Strength Has a Greater Purpose

From Pavel:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to introduce you to StrongFirst’s new CEO.

Eric Frohardt is a former US Navy SEAL, a decorated combat veteran with multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I met him years ago at a kettlebell cert I was teaching to his unit. He has been a strong advocate of our training system ever since, using it to prepare himself physically for combat deployments and outdoor sports. He has kept his teaching skills sharp as well and last year was an assistant instructor at an SFG cert.

After retiring from the Navy four years ago, Eric built several successful businesses in security consulting and the firearms industry. With his businesses running smoothly, Eric was ready for another challenge and applied for the StrongFirst CEO position.

A number of remarkable candidates applied for the job — and I chose Eric. His character exemplifies “Strength Has a Greater Purpose.” He has exceptional leadership and mission planning skills, rare intelligence, and drive. 

Power to us!

It was a busy day. I was out of the house by 0600 and working by 0630. Things had been crazy lately, and I needed to catch up. Working through lunch allowed me to clear the deck of old emails and voicemails and move on to more productive work. At 4:00pm, I left Denver for Vail. My wife was up there with the kids and would need a ride home the next day.

On my way up, I realized I hadn’t yet worked out that day. Being opportunistic, I had the idea to find a high altitude rest stop on I-70 and grab a quick PT session. Thankfully, I kept a 24kg kettlebell in the vehicle. Approaching Vail Pass, I realized this was my best option. Vail Pass sits at just above 10,600’. A great place for some kettlebell practice.

I exited I-70 and drove to the rest stop. With a kettlebell at the ready, the world is my gym!

Outdoor training area for kettlebells
The view of my “gym” at Vail Pass.

‘Bells for Back-Country Bow Hunting

As I prepared to practice, it occurred to me just how cool this was. I was getting ready to do some kettlebell cleans and presses along with one arm swings at altitude! I also started to reflect. What draws me to StrongFirst over other training methods? What evidence do I have to back up these methods?

This rest stop was an inspiring place to grab a quick workout. It’s especially inspiring this time of year as I get prepared for high altitude, back-country bow hunting. I swing kettlebells to be better at other things — not to be good at swinging kettlebells. Strength has a greater purpose.

Back-Country Bow Hunting
Here is a view of another “gym,” taken from one of last year’s adventures. High-altitude, back-country bow hunting. Kettlebell practice, along with hiking, got me more than well enough prepared.

What Draws Me to StrongFirst

First and foremost, it’s both hard-core and safe. I’ve never seen anything that is both this intense and this safe at the same time. There are many hard-core training options out there. I’ve tried most of them, and have the injuries to prove it. Now, I treat a workout like a practice session, and I leave that practice session feeling stronger and moving better than when I started (usually).

What evidence do I have that it works? Well, I have used StrongFirst methods to prepare me for multiple deployments, rock and mountain climbing trips, and various other adventures. Currently, I use StrongFirst methods to get ready for hunting season, ski season, other hobbies, and simply living life. Regardless of what you do or where you are, you have to be StrongFirst.

Strength has a greater purpose
In 2008, I used the kettlebell to prepare me for climbing Denali (Mount McKinley). I was shocked at how well it prepared me.

Back to the Workout…

I mean the practice session. I did a few deadlifts, goblet squats, and halos to warm up. I noticed the warm-up had me breathing pretty heavily. Breathing behind the shield, under load, at this altitude was already interesting.

After the warm-up, I did a few sets of kettlebell clean and presses, my favorite upper body exercise. Its obvious benefits are shoulder and upper body strength. The hidden benefit is overall core strength. Try picking something heavy up, putting it overhead, and tell me it doesn’t engage your core more than half-crunches on a ball.

It was interesting to be this winded doing clean and presses — until I remembered I was above 10,000 feet. My watch wasn’t correctly calibrated, but it was close. No wonder I was slightly winded by clean and presses. Would have done some get-ups, but they are typically not much fun on asphalt parking lots.

kettlebell training at altitude
The elevation reading on my watch.

After my presses were done, I switched to one-arm swings. Ever since Simple & Sinister this has become a favorite ballistic exercise of mine. I planned on doing 10 right / 10 left on the minute, every minute for 8 minutes (using the 24kg bell). The preious week, I had worked up to 7 minutes before noticing my form slipping. That’s 140 reps. I hoped to get 160 this week. I want to hit 200 reps in 10 minutes before switching to the 32.

But, this practice session occurred at 10,000 feet, after a busy work day, and while fasting close to 24 hours. Needless to say, my form started to suffer at the seventh minute. I decided to call it. I’d only hit 140 reps. Oh well, quality over quantity. Practice, not a workout.

I’m by no means a physical specimen. I spent nearly twelve years in the Navy surrounded by people that were, so I know one when I see one. Many StrongFirst instructors and practitioners can easily surpass these numbers. The numbers are not the point.

Later that night, I walked from dinner to my in-laws’ house on the slopes. Dinner was at a place in Vail above 8,100 feet. The house I was staying at was about a half mile away and a few hundred feet in elevation above. I noticed that I moved better up the mountain, even after training. I was glad I didn’t go to failure. I really did feel better after the practice session than before it. Just more evidence!

What Happens When You Don’t Listen to Pavel

Fast forward one week, and I had a very different experience. I had spent the day cleaning up the yard and garage as well as catching up on other chores at home. At roughly 3:00pm, I realized I needed to put together another quick practice session before dinner or whatever else my wife had planned that evening. It also happened to be Pavel’s birthday. I felt Pavel’s birthday warranted a slightly more difficult workout.

Ignoring Pavel’s advice and what I’d learned on the top of Vail pass (and many other times before), I put together a slightly more difficult practice session. After finishing up 100 snatches, 100 one-arm swings, and 100 two-arm swings I realized I’d probably gone too far.

Later that night, I could barely carry my two-year-old. My arms were smoked and my legs and back ached. There are times you can go deep into the well. I do enjoy a difficult session, as most of you do as well. But it’s important to build up to that session and make it the exception, not the norm. Needless to say, I didn’t leave that particular session feeling stronger than when I started.

Kettlebells standing by to quickly turn my office into my gym.
Kettlebells standing by to quickly turn my office into my gym.

Strength Has a Greater Purpose

There are, of course, many different aspects that draw me to StrongFirst. I also have plenty more stories of how StrongFirst and the kettlebell prepared me for my numerous adventures — all without gaining weight or becoming a gym rat. In the coming months, I’ll be sharing a few of those experiences as well as sharing my vision for StrongFirst. Needless to say, the organization is off to a great start. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.

To strength for a greater purpose!

Eric Frohardt, CEO
StrongFirst

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Eric Frohardt
SFG
Eric Frohardt, SFG, is the Director of Education and Training for the NRA, a veteran US Navy SEAL, and former CEO of StrongFirst. He has been putting our training system to the test for over a decade—first in combat deployments and later in outdoor sports.

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