July 29, 2010

Overhead lifting is the ultimate test of full-body strength.

Overhead lifting is the ultimate test of full-body strength.

Since before the first Olympics, lifting heavy objects overhead has been the ultimate test of strength.
Every part of the human body is placed under load while lifting a heavy object overhead, such as during a dumbell or kettlebell military press.
Forget the bench press. The bench press is an artificial, gym creation. Lifting something heavy from the ground overhead is not.

Seated or machine presses are not the same.

What about “military presses” on a Smith rack or other machine? Isn’t that the same thing? They smoke they shoulders, and you get a great burn in your deltoids and triceps.
No. Machine presses are not even the same thing.
Anything done in a machine or seated does not require nearly the spinal stabilization or central nervous system demand lifting an actual object overhead does.
And, if you want to gain strength, forget about the “burn.”
There are lot of things that burn. Placing a hand on a hot stove burns, but does not make you stronger. Training for the burn is bodybuilder nonsense, not strength training.
Furthermore, the military press is only done from a standing position, with locked knees. It is not performed seated, nor in some kind of pussified machine.
Traditionally, it was done with the heels together and feet facing out at a 45-degree angle, as if standing at attention in a military formation. It has, however, changed so that any locked-knee overhead press is known as the military press.

Overhead lifting can be done with any implement

Overhead lifting can and should be done with a wide variety of implements. My favorite is the kettlebell. The kettlebell’s offset center-of-gravity requires a great deal of stabilization, which challenges every muscle from the fingertips to the toes.
No kettlebell? No problem. The dumbell military press is a great exercise.
No dumbell? Still no problem. Overhead lifting can be done with a sandbag, medicine ball, or whatever you can imagine.
The barbell military press is a great exercise, and is considered by many to be the ultimate test of upper-body strength, with much more carryover to other activities than the bench press; however, it is significantly more technical than a dumbell or kettlebell press and should be only attempted after careful study and/or professional coaching.

What about cardiovascular conditioning?

The demand placed on every muscle group that comes from lifting a heavy object from the ground to full overhead lockout is incredible. When done for high reps, it equals a cardiovascular workout unmatched by literally anything.
Doubt this? Then try this for size. Find a dumbell or sandbag you can lift from floor to overhead lockout for about 10 reps before failure. Find a quarter mile track, or just take it right next to your treadmill at your local gym.
Clean and press the weight 5 times. Then run a quarter mile as fast as possible. Repeat for rounds for 20-30 minutes.
That’s it. No “abs” at the end of the workout. No idiotic bicep curls or tricep extensions. No boring “cardio” session afterwards. You’re done. Cooldown, stretch and then eat.

Overhead lifting is safe if done properly.
An often-cited reason for not including overhead lifting in a strength training program is because it “hurts my shoulders” or fear of injury.
Unless you have some prior injury, there is no reason not to include overhead lifting in your exercise, if you do it properly. I have women senior citizens clean and press 26lb kettlebells overhead on a regular basis with zero injury. On the contrary, increased range-of-motion and injury resistance are to be expected with correctly-done overhead lifting.
At the same time, I know young, otherwise strong women that cannot lift ½ that amount safely. It is all about proper technique and preparation.
If it hurts, you are probably doing something wrong, or have some flexibility issues that must be addressed, whether you plan to press overhead or not.
Get some training from a legit trainer. Correct overhead lifting takes practice and technique, something usually not covered in a multiple-choice trainer certification, or part of some corporate gym’s “sales” training.
And no, overhead lifting does not cause rotator cuff injury, but improper overhead lifting can cause any number of injuries, just like any exercise done with too much weight, too soon or lack of attention to correct technique.
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Strength is a skill
Overhead pressing requires skill and body-awareness. That means you have to actually pay attention and focus while performing this activity. Watching the TV in a cushy commercial gym while attempting to barbell press your bodyweight is a recipe for disaster, and possibly a good Youtube video.
Focus and learn to use your body. Learning to use your body more efficiently should be part of any exercise routine.
Learning a challenging activity like pressing weight overhead will build neuromuscular efficiency that will pay off in almost every aspect of your strength and health.

-Jim Beaumont
CrossFit/Tactical Athlete Certified Kettlebell Instructor

July 6, 2010

Ugly Kettlebell/Bodyweight Workout…Guaranteed to give you a temporary case of Tourette’s Syndrome

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32kg Kettlebell

Here is something I came up with the other day. Sorry, no video to go with it.

Yes, there is CrossFit’s Filthy 50, and Gym Jones’ “300.” There are 400 reps total here.

You call it what you want, but be sure to work within your abilities, and don’t be afraid to reduce the weight or reps. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Unless you are experienced with this type of workout you run the risk of injury, and above all I don’t recommend ANYONE try this without professional supervision and instruction.

50 BOX JUMPS (24″)
50 2-ARM SWINGS (32KG)
50 SNATCHES (25L/25R W/32KG)

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