Sunday, 24 June 2012

Lessons from the greats

I remember sitting on my Nonno's lap, only knee high from a grasshopper, looking up at him in awe of his acumen and knowledge, at a man who had survived a war, sailed the seas and faced adversity, thinking to myself, with assurance that one day I too will tell a great story.

We are part of a generation that has been handed a life of ease, where everything is out there for the taking, our forefathers left us with great knowledge and great opportunity, where they have written the books and its up to us to read the writings, to learn from history while creating our own with simplicity.

Yet with all the information available to us, so many still fail to make the effort to learn. Everyday people claim to be impassioned by the work that they do, yet mention a great leader in their field who has accomplished so much for the industry, who has fathered methods and practice, and they have yet to read their books or follow their teachings.

If you want to be great at something, you need to be great at getting there.  As a trainer and a coach my life is encompassed by my passion.  People have often pointed out that I need balance and I need to let go and explore other interests.  I agree with this, yet I feel my time right now is for my development.  I spend hours a day researching top coaches theories, when I think of travel I think of destinations where I can spend time working with men and woman who have devoted their lives to coaching and training.

I have gained the basic "science" required to teach, yet that is just the tip of an iceberg of knowledge.  I strive to surround myself with coaches who have worked with the best, who have paid the price and who still  endeavour to keep learning.   In 2012, it seems that even the grey man in the street with no previous knowledge can spend two days acquiring a skill and practice it like its second nature.  Obama did not become president over night.  Chris Barnard did not just perform the first successful heart transplant.

Muhammad Ali spent countless hours in the ring training to be the best, Edson Pele spent thousands of hours attempting goals,  Nelson Mandela served time behind bars, the greats paid their dues to be the best.  The greats devoted their waking hours to giving their followers the optimum, their foremost, the ultimate of themselves.

I hate average, I hate mediocre, I will not settle for the boilerplate.  I will be unbalanced, devoted and dedicated to ensure that my clientele, my followers and myself get what is owed to them by their coach.

I remember walking down Bond Street in London one night when I came across Roosevelt and Churchill having a chat on a bench, I joined them for a moment.  At the time I was torn between two paths in my life, whether to continue along the road I had mapped out or to venture into the unknown. Just being in their presence, in the company of men who had given our generation so much, even the silence moved mountains within me.

Walking away from our silent conversation on that bench on Bond Street I learnt that, the greats, in whatever form or shape are there to be learnt from, Churchill was a veteran who wasn't afraid to to take on the big shots and Roosevelt said that the only people who ever fail are the ones who never try.  Fail quickly and fail forward to success.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Kettlebells for combat sport

I am certainly no expert when it comes to combat sports, I unsuccessfully spent a few years in a dojo practicing Judo and  dabbled for a couple months in Krav Maga. Turns out I'm not as hardcore as I thought and don't fancy getting my ass handed to me, in fact I was so shocking at both these disciplines that all I got was a bad memory and my body beaten by a bunch of tough chics.

However I do know a little bit about kettlebells and a little bit about simple mechanics.

As someone looking from outside of the cage in, and as someone who spends hours daily under the bells, putting the two practices together can definitely give you more pop for your punch.

Pavel once said that "The kettlebell swing is as close as you can get to fighting without the fight. Swinging a kettlebell helps your sparing as the swing builds explosive power and endurance while simultaneously improving the tense and relax (contract and expand) skills used by highly skilled fighters"

Kettlebell sport and MMA are two terms so loosely thrown around today, everyone is an MMA fighter and every local at every globo gym is painfully throwing around bells as they are the next big answer to strength and conditioning.

Kettlebells don't solve everything, there I said it. Power lifters, fighters, athletes, whatever your calling, you need to practice in your sport and you need to model your training around improving your output in your sport.

The word "sport specific" is the most commonly used catch phrase launched into sentences regarding lifting bells.  As a fighter, doing 100 jerks is doing little for your practice, yes its developing a synergy of strength, but fighters need to mimic their movements.  Integrating kettlebells wisely into your training, keeping your goals in mind is going to help you accomplish so much more.

Incorporating the high pull into your combat training characterizes the pulling and pushing motions promoting explosiveness, also this explosiveness makes it an anaerobic movement.  100 kettlebell jerks at a slow pace is not going to train your body for the short intervals of power required in a fight.

Packing a powerful punch drives energy from the ground up, not just from your arm and fist, the snatch is a total body exercise that generates force from below, fighters tend to live on the edge where efficiency is king,  the snatch bleeds efficiency.

If you cant fight, rest and recover, and fight, rest and recover for short intervals you may as well be lying on the ground masturbating the iron.  The long cycle trains you to contend with tension and recovery, thee most important attributes of fighting.  It builds endurance, leg drive, and total body conditioning, so when that clock ticks in those final moments on the mat, and under-conditioned fighters are exposed, you shine.

There are many tools that make up a good box of tricks for your training but if they are not applied in the right manner you may as well punch yourself in the face and hang up your gloves.

If you are working out in the gym with your douche-bag cage fighter t-shirt on throwing kettlebells around like a ninja with no coach to guide you, well then, that's where you will stay, on the sideline throwing comments to the real fighters.

As I said, I don't know much about fighting, I know a little about the mental fight and I know a little about the kettlebells that can help a fight.  With the right application, right methodology and right attitude in anything, you will come out on top, even if for your own personal fight.

Tuesday, 05 June 2012

The Yard Athletic

If you a resident of Jozi and you not a resident of The Yard Athletic, you should be.  That's it.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit this garage style, training facility in Fourways, Johannesburg. One thing came to mind, old school training meets new world science.

Scott MacIntosh, owner, strength coach, and slave to science welcomed me to his little piece of iron in the heart of the design district.  Scott bleeds raw knowledge, experience, passion and devotion to the world of strength and conditioning. Not only is this evident in his personality and attitude in his approach to his training but its distinct in every facet of this awesome facility.

The Yard leaks backbone, power, resolution and spirit.  You can learn a lot about a facilities trainers through their environment in this respect.  An owner run establishment, where there is the finest attention to detail.  Every corner of The Yard has been well thought out and structured with precision, from the hardcore equipment, classic kettlebells, and astro prowler track to the ladies change rooms, there was a touch of class to every aspect in amongst the street, deep city vibe.

This approach of course fuses into the coach in Scott, where training is not just picking up heavy things and putting them down again.  He dissects every movement, every technique, and every motion and teaches you how to apply these aspects in the safest and most result driven way.

His knowledge of the science of human movement and application to his clients training already sets his personal coaching a cut above the rest, before you have even walked through the doors.  The Yard boasts highly experienced coaches, having Joshua Capazario, Springbok powerlifter on his team of trainers speaks worlds for itself.

This facility is driven by energy and passion.  The urban feel and pimping tunes just makes you want to go out there and give your workout horns.  I truly felt at home.

It's establishments like these, with the approach to training as a culture and not just a workout,  where health and vitality is a way of life and not just an hour of sweat a few times a week, that makes me love my choices and embrace the world of fitness, strength and power.

A huge thank you to the team at The Yard Athletic for welcoming me to your city and your piece of training Eden.

To Scott for the hardstyle training, Josh for tweaking my deadlift weaknesses and Pretty for possibly thee most nutritious Pina Colada on the market.

Wishing you guys all the strength, and success in your venture - it was rocking.

Monday, 04 June 2012

Interview with David Cross

A couple months back, David Cross, owner and strength coach of Evo Fitness in Cape Town graced us with his presence.  We spoke training, strength, conditioning, old school, new school and who is too cool for school.

David is one of the few trainers in our country who believes in the methods that have always worked, the methods that have been tried and tested, with the approach that gets real men and woman out of their comfort zones, their spandex and off their fancy gadgets into serious traditional training that gives solid results.

David and his partner Dewaal opened up a training facility in the heart of Cape Town, that is and cannot be disputed as one of the finest strength addresses in the Cape.

I finally got down to having a one on one with the Cross himself on where it all started and how it all came about.  This is what he had to say:

As a strength coach in today's society, what is your approach at Evo to training that sets  yourselves apart from the pink fluff and the common market?
First off thank you for inviting me into this quick Q&A, nice to know there's an interest in the way Evo does things.

I'll start by saying that Evo isn't a gym, we’re a training facility, that in itself is already a big difference in how we set ourselves apart from the other crap out there. If you want to chat and grab a smoothie go to Virgin UnActive or Planet FATness, if you want honesty and no nonsense results get your ass to Evo.

For us there is no cookie cutter one size fits all approach  - we look at every client as an individual with differing needs, goals and lifestyle. Each of those aspects will have an influence on how they train and ultimately the results we can help them achieve. Having said that, the basics still apply no matter what their goals! With the exception of injuries and mobility issues, all clients work on the basic lifts as the prime components of their workout. Squats, deadlifts, military press, chin ups and bench press. These are the gold standard exercises, most bang for your buck and I can't understand any system that doesn't have these at the heart of it.

If you had the opportunity to dissect one of the worlds top strength coaches, who would you like on your operating table and why would you choose them over the many great coaches out there?
Jeez, just one?! There's a bunch of coaches out there who I have respect for, a small handful though who I would like to work with, but someone who has been round the block so many times and is still at the top of the game is Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell. This guy is one of the most honest, no bullshit, say it as it is coaches there has ever been. He has developed so many strong athletes over the years that there can't be any disputing his pedigree. He has helped pioneer so many methods and programs for getting people explosively strong, that you could spend everyday with him for a year and still not come close to learning all his secrets. People talk about how they've trained "blood, sweat and tears" - most haven't even had their first wet dream in comparison.

You were not always a man of strength and fitness, and spent many years in the corporate world.  What drove you to turn a passion into a successful business and what was the most defining moment for you?
That's being polite, I was a fat bastard hahahaha. After I lost all the weight and started my venture into Personal Training, I soon realised that I was going to come up against the same problems I faced in the corporate world. I wasn't my own boss. Yes, I was a franchised trainer, so technically I was my own boss, but I still had to abide by the rules of the gym, the shitty policies they had and deal with all the shit that came with it. I needed to be my own boss. I needed to do things the way I wanted, without compromising, without having to ask permission. I wanted to start something where people come because of the way I do things, because they are ready and want to finally get the results they've paid for.

As for a defining moment, it was probably sitting there at 6am on 2nd August 2010; opening day of Evo Fitness, and we had zero clients! I knew we were the best you could get in Cape Town, the problem was that nobody else did. It was at this point I realised my passion for this industry was not enough to bring the money in, I couldn't rely on my own self belief. This was going to be a hard slog and I needed to make everything I did count.

Nearly 2 years later and we are better than we've ever been, we're still the best Cape Town has to offer and we haven't once compromised on our principles, what we believe in, or sold out to gimmicks and fads just to fit the "mold". We still have a long hard slog to go, and that is the reality. As soon as you hit cruise control or start to slack, the shit will come down and you'll just be average. Average is shit. I don't have time for average, I don't ever want Evo to be average - it's that fear that will continue to drive Evo to new heights and achieve great things.

If you could give one bit of sound advice to the aspiring coaches out there in South Africa, what would be the most valuable bit of information you would pass on?
Stop being a pussy! I look back to when I first started out and although well meaning and passionate, I was a pussy. Doing stupid shit, no programming, no measurements, no monitored progression, no clue! I get mad when students come through the doors of Evo and have no clue whatsoever, it brings back memories of how shit I was. I had to learn the hard way, wasted a lot of time and money on a lot of shit. Get yourself an internship at a decent training facility, be it here in South Africa, UK, America - anywhere. You will learn more in your time there, than you will ever learn from some piss poor lecturer who can't even squat properly in a classroom.

Don't just think you can walk into an internship though, personal trainers are qualifying quicker than a virgin losing his load for the first time. Prepare, learn about the company, what they believe in, how they train, what sets them apart from the rest, why should they even consider you! Motivate your case, because rest assured if they're a decent facility, they'll already have a lot of people wanting the same thing as you.
Also - do not expect to be paid, if anything offer to pay them! You just paid for your shitty certificate that taught you how to squat terribly, but you aren't prepared to pay for the most valuable information out there, real world experience in the trenches! Stop being a pussy!

You are working on achieving people's personal goals on a daily basis, what is your ultimate strength goal?
I want to deadlift the world for reps!  hahahhaha sorry in house joke!  Strength is a funny thing, it can be defined in so many different forms.  I'm about to be a Dad on the 20th June, and I want to be as strong as I can for my daughter, wife and family in all facets of their lives.  This change in my life will undoubtedly have an impact on the way I view things, what my physical strength goals are and essentially what they mean to me.  Its a lifetime journey for me, and with the changes I want to remain healthy and strong.
Having said all that though, the gym head in me says 3 x bodyweight deadlift, 2 x bodyweight bench press, 1.5 times bodyweight military press and 2.5 x bodyweight squat.
Cheers Lil for the questions, ready to kick some more ass now.

Thanks David for the little insight into your piece of the strength world and wishing you and your wife all the best with the little one, and of course with those strength feats.