Lose Weight, Run Faster, Get Stronger: Part 1
Last week I talked extensively about “Easy Strength”; its guidelines, protocol, and how to use the plan to gain strength and size almost effortlessly.
This week I wanted to take the time to share with you perhaps the two biggest bang for your buck exercises no matter what your level is.
Individually, these exercises can produce extreme strength gains, power development, and overall control of one’s body. Collectively, they’ll take you from soft-bodied being to a sculpted athlete. They have the potential to vastly improve your running endurance, add as much as 100 pounds to your deadlift, and give you the keys to performance in a variety of sports and hobbies.
Chances are, if you’re in the kettlebell community, you already know what these exercises are and have likely mastered them. For those of you who don’t, I’m talking about the Turkish get-up and the kettlebell swing. In today’s post I will show you how to own both.
In Pavel Tsatsouline’s book, Simple and Sinister, Bob Hoffman of York Barbell begins by saying,
“To build a superman slow movements and quick lifts are required.”
In martial arts terms, Bob’s point can be thought of as “yin” and “yang.” Yin is a steady, even breathing, punctuated by forced diaphragmatic exhalations during exertion. Yang is a sharp exhalation performed with maximal tension and ideally, for greater contraction.
The get-up is your yin; the swing is your yang.
The get-up is your ultimate slow movement. The swing is your ultimate quick lift.
For those of you who don’t know what a Turkish get-up or swing looks like, they look like this:
A novice can see the get-up involves control, precision, and quality movement patterns to perform. On the opposite side we have the swing – a ballistic, sharp, crisp, and powerful lift.
- If you want to jump higher, the swing and the get-up will help you.
- If you want to lose weight, the swing and the get-up will get you lean.
- If you want to get stronger, the swing and the get-up will help you.
- If you’re a triathlete/runner, the swing and the get-up will make you faster.
- If you’re an athlete, the swing and the get-up will make take you to the next level.
- If you’re a 70-year old grandmother, the swing and the get-up will make you feel younger.
My goal between these two posts is to help you master both of these movements by showing you drills that will allow you to cheat the learning curve. If you’re an athlete, spend a week getting proficient at each before dialing in on the program. If you’re a novice, spend a few weeks perfecting your technique before advancing to the program.
Part 1 will focus on the warm-up exercises as well as the swing. Part 2 will focus on the get-up and the finer program details if you choose to follow the Simple and Sinister program.
To unlock the power of a proper swing and control of a get-up, you must first learn to properly hinge the hips and pack the shoulders. The exercises below, showcased in Simple and Sinister, will help you prepare for the swing and get-up properly:
- Prying Goblet Squat
- SFG Hip Bridge
Prying Goblet Squats will unlock the hips and pelvis and give you a better squat.
- Think of pulling a massive wooden post out of the ground, moving it side to side and back and forth
- Get tall through the chest – imagine a string attached to your sternum that someone is pulling up on
- Go as deep as you can comfortably go without flexing the spine
- Do a few curls with the bell without moving the elbows off the knees
The StrongFirst Hip Bridge will stretch the hip flexors unleashing powerful extension capabilities of the hips.
- Squeeze something between the knees – it will force you to extend your hips and prevent you from overextending your lower back
- Grip the ground with your toes and drive through the heels
- Pause for 3 seconds trying to lift higher and higher – I like to take three “Tss, tss, tss” breaths to further drive abdominal and glute contraction
The Arm-Bar will open the mid-back and strength the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder.
- Drive with the heel on the ground and think “punch to the ceiling” as you rotate
- As your mobility increases slide the knee out further
- Keep the elbow locked at all times
- After a few days of practice, you can try to add the press into the lift
Additionally, you can perform some breathing drills such as the 90/90 hip lift, and the standing ZOA beforehand to help increase your mobility and put your body in a better place to accept change during the session. You can see some other great general warm-up drill in a previous article I wrote here.
Do a couple sets of breathing drills then perform 2-3 sets of each exercise; 5 reps of the prying goblet squat and SFG hip bridge, 1 rep of the arm-bar on each side holding for 2-3 breaths.
“The swing is the most beneficial exercise anyone can do. Scalable to a 70-year old grandmother and to a 20-year old super athlete.” – Mark Reifkind, Master SFG Instructor
Dan John has termed the swing “a fat-burning, athlete builder.”
To perform the swing you’re going to need to first learn how to do a standing lockout, or standing plank. This exercise is essentially the stop of your kettlebell swing, minus the bell.
Hard breaths while holding the lockout will help to create more tension throughout your body. This is the “yang” breathing mentioned earlier.
The bottom of the swing is a hinge and a great exercise to help make a connection from point “A” to point “B” is the kettlebell hike.
The hike will help you gain control and create a feeling for what the start of a swing should feel like. Once you get the hand of it it’s a matter of going from point “A” to point “B”. Easier said than done!
Some helpful pointers:
- Keep the upper-arms pinned against the rib cage throughout the swing. The arms will come off your ribs when practicing the “hike” but that is the only time this will happen.
- Pack the shoulders throughout the swing – performing sets of standing lockouts in between your swings will help you connect to two easier.
- Make sure to give a hard “Tss” at the top of your swing – practicing this in your standing lockout will make it easier to occur naturally in your swing.
- “When you no longer are able to perform with perfect technique, the gig is up.” – Pavel Tsatsouline
Put it all together one more time:
It’s important to note that you have sensory receptors on the bottom of your feet that make you stronger and improve balance and coordination. Wearing shoes, especially thick-soled or high-heeled shoes that tend to be fashionable, diminishes the ability of these receptors to work properly, and therefore impedes performance and can increase risk of injury.
If your gym allows it, perform your swings barefoot. If it doesn’t, find a new gym! Or purchase some flat-soled shoes such as converse and train in those instead.
Start off by performing 5 sets of 10 swings daily until you feel proficient in the swing. It should look and sound like the one you see above.
In part 2 I’ll go over the second piece to losing weight, running faster, and getting stronger; the get-up. Additionally, I’ll show you how to perform the Simple and Sinister program and transform your body in the process.