“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”
- Albert Einstein
Remember what it felt like to be a kid and get that thing, that ONE thing, that would make your life complete? Maybe it was a tricycle, or a tree house, or something like that. Remember how that felt? Once you got it, it was like you didn’t even own anything else anymore, and if you didn’t get another “thing” for the rest of your life, you wouldn’t care. You’d found what really mattered.
Easy Strength, dear readers, is that “thing” for the adult me.
I remember the first time I was exposed to the idea of Easy Strength. I was already several years into kettlebell training – actually, it was October 17th 2010, the day I got my RKC certification. Dan John was sitting with a small group of us in the hotel a few hours after the cert had ended. While we were waiting for a larger group to accumulate so we could all go out to dinner, Dan started telling us about a 40 day program of – get this – doing the same things, consistently.
I remember thinking “I oughta try this,” but being young(er) and fickle, I didn’t have the courage and patience to wait out the results. I was used to long, hard workouts, particularly as I prepared for the RKC. I still hadn’t broken the American mindset of beat-downs as the way to prove and improve yourself. If only I had had the faith to trust in this world-class coach, I would be much further along in my own physical goals. All I can do now is readjust my course and stay on the straight and narrow.
Shortly after I got my RKC, I got access to the hella-cool RKC-Only forum. To my surprise, the first thing I read there was…a thread about Dan John’s 40 Day Easy Strength Program! Maybe there was more to this than I thought. I read it. I re-read it. I re-read what I had already read. There was definitely something to this. And yet I still didn’t do it.
But I did keep reading about it. Over and over. And little by little I started to get more into the mindset of training for strength above all other qualities. Once that concept sunk deeper and deeper into my psyche, I knew what I had to do. It’s what I should have been doing all along. It’s what EVERYONE should be doing at least some of their strength-training year.
I bought the original Easy Strength Seminar on DVD (all 14 of ‘em!). I watched and took careful notes. It was like watching a meeting of an international cabal of the greatest minds in strength, talking and comparing notes on the lost secrets of real, authentic strength training. It was like seeing your exit in the rear view mirror after you had passed it. You know you need to take it, but it’s gonna take some drastic measures to turn you around. I decided to jerk the wheel, hit the E-brake, and gun it in the right direction. I got the book for Hannukah, signed myself up for the workshop, and started training.
My first bout with Easy Strength went well. I was hitting PRs left and right! I switched my approach just slightly halfway through to prepare for the new RKC technique test, and when the time came, I nailed all the tests at my recertification no sweat. Even though my snatch test had me sucking wind, it was easier than I ever remembered it.
The workshop itself was like a moving masterpiece. Every part, every section, every lecture, every hands-on strength session we did was for a purpose. There was no fluff, and this intellectual machine’s moving parts only had one gear and one direction: forward toward strength! Both Pavel and Dan made so many head-slapping, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that observations that weekend it was almost unreal. Despite what I’d read in the book and what I saw in the DVDs, there was always more to consider and more to learn. Some of my favorites include the following:
· Dan on over-emphasizing cardio training for throwers: “What do you need cardio for? In my throwing career I could throw the discus 55 meters in 1.6 seconds – how many times does your heart beat in 1.6 seconds?”
· Pavel went into detail on the various types of strength (20 subtypes in all, according to Russian scientists), but out of all of them “absolute strength is the quality upon which all other types of strength are built.” Hence the RKC’s obsession with absolute strength. You want other qualities? Jack up your absolute strength first.
· Dan’s Million Dollar Tip: Wanna get strong? Find what you’re not doing and do it! For most, it’s loaded carries. I’ve taken this tip to heart and plan on using it to make a million bucks.
· Pavel’s tip on grinds: Go steady to begin, speed up at sticking points. In other words, save the explosiveness for when you need it – don’t start out with it or you’ll burn out quick. This has done wonders for my pull-ups, squats, and presses. I predict some huge strength gains for myself in the coming 40 days based on this tip alone.
That, Dan’s thoughts on the quadrants and how to train people based on them, as well as his discussion of the myriad roles and levels of impact the strength coach has on his or her students was so good I can’t even do it justice here. You’ll just have to buy the book and DVD if you haven’t already (or hopefully sign up for the next workshop, if they do another one). The only thing that would have made this workshop better is if it had been three days.
For me, the concept of Easy Strength and Even Easier Strength has really brought things around full circle. For the first time ever, I feel like I get it. I get it! And I’m not stopping at just “getting it”. I’m committed to moving forward.
For those of you who don’t know me well, despite my status as an RKC now, I did not grow up athletic. I did gymnastics for a few years as a very young kid, and spent the rest of my public-school days trying to avoid athletics or at least not stand out and be an embarrassment when we had to play team sports or (God forbid!) lift weights for gym class. I remember in elementary school sneakily moving ever closer to the back of the line when my impending time came to play kickball during gym class. Or once, even more shamefully, in high school getting stuck under the bar while I was bench pressing a weight that for everyone else was the equivalent of a broomstick with two bagels on it. The gym teacher yelled at my spotter for not paying attention, but I felt like the shame was on me, not my air-headed spotter.
Fast forward to 2008. My friend Drew introduced me to the Russian kettlebell, and more importantly, the works of Pavel. My dad, who’s grandparents emigrated from Russia, always instilled in me and my brother the importance of being proud of our Russian heritage (my middle name is Dmitri, so you know he’s serious). I never really knew why I should have any special sense of pride in that heritage – until I read Enter The Kettlebell. Russians are badasses! And their whole culture is built on crushing weakness and replacing it with raw, brute strength! What the hell was I doing riding a bicycle or jogging? For godssake, gimme a kettlebell! For the first time in my life, I wanted strength, and I didn’t fear it anymore. No bar was going to pin me to a bench ever again. I was gonna get strong. And not just any strong – RKC strong.
After years of using kettlebells to do things I grew up thinking I could never do, Pavel and Dan have made strength and its many applications easier than ever by having the courage to look back in order to look forward – to capture centuries-old training simplicity, not dizzying new-age complexity, to help us reclaim strength as our birthrights. I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been at any other time in my life. With that strength has come confidence, happiness, and a sense of adventure that I shied away from when I was younger. It might seem like a weird thing to hear, but unless you grew up weak and unathletic, you can’t appreciate what it’s like to suddenly have those things. And I don’t have to tell you how much it rocks!
One day, I will repay them both for the impact they’ve had on this scrawny kid’s life. Dan, maybe I’ll sing “If I Were A Rich Man” at an upcoming RKC event. And Pavel, I think I’ll further honor my Russian heritage by working on improving my Russian language skills (Знать один язык никогда недостаточно, Павел!). Until then, I’m going to get strong and represent the School of Strength the best I can.
Easy Strength Power To Us!
* * *
(And by the way, what blog of mine would be complete without a recipe? Check out this quick St. Patrick's themed (well, sorta) video and get your om nom nom on!)