PT manual (original edit).pdf

July 14, 2017 | Author: arthax123 | Category: Pain, Strength Training, Physical Exercise, Breathing, Anatomical Terms Of Motion
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Physical Training Culture


Albert Ciampa Health Promotions Director Dyess AFB, TX

Physical Training Culture

Preface This work was originally intended for Military student-instructors who attended a 10-week course that I conducted with the purpose of creating competent leaders of physical training (PT) at the unit level. Force multipliers … train-the-trainer … whatever you wish call it – this course was designed to empower others with our trade: physical training. The most effective way that one person can have great affect on a larger population is by teaching others to teach. After the course, some students still had many questions, and there was some confusion as well—the individuals in a group do not progress in the same fashion or at the same rate. This manual was born both as a supplement, and to provide a source of continuing education for the graduates of that course. It should not be used as a standalone source of instruction for a novice student of movement, or recreational trainee. One should always get expert instruction when first learning how to move, especially when under load, and the early part of this manual explains why. As this piece progressed, it slowly grew in a different direction than I originally intended. I put together this manual to answer the daily questions that I was fielding, and began to hand it out to folks other than my students. It was well received. So, while the language contained within still speaks to Military student-instructors, the material applies to anyone who is interested in physical training, from the novice just starting out to the intermediate or advanced trainee who is willing to go back and ensure that his or her foundation is solid. This information in this manual is a detailed overview of my notions pertaining to what should be the foundation of movement, the basic exercises to practice and train, examples of effective programming routines, and applied nutritional science & lifestyle. It is applicable to the entry-level student, the rehabilitated patient, and the elite alike. From the rank of Private to Special Operator, teenage strength athlete to Professional, and from young to old healthy and unhealthy individuals and recreational athletes, some portion of the generalpreparedness recommendations from within these pages will improve your function and/or performance. I invite you to glean what you can.

This material is a synthesis of my own experiences and observations as an athlete, Soldier, instructor, academic, and student; the insights and teachings of Pavel Tsatsouline, Dan John, Gray Cook, Tim Anderson, Geoff Neupert, Thomas Meyers, Gary Taubes, as well as every other forgotten name that has donated some piece of


Physical Training Culture

the puzzle—through the stimulation of critical thought to the flat out “burning the hand on the stove” method of acquiring knowledge; every student, athlete, and Soldier that I have had the privilege to train or work with; and the support of friends and family—especially my brother, for without his never ending stream of query, the dots would not have been so comprehensively connected.

Not for sale or distribution. For private, internal use only.

Special thanks to: Lt Col John Fox, J. Mike Park, TSgt Jason Washington, Lt Col Winnie Lok-Park, TSgt Aaron Gaddis, SSgt Anna Lee, MSgt Frank King, SSgt Jacob Savoie, SSgt Andrew Dailey, Ms. Terri Jordan, Maj Gen Leonard Patrick, Brig Gen Partick Higby, Brig Gen Bradley Spacy, CMSgt Farrel Thomas, CMSgt Angelica Johnson, Col Paul Nelson, Col Rene Romero, Chris Isernio, & Jay Johansen … and to anyone else whom I may have overlooked—you were all important in your own way.

Please … questions, comments, critiques, concerns—go to; or email me directly on Global.

Exercise is not without its risks and this or any other exercise program may result in injury. Any person who undertakes these exercises does so at their own risk. To reduce the risk of injury you should consult your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program. As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you believe conditions to be unsafe or begin to feel faint or dizzy, have physical discomfort, or pain, you should stop immediately and consult a physician.

And please, get a qualified instructor. No novice should learn how to exercise from a static photo manual. Find an instructor near you:


Physical Training Culture

Introduction With respect to strength and conditioning methods, there is much misinformation being passed along that can lead to injury, little improvement, and/or disinterest in physical activity. The Internet is a fantastic tool, but it can also be most troublesome. The intent of this manual is to help decipher those proper and effective notions that actually do improve physical performance, and to prescribe them as safely as possible. Tried and true methods have existed for hundreds years: getting strong is easy—lift weights. Increased conditioning is even easier—speed up the movement and shorten the rest periods. It’s the details and application of these two ideas that cause the lack of comprehension.

Being fit for the military means having to train a bit differently from Olympians and professional athletes. Military members are athletes, but athletes of another kind. We can’t specialize in our training; our programs have to be general in nature, but based on a foundation of strength. It is increased strength and short duration power levels that have the greatest effect on one’s capacity to do work—the ultimate goal of physical fitness.

Strength is relative, however—the retiree with whom I work will be put through repetition after repetition of getting up and down off the floor while the strength athlete with whom I work might need a 650+lb deadlift in order to be competitive in his weight class. The average military member needs “just enough strength”.

Unlike most other coaches and trainers, I have the luxury of already knowing your goals. You raised your right hand vowing to meet a set of standards that must be met, regardless of your personal wishes and desires. Since standards are just that—metrics to be achieved—programs can be designed to that end. For example, Military members must participate in a bi-annual / annual physical fitness assessment, but regulations require satisfactory performance at any time. This particular specificity of training must be worked into the fitness program … even better, choose those basic exercises that have the greatest carry over to other tasks and movements. The work of our Military men and women also requires the successful accomplishment of missions of a physical nature. Engaging in workout sessions that drain your energy, cause lethargy, and deep muscle soreness can compromise mission readiness—the very thing that physical fitness training should support.

This cannot be



Physical Training Culture

The Service also demands that individuals maintain relatively low body weights—and this includes both lean and fat mass. Extra muscle that is not putting any power to the ground still needs to be carried around. You may find it difficult to hoist your battle-buddy off the field of combat if your “beach muscles” are unnecessarily weighing you down. The goal is to be strong but lean, and not overly muscled. Being big and bulky might be your personal goal, but it will make you less effective at your job.

A point often overlooked, many missions must be accomplished while in a state of sleep and nutrition deprivation. It is beneficial at times to train tired and hungry, not always attempting to maximize nutrition and rest.

As with all physical training, safety should be built into the program. Quality should always precede quantity, “too much too soon” must be avoided, restorative weeks (lower intensity) allowed, and those exercises which are more likely to produce injury should be avoided. What is needed is a minimalist free-style program that is very general in nature but carries over to most every other task thinkable. The exercises chosen, and time spent performing them must give one “the most bang for the buck”.


Physical Training Culture

Part 1: Movement This section is essentially about how to move properly—to position, and re-position using proper biomechanics. Strength and conditioning is based on movement, so movement needs to be of high-quality first. Moving properly increases efficiency, and so improves physical performance. And it reduces the risk of injury—outside of the collision sports, musculoskeletal injury is usually the result of improper posturing, and/or “too much, too soon”. Proper movement applied to life’s tasks is a high-dose of preventive medicine.

What causes poor movement?

As a society that sits in a chair rather than squat, and otherwise spends a lot of time sedentary, we have degraded our ability to move and posture properly. Day after day of sedentary behavior leads to the “use it or lose it” phenomenon— an insidious reduction in neural control of the body, the creation of joint limitations and restrictions, and the loss of the ability to stabilize the your structure. Oh, don’t kid yourself: if you have a desk job, spending up to eight hours a day sitting, you are sedentary … even if you formally “workout” daily.

Pain too, can lead to poor movement patterns. The brain does the best it can to avoid moving into pain. You ask your body to complete a physical task, such as walking, or shoveling snow, and your brain will automatically position the body in such a way as to minimize any sensations of pain.


Physical Training Culture

These compensations become habitual over time, and can lead to a new set point for that particular movement—even if the pain has been relieved.

Lastly, it is very possible that you were not given the chance to develop good movement as a young child. Perhaps your caretakers carried you everywhere. Perhaps you spent a lot of time in a walker or stroller, or some other set of training wheels that prevented your ability to develop proper movement. The forces of nature are the ultimate teacher, and if this part of your life has been surpassed, you may have ended up with movement dysfunction as an adult. 1

High-quality movement takes time to create, and only grows in a garden of quality practice. Movement is founded on a properly working computer control program: the brain and nervous system. Neural control of the myofascialskeletal system (bones and soft tissues) continues to fine-tune as one practices movement. Precise control of the muscles and soft tissue leads to increases in strength and coordination, resulting in better movement quality. Neural control and the resultant movement patterns are also known as motor skills, and motor programming. A motor skill is a skill for which the primary determinant of success is the quality of movement that the performer produces.


Neural control directly af-

fects motor skill. Skills can be conceptualized in two ways: as a task or performance, such as in dunking a basketball; or as the proficiency of the demonstration of the performer, such as how Michael Jordan dunked the ball.

It is this latter idea that I want you to keep in

Strong control of the muscles and soft tissue leads to increases in strength and coordination, resulting in better movement quality.

mind: how you move is important in training. The focus must first be on movement; the task will be completed just by virtue of your moving. Once you have developed superior motor skill, and made it inherent, then you may focus on tasks. There is also the concept of motor programs; the idea that some movements are plugged into a central processor and carried out automatically.


This can be understood as a set of automatic motor skills that produce


Physical Training Culture

movement. Viewed in our context, motor programs may be faulty and lead to injury. Focusing on the task— running, and the not the performance—foot strike, forward lean from the ankles, head up, etc., is relying on a potentially erroneous motor program. Over time, the body adapts to what it is exposed to—so keep practicing with a focus on your position: stay with the process. No matter how poorly you move right now, you will move better and better each day. Remember: move well first. The, focus on tasks. But what is good movement?

The Chassis The chassis is where we begin: the structure that provides the ability to move. The body’s support structure is the chassis, i.e., the bones, muscles, and other soft tissues. Good movement is holding one’s chassis properly (good posture), and repositioning properly (good posture under dynamic conditions) without compensations. There is no objective measure for high-quality movement, but it is something that you recognize when you see it—it’s extremely graceful.


Physical Training Culture

Posture Posture describes how a mover holds his or her body in both static and dynamic positions, e.g., standing still, or running. When we speak of posture, it is description of the pelvis and spine, but inevitably includes the limbs as well. There is a correct way to posture and position that will minimize injury due to inferior biomechanical leverages, and, maximize efficiency. Maintaining the spine’s natural arches with the pelvis neutral to the lumbar arch is, essentially, proper posture. Teaching one how to form and maintain this posture is difficult, but there are many coaching cues that help. Although we keep providing the same postural cues, many of my students admit that they didn’t hear those corrections many months ago. It requires tenacious effort and exacting instruction, placed on top of the physiological adaptations seen in training that leads to improved positioning. Crawling, one of our initial training tools, is absolutely the best way to both teach and improve posture, and it does so in a self-correcting way.

Good posture may be compromised during movement. Those with mobility restrictions and stability limitations will see degradation in posture when loaded or while changing positions. As well, those who lack high-quality neural control might try to “jump” through changes in position. Conjure up the image of the individual who can stand up tall, chest out, chin up, hips under the head, but completely rounds (flexed spine) over in the bottom of the squat. When this rounded back position is then corrected for (sits up straight), this person might find his or her heels lifting up and/or the knees driving forward.


Physical Training Culture

This is an example of chassis restrictions changing posture, resulting in altered movement and dysfunctional motor programs. Movement can identify limitations of the chassis—this is exactly what movement screens are designed to do. These limitations, however, can be corrected over time by practicing movement with a focus on quality.

One of the primary goals of

A stiffening of the spine in its natural arches epitomizes good posture and positioning. This enables it to transmit the forces generated at the ball and socket joints by the limbs. The

every fitness program should

shoulders and hips act as transfer stations for force, and to

be to rectify any of these

“four knots” (hips and shoulders) have to be tied together,

deficiencies and restrictions: to rebuild the chassis.

ensure that much of those forces are used in movement, the and a stiffened spine accomplishes this. If the spine moves under load, risk of injury increases at the worst, and poor performance occurs at the least. Moving spines “leak” force. Many people ask me what the core does and how to train it: the core stiffens the spine against force;

the best way to train this is to challenge this ability. If limitations in soft tissue or the four knots cause your spine to flex, extend, and torque unwillingly, clear this up first. This is a big part of chassis rebuilding.


Physical Training Culture

Back to the Beginning ... You were born with a very mobile chassis. You soon learned to stabilize that chassis but you had to trade some mobility for that stabilization. In doing so, however, you earned the ability to move around in the world. Over the formative years, while everyone else was busy with life, you were busy with moving—with the honing of the balance between mobility and stability, the forging of motor programs for general movement patterns, and the generation of fine-tuned motor control. This resulted in a human animal that was capable of all sorts of physical feats, and much resiliency.

Sometime soon after we earned, what Grey Cook would call, “unconscious competency” in our movement, society stuck us in a desk for school, a sofa for video games, or otherwise began the degradation of neural control and local mobility / stability. 1 Fast forward to high-school, when we get thrown into a sports program and suffer our first injuries due to moving a less than capable chassis in a relative Indianapolis 500. But perhaps you survived high school and even collegiate sports participation (and its requisite strength training) without harm. If you have been moving with compensations, it is likely that the tissue damage is there, waiting to accumulate enough microtrauma to present as pain and/or injury. So what to do?

Go back, and recreate the training program. Taking cues from the developmental patterns of children, we practice moving to improve neural control, increase stabilization and mobility about the joints, and put the body back together as one piece—we start from the beginning to rebuild the chassis.


Physical Training Culture

Quality movement is earned by children tenaciously competing against gravity and other natural forces (such as older siblings) out in three-dimensional space, without support or stability. Getting up off the ground without assistance is a task challenged in three-dimensional space; sitting in a chair while you work on your computer is a task that is assisted and stabilized. We need to engage in a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter.

Load & Speed Strength and conditioning are physiological adaptations stimulated through movement. If you don’t move very well to begin with, loading up or speeding up movement may result in a catastrophic injury at worst; and pain at a minimum. As seen in the case of pain, compensations occur so that the brain may complete the task by circumventing local restrictions and limitations. If you lack shoulder mobility, for example, and cannot raise one or both arms directly above your head, your brain may compensate with excessive spinal extension while lifting loads overhead. Your brain will complete the task you set out to do, and performing in a biomechani-

You have to move correctly— i.e. beautifully— before any increases in load or speed.

cally incorrect manner under load will lead to tissue trauma, pain, and injury. It is imperative to regain range of motion in the shoulders and remove the compensation before loading up overhead. Given enough time, the habits formed by these compensatory movements become the default movement patterns by rewiring software in the brain—the motor programs.

The runner who lacks symmetrical hip stability has had the motor program for locomotion rewired to work around the lack of stability in that hip. That is, when placed in a single-legged stance, one hip “sticks” the pose nicely while the other hip causes a lot of dancing—asymmetric hip function. Being a series of single-legged stances, running with this compensation is literally tearing this body apart. Worse yet, too much time spent in exercise machines, isolating muscle groups and body segments, or otherwise training the body in segments rather than a whole (as many training programs do), further degrades the chassis. This too contributes to poor movement patterns and compensations.


Physical Training Culture

“De-stabilize” the environment of exercise, don’t fortify it with external stabilization. Requiring your body do the stabilizing is much of how movement quality improves. The body adapts to what it is exposed to, in either direction … as all things in nature, it seeks maximum efficiency. There is a place for isolating segments and muscles, such as during a physical rehabilitation program, working with the elderly, and making adjustments for those permanently injured. They just don’t belong in an effective performance program, except maybe during an off-load week. Take the time to rest, regroup, and rebuild the movement quality that you once had. It doesn’t take very long, but it must be done. Remember: you should not train for strength and conditioning on a foundation of poor movement. Let’s rebuild and reinforce the chassis before we enter the race.

Physical training for Soldiers: a former Eastern Bloc country


Physical Training Culture

Pain & Injury Let’s stop and make a point here about pain and injury. Injury is damage to the structure: broken bones, torn ligaments, herniated discs, etc., and can be diagnosed through an assortment of technology. Injury prevents the structure from operating in its usual manner. Acute pain is a sensation that is strongly associated with tissue damage, and then subsides as the tissues heal. Chronic pain is a sensation that hangs around far after the tissues have healed, and simply should not be occurring.

As I deal with so many people who are in chronic pain, who believe that they cannot move, or cannot complete this or that task, this section is for them. But this may obviously apply to any reader.

Pain is a sensation emitted by the brain and felt by the individual. We used to believe that there was a causal relationship between injury and pain—tear up tissue, and feel the subsequent pain. Research has led to new theories that turn on the notion of pain being a result of inputs from a number of different sources. Pain is simply the brain’s way of talking to us—a response to perceived danger.

The nociceptors are a collection of sensors throughout the body that send

Pain really is

signals back to the brain and spinal cord about tissue damage, or a danger of damage, e.g., an overstretched muscle. Nociception, if stimulated, had been

in the mind!

thought to be the sense of pain, but it is only one of many inputs now understood to activate the sensation of pain.

We have many records of severe injury without feelings of pain.


As well, we all have heard of the phantom

limb phenomenon among amputees: sensations of pain where no tissue even exists.


So, we have cases of tis-

sue damage with no pain, and pain with no tissue damage.

It has been reported that 40% of the population is walking around with disc herniations, bulging discs, and/or degenerated spinal joints while feeling no pain whatsoever. Moreover, they don’t feel pain in the follow up visits years later.


These findings have led to the guidance that physicians should not order imaging diagnostics

for non-specific low-back pain. The disrupted structures seem to only be associated with painful symptoms.


Physical Training Culture

The contemporary understanding of pain is that it is an output of the brain. You feel pain because of ______. What’s the because? As we learned, it used to be thought that tissue damage communicated through nociception caused pain. It is now believed that there is a bio-psycho-socio cause of pain. The brain receives inputs about the body’s tissues (bio), the individual’s thoughts, fears, and beliefs (psycho), and the individual’s knowledge and culture (socio), and decides to signal pain.

The power of one’s attitude and thoughts can change one’s perception of pain, without changing anything at the tissue level. Dr. Sarno did a lot of work to support this notion in his book, “Healing back pain, the mindbody connection”.


If you’re suffering from chronic pain, look into other areas of your life with honesty and

try to unfold what else may be at the root of your suffering.

The take home in our context is that if you’re managing your pain, you need to continue to move. Movement is life. Change your attitude about what you can physically accomplish, and you might just surprise yourself. When I work with people with nonspecific low-back pain, they usually guard against certain positions and especially against loads. They move slow, with a half-winced expressions on their faces—some even with a look of sorrow.

In many cases, people can change their condition just by believing to be strong and capable—because they are! I am still surprised at the outcomes of those people who had originally been referred to me in states of desperation—facing surgery and a lifetime of nursing a structural dysfunction. There are many cases on the records across many fields of work reporting reduced or removed sensations of pain through movement therapy.

My suspicion is that in many of those cases, the confidence built by moving led to a “knowledge” that changed the brain’s perception of danger, and so, it turned off the pain signal.


Physical Training Culture

Tension Tension is how muscles hold up and move bones. Tension is strength. There are two types of tension: reflexive and feed-forward. Reflexive tension is an unconscious tightening of musculature prior to limb impact, as occurs in the locomotion patterns. Crawling and walking require reflexive tension. One may think of reflexive tension as the brain automatically sequencing muscle firing and stabilizing the structure prior to motion. This seems to be lost to sedentary lifestyles and improper movement patterning, the latter, whether due to pain or restrictions. If you want to reach for that glass of water from the seated position in which you now find yourself, your brain must reflexively fire your core and rotator cuff muscles in order to stabilize your spine and shoulder joint before your primary movers fire. Just nanoseconds before you move your arm, your chassis and limbs must be stabilized, and this occurs unconsciously. This ability is lost through prolonged idleness. Properly engaging in the locomotion movement patterns, however, rectifies issues with reflexive tension; and floor work is a great start point. Feed-forward tension is a conscious decision to tighten up before movement. Feed-forward, full body tension requires a lot of motor control and neural pressure, or neural force—like the voltage running through electrical wires. Posturing up tightly against a load builds requires feed-forward tension and occurs at the conscious level.

Crawling and loaded carries can increase movement quality and reflexive tension without thought, just through practice … it is also a great way to practice proper breathing.

“Stand tall, neutral neck, pack the shoulders, open the chest, brace the abdomen, squeeze the buttocks (glutes), pull up the knee caps, and grab the ground with the feet, clench two tight fists and spread the floor between your feet” … create a lot of tension. It takes a lot of practice to create high-levels of full body feed-forward tension. The brain must relearn how to fire the entire muscular system at once. This “posturing” should be drilled often. Feed-forward tension in this manner holds posture against load; and higher tension levels create a structure that can withstand high loading, safely. Higher tension levels also allow for more force to be produced by the structure, or, more weight lifted; and, more weight lifted = stronger. The skeletal system is not a compressive structure, as many understand it, but a tensegrity structure. As


Physical Training Culture

Get Tight! Practice building tension.

Then practice “pulling” yourself into a tight hinge. Practice getting tight: pack the shoulders, brace the abs, squeeze the glutes, pull up the knee caps, grab the ground with your feet, make two tight fists, and spread the floor.

Practice these tight positions both standing and “planked”. A tight “short stop” position ingrains the hinge.


Physical Training Culture

Thomas Myers explains, tensegrity structures find their strength through tension, like a suspension bridge.


While the bones do articulate with other bones, it is not unreal to imagine the skeleton as a pile of bones floating in a pool of soft tissue—they gain their ability to support load through the tension of the soft tissue. Without the tensile force of the soft tissues, the skeleton would be nothing but a pile to bones on the floor. Pavel Tsatsouline calls this phenomenon, “irradiation”.


The tighter that you make your structure, more integrity it

has, and the stronger you will be.

The more forcefully you can contract your shoulder, the more weight you can lift overhead. But if the rest of the system is relaxed or “less tense”, less force is applied to the weight … some other area of the structure is leaking force. See it this way: the primary movers pull against the bone—in this case, the deltoids and triceps pull against the humerus. This causes movement, and works pretty well to grab a pint of beer. But imagine now a heavy dumbbell in that hand.


against an object heavier than a beer mug causes a larger push back as well—if your hips or spine or legs aren’t pushing with at least the same force as the dumbbell, then they are leaking force out, regardless of how hard the primary movers are pushing. This is because they are attached—through tension / tensegrity / irradiation—and any load placed on the skeleton is pinning the whole structure between that load and the ground. The parts, in this case, do not add up to the whole: strengthening muscles separately, do not equate to a strong and resilient body.This leads to the “body is one piece” idea.

Your power and strength come from the ground, and a strong chassis can channel this force to movement. Practicing and creating maximum tension will lead to higher forces applied to objects, like kettlebells, or bags of groceries, or the carrying of children, or heavy furniture. This is strength training—the practice of moving under maximum tension. The practice of “adequate tension” is for competition.


Physical Training Culture

Breathing Breathing also takes a lot of practice. Proper breathing occurs in the belly: as the diaphragm pushes down into the abdominal cavity, the belly should distend. Breathing through the chest and shoulder girdle requires much more energy than belly breathing and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)—fight or flight. Once the SNS is turned on through improper breathing, much more energy is wasted, being fueled by adrenaline. The crocodile breathing drill is great for teaching belly breathing. Letting the ground be the teacher, lie prone on the floor and relax: no tension anywhere. Breathe in slow by distending the belly against the floor—push the floor away. Let the shoulders and chest remain relaxed and unmoved. For additional cuing, have your partner press their index fingers into your sides just above your hips. Push out their fingers with your inhalation.

Breathing drill: push the floor away.

—the body must be trained “as one piece”! Crocodile breathing: push out the fingers.


Physical Training Culture

You should practice this breathing style as often as possible, until it becomes the default. Whenever you can remember throughout the day, be aware of your breathing and try to slow it down—5-8 seconds in, 5-8 seconds out—breathing very deep into the pelvic floor. When moving in a ballistic manner (explosively: accelerating objects), biomechanical breathing is preferred: a sharp inhale through the nose before or during the coil of the spring, followed by a sharp exhale through the mouth during the snap of the spring. When moving slower under constant loads, you must learn to breathe “behind the shield”: a solidly tightened core. More on this later. Under these conditions—breathing, tension, and posture—we practice movement. We practice movement until we have attained a high quality with lots of control, that is, until we “own” the movement pattern. Tasks will take care of themselves if we concentrate on moving—posture, tension, and breathing are not to be partitioned off, but seen as one entity. They are that closely intertwined: the body is one piece.


Physical Training Culture

Chassis Reconstruction Movement Algorithm We begin chassis reconstruction with the following algorithm: crawling, get ups, and swings. Anyone we introduce to movement training learns and practices crawling, get ups, and swings—floater swings, in that order. One doesn’t have to crawl perfectly under full control before starting to practice get ups and swings, but they should spend more time on it.

Crawling fixes many hip and shoulder mobility & stability issues, coordination problems, and core weakness. As we learned from Thomas Myers, it isn’t accurate to try and identify imbalances and weaknesses in the chassis, then isolate them into problems to address. It’s quicker and more effective to challenge the body with something like crawling, and let the brain’s attempt to control movement address any issues in the chassis. I don’t know which of the core muscles is weak or not firing in the right sequence, but I do know that if you can’t control your pelvis while you crawl, you have core issues and as you improve crawl performance, these issues clear up.

Get ups take the coordination, hip & shoulder improvements, and the integrity of the core gained from crawling and challenge them against an external load. Get ups require much more neural force and finer motor control than crawling, and this is the next echelon up on the movement scale. A strong chassis will be forged by your eventual ability to reposition gracefully while controlling a very heavy weight throughout this movement’s entirety. This movement is the gateway into heavy pressing and other overhead work, as well as any heavy full-body strength work that you might choose to do (or have to do).

Kettlebell swings are next up the chain on our movement hierarchy. Ballistic loading on the body is very bad idea if you haven’t first strengthened and primed your chassis. This is like placing a high-performance drag engine in a stock Pinto. Running and sprinting places high-ballistic loading on the body which may explain the high injury rates. Once you have converted muscle to cable, and flesh to steel from the effects of ballistic loading on the body, you are clear to do anything else. You’re chassis is tuned once you own heavy, crisp, and snappy swings.


Physical Training Culture

Crawling The two basic crawls that we use are baby crawling, on the hands and knees; and what Tim and Geoff call Spiderman crawling, up on the hands and feet. 9 The names are unimportant, in fact, we just direct to either crawl on the hands and knees, or up on the feet. Baby crawling is important to rebuild contralateral control of the opposite limbs. The right leg moves with the left arm, and so forth.

This contralateral locomotion pattern is also seen in walking and running. Since most of us walk around with our hands in our pockets, and run using little or no arm power, it’s no wonder why our locomotive pattern is dysfunctional. Crawling will reestablish locomotion, improve posture (including helping to reduce a “turtle hump”—thoracic kyphosis), strengthen and mobilize the shoulders and hips, tighten up the core, and force you to practice breathing from the belly—it is difficult if not impossible to breathe from the chest and shoulders while they are loaded up in this fashion.

Don’t look down while crawling … scan your body with the “mind’s eye”.

Move the opposite limbs together

Stay postured up. Chin & chest high!


Physical Training Culture

Posture is the key here: imagine a beach ball laying on your back—attempt to wrap the spine around this ball. Pinch the back of the head to the tailbone, keep the chin and chest high, and pelvis as low as possible. Move the opposite limbs together. Work on moving the legs independent of the pelvis. If you get confused, go back to quadruped and start over. Don’t focus on the distance, focus on the movement. Don’t rush the crawls, slow down and control your body—let the process work—no matter how difficult it is at first, keep at it and you will reap the gains.

Crawling on your hands and knees develops coordination and a basic level of strength. Get down in quadruped—hands beneath the shoulders / knees beneath the hips. Posture up: chin and chest high—try to look at the ceiling (it won’t happen) and pinch the back of the head to the tailbone. Maintain a tight posture as you crawl forward by moving the opposite hand and knee together.

Click for: Crawl Video

The Spiderman crawl


Physical Training Culture

Crawl forward. Crawl in reverse. Crawl laterally. Have fun with it. Practice moving your legs under control and independent of the pelvis and spine—if your butt is bounding side to side and/or up and down, you have issues with your chassis—keep crawling until they work themselves out. Once you’ve gained your coordination back, post up on your hands and feet.

While the book, “Original Strength”, differentiates between different types of crawls performed on the hands and feet, we strive for what they call the Spiderman crawl: get down into quadruped and then up on your hands and feet.


Chin and chest high—and this is important: keep your butt down. Wrap your spine around

the beach ball and move the opposite hand and foot together. Crawling up on your hands and feet requires a lot more strength on top of coordination. It is not yet important if the knees track inside or outside of the elbows while crawling, but try to eventually track them outside. Pull the knee as high as you can to unlock hip mobility.

You’ll discover a tricky neural thing going on here: hip extension on one side, increases hip flexion on the other. That is, squeezing the glute hard while straightening out one leg, will allow you to pull the opposite knee further forward (or higher up, if standing). Work to the point of taking long and slow strides; you’re really working the body as

If you can’t crawl properly, then you probably shouldn’t being doing much else until you can—it doesn’t take very long.

one piece.

Crawling in reverse will prep your shoulders for anything you can throw at them, as well as being rehabilitative in nature. A total of 100 feet in each direction is great. Go for as long as you can, downgrading back your hands and knees as needed—you will gain strength over time, and will still reap the benefits of crawling..

We use rocks, bobs (mentioned later), and crawling as part of our regular warm-up and mobility portion of the session. When using crawling for this, we like to see you crawl slower, with longer strides, and with a lot of control—try not to “Frankenstein” your steps; and control the lateral and vertical bounding of your pelvis.


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Another aspect to challenge you is crawling for distance. Try to crawl a lap (or laps) around a track, or span a football field, for example. When crawling for distance, you can be softer on the mechanics—the butt will lift up a little higher, and your strides will be shorter, but it will still be fun. Enjoy.

While crawling, fight the urge to simply get to the finish line, whether during a warm-up or for a longer distance effort. It is important to move properly than to just move, so take as many breaks as you need if you feel fatigued or suffocated. You have to wait for the requisite strength to develop, including your breathingmuscle strength, and this will only occur if you practice properly. Trying to crawl past the point of fatigue will lead to improper technique, robbing you of the benefits of the training. Be patient, and give your body time to adapt.

Later edit: starting this work, I couldn’t believe all the improvements from crawling—for everyone, and right in front of my eyes. After more than a year into using crawling as a tool, I want to make a point here that although I often mention the benefits of crawling, it is just a tool. The shiny-ness has worn off but not the results, so I left in the great emphasis that I once had about crawling.


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The Get Up The get up, on the other hand, is a slow grinding-type movement that begins in the supine position and slowly progresses from position to position until the individual is standing erect with the kettlebell overhead. Mastering the get up takes a lot of practice and time, and is quite exhausting due to fine-tune control required of the entire body under tension for a relatively long amount of time.

The get up is performed by staging a kettlebell (or other tool) on the ground to one side. Lying on your back next to the kettlebell, face the bell in a fetal-like position, drive the joined and extended fingers of the working side hand, palm up, deep into the handle. Note the deep hand placement. The low arm is the working side.

Grab the kettlebell handle off center toward the horn on the thumb side of the hand. Place the other hand over the handle and roll the kettlebell up onto your belly using your bodyweight.

Roll the bell to your belly, not your chest.


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Using two hands, push the kettlebell out to full arm extension. You should looking down your thumb, as in aiming a firearm. Lock the kettlebell into this position by contracting the big lat muscle on your back. Extend the opposite arm about 45° off midline with the palm facing the ground. Same side leg is bent 90°, opposite side leg is straight—the legs make a nice wide base. Look at the kettlebell.

“Packing the shoulder”, or, “locking the bell in” refers to scapulae retraction and depression. A term used often in this manual, it is the act of contracting the large lat muscles to stabilize the connection between the trunk and the arms. Shrug your shoulders high … now, reverse this and pack them down hard!

The start position of the get up.

Use two hands—always act like the bell is very heavy.

Look at the kettlebell until you take a knee.

Stay tight and breathe shallow behind a braced set of abs as you reposition throughout the lift.


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Build tension and drive the heel of the bent leg into the ground while simultaneously driving the opposite elbow into the ground—lead with the chest and roll up to post on the elbow. Don’t sit straight up—roll to the side. Repack the shoulders and reset your base. Own this position,

“Punch and crunch” to the elbow.

Now, drive the hand of the posted arm into the ground while pushing the bell off balance towards your hips and “follow it up” into a tall sit, with the hand posted on the ground. Own this position.

Follow it up and sit tall.


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Lift your hips off the ground by Still looking at the bell, stabilize this position.

pressing the heel of the bent leg into the ground—you should be posted up on your hand and foot now—and sweep the straight leg underneath and then behind your hips to post on the knee.


three-point stance—foot / knee / hand—should be stable. Own this position.

Now look out to the horizon.

As you shift your gaze to the horizon, lift your posted hand from the ground until you are “taking a knee”. Own this position.


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Close the gap between the legs by moving the posted foot in forward of the posted knee to form a “lunge” position. The toes of the rear foot should be active—dig them into the ground. Own this position.

Push with both legs to stand up.

Keep your torso vertical and press with both legs to stand up to fully erect, kettlebell overhead.

Own this


Click for: Get Up Video


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Reverse the process until you are lying supine again. From the standing position: opposite leg rear lunge, slowly lowering yourself to a knee—don’t jam your knee into the ground. As you reach for the ground off your knee, shift your gaze back to the bell, and rotate your torso, hinging back on the hip above the posted foot. Open the gap and stabilize the 3-point stance.

Lift the hips, and sweep the leg through to the tall sit. Press the shoulders down and away from your ears. Lower yourself under control to the elbow, press the shoulders away from the ears, and lower yourself to your back. Two hands, on the kettlebell, lower it to your belly, and roll it off to the side. That is one-half of one repetition—work the other side now—congratulations.

A word of caution here: as this is a movement that requires a lot of control, moves through all three planes, and always has a load over head, let’s practice safety when first starting out: always act as if the bell is very heavy. Use two hands when applicable and respect the load. Practice properly with light weights, and you will execute properly with heavy weights too. It’s not uncommon for males to get up with 70, 90, and 100lbs; and for females to use 50, 60, and even 70lbs, so let’s train properly while it’s still light.


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The Swing The swing is a bilateral and ballistic hip extension movement that belongs to the hinge movement pattern. It is one of only two externally loaded lifts that one needs in a minimalist program, giving lots of return for the time and energy invested. The swing comes in many variations and takes considerable time and practice to master.

The default two-hand swing that I teach is also called an overspeed eccentric or shadow swing; but I think that I originally learned how to do them wrong, so it developed into my own version. This version of the two-hand swing will provide not only a conditioning and power benefit, but it will guarantee that you never have to train sit-ups or do “ab work” again.

To perform a swing, take a wider than shoulder-width stance with toes cantered out, standing about a foot behind the kettlebell. Sit back into the hinge while unlocking your knees, grab the kettlebell by the handle, and lean it toward you.

Tense up—pack the shoulders, brace the abs, squeeze the glutes, grab the ground with the feet and get ready. Use the drills described in the previous section of this manual: make yourself tight. You should be looking at a spot on the floor about 20 feet ahead of you.

Shift your weight back onto your heels as you “hike” the kettlebell up and back between your legs, then snap the hips into extension from this hinged position, literally throwing the kettlebell from in between the legs outward to about midsection / chest height. The height of the bell is unimportant: explosive “hip snap” is what we’re after. Keep your body weight back on your heels.

Project the kettlebell forward and make a tight plank. Using the latissimus dorsi muscles (your “lats” - those large back muscles that make wings) and arms, the kettlebell’s vertical movement is arrested, and forced back into the hinge position—and the spring is again loaded. Return the kettlebell to the ground after a final back swing by gently parking it as you originally found it.

The most articulate author cannot describe this movement in a manner which will allow for even a decent performance—please find a qualified instructor.


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A properly performed kettlebell swing is a violent but graceful display of power. This movement is an explosive hip extension that, when trained properly, improves every other aspect of physical performance, reduces body fat quickly, and turns flesh into steel.

A proper swing is a tug-of-war between the opposing body lines: posterior v. anterior. The glutes, hamstrings, and quads forcefully catapult the bell forward, while the lats, abdominals, and hip flexors catch it and throw it back—compress the spring, trigger the spring, and compress it again. Both the hinge and plank positions are maximally tight—maximum feed-forward tension—for the time the bell spends flying out, one is “relaxedtight”. There is no “rest” during a set of swings.

The details of what is going on in the body during a swing is worth exploring. Practice your tension drills without a load. Stand with a shoulder-width stance, neutral neck, pack the shoulders, brace the abs, squeeze the glutes, pull up the knee caps, and grab the ground with your feet. Now, make two tight fists and spread the ground between your feet—tight,



Standing with all this tension, pull your butt back, unlock

your knees and hit the hinge—chin and chest up. Pause, and snap back to a tight plank—now relax. Do it again. Do it in between sets of swings.

Now we add the kettlebell. Throw the bell forward into the tight plank—”stay connected” to the bell; arrest its ascent; ”catch” it—and throw it back down. Hit the hinge and violently throw it back, do not pause. Repeat for a set of 10. Check your heart rate. Wow.

Most people have a lot of trouble with they first start swinging—just get the basic pattern down and be patient. Use an appropriate load. My progression to this violent overspeed swing is to train a “floater” hardstyle swing first—the default swing of the StrongFirst community. Floater swings consist of driving the hips explosively, throwing the bell into a tight plank, however, the bells ascent is not arrested and is allowed to “float” momentarily at the top of the arch. The bell should then be guided back down into the hinge under the force of gravity. These swings concentrate on hip extension power only.

Click for: Two-Hand Swing Video


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It is important to train this initial version of the swing before beginning to overspeed them—train them until you’ve forged the motor program into your brain, about 3-6 months. Hear this: if you include overspeed swings into your training too early, that is, before you can float swings crisp and powerful without much thought, you will degrade the mechanics of both swing types and get no where at best, injury at worst.

A point to be aware of is hinging too early leaving the plank before the bell has met you. Pavel calls this, “playing chicken” with the kettlebell. This is true for any version of the swing, but when first overpseeding your swings, you may see this happen. Don’t sit back, out of your plank until your arms have met your ribcage, then hinge and snap.

Overspeed swing Float swing

Note the difference in the height and action of the bell in the top of both swings. On the left, the plank is tight but is not contracting against a decelerating object as on the right.

Click for: Contrasting Swings Video


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Be patient, put your hours in on the floaters, then, work on sets where you begin to speed the floaters down. So, hinge, throw, plank & float, now, use the arms to begin to power the bell back to the hinge. These are the SFG overspeed eccentric swings. After you get the timing right in this version, start to include a few reps where you begin to arrest the ascent, and throw it back. Use all three versions in your training.

A word on sit-ups here: I don’t advocate training sit-ups regularly, in fact, you should only perform them on test day. If folks performed sit-ups properly, then there is a possibility that they wouldn‘t cause problems. However, most do not perform them correctly, especially under testing situations, and so even a short stint in the Military can lead to life-long low-back pain, due to practicing sit-ups. Sit-ups place the lumbar spine against the ground to be used as a fulcrum to fold the body in half over—something it did not evolve to support. If you do sit-ups properly—that is, keep the midline open and lead the action from the chest, only flexing only at the hip—then the most you’ll probably get is a sore tailbone. But this technique costs a lot of energy and requires a lot of strength, so most members I monitor perform them in trunk flexion followed by hip flexion—and that’s where the problem exists. Do your heavy swings to improve your situp numbers.


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These three movements, the crawl, the get up, and the swing are practiced and trained until the body is again resilient, but there are other drills to practice as well in the meantime:

Floor Work We continue the chassis rebuilding program with floor work: mobility get ups, rolling, rocks, bobs, goblet squats and halos. Along with crawling, these movements comprise our warm-up—much more in the beginning, then less and less as the body begins to rebuild itself. It requires a lot of effort, but offers benefits very quickly, and you have to do them frequently. Remember the goal at this point: to re-teach the brain to control the body as one piece; to re-teach the brain reflexive tension—the correct sequencing of muscle group activation; strengthening the core; stabilizing the joints; and reducing restrictions in the joints.

Running and crawling share the same contralateral locomotive movement pattern but during running, all of the ground reaction forces are transferred through the legs, as the spine resists compressive forces. While crawling, less net forces are transmitted through two limbs, and the spine acts as a suspension bridge—being supported by the pelvis and the shoulder girdle. For me, crawling is the absolute foundation of movement. We have seen crawling improve both healthy and unhealthy individuals. I have come to believe that everyone must own good crawling performance. It really doesn’t take very long, and it provides a solid basis for the higher movement patterns.

Practice deep belly breathing and feed-forward tension where applicable. Do this everyday. Improvements in these drills will carry over to seemingly disconnected areas of your fitness and movement. Our warm-up progresses as such:

100ft crawl: hands and knees, forward and reverse. As coordination is gained, crawl up on the hands and feet, degrading down to the knees as you fatigue. You will progressively get stronger and go farther. 5 x Rocks, belly breathe, 5 x more rocks. 10 x bobs. Do this drill over a light bell. Then, pop to a squat and: 10 x goblet squat-to-halo drills, changing direction each time. Begin and end in the bottom of the squat. Last: mobility get ups. More at first, then, one long and slow: each side. Now you’re ready.


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Rolling Rolling is a great partner to the movement algorithm, especially in the beginning. Segmental rolling is the act of getting from the prone to supine, or vice-versa, by using the weight of the head and only one arm, or, only one leg. Segmental rolling resets posture, strengthens the core, and returns authentic movement by teaching proper muscle activation sequencing.

For a left-arm roll to the right, begin by lying on your back. Look to the right, push your head over your right arm as you bring your left arm over in the direction of the roll. Keep pushing the head and arm to the right until you roll, using no other limb for assistance—don’t push with your legs or other arm. The core must fire hard in order to move the head and arm and drag the lower body along. Reverse this process from the supine.

The weight of the head is critical—keep pushing the head in the direction of the roll until complete. Use each leg’s weight in the same manner. If you’re using additional limbs to finish the task, you’re only fooling yourself—do these rolls correctly for the benefits that they offer.

Are the right and left sides symmetrical? Are they just as hard, or as easy? What about the back-to-front and front-to -back rolls? If one side is more difficult, seek out that challenge and build symmetry—this goes a long way to restoring movement quality.

My idea is that if one can perform segmental rolls both easily and symmetrically, this tool can be put away and checked only periodically. Use it as frequently as you like, but the gold is in rocking, bobbing, and crawling.


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Roll from supine to the prone using only one arm and the head.

Then roll back again, still only using the one arm and the head.


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Now use the weight of just one leg.

And back again ...


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Rocking Rocking is performed from the quadruped position: the hands and knees are directly beneath the shoulders and hips. Imagine your spine wrapped around a large beach ball—pinch the back of your head and tailbone together. With chin high, try to look up at the ceiling and rock back and forth. Load the shoulders and actively push the hips to the heels—push yourself into a squat. Hold this posture strong while rocking forward and backward. Keep a pretty quick cadence as we’re trying to stimulate the vestibular system and reset posture through increased neural sensitivity.

Quadruped position Rocking At times, pause in the “squat” and practice belly breathing. Ten is a nice even number of repetitions. I like to use both a narrow knees and a wide knees position—the latter patterns the squat without any of the typical restrictions when performed on the feet, and this contributes to owning a good squat.


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Bobbing Bobbing is nothing more than holding the squat position of the last rock and looking up and down. Posture is key here—look to the sky and wrap the spine around that beach ball. Holding that posture and actively push into the squat ... drop the head until the chin is in the chest. Then raise it back toward the sky. Repeat. 10-20 rocks and bobs are adequate. Use the wider knee stance to further simulate an actual squat position.

I like the “scared cat” position to stretch out: from the quadruped position, push the mid back skyward and suck in the abdomen. Stand up slow and enjoy the postural reset. These two movements can and should be done every day, and throughout the day—whenever the chair makes you feel rounded—get down and reset with rocks and bobs.

Push your hips to your heels—sit on your feet

“Scared Cat” stretch


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Rock & Bob Drill I do this drill with every new individual or group that I work with in order to get “buy-in”; that is to say, I’m about to put you through somewhat unorthodox drills and training, and I want you to at least have an open mind.

The rock & bob drill is simply—and I owe this to Tim and Geoff—this: have your trainee mentally scan their posture while standing normally. Don’t let them adjust, just tell them to take note of how the weight of their head is being loaded, the position of their shoulders, the loading on their hips, etc.


Now, get them down to do ten good rocks and bobs, ensuring that they’re doing it correctly. Instruct them to slowly stand up and ask, “how do you feel?” You will objectively notice that their head is further back and their chest is more open; shoulders pulled back. You now have “buy-in”. Go train them properly.

I have never experienced a failure in this drill’s ability to instantly change posture; and if you can give someone instant gratification, they will listen to everything thereafter with an open mind.


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Goblet Squat-to-Halo I like this drill because it begins and ends in the squat from the bottom—the same place you originally discovered it as a toddler. It is also a version of the deep-knee bend that is a fantastic trainer: if you can’t squat well, the goblet squat will allow you work out your limitations.

The best way to perform this drill is to do your rocks and bobs over a light kettlebell, then load the hands with your bodyweight and jump the feet into a squat stance. This will be approximately heels just outside your hips with the toes turned out off center by about 15-30°. If you have restrictions or old, beat-up knees, you may need to rotate the feet out further.

Crawling will directly increase your ability to own a good solid squat. Don’t pass up crawling if you can’t squat well.

Grab the kettlebell from the ground and curl it up so that it is in front of the chest and bottoms-up. Place the elbows inside the thighs just short of the knees and pry the legs open: push your hands against the kettlebell.


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Sit here for a moment, moving the pelvis around, spreading the legs wider, and adjusting your foot width and toe out degree until you feel your hips sink.

Then stand up, squeezing the glutes until your hips are under your head. Keep the glutes tight as you grab the ground with your feet and tighten your thighs in preparation for the Halo.

Proper squatting is easier established from the bottom up, as when you first learned it as a child.

Make sure that you sit tall in the bottom of the squat and maintain some intra-abdominal pressure. Breath deep into your pelvic floor, and distend the belly. This drill is performed with light weights so abdominal tension can be lighter, but strong through your breathing.

Before you stand tall out of the squat (after your prying) tighten up—sit tall, brace the abs, grab the ground with your feet, and push the air down into your pelvic floor as you stand up,

When fully erect, and preparing for the halo, grab the ground with your feet, squeeze the glutes, brace the abs, and stay tight. When lowering yourself back into a squat, imagine that you’re hanging upside-down from the ceiling and you need to pull your hips up to your heels. Pull yourself down into the squat, do not just lower yourself. This way, you will stay tight and balanced, and better maintain your posture.


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To perform a Halo, tip the kettlebell over to one side by rotating it about a horizontal axis that is pointing at you.

The goal is to keep the bell as close to the body as possible. Move the bell around your head, don’t move your head out of the way of the bell.

… and really open the shoulders up!


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When the bell is around front again, pull yourself back down into the squat and pry.

Stand up again and rotate the bell in the other direction.

Repeat this process until you feel nice and loose—maybe 5-10 total. Or break it up into half and do another iteration of rocks and bobs first.

Click for: Warm-up Drill

To recap, get down in quadruped over a light kettlebell which will allow you to squat from the bottom up. Perform ten rocks, holding a pause in the start at number five to practice some belly breathing. When done, perform ten bobs holding yourself in the squat position (hips to heels).

From here, pop into a squat by loading the hands and jumping your feet up. Get comfortable here, and try to accurately hit your squat stance. Sit tall, curl the bell up, and pry the hips. Stand up, halo left, pull yourself down, stand up, and halo right. Repeat 4-6 times, and start the whole drill over. Take your time and own the movements.


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Mobility Get Ups Always use a light bell for this drill, but act like it is heavy … stage a kettlebell off to one side and lie next to it—you know the deal from the get up: get to the start position.

The start position for the mobility get up Click for: Mobility Get Up Drill

Next, rotate the shoulder through it’s full range of motion:

3 or 4 times works well. Try to find that center where the bell is nicely balanced over a packed shoulder.


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What you’ll notice is that the bell has to stay centered over your shoulder, so the bigger the bell, wider the arc of your hand—try using competition bells if you can.

Now, look left, then right, letting the ground hold the weight of your head … take the tension out of your neck.

Then drive your elbow and opposite heel into the ground, rolling up onto your elbow:

Perform the same shoulder and neck rotations from this position, then …


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Sit tall, posting up on your hand:

Push, push, push … open those hips up.

From here, drive the heels into the ground and push the hips to the sky. Really dig the heel of the straight leg into the ground, and try to pull the toes up towards your head. Push, push, push … for a five-count.


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Slowly lower yourself back down to the hips, then the elbow, then the back. Now, same start position but the unloaded arm is straight overhead:

Drive off the heel of the bent leg and push yourself to face the wall. Keep the bell vertical.

Slow and controlled: bring the bent leg over and try to get your hips square to the ground. Keep your shoulders stacked and packed. Control the bell with the lat.

Breath slow and deep into the belly.

Breathe through the belly for a 5count. And return to the start under control, as in segmental rolling..


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Movement Patterns & The Basic Exercises Movement patterns are those categories that contain the relatively few gross movements that the body can perform as a unit. Dan John classifies them as such: the hinge, the deep-knee bend, the push, the pull, loaded carry (locomotion), and what I call, “everything else”.


Exercises are those specific movements that charac-

terize a pattern, e.g., a goblet squat is a member of the deep-knee bend pattern; the swing falls in the hinge pattern; and the push-up lies in the push pattern. Categorizing of exercises into movement patterns grew out of a need to quickly identify what is missing from the training programs of higher level athletes who hit training plateaus. The classification is not important to the average person but is simply a tool for coaches and athletes.

The takeaway here is that to keep motor control and inter-muscular coordination levels high, we must train the movement patterns and not isolated body parts or muscles: the body must be trained “as one piece”! Exercises are chosen to train the movement patterns and because the body can only move so many ways, there are relatively few effective exercises, unlike conventional wisdom would have you believe.


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The Squat The squat belongs to the deep-knee bend movement pattern. A proper squat is performed by sitting down in between the legs, not folding in half.

With your heels just outside of hip width, point the toes about 20-30° out, keep the chest up, build tension— pack the shoulders, brace the abs, squeeze the glutes, grab the ground with your feet—and pull yourself down in between your legs, tracking the knees out over the toes. Keep your weight back on your heels, sit tall in the bottom and stay tight. Use the built up abdominal pressure to force yourself out of the bottom and stand up to full extension. It’s really this simple—there are some individual differences to account for, but this is a good blanket start point.

Get your squat back!


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Goblet Squat You’re already familiar the goblet squat from the drill, but progressing into a proper squat actually begins with the goblet squat, or a heavy piece of furniture. The creation of Coach Dan John, the goblet squat allows someone with limitations to sit into a full squat, developing the pattern by gradually reducing their restrictions.

Grab a lighter kettlebell or dumbbell (or heavy piece of furniture) and hold it in front of the chest. Pull yourself down, placing the elbows inside of the thighs. Sit in bottom, and pry the hips open. Shift around, see what feels comfortable. Discover your tight areas and work into them. Play with the foot and toe position to see if the hips can get lower. Sit tall. Once you own a good goblet squat, you may use the other squat movements if you desire.

Squats do not need to be loaded heavy. There is little to no evidence that heavy squats translate into better performances on the field, on the track, or at the job. If you like squatting, or if you are competing in a sport that requires heavy squatting, then go ahead and load up. Otherwise, for a general purpose program and broad applicability, just own a good deep-knee bend.


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Loaded squats include heavier goblet squats, back squats, front squats, and overhead squats, with a range of tools. The difference is where the load is placed on the body—the performance is only slightly different.

I think I’m stealing this from Grey Cook, but look at the photo below. Prior to the Korean War, Soldiers came to basic training with the ability to squat, so this was a rehearsed shooting position, which made it very easy to fire from cover and concealment, then break into a run. While serving in South Korea decades after the War, my NCO had researched why the US ground forces were relatively ineffective during the initial push in that campaign—we didn’t have the fitness to fight the enemy in the hilly terrain. As a result, my unit ran and foot marched LOTS of hills. Losing the ability to squat and lacking high work capacity led to a lot of Soldier casualties. Clearly, as a society, we had lost some function in the years following WWII. Get your squat back.

Being bipedal animals, once mobility allows for squats, we are pretty good with squats—unlike upper body calisthenics, we’re able to string together large sets of deep-knee bends pretty quickly.


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The Push-Up The push up belongs to the push movement pattern and is little more than a moving plank. Get into the front leaning rest with your hands roughly under the position of the shoulders, feet together, and build tension. Squeeze the glutes, brace the abs, grab the ground with your hands, corkscrew the shoulders, and pull yourself down as one rigid piece. Pause and return to full arm extension. Your chest should touch the ground but your hips should not—but don’t pike up, keep your body in a tight, straight line. Keep your neck neutral so that your chin about touches the ground with your chest. The elbows should track less than 45° off of midline, and not flare out.


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Training push-ups for both the physical fitness test and for general strength is simple, but you have to do it right. Look at the photos on page 56—this is the correct way to train push-ups. Dropping your head, piking up your hips, only pushing your upper body up, having your feet too far apart, and doing half push ups, is not correct training.

Have the discipline to perform proper push-ups in training, and your test push-ups will be easy. Use a narrow hand spacing and keep the elbows tucked; lower the chest all the way to the ground, and keep the body in rigid, straight line—this should keep your hips off the ground at the bottom. Train like this and build actual pressing strength. Your numbers won’t be as high as your test-style push-ups, but do not worry ...

When you begin to prepare for the test—say a week or two out—then adjust your hand spacing wider and flare your elbows out a bit. Make sure that you lower yourself almost to the ground, but don’t touch it. When you get to the test, you will be leveraging off of greater the joint angles and be required to lower yourself to only half or the range of motion that you have been training for. Don’t make yourself into a rigid and tight plank—just be “tight enough”. Meet the standard of the test, and no more. This is competition, not training. See the difference? Your numbers will soar.

If you can’t perform proper, neutral neck, rigid-body push ups, then you’ll need to increase your leverage. Going down to your knees is one way to increase the leverage, and great when you’re in a pinch, but there is a more effective method to increase the leverage: elevate your hands higher than your feet to the point that you can get five good push ups and practice sets of five. Try to use something that allows you to adjust the height, such as a staircase, a table and chair, or stacks of barbell plates. Be creative here. As you get stronger, lower the height of your hands and practice some more. Eventually, you will be on the ground.


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One-arm Push-ups Once you have 25 good push-ups in the bank, with a momentary pause at the bottom and top, then it’s time to work on one-arm push-ups. Never trade range of motion for repetitions in calisthenics. Wishing it does not make it happen. Begin push-ups from a wall, table, chair, or off your vehicle’s fender. Get creative and reduce the height when you own 5 good push-ups at a specific height. Eventually, you will be on the floor. This same process works for one-arm push-ups – except that your feet are now wide. Five per side is a nice goal. Pavel’s “Naked Warrior” can help with one-arm push-ups as well. Go to work.

One-arm push up progression: increase the leverage.


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The Pull-Up We evolved from brachiators, yet most of us can’t do pull-ups. We need to take this back. Pull-ups belong to the pull movement pattern and by engaging the rhomboid muscles, they help offset the protracted scapulae posture (rounded shoulders) that can result from daily life. In our wrist-elbow-shoulder-centric style of living coupled with too much pressing, we all need pulling movements to help pull the shoulders back and open the chest.

Hang from the bar with the hands just outside the shoulders, create tension—your tension practice works to even increase pull-up strength—and pull the elbows down and back until the throat or chest touches the bar. Pack the shoulders and “hollow out” to engage the lats harder—that is, close the line between your pelvis and sternum in the front. Your legs should be straight with your feet slightly in front of the body.

No kicking, jerking, or otherwise building momentum is allowed in a

The “hollow” position and start of the pull-up.

true, strength-building pull-up. Lower yourself to the start position.


Physical Training Culture

The standard grip is palms facing away and just outside of shoulders. Make sure you keep your shoulders packed throughout this movement—packed shoulders protect the weaker soft tissues of the rotator cuff.

I believe it is important here to discuss “kipping pull-ups”, because they are so popular. Kipping pull-ups are performed by driving the hips forward, creating momentum which you can then “pull” off of. This kipping act is purposeful and not in desperation to get your chin over the bar.

When programmed into a session, kipping pull-ups are used for a conditioning effect, not strength. Large numbers of pull-ups can be threaded together using the kip. However, if you only perform kipping pull-ups, your dead hang pull-ups will not improve because you haven’t created much of, if any, strength gains.

Moreover, if you haven’t forged stability at the shoulders and strengthened your rotator cuffs, you will very likely injure yourself by solely doing kipping pull-ups, as they have a tendency to separate the humeral head from the glenoid fossa in the bottom of the pull-up—along with creating bodyweight-plus ballistic loading on the shoulder joints. Bad stuff for shoulders that haven’t been primed.


Physical Training Culture

My advice is: if you want to use kipping pull-ups for conditioning, I think it is a great tool and can be done safely, but please harden your shoulders and build actual strength into your pulling muscles by owning genuine dead hangs first.

When you get 10 + high-quality dead-hang pull ups, begin to load this pattern up. Continue to do sets of 5 with additional weight—this is a fantastic strength exercise when performed in this fashion. There are belts available from which you can hang a barbell plate or a kettlebell from, or you can also go austere and jam something heavy between your knees—heck, wear a backpack full of cans of microwavable macaroni and cheese that you don’t need to be eating.

You can also begin to work on one-arm pull-ups. Pull yourself up leaning toward one hand at first, then work into negatives by pulling up with both hands and lowering with one. One-handed flexed-arm hangs are next. Keep trying until you succeed with a one-arm pull-up—a very challenging display of strength.

If you don’t have pull-ups yet, the progression into pull-ups is a bit fuzzy, but it works. You’ll need to stimulate vertical pulling strength by using alternate methods: work on flexed-arm hangs—jump your chin over the bar and hold that position for as long as possible.

Another tactic is negatives: jump the chin over the bar and slowly lower to the start position—try to hold at different heights.

No kicking, jerking, or otherwise building momentum is allowed in a true, strength-building pull-up.

Partner pull-ups is another version of assistance: have a buddy push on your upper back providing only enough force to keep you moving; lower yourself down (never hook the feet or ankles to assist someone doing pullups).

A parallel grip is strongest, a chin up grip (palms facing you) is next strongest, and a pull-up grip (palms facing away) is least strong. Use whichever grip allows you to work, but try to progress toward a regular pull-up grip—they don’t make fences and walls with alternate grips attachments.


Physical Training Culture

Along with these assistance techniques, you should also be working towards a plank row for a full range of motion pull. Plank rows use your body’s weight in the plank position for resistance in a horizontal pull—like a reverse push-up.

Perform these by elevating the feet and hanging by the arms underneath a fixed bar—a sturdy table and chair work for this as well, as do gymnastic rings or the TRX set-up. Range of motion should be set so that the body is horizontal towards the end of the movement. Pull the chest to bar (or rings), squeeze the shoulder blades together, and pause for a moment.

Progression toward plank rows begins with your feet on the ground and bar or ring height set so that the body passes a 45° angle with the floor midway during the range of motion—rings or TRX works great for this. Reduce bar height while walking the feet in to varying intervals and work towards 5 quality reps. Elevate the feet as your strength grows.


Physical Training Culture

Try to get your thumbs into your armpits

As with all bodyweight calisthenics, increasing leverage decreases the resistance and decreasing leverage increases resistance. Own one leveraged position—say five good, solid repetitions— before decreasing the leverage.

If you do not have pull-ups, you’ll need to work both the plank row progressions for a full range of motion pulling movement and the pull-up assistance techniques mentioned above until you gain the required strength for a vertical pull.


Physical Training Culture

I see folks using jump stretch bands (and I used to teach this also) to increase leverage on pull-ups. The problem with using jump stretch bands is that they help you where you don’t need much help—the beginning of the pull, and offer no help where you need it most—the middle to end of the pull. Completing the pull-up requires you pull the elbows behind you so that your throat or chest touches the bar. Training with a band will, at best, stagnate your progress to pull-ups and, at worst, retire you to the band forever. Use the above recommendations to take your brachiation back.

Now, using jump stretch bands to leverage inverted push-ups I agree with, for the same reasons but in reverse—they help you where you need it (at the bottom of the press), and help you less where you don’t (at the top of the press).


Physical Training Culture

Locomotion: Running Crawling, walking, and running are all forms of locomotion. Crawling restores lost coordination and reflexive strength which can then be applied to sprints and runs. Sprinting and running are both contralateral movements that take the power from the ground and send it up the chain to meet the force generated by the momentum of the driving and opposite arm.

Sprinting is top speed stuff; running is somewhere faster than “jogging” and slower than sprinting. Think of running as slow sprinting. Jogging and other Long, Slow, Distance (LSD) stuff, is something else all together. The drills are the same, sprinting is just faster. You run as hard as you can punch your arms back and forth, and as much of that force that your core can transmit back to the ground.

Proper running technique, for some, must be practiced. Keep your body in a straight line—hips under the head—and lean forward slightly at the ankles. From here, running is series of “falling” and “catching” yourself—let gravity do some of the work for you. Land with a mid-foot strike: at slower speeds the heel will be slightly off the ground at impact, or, it will contact the ground with the mid-foot. The important thing is that you are loading the soft tissue of the lower leg (calves) and not the skeleton (heel). At faster speeds, the heel will naturally elevate more

It can’t be stressed enough that

and more from the ground until full sprint speed is

if you have trouble crawling, you

“wheels” behind you. When you want to speed up,

need to work on that before you


hit high speed running.

reached. Never step out far to the front—keep your punch the arms harder; the legs will do their thing Keep the arms pivoting about the

shoulder and reduce any side to side motion—punch from hips up to head and back for effective arm carriage.

The torso should resist rotation (this is core strength) and stay relatively straight; the limbs should make sagittal plane movements only (fore and aft) and not move laterally (side to side). Have someone watch you and fix any issues.


Physical Training Culture

It can’t be stressed enough that if you have trouble crawling, you need to work on that before you hit high speed running. Build the coordination and strength of the contralateral locomotive pattern in a safe manner before you hit the track and open it up.

Running & The Foot Walking is a heel-to-toe affair, that is, the heel contacts the ground first and rolls through the toe as the leg follows through and pushes off. Even so, stepping out is not good advice—use shorter, more frequent strides if you’re looking to speed up you walk pace.

Running, however, has a great debate occurring with respect to foot strike. On the one side, we have the barefoot, natural running club; and on the other, we have the traditional full cushioned shoe runners. The research seems to back both sides of the debate, so let’s try to use a little common sense.

Your foot has evolved, like every other animal on the planet, to be used unshod, i.e., without shoes. Something to consider after that statement, however, is the unnatural terrain that we have in our “human zoos”: the concrete jungle may not be good for the naked human foot. One thing is clear: as with the body, externally stabilizing the environment of the foot (wearing shoes) will degrade foot function. The more often you can get out of your shoes and walk or run, the healthier your feet and lower legs will be.

The minimal shoe is trying to replicate a barefoot environment. This type of shoe should only protect the foot’s sole from damage, not cushion or support the foot at all. Now, here is what I see as a clinician: 99 out of 100 people who come in for a gait analysis (presenting with pain or not and/or injury) convert from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike when taken out of their shoes—no coaching, they just do it. What’s going on?

I suspect that the brain now knows that there is not several inches of rubberized cushion underneath the heel so converts to a more natural foot strike. This occurs even on a relatively soft treadmill. Or, when the foot is taken out of its stabilized environment, it “wakes up”. Prescribing drills to change the foot strike in the shoe from a rear foot to mid-strike (in these cases) and strengthening exercises for the foot leads to pain reduction and better running performance.


Physical Training Culture

Research on primitive tribes who live unshod have revealed both heel and mid-foot striking while jogging, however, one thing is consistent: the heel elevates further off the ground as the speed increases, or, more and more of a mid-foot strike appears as we close in on running.


What I suspect is happening here is that alt-

hough their heels strike first at slow speeds, they are not loading the skeleton at foot impact as much as the soft tissue. Good observations but poor conclusions on the part of some researchers.

You see, heel striking loads the skeleton with the ground reaction forces of the foot impact, which can be 210x that of body weight when running. So other joints have to compensate for (probably) what the ankle and soft tissue of the lower leg should be doing. Mid-foot striking loads the calf musculature making it a natural shock absorber. Moreover, the Achilles tendon, when properly loaded during mid-foot striking, can store energy upon the foot contacting the ground, and release this energy during push off—making every step less costly to the runner. In and of itself, this fact can help runners decrease their run times.

There is another aspect to this issue: stride length, specifically, to the front. When you post your foot too far to the front, you literally “brake” yourself with each step, slowing your pace and wasting energy. Heel striking


Physical Training Culture

lends to too long a stride length to the front. By pulling the stride short to the front, you get some assistance from gravity—keep your “wheels” behind you, like a castor. My thinking is that these primitive folks are heel striking, but are loading the soft tissue by getting the mid- and fore-foot to contact the ground at the same time, or close to it. A naturally short stride to the front would allow for this technique.

So, generally, less shoe is better; cut the stride short to the front; and load the calves during the foot strike. Seek some professional help if need be. The negative results of poor running technique don’t usually show up until enough miles are logged, so let’s be preventive.

Body Weight Drills These are the body weight drills: running, squatting, push-ups, and pull-ups. There are others, but these provide the basis of both a comprehensive program and the minimum movements to train, which you can keep progressing through for a long time. Strength? Do your one-armed push-ups. Conditioning? Run wind sprints. Don’t overcomplicate things. Do you have a 6:00 min mile? A one-armed pull-up? Get to work— you’ll be busy for a while.


Physical Training Culture

One-Hand Swings One-hand swings are performed exactly as the two-hand swings except that the kettlebell is “floated” at the crest of its flight, and only one hand is grabbing the bell.

You’ll notice that this version is much harder on your grip, and the rotational challenge in the trunk is surprising. Keep the free arm away from your body or leg—don’t let it support the trunk at all—let your core do the work. Maintain square shoulders throughout the lift.

Floating the bell means that you do not attempt to arrest the ascent of the bell—let it stop and fall under gravity’s influence, then speed it towards the hinge. In the float, you should still be in a very tight plank and stay connected to the bell. A floating swing should peak at a higher level than the two-hand swing, as you are not trying to stop its ascent, however, this should still not be higher than chest level.

One subtle difference in the one-hand swing is hand pronation: on the backswing into the hinge, point your thumb backwards ... as your hips drive the bell forward and your arm begins to arc up, face your palm to the ground.

There should be little difference in the appearance of the one– and two-hand swing. If you’re rotating too much, the bell is too heavy. Don’t hinge back to one side, and attempt to balance the hip drive between both feet, try not to use the opposite leg more than the same side leg—but the bell is trying to get you to do just that.


Physical Training Culture


Physical Training Culture

The Deadlift The deadlift performed with a heavy kettlebell is a training tool on the path to the swing; the deadlift performed with a barbell is the entry point to real strength gains, and the metric by which strength may be measured. The barbell has no ceiling for loading up the lift, so it can challenge your structure to a far greater extent than any other movement discussed. The deadlift places your body in a position that can produce the most force of which you are capable of—more than any squat or press. The world record deadlift at the time of this writing was performed by Benedikt Magnusson: 1015 pounds! You have a long way to go.

The deadlift is also practice in the correct and safest way to lift from the ground. Approach a loaded bar with a hip-width stance so that the shins are just off the bar—the mid foot should be under the bar. “Posture up—build tension” and sit back until your hips are lower than your shoulders but higher than your knees.


Physical Training Culture

Do NOT lean back at the top of the pull. Load up the hamstrings and hips while you reach down for the bar with a reverse grip—the palms are facing each other.

Grab the bar as tight as you can, lock everything down tight—pinch your armpits, chest up, brace the abs tight, grab the ground with your feet—full body tension, and rip away. Think: drive the hips forward with very tight glutes and heels through the floor; and everything else will fall into place. The bar should move in a straight vertical line.

Use your feed-forward tension: stay tight, brace the abs hard, maintain a straight back, and pull with the hips, not the arms. Squeezing the glutes so hard that they feel like cramping will protect your lower back here. Do NOT lean back at the top of the pull. This will lead to surgical intervention.

This is the basic movement—tighten the body, push the hips forward and heels into the ground. Now is where it gets fun. Everybody has different anatomical proportions, such the ratio between femur and torso length. As well, some of us have our mobility restrictions. It is because of these nuances that you want to find a qualified instructor to work with you for a few sessions—the deadlift done correctly will probably never hurt you, no matter how much you lift; the deadlift done incorrectly can send you to the ER in the blink of an eye. Youtube University does not count as qualified instruction. You were warned.


Physical Training Culture

This is a good pull

This is NOT!

Don’t laugh at my stick figures: they illustrate a critical point. I’ve competed in, judged, and spectated at plenty of powerlifting meets over the years, and I have seen the spine in the bottom illustration above complete some heavy lifts. Short powerlifting careers are common. Usually, leg strength is far greater than glute and trunk strength, so beginner deadlifters lifting too heavy tend to round their backs. You need to have the discipline to train—to engage in the process of building session upon session with lighter weights and allow your whole system to adapt and overcome. Instant gratification in the weight room is detrimental to your health. Let the process work.


Physical Training Culture

Ok, there are two general deadlift stances: narrow feet, hands outside the legs (conventional style); and wide feet, hands inside the legs (sumo style). No stance is better than the other, but there is one that is better for you, based on your structure. How do you find out? Trial and error. Again, get a qualified instructor.

The reverse grip


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I start people in the conventional style and adjust as necessary. Jump up and down and reach for the sky without thinking—the third landing is your starting foot stance. Your feet should be pretty much under the hips. Address the bar, shins just off of it, sit back, tighten up, reverse grip, and rip.

If you can’t hit these positions—meaning your spine is rounding—we can do one of two things: raise the bar up to your range of motion, or try the sumo style. If you can’t hit the positions in the sumo style, you need to work on those restrictions—get crawling, goblet squatting and do your plank rows.

For general purpose fitness, however, I like to start people in their kettlebell stance, just to keep the thread running neatly through the program. This should be a “narrow” sumo stance. Address the bar with the your shins just off the bar, take a wider stance and point the toes out slightly to facilitate the knees tracking out. Sit back, tighten up, reach down inside your legs and grab the bar with a reverse grip. Drive the hips forward and the heels into the ground—rip it.

In both variations, the arms only need to give the legs room to work, so grab the bar where comfortable. The only way to discover which stance works better for you (assuming that your positioning is solid in both) is to train both for about 3 months each and see which one grants you a heavier load.

Now, as the training effect takes place you may eventually be stronger in the stance in which you used to be weaker. Training changes things over time—not just movement quality or weight lifted, but also in your leveraging and joint angles—a lot of people fail to understand this important concept.. When soft tissue is untrained and weaker, the brain uses joint angles for leveraging loads. After training, the leverages can change as larger tissues get stronger than others. Some great lifters use both stances during training, and compete with the one that serves them better. Others stick to one, because the other doesn’t feel right.

Don’t be afraid of the deadlift and heavy weights—if you pull correctly (and are not untrained / detrained), you can literally pull on an immovable object in complete safety. Females are pound for pound stronger than their male counterparts in this lift—so be proud, and rip away!


Physical Training Culture

The Press The press, or military press, begins in the rack position and ends in the locked-out position. Before you press, make sure that you get tight. Any softness will leak force from your structure. The press is your least strongest lift, so do not help the kettlebell win this fight by being loose.

But first we need to get the kettlebell up in the rack position (at the shoulders) and there is a specific lift for doing just that, but at this stage in your strength and conditioning career, let’s go a different route in order to concentrate on the press: the two-handed clean.

The clean lift is the act of pulling something from the ground and using your legs and hips to jump it up, then catch it across your shoulders—baling hay comes to mind. Cleaning a kettlebell is a bit different than but very much resembles a swing, in that force is directed forward, then pulled short and up to be caught in the rack position.

We’ll start with a kettlebell on the ground similar to the beginning of the swing. Grab the handle with the working hand and cup over it with the other hand:

Then lean it towards you as in the swing but with the handle

The rack position.

at a different angle:


Physical Training Culture


Physical Training Culture

From here, hike it back, drive the hips, and, by pulling the elbows back, cut the arc short, and guide it up to the rack. This takes some practice, and I don’t want you concentrating on cleans just yet. So this is a way to get the bell in the rack for press practice. Also, for some beginners, and those who would rather not go through the pain and bruising that regular cleans can cause on the forearm, the two-hand clean is a great substitute and can always be used to get a kettlebell in the rack position for other training.

Now that we have it in the rack, let’s press! To press, tighten up and press the bell off of a strong platform created by your lat—that large piece of flesh on your back. Push yourself away from the bell as if you were standing in a narrow cylinder. The forearm should stay vertical and the bell should not get too far from your head.

It is imperative that you get and stay tight. Leaking force here will result in a missed lift. Don’t lean back, don’t lean away from the bell, and don’t use any leg drive to help. Wedge yourself between the load and the ground. If you can’t complete a press, re-clean it, get yourself tight, and try again. Chances are, that you just were not tight enough.

The one-armed military press is a great test of overall body strength. Working up to a 1/2 body weight singlearm military press is very doable, but will take hard work and persistence. The get up works hand in hand with the press—as your get up bell gets heavy, it seems to pave the way for a heavier press as well. So, work the loading with heavy get ups, and work the tension and shoulder range of motion with moderately loaded presses, and enjoy the strength gains.


Physical Training Culture


Physical Training Culture

Front Squat The front squat is performed as any other squat but with the kettlebell locked in a tight rack. Keep the elbow covering the ribs tightly and pull yourself down between the legs. You’ll find that your mobility and hip flexor strength has to be satisfactory to perform this movement properly. If you have excessive torso lean forward as you descent, you'll find yourself compensating by driving your elbow out and up. In this case, go back to the goblet squat for a few months to work the kinks out.

Front squats are fantastic core and leg strength builders, as well as providing a flexibility challenge. One -handed front squats also challenge the body to stabilize itself against an off-center load. Remember, there is no need to load squats heavy, but single (one bell/one hand) and double (two bells/two hands) front squats do provide some variety, and a valuable challenge.


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The Snatch The snatch is a hinge movement that throws the kettlebell from the hinge position of the swing to the lockedout position of the get up. I like to introduce this ballistic movement only after the individual has a crisp, snappy one-hand swing, and a solid finish position in the get up.

Similar to the one-hand swing, begin about a foot behind a parked bell, hinge back, grab the handle with one hand and lean it toward you. Hike it between the legs, and quickly drive the hips forward. Now, instead of projecting the bell forward, you are going to project it up, as in the two-hand clean—after an explosive hip extension, guide the bell up by pulling the elbow to the rear. This action will cause the bell to fly a bit forward, but mostly up. When the bell gets near head height and feels weightless, punch underneath the bell and lock it out overhead.

The snatch naturally proceeds from the swing, but there is a learning curve. At first, the bell will tend to beat up the back of the forearm as the exerciser practices snatching. This is caused by grabbing the handle too tight at the wrong time—when the bell is trying to “turn over” near the top. You should be practicing punching up underneath the bell, and lightly catching it on the forearm. Some folks do not like this pain and resultant bruising—this is fine, like the one-hand clean, there is no reason that one has to snatch.

But if one enjoys a bit of pain and/or bruising during the learning curve, the snatch makes for a conditioning session equal to no other.

The skin on the palms will also be challenged with the snatch. Swinging will harden the palms but once you begin to snatch, you will understand the meaning of callous. The additional distance and velocity that the bell descends in the snatch causes lots of friction during the “catch” in the hinge. The best way to navigate this is to attack the hinge—really drive the bell back deep so the arm ends up high near the crotch. Also, take care of your hands … use a pumice stone to keep the callouses flat and even with the rest of the palm. That said, you’re just going to have to build volume and load slowly and let your hands adapt. During any session, don’t let your hands tear during snatches. Once you feel the skin burn and stretch, end the session and live to fight another day. The palms heal very quickly.


Physical Training Culture


Physical Training Culture

Loaded Carries Loaded carries are movements that have you walk with weight. Simple … but very effective. The most basic is the farmer’s carry, which has you holding a load in each hand at your side. First, let’s make sure you pull the weight off the ground safely, in this case two heavy kettlebells. Perform a deadlift:

Next, bring the weights to your side and … walk. Be sure to keep good posture: shoulders back and down, hips under the head and squeeze the handles tight. Walk “on your glutes”, meaning you should really feel the hip extend through by glute contraction. Take short quick steps. Don’t drop your head.


Physical Training Culture

Loaded carries also include heavy pushes or drags, as in the use of prowlers, sleds and wheelbarrows. Buddy carries fit in here too. Pushing your vehicle to the gas station is great exercise as well. Use your imagination, but move for a varied distance under a heavy load. You ‘ll be surprised what two weeks of heavy farmer’s carries can do for your strength, conditioning, and physique—especially if you have never performed them before.

Just make sure your load up: your body can manage quite a bit of load in this movement, and it improves posture as a nice side-effect. Don’t be fearful of loading your structure up. Once you’ve adapted to resistance training for a few months, push the challenge, just don’t let your ego do the directing.


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Foot Marching Foot marching, ruck marching, hiking, or, as I say, “walking” is a special kind of loaded carry. It’s special as compared to the carries performed for short distances with heavy loads. Foot marching is a brisk walk performed while wearing a loaded pack on your back. One can walk in this fashion for hours at a time, and for days on end. If your load and pace is right, your heart rate, and subsequent conditioning benefit will rival that of LSD running, but be a lot more fun and enjoyable and easier on the joints.

Foot marching can be done several times per week, but once per week will work too, provided that the distance / duration is long enough. When first beginning foot march training, start out short and with lighter loads to give the joints and bones a chance to adapt. Read that last sentence again. No matter how great your strength is coming in to foot marching, the adaptation of the tendons, ligaments, and joints, cannot be rushed. As little as 30min with 15-20lb can be enough for some beginners. Slowly increase the load and distance progressively as the weeks go by: a 50% increase in duration each week, OR a ~25% increase in load is enough of a jump. Work up to a 50lb load for a male, and 35lb load for a female at distances up to 10mi (2.5-3hrs).

Heed this warning: increase the load and distance slowly over time. The best conditioned athlete can suffer joint, ligament, bone, and muscle damage when jumping into too much too soon with foot marching. This may be an important point if I am repeating it.

Don’t fold over underneath the straps of your pack—you should still be practicing good posture while walking. Try to stand as upright as possible, and keep the chest proud. The weight of pack will lean you forward slightly, but this should happen at the knee and ankle joints, and less so in the hip (unless going up in elevation), and never the waist. Keep your hips under your head and your head high. Use the walk to help improve your posture. You will be pleasantly surprised at what rucking under proper posture will do for your core and stabilizer strength … you will be unfortunately surprised at what rucking under improper posture will do to your dysfunction and pain levels.

Walk with short and frequent strides, contacting the ground with your heel first and then following through to the toe. Use longer strides uphill, and much shorter ones downhill. Walk with a powerful arm swing, pivoting the arms about the shoulders. As in all locomotion movement, powerful arm swing drives the movement— forward AND backward—deliberately swing your arms. You’ll notice that in foot marching, the backswing of the arm seems to do more to propel you forward.


Physical Training Culture

A few tips and tricks:

If you’re walking for exercise as part of your training program, wear any comfortable shoes, though I like minimal shoes for this. Make sure they fit well, and lace them snug but not tight—your feet are going to swell. If you need to walk as part of your job, you’ll have to wear your combat boots. Again, make sure that you have a pair which fit comfortably, but there is a way to lace them which leads to more comfort. Lace the boot as normal from the toe up to below the beginning of the instep. Cut off excess lace and tie as normal. Skip a set of eyelets and lace the rest of the boot up, but tie very loose. Lacing in this fashion will allow your calf and ankle to swell, yet keep the boot snug on the foot. Too much too soon, will cause the bottom of your feet to hurt, and possibly lead to blistering. To some extent, you have to wait until your feet harden, but you can also take care of your feet before and after your walks. Make sure toenails are properly trimmed, and your socks and boots fit well. Stockings, worn under the socks can help with the friction. Spraying antiperspirant on the bottom of the feet can help with moisture, both of which can lead to blisters. When getting blisters, I used to wash and dry the foot, pierce the blister with a sharp and sanitized needle from the side, then push out the fluid, wash again, and apply bandage. Don’t remove the skin from the blister. Make sure you take care of things like walking the route first, staying hydrated the night before and during the walk, and carrying salt and extra water in hotter climates. You don’t need anything unexpected to happen. A cell phone too, will help in case of emergency. Remember to keep your stride short and frequent—don’t try to step it out. Drive your arms to increase the pace. Changing up the route often helps with the longer walks, and trying to route through natural woodlands on trails is probably a very healthy thing for us.


Physical Training Culture

Programming Programming is the “how” in putting these movements together in a training session, or schedule of sessions. One thing is clearly understood about weight training and conditioning: everything works for a little while— even longer, if you’re a beginner—so don’t assume efficacy at first glance. Remember this: it’s training that we’re after, not exercise.

Training is an intelligent, well thought out program consisting of weeks and months of PT sessions which lead to a net improvement in performance. Show up and put work in during each session; these sessions build on each other to stimulate the body to adapt in a manner that improves athleticism—i.e., get stronger, faster, etc. You can not judge a training program by only one session … you can only judge a training program by the effects of the whole. You may not sweat hard or feel sore the next day after a training session, but you can be certain that a training effect has taken place in the body.

Exercise, conversely, is a session that has no goal in mind—other than working up a sweat, getting fatigued, and feeling sore in the aftermath. Exercise sessions make you feel like you worked out hard, but may not lead to performance improvement over time. Most Military members and recreational athletes alike whom I come into contact with are trying to improve performance by exercising—and failing at this goal. If your PT program is a series of exercise sessions, containing lots of exercise variety, “cardio”, high-intensity training”, “chest & back day”, and/or “leg day” with the goal of hitting a target heart rate, breathing heavy, and being sore the next day, you are providing a grave disservice to you and your members. Let’s get you on a proper training program.

Training takes patience and time … lots of time, and you have to put the work in. Most days, you will feel like you don’t want to be there, or that you’re not firing on all cylinders—that’s fine, just do the work, as the goal is weeks, months, and, in some cases, even years away. Training can be akin to building a railroad, or the type of work that a lumberjack has to do to clear a forest—heavy but submaximal work performed day after day, and your body magically adapts. So, to stimulate adaptation, just do the work. Enjoy those sessions when you feel like you can successfully wrestle bears, because they don’t come around too often.


Physical Training Culture

Strength v. Conditioning Strength is the result of consistent exposure to loaded quality movement. As discussed, strength is not just the adaptation of the muscles; it is also greater motor control, greater neural force, and greater inter-muscular coordination, to name a few contributors. Loading too heavy and too often, however, will lead to a decrease in strength, not an increase.

One-rep maxes (1RM) are a display of your accumulated strength; strength is built upon submaximal loads, either grinding them out (deadlift), or by accelerating them (swings). Moreover, training to “failure” is a bodybuilding method of training for hypertrophy (increased muscle size), and appropriate in a strength gaining program. For strength training, make sure that you are completing your reps, and staying away from failure in a set—remember the lumberjack and the railroad worker … just come in and do the submaximal work.

Conditioning is the result of improved system function: the efficiency of fuel delivery and usage by cells, the improvement of the cardiovascular system in circulating blood, and the improvement of the respiratory system in providing oxygen and removing waste gasses. These elements result in improving the tissues’ ability to work at submaximal intensities for extended durations. Conditioning can be understood as “strength over time”.

There is a continuum of strength v. conditioning—not one that is a precise fit to reality, but close enough to be used as an analogy for discussion. On the one side of the continuum we have pure strength—the most force one can produce, requiring very little conditioning—such as a heavy deadlift; on the other we have sustained effort at very low intensities—a strength requirement, but lots of system support—such a long, slow, distance jog or walk. Across this continuum, other tasks can be defined based upon the metabolic requirement to support the task.

To train predominantly for strength, the loads will be higher, and the rests will be longer; to train predominantly for conditioning, the loads will be lighter, and the rests will be shorter, if you rest at all. The volume of work (total work completed) will vary relative to your current adaptation. Increasing both strength and conditioning increases something called work capacity … and this is the focus of physical training—having no holes or gaps in the program.


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Push-up / Sit-up timed tests

KB swings / Giveroy sport

1.5 mile run test

Foot march (?) 100 meter sprints

Max Deadlift

LSD run / walk

Strength & Conditioning Continuum

Work Capacity Work capacity can be defined by your power output, or, the amount of work you can do in a given timeframe. This is best exemplified by the task of moving a pile of heavy rocks from one side of a field to the other. How much weight did you move (total load of the rock), how far (the length of the field), and how long did take (duration)? This task requires strength and conditioning—the heavier the rocks, the slower they move; the lighter the rocks, the quicker you can complete the task.

Fitness IS being able to produce a high power output, recover, and do it again if necessary. If you can move the rocks across the field in record time but need three days in bed to recover from this task, then you are out of shape—you have low work capacity (regardless of your unrepeatable performance)—and you are a liability to the mission. This is what your training needs to produce.

Before I expand on work capacity, I need to discuss bioenergetics, or, fuel usage at the cellular level— biochemistry. You may skip this next session if pure science doesn’t excite you, it is here only for a deeper understanding of why I make these recommendations.


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Bioenergetics:The Engine 12 Though “conditioning” is an orchestrated affair of moving substrates and gases to and from working muscle cells (cardiovascular and respiratory systems), you may view this engine’s “heart” as fuel usage. A substrate is a molecule or substance that may be acted on by a enzyme, as in the case of these chemical reactions. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the substrate currency of the cell. ATP is the substrate that the cell actually uses for energy, and all types of food may be converted into ATP: amino acids from protein, glucose from carbohydrates, and fatty acids from fats. There are three pathways of chemical reactions that create ATP from other molecules, and they are known as the ATP-PCr (or alactic) system, the glycolytic system, and the oxidative system.

The ATP-PCr system (alactic metabolism) works to replenish ATP in the 0-15 second range at higher intensities. Trained athletes may eke out 30 seconds from this system. This fuel system supplies fuel for a very hot but short burn—think 100m sprint at top speed—and then is exhausted. This language, “burns hotter for shorter”, makes it easier to understand, but is not accurate. It is more accurate to say that it supplies fuel, very quickly. The figure below describes a summary of the chemical conversions.

The quick-burning alactic system uses stored substrate to produce ATP

This fuel system has the smallest tank, so it “empties” out quickly. This reaction occurs without oxygen so it is termed as “anaerobic metabolism”.

The second pathway, the glycolytic system, produces ATP through the chemical breakdown of glucose (a sugar). Where the ATP-PCr system is simple, consisting of stored substrates already present in the cell, and a


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Above: the development of ATP from glycogen / glucose using anaerobic metabolism

Below: the oxidation of fatty acids, sugars, and amino acids creates lots of ATP for energy—aerobic metabolism.


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single chemical reaction, this system is more complex and requires cellular machinery. The glycolytic system supplies fuel slower than the ATP-PCr system, but lasts longer. It is understood that this system can supply the fuel for work out to about 2 minutes—so we are getting beyond the 500m sprint range for most athletes. Unlike alactic metabolism, using glucose for fuel accumulates a waste product that can lead to performance decreases—lactic acid. This set of reactions is also anaerobic, occurring without the need for oxygen

The final system uses oxygen and is aptly named, the oxidative system (aerobic metabolism). This system supplies fuel at the slowest rate but provides huge amounts of fuel for much longer durations. The slower the fuel supply, the lower that the intensity of the work performed has to be. This fuel system is what enabled humans to migrate across the planet—long but slow periods of walking.

This third system can use amino acids derived from protein sources, fatty acids derived from fat sources, or glucose derived from carbohydrate sources as inputs for conversion to ATP, however, amino acids only consist of about 5-10% of total energy requirements, as the body spares protein for tissue building and repair. One of the substrates which result from glycolytic metabolism is pyruvate. If oxygen is present in the cell, this py-

Graph of dominant fuel source as compared to duration of activity


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ruvate molecule gets converted into a substrate called acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl CoA) and enters the oxidative system as seen in the figure on the bottom of page 91.

However, much of the substrate used to supply the oxidative system is fatty acids. Triglycerides, either from adipose tissue or circulating free in the bloodstream, are broken down into fatty acids, and then converted into acetyl CoA, feeding the oxidative system.

Now, all three energy systems are always “on”, some are simply supplying more ATP than the others. The dominant system is determined by the intensity of the movement and the duration of that intensity.

The alactic pathway is replenished through stored substrate, and thus is limited in duration. Anaerobic glycolytic metabolism uses glucose which is stored at about 2500 calories of energy in muscle tissue and the liver. The body can make more glucose, but it is too slow of a process to keep up with exercise, so glucose lasts for about 2 hours of work (much less if the intensity is too high). Fatty acids are stored at a rate of about 75,000 calories of energy in even a very lean person. So, the average person probably has about a week’s worth of low-intensity movement without re-feeding.

How does this apply to work capacity and training?


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Power Development Power must be developed in all three metabolic pathways—that is, the amount of work done at different durations must be maximized. There are three ways to accomplish this: increase load, increase distance, and/or decrease time.

100m sprints (with recovery in between), and 15 second sets of powerful swings will train the alactic system to last longer and replenish quicker—these are your very short duration and explosive movements. Training the glycolytic system to supply fuel longer and quicker requires pushing the duration of work from 30 seconds out to several minutes—here we have the longer sprints and resistance circuits performed at intervals. Oxidative system training requires low-intensities and long duration work—your LSD runs and rides, and foot marches.

However, draining the anaerobic systems (alactic and glycolytic) with high-intensity work causes a deficit which the aerobic system needs to pay for. So, from a conditioning standpoint—that is fuel and substrate delivery and removal—it may be advantageous to train your high-intensity conditioning work with a 3-5 minute cap. Go as hard as you can 2-3 times per week with this duration in mind.

This method has been shown to improve all three energy systems—the two anaerobic systems during the actual high-intensity training session, and the aerobic system for hours following the training session. So, for some very short training sessions, you get a large return on your conditioning. However, some research indicates that the benefit of aerobic metabolism from high-intensity work is limited in improving the oxidative system’s cellular machinery.

13, 14, 15

So, there seems to be no replacement for actual oxidative system training, possibly

due of our inheritance of evolution: lots and lots of low-intensity locomotion.

My experience shows that LSD work at least once per week for 90 minutes or so seems beneficial in rounding things out. Keep your heart rate very low and just do the work—enjoy nature. Use nasal breathing to guide your pace; you should be just about able to keep a conversation going. This low intensity work is great for recovery as well as the aerobic benefit.

Experience has shown us that training the alactic metabolism seems to improve endurance and conditioning across the board. As well, other experience has shown us that training in the glycolytic metabolism range pref-


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erentially can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and inferior performance. My own speculation is that adding oxidative work to alactic work is advantageous in achieving high conditioning levels, and without burnout. Use the glycolytic “burn-zone” sparingly.

Oxidative System Training (LSD Work) LSD work is often performed wrong—too fast, or too short. You really have to choose a style of locomotion that you enjoy, adapt to the loading over time, and keep your heart rate very low—stay aerobic! Arthur Lydiard’s style of conditioning training was promoted in the 1950’s and ‘60s, and using his system, Lydiard became a proven champion track coach.

His style was based on long, slow distance runs—much slower than we would think—several times per week at very low heart rates (45-55%). This offseason training lasted very long and he allowed his runners years to get into condition. Preseason training worked out to be 8-10 weeks of higher intensity interval runs, peaking an athlete for the season. The largest difficulty with this program is the time investment: at least 45min per day, with several 90-180min runs per week. If you absolutely love running, biking, or swimming, and have the time, give it a try. He certainly has a “track record”.

Lydiard went on to be a successful track coach, medaling in many different countries, and in many different track events—all using this same system. It was characterized by lots and lots of aerobic, or LSD work—years in some cases—with a peaking cycle of 8-10 weeks prior to a season, or event. So, he had his athletes spend most of their time at low heart rates, with a once or twice a year glycolytic / alactic peaking cycle. This is very much the opposite of how we do training today in America.

Everything about exercise today is “harder” and “faster”—the popular programs available are recommending more speed and loading and no rest. This brand of conditioning usually consists of circuits or sprints that athletes push through at very hard efforts. As we learned in hindsight, this style left endurance athletes falling on their face if used preferentially. What we also see is that too much of this glycolytic training for too long, leaves folks with burnout. I’ve witnessed this far too much in the last 10-15 years: the attrition rates of these popular programs will likely never be reported. This “high-intensity training movement” will take a toll on your health—the dose makes the poison.


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Putting It All Together So, we have four elements to fitness training: strength work, which is based in low repetition, feed-forward tension to produce large forces (and somewhat offer an alactic training effect); alactic power training, which is explosive and short; glycolytic power training, which is fast and moderate; and aerobic power training, which is very long and slow.

For beginners, and those who need corrective work and movement practice, the program should first rebuild the chassis (see the movement algorithm). Then, training should be based in strength development which allows for lots of tension practice; short sets of ballistic work with recovery in between; and a long slow day as often as twice per week.

My suspicion is, however, that ideally, spending most of the time alactic system training and oxidative system training is the way to go most of the year. If you’d like, add in a few cycles of strength training but the power produced during a set of heavy swings or sprints would likely take care of most of your strength needs, generally speaking.

During minicycles when you were facing deployments or some other planned rotation, it might be advantageous to train the glycolytic system. But for all purpose use, 1-2 short sessions per week, and one long infrequent session of glycolytic training will probably work well, as long as you watch your recovery.

You see, alactic training improves the intensity and duration for which you can be explosive, and this has carryover to other durations and intensities of work—this is strength and conditioning training at once. Training in the oxidative zone sets a conditioning baseline by improving mitochondrial, the cellular fuel engine’s machinery. By contrast, too much glycolytic training seems to gradually degrade performance. You should feel refreshed and energized after your training session, not fatigued and exhausted.

So, a wave-loaded strength program coupled with lots of alactic power work, 2-12min infrequent finishers, and one LSD session at least bimonthly is likely the route to maximizing both strength and conditioning for general purpose. This is the most effective method that is supported by both scientific and anecdotal evidence.


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The Basic Plan Ok … so, in my opinion, everyone should do this first: get on the movement algorithm. Show up and do your crawling, get ups, and 2-hand swings—get proper instruction to ensure that you’re moving properly. These three movements will identify and amplify your movement issues and weaknesses and, in most cases, also rectify them. If you’re an accomplished mover, you may notice that only after a few weeks, you have mastered these three movements. If you have been lazy, you may need months and years to work out your issues and master the movements … so what? Everyone has their starting point, and that year is going to pass by anyway, so you might as well make it productive.

The beauty of this minimalist program is that once you’ve acquired authentic movement—the highest quality of movement—the plan also acts as a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. Crawl slower and really own the pattern, and for some distance … for males, attain several 1/2-bodyweight get ups … both sides, no asymmetries; females, let’s say 1/3-bodyweight. After you have mastered heavy 2-hand swings, perform 100 of them in 5 min … then do it with heavy 1-hand swings.

Once your movement issues have been cleared up: LSD locomotion once or twice per week up to 90 min per session—get your ruck on. For applications with standardized PT test batteries, add occasional sprints of 50400m, totaling no more than 1000-2000m; and do some push-ups and pull-ups as testing requires these. That’s it … simple and very effective. You now have the keys to your success, what you do with them is your decision.

Laid out, the program looks like this: Work up to crawls of 100ft, forwards and reverse up on your hands and feet 10 x rocks and bobs Goblet squat-to-halo until your feel “open” 5 x get ups each side, recovering as needed between reps Then, perform 90-150 swings in the following fashion: 10 x two-hand overspeeds, 10 x right 10 left Breath through your nose, deep into your belly between sets and try to bring down your heart rate. Go again when you feel ready, but not before—stay in the “alactic power zone”. 3-5 rounds will give you the appropriate totals.


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When you get competent at the three basic movements, begin to add a few finishers per week. Some of our favorites include doing your swings followed by some type of loaded carry followed by push ups, for example. Keep the total work time to 10-12 min or less, and really work the loads. This is not a competition, however, work to your capacity, and you will gain conditioning over time.

On days when you have more time and/or equipment, add deadlifts into the mix but not too often. If you want to deadlift more often, wave the loads up for 3 weeks at a time, and drop the swings to only 2-3 times per week. Include presses when you feel it, but substitute them for the get ups and keep the volume very high: ~50-75 reps. Sub out the swings for snatches once in a while and practice that lift for 5-10 min. Sprint repeats from 100-300m in distance can also be worked in here and there as an alternative to your swings.

These lifts complement each other, so they can be “trended up”: swings push up your deadlift numbers; get ups push up your press loads; sprints work to apply the bilateral hip extension power built off of swings onto a unilateral locomotive movement pattern; and snatches take your swing’s power and challenge your capacity in novel ways. Stick mostly to your swings and get ups, and you’ll see lots of progression for a long time. Follow your strength and increase your loading as you “own” your current weights.

This is an easy program to work into almost any lifestyle, and will support all brands of fitness needs. Crawls, swings, and get ups will surprisingly maintain your push-up, sit-up, and run numbers, for those with required PT tests. The only downside is the also the positive: just a few exercises … some may get bored … tough. Just do it.

One last time: do this first.


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Sample Programs and Sessions A sample session template of the basic plan would look like this:

Warm-up: 100ft crawls—forward and reverse 10 x rocks and bobs Goblet squat-to-halo drill Mobility get up Individual corrective exercises

Practice / Strength: Swings Get ups Presses Deadlifts

Finisher (infrequently): 2-12min of high-intensity conditioning work:

e.g., wind sprints

Cool down: Few minutes of low-intensity work Some stretching


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The notion of wave-loading your strength lifts (deadlift / press) looks like this:

Week 1:

Week 5:

Day 1: 15 reps @ moderate load

Day1: 15 reps @ 5lbs more than day 1 of week 2.

Day 2: 12 reps @ moderate-heavy load

Day 2: 12 reps @ 5lbs more than day 2 of week 2.

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ heavy (but not near max) load

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ 5lbs more than day 3 of week 2.

Week 2:

Week 6:

Day1: 15 reps @ 10lbs more than day 1 of week 1.

Day1: 15 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 1 of week 5.

Day 2: 12 reps @ 10lbs more than day 2 of week 1.

Day 2: 12 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 2 of week 5.

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ 10lbs more than day 3 of week1.

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 3 of week 5.

Week 3:

Week 7:

Day1: 15 reps @ 10lbs more than day 1 of week 2.

Day1: 15 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 1 of week 6.

Day 2: 12 reps @ 10lbs more than day 2 of week 2.

Day 2: 12 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 2 of week 6.

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ 10lbs more than day 3 of week 2.

Day 3: 8-10 reps @ 5-10lbs more than day 3 of week 6.

Week 4:

Week 8:

Deload or back off week—practice something

Rest until mid-late week and try for a new max.

else; work on conditioning; or do very light sets of the movements for practice.

After another deload week, you can run through this program again, recalculating based on your new max. In this example, you are inching the loads up for a number of weeks, but waving the volume up and down during each week, then deloading (to spare the nervous system) for a week. When the loads are higher the volume is lower, and vice-versa. As you get stronger, the weights should feel lighter. Do not do too much alactic power training during this cycle—you’ll spin your wheels.


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A sample strength-based week might look like this: Mon:


Warm up

Warm up



Deadlift: 5 x 5 (five sets of five reps)

Deadlift 5 x 5

Get up: 5 each side

Get ups 5 each side



Tabata rowing:

5min snatch test

(20s of sprint / 10s rest for 8 cycles)


Stretch Fri: Tue:

Warm up

Warm up



Get ups 5 each side

Swings: 50-100 in sets of 5-10

Swings 50-100 in sets of 5-10

Push ups: 3 x 10-15


Pull-ups: 5 x 5 Stretch

Sat: Long slow distance run or foot march

Wed: Warm up




8 x 100m sprints Farmer’s carry Stretch

The loads should be as heavy as you can gracefully move with good posture for the day. A beginner could continue to make progress on a program like this for many months. Keep the deadlifts lighter than you would imagine, keep the get ups heavier, and make sure the swings move quick and crisp—with lots of snap in those hips.


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We could also do a pure strength cycle:

Week 1, day 1:

Get ups 5 each side

Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

Pull ups 5 x 5 KB Press 8 x 2

Day 3 (48 hours later) Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Pull ups 5 x 5

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

KB Press 10 x 3

Get ups 5 each side Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

Week 3, day 1: Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Pull ups 5 x 5

Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

KB Press 8 x 2

Pull ups 5 x 5 KB Press 10 x 3

Day 2 (48 hours later) Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Week 2, day 1:

Get ups 5 each side

Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

Pull ups 5 x 5 KB Press 8 x 2

Day 3 (48 hours later) Deadlift 3 x 5 @ moderate weight (50%)

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Pull ups 5 x 5

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Get ups 5 each side


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Week 4, day 1:

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Deadlift 3 x 5 @ +10lbs from last week

Deadlift 3 x 3 @ same load as Day 1

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ +10lbs from last week

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ same load as Day 1

KB Press 8 x 2

KB Press 10 x 3

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Week 6, day 1:

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Deadlift 3 x 3 @ +10lbs from last week

Get ups 5 each side

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ +10lbs from last week

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

KB Press 8 x 2

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Deadlift 3 x 5 @ same load as Day 1

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ same load as Day 1

Get ups 5 each side

KB Press 10 x 3

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

Week 5, day 1:

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Deadlift 3 x 3 @ +10lbs from last week

Deadlift 3 x 3 @ same load as Day 1

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ +10lbs from last week

Pull ups 5 x 5 @ same load as Day 1

KB Press 8 x 2

KB Press 10 x 3

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Week 7, Deload:

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Day 1:

Get ups 5 each side

Deadlift 3 x 8 @ 40%

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy)

Plank rows 3 x 8 squeeze at the top Get ups 5 each side (light, but slow)


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Day 2 (48 hours later)

Deadlift x Try a max

Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

KB Press x try a max

Get ups 5 each side

Pull ups 5 x 5

Front squat 2 x 5 (heavy) Day 2 (48 hours later) Day 3 (48 hours later)

Tonic session: walk, practice body weight drills, etc.

Deadlift 3 x 8 @ 40% Plank rows 3 x 8 squeeze at the top

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Get ups 5 each side (light, but slow)

Max Get up Two-hand swings: 100-200 in sets of 10-15

Week 8, day 1:

The focus is the deadlift and press—make sure that you’re completing your reps. Use a load for the get ups that is challenging but doable. Front squats may be done with a daily max—whatever you feel like you can do for 2 x 5 on that day goes, but most of the time should be performed with a comfortable load. You could start this program over and recalculate for your new maxes if you wish.

There are all types of programs out there which are effective, it’s just that nothing remains effective forever, so things have to switched up periodically—sometimes just a variant, other times, a complete refocus … alactic power training as opposed to pure strength training.

Pavel has some great, tried and true programs. And Marty Gallagher.


8, 16, 17, 18, 19

As does Dan John.

10, 20, 21

And Mark Rippetoe.


Whatever you choose—stick to it—do not change, add or alter it … complete it as

written. Choose your training program, show up, do the work, and let the process work.


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Another schedule is to alternate 3 weeks of predominantly strength training with 2 weeks of predominantly power training:

Week 1, day 1:

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Deadlift x 15 singles at 60%

Deadlift x 12 singles at 70%

Get ups 5 each side

Get ups 5 each side

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Deadlift x 12 singles at 70%

Deadlift x 12 singles at 80% +10lbs

Get ups 5 each side

Get ups 5 each side

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10,

Day 3 (48 hours later)

Week 3, day 1:

Deadlift x 12 singles at 80%

Deadlift x 15 singles at 60%+20lbs

Get ups 5 each side

Get ups 5 each side

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10,

Week 2, day 1:

Day 2 (48 hours later)

Deadlift x 15 singles at 60%+10lbs

Deadlift x 12 singles at 70% +20lbs

Get ups 5 each side

Get ups 5 each side

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Two-hand swings: 10 x 10


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Day 3 (48 hours later)

Day 4

Deadlift x 12 singles at 80% +20lbs

Long slow distance @ 90 min

Get ups 5 each side Two-hand swings: 10 x 10

Week 5, day 1 5 get ups per side, then

Week 4, day 1:

200 swings in sets of 10-15

10 x swings 5 push-ups

Day 2

100m sprint

100m farmer’s carry

10 rounds

15 x push-ups 4 rounds

Day 2 5 get ups per side, then

Day 3

5 rounds of:

4 x 400m sprints

15 x two hand swings 10 x right-hand swings

Day 4

10 x left-hand swings

10 x right-hand swings

40yd farmer’s carry

10 x push ups 10 x left-hand swings

Day 3

5 x pull-ups

10 x swings

10 rounds

5 x pull ups 10 push-ups 5 x goblet squats

At this point, you would begin again with week 1, or some other strength work.

5 rounds


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Part 1I: Nutrition & Lifestyle Coming soon ...


Physical Training Culture

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14. Hopeler H, & Fluck M. (2003). Plasticity of skeletal muscle mitochondria: Structure and function. Medical & Science in Sports and Exercise 35(1) 95-104. 15. Seiler S, & Tonnesen E. (2009). Intervals, thresholds, and long slow distance: The role of intensity and duration in endurance training. Sportscience 13(1) 32-53. 16. Tsatsouline P. (2003). The naked warrior. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications, Inc. 17. Tsatsouline P. (2006). Enter the kettlebell! St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications, Inc. 18. Tsatsouline P. (2009). Return of the kettlebell. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications, Inc. 19. Tsatsouline P. (2013). Kettlebell simple & sinister. Reno, NV: StrongFirst, Inc. 20. John D, & Tsatsouline P. (2011). Easy strength. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications, Inc. 21. John D. (2011). Mass made simple: A six-week journey into bulking. Santa Cruz, CA: On Target Publications. 22. Rippetoe M. (2013). Starting strength: Basic barbell training (3rd ed.). Wichita Falls, TX: The Asgaard Company. 23. Gallagher M. (2008). The purposeful primitive. Little Canada, MN: Dragon Door Publications.


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