Two things I changed my mind about in 2011

Posted: December 6, 2011 in General

There are two things I changed my mind about in 2011:

The first is the Kettlebell Bent Press movement.  

This movement to me right now is one of the best kept secrets in our industry.  When I first saw this movement I had very little appreciation for it and thought it had little to no value for improving movement or strength towards anything meaningful.  In fact I thought it was just some random arbitrary dumb exhibition lift designed purely to try and lift really heavy objects overhead.  In a lot of ways that is still a true statement for me, but after attending the level-2 RKC certification program and having personal instruction from Master RKC David Whitley on the lift I began to see that the Bent Press actually has several valuable components that, when properly progressed and implemented correctly, can improve and enhance movement efficiency and enhance performance.

Specifically the Bent Press requires and improves thoracic mobility, hip mobility, core stability, scapular and shoulder stability and vertical pressing strength.  A great way to think of the Bent Press is to think of it as a movement that finishes what the Get Up begins (first heard that from Dave Whitley).  In other words the Get Up begins to teach us the need for adequate mobility and stability simultaneously in order to develop proper motor control to be able to express strength efficiently and effectively.  The Bent Press takes these same things to the next level of demand.  Its not really a progression to the Get Up, but certainly a Get Up of good movement quality and performance is a good pre-requisite and will ensure that certain baseline movement competencies are in place to build a Bent Press on top of.  

Even with a good Get Up the Bent Press still is not going to be a good choice for everyone, and in fact, like any exercise implemented poorly or without proper functional capacity, it can be very dangerous.  The risk-reward is only favorable if certain parameters are met first:

1.  Symmetrical thoracic spine rotation.  You don’t need crazy amounts of it, as the bent press will develop it, but it at least needs to be symmetrical and decent otherwise increased risk of unwanted shoulder, lumbar and pelvic stress may occur.  

2.  Symmetrical hip hinging and closed chain hip rotation.  Again, the Bent Press progressed correctly will develop these things, and Dave Whitley’s progressions to the Bent Press left me feeling some of the most mobile in my hips and tspine I have ever felt, but still having symmetry in the hips before starting to Bent Press will significantly improve the benefits that can be attained from bent pressing and reduce the possibility of unwanted stress on the knees, pelvis and lumbar sections of the body.  

3.  An understanding oh how to link the shoulder to the opposite hip via the Lat to thoracolumbar fascia to glute max connection and how to use the lat to help “pack” or properly align the shoulder with the scapula on the thoracic spine.  This one is critical to Bent pressing and gaining the benefits of the Bent Press.  Again the Bent Press will develop this connection greatly if the person at least understands loading the Lat, packing the shoulder and is progressed properly.  This is where the Bent Press develops scapular and shoulder stability much like the Get Up and Windmill movements but with a greater demand placed on the ability to pack the shoulder under greater loads and when the elbow is bent as well as straight.  These increased demands on shoulder stability and scapular control is why I feel the Get Up and really the Windmill being efficient are pre-requisites to starting to train the Bent Press.  

Try not to judge this exercise by its unusual look or some of the ugly versions out there in video world.  I did this and missed the point and the benefits of a good exercise.  Give it a second look, study its regressions and develop the pre-requisite movements and the functional capacities necessary to be as safe and effective as possible and then work on progressing your Bent Press skill to gain even greater improvements in mobility, stability, motor control and strength within your body.  The RKC system is a great resource and Dave Whitley himself is a great resource on how to improve your movement and performance using the Bent Press.  

The second is performing the Olympic Weightlifting movements from the floor.

Until this year I never taught my athletes how to Olympic weight-lift from the floor and I still don’t very often.  However, I now see some benefit in starting from the floor that I did not see before.  I basically thought unless you are going to compete in O-lifts there is no reason to start from the floor.  If you are simply using the lifts to develop the CNS, power, athleticism and kinetic linking of the hips to the trunk to the arms then all you really need is the hang positions.  All that stuff is really developed through what happens above the knee, not below:  proper execution of triple extension, the explosive second pull that begins in the hang above the knee or in the power position, the catch of each movement and the athletic skill of linking the body segments together.  

To me starting from the floor with an athlete not competing in the O-lifts was just another step, skill and time consuming activity that didn’t give me any heavy bang for the buck benefit.  It just seemed to simply get the bar from the floor to the hang position for the start of the second pull which always felt like the really important part that had the most benefit to the athlete anyway.  My feeling was always why not just skip the extra step that always required a lot of extra teaching and coaching and seemed to waste precious time, and instead start from the hang above the knee or the hang in the power position since that’s where all the magic happened anyway.

Then at the end of 2010 I was at Athletes Performance Institute and Denis Logan said he believed starting from the floor had a benefit I had overlooked.  The development of starting strength:  The ability to have the strength to overcome an objects resistance at rest.  This made good sense to me and changed my opinion going into 2011 of starting with the bar at rest with no pre load on the body to emphasis starting strength.  Starting strength is a very important type of strength to develop for athletes to become better at overcoming their own inertia.  I started thinking we don’t emphasize enough starting strength.  So in people that are exceptionally proficient in hang power/squat cleans and hang power/squat snatch I began doing some teaching from the floor for the first time this year with our athletes.  Its still not a big shift yet as there are still several other good choices for starting strength like deadlifts and sled work, but I do like the additional demand and benefit now that I’ve started associated O-lifts from the floor with developing starting strength or starting power instead of it being just an extra step.  I just never looked at it that way before until my conversation with Dennis.  Now I see an additional potential benefit in O-lifts I did not see before and that makes me a more educated coach.
-Joe Sansalone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s