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Aggressive Strength Q&A With Mike Mahler Issue 1

Q: I just saw a youtube clip of you military pressing two 97 lb. kettlebells for a few reps. Your form looks a lot different from what you showed on your DVD The Kettlebell Solution for Size and Strength–why the change?

A: The form I demonstrate–and teach–on the Size and Strength DVD is the best method for hypertrophy, i.e., maximum speed and tension during the concentric phase and maximum tension during the eccentric phase of each rep. But if your primary goal is to lift the heaviest bells possible, you must look for the most efficient execution possible, thus on the Collision Course DVD, I demonstrate an alternative version of the KB military press which removes the negative from the equation. In other words, I quickly lower the bells from the lockout position to the rack, letting gravity do the work for me. The lowering phase of the military press uses a lot of energy that’s better saved up for the concentric phase. I also rest in the rack position between each rep, further conserving energy and re-grouping for each successive rep.

It comes down to what you’re training for. A solid approach to take is spending some time working maximum tension, since at some point you’ll need that skill to handle heavy weights. Then spend some time with heavy bells developing maximum efficiency. For improved work capacity and building a strong foundation, spend some time in high-rep territory, such as fifteen rep sets–or more–working on moving as fluidly as possible, that is, no tension at all. For the sake of example, your KB military pressing training week will look like this:

Monday: maximum tension

Pick a weight within your 5-7 rep limit and do 5 sets of 3 reps, with two minute breaks.

Wednesday: high-rep efficiency

Pick a weight within your 20-rep limit and do 3 sets of 15 reps, with one-minute breaks

Friday: maximum power

This is where you lift the heaviest possible, in the most efficient manner (no negative, and resting in the rack between each rep). Do 3 sets of 2-4 reps with three-minute breaks.

Q: Mike–I’ve been following Mac Danzig’s diet for quite some time now…he eats a lot of compressed bars, such as Clif Builder’s Bar and Organic Food Bars. What’s your take on these as sources of vitamins and nutrients?

A: While those bars are better than most, they’re both highly processed–that’s how they last on the grocery store shelves for months (if not years!) on end. The Organic Food Bars are the best option when it comes to commercial protein bars, but a better option is making your own. Here’s a recipe I got from John Berardi:

2 scoops of protein powder (I use Sun Warrior vanilla)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup of water

Place all in a bowl and stir up to make a paste. Break into two equal sections and place in sandwich bags. Put bags in the refrigerator and in a couple of hours you’ll have some great protein bars that, while low in sugar, are high in protein, fiber and healthy fat. If you like your bars sweeter, add a little maple syrup or stevia.

Q: Can you make some training recommendations for the New Year?

A: Sure, I think people should make a point of adding intense cardiovascular training, as well as structural integrity workouts, to their routines.

Intense cardio (the kind that leaves you huffing and puffing) is not only beneficial for the heart but for the brain as well. It also facilitates fat-loss–and can be fun. Try starting your day off with 20-minutes of sprinting and you’ll give yourself not only a natural anti-depressant boost, but a natural HgH and brain health boost. Afterwards, you’ll feel great and ready to attack the day. Make sure to ease into sprinting as over reaching is easy if you bite off more than you can chew. If you’re not used to running, start off with five 50-yard dashes, three times per week. Run fast for 50-yards; walk back to the starting point; then repeat. Over the course of several weeks, add another round every week or two, gradually working up to ten rounds. Make sure you do some joint mobility work before and after each session. I recommend doing your sprints on grass or a measured track, but avoid pavement. Get yourself some good running shoes, such as Nike Free, or if you prefer the feel of barefoot training, try some Vibram FiveFingers, which are also great for weight training.

Structural integrity training is also important, providing a type of strength not acquired with standard weight training. With structural integrity training, you’ll be under resistance for at least ten minutes. An example of structural integrity training is a ten-minute set of kettlebell snatches. Set a timer for ten minutes, then get as many reps as possible in that time frame. The kicker is you cannot put the bell down for the entire ten minutes. As fatigue builds, take your rest in the lockout position–but don’t set the kettlebell down. Switch arms every ten reps or do as many reps as possible in five minutes with the non-dominant arm, then switch to the other arm for the final five minutes. If you’ve never done a ten-minute set before, you’re in for a humbling experience! Starting with a light bell, your goal is to survive the ten-minute set. Don’t worry about reps, focus on efficiency and pacing. You may prefer to start with a five-minute set and build up from there. Make sure you check this clip to see some demonstrations of perfect technique for timed sets: Incredible kettlebell training

Another way to add in structural integrity training is weighted vest walking. If you like walking, this is a great option. I don an 84 lb. weight vest and walk my dogs for 20-40 minutes. Since I walk my dogs everyday, this is an easy way for me to get in a structural integrity workout.

What are the benefits of structural integrity training? In addition to creating mental toughness, structural integrity precipitates strength-endurance. For example, top strength coach Andrew Durniat competes in Strongman competitions. Though he’s typically not the strongest guy competing, he performs very well against much stronger competitors. Since Andrew is skilled in kettlebell competition training and can handle ten-minute sets with 70lb kettlebells, his resultant work capacity means his strength endures after other competitors give out. While his competition may beat him coming out of the gate, they gas long before the end of the competition while Andrew is still going strong.

Whatever your goals, structural integrity is useful. For example, if you want to get bigger and stronger, you must engage in high-volume training with short breaks. If you lack structural integrity, you’ll break down before your money sets are executed. Develop structural integrity and you’ll get better at everything you do–whether it’s long-distance running, high-volume weight training or intense sports.

If you want to add some weight vest walks to your routine, start with twenty percent of your bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs. start with 36-40 lbs. and work up to a forty-minute walk. Do the structural integrity walks three times per week. Once you get used to forty-minute walks with twenty percent of your bodyweight, add some resistance. I use and recommend The Xvest, which you can get at a great price at:

Q: I noticed you’re no longer giving kettlebell workshops any more–why is that?

A: I’m no longer presenting Level 1 Kettlebell workshops. I have some upcoming two-day kettlebell-focused workshops planned for this year taking place in Los Angeles, NYC and Panama. As always, I’ve put together a great line up, more details will be on my site in March.

My focus this year is further researching hormone optimization, as well as stem cell therapy. I’m learning a lot more about both and will be presenting much exciting information at my courses this year. I’m attending seminars on anti-aging, hormone optimization, and other facets of health these days, which is why I’m no longer traveling and teaching Level 1 kettlebell workshops. I intend to fully immerse myself in my studies, with as few interruptions as possible.

Fortunately, for those seeking expert Level 1 kettlebell instruction, I’m promoting some great instructors on my site. Sign up for Steve Maxwell and Dylan Thomas seminars here.

Q: Your latest DVD set, Collision Course, looks awesome, but I’m not sure if it’s right for me–do you think I should get it?

As a businessman, yes, I do think you should get it! All joking aside, the nine-hour DVD set is not right for everyone. If you enjoy the average and mundane, it’s not right for you. This set has way too much great information that will go unused since you’re not serious about training. If you’re looking for new ways to keep training fresh and fun and you strive to consistently better yourself, then you have an obligation to yourself to get this DVD set! If you care about hormone optimization and feeling great–then get the DVD right now. You won’t be able to find a more comprehensive DVD about strength training and health. Collision Course is as diverse as it gets–and it’s fluff-free. You’ll be getting nine hours of great information–from six experts–for a ridiculously low price. Truly, it isn’t for everyone–if you like to doing the same thing over and over again, for years on end without progress, then don’t bother with this DVD set. Like all my products, it’s for serious trainees only–those who thrive on improving themselves.

Here is what people are saying about Collision Course:

Just writing to tell you that we received our video in the mail yesterday and it is GREAT! What an incredible resource of solid S&C information–I look forward to watching everything I missed! You definitely inspired me to work on one someday, but it seems like such an intense production. Please tell Roger what a great job everyone here thinks you guys did too. Great editing, sound, and picture quality.Maya Garcia

Dude, just finished the first DVD and wanted to let you know it blew me away. There was so much info from John and yourself. I am glad you are putting out info on hormones and their effects not only on workouts but also on life. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and I’m sure at some point you will have a book coming out on hormones and look forward to that as well. Keep up the good work!!!Kevin Lail

I wanted to let you know that I am carefully studying your Collision Course DVDs and e-book with great interest! Very, very well done! Great combination of training topics and instructors. I began training people in 1969 for martial arts, then later transitioned to strength & conditioning. I really appreciate your seeking out high-quality information, and making it available. Keep up the great work!Frank DiMeo


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