Archive for April, 2011

My first weight lifting class was in high school, back in about 1983.  I remember signing up for it because the football coach was teaching it… and most likely football players would be taking it.  (…my mind as a 16 year-old!)  By the time I went to college I was hooked on strength training and took the 1-credit course nearly every semester.  In these classes we did more than just lift weights though… we learned about the muscular body and studied the proper names and locations of all the muscles, and we learned about fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles.  It’s been awhile since college… and the other day the topic came up when I was running stairs, and I was trying to recall the differences… so I thought it was time for a refresh, and maybe a good blog post!

Fast-twitch muscles fibers contract quickly, providing an athlete with powerful, short bursts of energy.

Slow-twitch muscle fibers contract more slowly and will end up providing greater endurance over a longer period of time before they fatigue.

So I learned that most people have a 50-50 balance of fast to slow-twitch muscles, but occasionally an athlete can have a greater percentage of one or another.  Take an Olympic sprinter, for example.   He probably has 80% fast-twitch muscles.  He is, in a sense, born with a genetic predisposition to have quick bursts of energy.  If his parents put him in boxing school as a kid, he probably would have done well there too… short, quick punches rely on fast-twitch muscle fibers for the explosive bursts of energy.  (Similarly, so do kettlebells!)  But, put the dude in a marathon, and he may not do so well with only a 20% slow-twitch composition.

So perhaps this means that we should pick our sport wisely.  However… I began to wonder… could an athlete change their composition with the right training?

Old-school thinking was that the balance of fast and slow twitch muscles you were born with remained the same throughout your life.  For the most part, this is still true, however it has recently been discovered that an athlete could change the way the muscle fiber responds or behaves.  So, in the example of the sprinter turned marathon runner… he could train his fast-twitch “short-bursts-of-energy” muscles to take on the qualities of slow-twitch “high-endurance” muscles, but he would still have the same percentage of fast to slow… the muscle fibers will always be fast-twitch, but they might act like slow-twitch.

During kettlebell training, we need both aerobic endurance as well as explosive power and strength.  So we are tapping both our slow and fast-twitch muscles, especially if we only take a 15-second rest between sets.

By the way, I highly recommended writing down your kettlebell workout before you begin, and then turning on some great music and knocking it out.  A planned workout eliminates standing around thinking about what exercise you should do next, which gives your body more of a rest and less of an aerobic workout.  In my opinion, if you’re not dripping in sweat within the first 5 minutes of your kettlebell workout, you’re taking too many breaks!

I am currently designing a new workout that combines yoga and kettlebells… it should be a killer… look for it soon!


Want a great kettlebell workout today that will really make your abs work hard?

During your entire workout remember this one thing, and say it over and over: “Bring navel to spine.”.

This works really well during a kettlebell workout.  You essentially “suck” your belly in and bring your belly button back towards your spine.  Imagine bringing your “front body” through to your “back body”.   It’s a yoga technique and the visual will tap your abs during all your regular exercises… so check it out, give it a try… and then let me know in 24-48 hours how your abs feel!

One other thing, when you’re doing your Around the World sets, stay low on the first 100 reps or so, and then for the next 100 reps bring the kettlebell around and up each time to an alternate shoulder for the “Around the World with a Hold”.  As you do this, remember to suck navel to spine and I guarantee you’ll feel the difference…

So now drink some BCAA’s, put on a little vintage Rattle and Hum, and knock out some kettlebells till the music stops!



Never Say Never!

Today I did 3 sets of barbell squats at the gym.  That may not seem earth shattering… but I’ve had a few knee injuries, and I’ve had my share of people say “Oh, you’ll never do that again!”… so today I am basking in my accomplishment… but I’m also thinking about all the random bullshit that gets said to people after an injury… and how many times those people believe it vs. how many times they overcome it.

Not only was I “told” I’d never do a freeweight squat again, I’ve also been told I’d never ski again… and I just got back from tearing up some double-blacks in Park City… so this post is about perseverance and will power.  Hell, even the docs in the ER told me I’d never ski again and I might as well hang it up.  (truth is, I think they liked my Volkls)  But the fact is, I didn’t listen to them, and I certainly won’t listen to anyone who starts their sentences with “You’ll never… blah, blah, blah…” 

Keep moving, keep pushing it.  An injury thrives on inertia.  It’s really a basic rule of physics, right?  A moving object tends to stay in motion…  something like that.  If you lay around… chances are… you’ll have a harder time getting up and moving again.   Oh… and just for the record… physical therapists are worth their weight in gold, as far as I’m concerned.  After an injury they are vital to the healing process, because a good one won’t let you lay around!

Kettlebells are not only a great ballistic exercise, they are a great way to strengthen muscles throughout the entire body, which in turn will support any injured tendons/ligaments, etc.  Don’t underestimate the amount of support that strong muscles can offer to torn ligaments.  I’ve torn both of my ACL’s and have not had surgery… (a story for another day)… and I’m happy to say that I didn’t listen to all the various “expert” opinions out there.  As I’ve said before… It’s your body and only you know what you’re capable of.  Only you know your own inner strength and inner convictions to overcome and excel!   Mind-Body is strong… believe it and you can achieve it!  Just like the barbell squats at the gym… it feels amazing to be back!

Have a great weekend!



20 minutes = 400 calories

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Here are the details of the 20 minute workout that burns 404 calories:

  • Basic warmup
  • Snatches for 15 seconds – dominant hand
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • Snatches for 15 seconds – other hand
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • Do the above set 20 times
  • Cool down for 5 minutes

I find snatches to be a bit technical and I continue to work on my form.  (My hand still goes a bit numb with the kettlebell slamming into my wrist each time, so I must be doing something wrong.)  But get ready for a sweat storm with this workout!  I think it would be good for a mid-week routine when the regular routine is getting a little stale.

This will also rev up the old metabolism… so if you’re walking past Dahlia Bakery craving the best peanut butter cookie in the world… get two!  These guys really know what they’re doing, and they don’t mess around.  Their cookies are pure bliss.  And they know how to bake a loaf of bread too… get the flax pecan… mmm

Peace and good eatin’,

How did kettlebell training help me sprint to the top of the Columbia Tower in 13 ½ minutes??

Kettlebells and dumbbells can increase strength and endurance, but only kettlebells can be used to perform ballistic exercises, which sets them apart, in my mind, as being a superior form of training.  Because the kettlebell’s center of mass extends out beyond the hand, unlike a dumbbell, it becomes necessary to swing the kettlebell, and not just lift it.  These swinging movements engage and develop the fast-twitch muscles to a greater degree.  If the kettlebell exercises are performed properly, this will dramatically increase one’s cardiovascular strength and explosive power… both of which are essential for the Big Climb.

(As a side note: I’ve been promising a few of my readers an explanation on the difference between slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles… that will be forthcoming over the next week, but let me just say this about that:  People with a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscles will be better marathon runners because of the endurance-rich quality of those muscles.  People with a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscles will do better at sprints and events that demand quick bursts of energy.)

When you’re working out with essentially a cannon ball with a handle on it, the shape of the kettlebell necessitates ballistic and swinging movements which, in turn offer a multitude of fitness results.  Basically, training with kettlebells will not only build strength and muscle size, but it will condition the body to excel at high intensity/shorter duration activities. 

My training for the stair climb consisted largely of running stairs, but I supplemented with a daily 20-minute kettlebell routine, always with varied exercises.   I remain absolutely fanatical about kettlebells and continue to be amazed everyday by the results!

Peace Out!