Neighborhood Workout: The Lofty Launcherby Jen Sinkler
“And now this painting would like to say a few words.” He holds the canvas aloft, just behind the mic. The crowd quiets, and I laugh. I love Damani. The painting did say a few words, in so many.
He challenges, provokes, and agitates, in ways that delight and disrupt expectation. Part poet, singer, writer, videographer, actor, painter, and dancer, his role, really, is expansion on all fronts.
He was the headliner at open-mic night at Connie’s Ric Rac in Philadelphia, on 9th Street just south of Washington. It’s open mic night every Wednesday, and Damani — under his stage name, 121 — has been going for months now. Sometimes he’ll sing, sometimes he’ll throw in a prerecorded number, and it may be off the cuff or plotted out, but it’s always fully present and thoroughly new in some regard.
He’s a teacher, really. Contagious in adventure and exploration, always digging into new dimensions both in this life and philosophically. New skills spread from him. I love that kind of contagion.
One of the regulars, sitting belly-up to the bar, was wearing a shirt that said, “Anarchy doesn’t mean no rules, it means no rulers.” I loved that, too.
This is a concept important to exercise, I think. You are the most knowing about your own body, and the best coaches, to my mind, serve as facilitators and guides. Suggesters of good ideas, with options for more.
There are a few options in today’s workout.
Oh, and a word about Jefferson deadlifts: Kirby sometimes deals with sciatica in their lower back from the straight-legged strike-through involved in skateboarding, and they said their body felt really-really good both during and after this workout. This makes sense, as doctor of physical therapy Erika Mundinger often prescribes Jefferson deadlifts for that very condition.
On to the lift!
The Lofty Launcher
Equipment: Kettlebells, Bodyweight
Instructions: Always, always twenty seconds rest between exercises today, with varying lengths of work. The goal is to pick weights at which you can work crisply and continuously, but as always, rest a little extra any old time you need to. Set your timer accordingly for each mini-circuit and begin, and rest till you’re recovered between the three mini-circuits.
CIRCUIT 1 // 3 rounds // 3 stations
25:20 work-to-rest ratio
Kettlebell Jefferson Deadlift (Left Foot Forward)
Kettlebell Jefferson Deadlift (Right Foot Forward)
Bodyweight Pushup OR Kettlebell Seesaw Press (Options!)
Kettlebell Jefferson Deadlift
- Set up two kettlebells shoulder-width apart and with the handles lined up with one another (as if they were a barbell).
- Stand between them, feet shoulder-width apart and your body at a 45-degree angled stance.
- Keeping your chest up, push your butt back and bend your knees so that you can grasp the handles. Rotate your chest toward one foot.
- Holding onto the kettlebells, stand up completely without letting your chest cave forward.
- Return to the starting position by pushing your butt back and bending your knees until the kettlebells rest lightly on the floor. Keep your chest rotated forward throughout the movement. Repeat.
Bodyweight Pushup (Pictured With Hands Elevated)
- Start facing the floor in a straight-arm plank position with your body elevated between your hands and toes.
- Line up your hands directly under your shoulders, just wider than your rib cage. (If your hands are elevated, as pictured, line them up from whatever surface they’re on).
- With a stiff core and squeezed glutes, lower your body down as far as you can control, angling your elbows out to no more than 45 degrees. Don’t let your low back sag.
- Immediately reverse the movement to push yourself up to the start position.
- If doing pushups with your hands on the floor isn’t an option, scale the movement by elevating your hands onto a step, box, railing, or wall.
Other Pressing Option: Seesaw Press
- Clean two kettlebells to a racked position, thumbs pointing against your body and weights resting on the back of your (straight-as-a-board) wrists.
- Brace your midsection, imaging your torso as a can of soda, pressurized in every direction, and maintain that throughout the lift, even as you breathe. Include the glutes in this stiffening.
- Begin by pressing the one kettlebell overhead without letting your elbow or ribs flare out, or allowing your hips drift forward.
- As you begin to pull the weight you’re holding aloft carefully back down to the racked position, simultaneously press the other kettlebell toward the sky.
- Keep alternating which arm is pressing up and which arm is pulling the weight back down. Alternate reps until completion.
CIRCUIT 2 // 3 rounds // 1 station
20:20 work-to-rest ratio
Skater Jump (With Optional Vertical Hop)
Bodyweight Skater Jump
- From a standing position, lift one foot off the ground and bend that knee with your foot behind you.
- Keeping your chest up, squat down halfway to load the working leg, allowing your knee to track directly over your foot.
- From the bottom position explode up and over.
- Land as softly as possible, making sure your knee tracks in line with your foot.
- If you’d like, add an optional vertical jump.
- Reverse the movement, always landing softly.
CIRCUIT 3 // 3 to 4 rounds // 3 stations (count each swing side as its own)
35:20 work-to-rest ratio
Staggered Stance Swing (Left Foot Forward)
Staggered Stance Swing (Right Foot Forward)
Tap Plank OR Side Bend
Kettlebell Staggered-Stance Swing (for more deets on this lift, click here)
- Position your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, so that the handle of the kettlebell may pass through your legs on the back swing. Slightly stagger your feet forward to backward.
- With a kettlebell on the floor just in front of you, push your hips back, then bend your knees just enough that you can grip the handle of the bell with both hands, shoulders remaining above hips, tension in the backs of your legs and your glutes, and knees bent slightly in an athletic stance.
- As with a regular swing, hike the kettlebell back and up between your legs and push your butt back, slightly straightening your legs to load your posterior chain as you do so. Your forearms should make contact with your upper, inner thighs. (A lot of contact! Contact is good!)
- When the kettlebell reaches its farthest point back, quickly stand up, using the power of your hips, hamstrings, and glutes to “float” the kettlebell up to about shoulder height. Make sure to keep your shoulders pulled back and down, and don’t let the bell pull your chest forward.
- Reverse the movement by pulling the kettlebell down through the same arc, staying upright as long as possible before you snap your hips backward and again pass the kettlebell high back between your legs. Keep your chest broad the entire time, rather than caved in.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, using a powerful hip extension to generate upward momentum in the bell.
- When you’re ready to stop, pause at the bottom of the swing portion, gently parking the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Alternate which side you stagger each set.
Bodyweight Tap Plank
- Start in a straight-arm plank position, with your body elevated between your hands and toes. Your feet can be wider than shoulder width to help with stability.
- Raise one hand up to touch your chest. Keep your hips square and belly button facing the floor.
- Return the raised hand to the floor and repeat on the other side. Alternate “pledging” hands without twisting at the low back or rocking your hips from side to side.
- Optional: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance while performing the exercise.
Other Core Option: Kettlebell Side Bend
- Standing tall, hold a single kettlebell at one side, or two kettlebells of varying weights (the imbalance leads to more core activation, a perk for building strength [switch sides each round]).
- Brace your core and bend laterally to one side, lowering the weight toward the outer part of your knee as far as comfortably possible.
- Straighten up and bend to other side by reaching your empty hand toward the other knee. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides.
- To avoid bending forward or back, imagine that you are stuck between two panes of glass.