2016 Starting Strength Fall Classic – T-Shirt Pre-Sale Starts NOW!

It’s time again for the Fall Classic.  I’ll be running the meet at Wichita Falls Athletic Club on October 29th, 2016.  The contested lifts are the squat, the overhead press, and the deadlift.  Some of you may know this as a “CrossFit Total”.  This is a fantastic meet for both first time lifters and experienced competitors.

Sign up and rules info for the meet are here: 2016 Fall Classic Sign-Up

If you won’t be lifting in the meet, but want to support the Fall Classic by purchasing the Official Meet T-shirt, you can buy it prior to October 1st here: WFAC Fall Classic T-Shirt

 

I’m not flexible enough to squat | STARTING STRENGTH – COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND OUTRIGHT LIES

People will commonly tell me that they know strength training is great for them, but they’re just not flexible enough to squat or deadlift.  They’ve tried!  They can’t get below a quarter squat and this is obviously due to lack of flexibility in their hamstrings, hips, back, or some other thing.  If you think about this for more than a second, you’ll find that even in the low bar squat as explained and demonstrated in Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe (the most hamstring intensive of the squat variations), the hamstrings don’t actually change much in length from standing to the bottom of the squat.  The hamstrings cross both the hip and the knee and as the hip angle closes when you go down to the bottom of a squat, the knee angle is also closing.  The net affect is that the hamstrings stay about the same length the whole way down and are acting mostly isometrically.

So, what is going on when a relatively healthy person is unable to get into the bottom of even an unweighted squat? Barring any kind of anatomical issue (a rare thing), it’s a strength problem, not a flexibility problem.  These folks are literally not strong enough to get into this position, so they won’t allow themselves to.  If you don’t believe me, you can have them lightly hold onto the upright on the power rack, or some other stable object, and then have them go to a full squat.  They’ll do it with no problem.

The elderly, very sedentary, overweight, or weak people unable to squat the empty bar will need to do a little bit of work prior to being able to squat with a barbell.  There are a few ways to do this.  I’ve used a band in the power rack, squatting to a progressively lower box, and the leg press.  If you have access to a leg press, it’s probably the most efficient way to get this accomplished.  Keep in mind that folks who aren’t strong enough to squat will generally still be able to deadlift, so they will certainly do so, but you’ll replace the squat with the leg press for a few sessions or weeks until the trainee is able to squat with the empty bar.

Here’s an in-depth video on the leg press and it’s utility in a proper strength training gym.  Remember that it has a very specific purpose that doesn’t include loading it with every plate in the gym and “leg pressing” 900 lbs through 1/4 range of motion.

The Deadlift in 5 Steps

The Starting Strength Model assumes, as you should too, that gravity works in a direction that is perfectly vertical.  When you’re trying to pick up a heavy weight (probably the heaviest weight you are physically able to) in your hands and stand up with it, any effort that’s exerted in any direction other than directly opposite the force of gravity is wasted effort.

The deadlift is a simple lift.  You pick it up and you put it back down.  We should strive to create a consistent, easily reproducible setup that will allow us to maintain a vertical bar path. Thereby, ensuring that we pay due respect to the simple fact that heavy things want to move straight down.  You’re asking yourself, but what about my long femurs, long trunk, short arms……? Shouldn’t MY setup be different than some “ideal deadlifters”?   NO, the setup will be the same, but the resulting start position will look different for people with different anthropometries.  Individual lifters will have different hip heights, back angles, and knee angles, but the landmarks of a correct start position will remain consistent regardless of anthropometry.

The bar will start over the mid-foot, since that’s the balance point of the lifter-barbell system. The shoulders will be slightly in front of the bar creating about a 7 degree angle from the shoulder to the bar.  This will be true of all sufficiently heavy pulls, so we’re just going to start you there, since the goal is to get strong efficiently.

In 5 steps, here’s how to deadlift:

  1. Set your shins 1 inch from the bar.  Putting the bar at 1 inch from the bar puts it directly over the midfoot.
  2. Without bending your knees, reach down and grip the bar just outside your shins.  DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
  3. Bend your knees and drop your shins until they touch the bar.  Where your butt is at this point is where it will remain throughout the rest of the setup and beginning of the pull.  Again: DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
  4. Squeeze your chest up by pointing it at the wall in front of you.  This starts a wave of extension throughout the back that will result in a flat back.  If you find yourself on your toes at this point, rock back to shift your weight back to the midfoot.
  5. Drag the bar up your legs, keeping the bar in contact with your legs throughout the lift.

Watch here for visuals on how to do this:

Annoying Krav Maga Class Thing #1 – An overly long and useless warmup.

Your Krav Maga class warmup sucks. 

As a new instructor, sometimes the warmup is a crutch.  You just passed your instructor training, but don’t REALLY know how to teach yet.  The warmup, since that’s what you’ve been doing as an apprentice instructor, is what you’re good at so it’s time to show off a bit and make sure that everyone is “warm” before you get to the shaky business of teaching actual self defense.

There are a few problems with this:

  1. A lot of the time, the warmup is wasted time (sometimes up to 25 or even 30 minutes!) that could be used to reinforce skills and introduce concepts that will be useful later on in the class.  Arm stops, pummeling, moving to dead sides, basic wrestling, transitions.  Depending on what’s going on in class, getting some basic movements out of the way early on in the class will get people moving the way you’ll want them to move when you introduce more complicated movements later in class.  During my warmups, I’ll have students practice very basic transitions or basic wrestling under no stress, without striking, or having to think about anything else.  Things that are simple, but absolutely critical to managing a threat.
  2. Guys will have students jogging around the room, waving their arms around, sprawling, doing endless pushups, situps, and burpees.  These are lazy, uncreative ways to get people sweaty and tired.  Strictly speaking, the purpose of a warmup is to prepare the class for what’s coming later with the intent of reducing the chance for injury.  Raising body temperature, getting the correct juices squirting, and getting people mentally comfortable for what’s about to happen. Doing your P90X “muscle confusing” warmup accomplishes all of these things, but that’s about it.  You’ll use class time more effectively if you get people doing what they’ll be doing later under stress, early on in the class under no stress.  Let’s say you’re going to work on bearhugs for today’s class.  Your warmup could consist of drilling underhooks and a couple of transitions.  The nice thing is that for beginners, this will be plenty to get them warmed up and even breathing hard.  For the more advance folks in the room, they will naturally up the resistance and get the same effect.  Now people are learning or refining skills rather than doing mindless exercises.  Save the “badass” exercise for your conditioning classes.
  3. By breaking up the class into chunks of time  – Warmup, Strikes, Drills, Self Defense – the instructor never fully develops a cohesive teaching method where, even in the course of a 1 hour class, skills build on each other from simple to complex. We’re all given the formula starting out – pick a technique for the class, figure out which strikes complement that technique and teach those, do a couple of drills.  It works great when you’re developing as an instructor, but understand the limitations of the this teaching formula.  It assumes that your students will be able to connect dots that they may not or never will connect unless you explicitly do it for them.  As you train more and more people, you come to the realization that teaching a strike or a self defense technique “based on natural instinct or reaction” isn’t all that difficult.  What’s difficult and where things will unravel very quickly in real life is during the transitions.  Control of the opponent, proper transitions, and control over variables whether through clinching, grappling, movement or striking is the most important thing you have to be able to teach.  The opportunity to reinforce shouldn’t be passed up.

Doing a super-long, crappy warmup is maybe excusable in the newest of instructors.  If you want to be a better instructor and gain a deeper understanding of how to teach Krav Maga, take the time to evaluate how and why you run your classes the way that you do.  Question everything.

Starting Strength – Common Misconceptions and Outright Lies | GOMAD

There’s a whole bunch of silliness on the internet when it comes to Starting Strength.  I don’t know what it is, but people come up with some really bizarre shit anytime someone brings up Mark Rippetoe or Starting Strength.  Most of it is perpetuated by people who haven’t read any of the material or are getting information from some third party and accepting it as truth.  This is the nature of things on the internet, but sometimes as a coach, you have to dispel some of this stuff when dealing with a client or interacting with folks online.  In this series of posts I’ll do my best to explain where the issue at hand came from and the truth behind it.

GOMAD – Gallon of Milk A Day

Also see: A Clarification – Rippetoe

GOMAD, or drinking a gallon of milk a day, has become almost synonymous with Starting Strength and with Rip.  “Should I drink a gallon of milk a day?” or more commonly: “I know Rip recommends drinking a gallon of milk a day, but……?” are probably the most recurring questions I get asked.  Not only that, but there are people who will outright dismiss a coach, the books, videos, forums, and all the other available information because of their inaccurate notion of when and why they’d recommend GOMAD. This is usually because they heard that their buddy’s buddy “did SS” last year and got fat or some other stupid crap.

Here’s the deal.  GOMAD is for a person who needs to gain a lot of weight. This person will be 17 to 25, male, underweight and will not have been able to keep weight on in the past.  And guess what, for that demographic, it works beautifully. Provided they’re actually doing the program, these folks get bigger and stronger.  The kind of bigger that they want to be. And when they’ve gained sufficient weight, or the weight gain starts going in the wrong direction, they cut out some or all of the milk. This process takes 3 to 4 months AND THEN THEY DON’T DRINK A GALLON OF MILK A DAY ANYMORE.

In my now 4 years as a Starting Strength Coach, coaching people regularly in that time, I’ve recommended GOMAD to 2 clients.  Largely because of the nature of the demographic that has the time and money to hire a regular strength coach, but nonetheless, we’re not going around telling everyone to drink a gallon of milk to get their gainzzz.

The recommendation won’t go away, because it’s very useful for the folks who need it. For people who won’t squat three days a week, are older, not underweight, women, or fat, it is simply inappropriate.  Yes, when these folks start a strength training program, they will probably have to eat more than they’re used to in order to recover, but these are relatively moderate increases compared to what the 5’9″, 145 lb, 23 year old who can’t squat 95 lbs would need.

The key here is that GOMAD is a powerful tool for the underweight novice in doing the program.  The guy who goes on GOMAD will only do it for a short time for a very specific purpose.  For the vast majority, though, “GOMAD is not for you”.

 

How to Squat – Gripping the bar

There’s nothing that works better for getting strong than basic barbell training.  Full range of motion lifts that load the entire skeleton are both efficient and effective in producing an adaptation that is beneficial for all aspects of human performance.   Whatever it is you do, whether it’s Krav Maga, sports, martial arts, or just life, you need to be stronger to be better at it.

There are always a lot of questions on the squat.  As a Starting Strength Coach, I teach the squat as described in Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, by Mark Rippetoe.  The proper grip is a thumbless grip, with straight wrists.  The bar is placed under the traps, on top of the posterior deltoid, under the spine of the scapula.  Keeping the chest up and elbows back wedges the bar in place.  Don’t neglect setting up properly.  Issues with tightness at the bottom of the squat can sometimes be traced to a loose upper back and a crappy grip or bar position.

Here’s a video I put together for Starting Strength.  Comment below if you have any questions.

Tactical Spec Ops LEO Elite Krav Maga

Anyone else tired of hearing the word tactical? Unfortunately, I have quite a few perfectly good t-shirts from days passed that have that cringe-worthy, non-sensical term all over them.

DSC_0087
Tactical Elbow Touching

In the 10 years I’ve been teaching Krav Maga, I’ve used it on tag lines, websites, t-shirts, etc, etc, etc.  It sounds neat, or at least it used to.  I’ve also made a big deal out of training “tactical” people.  Cops, military, security folks – those types.  All self-defense instructors do to some extent.  Either the system being taught is used by “Elite” forces around the world, or the instructor has personally trained Delta Force while a member of Seal Team Six operating under cover in the IDF.

Here’s the thing.  You become a better instructor by teaching and coaching regular folks.  Taking a completely normal person, with a normal job, who has never been in a fight and transforming that person’s ability and mindset in a few hours of a seminar or over a few months in regular classes takes serious skill.  Doing this well is something most instructors can’t do.

It really does sounds cool when you tell someone that you trained a Secret Service Agent, or that **insert military unit here** uses your system, but what no one understands is that the police officers who choose to take your training and the guys who are in military units they make movies about, especially, ARE ALREADY FIGHTERS AND KILLERS.  You may give them a handful of techniques that they’ve never seen before, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that you’re blowing the minds of guys who are specifically selected to solve problems and do a lot with a little.

Telling folks they’re training in a system that a tier one unit supposedly uses is also complete bullshit.  It’s irrelevant because what applies to small unit tactics and may be mission specific doesn’t apply to Bill, the insurance agent.  Bill doesn’t carry an M-4 to work and roll with 4-12 of his closest buddies.  Bill is pre-diabetic, just started “working out” last year, has a bad shoulder, and showed up to your class because he’s getting bored with machines at the gym and wants to feel like a badass.

If you’re ever lucky enough to train someone who’s very experienced, you find that you’ll get the opportunity to push, and push really hard.  Being able to keep the attention of 30 or 40 veteran police officers says something about you as an instructor, but those skills are honed through taking people who can barely walk proficiently and making them powerful, confident, and competent quickly.  The only way to do that is to have a deep, fundamental understanding of absolute basics.  Of what’s important and what’s a waste of time, and the experience to be able to give minimal instruction to produce maximum performance.

 

Mediocrity is the killer.