There are many drills with kettlebells that not only are demanding, but also are very revealing or diagnostic in nature. The Windmill (WM) along with the Turkish Get Up (TGU), are two of such drills and on this short article I would like to highlight the Windmill. I will also share a little video showing my latest progress in this fabulous drill..
Archives for December 2009
It has now been over two decades since I first started my study and practice of tai chi.. Many of those years were under the guidance of my teachers. But a large portion of this time span has been self-study along with self-correction. This path of self-study, is challenging. The enthusiasm to continue daily practice at the absence of peer support from classmates and guidance from a teacher can decline over time.
But what is one to do should a teacher not longer be available? Stop practicing? Of course not. I suggest to you that a deeper understanding of tai chi can be attained by anyone who cannot longer be guided by their teacher.
By way of analogy, think of tai chi as a free software application downloaded from the internet. However, the free version of this software has only a few features that are available. If the user wishes to have access to the full version, a “key” or “code” is provided once the program has been purchased and full access is granted.
So how does one “buy” the Tai Chi Code? Practice! Uninterrupted, concentrated practice with undivided attention. In the absence of a teacher, many stop practicing to avoid practicing wrong. The only wrong one can do is not to practice. It is within the programming of the tai chi software to self-correct with time, prolonged practice and introspection. All the needed data is already stored within the form and our body’s database is gradually populated through usage and practice.
But, as with any software application, its usability is dependent on the user’s needs and the interaction between the program and the operator’s input. First, we should define what is the purpose or what needs are to be met through the tai chi program. A few come to mind:
- better health
- improved sleep
- emotional balance
- martial applications
Once a need is identified, the application is customized to meet the user’s needs. Let’s take item #6. strength, as the current application for the tai chi software. A well written program would inquire from the user what interaction is to take place. For example, the software may ask the user what part of the body needs strength. The user responds by indicating the legs need strength. The software may respond by instructing the user to practice the form with the knees bent deeper and to slow down the practice. It may also suggest that more standing meditation be included in daily practice..
Let’s take item #3. digestion. The software may suggest to practice after 30 past dinner or lunch thus improving peristalsis and stomach emptying. If improved sleep, item #2 is the current need, the software may suggest to practice early in the morning and 30 minutes before retiring for the night.
And we can go on with numerous examples on how tai chi practice parallels software applications.
An Update: June 21, 2011
I like to think of the chuan in tai chi, meaning the postures, forms, shapes, etc., as apps that work with a given software application and operating system. These apps are specific to the language with which the software was developed. Attempts to use the apps with other vendor’s software is bound to fail. The language is Tai Chi… The Chuan shapes are the functions or applications.
Thus, when we see tcc players in the ring, wearing gloves, abiding by tourney rules, displaying kick boxing posturing, the tcc player gets his ass kicked. The software application and system are not congruent with the platform. A crash is inevitable..
Belly fat, a gentler term for abdominal fat, is perhaps the number one telltale sign of fitness decline and the subsequent deterioration of one’s general health. At some stage in life, abdominal fat becomes synonymous with Metabolic syndrome and is often associated with a decline in testosterone or the so called male menopause. Kettlebell training, when used within a complete fitness regime can help blast the fat away, improve cardiovascular fitness and improve overall hormonal levels.
Swimming Dragon is perhaps one of my favorite sets I teach to my Baby Boomer Clients to help keep the spine in a healthy condition. Not only is the vertebral column exercised, but the joints of the knees, ankles, hips, elbows, wrists and shoulders, along with the neck, receive a mild and invigorating workout.
Joint mobility and strength training should always be practiced along side each other. This is particularly true for the older athletes whose joints are not as supple as they were in days gone by.
In this video, I share with you my current level of practice in this beautiful exercise.
Practiced for at least 20 minutes a day, Swimming Dragon can help in weight management. It has a profound effect on the main glands of the body including the gonads, thyroid, adrenals and it is an effective method for lymphatic flow.
The style of Swimming Dragon I practice, places emphasis on the Kidney meridian and the lower Dan Tien. The lowering of the body to a nearly squatting position pressurizes the lower abdomen stimulating the gonads. The stimulation to these glands nourishes the Kidney energy, promotes sexual vitality, strengthen the knees and revives the sacrum and pelvic floor…
In this, part I of this series of posts, I will identify one of five items the physician must address within his/her practice in order to successfully include a fitness program within the treatment plan, and later, five obstacles the patients must remove from their thinking if healing is to be attained through exercise. First, the physician:
Most physicians, including those who practice complimentary or integrative medicine, have received some instruction in exercise physiology. Sadly, the number of hours in this subject is very limited and the level of depth is shallow at best. This is also true for the subject of nutrition which according to the experts is as important as exercise physiology; the two are inseparable.
To further aggravate the issue, physician have very limited knowledge of exercise principles such as Gradual Progressive Overload, Periodization and Selective Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID), to name a few. Without this knowledge, a physician is incapable of writing an exercise prescription for his/her patient. The common solution is to outsource/refer the patient to the physical therapist.
While physical therapy plays a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of many muscle skeletal complaints related to pain, it is a profession that is sadly handicapped by a bureaucratic system within the insurance companies which dictates the number of visits and treatment modalities in the “rehab” process.
A growing trend in orthopedic practices is to have an in-house physical therapy department. While this is a step in the right direction in that the quality of treatment can be monitored and offers convenience to the patient, its shortcomings become evident when the treatment protocol is based on insurance coverage. As a side note, the inclusion of in-house rehab, has also caused many independent and free thinking physical therapists to close their practice due to a decrease in referrals.
A Possible Solution
The suggestion that a physician should return to school and become a fitness professional may seem laughable. But upon farther consideration, it is the best option available if he/she intends to provide patients who suffer with pain the service and education they need and deserve.
This does not mean that the physician must act the role of a personal trainer and meet the patient at the local gym at 5 am three times per week. What it means is that the physician will be able to demonstrate the exercise, explain to the patient in a layman’s term the anatomy and body mechanics needed for proper form and gradually guide the patient through various levels of sophistication or difficulty for that particular exercise.
The benefits of such interaction between doctor and patient cannot be overemphasized. Several things happen when the doctor takes the time to instruct the patient:
- The doctor benefits physically from the demonstration. After all if the practitioner is unable to perform an exercise with good form and breathing pattern, how can the patient be expected to comply?
- The physical demonstration of the exercise nourishes the rapport between the patient and the doctor. It is a stronger sign of commitment from the doctor than the simple act of giving the patient a cookie cutter sheet of exercises.
- It makes the patient accountable.
In my next post, I will address the equipment and amount of space the doctor needs to teach the patient proper exercise technique..
p.s. Interestingly, today, after I finished writing this post, I found on the news the following report on pain management and exercise.
While I do think that everyone should practice some form of weight training, in particular dead lifts and squats, and seek to increase muscle mass, my intention is to show how principles of resistance training used within weight lifting, can and should be applied to Tai Chi practice. I’ll add that this is a necessity to Tai Chi practitioners who live in the West whose lifestyle is nowhere as physically demanding as that of our Tai Chi forefathers.
The process through which leg strength is gained through squats or dead lifts, is applicable to tai chi practice and several principles of strength and endurance training need to be understood.
GPO: Gradual Progressive Overload
If I’m squatting 3 sets of say 200 lbs. of 15 reps each twice per week, it won’t be long before adaptation takes place. This falls in line with the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle. Meaning, that my legs and back will only get as strong (adapt), as they need to be in order to accommodate the 200 lbs of weight (demand). If I want to improve in strength, I need to increase the weight or do more reps to improve in muscular endurance in a GPO fashion.
The same can be said for Tai Chi practice. If the practitioner wants to increase leg strength, then he or she needs to increase the load. However, in contrast to squats or dead lifts (which cover a wider range of motion from the legs being bent to around a 90 degree angle, as in squats, to full extension, and are isotonic in nature), much Tai Chi practice is limited to a given depth of stance through most of form practice. The limited range almost categorizes Tai Chi practice as isometric in nature. This means that the legs are only strong withing a given range of motion.. And, while in the Tai Chi form are some postures that require deeper lowering of the body, these are few and far in between; Snake Creeps Down, comes to mind..
Furthermore, even if the practitioner practiced Tai Chi standing at various depths in order to increase intensity, he is limited by his own weight. Thus, in order to improve in strength through Tai Chi practice, there needs to be change in the daily routine and such change can be accomplished through what is known as FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type)..
Have we not all heard of practitioners of old practicing their form several times per day? A dozen times and even more on daily basis? Sure we have. Yet, in today’s fast pace lifestyle, many find it difficult to allot sufficient practice time daily. Lamentable, in my opinion, is the creation of short forms which were choreographed for those too busy to practice.
In exercise, intensity is often determined or aimed to, by a percentage of maximum heart rate (MHR) or by a percentage of one rep maximum (1RM). While these parameters are outside of Tai Chi practice, there needs to be method through which intensity can be gauged, even if it is perceived rate of exertion, (PRE). Otherwise, how can one know if improvement is taking place? How is “effort” quantified?
Here we need to really take an honest look at our practice. We know that shorter forms have been developed to accommodate those whose time limitations prohibits any extended practice time.. But without an appropriate amount of time during one’s practice, how can physiological improvements take place?
We know that it takes at least 15 to 20 minutes of constant exercise before the body enters in the the so called “fat burning zone” How can a 15 minute form bring into play the energy systems involved in weight management? It can’t. If one is to reap any benefit from Tai Chi practice, one should at least commit to 30 minutes or more of daily practice.
Holding postures for a given amount of time and gradually increasing it will also fall under the “Time” aspect of FITT.
Type can fall into the resistance or cardiovascular approach to form practice. For example, sometimes I like to practice wearing a weighted vest. By adding the weight, my body is challenged from a resistance perspective. Practicing the form at a faster pace presents a cardiovascular component.
Any change on one or more of the FITT items on our Tai Chi practice would change the GPO and thus improve the practice martially and health wise..