Megapovtorka. Another way to train endurance.

I don't have a choice, "megapovtorka" is the name of this method used by the guy whose Youtube channel I lifted it from. The guy is Dmitry Sokolov, and he is a personal coach.

Don't be put off by the name of the method too much. Megapovtorka simply means MegaRepeat. It is likely not new, but Mr.Sokolov more time to it than anybody else. In any case, his channel is where I found it.

Before describing the method, let's track back a little. How do you increase the number of reps in GS? Fedorenko and his WKC crowd believed you have to do 10 minute sets every training session and try beat your best every session. Russian EDT template got you progressing from ten one minute sets to five sets of two minutes and so on, till you could do seven, eight and full ten minutes. many other templates used repeated method - several sets of snatching or jerking, also gradually progressing to ten minute set. Finally, Rudnev got me doing several shorter sets with heavy bells, followed by one ten minute set with light bell (I was only doing snatch).

MegaRepeat is somewhat different. Dmitry applies it to many activities, including Girevoy Sport. The idea has been described in Khozhurkin's book on pullups. It goes as follows.

Let's take KB snatch. You start with light bell, say 12 kg, and do 50 reps each hand. You have to have considerable number of reps in the tank, so that you don't get the feeling of - I am struggling to find a good word in English... You know the feeling when the muscles are "done": you can barely move them. In case of gripping something with intensity and for a long time you can barely lift the water bottle with your hand. Well, this is the feeling you have to avoid.

So you do your 50 snatches. Done. Next session you increase the number of reps. And so on, until you reach 100 repetitions per hand.

Increase the weight AND drop back to 50 reps per workout. Build up to 200 total. And so on.

Here is one of Dmitry's videos. The list at 2:30 is the progression of his snatch.


This method can be applied other exercises, such as pullups and pushups. In those cases Dmitry used rubber bands to reduce the load and gradually moved to smaller bands as he was building up to 100 reps. Here is the video of that. It is in Russian, but you in the right side of the screen you can see him actually doing the exercises.



In one of the videos Dmitry has a table comparing Megarepeats with Static-Dynamic method.





Static-Dynamic
Factors
MegaRepeats
Rapid change
Hydrogen Ions
Stable levels
Present
Growth Hormone
Present
Optimal
Free Creatine
Higher
Optimal
iRNA
Higher
Myofibrills
Structural effect
Myofibrills&Mitochondria
Glycolytic
Energy source
Aerobic
Doesn’t address
Weak points
Addresses

Looks interesting to me. I also think using heart rate monitor and sticking to Maffetone HR number can be useful.

In any case, this test with my GS experience quite well. When I was coached by Sergey Rudnev (snatch only) training sessions usually consisted of three parts: several timed sets with heavy bells, followed by one ten minute set with light bell in gloves, followed by GPP - a circuit of BW squats, abdominal exercises etc. The reasoning behind ten minute set was to be used to lasting ten minutes.

At the beginning I did minutes of snatching 12 kg bell. After a while - and consultation with Sergey - I started increasing the weight. Eventually ten minutes with 16 kg was pretty ordinary.

There are obviously differences between my experience and Dmitry Sokolov's method. Rudnev wanted me to do 200 reps in ten minutes straight away, while Dmitry's method you gradually build reps up from fifty, every time having a good number of reps in reserve.


Summary of Selouyanov’s training method


The Quick and the Dead by Pavel Tsatsouline is finally here. As always, there was quite a bit of fuss and drama over it, but at the end it is worthwhile read and a decent training template. Though it is irritating to realise that the whole book is one infomercial for the Strong Endurance seminar – it clearly says it on the last page.

The material in the book is based on the research of a few Russian sport scientists and coaches, most notably Victor Selouyanov. This name has come up in this blog some time ago in this post: The Heart is not a Machine Selouyanov was a bit of a renegade, and because of disagreements with the science establishment he never completed his doctorate. Nevertheless, his contribution to the understanding of training endurance was invaluable, and Russian sports science is still bitterly divided between his followers and opponents.

Selouyanov wrote several books, among them two that are of interest to me: Physical Preparation of Grapplers and The Development of Local Muscular Endurance in Cyclical Sports. Both deal with endurance, and Selouyanov's concepts allow a systematic approach to training endurance in pretty much any sport. And as my current interest lies in BJJ I am going to briefly - and loosely - summarize Selouyanov’s training concepts laid out in the book for grapplers.

Before we start I have make a disclaimer of sorts. Soviet sport scientists then and Russian Scientists now often have fragmented interest and education in the field. Throughout his lectures Selouyanov makes statements that are debatable, to say the least, even though he doesn’t seem to have experience in the subject. For example, his view is tht the only way to increase the strength of the glycolytic muscle fibers is to lift maximal weights to failure. Therefore, if some powerlifters don’t follow that rule and still get strong – that must be steroids, no other explanation is possible. I am not qualified to argue the subject and am only conveying Selouyanov's work, so take it or leave it. 

So let’s get to the most relevant parts of Selouyanov’s teachings.

Muscle fibers.

Muscle fibers are loosely divided into three types, depending on the activity of the enzymes, in poarticular ATP-ase. Oxydative muscle fibers (type I) have slow ATP-ase, their speed of contraction is slow and they are resistant to fatigue. Glycolytic muscle fibers (type II) have fast ATP-ase, contract quickly and can be either resistant to fatigue (Type IIA) or not (Type IIB).

For the purpoose of training muscle fibers can be looked at in the following way:

Oxidative fibers – have mitochindrial mass that cannot be developed further. Each myofibrille is surroubnded b y the layer of mitochondria. These fibers use fatty acids in active state.

Intermediate fibers – have lower number of mitochondria. As the result two processes occur during activity: aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis. During activity lactate and hydrogen ions are accumulated, so these fibers develiop fatigue, but not as fast as purely glycolytic type.

Glycolytic fibers – have no or little motochondria, so that anaerobic glycolysis predominates, with the resulting accumulation of hydrogen ions and lactate.

Factors that determine endurance.

According to Selouyanov the difference in endurance can be fully explained by several factors.

First, the development of the oxidative muscle fibers. Among well trained endurance athletes oxydative muscle fibers comprise 90 – 100% of the total muscle mass, therefore they don’t produce lactic acid in excessive quantities that cause significant acidosis and the resulting decline oin performance. To the contrary, among untrained individuals 50% of muscle consists of intermediate muscle fibers which, during their progressive recruitment during exercise, accumulate lactate.

Second reason for better endurance among trained individuals is that their aeroobic system switches on earlier, mostly because they have more oxidative fibers, so that the initial production of lactate is lower.

Thrird, trained individuals utilise lactate more efficiently. Mitochondria are capable of utilising piruvate, and in the oxidative fibers piruvate is produced from lactate.

 Fourth reason for better endurance – increased volume of the circulating blood. This, in turn, results in the reduced concentration of produced lactate.

The role of the heart.

Endurance training leads to the dilatation of cardiac ventricles. This, in turn, makes cardiovascular system more efficient, in the way that the same cardiac output – the mount of blood the hearst is capable of pushing though per minute – is achieved by fewer contractions. Training of the heart is a separate topic and will not be discussed here.


Three types of exercises

All types of exercises utilised for the training of grapplers can be divided into three types.


Effective exercises. 
  • Dynamic, maximal anaerobic power, to failure – facilitate the development of myofibrills in glycolytic and intermediate muscle fibers
  • Stato-dynamic, of maximal anaerobic power (100%), to failure (pain) – develop myofibrills in the oxidative and intermediate muscle fibers
  • Dynamic and stato-dynamic, of maximal alactic power, done to less than ½ of the limit, performed the light local muscular fatigue, repeated after normalisation of acidosis – facilitate some increase of the myofibrills and mitochondria in the glycolytic and intermediate muscle fibers
  • Dynamic exercises of near maximal power (90%), done to less than ½ of the limit, performed till light local muscular fatigue, repeated after the elimination of acidosis – facilitate some increase of the myofibrills and mitochondria in the glycolytic and intermediate muscle fibers
  • Dynamic exercises of submaximal (60 – 80%) power, done to less than ½ of the limit, performed till light local muscular fatigue and repeated after the elimination of excessive acidosis – facilitate some increase of the myofibrills and mitochondria in the glycolytic and intermediate muscle fibers

Harmful exercises.

  • All exercises of near or sub-maximal anaerobic power, as well as those of maximal aerobic power performed to the limit and causing excessive acidosis (pH < 7.1, lactate > 15 nMoll/L).


All other types of exercises have little useful effect for the development of endurance among grapplers.

According to Selouyanov there are two ways to increase endurance and strength in skeletal muscle: increase the number of myofibrills and increase the number of mitochondria. Both are achieved differently in glycolytic (and intermediate) and oxidative muscle fibers, therefore we are left with four training modalities.

In order to increase myofibrillar mass four factors must be present.

  • Reserve of amino acids in the muscle cell (provided by consuming protein)
  • Increased concentration of anabolic hormones as the result of mental strain
  • Increased concentration of free creatine in muscle fibers
  • Increased concentration of hydrogen ions


Increasing the number of myofibrills in the glycolytic muscle fibers.

I suspect this part will make quite a few of us cringe. However, the goal of this post is to convey Selouyanov’s opinion on optimal training, so bear with me here.

Glycolytic muscle fibers are activated when maximal muscular effort is required and no earlier. Therefore (according to the good professor), the growth of glycolytic muscle fibers can be achieved only by utilising weights of of maximal or near maximal intensity. The following conditions have to be present.

  • Intensity of maximal or near maximal intensity – more than 70% of 1RM
  • Exercise is performed to failure, i.e. to full exhaustion of CPn and achievement of high concentration of free creatine
  • Number of repetitions – 8 – 12. Last couple of reps have to be forced (with the help of a partner)
  • Rest – 5 minutes. Should be active, aerobic activity at HR of 100 – 120/min, this helps to utilise lactic acid
  • Number of sets: 7 – 9 if the goal is growth, 1 – 4 for tonic effect
  • Number of training sessions per day – one or two, depending on the intensity and athlete’s condition
  • Number of sessions per week – synthesis of myofibrills takes about 7 days, this is how long the athlete should rest after a training session done to the limit.


Myofibrillar hyperplasia in the oxidative muscle fibers

The method for developing myofibrills in oxidative fibers is similar to that for glycolytic muscle cells. With the exception that exercises are performed without relaxation. In that case the capillaries in the muscle are compressed, limiting circulation and leading to the hypoxia of the muscle fibers and the accumulation of lactate and hydrogen ions.

I suspect this works similar to the occlusion (Kaatsu) training that became somewhat popular in the recent years. Sepouyanov believes that mostly slow/oxidative muscle fibers grow under these conditions – Smet.

To get the idea of this method imagine a barbell squat. Except that it is performed in the way that doesn’t allow for the pause at the top, with incomplete range. This way the muscles are continuously contracted to one degree or another, and after 20 – 30 seconds you get the burn, which is the desired effect.

The conditions for the efficiency of this method are as follows.

  • Intensity – medium: 20 – 40% of 1RM
  • No relaxation pohase during exercise, the muscles are continupusly contracted
  • Tempo and duration – slect the weight so that the athlete can perform 25 repetitions in 30 seconds. Last few repetitions should cause significant pain.
  • Rest – 30 seconds (active)
  • This exercise is performed in series of 3 – 5 sets. 25 reps in 30 seconds equals one set.
  • Number of series in one session: 1 – 2 for the tonic effect, 3 and more for growth.
  • Number of sessions per week – exercise is repeated in 3 – 5 days.


There is no mention of rest between series. I suppose it is several minutes, until the muscles feel relatively fresh.

Selouyanov recommends doing exercises aimed at growing muscle fibers at the end of the training session and better in the evening. If other types of training is done after this the reduction of glycogen can negatively interfere with the protein synthesis and impair growth.

Development of mitochondria in skeletal muscle

Formation of mitochondria is controlled according to the principle of the functional criteria. According to this criterion, mitochondria that cannot properly function are eliminated.

One of the natural factors leading to the destructurisation of mitochondria is hypoxia (e.g. being at altitude) and accompanying anaerobic metabolism. Similar processes occur during anaerobic training.

Several generalisations can be made in regards to mitochondria.

  • Mitochondria are energy stations of the cell and supply ATP by aerobic metabolism
  • Mitochondrial synthesis exceeds the destruction during conditions of their intensive functioning (oxidative phosphorilation)
  • Mitochondria tend to appear in the areas of the cells where the delivery of ATP is required
  • Intensive destructurisation of mitochondria occurs when the cell is functioning at high intensity in the presence of anaerobic metabolism which leads to the excessive and prolonged accumulation of ydrogen ions in the cell


Based on the above it is possible to develop methods of aerobic development of the cell. Every skeletal cell contains three types of muscle fibers.

  • Those that are activated regularly during every day activity (oxidative)
  • Those activated only during training requiring moderate muscular activity (intermediate fibers)
  • Those that are seldom activated – only during maximal or near maximal effort, such as jumps, sprints etc. (glycolytic fibers)


In well trained individuals oxidative muscle fibers are maximally adapted. In other words, the number of mitochiondria in these muscles cannot be developed any more. It has been demonstrated that aerobic training at the level below anaerobic threshold in well trained athletes has zero value.

Therefore, in order to increase aerobic potential of the muscle fiber it is necessary to build structural basis – new myofibrills. New mitochondria will then develop around these myofibrills. There is a special methodology which has been tested, interval training using two exercises. For example, pushups and pullups from low bar (unloaded, so that the feet are resting on the ground).

General principles of such training are as follows.

  • Exercises are performed at low intensity, i.e. 10 – 20% 1RM
  • Exercise is performed at medium or fast tempo
  • Full ROM is utilised
  • Duration – until early signs of local muscular fatigue
  • The template – 5 – 8 repetition of one exercise is followed by 5 – 8 repetitions of another without rest – that is 1 set
  • No pauses between sets
  • Number of sets – 5 – 10 (determined by the degree of fatigue) – that’s 1 circle
  • Number of circles in a session – 1 – 5 (fatigue and is determined by the glycogen stores in muscle tissue)
  • Session done at maximal volume can be repeated after 2 – 3 days, after glycogen stores are restored

There is a variation of this method used by Russian athletes. An example in the video below:





It doesn't get any more authentic than that. The coach is Grigor Chilingaryan, one of the specialists from the laboratory of sports adaptology that was founded by Prof.Selouyanov. Start at 3:00.The session consists of three exercises: pushups, jumps and pullups, all done for 10 reps in a circuit, for ten rounds, the intensity -  about 80%. As you can see, the athlete never comes close to failure, and each rep is follower by a short rest - which gives the muscles a chance to get rid of lactic acid and avoid acidosis. This is the example of near maximal training without destroying the body. The coach recommends starting with lower rounds and building up gradually. 

This is a short summary of the core of Selouyanov’s training methods. There are other variations, his own and those developed by other coaches. I will cover them in the future instalments.






Mistakes in GS snatch. Another Sergey Rudnev's video.

In this video Sergey Rudnev continues teaching the correct technique of GS snatch. This part is about lowering the bell. Again, be lenient, as verbal comment is not as smooth as an article.



0:43. What you see is the People's Republic of China. Several steps from me is the river Amur, and while I am talking about kettlebells I enjoy the view of the border town Heihe.

1:35.  I would like to emphasize that Girevoy Sport is a cyclical sport, and it's main goal is to spend as little energy as possible. So you have to pay a lot of attention to the phases of relaxation. Lowering of the bell during snatch is exactly the part when the bell is in free fall, and so during this phase we should strive to be maximally relaxed.

2:08. Lowering starts immediately after fixation. So we are in fixation phase, the arm is relaxed, the elbow pointed forward. In this position we are trying to maximally relax the deltoids, the triceps and the muscles of the forearm.

2:38. The initiation of fall. First common mistake is that some athletes are trying to "help" the kettlebell to fall. I.e. they are trying to push or tumble the bell. First, this lengthens the trajectory of the bell and therefore loss of energy. Secondly, it leads to wasting energy actually pushing the bell down.

3:00. In order to initiate the descend of the bell with minimal waste of energy it is simply enough to turn the arm forward, the bell will lose balance and will start falling down.

3:10. Next common mistake of both beginners and non-beginner is "dive" forward, or premature flexion of the trunk. What's wrong with it? The fact is that flexion of the trunk involves the muscles of the lower back and posterior thigh. You can even try it yourself: put your hand in the small of your back and feel the relaxed muscles. As you bend forward you will feel how back muscles gradually become harder. So if you use back extensors when the bell is moving down you don't give them a chance to rest and spend excessive energy.

4:00. In order to make the lowering phase successful, as you turn the arm forward you should simultaneously lean the trunk backwards. Next, the arm with the bell is freely falling down while the trunk is deviated backwards. Doing it this way you will give the back extensors and posterior thigh muscles the chance to rest.

4:15. Next, about the position of the arm during the phase of free fall. There are two options, and the proponents of both are to this day arguing as to which is better. First option, and I am the proponent of this one, is when the bell is in free fall you turn the arm elbow down. Second, during the free fall you turn the elbow up. Why am I the proponent of the first option? If the elbow is directed down the plane in which the bell is moving overlaps the direction of the vector of force of gravity. In this case when I have to flex forearm muscles in order to neutralize the movement of the bell at the bottom the effort will be minimal. However, I the elbow is turned up the movement of the bell and the movement of the forearm are in different planes, and so I will have to use more energy when the bell moves to the bottom position.

5:35. Another typical mistake is the "dive" before the arm touches the body. So it's like this: when there is a distance of 15 - 20 centimeters between the elbow and the body left the athlete "dives" forward. If this happens, then at the moment of when the grip switches the athlete is bent forward, and the bell is slowing down by involving the muscles of the back and posterior thigh.

6:20. I want to emphasize that you have to keep the trunk deviated backwards until your arm touches the body. This way the downward movement of the bell will be neutralized mostly by the muscles of the forearm, and only when the bell is about to pass thought the legs the muscles of the back and posterior thigh switch on. So you save a colossal amount of energy.

6:55. Another typical mistake is lowering the bell vertically. If I do that, if the bell falls while the arm is bent - what's wrong with it? At the end of the fall the bell jerks the arm down. First, it can lead to injury, especially with a heavy bell: ligaments of the elbow, for example. Second, this downward jerk overloads the forearm and will affect work capacity of flexors of the fingers. To avoid this I recommend to keep the arm straight. Obviously, it will not be completely straight - it will be a little bent because it's relaxed. Still, you have to lower the bell along the arc, not vertical line. What does it do - it makes the movement smooth. Before you switch the grip you should try to keep the shoulder, forearm, hand and the bell in one line. This line tenses, and the bell swings between the legs. This way the load on the forearm muscles will be minimal.

8:24. I also want to tell you about another element of the technique I use. It's not absolutely necessary, but it helps to make the downswing smoother. It helps e to tense "the line" before the bell starts moving past the legs. It is flexing of the calves and getting onto the tiptoes. So when the bell falls I turn the arm forward, now it begins moving elbow down, the trunk is deviated backwards. As the arm becomes horizontal I begin getting on the tiptoes, so the calf muscles are flexed at their maximum when the elbow touches my abdomen. Then I get back to my heels and swing the bell between the legs.

The rest of the video is the report of Sergey competing in Korea. He was participating in biathlon with 24 kg bells. He says the result was not very impressive: jerk - 131, snatch - 201. But he was happy anyway as he didn't have time to properly prepare for this competition.

I recommend watching the video to the end, as while the judges are preparing the awards Sergey is demonstrating various kettlebell tricks.

All for now.

Kettlebell Snatch. Beginners' mistakes.

I decided to publish the video of the same title made by Sergey Rudnev with the translation of its key parts. As is often the case with good instruction, even though the video is in Russian  many technical aspects are pretty clear. Please be lenient with my translation; video narrative is not as smooth as the written text. 


0:50. I will start with the initiation phase. Most common mistake is to initiate the snatch when the bell is in the bottom position. It is a gross mistake, because at the bottom of the bell's trajectory the centrifugal force is at its maximum, and as the result the load on the palm flexors is maximal as well. Therefore, to initiate the movement at the bottom is silly. That's why I advise to choose another starting point, somewhere here (showing with the empty arm - Smet), about 50 - 60 centimetres from the bottom point. At the end of the swing. To help you find the optimal point I advise snatching with extra swing, which emphasises the two phases. The swing will help you find the point from which to initiate the snatch. Alternatively you can use a mark. For example, I put another kettlebell at a distance, so that when I point my arm at it it is in the optimal position from which I  initiate the snatch. 

3:05. Next point I want to emphasise is the position of the arm in overhead position. The goal is to be able to statically hold the bell. For example, if you snatch a heavy kettlebell the tempo should be slower, and not everybody manages to relax during the fixation phase. In order to find the most optimal position I recommend performing lunges with the bell overhead. You can also alternate snatches and lunges. This way I learn to relax the arm overhead. I concentrate on the lunges, but at the same time get used to relax the arm overhead. Another exercise I can recommend is overhead squat. Like this: snatch, squat, etc. Or a windmill: snatch, windmill. Or you can combine all four exercises: snatch-lounge, snatch-squat, snatch-windmill, say five minutes with the light kettlebell. The fantasy here is limitless. For instance I just thought of this: a walk with the bell. Snatch the bell, then do walking lunges, snatch the bell with the other arm and repeat the same way. 

6:40. The end of the instruction. 

There is another snatch technique video by Rudnev. I will translate it next time. 

In the meantime - you will do Sergey great service if you hit the subscribe button on his Youtube channel. I really believe he is the best Girevoy Sport coach you can find. 

Hardstyle versus Girevoy Sport. Again!

Recently I witnessed another mini-debate on Hardstyle versus GS reminiscent of the old heated DragonDoor discussions. A poster on StrongFirst forum asked about his C&J technique, and a certain comment ignited defensive responses from Steve Freides and Bret Jones, stating that HS and GS have different goals etc., etc. For me this doesn't make sense for several reasons.

First, lifting technique shouldn't depend on the number of reps. Do you deadlift sloppy if you bash out ten reps compared to one max effort? The idea behind GS is undoubtedly to achieve the highest number of reps in ten minutes - actually, for the pride, to be able to last ten minutes in the first place. That's why if you train for GS you should do ten minute sets with lighter kettlebells every session, just to be used to lifting for this period of time. 

Second, there is the issue of safety. Hardstylers generally don't lift for more than ten reps, thought there is this Secret Service Snatch Test that calls for two hundred reps in five minutes. (I keep wondering where the name comes from, probably from the same place "tactical" crept into every athletic household, but I digress). Even if you take breaks between sets and the volume of lifting during one session is not overly high you still get the issue of repetition. You keep jerking up your shoulders and lower back, and sooner or later something will give up. 

Someone drew the analogy between Hardstyle being the sprint and GS a marathon. Do you sprint with shitty technique? Bobbing head, stomping the feet, arms swinging chaotically? Running technique for short and long distance is different, but not that different. 

Third, efficiency. It has been said a few times that in Hardstyle you are not suppose to chase efficiency and even to the contrary, you make lifting less efficient so that you use strength and get stronger. Maybe, but efficient technique allows you to lift heavier weights, which by definition makes you stronger. Look at this video that compares Clean and Jerk of Rudnev and Merlin, both high level GS champions. 


Every phase is flawless:

  • Jerk involves a lot of muscle and resembles a jump
  • Rack is effortless due to the flexibility and mobility of the hip flexors
  • The jerk is initiated from the hips, which helps driving large load, in both cases close to the lifters' body weight
  • Both athletes emphasise the second dip, which makes sure that the second part of the lift is Jerk and not a Push Press
  • Overhead fixation is solid due to shoulder mobility
  • The bells land on the chest softly - because of the simultaneous flexion of the cal muscles
  • There is no "dive" during the descend of the bells to hang: the athletes lean backwards, the "arc is tamed" - HS term, by the way - and there is no sudden jerking of the lower back at the end of this stage
Is any of the above detrimental to the Hardstyle goals - which I believe is strength, tension and - the theme repeated more than once in Pavel's writings - tension in the right time? Feel free to chime in. 

More strength endurance

The reason I keep obsessing about Strong Endurance is that it is very innovative method of improving stamina without killing yourself every time you work out. I particularly like the idea that it uses weights, and - like with kettlebells in general - you are killing two bunnies with one shot (Russian version of birds and stone). 

I've been reading StrongFirst forum and yesterday listened to their podcast with Al Ciampa, one of the FS instructors. Nothing particularly new, just more confirmation of what I thought of the method. Which, in essence, is as follows. 

Lift for 10 - 30 seconds
Rest long enough to allow for almost complete recovery
Repeat for 3 - 10 sets
Rest enough to shake off accumulated fatigue. 
Repeat the series two or more times. 
Training session should be long enough to imitate a long run - 45 - 60 minutes. 

One possible modification - just sets of lifting and rest, not breaking the session into series. 
One poster on SF snatched 40 kg kettlebell for sets of 5 for something like 30 sets. 

Gauging recovery. This is a little tricky. Heart rate monitor is definitely useful. However, it's not necessarily the only way. You can judge recovery by subjective feel. It is obviously a hit-and-miss way, but if you stay fresh and crisp during sets you are going it right. You can err to the "too easy" side, but this will be quickly corrected as training progresses. 

I am considering the following template. 

Double KB jerk (my favorite lift), say 2 x 16 kg. 

6 reps/1 minute total per set. 
Keep HR below 130. 
Rest until HR goes below 115. 
Repeat until HR remains persistently high. Or until too tired. 

Results to be reported. 

Another template for strength endurance.

Browsing the Web I came across the term Strong Endurance. Strong First conducts seminars under this title. Obviously, the information is not shared in great detail for commercial reasons. The pitch for the seminar mentions Russian coach Andrej Khozhurkin, and I looked him up. Google search of his name comes up with the link to his book, The Theory and Methodology of Pullups.

For those capable of reading Russian or those prepared to torture Google Translator here is the link: The Theory and Methodology of Pullups

It is a very detailed manual of coaching athletes for maximum pullup competition. I will briefly describe the essence of the method. 

The reasoning behind the method goes as follows. Adaptation response are aimed, on one hand, at creating the appropriate training stimulus and on the other, against the undesirable (excessive) changes of the internal environment of the body. Hence the dilemma: should training aim at creating these very undesirable changes in order to elicit appropriate adaptations? Or should training load be selected in such a way that these changes are avoided altogether or delayed? Apparently the answer is both. 

If you want to prepare the body for work in unfavourable conditions - for example during progressively increasing lactic acidosis - training is aimed at creating these conditions. For example, in middle distance running (400 and 800 m) where main mechanism of energy utilisation is anaerobic glycolysis in weeks leading to competition athletes perform large volume of anaerobic training, which makes this energy pathway more efficient. 

On the other hand, if you want to achieve optimal utilisation of lactic acid then training of the same very middle distance running has to aim at increasing the aerobic oxidation of energy substrates, which will delay the moment where lactic acidosis leads to failure. In this case training load will be completely different. The paradox is, improving aerobic function of the muscle also improves its functioning under glycolytic conditions. 

Therefore, glycolytic training has to comply with the following: it has to lead to the rapid use of glycogen in the muscle followed by supercompensation; it also has to lead to the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle in order to develop resistance to acidosis. 

On the other hand, anti-glycolytic training aims at increasing work capacity not by improving the resistance of the muscle to lactic acid and the ability to function under more acidotic conditions, but by slowing down its production by improving oxidative capacity of the muscle. 

By following one training template, but varying the load as well as the ratio of the duration of work and rest periods it is possible to train both glycolytic and aerobic pathways. The best translation of the method used for this purpose and described in the book I could come up with is Repeated Series. 

Repeated Series consists of several sets separated by fixed rest intervals, followed by longer rest and then repeated, one or more times. For example, five sets of six pullups with one minute rest, rest 15 minutes, then repeat the series two more times. 

Principles of Repeated Series Template


Spreading the goal reps over several sets. 

Self-explanatory. If you can't do it all at one break it into parts. Plan total desired reps over several sets with short rest interval. More on this later.

Planned change of parameters. 

In words it goes like this: from large number of sets with low reps towards small number of sets with large reps via gradual reduction of the number of sets with corresponding increase of reps per set. The total number of repetitions remains roughly the same in the series. Nothing other than EDT. 

According to Seluyanov and Myakichenko the main factor leading to the increase of aerobic capacity of both fast and slow twitch fibers is the functioning of mitochondria at high intensity and at the same time relative low acidity of the muscle cell. This is achieved by breaking training load into parts: first, each set does not lead to the excessive lactic acidosis inside the cell and, the second, during pauses between sets ATP is aerobically re-synthesised. 

As work capacity of the muscle fibres increases the utilisation (breakdown) of lactate improves as well. At macro level this allows the athlete to increase the number of reps per set. 

Continuous control of training parameters

In simple words change only one thing at a time. In case of pull-ups loading parameters - such as the number of repetitions in the first set of the series, rest intervals between sets and series, number of sets in the series and the session and so on - stay the same, and the progress is gauged by the total number of repetitions in each series. 

This way every training session is testing (to an extent), and this allows to adjust the training process as required. If, for instance, the number of repetitions in the first series of the session does not increase as expected the session is postponed for the next day. Timely postponed session will lead to more progress than the one conducted in unfavourable conditions. 

Volume in the series

It is important not to make a mistake when planning the starting load of one training series. If the total reps in the series is approximately equal to the desired result then energy systems are taxed fully from the very beginning of the training process. Sufficiently long rest between series (not less than 10  minutes) makes each series the "energetic burst" to which adaptation will have to occur. 

Number of sets in one series

The more sets in a series the more aerobic the load (given the same rest intervals between sets), but at the expense of longer time required to achieve the final result. Fewer sets with more reps in each on the other hand will shift the load towards anaerobic glycolysis. 

It is empirically established that if rest intervals between sets are 2-3 minutes then the initial series has to consists of 4-6 sets. For novices the number of sets should be higher (5-6), than for more advanced athletes (4-5). (It is implied that fewer sets mean more reps in each - ES). 

Some will ask the question: why should I do 5 sets when I can do 4? Why 4 when I can start with 3 sets straight away? Unfortunately if you start with low number of sets (with the corresponding higher reps) at the end of the series excessive acidosis of the muscles becomes an issue, and it can do more harm than good, progress wise. While mild-moderate acidosis activates enzymes of the respiratory cycle in mitochondria and improves aerobic energy production. Therefore in order to develop cellular mechanisms that prevent excessive acidosis the number of sets stays high and the number of reps in each set stays low. 

Rest between sets

As muscles are relaxed during rest lactic acid is washed out by the blood flow. Intra-muscular oxygen stores bound with myoglobin is also restored during rest between sets. Aerobic glycolysis during rest also leads to the elimination of oxygen debt accumulated during work; during this process creatine phosphate spent during the set is restored. 

Number of reps in one set

This is touched upon in the paragraph on the number of sets. If the number of reps in the first set is too high the load take on the glycolytic character, and the number of reps in the second set of the series will drop sharply. From the author's experience it follows that if the number of reps in the series does not exceed 50% of the best result of the athlete than in the first two sets of the series he will be able to perform all planned reps in the first two sets of the series. 

Number of series in a session and rest between series. 

Ideally rest between series should be selected in such a way that the restoration of energy systems occurs to the point where fatigue achieved during the series does not significantly influence the results of the next. In this case the series can be considered as being relatively independent of each other, and the load will be distributed in the form of "energy bursts" that eventually trigger adaptation. 

However, in order to be able to perform the same number of repetition in the series rest has to be sufficient for complete elimination of lactic acid from the muscles. This, however, can take up to 1.5 hours. Therefore, in order to avoid spending the night in the gym rest needs to be shortened to the acceptable duration. This way each consequent series is performed before full recovery, and we have to accept that the number of reps in the series will go down as the result of fatigue. 

During hard session the number of series has to be no less than three. Maintenance session can have two series, and recovery session can have only one series consisting of 4-6 sets. 

It goes without saying that the load has to be increased gradually. 

Rest between sessions and periodisation. 

Interval between sessions has to be planned in such a way that by the beginning of the next session the athlete was in the phase of supercompensation. To determine if this is so is not hard: if at the next session the results improve at the sam level of perceived exertion then recovery is adequate. If the result is the same or worse recovery is insufficient. 

Recovery between sessions is significantly influenced by rest between series. If the athlete can afford to rest an hour between the series recovery between sessions is accelerated, and the athlete may be tempted to do hard sessions every second day. 

If rest between series is 10 - 15 minutes recovery can take several days. In this case sessions have to be broken into hard, moderate and light (developing, restoring and maintenance in the original text). 

Failure

Perceived exertion in this text is divided in three zones:

Green zone - effort typical for training sessions.
Yellow zone - effort typical for competition of low importance
Red zone - max effort, typical for important competitions

Most of training must be performed in the green zone. 

Putting it all together.

Let's say my current best is 10 pull-ups and I want to achieve 25. 
I am going to start training twice a week doing series of 5 sets of 5 reps. 
Training twice a week: hard and easy session.
Hard session - three series, easy - one.
Rest between sets - 2 minutes.
Rest between series - 10-15 minutes. 

Starting goal is to complete all reps and sets in both series. If I reach failure in a set I will continue pull-ups in rest-pause fashion (20 seconds rest), until I cannot do any more reps. 

Once I achieve reps and sets I will reduce rest between sets to 1 minute and between series to 5 minutes. 

Further progression:

4 sets of 6 reps, rest 2 min/10 min between sets/series
Reduction of rest to 1 min/5 min

3 sets of 8 reps, similar progression in rest times
2 sets of 12 reps and finally
1 set of 25

In any case, this is not different from EDT, except for extra series that are performed while some fatigue sets in from previous work. 

If I had to modify this method I would probably vary total number of sets in the series. This way easy session would have one or two series of half the number of sets of the hard one. something like this. 

My concerns. 

In terms of this method for GS I would not be terribly enthusiastic doing the number of reps planned for competition every training session - three times over. The same for pull-ups. I would do maybe one hard session for every two or three easy ones. 

Other applications

I think this method is really well suited for circuit training to supplement other sports. Most templates have you do several exercises back to back for several rounds, with some breaks between the rounds. This method calls for adding breaks between actual exercises eventually adding reps, decreasing rest and increasing the rounds. The idea is to perform the circuits at moderate RPE.

For example in my case it would be:

5 pullups, 1 minute rest
5 x 70 kg barbell squats, 1 minute rest
5 x (2 x 16 kg) KB presses, 1 minute rest, 
5 x hanging leg raises, 1 minute rest, 
5 x 15 kg weighted dips.

Rest 5 minutes, repeat twice more or until the form starts to get ugly.

Progression by reducing rest between series to 1 minute, i.e. being able to do three rounds back to back.

Next cycle:
Drop back to the initial rest, increase the reps to 6-7, repeat the progression. 
Eventually progressing to 10 reps.

After being able to do the circuit with 10 reps back to back three times - increase the weight and start again. Something like this. I am tempted to try this for my BJJ training if I find the time.