Wes Kitts’ 201 Kg Power Clean Is One of the Heaviest We’ve Ever Seen

The 105 kilogram weightlifter Wes Kitts has just pulled off the heaviest power clean we’ve seen from an American in recent memory: 201 kilograms, or 443 pounds.

A post shared by Wes Kitts (@weskitts22) on Feb 27, 2017 at 12:25am PST

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This is such an incredible lift that it had us wondering what the heaviest power clean we’ve ever seen from any athlete is. The answer: this 232kg (511.4lb) masterpiece from Iran’s Behdad Salimi, which we’re quite sure is the heaviest ever caught on film.

The last time Kitts maxed his power clean, he managed 421 pounds (191 kilograms), making this a sizable ten-kilogram addition to his personal record. On Instagram, Kitts described the buildup to this lift.

When Dave [Spitz] told me to get my mind around this on Wednesday, I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it. He later told me he was also pretty sure I couldn’t do it haha! We honestly don’t have a great idea of where I’m at or what I can do. We just know the training is working and I’ve gotten much stronger.

He went on to say that he doesn’t monitor the records of other weightlifters; he only focuses on his own progress and potential. “I have my goals and my team,” he says. “That’s all I need!”
The 26-year-old Kitts trains out of California Strength in San Ramon, CA, and holds a BS in Exercise Science from Austin Peay State University. After playing football in college and later competing with the New York Rhinos in the National Professional GRID League, Kitts directed his efforts toward Olympic weightlifting with laser focus. His current PR in the snatch is 174kg (383.6lb), an American record that he set in December 2016 at the USA Weightlifting (USAW) American Open.

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It’s pretty clear that Kitts has put himself on a path to potentially break the American record in the clean & jerk as well. Just last week, he successfully completed a 215kg (474lb) lift, which is just 5 kilograms off from the current record in the -105kg weight class that was set back in 1999 by Wes Barnett.

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Given his current strength (and his enormous new power clean PR), we think 2017 might just be the year he takes home a new American record in the lift.

[Did you know the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships is coming to America this November? BarBend partner USA Weightlifting is hosting the world’s top weightlifters for 2017’s premiere international weightlifting competition. Help support the sport and reserve your spot by booking tickets today through USAW, and learn more about our partnership here.]

Featured image via @weskitts22 on Instagram.

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Are These Two Videos the Most Epic 17.1 Showings Yet? (We Say Yes)

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about the first workout 17.1 of the Reebok CrossFit® Open. Besides the deadline recently extending and learning the couplet of dumbbell snatches and box jump overs is a brutal combination, we’ve pretty much seen it all…yet we haven’t.

One thing you can’t discredit CrossFit for is how it brings athletes together. The workouts and sport itself are great at providing athletes the opportunity to challenge themselves, while seeing how they match up to others across the country. In addition, there are more age classes than ever with the newly added 35-39 Master’s division (now 6 in total).

The final master’s class is for 60+ competitors, but what about a class for 80+, maybe 90+? I’m here to make a case for the addition of even more Master’s classes, maybe an 80+ class. The first video below is a testament to my point and shows 85-year old Gale crushing her 17.1 workout.

A post shared by haley (@haleyinstagram) on Feb 25, 2017 at 3:06pm PST

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Gale used a 10 lb dumbbell for the snatches and did a modified ascending ladder. Her version consisted of 10-14-18-22 snatches paired with 10 box step up and overs.

Granted her score won’t technically count because it wasn’t performed as written – it’s epic nonetheless. In the Instagram post’s description Gale said, “She wants to know why there isn’t an 85+ division!? Because she is sure she would win!” I don’t think anyone would argue that point.

To tack on to Gale’s impressive workout, below is a video of George, a 93-year old from Reebok CrossFit 365 in Neath, South Wales.

A post shared by Reebok Crossfit 365 (@rcf365) on Feb 27, 2017 at 5:48am PST

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For George’s workout it appears he’s also using a 10 lb dumbbell for snatches and coupling them with a plate step up and over. This is a 93-year old crushing a 17.1 workout, which is absolutely insane and inspiring.

For most strength athletes the goal is to create a long active career. Without a doubt, I think these two athletes are at the top of the list paving the way proving age is just a number.

Now we have to ask…when will Dave Castro hear Gale and add an 85+ division?

Feature image from @rcf365 Instagram page. 

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A Process to Improve Your Strongman Game

Constant measurable progress is every athlete’s primary goal. To improve every time you step into the gym may come fast and easy for beginners, but it grows increasingly difficult with every subsequent session. Nothing can become more frustrating than to have seemingly reached a plateau with no improvement in sight. It can be beneficial to analyze what is happening and what you need to do to move forward. Take a look at the following common problems and some solutions you may want to explore to get the momentum going again.

Problem: Total lack of growth in the gym and all major lifts have ceased to progress.

Analysis: Several things may be at play here, and it is most likely a combination of the following factors:

  • Lack of sleep and recovery
  • Psychological preoccupations that distract during your training time and during the day
  • Programming that has not included a long enough recovery cycle
  • Programming that is too basic for intermediate progress
  • Poor nutritional choices

Solutions: So you just broke up with your boyfriend, you are working overtime, and you are doing the same program you did your first year. You, my friend, need to switch up some of these variables. The average athlete vastly underestimates how psychological issues affect their performance. Quite honestly it’s good to be just making it to the gym when your life is in upheaval, but placing another negative (frustration with lack of progress) is only making it worse. Since a number of factors are at play here, it is often best to reorganize and give yourself a fresh start. I often find reminding yourself of why you have made the choice to embrace strongman is a great way to begin the process of overcoming a large plateau.

Take out a sheet of paper and write out one or two paragraphs on why you train, compete and what your goals are for the next year. Next, list the things you love most about training and the benefits from it. Finally, write down a promise to yourself to prioritize your strongman process in a way that is meaningful to you. Now post that paper on your fridge, bedroom mirror or in your car where it will provide a constant reminder to you.

A post shared by Brian Shaw (@shawstrength) on Feb 25, 2017 at 3:20pm PST

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Now that you have set a positive tone for your advancement, implement a process to make it happen. Begin cleaning up your diet, setting a nighttime ritual, speaking to a counselor (or good friend) about your stresses and researching some new training programs.

While you are doing all this, get in the gym and begin doing your favorite exercises and movements for fun. Enjoy training for a week by doing stone loads, curls and pull ups (or whatever you like). Make the gym a place you get excited about again and make the time to play.

Problem: You have stalled on a key lift (ie; the deadlift or overhead) but progress remains elsewhere.

Analysis: These problems usually have a simple cause and solution and while not limited to the following issues, they can help you find the root cause.

  • Your form has gotten you as far as it can (it’s either not technically correct or is inefficient)
  • Training frequency on the lift may be incorrectly programmed
  • You are neglecting assistance lifts

Solutions: The first point can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you are fairly proficient at the movement already. You know you need to get better though and can be honest enough with yourself to scrap or modify years of technique. Sometimes you must move backward to move forward. Ask a competent coach to examine your form on the movement and take their suggestions to heart. It may be time to switch to the jerk or become more flexible to improve your deadlift. If you are lucky it may only require a few tweaks.

If your form is good, step back and examine how often you are performing the exercise. Things like overheads and cleans can often be done multiple times per week. Conversely, full deadlifts are often recommended to be more sparsely performed.

To be fully comprehensive, review whether you are doing the right movements to support your main exercises. Are your triceps failing you at lockout or is your posterior chain weak? Cover all the bases to make sure you take a well rounded approach.

Problem: You are all over the map. One week you kill it in on the deck, the next you look like a rookie.

Analysis: Consistency is the key to success.

  • Lifting well on the regular is the only way to improve, often this is organizational

Solution: Get your life in order! Humans are designed to adapt and overcome. Most likely you are flying around in disorder and it is contributing to your inconsistencies.

  • Don’t be late to the gym. Get there early and have a consistent warm up and pre training prep program you go through.
  • Eat consistently. Skipping meals or grabbing whatever you can during the day can have a major impact on your energy levels.
  • Train on the same days and times. You must get your body used to routine. Working your training around your social life will create chaos.
  • Sickness and alcohol can catch up with you weeks later. Stay healthy because having a cold in February can affect your performance in March. Same with a hangover. The butterfly effect of these incidences can really become frustrating.

The positive momentum of progress will create additional gains alone! You must ensure that you are doing everything you can to be the athlete you desire to be. When you take the occasional look at your process and make improvements to it, you are living like a true champion.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation

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Returning to Weightlifting After Time Off

Recently, I was asked by a few different athletes how I train to come back to weightlifting after taking time off whether from injury or just a break. In all honestly, I was a little stumped. I’ve had little injuries that I had to work around, but never one serious enough to keep me out of training completely (*knock on wood*), and since I began competing in December of 2003, I’ve never taken more than a week off at any given time. In my case, it’s because I really, really hate being so sore I can’t move right.

Instead, I gave these athletes a little advice on programs I have written for other athletes that have experienced extended time off and I consulted my husband, Jason, on his ideas.

1. Just because you can lift it doesn’t mean you should.

During the Fall Semester at the University of Alabama, Jason is always swamped. Both Football and Women’s Soccer are working in-season programs, and Track & Field is training for the upcoming indoor season. This leaves little room for his own training schedule, thus he almost always ends up taking a month or two off at the least. The challenge then becomes, how do you come back?

His advice to himself is always “just because you can lift it doesn’t mean that you should.” He said that coming back he always feels strong enough to make a lift, especially in the snatch and clean & jerk. The problem is that with that much time off his joints aren’t ready to take the impact of the force generated by the speed of the Olympic Lifts. Instead, keep these lifts using light to moderate intensity at best and increase volume and intensity slowly over time.

A post shared by Samantha Poeth (@sam_poeth) on Jan 25, 2017 at 6:01pm PST

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Take your time during the generally physical preparation (GPP) phase and include lots of different exercises to prepare yourself for the future of the training program. Also, be intelligent with your guideline for return. If you took time off because you were busy with work or on Christmas vacation, your return may be relatively quicker than someone returning from a major injury. If you suffered an injury, work with your doctor to determine approximately how much time to takes to make a full recovery based on the sport you intend to return to. Also, attempt to pay attention to recovery throughout the process. This article gives good advice on how to improve recovery techniques and helps you adapt to a new training program.

2. Build your base.

This concept is similar to a beginning lifter, and may seem novice, but your joints will thank you for it and you will prevent overuse injuries such as tendonitis from flaring up. Build yourself a solid strength base. Use squats, presses, deadlifts (yuck!), and general body building exercises to prepare your muscles and joints to support the heavier intensity in the Olympic Lifts. The Olympic Lifts can sit in the 3-5 rep range, but the focus on these should be perfecting technique and the main goal should be to improve overall strength. I would possibly even elongate this phase if necessary before pushing the focus towards the 2 rep maxes and 1RMs in the Olympic lifts.

You can also use this time to address any flexibility issues that you had previously or that may have occurred as a result of the time taken off. Increased range of motion can prevent future injuries as you progress back into your normal training routine. You can find some ideas to improve your range of motion here.

3. Work on your imbalances.

In a lot of cases, athletes will be cleared to return to sports before they are completely healed, and even before they complete rehab. Jason and I have seen this in all areas of sport. In collegiate sports, it’s often times because the coach is in a hurry for the athlete to return to competitive performance, and in the private sector it’s often because the insurance companies will only pay for so many follow-ups before deciding they’ve had enough. This is where communication with your coach becomes indescribably important. It’s obvious that there will be soreness upon return. Most likely the athlete hasn’t done any exercise (especially explosive exercise) during the rehab process, but you’ll need to monitor closely for symptoms of re-injury such as bruising or swelling/inflammation.

Once it’s been decided that the athlete is in the clear, work to improve any imbalances that could have caused the initial injury to begin with, or that may have developed due to the injury itself. For example, in an ACL injury, the rehab specialists will have already done exercises to determine the stability of the knee, but they may not have evolved the athlete into the point of sprinting full force or abruptly decelerating and changing directions (which is where the majority of non-contact ACL ruptures occur). Take your time coming back by monitoring the volume you endure daily and slowly building strength back through single leg exercises such as weighted step ups.

4. Return when ready.

If your goal is to return to competitive competition, only step on that platform when you feel ready. If it were me, I feel like I would want a tune up meet with the focus being on making lifts even if they are less than my previous competition maximums. However, I know some athletes that don’t want to settle for anything less than their bests, so maybe they would need more time to bring those tops lifts back to consistency in training before suiting up on the big platform. Either way, I would set yourself a goal and a timeline and don’t rush the return process. Especially in the case of an injury, it’s always better to return slow and in control than to rush the process and risk re-injury.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

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Translated: An Interview With World Weightlifting Champion Artem Okulov

Although he missed out on the Rio Olympics due to the blanket ban of Russian weightlifters, 22-year-old Artem Okulov still has his eye on weightlifting’s most celebrated prize.

Okulov is perhaps best known for winning the 2015 World Weightlifting Champion in the -85kg class with a 176kg snatch and 215 kg clean & jerk, and he has put up some seriously impressive videos of his training lifts — you can see him performing an insanely fast 180kg snatch and hang snatch complex below.

A post shared by Artem (@okulllov) on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:51am PST

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In a new interview posted on February 25, he has revealed some interesting insights about his training methodology, the meaning of his name, one of his personal lows, and a few words of advice for aspiring lifters. The interview was conducted by Russian YouTuber Yarkin in the comfort of Okulov’s hotel room in Sochi, where he’s training with his team.

The clip does have English subtitles, but the translation is awkward and misses a significant amount of dialogue and nuance, which is why we had a professional Russian translator write up the interview below.

Before you get into reading it, you can watch some expertly-performed lifts by Oleg Chen and Artem himself, including a couple of 140-kilogram (308.6-pound) hang snatches, in the first 30 seconds of the clip.

Yarkin: We’re at the base where the Russian weightlifting team is training in Sochi and we’ll visit one of our strongest, most serious athletes, world champion Artem Okulov. Here is Artem Okulov with his friend Sergey Kolesnikov. They’re staying in this room. A few words with world champion Artem Okulov, let’s do an interview!

Artem, you know my subscribers often ask me, because I speak with you, whether “Okulov” (shark) is a pseudonym you chose on purpose to scare your opponents. Your real name is probably “Rivkin” or “Platvin” or something and you just took on a pseudonym. Is this true or not?

Okulov: Well, you know, there’s a story. I used to be called “Selodkin” (herring) at first, but it’s not scary, not serious. (Editor’s note: He’s joking here, Okulov is his real name.) But “Okulov” is a serious hit, like a shark, right? It’s automatically understood that he owns the ocean.

A post shared by Artem (@okulllov) on Oct 9, 2016 at 5:40am PDT

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Yarkin: Well you have to scare your opponents with something, right? It’s understandable.

Let’s talk about methodology. I think, and I want to talk about how, in principle, just like in the UFC and boxing systems, we have trainers and each has his own methodology. For example, in UFC, one person may be stronger in striking and someone else may excel in technique. We have the same situation in weightlifting—someone may have strong legs, for example. Tell us your secret. What is your methodology?

Okulov: To tell you the truth, I’m trying to gain strength because my technique is pretty solid. During training, I try to focus on deadlifts and squats and do more of those to improve my physical ability.

Yarkin: So you increase your strength, but you probably nailed down your technique during childhood. You worked on your technique and now you’re working on strength.

Okulov: Yes, when my trainer took me in my first year, I suffered a lot. As a young athlete, he drilled technique into me and that’s all we did—technique, technique, technique—and once I mastered the technique we began to work on strength. My legs were good for the most part, but I began to really focus on moves that strengthened my back. Having a strong back is very important to me.

A post shared by Artem (@okulllov) on Dec 5, 2015 at 9:44pm PST

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Yarkin: You’re a young athlete, and I’ll share my opinion with you. Currently, there are only four people in all of history who competed as youth in the Olympic games from our country. You won the competitions in Singapore (Editor’s note: the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG)) and my athlete took second place in Nanjing (The 2014 Summer Youth Olympics). What can you recommend to other young athletes? How should they orient themselves, how should they work?

And I’ll tell you right now, I want to interview other athletes too—Oleg Chen, Adam Maligov, Aslanbek Ediev—to communicate with them and show them that each place has its own school of methodology. In Chechnya there’s one school, for example. In Chechnya, Aslanbek has his own views and Ibragim Samadov has his own. Everyone has their own nuances, but it would be helpful for our viewers to know what you recommend. Think about what you want to say at the end of the video, what advice you have for viewers about what they should pay attention to.

Okulov: First, it’s common for a young athlete to train and not see results, so he says, “Ah! I don’t want this! I’ll do something else.” You cannot do that. You have to believe in your trainer. Since he’s a trainer, he knows what he’s doing, he’s not stupid, and he won’t recommend anything bad for his athlete. You also have to believe in yourself.

Yarkin: Yes, don’t get discouraged!

A post shared by Artem (@okulllov) on Feb 15, 2017 at 10:19am PST

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Okulov: I also had similar situations. Actually, my back hurt right before the championships in Israel, in 2009 I think. My back hurt so badly that I couldn’t even get out of bed. My trainer helped fix my back and I went and achieved my best results there. So, you can’t throw up your hands and give up.

Yarkin: Artem, look. I’ll be filming your moves later to show to our viewers. But I have one more question. Online trainings are popular now. Do you lead any of your own?

Okulov: You know, many people ask me that, and I don’t know if I’m lazy or what… you have to constantly keep up with them. It’s difficult with trainings.

Yarkin: I know, I know. I’ll give you a hint. I’ll give you my phone number and you send whoever asks you to me. (Editor’s note: Yarkin is a trainer.) But listen, I have a proposal. My friend Dima and I want to put together a weightlifting event for next year—we won’t have time to do it this year since we started late, but next year—would you participate in these events as an invited athlete? Would that interest you?

Okulov: If I have the time, yes.

Yarkin: No, if you’re interested in it!

Okulov: Well, that too. But really if I have the time, in between trainings.

Yarkin: Goodbye, good luck with training and preparation!

Featured image via @okulllov on Instagram.

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Reflections on Running for 24 Hours Straight

I started my last post on BarBend asking if CrossFit® training would prepare me to run a hundred miles in 24 hours. The answer, as I’m sure many of you guessed before I even started, was a resounding no. Not even close.

The problem with running or at least trying to run that far is that fitness is such a small part of it. It’s about being prepared for that task. No training protocol or system other than long distance running can adequately prepare you or your  feet and joints for the abuse that comes with pounding the concrete for 24 hours straight.

Doing anything for 24 hours is bound to throw up a fair few surprises, aside from being overtaken by a woman heavily relying on a zimmer frame at mile 58 the greatest shock was just how inactive my brain was through the whole ordeal. I’d expected/hoped to spend the time mulling over life’s big questions, instead it all past in a delirious murky haze of exhaustion. A few musings managed to slip through that fog though, and here they are in no particular order.

The author before and after his 24 hour run

No plan survives contact with the enemy.

I’d set out with a plan a firm plan that I was under no circumstances to waiver from. It was beautiful in it’s simplicity: try and run one 4.2 mile lap each hour, on the hour, every hour for 24 hours. A sound and rational plan, if I have had one and I managed to stick to it for a grand total of 33 minutes before going rogue.

The problem was twofold: pumped full of adrenaline and carbs, the first lap felt effortless, each stride easier than the last. The sun was yet to fully set, the streets were busy and cheerful, and add to that I was joined by a fellow runner, Zoe, who I let set the pace. The effect of this potent combination was a ‘blistering’ 33 minute opening lap, almost 20 minutes faster than scheduled. In hindsight I should’ve seen this for the disaster that it was, but in my naivety I mistook it for an indicator of good things to come. In fact I was so confident that I skipped my rest period and paused only long enough to take a sip of water and start my lap tally. The second time round I was even faster, and again I skipped the rest, eager to take advantage of this energy. The third and the fourth were just as fast, until it all slowed down. By lap six I was taking the whole hour to finish a circuit, by lap 12 I was shuffling barefoot through the streets of York.

A post shared by Christo Bland (@christobland) on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:55am PST

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Posture

In a sport that’s all about making fitness as measurable as possible, running just doesn’t really fit into funcxtional fitness all that well. There are just too many variables — hills, traffic, terrain, weather, etc. — for it to ever be as measurable as a Concept 2 rower. The lack of running in HQ programming certainly doesn’t mean that CrossFit training can’t provide a lot of benefit for a runner.

The very nature of running is repetition, one foot after the other until you cross the finish line. Like any other high volume movement, without assistance work, it’s going to lead to at least a couple of imbalances over time. While this is probably more true of the lower body, I couldn’t help but notice that the posture of many runners was awful, including mine towards the end. To see what I mean all you need to do is watch a group of runners go by and observe just how many of them are stooped over. Years of working at a desk paired with huge swathes of free time spent running head down into blustery weather is a recipe for disaster or at least poor posture.

Fortunately this is something though that can easily be remedied with regular strength work and maybe a bit of band work.

Functional fitness made me super average.

Go to any fun run anywhere in the world, whether it’s a 5k park run or a multi day ultra marathon, and you will find two distinct groups of people: Those who want to win or at least place and those who just want the finish line before the clean up crew comes out. If you find yourself in that competitive first category, then running specific training with a sprinkling of strength work to keep you healthy is what the doctor ordered. If, however, like me, you find yourself in that latter group, wanting to be able to finish most races, lift weights big weights, look relatively good and do stupid challenges on a whim, then following a functional training program is probably a better idea.

Having not run further than 400m in a couple of months before attempting this, I expected that everything from mile one onwards would be some variation on hell. And that just wasn’t the case; the first 25 miles were fun and the next 15 were still enjoyable. As much as I feel like a shill for saying it, CrossFit and Strongman training was what built that base level of fitness and it can do for anyone. If you want to excel in anything specific then you need to train that movement or skill, if you want to be able to do most things pretty well then get functional.  

Sleep is the cousin of death.

After hitting my first 45 miles by 4.55 am, just ahead of schedule, and with Ricky T penciled in to come and run a lap with me in 30 odd minutes, I decided I could afford to have a little nap. Lying at the bottom of my stairs with my feet half way up the wall and my bandanna over my eyes, I slept the sleep of the dead for the shortest twenty minutes of my life.

That innocuous nap was the biggest mistake of the entire run. I woke up sore, broken and demoralized. The only thing that got me out of that door and on my feet again was not wanting to let someone down who had got up at 5am to run round York with me. Still, I stepped out of the door knowing I didn’t have another 55 miles in me. I tried endlessly to prove myself wrong, but I’d already had that thought, and it proved too much.

Community

When it comes to running this race, the biggest asset I got from training at CrossFit Kroy was not the training but the support. Almost everyone at that gym helped me on journey in someway or another, whether that was messages of support or running laps with me. I could of probably suffered through the same 62.1 miles without their training (though it would’ve been harder) but I couldn’t of done it without their help.

It wasn’t just CrossFitters that helped either. A random runner that I physically ran into asked me how far I had left to go, not knowing the challenge. My answer of 70 miles cracked him up enough that he kindly offered to run a lap with me, despite having finished his training for the night and it being close to midnight. He might have been a saint.

Learn from those who know.

One of the big advantages of being able to put my original article on a site with a big ol’ reach like BarBend is that people reached out to me, some with advice from the trenches. With time being so short before I started, most of this help was geared around nutrition and the foods your body craves and needs after running for 18 hours. Thankfully I listened to every word and prepared accordingly. If I’d been stubborn and stuck to my guns, I wouldn’t have run past mile 50. The magical point where all food seemed to turn to cardboard in my mouth, switching to iced coffee loaded with cream and sugar let me push on.

Your feet are weak.

If you don’t train them specifically and you’re not a postman, your feet are almost definitely a weak point that you don’t know about. I’ve discussed training them here, and those techniques will certainly get you a long way, but if you want to push the envelope whether for ultra running or just for the sake of strength then you will need to do more. I found this out the hard way as my feet kept cramping up so bad that I had to discard my shoes with several hours left to go, leaving me barefoot and shuffling. I don’t currently know what the best approach would be to building bulletproof feet but it’s something that I’m certainly looking into.

Do Stupid Things

Despite 12 out of the 24 hour hours being nothing short of self induced torture, I still had a great time. I got to run further than I’ve ever run before, learnt first hand what it takes to push for an entire day and got to see my city in a whole new light. Four days later and I’m still struggling to walk more than 400m, but in a few days the pain will subside and I’ll be back planning my next adventure. (Hint: it’s almost definitely freediving.)  

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post Reflections on Running for 24 Hours Straight appeared first on BarBend.

Bodyweight Versus Barbell Movements: Is One Really “Better”?

Before we can talk about building strength, let me start by asking you a question: how do you define “strength”? In the world of athletics, the concept of “strength” is rather ambiguous. Take elite powerlifters and elite gymnasts, for instance: both are, undoubtedly, examples of athletes that possess remarkable strength.

However, if you ask a powerlifter to perform a planche on a set of still rings or ask a gymnast to deadlift triple their own bodyweight, you’ll probably have them both stumped.

This brings us to the question: which will ultimately make us stronger, lifting external weights or lifting our own weight? Well, let’s take a closer look at some common lifts and their corresponding bodyweight exercises and find out!

1. Bench Press vs. Push Ups

We all know that Monday is International Chest Day, but should you get up on Monday morning and hit the bench or crank out a few sets of push-ups instead?

The simple answer is: it depends on your goals and your circumstances. If you want to lift the most weight possible, then bench press is for you, since having your upper body stabilized on a bench allows you to focus on your chest and push a larger amount of weight. However, if you want to really activate your abdominal muscles and build core stability, you might want to opt for push-ups instead.

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Research has shown that when it comes to building pushing strength, there’s not much of a difference between bench press and push-ups, as long as both are performed with the same intensity.

This is where the catch comes in. With bench press, it’s extremely easy to increase the load; all you have to do is chuck on a few more plates. With bodyweight push-ups, things can get a little more complicated, since you can’t really increase your own weight on the spot. To increase the intensity of push-ups, you have to progress to more advanced variations, such as decline push-ups, single-arm push-ups, diamond push-ups, and clap push-ups. The upside is that, unlike the bench press, push-ups and push-up variations can be done anywhere, so there’s never an excuse to skip chest day (not that anyone does anyway).

When deciding which chest exercise suits you best, ask yourself: Do I want to build my maximal/absolute pushing strength, or do I want to develop functional strength that will carry over to other movements? And if you can’t decide, you could always just be like me and do both.

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//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js2. Lat Pulldown vs. Pull-Ups

As strength athletes, we know that pulling exercises are what really give you wings. So which is the superior wing-builder: lat pulldown or pull-ups?

Unlike the bench press vs. push-ups debate, there’s a clear winner here: pull-ups always come out on top. That isn’t to say that lat pulldown isn’t an effective exercise or that it has no place in a training program. It’s a great alternative exercise for those who can’t yet do a substantial amount of pull-ups. With lat pulldown, it’s easier to control the weight being lifted, and you can incorporate intensity techniques such as drop sets and high-rep sets. For someone whose main focus is to build a wide and aesthetically appealing back, lat pulldown is a great exercise to include. However, if we’re talking about building true strength, lat pulldown can’t hold a candle to pull-ups.

Not only do pull-ups develop overall body control, but they also activate your core and build insane functional upper body strength. Not to mention the fact that you look like a beast doing them. Get up on the bar and bust out a set of strict pull-ups and you’ll see exactly what I mean. As another added bonus, pull-ups can be done pretty much anywhere as long as you’ve got something to grip. And if you’re already at the gym, I can almost guarantee that, unlike the lat pulldown machine, there won’t be any line for the pull-up bar!

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3. Overhead Press vs. Handstand Push Ups

This is the part where you might actually be picturing a powerlifter and a gymnast battling it out. Pressing a barbell over your head and turning your entire body upside down and proceeding to lower and lift it repeatedly might seem like two wildly different things, and that’s because they are. Nonetheless, both are typically classified as shoulder exercises, so let’s evaluate which movement will lead to maximum shoulder strength gains.

You may be a heavyweight powerlifter or a fitness newbie reading this and thinking, “Handstand push-ups? Yeah, right.” For some, handstand push-ups may be entirely out of the question. And that’s perfectly understandable! I think we can all agree that pressing a barbell overhead requires a lot less skill and technique than doing a handstand push-up. For those who find advanced gymnastic movements to be either too intimidating or downright impossible, overhead press is a fantastic shoulder-building exercise suitable for everyone from complete beginners to elite lifters.

If you’re up for a challenge and want to develop incredible stability and body awareness as well as freakishly strong shoulders, it might be time for you to get inverted. When it comes to shoulder-strengthening exercises, handstand push-ups are in a league of their own. Even if you can overhead press your own bodyweight for reps, you’ll find that trying to do the same thing upside-down is a lot more difficult. Because the points of contact when performing the exercise are limited, handstand push-ups lead to greater muscle activation compared to the overhead press. And you know what greater muscle activation means? More strength gains! Though it may take a fair bit of practice before you can even achieve one handstand push-up, trust me, they’re well worth the investment. Besides, think about how cool you’ll look when you whip them out at your next party!

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When it comes to getting strong, there’s no one-size-fits-all; it all comes down to your own definition of “strength” and your own personal goals. If your goal is to become a real-life Hercules and lift the maximum amount of weight possible, then barbells are your best friends. If your goal is to develop ninja-like athleticism and be able to move your body through space with maximum control and efficiency, you might want to focus on bodyweight training. Of course, there’s absolutely no need to pick sides. Lifting and calisthenics training aren’t mutually exclusive; they can go hand-in-hand! If you really want to derive the unique benefits of each, why not do both?

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Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post Bodyweight Versus Barbell Movements: Is One Really “Better”? appeared first on BarBend.