Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

I don’t know how many of you know much of history, but in September of 2011, I suffered a spinal cord injury and sustained permanent damage. In December of 2011, four levels of my neck were operated on. I underwent framenectamy, lamanectamy as well as other procedures to alleviate my spinal stenosis and remove the osteophyte that created my spinal edema (scar on my spinal cord). Needless to say, I couldn’t even hold a piece of paper in my hand until after the operation. Immediately after the surgery, I could not even bottoms up press a 10KG! (Now I can do the 28KG).
My son Spencer is 17 and one of the top ranked high school aged throwers in the country. He’s an RKC and is quite strong. I wanted to put a little more size on him, so I started incorporating some barbell training into his routine. We started doing dead lifts. I used to be able to rip 505 lbs of of the ground, but no more. Once I got over 305, my right hand (the side most adversely effected by the injury) would simply give out. I was getting very frustrated. During one training session, he suggested that I try to single leg barbell deadlifts. What a great suggestion! I’d been doing the Dual Bell Kettlebell Deadlifts for years, but it never dawned on me to do them with a barbell. At this point, I’m doing 185 max for my sets of 6 and my hand has no issue holding bar.
The point of the story is to simply talk about my deadlift numbers, but to listen to others and look outside o the box – especially when it comes to your own training. I’ve never had an issue coming up with solutions for others, but solving my own issue took listening to my kid!

Master RKC Phil Ross demonstrates the Jackknife Ab

Master RKC Phil Ross demonstrates the Jackknife Ab

The Dirty Dozen Exercises: Move #4, The Hanging Abdominals

There is nothing sought after more than a set of “washboard abs”. A set of ripped, hard looking, abdominal region inspires awe and envy in everyone that sets eyes upon them. A “Cut Gut” is a sure telltale sign the the bearer is in incredible physical condition and that they “don’t have an ounce of fat” on them. How do we achieve these legendary abdominals of steel and sinew? How do we develop 6-pack abs that can withstand having cinderblocks piled on it and being hit with a sledgehammer? Can we develop our midsection so that we can absorb a full power knee drive from a Muay Thai Fighter or an uppercut from a Prize Boxer?

First of all, having a “ripped” abdominal section is not necessarily indicative of abdominal strength. It not simply the appearance, but how did they get those abs? By simply starving themselves or as the result of serious, pointed abdominal training? There are some fitness experts that recommend a thousand abdominal repetitions per day or some type of fitness apparatus that they are undoubtedly paid to endorse. These machines may or may not work and I don’t know how many of us have the time to perform a thousand or more crunches a day. So how do we achieve these legendary abdominals that can withstand having a 2 x 4 broken over them, but fit the workout into our overloaded lives?

If you are engaged in a consistent Kettlebell and Bodyweight training regiment, your abdominals and core are already receiving a great deal of work. However, if you want to take it to the next level and maximize the “best bang for the buck” for your abdominals,  then Hanging Abdominal training is a must. You will discover that I do detest long, drawn out training sessions. Who has the time? How long can ANY of us effectively train while maintaining intensity and proper form? Plus – if you are an athlete, you want to leave time to practice your sports skills, not spend the bulk of your day with your strength and conditioning. If you are not a competitive athlete, you probably have work, family or social matters that require your attention. Use your time wisely.

There are several methods of practicing the hanging abdominals. or a beginner, I will recommend that you use (or purchase) the Dip, Pull-up & Ab Machine. The are available new for about $300, used for $100 or less. It will be the most useful apparatus that you ever purchase. No moving parts whatsoever. In addition to the video demonstrating the higher level abs, check out this one on YouTube  It will show the machine. For beginners, simply raise your knees up to chest (or as high as you are able) while keeping your lumbar region (low back) pressed firmly against the back board of the machine. When you able to accomplish 20 repetitions with bent knees, then move to straight legged version and bring your legs up so that your heels are level with your waist. For the next level of this exercise, you bring your feet up to or above head level. Please remember to maintain a flat back against the back pad. Packing your shoulders and assuming a tall chest position are a must.

Once you are able to to perform the suspended abdominals, you are ready for the Hanging Abdominal training. There are three basic movements that I recommend. The Hanging Knee Lift, Jackknife and the Side to Side Jackknife. The easiest are the Hanging Knee Lift. Grasp a pull-up bar with your elbows straight and your shoulders packed. Do not allow for body sway. Contract your abs and raise your knees up to chest level. Work up to at least 20 repetitions prior to advancing toward the Jackknife Abs. For the straight Jackknife abs, assume the same position as during the Knee Lifts. Straighten your legs, steady your body and contract your abs as you raise your legs so that your feet are above the bar. Repeat. For the Side to Side Jackknife, simply raise your feet to one corner of the pull-up bar and then the other. This contralateral movement is incredible. As far as repetitions are concerned, start with 3 to 5 and then work your way up to 10 per set. Do not permit yourself to swing. You will not maximize the effect of the movement and you may expose yourself to injury. Packed shoulders, locked elbows and a steady body.

As always, train hard, train often and TRAIN SMART!

Coach Phil

Master Phil Ross poses with Kettlebell

Master Trainer Phil Ross poses with Kettlebell

Martial Arts & Kettlebell Master, Phil Ross becomes a Certified Bodyweight Specialist.  In the first ever Bodyweight Strength certification conducted by Master of Sport Pavel Tsatsouline (the man responsible for bringing Kettlebell Training to the US), held in St. Paul Minnesota October 13th and 14th, some 60 participants were in attendance. The students were training in the progressions of mastery of the Bodyweight Strength Development and Master Phil Ross was one of the 15 participants to pass the exam and receive certification upon the course completion, earning the title of Bodyweight Strength Specialist. Master Ross, getting set to celebrate his 50th Birthday this October, was the only participant over the age of 40 to receive certification. He will be launching his “Fit and Fifty” program and posting YouTube clips adding more training tips to his active Phil Ross channel

Below is a write up regarding some training benefits from the training:

Naked Warrior Certification/Workshop: Phil Ross, RKC Team Leader, 8th Degree Black Belt

The workshop consisted of an incredible amount of extremely useful strength and balance developing techniques as well as strategies. The progressions to the specific tasks were particularly relevant because you are gaining useable, practical, applicable strength while you are learning strength skills. Some people may never be able to execute a one arm push-up, pistol, an L-sit pull-up or handstand push-up, but they will achieve significant strength gains and improve their lives through their strength practice.

People may think that if they can’t do a one-arm push-up, there’s no need to train in this fashion. That would be akin to telling a runner not to run, because they will never be able to run a sub 10 second 100 meter sprint. Nonsense, incredible strength and body linkage is developed with body weight training and that results in improved performance in strength, kettlebell training, weight lifting, sport, martial arts and daily life. If a student is able to perform a pull up and 20 two-legged squats, they will certainly be able to carry a bag of groceries up a flight of stairs.

Results are achieved by consistent, intelligent training patterns. Exercise discipline in your training. Build slowly and do not skip any level of the progression. That may result in “gaps” in your strength and prevent you from attaining the highest level of proficiency. Achieving real strength does not occur overnight, it’s a process. Quick gains lead to injury and rob one of their potential. Strength is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long process, but the results can last a lifetime!


Atlanta Falcon Training with Kettlebells

Dragon Door:   Given your extensive experience coaching strength and conditioning, what led you to try kettlebell training with your athletes?Jeff Fish:  I began researching the role of movement-based methodology in the early 2000’s and was fortunate to meet Pavel in 2005.  I learned a great deal from him—this was the first obtainable information I found for implementing kettlebells in a workout plan.  At the time, there was very little information available on safe, proper kettlebell techniques.  Now, I had the fundamentals of how to execute the exercises, and felt comfortable adding them to our plans.  Very quickly, I realized the power of the kettlebell as a training tool, and how it could expand and produce general and specific performance improvements that I could not achieve with other equipment.

Dragon Door:  What are the particular advantages with kettlebell training over a more traditional approach to strength and conditioning for professional football?

Jeff Fish:
  When I look at how to improve an athlete’s performance—no matter the skill level—I have many variables to assess: fundamental movement patterns, mobility, stability, restrictions, strength and power symmetry, core stability and dynamic coordination, prerequisite movement proficiency, just to name a few.  When I look at improving some of the key qualities for a professional football player—specific joint static and dynamic stability, functional strength and power output, metabolic training, efficient core function, transfer and application of force—the kettlebell is a tremendous choice to achieve results in a fast, safe manner while simultaneously improving overall movement.

Dragon Door:   What are your top kettlebell exercises for football players?

Jeff Fish:   I started implementing a program with kettlebells in 2005, using get-ups, different presses, squats, and single leg movements.  As an alternative to a barbell on the back, we train with them in the rack position, so the player maintains good torso posture when they’re working their lower body—subtle things like that go a long way.   I put together a complete teaching system addressing developmental stages, starting with new players who may have never even seen a kettlebell, up to a very advanced level—for players who have trained with kettlebells with me for a number of years.

We start with a base program of four exercises, and as the athletes become more proficient, we advance them into stage two movements.  Eventually they progress to where they’re doing everything imaginable.

Dragon Door:   Sounds like you’ve made this process very efficient!

Jeff Fish:   Yes, instead of spending an hour and a half in the weight room, we averaged only 45 minutes to an hour.  This was great for two reasons: first, the guys felt like they really did a good workout, second, they felt like they could still practice their sport afterwards.

Dragon Door:   Sounds like the idea of aiming to feel stronger after the workout, instead of exhausted…

Jeff Fish:  
Yes, that’s 100 percent true of our guys—no matter what position they play, they almost always leave feeling more energized than before the workout.  They feel better, they’re moving better, and they’re excited about practicing afterward, too.  Many players told me after this year’s first pre-season game that they feel different.

Dragon Door:   How else are you using kettlebells?  Is there specific sequence you’re using with swings?

Jeff Fish:    We teach the double-arm, single kettlebell swing, next the single-arm swings, and then two-arm, two kettlebell swings where we can load them up pretty good.  Once they get the mechanics of the swing, I transition them to cleans as long as they understand the hip hinge movement, how to finish their hips, tilt their hips, and get their quads tight so they can protect their back.  I try to teach them to clean as quickly as I can, because cleans can link circuits and combine lower-body and upper-body movements.   For example, a sequence of cleaning, pressing, cleaning, squatting, etc.

Dragon Door:   Are your guys training kettlebell cleans alone, or mainly using them as a link between other exercises?

Jeff Fish: 
We do both—training cleans by themselves, and in many different complexes—I like that about them.   Also, they’re a quick movement where guys really have to think about being quick with their hips, they have to absorb the weight quickly as compared to a swing.  The clean is really crisp and it’s impressive to see a group of athletes lined up, and almost synchronized doing cleans.  It’s pretty awesome to see.

Dragon Door:  Since implementing the FMS with your players, how has it affected game play and injury prevention/recovery?

Jeff Fish:
   The FMS is a starting point.  It’s a guide and an evaluator to our overall system.  We use it to evaluate every player before prescribing any exercise.  We will never just write up programs or give someone a program that was successful with another athlete.  The FMS gives us a look into an athlete’s current state of movement potential and limitation.  It also shows me where I can start an athlete in terms of strength training exercises. It allows me to give them the appropriate challenge without elevating the injury risk of an over-demanding plan.  We truly build the plans around each athlete.  We always use this “baseline” score to evaluate our system of prescription.  Basically, if we do a follow up FMS on an athlete in 6-8 weeks and they have improved their score by three points, then we know our corrective strategy prescription was accurate.  We also have a baseline to hold us accountable in our rehabilitation efforts.

In terms of game play, a more efficient athlete can perform at a high level for a longer time than a heavily restricted/asymmetrical athlete.  Also, by reducing the risk factors, we have a greater chance of our players not missing games due to injury.  In most high level sports, to lose your “stars” for extended periods of time usually spells disaster in terms of wins and losses.

Dragon Door:   Has it also helped to prevent injuries during training as well as during a game?

Jeff Fish:   Yes, I have used the data to prescribe movement-based drills at the appropriate levels and times during the off-season.  At that time of the year, athletes are…read complete interview

Never Say Die

You hear it all of the time “Never Say Die”. You see the athlete in competition, whether its MMA, a Grappling Match, a Track Meet or a Football game – the sport does not matter, only the actions that lead to the end result. The participant is behind and it seems as if all is lost and then the tide shifts and the athlete that appeared to be done for surges and emerges victorious.

Everyone wants to win. Wanting to win is not the hard part. Sacrificing everyday in your training, your eating habits and ignoring distractions; that is the difficult task. You need to make your training your priority – no room for excuses – make it to your workouts and push yourself to get better, stronger and faster. Excuses for failure are common, find a way to succeed.

How does this happen? How does one develop this “Never Say Die” attitude? Can it be developed? Or is it only in certain people?

There are certain people born with an innate inner toughness, but if it’s not cultivated, they burn out and lose it over time. Others seem to develop, grow tougher and more resilient over time. How is this done?

There is one sure fire way to develop this Never Say Die attitude, Train Hard. Yes, the more that you sacrifice and persevere, the more you become committed to succeed and less you are able to tolerate failure. There are many times when a combatant is in a scramble, they could easily give in and let their opponent win, yet they do not allow this to happen. The time, effort and pain endured in training comes through and they “dig deep” into their soul and put forth another effort. Training with purpose will not only harden your body, but your mind as well.

When you are training, think to yourself “What is my opponent doing? Is he training like I am? Is he sparring those extra rounds, running that additional mile and performing those few more reps? Is he pushing through the pain?” You will never be able to answer those questions, until after the contest. The best chance of success that you have is to train to your best ability and don’t make excuses for not training.

The more that you put in, the more that you will be prepared to win. Take the Samurai for example. They were in Life and Death Battles. If they lost, they were dead. In order to win, they needed to have supreme confidence. They developed this confidence through their daily training regiment and discipline. The tenants espoused by the Samurai are ones that we can base our training on to develop our Never Say Die attitude.

As Always – Train Hard & Train Often.

My Best Friend: Are you a fitness enthusiast that takes their running shoes on trips, only to feel uncomfortable road running in unfamiliar areas? Are you tired of endlessly waiting for cardio equipment to free up at your gym, only to feel like a hamster running on a wheel? Do you love to run outdoors, yet shy away from putting on five layers of under-armor and sweats on in order to brave the sub arctic temperatures?

Well, let me introduce you to my “Best Friend”, the jump rope. You can take it anywhere, you do not need much space, it does not matter what the weather is like outside, you do not need expensive equipment ($2.00 to $20.00 for a rope, my favorite costs $8.00) and you can vary the routines and movements to keep it interesting. My Grandfather was a boxing trainer in Paterson, NJ back in the 30’s, 40’s and into the 50’s. He instructed me on how to jump rope as a teenager as a means to improve my foot speed and endurance for wrestling and football. I then began to realize the incredible benefits of jumping rope.

If you jump rope at a good pace for 5 minutes, it’s equivalent to running a mile! The coordination of your hands and feet moving in rhythm with each other is essential for a fighter. All of my martial arts classes begin with 3 to 5 minutes of jumping rope. In addition to the coordination development, jumping rope is an incredible means to warm up the body.

Even if you are a beginner and you miss on your jump, keep moving your feet. To learn how to jump, here are a couple of tips:

1) Play some music that you like with a good beat. You should put together a playlist for at least the same amount of time that you want to jump for. Use your favorite, upbeat songs & make a mix. Or, for those with obsessive, manic personalities, repeat the same song as an extended version. This also helps you jump rope longer. You basically fool your self into NOT thinking that you are jumping that long.

2) To initially get your timing, watch as the rope hits the ground. That’s when you time your jump. It may take a few weeks to get your timing, but keep working, it will eventually happen.

3) If you are still having issues, try putting the rope in one hand and jump up and down while rotating your wrist. This will help you to find your timing.

4) Remember the less movement of your arms, the better. Your wrists are the primary focus of the rotation. Try also to keep them in the same spot, approximately at the level between the bottom of your chest and the top of your hips. This does not hold true when you are doing more advanced movements, like crossing the rope or double jumps.

5) You do not have to jump very high. You only need to jump high enough to allow the thin rope to pass under your feet. Get your rhythm and all else will fall into place.

If you’d like to workout the rest of your body, try performing push-ups and abdominal exercises in a rotation with jumping rope. You can start with 100 jumps, 20 push – ups and 30 abdominals. Start with 3 rotations and then increase to 5. You may also execute additional push – ups or abdominals. What a great way to start the day!

Victory Favors the Prepared!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach me at  HYPERLINK “”

Muscle Confusion: Hype or Reality? 

Since the advent of the P90X video series, the notion of “Muscle Confusion” seems to be on everyone’s lips and has replaced conversations of Core Based Workouts as the main concern for fitness enthusiasts. We’ll tackle the notion of the elusive “Core” in another blog.

Muscle confusion has been a very popular training method for many, many years. Yes – the P90X does a good job at leading you through your daily routine, but the program does not take into consideration the varying degrees of fitness, athletic ability, age and other stressors that the potential customer base may possess. I am not here to bash the P90X series. On one hand it has inspired many people to lose weight, get in shape and improve their lives, on the other hand many people have become injured while using it. I have personally worked with several clients, of various ages, that came to me after doing the PX90 series and incurring injuries. People have injured their backs, knees, hips and shoulders.

If you read the book by Arnold Schwartzeneggar: The Education of A Bodybuilder. I read this book in 1978 and it had an incredible impact on me. While attending the University of Maryland I participated in a workout session with the Barbarian Brothers, Peter & David Paul. They were filming of the movie DC Cab with Mr. T & Gary Bussey. My friend’s dad owned the Gold’s Gym in Wheaton, Maryland and he invited a few of us guys down for the workout session. The book by Arnold, the workout session with the Barbarian Brothers and countless other strength and fitness athletes have always stressed “Varying the Workout”, “Shock the Muscles”, “Change your Routine”. That is the only true way to stimulate growth and achieve higher levels of fitness.

Why is it so important? Why can’t I just stick with my set of exercises? Why can’t I simply run the same amount and the same route every time? Why – because the body gets stale with the same routine. You need to “force” the body to respond to varied loads and/or movements. Soreness from your workout should be the norm. If you do not experience soreness on a regular basis, you are not developing. If you have hit platues with your strength or your times running or find that you are dreading training; you need to varying your routine. Not to mention the fact of repetitive stress injuries that the same routine breed.

When you do your roadwork, you need to vary the terrain, the distance and the level of intensity that you run. Example: If you run three times a week, session one, do a 3 mile mile run at 80 percent your capability. Next session, do interval training or what runners call the “Float”. Go to the track and run a 200 hard, then at 50%. Do this for several laps, in accordance to your fitness level and ability. The third session of the week, go for a long run at an easy pace, 65 to 70%. This is just an example for one week. I’ll address running programs in more detail in future blogs.

Kettlebell Training: Lends itself to Muscle Confusion better than any other method available. Personally, I know several hundred movement variations with the Kettlebell. There are also a plethora of workout delivery methods with a Kettlebell. Complexes, Chains, Powerdure, 4×8’s, Combined Kettlebell and Body weight routines, Scrambled eggs, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, Explosive Power Focus. One of the differentiators  with Kettlebells, is that you have the ability to either focus on one of the phases of training or mix and match the methods in any combination that make sense or that keeps your workout interesting. You also need to employ the various levels of intensity to your workouts. You can’t go 100% every workout. This is another subject that I will cover in greater detail in a future blog. Hey – I have to keep you coming back for more!

Yes – Muscle Confusion is a reality and has great merit, but it’s not new or revolutionary – It’s just simply good.

Train Hard & Train Often!

Blog Post: 4/18/2011

Strength & Conditioning: Two essential components, not only to success in martial arts and athletics, but in life. The Human Animal was not meant to be a sedentary creature. We were designed to run, jump, climb, lift and carry, not to sit on our behinds for endless hours playing X-box or Madden 2011.

Even though our lives do not require the same amount of physical exertion as our ancestors, our lives are extremely busy and stressful with little time left for ourselves and our fitness. How do we achieve optimal fitness levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle with growing responsibilities and diminishing time alloted for ourselves?

Enter the Kettlebell.

Why Kettlebells? “I lift weights, it’s the same thing”.  Yes and a Big “NO”. Yes, kettlebell training is a resistance exercise; but no it’s not simply lifting weights. Most of our conventional weight training exercises come from several sources: Body Building, Power Lifting and Olympic Lifting. Yes, there is a cross over of strength and conditioning from these methods of training, however the main goal of Body Building is to create larger muscles and a symmetrical shape, Power Lifting and Olympic Lifting are designed to increase strength – for specific lifts – not for athletic performance.

Kettlebell training increases durability, flexibility, strength, endurance and athletic ability. Through the techniques of “rooting” for strength, explosive hip pop and lock, core engagement on virtually every exercise, the practitioner achieves levels of fitness and performance never before attainable. The kettlebell is a handheld gym and replaces conventional barbells, dumbbells, cardio equipment, hand grips, weight machines, ropes, cable and bands. This is not to say that there in anything wrong with the other methods, it’s only that the same or better results in more aspects of fitness will be accomplished through the proper employment of kettlebell training in a shorter amount of time and space. For example – you will need a full rack of dumbbells to perform a workout that would require only three kettlebells.

How is this Accomplished? As a weighted exercise implement, the kettlebell is more akin to the unwieldy sandbag than to the commercialized dumbbell.  The center of gravity (COG) of the kettlebell is about a good half foot away from your hand.  With this displaced COG, the central nervous system (CNS) simply has to require more muscles groups to wield the awkward object.  Curl a dumbbell, and feel it get LIGHTER as it redistributes its weight on top of your wrist and elbow when you pass 90 degrees.  Curl a kettlebell of the same weight; you will actually feel it get HEAVIER, because no such shift in COG occurs.  You’ll find yourself actually having to brace not only your entire arm to control it, but your abs, glutes, and your OTHER arm as well. When you employ various grips and motions, you are able to increase the effect even more! By recruiting your whole body for the kettlebell,  you’re doing a full body workout with a as opposed to the muscle isolation when using a dumbbell.