Strength Training and CrossFit…

Training and Paleo Diet Q and A Image


Today’s answer is a follow up to Cara’s question yesterday and the great feedback I got from some of the MidCoast CrossFit girls and others. In this video, I give some firmer recommendations and talk more about implementing Westside or Wendler 5/3/1 into your CrossFit program.

Thanks again for your question, Cara and Maggie, Robert and Kristin for your feedback!




IMPORTANT! Adam Farrah is not a doctor or medical professional. This information is based on my own opinion and is not meant to be medical advice or to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe in any way.

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Kettlebell Long Cycle – Guest Post by Howie Brewer

Kettlebell Long Cycle – The Ultimate in Strength Endurance

Written by Howie Brewer exclusively for Practical Paleolithic and all the friends of “Strong is the New Skinny!”

(Note:  This article assumes that the reader has been properly trained in the kettlebell lifts.  If not already, please be sure to learn these lifts from an experienced teacher.)

It is pretty well accepted that if one were stranded on a desert island with a single kettlebell and were magically constrained to be able to perform only one lift, that the one arm long cycle would be the lift of choice.  Why?  Because this one lift incorporates both a push and a pull movement, hitting all of the major muscle groups, while doing a pretty good job of shifting the cardio-respiratory system into overdrive.

I’m going to talk to you about the three variations of the one arm long cycle lift – long cycle press, long cycle push press and long cycle jerk –how to program them and how to synergistically intensify their effect.

Amy Moore - Kettlebell Rack Position

Kettlebell Long Cycle?

For those of you who have never heard the term “long cycle”, it is just a fancy way of saying that before each rep – press, push press or jerk – that you will be cleaning the bell into its rack position first.  Therefore one rep consists of both a clean and a press (or push press or jerk).

I’m calling the long cycle lifts the ultimate in strength endurance because this lift allows itself to be trained for long, extended sets without ever putting the kettlebell down.  It’s not uncommon to hear of people performing a 20 minute long cycle set. The reason for this is because in this lift, one is able to rest in two places, in the rack and overhead.  Having these places to rest, one can catch their breath and adjust their pace as necessary.

So how do we program this lift? If you are a beginner, start with a two minute set.  Perform one minute with one hand, then switch and perform for a second minute on the other hand.  In the beginning, don’t worry about your pace. Just concentrate on your technique.  Make sure each rep is perfect.  It should always be about quality, not quantity.   (I’m assuming we are training for strength, health and fitness.)

As one begins to progress in the lift, start stretching out the length of the set, switching hands at points that make sense.  For example, let’s say you’re now comfortable with a two minute set and you want to up it to three minutes.  You have two choices, make your hand switch at the one minute mark, as before, and then when you hit the two minute mark, switch back for 30 seconds on your first hand, before switching back again for your final 30 seconds.  Or if you are up to it, simply perform the first 90 seconds on your first hand and switch for 90 seconds on your other hand.

Amy Moore - Kettlebell Swing

The point is, in order to build your strength endurance in this lift, continue to stretch out the length of your set, switching hands as often as you like, as long as you can balance the time on each hand equally and continue to perform for your desired duration.

OK, so how do you intensify this lift?  I’m going to discuss three ways.

The first way is to increase the amount of time each hand performs the lift before switching to the other hand.  If you have worked up to an eight minute set, switching hands every minute, you can now perform the lift switching hands every two minutes, and so on.

The second way is to vary your pace throughout your set.  Here you can be creative.  Start your first minute(s) on each hand at a moderate pace.  Then increase the next minutes to a faster pace.  Then modulate your pace up and down as you see fit.  This is sort of like interval training within a single set.  One example is to start slow and continue to increase your pace each time you change hands or complete a pair of minutes.  Another example is to increase and decrease your pace like a pyramid throughout your set so that your fastest interval occurs half way through the set.  No matter how you design the set, you can easily count your total reps by the end, which will give you a benchmark for future sessions.

Finally, let’s discuss how we can combine the three variations of this lift into one synergistically, evil set.  As you are familiar, each lift from press, to push press, to jerk, uses less and less deltoid strength to get the kettlebell overhead, respectively, and uses more and more leg drive to lift the bell.  We can use this to our advantage if it is our intent to decimate ourselves in our workout.  (And this is also a favorite of mine.)

Amy Moore - Kettlebell Back Swing

What we do is start the set off performing the long cycle press.  Here we are using delts and triceps to press the bell out.  These are relatively small muscles that will begin to burn relatively quickly when one is using a respectable weight.  As the delts and tris begin to fatigue, without ending the set, we switch over to the long cycle push press.  Doing this, we now allow our legs to start to contribute to the lift, taking the brunt of the movement off of the delts and tris.  We continue with the push press until our delts are screaming for mercy.  It is at this point that we ultimately switch over to the long cycle jerk.  Here we are using almost all leg drive to get that bell overhead.  The shoulders are now being used simply to stabilize the bell in the overhead position.  (This isn’t to say it’ll be easy.)  And we finish this grueling set as best as possible using the jerk to get the bell overhead.  Cunningly evil, ain’t it?

Amy Moore - Kettlebell Swing to Rack Postion

So there you have some ideas on how to take the one arm long cycle lift and use it to become stronger, fiercer and unstoppable. Most important is that you know how to perform each of these lifts correctly before diving off of the deep end with your training.  So please, be sure that you know what you are doing before increasing the intensity of your lifts.  Understand and be competent with the basics before getting fancy.  You’d be surprised how far along one can get with just the basics.  Now let’s go and lift!

Amy Moore - Kettlebell Jerk Top Position

In the photos: Amy Moore. Amy currently holds Rank 2 in biathlon (jerk and snatch) with the World Kettlebell Club.

Kettlebells NY Logo

Howie Brewer
Kettlebells NY
Master Trainer, World Kettlebell Club
Sports Performance Coach, USA Weightlifting

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CrossFit Workouts and Becoming More Efficient

I’m not sure what it was with Episode #33 of Robb Wolf’s Paleolithic Solution podcast, but it seemed to me it was even more loaded with good stuff than usual. Robb had a lot to say about using CrossFit workouts to become more efficient at the exercises and movements. This really got me thinking…

I hadn’t thought about it like this before, but a lot of what we do as athletes and martial artists – and probably in life too – is work at becoming more efficient. Speed isn’t really what we’re after. It’s efficiency. And with efficiency comes the speed and power we want.

Robb makes an awesome point when he compares learning CrossFit exercises to learning martial arts. I often said that my own martial arts background carried over to my coaching when I got into CrossFit. I was also lucky because most of the people I was coaching weren’t “CrossFitters.” They were people who wanted to get into shape. This meant they were a blank slate for learning technique on the various exercises and I took a lot of time getting everyone’s movement right before upping the intensity of the workouts. I teach kettlebells the same way. Learn the technique first then increase the intensity.

I say I was lucky the people I was coaching weren’t already exposed to CrossFit because no one was really worried about speed. They didn’t have the “spank it hard every time” mentality with their workouts so I was able to ramp them up slowly. I spent a lot of time teaching exercises and techniques and gradually ramped up the intensity and speed. They were already efficient in the basic CrossFit exercises before the intensity was ramped up. I also continually drilled the fundamental movements in our warm-ups to keep refining technique.

One of Robb’s prescriptions for a question about how to spend a year of training so the listener could advance through the sectionals next year was to spend more time on efficiency. The guy who asked the question was doing Wendler 5,3,1. Robb recommended working snatch variations on squat days: hang snatch, hang power snatch, etc. in a 10X2 on the minute format to get some volume worked up. Robb recommended push press and push jerk work in the same format on the pressing days. The 10X2 format sounds familiar to me since I just did the CrossFit Powerlifting cert with Louie Simmons. Robb also recommended getting really efficient on running.

The takeaways:

  • Get strong and get technical!
  • Incorporate Periodization and De-load periods

Robb on Tackling the “sport of fitness” from a “skill” standpoint

During the podcast, Robb used a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu analogy:

“You can’t roll hard every day and make that the whole thing. You have to work positional sparring, drill specific techniques, get ‘wickedly’ efficient at it, do tons and tons of reps and THEN progress it to a live, full speed setting.”

And there was another great point Robb made – one I rarely hear addressed – that dropping the competitive element gives your psyche a rest and lets you recover mentally. Sort of a “de-loading” for the mind. I think this is a highly overlooked and underrated factor in recovery.

Robb also mentioned actually getting better at your chosen sport by shelving the ego, slowing down and being self-critical. “Volume first, intensity second.”

All great stuff.

Coach Glassman wrote an article a while back called: “Fundamentals, Virtuosity and Mastery.” In it, he talks about “performing the common uncommonly well.” Sounds a lot like efficiency of movement, right?

In the end, Robb puts forth a different prescription for progress in CrossFit and Sport of Fitness: “Get strong, get technical THEN build capacity.”

Sounds like a great plan.

More on this soon…



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The end of Hardstyle vs. Kettlebell Sport?

Gaining a deeper understanding of the RKC Minimum Program…

Me and Dr. Mark Cheng, RKC Team Leader in Middletown, CT

Something that eluded me when I first read Enter The Kettlebell by Pavel was the seemingly inordinate amount of time and space he devoted to getting ready to swing. He goes into a ton of detail on picking the bell up, squat and deadlift form, wall squats, etc. When I read all that I felt it was hopelessly remedial. Surely someone with all my experience in traditional weight training and Kettlebell training knows how to squat!

What changed ALL my thoughts on this was the weekend’s Kettlebell and Functional Movement Patterning Seminar with Dr. Mark Cheng, RKC Team Leader at Modern Self Defense Center in Middletown, CT. “Doc” had us start out “learning” to squat for the first 3 hours of the seminar. And it really was learning! He corrected a number of poor movement patterns that we all had. What was really interesting was that he underscored ALL the points Pavel went into in Enter The Kettlebell: Pry the knees out, pull yourself down with the hip flexors, pinch a coin with your glutes when you go back up.

Getting such a thorough and detailed breakdown and instruction in proper squat form to build the Swing on made all the difference in the world! And it gave me an incredible new perspective on the Swing as a fundamental, remedial and corrective movement.

It was the same with the Get Up. The lat and hip engagement going on when we drilled it slow and perfectly with Dr. Cheng was absolutely incredible. I got a completely new appreciation for the seemingly “simple” or “basic” movement. After the seminar, I began to appreciate the Swing and the Get Up as fantastically deep “catalogs of movement.” This brought me back to my traditional martial arts days and kata. In traditional martial arts, you learn forms or kata – long, memorized performances of movements and techniques. The purpose of kata is to give the practitioner a “catalog” of techniques performed properly for practice and as a reference. In any kata there are endless connections and patterns that can be discovered. Even the simplest, most basic kata has an endless amount of detail and knowledge in it.

This is the appreciation I gained from Dr. Cheng for the Swing and the Get Up. Two deceptively simple movements that could be broken down into infinitely detailed and complex movement patterns that – when performed and drilled properly – give a reference and a method for training the body to move properly. OUTSTANDING!

Working with Dr. Cheng also gave me an appreciation for why Pavel made such a big deal out of the Get Up and the Swing in Enter The Kettlebell. The exercises represent FUNDAMENTAL human movement patters that can be drilled over and over again for constant benefit no matter what the practitioner’s level. And they are the BASE for EVERYTHING that comes after in Kettlebell training.

This brings me around to another point that my friend Rolando Garcia made yesterday at the Dr. Cheng Workshop. I asked the question: “How does one incorporate Hardstyle training into their training regimen for Sport style Kettlebell training.” Dr. Cheng gave his answer and then Rolando added that he considers Kettlebell Sport a sport like tennis or basketball or football or whatever. He uses Hardstyle training to create efficient movement patterns, build strength and body awareness and correct imbalances in ALL the athletes he coaches. He lays the foundation with Hardstyle and that makes the “sport specific” training work that much better. Pure genius! And pretty much the end to all the Hardstyle vs. Sport debate in Kettlebells – but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t…

So, if Hardstyle training is a fundamental and foundational training style, couldn’t we think of movements like the Hardstyle Swing and Get Up as fundamental movement patterns like a white belt technique or kata in Karate? The same white belt techniques that a black belt still works toward perfecting? And, just as practicing basic strikes and blocks teach and perfect fundamental movement patterns like proper hip rotation and stability, can we look at the Swing and the Get Up as teaching fundamental movement patterns like proper hip, glute and lat engagement, as well?

More evidence about the foundational nature of Hardstyle training…

With the new knowledge I gained from working with Doc, I started going back through “Enter The Kettlebell.” Something I noticed on page 31 is that Pavel mentions both Steve Cotter (Senior RKC) and Anthony Diluglio (RKC). There are a few interesting points about this. Both of these guys have had a strong influence on me. Anthony Diluglio was really where I got my introduction to kettlebells. I got a 16kg bell from his company Art Of Strength and his “Kettlebell Training Clinic, Volume 1” DVD. It was actually that DVD that originally taught me how to use a Kettlebell.

And, of course, my connection to Steve Cotter is that he, along with Ken Blackburn, certified me as a Kettlebell Teacher through their sanctioning body, IKFF. I had a great time doing the Level 1 CKT with those guys and I learned a TON. Both are fantastic athletes.

So, what’s the point? The point is that both Steve and Anthony STARTED out as RKCs under Pavel as far as I can tell. Steve Cotter went on to form the IKFF and promote Kettlebell Sport primarily and Anthony Diluglio went on to start Art Of Strength. Both Steve and Anthony went on to somewhat different styles of training from the strict “Hardstyle” training taught by Pavel, but they both started with a BASE of Hardstyle training and that base is evident in what they teach and how they teach it.

That’s it for right now. I’m off to see when the next RKC is offered!



Originally posted on my site: []

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Kettlebell Seminar at Modern Self-Defense Center

Me and Dr. Mark Cheng, RKC Team Leader in Middletown, CT

Mark Cheng Kettlebell Seminar Group Photo

Saturday 6/20/2009 Modern Self-Defense Center in Middletown, Connecticut hosted Dr. Mark Cheng, RKC Team Leader for a Kettlebell and Functional Movement Patterning workshop. I’d heard great things about Dr. Cheng so I was looking forward to the seminar for a while. I was absolutely NOT disappointed! Dr. Cheng is a fantastic teacher and has an understanding of the details and intricacies of movement that is inspiring and humbling at the same time.

Mark Cheng Kettlebell Seminar

We spent most of the morning working on a SINGLE movement pattern – The Squat. I think everyone there, including myself, thought they knew how to squat. The fine details we got from Dr. Cheng were really eye opening.

Mark Cheng Fixing Zach at the Kettlebell Seminar

The immediate impact Dr. Cheng had on me and my training from this one “simple” set of drills and corrections was:

  1. My deadlift immediately felt stronger after working these new movement patterns with him.
  2. My hips and hamstrings felt noticeably “better.” I’m not sure exactly how to define better. All I can say is that the new movement patters I learned for the squat from Dr. Cheng had my hips feeling noticeably “lighter” and more open. I’d describe the sensation as very similar to the feeling I get after a really good yoga session. My flexibility and my circulation felt noticeably better.

From the squats we moved into the Kettlebell Get Up. Again, I learned A TON about movement patterns in this seemingly simple exercise. In particular, loading the lats and opening the thoracic spine. Once again, it was a humbling, frustrating and absolutely inspiring experience to “crawl” through an exercise I’ve been doing for a long time and considered myself to be well experienced with.

Interestingly, when we finished the Get Ups my shoulders, chest and upper back felt great. I had the same feeling in my upper body that I had in my lower body after the squats. Amazing what moving properly can do for you!

From the Get Ups we moved into one and two handed Kettlebell swings. Again, a deceptively simple movement done correctly created a great learning and training experience.

The swings were actually my favorite part of the seminar. Mainly because Dr. Cheng really picked on me and my form. He also made me train ALL my sets with the 32kg Kettlebell because I was “MSDC’s resident Kettlebell coach.” It was great and I learned A LOT about firing the glutes to propel the Kettelbell in a swing.

Throughout the day Dr. Cheng did a great job of tying together the movements we were doing with the basics of the squat we practiced at the beginning. It was really cool to see where the squat movement patterns were in the Get Up and the swing and all the other things we do as gireviks and martial artists.

Dr. Cheng is an outstanding teacher and is absolutely full of knowledge about human movement patters. And he’s completely accessible, funny and friendly. Thank you, Dr. Cheng and thank you Chris from MSDC for hosting him!



Originally posted at []

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CrossFit and Benchmarking Fitness

Today turned out to be a landmark day for me in my pursuit of world class fitness. I took my best friend, Kate, to CrossFit USA in Berlin, CT for her first CrossFit workout.

I was planning to do the WOD (which was a bit intimidating) but Merle had another idea. In his infinite wisdom Merle suggested that I do the “first time” workout along with Kate both to lend her some support and to see how my fitness had come along in the month or so that I’ve been training with at CrossFit USA.

Now, this is the same workout I blogged about in my post CrossFIt will change EVERYTHING. The workout that had me laying on the floor in Merle’s bathroom for 30 minutes feeling like an adolescent who drank too much at a party.

Me After Crossfit

Up to now, I had no idea where my fitness stood other than I’ve been LOOKING a lot leaner and more muscular. While Kate was doing her warmup I went out and did the first part of the WOD Merle had posted for my warmup – Run 1 Mile wearing the 20lb weight vest.

I got back from my run and we got into it. Once again, the workout is deceptively simple:

Row 500 meters
40 Wall Squats
30 Sit Ups
20 Push Ups
10 Pull Ups

I got through this workout in 6:33 minutes. That’s less than half the time I did it in last time – and I did full kipping pull ups instead of the jumping pull ups I did last time.

So, lets summarize:

I added a 1 mile run WITH a weight vest and did full kipping pull ups and STILL got this WOD done in less than half the time it took to do it a month ago. AND I was completely fine after the WOD. In fact, I could have probably done a few more rounds!

Now that’s progress!



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Beaten with my own Kettlebells at CrossFit USA

Merle must have been feeling particularly sadistic today. Or, maybe he was just trying to offset the three-day weekend with an extra hard workout. Either way, Merle was administering some beatings!

I got in and walked over to the whiteboard to read the WOD. Before I could, I heard a voice from behind me say: “You should have stayed home, Adam!” I turned around to see Scott dripping with sweat and breathing hard. I looked back at the WOD. It was a Filthy Fifty Friday WOD. Merle had about 10 exercises on there for 50 reps each!

At first I didn’t see the ubiquitous 1 mile run on the board. Then I saw it off in the corner. I was happy because I like the run, but then I realized how much work was on tap for the day…

I was about to get started when Merle told me he had “something special” for me and to forget the WOD on the board. Scott had just finished his workout and he looked up and asked Merle: “What are you having him do?” Merle just laughed and said: “Grab some popcorn and watch. This is going to be fun..” “Great.” I thought…

What followed was essentially a full-body beatdown with a rower, kettlebells and whatever else Merle could think of.

Here’s the workout:

Run 1 mile
Row 500 meters
Walking lunge with TWO 25lb kettlebells – these started overhead, but quickly moved into the rack position
Back on the rower for 500 meters
Bench Press with 165lbs to failure
Run 1/4 mile
Back on the rower for 500 meters
10 Suitcase Deadlifts with TWO 80lb kettlebells
10 pull ups
Back to the Rower for 500 meters
50 pushups
10 suitcase deadlifts
Run 1 mile

I’m still not sure if I was better off with that workout or the Filthy Fifty…

I’m finding that I’m getting more and more used to the CrossFit workouts. They’re still brutal and I STILL have a slight sense of dread when it’s time to go to CrossFit USA, but they’re getting better. It’s like I’m getting more used to pushing myself through that pain barrier.

I’m also FEELING a lot better. I’m very certainly experiencing an increase in testosterone and my mood is more positive and optimistic. AND people are noticing that I look bigger and leaner already. That’s with only about 3 weeks in hitting it hard with CrossFit!

Killer workout, Merle! Thanks!

Here are some pics:

CloseUp Kettlebell Lunge Walk

Overhead Kettlebell Lunge

Suitcase Deadlifts Bottom Position

Suitcase Deadlifts

Orginally posted []

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CrossFit will Change EVERYTHING

I’ve been friends with Merle McKenzie from Crossfit USA in Berlin, CT since December of 2009. I have a lot of respect for Merle and the conversations we’ve had have opened my eyes about Crossfit and the limitations of other types of training. It had been on my mind to get in with Merle and do some REAL Crossfit training with his expert guidance for a while.

Yesterday I went to his box and had him put me through a workout. All I can say is: WOW! Crossfit is the real deal!

I’ve been reading a lot about Crossfit on and I’ve come to really understand and respect the philosophy and methods. Now that I’ve trained Crossfit with high level coach I realize a lot of what’s been missing from my own training and most training methods in general.

Crossfit is absolutely INTENSE! The fatigue and aftershock I experienced from the workout I did is like nothing I’ve EVER experienced. Nothing. Not sparring for an hour with little rest, not rolling in BJJ class, not 20 rep squats, not 20 rep deadlifts, not even my IKFF Kettlebell Cert with 10 and 20 minute timed sets (as intense as that was) was as completely debilitating as this workout.

And, on paper, the workout wasn’t even that much! Here’s what I did:

  • 500 meters on the rower
  • 40 air squats
  • 30 situps
  • 20 pushups
  • 10 pullups

When Merle told me that’s what I was going to do, I thought to myself: “Is that going to be enough?” It was enough! LOL

I did the workout itself in less than 10 minutes – and spent over 20 minutes either hovering around the bathroom or in the bathroom “hanging out” (laying on the floor). I have never, ever felt that terrible from exercise in my life! I was absolutely debilitated!

pukie after crossfit workout

So, here’s what I learned from my first “Merle Brand” CrossFit workout:

The intensity I’ve been training at hasn’t been as high as I thought – nor ANYWHERE NEAR what I’m actually capable of. I don’t intend to feel as terrible as I did yesterday after any workout on a regular basis (not even CrossFit) but I now have an understanding of what an insane level of intensity feels (and looks) like. In Super Squats, Randall Strossen talks quite a bit about the intensity necessary to trigger a massive testosterone increase and the level of effort you need to put into your 20 rep squat set. I suspect it’s something like I got yesterday with Crossfit. It also makes me think of the 30 and 40 rep squat sets that Dr. Ken Leistner has mentioned. I expect that squatting 300-400lbs for 20-40 reps without racking the bar until the end would be as debilitating. What I’m not sure of is whether or not the average person can generate the intensity I got from CrossFit doing squats. What I did learn. though, is what that intensity FEELS like. Now I know it exists and I can seek it out.

There MUST be truth to the hormonal cascade that is supposed to be produced by CrossFit (and other super high intensity training). Like I said, I was absolutely HOSED UP after that workout. The only thing I can think of that comes close to describing the feeling I had is it’s like when you’ve had WAY too much to drink and all you can do is lay on the floor wait to feel better and/or vomit. It was that bad or worse. My thinking is there is no way to can cut into your body’s homestasis THAT hard and not experience a dramatic hormonal response.

One dimensional training is not enough! I am NOT out of shape. I’d admit that I’m not in my best shape ever, but I am by no means out of shape. The point is powerlifting, kettlebells, running, sparring, jiu jitsu and teaching kettlebell classes did not prepare me for even the most tame and basic CrossFit workout. Point made, Merle. Sign me up.

So, there are some of my thoughts on CrossFit. My experience yesterday makes me happy I decided to get a CrossFit Level I Cert in August and thrilled there is a great CrossFit gym right down the road from me!



Originally posted on my site: []

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