Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ken Froese: Triple Double Beast Press Practice with a little z-health, some return of the kettlebell and Spite

At a recent RKC II kettlebell certification course, Ken Froese did something it doesn't seem like any other RKC of any level has done: he cleaned then pressed two 48kg kettlebells (one in each hand) for a double. Shown below a few weeks before, he does a triple. Guess he was taking it easy at the RKC.


Just to be clear, 48kg is 106 pounds. It's known as "the Beast" in the RKC. That's a big ball o' iron gripped and pulling against the wrist.  That's more than half a lot of guys' body weight. Pressing ONE beast once is one third of what's known as the Beast Challenge. So in this context, even a single double beast press is what may reasonably be construed as a Big Deal.

Ken and i first got chatting about two years ago on the RKC instructors forum and met in person at a z-health cert. Having now had the pleasure to be on a year long course with Ken and hear him talk about his plans to do this double press of a beast for a single for this RKC II recert, it seemed a cool thing now to be able to ask him to reflect on the process of how he got from there to here.

By way of context, Ken Froese of  Kettlebell Evolution (his shop) is a quiet guy. The quiet big guy type that looks like he could crush a beer can just kinda by looking at it sideways. If he saw Chuck Norris he'd be all polite and nice and everything, maybe check his sphenoid to help him with that big side kick, all the while you kinda know he could probably crush old chuck like a bug. In the nicest possible way.  If you've heard of the story of Milo - the guy who got stronger and bigger every day by lifting a bull from its first day as a calf to its full grown-ness, that's how i kinda think of Ken.

Ken's also a Z-Health master trainer, an RKC II kettlebell instructor, previously set up his own shop in NY doing tree cutting (the type of cutting where one has to shinny up big trees and chain saw them down in pieces), is an ice and rock climber, independent business owner, home builder, knowledge seeker, and surprisingly witty guy. Why surprising? It's that quiet thing. Imagine the smart shy kid at the back of the class that every once in awhile speaks, and when he does, it's hilarious. Until recently, Ken was also known by his long locks (think owen wilson), but has moved to another Look stage (think ben stiller). So you have the picture: medium tall guy, lots of muscle mass, business like, quiet, witty.

Oh ya, and ken was also part of the team coaching Fabricio Werdum in kb's prior to his upset win over Fedor Emelianenko this past year. 

And so we begin:

Ken, a year ago you'd had a plan to press double beasts at the RKC II recert. Just for context, a beast is an rkc nickname for the 48kg kettlebell. Pressing ONE beast is a third of the "beast challenge" - pressing, pulling up and pistoling a beast.
The RKC II recert just happened, and you doubled the beast press: cleaned, and followed with two good presses. We have video of you not much previously getting in a triple.

So this seems a nice feat of strength.
Why was getting in a planned single rep of a double beast press so important?
We all use different strategies to motivate ourselves to accomplish goals in our life.  Often the best way to motivate someone is to tell them they can't do something.  For me it was Spite. Have you ever seen the Seinfeld where Jerry tried to return a jacket and when the sales girl asked why, his reply was for spite (youtube clip).

In May of 2010 I began the Z-Health master trainer program. Around the same time there was some blog posts and conversations on different forums where people were saying that "Z-health makes you weak."

I could never understand how a system that is all about assess and re-asssess could be making someone weak. What were they missing?

So I took it on as my own personal challenge to strict military press Double beasts. So whenever I hear people say Z makes you weak, I can say Really?? 
I hope folks look at that clip of seinfeld and spite. Very witty, sir. You have done many of us a service. Cuz now we just say "really?" with a picture of you attached to it. I can see the t-shirt now: black shirt, outline of you with the beasts in lockout, quote at the top "zhealth makes you weak" and the big Really underneath. Nicely done. Mind you, i kinda think that rumour's run it's course, eh? We've all grown and learned and re-bonded and no longer say such unfounded things, right?

And now the technical aspects of the approach to the T, as it were. You did one clean and then the two presses: why the clean just at the start rather than before each press?
Re-cleaning the bells before a press is a great teaching tool to set up for a press.  If the clean is bad, they will never make the press.

Even this past weekend at the RKC2 I was surprised to see a lot of what I would call relaxed cleans on those that failed their 1/2 BW press.  When The weights get heavy, I can usually tell if the press will be made just by watching the clean.

Or they would start to yield under the weight letting form break down instead of missing with integrity or as Pavel calls missing like a profesional. 
Here's Master RKC Mark Reifkind making this point with you (when you had hair, and were weaker, so Sampson model plainly doesn't apply. Myth busted...):

This weekend Mark Toomey spoke about approaching the bells. Do you always set up the same way, do you always know where you feet are? Are you mentally prepared for the lift?

Pavel has spoken about a powerlifter that had a different grunt for each of his three power lifts to help him mentally prepare.

Back to the clean question.........
I first started lifting bells in early 07 and when pressing heavy I always re-cleaned the bells between reps to set up my pressing.

When I started to follow RTK (Return of the Kettlebell, overview here) I began learning to press without the re-clean, as the bells are Dbl snatched over head and the presses are begun from the top position.  But my pressing strength grew beyond what I could safely double snatch.
In  Z-Health we talk about the mark of a true professional is the ability to go from relaxed to tight in a split second. This weekend at the RKC 2 Pavel told a little story: if you took a picture at 10 frames a second of a fight throwing a punch. The beginner would be tight in the first frame. The intermadiate guy would be tight by frame 5 and the professional would be tight at the very end of the 10th frame.

So about 6 months ago it kind of dawned on me that learning to press from the rack without re-cleaning would help me learn the skill of going from relaxed to tight at a split second, instead of wasting energy holding tension for a longer period of time. Besides, recleaning a pair of 48s is a lot of work :)
What's very cool is that you started practicing for this at least a year in advance. What made you think about this as something you'd want the year to do? Where were you at in your pressing when you came up with this goal?
When I picked pressing dbl beasts I wanted to pick a goal that not a lot of people in the RKC community can do or have done. If you go through videos on youtube there is a few videos of people pressing pressing dbl beasts, but they are mostly push presses. Nothing I would really call a strict press. I apoligise in advance if there are videos out there that I have missed.  The only person that I had heard of doing the Dbl Beast press was Shaun Cairns.

Back in 09 I had wanted to train for the beast challenge. I was struggling with the press, i could not get past the 44kg and my pullups were stalled with body weight + 90lbs. As I would try and drop weight  to help my pull-up my pressing strength would go down.
So I got frustrated and started with Pavel's RTK program. I enjoyed the program and liked working with doubles. My body just felt better working with double bells over a single bell.

Eventually I tweaked the program a little so on my heavy day I was recleaning the bells instead of dbl snatching them. I worked up to 5 ladders of 4 with dbl 40s.  Then on a medium day i decided to press the 48 and see what kind of carry over all the dbl kb work had. I cleaned the 48 pressed it, hmmmm that was easy, recleaned it pressed it again, hmmm, recleaned it pressed it again.


That was the first time I tried pressing the 48 in almost a year and it went up for a triple, so double work had great carry over for me.
This was also around the time that the "Z makes you weak" rumours started floating around. So the goal of a dbl beast press was formed.

I then figured what better place to do it than at the RKC2 in MSP. So as soon as the RKC2 for 2011 was announced  I signed up to re-cert as an RKC2.

A lot of friends were asking why I was re taking the course instead of trying to assist and my typical response was , "For Spite"
Anything other than Spite?
I also really enjoy Pavel's coaching as he has an incredible eye for detail.  The rest of the seniors and master rkcs who were leading the teams also bring a lot of coaching experience to the table.
Totally agreed. Why i did RKC II, really
As in any quality system things are always changing / evolving for the better. Pavel added some different progressions for pullups and hanging leg raises that I never saw  before. Dave Whitley gave a great progression for the bent press. Dan John gave some great tips for coaching Jerks.

I also always have a good time and a lot of laughs hanging around like minded people.

I also think Z-Health and RKC principles work very well together. Sometimes we just need to tweak things a little for the individual. That is where a coach with a good eye is important.  When we get married to our ideas and say there is only one way to do anything, then we get ourselves and or our clients into trouble.
THere was a break point in your practice with this lift - what happened, and how did you recover?
In Dec of 2010 I was pushing hard hoping to get the dbl 48s for Festivus party held at a friend's gym, Dogtown Crossfit, where all the members perform a feat of strength that they have been working on.

Around  the biginning of Dec I was up to about 10 singles with dbl 44s.  I attempted pressing dbl 48s, but as soon as I cleaned them I knew I did not have a chance.
Then I ended up getting the flu and It was crunch time for the Z health MT cert. I had to prepare 2 45 min presentations as well as study for 6 days of live training at the Z health head quarters in PHX AZ, so my training got put on the back burner.

Once I started to ramp up again I began trying to get comfortable cleaning double 48s. The hardest part for me was cleaning them off the floor. Once they were in the rack I was able to clean them for reps, so I just practiced cleaning them for singles and dumping them onto the floor and jumping out of the way. More like an Olympic lifter dumps the bar from over head to avoid the eccentric, so he can get more training in.
Has your weight changed much between when you first got this idea to press big and now?
Do we really need to ask that question? Remember that time I asked [question deleted...], and that look you gave me :). Lets just say I ate my way through the sticking points.

When I started on this goal I was close to  250lbs, When I weighed in at the RKC2 I was 271. (I still made the pull-up throat to bar with a 16kg bell on my foot and performed a pistol at that weight). I only started training pull ups 2 months before the level 2 and pistols 3 weeks out.
Do you think you needed to put on the weight to get the press?
Thats tough to say...... For myself it is so much easier to get stronger when I put weight on.  If I did not have a goal date in mind then maybe I could have watched my weight a better, but to be honest, I was not that concerned. I picked a goal and I made it happen.
So simple. So elegant. Picked a goal and made it happen. One of the things that's stood out for me is that you picked this goal like a YEAR in advance, stuck with it for a YEAR and delivered. Not a particularly short term plan. And it seems like you hit it about three weeks to the day. And were able to keep it up - so not even just a PR on the day. That is very very sweet to see. You had gas in the tank.

Ok, now that's done and dusted; you've recerted and all. 

What are you going to do now in terms of training and your weight/leanness approach? Are you going to attempt to maintain this press while you lean out? - Not that you have to or need to lean out; just that i remember you talking about wanting to do this.
I want to start dropping the weight. A few months back my daughter and I were camping at joshua tree and we had a great time scrambling / climbing over rocks for a few days. But i remember saying to myself, this would be so much more fun if I was 50 lbs lighter.

I moved out to Santa Monica 2 1/2 years ago and I would like to start surfing. I also used to do some ice climbing when I lived on the east coast and have done some mountaineering trips to Equador, peru and alaska. I still want to climb Denali with a group of Z trainers.

I'm still undecided if I want to maintain the press or not.  Because of the sheer size of KBs above 48kg I feel you may as well go to a barbell to train heavier. I am seriously considering chasing some numbers in long  cycle as that is a lift I really enjoy.

If I don't have fun and enjoy my training then what is the point?

I also may start training Krav Maga, as I train out of a gym run by John Whitman who is a 4th degree black belt.  So it would be silly of me to not take advantage of his skills.

Beside my wife is upset that I no longer fit into the John Varvatos jackets she bought me. :)
what's on your plate for where you want to focus your practice now, then?
I want to work on dropping the weight and spend time working on the nuances of S-Phase  and learn good sprinting technique.  I just want to pursue some more athletic avenues that doing all of my training standing in one spot.  I guess as I'm getting older, I question the point of training if I do not do anything with it.
Years ago…… People trained to get better at their sport, now exercise has become its own sport.
AH yes, we hear that one in z-health a lot: training as its own sport. Indeed. Just to go back a wee bit how did you feel? I seem to recall you talking about being a bit achey early on with putting on the weight? How did you address that?
Back to the weight huh? [deleted question ...]
Heh dude, you started with the descriptions at one of the courses about feeling the pain here related to putting on the pounds, and i was asking you then about what kind of choices are you making to hit a specific time goal and how to deal with that trade off. So ya, we're coming back
Yeah I definitely am not moving as well carrying all this extra weight. But I still get out and skateboard with my daughter and practice my Z health.

While we were working on Jerks at the RKC2 someone commented on how good my shoulder and thoracic mobility was. I spend a lot of time practicing it.
Ok, cool. So, one of the things you told me when we discussed the first time you repp' ed with the beasts is that movement drills were really important - how so and which ones?
I'll try and make a video of a few of my pet drills.
One can get away with a lot  of compensations when pressing a single bell. But in a double press they all kind of show them selves.

If you can not comfortably stand with 2 bells locked out over head and feel like that is a rest position, then you should not be doing Dbl KB work.

I did most of my shoulder mobility work with bands.


Ken does terminal flicks for shoulder ROM
approach promoted by legend Bob Gajda in Total Body Training
(i personally did  a lot of this kind of work to rehab my shoulder this year -mc)

People often think of Z as a mobility system , but I only practiced  long (long being 30-45Min)  Mobility sessions about 3x a week. I just constantly practice small drills though out the day. Z is a performance system.

At the RKC2 There was a girl that was having an issue hitting her pull - up, she was close but needed a few more inches. I began by trying mobility drills, but it was not helping. Finally what did it was a neuro-mechanic drill [also taught at z, in particular in the T-phase course] at a sight of a previous injury.  One of the tag lines we use when teaching Z is "You do not have to be right [the first time], you just have to be persistent."  If that did not work there was still a lot of different avenues to look at.
Is there anything you'd do differently if you were starting this process from scratch again? and if so, why those things?
Not really as what I did worked. I picked a goal and worked towards it.  Performing it at a lighter BW would be more impressive but that was never my main concern.
Other folks are surely going to be inspired by this performance: what are three key things you think would be important for them to consider in pursuing a similar goal?
Make sure you have the required mobility to press Dbl bells
Listen to your body: I used the light med heavy approach training 3 days a week. But on the days I felt good [I did more] and on some days I did less.  Everything happens in waves. There was times I went to the gym and the presses felt heavy so i just did a bunch of band work and went home or to In and Out burger.

Keep healthly, If you have aches and pains, Fix them, do not push through them or you will just wind up loosing training time.------
Super duper Ken.
And lest anyone think that triple or double was a one off? how bout a bunch in the same period:


So, now let's do a little Ken Back Story for context to this goal.

You've been doing kbs for about four years. What kind of training did you do if any before that? What I'm trying to get at is what kind of experience has gone into you feeling comfy to tune a program and go by seeming feel to guide your double press work.

The Young Ken. I first started training in the 8th grade as I wanted to play high school football. My freshman year I weighed 150lbs, my senior year I was 250.  There is no such thing as a Hard gainer, just under eaters.

Basement Gyms. The first "gym" I ever trained in was a basement. You paid 20.00 a month to train there. I remember taking public transportation from Staten Island NY up to the Bronx to purchase weights and carrying them back.  It was different then…… I never knew there was such a thing as "personal trainers", people just lifted and the older guys helped the younger guys out and it was all cool.

I guess that is why I love training out of Crossfit gyms. The bare bones feel reminds me of Basement gyms.

Getting into KBs Eventually I got into KBs  And I trained out of my house in upstate ny.  I joined a local gym, where the owner just gave you a key to let yourself in.  I kept my KBs there and trained a mix of KBs and barbell work….. Eventually I moved into Manhattan and imagine my surprise when I set foot into my first Globo gym and saw all the machines, swiss balls and bosu work. I thought I stepped into another dimension.

Z-Health and the RKC. I guess that is why I embrace the RKC and Z health, it helped me make sense of it. Some months back I was in NY and went by a gym I used to work at to train.  As I looked around it was the same clients with the same trainers lifting the same weights.  I remember shaking my head. If you are not making progress, what are you doing? This is strength training after all isn't it?

Pavel's programs  give a pretty clear cut progression and Z-Health gave me a lens , principles and tools to evaluate my training. If something is not working fix it.
Loaded Mobility. A lot of people have seen the the R-Phase manual and DVD, [but] in the strength and suppleness course we go into loaded mobility where to use use bands to load all of the exercises as some mechnorecetors only fire under certain speeds and certain loads.

The UnStretch. I am also not a big fan  of passive stretching  ( wow I said that in a Politicly correct manner).  Most people use bands to pull themselves in ROM they are trying to find. I use very light bands in the opposite manner, and pull into the ROM i'm trying to find, so it becomes more of an achieve exercise. [video]

The UnWarmUp. I also do not warm up much when I train……… at the RKC2 I did a neural warm up before I left the hotel. When it came time to test the press, I did 5 reps each arm with a 12 KG   I did a few nerve glides and pressed a pair of 36s for 3-4 reps then set up a pair of 48s and hit a dbl.
There ya have it. And so just to wrap this up, we close with The Joy of Press:



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4 comments:

Freddys said...

Awesome interview. Ken is an inspiration for those who want to move well AND be freaky strong. Just awesome.

mc said...

Thanks for dropping by and saying so, Freddys.
mc

Max Shank said...

A great story and superbly written.

mc said...

Thanks for stopping by, Max.
Ken tells me you did a single double beast press yourself on the day.
Way to go.
mc

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