lördag 16 februari 2013

Back to my roots - 2-Tickets-To-The-Gun-Show

This blog has been about kettlebells, crossfit, running, bodyweight, power lifting, olympic lifting, dancing, fighting etc. All things part of the current vougue in training. That is what my own training has looked like the past 6 years or so. Getting to know this kind of training has been a revolution for me. It has transformed my body and the way I think about training and physical culture. It has been good.
But lately it has been….less than satisfactory. I remember the same feeling from when I worked on my Masters thesis. I wrote my Bachelor quickly and passionately. Learned all I could along the way. Stayed up all night and vacuumed the internet for information and read every text no matter how distantly related it was to my subject. For my Masters I stayed with the same subject but went deeper and looked at it from another angle. It should have been easy. I already knew more or less everything. It should have been a smooth ride but it wasn’t. It went slow. It was a bit boring. There was more to say in the subject but I already knew the answers. For me there was nothing more to gain than the exam. All the questions were already answered. I didn’t need to do it. That feeling of unrest I felt while writing my Bachelors was gone. It was all calm.
I have sort of felt the same with my training lately. A bit bored. Not knowing where I wanted to go. I have also had problems with nagging pains and injuries. Problems with an elbow, straining my back, something in my shoulder. I needed something else. My body needed something else. A change of scenery.
 Kai Greene training arms

I will be 40 this year. Growing old(er) isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Hurting more easily. Healing slower. Harder to learn. Harder to build muscle. Stiffer. But there is of course a flip side to that coin. Knowledge. A certain calm. Perspective. I have always been slightly nostalgic. Looking back with a bit of bitter sweetness in my heart has been second nature. That has changed. I have a child and life has irrevocably changed. Life the way it was is a finished chapter. It is now something that I can look at without longing. I can look at what I was without sorrow that I have become someone else.
Doing that I have realized I few things about myself. That I like power metal, that I like to play guitar but that I don’t have to be the best there is. That I would like to live in the country side. That I like to build muscle. Yepp, that’s right. Build muscle.
When I started training gyms were small dark basements with faded pictures of huge guys in colorful even huger pants on the walls. There were no chains. The people that trained there were gym rats. If you showed up more than three times a week over a couple of months you were an accepted part of a small society. That was great. I do miss that. There were three day or four day splits. There were arm days and leg days (ratio 3:1usually). There were sets, reps, spotting the bench, cheat reps and pump. This was were I learned and started to love. It is where my roots are at.

Jon Bergqvist training arms

But talking super setting biceps curls and triceps push downs on arm day with your regular kettlebeller or crossfitter will give you nothing but contempt. Yes I have been one of them. I know all the arguments and I do agree with many of them. The infinite complexity of the human body can not be contained in and hacked up into a three day split. Everything is connected. Wanna be strong in the press? Mind your toes. Pain in your left knee? It might be your right wrist that is the problem. Isolation is not possible. True, true, true. But then again: ”The infinite complexity of the human body…”. That does not allow for only full body, multi joints movements. Not only for kettlebell swings, muscle ups and overhead squats. It also allows for concentration curls and z-bar french presses. In all its glory it allows for us to break out of any dogma if we have the will.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on facebook. Someone (Jon Goodman) trying a new revolutionary hypertrophy program for……yepp, arms. Only arms. A year ago I would have snorted at it and went on with my snatching but this time  it struck an old familiar chord in me and I decided to go full retard. To do the absolute opposite to what I have been doing the last few years (ok, perhaps not the absolute opposite, it’s still barbells, dumbells, pull-ups and dips, but you know what I mean). Said and done. Here I am now, on the last week of a 4-week arm program. The program is ”2-Tickets-To-The-Gun-Show” by DanTrink. It is arms three days a week and full body one time a week. It is an endless road of curls, extensions, pressdowns and presses. Everything is timed – a lot of time under tension – and everything is muscle contact and I absolutely love it. I have measured and photographed my arms for the ”before” picture and after next week we’ll see what the results are. My body feels great. No problems with my back and most miraculously my elbow is better than it has been for years. It was obvious that I needed change.  I have a feeling there will be some iron pumped in the close future. To quote Kai Greene:
Your mom is going to love you whether you have 24 inch arms or not. It’s up to you to get the 24 inch arms.”   

söndag 6 januari 2013

Isiah 59:3

If you have travelled through the virtual universe of functional fitness you probably have stumbled over more than a few photos of bloody hands. If not, just google kettlebell+hands or crossfit+hands. If there  existed a common symbol for this kind of training - whatever you call it - it would probably be a chalky, bloody hand. What's up with that? What are all these bloody hands saying?

"Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood 
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather 
The multitudinous seas incarnadine"

The bloody hand is quite a complex symbol. It's most common meaning is probably that of guilt, as in the quote from Macbeth above or as in Isiah 59:3. But to interpret all the bloody hands of the "iron fitness game" as symbols of guilt doesn't seem correct (unless perhaps if you are prone to really farfetched psycho-analytical interpretations, which I'm not). I think it has more in common with the other main way of interpreting it: as stigmata.

The stigmata is first and foremost a symbol of sacrifice. It is the symbol of God's sacrifice of his own son for the sake of humanity. It is therefore a symbol of what Ariel Glucklich call shared pain. It is pain suffered on behalf of others. To compare kettlebellers and crossfitters with Jesus is of course not only sacrilegious but also absurd - as anyone who has ever visited a crossfit box can bare witness to. The bloody hands we are talking about are hardly signs of sacrifice for a common good or a greater God. This kind of sacrificial symbolism is not uncommon in sports though. Players sacrificing themselves for the team or athletes going through years of painful training for the sake of their nations are common histories in sports mythology. These kinds of stories hardly exists in the fitness world though, since it is an entirely narcissistic world. Fitness, be it a sport or a hobby or a "way of life" is an entirely selfish endeavour. So, the bloody hands are not signs of a sacrifice for a greater good. They are shared though.

Our hands - as opposed to Macbeth's - are tainted by our own blood, not the blood of another. The blood comes from our own body and it is the result of injury caused by ourselves, not by others. The blood is not private though. It is not a symbol of shame but a symbol widely shared and displayed in social media and elsewhere. With our bloody hands we show to the world that we have inflicted pain upon ourselves and that we have endured it. One could make a comparison with the ascetic that uses bodily pain to discipline the soul but then again we rarely find anyone mentioning "the soul" within this discourse. The christian ascetic consciously broke down his or her body in order to school the soul. The body was regarded a filthy vessel containing the immortal soul. With the words of St. Bernard de Clairvaux: "The flesh (...) is no better than filthy rags". Some might argue that "breaking down the body" is exactly what the crossfit crowd and it's surrounding universe is doing but it is hardly the intent of it's members. Quite the opposite. The idea is building the body. Our bloody hands are the absolute negative of the ascetic's. They are a result of our concern for our bodies, not for our souls. 

"I'm so strong I don't have to sacrifice myself for humanity!"

So why do we display our bloody hands for everyone to see? If you belong (or belonged) to the RKC I think you have the answer right in front of you. It is a Rite of Passage. The rite of passage is a phenomenon as old as human history. It means passing from one status to another one through some kind of ritual. Historically this have usually meant passing from childhood to adulthood but there are also numerous examples of initiation rites into religious, military, academic and other societies. A common, albeit not mandatory, part of these rites are pain. To endure pain is to show dedication. It is a pledge of allegiance not only to the community you are about to be a part of but also to your self. "To have pain is to have certainty". 

Our bloody hands, willingly displayed, are then a part of a rite of passage. They are proof that we have shared the pain of the other members of the group we are aspiring to become a part of. It is proof that we are worthy but also a sign to others outside the community that we are on the inside. It is an ancient ritual in a watered down version. It is watered down since the passage isn't a given part of life and the gateway into society as is the case with circumcision or the Sun Dance practiced by native american indians. Neither is a ritual where one is welcomed into a community which one has been chosen by or have fought for. It is not being introduced to a community. Rather it is introducing ourselves. It entails no true sacrifice. It is an act of individualism more than of collectivism and being that, it becomes nothing more than a superficial use of a powerful symbol.

tisdag 25 december 2012

Fitness in an inflamed culture

Before I start I would like to say a few things. This post is not a critique of so called "functional training" or of CrossFit. It is not meant to be a part of the debate on gun legislation. Neither is a critique of USA or of U.S. culture. It is merely an attempt to articulate things that I have been thinking about and also an attempt to think and write about fitness and physical culture in a way that I find too rare. The post is in itself not a finished body of work but rather a part of the blog - a work in progress an invitation to debate and hopefully, if not food, at least a snack, for thoughts.

In the reactions after the Connecticut school shooting something struck me as being a central difference between my own culture and what we might call U.S. culture. Very quickly after the shootings voices on social media started calling out for armed teachers and armed guards at school. U.S. voices. My own reaction - since I might be described as a bleeding-heart-commi-liberal - was that this was preposterous. I belive that this reaction is the standard one in most of western Europe or at least Scandinavia.
But that USA is full of gun crazy fascists and that Europe is inhabited by liberal sissies isn't exactly news. Neither is it exactly a profound insight. No, what struck me is that a more fundamental difference between U.S. and western European culture is how "the natural state of things" is viewed. The main argument of the pro-gunners seems to be that there will always be "bad guys" and that we need to protect ourselves from them, with guns. This puts them in an Hobbesian world view where the natural state of things is war or conflict. Man can only respond to this fundamental condition. He can not hope to change it and it would be naive and futile to try. Another way of responding to a tragedy such as this would perhaps to look at the life of the shooter, to see it as a failure for the school system, social care, mental care etc. The difference is that this response would not rely on the idea that violent "bad guys" are a natural part of the state of things but would rather be interested in why guys become "bad guys" and what could be done to prevent it.

So where am I going with this? Well this insight - that U.S. culture in one sense seems to be inflamed, that there is an idea or feeling of constant conflict, of being under constant attack - made CrossFit make total sense to me.

The last few years have seen a revolution in the fitness industry with the entry of "functional" training. The debate over what constitutes "functional" is long and slightly tiresome so I'm not going there. What I think we can agree on is however that it must have something to do with the obstacles we meet in everyday life. What constitutes "functional" training is therefor dependent on how we perceive our everyday life. This is how CrossFit describes itself:

"We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable."

If we decide to overlook the obvious nonsense we can ask ourselves in what kind of culture that this definition of "functional" can emerge. What is needed for "functionality" to be defined as that which prepares one for absolutely everything and anything?

Let us take a short detour and look at another popular but much older movement, the Scouting movement, and their motto.

"The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.

Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it."

The father of the Scouting movement is Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant-General in the British army who used his military training manual, Aids to Scouting, as the basis of a program of informal education aimed at contributing "to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities."

Clearly the roots of Scouting are military. It's motto belongs in a military environment. It belongs in a state of conflict, in war. The idea that you have to be prepared for anything at all times does not belong in peace.

CrossFit is undoubtedly the most successful faction of the functional training movement. It is also undoubtedly a very american (and with "american" I mean belonging in the USA) phenomenon.
In the same way as we can find the roots of the Scouting movement and its motto in the military culture of the British army we can find the roots of CrossFit in the Hobbesian character of american culture. It is fitness in war time. It is fitness for individuals in a constant state of preparedness. It is fitness for an inflamed culture. (Michael Moore touches on the idea of U.S. culture as a culture of fear in Bowling for Columbine)

CrossFit isn't a success only in the U.S. however. CrossFit boxes are popping up like mushrooms in Stockholm and probably in large parts of Europe. Not in the whole of Europe though. CrossFit and Crossfit style training was virtually unheard of in Barcelona. A look at the CrossFit map of Europe shows some interesting differences between the different countries. Why such great differences? North vs. South, East vs. West, Rich vs. Poor, Catholic vs. Protestant, English speaking vs. non English speaking? Why do we train the way we do?

Well. I have no conclusion. There is a lot more to be said about the roots of CrossFit, the character of physical culture today, the militaristic origins of sport etc. etc.
I will leave you with one last question though. What would "functional fitness" look like in another culture, a culture that is not defined by "war of all against all"? Would there be room for aesthetics? Would there be dancing?


lördag 15 december 2012

Fascism, Militarism and Physical Culture - CrossFit, RKC and StrongFirst

There is something rotten in the state of "functional training".
A while ago the RKC organization was split in half. Pavel left and brought a large part of the organization core with him to start a new organization: StrongFirst.

My first reaction when I saw the logo was that it reminded me of something born out of the extreme right movement. (A guide to the symbolism of the extreme right here and here.

This brings me to something that has bothered me for quite a while, that there exists within the training community that I belong to - kettlebells, Crossfit etc. - a fascination and flirt with militarism and fascism.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think physical culture, the pursue of strength or other types of physical excellence, is fascist per se. I think humans in general should be physically stronger. There is something else though.

I started thinking about this a few years ago when I read the (massive) marketing of Dragon Door. Dragon Door relies heavily on the testimonials of their customers. In their marketing they publish these testimonials together with the name and title of the customer. A stunning high percentage of these published testimonials came from people who bears arms: police, military, body guards, special operators etc. This of course gives credibility to the claim that the RKC is all Go and no Show. If RKC kettlebell training is enough to prepare these guys it is enough for anyone.

It doesn't stop there though. At a closer look the language of the RKC also bore traces of martial influence: Viking Warrior, Tactical Strength Challenge, Breathing behind the Shield etc. A browse through the Dragon Door forum will reveal more.

With the split this tendencies certainly haven't disappeared. StrongFirst seems to have been created to cleanse the movement from some of the more "feminine" elements that riddled RKC such as a growing emphasis on movement, and to constitute a return to the basic values: Strength First. On social media pictures of tattoos of the StrongFirst logo together with the words "Loyalty, Honor, Respect" have popped up. All of them typical martial virtues.

The RKC/StrongFirst are not alone with this militarist tendency (the might be alone in their fascination for cargo pants though). It is also readily avialable in the Crossfit community. The Hero workouts bear the names of dead soldiers and part of the Crossfit games in 2012 was held at U.S. Marine base Camp Pendleton (which meant that no live footage and no spectators were allowed). It is however perhaps not so surprising to find militaristic tendencies within the Crossfit community since considering its origins in american corporate and physical culture.

An interesting difference between Crossfit and RKC/StrongFirst is the structure of the organization. Crossfit represents a more modern network type structure which emphasizes the fairly independent affiliates. RKC/StrongFirst on the other hand represents a hierarchical structure reminiscent of a military chain of command with the HKCs in the bottom, the RKCs over them etc. At the top we find the "generals", the Master RKCs. Promotion to higher levels are done regularly and seems to be based on achievement. Over the whole structure Pavel hoovers as a supreme, unquestionable leader. Needless to say we find the same structure in fascist organizations.

So, where am I going with this? Am I saying that Crossfit, RKC/StrongFirst, Tacfit etc. are fascist organizations? Not quite. At least I don't think so. But there definitely fascist/militaristic tendencies within those movements. There are cult like tendencies. There is a fascination with militarism. There is a smell of "Unity through Strength" that I find disturbing.



måndag 3 december 2012

New Life

Here we go again. Last time we spoke we were two NiNki's (No Income, No Kids) living life in sunny Barcelona. Life changes. Now we are rubbing elbows with Stockholm's hipster crowd carrying a small baby boy on our strong shoulders. The warm catalunyan sun is replaced by shining white snow and degrees well below zero. Yes, life changes and so does training. From being able to train hours every day of the week to perhaps squeezing in a few presses or deadlifts while the little one is sleeping. From sleeping the whole night through and eating well to being happy with 6 hours of sleep and living on coffee, sandwiches and cinnamon rolls. I will write about these changes and how I try to cope with them.


Jean-Marie Brohm and the elite athlete

Here I aim to present some of the ideas on sport expressed by french marxist socilologist Jean-Marie Brohm in his essay The Myth of Educative Sport. It is by no means a complete recapitulation or critique of Brohms ideas but rather an attempt to use some of his ideas to create a platform from where it is possible to question and discuss physical culture.

The focus of Brohm's essay is elite sport "(...) since this is the driving force behind mass and leisure sport and is indeed the stimulant of predominant physical activities in general".
Brohm thus not only means that elite sport in some way affects mass sport but also that it is a central factor - together with labour - in how humans relates to their bodies (in "state, capitalist society"). 
"(...) it is through the model of sport that the body is understood in practice, collectively hallucinated, fantasised, imagined and individually experienced as an object, an instrument, a technical means to an end, a reified factor of output and productivity, in short, as a machine with the job of producing the maximum work and energy."
An analysis of elite sport is therefore by extension capable of giving some fundamental insight on the relationship between the modern westerner and his body, on how the body is created in and perceived by our society and by ourselves.
I will not go deeper into a critique of this thesis  at this point but it suffices to say that it is far from obvious that it is through elite sport and labour that we understand and define our body - i.e. that elite sport and labour are the two main factors determining our relationship to our body. Other factors that comes to mind are fashion, popular culture (TV, music, film) and commercials.

Worth noticing is also the fact that Brohm doesn't question the division between mind and body, i.e. that the body might be inseparable from us in reality but that it is intellectually can be separated from "the soul" or "the mind" and be studied as a separate entity. This might be viewed as an obvious fact - that we have a body rather than that we are a body - but it is actually one of the most basic philosophical questions that has been debated in both western and eastern philosophy since its birth. Needless to say it is an enormous question and far out of the scope of this post but it is valuable to keep in mind.

For Brohm the elite athlete is a political figure. It is a figure created by the current regime as a role model for what constitues an ideal citizen. In the world of elite sports a myth about the "(...) outstanding individual devoting himself  body and soul to the accomplishment of his 'physical duty', demanding total self-denial and going as far as the 'supreme sacrifice' - death" is created. The elite athlete embodies the models of behaviour promoted by bourgeoise society: "the cult of duty for its own sake, the sense of sacrifice for the community, the ideology of the super-ego, obedience, discipline etc...".

This imaginary of the elite athlete/citizen is more than anything about an overcoming of the weakness of the flesh, of the body. It is therefore about pain and the overcoming of pain. In the individual athlete this is manifested in his dependence on pain and exhaustion. In viewing pain and exhaustion as a form of pleasure. The elite athlete has for Brohm internalized a form of masochistic behaviour. For the elite athlete the "comfort zone" is a bad word and to stay in the "comfort zone" is a sign of some kind of personal flaw.

Brohm's analysis relies heavily on the language used by athletes, trainers and sport journalists. In the world of Youtube, advertising and other social media it is easy to find examples of this "overcoming of the flesh". The whole genre of "motivational" films, pictures and quotes is the art form of this "internalized masochism". The stories of Muhammad Ali forging his body into an indestructable punching bag for George Forman to beat himself to exhausiton on, or Lance Armstrong not only overcoming cancer but also using it as a opportunity to rebuild his body to an even more perfect machine than it was before has brought a tear to the eye of many men. 

For Brohm this focus on pain and the overcoming of pain works as a legitimation for the pain inflicted on the masses, e.g. political prisoners, by the powers that be. 
"By conforming their body to the severe prescriptions of their masters, the slaves come to forget their condition as slaves and ignore the social conditions responsible for their slavery.
The athlete's overcoming of the flesh functions as an "opium for the people" not only by normalizing it but also by making it into the norm, turning it into effective self repression. Pain does not need to be inflicted to the people as an instrument of repression since they happily inflict it on themselves and if it needs to be inflicted they have been taught to accept it by idolizing the elite athlete and his struggle to overcome it.

These are some of the main ideas in Jean-Marie Brohm's The Myth of Educative Sport. I hope to write another post on one of his observations that I have not touched here later: the similarities between the language of the athlete's body and the language of the industrial machine.

tisdag 10 maj 2011

Front Split Revisited

I have no idea how it happened.

The stretch-class that I started in November didn't last long. I quit four weeks after I started when an evil dance chic (you know the type: gourgeous, ice-cold with mean black eyes) had tried to let me know my place in the hierachy while "helping" me stretch and had ripped my hamstrings to shreds before I even had time to react.

So basically I have been laying very low on any type of hardcore stretch work lately. About a month ago I felt like going again. Been starting slow which means I have only done a few minutes a couple of times a week just after ballet class, apart from the normal softer dance warmup and some sun-salutationes.

Today inbetween contemporary and ballet class I felt better than ever in hamstrings and hipflexors, strong and full of energy but like they would let go and not tighten up if I would give them a yank. Tried a front split and there it was!

Perhaps the new stretch-methodology is to not dedicate more than a few minutes here and there to the painful stuff and let your body soften up while going easy the rest of the time.

Or is the reason for todays succes just to be living happily in Barcelona with 25 perfect degrees, going to fantastic dance classes, eating sweet tomatoes and a chilling on the terrace with 'mi Amor'?

fredag 6 maj 2011

KB-muscle Re-visited - Good News

We're on our last moth in Bcn so I wanted to put some more itensity into my training and perhaps re-live some memories. Incipit Geoff Neupert's kettlebell complexes in Kettlebell Muscle. Last time I did half the program - 6 weeks - with double 20s. Then I got bored and the 20s were stolen so no more KB-muscle. Now I'm through first weeks with double 24s and it feels great. It basically feels the same as it did with double 20s 6 months ago. It's heavy but not at all too heavy. I don't care too much about Neupert's prescribed rest period between sets. Generally I have rested about 3 min., sometimes a bit longer. During hard day I have to put the bell down in the last sets before the last squats but apart from that I do it as prescribed. I don't think I will stay with it for the whole 12 weeks but I'm planning to do it for the rest of the month....if it still feels good.
Anyway, I can do something today that I could not do 6 months ago. Getting stronger. Happy.
Here is a video of the last set:

onsdag 27 april 2011

My Gym Movement

To make it clear from the beginning: I do not confess myself to Gym Movement. Neither do I confess myself to RKC (yes I know I have an RKC badge on the blog) , Crossfit or anything else. Not because I have something against these but because I don't want to be identified with something outside my control. I have however learned from all of these three aswell as from numerous other sources. Here I wan't to write a bit about what I have learned from Gym Movement.
I became interested in Gym Movement when I first saw Adam T. Glass videos on Youtube 1 1/2 years ago or so. It reminded me of something that I read many years ago about bodybuilder Victor Richards. At that time I was doing a classical bodybuilding three day split and wondering if a four day split perhaps was better or if I should split the day into two separate sessions. Richards however wasn't following a program at all. He did what he felt like each day. This idea sort of stuck with me but it wasn't until I heard of GM that it resurfaced again.
For me this is the core of the GM idea: not to force me into a pre set mold that does not take the specificity of my body and my present situation into consideration. Everybody that trains knows about good days and bad days. Days when you for some unexplainable reason are really strong or really weak. My experience with the weak days has generally been that if I push through and lift according to schedule I lift less than I should have done and that it leaves me depressed and down.
Today I choose not to push through but rather to walk around. Rather than doing something that really doesn't feel good I do something similar - another weight, other reps/sets, other exercise - and if that doesn't feel good either I do something completely different.
I don't test movements the way GM do. Mainly because I can't get it to work. I never see any differences in my toe touch or shoulder ROM no matter what I do and I don't have a mesauring device for grip strength. Instead I try to listen "inwards" so to speak. This of course means that I have to learn the difference beween a weak mind and a body telling me no.
It is not totally random training though. I do have a plan based on my goals. For example I plan to squat every second day. I have a plan for how to progress. If everything feels good I squat and follow this plan. If it doesn't feel good - which basicalyy means that I feel that I will not be able to do what I have planned to do in a good way - then I start making adjustments. If I have planned to do five sets of five reps kettlebell front squats with double 32s and that doesn't feel good I might go for 6 sets of 4 instead, or for longer rest between sets, or more reps with a lower weight. Sometimes squatting seems like a bad idea period and then i do something else. I love to train. I don't need to force myself to do it. If I don't squat today I will do it tomorrow.
I also keep a fairly detailed logbook. It is essential for knowing where to go next. If I for example choses to lower the weight in the frontsquats to double 24s then I know what my best set with these are and if I belive that I can beat it then I go for it. This leads me to another part of the GM philosophy: PR everytime.
I chose to leave the term PR for more dramatic occurences such as 1 RM but I do sympathize with the idea of perpetual progress. For me this means that I in my daily training chose to do excercises that I will have progress with. If I feel that I will not do better than last time then I don't do it. The progress is usually very slow - one more rep, one more set, one more kilo - but it is almost always there.
One last thing that I really like with GM is that nobody from there will frown upon me if some of my goals are purely aesthetical. So what if biceps curls are not "functional"? I want liquor strong and my guns big.
All in all, since I've started to experiment with the GM-ideas my training is more relaxed, it shows a more steady progress and it is easier.

tisdag 1 mars 2011

The narcissism of minor difference - Snatches, Logan Christopher and Freud

It's been a while since we wrote anything. I don't want to bore anyone with a simple training log, especially since the weights I move hardly can be considered extraordinary. I did have a pretty nice pull-up session the otherday though where I easily did pull-ups with +48 kgs and had a very good try (bar to the chin but not under) with +56 kgs.
Thats not what I'm writing about now anyway. If you are a part of the world kettkebell community on Facebook and internet you have probably heard of or seen Logan Christophers 301 snatches in 10 minutes with a 24 kg bell. You have probably also not missed the debate it has stirred.
The major objection to Logans feat is (no surprise here) technique.
"That's not a snatch", "There is no lockout", "What's the point?".
There seems to be an impulse in human beings to sniff up the weakest point in other human beings that they encounter and attack it. Or to quote Tool: "I will find the center in you, I will chew it up and leave".
In Civilization and its Discontents Freud writes about "the narcissism of minor/small difference" as the impulse that makes one human being separate himself/herself from others through focusing of differences and thereby creating an other, an enemy. Michael Ignatieff uses the concept to discuss genocide in general and Rwanda in particular.
Though the kettlebell world is a long way from Rwanda in the early 90s the concept still applies.
The kettlebell world is small. It's a bunch of people who uses the same tool in a similar way. Basically everyone in the kettlebell world agree on some basic premises, e.g. that free weights are superior to machines or that strength and conditioning should go hand in hand. These similarities are a lot bigger than the differences, e.g. technique or design of the bells. In despite of that, the reaction to Logans 301 snatches is not awe but ridicule (there's a lot of awe also but that's not a problem).

"...are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other' - 'such sensitiveness...to just these details of differentiation"
From Wikipedia

Anyone who has ever lifted a 24 kg kettlebell knows how almost inhumanly hard it is to do what Logan did. Why do they choose to focus on the lack of a lockout rather than the accomplishment?
This narcissism of minor difference is like a virus on the internet. Look at the comments on any youtube video of someone doing anything hard. If someone deadlifts 400 kgs, someone thinks that the back isn't straight enough; if someone BUPs 60 kg, someone thinks that there's not enough control in the lockout etc. etc. ad infinitum.
I admit, when I saw Logans video my first thought was: "he's not locking his elbow and the ROM is short". But just looking for a few minutes more, listening to his breath, pretty quickly changed that thought into: "maaaaaaaaan!!!! I'm not even close to be able to do that, not even in the same universe!!".
To critizise someones technique without acknowledging their achivements is putting the bar higher for others than for yourself. If you want better, DO better. If you can't DO better then at least have the courtesy to be silent. The world is big enough for all kinds of snatches.

Do I think that it is possible to do 301 locked elbow snatches with a 24 kg bell in 10 minutes? Well I went out on the terrace to do an experiment: to do 30 locked elbow snatches with the 24 in one minute. It worked, with one slow hand change (can't do the flashy air changes yet). Would I be able to keep that tempo for 10 minutes? Ha ha ha ha ha.....no way. But I do think it is possible.

fredag 4 februari 2011

100 tons of DOMS

So. I did my 100 tons project. It took me 5 hours and 50 minutes and it brought me no happiness.
I followed a very simple program based on light deadlifts, squats or lunges, floor presses and snatches or rows. Everything done with kettlebells. Each "set" took approx. 5 minutes which gave me 5 minutes of rest in between. It took a lot shorter time than I thought. I had planned for 10 hours and hoped for less than 8 so less than 6 was great. All in all however it's not a workout that I recommend if you're no really set on proving something for yourself. The first hour was cool. The second was good. The third started to get to med and when I got to the fourth it was nothing but stubborn will that had med going. It's easy psyching yourself up for an hour or two but after a while all endorphines are gone and it's just about grinding it out. I have never ran for more man three hours but I have walked for a lot longer and that puts you in a sort of meditative dream state where tou can keep on going for ever. This doesn't happen when you lift. It is too much on/off/on/off. The last two hours were horrible. I felt no joy or power whatsoever.
The original idea of doing this came when we did a 16 tons workout dedicated to the Merle Travis song 16 tons. The song is about the life of a coal miner lifting 16 tons of coal. 100 tons is probably closer to the daily workload of a coal miner in the 19th century and I can tell you it sucked. It's just hard work. Nothing else. It might make you harder but it doesn't make you stronger. The soreness i have had in my legs since then is of Biblical proportions. Bending the knees has been a horror. The last few days I have rather left stuff that I have dropped on the floor than picked it up.
Once upon a time I really liked DOMS. It was a proof that I had done well in the gym. Getting older however has also made me wiser. There are more than one reason why DOMS should be avoided.
It stops you from training. Squatting, deadlifting, swinging or anything else making use of the legs has been out of question the last few days.
It makes you weaker. Even in movements that does not directly involve the legs I have been substantially weaker the last few days.
It makes you tired. Having constant pain in the largest muscles of the body spends a lot of energy and it effects your sleep.
It changes your movement patterns. If bending your knees are painful, walking is painful. And if walking is painful your whole movement pattern changes. Walking becomes much harder and delivers more impact on the knees.

So even though I do not even for a moment regret lifting 100 tons I will not do it again anytime soon.

söndag 23 januari 2011

Superhuman: Intermission

In a comment to my last blogpost an anonymous reader asked what the point of this whole "lifting 100 tons in one day" project is. I guess it's a valid question.
My answer is that there really is no point. I do it because I got the idea. I do it as a way of structuring my training and as an experiment. I do it to have a good time, to test my limits and to learn something.
My anonymous reader correctly hinted that the rules that I have set out for this project is - to say the least - arbitrary. This is of course true - they are not the laws of logic, they are a posteriori - but they are not entirely random. The excersises that are "permitted" in the project are excersises that I normally use. I don't invent new excersises to suit my needs but I do adjust the weights for me to be able to complete the project. I have chosen not to include bodyweight squats as a "permitted" excersise. I could probably come up with a good reason for this but to the question why?, the most honest answer is probably that it didn't feel right. An arbitrary rule yes but as such not different to any other rules in sports or jurisprudence.
In the end this is a game not so different from other games. It has a set of rules that are set to make it function. In this case the game has one sole practitioner: me, it's creator.
So the answer to the question why I just don't run 10K and count that as 425 tons in 45 minutes is that it is not allowed by the rules because it would render the game meaningless for it's sole practitioner.
If anyone else wants lift 100 tons in one day I would applaud their decision and leave them to it. How you do it is up to you. Or to quote Pavel: "You're on the honour system now". If you decide that only lifts where the weight travels at least the distance between the knees and the head are allowed then that is the rule you abide by.
And finally: why do I think it's better to cheat than to quit?
To start with: I just do. I prefer to finish what I started even though it means that I have to use aid (wrist straps) that I usually not use. I prefer to do it without them but I don't want to quit because my grip fails. Again an arbitrary decision. Why draw the line there? Because it has to be drawn somewhere and I find that drawing it there works for me. If you rather draw it somewhere else be my guest. For all that I care you can do the whole thing on a BOSU ball only using your teeth.
So. Dear anonymous reader. I will be very happy to share your ideas on how a proper 100 ton workout should be done and I also look forward to reading about your progress and results in executing it. Power to you!

lördag 22 januari 2011

Superhuman: 4th test run

No Eskrima practise today so why not continue the Superhuman experiment?
The original idea was to try if I could do 10 tons worth of 32 kg swings in one hour but as I suspected it became too hard for my grip pretty quickly so I switched over to light deadlifts for the rest of the hour which proved to be an excellent idea.
Two handed swings, 32 kg: 35, 35,
Deadlifts, 56 kg: 22, 30, 30, 30, 30, 20, 15, 15, 15, 15, 15
=15512 kg in 50 minutes

Conclusion: Light deadlifts are a pretty good idea if you want to lift a lot of weight during a long time. It does tax the grip but not as bad as swings or snatches and if I really loose the grip after a few hours I can wrap a belt around the handle and my wrists. I would feel a bit like cheating but it is better than quitting.

fredag 21 januari 2011

Can he flip it? Yes he can!

Today I was really ment to do ten tons of swings in an hour to see how that felt but since the weather was great and I felt strong I loaded a 56 bell on the hand truck and headed for the park.

I was pretty sure I was going to be able to flip it - if you can swing it, you can flip it - but it took a couple of tries to get it right.
I started with just deadlifting it for warmup. Then swinging it and after that flipping it without catching. After I got that right I went for the catch and got it.
I was not able to do 10 unbroken flips. If you don't do it immediately you really don't have the power to do it later. It didn't feel as it would be a problem in the future though. Next time I'll move up to front flips and then to the double 32s.
Tried to do a one arm flip but that felt pretty far away. Maybe in a couple of months...

onsdag 19 januari 2011

Superhuman: 3d test run

Todays 13 tons looked like this:
Snatch, 16 kg, 15/15/15/15
Lunge, 2x16 kg, 5/5
Bent-over row, 24 kg, 10/10
Lunge, 2x16 kg, 5/5
Bent-over row, 24 kg, 10/10
5 times in 55 minutes.
=12800 kgs

The easiest workout this far. The only drawback being that the snatches taxed the hands but with a bit of handcare it should be ok.
Rest day tomorrow. On friday I'll start putting it all together.

tisdag 18 januari 2011

Superhuman: 2nd test run

I felt yesterdays workout when I got out of bed this morning. Not much. Just like a pat on my back.
Today it was time to try out a new design of the 100 ton workout. This was todays version:
Two round of
5 x ringdips
10 x C/P (2x16kg)
5 x floorpress (2x24kg)
approx. once every 15 minutes for 55 minutes (5 times)

= 12800 kg (233kg/min.)

As with the first test workout this is also too heavy to do for 100 tons but that is mainly because it is so focused on pecs, shoulders and triceps. I need to mix todays excercises with more pulling and lower body excercises such as lunges and bent over rows.
It was however a good idea to split the workout into two rounds rather than just do it all in a row. I think this might be an important key to finishing the 100 ton workout: to divide it into as efficient "portions" as possible.
I think tomorrow will be something like lunges with double 16, bent over row with double 24 and high rep snatches with 16.

måndag 17 januari 2011

Superhuman: 1st test run

I thought it might be a good idea to do a few test workouts before the actual 10 hour run.
Today I had a go at my first workout design:
13xPullups at a bodyweight of 80 kgs (=1040 kg)
A complex of 5x(swing/high-pull/clean/squat/push-press) with double 24s (=1200 kg)
5xdeadlift with double 56 (=560 kg)
=2800 kg

The idea is to do it once every 15 minutes but I squeezed in one extra and did 5 in an hour. It went fine but it is way to heavy to do for 10 hours so my idea now is to it perhaps 3 times during 10 hours and to mix it up with lighter more rep intensive blocks. A lot of snatches with the 16 for example. I also need to get something in the doesen't tax the grip at all. Any ideas?

Superhuman: Potentially incalculable, able to lift in excess of 100 tons

About a year and a half ago we posted the 16 ton challenge on this blog. Now it's time to take it up a notch. I have been fascinated by ultra runners for a long time. People running double, triple or quadruple marathons. Now I want to translate that into lifting. So within the next two weeks I will do my own Iron Ultra: lift in excess of 100 tons in one day.
The rules are as follows:
Bodyweight excercise is allowed but only excercises such as chins, dips and handstand pushups. Regular pushups. or squats are not allowed.
Any kind of quantifiable excercises and/or tools are allowed.
The goal is to reach 100 tons lifted in total, e.g. 1000 reps of 100 kg deadlift.
There is no limit to how many excercises that are allowed. If you just want to do snatches that's ok but it is also ok to do a large variety of different excercises.
My plan is to lift 2.5 tons every 15 min. for 10 hours.
Anyone up for it?

tisdag 11 januari 2011

Time on my hands

Oscar came by yesterday and held a handstand/ juggling session for us.

First of all I would like to say something about the beauty of someone performing a good handstand. You know, most of us have seen video clips of everything from groups of flexy three year olds handstanding on eachothers forehead to russian guys sprayed with gold doing...well, virtually the same. And it's easy to become blasé when you've seen everything and more on Youtube. But how often do we experience these things live? Sometimes we go to the cirkus and we see them on stage but that is still a bit surreal in a way. It's a show, there's bright lights and usually a lot of things going on at the same time.

I mean really live. Having a tall, handsome guy performing what he calls the handstand basics - two-handed, perfectly quiet, and deadstill - one metre from you away in our tiny flat was breathtaking. Almost touching. It was so perfect and it struck me in a way nothings ever done on youtube. Well, except for Sneezing Panda and all clips tagged Ultra Kawaii, of course.

After that we went on to juggling, what's next, dreadlocks!? Oscar said it was easy as pie and that it should be learned in no more that 20 minutes. I kind of got it after 19 minutes and 17 seconds. Yes, we timed it. Jon is practicing as we speak and every now and then he accidentally drops an orange on my head.

Thank you Oscar for your time, skills and help.

It's not what it looks like

He's assesing my balance

By the way, do a search for 'time on my hands' on Spotify. A lot of fun to find there. Styx and Pet Shop Boys are my favorites.

tisdag 4 januari 2011

Eccentric Flu

Some of the positive vibes concerning year 2011 were spoiled after getting the flue on the third day of the year. And here I still am: in bed on day two. No training, no fun n' games, no nothing. What I do have - although it's waining - is one hell of a DOMS (träningsvärk/muscle soreness) in my trapezius. Can't thing of another time when it has hurt so much and it got me thinking. It is of course a result of sundays snatching and juggling but why so much? Freshened up a little on my DOMS knowledge and there it was: eccentric training. Eccentric training is known to create DOMS and both snatching and - perhaps even more so - heavy juggling are examples of eccentric training.
I have sung the praise of kb juggling before and I will do it again. Not only is it a more creative and free break from sometimes tedious routines. It also trains hand to eye cordination, makes you work off balance and explore meridians of you movement that you usually do not explore and it works the muscles both concentric and eccentric. The only drawback being that it gives you the flu.

söndag 2 januari 2011

Last day of fun n' games - snatch test revisited

The quest for my 2011 goals starts tomorrow so today I took the opportunity of just playing around. Brought a 24 to Ciutadella to do some juggling and winded up doing a snatch test.
It was the first time I really juggled with a 24. I have tried it back in Sweden but since my Powermax bell is as well balanced as a teenage Brit in Ibiza it was really hopeless.
Much better with the Eleiko bells. It went pretty ok for being the first times. It's quite unforgiving to juggle a heavy bell but it is also much more steady. It takes more power to move it but because of that it also take much more power to tilt it and it stays on the given path. I can do a lot of the things that I can do with a 16 but for example flipping it between the legs vill have to wait for a while. It is not only the weight that is different but also the size which becomes most appearent in the "behind the back" and "between the legs" stuff. I'll get it soon though.

Juggling a 24 kg kettlebell from youmakelovingfun on Vimeo.

After half an hour of juggling form started to deteriorate so that was the end of that. Didn't feel quite ready yet so I tried to do the snatch test for the first time since the RKC (I think..). It went...very easy. Done in under 3:50. Did it without looking at the clock and could probably speed it up some more, It feels like 3:30 might be quite possible.

Grass is always greener...

Life here is fantastic, bur damn how I would like to go cross-country skiing right now!

lördag 1 januari 2011

Slip, juggle and roll

We had a wonderful day in the park today. Mostly playing, laughing and fooling around. Was doing a few rounds of Fredriks 'the idiot'. You are standing in the middle of eight stations then running to touch the one Jon is calling out, then back to the middle, then run to the next one a.s.o. Then, while Jon was practicing juggling three bells, I practiced some Ninja rolls (it's my secret dream to be one and yes I know that everone but me thinks it's dorky and stupid but in fact, I just bought some new ninja shoes the other day so slowly but surely I'm getting there, just the rolls left now).

These puppies are quieter than an assasins rifle, have got a deadly grip and were cheap as chips!

I tried out my new killer super-ab-plank on Jon and I forced Jon to be my sparring partner as I wanted to practice some slips and boxing defence. 'Not so fast!' 'NO, not so slow' Ha ha, he couldn't do anything right but we had a lot of fun and I will feel it in my obliques tomorrow.

We finished of with some partner juggling. (Somebody give me a better word for it!) Trying to get into the groove and freestyle. More training should be like this. No grunting, no comfort zones to get out of, no PRs, no counting, no yelling, no pain. Just moving and having fun on a piece of grass with my loved one. Tomorrow, my best friend Nonno is coming to visit. She actually practiced Ninjutsu during one semester like ten years ago. I'll take her down to the park for a few rolls.

Well, it wasn't my idea! Jon is getting all geared up with all the new film editing options his latest App has to offer.

fredag 31 december 2010

Secret bonus

I have already stated my goals for 2011 and I have set up a plan on how to accomplish them. But I also have sort of a bonus goal. Something that I have never seen anyone do: juggle three kettlebells. I figure it is basically the same technique as in juggling with clubs. Not that I know how to do that but I have watched some tutorials and I'm starting with two 8 kg bells and will take it from there. Progress will be filmed.

torsdag 30 december 2010

Pressing in the dark

And listen to 'Because the night' performed by Patti Smith, written by Bruce Springsteen. Brilliant song.


Burning rubber/ That's what I'll be doing!

It turns out that I have an inflamed biceps tendon so I'll be laying low with presses for a while. I Guess Kettlebell Muscle Program wasn't for me after all. But oooh how I be working the rubber! Rehab is always more fun when you get to buy something and how I love my new rubberbands. They come in happy colours and with a funny booklet of instructions. Listen to this:

- Do you exercising in a well ventilated room
- Attach long hair so as not to be hindered during exercising
- Do not let children or household pets play near the appliance when you are training (Fredrik, maybe you should keep that one in mind next time, and for the rest of you look at his latest vid.)
- Consult you doctor before undertaking the exercises (Or as Fredrik says: Ask your doctor if getting off your as is right for you)

I'm not so frustrated as I usually would be though. Am taking some well deserved rest, playing with photshop (see below) and planning for how to train the coming year and trying to come up with a way on how to achieve your goals without getting injured. Everybody seems to do it but me. What's the key? Sometimes I think my body wasn't made for training at all. But what do you do?

I'm thinking maybe one of the solutions is to set up long-term goal. Really long-term so that there's no need at all to rush things. Am following Jons example and am setting up goals for the whole year to come with #1 being staying whole. Will be getting back for the rest of them in the days to come.

Well, it's not the most intense workout I've ever undertaken. But it's kinda nice. I like it! And I've lost my rubberband virginity too!

Very important to stay focused and really isolate the...the...tounge?

By the way; you big lifter guys who spent your teenage years in on your back in the benchpress, or did one dumbell fly too many, you must have had the same problem at some point. Any advice on rehab? Or rather, any advice in general?

Kettlebell Catalunya

Not sure this will be the official KBC-logo. But it's at least a sample of whats to come. For our Barcelona readers you will recognize the pattern from the paving tiles.

Am working on the webpage for Kettlebell Catalunya. You will find the temporary page here. Come and train with us! New years day there'll be no training but from wed 5/1 we going on strong as usual.

onsdag 29 december 2010

Goals 2011

Ten years have soon passed since the black monolith should have been found on the dark side of the moon but things are pretty much as they always has been. 2011 will however be a year of immense change.
Just read my blog post from a year ago and it struck me how little my training has progressed. It felt a bit sad really. I mean, a lot has happened this past year. I do think that I am a better athlete and I am for sure a much better teacher but I don't know if I am that much stronger. This, however, makes me even more confident in what I should do this comming year: set up clear goals, program for them and write a training log. So here they come. My 11 goals for 2011:

1. Deadlift double bodyweight. This should be one of the easier goals since I already has lifted 160 kg at 82 kg bodyweight. Have to wait to start training it for real until I find a proper barbell. Our two 56 kg kettlebells will have to do meanwhile.
2. Squat double bodyweight. I have never tried out a 1 rep max squat so I really don't know how hard this is going to be but I'm starting to work it with double kb front squats while I'm still in Bcn.
3. Benchpress 1.5 x bodyweight. Have never benchpressed 100 kgs so this will be interesting.
4. Pistol. It's just a shame that I can't do it already.
5. Press double 36s for 10 reps. I prefer to keep on doing the double kb work since I hope it will even out the imbalance I've got between left and right side.
6. Flip double 36s for 10 reps. Love the double kb swing flips. Did 325 of them with th 20 kgs and are now bringing the 24s to the park.
7. Pull-up +50 kg. It's a shame that I haven't progressed more in the weighted pull-up during the year. Have done 45 kgs so 50 kgs shouldn't be a big thing.
8. One arm pull-up. Everybody needs a mountain to climb...
9. Comfortably put the palms in the floor with straight legs. I probably should have more flexibility goals but I don't.
10. Snatch test with 32 kgs. Haven't done the snatch test since the RKC but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem. Movin up. It feels more interesting to increase the weight than to do the SSST with 24 kgs.
11. One minute handstand. Yepp.

That's it!!! If I reach these goals in the coming year I feel I'm pretty much at a good athletic level for a 38 year old.

tisdag 28 december 2010

Inside the true electric circus

I have written before about circus. Or more specifically: Contemporary Circus. The contemporary circus artists really are a sort of role model of athleticism for me. They are well rounded in almost all aspects of the word (except maybe when it comes to cardio vascular capacity). Kudos to them.

Contemporary circus as art or performance however is often another story. Pornographic in the the sense that it uses a story a a framework for the show that is at best secondary to the tricks - the money shot. The story also has a tendency to be quite pretentious dwelling on such subjects as mental disease, fractals etc. Until a few day ago I thought that this was the destiny of contemporary circus: cool tricks loosly connected by a story that just might include a pizza boy or the pool boy. I like it when I'm right.......but I love it when I'm wrong. And boy was I wrong!
Went to see Oscar and the other guys performance the other day and I completely blown away. I haven't laughed this much since ........ (insert optional whatever).

The show really doesen't tell a 'story'. It has a framework in that you sort of recognize
the narrative: Four guys being guys. That's it. No Fibonacci numbers, no Wittgenstein, no paranoia. Just very well performed physical comedy.
I am certainly out of my element trying to unwind the historical background of comedy but for me the success of the show has something to do with it not taking the cirkus as a whole as a mould for its structure but rather the clown.
Contemporary circus usually comes across to me as really beeing traditional circus were the different numbers are connected not only by the tent, the ring, the sawdust or history and tradition but also by a 'story'.
This performance however takes the figure of the clown and enhances it to a whole show. The clown as being the most versatile figure in the circus, capable of performing a large variety of tricks bound together not by story but rather by character.

For me this is a oh so much more intelligent approach than the 'let's tell a story' one. There is no gasping between the tricks and there is no 'youtube trick fatigue'. As an audience you get so involved in the characters that the tricks no longer are you just tricks that might or might not have seen before but rather tricks performed by someone that you know and care about.
Bravo, bravo, fuckin BRAVO!!!
If you're in Bcn, go and watch it.