Category Archives: grip

How a complete “Natural Method” session looks like

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Home of the Natural Method

Not too long ago, I posted a blog about how Georges Hébert set up a complete session. If you go back and revisit that post with its vintage pictures, you will see that equipment was a bit different a century ago (like the mold below where you can pour concrete to make a construction brick). All goals are met, by the way, from developing strength, endurance, muscle mass, cardio, flexibility, agility (you know my FAST pillars by now), which incidentally leads to weight loss without it being the focus (all around athleticism leads to greater fitness, health and that leads to weight loss too!).

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One of the reasons I wanted to give people an updated version of his training program is simply because equipment has evolved. Now, we’re not going to go show you all the selectorized equipment options or machines which isolate muscle groups which have been developed since. Instead, the focus will remain on variety of free weights, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, sand bell, medicine ball etc…

One additional key is the use of technique. Again, using machines requires a much lesser level of attention to proper form, as it’s almost “done for you”, and if you are going to use free weights, form is essential.

So, here is an updated equivalent post, which also serves as another sneak preview of the upcoming book with the program design of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education through his Natural Method.

WARM UP WITH FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

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DEVELOP ALL-AROUND ATHLETICISM WITH FUNCTIONAL EXERCISESC OMBATIVES: FOR SELF-DEFENSE, DEXTERITY, AGILITY, COORDINATION.

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WEIGHT LIFTING: FOR STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT

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THROWING: FOR DEXTERITY, POWER, HAND-EYE COORDINATION, AGILITY, MOBILITY

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CLIMBING: FOR ALL-AROUND STRENGTH, MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT, FLEXIBILITY, MOBILITY, OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, RESCUE

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JUMPING: FOR POWER, STRENGTH, DISPLACEMENT AND OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, AGILITY

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And of course, running (sprinting, jogging, racing) for speed, endurance, power, cardiovascular health, hygienic cleansing and waste elimination benefits through sweating etc…

Navigating the seas of strength.

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It is by knowledge and experience that I navigate the oft tumultuous seas of fitness.

Defeating physical pain, conquering mental anguish and surmounting performance plateaus, I pilot the only vessel I’ll ever carry from the pre-dawn of my life till the lights go out at dusk.
I seek uncharted biological territories, but heed the warnings of captains before me. I’ve sailed the planet through peaks, valleys and oceans, successfully challenged monsters and battled with wits and brawn at my side. Some beasts I haven’t tamed, others are emblazoned on my crest.
“Be water, my friend”. Sometimes, I resist its currents and fight its tempestuous nature, other times I let it guide me through its channels to where I ought to be.
With the realization that it is sometimes beyond me, survival comes from accepting its beauty. You can depart from any port, circumnavigate the globe and find yourself in the very place you left physically, but have you embraced the journey?
You can Powerlift, Oly lift, body lift.
You can machine press, dumbbell press, barbell press, kettlebell press.
Upright row, seated row, bent-0ver row, renegade row.
Pull-up or pull-down.
Bench press or push press.
Relax to the point of tension.
Slow grind or fast & loose.
Clash with Titans or defeat Goliath, for sometimes, a well aimed little metaphoric pebble can take you down for the count. Even the greatest warrior Achilles had a weakness.
Search your golden fleece, find your golden goose. Your journey awaits you, but you must prepare for it.
Embark with me, join the ranks.
Soon, the Actionaut will leave these banks!

Theory and Practice: a philosophical essay on progress.

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I just read a good quote that an RKC comrade uses as his signature: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

In theory, if you gradually add a couple of pounds every week to your bench press, you should be able to press a thousand pounds over time. In practice, it doesn’t happen…
In theory, trapping an opponent’s right cross, breaking his right elbow and then twisting his right wrist into a half nelson works. In practice, it’s a lot more challenging (or in a real fight, that is, as you can practice the sequence successfully).
Should we throw out theory? Absolutely not. Theory is the foundation of philosophy, be it of the mind or of the body. Experimenting, applying the theory, which stems from a hypothesis, validates the theory, at least until proven wrong.
All things work till they don’t work anymore. The question is, why don’t they work anymore?
If you follow a certain diet and it’s working for you, then you stop losing fat or gaining muscle, whatever your goal, is the theory behind no longer valid? Has your body reached homeostasis?
Is it a matter of entropy? “An object in an unnatural state always returns to its natural state”?
The jury’s still out on this one (by jury, I mean my brain). I believe it is the change in acute variables. You may be following a strict powerlifting routine to bench press, but maybe you’ve changed the time of day for your training (the body actually likes routine, one theory implies, and you need to wave your loads in a micro, meso or macro cycle rather than “shock your muscles”, which confuses them and results in them underperforming). Or you’re sleeping pattern changed. Maybe your diet is not supporting your body’s increased caloric demand.
Unless you can isolate any given factor, or acute variable, as the culprit for your lack of continued progress (or plateau), you cannot claim with certainty that the system you’ve been using no longer works, that the theory is obsolete because it no longer works in practice.
This transitions my thought to another point: too much of your training regimen is left to chance.
Unless you categorically and systematically log your training and your nutritional intake, you are unable to analyze what needs to be modified in your training to break through your plateau. You may very well follow a certain protocol without changing its theoretical approach, because it will yield results in practice, without worrying about periodizing. For instance, I train heavy on Monday, light on Wednesday, moderate on Friday, with a couple of optional “variety” days. The drills are the same on MFW, the weight is the same but the volume differs (less reps, or sets) and I increase the load every 5-6 weeks. However, on any given day, my balance may be off. My stress level makes me less focused or I may be at 100% and perform like a champ. I log everything, every detail, observation, technique modification. I leave nothing to chance.
So, empirical evidence doesn’t disprove a theory. It may very well reinforce it if you are able to identify and isolate any given factor. A mishmash of factors creates confusion and you cannot state with certainty that this or that prevented you from reaching your goal. Address one thing, and one thing only, and see how it affects your training by keeping everything else the same. If that didn’t solve it, address a different variable.
In theory, it should work 🙂

Sensory Homunculus

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If each part of your body grew IN PROPORTION to the area of the brain concerned with its sensory perception, you’d have hands like party platters and a mouth like the infamous Sarlacc from Star Wars (another reference, I know…)

Think about how when we develop as toddlers, we pick stuff up and put it in our mouth. It now makes perfect sense to me, after hearing about this “homunculus” concept yesterday at a kettlebell workshop taught by Franz Snideman, of La Jolla, CA. The point Franz was making was another “aha” moment (so frequent in the RKC community whenever a movement makes suddenly sense to you, or you get how to do it and what seemed like an insurmountable mountain is now barely a curb) about how if we do not develop our grip, we may never tap into our actual strength.
Things have seemed to line up for me strangely lately, but all for a reason. I was greasing the groove on my deadlifts and went for another sub-maximal PR (i.e. I lift heavier than I ever did prior, with some fuel left in the tank). I wasn’t happy though, because I wasn’t tired and knew I could eek out an extra 10lb, but my grip was faltering and I had to resort to straps. I almopst considered buying special hooks I saw at Sports Chalet, but what’s the fun in that? That would be like surfing with a propeller!
There are a few grip guys out there, and they bend nails and tear phonebooks. I always thought it was something that wasn’t for me. I’m sending an application now, I want to bend, rip, tear, hold stuff in weird ways because all that was stopping me from lifting heavier was my grip!
We place sooo much emphasis on our physical appearance, but neglect how we get there. The answer is amazingly obvious: we pick the weights with our hands, and how we look is based on how we hold the stuff that’s in our hands and how we put stuff (with our hands) in our disproportionally sensorily small mouth.
Check out the link below to see what we’d look like if we actually matched in size our hands and mouth to the amount of sensory perception they respectively pick up.

http://www.juergenhaenggi.ch/index.php?mcid=1&scid=141