The Bledsoe Show

Kettlebells, Bulgarian Bags, and The Strong Coach Summit Experience with Mike Salemi

Kettlebells, Bulgarian Bags, and The Strong Coach Summit Experience with Mike Salemi

In this episode. we have Mike Salemi. Mike specializes in human performance and is a sought after international presenter in the field of health and fitness.

Mike has a diverse background in strength and conditioning and has competed over the course of 15+ years at an elite level in Powerlifting and Kettlebell Sport. Through his own path of resolving sport-related injuries, Mike understands the importance of integrating the body, mind, and spirit as a means to foster high performance for the long term. His motivation is to help athletes, fitness professionals, and coaches discover their own potential from the inside-out.

We talk about his experience in The Strong Coach Summit, his fascination towards tools such as Kettlebells & Bulgarian Bags, and so much more. Enjoy!

Table Of Contents

Connect With Mike Salemi

The Strong Coach Summit Experience

The Strong Coach Summit Experience Mike Salemi
Photographer: Ben White | Source: Unsplash

Mike: Dedication. We just wrapped a full … We had four days, four solid days together for The Strong Coach Summit. We had a blast, and it's been fun getting to know you even more.

Mike Salemi: It's been awesome, and I had heard about you for so long, and we run in similar circles, so not only to get to connect, but to really spend time going deep in stuff way beyond just business was super special.

Mike: For sure. One of the things that attracted me to you, is so like, my first impression was, "He's a kettlebell guy." Then, somebody tells me, "Well, he's got these Bulgarian bags." I go online, and I see what you're doing with the Bulgarian bags, and I go, "That's fucking cool." That's really, really cool, and then you have the bands as well, which I hadn't seen before, and then got to see it at the summit. You broke out the bands and were showing people. I go, "That make …" Everything you're doing, when I see it, I go, "That makes sense. That's what training can look like." I had a lot of rotational stuff.

Mike: Anyone who has been in the world of CrossFit, or weightlifting, or most of the traditional training out there, I think we can call it CrossFit traditional now, is that it's a very sagittal plane. It's like, getting very strong, front and back, even side to side at times, but not rotationally.

What is Kettlebell Sport?

What is Kettlebell Sport?
Photographer: Taco Fleur | Source: Unsplash

Mike: Can you tell us what kettlebell sport is? I imagine most people don't know.

Mike Salemi: Yeah. Depending on how we look at it, there can be a minor degree of rotation if you're doing the snatch, the way we teach it. There's a little bit of rotation, but when you compare it to something like the Bulgarian bag which was literally designed for rotation, and throws, and changing levels, it's night and day. The main even that I compete in, it's called long cycle. Two kettlebell clean and jerk, repetitively for 10 minutes without setting the bells down. Your only rest period is at chest level if you want, and then overhead in the lockout position. I've competed-

Mike: You're resting there?

Mike Salemi: "Rest." Yes, "Rest." You want to talk about finding yourself in those moments. You go to some places, but the … It's interesting. We compete in the professional division, double 32 kilo bells, so about 72-ish pounds in each arm, and I've also competed in the double 40 kilo category.

Mike: Then, how much do you weigh?

Mike Salemi: I've taken about a year off, but about 175. I've even gotten down to a high 160s in that weight class, so bells that weigh almost as much as me, if not more.

Mike: Then, clean and press for 10 minutes?

Mike Salemi: Jerk, yeah. Jerk, so there's a-

Mike: Cringe.

Mike Salemi: … jerk. It's like, 10 minutes. It's the main way they condition the Russian military, and so you can imagine all … I've been to Russia and trained with the national team out there. There's guys with just … you just do not want to eff with them whatsoever.

Mike: Them some hard motherfuckers.

Denis Vasilev & Mike's backstory

Mike Salemi: They're some hard. You're looking for emotion. You're looking for a smile, and if I could count with one finger the one coach that smiles almost. He's my coach, and that's what I think why I gravitated towards him because he had, I would say, the most balanced approach. His name is Denis Vasilev, eight time world champion. He's done 101 consecutive double clean and jerks without a break in 10 minutes, double 32 kilos, but he's the sweetest guy ever. I effing love those people who are so bad ass, but then you have a conversation with them, you tap in with them and they're just the sweetest people. Those are the people that really attract me.

Mike Salemi: That's kettlebell sport. I had got into it because … What's interesting is, so I started as a gymnast as a young guy, and then 10 years in powerlifting. Olympic weightlifting in college, and when I was Olympic weightlifting, it's interesting because I chose kettlebells because of the challenge. I was always a fast twitch athlete. Anything above three reps, I was like-"See you."

Mike: I was doing CrossFit, and in the beginning back in '07, '08, '09, the workouts were rarely over 10 minutes if it was for time. Then, the long ones were 20 minute AMRAPs, and then as the sport progressed and became much more endurance-based, I was like, "I'm going to weight lift. This is not working for me."

Mike Salemi: Well, I found that challenge to be super stimulating, and because of the challenge that I faced, I had some injuries that set me back, but when I look at the challenges that I face in that sport, it is such the catalyst for what I'm doing now.

Mike's Transition to the Bulgarian Bag

Mike Salemi: It wasn't until later that I really realized that that in and of itself was a spiritual journey. I think, something you said about the Bulgarian bag that comes up for me, it's like always, always, always in powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, kettlebell sport, it definitely serves its purpose but it was very linear. Like, "This is the reps, the sets, the lows, the movements you have to master." One thing that attracted me and transitioned me to the Bulgarian bag … I still love kettlebell. I still use them all the time. They're fantastic, but there's no rules anymore.

Mike Salemi: Yes, I'll have an intention when I go into training, I'm trying to train for muscular endurance, do I want to train power today, do I just want to flow, but there's so much less rules. Not only in the way of programming, but in the way of how you moved. You shared, you can do these walking movements, lateral movements. Probably, one of the most enjoying parts of the last few days was connecting with Leo Savage. I saw so much of what he's doing with the Mace. I'm like, "Wow." I love this sort of stuff, and it can fit its way into these other tools.

Mike Salemi: It's not even for me. It's not even about the tool, because I'll use the bag, I'll use the suples ball if anyone's seen my work on that. The hertz bands, kettlebells, and for me it's become so much less about the tool but more about the principle, what's the underlying thing we're trying to do, and it's fucking just play and move.

Trying new tools and opening new doors

Mike: I'm curious. Getting to see you and Leo connect, and seeing you grab a Mace, and then watch. I see the two of you guys and I see two master coaches, and so watching Leo teach you, and then you both catch on really quick to each other's stuff because there are some similarities. Watching him coach you, and then watching you coach him, that was one of the coolest moments for me. Then, what do you …

Mike: Do you find that using a new tool, throwing a new tool in, so now you have the Mace. Do you find that's going to open up new doors for the Bulgarian bags and kettlebells, and that kind of thing?

Mike Salemi: 100%. There was something that you said on the weekend at The Strong Coach Summit, but also something that I really believe, and it's like … I think Bruce Lee said it, "You need structure before you can go structureless." I think, diving all in and learning the fundamentals and the foundations are the key to everything. That's why I've dove so deep in the bag for now the past few years in the bands, and it's like … Then, once you get to a point when you understand the intricacies of the fundamentals, then you can really start getting creative.

Mike Salemi: I'm excited, because I think the Mace is … It already has, just spending that brief time with Leo. It's already started opening up my mind, and just being around someone like him, the creativity and stuff like that. I really felt connected to him and a respect for him as a coach for his creativity in the way, not only how he teaches, but in the movements

Evolution in every aspect

Mike: I saw an evolution in myself in movement, and I studied development along many different lines. There's physical development, there's mental development, emotional development. All these lines of development, and what I've noticed over the years in studying all these different lines is realizing that there's predictable stages of development. You go, "This is actually …" Like you were saying, there needs to be structure before you can get into major flow, and I imagine a lot of people listening to this may have seen people doing some type of flow, or doing something that's more playful, or something without rules.

Mike: Have you seen in yourself stages of evolution, where it's like, "Okay, I got stuck with a lot of this type of thing, and then I went into this thing. Then eventually, got to the point where I could be creative and play with it."

Mike Salemi: Absolutely. I think for me, I'll always check in with myself in trainings, and when I've noticed that stage of development starting to end, Because I'll go 100%, thousands, and thousands, and thousands of rep. I'll even wake up at midnight sometimes or 11:00, have an idea, want to train, just grab a light bag and just go, or a light bell. After those hundreds of thousands of reps, it's like I'll start to get, not bored is the right word, but I'll just be like, "What's next? What else can I do?" It's almost a vibration change, and it's like, "Okay, I know the spin, I know the swing, and I know the snatch. Now, where can I take it?"

Getting Injured and How It Changed Him

Mike: What was that for you? Was it getting injured that opened that door for you?

Mike Salemi: I think some of the things that come up is like, "If I look at my early development, so much of my identity was as an athlete, as a power lifter. If I wasn't a power lifer, I didn't know who I was. Then, once that transitioned due to an injury, always due to an injury was the transition points, always.

Mike Salemi: It's like, whatever. Great spirit, whatever it is just waking you up. Like, "It's time to grow. It's time to shift. It's time to get out of your comfort zone." It's actually interesting, so I'm starting to teach at more CrossFits, and to introduce them to some of these tools, even more broad approaches to using a kettlebell. Every CrossFit gym has kettlebells, but they're typically only using it for three approximate movements. It's like, there's a world, a world of endless possibilities that you can do, and I would love to see … If there was anything that's great for CrossFit, it's kettlebells. They're all about cycling, it's about cycling movements and being efficient.

Mike Salemi: In every stage, it was due to an injury that opened the door to, "Okay, I can't do this. I don't know who I am with this." There's a spiritual experience around that, and then shifting to the next sport and then being obsessed. It's always like, "Obsessed, obsessed, obsessed, and then injury. Reevaluate my life, what's the new … what can I do, or what did that last thing mean to me, or what lessons did I learn, and then trying something new."

Getting connected with Paul Chek

Mike: You did suffer an injury, that brought you to Paul Chek, which is interesting. A lot of people … I'm fortunate, you're fortunate. A lot of people do get hurt, but they end up … What I notice is people want to keep doing the same exact training. It was like, "I want to keep training the same way." They see a PT, or a chiro, or somebody that can keep them in the game. That's what I did. Was, "I got to see a PT twice a week, just so I can keep lifting."

Mike: I find it'd be interesting that for the coaches that are listening to this, we notice with clients that come in to see us. The clients come in, and they're like, "I want to have six pack abs, and I want to be strong. I want to be able to do pull ups, and muscle ups, and all this stuff." Then, they come in the gym, in an hour every three, four, or five days, but they're not making any lifestyle changes. It's like, you got to make it a lifestyle. You got to change everything, but we do the same thing as coaches and athletes, where it's like, "I want to be able to do this thing, but can you just keep me put together well enough so I can keep doing the same exact thing?" It's the thing that you're doing that's causing the problem.

Mike: We're really fortunate, because I think most people don't have access to … most people … Or, they don't know how to find the access to someone who can actually help them and has the breath of knowledge. What was that like getting hurt? What did you hurt, and what got you to Paul Chek?

Compartment Syndrome

Mike Salemi: Right. Well, with Paul the interesting thing, and not surprising to anyone who knows Paul. Is, you may go to him to rehab a physical injury or improve your athletic performance, but what you were saying, there was never one session that was just lifting, ever. It was all talking about lifestyle stressors, relationship stuff because it's all integrated.

Mike Salemi: It's all a piece, but my injury in that respect was I had a compartment syndrome in my left forearm. Essentially, the fascia … Let's just say, the casing of the sausage, if you'd look at fascia like that. The connective tissue or the sock. When I would do any hard lift, literally it didn't even have to be competition. Even if I was doing 50% of the weight but I was doing a longer set, or a harder set, a pool of blood would get stuck in my forearm and it looked like a balloon. I still have pictures. It was very fat.

Mike: I got a scar from my ankle to here, from compartment syndrome. I did the surgery when I was in the Navy, and I didn't know that … Back then, it was like, "All right. Well, you either got to stop running or we got to slice you." I go, "Well, I'm not going to stop running. Then, slice me open." Now, I know looking back. I go, "I could've changed my gait. I could've changed how I was running, and it would've solved the problem."

Mike Salemi: Right, and that's what they wanted to do. They wanted to do surgery, and I was like, "Fuck, no way. There's got to be another way." Fast forward, I worked with almost 10 different practitioners.

Losing the feeling of the hand

Mike: What happens is, the muscles pumps up so big and the fascia can't hold it, and then it's like you got a rubber band around your arm.

Mike Salemi: You lose feel of the hand, so every single time I'd have to set the bells down, which was heartbreaking to me because physically I felt really good. I'm like, "Man, I'm not winded. I'm strong, I feel this. I just have this one thing, this one crutch that keeps coming up, keeps coming up." At the time, it was devastating, but it's been my greatest teachers. The interesting thing that Paul was able to do that no one else could, is after seeing 10 different super skillful practitioners, rolfers, craniosacral therapists, acupuncturists, neurosomatic therapists, the list goes on.

Mike Salemi: It's like, when we talk about the body as a system of systems, and as a system of system, every system is interrelated … intimately interrelated with the other. When I went to Paul, I was in one of his courses and I said, "This is what's going on, and is there anyway you know what's going on or you could help me?" He just asked me a few questions, put his hand on my arm, and they felt into what was going on. He says, "I'm not positive," Which, I appreciate so much. He goes, "… I can't make you any promises." Which, he was the first person to ever not promise me something, and for someone who's … is just so attached to what they want to achieve and done everything, as the first person to never promise me, already I was willing to go.

The impact of Paul to Mike's injury

Mike Salemi: I was like, "I'm in, I'm in. You didn't promise anything." Then, he goes, "I have to put you on my table, look through you thoroughly, and we'll see what happens." We found, it was such a multilayered issue. From my diet, to my stomach reflexing into the left shoulder because they're on the same reflex pathway. When I would eat things, I was sensitive. I always had gut and parasite issues, so we had to clear those up. Cleaning up my diet, which improved the function of my arm, to discovering I had thoracic outlet syndrome, so all the nerves and everything. Pretty much, right where the clavicle is in the nerves that feed the arm, that was getting unpinged. I had a severe upper cervical misalignment. I had an anatomical short leg that was by birth, that was quite significant.

Mike Salemi: Yeah. He was able to look through a hierarchy of systems, of control systems, of what was actually causing the problem because the compartment syndrome is only what was being expressed. Even after having a ton of fascia work, rolfers can be amazing for opening up fascia. I got a little benefit, but nothing ever stuck because we weren't fixing the hierarchy, and breathing was off. I had a upper cervical misalignment. There's all these organ and gland issues, that the muscles and the joints are so low on the totem pole. It's like, unless it was a direct impact trauma, let's just say you're running and you fall, and you crash your elbow. That was a direct impact trauma that you can associate with the injury.

Mike Salemi: If it wasn't due to a direct impact trauma that you can recognize, typically the root cause is somewhere higher up

Having Digestive Parasites & Getting Poopy

Photographer: Viktor Forgacs | Source: Unsplash

Mike: Yeah, yeah, "I'm badass." Tell me about the … You had the experience of digestion impacting movement. There's probably a lot of people listening to this, and go … That's the first time they're hearing digestive impacting. You said you had parasites?

Mike Salemi: I had … Man, I had fungal infections, bad … We all have candida, but I had high, high levels of candida albicans. Then, I had two parasites. Then, I had a bacterial infection, h-pylori, that was causing stomach ulcers, and I always thought things were normal. I always thought things were … Then, I was dating a girl at the time who was a check practitioner, and as a check practitioner it's common to talk about poop. Everyone talks about their poop. That's your report card, I always say. We're talking, and I'm telling her what my poop's like, and she's like … If everyone's listening then it might be funny, but it's true, and-

Mike: Are you single now?

Mike Salemi: I am single.

Mike: Explains a lot. Don't talk about your shit on dates. Come on, people.

Mike Salemi: Well, she was like, "That's not normal." I was like, "What do you mean that's not?"

Mike: What was not normal?

Mike Salemi: Just, my frequency of going to the bathroom, not passing enough. Typically, we call it the poopy police man, if anyone gets Paul's book, How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy, there's a poop lineup.

Mike: A poopy police lineup?

Changing the diet

Mike: You got to change diet, and I don't know. What did you have to change?

Mike Salemi: I did four rounds of herbs. I did the first three to four month round of herbs, and in addition to that had to completely change my diet into a diet that was and not feeding. An anti-fungal diet, so no sugars, you have to be careful of starches. There's all sorts of stuff in that. Parasites especially feed on two things, undigested food particles and sugar.

Mike: This is actually … I read Paul's book Eat, Move and Be Healthy a while back, and I've always known that I feel better when I don't eat sugar. He had outlined in the book about some of the symptoms you may experience if you have fungus, and I go, "I have that." My feet get dry, and it's very much so if I have dairy and/or sugar and I go, "That's fungus, and that's been there my whole life." I got really strict for a while, and I didn't do any root vegetables, no starches, no sugars, and all of a sudden everything started getting better, and I go, "Okay, there's here. There's something to that."

Mike Salemi: A lot of times, that can happen. Like, if we've ever been under anesthesia, I've we been … had antibiotics-

Mike: A few times.

Mike Salemi: … which is most to all of us, right?

Mike: Yeah.

Mike Salemi: At some point, and that can wipe out all of the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and that can leave the door open for especially a fungal infection to come in. It's like, that is the perfect environment. I think, Paul always says parasites specifically are nature's garbage collectors. They thrive in that environment.

Using DMSO with testosterone

Mike: Well, DMSO. It allows whatever chemical, whatever substance, to absorb through the skin, into the bloodstream. You can mix testosterone with DMSO, so instead of injecting it, you could mix testosterone with it and then rub it on your skin. I knew some guys that were taking DMSO with testosterone, and then they … It was prescribed by a doctor too, and they rub it on their inner thigh, and it improved their testosterone. What ended up happening is they would do this, and then they would have sex. Then, they were getting it all over their partner, and then their partner is like, voice is getting deeper. Women are just like, "Sorry, are you growing a mustache?" It's like, "Fuck, that's from your partner with the rub on testosterone." You got to watch out, anyway so-

Mike Salemi: I totally believe that.

Mike: … because it was blue heat.

Mike Salemi: It was blue heat and pink heat. I forget which one was stronger, but one was a stronger one than the other, and it was for horses. There's a horse on the-

Mike: I know exactly what you're talking about. Chris Moore, my buddy who used to train at West Side, he had that with him all the time, and he was using it all the time. I was like, "It's for fucking horses, man." It's super effective. I haven't used it in years, but that got me thinking about that. It's like, "Yeah, something about that." It's like a pain reliever.

Mike Salemi: Pain reliever, yeah. It's like, think about … I don't want to say Icy Hot, but that times a thousand almost. I don't know if a thousand is the right word, but yeah. It was like, "This is for equine sports, or whatever."

Mike's Icy Hot Story

Mike: "Good enough for them, it's good enough for me." I got a Icy Hot story. I'll share it because people are going to enjoy this. I remember, I was about 13 or 14 years old and I had discovered Icy Hot. As I get done with soccer, or swimming or something, as I got sore muscles, I'd use Icy Hot. My brother and I got into a fight, as little boys do, and I had accidentally gave him a nut shot, and so he's got his balls in his hands and he's just crying.

Mike: My mom's not home, but she's going to be home soon which means I'm about to be in trouble. I really went for the kill. I was like, "Fuck it. I'm already in trouble." I go, "Hey, Mat. You know what'd be really good to help your balls feel better? I'm sorry. I'm sorry I hit you in the balls. You want to make it better?" He goes, "What?" I said, "I got this Icy Hot."

Mike: "It's really good for sore muscles, and I bet it's going to be really good for your balls." He goes in the bathroom and he goes to rub it on his balls. Not only does he rub it all over his balls, but he gets it on his pecker head, and 20 seconds later I just hear him howling, howling in the bathroom, and he's in the shower. He's at the age where he doesn't like to take showers. Sometimes, boys just hate showers. My mom comes home, he's in the shower. She's like, "What's going on?" "He's in the shower." I got in trouble for that one. That was a good trick. It was a good trick. Don't put Icy Hot on your nuts, people.

Peeing On The Hand Instead of Tiger Balm

Mike Salemi: I got another one for you. This one although I actually still don't know if there's truth in this one. When I was a gymnast, my coach was a guy named … He was an Olympian for Bulgaria. I think, he got silver in Barcelona. High bar specialist, looks just like a specimen. Was grown up in that eastern block system from childhood, so growing up he was the icon, he was it.

Mike Salemi: Whatever he said went. Back at that time when you would get blisters, or we would just call them rips, you'd get a rip and so you would put typically, Tiger Balm was the main thing you would put on your hands, but he was adamant on peeing on your hands. We were like, "Okay?" I'm nine, 10, 11 years old, whatever. I'm like, "Whatever …says, I'm doing." For a few years there, I was peeing on my hands, and I would cover it in a Ziploc bag and then put a rubber band around the wrist. There was a-

Mike: You'd pee in the bag, and put your hand in there?

Mike Salemi: No, I'd pee … I'd just sit over the … I'd stand up, pee on my hand, or put some piss drops on it, and then I would just cover it with a bag just to hold, just to make sure I didn't get pee all over my house. Talk about strange things, and I still don't know if that worked, but mentally. A placebo effect, I don't know.

Drinking your own pee

Mike: Mark was not feeling well, and he drank a couple of ounces of his own piss every day for weeks. Swears that helps, I've heard that many times.

Mike Salemi: I've heard that before. I'm still on the fence if I want to try that. Have you tried it?

Mike: No, it's one of the very few … I've tried all sorts of things, as people know, and drinking my own pee is still not … It's still something about it, I'm just not sure I'm ready for it. Maybe, I should just do it to get it over with, but not you either.

Mike Salemi: I should probably save that off my first date. Just, avoid talking about poop, avoid talking about peeing on my hand and drinking my own piss.

Mike: Yeah, leave that out.

Mike Salemi: Leave that one out, and we'll see how it goes.

Finding The Bulgarian Bag

Mike: All right. Big side, whatever. You saw Paul, you got better. Is that when you found the Bulgarian bag? I'm going way back, we're circling way back. Or, were you already playing with that before you got hurt?

Mike Salemi: No, well before I got hurt. I was using the bag, now I think, almost 11 years ago. There has been education, but there really hasn't been education. The inventor Coach Ivan was a former Greco-Roman, the US Olympic coach, and he was also an Olympian for Bulgaria in wrestling. His main focus for many years has been, yes, developing the product, but developing wrestlers. I had seen the bag. I think, I saw one of his former instructors who's now unfortunately passed away. A Navy SEAL called Steve Nave. I had seen a video of Ivan doing it, and then I had seen some stuff on Steve doing it.

Mike Salemi: I've always had the ability to recognize legit stuff from a young age. Or, just mentors like, "I need to learn from that guy." Or, "I see that works. I don't know exactly how it works, but I need to learn it." But because there really wasn't any education aside from maybe some videos on YouTube or a DVD, I really was using it in a way that … Maybe, I would do some spins, but they more looked like a windmill way over my head. Or, I was using it as squats, and good mornings, and lunges just resting on my back, but I was not using it to nearly its fullest potential.

Benefits of Using a Bulgarian Bag

Mike: What are some of the benefits of using the Bulgarian bag, aside from … Okay, I'm already training with kettlebells. I'm already training with all other things.

Mike Salemi: I'll do the best I can to share, but at the same time I was so stoked that I got to share the Bulgarian bag with the strong coach attendees the other day. I asked, "Anyone. Who here has not used a bag before?" I think, 99.99% of them all raised their hand, and I was like, "Yes, I get to be the first person to share this with them, how special."

Mike Salemi: I told them, and I'll share the benefits in a moment, but it's so, so, so much more important to me that someone gets their hands on it and feels the movements, and feel what the tools feel like because I could talk all day, but if there's something. You need to feel it, and that's why I'm out there hustling and teaching so much because I want people to have a felt experience.

Mike Salemi: When you look at why it was created, so it was created while Ivan was the Olympic coach, and I think the slogan on his website is something along the lines of like, "Designed for creating Olympians." It was designed for wrestlers, so they need to be able to move in multiple planes of motion. Sagittal, front, side to side. They need to be able to rotate, but they also need not only planes, but in every movement pattern. They have to learn how to change levels very quickly. They have to know how to accelerate and decelerate, not only their body, but an external load. They have to know how to be explosive, have muscular endurance.

Conditioning your grip

Mike Salemi: Those are the qualities of what it takes to develop a high level wrestler. Now, granted I don't have a wrestling background. I work with fighters and coaches of fighters, but what I've seen is those same qualities, multiple planes in motion, multiple movement patterns, accelerate, decelerate. Again, rotational movements. That's what we all need in day to day life. That's what, to be a high … to develop a high level of athleticism. When you look at some of the most … High level wrestlers, they're like gymnast. They've got exquisite strength. They can move quick. They can slide. They're like little … I don't even know. They're like gazelles. They can just … Gazelles mixed with anacondas. They'll wrap you up and throw you on your back before you even recognize what happens.

Mike Salemi: Not only are those the benefits, but one of the things you'll find out is even with a very light bag it's going to condition your grip. Usually, in the beginning the grip is the first thing to go, but one of the beautiful things is, is also it's soft, so you can … A lot of times the kettlebells are great, but a lot of coaches don't want to take them on mats, especially if they have a jiu-jitsu school or whatever. It could scuff up the mats, so you can take it on the mats. It was designed for group training. You can use it with one on one, but the training protocols that we use, if you want a group training environment that's very harmonious where you can get everyone on the same page, everyone working.

Doing "the spin"

Mike: I'm excited now that I have a bag, I get to play with it. One of the things I really notice when you do that rotation, when you open up. What's it called when you go around?

Mike Salemi: The spin.

Mike: The spin, is … and you do the same with the bands I notice. Which, is you come down and then you come around and you're opening up, and it's very rare that I see even people who are doing these with kettlebells aren't actually opening up their back, their thoracic spin, and getting really open and rotating. That's something that I don't see people doing when they workout, very often at all. As I get older and then I understand how my body moves, I go, "Wow, being able to open up my thoracic spine and rotate is extremely valuable."

Mike Salemi: Absolutely. When you look at the mechanics of that, so that's really neat you said that because … When you look at the mechanics of that movement. You can look at it like two forms of stability. You've got the intra-abdominal pressure that we all know, dead lifting, squatting, all that stuff. Then, you have stability through rotation, which is slightly different. When you look at bag movements, band movements, if you observe the spine there's a figure eight that happens, and gait is a figure eight, and that's something that we've completely lost. When you look at bad movements, essentially … David Weck has come up with something-

Mike: As soon as you said figure eight, I'm like, "We're going to be talking about Weck in no time."

The Concept of "Working In"

Mike Salemi: Working in is something that I first learned from Paul. It's actually mentioned in the book, How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy. Essentially, any exercise can be a working in exercise, but essentially a working in exercise is an exercise that brings in more energy, or cultivates more energy to the system than it requires to put out. Let's just take … I always use the example of something super simple, like a breathing squat.

Mike Salemi: Most of us are in flight or fight. We're in sympathetic dominance, which is absolutely key to be in, but only for a finite amount of time when you need it. When we're in that state for too long, that's when we start getting burnout and over training symptoms, et cetera.

Mike Salemi: Right, and they're slamming coffee, and then they're not sleeping, and then they're doing all these things that drive them deeper. You can take a familiar exercise, whatever that you love. Take an exercise, and then if you coordinate the breath with the movement, so typically any exercise that moves the body more into the fetal position. When the arms come closer to the midline, you flex at the hip and you internally rotate, so think like going in to a ball. Any movement, like descending down into a squat, descending down from the top position of a deadlift to the floor. Any of those movements, that's your exhalation breath. Anytime you're coming out of the fetal position, so you're extending the hips and the spin, you're moving the arms away from the midline, the rib cage is opening, that's your inhalation breath.

Working in + meditation

Mike Salemi: You take a movement like a breathing squat, so you would exhale down, you would inhale up. Then one, your heart and rate and respiratory rate should not increase. If your heart rate and respiratory rate increases, you know you're driving more into a workout exercise that we're all familiar with. If you begin sweating, you know you're beginning sympathetic dominance, you're starting to workout. If your tongue starts drying out, we've all had this experience. You go for a run or whatever it is, and your mouth starts going dry, you know you're heading into that zone. Then, the fourth thing is, so you should be able to do an exercise, like a work in on a full stomach.

Mike Salemi: You can do any exercise that you love through these parameters if you can stay within them. It was a way to cultivate energy but also build tremendous work capacity. When I was with Paul, we also used it not only as an active meditation which was so … That was my first introduction to meditation, because if you ask me just to sit down and be still, it would've been really challenging. I loved it because it took something I was familiar with, and then through those criteria.

Mike Salemi: Now, I'll incorporate as its own active meditation, but also you can have some fun and play with it, incorporate it with working out exercises.

It's not that hard to do

Mike Salemi: It's not hard. It might sound complicated, but it's really not, it just takes some practice. With those exercises, if I started sweating or whatever it was, I'd set the bell down, go back to a breathing squat, then my heart rate would calm down. We would do that, and I would start with swings, and then I would do single kettlebell jerks, very light. Then, I would go double kettlebell jerks … or, clean and jerks, and I would repeat this. Then, ultimately I was able I think almost to get up to two eight kilos or two 10 kilo bells for up to 20 minutes.

Mike Salemi: Don't get me wrong, and it took nine plus months of regular practice like that, to get to that point. The whole focus was one to have an active meditative practice, to increase the energy and vitality in the system, but then to also when you're on a competitive platform, and you of all people know that breath is the key to everything-

Mike Salemi: Imagine if you're standing next to someone on a platform, or you're doing a CrossFit WOD, or you're in a competition and you're doing the same thing. By the time they tap into the sympathetic nervous system and start going into flight or fight adrenaline dump mode, you're still calm, you're still in your breath. In kettlebell sports, I have no idea when based off of that person, but let's say at minute three or something. I would be able to sustain after lots of practice later, and later, and later into the set, and I would still grind and I would still go to that tough place, but I found it tremendously beneficial to my inner practice, but also the outer practice as well.

Mike Salemi's Mastering The Kettlebell Program

Mike Salemi: Something that I created. Definitely, I'll send you the link. It's not off the top of my head, but I created for the listeners. I created just a taste of a combo working in, working out with kettlebells. A kettlebell exercise combined as a super set with a working in exercise, and it's also a fun one. If I recall, I made it like a juggling type exercise, so you can do it at a park. It shows you some skills that you can work towards with the kettlebells, it's gets all out of just the classic kettlebell swing, et cetera. I do some progressions into a movement, super set it with a working in.

Mike Salemi: It's just that … Sharing that sort of stuff gives me tremendous amount of joy, because it's not only … not only are you developing into becoming a badass with this cool tool, but you're also putting money back in the ATM. You're not just withdrawing, withdrawing, withdrawing, and so that's a free gift I got for the audience listening. Then, in my new kettlebell program, Mastering The Kettlebell, Paul actually was fricking awesome enough. We did eight lectures on working in, time of day, what things like wearing bellybutton rings does to your energetic feel. All sort of cool stuff, puts it all into really good context.

Mike's Takeaways From The Strong Coach Summit

Mike: I'm going to change gears on you real quick, if you don't mind. I'd like for you to share what you got out of The Strong Coach Summit.

Mike Salemi: Two things that I really got out of The Strong Coach. One, which I was not expecting, was the community. I thought, "Maybe, I'll meet some cool people." A lot of the conferences that I go to, you sit in your chair and that's it, but I thought what was so cool about this was, you opened it up with super introspective questions, and not only, you started with partner exercises, so get to know your partner. Switch your seats, ask them. Reciting whatever your vision is, your dream, what do you want to create, how's that going to look. That was honestly … That got me out of my comfort zone right away, and I'm grateful for it.

Mike Salemi: The people that I have met, especially now, it's been four days. Every single person that I met shared something with me that truly, truly was like a game changer for me, and I did not expect that. The community honestly was the biggest surprise, and also I shared with you. The past few days have been a dream come true for me. One of the things that's always been a dream of mine was to collaborate. There's so much I know that we can achieve by ourselves, locking ourself in a room and grinding, but I've always, always, always wanted to collaborate with the people who are fucking ready to change this industry for the better, their hearts in a good place.

Being able to connect with Leo and new affirmations

Mike Salemi: To have the opportunity to connect with Leo in this space was super, something that I was grateful for. Not just him, but other people as well. That was huge, honestly. That was a big part of my dream that I got. I also got to share something that I love, which was the bag and the bands with most of everyone in the group, which was cool. Then, started getting to look at the stories that I … You know what was so hard for me to say? I never would've called myself a businessman, and to identify with that identity.

Mike Salemi: Now, my affirmation is, "I am a businessman and a world class coach." It was interesting. When I started saying that, those words in the beginning, man they felt hard in my heart. I couldn't say it, and we went through a process of getting a little deeper into the stories we'd tell ourselves, but just changing a few words, and then changing it more, and then changing it more, and changing it more, and distilling it down to the essence of truly who you are. The embodiment now of, "I am a businessman." That is the energy that I'm moving forward with. Not being afraid of it, stepping into it.

Mike Salemi: Sure, there was a bunch of business stuff that I learned which was awesome, YouTube and whatever, delegation and whatever. For me, it's like those things are just tools, but if I still don't embody that I am a businessman, they're either going to be short lived, or I'm going to start and stop it, but if I really want to step into my potential then I need to start acknowledging that, and I am.

Connect with Mike Salemi

Mike Salemi: Awesome, yeah. Instagram is the best place right now, and it's @Mike.Salemi, and then also if you want to check out Mastering The Kettlebell, go to Not .com, .io, and that's where you can find me. My website is Whether it's kettlebells, Bulgarian bags, suples balls. I also do a bunch of other stuff, like ELDOA stretching, nutrition-

Mike: I've had a taste of that, and I want to get more into, the ELDOA stretching.

Mike Salemi: We are going to get crazy, man. When you come visit me up north, the sauna with the ELDOA. Not only just mechanically, but especially if you want to open up areas of the body. That has been the single … one of the best single additions to my practice that has helped keep me injury-free and really open a lot of things. The ELDOAs, but anything like that. Honestly, my dream is to build more balanced athleticism out there. Coaches, trainers, anyone, so anything around that realm. It doesn't have to be a specific tool, but I love it all.

Mike: Awesome. All right, folks. Make sure to go check out Mike Salemi on all the platforms, and all that shit.

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