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“If you don’t know where you are going you are going to end up someplace else”. Can you believe this was lead in for my high school year book quote?! I have no clue what I was thinking. Yogi Berra, who this quote is attributed to, should have added ‘but figure out where you are first’. I know the numbers that I need to achieve to pass the level 2 but the first real step on this journey was figuring out where I was on all the different tasks. A couple of weeks after the Agatsu Kettlebell competition in Toronto in late October, Sara-Clare and I assessed where I was at on all the different skills. What did I learn? I was nowhere near being able to hit the mark on any of the tests! On the positive side, I at least knew where I was starting. Since kettlebell sport and kung fu had formed the basis of my training for the past year or so (both fairly specialized skills), Sara-Clare suggested I follow the Agatsu foundations of movement online training for a full six week training cycle to balance out any deficiencies in my training and in my body.

My experience with the online training was extremely positive and I loved the change of pace. I have seen numerous online training programs and was extremely impressed with the quality and diversity of the online training. The back end videos are great and provide a great deal of detail and variations on each exercise. I deadlifted for the first time in 15 years and felt like a beast! I was learning new exercises, exploring different progressions and more importantly I was getting stronger in every area. Every week 5 new workouts are released (3 strength, 2 flexibility) and the progression over the training cycle allowed me to make improvements. The workouts were not easy though. Like many things in life, you get out what you put in and training is no different. Often times when left to our own devices we choose exercises that we enjoy or find easy when what we really need is to work on those things that we find difficult or can’t do very well. This was certainly the case; many of my weaknesses were being exposed and I was constantly being pushed into the uncomfortable. After years of training in a striking martial art, my push muscles are very strong compared to my pull muscles. My pull up numbers sucked…but I was working my weaknesses from every angle which is what counts. The online training provides progressions and regressions for every exercise and it was motivating to see that even if I wasn’t able to execute a full movement (such as a top of the bar hold) there was a way to scale it for where I was at and thus able to improve over the course of the training cycle. Consistent effort will translate into progress and I trust this process to get me to where I need to be for the level 2. You just need to be smart with your training and the exercise and progressions you select to work on!

If you are thinking about training for the level 2 certification and don’t know where to start, the online training is a solid bet. Some of you may be thinking that this week’s post is some underhanded sales pitch and that I am bias. In a sense I am, I run Agatsu classes and have taken all the lvl 1 certs, but there is a reason for this – I believe in the Agatsu training methods and have seen the results in myself and my clients. I will be clear though, Shawn and Sara did not ask me to write any of this or to sing the praises of the online training. I loved using the online training, and it kicked my ass. I was still preparing for a Kettlebell and mace comp at the end December when going through the training cycle. I would do the full strength days and then instead of the conditioning portion of the online training I would do my Kettlebell sport work. I am talking about the full Kettlebell sport workouts that I used to do prior to starting the online training. This made for some long and tough workouts. Some training days involved a combination of deadlifts and chin ups prior to snatch sets. These were interesting days for the forearms! I was at all full force though and was committed. If the online training said 3-5 sets, I did five. I scraped the bottom of the jar and tried to get as much out of every workout as I could. I trust the process but I also don’t want to come up short six months from now realizing I didn’t push myself or work hard enough.

My results from this six week cycle were great. My overall strength increased, I had packed on some muscle, my weaknesses were improving and most importantly due to the progressions and regressions offered I was making inroads on the skills needed for the level 2. The strength days are very balanced in terms of emphasis on stability, strength, and endurance. Each week is also balanced in terms of push and pull and upper and lower body. Everything is touched on. For me and for most people going for the level 2, the focus on flexibility is more important than the strength work. I have taken the mace, kettlebell and mobility certs with Agatsu and can honestly say that I put more effort into implementing what I learned in the more active club, mace and kettlebell certs. Yes my warm up game is super strong, I am a champion bear walker and I move my joints through full range of motion daily, but I wasn’t training my flexibility as intensely as I needed to. In the online training, every strength day involves some targeted mobility during the warm up. If I the workout for the day involved squatting and overhead pressing, the warm up will include exercises to work your ankle and hip mobility as well as open up the overhead position. The flexibility days are where my eyes really opened. Sure I was stretching and rolling out almost daily, but I wasn’t really training my flexibility.

The online training provides two flexibility days that provide excellent progressions and different exercises focusing on the front splits, middle splits and bridge work amongst other areas. The flex days were often harder for me then the strength days! I have been a very flexy-bendy guy. If I was to compare myself to a lord of the rings character I would be the dwarf. I wasn’t gifted with long lean muscles and have always been a pretty tight guy. I saw that in order to really make improvements in my flexibility and mobility I needed to train these areas as intensely and as consistently as I did strength. Once again I took the scrape the bottom of the jar approach hitting every suggested rep and set; the flex days would often last between two and three hours. The small amounts of rolling out and stretching I was doing before was only helping to manage the tension from my workouts or the stressors in my life. I wasn’t actually improving my flexibility or range of motion. Dedicating two training days a week to this side of my training I slowly started to see improvements. I still have a very long way to go but if I am going to get that 3 minute bridge or the toes to bar numbers I will need keep the effort up on the mobility front. Mobility ain’t always sexy or as fun as lifting heavy, but you gotta put in the work to get where I want to go!

To sum up my message for today’s post:

  • Have someone give you a physical assessment, measuring where you are on all the skills for the level 2.
  • Build a solid training program that focuses on balanced, full body strength.
  • Train your weaknesses more than your strengths.
  • Have at least 2 days/week dedicated to training flexibility.
  • Take your flexibility and mobility as seriously as your strength and endurance.
  • If you don’t know where to start or how to get there, check out the Agatsu Foundations of Movement Online Training.

Next week I will begin discussing my current individualized programming that Sara-Clare put together for me. I will talk about what I am working on a weekly basis as the quest continues on the road to the level 2! Thanks for reading and please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email or on social media if you have any questions or comments. Flex hard friends!

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