Bulgarian Bags & The Concept of “Working In” with Mike Salemi

In this episode, Mike Salemi is back but with April to share what he do with Bulgarian bags, kettlebells, and the concept of “working in”. Enjoy!

Table Of Contents

  • Introducing Mike Salemi
  • What Brought Mike To The Summit
  • Flowing With Bulgarian Bags
  • Benefits Of Using Bulgarian Bags Outside Of Wrestling
  • Kettlebell Sport
  • Working In Instead of Working Out
  • Breaking Out Of The Family Business
  • Mike’s Life Before The Strong Coach
  • The ELDOA Method
  • Closing Thoughts

Introducing Mike Salemi

April:    And welcome back to The Strong Coach Podcast. My name is April, and today, I’m recording with a different Mike, Mike Salemi. How’s it going, Mike?

Mike Salemi:    It’s going great. It’s going great.

April:    Awesome.

Mike Salemi:    Early Tuesday morning. I’m feeling good.

April:    Start the day off right. Good deal, Mike. So first of all, let’s just start off. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Mike Salemi:    Sure, yeah. So my main focus right now is performance. So I would consider myself a performance specialist, but maybe not in the traditional sense, because even though probably most people know me for kettlebell training, Bulgarian bag training, a huge part of my focus is creating more balance, athleticism in athletes and coaches, so there’s definitely like a more integrative approach to it. So a lot of what I do is teaching coaches and athletes how to balance the working out component in their life, as well as the inward work as well so they’re working it.

April:    Wow. That’s awesome. That’s very holistic.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. That’s been my whole life since I was a kid. I was fortunate enough to be around like a lot of… There was a local holistic lifestyle center that I pretty much grew up in.

April:    Oh, nice.

Mike Salemi:    And that’s really where I was a strength and conditioning coach starting off, but every single colleague in that space was a hypnotherapist, was like check practitioners, energy workers, so it was a cool little fostering ground for this sort of stuff.

April:    Awesome, man. So you and I met at The Strong Coach Summit. Did you do a 90 day program as well?

Mike Salemi:    No, I did not do the 90. I’m in the mastermind right now.

April:    Right.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah.

April:    Good deal. Why did you come to the summit? What brought you to the summit?

Mike Salemi:    I was actually just having dialogue with Mike, reached out to Mike for some business advice, and we’d always kept in touch. Well, not all the time, but just from time to time after I was on his podcast.

And so it actually just so happened that, that weekend, I was going to be in San Diego teaching, and so I was like, “The stars are aligning. I know business is something that I really need to focus on,” and so Mike was like, “Let’s hop on a call. Let me see where you’re at in your business, and potentially at the summit, or something else is a good fit.” So I chatted with Mike and it sounded real good and it sounded like it was in alignment, and so I just signed up and the rest was history.

April:    Awesome. What was your favorite part about the summit?

Mike Salemi:    Honestly, the favorite part was, there was a lot of good business stuff covered, but at the end of the night and before the day, those were my favorite parts. So the morning breath work, which I had never been to a conference, business, wellness, whatever, where before the thing even starts, you’ve got the community getting together. We were all on the beach. I don’t even know. There was 50 plus, 60 of us in a circle doing breath work, and there was drumming going on for like an hour, and that, to set the tone for the day without any coffee, no nothing, just getting high on breath work and the community and the energy shared, that was really cool.

So I loved that part, and at the end of the day, we all got together and did movement at the park and at the beach, and so to see other people like Mike, like Danny, like Leo, like Ben, all these just rad dudes were doing great things, to see us all come together, especially with everybody else and swing bags, spin bags, move and play was super enjoyable.

Flowing With Bulgarian Bags

April:    Awesome. Similarly, I’ve never been to a conference that started and ended like that. Luckily, I got a chance to do the breath work one morning, because the rest of the time, I was podcasting, so it was really great. Now, Mike, I’m so curious to learn more about Bulgarian bags. What are they? How’d you come into learning about them and doing them and flowing with them?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. The Bulgarian bag’s a super neat piece of equipment. I’ve heard before, “What makes the Bulgarian bag different from like a sandbag or something like that?” So it’s quite a bit different than a sandbag, and a lot of it has to do, honestly, with the story of the bag and why it was created and who created it.

So the inventor of the Bulgarian bag was the former U.S. Olympic Greco Roman wrestling coach, a guy named Ivan Ivanov, spelled legit. He was also an Olympian in Bulgaria, his wife’s a world champion in judo, so they’re a highly, highly athletic and finely tuned family, just bad ass. His son’s like national champion wrestler right now.

So he essentially designed the bag approximately 13-ish years ago. Maybe not quite 14 years ago. And he designed it while he was at the Olympic Training Center, and so what he was-

April:    The one in Colorado Springs?

Mike Salemi:    No. Actually, for wrestling.

April:    A different one?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, the satellite. Some sports, they do in different areas. And so he wanted one tool, a single tool that he could condition a whole group of his athletes mainly, in those days originally, for the purpose of muscular endurance training, which is like absolutely huge for wrestling.

And he was looking for movements that he couldn’t quite do with other pieces of equipment, mainly explosive rotational movements. And so he wanted not only that aspect, but to mimic awkward positional stuff, the grip demand of wrestling, and so he came up with the Bulgarian bag, and it’s most well known in the wrestling circles. But my goal and my mission is to really get it out into fitness and into other sports as well, because there’s a huge, huge component of it that can benefit other areas too.

So it was developed for that, and I came across it. I’ve been using it for almost 10 years, still have my original bag. It’s a little beat to crap, but it still works. All the bags are actually handmade in Bulgaria by his brother.

It’s a family run business, even though it’s a global company. So everything was made with heart and the craftsmanship is excellent. So I came across it 10 year ago, but was mainly using it as, let’s just say, like for squats and lunges. I could never find any education on it. And so for the longest times, I was using it, but not nearly to its fullest potential.

Then I saw a course, went out there, got to meet Ivan, and I was like, “Dude.” This was like, I don’t even know, a few years ago, but I was like, “I need to be a part of this.” So then I started staying in Boise, where he’s at, for extended periods of time, just to study and to learn, and now it’s all about sharing it.

Benefits Of Using Bulgarian Bags Outside Of Wrestling

April:    Very cool. You mentioned applications outside of wrestling to general health and fitness. What would you say those are?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So if we look at it from like a more birds eye perspective, honestly, when you look at, no matter what… Well, every sport’s going to have a specific kind of like pattern or movement planes that they tend to operate in.

But when you’re looking at like basketball, baseball, hockey, those are all sports that require multi-planer movements, so you have to move front to back, side to side, and you need to be able to rotate.

And then it’s multiple patterns, so squatting, bending, lunging, twisting, all those things. So if you look at it from the aspect that, still to this day, most strength and conditioning coaches, they’re very good, but most strength and conditioning coaches train front to back, train in the sagittal planes.

They completely miss side to side, they completely miss rotation. And a lot of times, it has to do with, one, just the culture and the way we’re programmed to do stuff, but also a lot of the training tools are not designed for those types of movements.

So it’s very hard to do rotational movements with a barbell. Right?

April:    Possible, but you’re not going to get the same power out of it.

Mike Salemi:    Exactly. Every tool has its niche. So the barbell’s an amazing tool. I competed in power lifting for 10 years, I went to weightlifting, and I loved the tool. It’s mainly to help absolute strength, to like build up a one rep max.

You can’t swing a barbell through your legs. That’s why there’s the kettlebell, right?

April:    Yeah, yeah.

Mike Salemi:    And so cyclical movements, higher volume, repetition movements, you might use a kettlebell, more instability, stuff like that, the Bulgarian Bag for rotation. And honestly, so to give people a perspective, I’ve been using it for 10 years, and still, I always say like 90% of my training to this day, after using this tool for 10 years, is only 26 pounds.

Which is ridiculous when people think, “Wow, you’re slinging 400 or 500, 600 pounds on a barbell. You do this with kettlebells, whatever.” It’s just a completely different tool because of these multi-planer, multi-pattern movements, and it really, really, really trains the ability to not only accelerate load, but decelerate load safely.

So when I’m looking for sports and sporting applications, hockey, baseball, even fighting, you’ve got rotational movements, which are a huge component, and teaching the body to safely decelerate, which is mainly where most injuries I see come from.

April:    Yeah, yeah. That’s huge. That’s incredible. Did your Bulgarian bag work and your power lifting work overlap?

Mike Salemi:    Well, I would say the Bulgarian bag work complements the power lifting work.

April:    Okay. Do you still do a lot of power lifting too?

Mike Salemi:    No. I do probably one day a week of barbell work. I’ve been competing also in kettlebell sport for about 10 years. So, that’s been my main focus, until just this last year.

I’ve taken a break from that. But I really see the Bulgarian bag being like the ideal complement for kettlebells. People that lift bells get the bag immediately. They understand awkward objects, things that you can’t do with other tools, so it seems like a perfect marriage.

April:    And I imagine the swing of it too. If you get the kettlebell swing, understanding the swing of the Bulgarian bag would come pretty easy. Is that accurate?

Mike Salemi:    I think you can understand the concept of it, but it’s so unique. Like counterbalancing and rotation and timing, it’s different, but the concept, you can apply as well.

Kettlebell Sport

April:    Okay, cool. Now, what is kettlebell sport? What is the sport of kettlebells?

Mike Salemi:    So it’s the national sport of Russia, and so essentially it’s also, not too many people know about it, but it’s also the primary way in which they train and condition the Russian military. And when you look, now there’s many more smaller events to make it a little bit more user friendly and a little bit less scary for most people.

But essentially what it is, is two classic events, and the first one is the main one that I compete in, and I compete in all of it, but mainly double kettlebell for men, double kettlebell clean and jerk, which is called long cycle.

And that’s done nonstop, no break, can’t set the bells down for 10 minutes unbroken. So your only rest period is at the chest in the rack position and at full lockout overhead.

April:    Okay. Wow, okay. I have seen some of this long form and this complete… I learned kettlebell a long time ago and only very basic things, and watching and learning that kettlebell sport was another thing, it looks like there is even a slightly different technique to those.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, that’s a great observation. Yeah. There is a very different… You’re still cleaning and jerking, yes, but when you look deeper at the nuances, it’s a very different technique that’s set up for high volume lifting.

You have the clean and jerk, and then you also have two events. It’s 10 minutes of a single kettlebell snatch, with one hand switch, and then you have a double kettlebell jerk for 10 minutes unbroken. So it’s just chest, overhead, chest, overhead, and 32 kilos is the professional division. So double 32s in each hand, yeah.

April:    That’s so incredible. The things we find to compete in, right?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah.

“Working In” Instead Of Working Out

April:    Cool. All right. Mike, let’s talk more about the coaching aspect now. You do so many cool things with all of these bags and bells and whatnot. And you coach all of these things as well?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So I teach certs for Bulgarian bags, and then I teach a lot of kettlebell work, yeah.

April:    Okay. Talk more about the holistic part of it too and the balance that you’re coaching.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So it’s actually a great time to discuss it. So I just got back from England, England and Italy, and it was the first time that I’d ever taught, I called it the Workshop Beyond Art and Athletic Performance, and it was truly the first time in a live setting that I’ve taught most everything that I do, and so a lot of times, what will happen is, I’ll incorporate, for example, working in activities, which are essentially, you can do it with any movement. You can do it with a squat, you can do it with like imitating a cable push and rotate, but essentially, it’s any movement that you want to focus on typically done body weight, and essentially there’s criteria.

Now, I learned this from Paul Chek, who was a coach of mine. I spent a lot of time with him, and it was one of the main things that honestly saved my lifting career and has allowed me to now continue to compete if I wish, but in a healthy way. And so a working in activity, you could think about… Well, let’s talk working out. Everyone’s familiar with working out.

We’re talking energy expenditure. We’re talking an exercise or an activity that costs the body more energy and resources than it brings it.

So a working in is the opposite of that. A working in brings in more energy and resources than it costs the body to output. So there’s four criteria that you know.

April:    That makes sense. Okay.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. Honestly, it is the biggest missing thing that I tend to see, especially in athletes and in coaches. So the way you know if you’re working in or working out, number one is if, when you’re doing the exercise, if you start sweating. So if you start sweating, you know you’re heading into a more sympathetic state, you’re working out.

Two, the tongue has to stay moist. So have you ever had the experience where you’re going for like a run or something like, and then your tongue starts drying out?

April:    Oh yeah. I used to run a whole more than I do these days, but yeah, I’ve gotten dry mouth in the middle of a run. It sucks.

Mike Salemi:    So that’s the second key indicator. The third is actually two combined. It’s if the heart rate and respiratory rate increase. So we should be able to have a conversation. The heart rate shouldn’t go up when you’re doing a working in activity.

And then the last thing, 4/5, is digestion should improve. Kind of like, I’ll say, if you’re eating a big, big meal and you go for a walk to your car, and you automatically feel like, “Wow, I feel a little bit lighter. I digested that food better,” a walking meditation, or a walking form is the form of working in.

This may be a little out there, but depending on if people believe in like the chakras or anything like that, there’s specific work in exercises that you can use to stimulate energy and bring in intention to specific zones of the body or areas of the body.

So there’s specific working in exercises for the solar plexus area or the chest area, but based off of your intention. So you would do this. It’s a way to integrate breath with movement, and once again, vitalize the system.

April:    Wow. It sounds like working in can amplify your recovery?

Mike Salemi:    Absolutely, and that’s a more sexy way to pitch it, and that’s usually what we do, yeah. So it’s fantastic for, yeah, recovery, getting blood moving, getting circulation going, getting your breath going.

April:    That is really cool. And you’re coaching those things as well?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So I integrate. So they can be done by themselves, but actually working in was my first way into incorporating more meditation into my life without it being so foreign and scary to me, because Paul took movements that I was comfortable with, like a squat, but just kind of gave me these guidelines, “Okay, Mike, I want you to breathe with the movement. I want you to exhale here, inhale here.”

And the cool thing honestly is, it’s not about being technical. So we’re all coaches. We drill in the perfect technique on the squat, etcetera. The goal about working in movements is just to integrate breathless movement and to go inward, feel your body as much as you can focus on that, bring it inside, and so I’ll use that by itself, or also inside, let’s say, circuit training.

So if I’ll do a series of three exercises, potentially the fourth exercise will be a work in exercise, and I’ll go until my heart rate and respiratory rate calms down, whatever that is, and then I’ll hop back in.

April:    Wow. What a concept. That’s really cool because… Okay. So I went through The Strong Coach beta version. I’ve told this story so many times. Anyway, one of the things that I learned was, one, self care, and two, especially at the summit, I was learning and feeling a lot, and so, one of the things I learned that is not self care for me is working out. I used to think it was, but it’s not.

And especially going through the Lifted program too. I like working out, I love working out, makes me feel strong and good and healthy and all that stuff and it’s energy I’m happy to expend, but then this new concept of working in seems like… Well, I imagine, that it’s so… Ah, that’s so cool. It just complements it so well. It’s the yin and yang, right?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, exactly.

April:    Ah. Do you do one-on-one coaching? Or you’re mostly just doing seminars these days?

Mike Salemi:    So I do, do one-on-one coaching, except I don’t usually work with clients for an hour. Usually, it’s a minimum of a half day, and then even one day and two day one-on-one sessions.

April:    Okay, cool. So within that, yeah, what does that look like with you? What does one-on-one coaching look like with you?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So it’s been an ongoing evolution. What I realized is, I do not like being constrained by time. I don’t feel like I do my best work if I feel like I’m having to rush whatever it is, an assessment or something comes up with the client. I’ll let them know up front, “This is roughly the time commitment. This is how it works.” And it’s really, really customized based off of what they need. Right?

There’s a bunch of tools we can go into, especially if it’s an athlete. So if it’s an athlete, let’s say it might be an orthopedic assessment for like two-ish hours, and then I’ll design a specific program for them based off of where they are in their process, if they’re injured, or if they’re heading into a competition, design their program. I’ll teach them their program, they’ll video it, and a lot of times, that’ll at least take four hours, sometimes longer.

And then depending on what’s going on with the person, we can also incorporate breath work activities, sauna training, again, the working in component, cooking, stuff like that.

So it’s basically a 100% customized based off of what they’re coming to get support with.

April:    That’s fantastic. So yeah, really holistic, because you mentioned cooking too. What do you do when they need cooking help?

Mike Salemi:    It’s so funny, because I also work now with firefighters and stuff like that, and some firefighters know amazingly how to cook, and I’m just using that as an example because it just came up the other day, but some have no idea, and so sometimes, literally, it’s just based off of their situation, teaching them how to make crock pot meals, Instapot meals. Just honestly showing them what a healthy kitchen looks like.

And it can be a topic of conversation, what fats to choose, or how to source animal proteins, or just how to make a balanced meal for their unique needs, and I like that. Plus, it’s just, you’re leaving them with something that they can take back with them. And so I’m super big on that, whether it’s the training program that they leave with, or some type of morning meditation or morning routine. Whatever it is, I really want them to be able to act on whatever the coaching was for that day or two.

Breaking Out Of The Family Business

April:    Okay, cool. Good deal. Let’s talk more about balancing your life. We were chatting a little bit before I started recording, what was your life like before The Strong Coach? You were mentioning there was a lot of business.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, so it’s been interesting. So I’m 32 right now, so when I hit 30… I’ve been coaching since I was about 15 or 16.

April:    Wow.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. So in my home power lifting gym, I was coaching the team in there, and also at school. I was a strength and conditioning coach for our high school when I was like 16, 17, something like that, and so I’ve always loved it, and I’ve always really taken to that.

But one of the things that happened was, was when the economy crashed, my family’s business is in the marbling branded industry, and so my family’s very, very Sicilian, very culturally tight, and so a decision was made. I chose to go into the family business, and I was still coaching on the side and on the weekends and stuff, but I spent about eight years in the marbling branded industry and it was like, it’s a great job, I loved a lot of aspects of it, but it was by nowhere where my heart was.

And it was a really challenging process to essentially just not be following my dreams for eight years, and so the plan was much shorter, and then it kept kind of going on one year, the next year, the next year, and then I hit 30 and I was like, “I’ve got to make a change. If I continue in this way, I’m either going to get sick or just be more depressed.” So I decided that the pain of staying in that type of work was so much greater than breaking out and being on my own and really having to start something, even though I had been in it, what I felt like, was from ground zero.

April:    I imagine it was also tough because you mentioned your family’s so tight. That was a family business, yeah?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. When you see your brother-in-law, mom and dad every single day, and then all of a sudden there’s a switch, everything changes. The dynamic changes. And it wasn’t by any means easy. In fact, it was far from that, but it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made for me.

So I’m so much happier. And so these last three years, because I did one aspect of that business. I didn’t do all aspects. Each one of us had our specific kind of lanes and our roads, but we did. So coming into now, trying to make this business, what I’m in right now, the health and fitness industry, make this a viable, sustainable, scalable, profitable thing, it’s been an eyeopener.

April:    How so?

Mike Salemi:    Well, it’s now all on me, and so having to understand all these different aspects of business, and even though I’m moving in the direction delegating and forming a team, it’s like when you’re on your own, it’s like so much of it depends on you.

If I didn’t put a social media post out, then it wasn’t going out, or if I wasn’t following up to these emails or really hustling to get out there, it would not have happened in the way it’s happened, and I’m very much still learning, and that’s where I’m so grateful for The Strong Coach, because I had this conversation with Mike.

He was asked the same question too, “How many books in business?” You’re familiar with the story. Like, how many books does he read relative to fitness? And I’m like, you’re looking at my bookshelf behind you. It’s filled right now. It’s like 98%, 99% is all this. This bookshelf is all health, fitness, and wellness, and I’m like, “Man, I don’t have one business book.” However, now on my desk, I actually have two.

Just making that a priority, and not only making that a priority, but feeling supported in that has been huge, because I’m not going to say, by any means, that I’m an expert in business, but I now have people that I trust for mentorship and for guidance, and I’m putting in the work. So I’m in a hell of a lot better shape moving forward towards scalability, more profitability than I’ve ever been in just a short amount of time. So The Strong Coach, for me, came at a perfect time.

April:    Awesome. What are some of the things that you, as a coach, have implemented into your business, like some of the first things that you’ve implemented?

Mike Salemi:    So some of the first things? So it’s been a month since then, I would say, so now I have an application process when a facility wants to host a workshop, as well as a more thorough vetting process for one-on-one coaching.

Which has been really, really big for me, because what I find is a lot of hosts of gyms, for example, want to host Bulgarian bag training or bring me out, but when it’s communicated exactly what it takes to run a workshop, get equipment, and make it successful for all parties involved, what I’m finding is a little bit more commitment. I’m talking about on both ends, so there’s a better understanding of what’s expected and stuff like that.

So the application process has been really helpful so far. I just implemented it. Also, speaking to my customers. I have a program that took me like a year to develop. Mastering the Kettlebell was all I did for one year. That’s all I did, and so now, I released it a few months ago, and so now it’s time to actually sell the program and get it out there, and what I really realized was, even though I had talked to coaches, I’d never really spoken and actually called customers just to hear how they’re doing, what their pain points are, what are they going through in their business.

So now, I’m actually having meetings, like Skype meetings or Zoom meetings with pretty much everyone I can whose already purchased the program, because I just want to… It’s been fascinating to understand what they’re doing, what they’re using the kettlebell for, what their businesses are, where they’re going, areas that I never thought that they would be using it in, and want to use it, and find struggles and teaching and stuff. So it’s been an eyeopener to connect with them, and I know that’s going to help me moving forward for future stuff as well.

April:    Cool. What’s been the most interesting thing that you’ve learned from asking those questions to your customers and clients? What are they using it for that you were like, “Oh, really?”

Mike Salemi:    Two things have come up. I just did a call yesterday with a guy from Australia, which is so rad to see that someone so far away is using it, and so his goal and his dream is to actually utilize that as one tool within his… The direction that he’s going to go is building more healthy masculinity.

It’ll be retreats and he’s a Kundalini yoga instructor, and just a rad dude, and he was like, “Yeah, I want to inspire men in a healthy way, balance.” Just very much similar to my dream, balance the working out with the working in and teach breath work, and the kettlebell is a great way. He lives like two hours from Sydney and it’s the most… He showed me pictures of it, like pretty beaches and stuff, and so he wants to utilize the kettlebell in that way, so that was neat.

But to be honest, when an order comes through or when someone signs up, you don’t know who that person is, and so to get on the call and see their face, it’s real people. As crazy as that sounds, it’s so cool to get insight into their lives and areas that I never would have thought that people may be attracted to it or stuff like that. One guy, I had an electrician buy it, and I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” I always thought it was mainly more for coaches and trainers, but he wants to learn how to lift safely and so to hear how it’s making him more resilient in awkward positions when he’s doing his work.

And it’s, once again, just there’s people. It’s people who are getting it. So I’ve really been enjoying just connecting with who we’re trying to. I love to hear about people’s stories.

April:    Yeah, that’s a good point. Because I know electricians in certain jobs just have so much pulling and hauling of cable, mostly just with their bodies. They might not have like a lot of equipment to help them with that, but they’re doing a lot of that themselves, so that makes a ton of sense that this guy found you and was like, “This is actually going to help me in my profession.” That’s not like a fitness profession. So what was life like before The Strong Coach?

Mike’s Life Before The Strong Coach

Mike Salemi:    Hmm. Before The Strong Coach, I would say I always knew that business was a big gap for me, and I was doing everything I could or thought I could do to help create more systems to kind of set my business up so it’s just not all me, even though my business, my brand is my name. Right? Just being so intertwined in the business, and also not taking time for vacations and time to get some space in my life, and so since then, I’ve really changed it. A lot of it has to do with feeling supported.

April:    It does.

Mike Salemi:    Knowing that I can text or write Mike on Slack Channel, or Val, and just get some insight into things that, for me, seem liked big mountains of like, “Oh my God, I have to write this proposal to this person, and what if it’s structured wrong, all this stuff?” Now, I can send it to them, they can review it. I can feel more at peace about it, and then-

April:    Get some feedback on it.

Mike Salemi:    Get some feedback, yes. Get some feedback, and now create more space in my life for… Now, what’s cool is, I’ve always been more in touch with the intuitive side of things, but now using more intuition and trusting my gut to help yield the decisions that I want to make or not make. So Mike said something once, like, “Does this decision feel heavy? Or does this decision feel light?”

And whereas, before, I would have entertained a lot more, let’s say, workshops that I just didn’t know if they felt really good. Our partnership now, I’ve just realized, “Okay, this one does not feel good. This is not the direction I’m going to go, and I’m okay with that.”

April:    Okay, good. So that sounds like creating more space is also learning how to say no?

Mike Salemi:    Huge. Yeah, huge.

April:    Yeah.

Mike Salemi:    Learning to say no is absolutely spot on.

April:    You had a really great post on your Instagram a couple weeks ago, I think maybe when you were getting back from Europe, about creating space. Was there something specific that happened in Europe?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. It was the first time, because I had just come back from that San Diego trip, and when I came back, it was two weeks on the road and I’m trying to create as many appointments or possibilities for networking stuff when I travel and I teach, and at the end, I got a cold of the trip, of the two weeks, and I rarely, rarely get sick, and I was just like, “All right, stuff needs to change.”

Now, what I’m going to do is, the next trip, which was Europe, which was like a week or two later, I was like, “I’m going to teach in Italy. And then I’m going to take three days completely off, and I’m going to go to an island, kind of separate myself from everything.”

So I took three days of like forced vacation, if you want to say that. I was adamant that I need this space for me to recover and reflect on how things went well before I go to England and teach, because it’s like it’s super important to me that when I show up, I am a 100% there.

April:    Yeah. So you set your boundaries, and then you scheduled yourself well?

Mike Salemi:    Yes. That was a big thing for me. I had never done that, and so now, I’m adamant that I’m going to take three days in the month completely off, actually maybe like a camping trip or something, whatever it is, and then one week every three months is going to be vacation.

I’m going to be adamant about that, at least. If there’s more, great, but right now, that is my commitment to myself.

April:    Awesome. Oh, that’s huge. That’s huge for self care. Do you speak Italian?

Mike Salemi:    Yes.

April:    Okay, cool. So you taught that entire Bulgarian bag and kettlebell class in Italian?

Mike Salemi:    On this trip, I taught about half in Italian.

April:    Okay.

Mike Salemi:    So I taught Bulgarian bags for MMA in Italian. I taught a few other workshops. There was one or two that were like ELDOAs, which we can share a little, are super technical.

April:    Yeah, okay.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, yeah, for sure. So when it was that technical, there was, fortunately, one partner of mine in there, who was the main guy who brought me out, he speaks excellent English, and so I made the choice to speak some Italian, but I was like, when we’re talking about like factual lines and like de-coaptation of joints to trainers, I really want to make sure I can be as detailed as possible. So for those instances, he was super helpful, but it was a mix of both for sure.

April:    Cool. That’s awesome. Oh wow. I’m always interested to learn what technical jargon, how that comes up in different languages, because I know enough conversational Spanish and I’ve had to, at times, try to speak anatomically at a chiropractic clinic. I was trying to describe stretches in Spanish, and I was like, “Oh, this is taking all my brain power because I’m rusty on my Spanish.”

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. Actually, you made me think of something on that last note.

April:    Go for it.

Mike Salemi:    One thing that I honestly feel, I’ve been this style of teacher, but teaching abroad has really helped. What I’ve found is, yeah, everyone obviously learns in a different way. Some people are more visual, some people more auditory, some people more kinesthetic, and when you’re forced to speak in a different language that’s not your native tongue, you use every tool that you have, every resource that you have in you, and so I definitely was able to convey what I wanted to convey and go into detail, but I relied also on the other things, like more demonstrating, more kinesthetic, getting people to feel their bodies and put them in a position so they understood the correct positioning.

So those situations, I feel have made me a better coach and more well rounded in terms of incorporating coaching techniques and styles that encompass more of all learning modalities.

April:    That’s great. Yeah, if you can explain that, one, in a couple different languages, just speaking languages, and two, in a couple of different movement, auditory, kinesthetic type languages, that’s really huge too, because just there’s so many. That’s why I’m so excited that there ae so many different styles of coaching out there and different people doing these coaches, and just having met everyone in The Strong Coach and all the cool things they’re doing.

Some people are going to respond really well to you, Mike, and some people are going to respond really well to me, and vice versa. Some people might not really get your coaching style, and that’s okay, because there are so many other people out there doing other cool things that they will respond to. So maybe it’s, “I’m not the right coach of you. Oh hey, you know what? I think I know someone who is.” And you just hand them off and be like, “Enjoy.” And then you can still check in on them and you’ve still helped them. You still coach them to something that they need.

The ELDOA Method

April:    So ELDOA, you described it, again, before we got started. I’m so interested in this. What is it?

Mike Salemi:    So ELDOA, so it’s an acronym, and it’s a French acronym. So when you translate it to English, the acronym switches to LOADS, L-O-A-D-S, and I’ll give the translation, but then I’ll break it down much more simply.

So the literal translation of the acronym is Longitudinal Osteo Articular De-coaptation Stretching/Strengthening.

April:    Those are really long words.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah, it’s long words. So basically what it is, is it’s a series of postures. Right? It’s a series of postures that are super precise and highly focused for nearly every single joint in the body with the ultimate goal to increase the space of that joint actively.

So you could think about like… It was developed by a French osteopath, named Dr. Guy Voyer, who’s just brilliant. He was also an Olympian in judo, a medical doctor. The dude’s just brilliant. But it was mainly first used in the rehab setting. So, for example, normally if someone has disk bulges, let’s say an L-5/S-1, the most commonly injured area in the spine, normally where they may be doing surgery, you can utilize ELDOAs as a personal practice that the person can do in just one minute every single day.

And you will not only increase the space, so not just a decompression, but an active decompression will help de-coaptation, so that person built space and strength to maintain that. So it’s really been probably the most valuable tool I’ve added into my toolbox that has helped the longevity of my career and just of my overall wellbeing.

April:    Yeah. Can you give one example of a stretch like that, like the posture?

Mike Salemi:    Like do it?

April:    Well, is there a really simple one that you can? Because I’d like to learn some of this.

Mike Salemi:    Because they’re so precise, it’s like very hard. If you see also any videos on YouTube, usually the people who run the ELDOA curriculum are trying to get them to split town. It’s very hard to. The only way you truly know if you’re getting the de-coaptation, the opening effect, is outpatient, so like from the table.

If I were to sit you down, right, so let’s just take like, in the spine, T-8, T-9, pretty much middle spine right below the shoulder blades, that area is usually the apex or the biggest point of the curve in the mid-back, and so most people, that’s going to be the space in the spine that’s going to be most susceptible to like gravitational pull. So just doing an ELDOA for that position can be amazing to start opening up the spine.

It’s also the main area of the spine responsible for rotation. So I use it for Bulgarian bag work, I use it for any type of rotational athlete, and you would put someone in a seating posture, kind of like it’s in a cross legged position with hands over head, and then from behind, I would actually have my fingers right on your spine, and be feeling in between the vertebrae, right where the disks are, and so my goal as the coach would be to feel the actual opening of the joints.

And so for your body, even though you might see a picture, I might need to adjust the hand position, the foot position, because just the picture doesn’t do it justice.

April:    There’s a lot of specifics and hands on that’s really required to do it, right?

Mike Salemi:    Exactly, yes.

April:    Got it. Okay, good to know. I’m still going to look into it more.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. It’s only one minute and just one minute a day that you could do before bed or after training, and when I first learned it, I was spending, man, most all of my money goes to food, self care, and education. Those are the three areas of where I spend. Right?

They always say, “Look at your bookshelf and your bank account.”
Mike Salemi:    Yeah. And I noticed that my therapy bill, like massage therapist, whatever it is, went down almost 50% just by adding in ELDOAs, which was something that I could do by myself at home once I learned them, and I started feeling better than I’d ever had and I was like, “Wow.” I’m all about practices that empower you, that empower the client, that empower me to do the healing work on my own. Going to see someone can be incredibly beneficial, but I want the tools that you can do yourself are huge.

April:    Yeah, agreed, agreed. Yeah, sometimes it helps to have someone do some of the work with you or for you, those massage therapists, chiropractors, etcetera. I agree. The more you can be autonomous in your health and wellness, and then share that, that’s going to benefit a lot of people. So, cool. Mike, what are you most excited for that you’re doing right now?

Mike Salemi:    So right now, what excites me most is continuing to get more students into my Mastering the Kettlebell program and supporting that.

That’s super excites me, and also, next week, I actually registered for this a year ago. I’ve been using, it’s a medicine from the… I don’t know if you’d call it a medicine, not in this traditional western sense, but there’s essentially a medicine from the jungle or from the South America, Peru, Brazil, called Kambo, and it’s from the secretion of frog. You’re familiar with it?

April:    Yes, yes. I listened to a podcast about frogs where they talked about this. It secretes a substance, right?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. It’s been super helpful for my own just personal growth, wellbeing of vitality, in the last probably four or five years, and I just knew, at some point, that I wanted to share this with others, and so it’s just constantly come up in meditations or in things that I’ve been reflecting on, and so I registered a year ago for a two week training in like a far out retreat center right by Canada, Bellingham, Washington. I registered like a year ago and that training happens end of next week.

April:    All right.

Mike Salemi:    I’m super excited about that.

April:    So you’re going to learn how to use it yourself, administer it?

Mike Salemi:    Yes, to be a practitioner, exactly. It’s not illegal or anything like that. It’s not radioactive, but it’s something that I really want to support, especially athletes. I really see it really being used in the performance realm. Actually, Mark was telling me they used to use it on race horses believe it or not.

April:    What an interesting anecdote. So what I have heard about Kambo is, it’s great for creating space, which has been a bit of theme throughout our conversation today. Is that what’s it done for you?

Mike Salemi:    I think, yeah. It’s a lot of also physical space, because it’s a strong purgative. So it’s a very strong purgative, it cleanses the body, but it can be used like in moments of transition, or when someone’s feeling blocked, to kind of open up that space. That’s what I’ve heard it used for as well.

April:    Okay.

Mike Salemi:    But especially from the physical standpoint, it’s incredible as like a cellular cleanse. It works with the lymphatic system. You hyper-activate the immune system and so it’s something that I really want to support, especially athletes, in the more one-on-one coaching when someone comes out, for example, for like a day or so.

Closing Thoughts

April:    Okay, cool. That’s fun. I’m excited to hear more about that and what you learn with that. That’ll be great. What about in the future? What are you excited to create in the future?

Mike Salemi:    That offering to have someone to really… It’s already happening, but not in the sense of using Kambo, but I also just built this like rad big sauna in my background. Did you see that on social?

April:    Maybe. I might have.

Mike Salemi:    Okay.

April:    Okay, I’ll go look again.

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. It’s a big sauna, six foot by eight foot sauna. I’ve been constructing my home to be more of like a little retreat center, and so whether it’s sauna work, breath work, Kambo training, or physical training, that’s what I’m really excited to do today now, more so in three day stuff.

And then just develop more online programs that, again, foster this more balanced athlete. So I just finished and will release soon a working in program with Paul Chek, so that’s going to be really cool. That’ll be coming out in the next few weeks. So yeah, more programs that help support balanced athletes with a lot of these unconventional tools somewhere incorporated.

April:    Awesome. That’s fantastic. You’ve got so much cool stuff going on, and you’re headed up to the Spartan thing soon too?

Mike Salemi:    Yeah. I’m going to drive up on Thursday.

April:    That world class, world championships, or something?

Mike Salemi:    It is. I’m not going to be running.

April:    Oh, okay.

Mike Salemi:    That wasn’t the plan, but more for just to be a podcast guest, because it’s a big media festival as well. It’s my first time going, so hopefully, I’m going to be on a few podcasts just to promote what I’m doing and connect with some really cool people.

April:    Love it. Good deal. Mike, where can people find you?

Mike Salemi:    The best place I would say, right now, is Instagram, and that just at Mike.Salemi, and also if anyone wants to learn more about Mastering the Kettlebell, if they go to Programs.MikeSalemi.io, not .com, that’s where they can find that. Those would be the best places.

April:    Awesome. Thank you so much for sitting down with me today, Mike. You’re doing so much cool stuff. This is why I want to talk to people and tell your stories. Thank you.

Mike Salemi:    Thank you so much. This has been super fun. I appreciate it. Thank you.

April:    Good deal, Mike.

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