Skater squats are a variation of the single leg squat that forces a little more quadricep recruitment by requiring the individual to stay more upright through the use of a counter balance. Give these a try to work on your balance and single leg development.
The banded push up is an interesting variation of the weighted push up, in that it makes the easiest part of the movement (the top) the most challenging due to the increase in tension of the band as it stretches against you.
The following was written by John Odden, owner and Head Coach of Empowered Strength
I have always had a question in my mind since my early college days:
“Why is there such an obsession with running and other cardio nightmares like the stair-stepper, ellipticals, and the dread-mill?”
People mindlessly slog away on these machines for hours on end, in an attempt to burn fat and get “toned,” all while watching TV trying to deal with the boredom and hoping not to get injured. Good riddance.
Back in school, our exercise science curriculum was very aerobic based. Talk of strength training, mobility and other training tools were sparse. It was all about cardiac output, VO2 max, heart rate, yada yada, etc. While these areas are important to learn as part of a foundation of exercise science, personally, I found these modes of exercise to be incredibly boring and unfulfilling. On top of that, I never saw any losses in body fat, preservation of lean muscle mass was desperately lacking, and my entire body just seemed to revolt against the concept of running. To say these methods did not agree with me is an understatement.
So, to achieve a conditioning effect without feeling broken down, less masculine, and generally bored to death, I began searching for the best tools to restore my body after several significant injuries in my early twenties. What I originally found was simply walking for about an hour was very effective for my body composition, stress reduction, and alleviation of my low back pain. During this time, I was also looking to reform my body to a leaner 200lb athlete, while still competing in the Scottish Highland Games. The lightweight class was what I had my aspirations set on after years of abusing my body as a pseudo-heavyweight athlete ranging from 235-255lbs. This was simply too heavy for my frame and my body’s issues reflected that fact. A significant change was needed.
Walking worked amazingly well to achieve this result. During this time, I was also re-discovering my groove as an athlete, so I knew there had to be some benefits to increasing my walking intensity.
But, how could I achieve this without, you know, running?
Thus, after talking to some friends in the industry and scouring the interweb, I discovered an activity called rucking. Rucking is just walking, but with the addition of a little weight, usually in a backpack of sorts. The surprising thing about rucking, is that one really does not need to add insane amounts of weight for it be effective. Just about a tenth of one’s own bodyweight is all that is necessary. It may not seem like much at first, but believe me, that weight begins to stack up after a few thousand steps!
Rucking truly was, and still is, a game changer. Its effects were near-instantaneous. I felt strong. I felt fulfilled. I felt restored. Plus, just 30 minutes or so a few times a week was all that I needed. No longer was beating myself up for hours on a hamster wheel even an option that crossed my mind.
After rucking, I knew I was onto something, especially once I moved to Bend, OR.
As soon as I got here, I knew I had to try stand up paddle boarding.
Besides, who doesn’t love being on the water in the Summer? Plus, I saw that Bend was rated as one of the best places in the country for paddling.
Movement guru and physical therapist Gray Cook himself even mentions paddle boarding as a high value “self-limiting” exercise in his book “Movement”. So, after renting a few times, I bucked up and bought a top of the line local board at Stand on Liquid.
Now, while stand up paddle boarding isn’t exactly cheap, or that convenient, the value is instantly recognizable. It’s appropriately challenging, it doesn’t negatively affect one’s strength and muscle mass, and research has shown that the power of the Great Outdoors also has an instant, lasting therapeutic effect and added training benefit. But, that may be the subject for another article.
Initially, I found paddling on the river quite difficult at first, but after some quick coaching a few YouTube lesions, I had the basics down well enough. Once I was confident with my capabilities, I found great joy and extra gain to be had in paddling up river against the current. It was just like hiking up hill on bumpy terrain, except of course, on the water. But, when it comes to focusing on a rhythm and achieving a true workout feeling, paddling on a calm water is much better
How to Get Started
Now that you’ve heard a bit of my story, you may be wondering how you can get started in some these activities, and how they’ll be of potential benefit to you. Well, read on to find out:
I bought a higher end pack on sale from Columbia for around 60 bucks. The key is to have at least one strap on the chest, ideally another on the hip, as well as real heavy duty shoulder straps for durability’s sake. It’s also quite important to balance the load evenly and keep it high high up on your mid back. In order to accomplish this, I use a couple sweatshirts and a pillow at the bottom to keep things in place. Just about anything will work.
In the same breadth, anything can work for weights. I have used everything from cat litter to weight plates. Seriously. If it weighs something, you can use it.
Weight vests can work well too, although I find the weight distribution shifts around too much and feels too heavy right on my shoulders.
Start light. About 10% of your bodyweight should be perfect.
If you feel you aren’t quite yet up to the task of rucking, walking itself has incredible restorative effects and will eventually get you up to the point of rucking. Remember, I walked up to 5 miles a day for several months during my low back rehab before adding additional weight.
Work up to around 35lbs if you want to maximize results and burn more fat. More than this isn’t likely give you any more benefits, unless you are training for something specific like military work or hunting where a heavier pack is required.
This activity is a bit more costly and less accessible for many, but is well worth it once you get a board and find a spot to paddle.
A basic used board can be had for under $500, either hard shell or inflatable. Hard shells tend to get beat up easily and can be cumbersome to store and load. I have minimal experience with inflatables, but they are surprisingly stable, solid and fairly quick to inflate. My personal board is a 14ft hybrid style board from our local paddleboard maker Stand on Liquid. It’s held up wonderfully these past three years and I couldn’t be happier.
No matter which option you decide to go with, the restorative effects can really get you into a meditative state, once you get past the first few minutes.
Paddling obviously has the edge for working the upper body in a pulling pattern and lights up the core more than you might expect. The learning curve is a bit steeper, but is not incredibly difficult. Most people tend to get the hang of it quicker than they initially thought they would!
Rucking feels great on the hips, knees, and feet.
I’ve heard many accounts of the benefits from “high mileage” athletes like myself. Neither this, nor stand up paddle boarding has ever caused me to feel sluggish or sore. Plus, with paddle boarding, you get to improve your overall tan, so what’s not to like?
For an added restorative effect, attempt to keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth where your palate meets your teeth, and breathe through your nose. Or, at least in through your nose out though the mouth (no mouth breathing!). Trust me, this gets easier over time. But, it also acts as a governor to keep you in an optimal flow state for longer durations, training in a zone for optimal fat burning, while keeping overall stress low.
Last of all, consider this ultimate combo:
Rucking and paddling in one trip!
Haul an inflatable board in your pack up to a perfect destination like a mountain lake or lazy river for the greatest experience of solitude on the water.
But, most of all, have fun with it and be creative. You’ll find a way to make it happen.
- Build up time to up to 1+ hour per session, 3 to 4 times week for optimal results.
- Keep head up and focus on the horizon (no texting, please).
- Keep “meditative” breathing going at all times. Slow down if you need to mouth breathe.
- Finish your sessions feeling accomplished and refreshed, not beat down and bored.
- Enjoy the journey, not the destination!
by Aaron Tandem
May 3rd, 2017
One of the biggest mistakes individuals make when learning how to kettlebell swing, is a lack of hinging from the hips and “squatting” their swing. This means that the knees and quadriceps are becoming the focus of the swing, rather than the powerful gluteal muscles that we want to engage instead.
So, why don’t we want to squat our swings?
Like Aaron says in the video:
- It’s inefficient
- It puts emphasis on the wrong muscle groups
- It just looks bad
Here’s how we fix it:
Yoga Blocks to the Rescue
We don’t do much yoga at Empowered Strength, but we do happen to have quite a few yoga blocks laying around. What we’ve discovered, is that those blocks useful in many other ways.
Take these blocks and stack them on top of each other long ways and make sure they’re balanced. Make sure that the distance between these blocks is about the same width as you would place your feet during a typical kettlebell swing. Then, set a kettlebell you’re comfortable swinging in between these two yoga block towers.
Now, you’re all set up!
Approach these blocks and ever so slightly bring your toes in contact with the yoga blocks. Once you’re in place, perform a kettlebell swing as you normally would, but give extra care! You may find that if you are still “squatting” your kettlebell swings, that the yoga blocks topple over because your knees travel forward.
This is why this neat little trick can help you become better at hinging through your hips, instead of moving mostly through your knees.
Give it a try!
Do you want to learn how to use kettlebells correctly? Interested in seeing how they are one of the best tools to building overall amazing levels of strength?
Empowered Strength is the ONLY kettlebell gym in Bend, OR that can show you.
Get start with our FREE Intro Assessment today:
These days it seems like everything is “elite this” and “elite that.” Even with personal training we can’t escape the need for things to be super-high-level all the time. Yet, with that in mind, we still seek to be “Elite Coaches” at Empowered Strength because we believe it gives our members the best experience with the best results.
What makes someone an “Elite Coach?”
Believe it or not, it does not necessarily mean training elite athletes.
In fact, many Elite Coaches prefer to train “regular” individuals, because that is where their true skills come to light. Many times, elite athletes are such that they would excel no matter who they were coached by. The Average Joe/Jane, on the other hand, has much different motivations and needs.
So, without any further rambling, here are thirteen simple, yet outstanding ways we believe someone can be an “Elite Coach:”
1) Having Knowledge & Personal Experience
Elite Coaches, as it should make sense, know what they’re doing.
But, not only do they know what they’re doing, but they’ve also done it successfully and repeatedly. They’ve done it, do it, and will do it again. An Elite Strength Coach has successfully helped others achieve high levels of strength. Likewise, an Elite Fat Loss Coach has successfully helped others lose the fat they’ve always wanted.
2) Being a Skilled Teacher
Have you ever had a teacher you didn’t like? I’m sure you did!
More often than not, the reason these teachers tend to be unlikeable is because they simply don’t teach very well. Sometimes it’s their personality, yes, but teaching is a subtle art. Not every student learns the same way and it’s up to the teacher to have the patience, wisdom, and consistency to breakthrough to each individual’s unique learning style.
Elite Coaches all have different methods for demonstrating, describing, and supervising their instruction to their students.
3) Guiding Learning
Just like with the above, have you ever had a teacher that was overwhelming?
Sometimes, it’s simply too easy to give out too much information too quickly. An Elite Coach, even though he or she may be very excited to work with you, can expertly “keep a hold on the reigns” when it comes to guiding the learning process. Many times, newer coaches seek to impress a client by divulging as much information as possible as soon as possible. However, Elite Coaches seek to express the appropriate amount and kind of information to aid their students success.
If different individuals learn in different ways, then it would make perfect sense that these individuals are motivated by different things as well.
A middle-aged mom who wants to look hot in her favorite pair of jeans isn’t going to respond to the same motivational tactics as a retired man who’s looking to overcome his family’s curse of diabetes. An Elite Coach knows this and doesn’t simply yell, “You can do it!” through a megaphone at all of his students. The Elite Coach understands each of his students unique motivations and taps into them when he or she is feeling weak or uninspired.
5) Listening to Understand
One of the most difficult things in relationships is communication. However, it’s not always a lack of communication, but a lack of truly listening. Too many people listen to respond, rather than listen to understand.
Not Elite Coaches.
It is an Elite Coach’s duty to empathize with his student. And, in order to truly connect, the Elite Coach must seek to understand his students difficulties, rather than responding for the sake of responding.
6) Probing Deeper
No one wants to “lose weight” or “get shredded.” Rather, people want what they think they will get as result of losing weight or getting shredded.
The individual might want to lose some fat because he feels self-conscious doing his workplace presentations since he believes his audiences his constantly distracted by his large belly. The other individual wants to “get shredded” because he’s getting married in a few months and wants to look his best for his wife-to-be.
Growth and change can be uncomfortable, but it’s up to an Elite Coach to ask the uncomfortable questions in order to get to the deeper reasons why his student actually wants what he say’s he wants.
7) Walking the Walk
Would you take advice from a broke banker, an overweight dietitian, a realtor without a house, or a “parent” that’s never actually raised a child?
No. Because, “do as I say, not as I do,” does not work. The Elite Coach, instead, leads by example.
8) Exhibiting Teamwork
When you’ve got a goal in mind, an extremely vexing thing is when people seem to be against you in this matter.
An Elite Coach is always on your side, fighting with you to overcome your most insurmountable obstacles. Even when the going gets tough and it feels like everyone is getting frustrated with results, or lack thereof, the Elite Coach shows you that he is committed to you through thick and thin.
When situations fail to work out as they should, it’s quick and easy to blame the system. This is what very inexperienced coaches do.
Good coaches look for reasons why things don’t work or aren’t working, while staying within their current system.
Elite Coaches, however, challenge that system by innovating; coming up with new ways to solve issues and client problems.
10) Inspiring a “Shared Vision”
All individuals who seek coaching have a deeper reasons as to why they seek help. Coaches, in the same breadth, also have deeper reasons for why they do what they do.
Elite Coaches share this vision with their students. The best coaches believe wholeheartedly that they can and will make a difference. Elite Coaches believe that when everyone is invested in achieving a collective dream, everyone involved will exceed their own perceived limits.
11) Taking Responsibility
When disappointment happens and endeavors are unsuccessful, the run-of-the-mill coach will blame his client.
But, Elite Coaches know that there is no use in doing so. Blaming failure on the client gets him or her no closer to their goal.
The Elite Coach always assumes that he can do a better job as a teacher, mentor, and coach and accepts responsibility for his students failings. This means that the Elite Coach is constantly searching for and finding new ways to improve. Consequently, this also means that Elite Coaches are in a state of perpetual growth which feeds back to their students’ success rate.
12) Crediting Success
When something is worked for and achieved, credit is due. Yet, not everyone in their lives have people that recognize their accomplishments and give them a proverbial “pat on the back.”
The Elite Coach, just as he accepts responsibility for a client’s failings, knows when to pass on the credit to his student and have a celebration of sorts. Everyone wants to feel like they’re accomplished big goals, regardless of the size of said accomplishment. If it’s important to the student, it’s important to the Elite Coach.
13) Denying Luck
Why is this #13? Because Elite Coaches don’t believe in luck. Luck might very well exist. But, in the realm of coaching and what people seek coaching for, luck has no bearing.
The Elite Coach knows that the accomplishments of his students aren’t due to random happenstance, but because the individual at hand followed a plan and made the consistent effort to make changes in his or her life.
These individuals aren’t “lucky.” They forged their own destiny.
So, if you work with a coach, or are one yourself, take a second to think about these Thirteen Things and ask whether or not you or your coach live by them.
If you are in need of some Elite Coaching from the Empowered Strength Team, please don’t hesitate to contact us, our book yourself for a FREE Intro Session here: