Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I've been on a kettlebell kick and have been using them more than usual lately. I like kettlebells for several reasons:
a) They teach you to explode through the hips, which is possible the single most important factor in all athletic endeavors. Explosive hip drive is something a lot of athletes lack and can have a hard time learning through traditional barbell lifts. Not to mention, the kettlebell version of the classic olympic lifts (clean, snatch, jerk) is much easier to learn. Pretty much every kettlebell exercise out there is a full body lift, which if you haven't learned by know, is a good thing.
b) They are great for conditioning OR power development. As far as conditioning goes (they're tremendous for power/anaerobic endurance, which is they energy system primarly used is basketball), there is many ways to train for power/anaerobic endurance (hill sprints, stair sprints, killers/suicides, etc.), but kettlebells can be much easier on the joints.
c) You can train pretty much anywhere with a kettlebell (especially outside) versus traditional gym equipment.
d) I would say it's hard to find an exercise that mimics the vertical jump better than the kettlebell swing.

Now, after saying all that....Kettlebells are just a tool. They are not the magic training equipment that many make them out to be. You'd be a fool to use only kettlebells in your training. But, they are a great instrument and if you can afford them, why not? For beginners, they recommend men start out with a 35 lbs. kettlebell and women 15 to 25 lbs. It will seem much heavier than 35 lbs though. There are a lot of great sites to order them through and they are also at places like Dick's Sporting Goods and Sports Authority.

Here are some great articles on how to use kettlebells for power and explosiveness:

How to Combine Kettlebells and Bands for Explosive Sports Performance

How to Improve Your Vertical Jump With Kettlebell Training ?

- Max

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to Make Progress Every Time You Train

The reality of life is some days you just feel like crap. So how do you make progress week after week, even when your feeling down or just having "one of those days"? I discovered this simple chart as a way to easily moniter (besides just listening to your body) how hard you should go that day:

1) How Do You Feel?
- Fantastic: +4
- Good: +2
- Average: 0
- Bad: -2
- Awful: -4
2) Are You Motivated to Train?
- Beyond Belief: +4
- Yes, I'm Psyched: +2
- I Wanna Go, But That's It: 0
- Do I Have to?: -2
- I Really Don't Want to: -4
3) How Did You Sleep?
- Great Night: +4
- Pretty Good: +2
- Average: 0
- Had Trouble Sleeping: -2
- Barely Slept: -4

Add up your score and use this chart to see how you should train today.

Interpretation Chart:
> 10 to 12: Increase daily training load a lot (intensity and volume)
> 6 to 9: Increase daily training load (volume only)
> 0 to 5: Stay with planned training load
> -6 to -1: Decrease daily training load (volume or intensity)
> -12 to -7: Skip it

Hopefully you are are following some sort of program or have an idea of what you want to do throughout the week. This chart will help you make progress even if your having a rough week or not feeling your best. There's no point in pushing yourself when you just don't have it....and if you feel great, there's no point in holding yourself back just because that's what your program says to do.

Happy training.

- Max

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More on ankles......

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.
Here's a few more drills you can do to strengthen your ankels and literally make them un-sprainable.

1. 747's - This is a quick drill that you can do anywhere, anytime. Stand on one leg (keeping it as straight as possible) while putting your hands out to the side (that's why they're called 747's - you'll look like an airplane). First lean as far forward as possible, bending as the waist and keeping the balancing leg straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Now repeat this with the other leg. You'll repat this in each direction (lean forward, left, right, and backwards) with both legs, holding it for 30 seconds each way. It should be challenging to stay balanced (if it's not, you need to lean farther) and it's ok if stumble a few times. You'll feel a nice burn in the lower leg, around the ankles. This is a quick and very effective drill.

2. Toe Raises - As Jimmy Smith talked about in my previous post, most athletes have WAY stronger calves than they do shins. Beleive it or not, strenghtening your shins will not only strengthen your ankles, prevent shin splints, and balance out your lower leg musculature....but they probably will improve your vert! Shins are arguably even more important than the calves in jumping (not to mention running, cutting, deccelerating, etc.). Toe raises are pretty much the opposite of calf raises and, again, can be done pretty much anywhere. Just find a stair or ledge with something to hold on to for balance. Simply stand with your heels on the edge of the stair and lift your toes as high as you can and the down as low as you can, trying to go throught a full range of motion. Just try to do as many as you can while keeping good form.

3. Heel Walks - These are very similar to the toe raises (strengthens your shins). Just walk backwards and forwards, taking small steps and staying on your heels (pull your toes upward as hard as you can the whole time). Try walking 10 -20 steps forwards and backwards to start out.

Use these drills 3 - 5 times a week, along with some of the ones from my previous post and you'll be on your way to ANKLES OF STEEL.

- Max