Being the last post of the year I wanted to reflect on some of the big lessons and take aways I had from 2011…

#1 – Do less stuff and do it better. I got deeply immersed in the kettlebell culture in 2011, attending an RKC course and reading a half dozen or so books on kettlebell training. While everyone likes to show off their fancy kettlebell lifts, one of the central themes among the best is the mastery of a handful exercises.

The Swing, Goblet Squat, Turkish Get Up, Clean, Shoulder Press, Snatch and their variations comprise the bulk of kettlebell training and cover almost everything you could possibly need. I cut out a lot of fluff from my workout programs and hammered people with the basics and saw a marked improvement in execution, strength levels and overall results. You just have to get past the “entertain me” mindset and have a “train me” mindset to appreciate doing the same thing over and over.

#2 – Read more. The best investment I made was in a Kindle. I had started reading more a few years ago but it wasn’t until I was able to instantly download books and easily carry my library with me that I really started to read a lot. The secret to reading is making it convenient and so the Kindle app on my phone and tablet make it amazingly easy to read a few pages here and there which add up to several extra books a year.

Here are some of the best books I read this year:

Easy Strength: Pavel and Dan John

– Purposeful Primitive: Marty Gallagher

Convict Conditioning: Paul Wade

– The 10X Rule: Gant Cardone

– Kiss or Kill: mark Twight

– Ultimate MMA Conditioning: Joel Jamison

– Sugar Nation: Jeff O’Connor

– Mind Over Money: Brad Klontz and Ted Klontz

– Little Bets: Peter Sims

– Live Life Aggressively: Mike Mahler

#3 – Bodyweight training needs a place in your program. The book Convict Conditioning completely changed my view of the importance of bodyweight training. I realized that I had been paying lip service to the notion of “master your bodyweight before adding load” – I was far from truly mastering bodyweight and the exercise progressions outlined in the book made that very clear.

I realized that strength training is as much about handling your own bodyweight as masterfully as you can handle an external load. I also realized that some exercises, like the bridge and handstand presses, were really vital to overall fitness and health. Your body responds to bodyweight training differently than weighted training and it needs a place in your program.

#4 – Energy Systems Development is a much better term than “cardio”.  In the book Ultimate MMA Conditioning Joel Jamison does a masterful job of laying out the concept of Energy Systems Development (ESD). I have often said that you don’t want “cardio”, you want better endurance and ESD is how you can systematically develop better endurance. By understanding how your body both supplies fuel and utilizes that fuel for different types of efforts you can develop a plan to optimize both.

I’m sure I feel this way every year but 2011 was a great year overall. I came into the year knowing that I had a few holes in my game as a strength coach and I did a pretty good job of shoring them up and seeing my programs evolve as a result. Of course, now I have some other areas I want to work on in 2012 but I’ll worry about that next year.

So, what were some of your big lessons/ take aways from 2011?

-James Wilson-

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