Friday, March 20, 2009

Behind Closed Doors...

Remember: what goes on behind closed doors is nobody's business but your own. To satisfy your curiousity, however, I'll share with you what goes on behind the Coach's closed doors--and it ain't always pretty!

Every morning, I pick up a newspaper at the local coffee house and enjoy the mental exercise of the puzzle pages. Of course, I always peruse the headlines, which are invariably filled with unpleasantries and dire predictions.

While you may be unable to control what goes on out in the world, you can at least control your own personal environment, beginning with taking responsibility for your own body.

I find it interesting that while businesses in general are reporting downturns, my friends in fitness are reporting some upswing. People are prioritizing their expenditures and cutting the fat, selectively spending what income they have available on that which they consider most important. People are realizing they can get fantastic workouts at home and need spend neither time nor money on posh gym memberships. Yours truly has always been a fan of the home workout, of course, and even though I owned a flagship gym in Philadelphia, I always preferred my own private haven--my home and garden--to train myself. My backyard strength garden was legendary!

The last few years I've been living out a nomadic phase in my RV/van and I'm constantly on the road presenting workshops and KB/BW instructor certifications. In the process, I've perfected the on-the-road indoor/outdoor workout. I've come up with an excellent formula and with my current minimalist approach I'm in better shape now than when I owned a gym full of equipment.

Three of the implements I've found most useful--and never travel without--are my trusty Lifeline Jungle Gym, my Lifeline Heavy-Weighted Speed Rope and Lifeline Power Wheel. They are each so portable and easy to break down, adding little to my luggage while allowing me to get a complete workout in any space, no matter how large or small. I've done phenomenal workouts on Tahiti beaches, the continental divide in Iceland, the North Dakota badlands, the St. Lawrence Seaway in Maine and, of course, down those mean streets of Philly. My own personal gym is open 24/7, so even when I travel to far-off places, my equipment sits and stares at me from my open backpack, bidding me to grab it and get in a kick-ass workout.

I've always preferred to work out outdoors whenever possible, in a park or playground, but I'm not unfamiliar with the standard-issue hotel room. The following workout is an example of what goes on behind my locked doors.

First, I typically take my teen assistant to task and put her through a brutal challenge. That always stirs up concomitant feelings of pride and shame, especially hearing her whimpering response to my stern admonishments!

I've just come up with a new Power Wheel Challenge that even the most fit of you will find demanding. It's a 3-exercise circuit with the Power Wheel done nonstop and with as little rest as you can tolerate. Ideally, this will be done outdoors on a grassy stretch, but is also feasible indoors in a hallway or hotel corridor. It's a reverse ladder sequence comprised of the Atomic Push-Up, Power Wheel Walk and Power Wheel Leg Curl.

Start with
10 Atomic Push-Up
Followed by
20 paces of Power Wheel Walk

flip yourself over and perform
20 Power Wheel Leg Curl

flip yourself back over and
Power Wheel Walk
back to the starting place

Each round, you'll do one less rep of Atomic Push-Up and Leg Curl, down to a single rep, though you'll still be doing the 20-pace Power Wheel walk each round.

Umm, not so fast--you're still not done!

One of the principles I teach in my workshops is proper workout design, based on human movement patterns. To fully balance the above workout, we'll break out my other revered travel companion, the incredible Jungle Gym.

Secure the Jungle Gym into the top of a sturdy door and set the straps to an appropriate resistance length (longer is more difficult) for Body Weight Rows, also known as the Reverse Push-Up. The following is the second circuit of the workout and consists of two movements: Power Wheel Roll-Out and Body Weight Row.

10 Power Wheel Roll-Out
super set with
10 Body Weight Row
with strict form and perfect alignment

You'll finish up with an incredibly effective, cardio and hip/thigh strengthening workout I call the Alternating Pistol Reverse Ladder Sequence.

finish with

10 (assisted)Pistol
on the non-dominant leg, then
10 (assisted) Pistol on the other leg

Continue in reverse ladder fashion, as in the previous circuit, alternating legs each set--without rest--until you get down to a single rep. You'll end up performing 55 Pistols each leg (105 total) it's a real heart-thumper and thigh-burner, like a Stairmaster on steroids! Who needs a machine when you are the machine?

While these circuits are quite cardio, I still like to jump rope for 5 minutes before undertaking a workout like this. Jumping rope primes the body for the following activities, additionally working the calves, ankles and feet. If you're a beginner, thus lacking the strength to perform at this level, there is certainly nothing wrong with halving the reps, beginning with 5 reps. As a matter of fact, if you start out with 10 reps and begin petering out at 5 or 6 reps--then stop. And next time, start out with 5 or 6 reps instead of 10.

What you don't want is to drive yourself too hard on the first set. If you do, there's a good chance you won't be able to get through the workout.

This is but one example of the hundreds of workuts I have in my head. I like workouts which produce strength, endurance and cardio conditioning and a high degree of mobility. I can't think of any sport where mastering a workout like this wouldn't help you in your athletic goals.

My last three workshops were resounding successes! I presented my Body Weight Instructor trainings in Sacramento CA (at Chip Conrad's must-see facility, Body Tribe) then it was on to Wichita KS, where the school board brought me in to work with the PE staff! One of the district strength coaches, Joe Belden, is a real MaxBell afficionado and made the arrangements. I was most impressed with the high school gym. Joe's gym could rival most colleges. How many high schools do you know which offer programs like kettlebell training, canoing and an aquatics program in an Olympic-sized pool? I spent two days there, the first of which was a Body Weight Trainer certification and the second a Kettlebell Basics workshop. The very next weekend I landed in Salt Lake City at the always amazing Gym Jones. For those of you unfamiliar, Gym Jones has made their name as an elite training training center. Owned by Mark and Lisa Twight, two formidable trainers and athletes, who opened the facility for pro and top-amateur athletes.

Gym Jones first came into prominence as the originators of the 300 workout, as they whipped the cast of the eponymous movie into phenomenal shape. The gym is invite-only and is unsigned and not easy to find from the street. This was my third trip there and I was honored to train the staff in my kettlebell system. See what they had to say about it here.

Today was day two of the Steve Maxwell KB & Bodyweight training seminar at the gym.

We were honored to have Steve Maxwell in the gym for the past two days instructing us on various kettlebell and bodyweight training exercises and methods. Steve is regarded as one of the foremost experts in the nation for kettlebell instruction and he demonstrated why this weekend. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him and are greatly anticipating his next visit.

Before hopping on the bike today I dropped in on the seminar. Immediately on walking through the door I started taking notes. Steve is a master instructor, a nothing-short-of-brilliant teacher. He has taught so many, and such diverse populations that he has learned how to teach everyone from the “motor genius” to the “motor moron” with equal ease and simplicity. Sometimes the clarity and minimalism of his explanations and demonstrations dazzle. Steve explains that, “In the hierarchy of motor learning, the range extends from motor moron (extremely uncoordinated and clumsy) to motor genius (amazing grace, balance, poise and coordination).” Each requires different levels of exposure and shepherding to learn effectively. But I digress.

The first revelation on coming through the door had to do with flexibility. Steve contends that without the strength to use one’s flexibility the flexibility itself is not useful. Bingo! There are plenty of weak yoga devotees walking around, and also plenty of bound-up lifters or other athletes who under-perform due to a lack of flexibility. We can all learn to move and improve by studying the lessons of the opposite “camp.” Strength is at war with flexibility, Yin with Yang. How we balance is individual, but balance should indeed be the objective.

My MaxBells Kettlebell Instructor training is the best out there and this is affirmed when I see at least two-thirds of registrants are already certified through other programs!

Having taught the first private and corporate kettlebell group classes in the US, I've developed a unique formula for teaching kettlebells in the classroom setting. My workshops are not about showing off personal skills but demonstrating how to most effectively teach group and individual kettlebell classes.

I'm also proud to announce my Master Trainer level KB Instructor certification. This program is for candidates who've already achieved a high level of competence in the field. This course will take your teaching and coaching skills to the next level. There is a segment on program design which is alone worth the price of admission. Check it out here.

Enjoy the struggles of my aide de camp below!

In Strength & Health,

****************************************************************************** ASK COACH! ******************************************************************************

Q: Steve, just bought the Kettlebell 300 Challenge DVD and I look forward to using it. Curious, do you prefer working with one bell at a time or two?

A: I prefer to train with a single bell. With the level of submission wrestling and BJJ I do, the double KB workouts are too strenuous, taxing and difficult to recover from. If you're doing a lot of BJJ or wrestling, I highly recommend single KB workouts, which are much easier to recover from. I designed 300 KB Challenge as a single KB program because many of the folks at home can't afford two bells.

Q: I have a few questions about your training DVDs, specifically the 300 Spartan Workout and 300 Kettlebell Challenge.

1. Are these 300 programs primarily for men, or can women work out with them (with modifications) too?

2. Do these programs help to develop/improve overall body flexibility and stretching ability for martial arts and athletic performance?

A: Both 300 programs can be used by men and women. With the Kettlebell 300 it's simply a matter of weight selection. With Spartan 300 women may have to pick one of the modified versions. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced programs on the DVD. For much of the upper body pulling and pushing most women will need to stay in the beginner/intermediate. Both DVDs are suitable for martial artists and involve a fairly high degree of mobility and athleticism helpful to any athlete, not just martial artists.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Steve! Looking forward to your kettlebell instructor certification in April!

Anonymous said...


I always look forward to your updated blog entries. I find myself coming back to your site over & over to see if there is a recent update.

Your assistant make the pistols look like nothing. Very impressive. Keep up the great work (both of you).


Bill Fox said...


Great stuff. Try the Atomic pushups with your hands using the jungle gym a couple inches off the ground, you'll like.

Great workout, did it this morning.


Georgie Fear, RD, CPT said...

Rock on Steve! I thoroughly enjoyed your certification course I attended at the Philly studio in October. (I was the dietitian with the bum shoulder - which has since healed)

I recommend it highly to every trainer interested in using KB for all their worth, personally and with their clients.
Thanks and happy travels! You'll see me agin sooner or later.

Steve Maxwell said...

Hey Bill, that sounds like a great additional challenge. I'm glad you enjoyed the workout! I'll be in Philly in a couple weeks. Hope to see you. - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Glad you enjoyed the cert, Georgie and good to hear your shoulder is better. Come on down to the BW training--I show a lot of exercises to protect the shoulder girdle. - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Anonymous, I'm looking forward to meeting you in April (so I can learn your name at least!) -Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Bruce, I'm glad you enjoy the blog! Thanks for reading! - Steve

Anonymous said...

Oops! Sorry Steve about the anonymous thing! Not trying to be stealthy!

Will Fish

Does Acai Berry Work said...

Very nice thing going on behind closed doors, lol. You are really a workout diva! :)

Georgie Fear, RD, CPT said...

That is my plan, although you happened to be offering the BW cert on the same day as the NJ marathon, which I already registered for. No worries, I'll catch you next time!