricter and stricter myself. It always made sense for fat loss because, simply put, it works, and the science behind it makes sense. But after eliminating foods and then adding them back in on cheat days I began to realize what they were doing to me systemically. It has caused me to really think twice before deciding what I put into my body. I would like to share my Paleo journey thus far and why I think we truly should eat the way we have for millions years of years instead of the last 2000 – and especially in the last 50 years where you can’t’ deny that health in America has been on a steady decline.

The basis of the Paleo Diet is to eat the way our primal caveman ancestors ate because that is how we evolved to eat, and a few thousand years isn’t enough time to adapt to be able to properly digest processed foods. I’m not going to rehash the science and the technicalities of this way of life. There are plenty of resources for that. I want to tell you about my personal Paleo journey and I how I have realized that dieting is not only about fat loss, but overall health and well-being.

During Condition’s first fat loss challenge last July, we suggested the participants adopt the Paleo Diet for the competition. It is very effective for fat loss and because there is no calorie restriction is easy to get compliance once over the first couple of weeks of sugar withdrawal. To simplify the Paleo Diet, it just consists of eating meats, vegetables, good fats, some fruit and some nuts. That means no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no sugar, and minimize alcohol (and ideally only wine and tequila.) This diet is inconvenient, but it doesn’t suck: steak and eggs for breakfast, fatty coconut milk in your coffee… Real food is very tasty!

Giving Up Grains

The first thing I did was cut out grains completely – and almost accidentally. I cut out grains and sugar but was allowing a cheat day. I ordered Meal Movement food to give me a jumpstart but kind of by accident, my cheats had a lot of sugar but no grains. I was cheating with Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, not with cookies. One Sunday cheat day, I decided to get my old brunch favorite: an Atkin’s Park Fried Chicken Biscuit. As I ate it, it dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten a grain in about 4 weeks. On the drive home, I started to feel AWFUL. It was almost like I had a hangover without drinking. I immediately went home and took a nap and I got a big belly for a few hours. At that moment I knew that grains are not something good for me. Before, I would think “I shouldn’t have that because it will not help my fat loss goals” but now I have to think again and realize that if I eat grains not only will it not help my goals but I will feel sick and bloated. Is it worth it? 95% of the time, it hasn’t been.

Giving Up Dairy

The next step was to cut out dairy completely. I wasn’t eating a whole lot of dairy to begin with – just organic creamer in my coffee and the occasional slice of cheese on a bun-less burger. I used to have dry, itchy patches under my chin and on my neck. Two weeks into being dairy-free these patches disappeared completely. On a cheat day a month later I ate some cheese and not only did the patches come back, but my face broke out like a middle schooler. Those symptoms took days to go away. So far, 100% of the time I have said no to dairy because not only is it unnatural to drink the milk of another species but the effects can be seen and felt for days -And no piece of cheese has been worth that.

Giving Up Legumes

I cut out legumes when I cut out dairy. So far, no pea has been tempting enough to make me want to cheat with it, so there’s no verdict on that one yet!

Giving Up Coffee (temporarily)

The next thing I did was cut out coffee for 30 days. Jason and Neely over at The Paleo Plan suggested that we do this for 30 days to see how coffee affects our sleep patterns. I have had some problems sleeping so I decided to test it. After 30 days, I added it back in and nothing changed. That let me know that I can keep coffee in my diet, although I try to rotate one day decaf, one day regular.

Limiting Wine

The lastest thing I have been experimenting with is wine. I tried the eliminating coffee experiment to see if my sleep patterns were affected by it but it seemed that they weren’t. I still had the same sleep issues without it. I am currently testing to see if the issues were being caused by wine. I LOVE wine. I would usually drink a glass (or two) with dinner and go to bed at a reasonable hour, only to wake up at 3:45AM and not be able to fall back to sleep. Last week, I made the possible connection. Starting this past Sunday, I eliminated wine on “school nights.” My quality of sleep has improved DRAMATICALLY. It was so hard to give up wine solely based on it’s sugar content, but when it started affecting my productivity I no longer had a choice but to test if that is the cause of my sleeping problems.

Where I Struggle Most

The last two things I have to give up are Chocolove’s Dark Chocolate Almond and Sea Salt bars (no dairy) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) when dining out. That candy bar is so delicious, and dark chocolate is allowed on many versions of Paleo, but as Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of the Whole 9 say, we shouldn’t have an unhealthy psychological addiction to any food, and I believe that my driving to 8 health food stores over a span of 10 miles the day after Valentine’s Day when there was a shortage to find this bar is slightly unhealthy. PUFA’s are probably already rancid on the shelves and if not, can oxidize in our system, which is a very bad thing. Eating PUFA’s is just a convenience problem that can be solved with better planning (smoked wings at The Albert, anyone?)

How I Cheat

So I said that I never eat dairy and rarely eat grains. What do I do for my cheats? I’ve found that although white rice is a shot of sugar, it doesn’t make me feel bad when I eat it (probably because there is no wheat or gluten) so I will down a plate of Thai food with rice on a Sunday afternoon. Mellow Mushroom in Midtown also has a (ridiculously expensive, but delicious) pizza with a gluten-free crust. They also have Daiya vegan cheese (no soy and no dairy) that is not allowed (mainly because of the canola oil in it,) but tastes like melted mozzarella and passes for the real deal. The goal is to never have these cravings but let’s be honest… that will take a while.

Paleo: Not Just for Fat Loss

“Diets” used to be about losing fat, but after eliminating foods that I don’t believe we have evolved to eat, adding them back in and seeing what they do systemically has made me think twice about what I put in my body. Sure if I eat this piece of pizza I’ll need some extra time in the gym and a stricter eating plan over the next few days, but I’ll also feel like garbage, be bloated for a few hours and have a broken out face this week. It really has changed how I view food and the choices I make on a daily basis. In my book – just like kettlebell training – the Paleo Diet is not a fad and is here to stay.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Paleo, by Jenn Purdy

Food Fight II gets underway on Saturday! Nearly 50 FitWitters are taking part, plus close to 20 from Condition Kettlebell Gym. Huge! I’m excited to see everyone’s changes along the way and to report results at the end.

Food Fighters are using the Quick Start Challenge Guide from Paleo Plan for menus, recipes, and shopping lists. I thought it a good time to address what is paleo, and what it’s not. Since there’s a guide book, one might think it’s just another diet. I once tried one guys’ product-driven diet formula. It worked, sort of, not really. I moved on. It wasn’t sustainable to keep on a program for the rest of my life.

When I heard of paleo, honestly the word scared me, probably because I learned it from some really fit trainers I knew. It seemed pretty hard core coming from these elite athletes (it’s not). I didn’t investigate it for a couple more years (I was on the other guys’ program). Take the labels off - paleo, primal, real food, clean eating, whatever you want to call it - and it’s just eating food as is and has been optimal for human digestion and energy sources since we have walked the earth. It’s not a “diet” as a verb. It is “diet” as noun. The name is simply our modern way of identifying human nutrition, from WAY BACK! If you think about it, it’s a bit ridiculous that we have to call our food by a term that refers to how humans have eaten for thousands upon thousands of years. Our modern food and medical industries have blinded us to the ideal human diet. They have vilified foods that sustain us, created profitable pseudo-food, and pushed many lucrative symptom-covering drugs that discount the body’s intelligence to maintain a state of wellness if given the right nutrition.

Paleo is a principle, not a macronutrient formula. Sure, there are certain general guidelines for protein, fat, and carbohydrates depending upon your intentions. That said, someone can eat higher carbohydrate paleo with sweet potatoes and fruit, but it’s not the best plan for fat loss. Some people will find their appetite satisfied with less fat than others. Others have a need for more protein and carbs because they are lifting heavy and muscle growth is the goal. Real food is adaptable to the need of the individual.

Most of us in the Food Fight, or others at FitWit, first want to lose fat, shed cravings, and find out how certain foods make us feel by eliminating them for a good 6 weeks. Lowering carbs so the body can convert to being a fat-burner instead of a sugar burner is step number one in paleo. The body preferentially is a fat-burner, but it can exist as a sugar-burner (obviously), though with undesireable consequences. Beyond fat loss, when the goal changes, then the strategy can change a bit, but the principles remain the same.

Neither paleo nor the Food Fight are inherently weight loss plans, or muscle gain plans. It’s a lifelong health plan. Whatever you do, or your goals at any given time, whole food will fuel your activity and your brain. If fat loss needs to happen, it will as a secondary result of eating real food. Create an environment where your body can burn stored fat instead of constantly storing sugar. If you just came off marathon season, eating healthier may mean gaining back muscle. As a principle, paleo can be tweaked to what works for your needs in your own n=1 learning process.

What you eat will determine up to 80% of your health, not your workouts or your genetics. Movement - exercise, playing sports you love, and intensely lifting heavy things are definitely essential to your health. Think of your plate as a workout, too. What is on it can only make you more healthy or less healthy. We have the luxury of food we can get steps away in the kitchen, or pick-up-ready from a store, conveniently pre-hunted and gathered for us! The work of obtaining nutrition, fuel for life, is no longer tied to our movement. So, we still need to get out and do proper, functional movement. You’ve got that part covered, now fuel it with proper human nutrition!

How? Eat meat, fish, vegetables, some fruit, good fats, nuts & seeds. It doesn’t need to have a label. A lot of things will fall into place if you eat for how your body was designed.


Jenn Purdy, RKC, CF-L1

FitWit & Condition Kettlebell Gym - Trainer & Nutrition Coach

Twitter: @PrimalFamily

Facebook: Jenn Purdy Real Food & Fitness