Sean: Geoff – thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Last time we talked you said something like this: just like a computer programmer has his or her own language, yours is exercise programming – after years of practice. What does it take for a professional to design programs that WORK?
=> No problem, Sean. Glad to be able to do it.
Regarding the language thing, you just have to do a lot of reading and experimenting. Some things look great on paper but fail miserably in the real world. You have to be willing to put your time in and make mistakes, both personally and professionally. Just because your program works for you doesn’t mean it’ll work for the next person. So you have to have a large and broad population to experiment on over a certain length of time. I’ve been fortunate in my career because I’ve trained all types of populations – from elite athletes, military and law enforcement, to post-rehab and the elderly. A lot of my current clients I’ve trained for 5 to 10 years, so I’ve been able to experiment on them and really see the long term adaptations.
There are shortcuts to take, like modeling the success of others, which I used when I first got into the field, but over time you have to be able to understand the mechanisms behind why things work. If you don’t, you’ll be very limited to what types of programs you can put together. And therefore you’ll be very limited to what types of results you can achieve.
You recently put out a book called Kettlebell Express! with over 49 different kettlebell workouts in them, all of them designed to be done in a maximum weekly workout time of 60-90 minutes. Would these programs work the same if they were bodyweight or barbell instead of kettlebell? Is there a specific benefit to using these programs with kettlebells?
=> The closest match you would get is with barbells. Obviously you can’t do swings with a barbell, so you’d have to come up with a substitute. Most people can’t do Get Ups with a barbell either. But you most certainly can squat, press, clean, snatch, push press and jerk. The downside with using barbells though is that they tend to be less forgiving with their technique then the kettlebells. There’s less room for error and therefore more chance of injury.
Bodyweight exercises only would require a different structure, but in theory you could make them “the same.” The benefit to using kettlebells is, as I mentioned, they’re more forgiving with technical errors. They’re easier to learn I think for most lifts, they’re require little space to use, and most people can easily store them at home. Not the case with a barbell.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in designing kettlebell programs but have the commitment to religiously set aside time to do their workouts. Should they look into dropping what they’re doing to follow a professionally designed program?
=> It’s really all about time and energy. If you’re a naturally inquisitive person who likes to tinker with stuff and have the time and patience to test stuff out on yourself, then by all means design your own programs. Most of us, although we may be inquisitive, don’t really have the time and patience to see if a program is going to work – to get us the results we’re looking for – whatever they may be – stronger, leaner, etc. So using a program designed by a professional makes good sense from a time and energy perspective too.
But there’s an ugly side to this question that many people don’t want to face. Should you “have to pay” money (such an ugly word!) for a high quality program? Everything in life is a trade off. You want to change your oil and rummage around the engine in your car on the weekend to “save some money” or do you want to be playing with your kids? You’re going to spend something – time, energy, or money. Most of the time you’ll spend some combination of the three. I always weigh time and energy over money. If it’ll save me time and energy, I’ll buy it. That’s how I operate cause I know I can always use that time and energy to get more money when I need it. Most people don’t look at life that way. And that’s why their always in a state of lack or want. Sorry to wax philosophical there, Sean, but this is something I really struggled with when I was younger and once I figured it out, life, and what I got out of life was much, much better, much more rewarding, and much more enjoyable.
So it makes great sense to save yourself headaches and hassle by following a professionally designed program. Plus, if you look at anyone who’s been successful in any area of their lives, most of them have had some sort of help, some sort of guidance or coaching. That’s all a professionally designed program is – a simple form of coaching.
You’ve got over 49 different kettlebell programs in Kettlebell Express! As a consumer myself, I was shocked to see such a huge number of programs. How long did it take you to sit down and compile such a large number of programs?
=> Thanks, Sean. That really was what I was going for. I wanted to literally SHOCK the person who opened up the book and show them just how much could be done with what little they thought they had. As far as how long it took, hmmm… I don’t really remember. It was a project I’d had envisioned in my mind for quite some time before I put it together. I wrote most of it in 30-60 minute chunks during the first 2-3 months of our son’s life. The longest part of it was just detailing out the progressions of each program. But as I said, I already had most of the programs in my mind.
How did you discover the magic of the OPTIMAL DURATION for kettlebell workouts?
=> It was really through personal trial and error and in training my clients over the years. Most people need time to decompress between their work day and their workouts and then another transition period between their workouts and the rest of their day. We often call those first piece a warm up and the last a cool down. Those are both around 10 minutes each. And then most of us only have enough energy to really focus and produce the highest quality physical work for between 20 and 30 minutes at a clip. That’s what I’ve noticed with myself and with my clients and athletes over the last 20 years. You know, there’s just this period during your workout that you get in the proverbial zone and get work done. The harder the work, the shorter the duration your in there – that zone-state.
Plus, I’ve been through several really stressful periods over the last 4-5 years and each time, I find that I only have the energy to do one, maybe two exercises and not for very long either. So I found that maybe just sets of pull-ups for 15 minutes was all I felt I had time and energy for. Then I’d do them and at the end of the 15 minute period, I felt 1) great for having done something and 2) like I wanted to keep going and do more. I wouldn’t though. I’d just “bank” that energy for the next workout – save it up. And that always worked.
I tried this with my low motivation clients and it worked great for them too. Just short, little bite-sized workouts 10-15 minutes at a clip. And that was enough to get them traction and start seeing results again.
So a few questions here about hormones and working out –
What causes stress? What can a person reasonably expect in terms of stress reduction from following your programs?
=> Anything can cause stress, Sean. But I think it’s important to know that there are two forms of stress – “Eustress” – or “good stress” and “Distress” – or bad stress. On an emotional level, it’s all about perception. For example, a joke can be funny to one person – eustress, and offensive to another – distress. On a physical level what makes one thing stressful and another not is based on a person’s state of adaptation – their general health and overall physical well-being and fitness levels. Walking a mile maybe very therapeutic for one – eustress, and a true workout for another – distress.
The reason many of us work out (at least with kettlebells) is to look and feel better. Whether that’s translated into training for strength like a particular goal – the Beast Tamer Challenge – or to hack of 20 pounds, we attempt to use the bells as a means of eustress. And emotionally, for most of us during the workout, it is a form of eustress. But to our bodyies we are in what’s known as a catabolic state – where there is cellular breakdown – and that is form of distress.
Compound that physical state, with the stressful emotional states most of us face every day – deadlines at work, idiot bosses, screaming kids – and then there becomes too much distress in our lives. Too much of that bad stress is when our bodies start to break down (and our minds), and we stop seeing positive results – or worse yet – we keep on pushing harder and start seeing strength levels decrease and body fat increase and even injuries.
That’s where those shorter workouts help to correct this stress imbalance. Traditional workouts are usually 45-60 minutes three times per week, which doesn’t sound like that much. But to someone who’s working 60-70 hours per week, it’s tough to find the time and balance the rest of life. Just thinking about doing so can even be stressful! The shorter workouts help relieve the emotional stress and rebalance the body’s stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol.
So by following these shorter program in “Kettlebell Express!” you can expect to feel less stressed out, more in control of your life, and you’ll see physical changes too. I’ve gotten quite a few emails from customers thanking me for these and telling me that they’re losing fat without changing anything other than their workouts.
Where’s the magical point of working out “too much”? What are the signs so that we can avoid it?
=> Great question, Sean. I think there are two ways to look at this – one is during the workout, and the other is what’s going on outside of our workouts.
First, when you’re in the middle of your workout and your form or technique is failing, it’s time to switch exercises or stop your workout altogether. Continuing on would be considered “too much.” It’s work for work’s sake – work that will hinder your recovery process. And the recovery process is where the “magic” happens – where the results come from.
Second, if you’re working out too long or too frequently or too intensely, then you’re working out too much. How would you know?
Well, you’re probably not seeing the results you’re looking for. You’re not getting as strong as you should be. You’re not losing that extra body fat. And you’re struggling to get “in shape” – however you define that.
And most likely, you’ll find yourself with any or some combination of the following: irritability, restlessness, trouble sleeping, sore/achey muscles/joints, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, the craving for sweet foods, lack of desire to work out.
These are all symptoms of working out “too much” and also signs of altered/elevated/imbalanced stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline.
Can you comment on natural growth hormone versus synthetic, lab produced growth hormone? I assume the natural growth hormone one gets from following your programs is better long term for the body. If so, why is that?
=> I’m not an expert on growth hormone technology, Sean. But synthetic growth hormone injections are very popular right now among certain sports and the Hollywood elite. The over-50 crowd is turning to it in as a very real way to reverse the aging process. I was just talking to a physician-friend of mine the other day who was telling me about these clinics that are opening up for older men – you’ve seen the ads in magazines – and really they just inject these guys with GH and testosterone. They look younger, grow muscle, and lose fat.
The problem is that once you start going the synthetic route, your body reduces the amount it will naturally produce. There are feedback loops in the body. And the feedback loop with hormones is the more the body receives exogenously, the less it will produce internally, because it doesn’t need to. So in my opinion, it’s better to boost your body’s hormones, like GH, through natural mechanisms such as diet and exercise.
As an interesting example here, my wife and I were looking at pictures of us from recent vacations. In our 2010 vacation pictures I looked 5-10 years older than our 2011 vacation pictures. That’s primarily from having unnecessary extra weight on and not training correctly. Fix those two and I reversed the aging process. I’ll be 40 this year and honestly it doesn’t really bother me. I’m leaner, fiter, and stronger, moving better than I have in 15-20 years in some instances, and that’s through the application of much of what I described above.
So back to your questions, yes, I’d like to think that using my programs is better for your long term health than sticking yourself with a needle and injecting GH. They’ll help you balance your cortisol levels, stimulate the natural production of your own body’s GH and testosterone, and feel better than you have, both physically and emotionally than you have in quite some time. Don’t discount the emotional part either – that greatly contributes to the physical, especially in terms of stress and stress relief.
I know a lot of people reading this are interested in reducing the effects of aging. In the ad you say HGH “Reverses the aging process by decreasing the damage done by free radicals.” What are “Free Radicals”?
=> That’s quite simple really. GH – Growth Hormone, is released by your pituitary gland and is quite literally responsible for cell growth. Free radicals are molecules found in the body that are a natural part of the aging process but are sped up by intense exercise, especially intense aerobic exercise. Left unchecked, many in the scientific community believe free radicals lead to tissue damage, destruction, and disease.
Exercising in such a way to promote your body’s natural release of growth hormone will help reverse the aging process. This happens due to a natural increase in your body’s anabolic (growth) hormones, which help make you stronger, promote increased muscle mass, and decreases body fat.
Who specifically can benefit from these programs?
=> Everyone. But especially those of us over the age of 35. This is primarily because our life stressors are way higher than someone in their 20s. Because of working 40+ hours a week, climbing the corporate ladder, being married or having been married and dealing with the fallout of divorce, having kids that need to be shuttled to and fro, life has never been busier or more hectic. We don’t have time for hour long workouts and just the thought of trying to fit those in creates for some of us a sense of underlying panic for many of us. It’s just one more thing to add to the “to do” list. And it’s easier to rationalize to ourselves that we should put it off until “we have time” rather than deal with the frustration of trying to squeeze the workout in and failing to do so. I think a lot of us have been in that position in one time or another.
Therefore, we need to be able to workout in “bite-sized chunks” – smaller workouts that are more manageable in our schedules. These workouts reduce the psychological strain of trying to fit our workouts in plus they are short enough so they don’t wear us out and allow us to maintain a consistent exercise routine. Consistency is the key to progress, but is virtually impossible in the face of feeling overwhelmed. These shorter workouts eliminate that overwhelmed feeling. In fact, they’re so short that you feel like it’s easy to get them in. And as a result, you are able to decrease your daily stress levels because you now have a manageable physical outlet for it.
What kind of order do you suggest to a beginner or intermediate kettlebeller? Where do you begin? Can you give a few examples of where a person might start at a different place than someone else?
=> Everyone should start with a program that they look at and say, “This is doable.” This is usually based on what exercises they know, and how comfortable they feel performing them. The key here is to do something that eliminates that overwhelmed feeling. For some, just getting on a steady diet of Swings may be just what they need. For others, the Clean and Jerks may be what they need.
It’s also based on how many kettlebells you have available to you. Everybody stronger in various exercises than others. For example, I know that there are some former high school and college athletes out there who have a pretty strong Press but can’t do Get Ups with that same Press weight. So you’d probably need different sized kettlebells on a program like the “OLAD” unless you wanted to do your Get Ups with no weight or your Presses with a light weight.
Or if you have an injury that you need to rehab, you’d need to start at a different place than someone who doesn’t. You’d want to start doing exercises and programs that strengthen the affected areas without causing pain.
Those are just a few examples I can think of off the top of my head.
Is it possible for someone to “do too much” in a shorter duration working out – say 20 minutes. If so, what advice or guidelines do you say to the 20 minute over-acheiver?
=> That’s actually a great question. Yes, it’s very possible to “do too much” in that shorter duration. All you have to do is let your form go down the toilet. There are lots of “Workouts of the Day” that cram a bunch of work into a shorter time frame – attempting to beat best times and that sort of thing. The problem lies in sacrificing technique in order to better yourself. That’s not cool for your body or mind.
The best thing to do is to focus on the highest quality of work during your workout and seek to find ways to build on top of that by reducing rest periods, super-setting exercises, etc.
You’ve put together a great program for my readers this week. Why don’t you tell them about it?
=> Sure Sean.
Since your readers are interested in maximizing their time, beating stress, and reversing the aging process, I’ve decided to do something extra special for them to ensure they just that. And since the key to progress is making sure that you can recover from your workouts, it makes good sense that the shorter workout approach is where success lies.
So, when your customers order Kettlebell Express! this week, I’ll throw in Kettlebell Express! ULTRA with it as a way to put them on the fast track to success – to get their workouts in AND be able to recover from them. As your readers probably know by now, Kettlebell Express! is book containing over 49 different single kettlebell programs all designed to take you no more than 60-90 minutes of working out PER WEEK. When you lay each program end-to-end it’s over 6 years of workouts!
Kettlebell Express! ULTRA is based on the same premise, but it uses double kettlebell programs and it’s again the same format – over 49 different kettlebell workout programs, each designed to take you no more than 60-90 minutes PER WEEK.
When you add up ALL the program, you’ll end up with over 10 years of workouts. You’ll never have any excuse again to not get the results you’re looking for.
Your readers can get their copies of both programs this week only by clicking the link below, where I’ve set up a special page just for them.
———->>>>>>>>>Click here for a special offer for readers of the Ageless Body. It ENDS Sunday Night, April 29.<<<<<<<<<——————–
Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview Geoff – I’ve learned a lot as I’m sure my readers have too.
=> No problem, Sean. I’m glad to be able to help them out in any way possible.