I attended the SFG Level II Certification in Budapest last year for re-certification. As you know, the Level II has a military press requirement (for men, it’s half bodyweight). As my bodyweight had increased since my first Certification, so did my half bodyweight press test — from 40kg to 44kg.
But no problem — two weeks prior to the Level II, I pressed the target weight on two different occasions. And the morning of day one of the SFG Level II Certification, I pressed 40kg for four repetitions.
A few hours later at the actual test, the 44kg didn’t budge.
Master SFG Fabio Zonin pointed out that I wasn’t pausing the kettlebell long enough before the lift, therefore even had I made the lift, he wouldn’t pass me. I brought his words and the half-bodyweight press issue back home and started to rethink my strategy.
A Re-Examination and a Re-Test
My training log on September 2nd shows I could not press 44kg with a one-count pause in the rack position. I came to realize that a suggested one-count pause with the kettlebell racked was not long enough. Linguistic issues may have caused this. A “one” is “ichi” in Japanese and sounds like “itch” and could be shorter than typical “one” count. So I decided to pause for two counts.
My training did not go beyond kettlebell basics, but I added some armbar and bent (crooked) armbar series. Ring pull ups and hanging leg raises complemented the training well. A month after the SFG Level II, three attempts of 44kg press went well and I submitted the one with longest pause to Master SFG Fabio Zonin.
What did I do differently? Two things. I stole one idea from an American military strategist and another from a Chinese martial arts book.
OODA Loop stands for observe, orient, decide, act. This model, created by Colonel John Boyd of the United States Air Force, became my training log format.
For example, in one pressing session:
- Observe – Stiff left shoulder
- Orient – In need of loose shoulder
- Decide – Armbar series and Windmill
- Act – 12 kg armbar 1 rep etc.
Then loops back to:
- Observe – Shoulder loose enough
- Orient – Well coordinated hip (from Windmill)
- Decide Military Press
- Act -36 kg 3 reps
- Observe – Stronger rack position
- Orient – Continue press?
- Decide – Yes
- Act – 36kg 3 reps for 2 sets
- Observe – Need to loose hip for next set of press
- Orient – Lower body stretch
- Decide – ASLR (Active Straight Leg Raise) from FMS
- Act – ASLR left/right
- Observe – Better press
- Orient – Raise weight to 40 kg?
- Decide – Sensing impingement in my left shoulder, empty handed bent press
- Act – Fist bent press for shoulder reliever 5 reps
The list goes on.
This strategy gave me the opportunity to review the effect after each set. Prior to this approach, weight/reps/sets were the subject of training. Since I incorporated this idea, I began to add various supplemental drills such as joint mobility works, pull-ups, and ab-related training.
Finding My Mental Space Before Each Press
Not that I know anything about Chinese martial arts, but I do know a few quotes from Han Shi Yi Quan by Han Xing Qiao. “The more we stand still, more movement internally” and “Some physical movements are dead internally” were good tips for my momentary pause before press. It means even at a pausing moment, the body is active at cellular level getting ready for next action.
In the course of this momentary pause, I set an imagery of finding spaces in joints and unused muscles. Suppose racking a 44kg kettlebell tenses 70% of all the body muscles and the other 30% are scattered through out the body. At the pause, my mindset is to recognize the unused 30% energy source as much as possible. This is not science, but mental imagery has its place when lifting gets heavy.
Currently, I feel like I owned my way to progress further. I recently pressed double 36kg using the same mental approach. Weight, reps and sets may be important, but what you depict in your mind is a huge factor.