Any bodyweight enthusiast can benefit greatly by using bands in their training. Head over to Rubberbanditz.com for some quality bands to help with your training!
My best one arm handstand to date! 13 hard fought seconds. Continued progress in this skill will require more mobility in the shoulders, which I am currently and forever working on.]]>
Full disclaimer: Rubberbanditz gave me a free collection of three bands (7/8″ wide, 1 1/8″ wide, and 1 3/4″ wide – the black, purple, and green one respectively). I chatted with the owner and said I would make a post on band training and mention his site. If you’d like to help support Beast Skills and the free information I provide on this site, my Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, then please feel free to head on over to Rubberbanditz and grab some bands today!
Even if you don’t, here’s some information to show you why bands can be a valuable addition to your training – whether you’re just starting off, or a seasoned veteran.
One of the greatest things about bands is their ability to travel anywhere. Even if you travel with a small carry-on bag, you’ll be able to fit at least one band in for the ride.
Once I’m at my destination, I often hunt down the nearest gym to get in my workouts. Carrying a few bands with me to this new gym is easy and can help with many of the exercises I do in my training.
And on the off chance I can’t find or get to a gym? The bands provide an incredibly simple way to work out anywhere. Here’s a video I made showing just 24 exercises, many of which you can do in a hotel room. There are so many more you can do, if you spend just 5 minutes playing around with these things.
Excuses are a thing of the past when you can unpack a band and start working out in less time it takes me to write this sentence!
In the video above, you can start to see the variety of exercises I can perform with bands. To list some of the categories out:
– Upper body assisted exercises (assisted chin-ups, assisted push-ups, assisted muscle-ups)
– Upper body resisted exercises (band resisted push-ups)
– Lower body assisted exercises (assisted one legged squat – one of my favorite!)
– Lower body resisted exercises (banded good mornings)
– Mobility exercises (dislocates, stretches)
– Grip work (wrist curls)
Rubberbanditz currently focuses a lot of its image on bodyweight exercises, which I love. This is why my video focuses on purely bodyweight-centric exercises you can perform with them, but I didn’t even mention a huge number of barbell (and even kettlebell) exercises that can be done with bands! From resisted or assisted squats and deadlifts, to band-resisted kettlebell swings, to band-suspended kettlebell bench (which has to be felt to be appreciated!), and even Olympic lifting! And those who live for conditioning, you haven’t done anything until you’ve tried band-resisted sprints!
So while the bodyweight and gymnastics communities greatly benefit from including bands in their training, the powerlifting and weightlifting communities use them plenty of times too. Whatever your training entails, you can probably benefit by incorporating some band work!
I love barbell lifting and a good barbell and weights are absolutely worth the price you will pay, but I understand not everyone has the funds for dropping hundreds of dollars for equipment, or even money for a gym membership.
I started Beast Skills because I wanted to provide information for people in this situation. Maybe they only had a basement to work out in. In this scenario, everything you buy for your home gym has to give back many times over. Bands are an absolute steal! Spend some money on bands and take them to a local park and you can get a cheap workout that would save you tons of money over most regular gym memberships.
As for the Rubberbanditz bands themselves, I’ve only had them for a couple months now, but I’ve been happy with them so far. This is not just because I got them for free! They are a quality product. They have held up to all the exercises I’ve put them through, and have not broken down yet. I’ll continue to put them through a lot more abuse over the next year!
By now I hope you see how valuable bands can be to your training. I’ve worked in the fitness industry for over a decade and I buy A LOT of books, videos, and equipment. There are certain things that should be staples in anyone’s training, and bands are one of them. Add them to your gym bag today!!
About nine years ago, before CrossFit was a household name, they posted up several challenges on the CrossFit main site.
The last remaining uncompleted challenge – Do 15 strict handstand pushups on the rings!
Contact with the strap was ok, but climbing them with your feet was an immediate DQ.
Today, I realized that the video of this feat was only available on Metacafe – where it was inexplicably cut short.
I submitted this video to CrossFit back in 2007 and it was accepted. Greg Glassman personally responded (which was pretty cool at the time).
So here you go! More videos from the vault sure to come. Enjoy!]]>
RubberBanditz sent me some bands (The Bar Master Calisthenics Kit), so I’ve decided to film just a few of the many exercises you can do with them!
If you’re interested in picking some up, help support Beast Skills and buy them here – http://rubberbanditz.com/idevaffiliate/idevaffiliate.php?id=409
You’ll see in the video that bands are super versatile – whether it’s upper or lower strength, flexibility, or even grip. Travel a lot and still looking to get in a workout? They’re super portable too! Pack some bands!
0:23 – Good mornings (great for warm-up and hip strengthening)
0:38 – Band deadlifts (for times when you can’t get to the gym!)
0:56 – Band pull aparts (excellent for upper back strength and good posture)
1:08 – Straight arm band pulldowns (fantastic for scapular mobility)
1:24 – Band dislocates (another fantastic one for scapular/shoulder mobility and prep for overhead squats. Easier to pack than a PVC pipe too!)
1:42 – Lat stretch (there are TONS of stretches to do with the band, one of my favorite to open up the shoulders)
1:58 – Band resisted pushups (make regular pushups tougher!)
2:19 – Wrist curls (a stronger grip always helps)
2:28 – Reverse wrist curls (keep the forearm muscles balanced/pain-free)
2:38 – Bicep curls (there are two types of people, those who like to bicep curl and those who also lie)
2:50 – Assisted ring muscle-up (A great way to rep out a difficult skill!)
3:08 – Assisted ring dip (the band keeps the rings steady for beginners too!)
3:23 – Assisted pushup (great idea for those just starting!)
3:38 – Assisted one arm pushup (great way to work up to a challenging beast skill!)
3:53 – Assisted one leg squat (don’t forget to work the lower body! The pistol is a classic and a band helps)
4:06 – Assisted chinup (east to see progress when you start using a smaller band!)
4:17 – Assisted pullup (hands facing away on this one. A precursor to the bar muscle-up!)
4:26 – Assisted typewriter pullup (looks killer. more of a challenge than regular pullups!)
4:43 – Assisted bar muscle-up (I have given numerous athletes their first bar muscle-up with just this exercise alone)
5:02 – Front lever pull (can be used for holds too! Working the straight arm pull is challenging!)
5:41 – Side lever pull (tough set-up for the flag, but it can get you some good quality reps)
5:53 – Assisted planche work (another fantastic use for the bands. Pushing through the straight arms is tough!)
6:16 – Assisted one arm chin-up (lots of ways to get on top of this mountain, but using a band is a great idea)
6:35 – Assisted one arm muscle-up (we’re getting into crazy town now. Yes, this can be done without a band. No I can’t do it myself)
There you have it! Just a few things you can do with just a few bands in your bag. Again, feel free to pick them up (and other gymnastic equipment) here – http://rubberbanditz.com/idevaffiliate/idevaffiliate.php?id=409
Train hard! Train strong!]]>
Still working. Still getting it done.
PR from last fall – 102 Kg snatch. Always stuff to improve, but this felt strong.
Check out my instagram (/beastskills), where I post up a bit more often!]]>
First off, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the support over the years. Everyone who has visited the page, shared it with a friend, sent me an email or comment, or I’ve met in person – thank you. I never want you to think a lack of site updates is somehow an indication that I don’t appreciate each and every one of you. Starting this site has literally changed my life.
Let’s take a quick look back – to 2004. That is not a typo, Beast Skills is turning 10 years old in November! In terms of internet time, that’s ancient. This was the year I decided to start the Beast Skills blog to share what I had learned in my own training. I was quite grateful for other sites I had come across (Chimp’s Capoeira, anyone?), and I wanted to provide a resource myself. I wanted to help people.
If you can think back to the person you were 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, you will start to understand how much I might have changed in regards to my life, my training, and especially my knowledge. Some of the tutorials I have written for this site are nearly as old as the site itself. While much of the information is still useful, I have undoubtedly changed my teaching methods and beliefs in many minor and major ways.
Writing a tutorial the first time around is quite mentally exhausting for me. I have difficulty doing it over the course of several days or weeks, so instead I have to sit down for many, many consecutive hours. I would write and rewrite, read and re-read. The thought of doing that each and every time I adopted a new drill or cue for a skill was too overwhelming – especially as I knew that I might be updating it again in a few months. I also often don’t like reading some of my really old writings. To paraphrase Tomi Ungerer, I am often allergic to my past work.
Instead of constant revisions and rewrites, I have been posting various updates and ideas to my Facebook and Youtube accounts. While a full blog post or article is often maddeningly time-consuming, a quick post to either one of those sites is relatively painless. A look on either will show you that, yes I am in fact still training!
What else have I been doing? Giving seminars! For a number of years, I was traveling quite regularly to give gymnastic seminars at various CrossFit gyms around the country. I loved this – seeing new places, meeting awesome athletes. It was very fun, but the travel does wear you down a bit, as it extends my work week to 7 days. The ability to meet and coach numerous athletes was very important in developing my teaching abilities and specific drills. I will certainly be giving seminars in the near future (having just presented at Camp Nerd Fitness a week ago), so please keep an eye out for them on the main site, or Facebook.
I have also been taking a lot of seminars/remote coaching too – reaching out to acrobats I greatly admire such as Yuval Ayalon, Yuri Marmerstein, and Ido Portal, among others through the years. Their expertise has been invaluable in my development as an acrobat. I have bothered them too many times to count, and grown immensely in the past few years alone.
Make time to reach out or travel to those with the knowledge you seek, as it will greatly accelerate your training. Be sure to remember that it will cost you though, so be gladly willing to pay people for their time and talents.
Lastly, I’m currently the CrossFit Director at CrossFit Foggy Bottom in Washington DC, which has been a huge amount of work and responsibility. We managed to win “Best CrossFit Gym” in 2013 despite being less than a year old. I love the experience of being able to help so many athletes on a daily basis. So between coaching classes, coaching Personal Training clients, and training myself, I am away from the computer a lot.
So what else is in the future? What do I have in store for Beast Skills? Again, updates to the main site and the tutorials are not out of the question. The twitter feed on the front page needs fixed (my actual twitter account is fine), the comments have been having issues, and the newsletter submission form started going haywire this week. This will all be handled eventually, but I am doing so much more in the meantime. I know that time spent training myself and others will be a bigger benefit than time spent finely revising this page. So thank you for the understanding. Come out to one of my seminars, visit me in person, engage in the ongoing conversation on one of my other social platforms.
I am enjoying my training right now – stronger, smarter, and more pain-free than at any time before. This post then is to let you know I’m a-ok. Thanks again for all the support – now get away from the computer and get back to training!
I will keep this short and sweet. Future video on all of this to come.
First, this is the levator scapulae. As the name implies, it elevates the scapula. It also helps downwardly rotate the scapula.
Now, what does the scapula do when we reach our arms overhead – in pressing exercises, or handstands? – it upwardly rotates.
So if the levator scapula is tight, what does this mean? It means that your scapulae can’t upwardly rotated correctly, and your overhead range of motion will be limited. This, in turn, compromises your alignment in a handstand. You may still easily be able to do a handstand, but I have found during my one arm handstand work, that any bit of overhead mobility that you can gain is incredibly helpful for holding a stronger one arm handstand.
The classic levator scapulae has one turn their head to one side, look downward and gently pull the head down. Others have the head stretch involved with an upward positioning of the arm, as seen in the picture below. This attacks the muscle from both sides – moving the head to stretch it, as well as upwardly rotating the scapula to stretch it.
Picture from Dr. Tucker.
I found this decent, but wanted to integrate some sort of movement (rather than just static stretching), as well as some soft tissue work (rolling with a lacrosse ball).
What I’ve done recently, with great success, is to take a lacrosse ball and pin it to the upright post of a squat rack right on the superior/medial edge where the levator scapula meets the shoulder blade. I am facing away from the squat rack at this point. In order to maximize the amount of force I can apply on the muscle, I scoot my hips away from the rack, so I am leaning back more into the lacrosse ball. Because I am using a squat rack post, my head can lean back and move to one side of the post.
Once in this position, I take the arm of the side I’ve pinned and I abduct it so that I’m reaching overhead. The squat rack post allows me to reach up and back, whereas a wall would not. At the end range of motion, I really stretch my arm up. Remember, that reaching overhead upwardly rotates the scapula. And I have pinned down the levator scapula with the lacrosse ball, so this movement of the arm is an excellent mobilization of that muscle.
You can also move and stretch the head/neck around with the other free arm to attack the levator scapula from the other side.
The results I’ve seen from this are nothing short of amazing. A look in the mirror beforehand shows my shoulders to be sitting symmetrically when viewed from the front. After this mobilization, the treated shoulder has dropped significantly – as the levator scapula has been relaxed.
Because of this relaxation of a major scapular downward rotator, I am better able to reach overhead and get to strengthening the weak upward rotators (serratus anterior/lower trap) – but that’s a topic for another day.
I don’t know if this post is still “short and sweet”, but read over my description and give this a go. Test and retest your overhead range of motion, as well as a visual check on the height of your resting shoulders.
Hope you find this helpful in your training. Don’t worry, video to come.
Come on out to the last seminar I’ve have in 2013!
I’ve been to CrossFit RVA a number of times in the past, and it has always been a fun time.
If you’re an athlete, come on out and get better at your gymnastics! If you’re a coach, come on out and get some new progressions and approaches to these skills!
There will be a beginner and an advanced seminar. Information and registration here!
See you there!
Digging through old footage, and I found this near-death experience!! Shot on my phone, so the video is a bit dark. Wanted to post it up here for posterity sake. Date on video and coinciding…]]>
I unfortunately read this message at 3:30am.
I spent the next hour blasting out a response. Giving my current thoughts and ruminations about muscle-ups and many other related facets – proper pull-ups, kipping, shoulder mobility, and more.
When 4-something am rolled around, I was left with the hefty message you see below you now. I thought it too good to leave in just my outbox. I hope you can pick some useful bits out of all that I poured out on the screen. Enjoy!
Alright, sit down. This may take a while.
I believe to work for the hardest skill first and foremost – and that means a strict muscle-up. I mean this for both men and women. And this means getting in your false grip time. It is one of the biggest limiting factors, along with inability to stabilize the shoulders (more on that later) that keeps people from getting a muscle-up.
Being able to do a strict muscle-up shows excellent stability in the shoulder, as well as forearm strength. It’s not even a skill in gymnastics – it’s how you get on the rings! If you want to be good at gymnastics, learn a strict muscle-up. It’s like wanting to be a racecar driver, but being unable to get inside your car. Let’s expect more from ourselves people, seriously.
That’s not to say a strict muscle-up is easy for the general gym member these days. Many are so ingrained with terrible motor patterns – in this case specifically, the inability to stabilize the shoulder. Just like people’s shoulders shrug up to their ears to stabilize in a crappy pushup, so too will people’s shoulders move when they are looking to stabilize in a crappy pull-up or failed muscle-up. People also don’t know what to feel/look for in the skill – that’s where our impeccable coaching comes into play.
So for a failed muscle-up, rather than muscles like the lower traps and serratus anterior keeping the scap down and in place, everything rises up. If your shoulders rise up, then your body ultimately goes down, and you fail to get the necessary height for a strict muscle-up . . . or a proper pull-up even.
Which is why I’ll have people test themselves on a strict, chest to bar pull-up. Most athletes don’t even understand what that means. I always reference that pic of Franco Columbu doing a pull-up. Chest to bar (presumably), and knees/feet back.
If the knees start to come forward and the body starts to curl up during a chin-up/pull-up, then the shoulders/scap have failed to stabilize fully, and you’ll tend to see people eek their chins over only, and their shoulders are rounded forward – far from getting their chest to the bar, and far from a strict muscle-up. How can you expect to get over the rings/bar, if you can’t even get TO them?
On a side note, I’ve also been thinking about how simply working pull-ups in this manner might not be enough to properly stabilize the shoulders. It will get you a muscle-up, but the lats may need some mobilization and the lower traps need additional attention.
Read this article from Cressey about pullups, specifically pay attention to the “gross extension pattern” and the #2 point – that the lats overpower the lower traps. I believe I have been guilty of this for years, and it was manifesting itself in my one arm handstand work – I was having a very difficult time getting full overhead range of motion! Instead of having lower traps strong enough to properly upwardly rotate my scapula and give me the shoulder range of motion and stability I needed, I was getting stuck at less than 180 degrees of flexion (i’m still not quite there, but definitely improving), and my one armer was suffering as a result.
What have I been doing about it? Cressey has the forearm wall slides in that article at 135 degrees, but I’ve been really liking his regular wall slides with a band –
The band really engages the posterior delt. Proper cues on this are to keep the upper traps relaxed, abs braced, ribs down, and head/neck not cranked forward – the same alignment as an efficient handstand!
I’ve also been playing around with Mike Reinhold’s take on the ytwl, specifically the need to relax the neck when doing these scapular stability exercises. He makes a good point that tight neck (as when laying face down on an incline bench, or jutting the head forward on the wall slides) will cause problems when looking to properly recruit the lower traps.
He also mentions lumber hyperextension as a compensation pattern, which in my mind references back to Cressey’s idea of a gross extension pattern that is a sign of lower trap weakness.
Getting a proper pull-up and additional lower trap/serratus work is the base work.
Now, I understand that CrossFitters need to do 1,000 muscle-ups in a row, so I definitely understand the need for a leg-assisted muscle-up in the repertoire. I say “leg-assist”, because I don’t like to throw around the word “kip”, unless I mean it. Continue to work toward a strict muscle-up, but hear me out on the leg-assisted techniques.
In the case of a kipping pull-up, power is gained from explosively extending the hips. This gives a lot of power, but I do not believe it is the most efficient method for a leg-assisted muscle-up on the rings.
If you freeze-frame a kipping muscle-up on rings after an athlete has ‘popped’ their hips, you will see an athlete who’s body is supine and usually parallel with the ground. Like so-
Now in order to get to a dip, they have to violently throw themselves forward. Maybe not the best to ask the athlete to repeatedly brace themselves like that? But it definitely seems like an inefficient movement to me – why do we lean our body all the way back, just to go forward again?
What I like instead is a swing from the legs that keep the torso much more upright. Think of hanging from the rings (shoulder engaged and stabilized, of course), and then swinging the straight legs up like you’re about to go into an L-sit pull-up.
What this does is gives us lift (from the legs swinging), while keeping the body upright. The athlete then only has to lean forward and over the rings at the top a small amount in order to arrive in their dip, rather than the long and violent journey of a traditional kipping muscle-up.
These are not pie in the sky theories. I’ve applied this technique to many, many CrossFitters who were stuck below the rings. I have seen many of these CrossFitters get their first muscle-up right before my eyes with this new technique. I don’t know if it’s the best or only way to do things, but it’s got legs.
This technique also carries over quite well to bar muscle-ups, and if you think, you can understand why the traditional kipping muscle-up technique would fail. If we kip and put our hips up super high, we will smash into the bar. The rings allow this because there is nothing stopping the hips, but the bar does not. Keeping ourselves upright instead, and swinging the legs, will allow the body to rise behind the bar, and the allow you to flip over top the bar to complete the muscle-up – just like climbing up and leaning over top of a wall.
I will say too that the technique I teach also keeps the shoulders closed and engaged much more. Rather than the huge open shoulders of a traditional kipping pull-up –
– which as you know, can wreak havoc on inflexible shoulders, we keep more of a hollow body position on the rings and bar.
So with an inability to properly stabilize the shoulder, lack of grip/forearm strength, dominance of the lats/upper traps over the lower traps, and kipping hard into weak/stiff shoulders, is it any wonder why we see injuries and lack of results in our gymnastics?
Would love to hear your experiences/feedback. Hope you’re doing well too, I’m long overdue for a visit!
AND CONGRATS TO SIMON B, THE WINNER OF THE IPOD NANO!!
Hello everyone! It’s almost that time of year again!
For the past couple years, I’ve participated in the Cupid Undie Run. It’s an event where we all raise money to fight neurofibromatosis (NF). NF is a genetic disorder that causes painful tumors to grow throughout the body, often on children and adolescents.
How do we raise awareness and fight this disorder? By stripping down to our underwear to run in the freezing cold!
That’s me! And that’s how I run.
Now, The Cupid Undie Run offers various prizes to fundraisers in order to encourage our participation. One such prize for raising $1,000 is a brand new, red, special edition Ipod Nano!
I want to raise $1,000 this year, but I’m not keeping the Ipod Nano…
It’s simple – for every $10 you donate to my Cupid Undie Run page, you get one entry to win the Red Ipod Nano.
Donate $20? You get two chances!
Donate $50? You get five chances!
Donate $1,000? If you’re the first one, then the contest ends and you automatically get the Ipod Nano!
If no one donates $1,000 in one lump sum (therefore instantly ending the contest), then on February 10th, 2013, a winner will be chosen at random from all eligible participants. I will then personally pay out of my own wallet to ship you your Ipod.
Now, the catch – if I don’t raise $1,000 by Saturday, February 9th, 2013 – then there is no Ipod Nano to give away! There is no contest!
So it benefits you (and all the children who are suffering from neurofibromatosis) to give from the heart so we can reach our goals this year.
Here’s my donation site again.
Thank you very much for your kindness and generosity!
Handstand in front of the Capitol Building!]]>
Why the last Beast Skills seminar in a while? Because I’m getting married in the spring! I love doing the seminars, but I need the extra time to plan!
We’ll have a beginner seminar in the morning, and an advanced seminar in the evening. Attend one or both! Full information here!
Hope to see you there!
I will be holding a beginner seminar in the morning and an advanced seminar in the afternoon! Come to one or both, there will be something for everyone!
This is a return trip to CrossFit Local. I had a blast last time, and I know this will be another fun day of handstands, ring work, and MOVING!
Here is the link for more information and to sign-up! – https://www.facebook.com/events/360829280662151/
Hope to see you there!