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The Power to Weight Ratio Workout

March 6, 2003 09:59 AM

There is a threshold of diminishing returns when it comes to increased size and mass. Middleweight lifters may have an ideal power to weight ratio. Being a colossus, like the late wrestler Andre the Giant, places severe limitations on some fundamental biological issues like heat dissipation, joint architecture, and lung to surface area ratios. Remember, King Kong is a fantasy. Scientists have pointed out that if you doubled a gorilla's size, you cube his mass. A single footstep would crack the bones of his foot.

Certain sports and professions require extreme power to weight ratios. In the military and law enforcement the adequate P2W ratio is the difference between life and death. Athletes such as gymnasts, rock climbers, sprinters, and sport combatants at the most elite level have superior firepower in a leaner, meaner, frame. Any added weight had better increase power! Karate master Mas Oyama called any cosmetic size increase 'sukiyaki muscle'. "It did the animal you ate more good than it is doing you!"

Appropriate training, carefully designed protocols, and specific exercises can hot wire your muscles with amps of power. First of all, there are many, and I mean many, workouts that can improve your ability to move your mass. Simply applying the tactical strength trio of kettlebell snatch, pistol, and pullup will put you light years ahead. This simple workout is profoundly anti aging. Remember aging is reduced mobility, loss of lean body/bone mass, with increased levels of bodyfat. Add the resulting reduction of cardiovascular output and this puts you in a lousy position to hunt prey. Therefore, to avoid being a lousy hunter, and becoming the prey rather than the predator, try the following workout.

Let's start from the ground up. The first exercise is the Suitcase Style Step Up. Everyone is familiar with the usual fitness bunny step up of 6 to 12 inches with one of those mini barbells on their shoulders. This is not what you need. By minimizing the height and resting the barbell on your shoulders, you are throwing out the hard work component and adding a spa mentality. For true effectiveness have a platform that is high enough so that your thigh is parallel with the floor as your foot rests on top of it. You will need to hold kettlebells like suitcases. Your grip, arms, and traps need stress. Remember, using a single leg to elevate your bodyweight is hard biomechanical work. Now add the kettlebells and you are performing a first class power to weight ratio action. Remember to keep the shoulders depressed and triceps locked. You can leave your working leg on the platform or return it to the floor for each repetition. There is also a trick if you are really tough. Slap some HEAVY ankle weights on the working leg. Now the hip flexors get some calibrated trauma each time you lift your leg for a rep. You can keep the reps low (3) and work the sets high on this one. A good neurological vaccine with a whopping dose of lower body volume.

It should be mentioned at this point that the linking of the mind and body to stimulate the nervous system is a building of many doors. Visualization, along with some activation goes a long way. Years ago legendary Karate champ Mike Stone claimed that the teachers who could convey the mind, body, spirit, link were too few in number. He passed on a simple drill. He visualized and mentally shouted the word "EXPLODE" whenever he had to close the gap with a punch or kick. This high-energy vocabulary energized his movement even when fatigued or injured. Lifters can use a similar strategy. Simply find a mental image that turns on your energy and use it like a switch. Think of lightening, explosions, or even turning into a SuperSaiyan like TV's Goku of Dragonball Z. Combine this simple mental imagery with Power To The People! techniques like irradiation and breath control. You will be surprised how much firepower you can muster.

This next exercise is called the Push Pull Press. The merits of this particular exercise are to use several neurological tricks to drive your pressing strength through the ceiling.
The first component is the use of a single limb at a time. This is not uncommon to kettlebell lifters. Dr. Ken Leistner of powerlifting fame referred to this as 'ipsolateral training'. Training one limb at a time in theory, diverted the brain to innervate one limb more completely than if training both together. The second neural strategy is to activate the pulling muscles of the free arm to trigger a "push-pull" mechanism similar to punching, throwing, or even swinging from the trees.

The kettlebell needs to be cleaned and racked solidly. You will need to stand next to a hanging rope, or towel that is hung over a chinning stand. Find a grip that is about ear height (play with this) on the towel. Do not use a solid support! You do not need stabilization, you need stimulation! Now, as you press the K-bell overhead, pull HARD on the towel firing the biceps, lats, shoulder girdle, and abdominal group. Your isometric pull effort should shadow the effort expended on the overhead press. Squeeze the stuffings out of the Kettlebell and the towel. Take a second to lock and load the triceps complex as you continue your isometric pulldown. Now relax somewhat on the towel and slowly lower the kettlebell. Repeat for the standard 3 to 5 reps. Pause and get setup on the opposite arm. This exercise is taxing and adequate rest needs to be taken between sets. Make sure to squeeze the glute and abdominals hard to protect the spine and amplify the training effect. This is THE exercise to overcome sticking points in your pressing program.

At times lifters apply the concept of cross training by adopting training mechanisms of track athletes and rock climbers. Many lifters use the pullup to, in theory, stimulate upper body strength gains akin to a climber. The pull-up, though may be over rated according to climbing guru Eric Horst. He claims the Lock Off is a superior exercise for tactical strength gains relative to climbing. The lock off is simply holding your body in the top position for a measured component of time. For functional purposes, most trainees will have to add weight, and take advantage of the slow eccentric at the completion of the hold. My suggestion would be to use a hold of 30 to 60 seconds, followed by a slow negative of 5 to 10 seconds. Practice shallow breathing while sustaining the hold, and keeping your chin above the bar. Experiment with variations in set length, total sets, and grip positions.

For total back strength, some round back lifting should be included in your training Rx. [Don't attempt round back lifting until you are well skilled in using your diaphragm muscle to unload the spine! -P.T.] The ideal investment would be granite boulders from a supplier of heavy-duty strength gear. Make sure to put these on your Christmas list. The alternative is a pair of kettlebells. A pair is needed for weight, and the awkwardness enhances grip and arm strength. Make sure to brace with abdominals that are reinforced with proper breathing techniques and hook the handles with the thumbs as a safety factor. Start with the 'bells on the ground or a low platform relative to your starting range of motion. You will return the bells to the starting point after every lift, and reset your self. This is like a series of singles. It is an exercise of mental focus, breathing skills, and core strength. Stick with sets of 3 to 5 reps. You may either go heavy and build strength, or reduce the load, compress the rest, and push the conditioning.

The calf and trap pull is a ballistic exercise that allows for heavy weight and high total volume. You will need very heavy kettlebells or very heavy dumbells. Start standing with the dumbells or kettlebells at your side. Begin to rise on your toes, focusing exclusively on the big toe. At the same time shrug high, trying to touch the ears with the shoulders. As you reach the apex, be prepared for appropriate shock absorption techniques on the way down. Exhale, brace the abs and glutes, and receive the energy. Repeat this movement treating it as a ballistic drill with high reps and adequate volume. The calf, traps, and forearms, represent strong muscles with a shorter range of motion. This exercise will thoroughly condition these groups. Sets of 10 to 20 reps will test your meddle.

While experimenting with the Turkish Getup and practicing punches, I noticed how strongly the abdominals contract as you fully extend and twist into a punch. I played with an abdominal exercise that I call the One Quarter Turk. I REALLY like this exercise. Get into a supine position on the floor with a kettlebell near your side. Raise the knee and slide the foot towards the butt of the working side. The knee should be at 90 degrees, do not bring it too close to the butt. Now, carefully press and lock out the kettlebell. Keep the elbow locked out. Place your non-working hand on the oblique area of the working side. This is very important. This "Touch Training" gives you feedback and reinforces the nervous system's efficiency. Now exhale with a 'tsss' sound and do a one-quarter situp as you twist. Keep the arm locked and twist until your shoulder girdle is vertical. You will need to drive the heel of the working side into the ground for stability. This will also tighten the glute and disinhibit the hip flexor of the working side. This hip flexor disinhibition will add to the abdominals' workload. The shoulder is also taken through a GREAT range of motion, which will go far for functional strength and a healthy ball and socket joint. This exercise really fits well into the Party's theme of low reps. I try to alternate sides with little to no rest. This exercise can be used as volume tool to really blast the core. In fact, aside from this workout, One Quarter Turks are perfect to alternate with Windmills. I am eager to see the bionic midsection of the Comrade who takes the Quarter Turk/ Windmill duet to the max. By that I mean ten to fifteen heavy sets of three reps in an alternate format. Needless to say this short range, heavy, and safe exercise will improve your abdominals wiring similar to adding high performance spark plug wires to your car.

The final exercise is for the neck. Very few exercises are considered uncontroversial for training the neck region. For one thing, the neck can be injured with bad training practices, and two, the neck is not one joint but many joints. These two factors point strongly towards manual resistance and a super slow training protocol. Moving at the pace of a ten second positive and ten second negative will minimize injury risk and deeply inroad what for many trainee's is a virgin muscle group. The manual resistance should be self applied for one session, and partner applied for the next. You can use the six planes of neck movement that include forward, backward, side to side, and rotate left and right. Use a towel to relieve friction to the face. Also, use an upright bench with a back, or a sturdy chair at your home gym. This slow speed of training allows you to work the muscle very deeply. Keep the reps in the two to four range. This series is actually six individual sets and should provide a profound stimulus for the neck region. One point to remember: choose your partner carefully. Your are literally putting your brain and neck in someone's hands.

To review:

Step Up
Push Pull Press
Lock Off
Round Back Lift
Calf and Trap Pull
One Quarter Turk
Super slow Neck

These exercises exploit tricks of physics and neurology to enhance your power to weight ratio enabling you to become a more efficient predator.

Train Hard,
Tom Furman RKC

Tom Furman is a certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor who lives in South Florida. When he is not dealing with hurricanes, crime, alligators, pitbulls, and palm trees, he divides time between Kettlebells, Indonesian Martial Arts, and his job in the Entertainment field as a technician. He is available for private training, group seminars, or workshops. Contact Com. Tom at