Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stone Lifting

Round-back deadlifting, in the form of lifting heavy, odd-shaped objects, has been a staple of grappling training since time immemorial. Ancient athletes would test themselves as a rite of passage and every village had a large stone sitting at its border, the ability to lift same signaled a lad's entry into adulthood. Often, at festivals and other celebrations, large, smooth stones were brought in as contests, along with all manner of athletic games and sports.

The ability to lift unwieldy objects to the waist, chest, or shoulder directly correlates to combat training. In hand-to-hand combat, you'll find yourself in any number of unanticipated positions wherein you need to exert strength. You must also train your back to be able to lift out of a set groove, without injury. Ancient wrestlers trained with large, round stones in order to develop this type of lower back and hip power.

Stone balls are extremely unwieldy and slippery, requiring total body strength, including grip and arms. Unlike a nice, grooved, deadlift, round-stone lifting requires you drape yourself over the ball with a rounded back, then stabilize the spine through tremendous abdominal contraction as you bring the stone into position, whereupon the spine may flex. The ability to create this inter-abdominal pressure--and to stabilize the spine in this awkward position--is crucial both to the success of the lift and preventing injury. This is the same skill needed in lifting and throwing an opponent.

People talk about this type of lift as being another kind of groove, but each time you lift objects like these, each lift is a little bit different. Because of the shifting nature of odd objects, like stones or sand bags, the stabilizer muscles of the spine constantly come into play. Unlike the deadlift, no two stone lifts are ever the same. While there is technique to it, and people do find their best "path", it's much more difficult than the standard barbell lifts.

There's something very primal and satisfying about wresting a large stone from the earth. Barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells were made to be lifted--stones were not. There's nothing I like more than stripping down to my shorts, with my woman behind the camera, tearing a slumbering stone from its terrestrial resting place, and, with all the fury of an ancient warrior testing himself with the village manhood stone, successfully hefting it aloft! The admiring glances of your woman, and the sudden surge in T-levels, can make for a hot, post-workout rendezvous. It's gratifying and I highly recommend it, even if you're not a combat athlete or wrestler.

There are many sources for these types of stones. These particular stones I'm lifting here were made by my friend, Joe Egan, out of concrete and are beautifully molded. They're much cheaper than granite and nice and smooth on the bare skin. You can buy granite stones, both rough and smooth, from various sources on the web, one is



I am a 41 year old man with mild cerebral palsy which often impedes my movement due to contraction of the muscles surrounding the joints in my legs, hips and lower body. Sometimes, I am fine and I can walk with just a very slight limp. Other times, I must walk with a cane. I have a very low fitness level and am too shy and self conscious to join a standard gym. I am extremely motivated to change as working out will directly enable me to avoid being in a wheelchair in middle and old age. Based on this, do you feel that your Joint Training DVD program would be of benefit to me ?

A: Any kind of mobility training, including The Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility, would be excellent for you, since mobility is the ability to move a joint through the range of motion--with control--and this is a skill critical to keeping you out of a wheelchair. You'll also need some strength training to keep ahead of degeneration.

You should get started on your program right away. You needn't be self-conscious in a gym, as you are there to work hard, like any serious trainee. You'd surely be an inspiration to people there, but truly, you don't need a gym at all to attain your fitness goals.

Yours in Strength & Health,

PS. Outdoor training event in the Poconos Saturday 5 July...Contact for details

PSS. The odd-object lifting goes into play--in force!--Sat 12 July at the Gladiator Seminar, with Zach Even-Esh, in Edison NJ--only 20 people permitted and you definitely want to be one of them. Click here for the video! Watch Zach shaking down the ropes! Witness me crawling out from the primordial surf!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Workout Tuesday 20 May

1) Atomic Push-Ups on JG

* feet suspended in straps
* bring knee-to-elbow
* plank-style push-up w/ feet in stirrups

2) BW Rows

each done for a max set.

Next, a non-stop circuit:

3) Bulgarian Bag Jump Squats x 25

** Comment: these were surprisingly brutal! I do plenty of BW and weighted squats but I haven't done any explosive squats in some time and they were very taxing.

4) Sledgehammer Swings 20# x 15 L/R

5) Alternating Shield Cast 15# x 15 L/R

6) KB Snatch 16kg x 25 L/R

7) Hindu Push-Ups on push-board x 20

8) Windmills x 5 L/R with 5-count stretch at the bottom

2 rounds

Each circuit = 7 1/2 min w/ 3-min rest between circuits

This is a sample of circuit training using implements that activate the entire body from toes to nose. The idea is to systemically fatigue the body as opposed to isolating muscle groups like is commonly done in bodybuilding circuits. This type of circuit has many advantages over straight sets:

It allows partial recovery so that more work can be done, thus an increase in total work capacity. For example, if I were to simply do the push-up sequences in straight sets, my arms, shoulders and chest would quickly tire, but by sandwiching other exercises between push-up sets, I'm able to extend myself and perform more work. This is good, especially if strength-endurance is the goal.

I also like circuit training because of the pronounced, elevated heart rate. Because you're changing exercises every minute or so, the work load is spread over the entire body while systemically, the heart is still pumping like mad, as opposed to doing squats until your thighs burn out, wherein the average person might only last three minutes or so. As a result, whole-body circuit training is a real fat-burner. An applied blow-torch. You can become sculpted--chiseled--with this type of workout while improving overall athleticism. many of the movements selected for Maxwell-style circuits require a fair degree of coordination, athleticism and agility.

If you'd like to learn some terrific ideas for this type of fat-burning, athletic circuit training, get yourself to either over to Bow NH this weekend--there's still time!--or Edison NJ (with Zach Even-Esh) 12 July. Better yet--go to both. I'll be showcasing a lot of new stuff I've been working on out here in the wild.


5:10 AM: supps w/ BCAAs

6:15 AM 30-min Joint Mobility

9:40 AM: 1 pemmican bar

10:40 AM: coffee w/ cream

1:15 PM: yogurt shake

2T whey concentrate
1 T rice bran
16 oz. 2% Fage Greek yogurt
apricot stevia sweetener

4:45 PM: Pre-W/O Power Drive, creatine, BCAAs

5:00 PM Workout

5:45 PM: BCAAs, creatine, rice syrup for 25 gr carbs

7 PM: 1 pint cream of greens & nettles soup
1-pint picadillo (ground beef & pork)
about 3 oz raw cheese

8:30 PM sleep stack

9 PM reading & meditation

9:30 PM lights out!


Q: I am 34 yrs old and 245 pounds (about 50 pounds overweight) I wanted to know what you ...recommend for starting out as I want to lose the excess weight, get really strong and be healthy. I saw your different products and wanted to know if it would be good to start on the 300 spartan workout and later move into kettlebells...I am just looking to get started and then really take off. Especially as now I work on a tight budget, but am not taking anymore excuses to get in shape. Any advice would be great.

Start out with my Daily Dozen Joint Mobility,

coupled with an hour walk EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Buy a 16kg kettlebell and KB300 and do it 3 times/week, with a religious fervor, on non-consecutive days.

My online personal training is an incredible value--unparalleled on the web--and, coupled with diet advice, I CAN help you go after that stored-up body fat with unbridled fury.

You can't afford not to invest in your body and well-being. Time can be so short.
Yours in Strength & Health,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Workout Sunday 18 May

Stinson Beach CA
5:00 PM

* All pulling movements & suspensions done using the Lifeline Jungle Gym
* All Handstands & push-ups on the push-up board

1) Joint Mobility for 10 min

2) Handstand Push-Ups

3) Handstand Hold for time

4) Pistols

5) Single-Leg Calf Raises
on the lifeguard tower ladder

6) Iranian Twisting Push-Ups

7) Rotating Chin-Ups

8) Scorpion Push-Ups

9) Rotating Chin-Ups

10) Bear Squat/Dive-Thru Push-Ups

11) Rotating Chin-Ups

12) Hindu Push-Ups

13) BW Rows

14) Straight-Arm Pec Flies

15) Straight-Arm Rear Deltoid Flies

16) Double-Leg Curls

17) Alternating Hamstring Curls

18) 2nd set of Alternating Hamstring Curls

19) Roll-Outs
from the feet into a Superman

20) Roll-Outs from the Knees

21) Slow, High-Tension Sit-Ups

22) All-Out 20-sec Sprints x 6
w/ about 1-min recovery between sprints

* I made a line in the sand, sprinted out 20-sec. strategically placed two Coke cans, then walked back to my starting position. Rinse and repeat.


Morning: 2 pemmican bars

Afternoon: 1-pint container of pulled pork
couple ounces of cheese
couple spoonfuls raw sauerkraut

Pre-workout: 10 gr BCAAs

Post-workout: 20 gr BCAAs; 1 pint kombucha tea

Evening: 1 pint cream of greens & nettle soup
1 pint picadillo (spiced ground beef & pork)
couple ounces of raw cheese
handful of pork rinds

Friday, May 16, 2008

Getting OUT of the Groove

There are many ways to get yourself strong, lean, and conditioned. What I mean by "conditioned" is the ability to engage in strenuous activities without undue fatigue. Some people refer to this as "conditioned strength" or "strength/endurance". This type of activity produces a high level of cardio, or wind endurance, as well. Activities that fall into this category include wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, MMA, kettlebell sport, rowing, obstacle courses and...hard manual labor. Hard manual labor was once a staple in the athlete's arsenal, for instance many of the old-time fighters used wood-chopping or sledgehammer swinging. This type of activity is not just strength--though there is a strong strength requirement--nor is it just endurance or mid-range cardio. It's all three combined. This is referred to as metabolic conditioning. I've seen many a young mirror-athlete, with six-pack abs, guns and pecs, unable to deliver a day's honest labor; their "gym strength" and treadmill cardio is all show and no go. They may look like Tarzan, but they play like Jane--actually, Jane could kick their ass!

The "grooved" lifts provide a specific strength within a specific range, but take a deadlift guy and ask him to lift outside the linear groove...and he is weak. That's one reason strongman events have become so popular. The strongest power lifters and olympic lifters can't win the strongman competitions. I've seen 600-lb. deadlifters who were unable to shoulder a 200-lb. sand bag. This actually happened at my former gym, Maxercise, in Philadelphia. I was hosting a fitness event and a couple of well-known kettlebell guys (you don't have to think about it too hard) who also power-lifted, were attending. We were playing around with some of my toys in the gym--heck, I'm known for sharing! I had a 189-lb. wrecking ball, which was very smooth, thus difficult to grip. Neither guy could shoulder it. Now, I can't pull anywhere near what they pull in the deadlift (I don't even do deadlifts!) but I did rip that steel ball off the floor and shoulder it. Then I rolled it behind the neck and across the shoulders, down the other side of my body and back to the floor. This was in spite of being 25 years older--and 20-lbs. lighter--than either of them. The wrecking ball was an awkward, odd-shaped object requiring strength in multiple positions and planes. In other words: it wasn't a linear, ie, predictable groove. Of course, I'd been wrestling and doing jiu-jitsu for years, which developed strength in multiple, mis-aligned positions.

Further, neither kettlebell/gym-bunny could shoulder my 200-lb. sand bag. Yet one of my jiu-jitsu students--who'd never lifted weights, per se, in his life--wrested the bag off the floor, wrestled it to his shoulder, then, for good measure, sprinted with it across the mat, just to show 'em how it's done, heh.

My point is not to denigrate either deadlifts or kettlebells, but to point out that specializing in grooved lifts won't build the kind of strength needed for engaging in real-world activities. By all means, do deadlifts of you like them, but for my money, I prefer lifting sand bags. And Josh Henkin makes the best sand bags out there--definitely worth the investment. Click here to read more about sand bags.)

Because my chosen sport has a high level of strength/endurance, I've always preferred working with lighter sand bags. I like working non-stop, circuit style, without putting the bag down. Another workout is to select a challenging, set number of reps-per-exercise, usually 30 to 50, and perform each exercise sequentially. I stay with each exercise until the required reps are done, using as many, or as few, sets as needed. Then it's on to the next exercise! This type of training builds tremendous stamina, odd-angle strength, and mental toughness. Basically, you're ready for anything.

** On Sat 12 July, in Edison NJ, I'll be teaming up with Zach Even-Esh to reveal some of my favorite body Weight and sand bag drills--it's an entire day of gladiator training--check it out here. I hope to see you there!


I've been following your articles for a long time, I've been in a a few different professions: Royal Marines, Close Protection, now Corrections/Prisons. Hence, at the age of nearly fifty, I'm starting to feel a bit banged up. I've got a problem with a finger joint that gets inflamed every time I have to take somebody down, plus knees that ache all the time. Wear and tear, I know! Any advice?

I have your Cruel & Unusual Exercises 1 & 2, do you have advice on the best sort of routine for a corrections officer--especially, as the sort of prisoner I deal with is in the 18-21 age and tends to pump iron as much as possible...

A: I don't usually do this, since providing programs is a service I charge for, so it's not fair to my paying clients, but your question did partially inspire today's blog, so here you go:

1) Sand Bag Clean and Press
* The bag must touch the floor each rep, clean to chest and press overhead

2) Sand Bag Bear Hug Squats--
* Hug the bag to your chest- squat butt to floor while bear hugging the bag

3) Sand Bag Bent Over Rows
* Standing over the bag, row the bag to the chest and back out to arms length

4) Shouldering the Sand Bag
* Lift the sand bag from the floor and, in one motion lift, to the left shoulder; repeat on the right side going back and forth continuously

5) Sand Bag Get-Ups
* Lie down on the floor and put the bag on chest--no hands or elbows--use momentum and scissor-kick up, then do a reverse lunge, stand up, reverse and repeat. Wipe hands on pants.

**Important: Switch lunging leg each rep

6) An all-out set of Chin-Ups and Hindu Push-Ups for spinal mobility

7) An all-out set of Full Sit-Ups

Do 30 reps of each sand bag exercise in as many sets as needed, then move on to the next exercise. Take a breaks as needed


* Pack the sand bag loose, so it shifts around like a live body.
Depending on your size, you want 80-100# of sand in there

* In lieu of sand, you might also fill the bag with links of chain--man, that's brutal!
It's expensive, but you can sometimes find it as scrap, and it's a lot less messy than sand.

* Get my Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility and do a routine every day for whichever part of your body feels tight.

Wrestling a heavy sand bag like this is about the ultimate in combat conditioning. Soon, taking down those rowdies will seem like wrestling teenage girls.

Re: Inflammation.
Overhaul your diet. You need to find out which foods are triggering the inflammation response. No more commercial fried foods. Start taking fish oil and high-vitamin cod liver oil.

Bone broths are also very good for the joints. Hopefully you can find a source. And don't underestimate massage in the form of structural body work.

Yours in Strength & Health,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Body Weight Seminar

Last weekend I presented my Body Weight Conditioning and Joint Mobility seminar. The event was hosted by my good friend, Mike Mahler, and the venue was Mark Philippi's (former World's Strongest Man) Sports Institute in Las Vegas.

Mike is a genius, and has done so much for me, that here I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks for all his help and support.

Mark's gym is an amazing wonderland of the coolest equipment around. Big toys for big boys (and girls). Tractor tires for flippin'; hammers for beatin'; ropes for haulin'; round stones for liftin'; more steel implements than a skyscraper, and an extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff. How many gyms do you know with a 50-meter track for sprints?

I had a great group of guys to work with and I unveiled my new push-up board conditioning system (click here if you missed it). Someone mentioned that talk on a fitness forum where a guy posted he could go to Home Depot, buy the materials and make his own push-up board. Well, right on, if you like doing that sort of thing, have the tools, time and handy skills--that's how I made mine! Then I showed it to my friend C-Ray and he thought we should share them with the world and went about getting it done. Anyway, have at it. Here's a little secret, though: It ain't the board--it's what you do with it. On the accompanying DVD I demonstrate 25 kick-ass conditioning exercises. Many of these are Maxwell originals.

Back to the seminar. Besides covering safety issues regarding pain-free pull-ups, push-ups and squats, a whole array of of upper-body pulling and pushing, and lower-body movements were learned. The Maxercise Mobility System was covered in great detail with every part of the body outlined.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a famous Maxwell man-maker workout. Everyone left tired and happy. If you missed this one, I'll be presenting another, this time a teaching certification, 20 July at Maxercise in Philadelphia. I vow to leave no stone unturned in the landscape of mobility and body weight conditioning. Check my site for events in your area, I'd like to meet you.




Side-Press problem

Q: I am incorporating the side press into my routine to try and boost my military press. I can currently MP the 32kb bell once and so I am using the same bell for SPs in a low rep/high set approach. I am right side dominant, but completed ten sets of three with my left hand on the SP last night, whereas I could only complete five sets of three with my right (then some singles). Is this because my stronger right side is used in straightening up under the left-handed press, or do you think I just have better technique with my left side? When pressing with my right, the press itself was difficult, but straightening up was what really killed it.

A: Never do more for the strong side than the weak side or you'll create an imbalance.
BTW it's doubtful that the side press is going to help your mil press all that much.

Side press is a great exercise, but it's my experience that it won't translate all that much to military press. It is a nice variation and there's no reason not to do it.

In Strength & Health,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pushing Yourself to Higher Levels of Conditioning

There are countless training and conditioning tools out there but one that's stood time's test is the push-up board. Push-ups can certainly be done on the ground, but by slightly elevating the surface, the movement is greatly enhanced. There are currently several push-up devices on the market that make use of the raised handle; however, the original and best is the push-up board, which goes back millennia, to a time when being in top physical shape literally meant survival in battle. Imagine standing toe-to-toe, locked in combat, sword in hand, looking into the eyes of your enemy as you tried to kill one another! Do you think there is anything modern man could teach the ancient warrior about combat conditioning? I don't think so, but I'm sure there's much we can learn from men whose lives depended on their physical prowess in hand-to-hand combat.

The push-up board is very popular in the Middle East and parts of Asia. The board originated in Persia and was brought by the Palovan princes to India. Later, its use spread to Burma and Thailand. Used primarily by wrestlers and martial artists, it was also adopted by physical culturists, whose interests were balanced muscular development. An ancient tradition that has survived through today is the Zoorkhane. In Persian, this means "House of Power". I watched a video tape one of my jiu-jitsu students brought to me when he returned from a stay in Iran. He was visiting his parents and took the time to check out the local Zoorkhane. Additionally, he brought me the gifts of a push-up board and two wooden mils, or clubs. I became fascinated with the Zoorkhane rituals, the push-up sequences, and club swinging. When the World Free Style Wrestling Championships were at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 2003, I went with the idea of writing an article about conditioning. I interviewed several Irani team members, including two former world champions. They emphasized that the Zoorkhane traditions, along with the folk-style wrestling they practice, was instrumental to their success.

I train religiously with my push-up board and appreciate the results: a more resilient, flexible elbow and shoulder girdle, increased spinal mobility and tremendous strength/endurance in the arms, chest and shoulders. These attributes have well-served me in my own athletic career, especially in jiu-jitsu. I also credit the push-up board with anti-aging benefits, because of the yoga-like movements which develop suppleness in the spine. The push-up board, combined with body weight rows or pull-ups, provides a complete and balanced upper body workout.

Click here to learn more about the push-up board.