The Strength Retreat, Year Two was another smashing success. This unique gathering of strength, led by Master SFG Karen Smith and Senior SFG’s Betsy Collie and Delaine Ross and hosted by SFG Team Leader Hector Gutierrez at his Hardstyle KBJJ, offered a weekend of enjoyment and camaraderie packed with content. Because this was mostly a “learning by doing” course, these notes will merely sample the information from the weekend.
(For last year's recap, see Strength Retreat 2015)
First up was Doc Hartle (Masters SFG and Chief SFL), the keynote guest speaker. Doc unfortunately was unable to attend in person but instead taught remotely, yet still in real time, thanks to the wonders of technology (aka, Skype). Doc’s block of instruction focused on the barbell. Much of the discussion centered on setup, specifically for the deadlift.
Betsy led the next segment, which focused on the lunge as an exercise and an assessment.
The day also included a sample Ground Force Method session, led by Hector, who in addition to being an SFG Team Leader is a lead instructor for GFM (one of the few in the world who can teach certifications). (Also see, Primal Move Recap and Review)
Some of the best times at these events occur outside the gym/classroom. Yet again, the nighttime gathering offered another opportunity for sharing ideas with other practitioners of strength with a similar philosophy of training, and to some extent, life itself. One special thing about both years of the strength retreat is how it attracts a group of people for whom strength is truly a lifestyle. That’s not to say certifications are any less so (especially given the cost), but when people pay good money to travel and show up for an event with no certification at stake and no CEU’s awarded, you know their passion runs especially deep. (But remember…"What happens in Corpus stays in Corpus"…or something like that…)
On Sunday morning we learned that you really don’t need many bricks and mortar resources to create an effective practice session. Stripped of nearly all possible equipment, we traveled to the beach for Karen’s bodyweight section of the course. On the beach, we were able to do a complete bodyweight practice session without the equipment we normally use in the gym. Need an elevation to regress your one arm pushup? Grab a partner! Since most people tend to rush through their sessions, utilizing a partner for stability forces you to slow down (“You go, I go” format).
Without walls, a ceiling, or any equipment, you can create an effective bodyweight session to include warmup/mobility, both upper and lower body strength, and even a finisher set (which is normally not part of the SFB curriculum but illustrated the versatility available in an open venue of the beach)
Back at the gym we dove into programming and kettlebell progressions with Delaine. Program design can be very complicated but it doesn’t have to be. Delaine offered a very simple yet effective template for group training based on a few basic movements: Push, pull, squat, hinge, loaded carry, and rotation/counter rotation. Programming in this fashion is not only effective, it is also an efficient way to run operations in making programming relatively simple, thereby freeing up resources to devote in other areas. In addition, structuring the class around basic movements allows for multiple options within each movement (“specialized variety”).
In Hector’s programming lecture we were given a taste of the very sophisticated methodology behind Plan Strong, specifically for the military press and the deadlift. What I found most valuable was how these newer programs have made allowances for different “types” of lifters (endurance or strength) rather than a uniform set and rep scheme for all. This is something I found in prepping for the military press requirement in the SFG Level II. (more on that in my upcoming Level II recap…)
In sum, The Strength Retreat is a rare and special event that gets better each year. Any opportunity to work with StrongFirst leadership while surrounded by high level colleagues is an extraordinary valuable experience. Though the level of strength was especially high in this group, there truly is something for everyone at the event, from beginner to advanced. Can't wait to see what next year offers!