It’s taken me a couple of weeks of recovery to steel myself to writing about the challenge that is The Bear Routine.
To say that the programme is tough is not only an understatement, but is also failing to take note the significant psychological and emotional input required to go at the Bear Routine sessions day after day, in particular the Work Capacity Building sessions are some of the most gruelling Kettlebell workouts that I have ever undertaken.
Having completed the programme, which has led to significant strength and fitness gains for me I can categorically say that this is not a routine to be approached or undertaken lightly. The demands of the work capacity builders are such that the thought of the workout would have me feeling nervous for several hours in the build up. This trepidation didn’t ease throughout the period of the Routine.
I’ve cheated slightly by incorporating more rest days into the routine to allow for the significand fatigue and muscle stiffness encountered post workout.
I’ll have another go at this routine next spring, I’ll be better prepared for the heavy psychological toll that this routine demands in order to maintain the necessary comitment to complete the routine.
Onwards and upwards towards the start of the next phase of training.
Training has been going well, with excellent progress, that was until I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder which trapped a nerve and has led to me having to take two weeks off to get it sorted out.
I wouldn’t mind but the muscle pull just appeared from nowhere and wasn’t training related, possibly tension building up but not apparent as a trainig related injury which made it more frustrating.
Thre visits to the physiotherapist have sorted it out and identified some stiffness in my facet joints which has contributed to the tension. A series of neck mobility exercises have also been a big help.
Right now I’m packing for a ten day camping trip so I’m taking a break from the routine whilst I’m away. My plan is to concentrate on bodyweight exercises and some tabatas to keep the cardio going.
I’ve noticed that over the last couple of weeks I;ve fallen off the wagon as far as cutting the carbs down is concerned, It’s back onto the wagon for me this week as I’ve reallly felt and seen a difference.
I’ll post an update on how the routine fares in the country and how manageable it is away from home!
I’m just at the end of almost a fortnight off heavy training. This has been down to a couple of factors but mainly fatigue and lack of motivation. The fatigue has taken me by surprise as I’d spent three months preparing for the start of The Bear Routine which was obviously not enough! Saying that however, I think that the fatigue I’ve felt has been as much about my mental approach to this and it may well be that I expected to deal with the excercise load more easily than I have as a result of having put the preparation in beforehand.
The strength building sessions, whilst demanding, haven’t caused me too many problems. I’ve been able to maintain a steady progression adding more weight to my Front Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press totals every week and I’ve seen a real improvement in my performance and I’ve started to see changes to my body shape as a result. It has been the Work Capacity Builders that have led to feelings of anxiety and dread as the workout time approaches!
The Work Capacity Builders in this routine are a set of 20 repetitions of a two hand kettlebell swing, thirty seconds of rest, 20 repetitions each arm of a kettlebell clean folllowed by another thirty seconds of rest and finishing with 20 repetitions each arm of kettlebell swing cleans followed by sixty seconds of rest. As you can probably see this is a demanding set and the aim is to complete sixteen of these sets, for me however it has been to complete to failure as I haven’t managed to get past twelve sets yet, at the end of which I have been a total wreck.
This is where I have to give every credit to Stan Pike who devised this routine, aged fifty in preparation for a John O’Groats to Lands End cycle. Just to be able top come up with such a demanding routine is one thing, to be able to maintain it is something else.
The situation arose a couple of weeks ago where I noticed that I was dreading the days that I’d planned to do the Work Capacity Builder sessions and on a couple of occasions I noted that I’d missed a session due to ‘work’ or ‘being tired’ or some other excuse. It was at this point that I realised that I was just tired and needed to rest and have a few days of recovery to get myself back to a point where I could approach the training with a refreshed and more positive outlook. This has taken just over a week during which I’ve just rested, completed a few weights sessions and done some cycling, running and swimming to keep moving and now I’m back to a frame of mind where I can get back to the Bear Routine proper.
Initially I was disappointed in having to step away from the routine for some rest but I’ve come to realise that I needed to spend some time to recover properly to avoid injury and to make the most of the training benefits. I’m not on any particular timescale with my training, nor am I training for any specific goal other than to improve my strength and fitness. Indeed, completing the fourteen week Bear Routine was goal enough and the fact that this will now be a sixteen week routine isn’t a major issue for me personally.
So I’m back to the Work Capacity Builders this afternoon and whilst I can’t say that I’m exactly looking forward to it I’m approaching it without any anxiety and with renewed and improved focus. I’ll keep the updates regular and I’m confident that the improvvement will continue.
I’ve been quiet on the blog front for the past couple of weeks. The training continues and it’s proving to be a massive challenge fitting it around my work and family committments. I’m concentrating on front sqauts, deadlifts and bench presses as far as my lifting is concerned and I’m seeing fantastic gains on a weekly basis. The WCB’s are still a brutal workout but I’m getting more sets in as time progresses so I’m very happy with things at the moment.
I’ve taken a couple of days off over the weekend as I’ve had a cold Hopefully I’ll get a chance to post properly towards the end of the week.
After a week of settling in to the Bear Routine I can now say that as well as aching and being sore and tired I’m full of admiration for Stan.
I’ve done three Work Capacity Builder sessions now, the latest one being this evening. I’m definitely seeing some progression, not much, but I’m getting further into the sets each time.
The weights sessions have been a revelation and these have been tough as well, partly as a result of the DOMS I’ve suffered after the Work Capacity Builders, a good warm up has been enough to address that however. The ascending/ descending ladders make for a tough session and aren’t to be approached lightly.
I’m glad of the rest day tomorrow, it’s needed, but I’m looking forward to week two, albeit with some trepidation…
This log is the basic framework of how my training over the next twelve weeks will look. This will be my attempt at a version of Stan Pike’s Bear Routine.
Whilst this blog will describe my progression through the programme and record the results as I go I would suggest that if you’re interested in having a go at The Bear Routine you get a copy of Stan’s book from www.intensefitness.co.uk. In summary though it goes a bit like this:
The Work Capacity Builder sessions of the routine is a challenging session of up to 16 sets of a combination of kettlebell swings, swing cleans and snatches which totals up to 1600 reps each session. This is definitely not a routine for the faint of heart and as I sit here on the threshold it would be fair to say that I’m nervous to say the least about this element of the routine!
The strength building element of the routine is characterised by what I think is a unique laddering approach to building sets of reps around percentage of 1 repetition maximum (1RM).
As it stands at the moment I’m measuring 175cm and am weighing in at 100kg with a chest measurement of 44″ and a 36″ waist. I’ll update on these stats as I go week by week.
As far as an eating plan goes Stan recommends a huge intake of calories, most of which is made up of by milk. I have an allergy to raw milk and cream so I’m going to have to work out a way of getting around this. As such I’m not going to be following Stan’s eating plan and I’ll be looking at ways to keep my protein and nutrient intake up in bby other methods. I’ll keep the blog updates as to how this progresses also.
Right, that’s it for now. I’m off for my first proper work capacity builder……..
Well, it’s ten days into February and I’ve done two workouts. As I’m currently at the airport travelling away for a week’s ski trip in Italy I’m going to have to come up with a plan to hit the training hard when I return. I’m going to attempt to do some bodyweight workouts in the next ten days and use the skiing as a test of how effective my training has been thus far.
This is the first of what I hope will be 20 workouts in February.
5×5 sets of:
DB single leg RDL
Cable pull downs (Wide bar, front pulls)
5 x 8 Cable wood chop
30s/30s work/ rest ratio 1 arm straight leg sit up
And a set of finishers comprising of two circuits of:
High pull/ push press/ front lunge
Hang muscle snatch/ OH squat/ Row/ Good Morning/ Neider Press
The finishers are done in 10 reps of each movement completed consecutively.
This was a good, challenging session as I know there will be a significant increase in tempo and work capacity when I start the Bear Routine in a couple of weeks, I’m feeling nervous about it already but I’m going to stick with it to try and measure the effect.
About four years ago I realised that I needed to improve my overall fitness and conditioning. I’d reached my late thirties and with two young children and a highly committing job time was limited to say the least. I was spending my time chasing between work and home trying to balance my work and family life and it was and continues to be a struggle sometimes, I’d realised that whilst I was a regular runner, cyclist and swimmer my health and condition were ok but I’d gained some weight and wasn’t finding it as easy to shift it as I may have done some years earlier.
Whilst losing weight wasn’t a priority for me, being stronger and generally fitter was. I was finding that whilst my runs of about five miles, three times a week were improving my running ability I wasn’t feeling particularly stronger or more agile so I started to look around at different ways to improve my strength and condition.
Initially I used traditional bodyweight conditioning exercises such as push ups; burpees; squats etc which made a real difference to the way I felt generally and I’ve stayed with these basic exercises to try and keep in some shape. I considered joining a gym but with my schedule I’m generally out of the house at around 7am and often not back until late afternoon and sometimes later, I don’t want to compromise on my time with my girls so by the time I get any time to do anything it’s after 9pm most days so getting close to closing time for most gym’s. (I’ve since found a gym that I can use 24hrs a day which has made a huge difference!) It wasn’t long though before I started taking a bit more interest in what was available with regards to simple and relatively cheap equipment that could supplement my training and provide a different challenge. It was around this time that I found Kettlebells.
I have to say at this point that I’d never heard of kettlebells before and it seemed to me that such an uncomplicated and simple piece of equipment couldn’t be that difficult to master could it? I soon found out…
I made the leap and ordered my first kettlebell, a 16kg kettlebell and started to do some research in relation to using it as safely and effectively as I could. A great help to me at this time was Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamps book ‘The Kettlebell Bible’ which is a comprehensive reference book detailing the history and exercise science behind kettlebells as well as an exhaustive compendium of exercises that can be achieved using a kettlebell as well as a number of exercises that complement and support kettlebell training and use.
Like most people starting with kettlebells I focused on the Kettlebell Swing to start, a simple hip dominant snap swing, which seemed easy enough at the outset but which provides a really challenging cardio vascular and strength training workout without resorting to any other equipment and movements. The relative simplicity of the ‘snap’ movement required belies it’s effectiveness as a total body conditioning movement. It takes time to get it right though and it’s well worth taking time to pay attention to every part of the Swing process in particular the hip dominant aspect of the snap that creates the power in the movement.
Below is a video of Phil Scarito demonstrating the swing:
The mastery of the swing was a great leap forward for me and I was pretty much hooked from the start, I stuck with the swing and it’s variations using a single 16kg kettlebell for about a year and a half. During this time I realised that my kettlebel sessions were becoming more frequent and playing an increasing part in my regime.
If you’re new to Kettlebells, or even if you’re not I think that the best kettlebells available in the UK are those produced by Stan Pike. If you’re at all serious about doing anything with kettlebells then The Kettlebell Bible by Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamp is essential reading. It really is the only book you’ll need in relation to kettlebell training. An excellent condensed version has been published under the title Kettlebell Genesis which is another excellent book. Please note that I have absolutely no affiliation to either Stan Pike or Rob Beauchamp other than I’m a very satisfied customer. I’ve read almost all of the major publications relating to kettlebells and these are the best by a long way. You can see Stan and Rob’s products and publications here: Intense Fitness – Highest quality Kettlebells made in the UK.
(Next time a breakdown of the Swing and Moving on to Snatches and Cleans.)