I am writing this today seated on a jet plane ready to blast off to Los Angeles for the Agatsu Masters of Movement FLOW event. I couldn’t be happier and it is a perfect time reflect and share some insights over past few weeks of training. Every journey will be filled with many peaks and valleys and my journey to the level 2 hasn’t been any different. My last post was a valley of sorts, albeit a rather minor hiccup along the road. My first big training cycle ended with a whimper instead of a bang. It took a couple of weeks of getting out of my routine, playing around and having fun in the gym to get back into the swings of things. Sara-Clare, my coach and leader this my quest had been travelling a lot during this time and kept teasing me about the next phase of my programming, promising that I would both love it and that it would kick my butt. She had billed it as strongman for Kettlebell sport. I was picturing atlas stone lifts and log presses and other beastly feats of strengths. I think I may have let my imagination run away from me just a little bit.
Despite dreaming of training to fight the mountain (hopefully some of you get this reference…) what I got in terms of programming was less strongman and more directed towards the skills in level 2 with a big focus on concentric movements. My first program was very focused on flexibility and muscular endurance, trying to solidify my base and open up some positions and sticky areas. Being able to access a position is one thing, but at a certain point you still need to be able to turn it on and crank out those reps. I also got to start to play with kettlebells again and work on sport movements. As fun as all of this new and diverse training is, the clock is ticking and June and the level 2 are coming soon! There are about 3 months to go and time is flying and I need to be serious about putting in the work.
Returning to kettlebell sport training is not fairly necessary but also reassuring as I want to compete in Toronto in April at the Agatsu nationals. I performed some test sets for the jerks and hit 13 measly reps and 70 for the snatch. The Jerk set was a matter of pacing and I was banging them out but endurance and conditioning definitely need some work. I have made great advancements in terms of my strength over the past few months but conditioning has not been a big priority. After two hours of mobilizing and strength training during my first program having the juice to give my all conditioning wasn’t a reality. I was doig maybe 5-10 minutes of circuits but I wasn’t pushing myself enough and it was always easy to cut this short if I was running short on time as I always felt I had already put my work in for the day with the strength work. Once again it goes to show that with the level 2 you really do need everything: strength, skill, flexibility and conditioning! Getting back under the bells I am seeing conditioning is an area that needs some focus again. The Kb sport sets in addition to 20-30 minutes of conditioning circuits at the end is exactly what the coach has ordered.
The focus on concentric movements also means that my strength portions are much shorter. The sets don’t take long to go through and I doing a lot of powerful movements. On of my favourites is alternating single leg toes to bar, using the non working leg to push off the stall bars and help kick up and try and touch that bar. I am working sets of 20 rep barbell hip thrusts to get that glute power moving. For the external rotation I working gymnastic push ups on the parallettes in external rotation and mountain climbers in external rotation on the rings. For the pistols I am doing some isometric holds on a box in the bottom position as my tissues still need opening and additional strength in the position. I also working some concentric reps on the box trying to keep the front leg extended out. For my pull days we have also broken the pull ups into sets for going chest to bar to 90 degrees and from the bottom to 90. I am working on banging out those reps! These are still one of the most challenging things for me. The numbers haven’t gone up much yet, but I do feel I will get a big plateau breakthrough at one point and the numbers will just start climbing. Some of this may also be due to the fact that I have put on about 15-17 pounds in the past 6 months. Some of this is insulation for the cold Quebec winter but a lot of also muscle which is good. Whether it’s muscle or not, the weight has not been helping! None of my jeans fit anymore (thank you squats and barbell hip thrusters!) but luckily I wear track pants to work. We are also varying the grip on the pull exercises, hitting those fibres from different angles which should help as well.
The extra conditioning work and the return to the Kettlebell sport sets should help to cut the weight down and lean me out. On the conditioning front, we are changing the conditioning and Kb sets on a weekly basis. My first week of Kb sport sets had me doing slow sets of snatch with 26kg at 10 reps/min followed by a 20kg at 12/min. I also have worked for some slow Jerk sets at 5 reps/min. Both of these were tough as hell for me as I like to fly and move fast with the bells, very much in line with my fast twitch body. I always love a good challenge though and working my body in different ways. Since I have done very little Kb sport training in the last six months the slower sets have been helpful to work endurance in resting positions and my overall strength and stability. I have also been working on my rack holds with heavy weights (28kg’s). Despite my initial Jerk numbers being low I have full confidence that I will get there, just need to work on my general endurance and ability to sustain the rack position. For conditioning I am doing a lot of different body weight movements that help support the Kb sport work. This includes high box jumps, squat jumps, sprawls and candlesticks (looks these up, deadly!) the explosive leg work simulates the explosion in the first dip in the jerks, while the sprawls and candlesticks get those lungs burning while moving the spine through flexion and extension. This is very important for Kettlebell lifters that spend a lot of time in the rack position with a rounded back. Overall I am loving the new program and the focus on concentric, explosive movements. Embrace change folks, it is good for you!
There is no recap of important points this week so hopefully you have been paying attention. Please send me any feedback or questions you may have. I would love hear your thoughts or any topics you want me to discuss. In my next post I will talk a about the challenge of diet and how that fits into my perpetration and the level 2.