Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day Sobriety Kettlebell workout

Hope you're all having a GREAT wind-down to your Holiday Season!

And knowing full well that many of you are griping about how much you ate (and the griping about how much you drank tomorrow), I've got a quick, easy solution for you.

If you want to get the post-inebriation haze out of your system, take a small sip of water, grab a light kettlebell (guys - 16kg, gals - 8kg), set your iPhone timer for 3 minutes, and Swing rep for rep with a proper Hardstyle hip snap.

Now you're very likely going to want to go from 2 hands to 1 hand to the other hand and back to 2 hands, which is all well & good, but concentrate on keeping your neck out of it, keeping your eyes and your mind focused, and keeping your glutes snapping strongly behind each & every rep. Do NOT stop until the timer goes off, but REALLY concentrate on making each rep as explosive as possible. Shoot your hips forward as powerfully as you can, keep your shoulders linked, keep your gaze straight ahead. You'll find that if you can keep all of these points constant, you'll be done in no time flat and your tummy will feel flatter too!

Not only will you feel like you got rid of the booze haze, but you'll also have kick started your metabolism to shed off that wee bit of pudge that you may have packed on! Fatloss fast & furious, folks... welcome to Hardstyle!

If you don't own a kettlebell and aren't sure what a Swing is, then click on that Quick Start kit to the right and get started!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Kettlebells Los Angeles holiday shout-out

I just posted this to my KBLA Yahoo mailing group, but the Holiday message in it bears repeating. So with a few edits and additions, please read it below.

Happy Holidays to each of you, and may you find the inspiration to redefine yourselves to a standard higher, stronger, and healthier than you've ever lived before!

The Christmas/Holiday Season is upon us again, and it gives us time to reflect on our accomplishments of the past year and to set goals for the next one.

You've all been instrumental in the growth of Kettlebells Los Angeles and are proof positive that the KBLA standard of quality control is setting the bar higher & higher with each passing year.

Expect some changes to come in 2010, along with a shuffling of the guard. We want to bring you only the FINEST instruction from the FINEST instructors, so we'll be not only revamping our website to show the attendance dates of each & every KBLA affiliated instructor, but also highlighting those individuals who show consistency in their dedication to improving their pedagogical skills.

Also, look for a series of SoCal-based summer workshops featuring both Master RKC Kenneth Jay and I. Just like this past year's workshop in Irvine, we're going to gear it towards not only the total beginner, but also the highly seasoned RKC. If you doubt that we could do that successfully, just ask anyone who was in attendance there this year!

We're not just raising the bar. We're also giving you the means to clear it, too!

I'll be teaching the Sunday morning KBLA class (weather permitting) at Clover Park, in Santa Monica on Dec. 27th and on Jan. 3, so if you're in So Cal, get up, get out, and get to work shedding the pounds that you packed on from Holiday eating, and redefine your boundaries of your own human performance!

Finally, on behalf of the KBLA RKC instructors and our affiliates, I'd like to wish each and every one of you & your loved ones a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Strong, Prosperous 2010!

Please keep those who have less or are suffering more than you in your thoughts and prayers, and take the time to:
- drop a new, unwrapped toy off at your local Fire Station,
- volunteer a few hours of your time at a homeless shelter,
- give some canned foods to church or other group that works to alleviate hunger, or
- send an e-mail to the troops overseas via

With warmest wishes to you & your loved ones,
"Doc" Mark Cheng, KBLA Chief Instructor

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kinetic Confusion: Does your butt think it's your foot?

It's an undeniable fact of life for many of us.

We sit.... and we sit a LOT.

Whether it's in front of the computer, the steering wheel, the TV set, the boardroom table, or the dining table, life's become increasingly sedentary for far too many individuals in the "modern" world.

With long commutes, with computer-based jobs, with the TV culture, the effects on our bodies are almost too slow to perceive until they're ingrained and it's almost too late.

As I was watching my son play outside at the park, I got into a conversation with another parent about my mixed feelings about Squealie going to grade school. Watching him move so well on the playground and develop balance, proprioceptive awareness, and other neurological skills made me happy with his progress and concerned about the long hours of enforced sitting that he'd have to endure in school. As schools have less time for recess, no resources for physical education / gym classes, & fewer sports programs, I can't help but be a little uneasy.

Looking at the adult population that I work with clinically and consult for internationally, one of the biggest things that I see with pain seems to be the result of long-term kinetic confusion.

Let me explain it to you...

Looking at the joint-by-joint view of closed chain movement that FMS founder Gray Cook talks about, the foot is the root of our movement and what relates the body to the ground for leverage. Thus the foot needs to create a stable platform of linkage to the ground to allow the rest of the kinetic chain to create effective, powerful movement.

Next up the chain, the ankle needs to be mobile, which in turn allows the knee to be stable and the hip to be mobile.

So remember, in an ideally functioning kinetic chain per Gray Cook, we've got:

* Foot - stable
* Ankle - mobile
* Knee - stable
* Hip - mobile
* Lumbar spine (lower back) - stable
* Thoracic spine (mid-upper back) - mobile
* Lower C-spine - stable
* Axis & atlas vertebrae - mobile

So you can see that each successive joint or joint "team" has the opposite function of the neighboring joints. Thus, problems arise when these joints or joint teams get locked into functioning in the opposite manner in which they were intended.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I NEVER said that these are the ONLY ways in which these joints & joint teams are meant to function. However, when muscles are trained to move or hold joints reflexively in a certain fashion, we need to pay attention to whether or not the joints are meant to function OPTIMALLY in that fashion.

So let's look at what happens in sedentary culture.

Your rear end becomes the primary point of contact for your body to the ground (via a chair). So those hips which were meant to be mobile and driven by the glutes turn into your primary point of stability. The glutes spend hours on stretch and the hip flexors shorten.

Moving up the "sedentary chain", your lumbar spine starts becoming more & more mobile as you reach for things and move around while maintaining your seated position.

The T-spine stiffens up to maintain some semblance of posture, and the next thing you know, you're suffering from lower back, shoulder, & neck pain... and your butt now thinks it's your foot.

Wanna un-do this kinetic confusion? Get out there & do some Swings!!!

Wanna do even more? Check out my Kettlebell Warrior DVD series!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Doc Heads Down Under - Hard Style, High Density in Adelaide, Australia!

For those of you mates who are in the Southern Hemisphere or in Australasia, I'm heading your way VERY soon!

I'll be teaching a special TWO day workshop in Adelaide, Australia, going over the ins & outs of Pavel Tsatsouline's Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) system of kettlebell training.

Pavel's RKC system hinges on a system of movement and a strength concept known as "Hardstyle", where the ability to maximize tension is a central focus. The "Level 1 RKC" kettlebell instructors' certification is known as the most demanding and thorough kettlebell instructor preparation and certification course in the world. It requires candidates to demonstrate proficiency in teaching and performing 6 main lifts:
- Deadlift & Swing
- Turkish Get-Up
- Clean
- Front Squat
- Military Press
- Snatch (including the RKC snatch test)

For those of you interested in providing BEGINNER level kettlebell instruction, Pavel Tsatsouline has also come up with an entry level certification called the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC). The curriculum for this level of certification revolves around the Deadlift, Swing, Goblet Squat, & Turkish Get-Up. Two dates have already been confirmed for the HKC certifications in Melbourne. These techniques will be the focus of Day 1 of our workshop.

On Day 2, we'll be conducting a quick review of Day 1 and covering the advanced ballistics (Clean & Snatch) and the King of the Grinds... The Military Press. The RKC Snatch Test is perhaps the most intimidating part of the RKC certification weekend, but only because instructor candidates failed to learn the lift in proper detail, foolishly choosing instead to gamble on their abilities to either rely on pure athleticism or muscle through it.

We'll be covering these exercises in consummate detail, along with introducing concepts from Gray Cook's Functional Movement Systems (FMS). The FMS technologies have allowed some of the world's most elite professional sports teams & military units to dramatically decrease their incidence of injury while also accelerating their return to functional movement and high performance.

For those of you who are fitness professionals, personal trainers, strength coaches, physiotherapists, martial arts instructors, or other movement professionals, the information you're going to get will make you more competent in your field and quickly improve the results you're getting from your clientele.

For those of you who are trying to get back in shape or lose weight, for those of you who are recovering from injury, for those of you who seek to prevent injury, for those of you whose earning potential is based on your optimum physical performance, the information presented in this workshop is PRICELESS.

On January 23rd & 24th, I'll be teaching all of this and more in Adelaide. We're running an EARLY registration special and we're SEVERELY limiting the number of registrants for this workshop. We're going from 9am - 5pm on Saturday and roughly the same time for Sunday.

Expect about 14 hours of some of the most high quality and high density information that you've heard to date! Just ask anyone who's been to one of my workshops or come to LA to take my tutorial and they'll tell you that you'll leave with enough material to make your head spin and jumpstart your career!

I want to make sure that each and every participant comes in and gets to work DIRECTLY with me, feels the tactile cueing that I've become known for, and improves their ability to move powerfully and reflexively. So I'm making sure this workshop stays small and the quality stays HIGH.

If you want to make sure that we've got a place reserved for you, I strongly suggest that you pre-reg now while there are spaces available and the price is AUS$100 lower than what it'll be after 9 January 2010!

The Paypal registration links are below, and the address is:
(rear of) 54 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Mile End, South Australia
(entrance from the corner of South Road and Daringa Street)

Contact Nino Pilla (08) 8212-5606 for more information!

Register NOW & see you Down Under!

Select Days

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's a Pattern?

Functional movement patterning is something I'm fascinated immensely by. And that fascination boils down to a two part question:
1. Etiology: How does dysfunction develop?
2. Treatment: How do we take dysfunctional patterns and re-educate them for optimal function again?

With screening & assessment tools such as the Functional Movement Screen & the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, we are able to identify dysfunctional movement that lies at the root of problematic movement or pain. With any variety of corrections that are available - ranging from manipulation/mobilization, to corrective exercise, to Z-Health, to yoga/martial arts - we can directly affect how the body's neuromuscular system deals with a particular motion.

Wait a minute!!!

What about joint problems?

What about muscle cramps?

What about tendinitis?

What about bone spurs?

What about compressed discs?

Yep... I hear you... and I want you to think slightly outside the box for a moment. Follow me through this line of thought, please.

All of the situations you've described above can be seen as mere symptoms. Not the true root of an underlying problem.

One of the mantras I've heard Z-Health practitioners use is "The nervous system is plastic."

No, that doesn't mean that your brachial plexus is 99% nylon. That means that you are capable of change.

Your body's muscular movement patterns, which are controlled by your nervous system, can be RE-PATTERNED by re-training your nervous system. And retraining the nervous system is often done by imposing a different level of awareness on an action.

My mentor, Gray Cook, calls that "proprioceptive awareness" when spoken about in the context of movement. But there are a growing number of studies where researchers are showing that movement training can directly impact individuals with cognitive disorders.

No $h!#... The Chinese have been saying for millenia that "The inside manifests on the outside, but the outside can change the inside."

Fortune-cookie-speak translation: If you recognize someone (or self) with psycho-social issues, no matter how minor or how major, you can positively affect that person if you can get him/her/yourself to modify your movement patterns.

NOW... back to the title of this post... What's a pattern?

A pattern is an established way of doing things that has become ingrained through practice. What oftentimes is dismissed as genetic or "inherited" is more likely a learned behavior.

Whether the pattern in question is valgus collapse under load, poor spinal posture when typing on your laptop, inappropriate scratching in public, binge eating, saying "uhhh" every few words, or being pathologically late, the reality is that all of these patterns are manifestations of a LACK OF CONTROL.

And that lack of control comes from two things: a lack of SELF-AWARENESS and a lack of understanding of CONSEQUENCES.

Let's take posture for example...

Someone may not be aware of their posture being kyphotic (slouched forward), and as a result, when they think they're standing straight, a 3rd person observer can see clearly that they're not. The nervous system, in this case, has calibrated itself to read the flexed T-spine as "neutral".

For that pattern to be broken, an intervention of sorts has to occur. Whether the person in question decides on his/her own to QUESTION and EXAMINE his/her own posture, OR a therapist intervenes to re-train the posture, the pattern needs inspection, analysis, and active modification to be re-learned. Ask anyone who's successfully changed their posture how difficult it was, and they'll almost all tell you that it took a lot of mindfulness - constantly reminding themselves to sit up straight, walk tall, etc., etc.

The same is true for speech, for movement, for any moment of any action that we are involved in. Mindfulness is the key to recalibration, the key to growth, the key to change.