Sunday, November 1, 2009

Enhancing the Viking Push Press with Bone Rhythm: more Progress with Return of the Kettlebell

While the Hard Style approach teaches tension as strength, it is also concerned with movement efficiency. One of the best and most simple techniques to bring efficiency and power into a movement is to harmonize the timing and forces of the joints used in the move. Eric Cobb in z-health refers to this as Bone Rhythm. In this article on my continuing experience with the double kettlebell work of Return of the Kettlebell, i take a look at refining the efficiency, speed and power of my Viking Push Press with attention to Bone Rythmn.

Return of the Kettlebell (RTK) (early review here) provides a formal introduction to the Viking Push Press (VPP), a move that used to be taught only at the RKC II certification. One of the things this means is that the move has been field tested a lot before being introduced to a general kettlebell practice situation, and so has been found to have therefore no small benefit in practice.

In RTK, the Viking Push Press is used to kick off the explosive blocks that include the double kettlebell long cycle clean and jerk. It is well described in RTK so just a quick review is that
  • a) unlike it's cousin the regular push press, it begins in an overhead lock out position
  • b) lighter weights can be used to build up reps at speed for lots of volume, so it situates as a potential overspeed eccentric practice for training that stretch cycle for speed/power
  • c) there are no pauses in the rack.

Connecting Bone Rhythm with the VPP
Bone Rhythm is a concept that's taught first in the R-Phase certification in Z-Health (review), then again at S-Phase and is now also available in the fabulous Z-Health Vol. 1 of the Complete Athlete (reviewed in detail here). I've discussed it here, too, in this presentation of the KB front squat. and here as well in the context of powerful, efficient movement.

Effectively, the idea of bone rhythmn is to get the timing of the joints to happen together. So for instance, in the squat, the movement of the knee finishes at the same time as the hip, both in going down and in coming up. It's well worth practicing this timing. For example, i could get BR happening in my squat really well going fast. Slowing it down, the knee always finished before the hips. I recently had the opportunity to work with Z-Health Master Trainer Katie Bigelow who had me sorted on slow control of BR in about 20 mins. I am now strong like ox. No kidding. BR = simple physics. If both ends of a lever work together, the movement around the joints at the fulcra is that much more efficient.

The opposite of bone rythmn is what happens on a sea saw if the heavier kid decides not to cooperate when the lighter kid is trying to come down: the lighter kid is whaling away to get her end down and the other kid - isn't pushing up at the same time, so a lot of energy is just spent refee'ing. Once they get in sync, momentum takes care of the rest. Effortless movement; less force needed to keep the movement happening.

SO where/how can we apply this concept in the VPP?
here's what i found and you might want to play around with this, too. I'd suggest starting unloaded/naked/no weight.

Gating the Knee Dip. If the arm is up and locked out in the starting position, as the arm comes down into the rack (somewhat different than the clean rack so good to watch Kenneth Jay demo this on the RTK video), dip the knees. Two things to connect:
  • get the speed of the arm coming down into the rack to meet the speed of the knees bending. sync these up.
  • get the knee dip to keep going only until the arm comes down into the rack, so the arm and the knees finish their movement together.

Your mileage may vary, but i found that when the arm and knees sync'd up, the feel of the dip was that goldilocks "just right."

Speed of the Push into the Press. In the VPP, there's no pause in the rack; it's an explosive push back up once the arm comes down into the rack. From there it's straight back up, using the extension of the knees from the dip to help drive up the bell into lock out.

Here's where unloaded practice can help give you the feel for this next part. In this part, the goal is to have the elbow lock out at the same time as the knees finish. Let me repeat: it's much easier to get the feel of this connection without a weight. Knees and arms finish together.

Single Once you have the feel of this unloaded, take the light bell you'd use for double VPP work, and work on a few singles to keep that coordinated knee extension with arm extension. The arms are traveling further, so they're going to be a bit faster than the knees.

When you have the feel of that, time to go for double kb's - and in this case, i'd encourage you to check a mirror just for your outline - you want to check how synced you are.

Double Now as soon as you go double, you may find that your arms lag behind your knees in terms of which finishes first. Ok. But what you'll start to get is that the main part of the coordination, the power of the knees to drive with the elbows past the sticking point is the main timing connection. You'll feel the rhythm look in - especially if you have the rack and up position right. Coordinating the push of these repetitive reps will go from wearing to smooth and powerful.

The Rhythm of Life is a Powerful Thing
It is very much a rhythm that just feels sweet, and really does make the difference between moving through 5 ladders of these things fresh and strong or feeling sluggish and blick. I'm pretty sure if you spend a little time playing around with bone rhythm and the rack position you'll feel like you could go for ages on the VPP, and really get those eccentrics popping with clean good feeling reps.

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