After learning GS and experimenting with various methods I have formed an opinion of the optimal training template for myself. It is always fun to get into the battles between the OTW/AKC and DD supporters. Which are quite solly, the battles I mean. Methodology follows the goals of training. There is no point to do timed GS sets if the goal is muscle mass and vice versa, if one is chasing GS then 5 x 5 will be of little use.
So what are my goals? A little bit of everything. It is cool to jerk two 16 kg bells for 10 minutes, but it eats away my strength. Heavy stuff is nice too, but I tend to tighten up and with my personal traits I invariably get injured whenever I come closer to meaningful weights. But I want to be able to squat respectable (among amateurs) weight and press big kettlebell above my head, a la Pavel's closest to half bodyweight. I am not planning to compete in PL or GS (unless for fun with the same weaklings like me), so I can just enjoy my workouts and their results. My goals are: resonable strength, reasonable endurance, reasonable looks and, most importantly, freedom from injuries.
After giving it a though I eventually have a plan of training. From now on my training will consist of the following workouts:
- squats, KB MPs and pullups
- GS lifts: - Russian EDT with light bells - long(er) timed sets of LC or jerks - shorter sets with heavier bells
I like the Russian EDT template and will use it to build the reps. At this stage I am planning to do it at 6 reps per minute for LC. The goal is 60 reps. As soon as I can do it with two 16s I will increase the weight of the bells by 1 kg and repeat the sequence.
Longer timed sets are important, just as running the competition distance is important to long distance runners. Long GS sets allow improving the technique, get the rack and overhead phases right, as well as building the stamina and the habit of being comfortable with unpleasant sensation. I am planning to build LC with 16s at low rate - say 3 or 4 per minute - up to 15 to 20 minute sets.
Heavier sets are important for building strength. A person whose opinion I value recommended to ditch 16 kgs altogether and concentrate on 24s instead. Unfortunately my back does not like the cleans, and I at this time am going to stick to jerks only, while rehabilitating my back with lighter KBs.
Squats, MPs, pullups and the rest - goes without saying. These exercises are fun and functional (forgive the f-word). Doing squats regularly gives you this feeling of solid strength all over, such great lift it is. While my back is healing I am going to gravitate towards front squats. Later I will try do breathing sets of 20.
Running is running. It develops endurance which is so important for GS. It is also a great rehabilitation method for probably soemthing like 90% of all ills, at least according to Russian freaks: there are plenty of stories of people getting rid of cardiac disease, arthritis and what not, and I believe it.
I am going to rotate between these types of workouts or combine them with each other when I have the time and energy to do so. I want to try to run and train for strength once once a week as a minimum.
So here it is, my Program Minimum. As I said earlier, becoming a Master of Sports is not one of my goals, I simply do not have the time to train for it, to start with. Doing what I have planned should, in my opinion, cover what one would call "overall fitness". Feel free to criticize or suggest changes.
I am not in the same state as Rant when he said that he hates Irongarm, but I am getting... cautious. I noticed a while ago that people are overly sensitive when their beliefs are challenged. This must be an evolutionary survival mechanism, maintaining the status quo. As the result there is plenty of dogma around.
Issues regarding health and nutrition is the perfect example of such dogma. What's good for you? Everyone knows that saturated fat in food is bad, as well as cholesterol. On the other hand, eating grains, complex carbd, lean meats and plenty of fruits and vegetables is good: it will prevent disease and make your life longer and happier. The only problem is that the evidence for thuis is very, very thin. Often non-existent. For starters, For those really interested I recommend Anthony Colpo's The Cholesterol Con and Gary Taubes Good Calories Bad Calories.
The latest exchange of pleasantries in IGx revolves around longevity issues, namely the Okinawan Study. Methodologically, every type of scientific research has problems. While randomised controlled trials are considered the gold standard, they have serious drawbacks. Observational studies are useful in their own right, but have even more problems. Yet, it is exactly these type of trials that attract attention of the media. They are easier to understand and usually produce more understandable results. For example, the statement such as "most of drivers involved in serious accidents are under the age of 25 years old" is very illustrative and simple and allows to make - practical recommendations. The only problem is that these recommendations are wrong more often than not.
In the Okinawan study they examined and questioned 900 centenarians and summarised the findings. Old okinawans eat this and that and they do this and that. Nothing wrong so far. Where they do go wrong is making far reaching conclusions, particularly about the impact of their lifestyle. The study like this is subject to so called survival bias which in this case can be taken in literal sense: you see only those who survived to the age of 100 and have no idea how many of those following the same lifestyle died at earlier age. These kind of mistakes are made over and over again. One paediatrician once mentioned to me that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are very bad: all kids that had serious complications were on them. When I suggested that maybe because sicker kids are put on these drugs, maybe it is more severe disease that is responsible, not NSAIDs, he said that, no, NSAIDs are given virtually to every sick kid. So why blame the drugs, obviously vast majority of those who receive it don't develop problems!
Descriptive study on Okinawans suffers from the same fallacy. You only see those who have what we want, in this case the age of 100 and higher. But you have no idea how many people followed the same lifestyle but died earlier, maybe much earlier. Even though the study is ongoing, the survival bias still applies, as there is no comparison.
If you analyse car accidents and find that most car in crashes are red, should we go on and recommend re-painting all red cars in order to reduce the number of road deaths? Another example: most people admitted to hospitals with heart attacks are over the age of 60 and have grey hair. Should you dye your hair in order to reduce the chances of an infarct? Ridiculous, isn't it? So why then should you take the lifestyle of very old people and conclude that this is the reason for their longevity? Australia is the second longest living nation on Earth. Australians diet consists of pies, potato chips, lots of fast food and Tum Tams, sort of concentrated sugar bisquits. The obesity rates in Australia are among the highest in the world. Would you recommend, say, Kenyans, whose longevity is far down the list to adopt Australian diet in order to prolong life? No? Why then it seems logical to recommend Okinawan diet to everyone else?
No doubt, lifestyle factors may be importans for longer survival. Stress is probably number one killer. Moderate physical activity seems to be good as well, though the evidence is less convincing. Diet - here the facts mess the reality completely. A lot of research reveals facts that run opposite to accepted views. Dietary fiber does not prevent colon cancer. Old people with high cholesterol live longer than those with normal one. Saturated fat may have protective effect against cancer while not increasing the risk of cardiac disease. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet in several studies failed to make a difference to the recurrence of cancer or survival. An interesting post on this here: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2009/02/australian-doctors-are-introduced-to.html
If you analyse enough data long enough you will find a lot of interesting associations. However few of them will be true ones. The perfect example is the book The Bible Code. Two respectable researches loaded the Torah into the computer and analysed what is going to happen if you read every second letter, every third, fourth and so on. What will come out if you read the text diagonally, in squares, triangles and what not. Not surprisingly, they found a lot of interesting stuff, such as “Izhak Rabbin will be assassinated”, “the towers will fall” and another similar garbage. Holy Predictions? No, just alphabetical massage. As Nassim taleb mentioned in his book, if you put infinite number of monkey in front of typewriters, it is a certainty that one of them will produce Homer’s Iliad.
The lesson for me has several aspects. Most people are not interested in the discussion of facts, but rather in the selection of facts that confirm their beliefs. If you challenge these beliefs the people in question may become surprisingly uncivilised. Well, I am not there to destroy a church. Blessed are the ignorant. Amen.
I am still very weary with my back, that's why the workout is so modest.
Today for the first time I was wearing the belt. Jerks are definitely easier with it. I also have the impression that the belt improves the technique, especially with jerks: the first dip is not as deep, the second is deeper. Must be something to do with the awareness of the trunk muscles. Anyway. I like it.
Back to gym today. My back is feeling ok, and it's time to start doing something sensible, trainingwise. For a whiule I have decided to stick to front squats. The weight I am starting with today is for kids, but hell, there is no hurry, and if today's squatting does not give me problems I will catch up with my former self quickly. Oh yeah, I am also going to squat to the bottom. I did it to parallel (it allows lifting slightly bigger weight, Mother Vanity), but by doing that I may have screwed the technique.
Front squat: 40 kg x 5 x 5 sets alternated with Chin ups: 5 x 5
Vasili Ginko is coming to Sydney in July, and I booked myself for Level I course. I was tempted to go to Level II as well, but I am on call on that weekend and will not be able to swap it. I don't need it anyway: I am not planning to coach people any time soon, and for my own training whatever methods I picked from the Net are sufficient, at my current level. Still, I would like my technique checked and corrected by the real Russian (Latvian) Master, so a little outlay for the course is justified.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my training. As I said from the very start of this blog, one of the goals of my training is to be injury free. This goal by far outweighs the desire to achieve whatever numbers of kilos or reps. Yet I was in crooked for two months. What went wrong? Is it my technique? My methods? I am hardly overtraining, working out couple of times a week at the most. What is the best, or rather optimal way to train for someone in mid forties and beyond?
I honestly don't know. GS is a good way to keep fit and very time efficient. On the other hand, continuous banging of the torso with heavy kettlebells may lead to wear injury - spinal arthritis and even spondyllolisthesis. Barbell is also a great tool and let's you get strong fairly fast. Squatting with 90 kg with the bodyweight of 70 feels good (except for the sore back). Running/jogging is also good. It is such a natural activity of primates, it must be good for us. So maybe doing a little bit of everything with more concentration on the favorite activity is the way to go? I don't know, maybe the Dragondoor way is more suitable for the average dad? A bit of grinding, a bit of ballistics, nothing too complicated or challenging.
My next project will be research on training older athletes. What are the physiological changes occuring with age as applied to sports? What is best in the context of ageing, endurance or strength training? What are the limits? What is the risk of being found dead in the basement as the result of Long Cycle? I am not joking, sudden death among amateur athletes is not that rare. So far I haven't seen much, and some articles in the peer journals are not better than those in Men's Health. I gave up a while ago to look for nutritional info, it is too politicised and dogmatic, there is just no meaningful research going on. I wonder if research on older guys who want to train is any better. I will keep you posted.
Even though I was very careful last weekend and was paying lots of attention while squatting it seems that it wasn't enough. The next day I was assembling some furniture and spent a few minutes squatting on the floor counting little gadgets. When I got up my back was finished - again! It got better by the end of the week. I was back to gym yesterday but was too scared to do anything that could jeopardise my back. So workout is more gymnastic than anything.
Dips: 4 sets of 10 reps Chin ups: 4 sets of 5 reps
Front squat: 20 kg x 5 reps Overhead squat: 20 kg x 5 reps
Today I am feeling ok, no new pains. Might try some one armed KB stuff in the evening.