Sunday, August 31, 2008

Body composition changes / GS and 4x7

My first introduction to kettlebell training came in September of 2007 via Pavel's "Enter the Kettlebell." With ETK style training I noticed distinct hypertophy of my shoulder region but not a lot happening to my rather overdeveloped tummy - and I don't mean muscles. When I started GS style training (longer sets with lighter weight) I noticed that some of the initial hypertrophy dropped away but I did notice that I was becoming generally leaner. Since starting Scott Sonnon's 4x7 protocol something interesting is happening.

The 4x7 protocol in a (very small) nutshell is based on 4 day cycles that include a no intensity day (joint mobility), low intensity day (joint work and yoga), moderate intensity (which is mainly lower rep training) and a high intensity day (which is based on classic GS long sets). Sinced starting this protocol I have noticed pronounced muscle growth in my shoulder, traps, delts and biceps. My abs also became more streamlined (without any diet changes). I am not sure why this is happening but there is clearly something about the 4x7 protocol that makes a significant impact not only on body comp but also on the ability to achieve PR's in your training.

Although my training has been a bit erratic over the past two weeks I have noticed distinct changes in my body composition as well as my ability to put in some pretty intense training sessions. Scott seems to have some kind of remarkable genius when it comes to figuring out protocols that really work. The most important part for me (being 38 years old) is that I don't feel that I'm harming my body in any way even when I train hard.

I'll be posting some more specifics on my training experiences and the changes in both body comp and general well-being / fitness in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

2008/08/31 - Moderate intensity day

Here is my session for today:

Intuflow beginner level

4 minutes / 16 kg / 1 minute rest between sets:

Press: 24/24
Snatch: 32/32
One Arm Long Cycle: 14/12

Swing (40kg): 8/8

Prasara Cricket Flow: 2 rounds

The long cycle was a killer today. I don't think I practice it often enough. I also think the faster paced snatch set right before the LC took a toll. I was surprised by the 40kg swings though. My 40kg bell has been sitting quietly in the corner since I got it a few months ago. Today I thought I'd play with it a bit - not too difficult at all. The main problem was with my grip and I stopped after 8 reps fearing that the bell might fly through the living room window. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2008/08/29 - Flowing along

Today was a no intensity day so I just did the beginner level of Intu-Flow. I feel calm, relaxed and warm after the session. It is amazing how much this stuff makes my body feel like I just did Qi Gong or Tai Chi.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008/08/28 Higher intensity day

Here is my slightly higher intensity day:

Intuflow beginner level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 6 minutes @ 8rpm: 24/24
Snatch (16kg): 6 minutes @ 12rpm: 36/36

Twice through the Prasara Yoga Cricket flow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008/08/27 Another session (moderate intensity)

Training has been very erratic lately but I did manage a moderate intensity session today. Here is what I did:

Intuflow beginner level

16kg / 4 minutes work / 1 minute rest:

Press: 24/24
Half Snatch: 20/20
Clean: 28/28

Took a short rest and then:

One arm overhead squat (16kg): 2 minutes: 6/6
Swing (32kg): 15/15

Prasara Yoga: Twice through the Cricket flow.

The overhead squats were a bit easier than the previous time I did them. Howie's advice to turn slightly towards the arm that is holding the bell definitely helps. I think this is an exercise where general flexibility may play an even greater role than strength and endurance.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scott talking about getting Intuflow

Here is a clip of Scott Sonnon talking us through the basic principles of getting your body back into a natural state of movement - or Intu-Flow as he calls it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

2008/08/23 - Back in business

I've been lying low the past couple of days. Today I decided that it is time to put the past behind me and get on with business. Here is todays' session"

Intuflow beginner level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 10 minutes @ 9rpm: 90
Snatch (16kg): 4 minutes @ 12rpm: 48

Swing (32kg): 10/10

Once through the Cricket flow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Armed robbery is a bitch

I haven't been training for the last couple of days. On Wednesday morning (20th of August) at about 12:30 in the morning I fell asleep on the couch while watching the Olympics. I woke up with a 9 milimetre pistol in my face. Three guys (two of them armed) entered my house and proceeded to clean out whatever they could take. I lost my TV, DVD player, Xbox, Hi Fi, New car, PC and laptop as well as other random pieces of household appliances. Thank the Gods that nobody got hurt. Right now my life is a bit upside down but things will eventually be back to normal. I will eventually try to train again but for now I am experiencing unfamiliar emotions that might be fear or desperate anger. Who knows?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008/08/19 - Moderate intensity and a new exercise

With the IKFF certification coming closer I'm going to have to start incorporating some neglected exercises into my schedule. Today I threw in some cleans as well as one arm overhead squats (which I haven't trained before). Ouch! Here is what I did:

Intuflow beginner level

Did the following with 1 minute rest between sets:

Press (16kg): 4 minutes: 24/24
One Arm Jerk (24kg): 4 minutes: 16/16
Clean (16kg): 4 minutes: 26/26

2,5 minutes rest

One Arm Overhead Squat (16kg): 2 minutes: 5/5
Swing (32kg): 15/15

Prasara Cricket flow x 2

The overhead squats were very difficult. I didn't have an issue with the arm above my head but it was hell of a difficult to get down low enough into the squat. I now have to figure out where I'm too tight but I suspect it might be my lower back. I'll be working on these squats in the weeks to come.

Monday, August 18, 2008

2008/08/18 - Starting the week with yoga

Today was a low intensity day. I did:

Intuflow beginner level.

7 Rounds of the Prasara Cricket flow.

1 Round of the Vine flow just as practice.

Once I am familiar with the postures and transitions of the Vine flow I will start incorporating it into my practice as well. I am really enjoying my yoga practice at the moment and keep having a feeling that I want to do more. Unfortunately every day just have so many hours and I don't want to overdo it. I'm still playing with the idea of doing a 4x7 using just yoga and other body-weight methods like Flowfit and Forward Pressure. For now I'm hard at work preparing for Steve Cotter's IKFF certification so my body-weight 4x7 will have to wait until the end of October.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008/08/17 - Just Intuflow

After a great week of warm weather today was pretty cold. I hope this is one of the last cold fronts of this winter. Luckily today was a no intensity day so I just did some relaxing Intuflow to keep the joints relaxed and ready for some more hard work in the week ahead.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Holistic fitness

There seems to be a trend in the fitness world towards lifelong training with an emphasis on total health and fitness. What is the point of following an overly specialized training programme that will lose its usability once you hit your thirties? We've all seen great athletes becoming fat and unhealthy once their training careers come to an end. Organizations like the American Kettlebell Club, Steve Cotter's IKFF and Scott Sonnon's Rmax International are in the process of revolutionizing the concept of fitness and bringing about a profound shift in how fitness is conceptualized. Here is an example of truly holistic fitness from Lauri Rudach:


We all need a bit of inspiration from time to time. When you train with kettlebells it helps to have something to aspire to. This video of Valery Fedorenko is certainly something to aspire to.

2008/08/16 - High intensity day

Today I did:

Intuflow beginner level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 10 minutes @ 8 rpm: 40/40
Snatch (16kg): 6 minutes @ 12rpm: 36/36

Swing (32kg): 10/10

Twice through the Prasara Cricket flow

I'm glad I did a 10 minute set again. With this ten minute set as my benchmark for the high intensity days I will work towards faster ten minute sets as well as longer than 10 minute sets. I could have gone longer in the snatch set but I didn't want to do multiple hand switches so I decided to end at six minutes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008/08/15 - Up a few notches

Today being a moderate intensity day and given my relative inactivity over the past two weeks I decided to take things up a few notches. I decided to take my working sets up in time from 3 minutes to 4 minutes but to maintain the rest periods at 1 minute. This is how it went:

Intuflow beginner level

4 minutes work / 1 minute rest / 16kg:

Press: 24/24
Half Snatch: 20/20
Long Cycle Push Press: 20/20

32kg Swings: 15/15

Twice through the Prasara Cricket flow

I was very happy with my RPM (although I have to admit that form on the Long Cycle got a tad ugly). I was also surprised that the extra minute added to each set didn't seem to make any difference. I'm not sure what to attribute that to. Maybe consistent training? Perhaps the 4x7 schedule allows my body to recover optimally between kettlebell sessions? Who knows. The fact of the matter is that this was a very enjoyable session and I seem to be fully back on track after my tummy bug last weekend. Tomorrow is the high intensity / long set day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2008/08/14 - Low intensity

Today was my scheduled low intensity day. I did:

Intuflow intermediate
Cricket flow x 6

It is interesting how Prasara can be used for everything from no intensity to high intensity work by just adjusting the pace. Today I worked at a slightly quicker pace than yesterday and held the postures slightly longer and I worked up a good sweat. Tomorrow I'm back under the bells.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008/08/13 - Some Prasara improvement

Today was my no intensity day. I did:

Intuflow Intermediate
Prasara Cricket flow x4

I was glad to notice that I'm making some nice headway with the Cricket flow. When I first saw it a lot of the postures looked impossible and I almost filed the book away as a lost cause. I'm now really glad I didn't. The incremental approach of the book builds strength and ability in unexpected ways and new movement abilities creap up on you in unexpected ways. Today I found myself suddenly able to do the full crane pose and even my transition from crane to modified quad squat / frog pose is almost there. It was quite a pleasant surprise. A few more months of this and I'll officially be a pretzel.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008/08/12 - High Intensity day

Today was not "high intensity" enough for me but I'm still taking it easy after my weekend in bed. This is what I did:

Intuflow Intermediate level

One Arm Jerk (16kg): 6 minutes @ 8rpm: 24/24
Snatch (16kg): 4 minutes @ 12rpm: 24/24

Swing (32kg): 10/10

Twice through the Cricket flow

My rack in the jerk seems to be improving as is the second dip. I am actually starting to feel quite comfortable with the jerk. The snatch is a totally different story, in particular the drop. I'll be working on that in the days to come.

I also realized today that I've been missing longer sets since I've started the AKC fitness protocol. I'll be working on my high intensity days to lengthen my sets to 10 minutes and beyond. There is something weirdly relaxing about the quiet discipline of just forging ahead one rep at a time. On the other hand I like the quick pace of the AKC protocol as well so I'll be focusing on that on the medium days. This will allow me to practice some non-classical lifts or do some heavier work. I'm starting to like this programme that is gradually taking form.

Monday, August 11, 2008

2008/08/11 - Moderate day / lower reps

I woke up on Friday morning feeling great. I felt loose and relaxed after Thursday's great Intuflow and Prasara session. Within an hour after I got up I got struck down by a vicious bug that left me in bed for most of the weekend. I cannot recall having slept that long for years. Anyway, now that I'm back in the land of the living I can finally pick up on my training with my second moderate intensity day of the 4x7 cycle. The plan at the moment is to use the AKC protocol framework on the moderate day but working with heavier weight at lower rep ranges. The high intensity day will be based on lighter bells and faster work or alternatively on classic GS style long sets. Here is what I did today:

Intuflow Intermediate

Press (16kg) / 3 minutes: 15/15
Push Press (24kg) / 3 minutes: 15/15
One arm Jerk (32kg) / 2 minutes: 4/4

One slow round of the Cricket flow.

I struggled today, especially in the second and third set. The bug clearly took it out of me but at least I managed to do something today. Hopefully by tomorrow the after-effects would have worn off a bit more.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

2008/08/07 - Low intensity Intuflow and Prasara

Today I did:

Intuflow Intermediate level
Prasara Cricket Flow x 6

This was my best Prasara session thus far. I took things slowly and held each posture briefly to try and get the form as perfect as I can at the moment. There were a few moments during the practice where I could actually experientially understand what is meant by flow.

The purpose of the low intensity day in the bigger scheme of a 4x7 schedule has a lot to do with compensatory recovery. Since kettlebells are my primary exercise modality the Cricket flow is a natural choice for me. I find that the bells impact a lot on my upper back / shoulders as well as my lower back / hip / hip flexor areas. The Cricket flow is a great hip loosener and also seems to open up and release tension in both the upper and lower back. The next flow which is a natural choice for me due to my exercise schedule is the Vine flow which also opens up the hip flexors nicely. I'm likely to start exploring it soon. Cheers for now!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2008/08/06 - No Intensity day

This was the first no intensity day of my new 4x7 programme. I just did:

Intuflow intermediate level
2 slow rounds of Prasara Cricket flow

I actually really enjoyed this session. It is amazing how my mind works and how it impacts on my training experiences. Not thinking of Intuflow as my warm up and Prasara as a cool down allowed me to really focus on both as unique exercise systems in their own right. I noticed a lot more happening in my body and also found that my form was significantly better than normal due to not rushing. I am even beginning to think along the lines of alternating my 4x7 kettlebell programme (a 28 day cycle) with non kettlebell based 4x7's such as ones based only on mobility work, yoga and body weight conditioning systems such as Forward Pressure and FlowFit. This may or may not happen but for now I'm really just enjoying exploring all the different ways in which I can use my body.

The Prasara Yoga Cricket Flow

Here's a great video from Youtube showing Ryan Hurst performing one of the B series flows from Prasara Yoga - the Cricket Flow. This is the flow I have been working on lately but I can assure you mine looks nothing like this. Definitely something to aspire to.

Scott Sonnon demos Intuflow

I found this great demo of Scott showing some of the Intuflow advanced sequence. This guy can really move and it is well worth watching.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

2008/08/05 - High intensity?

I'm still very much in the process of working out a 4x7 programme that will work for me. From everything I've researched over at the RMAX forums and elsewhere on the web a possible schedule for using the 4x7 with kettlebells would be something like this:

No Intensity day: Joint Mobility (I recommend Intuflow)
Low Intensity day: Compensatory recovery such as yoga
Moderate Intensity: Lower rep kettlebell work with a focus on assistance lifts or strength oriented work.
High Intensity day: Typical GS / metcon type work like timed sets or AKC protocol

My session yesterday within this type of framework can thus easily be seen as a high intensity day because of the endurance focus. At this point in time my thoughts on medium / high intensity days is to either use the non-competition lifts on the medium day and the classic three competitive lifts on the high intensity day. This will still allow me to stick to the AKC protocol. Another alternative would be to do heavier but lower rep work on the medium day (also within an AKC framework) and the classic high rep / lower weight work on the high intensity day. Anyway, enough rambling for today. We'll see where this goes. Here is my session for today:

Intuflow beginner level

16kg / 3 minute sets / 1 minute rest

OAJ: 24/24
Snatch: 24/24
OALC: 15/15

Prasara for 6 rounds.

I enjoyed the session and I'm particularly glad that I finally made the AKC rep range on the long cycle. I can probably start thinking about cutting another 30 seconds off my rest periods within the next week or two.

Monday, August 4, 2008

2008/08/04 - Tweaking and testing

I have become increasingly interested in body-weight training methods over the last few weeks (particularly mobility work and yoga). Due to the emphasis on kettlebell training in my programme I find that I don't have enought time or energy to develop my body weight work to the extent that I would like to. I've thus decided to try and incorporate some ideas from Scott Sonnon's 4x7 programme into my routine. I have not yet decided to what extent I will cut back on kettlebell work. At this stage I know I will train with the bells at least three times per week (maybe even 5 as I have been). What I will however do is follow a 4 day cycle based on 4 different levels of intensity (none, low, moderate and high). My first day on this schedule was today and I decided to start with a moderate day. This is what I did:

Intuflow intermediate level

16kg / 3 minute sets / 1 minute rest between sets

Push Press: 24/24
Snatch: 24/24
Press: 18/18

Swing (24kg): 20/20

3 rounds of the Prasara Cricket Flow.

Friday, August 1, 2008

2008/08/01 - My heavier day

Like last Friday I decided to make today the heavier day of the week. I focused on one arm jerks. This is the session:

Intuflow intermediate level

OAJ: 16kg / 3 minutes: 21/21
OAJ: 24kg / 3 minutes: 15/15
OAJ: 32kg / 2 minutes: 5/5

I took 1 minute rest between the sets.

Swing: 32kg: 15/15

Prasara Yoga Cricket Flow beginner level x3.

I decided to do the intermediate level of Intuflow today as a bit of a break from the usual routine. It felt great and I love the way the sequence builds and expands on the beginner level. The emphasis on double breaths in the flowing movements also feels great and left me feeling buzzing with energy. The 32kg jerks were a smoker but I'm glad I got them done. All in all a great end to my training week (well, I might do some more Intuflow and yoga over the weekend). Enjoy the weekend everyone!