Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

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Smart one you are.

Tricking Saga

A first glimpse at the movement matrix

Movement. 

It’s all the rage these days. We want to move naturally because somehow we’ve started to move…unnaturally? And so in our olden age, we’re out there crawling and rolling around like babies to hark back to our natural roots. We see babies squat, and we want to do that too. Babies know how to breathe, too! (We forgot how to do that as well. I’m holding my breath as I type this.)

Yeah, there’s a touch of sarcasm there. I don’t doubt we’ve somehow regressed from a movement standpoint, but I am such a wild navigator of the Internet to know that — surprise! — not all babies crawl. In fact, some say this whole “crawling” thing might be a relatively new thing.

Amazingly, babies of the Au hunter-gatherers of Papua New Guinea skip the crawling stage altogether. Instead, parents carry them everywhere– without any apparent ill effects. Tracer found that babies were carried upright in a sling 80 to 90 percent of the time, and on those rare occasions when mothers put them on the ground, they were propped up in a sitting position rather than placed on their stomachs. As a result, Au kids never learn to crawl, though they do go through a “scooting” phase of energetic “bottom-sliding.”

And Au kids are not alone. It’s the same in other traditional societies, such as in Paraguay, Indonesia, and Mali. Anthropologist Wenda Trevathan agrees that babies were probably rarely placed on the ground in the past and stresses how easily we can fall into the mythology of judging all human infants based on Western cultures.

- Source

So much for *ahem* “naturalness.”

Alas, the movement of movement continues. Movement itself is almost becoming a sport of sorts, and that’s something I’ve had a tough time wrapping my head around. Somehow I got mixed up in this whole world because I trick.

To be honest though: I trick. I don’t think of “movement” as some heavenly godsend or some duty of mine as a human being. I thought doing flips and stuff was cool, and so that’s what I do. I thought lifting weights was cool, and so that’s what I do. I thought gymnastics ring training was cool, and so that’s what I do.

I say this to remind you: don’t tangle your Schwartz.

If you want to move, then go ahead and move. I’m not going to judge you. But if you’re doing this “movement” thing to lead you to some kind of athletic greatness, you probably need to rethink things. As with most everything, some is good but more isn’t always better. You want to have some capacity for movement, but being a “movement specialist” means you can move, not that you have the capacity for any sort of skill.

This is something I think about a lot because I was once that dude that did everything under the sun to get better at tricking, save for actually tricking. This, I think, is why I suck at tricking so bad and why I’ve thought about it so much.

Below is a little matrix of things that go into a skill — things that I’ve found to be important, at least.

SKILL

1. PSYCHOVISTIBULAR =MENTAL ACUITY, BALANCE, KINESTHETIC SENSE, VESTIBULAR AWARENESS

2. MOVEMENT =RHYTHM, FLUIDITY, PRECISION, SPEED, CONSISTENCY, INTENSITY, AMPLITUDE

3a. NEUROMUSCULAR = TENSION [ RATE / MAGNITUDE / DURATION ], ELASTIC – FRICTION, STAMINA, SUPPLENESS, FLEXIBILITY, MUSCLE “COORDINATION”

3b. ENERGY SYSTEMS =LACTIC – ALACTIC – AEROBIC

For now, I’ll just pretend like I know what the words mean as I explain it a little bit.

I think it’s hierarchical, meaning that if the first bucket faults, the rest faults.

If you’re afraid, then the first bucket (psychovestibular) is out of whack. And if that’s out of whack, everything below it will be out of whack. I don’t care how high you can jump, if you can’t get over the fear of going backwards, you won’t be able to backflip. I don’t care how strong you are, if you can’t balance you won’t be able to express your strength.

Likewise, the bucket below psychovestibular is the movement buckets, which is based off of (*ahem* stolen from *ahem*) Kurt Mienel’s framework. For absolute execution of a skill, that bucket usually has to be solidified, too. You might not be afraid of a baseball, you might have your balance, and you might even be the strongest guy in the world, but if you can’t swing a baseball bat, you won’t be a very good ball player. That’s the second bucket, which is probably best paralleled with technique in any given skill.

The buckets below are important too, so don’t think I’m not saying that’s the case. In fact, I don’t know what I’m saying so maybe I’ll just leave it here for now. Hopefully this makes some sense to you, but the point of it all is that skills are skills and generally need some specialization.

Training for energy systems and strength or any of that stuff is below the importance of technique. Unless, of course, you aren’t strong enough to pick up the bat.

A Trickster’s Guide to Ankle Injuries and Strength

trickankle

In January of 2011, I broke my foot in five places during a fluke tricking accident. (Don’t bail tricks, kids. Never ends well. Your thoughts = your actions. Don’t tell yourself that things won’t end well mid-trick unless you want things to not end well.)

I was on crutches for longer than I want to remember. I was in an itchy cast most of that time, too. I still remember how tough it was for me to go to sleep every single day, as my foot throbbed with pressure against the tight shell of the plastered cast.

Now, if you know anything about me, you’d know that I’m an aggressive rehabber. I firmly believing starting movement as fast as possible after an injury. Despite my doctor’s orders, I was slowly easing weight onto my foot — even to the point of squatting a few days after getting casted. I was walking with a boot before my cast was even off, and I fully believe that my aggressive attack was one of the reasons I didn’t have a rebreak — something all too common with bone breaks in the foot.

(For those wondering, the problem with my foot now is a neuroma, and that developed about seven months after I was out of my cast after an Olympic weightlifting stint — one of the reasons I can’t really do much in the way of Olympic lifts anymore, and why I simply stick to aggressive pulls that are Olympic weightlifting-esque.)

Anywhooooo, despite all of the rehab I did with my cast on, my foot was still a limp noodle when the cast came off. I could barely walk, and I had no fine motor control down there. My foot slapped against the ground with every stride, much like a girlfriend slapping a boyfriend across the face. If you want an example of how bad things were, stand up. Shift your weight onto one leg, and lift the other in the air. You’re probably balancing on one leg just fine. Yeah, I couldn’t even do that for a millisecond.

Over the next month or so, I really entangled myself in rehab so that my foot would heal correctly. Since my ankle was casted, I was primarily looking at regaining ankle function, which led me down many avenues.

The entire time, I couldn’t help but think to myself: boy, this stuff could really help tricksters.

Dogen’s Titanium Ankle tutorial often floats around as the “go to” for ankle health among tricksters, but it’s really not even a scratch on the surface of true ankle health. I really wanted tricksters to understand the foot and ankle as I had come to understand them, because I thought it could prevent some injuries.

Just recently, I got around to putting my ideas down — how I rehabbed my foot — and spun it in a way that would benefit tricksters most. I filmed videos, took pictures, and created a neat little eBook. The entire process took a bunch of my free time, and I was originally was going to sell it. After all, paying some bucks for information on ankle injury prevention would be worth more than I’d likely even charge for it. We’re talking about not only tricking downtime, but also medical bill uptime. Even a simple copay for a lot of people in America can top $20-30.

But then I thought about the mission at hand. And then I thought about most tricksters, and thought back to when I was a Dragon Ball Z inspired kid doing insanely stupid things in my backyard in the name of tricking, most of which was only possible thanks to Jujimufu — a man willing to give a lot of his free time creating tutorials to help ambitious kids like myself.

And so that’s why I decided that, at least for now, to make A Trickster’s Guide to Ankle Injuries and Strength free. You only pay if you want to pay. You can grab it here via Gumroad (a new retail platform I’m experimenting with). Feel free to put in $0. If my writing has helped you in the past, and you want to donate some money, you put whatever number in the box you feel is right.

Either way, I hope this helps you. I simply ask that, from one trickster to the next, you let each other know about this.

This isn’t the ultimate ankle injury guide, but rather a reflection of my own experiences spun in a way that will benefit you from not only a rehab standpoint (dealing with pre-existing injuries and common treatments, like why you probably shouldn’t use the RICE technique), but also an injury prevention standpoint (there’s a strengthening program to follow). I’m pretty sure that you’ll come away with a different attitude after reading it, and that’s the goal.

Learning Muscle Building, Intermittent Fasting, and Tricking from a Modern Day Norse God

You can’t go wrong with big muscles, long blonde hair, and flash kicks. Chris Kunst — known as Tatsumaru to most — is the modern reincarnation of a Norse God. I’ve known him for a long time and wanted to get him in here to share his ideas.

He’s a fellow intermittent faster, trickster, and strength trainer. His physical transformation is inspiration for skinny kids around the world.

This interview is long, but I’m not going to apologize. Get a cup of coffee and read.

As Mario would say passing someone in Mario Kart, “Hewego” -

1. Can you first give us a little background about yourself?

My name is Chris, online most people know me under the alias of Tats or Tatsumaru — a video game character inspired nickname I picked in early 2004 when I signed up to the Tricks Tutorials Forums.

(Anthony note: Tricks Tutorials Forums no longer exist. I’m apart of a secret underground troop of people that are rebuilding these forums — which are about tricking, strength training, and randomness — for the greater good. You should be excited about this.) 

TT changed my life for the better, as it triggered my interest in training, nutrition and health – and that’s the stuff that keeps me busy on daily basis right now, having decided to study dietetics and all.

I am the author of Storm Tricks and have grown to become very passionate about tricking, strength training, nutrition, metal music and leading an awesome “alternative” lifestyle in general. I am a certified dietitian and am currently striving to combine that with the title of sports dietitian and personal trainer.

I basically enjoy helping people with the subjects close to my heart; training and health. That’s one of the main reasons I like working on my website; it’s a lot fun to help people, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it.

Tatsumaru Flash Kick

2. How and when did you find tricking?

I discovered tricking in early 2004 when a friend of mine (whom I got to know through a few Jiujitsu martial arts classes, which I do not take anymore) linked me to Jujimufu’s and Antoine’s “Scorch” summer 2004 sampler. (Video linked below.) I was fascinated; it completely blew me away. All the cool kicks, flips and twists being tossed by guys that actually looked awesome.

Being a scrawny, frail guy at the time, who was not very happy about his athletic capabilities – I was inspired to turn around my lifestyle in order to become a good tricker. I wanted a better body too.

I read through Tricks Tutorials relatively fast because I was so motivated and inspired. I soon realized all these things – nutrition, flexibility, strength training, rehab, getting an awesome body, etc. – all go hand in hand with becoming a more awesome athlete. I aspired to be one, and still do so to this day.

3. What do you think people need to know about you?

Hmmm, there’s nothing people really “need” to know about me. I’m just a guy passionate about the things he’s doing; training, living healthy and helping people. I am a solo trickster at heart and have a very strong sense of discipline, or a very strong “inner drive” if you will.

I see tricking, training and my general lifestyle as a gateway to becoming closer to a “dream image” of myself. “Becoming a favorite character of yourself”, so to speak. That’s one of the reasons I can keep on doing what I do and be very passionate about it.

I am largely motivated by following said dream images and they influence my life a lot. All of this makes me quite the oddball in social context and modern day society. But it’s what makes me unique in a way, and it has become a strength of mine.

 Tatsumaru Deadlifting

4. How and when did your love for strength training come about?

It rather grew together with my interest in tricking. I actually started getting into “fitness” slightly before I discovered tricking, because I wanted to become bigger. I’ve been a really skinny guy my whole life. I had no knowledge on the topic of growing bigger whatsoever though, just like most people who start out.

When I found out about tricking, I noticed that the people I looked up to the most were into strength training, and I soon realized that expanding my knowledge on the subject a bit would benefit me greatly. I also delved into all the related topics, like nutrition.

Once I started tracking progress – both physique and strength wise – I developed a big passion for strength training. It was another way to push myself and my body, and to shape it closer to the image of my “favorite character”.  The longer you are involved in strength training the more marginal your gains are, but for me every little bit of progress has always meant a lot. It’s like receiving a present you actually wanted.

5. Most people see tricking and are either baffled or scared. They would never fathom getting involved. What was it about tricking that made you say, “I want to do this?”

I was scared when I started tricking too! I crashed a spotted backflip on my face and didn’t dare to attempt any backward trick until a year later, haha.

Anyway, I basically wanted to do something different – I did not like “normal sports” much at all. I was also pretty unsatisfied with my life and didn’t have a lot to “drive” me.

Tricking opened my eyes and sucked me right in upon first discovery. It was new and fresh, exciting, daring, somewhat dangerous even… it was something I needed to make my life more interesting. That’s how I reflect upon it in hindsight. Back then, I guess I just wanted to do it because it looked freaking awesome. Again, in retrospect: I guess you could say tricking filled a certain void in my life.

Tatsumaru Tricking

6. How do you balance strength training and tricking?

It’s not hard at all for me. In mindset, I pretty much prioritize tricking. With that I mean; I care the most about tricking, my sessions and the video I am working for (solo samplers). It’s my main passion and drive. In certain phases my priorities may shift to strength training a bit more – such as having injuries which don’t allow me to trick to full(er) potential, or in the cold seasons when I can’t trick outside as much.

I really prefer grass sessions over gym sessions because I love using the outdoors in my videos. I still have gym sessions and good progress in times of winter though – sometimes even better than in summer, because plyo is an awesome surface to trick and learn on. This has been my general approach the past few years.

I try to combine both as effectively as possible – and I do not skip strength sessions. I love strength training. I kinda go about it like this:

In general, I have 3 strength sessions per week. I focus on compound movements and always incorporate basic essentials like presses, squat, deadlift and weighted chin ups. My training routine changes depending on my goals of course.

If I desire to drop bodyfat, I lower training volume and go for intensity. If I desire to go for a muscle building phase, my workouts are higher in volume. I change my nutrition accordingly.

I always keep a strength log and have some sort of program to follow. I am an organizer and planner, so I enjoy making my own schedules and playing around with new things from time to time. I feel it’s unnecessary to overhaul your routine every 6 weeks or whatever – but incorporating new elements definitely keeps things fun and fresh.

Tricking has always been a spontaneous thing for me; I do not really plan when I trick – unless it is a gym session of course – those being scheduled and all. If the weather is good, I can trick up to 3-5 times per week. I prefer short and “as fresh as possible” sessions; not tricking much longer than 30-60 minutes.

I try to get out when still somewhat fresh, as burning out each session really slows down recovery and I’ve find that to be detrimental to both tricking and strength training progress. Tricking is supposed to be a fun thing for me, and I get out when something just doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have a bad day and you shouldn’t fret too much about it. Leave, come back another day and try again.

I don’t necessarily split strength training and tricking days – IMO there’s no need for separation. (Anthony note: there is no separation.)If I feel I can trick on a strength training day, I just do that. It’s a mood- and time thing; I need to be in the mood to trick and I obviously need enough time. Like I said, tricking is mostly a spontaneous activity for me. If I feel good, I have the time, and the weather is calling me – I will head outside and go trick.

I do have a lot of goals written down for tricking though! I keep a tricking spell book  which basically functions as a logbook for my sampler. In it, I keep track of my sessions and rate them afterwards, I have written down both realistic and unrealistic tricking goals to strive for, etc. Before each session, I usually look up my spell book and write down a few things on my hand so I remember to try and play around with them during the session. They’re usually completely different things, because some days certain tricks just don’t work.

In general – I put a lot of thought and effort into all these things and thoroughly enjoy doing so. I believe that such an active mindset towards tricking/training can really benefit someone’s inner drive. Or maybe the inner drive is something that is unique to certain individuals – I don’t know haha.

I basically love spending so much thought on planning ahead my tricking and strength training. Working on solo samplers is one of the most fun things in life for me – one of my biggest drives. It’s what triggers my urge to trick often. I’ll be like “hey, if I get this combo to work – I’ll have something awesome to add to my sampler” – head out, and trick. And if I’m at work or unable to trick at the current time, I make sure to write it down and try it as soon as I’m able to trick!

 Tatsumaru Viking

7. How do you feel strength training has either helped or hurt your tricking from both a performance and injury standpoint?

Ah yes, interesting question. Strength training has both hurt and helped my tricking. I will explain, starting with HURT.

First off, I have concluded that doing Olympic lifts is not necessary for a regular trickster or guy into getting strong and buff. Duh? I wanted to be cool and do them too. I have gone through many injuries thanks to trying to do them (and increasing weights too fast)  – mostly minor ones and silly small annoyances mind you.

But still; they were minor injuries that would hinder or interfere with my tricking sessions. Staying with strength training basics, meaning; deadlifts, squats, a press, chins and dips – is a solid enough foundation and I’m much less likely to get injured then, I decided for myself. Tricking is injury prone enough as it is, so let’s stay as safe as possible during strength training haha.

Another HURT thing, is training too “hard” during fat loss phases. I wouldn’t cut down on volume enough, and I’d underfeed to realize fat loss of course – so in these times, tricking suffered due to under recovery. One thing I learned from these phases is this; if I want my tricking sessions to be successful, I need to compensate by reducing strength training volume. Rest is important too, and I tend to forget that at times. You can read more about this here in an article I wrote.

At times I wonder; how would my tricking be if I just tricked, like so many other tricksters? I don’t really have the luxury to a gym many days a week like a lot of awesome tricksters do, but what if I did? Does my “bigger” frame (I’m not huge but bigger than most trickers) hinder my tricking? The truth is; I’ll never know. And frankly, I don’t really care about it, since I love strength training anyway. When tricking is over for me (as in; the body cannot handle it anymore) I’m sure I’ll keep on weight training.

Now, how has it HELPED me? In a lot of ways, thankfully!

For one, strength training is partly like a bodily rehab to me. If I don’t do strength training, I get minor aches and annoyances. Proper strength training can be very therapeutic, I believe. I need it, and love doing it.

Besides that, it has helped me mentally. It improved my self-image; I look better, I feel better, I trick better. Strength training basically helps me get closer to my dream image, which I talked about before. I want to be a buff trickster – so through strength training (and proper nutrition, etc.) – I can achieve these goals. This is basically one of the most important things to me and really keeps me going.

And I also suppose that strength training has made me stronger, more explosive and all that, haha.

tats

8. Tell us one thing we don’t know about you.

There’s probably tons of things you don’t know about me haha! I am a terrible sleeper and this has probably robbed me of potential awesome gains. I recommend everyone to have good sleep habits  I’m still working on it after many years. The past few months I’ve been getting there. And I’ve been feeling much better.

9. Lately, you’ve gone to intermittent fasting as your primary nutritional strategy. Care to explain a bit about your current diet and training?

Yes, I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting for about 1.5 years now – having found out about it halfway 2011. It’s been one of the best things I’ve discovered nutrition-wise, and that’s also coming from someone who almost religiously ate 6 times a day, spread protein intake evenly, etc. etc. etc…

I don’t believe it’s for everyone, but a lot of people can benefit from it and I’d encourage everyone to at least try it, before criticizing it (although I can see why someone would – I’ve been there). It’s convenient, it’s healthy if done properly, and most of all – it’s fun as hell! I have come to love the big meals I get to consume.

I’ve experimented a bit with different IF approaches, but usually come back to Martin Berkhan’s classic Leangains approach (16 hour fast / 8 hour feeding window). I am quite flexible with my fast and often end up fasting longer than 16 hours – especially during fatloss phases I like increasing my fast-time and having 2 bigger meals instead of 3.

Currently I’m doing a lean bulk after a long fat loss phase. My strategies are the same though; caloric surplus on training days, and a deficit on rest days (a much smaller deficit than when dieting for fatloss of course!). In general; an enjoyable diet. I am quite an active person and bike a lot for transport, so can get away with eating a bit more, which is fun for me.

A higher protein intake is more crucial on rest days I believe; I like to eat at least 2-2.5 g/kg. Seeing as I’m in a caloric surplus on training days and muscle loss is not likely, I stress less about protein. I still try to hit 160-200 grams, and often end up higher anyway haha. I try to enjoy my carbs furiously on training days, seeing as I keep fat intake pretty low in general.

When dieting for fatloss, I believe there’s some benefits in going pretty lowcarb (<150 grams). For maintenance or bulk phases, I like to use 150-250 grams of carbs. An amount that keeps me sane and keeps the diet fun. On training days I go anywhere from 400-600 grams of carbs depending on how active I was that day.

I like training fasted whenever I can fit it into my schedule. I personally use BCAA’s for fasted training, but I do admit it’s more of a mental safeguard for me than anything. I eat my biggest meals after training; sometimes that’s a 1500 kcal meal, sometimes 2500 kcal, and very rarely it’s a one meal a day type approach where I go for 3000-3500 kcal. Those are challenging and shouldn’t be done too often, haha.

I’m a calorie counter myself, but only because it can be done very quickly nowadays, through handy calorie applications on smartphones and all. A rough estimate is what I go for anyway – I like steering my daily nutrition intake from there. I also like planning my meals ahead; I often think about my next post workout meal and look forward to it haha. Makes training even more fun and rewarding.

Don’t become too obsessed with that though; I’ve been there during an extreme cut-phase. I was basically living for my postworkout meal because I was lowcarbing too much and destroying my sanity through it. Don’t go there!

One other pitfall of IF I have developed personally, and I’d like to warn people about, is this: I have sometimes noticed I purposely do extra work so I can eat extra amounts. Simply because I really enjoy the meals I prepare haha. I advise people to not go there; it’s a danger zone!

Some final take away points. Prioritize protein intake. Eat tons of vegetables, they rule. Enjoy yourself at (social) eating/dining events and use the “caloric buffer” IF so easily provides well – it’s a great strategy to reduce damage. Experiment a lot with your meals and don’t eat bland stuff – IF can be fun as hell. Don’t stress too much about details – they do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Be active or productive during your fast. Plan ahead a bit, and learn to become a good nutrition improviser. Invest time in “knowing” foods. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re doing it wrong.

Tatsumaru Eating

10. To finish up, what advice would you give a beginning trickster from both a tricking and training point of view?

Set goals for yourself; something to drive you. If you want to get good at something and have found some sort of goal; learn about it and the subjects surrounding it.

For example; proper nutrition plays a huge (main) role in recovery, in what happens to your body (build muscle, lose fat), etc. – invest some time in learning about it, and put that knowledge to use! It will be worth it. Another example; learning an aerial. Maybe it’s dynamic flexibility you need to be working on, if you keep on crashing it because you don’t seem to be flexible enough. Spend some time reading how to effectively improve dynamic flexibility in that scenario! Oh, and put that knowledge to use again – otherwise it won’t help you much haha.

I’m really encouraging everyone to LEARN more OUTSIDE of the training sessions – never stop learning, wondering and questioning things! J Have a positive, curious and open mind!

Lastly, be patient. Progress takes time, and tricking has a steep learning curve. That’s why I would advise optimizing everything around tricking while working on tricks. Work on your flexibility, get your diet in check, read up on how to properly strength train and recover, etc. It might just have a very positive carry over effect to your tricks, and you might end up enjoying those “side subjects” very much! That’s how it went for me at least, hehe!

-

Thanks Tats. Was a pleasure.

Questions for Tats?

Drop ‘em below!

How to Start Tricking in 10 Easy Steps

It changed my life forever.

I had no formal experience. No martial arts training. No gymnastics training. No training facilities. No safety training.

Nothing.

Just a bed of grass and an itch to do some insanely cool shit.

Tricking—short for “martial arts tricking”—permeated my pores like poison. There was something about the aesthetic blend of flips, kicks, and twists that hypnotized me.

Most everyone sees tricking as this offshoot activity—something they would and could never get involved with. Maybe they think they’re not good enough. Maybe they’re afraid.

But everyone should trick. (You’ll learn a thing or two about yourself and the world, trust me.) Starting is easy; it’s not as scary or as tough as it seems. Just decide and dive.

This guide will show you how.

THE BACKYARD MINDSET – WHY TRICK?

Tricking is more than doing insanely cool shit. Sure, doing a cartwheel without hands is awesome, but it has a host of benefits:

  • It forces you to up your mobility and flexibility game.
  • It teaches you movement and how to orchestrate your body in a coordinated manner.
  • It replaces plyometrics. You can keep doing your depth jumps. I’ll be flipping, kicks, and twisting in the air – having fun and developing my physical abilities simultaneously.
  • It teaches you kinesthetic awareness. You don’t appreciate this until you land on your face unexpectedly though.
  • It trains you mentally. For every physical barrier you overcome, you overcome three mental barriers.
  • It teaches you how to visualize success and movement in your mind, which helps overall performance.
  •  It turns you into a backyard athlete.

All of this sounds wonderful. Right? But I know what you’re thinking…

“I don’t have any experience, so I can’t trick. It’s too dangerous!”

DO YOU NEED ANYTHING TO TRICK?

My brother once said that soccer was a good sport because all you need is shin guards, shoes, and a soccer ball to practice. Compared to other sports, that’s a pretty reasonable equipment list.

But tricking wins out, because you only need your bare feet and a bed of grass. Bad economy? Bad excuse.

(Going barefoot is more necessity than cosmetic. There’s something stimulating about having a strong sensory connection with the ground. Shoes not only slip, but also add unnecessary bulk. Most tricks benefit from less weight carried on the extremities.)

Despite what your intuition might tell you, you don’t need formal experience in martial arts, gymnastics, or acrobatics.

A lot of people—scrawny teenagers included—train for tricking with no experience. (I was one of them.) They are known as backyard tricksters.

And it’s actually better this way.

It forces you to be diligent and progressive. You take training for tricking just as serious as tricking, which means you’re more likely to take care of your body and not do anything too stupid.

Stupid I say?

But isn’t it all stupid and dangerous without experience?

IT’S TOO SCARY AND DANGEROUS, ISN’T IT?

From the outside, tricking seems scary. Very scary. Hell, I broke my foot tricking. Four out of five metatarsals. And an avulsion fracture of the big toe for icing.

But despite the absolute madness that can be witnessed in some YouTube videos, the reality is that everyone starts out at the same, novice, clueless step.

Everyone stretches. Everyone practices the basics. Everyone has a little fear. Everyone crashes. Everyone gets a few bumps. Everyone gets some souvenir scars.

Tricking isn’t a bungee jump; it’s a set of stairs. You don’t suddenly extend beyond your comfort zone.

Tricking can and should start basic.

Everyone can benefit from basic. Learning how to do forward rolls, backward rolls, handstands, cartwheels, and other tumbling skills is something that should be on everyone’s “to learn” list for life fitness let alone tricking.

If there’s an underrated skill, it’s being able to break yourself from a fall or rolling end over end. And if you want a quick and dirty test of athleticism, do a cartwheel with straight legs. Few things intertwine mobility, flexibility, coordination, and kinestheic awareness quite like it.

Want to know how I — a skinny-fat kid with absolutely no experience — started tricking?

With the kip-up—the most innocent trick in existence. Here’s a little story about my beginnings:

Voluntarily concussing yourself is a strange behavior at the age of thirteen. But I’d just discovered “tricking,” and I wanted in. The kip-up was the gateway. It had minimal injury risk (my head would reveal otherwise…), low equipment needs (a carpeted floor was all), and was said to be “simple.”

(But when you’re first learning, nothing is simple. Or so you come to find out…)

And so every day after school I practiced. And every day after school, I got the wind knocked out of me. But I kept trying. Day after day. I wanted this trick.

About one month later, my friend Tyler landed the kip-up. Then Jeff landed it.

I was a loner.

My skinny-fat self struggled. I was self-conscious too. I wore two shirts when we practiced as a group. The undershirt was tucked in. I didn’t want anyone to see my stomach. (Skinny-fat woes.)

But slowly out of this sole trick, obsession was born. Life went on hold.

A few friends stayed over my place in tenth grade to work on a school project. Ten minutes into things we ditched the school work and practiced kip-ups. We hung out every week, and no matter the circumstances, we practiced. We even threw tricks on a slanted driveway in the winter.

Dangerous?

Absolutely.

But we didn’t care. We just engrossed ourselves in tricking and we wanted to get better.

This was my “childhood.” This is what brought me into the fitness space. And this is why tricking integral part of my life.

THE BASIC (AND NOT SCARY) TRICKING FITNESS ELEMENTS

Since tricking is sister to gymnastics and brother to martial arts, it borrows a lot of skills from both of these disciplines.

  • Flexibility plays a huge role in tricking. Not just from an ease of performance standpoint, but also from a cosmetic standpoint. Although tricking holds philosophical meaning to some, it’s still rooted in creating visually stunning movement. The crisper, flashier, and aesthetically pleasing trickster will always be better than someone of equal (or greater) talent that has sloppy technique. In the tricking world, the former person would be referenced as having “clean” tricks.
  • I should note, however, that technique is also largely individual. Unlike gymnastics and other formal sports, tricking thrives on the incorporation of personal style and flare. Points aren’t deducted for doing things differently, and in some instances, it’s encouraged. This makes tricking a breath of fresh air as it allows for true self expression.
  • The type of flexibility needed for tricking is called dynamic flexibility. Dynamic flexibility is the ability to actively move a muscle about its joint, which is different than the standard sit-and-reach-esque stretching you’re likely familiar with.
  • Sinking into a stretch and holding one position for an extended period of time is known as static stretching. Although static stretching can benefit dynamic flexibility and subsequently tricking, dynamic flexibility is the priority. (Especially to prevent hamstring and groin pulls on kicking tricks.)
  • Basic kicking ability is important. The martial arts roots are what separate tricking from most other forms of freestyle acrobatics. Keep in mind, however, you don’t have to be a martial artist to trick. Most tricksters teach themselves the basic martial arts kicks, such as front kicks, side kick, hook kicks, and crescent-style kicks.
  • Reactive ability, although not necessary from the start, is a key component of tricking. Being explosive and quick on your feet defines a good trickster. Unlike most other characteristics, however, this usually develops naturally over time by virtue of the progressive nature of the sport. Training for it separately can overtax the body and put your priorities in the wrong place.
  • Mental strength is the unsung hero among the clam and clatter. Although tricking is hugely physical, the high flying moves are only made possible if fear can be tamed. The first hurdle is usually the backflip, although moves become ever more complex over time. The mental battle never really ends.

It’s the perfect cherry on top of training to be a backyard athletic badass.

LEARNING THE BASIC TRICKING CLASSES

Watching tricking videos on YouTube is deceiving. Everyone is out to showcase their best, wildest stuff. But it’s much “easier” when tricks are  broken down into their classes.

Although the logistics aren’t written in stone, there are a few basic categories that each trick falls into. Each category has “basic” tricks that serve as the starting point and gateway for more advanced tricks.

Aerial-based tricks are no-handed cartwheel-esque tricks. The earliest progression in this category is the two handed cartwheel itself. After two handed cartwheels become comfortable, one hand is used. From there, speed and crispness are emphasized while trying to ditch both hands.

Kicking-based tricks separate tricking from the rest of extreme underground sports. This category starts with the tornado kick and 360 crescent kick. With the addition of twists and subtleties, these moves turn into the 540 and the 540 hook/crescent (sometimes called a cheat 720 kick).

Twisting-based tricks borrow unique moves from Wushu, specifically the butterfly kick and twist. Eventually, however, twisting elements weasel into nearly every trick.

Flipping-based tricks start with the backflip and frontflip, although the backflip is much more important. Of all categories, flips are the most mentally taxing. Like twisting, however, flipping tricks make their way into a lot of more advanced moves. It’s important to conquer fear of flipping early to ensure smooth progress.

Other tricks that don’t necessarily fit into the above categories also make their way into the sport. Some from other forms of martial arts, others from different forms of acrobatics. For instance, one of the basic tricks, the doubleleg, has roots in capoeira.

HOW TO START TRICKING IN 10 STEPS

Advanced tricking techniques appear daunting, but the beauty of tricking is its progressive nature. By starting at the bottom, you rarely extend beyond your comfort zone. Don’t forget: all it takes is one sunny day to get going.

Here are some suggestions for starting:

  • First, simply stretch outside on a warm day. Remove your shoes and feel the grass in between your toes. Start off with some dynamic stretching: front leg lifts, back leg lifts, side leg lifts, trunk rotations, and arm swings. This will warm-up the hips enough to start practicing basic martial arts kicks like the hook kick, inside crescent kick, and outside crescent kicks. (See my Tricking Inspired Warm-Up.)
  • Second, do some locomotor exercises in your workouts like bear crawls, inch worm walks, and other things that get you used to unconventional training.
  • Third, incorporate some basic tumbling in your workouts. Forward rolls, backward rolls, shoulder rolls, handstands, and all of these goodies will prepare you for chucking your body through space in a slightly unconscious manner.
  • Fourth, study videos online to fully understand form. There are great resources out there. Tricks Tutorials has been a mainstay of great information and walkthroughs. Trick Training is my second website that might be worth taking a look at too, but it will eventually be merged with the lovely website you’re reading now.
  • Fifth, work on your basic kicks. Juji has some great tutorials and videos about dynamic flexibility on his website. You’re looking for the inside and outside crescent kicks. (Note: There are also hook kicks and roundhouse kicks. I suggest either picking crescent style — straight leg — or hook/round style — bent leg — for starters. Don’t overload yourself. Once you learn one set the other set is easier to learn anyway.)
  • Sixth, find a friend. It’s always funner with a friend.
  • Seventh, dive into your acrobatic side and throw some cartwheels, tornado kicks, and 360 crescents. These moves are the foundation, and fear shouldn’t be much of an issue. Don’t dismiss their importance. For some people, builds the confidence needed to advance.
  • Eighth, get serious. Go to the tutorials section of Tricks Tutorials. Print out the following: 360 Crescent and Tornado Kick. Might as well grab the aerial while you’re there as cartwheels will be feeling easy. Practice these things a few times every week. Video tape yourself and evaluate your form against others. Pause the video to check your body position. Really analyze things.
  • Ninth, (this occurs simultaneously with eight), develop a stretching routine. Dynamic stretch every morning. Static-passive stretch nightly. Do whatever static-passive stretches help both splits. Pick one or two stretches per big muscle group. While you’re at it, grab my kip-up tutorial. Practice it daily.
  • Tenth, stretch, land the  kip-up, land the other basics. Become addicted.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps the most beneficial reason to start tricking has nothing to do with anything physical. Tricking transforms you to become a backyard athlete. You learn how to evaluate your form. Fix your own mistakes. Train for yourself. Train by yourself.

Most importantly, it’s all about you. It’s such a young sport that a lot of it is self-discovery. There are no guru to yell at you. It’s just you. Whatever works for you…well..works for you. No one is there to berate you or tell you otherwise. No one is there to force you down a certain path.

And then you share your findings with your friends!

This is the best part about tricking: everyone accepts that everyone is different and that different things work for different people. Imagine if the fitness industry took that mentality! (One can only dream…)

With tricking, you discover your own potential.

Tricking changed my life.

Will you let it change yours?

Learn How to Jump Higher…While Flipping Upside Down (Another Free eBook)

You learn a lot suspended in mid-air with your head closer to the ground than any other body part.

To some, doing flips, kicks, and twists — the wonderful thing we call “tricking” — in the air is “crazy.” Maybe even superhuman.

But, truly, tricking is humbling.

Because no matter how much of an expert you are, there’s always a chance of failure. There’s always a chance of having a mental lapse and crashing. There’s always a chance of breaking five bones in your foot.

I’m lucky to have grown up with tricking. It was a baby when I found it (still is, really). Part of me wants to admit that tricking has taught me more about fitness, athletics, psychology, and philosophy than any book could. And these are things that—I want to say—I would never find in a book. Even though I probably could. But at this point in my life I’m not sure I would even read it even if I found it.

Eckhart Tolle once said, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” For me, “life” should be replaced with “tricking” in that sentence. The cliffnotes of this evolution would look something like:

  • Tricking helped me understand the value of “play” over competition.
  • Tricking helped me understand movement. So when I’m rolling around, stretching my hip flexors, and hanging out in squat, I’m doing it because I know what it’s like to have movement stolen from you. It isn’t fun.
  • Tricking helped me understand the relationship between specific strength movements and specific athletic movements.
  • Tricking helped me understand skill acquisition by trying to learn tricks on the non-dominant side.
  • Tricking helped me understand and embrace failure. You can say it was a painful learning experience, as “failure” often means scraping yourself from the grass. But if you’re afraid of trying new techniques, you won’t learn.
  • Tricking helped me understand sharing experimental findings with a community, even if they weren’t universally applicable. They weren’t really expected to apply to everyone because everyone had different preferences, proportions, and peculiarities.
  • Tricking helped me understand the relationship between strength training and athletics. Most strength work requires tension. Most sports require relaxation. Imagine swinging around chain links as opposed to cracking a whip. So it’s important to hop back and forth between mentalities, never letting one get too dominant in the other’s world.

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m excited to say that I’m officially launching Trick Training. The website you’re on now, AnthonyMychal.com, will continue to be updated regularly, so don’t worry about that. This place remains a safe haven for my brain’s scribbles on general athletic fitness pursuits, nutrition, and all of that fun stuff. Perhaps in the future, it will be a bit more personal and even showcase some food shenanigans I get myself involved into. (What do you know, I happen to have a sweet video of the likes below!)

Trick Training is a specific hub for those that want to learn about basic tricking and training for tricking. I’m still a little unsure about how I’m going to bridge the gap between the two websites, but I’m sure I’ll figure that out as I go. All that I know is that I had some trick-specific bits that I felt I needed to do justice to and that turning this place into a full blown tricking town wasn’t the way to go.

One of those tricking bits is how the vertical jump, and jumping higher in general, relates to better tricking. (Or does it?) With other (bad) programs out and about, I wanted to throw my own opinion out there in hopes that tricksters can continue to train safely and injury free and learn the role of the vertical jump in tricking. (More on this soon…)

Since Trick Training is a brand new website, there’s a brand new update service. Just like on AnthonyMychal.com, if you throw in your e-mail you get access to:

  • Absolutely free website updates, so you never miss a post.
  • Early releases of premium content (as I did with The 242 Method and The Myth of HIIT).
  • Catching Air: The Truth About Developing, Using, and Transforming the Vertical Jump for Sky High Tricks

Catching Air is yet another free eBook I’m shooting out into the world. (This is the third one so far, if you’re keeping count.) It’s about the vertical jump as it relates to tricking, and what’s inside may surprise you. It’s absolutely free and given as a perk for signing up for free updates.

So if you’re interested in tricking, or perhaps any of the content that might appear on trick training, here’s what you should do:

1) Sign-up for the newsletter and get your free copy of Catching Air (CLICK HERE for direct access to the sign-up page).

2) Throw the RSS feed into your reader (if you’re into that sort of thing)

3) Like it on Facebook.

That should be enough to keep you in the loop.

And if it’s not something you’re interested in, that’s cool too. I respect that, which is why AnthonyMychal.com will still kick it regularly.

I’m glad you’re here, and I hope to see you over at my second home, Trick Training.

Thanks for the support everyone.

Become Superhuman – Learn How to Backflip in Less than Thirty Minutes

The backflip is a whore. It’s appealing until you find out how easy it is to take advantage of. And if you’re dilligent, the whole “taking advantage of” thing won’t take longer than thirty minutes of solid practice.

You don’t need a massive vertical jump. You don’t need freak strength. You just need technical knowledge, friends, and cojones.

So take some action. Your path to superhuman awaits.

TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE

Before you think about flipping end over end, have a mental plan. Know the technical aspects of the backflip. Study this tutorial from Jujimufu. Understand the move from every angle possible.

It isn’t about jumping backwards, I can tell you that. Don’t do that unless you’re looking for a disability check in the mail.

Memorize the technique and  visualize yourself performing it perfectly. Onward.

FRIENDS

Find two able body friends. Disinterested Mothers and Fathers aren’t ideal. Not only aren’t they the strongest candidates, but they also aren’t big fans of perceived potential neck breaking activities. (Even though the backflip is rather safe, especially when using this technique.)

So get two people that are strong enough to carry you. And then teach them how to backflip. Force them to read the tutorial. Discuss it over coffee. They are your safe net. It’s your responsibility to get people you know and trust to help you do this safely.

COJONES

With backflips, there are no prerequisite fear abolishers. It’s kind of a “just do it” move.

Using a spotter is a great idea. But even then, you still have to muster the courage to chuck the flip. Luckily, I have a fool proof method that will have you flipping within a half hour using your two volunteer friends. They take away the fear, which is why this technique is so effective.

STEP ONE

Have a spotter on each side—one to the left, one to the right. Have them put one hand on your lower back and the other on your hamstrings. From here, have them lift you up so that your legs don’t touch the ground. (It looks like you’re sitting in a chair.)

None of your body is touching the ground, which why you need strong spotters.

Extend your hands over your head. Have the spotters lean your body back so that your hands touch the ground, and once they do, tell them to throw your legs over your head.

This is an extremely spotted back handspring — not ideal, but it gets you familiar with the feeling of going backwards.

Repeat this  step until you’re comfortable with the process — it shouldn’t feel “scary.”

STEP TWO

Add a small dip and jump to the processes of Step One.

Have the spotters latched onto your lower back and hamstrings at all times. But instead of having them lift and toss you, provide a little leg push from the ground as you extend your arms up and over your head.

The spotters still end up supporting you in mid air and tossing your legs over your head.

Keep your arms extended above your head during the entire movement to support against the ground if needed.

STEP THREE

Step three is the same as two, except with more leg drive.

Instead of keeping the arms extended above your head, swing them down and up with your jump. (Last step was all leg push, this step integrates arms into the jump.)

Again, spotters cradle the entire movement and essentially “hold” you. There’s no need for fear.

Because you’re using more leg drive, you’ll get more height. Stop putting your hands on the ground during this step.  So after they swing up for the jump, keep them near your head for personal peace of mind. But after realizing you’re no where near landing on your head, try to make the movement smoother.

Abandoning the arms teaches you to jump up and not back. Using the hands at first is fine for the fear. But the backflip is a jump up in the air. So getting into the jump back habit isn’t good. The earlier you ditch it, the better off you are.

STEP FOUR

More jump and more arm swing. Focus on jumping up and actively tucking your legs to your chest on the flip. Don’t use, or even think about using, your hands for support. Don’t use them for “protection.”

If your spotters made it this far, you’re not going to land on your head. They still cradle the entire movement.

Swing your arms down, swing them back up, jump up, and tuck our knees to your chest.

STEP FIVE

The spotters remain, but their role decreases. They still support your lower back and hamstrings, but they should only flip your legs over your head after you initiate the jump and flip.

You really want to focus on doing the flip yourself.

Dip, swing your arms down (warn your spotters that you’ll likely hit their arms), and jump in the air. You should be landing your flip, and your friends should be helping less and less with every go.

STEP SIX

From a physical standpoint, your spotters are ghosts. Their arms are only contacting your body to give you a mental edge. They are spotting still, yes, but only if you decide to bail mid-flip.

Groove some backflips. When you stick them consistently, have your spotters remove the constant contact on your hamstrings. The lower back support stays.

Your spotters should help flip your legs over if needed, but the goal of this stage is to remove one of the physical contacts.

STEP SEVEN

Remove one spotter.

The remaining spotter keeps a hand on your lower back throughout the movement. The other spotter will be there, but with no body contact, helping only if needed.

STEP EIGHT

Both spotters will spot, but neither has pre-takeoff contact with your body.

STEP NINE

Remove one spotter completely. Keep the other on whichever side is most comfortable without pre-takeoff contact.

STEP TEN

Remove both spotters.

You are now free.

CONCLUSION

There’s something comforting and calming when both your lower back and hamstrings are supported with a spotter. It’s a safety net that mentally signifies someone being there to catch you. And with two people, it makes it much safer.

And if that isn’t convincing enough, here’s a silly video of myself from years ago landing one of my first backflips:

So what do YOU say? Are you going to try it? Do you have the friends? The cojones?

Are you going to take one step closer to superhuman?

I’d love to hear what you think, so drop some questions below.

-

Photo Credit: Mitch Lee of Fresh Fox Apparel

 

Become Superhuman – Learn How to Kip-Up

You consider yourself an athlete. I get it. Regularly showing up at the gym and moving some heavy things isn’t exactly easy. I know, I know.

But, really, how athletic is a squat? A deadlift? Now a clean and jerk or a snatch is a different story. Mark Rippetoe once said that a snatch is gymnastics with a barbell, and for good reason. But with the traditional lifts, how athletic do you need to be?

Anyone from a neighborhood computer programmer to a professional athlete can learn the basic barbell exercises. A cartwheel, though? Different story.

Hitting the gym isn’t making you athletic if you’re all about squatting, deadlifting, and benching. What’s that doing for your movement capacity? Your coordination?

By all means, keep getting bigger and stronger. There’s something to be said about a big guy that can move well. And if you want to be that guy—that superhuman feeling kind of guy—start here.

A BIT OF TRICKING HISTORY

In 2001, I came across “tricking,” which is a mesh between martial arts and gymnastics. Back then, it was a small group of teenagers jumping, kicking, and flipping in their backyards. No equipment. No shoes. No formal training.  No safety precautions.

Not exactly parentally advised stuff.

Although tricking seems chaotic, there are foundational movements from gymnastics and martial arts. Things like cartwheels, kip-ups, handstands, and rolls are gateway drugs for tricksters.

Call me crazy, but I incorporate some of these movements into my “regular” training routine, as discussed in The Jackedthlete. You never really forget where you came from, right?

It’s amazing what a cartwheel reveals about someone. Are they coordinated? Are they confident? Are they mobile?

We are on the dawn of a new training age. Nothing is static anymore. It’s about movement patterns that intertwine flexibility, mobility, and coordination.

Of the skills mentioned above, the kip-up is the flashiest to the Average Joe. It’s a total body explosive movement that uses the arms, abs, and legs, requiring flexibility, mobility, and coordination. If that doesn’t catch your attention, perhaps being on par with Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee will.

HOW TO KIP-UP

The kip-up is the quintessential way for a martial artist to rise after being knocked down. Generally, it’s done lying face up on the ground with the hands next to the head. The legs kick in the air and hook underneath of the body to land in a standing or squatting position.

Before trying your luck with these, understand a few things. First, expect sore abs. Second, warm-up. A few rollovers, wrist rotations, fingers pulls, and neck work do the trick (see video). Third, crashing is expected. Especially on your back. Land gently. Fourth, you won’t land this on your first try. Many won’t land it within the first week. Or month. Or months. (It took me five months, I think.) Don’t get discouraged. Fifth, have fun.

Step #1:  Initial Position

legs bentarmreach1
Lay flat on the ground with the palms of your hands next to your head. Knees can be straight or bent at 90°. If lacking wrist mobility, tilt your body to the side to position your palms flatter.

Step #2:  The Chamber
chamber1chamber2

The next step is the chamber. Bring your legs off of the ground and towards your head so that your weight is on your mid-upper thoracic area. Don’t shortchange the chamber; it’s what provides the recoil and explosion. Think of it as the dip right before a vertical jump.

Step #3:  The Kick

kick1

Welcome complication. Once chambered, kick your legs straight in the air towards the sky. Pick a spot that’s directly above your eyes so that you have a target. The harder and faster you kick at the target, the easier it will be.

People go wrong because they kick out and not up. This is the only chance you have to get height. Everything goes up.

Step #4:  The Push
push1
The kick is the powerhouse, but the arms are important too. The timing is what makes the move difficult. The arm push happens after the momentum from the kick propels you in the air. Press off after the kick in one small explosive burst.

Step #5:  The Hook

hook1hook2

To this point, everything was vertical. The hook, however, brings the body around so that you land on your feet.

Immediately after the arm push, hook the legs underneath your body and violently raise your torso upright.  At first, your hook will be out of sync and you’ll land on your back. As you get better, your feet will hit first, but you won’t have enough momentum to stand. Eventually, you’ll land in a deep squat.

Hello mobility work.

Step #6:  Stand Up
squat1

finish2 Well, stand up.

MAKING IT EASIER

Before you spam the comments with questions about prerequisite strength and power numbers, know this: there are none. When I learned this, I was an out of shape teenager.

Coordinating the movements is key. More is never better, so I’m apprehensive with this tip. But if you’re struggling, try rolling into the chamber from a standing position to give yourself extra momentum.

MAKING IT CLEANER

Tricking is an aesthetic blend of flips, kicks, and twists. Looks matter. Making a trick flawless is known as making it clean. To make your kip-up clean, land as upright as possible—preferably standing.

To land standing, abandon the hook. Instead, hollow after the kick. Squeeze the glutes and arch  the lower back. When the feet hit the ground, use your abs to stabilize the torso and keep the body upright.
hollow1hollow2hollow4

LOOK MA, NO HANDS

The next progression is learning the no handed kip-up. It’s much more difficult, however, because the timing changes. Everything needs more speed and precision to cover for the decreased air time.

Since the hands are taken out of the movement, the head is responsible for the last push off the ground. So beware: your neck will take a beating. Warm-up and expect soreness. Here are the adjustments when going to no hands:

nohand1nohand3nohand4
#1: Synchronize the arms and legs. They mimic each other through the entire motion. They rise together, chamber together, and push together.

nohand5
#2: Your neck becomes your arms. In the regular kip-up, the hands push right after the kick. In the no hand kip-up, the neck pushes after the arms and legs fly in the air.

nohand6 nohand8

#3: Aim for the tip toes. Forget about landing straight up. Height is scarce, so plan to land in a deep squat position on your tip toes. Hook extra hard.

KIP-UP CONCLUSION

The kip-up is a great athletic move that can be used in any training program. Mesh it with other skills to form badass combinations. How about a clapping pushup, to groiner, to kip-up, to vertical jump? Or a kip-up to the knees followed by a forward rolling kip up?

It’s not only a gateway to tricking, but also a gateway to both training and fun. It’s not totally superhuman. But it’s a damn good start.

 

 

Photo Credit: Nanna Ward

The Best Tricking Inspired Warm-Up

Being a trickster, flexibility is kind of a big deal. Before foam rolling’s conception, us tricksters used a sensible warm-up that increased dynamic flexibility and, quite simply, did the trick. Get it? Trick? …Well? Yeah, I kill myself. (The beauty of the blog—informal writing lulz.)

Since then, new age warm-up tactics like soft tissue work have taken center stage. And it seems like some sort of activation drill is needed for every muscle the body because apparently they’re napping at all hours of the day. Whatever. Nothing, nothing, beats the warm-up routine that I’ve cultivated over the past ten years. But be warned: no foam rolling allowed.

A NOTE ON FOAM ROLLING AND SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASE

In the grand scheme of fitness, foam rolling is a baby. And a misunderstood one at that. While I think it can be useful, there are issues with using it as a warm-up tool.

Foam rolling doubles as a massage by sliding around soft tissue. Pressure is added on “hot spots” to break up supposed adhesions, freeing junky tissue to physiological paradise. This all sounds great in theory. But the mechanism behind meaningful massages lies in how touch and pressure mingle with the pain receptors in the body.

There are two main pain receptors: a dull one and a sharp one. The dull one is responsible for most chronic pain. Your aching knee is sent signals from these dull receptors and, what do you know, your knee ends up hurting. Most massage, by contrast, activates the sharp pain receptors by virtue of pressure. Activation of sharp pain receptors inhibits the dull pain receptors. So the momentary intense pain bullies the chronic dull pain, forcing a retreat.

There are a few issues here:

  • Dulling much of anything before a workout isn’t a good idea. Didn’t static stretching get the ax because of this?
  • It’s masking pain by creating pain. So it’s not really fixing much, it’s just blanketing the problem.
  • It’s ignoring the fact that you’re in pain. Pain rarely blossoms for the fun of it. So by inhibiting it, you might be doing harm during your workout without knowing it.

So foam roll if you want to. But not during a warm-up.

TRICK SPECIFIC WARM-UP

Although the origin of this warm-up is rooted in tricking (martial arts, gymnastics, tumbling), it’s adapted into a generalized total body mobility routine. But beware: you may develop Chuck Norris-like kicking ability.

If your dynamic flexibility sucks, I recommend doing a “mini” routine every morning. Do both the first and second tier before breakfast (or while coffee brews). Not only will it wake you up and skyrocket your flexibility, but in just ten minutes you prime your body for an entire day of activity, greatly reducing warm-up time before scheduled trainings.

FIRST TIER WARM-UP

The first tier of the warm-up is a total body fun fest of joint rotations. Work from head to toe, moving each joint about its range of motion. This can be back and forth, side to side, in circles, whatever. Just move them all a few times each direction through their range of motion so they loosen up and lubricate. This shouldn’t take more than two minutes.

  • Neck in all directions
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Flex and extend elbow
  • Rotate the wrists
  • Circle the hips
  • Circle the trunk
  • March
  • Butt kick
  • Ankle rotations

SECOND TIER WARM-UP

Working from head to toe again, the second tier tests total body dynamic flexibility.  It need not be exhaustive. In fact, stopping at max stretch is an important facet of the warm-up. Stimulate. Don’t fatigue.

Beginners will need more sets and more reps. Start at two to three sets of eight to twelve reps. But once you develop the flexibility, only one will be needed to maintain.

  • Arm swings in every direction
  • Arm circles
  • Light trunk twists
  • Standing side bends
  • Side arm throws
  • Front leg raises
  • Back leg raises
  • Side leg raises (pending good form)

If you aren’t a martial artist in any capacity, side leg raises will be funky. It’s OK to omit them and substitute them with active side split reaches, but if you’re feeling ambitious, give the side leg raises a try. Just remember two things: the base leg points in the opposite direction of the leg lift and the edge of the lifting foot should be parallel to the ground.

Now, if I were tricking, I’d do more kick-specific drills, but this suffices for most everyone not risking their joints in an orgasm of acrobatics.

THIRD TIER WARM-UP

The third tier, if used, consists of light activation exercises. So hit a set of scap pushups, bird dogs, and maybe cossack squats to further wake things up if you feel so compelled.

For those that are doing some intense athletic activity, I highly recommend an ankle specific warm-up be done here.

Think of the third tier as bridging the gap between a general warm up and a specific warm up.

FOURTH TIER WARM-UP

The fourth tier brings the specificity. So if you’re lifting weights, hitting some calisthenics and then moving into the barbell is perfect. But if you’re about to leap over a building in a single bound, things get a little tricky. Yes, I used “trick” as a pun again. Winning.

Start with bunny hops or jumping jacks, working primarily at the ankle. Transition into tuck jumps for a few reps. Again, don’t fatigue yourself. And now is also a good time to use any off the wall nervous system wake up tactics like seizure hops.

Finish off with a James-Smith-The-Thinker inspired skipping sequence: butt kicks, a-skips, high knees, b-skips. Do each skip for 5-10 yards, once or twice.

FIFTH TIER WARM-UP

The fifth tier warm-up is for those going on to practice a high intensity event seriously. In this case, the warm-up needs to be very specific to the event. So if you’re sprinting, do some build-ups. If you’re throwing, do some low intensity throws. If you’re tricking, do some basic tricks.

There aren’t many guidelines for this tier. Just go until you feel great.

VIDEO COMPASS

CONCLUSION

While this warm-up may not be revolutionary, it sure is damn efficient. To create the best scenario for flexibility, do tier one and two every morning when you’re starving for caffeine. You will be rusty and tight at first. Just keep with it. Also be sure to stop any warm-up drill before fatigue sets in. The last thing we need is to be tired before doing anything meaningful.

YOU?

You know how I do it here, drop your suggestions, love, and hatred below. Additions? Subtractions? How would you structure it differently? Do you like hot sauce? Does it give you as much gas as it gives me?

An Interview With Former Trickster and Current Olympic Weightlifter, Clarence Kennedy

On January 12, 2009, a fellow by the name of Clarence Kennedy posted a YouTube video that showcased some decent tricks and a rugged looking 90kg clean. But that rugged 90kg — in just two years — transformed into a swift and powerful 150kg. In three years? 182kg. And his tricks, even though he doesn’t practice them regularly, aren’t too shabby either.

Coming across someone with baffling athleticism, grace, speed, strength and coordination is rare. Since I had some ties with Clarence, I had to get him in here for an interview. Enjoy.

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Q: I was introduced to you through tricking and, originally had no idea you lifted weights. Can you give us a background of where you came from and how you got involved with Olympic Weightlifting? How long you’ve been doing it? 

A: I got into Olympic Weightlifting through tricking. I wanted to increase my vertical jump and heard that Weightlifters had good verticals and sprint times so I gave it a go. And, well, I loved it so I kept doing it. Eventually, I found myself pulling away from tricking to focus on it. I’ve been doing it for three years now.

Q: Tricking isn’t exactly the most mainstream of activities, how did you find it?

A: Through Parkour and Freerunning.

Q: What made you want to trick?

A: Both Parkour and Freerunning are limited by space and environment. Tricking can be done almost anywhere without special shoes (or without any shoes), gym memberships, and lessons. It’s 100% free. And no one is going to care about making money from it. Everyone just does it for fun. It’s nice being a part of a community with that mentality. Weightlifting, unfortunately, is different.

Q: You say that you’re an Olympic Weightlifter first and foremost, yet you’re still a skilled trickster. How do you walk the line between the two, as most tricksters have trouble doing this? 

A: I don’t. I only do Olympic Weightlifting now. It’s almost impossible to be great at two sports. I wasn’t progressing much when I did both.

Q: You’re strong. Very strong. Can you tell us how you train now?

A: I train at least once per day, every day. My main focus is back squatting. I find it the easiest exercise to do, and it increases my other lifts without even doing them. Usually I’ll do the classical lifts five times per week along with power variations, always shooting for a 1RM. This varies as I like to try different ways of training if I’m stagnant. But I almost always squat daily.

Q: Are you as crazy with your nutrition as you are training? Follow any special principles or do you just eat “normal?”

A: I eat a high protein diet with lots of different meat and fish. I drink at least two liters of milk every day. Lots of eggs too. And some supplements. I cheat sometimes but I never drink, smoke, party, or get involved with that stuff. So it’s not “normal,” but being normal is the biggest disease in the world.

Q: Do you think tricking has somehow helped your Olympic Weightlifting, or vice versa? I talk about how tricking, tumbling, and gymnastics develops spatial awareness. Does this help when you’re freefalling under the bar?

A: Tricking has definitely helped with Olympic Weightlifting in terms of flexibility and, yes, spatial awareness. Tricking taught me that you don’t learn anything without trying it hundreds of times. It’s the same with most things in life.

Q: Olympic Weightlifters cream over shoes. What are your favorites? And what do you think of the New Adipower’s and Romaleos’s in light of the upcoming Olympics?

A: Well, I’ve only worn two pairs in the Adistars and Ironwork. But in my opinion, Adidas makes the best shoes.

Q: Do you do all weight room work in your Weightlifting shoes? Deadlifts even?

A: All including deadlifts.

Q: Think Olympic Weightlifting has helped your vertical jump and overall athleticism?

A: Yes, but if I just practiced jumping I would be much better at it. This goes the same for most everything.

Q: Any favorite athlete in the Olympics? Favorite Olympic Weightlifter?

A: I would love to see how Lu Xiaojun does. He’s capable of breaking the snatch, jerk, and total world records on a good day. I’d say he’s my current favorite. Of all time though: Akakios Kakhiasvilis, Taner Sagir, and Liao Hui.

 

Thanks for your time Clarence. I look forward to catching up with you in the future. If you want to check out more of Clarence’s videos, visit his YouTube Channel.

What Are You Afraid Of?

It’s common for beginner tricksters to be afraid of most tricks. I used to think one handed cartwheel were dangerous. I was terrified of an aerial. Horrified of a backflip.

But even then I didn’t doubt my physical ability to land those tricks. They were easy — or so everyone kept telling me — and I knew with practice they could be done. Truthfully, most reasonably athletic people can learn how to backflip in one day. It doesn’t take crazy vertical jump ability, or insane technique. It just takes guts.

I’m betting most tricksters afraid of single tricks are confident in their ability to perform them. Hang around others long enough and you’ll start to be convinced that backflips and gainers really aren’t difficult. In fact, they are some of the easier tricks from both a technical and physical standpoint. But they are the most mentally taxing for beginners.

So when you do swallow your fear and actually chuck these tricks, what continues to hold you back? Once you do them once, you proved to yourself that you have the kinesthetic awareness to survive an end over end flip. Yet some people continue to fear it. They’ll put flips—or whatever tricks that scare them—last in training sessions, and not give them much focus. But you already proved that you can do them without hurting yourself. So what’s holding you back from mastering them and progressing?

Is it a fear of the trick in question, or is it a fear of what’s to come?

So even though you proved yourself that you can survive a backflip, you’re afraid to get better at them because you know that it never ends. Fear at backflips means fear at flashkicks and fear at gainers. You know that once you can backflip, you’re going to pressure yourself to do even more difficult—and frightening—tricks.

But it’s important to live in the present. Backflips — or any other trick for that matter — may scare you, and from the perspective you have right now it’s future variations scare you even more. But once you prove to yourself you can backflip without consequence, don’t shy away from it. Just because the future seems scary doesn’t mean the present has to be.

For a while I put of flips and their variations because of this. I could backflip easily, but the thought of more advanced flips turned me off. Instead of spending time mastering and getting extremely uncomfortable with the backflip — to the point of doing it anywhere at any time without any psychological arousal — I would practice them here and there without much focus. But I only did this because I feared the future, not the present.

So if you’re putting off the tricks that scare you, even after landing them safely, ask yourself if you’re afraid of the trick, or what’s to come after the trick. If it’s what’s to come, then don’t even worry about it. Live for the “now” and master that tricks that you can do that cause the butterflys to rumble a bit. It will make “what’s to come” seem all the less scary when it’s at your doorstep.

While I’m using tricking examples, this also pertains to every facet of your life. Often times, when confronted with big decisions, people get hung up on what’s to come. But you can only control the present. Don’t let “should,” “would,” and “could” define you. Don’t let unknowns rule your life.

“Never let fear determine where you are. Never let where you come from determine where you are going.”

-Dewey Bozella