Pavel Tsatsouline is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, currently a subject matter expert to the US Navy SEALs and the US Secret Service. In 2001, Pavel’s and John Du Cane introduced the Russian kettlebell to the West.
Dan John is a former nationally-ranked discus thrower and Olympic lifter–as well as Fulbright Scholar–with more than four decades in the iron game.
T-shirt: Lance Armstrong to Pavel.
Enter Dan and Pavel
Years ago, my friend Dr. Jim Wright said something that got burned into my brain: “Consistency and moderation over intensity.”
Not nearly as sexy as “Do or Die!” or some other juvenile T-shirt slogan, but you could not think of a better set of directions for durable performance.
You are about to meet a man who embodies this maxim. He is a US military special operator whose name I shall withhold due to the nature of his duty.
Let us call him “Victor.”
I met this quiet professional at one of our RKC military kettlebell courses. He was capable of a strict pullup with 160 pounds of extra weight, at a bodyweight of 195 pounds (and one-arm chins, naturally). He could close Iron Mind’s iconic #2.5 Captains of Crush hand gripper, 237.5 pounds strong, for three reps. And he had run over ten ultramarathons, from 50 to 100 miles!… Read More
Human flight in the form of judo. (Photo: Fabiogis50)
Pavel Tsatsouline was punching me in the ass.
It’s not every day that you have a former Soviet Special Forces instructor punch you in the butt cheeks. But it was the second day of Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC), and we were practicing constant tension, one of several techniques intended to increase strength output. In this case, we spot-checked each other with punches. Pavel, now a U.S. citizen and subject matter expert to the U.S. Secret Service Counter Assault Team, wandered the ranks, contributing jabs where needed.
Two hours earlier, Pavel had asked the attendees for someone stuck at a 1-rep maximum (1RM) in the one-arm overhead press. He then proceeded to take the volunteer from 53 lbs. to 72 lbs. in less than five minutes: a 26% strength increase. Translated into more familiar terms, this would represent a jump in one-repetition max from 106 pounds to 144 pounds in the barbell military press.
There were dozens of such demonstrations throughout the weekend, and each was intended to reinforce a point: strength is a skill.
Not only is strength a skill, but it can be learned quickly.
The following article, authored by Pavel, describes how he helped his father become an American record holder in powerlifting with just one hour of training per week… Read More
Following our Paleolithic ancestors, our Neolithic ancestors lost an average of six inches in height. Most people now have those last 5-10 pounds that seem impossible lose. The causes for both, surprisingly, may be the same.
Robb Wolf can explain. Robb, a former research biochemist, has functioned as a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and is co-owner of NorCal Strength & Conditioning, one of the Men’s Health “top 30 gyms in America.” He’s also a former California State Powerlifting Champion with a competition 565 lb. squat, 345 lb. bench, 565 lb. deadlift… Read More
Most of you have never seen this. I really hope you enjoy it. To download, just sign into Vimeo and you’re set. If you Final Cut it up, please set to a Crystal Method or Sevendust soundtrack
In other breaking news:
I need only 120 more Amazon reviews to beat The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, a dream I’ve had since 2007! Not because I dislike him, but precisely the opposite — he’s one of my writing role models and I long viewed his book as untouchable.
If you’ve read the 4HWW but haven’t left a short review on Amazon, please take 30 seconds and help me here! The stars are, of course, up to you.
It would really mean a lot to me, and what a milestone it would be as a late Christmas present
Thanks for all the kind words and questions in the comments! Here are answers to a few common questions:
“Gaijin [foreigner] resentment from the Japanese?”
None whatsoever. Major point of conflict with the production company, as they wanted me to show I was ‘proving my teacher’ wrong, etc. for manufactured drama. Total nonsense. The Japanese teachers and students were some of the most gracious and generous people I’ve ever met. The Japanese get a bum rap for xenophobia, mostly by Americans who go over, speak to them in English, and them call them ‘inscrutable’ when they don’t respond in fluent, idiomatic English. Learn some Japanese and they are 100% fine. Business settings = negotiating = not a representative interaction. Get with the people and interact, preferably with something physical. I’ve never felt this artificial insider/outsider wall people talk about.
“Pre-bed and other preparations for physical only or also mental?”
Also for mental and learning. Pre-bed and mid-night language review is incredibly effective for improving recall.
“How much story arc vs. real issues?”
It was real. The fear of falling off was real. It came up only after arrival that injuries were much more common and severe than expected. The editing didn’t do justice to the drama. We had 100+ hours of footage, and there were some gems that could have replaced other bits in this 45 minutes. It rained for 2-3 days of the practice time, for example, and we couldn’t use the horses. The non-yabusame human-to-human interactions with the Japanese were also missing. Some really hysterical moments.
“Have I been back to train?”
Not yet. I love Nikko and would love to go back. I have spoken with both my teacher (Hayashi) and some of the Japanese crew, however. Truly wonderful people.
“Superhuman book to include cooking?”
The way I do it, yes. Simple stuff that tastes great and works. Boys, don’t worry — it’s bachelor screw-up proof.
“Doing a traditional Japanese martial art myself for many years do you ever get frustrated when you learn a skill and then to a certain extent ‘move on’ that you’re just scratching the surface?”
A few people asked this. I don’t try and “hack” everything and move on. I do believe in the enjoyment of constant practice as an exercise, almost like meditation. It’s important to balance achievement with appreciation, and there are skills that I continue to practice without abandoning them. In fact, I don’t feel like I abandon much. Even if I haven’t really practiced tango since 2006, for example, the skills and awareness I developed in tango are applicable to other things, even yabusame. I feel like each is intertwined with the next, so I’m — on a macro-level — constantly working on a process of skill-development that spreads across these various experiments.
In simpler terms, I’m just having fun and doing what makes me most excited. I see nothing wrong with this. For some, that will mean 1 skill a year, others 1 skill a month, and others still, one skill a lifetime.
Last night, world-famous magician and endurance artist David Blaine taught me how to hold my breath.
For four months, David held the Guinness world record for oxygen-assisted static apnea (holding your breath after breathing pure oxygen): 17 minutes and 4.4 seconds. His record was then surpassed by Tom Sietas on September 19, 2008. David’s record for doing what I’ll describe is between 7 and 8 minutes.
I was born premature and, unlike David, I couldn’t then remember the last time I held my breath for more than one minute. It has always been my physiological Achilles heel.
What were the results of his training?
My first baseline test: 40 seconds.
15 minutes later: 3 minutes and 33 seconds (!!!).
Out of roughly 12 TEDMED attendees he also taught, all but one beat Harry Houdini’s lifelong record of 3 minutes and 30 seconds. One woman held her breath for more than 5 minutes. Here is a photograph of the session. I’m sitting in the vest, four people to the right of Roni Zeiger, MD, Google Health product manager.
Total read time (bolded sections): 2-3 minutes
Total read time (complete): 12 minutes
Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with Gary Taubes, my favorite science journalist and author of the incredible (and I consider definitive), Good Calories, Bad Calories. His ability to synthesize and recall research, both in writing and in speaking, is one of the most amazing feats I’ve ever witnessed.
It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I offer you the director’s-cut chapter that didn’t make it into the book.
The chapter addresses important misconceptions about diet, fructose, blood pressure, and diabetes through the lens of gout.
If you don’t know someone with gout, you probably will. It is common and becoming more so. The misguided prescriptions from misinformed doctors, which Taubes addresses, have affected my family, and I’d rather save you the trouble if I can.
But what the hell is “gout” anyway?
Like many, I’d heard it a million times but never knew. Here it is… Read More
I’ve invited Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades, two of my favorite bariatric (obesity treatment) doctors in the US and the first to introduce insulin resistance to the mainstream, to explain the facts and benefits of increased saturated fat intake… Read More
“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.”
—Leonardo Da Vinci
“OK, dude, what’s up with the goofy shoes?”
It was the second day of Pavel’sRKC kettlebell course, and I’d seen more than a few people wearing what appeared to be gecko feet. The sheer goofiness compelled me to ask Rudy Tapalla, a CrossFit instructor from Chicago, why on earth he would put these ridiculous gloves on his toes. He seemed to have good mojo — he was shorter than me but had a vertical jump to match Michael Jordan — so I figured he might have good reasons.
He did, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I remained a skeptic but tested them a month later. Now, I have three pairs and find it hard to wear other shoes. Vibram Five Fingers shoes (“VFFs” to the die-hard fans) are worth a closer look.
After two weeks of wearing them, the lower-back pain I’d had for more than 10 years disappeared and hasn’t returned since I started experimentation about 8 weeks ago.
Sound ridiculously implausible?
It doesn’t once we look at how feet and posture adapt… Read More
The above video is of my presentation at the Entertainment Gathering, titled “How to Feel Like the Incredible Hulk.” In a short 17 minutes, I explain exactly how I conquered fears of swimming, language learning, and ballroom dancing by questioning “obvious” guidelines and dogmatic teaching.
I explain three approaches (first principles/assumptions, material over method, and implicit vs. explicit) you can immediately apply to your own lifelong goals, or lifelong fears, to become the new-and-improved you in record time in 2009.
This is one of my favorite presentations I’ve ever done. Perhaps because it was so short! Special thanks to Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion for the photographs of swimming biomechanics.
For students of Japanese, the closest equivalent to the featured kanji poster that I could find online is here.
I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I enjoyed giving it! Read More