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The Titan Challenge- part 1

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by , 02-07-2009 at 08:30 PM (14184 Views)
The Titan Challenge
[CENTER]Jacob "Josef" Eggleton [/CENTER]
Most people like to tout themselves as "mastering" the Program Minimum prematurely. After a couple of weeks, they feel they've outgrown it. Getups and swings. How comprehensive can they be? Some people go so far as to skip them altogether.

It's easy to say one has mastered something. It's not quite as easy to master it. I mean, really master it. When I think of a master, I think of an overlord who none dare to question. If there is room to question, then how deep is your mastery? I recall a line from one of my favorite shows where a "superscientist" is using a new kind of sonar he invented. He called it the "metasonic locator". It generates hypersonic sound waves that not only vibrate water, but time itself. That's mastery.

Bill Fox put it well when he said the swing is first for a reason. This has become something of an RKC saying. Along with the getup, one develops the necessary physical requirements such as strength, conditioning, and flexibility for future lifting. They give you a chance to practice the high tension techniques, breathing patterns, and fundamental movements of hip drive and shoulder retraction. I will not go into detail on tension techniques or breathing as they have been thoroughly covered in Pavel's material. So I will focus on the movement patterns.
[B][CENTER]Movement Patterns [/CENTER]
[LEFT]Hip driven movement is the basis for all functional movement. When you walk, you drive with your hips. When you punch, throw, or do almost anything, you use your hips. They are considered the most powerful muscles in the body. It is important to know how to use them. But, unfortunately, most people don't. We have what Pavel calls stupid bodies. We've spent most of our lives forgetting how to use our hips and we pay the price.

This "gluteal amnesia" can lead to a laundry list of pain and injuries. Lower back pain can result from excessive lumbar compensation. The hamstrings can be strained by taking over the workload of the hips, known as synergistic dominance. Anterior hip pain due to the poor biomechanics of using the hamstrings as hip extensors. Even your knees can be damaged from the gluteus medius being weak or not firing properly.

Is it arrogant to say that most people don't know how to use their hips? Statistics claim that every other American has a bad back and 5 million Americans visit the doctor every year due for bad knees, so you tell me.

Next we have shoulder retraction, the root of all upper body movement. This is yet another fundamental skill lacking among the general populace. We pull and press with our arms instead of the powerful muscles of our torso. By disconnecting the shoulder from the powerful muscles of the torso, you are separating the arm from its base of support. It's like shooting a cannon out of a canoe. It might seem cool, but it only ends badly.

However, it's not just weak, it's dangerous. The glenohumeral joint is a muscle dependant joint as it lacks strong ligaments. By retracting the shoulders, the lats, pecs, and deltoid aid the rotator cuff in literally keeping the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa. Shrugging your shoulders only exposes the ligaments to undue strain. This can lead to injury over time or over minutes depending on how stupid you feel. [/LEFT]
[B]The Program Minimum [/CENTER]
[LEFT]These two movements are extremely important skills to learn and master. Like any skill, practice is important. The getup and swing are perfect choices. The getup allows you to practice shoulder retraction under load. It will teach you to keep your shoulder in its socket throughout various angles of loading while building strength in these positions.

Because it is performed with the elbow locked, it takes away the variables. This neutral alignment allows you to focus on the matters at hand and worry about more when you're ready. If you tried presses or pullups from the get-go, you would more than likely try to do so with the weak muscles of your arms instead of the powerful muscles of your torso.

The swing is the same way. It is a great way to learn how to use your hips. Think of it like this: the swing takes a lot of work just to learn. This is covering how to use your hips. It is like a shallow squat. The length of the legs complicates matters. The legs are incredibly long levers that extend from the hips and so going deep is not for beginners. If it were simple, the RKC manual section on the front squat would simply read "Same as the swing...but deeper." [/LEFT]
[B][CENTER]Practice Makes Perfect [/CENTER]
How much practice is required before you move on to more advanced lifts? As forum member mc said "back in 67 [URL=""][U][COLOR=#810081]Fitts and Posner [/COLOR][/U][/URL]proposed three stages for motor learning: cognitive, associative and autonomous. Within 1000 reps one is still learning a skill, having to bring conscious (cognitive) attention to it. Within 1000 - 10,000 and beyond, one is making fewer mistakes, is aware of them, knows how to correct them. By 100 thousand to 300 hundred thousand, one can perform a move without thinking about it - autonomously." That's a lot of practice! What's the fastest way to get it in? Extensively (over time) or intensively (many frequent practices)? Is it too much to ask for both?

My method is the Titan Challenge. It is a high volume approach to kettlebell training. I give you the goal of forty minutes of getups and two-handed swings with the Beast. As this isn't Girevoy Sport, you'll alternate arms between getups and you can even put the bell down to rest while you perform your swings. Does that sound like too much? Maybe it is. You'll get no sympathy from me. I'm training for the same thing. You can consider the mission accomplished when you can perform at least forty total getups in forty minutes. Sixty is pushing the envelope and eighty ranks you as a mutant of the highest caliber. To rate your swings, 800 is passing, 1200 is incredible, and 1600 is something I don't expect to ever see. But you're welcome to try.

Before you go off on a high volume program, make sure to check with an RKC first. It would be a shame for you to go out, build up a reflexive movement pattern, then find out you've been doing it wrong. It's harder to forget bad habits than it is to learn good ones. I always enjoy enthusiasm, but don't go driving yourself at 90mph only to be headed for a brick wall. It's just counter-productive and dangerous. [/LEFT]
[B][CENTER]All Roads Lead to Rome (some are just faster) [/CENTER]
[LEFT]There are numerous of ways to achieve the numbers you need. I prefer to follow a schedule like Pavel's Program Minimum. Getups on Monday and Thursday, swings on Tuesday and Friday, and stretching on Wednesday and Saturday. Can you add an additional swing or getup day? You can but I wouldn't. At least not in the beginning. Chances are more than a little likely that it will take some time for you to adjust to this kind of volume. Enjoy your off days. Eat, sleep, and save the high frequency for when you can handle it.

My preferred method of volume training for grinds is with ladders. That's easy enough with presses, but how do you do that with getups? As Pavel said in Enter the Kettlebell, don't worry about going all the way up when you begin. It is an exercise, not a lift. Work your way up. So I've taken to training the getup in stages. Think of it as a set of five. Rep one is a halfup, two is lifting your hips into a bridge, three is bringing your leg through to that kind of a kneel, four is the lunge position, and five is all the way up. So five minutes of getups is just 5x5 in my book. Now we have a means of applying the getup to current templates.

So when I say to do 1,2,3 it is like doing a ladder. 1,2,3 would have you do a getup up to stage one, get down, do a getup to stage two, get down, and do a getup to stage three, and get down. So that would be three partial getups. 1,2,3,4,5 will be five partial getups and what I call a ceiling ladder. You will not add rungs beyond this point. Go up to the next kettlebell size.

You can use this method to nail a getup with a bell you can't quite perform a getup with but you're comfortable with a halfup. So just perform your halfup and work your way up. Eventually, you will be able to build it into a full getup. Using this method, I went from struggling to do a halfup with the Beast to performing a full getup with 124lb at 150lb bodyweight in under three months.


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