Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Bank on hormones: Jason Lezak

I am one of those people who loses my breath when I get over excited.  As a sports fanatic, whether it be football, athletics, or curling, watching the final moments of a battle can be a life or death situation.  Ussain Bolt's 100m world record left me hyperventilating.  Jason Lezak's historic split literally had me blue in the face.

To put you on my page, you need to go back to the Beijing Olympics of '08 - men's 4 x 100m freestyle relay.

Possibly thee most exciting chlorinated race of all time, in my opinion anyway!

Jason Lezak, an American Olympic swimmer, all though a well regarded figure amongst the HTH henchmen, this single feat propelled him right into the sporting hall of fame. Lezak is no doubt an elite swimmer, who has no personal coach and in '08 he was the oldest man on the US swim team.

He rose from behind in the final 25m of the 400m freestyle relay event, being led by world record holders France, who were convinced and had already claimed bragging rights to the Gold medal prior to the start of the race.  Lezak tailed Alain Bernard by a full bodies length advantage, yet split a 46 flat in the final moments, making it the fastest 100m freestyle split in the history of the sport.

I've attached this clip so you can really understand the sheer exuberance of the race:

I have watched this video over and over, I have downloaded several versions of the race to allow me to dissect every stroke.  Lezak smashing a historic split in the time that he did is phenomenal, it is almost as if someone hooked him and dragged him like a tuna on steroids through the final meters of the pool.

Getting behind the physical swim I saw that Lezak gets into the water at 2.38, to a first time viewer his stroke looks pretty similar to his french opponent.  His first turn is at 21.50 next to Bernard's 21.27, he is trailing behind like a dead fish, yet in the final 25m he runs down Bernard like he has been fuel injected.

Analyzing Lezak, I learnt that he is a full inch shorter than Bernard. His swim form displays a change in the last 50m, his left arm delays longer than the right which causes an interference with his breathing, therefore he is taking in less oxygen, which just poses more questions.

The lack of oxygen  effects the maximising on the purchase of the water and looking at Bernard, his efficient strokes vent smaller bursts and Lezak is literally launching his torso further out the water, requiring more energy, so physically how did he propel forward at such a pace?

I just cant get my head around it, the change of form, the interfered breathing, the energy required to plummet his body further out of the water, yet he rockets a full 9 inches forward in a matter of seconds to win the race!

I can only put it down to chemical synthesis.  Epinephrine or adrenaline as we know it, caused this incredible feat.  When the body surges adrenaline there is an increase of energy sent to the muscles, which boosts their ability to react.  Adrenaline finds its way to the heart which immediately boosts its rate and strength which increases the respiratory exchange.  More oxygen equals better performance.

Lezak is the human equivalent of a formula 1 car with fuel injection.  The science behind this victory is mind boggling.

Simply amazing feat of strength and power!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Elite Fitness

I am an aspiring superhero.  The desire for being a ninja means that it is my duty to master all trades.  I owe that to humanity.

In my inquiry for these required skills and knowledge, I have come across all kinds of fitness training methods.  The one that got my attention in particular, solicits different methodologies and combines them into one giant heap of confusion.

I believe in cross training as it improves your fitness, enhances your efficiency, increases power, and the list goes on.  However it is all determined by how your methods are combined.  The illogical programming of taking several different exercises and combining them together into three day long battles and calling it cross training is not quite the science one would have in mind.

Yes, it may keep people excited about their workouts but that's like bringing a clown to make balloon animals to a thirtieth birthday party.  Utterly pointless.

These training organizations that are integrating Olympic lifts at maximum aerobic capacities and blending them with high intensity kettlebell snatches and overhead swings (might I add, that these overhead swings can cause impingement of the shoulders, and virtually wipes out the entire point of the lateral force a swing is supposed to generate) are making a mockery out of some serious specialisations.

To add fuel to the fire, the trainer certifications require no basic knowledge of anatomy or biochemistry, so the coaches running the show have attended short courses on how to master an Olympic lift that would take a normal strength coach years to perfect.  Concerning? a little.

The lack of quality control is what gets my goat the most.  Watching recent competitions televised locally had me on the edge of my seat, not from the sheer excitement of the event but because it was nauseating and I may have needed a quick escape to ruminate.

How does one possibly screw up an exercise such as the pull up? This must be the easiest move technique wise to get ones head around.  All it involves is pulling ones self up from a static position, over a bar.  However some organizations have added the infamous 'kip' to a pull up, so much so, that its almost as if, if it wasn't included it wouldn't be right.  Kipping makes pull ups child's play.  Since when does momentum build muscles? I was always under the impression that controlled movements built muscles.

Another great exercise included in the workout battle, is the power clean, except in this circumstance it is completed at high repetition.  What is the purpose of a power clean?  Is it to get you into better aerobic shape or is it to build explosive power from the ground up?  High repetition power cleans cause injury.  That's my only explanation.

So, in closing, my findings are in focus.  Finding one specialization and mastering it, is the answer.  Once I have mastered my first specialization only then will I move forward.  Or I will find myself on a list of statistics.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Get a grip

I used to be absolutely shocking at kettlebell snatches, a few months ago I'd hang from a bar like a dead fish, and doing one rep of a deadlift (correctly) was something I always struggled with.  Training for hours every week made me physically strong and fit, no doubt, but I just wasn't performing as optimally as I knew I could.

Doing high repetition drills were nightmarish, I felt like I had the physical strength, but my hands just couldn't keep up with the pace. The same goes for my pull up power, I could pull off one rep of a chin up, on a narrow bar while kipping, but the chance of me completing a strict wide hand pull up on a 2" bar was as believable as Bill Clinton's statements surrounding Monica Lewinsky.

It just made me realize that there really is no such thing as a person with weak hands and a strong body, it just does not work that way.

The sad reality of the situation is that very few people actually work on this area of strength, and we can only put that down to ignorance.  If you are going to attack the gym day after day with no guidance from a professional, its an area you are going to think very little about.  Improving your grip strength has a positive correlation on your over all strength.

Try flipping a tire or grabbing a sandbag and actually pressing it, running with it, rowing it, or throwing it.  If you cant hold the damn thing, how are you going to move it? Weak hands are going to effect your potential in so many areas.  Weak hands, wrists and fingers are only going to limit your potential.

Improving this strength is not only for enhancing your lifting potential but is essential for combat athletes too.  Weak hands are disastrous for performance in battle, your hands are what generates and transfers your strength throughout your body.  Weak hands produce very little force and strong hands do damage.  Weak hands equal weak fighters.

A strong grip improves your dexterity, enables you to lift heavier, builds endurance in your hands and builds injury resilience.  Then again its also not what you do, but how you do it.  There are so many gadgets on the market today for improving your grip strength, but if you don't want to get your ass handed to you its going to take a lot more than some mechanism to enable you to bend horse shoes.

When using kettlebells probably one of the best things you could do is juggling, and anything that involves bottoms up moves and pinch gripping, otherwise incorporate bar hangs, rope work, rope pull ups, wrist rolling (I was recently introduced to this, and it has already done wonders for me) otherwise if you with a trained professional work on levering and plate pinching.

I still have much to learn about grip strength, but with the little work I have done improving this area I can already feel the vast difference and have already broken more personal records having incorporated it into my training.

So come to grips with your weaknesses and get a grip on your strengths.

Monday, 05 December 2011

Mitchell Strength

A few months ago I was contacted by Terence Mitchell of Mitchell Strength in Ballito.  
I was extended an invite to experience a taste of what this strength and performance training facility had to offer.

I was completely magnetized by every aspect of this garage style gym. In its pure simplicity, Mitchell Strength empowers everything that is truly functional.  Nothing is out of reach and there are no limits to what your body is capable of achieving under Terence's watchful eye.  There are no gadgets, fancy mechanisms and empty promises, there are only true methodologies, old school philosophies and serious strength tools.

Mitchell Strength is a playground for relentless lifters, who are real about training, from dipping bars to pull up bars to kettlebells, battling ropes and the infamous T-Rex prowlers.  This gym is not about fancy cardio machines and looking pretty in spandex, its about hard work, dedication and training methods that work. 

Woman want those bikini bodies and men want that elemental strength, this gym undertakes your deepest physical desires and turns them into your realities.  Women and men are often misconceived about how to achieve their goals, and turn a blind eye to the style of training offered here, they couldn't be more wrong.  Mitchell Strength awakens your senses and seduces your inner beast.  In the three months I have trained at this gym, I have collectively gained 3kg of raw muscle, I've set personal records I never dreamed possible, and I have learned to OWN the pull up bar, something most woman are afraid of.  

Terence encompasses functional training, his styles are practical and his results are evident. Nothing is outside his limits, nothing is unattainable or abstract.  Everything is within his reach and his passion for people truly makes his gym, a special place to train.

Mitchell Strength Ballito is universal, its alive with energy and churns out beautiful bodies and powerful muscles like a real gym should.  

Thursday, 01 December 2011

Durban's Poison

I am a gypsy.  I have lived in fourteen different cities around the world, five of which have been in South Africa alone.  Two years ago I found myself moving to Durban, and have not looked back since.  This has got to be one of thee most prismatic, diverse, and captivating cities of them all.

As I am up at dawn, grabbing life by the bells, I am constantly surrounded by some of Durban's finest poison.  These addicts are unlike the common habitue, they don't have excuses for anything.  These guys are getting high no matter what the circumstance. From the honest cyclist, runner and athlete, to the soul surfer, the paddlers, the rugby boys and the serious lifters.  These guys are out their searching for their natural high, pursuing their passion, chasing that perfect wave, beating the odds, and smashing their limitations.

As well as these Durbanites, there also comes the infamous weekend warriors, MMA wannabees and gym junkies filtering through the atmosphere.  This special lot are just as feisty by week day.  Smashing the machines, chugging down the top of the range supplements, trawling the local gyms for a taste of the exercise high and smashing back cold beers by night.

Regardless of whether the locals are serious about sport or serious about having six packs to flash the beach babes on the weekends.  Durbanites are passionate about being active.
Whether thier goal is to complete the comrades, win the Mr Price Pro, bring home the World Cup Rugby trophy or simply to look amazing in a gym vest while you cruise the beachfront with your hat backwards, each one of these ninjas need a sound gpp program (general physical practice) to make them better, faster, stronger, harder and fitter!

Combining the conditioning from kettlebells with the strength work from calisthenics into their daily routines will blast their fitness levels straight into Superman's underpants.

Whilst kettlebells develop your posterior chain, building solid cores, improved athleticism and strength endurance, bodyweight training gives you reaction power, improved co-ordination, balance, synergy and raw strength, making you more efficient, effective and functional on the field, in the water and on the beach front.

We are proudly Durbanites, we are proudly active and we are damn right colourful. Getting out there and involved in real training the real way, forgetting the tug toners, bosu balls, pec-decs and treadmills and getting a taste of ballistic training with kettlebells and old school strength training will give you that edge above the rest.

Practical methods of training will improve your sport, your life and your functionality no matter what drives you.  No matter what drives Durban.