Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coach's Great Teutonic Adventure!

It's been my great pleasure to meet and work with Bjorn Friedrich, MMA coach and practitioner, as well as kettlebell afficionado extraordinaire. Bjorn chanced upon me over the Internet and imported me (and my body weight training system) to add value for himself and his fighters. Thus was borne my first German body weight instructors certification. The room was at capacity and among the attendees were two noted sports doctors, Dr. Till Sukopp and osteopath Jurek Gobel, both of whom utilize exercise and movement in their therapies. Till is a masterful kettlebell instructor (who's just been ejected from the RKC!) and who's busy launching his own teaching cert out of Cologne. I was very happy to have him, he has much to offer. Bjorn himself was just featured in the European edition of Men's Health and is a poster-boy for MMA, fitness in general, and pretty much everything I stand for.

Participants came to the seminar from as far as Norway and Ireland. Frankfurt isn't known as Airport City for nothing! One of the more gregarious activities of the day was the competition Pull-Up ladder. After meticulously reviewing the details of safety, technique and form of dozens of Pull-Up variations, we tested prowess with some friendly competition. In case you're unfamiliar with it, a competition Pull-Up ladder starts off with one, single rep and adds one rep each round. You go round-robin until you can't hit the required number of reps for the round--then you're out. Everyone is very supportive. When the smoke had cleared, there were two who had lasted through to level 10: yours truly, and one Austrian fellow by the name of Dominik Fleischl. It was the first time in my seminar career that anyone else had survived to level 10, most drop out earlier from the cumulative fatigue of the preceding sets. In truth, it appeared young Dominik could have gone at least two more rounds, up to levels 11 & 12. Your coach knocked out his own last round with a bit of a struggle, yet Dominik worked as a gravy sandwich--as you can see below--in fact, as smoothly as he did the first couple of rounds. As it turns out, he's a genuine lord of the pull...but more on that later.

After a full nine hours of experiential goodness, the body weight cert participants left tired but happy. Each was awarded a genuine Maxwell push-up board and attractive and meaningful Level 1 MaxBells certificate.

Next up, Dominik took us home with him to the foot of the Austrian pre-alps! After we disembarked from the train and into his car, we drove through some of the most lovely country I've ever seen. When I rolled down the window, I fully expected to hear Julie Andrews singing from the Sound of Music! Visiting with Dominik was like a summertime Summit of the Masters! Dominik is a former competitive rope climber. Speed rope climbing was a one-time Olympic event, then for some reason fell out of favor and is currently more or less confined to a few die-hards in the Czech Republic.
Dominik and his mentor, Karl (a wild former farm boy from down the road a ways) showed me some unique pulling exercises and their "ABC World Cup" pulling program for increased pulling power. (Clients, be warned...) Karl and Dominik both easily perform One-Arm Pull-Ups and various and sundry other pulling feats. Your coach contributed to the local pool of fitness knowledge with his own know-how of Bulgarian training bag work and guided Dominik in constructing a pair of home-made leverage clubs, sourced from the Austrian version of Home Depot. He was extremely pleased with his home-built clubs and even more so with the routines I demonstrated for him.

It's interesting: strength is a skill and specific to the task(s) at hand. Even though my pulling power isn't quite up to that of Dominik and Karl--who specialize--I easily handled the pair of 15# clubs, with which they struggled. Because I've spent a lifetime in the grappling arts, including working with these types of tools, my circular strength in the wrists, elbows and shoulders is well-developed, as would be expected. You're only good at what you practice and this is just another reminder that you must decide what it is, exactly, that you wish to be good at.

One day, Dominik took us on a strenuous hike up a local mountain, a winding and steep trail which ended overlooking a beautiful lake in the pre-alps. After, we went to another fresh, deep-water lake, seemingly a paradise-like resort for upscale Russians and Germans.

The food in Austria is fresh and plentiful. There is an amazing 24-hour Milch Automat which dispenses fresh, raw milk from grass-fed cows. After each training, we'd drink down an elixir of raw milk and raw honey, possibly the greatest recovery formula ever. Copious and frequent dosing of raw milk is certainly part of Dominik's Nature Training manifesto and it serves him (and me) very well.

Aside from his rope climbing and pulling abilities, Dominik is inordinately fond of stone-lifting a la Steve Jeck, and introduced me to several of his pet rocks. Dominik has constructed his own rustic gym in a cabin abutting an open field. Inside are many cool and amazing implements, including a far-out climbing course for traversing in ape-like fashion, various rings and ladders hung from above. I'd like to share with you Karl and Dominik's ABC program, applicable to many body weight movements. The ABC program was adapted from a practice used by rope climbers and gymnasts in this part of the world.

From a dead hang on the chin-up bar, perform 2 smooth and slow reps.
A) pull yourself up 1/4 of the range and perform a 10-second static hold
lower down and perform 2 more full reps
B) lower to the half-way point (90-degrees) and perform a
10-second static hold
lower yourself; perform 2 more complete reps
C) hold the top position of the chin-up for a 10-second static hold
perform 2 more reps. That's one round.
Rinse and repeat.
Dominik completes two complete cycles of this monstrosity!

In a future blog, I'll discuss how you can apply this ABC preparation work to Dips, Push-Ups and Pistols.

I'd also like to mention that Teresa (who I trained for over a year before she could perform a single chin-up) astounded the boys by knocking off six dead-hang chin-ups; six full ROM/below-parallel Dips; six Pistols per leg and climbed Dominik's rope 3 times in succession without touching the matter who or where you are--there's hope for you, too!

Though the guys of Austria are real studs, apparently the local women are somewhat duds! Neither Karl nor Dominik had ever witnessed a woman performing multiple Chin-Ups nor rope climbing before. They both immediately inquired whether Teresa has any sisters.

My next adventure takes me to the hills and dales of Scotland, where I challenge the the Loch Ness monster to a grappling match!

Yours in Strength & Health,


Chris said...

When are you coming to Scotland?

Steve Maxwell said...

Ach,I'm in Scotland now! Got the kettlebells in the boot! Stefan s bringing me the loch now...- Steve

zevenesh said...

Dominik is an AWESOME coach of Physical Culture and beyond impressive w/his methods of climbing, pulling and overall fitness.

What's even better is that Dominik is SERIOUSLY one of the nicest guys "out there" - always smiling and always wanting to share AND learn.

Being around this guy is an awesome experience.

Thanks for sharing this Steve!

Happy Belated Father's Day bruddah,



John said...


How would you use the ABC program? Is 1 or 2 cycles of that protocol all you would do for pushups, pullups, dips, or pistols? Seems like it would be a great time saver.

Anxious for your next post about the ABC protocol!

Thanks for the continuing inspiration.


Steve Maxwell said...

Yes, John, and as you get stronger, try to go through it twice. I have my gf do a single chin-up cycle with 5-sec holds for now.

You can see a clip of me doing ABC dips on the youtube page. Let me know how it goes! - Steve

John said...

Thanks, Coach!

robert troch said...

looks like I got some ABC's to do now!

Sean Schniederjan RKC said...

Great stuff as always, Steve.

Have you thought about writing a book about your travels? The way you weave together workouts, the landscape, strength, travels, and culture is so unique.

I gotta do these ABCs. I had been doing this kind of thing with pistols using a doorframe...pretty killer and a nice pump for the old glutes.