Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Hard Style Lock

Part of what makes my KBLA RKC crew stand out head & shoulders above the rest is our emphasis on teaching a progression in movement. The progression allows us to teach in a way that constantly reinforces the basics. It's how I teach everything - from martial arts to medicine to movement.

The Hard Style Lock is lesson #1 when it comes to generating a Maximum Volitional Contraction (MVC). Most of the time, when people think they're contracting their muscles as strongly as possible, it's nowhere near their potential. It's the same as in other facets of life, too. When you see people who're barely applying themselves at a given task, but they're convinced that they're giving you maximum output, you are faced with someone who has a disconnect between their mind and reality. Getting someone to generate an MVC is a physical reality test. The more of their muscle's contractile potential that's used, the closer the person is to reality.

The Hard Style Lock teaches you not only to generate an MVC, but to do it in several muscle groups with a high degree of coordination. There are 5 points of this Lock:
1. Heels - Drive them into the ground without letting them come off the ground at any time.
2. Knees - Lock them out completely, as if pushing your knee pits backward as hard as you can.
3. Glutes - Without compromising the knee lock, clench your glutes so tightly that your hips rotate forward on your thighs.
4. Abs - Shorten your abdominal plate (from your solar plexus to your groin) as tightly as possible while exhaling a short, sharp breath.
5. Lats - Draw your shoulder blades down in such a way as to shove them down towards your butt.

To train this, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and point your feet ramrod straight ahead so that their midlines are parallel to each other. [Note: When I say midline, I mean the line between the heel of your foot and the 3rd toe.]Bend your knees and hips slightly, as if you were in a very slight crouch on your heels, and then work on generating each successive part of the Lock from the ground up. You begin by snapping the knees straight and staying on your heels. Next, you add the glute clench. The glute clench is central to Hard Style and where most people fall terribly short. Instead of driving the hip motion by clenching the glutes, a lot of people just lean backward, leaving the abs essentially off and dropping the strain right into the lower back. Most people can call it a major coup to just be able to fire these first 3 parts of the Lock simultaneously. For a Hard Stylist, add the abs & lats. Your abs serve as the virtual weight belt to stabilize your lumbar spine, and your lats stabilize your shoulder so that your neck doesn't get conscripted.

The ability to exert neurological force simultaneously through these seemingly disparate parts of your body is what makes Hard Style such a useful training method, regardless of the tool - whether Naked Warrior-style with bodyweight, or RKC style with a kettlebell. To get there, however, you need to have an unflinching awareness of what you're doing and not doing. Then accept responsibility for acknowledging and changing what isn't ideal.

Want more? Get to a KBLA-RKC instructor's class and learn! Nothing takes the place of instruction, practice, & feedback, especially with KBLA at the helm!


Iron Tamer said...

Excellent post Doc.

One of the things that I continually reinforce is that the body position at the top of the swing, clean, snatch, press, TGU, squat, Highpull, jerk....EVERYTHING... is the same.

The HS lock.

If I see you standing with a KB overheard, I do not have enough info to know if it got there by way of press, snatch or Getup, and other than the arm holding the weight, you should look like the top of a swing.


Unknown said...

Yes, Sir. Thank you for your kind words.

As I believe I said at one of the RKCs we were at together - "ballistic uniformity" is a central concept in Hard Style. The HSL is just another way I've been trying to drive that home to folks.

Hard Style!

Max Shank said...

Great points. Awesome post.
We should also add "Grip," no?

Unknown said...

Com. Max, I left grip out of the HSL because it isn't a crucial component where you need to generate an MVC for the majority of the ballistic lifts. You don't need to crush the handle of the bell for any of them, in fact. You can Swing with a loose grip, Clean with a loose grip, High-Pull with a loose grip, and Snatch with a loose grip. What's crucial on all of those is dynamic wrist positioning... not grip.

You do, however, want to crush the grip while Pressing, to activate the mechanoreceptors in your palm, leading to irradiation & more tension along the arm, into the chest, etc...

Max Shank said...

I guess my comment was directed towards the getup and the press. Both of which require (I believe) a tight grip to really suck down the shoulder and activate the lat. I have found that this is also true at the top of the snatch with people who have loose shoulders. In any case, I understand now why it is not part of the list, but I do think it deserves an honorable mention :)

Unknown said...

Honorable is fine, as long as it's relevant. We've gotta stick to the points at hand (no pun intended) and not allow the discussion to get sidetracked for the hell of it.

The TGU & Press are not ballistics, therefore, not exactly relevant to this particular post. More on them later, my friends!

Coach RJ said...

Well put Dr. Cheng! To all-this HS lock took me from one pathetic 24kg snatch in May.08 to 100 in Sept.08 with sets of 20 and a 3:30 rest between sets...and I'm 48 years old! Trust these guys--if they say learn and use the HS lock, DO IT! You'll not only optimize your performance--but safety as well. I'm far from perfect, but getting closer to "reality" each week!

SG Human Performance said...

Dr. Cheng, love the post! You should really repost this maybe with a video?

Sandy Sommer, RKC said...

I've noticed something recently and wonder if you'd share your thoughts. I've noticed some Z-Health, RKC folks who are having their eyes follow the bell on swings as well as on presses. I'm guessing that this has something to with the neuro component of Z-Health. How do you feel about taking the eyes off "straight ahead?"

Unknown said...

Mr. Snow, the video's a-comin'! :)

Mr. Sommer, my personal preference for heavier Presses is to look at the bell. For the Swing, however, I think that there's a great bit of T-spine mobility that you get from keeping the eyes straight forward instead of focused on the bell. This is something we'll be going over in DE this June! :)

Anonymous said...

May I just ask: locking the knees, is this done by pulling the kneecap up? (using the quads i guess)
The description of pushing the knee pit fully back seems like hyperextension and possibly dangerous. However I am aware that RKCs are really conscious of safe exercise practice, so it's just a matter of clarification. I've been struggling with this concept since first reading pavel's early books

Unknown said...

Dave, thanks for posting. I'm really glad to see that this article's still holding peoples' interest and providing some folks with food for thought.

The locking of the knees is an absolutely natural & safe movement when performed Hard Style and in the absence of knee joint pathology.

What's a Hard Style knee lock?

A FULL extension of the knees while engaging both the extensors AND the posterior chain, specifically the glutes, at their fullest (MVC). When the glutes fire fully in a closed chain situation, the knees want to flex. Try it for yourself.

Now, my guess is that the knee flexor firing is just enough to stabilize the joint and prevent hyperextension when the extensors fire maximally.

The entirety of the leg should be as tight as humanly possible at the lockout. This is a feed-forward tension loop, so it's not like a sloppy punch where you throw all your energy behind the extension and assume that another object's inertia will decelerate you. You end LOCKED and LINKED, as opposed to hyperextended & semi-relaxed.

Hope that was helpful. :)

Brian said...

Dr. Cheng:

Thank you for keeping this post. I read ETK and am trying to progress through the PM. Your clear advice on the lockout is very helpful. My Lower Back hurts after doing the swimngs. After reading your post, I did swings today and concentrated on my Abs and not leaning back. Now, no back pain. I will keep at it.

One thing I also did - I practiced the HS lock while warming up with the Face The Wall squats. I will keep this up too.

Thanks again.

psamtani said...

The real deal! I've been working a little bit on my swing since last Sunday (my first class), and I believe I can already feel a huge difference. Can't wait till this Sunday.

Good coaches FTW

Liane said...

Thank you so much for this. Just did 'the five' with the swings. The abs addition feels gorgeous. The shoulder part is going to take some practise for me. :)Thanks again.