Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why Technique is King!

I'll be honest guys, I'm still down with the flu bug, but that doesn't mean I can't talk some good training! I really wanted to address a concept that sounds disturbingly simple, technique. I wanted to build off what I was discussing in my previous post without sounding redundant. I do think some people become paralyzed by this concept, but I think others don't give it enough attention.

If I were to follow the current trend in the industry I would post up some random coach's training video and rip it apart. Basically explaining why this specific coach doesn't know what he is doing, you know what though? I am going to do just that, however, I am going to do it to one of my own videos!

Seems pretty stupid, I know, but I hope you will follow me on my points of technique and that even technique and teaching has progressions that are important. If I asked 100 coaches and trainers if technique was important I bet you 100 would say, "duh! of course!" Then why is it that we all let certain things go and forgo technique at times?

Part of it is that we have the other extreme, those that will find some flaw no matter how much practice is spent with one's technique. This could definitely be paralyzing and discouraging. Treading that fine line is one of the greatest challenges in coaching.

When exercises become more complex, it becomes a huge challenge to show proficiency on every repetition. In addition, when a load gets heavy, the same can be said. I truly believe one of the main reasons that some people don't get a benefit from certain exercises is that they don't give enough attention to details. Others fail because they try to become perfect with a drill and never load. Ugh, it is tough!

So, what does one do? I have found you have to consider one very important thing before you proceed...are you performing this is lift in a competitive nature (i.e. powerlifting, strongman, GS, weightlifting, etc.)? If you are then everything really changes. You have to become dogmatic, you have to learn how to become extremely dedicated and patient because you are basically learning a sporting skill. If your goal is to increase your fitness or athletics by the drill then I have a slightly different philosophy.

1. What are the keys in performing the lift safely? Getting injured by performing a lift is always breaking a top rule. Once injury occurs then all performance and motivation is greatly hindered.

2. Don't overcoach at first, identify the three top cues for getting the most out of the lift. I once heard a trainer bark 15 commands at a client at once, man did that client have a confused look on their face! You can always add details, but there usually are some "big bang" keys that are the best to start with.

3. Have a progression of learning cues in mind. What is most important, then next, then next, then next? As a person experiences success the willingness to learn and be open to teaching increases, athletes are no exception.

So, after this simple ideas let's break down one of my own videos.

Let's take the shoulder clean first. Megan does a great job of keeping the load underneath her and not shortening the movement by extending her hip through the explosive part of the movement. My only cue would for her to be more stable at the bottom of receiving the load. A few times her tails tucks under and under a greater load would be not a good idea. Was it safe? Yes! Was it well done? Yes! Could it be slightly improved? Yep.

The hand walking drill is slightly different. Megan starts in a good position, but as she starts to fatigue her body starts to move into more flexion. Her butt starts to rise and her upper back starts to round more. In addition, I would have her tense her glutes and press inter her feet more to avoid excessive sway. Now, most would say she looks pretty good, and she does. However, to move onto more advanced progressions she would have to demonstrate better control. We may even move a step back to give her more stability. Remember too many people are overanxious to do more challenging drills before they are ready.

The leg curls look pretty darn good. However, I would like to see her perform them with her toes pointed towards her, I am not convinced she is using mostly glutes and hamstrings.

The around the world drill is often overlooked in our system. I see very few people actually implementing this drill. It is one of the more athletic drills and as Megan's performance demonstrates, isn't easy at all. Megan performs one of the biggest faults of the movement by slightly ducking out of the way when the bag is behind her. At this point you would ideally want to see the lifter squeeze the glutes and extend the torso so the bag as a lot of clearance, not flex forward. The time she stumbles also tells me she isn't rooting into the ground to establish a great base.

Is this to say Megan is doing anything unsafe? Nope, in fact, she does a great job, however, her performance would increase by starting to implement some of these tips. Would I stop her from training? Nope, I would have to coach better and maybe implement other drills to make sure she is in a position to perform these drills as best as possible. Megan is a great athlete, but we can all improve.

I hope this demonstrates not to rush past drills, but also not to stop training. We can all do better, take time to be your own critic so you can get the most out of your training!

In Strength,
Josh Henkin, CSCS

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It has been a little time since I've last written, I guess catching the flu and travelling are not a good combination of giving good blog posts:) This last excuse was pretty good though as I spent the weekend as an instructor at the Russian Kettlebell Certification. It was terrific to spend time with a lot of great coaches and teach those that demonstrate such great enthusiasm and passion.

I was intrigued on how so many people have their own take on kettlebell training. To me, there is no right answer as long as it helps people perform drills safely and effectively. However, I have found in training it is key to find the most efficient and fastest ways to get your message across because rarely do people live to train for an implement, rather they train with the implement to get a result.

I did find myself smirking part of the weekend though, I must admit something that has been so controversial in sandbag training was reminded to me this weekend. Some of the other instructors were inquiring about my sandbag program, in fact, Dr. Mike Hartle said he loved the idea a nice simple to use tool.

I had mixed feelings about that comment, while I know Dr. Hartle didn't mean anything negative in his remarks, it made me think about the hypocrisy in the industry. Why are sandbags any easier to learn than barbells, bodyweight exercises, or kettlebells? At the RKC a full day is spent covering two exercises, does this make kettlebells complicated or easy to use?

I think a little of both! No form of training whether it is sport or in the weight room can be done truly successfully if one does not pay close attention to the details. People often fly past the foundational exercises because they think more complicated appearing drills are more beneficial, yet perfecting or increasing your proficiency at these foundational exercises usually results in better training.

I feel the very same about sandbag training, to get the full benefit becoming proficient at the foundational movements is essential. That is why I put together a package that reflects just that, a necessity to follow solid programs and exercises to achieve your fitness goals. Also, realizing that financial times are hard this is a great deal, I am going to give you two DVDs for almost the price of one!

This special will go till the end of the week so make sure to take advantage of my double DVD offer. You will receive Meltdown: The Ultimate Fat Loss Kettlebell Training Program and Synergy: Achieving Your Fitness Potential with Sandbag & Kettlebells. All this for the price of almost one!

Click Here for Our Special Deal!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Upgraded Sandbags!

It is no secret that we have been busy at work! We now have all our sandbags being made in the USA. That might not seem like much, but it means a lot to us! It isn't a secret that their is a world recession and many of our manufacturing jobs are going down fast! So, it is nice to know that the product that I believe so highly in is being made by those that work so hard to keep things in the US going.

Secondly, keeping things in the US allows me to make alterations on our bags much more easily. Recently I have been receiving a great deal of emails asking about dust that appears to be coming out of the bags in our videos. Yes, in our old bags we couldn't figure out how to keep the very fine sand powder from popping out, especially when they were dropped.

This was a HUGE concern for me as I only want to sell something that I want to have in my facility as well. After having a meeting with our new manufacturer we fixed the problem!! Using a special combination of materials we have found something that can live up to our biggest demands.

Now, we still recommend if you are going to throw the bags to throw them on a mat or softer surface, this just makes sure that your bag will last a very long time. However, now you really do have the best bag on the market!!

I know, that sounds like a giant commercial right? Well, what if I told you other "sandbag like" companies were calling us to see if they could use our new insert bags. Sorry guys, this is for what everyone is getting to know as the best sandbags around.

You can purchase our inserts individually if you already own one of our great sandbag shells, or save a lot of money and get them as part as our sandbag package deals!

There is only one bit of bad news, to make these bags better we had to pay more to get them done. Don't worry for one week you can get them at the same price, please allow 2-3 weeks for shipping because they are flying out of our warehouse like crazy!

Tomorrow I am hanging out with Texas Ranges Strength Coach, Juan Vasquez, so expect some more good stuff soon!

Buy Our Sandbag Packages:

Buy Our Filler Bags Individually:

In Strength,
Josh Henkin, CSCS

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crunched Time Fitness

I'd love to say that everyone has time and interest to pursue hour long workouts, but let's face it, this just isn't the case. Even those that love to train like myself, can often find themselves in a crunch for a quality workout in a short amount of time. I have to be honest though, I am just not into workouts of hundreds of repetitions of the same movement. While I know that is in vogue right now, I'd rather have a more balanced routine to train a lot of movement.

Complexes lend us the opportunity to do just that! Why perform hundreds of repetitions of one movement? This can lead to the same overtraining that we find so common in endurance sports. More importantly overuse injuries as well, this makes utilizing effective methods of complexes even more helpful.

In this series I demonstrate a very common use of complexes. By performing a set number of repetitions of one movement immediately followed by another, makes for a routine that allows for challenging the entire body without overemphasis on any one area or muscle group. As the leading authority of complexes, Istavan Javorek, would state, complexes make for a more balanced athlete.

Perform this routine 1-2 times a week, when you are crunched for time and see how a small planned workout can outperform a long mess of a training session.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Assessment Frauds

I admit it! For years I was into assessing people, I wanted to know everything, I wanted to know what was wrong and how to fix them. Good thing for me, there was and is no shortage of assessment systems that claim to identify everything that is wrong with you. Let me tell you, after being involved in most of them, they are mostly a waste of time.

What?! Why?! Don't we have methods that can tell you exactly what is wrong with someone? NO! The body is immensely complex and even more so, the nervous system is amazingly complex. Lack of sleep? Yep, that will mess you up! Didn't eat well? Yep, that will mess you up! Had a fight with your husband or wife? Yep, that will mess you up! Have a cold? Yep, that will mess you up! You see, there are a ton of simple reasons that people may not perform well in testing situations, very simple things that often get overlooked for more complex things that try to seem amazing.

Sure, the science of all these systems sounds great! Oh yeah, they make sense when you talk about them, unfortunately, they don't usually pan out in the real world. There are too many issues that could be going on with someone that makes it impossible to identify one single factor that would fix someone.

I feel that all these systems distract people from the true need which is better coaching and identifying the correct exercises for people. The majority of tests we give people are simply failed because they are new to those that are being tested. If we took as much time to coach people as we did test them, we would have a lot more people that moved and felt better.

A perfect example is bear hug sandbag squat. I have wowed people by taking those that have terrible squats and clean them up dramatically by having them perform this movement. It isn't rocket science, in the squat most people that have problems squatting need some sort of feedback and counterbalance for their nervous system. What happens? Magically because of the weight distribution of the sandbag, people that normally bend too forward at the waist remain far more upright.

No, we didn't stretch them, do corrective exercises, or whatever else people recommend, we just gave them the appropriate exercise. Sure, maybe these people could use some other help, but wow, I have seen it work on some people that are pretty bad off!

So, while it is good to be aware of how people move and their weaknesses, it really becomes much more of an art than a science. See how I describe one of the best "corrective" sandbag exercises.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sandbags?! WTF!

Yep, that is the response I get from the wonderful general internet audience. There are definitely those that "get it", those that are open minded and wanting to use whatever works, no matter if it is a little outside the box. Actually you know what? It reminds me of kettlebells.

Since kettlebells began making a comeback in 1999, people have been trying to find fault with the use of kettlebells. Such comments such as, "they are great for conditioning, but can't do much for strength", "if you want to get strong you have to lift barbells", "building muscle requires much heavier weight and definitely no momentum." All these comments are just ridiculous and the majority of people have looked past such silliness and now ten years later it would be hard to find an elite training center that doesn't have kettlebells. Why?

Kettlebells are a weight! A very unique weight where leverage and movement differ from standard dumbbells and barbells. You don't think kettlebells could build strength or muscle? I haven't seen too many strong lifters that can press 106 pound kettlebells. In fact, Powerlifting great, Louie Simmons, often has his lifters use 53 pound kettlebells, yea, guys that can squat over 1000 pounds!

Hmmm, this is all sound very familiar and the sam struggles sandbag training is having now. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are A LOT of people that "get it". We have had professional sports teams, elite military, and some of the industry's top coaches get into sandbags. Listen to what NFL Strength Coach, Chip Morton, had to say about our sandbag program...

"The Ultimate Sandbag is the top product of its type on the market
today. The bag has a number of features that make it perfect for use in
a weight room setting, outdoors, or at home. The multiple handles allow
for a variety of exercises to be performed when compared to a homemade
version, and the use of filler bags makes weight adjustments quick and
easy. We use the Ultimate Sandbag in our program often, in warm-up/prep
periods, complexes, conditioning circuits and also as a stand alone
exercise. Training with sandbags has been around as long as people have
looked for heavy things to lift. The Ultimate Sandbag, with its
adjustability and convenience, brings sandbag training into the strength
and conditioning mainstream."

Chip Morton, Professional Football Strength & Conditioning Coach,
Cincinnati, OH

I can't, I simply can't convey the difference of sandbag training versus a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell over
the internet, it is just impossible. I could write about numerous 700 pound deadlifters that I have worked with that
struggle with less than 200 pound sandbags, I could write about strongmen that work VERY hard to shoulder a
200 pound sandbag, but it just doesn't do it any justice.

Let me put it this way, overload is what builds muscle and makes one more fit. The body does not recognize a
barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, kettlebells, or even sanbags, it only responds to overload. How many people can do
a single-arm push-up or pull-up? Isn't it just bodyweight?

Still not convinced? Try this circuit of simply bodyweight and sandbag training and see what you feel about the ability
to get strong without a barbell.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Building Powerful Legs

Isn't it a running joke that guys where pants during the summer because of their chicken legs? Hey, yep, women you aren't too innocent either! How about trying to hide body parts you don't like with clothes? So, even if we admit to being guilty of these things, so what?

Listen up guys, you can't be powerful and strong without those legs being in top shape! Classic bodybuilders even knew the importance of strong legs. From Schwarzenegger to Pudzianowski leg training is at the center of anyone who wants the best of both worlds, muscle and functional strength. Research has shown that training the lower body with big movements such as squats and deadlifts causes more of a release of testosterone. This has been theorized why subjects in some studies have seen an increase in arm size without direct upper body work, but simply from squatting. Ever seen a great squatting without muscle?

Ladies you have it worse, you probably get more garbage information sent to you more than guys. Clever marketing and airbrushed ads are great for making ladies confused to actually works. The truth is, the ladies with the great bodies in the magazines do the same type of exercises you might expect of a strong individual, squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts, cleans, etc. Forget the Suzanne Somer's nonsense, I have transformed too many women's bodies with just these very ideas.

You may ask, "how does this relate to sandbags?" I have long said that sandbags allow for new exercises to be performed that can't be done with barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, as well as making classic exercises feel new!

You may think a squat is a squat, but that simply is not true! A sandbag zercher or bear hug squat often feels significantly heavier because of the where the load is placed on the body and the awkwardness of the sandbags. I have rarely seen lifters perform too many repetitions of sandbag squats with our large sanbag loaded to 200 pounds.

Lunges can become more powerful by performing variations such as shoulder, overhead, or bear hug. Oh, don't believe me? Check out this video I put together some of the unique and most beneficial sandbag drills you can do for the lower body!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Size Really DOES Matter!

This past weekend was our first full out High Octane Sandbag Seminar. I was able to share the weekend with Master Kettlebell Instructor, Kenneth Jay. It was terrific to have so many people from around the country in attendance, I can tell you how sincerely flattered I was that people would come as far as Connecticut to attend our weekend.

Over the next few weeks I will cover some of the very important lessons that were learned throughout the course. Yet, today I want to cover one of the most important ones that was reinforced over and over at our clinic, the size of the sandbag does matter!

I joked with those in attendance that online our best selling sandbags are the large packages. People try to equate what size they should use with what they know, barbells, and other weights. However, almost every time in our clinics and workshops the small and mediums sell far better! Why? If you truly understand the role of sandbag training you will know the answer.

Sandbags can be obviously lifted for movements such as squats, cleans, and presses. Yet, if that is the only reason you use them then you miss on some of the beautiful movements that are the most effective. Many of the rotational drills that I teach are the best drills to perform, but require one drop significantly in not only weight, but also the size of the sandbag itself. One could say the same for complexes, density training, intervals, and exercises such as get-ups and chops.

In fact, we had a gentleman in our weekend that could deadlift 700 pounds!!! Amazingly enough he struggled greatly in using the 150 pound sandbag for many of our drills. What was most important for this athlete was to learn that his movement capabilities could be greatly enhanced if he used a small sandbag. For a great majority of the time he use our medium sandbag loaded to 70 pounds. This isn't to say he isn't strong, of course he is, but he did find new ways to enhance his strength that weren't solely based on load.

So, you may be asking, "what should I use?" Here are my general guidelines.

Young athletes (8-13)-Intro Package
Young athletes (14-18)-Strength Package/Intro Package
Female Lifters-New-Intro Package
Female Lifters-Trained-Intro/Strength
Male Lifters-New-Intro Package
Male Lifters-Trained-Strength/Advanced

You will see some cool new changes in the site pretty soon. We are going to educate you guys more on how not to only use sandbags better, but how to pick the right ones for your goals. I hope you will keep visiting to see the very cool new changes along with the new sandbags we are releasing.

In Strength,
Josh Henkin, CSCS

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mike Mahler Interview

I can honestly say there aren't that many people that can say they have actually changed an industry. Well, I can say this about strength coach, Mike Mahler. Mike has been at the forefront of changing the way people view strength and is one of the premier kettlebell coaches in the world.

His unique training approaches have made him a highly sought after coach by elite athletes, military, and those looking for optimal fitness and health. He is a published author in many mainstream magazines and created numerous kettlebell products that have made even the most cynical people into believers!

However, I caught Mike for an hour to talk about a new program he was working on. Something that very few people and understand and even fewer even talk about! Today's interview is really something special and make sure to take the opportunity to listen to this free one hour interview with one of the top coaches in the industry!

Listen to Mike Mahler Interview Now: Click Here!