Thursday, March 20, 2008

WHY Kettlebell Training?

What is the one thing you’d look for when working out, whether it is losing weight, improving your stamina and endurance, toning your muscles, gaining strength, developing explosive speed and power or improving your flexibility? I’m not sure about you, but for me it would be efficacy. I’d want my workout to be the most efficient and productive workout to help me achieve my goals. If I had only an hour a day or even thirty minutes or less, but yet want to achieve the foregoing fitness objectives, I’d want a workout that works for me.

No offense to runners, but who wants to spend an hour or two jogging just to burn 600 calories or lose weight or tone up your butt, thighs and legs? In today’s hectic rat-race world where time for anything (let alone exercise) is a premium, most people would want to spend the least amount of time for the most efficient workout. In other words, they’d want the most bang for their buck.

Okay, so you want to lose weight. There are many options out there but how much of it really works? Running is fine but I’ve seen many people who run but don’t lose weight. Unless you’ve a passion for running, most people give up the initial steam to run at least an hour a day for three or more times a week. It’s pretty boring if you run the same routes every day or every other day or keep running on that $5,000 treadmill at home or in the gym. Not to mention the impact on your knees which will wear out your joints after much pounding and punishment because without which, your runs will not generate enough of a workout to work up your heart rate and burn those calories. Oh, did I forget those rainy days when you can’t run?

With a kettlebell, you can do swings for 6 to 8 minutes to get the equivalent or more of 30 or 45 minutes of running. In fact, you’d be dripping buckets full of sweat by the time you hit 3 minutes. Kettlebell swings is the basic foundation movement which leads into all the other lifts and movements but remains one of the most effective exercise which develops your cardio, help lose weight, tone up and tighten those hips, butts and thighs, adductors, back, shoulders, forearms. Want a sexy tight butt? Swing a kettlebell. Want incredible cardio and fire up your metabolic rate and lose weight? Swing a kettlebell. The simple yet effective kettlebell swing can be done anywhere, anytime. All you need is a single kettlebell with just 3 x 3 metres of space and you can do it on rainy days in the privacy and comfort of your own home without having to put on your running shoes or driving to the gym. Heck, you can even literally pack your kettlebell in your overnighter and bring it into whichever hotel you check in if you’re crazy enough.

So you want to pack on some upper body strength, put on some muscles and look like Stallone in Rambo 4? Mind you, steroids have serious side effects on your health and can give you roid rage. How about signing up in a bodybuilding gym? Or investing $15,000 in some bodybuilding equipments like a power bench, a squat rack, barbells and countless free weights or some workstation which will besides burning a hole in your pocket, probably end up being an antique piece in your home or store room? Life doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Having come from a hard core bodybuilding background, I know that you’d have to do tons of sets of bicep curls, barbell curls, concentration curls just to hit those biceps. Having to do 4 to 5 types of different types of exercise with countless repetition to work just one bodypart is not efficient and a waste of time. Besides that, the trouble with bodybuilding is that it is a lot of isolationist movements which are not really that for your joints because it stresses them and does not really strengthen your body to work as a functional whole unit. You might get very strong say doing heavy dumbbell curls but you’d be surprised you might not even get past 10 dead hang chin-ups. Why? Because doing dumbbell curls works only your biceps per se, and not other parts of your body like your upper and lower back muscles, forearms, traps and lats, etc. which you need to engage if you were to lift your own body weight past a chin-up bar.

In everyday life, you’d want functional strength, and not just look good. A single kettlebell movement like a clean works the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, hips, adductors, back, shoulders and core, lats, biceps and forearms. See the difference? In simple words, kettlebell exercises like a clean work more bodyparts than just your biceps to give you strength, endurance, work capacity, cardio and those toned, hard muscles you want. So, by the time the guy in the gym has done 4 sets of 15-12-10-8 dumbell curls, while I do in equivalent 2 mins of cleans per hand, I’d have work out more bodyparts, developed my cardio and endurance while he has just worked his biceps. Need I say more?

I’m refraining from getting into other kettlebell moves like the snatch, jerk, presses, windmills, and many more others just to illustrate the point that even with 2 simple movements, you’d get more benefits from doing these 2 kettlebell moves than doing other types of workouts and exercises which are far costlier, take up more time to learn and do and are less efficient for the amount of work and effort you put in. Why just work hard? Work hard and smart. Try kettlebell training today and see, feel and enjoy the difference and benefit it brings. Oh, and did I say it can get addictive?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Next Big Thing - Kettlebells!!

I've recently discovered an incredible fitness equipment that can kickstart your training intensity, fitness, strength and endurance to a whole new incredible level! And it's got to do with an interesting piece of iron called a kettlebell! Watch this space and see what a kettlebell is and can do for you!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What is Core Strength and why Core Strength?

What is Core Strength?
Core Strength is the development of the abdominal and back muscles that surround the core area of the body with a tight and powerful support structure of muscle bundles running in different directions. The core muscles act as shock absorbers for jumps, rebounds, or plyometric exercises; stabilize the body; and represent a link, or transmitter, between the legs and arms. []
Why Core Strength training?
Fad exercises come and go. You may remember the Jane Fonda aerobics craze followed by step aerobics and more recently, Tae Bo and the myriads of spin off exercises. Nowadays, Pilates and Yoga are popular forms of exercise. One common link between them all is the training of the body's main hinge which connects the upper body (torso) and the lower body (hips and legs). It is said that if you have a strong core you will have a strong upper and lower body as they are all interdependent. While you cannot specifically train the "core" because there is no "core" muscle, rather, the combined function of a group of muscles make up the "core", you can train your body to improve key areas that will promote health, injury prevention and functional strength. In addition, the method used in the training of the core involves High Intensity Interval Training and Anaerobic conditioning. Not only will you gain strength and proper posture but also develop endurance and stamina which will allow you to play you sport with better stability and for longer with insane recovery. [see Vince Choo, KDT Academy -]
The intent of core training is to strengthen the muscle groups that stabilize your skeletal structure. These are primarily the muscles in the thoracic area that determine your posture in each sport and in effect link your upper and lower body. The muscle groups that you strengthen with core training generally don't have the range of motion needed to drive you forward, but they are the 'platform' from which your arms and legs work. This need for a stable platform clearly applies to proper running and cycling posture. In highly developed swimming movements it may be even more important since the middle section of your body can actually contribute force through twisting motions where the direction of force from arms and legs oppose each other.
Core training helps get you 'in touch' with individual muscles and small groups of muscles. This awareness of specific muscles, or muscle groups is the first step in improving various posture and form issues. For example, many adults (and plenty of athletes) have poor posture stemming from weak mid-back muscles (rhomboids). This particular posture issue looks badly and can negatively impact each of our three sports. The first step to improving your posture is getting to know these muscles, then toning them so you can tighten them independently of your lower back's muscles which probably don't need additional toning work.
Core training focuses on muscular areas of the abdominals including obliques (your sides), upper and lower back (deltoids, rhomboids), hips (gluteals, hip flexors, psoas…), outer and inner thighs (abductors and adductors), hamstrings, even some pectoralis and triceps work.
When driving yourself forward in each of our sports, you're actually only as strong as your weakest muscular link. For example, even if you have the quads of a bodybuilder, you must have the strength in your upper body to control the force your quads can develop. On a bike, gravity dictates that all down force generated at maximum output is limited to your body weight and the opposing force of pulling up by the opposite crank arm. You can create additional down force by pulling up on the handlebar, thus opposing the tendency for your body to rise as you push down with your quads. But, since your legs are attached at your hips, not at your arms, the stable platform your arms create must be extended to your hips and legs through a rigid torso. Similar dynamic examples apply to running and swimming.
In running consider what you felt like during the IronMan's marathon (any marathon for that matter). When you become fatigued, your form falls apart. It's not just because of tired legs, it's tired arms, tired back, everything hurts. Having a strong torso helps hold your form together in the latter stages of an endurance effort - any distance race effort for that matter.
Now consider how a fish moves when it swims. Its fins and tail don't move independently from the rest of its body. The force a fish creates is through longitudinal flexion of its whole body. Non-aquatic creatures are the only ones that move with its appendages.
The movements below can all be done without any special equipment, just a floor with a little padding is all you'll need.
Here is a short sequence of core movements:
Abdominals:Upper: Crunches, lateral crunches, full sit-up.
Lower: Leg raises, single, "pedaling," double legs.
Side: Bridging on your side, double leg raises.
Back:Upper: Bridging, hyperextension.
Lower: Bridging, hyperextension.
Hips:Abductors: Side leg raises.
Adductors: Side double leg raises.
The next big thing - Kettlebells - Core Strength's Twin Sister!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Looking good, feeling great!

I'm now enjoying life, better than before because of my improved fitness.
Imagine playing any sport or hobby without having to stop after 5 or 10 minutes? Imagine having to enjoy what you do - endurance sports like martial arts, grappling, boxing, rock climbing, adventure racing, triathlons and stamina sports like marathons, half marathons without gassing out and being able to complete it? The satisfaction and sense of achievement when you cross that finish line is beyond words - for those of you who have completed such events, you'd know what I mean. Imagine your enlarged and new circle of friends and interesting people you'd meet when you indulge in such new activities?
Okay, okay, you may say - I don't like any of these types of sports or activities. Fair enough. Even if you are a week-end warrior or ordinary joe, the benefits of having great fitness are manifold. You will never tire easily from physical exertion, and even if you do, you'd recover quickly and easily. You could play with your chidlren and keep up with them. You could go scuba-diving with friends, cycling, running, play racket games, dance, the possibilities are endless. Your heart will be strong and healthier - and you will avoid all those lifestyle diseases so prevalent in today's society. The statistics are frightening. Just look at the papers today and you'll know how obese the population is fast becoming. As these lifestyle diseases increase, so does the life of the individual beset with these diseases decrease significantly. Personally, I know of 2 close friends who died from their first and only heart attack at ages 34 and 36 respectively. Shocking? Yes.
Your body was not made to be sedentary. As we increasingly grow older, our muscles athropy or waste away when it is not used. We lose muscle fibres, strength, flexibility and range of motion. You may think, this is not important but it is. I've seen individuals who cannot move themselves far, ie walk or are bedridden because their muscles fail them. Is this the quality of life I wanted? Certainly not.
And thus, continues my quest for fitness not only for myself, but to share it with as many loved ones and friends as well.
I'm now enjoying my fitness, having the strength and fitness to do almost any sport I'd like, like boxing and adventure racing. At the beginning, I could even hold up my hands with a 10 ozs. glove for more than 1 minute while boxing because my arms and sholders burned from the lactic acid build up. Boxing is an intense anaerobic activity and is very demanding but I love it! Another thing I'd like to continue is my adventure racing which I tried last year and also enjoy a great deal!
Could I do all this before being whipped into shape by Vince and being conditioned? No way but now I can. And so can you!
There are many ways to being fit and strong. What's yours? Mine's Core Strength Conditioning at KDT Academy.
Next: What is Core Strength and why Core Strength?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

When and how it all began...

About 3 years ago, I was overweight, unfit, unhealthy, panting when I walked up 3 flights of stairs - in short - overweight and unfit.
A sedantery lifestyle coupled with an unrestrained diet was a sure recipe for disaster and I knew it. Sure, I was a member of a popular fitness chain and lifted weights there but somehow, I did not find what I wanted there. I know the basics of weightlifting and bodybuilding but having a bulky frame and strength didn't seem quite right. I was still overweight and a layer of stubborn abdominal fat or visceral fat still stuck stubbornly around the waist. While I had strength, I lacked endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance and explosive power.
That would all soon change.
My gym partner discovered Vince and was raving about what he was doing. Now my particular friend is NOT easily impressed and was quite muscular and athletic - or so he thought, until he meet Vince and trained with him. With Vince and his Core Strength programe, it is a whole new different ball game. And at the recommendation of my dear friend, I decided to see what Vince had to offer.
Day 1: I weighted in at 81 kg. Vince takes my measurements and we start. He explains some movements and describes them by their names - Squats, Lunges, Mountain Runners, Boot Strappers, Dips, Push-ups, okay, sounds simple enought. I was so wrong. I was into 10 minutes of my work out with Vince and I has gasping for breath - my lungs were on fire, my muscles were burning and I was beginning to feel nauseous and faint. By about 20 minutes or so (which felt like an hour) I told Vince that I had to stop or else I'll pass out - which I felt was imminent. So much for day 1. Vince tried his best with me and he thought that I wouldn't be back. I knew where I stood - fitness-wise and was determined to make this work and lose weight, gain strength, all the good stuff. And I knew, Vince was my answer. I had no hesitation signing up and was already looking forward to my next session with him.
By the next day, my muscles ached and I could barely walk. I was determined. By day 3, I was back with Vince for more good stuff. The days went by and pretty soon, I had completed 1 week.
Vince was explaining to me what he was doing - building my core muscles and strength, developing my anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, stamina and endurance, recovery, flexibility, strength, balance. Over the weeks and soon months, I trained under his watchful eyes and guidance. Always dedicated and committed, Vince gives you his full attention and is a consumate teacher, instructor and soon, friend. I could go on and on...
Before I knew it, I was down to 70 kgs. My clothes didn't fit. I needed a belt with more holes to hold up my pants (it was costly to make new pants and shirts). But damn, did I look good naked. For the first time in my life, I had a 6 pack! My bodyfat percentage went down, I was fit, strong, had great endurance and stamina. These were but a few of the benefits of the Core Strength Program which KDT Academy offered. I doubt that any other gym or fitness centre in Malaysia currently offers this. I have not mentioned the Metabolic Profiling programe which deserves a separate post.
My wife and my friends noticed the changes and commented on how fit, lean and athletic I looked and wanted to know what I did. I shared my secret gladly and today, they are the raving fans and members of KDT Academy! Actions speak louder than words.
Next: Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

3 great years - Time flies!

It's 2007 and it's been nearly 3 years since I've joined Vince Choo's gym at KDT Academy. I've joined many gyms since schooldays when bodybuilding was popular with its famous ambassadors, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Ronnie Coleman, Lou Ferrigno, Joe Weider, etc. Alright, now good 'ol Arnie has since gone on to become governor, and most of my buddies whom began weight training with me have also now gone horizontally wider, I'm still in love with keeping fit and healthy.
Although work and other committments never make it easy to always keep exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, I finally found not only the ABSOLUTE BEST GYM in Malaysia, I found a gym where I've never wanted to stop going to and my gym membership here has been the longest - ever. No other gyms gave me the reason to stay on and renew my membership but Vince Choo and KDT Academy certainly had too many reasons for me to do so. I'm not an exercise junkie or gym rat, simply going to the gym to exercise for exercise's sake, preen and pose and socialise (althought those are the side benefits to any gym, again depending on the crowd and type of people). Once, I remember I joined a gym just to work out and to stay away from the crowd, I was at the gym by 6 am. It was - work out early, finish and beat the crowd. Somehow, those fitness chain gyms never worked for me.
With KDT Academy, things were very different. For a guy whose used to bodybuilding and weight training, isolationist movements and heavy weights, Core Strength Conditioning was Greek (or Latin) to me. Easy? So I thought. Piece of cake. If I could incline bench 80 kgs. - what's my own bodyweight? Ha ha, big mistake.
I must say that when I first began at KDTA, I was a hefty 80 kgs. - overweight for a male of my height - and very unfit.
Vince wasted no time in showing me what I missed out with an unhealthy bodyweight and fitness level by whipping me into shape over the next few months. The first impressions I had of Vince was that - this guy really knows what he's doing - and trust me, Vince can really walk the talk.
The next few months turned into a year, 1 year into 2 and now the rest as they say, is history. There's no looking back ever since, only forwards.
What's so special?
Stay tuned.