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). 


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. 

After Forty Morphing into After Fifty

In the last year I have been more or less consistent with the training for GS style snatch. The more I think about it, the more I believe that girevoy sport is one of the better choices of exercise for people of my age group. GS is a compact sport, both from the point of view of space and time it requires to keep the trainee fit and reasonably strong. Ten minute snatch with 12 kg is not an impressive feat, but it is similar to a vigorous run: it gets you out of breath, makes you sweat and sends your heart rate up. Add to it couple of heavier and shorter sets plus a few barbell circuits - and you get a very nice workout.

I started this blog in the middle of 2008. During that time my allegiances changed several times, and my training ADD got me switching between girevoy sport, barbell squats and deadlifts, bodybuilding DoggCrapp-like routines, running and cycling several times. Still, I keep coming back to girevoy sport. My current goal is to be able to snatch 24 kg for 10 minutes, and I think I am on the right track. 

Recently I went through the posts of this blog. Things changed since started it in 2008. Girevoy sport is old news now. OTW wars are over, the arguments on Irongarm don't happen anymore, and even jokes about the boredom of GS are rare these days. I like it this way.

Anyway, I went through posts and realized that I put a lot of effort in this blog. And it is not a bad place to get information about girevoy sport. Obviously, hiring a qualified coach beats everything, but if you want to train on your own this blog can give you lots of tips. The only problem is that theoretical posts are mixed with my training log, which is neither exciting not exemplary.

I don't have the heart to delete my training posts and don't have the patience to back them up. I decided to start another blog, transfer posts which I think are useful and continue publishing interesting stuff and my own thoughts.

As I am now fifty-something the address of the new blog is  Anyone who's interested in girevoys sport is welcome. 

Tweak recovery time

After the workout on the 7th of June, where I did snatches with 26 kg bell, I felt some pain on the left side to the thoracic spine. Felt sort of as someone stuck a small knife in there. The pain was worse on deep inhalation and during some movements of the torso. A tablet of Feldene, and the next day I didn't remember about this. 

On the 10th I started another session, and within 10 minutes the pain returned. I tried to make it an easy workout and limit it to long sets with 12 kg snatches. Six minutes with the left hand was ok, but one minute with the right made me very sore. I stopped, and this time it took more than one NSAID pill to get better. 

Now, two weeks after the event the matters are not better. Moderate pain is there most of the time, it gets worse when I move in a certain way or when I sneeze. 

Day before yesterday I did some simple lifting - a few sets of light front squats, pull-ups and some KB pullovers, and I am sore. One activity which doesn't aggravate the pain is cycling, and I have been using the bicycle fair bit. 

I am planning a complete lay off from kettlebells for the next three weeks. Incidentally, this Thursday I am leaving for holidays. Re-evaluation on return. 

Transition template

Transition is the key to any endurance sport. For example, if you want to prepare for a 10 km run you start with building the volume to a reasonable level, say 5 km, and then increase the speed for that distance. The logic being that running fast for 5 km prepares you for slower run for 10 km. Alternatively, you can train to jog 10 km and then increase the speed while running this distance every training session. 

The downside of the latter is clear: you quickly run into the dangerously high combination of volume and intensity and run the risk of injury. On the other hand you get used to 10 km runs, and during competition just have to make an effort to run it fast. 

The former method is probably safer, but it does not expose you to the competitive distance, and on the big day it may turn out to be too much. 

The trick is to combine several methods, and one of the popular templates, Run Less Run Faster includes interval sessions, lactate threshold runs - distances shorter than competition but long enough, at the speed higher than competition run, and long slow distance runs, slower and longer than competition distance. Eventually though one of these modalities will be dominant in terms of determining progress, and some runners will tell you that for them, for instance, intervals were most useful for increasing competition speed. 

The OTW debates are pretty much over. Girevoy sport has grown a lot among Western amateurs, and it is now possible to make a few conclusions regarding most productive training. That's what I think. 

Ten minute sets with competition weight every session for double bell lifts - jerk and long cycle - are not productive and may lead to injury. As discussed earlier in this blog, intensity in girevoy sport, besides the weight of the bells, is also determined by the duration of the set. Twenty jerks done in five minutes are more difficult than the some number of reps in two minutes, simply because of the increase of time under load. That's why training templates usually involve a progression over the microcycle, both in terms of weight and the duration of the set, ending with one ten minute set. 

Snatch is physically a more merciful lift, obviously, because you're lifting one bell instead of two, though the number of reps for snatches is higher than for double lifts. At the same time snatch is most technically demanding. So it makes sense to do long sets with light bell every session: ten minutes or even longer. 

I've been training with Rudnev since November and so far am happy with the progress. The session typically consists of a shorter set with heavier bell, followed by ten minute set with light kettlebell in gloves. Gloves serve double purpose: they protect the skin of the palms from high volume to prevent tearing calluses and they force you to watch the technique, because your grip is weakened by slippery gloves and fatigues rapidly if you're sloppy or forcing the reps. 

Every session includes some sort of circuit and aerobic training. According to Sergey, one kilometer run equals 100 bodyweight squats (so I have this excuse to avoid running). 

From what I can tell about my progress I feel these long sets with light bell are most productive for me. In November I could hardly last 10 minutes in gloves with 12 kg. Today I did 10 minutes with 17 kg, 59 and 69 reps with the left and right hands, respectively. Over a few months I can feel my technique improving. My back used to nag me after snatching even 12 kg for time, now it feels good. In December my grip was close to failing with 12 kg, and my forearms were seriously painful for a few minutes. Now the grip is holding well, and I am not close to failure. These long sets taught me how watch my technique every rep. Mistakes tend to accumulate over couple of minutes, and every one of them should be technically good if you want to last. With long sets you learn to notice the effort of the grip and adjust the technique if it is not up to scratch. 

At the same time these sets are not overly taxing, because the bell is light. If I did max duration with 24 kg bell every time I trained I would burn out long ago. 

What I am trying to say is that for me the transition seems to be happening as the result of long sets with light bell. 

At the same time I don't think I would progress without short sets with heavier bells. These sets prepare you for the competition load (or heavier: today I snatched 26 kg bell) and make you stronger overall. So do circuits; as shatching alone can create imbalance extra exercises - squats, pullups etc. - ensure overall athleticism. 

Recently I also discovered cycling and got hooked on it as well. The circle is complete: heavy snatches, light snatches, barbell and bodyweight exercises and aerobic training. This should help me stay fit in my fifties. 

Competition results

20 kg snatch, 117 reps in 10 minutes.

2nd best in snatch overall (by coefficient).

Quite happy with the result. Got IKSFA Rank 2 in snatch. Next competition is in August in Melbourne. Want to try to get ready to snatch 24 kg.

Unrelated musings on risk management

Just remembered something totally irrelevant to GS, but very useful otherwise. I already mentioned in the last post the guy I met at my friend's 50th birthday, the psychiatrist that sails solo from the UK to Australia. His name is Frank (I have no idea what his last name is though), and he was (still is) my friend's professional tutor.

At the age of seventy four Frank regularly commutes to work on a motorcycle. He is not a novice and has been riding a bike for a long time. I, on the other hand, got bitten by this bug only a few years ago and am an example of a midlife crisis. Well, midlife... I am fifty one now, am I hoping to live until one hundred and two? That's unlikely. They should stop calling it midlife crisis then. In any case, in men this midlife crisis starts when we turn eighteen and never ends, according to the professional opinion of my psychiatrist friend.

When I spoke to Frank my riding experience was only a few months, and I asked him a few questions about it. Most notably: how to avoid getting killed. When you ask these kind of guys - remarkable - questions you hope for an interesting answer. Frank did not disappoint and gave me the thought that I have been using with my trainees ever since. His answer was: "Ride as everybody around you is a moron and has no idea about traffic rules".

Motorcyclists are vulnerable. Every time I get on mine this feeling of being totally exposed dawns on me. Sometimes I feel the urge to reach for the seatbelt. Because of this vulnerability you have to pay total attention to the process of riding. There is no point of arguing who is at fault when a car doesn't give way: you're the one who's gonna be hurting. So you watch out for those small streets, spot parked cars that are about to stick out their noses in your path of riding, guess which car is going to jump into your lane and so on. And yeah, people make mistakes. Motorcycles are not very visible on the road, and people make mistakes. I make them on regular basis. There is a term for this, SMIDSY: Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You!

What you have to do eventually is to take responsibility for everybody else. You pretend they don't know the rules. You watch them, read their behavior and predict their moves. You also position yourself in such a way on the road that these guys are not close enough to you to do harm. For instance, you never ride on a highway next to a car: you're likely to be in its blind spot, and when the driver decides that there is a gap to jump into and does not notice you - you get hurt. So you either stay slightly behind this car or ahead, so that he can see you. You make yourself noticeable by moving from lane to lane, or weave inside your lane from time to time. When you brake you watch the mirrors to make sure the driver behind you is slowing down too. And so on.

I though it was a good advise. Then I though some more and realized that this advise can be extended to everything else in life. In short it means to take more responsibility. Don't take things at face value and don't expect everyone to know the rules. Before jumping at the pedestrian crossing, why not check if the driver of the approaching has actually noticed you and is slowing down. When you get investment advise, why not do a bit of homework and spend some time at research. Instead of complaining about your financial adviser when the investment goes belly up. Read the small print in the contract; it can take an hour to get through the legalese, but may save you a lot of stress later.

Another, probably less politically correct, but very important example: the slutwalks. In 2011 during the talk addressing campus rape at York University constable Sanguinetti of Toronto blurted something along the lines of "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized". As expected, this caused a storm. Before women start throwing rotten tomatoes at me let me say this. Of course, obviously, without a doubt I agree, that the way the woman dresses or behaves does not give anybody the right to rape her. There is no justification for sexual crime. I have two daughters and I sympathize with women who have been sexually assaulted. But... If I go walking to downtown Johannesburg wearing a thick golden chain, flashy golden watch and a few rings, what's going to happen within twenty minutes? I have every right to do that and nobody has the right of robbing me. But every reasonable person would say: what were you thinking! Get my drift?

You can stick to the rules and then play the victim for the rest of your life. Or you can think a little and decide where to go and how to dress. That's true, nobody has the right to assault a girl who turns up in the military barracks full of horny and physically strong young guys dressed in a very short dress with the deep cleavage... Hey, this is your right. But maybe if you think about the consequences, totally unjustified as they are, maybe comparing potential - albeit unfair - risk is not worth the benefit. It is simple risk management. Which, in turn, implies taking some responsibility for the actions of others.