Book Review: The Kettlebell RX

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Crossfit, Slider | Comments Off

When my copy of Jeff Martone’s Kettlebell RX came in the mail, my roommate gave me a quizzical look. Why would I spend more of my money on a kettlebell book. I’ve already dropped a good penny on books and courses on kettlebells already.

 

Its easy to get complacent or to rest on your laurels once you get enough letters behind your names or enough diplomas saying you’re a ninja at swinging a cannonball with a handle.

 

I first met Coach Martone in Fayetteville, NC at the Crossfit Kettlebell Trainer’s Course. I had already been Crossfitting and aware of kettlebells for a while. However, we didn’t have them in Baghdad and the only gym on Fort Bragg that had them only had half pood kettlebells. If I remember correctly, they were coated in purple plastic. I’m sure they also came in a cardboard box and had a picture of a lady posing next to a Bosu ball.

 

Since I really started getting into Crossfit while I was in Iraq, I really did not have access to coaching or to all of the right equipment. So I learned the Olympic lifts with metal plates, I tried to learn how to swing with dumbbells, and I learned how to double under with barb wire (that last one may or may not have actually happened).

 

My plan when I got back was to sign up for every Crossfit course that came within driving distance of Fort Bragg. It was less than a month after I got my Level I when Coach’s course came through.

 

Considering the fact that I’ve since gone on to get my HKC, RKC, and attended the Tactical Athlete Course and I now put on kettlebell workshops at Crossfit gyms you can imagine the influence that that weekend had on me.

 

When I first saw the announcement for the book, I became pretty excited. First of all, the cover is hilarious. Its even funnier if you think about the conversation about the design and the influence of Jeff’s sense of humor on it.

 

The book is separated into three parts. The first part is the longest and focuses on kettlebells for Crossfitters, the next section on rotational power and hand speed, and the final section is on the sport of Kettlebell lifting.

 

I still have my original manual from the Crossfit kettlebell course as well as the manuals from every other course that I’ve done. I’ve had the basics of the swing, the clean, the snatch, and the get up presented to me in many, many different ways.

 

I can honestly say that this the Kettlebell RX has the easiest to understand explanations of the basic kettlebell movements as well as a quick and easy to use set of fixes and cues for the most common form errors that you see.

 

There is no substitute for coaching with a competent master of the techniques, but this book does about as much as a book could do.

The test I always use for a product like this is the “Iraq Test”. I like to think how much better off would I be right now if I had this book when I was down range. A lot of coaches use a similar “High School Test” to accomplish the same thing.

 

I think that having this book (and access to kettlebells) would have been as much of a difference maker as when Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength” came in the mail. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is the kettlebell equivalent of Starting Strength.

 

Since I do consider myself to be pretty keen on the kettlebell movements, I will say that there are differences in the techniques shown in the book and how I teach them, how the RKC teaches them, and how I’m sure other organizations prefer to teach them. Specifically with the snatch and the get up.

 

However, these differences are what makes the book strong. A coach should know multiple ways to accomplish a movement, have a plethora of cues in his coaching kit bag, and be able to articulate the benefits and drawbacks of one over the other.

 

Which brings me to the section of the book that I enjoyed the most. The American Swing is one of the most controversial movements to ever come out of Crossfit. Regardless of if you love it or hate it, it is a valid and tested movement in the sport of fitness.

 

Coach Martone is the really the first person to publish an explanation of why the two-handed swing and bottoms up press that you see athletes doing at Crossfit competitions is an inefficient means of accomplishing the task at hand.

 

On game day, I don’t really care about anything other than winning. Reinforcing and explaining why proper technique equals greater efficiency and faster times is the first step to eliminating this movement. Better times come from more efficient movement and more efficient movement comes from proper motor patterns and muscle recruitment.

 

The rotational power chapter was great. It brought me back to the Tactical Athlete Certification. Rotational swings and kettlebell juggling are more than just parlor tricks and ways to impress a crowd before a workshop.

 

They are one of the few easily quantifiable ways to train from rotational movements and unilaterally while still keeping to the Crossfit format. There are many effective ways to train rotational strength and hand speed, but very few ways to do them under the metabolic demands that mirror those experiences in sport and combat.

 

The SHOT (Super High Output Training) is a great program to develop these. It is also a pretty easy and logical step for Crossfitters to slightly modify a WOD to include one of these elements and eliminate a gap in their training.

 

After reading the last chapter all I want to do is find a kettlebell competition and try my hand at it.

I would recommend this book to anyone from beginner to expert. Its a great as a quick reference guide and a learners manual as well. This product is amazingly well put together, with great pictures, easy to understand stories and analogies, and simple to understand, implement, and practice cues and progressions.

 

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Goals and Sacrifices

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Crossfit, Nutrition, Rant | Comments Off

I am probably the most stubborn person on the interwebs. I am literally too dumb to quit most things. I am also incredibly proficient at ignoring my own advice. I will literally choose do to the dumbest thing I can think of, figure out the hard way that it was mistake, and just keep grinding my dick into the dirt until I see where I wind up.

I will spend hours in the nerdatorium reading the writings of smart folks that I look up to like Dan John, Robb Wolf, and Dallas Hartwig. The common trend is goal setting. Not in a self help book kind of way where you choose a method to achieve something. I really could give a shit about a system to get what you want.

The answer is pretty simple, choose a task and work your ass off, seek help where you need it, and make sacrifices around it. Its pretty simple.

I’ve had plenty of set back in my life. My high school guidance counselor told me not to apply to West Point because I was too stupid, I was so dyslexic as a kid that they suggested I go to a special education school, I failed patrols in Florida phase of Ranger school, and I couldn’t finish a marathon with no training.

However, with the exception of the fact that I didn’t realize that the “R” on the Toy’s “R” Us sign was backwards until I was in my twenties, I did what all of those dickbags told me I couldn’t do.

So where am I going with this?

In each of those examples I had one singular and very easily definable goal. Get into West Point, get my Ranger Tab, I finished the race. Yea, I didn’t win at any of those things. I did make the goal.

So when I see people in the gym and ask them why they’re there and they give me a laundry list of goals it sort of puts me back. It’s common for people to tell me that they want to do about fifteen different performance and aesthetics oriented goals while their in the middle of a job, planning a wedding, doing a detox diet, and caring for a sick and dying cat.

As soon as I start giving them my best “Matt Foley Motivational” speaker and trying to get their lives back on the right track, they’re pretty quick to point out that I work 27 hour shifts, compete somewhat successfully at adult recreational competitive exercise, coach pretty much full time at the gym, blog, study for the GMAT, and a slew of other thing.

Yep, I’m living in a van down by the river.

Despite all of my good advice and despite the fact that I’ve been scolded by Dallas on twitter, I’m continuing down this winding path.

The quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line. My path right now looks like a “Family Circus” cartoon.
While I am wildly disregarding the proven method of choosing something and going for it whole hog, I am sticking pretty hard to the other three points.

The first two are pretty easy.

When its time to hit a workout, go at it hard. When you study, turn the Simpson’s off. When I’m at work I work.

I’m not unique in this regard. I’m not particularly well gifted mentally, physically, or vertically.

Where I make my money and where most other people will fail is when it comes time for the sacrifices.

No matter what you are trying to do, you need to sleep more. Set a drop dead time every night and go to bed. If you are coming off of shift work, set a no earlier than wake up time. This is the hardest thing from me. I’ll go to bed for a nap when I get back from a walk and sleep two or three hours and feel ready to go. Force yourself into bed, take some natural calm, have your roommate hit you with a hammer, whatever you need to do.

The next is diet. The more things you have on your plate the less tolerance you’ll have for extrinsic stressors from things like lectins, anti-nutrients, xenoestrogens and their ilk.

I know as well as anyone else that need for comfort food, something sweat or something from your childhood, when you’re at your most beat down. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come back from a walk to see pizza in the headquarters and have a near nervous breakdown keeping myself from eating it.

Next comes life stressors. As much as I like animals, if I had a dog take a crap on my carpet it might be the straw that breaks the camels back between happy Matt, asshole Matt, and building my own bomb in the garage Matt.

Its hard to separate yourself from the drama in your life. It means ignoring all of the drama inherent to any group of people. Which is hard, because we all know there is nothing more fun and exciting than work and gym drama.

Next comes personal life. Yea, get rid of that. First, you can’t have alcohol because its an additional stressor on the system that will cock block the mental and physical gains you’re trying to make. Also, you don’t have time to sit and watch TV let alone go out on a Friday night. That’s not so much of a problem since I work on Saturdays.

TV used to be a central part of my life. I can still sing the theme song from “Hey Dude” and “Salute Your Shorts” by memory. Like everyone else who’s ever deployed I watched about fifteen series from start to finish while I was in Iraq. Nowadays, TV is the background noise that I get as a reward when I cook.
So if you are like me and are trying to accomplish multiple things at one time, just realize that you will have no choice but to cut pretty much everything else out of your life.

Some people can handle it, but like they said in the Shining “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

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Sausage, Egg, and Onion Scramble

Posted by on Apr 22, 2012 in Featured Recipe, Nutrition | Comments Off

 

I’ve made this or a form of this recipe about 10,000 times and have probably posted about it a few times too.

Its so simple and easy and quick and delicious that it’s impossible to take out of the rotation.

What makes this unique is that I made it without having even so much as a knife to my name.

I had to hand peal and “slice” the onions.

I added them to a pan (my cast iron skillet) with about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil on high heat. Once they were pretty much caramelized I added the broken up chunks of sausage. Once all of the sausages were browned I added two eggs. Cooked until complete and consumed.

Less than ten minutes to make and did it all literally by hand (plus one wooden spoon).

No excuses not to eat a good breakfast.

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Seared Crevalle Jack

Posted by on Apr 21, 2012 in Featured Recipe, Slider | Comments Off

 

One of the fishes I bought from Sexton’s was something I had neither eaten or heard of before. Crevalle Jack seemed to be the poor man’s amberjack. I assume this is true because I heard three or four people ask for amberjack only to be told it was sold out and than pass up the opportunity for the Crevalle Jack.

It was cheap and I’m always down to try something new so I bought a decent sized piece and decided to make a meal out of it.

 

This was lunch the day after my failed Grouper attempt, so I was pretty much done with trying to be fancy for a while.

 

I simply seared it and seasoned it with coconut oil.

 

It cooked pretty quickly. I think two minutes a side at most, but that will vary depending on the size of your filet.

 

Upon first bite I was like “man this is good”. About half way through that thought I was overwhelmed by how fishy it tasted.

So that answered the question of why no one was jumping out of their shoes to buy it. I personally don’t mind when my fish tastes like fish. It was a great lunch fish, but I don’t know that I would make a main meal out of it.

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First Impressions of the Regionals WODs

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in Crossfit | Comments Off

I’m speaking tonight to the Columbus Road runners on Crossfit Endurance, so come check thatout.

Regionals WODs were announced last night. If you thought that waiting for the Open WODs to come out was nerve racking, then multiply that by fifty and you have the waiting for Regionals feelings.

My first impression was “Holy Shit”

Second Impression was “Are they fucking serious”

The weights are pretty heavy, the volume is really high, there skills are pretty challenging, and I’m sure the movement standards are going to be a lot stricter than we’ve yet to understand.

Overall I’m getting pretty excited about all of this. These are going to be some of the most hard fought WODs that we’ve seen so far in Crossfit.

I’m pretty sure that I personally know all of the individuals who are going to the Games. My favorite part of Crossfit competitions is that I know the people who are competing  and I understand how difficult everything they are doing is.

I can’t wait to see how everything plays out.

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