Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tracy Reifkind's Overhead Swing Progressions (and a quick squat/overhead swing workout!)

I can't believe it's been a month since my trip to Vancouver!  Probably because the week I got back I came down with the worst flu I've ever had, ever!  The most notable symptom was that I had ZERO energy, I couldn't move.  A raging sore throat I could dismiss, some congestion, stuffy nose, no problem, but I couldn't get out of bed for a solid 7 days.  I tried, oh yes, I tried!  For the first time ever I had to completely cancel training appointments, but I managed to make it to a couple of classes only to be left even more zapped of my energy :(  It took me down for over 2 weeks!  (super sad face)  THEN....last Wednesday I broke my toe.  Things just seem to be going my way, huh? lol

By the time I broke my toe I just had to laugh about it!  And the good news, well there's two things positive about it, is that I can still do kettlebells with a broken toe, and I broke it doing something that I've been out all the clutter in my house!  I was tackling the laundry room when it tackled me back!  A 40lb box of kitty litter was sticking out into my path and I caught my second little toe on it, ouch.  When I looked down at my left foot my toe was pointing 90 degrees to the left!  Kind of an indicator something was not quite right!  Seriously, I wish I could have taken a picture of it because it was so darn funny :)  What hasn't been all that funny is missing my ruck walks with Mark on Thursday, and you know, the swelling and bruising is kind of a drag....but compared that that flu I had?  Easy peasy.  But enough already...moving on....

Sunday was a challenging workout. Not because of my toe/foot, but because my regular training partners were out for the "second and third" part of my Sunday workout.  Gosh, I'm not going to lie, motivation to really push myself felt harder than usual.  And to be perfectly honest, if it weren't for Matt who I know was coming over from 7:15-8:00 (heavy presses and half snatches) I contemplated taking the day off...oh no I didn't say that :(  But I pulled my head out of where it shouldn't have been and managed to continue on for another hour practicing double jerks with competition bells and this 30 minute "squat / overhead swing" workout.

I've neglected squats mostly because no one else likes doing them, but I've got to do them more regularly so no excuse when nobody else is there but me, huh?  Gosh, if I can't make myself do them then I have no business asking others to do them either.  So I started out with a set of 15 goblet squats, which took one minute.  Argh!  I certainly did not want to do another set right away, so I did a set of 20 overheard swings....not so bad, especially with my squat weight of 16kg.  I prefer to do overhead swings with a 20kg, but there was no way I was squatting with one and I knew the 3rd set I would alternate both the goblet squat with the overhead swing....maybe I'll repeat it with the 20kg this weekend :)

Since I've never posted anything about the overhead swing I thought I would video tape a quick tutorial about my own teaching/learning progressions for this movement.  The most IMPORTANT thing about practicing the overhead swing is that you DO NOT let the bell flop over, so if you are going to try it please maintain a firm grip!  The other important part of this movement, how I train it and practice it, is that you pull the bell in towards your body as the bell swing out and up in front of you.  I demonstrate and explain this in my video tutorial (above).  Personally I enjoy the overhead swings, and I've been teaching it in my groups for many years, but only recently have I been including it regularly into my own workouts.  Enjoy, but practice it cautiously please.

The usual Sunday workout is a "three parter"
7:15-8:00 warm up, heavy presses, double complexes
8:00-8:45 GS practice, both jerks and snatches
8:45-9:15/9:30 swings! ending with some kind of "finisher"

This past Sunday because it was just me for part 2 and 3, I only spent 30 minutes on GS, still limited by my foot, and 30 minutes on this "Squat/Overhead Swing" workout;

Set #1
15 goblet squats = 1 min work/1 min rest

Set #2
20 overhead swings = 1 min work/1 min rest

Set #3
10 goblet squat/overhead swing = 1 min work/ 1 minute rest

I especially like the last set where I combine both movements!  And in fact, Mark came into the gym when I was finishing one of these sets and commented on how much he liked it too :)  I love it when he likes something that I design :) .....I hope you do too!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Vancouver Weekend Workouts

As promised my Vancouver Weekend Workouts!  Teresa and I rolled into Vancouver last Friday after a couple of pit stops, okay, we did a little outlet shopping!  One of the stops we made was at the Pendleton outlet store where while I was in the dressing room trying on a few things, Teresa, having just lost 50lb (!) got into a conversation with one of the sales associates about weightloss....and kettlebells!   Teresa happened to have a couple of copies of The Swing in the car so I was happy to give our new friend, Aubrey, a signed copy.  You just never know who you are going to meet :)

Saturday we got up early and went for a lovely walk to Starbucks, followed by a couple of short hikes with Marshall and Christina's dogs, but they went home before we continued on to the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park.   Next was a little food shopping (omg, Polish deli discovery!) before heading out on a day trip to Point Roberts Marina to spend the day on the water, where Bacchus, a German Shepard mix, joined us!  We drove back to Vancouver around dinner time and relaxed the rest of the evening.  Early up the next day around 7:00am, another morning stroll and cup of coffee at JJ Beans.  The only thing left to do before we left, driving back to Seattle, was teach Christina how to swing!

I hadn't planned on doing any kind of workout myself over the weekend, but since the weather was perfect out back on the deck I threw together what I would describe as an "all around" kettlebell routine using swings to start and end one minute long work sets.  I call these "Swing Sandwiches"!  I post the Swing, Clean/Press Sandwich last week and as promised here are the snatch and squat variation, with a bonus swing progression variation if you are not practicing the other skills yet :)

As I posted last week, I started out with the snatch progressions, then the clean/presses, ending with squat progressions.  I did them in this order because I was using a lighter weight (12kg) than my regular "work" weight. (14kg-16kg).  The swing/snatches helped me warm this old body up for the presses and squats.  If I were doing these as part of my workouts at home I would start with the squats or presses, ending with the snatches.  Yesterday we did the squats first, the snatches next and ended with this bonus workout, that I did not do in Vancouver, of swing sandwiches.  The Swing Sandwich variation came about after I returned home and lead my Tuesday morning class.  I was so inspired with possibilities that I simply applied the sandwich method using my swing progressions.....but I forgot about you have a guess?

(video at top of page)
Training my 30 second squat progressions "sandwiched" in between 15 sec of swings (10 2 hd sw reps).

squat progressions:
1 swing, 1 goblet squat
goblet squat
1 swing R, front squat, switch hands, 1 sw L, fr sq (alternating)
cl/fr sq R, switch, cl/fr sq L, alternate x 6 total
cl/ fr sq R x 3, switch hands, cl/ fr sq L x 3
cl/fr sq R x 6
cl/fr sq L x 6

7 progressions, each set starting and ending with 10 2 hand swings, 1 min work, 30 sec rest.  If you want to practice "equal work to rest" ratio either take a full minute rest between sets, OR do not complete the last 10 swings.

Training my 30 sec snatch progressions "sandwiched" in between 10 2 hd swings!

snatch progressions:
1 sw, 1 snatch, 1 switch (alternate R/L)
1 snatch, 1 switch (alternate R/L)
5 sn R, 5 sn L
10 sn R
10 sn L

5 progressions, 1 minute long sets, starting and ending with 10 2 hand swings, 30 seconds rest between sets.

If you want to train "equal work to rest" simply take 1 min between sets OR omit the last 10 swings in each set (or the first 10!)

Ah...! You may not be snatching, squatting or pressing yet, so here is a simple "swing sandwich" using my swing progressions, laddering down starting with;

10 R/ 10 L
5R/5 L x 2
1/2 sw ld x 2
20 transfer swings, ending with all 
2 hand swings

.....if you've been training with me for a while can you guess which one I forgot?

Each one of these variations is a workout in themselves for sure, which one is your favorite?

Teresa sharing her homemade doggie treats with Brody, Murray and Bacchus!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Where should I start? How about with a Podcast interview? Then some swings....and presses!

A couple of weeks ago I did a podcast interview with Bill Kociaba of Kociaba Fitness in Florida  I love talking about, what I describe as, my Kettlebell Lifestyle, so much that it's difficult for me to contain my excitement.  Some of you that have talked with me in person will most likely not be surprised listening to my enthusiasm during this interview, but to those of you that haven't I think this is a true example of how I feel about what I do, and how I got here!

In all honesty I have not listened to this edited version of it, but I remember quite clearly how much fun it was and all the subjects we were able to cover in just over an fact I wish it could have gone on longer :)

Last weekend I was in Vancouver BC with a dear friend of mine, Teresa Glidden, who lives in Olympia WA.  Teresa drove up to Seattle to pick me up, and then we drove up to Vancouver to stay with some friends of hers that she knows through her Bernese Mountain Dog group.  Lots and lots of stuff to share including meeting new friends, Christina and Marshall, who so graciously invited us to stay in their home with their three amazingly well behaved big dogs, Bacchus (Shepard and Bernese mix), Brodie (Bernese), and Murray (Labradoodle)....almost inspires me to get a big dog!

We did a ton of walking and hiking and since I am a Kettlebell Instructor I had planned on teaching my new friend, Christina, how to swing, but I hadn't planned on doing any kind of kettlebell workout myself.  I recently decided that I would start to treat my vacations, short or long, focusing on the experience of a new adventure and if I got to do some training too then that would be a bonus, but not a goal.

Since Teresa and I drove she was able to pack some kettlebells in her trunk, an 8kg, 20lb, and 12kg, so I had those weights available to me.  Sunday morning Teresa and I got up and started the morning with an hour long walk in the Commercial Street area of Vancouver.  When we got back (waiting for Christina to come home from her morning run) it was such an amazing day out back on the deck that I just couldn't help myself to a mini workout :)  I decided to do an "all around" routine that included swings, snatches, clean/press and squats.

When I do a workout outside of actual "training", in other words, without a plan that has a target end point in mind, I generally like to work with one minute long sets and a 30 sec rest interval (2 to 1 work to rest ratio).  This ratio lets me work a little bit harder in a short amount of time because these types of workouts are more about putting in practice and movement under the bells, and working up a bit of a sweat, which always feels good :)  One of my methods I like to use is what I started calling my "Swing Sandwiches" lol.  Work sets that start and end with swings while incorporating other "skill combinations" in the middle.  These Vancouver workouts all start with 10 2 hand swings, which take 15 seconds, include a 30 second skill combination, snatch, clean press or squat, and end with another 10 2 hand swings (15 sec) for a total of 1 minute long work sets.  You may choose to rest for a minute, or like me, only take half that time to rest before you go on to the next progression.

I started out my workout with swing and snatch "sandwich" sets, using my snatch progressions in between two hand swings.  I then went on to clean/presses and then ended the workout with squats.  I did them in this order because the ballistic nature of swings/snatches with a lighter bell warmed my body up before moving onto clean and presses, and then near the end of the workout my hips were fully ready for squats.  Oh, and I also decided in this demo to do "push presses" for two reasons, instead of strict presses, because if you are not 100% confident in your ability to strict press then I would rather you use your legs and push press, and I have always felt that push presses more of a ballistic flow to them.  If I were practicing with a heavier bell I would have done my clean/presses first, squats next and snatches last.

In this post I'm only sharing a video demo of the "press" version because I want to repeat the snatch and squat version in my own workout (w/16kg) this Sunday, and I'll tape those sets then!  I taped this demo after my own regular workout yesterday morning, it took approx 10 minutes to complete but I've written it out for you here;

10 2 hd swings x 2 sets (15/15 x 2 = 1 min warm up)

10 2 hd swing + 1 sw R/clean/push press, 1 sw L/clean/push press x 4 total + 10 2 hd sw
10 2 hd sw + 1 cl/pu pr R switch hands, 1 cl/pu pr L, switch hands, repeat x 6 total + 10 2 hd sw
10 2 hd sw + 3 cl/pu pr R, switch hands, 3 cl/pu pr L + 10 2 hd sw
10 2 hd sw + 1 clean, 4 pu pr R, switch hands, 1 clean, 4 pu pr L + 10 2 hd sw
10 2 hd sw + 1 clean, 10 pu pr R + 10 2 hd sw
10 2 hd sw + 1 clean, 10 pu pr L - 10 2 hd sw

If you are using this as a full workout you can do one of two things;

You can interject these 6 progressive sets before or after a swing workout (15-20 minutes) OR repeat the last two swing/clean/pu pr "sandwich" sets 3x-5x more depending on how long you want the workout to last.

If you use equal work to rest the above workout will take you 14 minutes to complete, but in the video it takes me 9 minutes because I'm only resting 30 seconds. Enjoy, and I'll be back on Sunday with another Swing Sandwich workout incorporating snatches and yes....squats!  Ouch!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Swing, Workout #11, just the workout for now, but more about the level of difficultly coming.....

Ta da! Congratulations for getting this far in The Swing, The Workouts!  If you are meeting me here then you've put in some serious practice time and that's a good thing because, in my opinion, this workout, #11, is one of the most difficult!  Difficult because it includes hundreds of transfer swings which I will explain more about why they are so difficult when I have more time to write later today, so come back after you give it a go if you are training it today!

I wanted to get this workout up and posted a.s.a.p. as requested by a few of you so here it is. If you follow along you will find some changes I had to make while adjusting the one written in The Swing Book so keep a pen or pencil ready to make notes.  Enjoy :)


Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday On The Minute Workout, a progression to the Strength Matters Swing Test

Every Thursday I video tape a short OTM 6-10 min workout and post it on my Youtube channel (you can also find them on my FB page as well as here on my blog).  Yesterday morning I decided to add to last week's theme of building strength for one hand swings, whether it's strength to do them with your two hand swing weight, or with an even heavier bell.  This was all inspired by the Strength Matters Swing Test requirement for Instructor Certification.  You can find the official rules here;

The goal of OTM training is to progressively work towards "equal work to equal rest", completing 20 swing reps in 30 seconds, allowing a 30 sec rest period before the next set of 20 swings.  Once you successfully build the strength and cardio endurance then continuing on with an "equal work to rest" workload ability you can either lengthen or shorten the rep count.  For instance, if you complete 40 continuous reps you will earn a minute rest break, or if you complete 10 reps you will only allow yourself 15 seconds to rest before your next set.  All variations of training has benefits and you could/should train all of them depending on the effect (s) and result (s) you want to achieve through your swing training.

In this week's OTM workout I start to shorten those minute training intervals into 30 second intervals for both work and rest.  There is a big difference between training for 1 minute completing one continuous set of 20 reps (30 sec/30 sec) and two sets of 10, working and resting every 15 seconds (15/15 x 2).  The more minutes you break up those sets of 20 into two sets of 10 also require you to put the bell down and pick it back up twice as many times.  200 reps done 10 sets of 20 is much different than 20 sets of 10....which is much different than 5 sets of 40, which is much different than 4 sets of 50...2 sets of 100, etc.  "Different" doesn't always mean harder, just different!  Same with one hand swings versus two hand swings.  100 continuous two hand swings has a much different training effect than say one hand swings switching every 10 reps, which is different than switching every 5 reps, and is crazy different if you chose to switch every single rep!  Trust me :)

Okay, enough talking, let's do!  This workout starts to shorten the OTM sets while simultaneously, and progressively increasing the one hand swings reps.  There are many, many, if not hundreds of ways to train for this "test" or challenge, this was just how I chose to continue on from last week's practice, and in the next few week's I'll post more progressions.

But at the end of the day it's all just practice and training.  No need to have grand plans, just living life a little bit stronger, healthier and more fit.

5 2 hd sw + 5 R (OTM, 15/45)
5 2 hd sw + 5 L (OTM, 15/45)
5 2 hd sw + 5 R (OT 30 sec 15/15 sec)
5 2 hd sw + 5 L (OTM 15/45)
5 2 hd sw + 5 R (OT 30 sec, 15/15sec)
5 2 hd sw + 5 L (OTM 15/45)
10 R (OTM)
10 L (OTM)
10 R (OT 30 sec, 15/15)
10 L (OTM 15/45)
10 R (OT 30 15/15)
10 L (OTM 15/45)

120 swings 8 min

oh, I totally forgot until I reviewed the video that I did it with the 20kg, which is my SMC test weight, you might want to do the same :)

And speaking of swing practice and training.....I'm going to be in San Diego next Friday/ Saturday, March 20-21 and have the opportunity to use my friend Franz Snideman's studio, Revolution Fitness to lead a Friday night One Hour Swing class from 6:30-7:30pm!  If you live in the area or are going to be down for the Strength Matters Summit and want to swing with me you will find the Paypal registration button here on my blog (top left).  The cost is $40 and I need to cut off registration by this Tuesday March 17th for an accurate head count so don't wait, sign up now!  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Transfer Swing Practice + Workout #10! And Spring Asparagus Salad

Before some of us get to workout #10 we need to practice our transfer swings (tr).  Transferring from one hand to the other straight away without touching the handle for practice first.  Here is a short 5 minute practice using combinations we already know how to do that progressively lead you straight to transfer swings.

10 2 hd sw
5 R/ 5 L
1 sw, 1 tr x 10
1 sw, 1 tr x 6 + 6 transfer swings (18 reps total)
1 sw, 1 tr x 4 + 8 tr (16 reps)
1 sw, 1 tr x 2 + 10 tr (14 reps)

88 swing reps in about 5 minutes.  Practice it as many times as you need to get comfortable with transferring the kettlebell back and forth from R to L, use it as a workout in itself, or use it as a quick warm up to any of the workouts in The Swing!  Enjoy :)

Well, well, we are at workout #10!

And it's got a little tricky bit about 3/4 of the way through....  This is the first workout were you practice a set of 10 swings, get only 15 sec break before the next set of 40 reps, which means you have to swing for an entire minute before getting more rest!  This is also the first workout that uses straight "transfer swings", so if you need a little practice here's a short video:

You will find the complete written #10 workout on page 141 of The Swing book.

Morning time is my cooking and food prep time starting, pretty much, as soon as I get up around 4:00am.  Today it's super early because we lost an hour over the weekend, but I managed to fall out of bed close to my regular time and organize the kitchen before continuing on.  Not a whole lot to do actually.  I steamed some broccoli for a souffle later tonight, pressure cooked some black beans to add to some sweet potatoes for lunch, brought some carrots back to life that I never got around to using last week, and made a quick raw asparagus salad.

There are a handful on "non" ingredients that all home cooks have on hand 99% of the time, which is why I call them "non" ingredients.  Fats/dairy; cream (1/2 & 1/2 or milk) butter and Olive oil (and other cooking and salad oils) eggs, acids; lemon and vinegars, seasoning; salt/pepper, garlic, and base veggies; onions, celery, carrot, sweetners, natural and otherwise; sugar, honey, maple syrup.  There are a handful of others depending on background and culture of course, but for the most part if you cook on a regular basis you almost always have these non ingredients on hand.

That being said I only really needed two "real" ingredients for this salad; asparagus and parmesan cheese (which is also a non ingredient in my fridge). No cooking or steaming of spring fresh thin stalked asparagus so this salad goes together quickly.

1 bunch asparagus sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/4-1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 c. red wine vinegar or lemon, or a combination of both
2-4 tbl olive oil
salt and pepper

Use the absolute best ingredients you can afford for the freshest and truest flavors.  This is a salad I spend a little extra on true Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and my highest quality olive oil and vinegar that I would never use to cook with!

I did save off about 30% of the asparagus bunch for some risotto maybe tomorrow since I have a salmon fillet in the freezer.  Is asparagus showing up in your markets yet?  And what's a "non" ingredient in your kitchen?

You can find Anne Burrell's original recipe here:

Friday, March 6, 2015

OTM "Swing Sandwich", and details on the next "Flash" 1 Hour Swing Class in La Jolla CA!

I really really like today's OTM workout!  It's 8 minutes in length so feel free to double it for an awesome workout in about 15 minutes!  Here's the progression, but you'll have to watch and listen to the video for the reasons why I choose them :) :

10 2 hd swings
15 2 hd swings
5 2 hd + 5 R + 5 2 hd (15 reps)
5 2 hd + 5 L + 5 2 hd (15 reps)
5 2 hd + 5 R + 10 2 hd (20 reps)
5 2 hd + 5 L + 10 2 hd (20 reps)
5 2 hd + 10 R + 5 2 hd (20 reps)
5 2 hd + 10 L + 5 2 hd (20 reps)

This is a perfect progression for not only learning and practicing the skill of one hand swings, but if you want to start increasing the weight of your one hand swings then give this a go with a bell you normally would use with only two hands.  You will find more of these types of "two hand swing/ one hand swing" combinations as I train myself and my students and clients to pass the new Strength Matters Swing Test, 200 one hand swings in 10 minutes.  For the complete guidelines you can find them here; 

So, now that you've been practicing on a regular basis who in the San Diego area wants to come swing with me for an entire hour?  

At the last minute I decided to contact my friend Franz Snideman at Revolution Fitness in La Jolla and organize a "Flash" One Hour Swing Class, Friday March 20 6:30pm! ( Mark and I will be down in San Diego that weekend for the Strength Matters Summit where Mark will be lecturing on Saturday.  Of course you are invited for the entire weekend (, and if you are already coming to the SMS and you want to come swing, or if you live in or around the area please come and get one of the best swing workouts ever, I promise!

The cost is $40 per person and you will find the registration and Paypal link on the top of the left hand column here on my blog.  Space and bells are always limited so reserve your spot now! It's been two years since I've been down to Southern CA and I have no idea when I'll make it back, so let's not waste this opportunity to swing together!