Been meaning to compile some of these for a while. A number of regular readers of this site send really good questions via email and they are usually things that others will want to know too. This is just barely scratching the surface, but here we go!
Q: Is it better to do push ups from kettlebell handles or should I just do regular ones?
A: I wouldn’t say “better” just different. Obviously the grip is different — and the slight raising of the upper body above the feet will make the push ups slightly “easier” in some regards as compared to doing them from the floor. However that same height difference allows for the possibility of a larger range of motion, which can present its own set of challenges.
Personally I think it’s good to practice both from time to time, and to evaluate how the differences listed above may or may not help you accomplish a particular goal. As a side note, people who are uncomfortable with their hands flat on the ground for push ups might find this variation to be a lot more comfortable. In the “advanced” corner, if you can use large enough kettlebells (they must be large ones, or the flat base is too small and becomes a safety issue) then you can do the infamous “Manmaker” or “plank row” combo: Row right, push up, row left, push up… repeat. Grip HARD.
Q: I am having problems with the hip hinge movement for my kettlebell swing. It’s just unlike anything else I’ve done in the gym. How can I practice it, and why does everyone tell me to “get a dowel?” What is a dowel?!? I still overuse my arms and have a tough time hitting a good position at the bottom of the swing with the kettlebell. I tend to squat rather than swing the through my legs if that makes sense.
A: First off, so that there’s no more confusion, a dowel is basically a straight wooden stick or pole. Think broomstick without a broom, or for martial arts people, it’s similar to a basic jō staff. For our purposes one that’s about 4-5 feet long will be more than adequate.
(For those of you who have been there, do you remember the hip hinge drill (with the dowel) from your RKC or HKC workshop? Your homework is to check that out in the manual, and practice it. ) The basic drill is to put the down down your back, making sure to keep it in contact with the back of your head (ladies and long-haired gents, watch those ponytails), the upper back, and the tailbone. Maintain those 3 points of contact while sitting back with your hips. Be sure the movement is primarily hip-based and the knees are not dropping into a squat. We want to just push back (crass but very effective cue: stick your butt out) almost into a “tennis ready” type position. If you think about it, this is actually the “ready” position in many sports or in a general athletic context. There’s a reason, you can generate a lot of power from here… depending on where you plan to go next.
This drill will not work if you rush through it, or are not mindful of those three points of contact. The first time you do it, most likely it will either pop up off of your tailbone, or you will lose the upper back connection entirely. Keep the back of your head in contact with the stick to re-learn a neutral position for your head. Your posture will thank you. Good posture is rare these days, so learn or maintain it and “wear” it with pride. I do, and people promptly seem to forget that I’m 5’3.5″ (yes the half inch does matter).
Something I encourage people who are learning the kettlebell swing to do is to practice the hip hinge with the dowel, then immediately practice their kettlebell deadlift. We groove the pattern and associate the movements that way. It’s a good way to put it all into context before we move to the surprisingly complex dynamic and life-changing movement known as the kettlebell swing. Likewise, if you feel like your swings are “a little off” it’s good to review the movement and erradicate a bad habit that might have sneaked in with a combo like the following:
- 5 hip hinges
- 5 deadlifts
- 5 hip hinge
- 5 swings
Get that pattern grooved. go for quality, not speed…. as many rounds as you feel like, but remember no one will be impressed with a “hip hinge world record attempt” be smart.
A slightly different small description of the hip hinge drill:
Line up the dowel on your back, and keep it in contact with the back of your head, your upper back, and your sacrum (tailbone) as you “sit back.” be sure your upper back, doesn’t pop away from the dowel, and/or the dowel does not pop off of your tailbone. If you squat too much, it will. Keep your knees bendable, but do not just squat down.
Q: Do you have any tips on using the Neuro-Grips? I can’t even do ONE, which I find very surprising– I have some shoulder injuries, but I’m a MAN! I thought I’d at least be able to do ONE pushup with them!
A: They’re REALLY strange–as you already know. One of the guys in our small group class has some long-standing martial-arts related shoulder issues and injuries. For his situation, holding a straight arm plank with them while being mindful of actively engaging and supporting his shoulders is very challenging for him. And he’s a tough, strong guy.
Check with your doctor to make sure your shoulder is healed up and safe before trying them again–it’s not worth injuring yourself over.
The Neuro-Grips take a LOT of shoulder stability and abdominal engagement as well. I’ve been havig fun coming up with a whole series of progressions with them and will be posting a video soon. Long story short: Practice straight arm planks with wide feet (for balance) if that’s easy, bring your feet together. Next try some very strict knee push ups with the Neuro-Grips before moving on to a full push up with wide feet for stability, then feet together. We’ve had guys do some impressive things at recent PCC workshops – 1 arm push-ups for REPS on a Neuro-Grip… INSANE!!!
Here’s a fun but advanced Neuro-Grip variation from new PCC Instructor, Jeanne Le Bailly of Calisthenfit.com in Dublin Ireland. (It helps if you have small hands) take ahold of a single Neuro-Grip and keeping the elbows in tight, perform a close-grip push up! OOOF!!!!! A SLIGHTLY easier way is to have your feet farther apart. For reasons of vanity, I had to teach myself to do it with feet together:
Q: What do you think of sandbag training?
A: Sandbags are TON of fun — and not just saying that because I’m in the new DVRT book, I went to the DVRT 1+2 workshops with Josh Henkin a little bit ago and it’s really great stuff to “fill in the gaps.” Warning: you will feel a little uncoordinated at first — I sure did!! As Josh wrote in a recent article, they will add rotational and anti-rotational challenges to your training as well as delightfully weird offset training opportunities, freakish grip variations, and wobbly challenges to work against. Can get very fun and game-like quickly. Oh and you’re going to definitely eat a big dinner afterwards… sandbag training volume will sneak up on you!!!
Q: I have used convict conditioning training for the last few years along with Al Kavadlo’s books. I was quite impressed when I saw the picture of you at a PCC Workshop holding a human flag. I can do a clutch flag but have been unable to get the ball rolling on the harder version. I would appreciate any advice you may offer–pre-requisites, etc.
A: Thanks — still very much working on that move to hold it for longer and longer. I was lucky that Dennis happened to be in the right place during that in 1-2 second hold of the press flag and that he caught it so well on camera.
Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of lead-up drills that I really like in Convict Conditioning Vol 2.
I’ll describe the first couple from memory, because no matter where you are in the flag they are still useful.
Find a pull up bar that also has a solid horizontal support (this might be just the sides, or in my case at home, the sides of the end of the hallway. Grab the pull up bar in the middle, then with your other hand “the bottom hand” push against that solid side. You’re going to want to really make sure your body stays in a straight line, imagine being a flat, straight plank and just push yourself as one piece straight out to the side like this:
Most people make quick progress with that hold, and to make it more and more difficult move your hands “closer together” for instance you’ll start with the hand on the overhead bar in the middle of the bar, the more advanced progression will be to move that hand closer and closer towards the horizontal upright that you’re using to push off of with the other hand.
Even though I’ve moved past that progression, I use it as a sort of “warm up drill” to get my mind right. The flag is very very mental, and you have probably already figured that out by now, but short sets, lots of rest and not overdoing it are key. Also, keep with your clutch flags for time. Just being able to approach the beginning of the press flag progressions with a good solid 30-45 second clutch flag hold will seriously help you out.
The next biggest hurdle (in my case at least) was learning the weird grip needed to do the press flag from a pole. This oddly enough just takes time to figure out where you “fit” into it. Starting from the suggestions in CC Vol2, slightly vary the distance that your hands are apart. Pay close attention to where your fingers of each hand are pointing, and practice getting your body squared up. I took a lot of time with this process and as soon as things started to “feel right” began to just slightly pick my toes up off the ground. Over time the toes get further and further from the ground as you get used to this very weird and very leverage-disadvantaged position!
It’s taken me a good year, year and a half to get as far as I am now…. it’s a struggle for sure, don’t be fooled when you see guys make this look easy, chances are what looks “easy” has taken years and years of practice. Make sure to keep those shoulders healthy and safe too.
Q: What is Youngevity? What does it have to do with Beyond Organic? Why are they sending me emails?!
A: Those of you who are/were into Beyond Organic (and are hopefully part of my team) but are confused by the Youngevity (or wondering why you are getting emails from some weird thing called “Youngevity” or “90 for life”) merge… don’t worry, I’m sorting it out over here and will be making a blog post and FAQ to explain in plain, quick terms the “new deal”. I will also be transitioning that part of GiryaGirl.com to best reflect and clarify the changes too.
The good news is, it’s ALL GOOD NEWS.
First order of business: that ever-addictive Amasai grass fed raw milk product is still available, and will continue to be available, along with a bunch of other (over 400?!?!!??!) new products since the Youngevity merge.
In addition to the Amasai I’ll personally be ordering this month I will also be trying a number of the new products that appeal to me (and hopefully to you as well) and that fit the nutritional profile/lifestyle of GiryaGirl.com. In the mean time, if you want to check out what’s going on with the new available products (and don’t freak out, some are a little strange…) then visit https://giryagirl.youngevity.com or https://giryagirl.my90forlife.com If you are currently on my Beyond Organic team and want to talk about how to best make this transition and what your options are (without having to listen to any recorded conf calls, let’s set up a time to chat next week–message me, or go ahead and email).
The short answer is, the options are GREAT and I’m cautiously kind of very stoked about it. Local people, I will be dusting off the “tasting dishes” and considering a time/place for a party. I’m also putting together a nice little “prize pack” reflecting some of the new product ranges for someone to win… I just need to figure out what I want you guys to do to earn your chance at winning!!! 🙂
I’m working on figuring out the best way to tell you about the new strategies I will be employing with this product line, and have tons of ideas for you–to build a business from scratch or how to really enhance your existing gym/studio offerings with these new products that I think people will really love. (I have some weird ideas* that just might be game changers… maybe you want to help test that out.) Just about guaranteed no one else has thought of some of this yet….. 🙂 🙂
Convinced already? Join my Youngevity team by clicking here. And/or let’s figure out a time to talk shop very soon.