Tag Archives: kettlebell

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

The title lists a very simple equation, and yet the solution seems to evade so many people. Let me write it out again:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

It’s not to say that Hard Work is more important than Nutrition – I just happened to list them alphabetically. The opposite is probably true that proper nutrition will benefit you more long-term than hard work if you could only pick one. By Hard Work, I mean strenuous, physically-exerting exercise. And by Proper Nutrition, I mean eating foods that are actually good for the body (that’s a dissertation in itself) and getting proper sleep and hydration.

I often run into people that I haven’t seen in awhile, and they typically remark how much thinner and more fit I look. Of course, they want to know what I’ve been doing to achieve my level of fitness. When I tell them about my workouts and changed eating habits, their peaked interest usually dwindles. It amazes me that practical living and hard work are a major turnoff to people. I mean, when you see how hard people will work to live in a certain community or get to a certain position at work, it’s obvious that hard work is not a foreign concept to them; and they seem to have enough common sense that they would seriously evaluate the food their body intakes.

Let me reiterate:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

There are no quick fixes or magic potions that will turn you from a lump of dough to a fit, vibrant person. It will take hard, strenuous work. I have stated it before, but I am a strong advocate of working out with kettlebells and bodyweight exercise.

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The benefits are clear:

  1. You will get strong
  2. You don’t need much space
  3. You don’t need to go to a gym
  4. You don’t need to make much of a financial commitment
  5. You can accomplish a lot of hard work in a fairly short period of time

It will take some effort to research the foods you eat, read the labels, understand what ingredients/foods/medicines are good or bad for you, make well-informed food purchases, plan and prepare nutritious meals, etc.

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Again, the benefits are clear:

  1. If you are overweight, you will lose weight
  2. You will be healthier with a stronger immune system
  3. You will have more natural energy (this will fit perfectly into your strenuous workouts)
  4. You will be likely live longer
  5. You will maintain the weight your body was designed to support and your joints will thank you profusely for that

The solution to true fitness couldn’t really be this simple, could it? If you read most of the trendy health and fitness magazines, then to them, the answer is no. There’s always a new gimmick workout or diet (or even diet pill). There’s a huge industry devoted to the millions of people who keep futilely chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If you truly want to live a longer, healthier life where…

  • You are physically strong
  • You are able to run and play with your kids (or grandkids)
  • You wear normal clothing sizes
  • You get sick less often
  • You won’t need an untimely knee replacement
  • You won’t increase your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

Then review the formula 1 more time:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

Decide today to be equally committed to both components of the solution, and you will be the better for it. Don’t expect many others to join you, but hey, you are living your life in your body. Only you can directly change and affect you.

‘Off Day’ Workout

Awhile back, I discussed critiquing your own form to detect flaws in order to improve and reduce risk of injury. Here’s a brief workout I completed doing 1-arm and 2-arm swings with a kettlebell as well as some pushups.

As I edited the video, there were several flaws that were evident. Probably the one that jumped out the most to me was how my knees dip down on my pushups, and as a result, my entire body is not pushing up as 1 ramrod straight unit.

Anyway, this should give you a little insight in how little space you need to be able to complete the workout.

The best part of this video is (1) you don’t have to hear a word or noise from me, and (2) you can watch my wife wash dishes at landspeed record in the background!

Enjoy and comment, if you will.

Garage Workouts

Lest ye think I only work out with kettlebells, yesterday’s workout included sandbag single arm presses, sandbag zercher squats, barbell bench press, rowing, static dumbbell holds, and more!

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That’s me on the right completing a sandbag press with a 35-lb sandbag. The weight isn’t the challenge as much as the grip and balance of the bag.

Kettlebell Swing Basics

In my previous post, I mentioned capturing your form on video for self critique. I spent a few hours this weekend shooting some video of myself doing a 2-hand kettlebell swing and then put together a video that highlights the key things to remember when swinging a kettlebell.

Enjoy, if you can survive the 8 minutes of me droning on and on!

Critique Your Form

When working out, one way to avoid unneccessary injury is to execute correct form. Whether you are doing deadlifts, running, swinging a kettlebell, pushups, pullups, etc., there is a science behind every exercise movement and an exact, correct way to do it. There are thousands of videos on the web with people demonstrating exercise form (some correct and some not so much). Whether you have a personal instructor or are using web content, the hard part is taking what you’ve seen and replicating that with the exact same form.

Anyone who works out hard and very intensely for an extended duration faces the challenge of fatigue and as a correlating result: slipping form. As your body fatigues and your form begins to slip, your potential for injury is really increases. My mentor and coach Mark always says, “Train hard, train smart!” Both are equally important: hard generates results, and smart keeps you injury-free and able to keep working out, which is pretty important.

Let’s move on to what the title of the blog post is actually about. It is critically important to evaluate your form from time-to-time. Over time, as you learn and ‘master’ a particular routine or exercise, it is easy to fall into the mindset that you will continue to always do that routine or exercise with good form. It is common to pick up bad habits form-wise without realizing it. I understand that not everyone has access to a qualified trainer who can point out and correct flaws in their form. While that is obviously ideal, there are alternatives.

As an alternative, you can record yourself via video. Go back and watch that video (even in slow motion). While you may not be able to notice every little nuance in your form, it is quite likely that you will notice any bad habits that you have picked up. For example, you may notice that your body is not perfectly ramrod straight when doing something as simple as pushups – perhaps your knees are dipping, maybe your butt is too high, etc. Consider pro golfers. Even the best golfers in the world develop issues / hitches with their swing that they either self-evaluate or use a swing coach to correct in order to return to world class form.

Lastly, don’t forget to practice exact and correct form. The more you practice the right form, the more ingrained in your mind the form will be. As your workout progresses, and your body fatigues, your mind will rely on the correct form that you have time and time again stamped into it.

Start the New Year Off STRONG!

Although my eating habits over the past few days were a little out of character in terms of health and nutrition, I controlled myself to the point of where I don’t feel a need to make any rash New Year’s resolutions.

Notwithstanding, I do have a personal goal of accomplishing more physically in 2013 than I did in 2012. 2012 was a year of transformation for me, including dramatic weight loss and some strength gains and metabolic conditioning. Now that I am relatively at a weight that I want to maintain and can manage, I plan to more aggressively increase my overall strength.

As an aside, Strong First is a great website that is dedicated to the strength building. The premise of this site is that as you become stronger (with a focus solely on that – hence strong first), the more fit you will become. Interesting food for thought as most people who are trying to go from unfit to fit strictly focus on weight loss and not actually increasing their strength.

In 2012, I experienced the most significant weight loss when I strictly counted every calorie that I consumed for a period of 100 straight days. I used an app on my phone called My Fitness Pal. While I honestly don’t aspire to track my caloric intake for the entirety of 2013, I am planning on continuing to use this app to track my caloric intake for the first week of each month. Don’t forget to stick to what has helped you achieve success!

Today’s first concentrated workout of the new year will include the following:

  • 30 burpees (with a pushup) – for a warmup
  • 100 kettlebell swings (likely with a 53 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell goblet squats (35 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell clean and press (35 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell snatches (35 lb kb)

Not sure yet on how I will break them down set-wise, but that is today’s goal.

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With workouts of these nature, the reality is that it is more of a test of the the mind and will than the body itself. Training your body to push past what your mind tells you it can or cannot do has incredible rewards and will help you push past barriers or limitations.

For 2013, I am committed to getting stronger while continuing to stick to the basics that were the foundation of my transformational 2012. What will you commit to in 2013?

Midweek Workout

It was refreshing to get an afternoon workout in today. All you need to complete it is a kettlebell and something to jump onto. Here is what we did:

WARMUP
– stretch
– 10 sets of 10 2-handed kettlebell swings with focus on form and proper breathing
– 30 pushups followed by 5 sets of 7 pushups with 15 second rest intervals

WORKOUT
– 7 sets of…
–> 5 slow grinding goblet squats (you could use either a kettlebell or a dumbbell)
–> 10 box jumps where you fully extend to a standing position at the top, then complete an air squat, and then step back down.

You could complete this individually, or with a partner… switching every time both are complete.

For the kettlebell swings, I used a 16kg kettlebell. For the goblet squats, I used a 12kg kettlebell, and the box jump is approximately 24″.

It is important to note that the workout focused on controlled movement and not bouncing up and down on the knee joints (your knees will thank you for that, and the goal is strength building NOT max reps). This workout should thoroughly smoke your legs and core.

Remember, don’t forget to stretch when you are done… Bretzels and press-ups are good for that.

If you happen to try this workout, post here and let me know what you think.

Start Your Week With A Workout

What better way to kickstart your week than with an intense workout?

After completing a garage workout yesterday that focused on heavy weight training, today featured pushups… a lot of them.

For warmups, I continued a pushup program that is geared toward increasing my max number of pushups in 1 set. (65 pushups spaced over 6 sets).

Next up, single arm farmers walks with a 70 lb kettlebell.

Then 100 burpees with pushups. Spaced out in however many sets needed to get to 100… more important to maintain good form than complete in a certain time limit! Did 25 more pushups after just for the heck of it.

Finished with a 2 minute plank.

Don’t let this time of the year sap your energy for exercise.

My Journey from Unfit to Fit

Carefully taming the 24″ box jump

My name is Andrew, and this blog will describe my year-long journey from being unhealthy, overweight, and out-of-shape to becoming healthy, fit, and strong! My goal is to share what I have learned along the way in order to encourage others in their journeys to a sustainable lifestyle of health and fitness.

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I lived a fairly active lifestyle. At an early age, I was outdoors playing with friends and running nonstop all day; and as I got older, I played a lot of sports – thin without even trying (although not all that healthy, mind you). Then came college – life got busier, but so did my activity. The problem was, even though I was still playing sports and lifting weights, I started eating even larger quantity meals, including junk food. After graduating college, I started working a desk job and got married shortly after. I still tried to work out from time-to-time; but I began to work longer hours and suddenly, I had more things to think about: kids, graduate school, advancing my career, etc.

For the next 8 years, I went through a constant roller coaster ride of sort of caring about my health and well being to not caring at all. My appetite for those larger portion meals wasn’t going away; and as my level of physical activity dwindled, my weight increased… not rapidly or in a way that would cause alarm but slowly and surely, my weight was increasing and so was my waist size. “I’m just getting older,” I thought. “Nobody is able to maintain high school / college weight. It just isn’t realistic… at least for a regular guy. I can’t work out for hours a day!”

To sum it up, one year ago, I was 30 years old, 6′ 1”, and north of 250 pounds – not obese necessarily, but definitely not in shape and certainly not eating healthy. There were many reasons that I felt I could justify my condition: I was getting older, I was busy with my job, I had other leadership responsibilities, and I couldn’t afford to go to a gym. However, I began to have growing concerns, and I even began experiencing pain in my knees when I would stand or sit down or even go down steps. Would I need replacement knee surgery? Would I be able to play with my kids at the park as they (and I) got older? Would I ever care about the way that I ate? If I did, would I be able to afford it?

It was just a short while later that I had a life-altering experience. One of my coworkers, Mark had begun leading lunchtime workouts three times a week using kettlebells, box jumps, body weight exercises, and other types of physical activity. I scoffed at his invitation to join them – I was still in decent shape, or so I thought. They always seemed so enthused after finishing a workout, but I ignored their enthusiasm (well, I tried to anyway). I kept telling myself that I could get into really good shape if I wanted to, and I didn’t need advice or opinions from anyone else on how to do that. I had played sports before, I had pumped iron, I knew what I was doing. When I looked in the mirror, though, I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. My face was fuller than I wanted it to be, and I tried to hide the double chin by growing facial hair. I pretended my visible stomach and “love handles” weren’t that big – this was the way that that men who had families and worked desk jobs turned out, right?

WRONG!

One day, I decided to join their workout. I knew going in that the intensity level would be high, but I was ready. Boy, was I wrong. About 6 minutes into the workout, I was exhausted and breathing heavily almost to the point of hyperventilating, and I was white as a ghost. Fortunately, Mark had the experience to have me stop. What a wake-up call! As I walked back to my desk, I faced a decision: would I do anything about what had just happened, or would I ignore it and pretend that it never happened? As the reality of what I had become (a lazy couch potato) slowly sank in, I decided right then and there that I was going to commit to completely changing my workout habits and more importantly, the way that I ate and lived my life. I committed to doing whatever it would take to get into the shape and health that I knew that I needed to be.

Fast forward 11 months. I have lost more than 50 pounds and about 4-5 inches off my waist. My BMI and body fat percentages have significantly decreased, and the joint pain (especially in the knees) is gone. At a trim, healthy, and strong 200 pounds, I am not quite down to my target weight, but I am more than well on my way. In subsequent blog posts, I will unravel the story of how I achieved my goals and how you can too! I didn’t join a gym, I didn’t do CrossFit, I didn’t start eating vegan, I didn’t take any magic weight loss pills – what I did do was make a lifestyle change that I can sustain for the remainder of my life. Through self-evaluation, planning, monitoring, setting goals, and hard work, I achieved what I set out to accomplish. I am hopeful that by sharing my year-long journey, others will be helped and encouraged in their goals of fitness and health. While the methods I outline will not help you achieve overnight success; you will succeed in the long run if you put in the effort, and you will change your life for the better!