Today I received the Kanygin’s DVD set, 3 disks with detailed video coaching on Jerk, Snatch and Long Cycle. I just started watching it and will post full review of it in the near future. In the introduction Denis mentioned that neither he nor most of his clients don’t have competing in mind but do GS style training for general fitness. This got me thinking.
It has become the sort of traditional pastime to ridicule GS. IGxers find it boring, “akin to watching the paint dry”, while Dragondoor posters – usually those with no experience in GS – keep rumbling about how superior RKC is for the average man because of more tension etc. I never cared about this: more tension – thumbs up to you. I like training the way I am and don’t really care if someone else thinks it’s not enough or if other activities are better. Don’t like it – don’t do it. But today it dawned on me: nobody criticizes rugby or basketball players or for developing quite a useless skill. Seriously, is it “functional” to be able to throw the ball into the dust bin? Or cyclists for their monotonous and boring sport? There is not much variety in pedaling for one hundred kilometers, is there? If all round fitness is the goal then everyone should do Crossfit. For the record, I believe that Crossfit is not a bad idea if it is not taken with excessive fanaticism leading to rhabdo and serious personality changes. But hell, there are lots of strange people around, why blame the movement?
“No fitness system is complete without a press”, according to a DD poster. Really? Why is that? And don’t start the “functional” line: do you often have to press things from the shoulder up? Is arm strength that important? In my opinion arm muscles are the most useless and least functional. Lifting is done more efficiently by using the muscles of the legs and back, while the arms just support the load. Not even mentioning the fact that most of us don’t need to lift anything heavier than a stack of paper. And those who do – farm workers and those who move furniture – are good at it anyway and don’t need to go to gym to get more physical skill. Do basketball players do presses? Do Oly lifters do presses? Not according to Ivan Abadjiev, the famous Bulgarian weightlifting coach. There is another one: you need pressing to become a better fighter? Ha-ha! Every boxer will tell you that the punch is initiated from the hips. The strength of hitting is not in the arm muscles anyway, it’s in the technique. Otherwise powerlifters with the best bench would be best fighters around.
But even if you insist on the importance of press here is something to think about. Jerk gives you enough arm strength due to the static hold part at the top. Do lots of heavy jerks and your press will get better too. I can testify to that: I can press 32 kg bell without ever training for it. To add to the superiority of jerk, you can jerk more weight that you can press, without exception, and more weight always translates into more training effect.
Another DD amateur gem: improving the technique and finding the more economic way to lift in order to squeeze couple of more reps is sort of cheating, a sign of weakness. Besides serving as the method to suck up to the DD seniors this statement is simply delusional. Improving the technique is somehow making you weaker, really? Is learning good squat technique somehow limiting your strength? By being able to “squeeze couple of more reps” you are increasing time under tension and therefore the training effect. Is there a point to learn good running technique in order to run longer and faster and reduce the risk of injury? What’s the point of Rippetoe’s Starting Strength where the technique of several lifts is described in detail? Shouldn’t you just take the bar and squat, like a man? This of course is retarded, just like the suggestion that doing kettlebell snatches with good technique is somehow inferior. Sure, it makes me less of a man if my palms are not bleeding, but I can live with it.
Classic GS lifts give you about as much fitness and as functional as you need. Both move the weight to above the head, the ultimate display of physical ability. The load - two 32s or 24s - is not that insignificant either, especially for the lighter guys. Snatch gets your heart rate going as much as intensive run.
For some reason in some posters' minds GS is equated with snatching 12 kg bell for 20 minutes. Sure, that may be a part of GS training at some stage and it is useful. But remember the goal of the sport, doing lots of reps with 24 or 32 kg bells? Try it, see how "easy" that is.
And now for the boring part. GS is cyclical, and so is running, cycling, swimming and many other sports. But even putting cyclical activities aside, I still don’t see how powerlifting or exercising on the gym machines is more exciting than doing jerks and snatches. Where is this idea of training exclusively with timed sets coming from anyway? Sure, most of training should be sport specific. But GS employs many other methods as well: repeats interval, variable sets and so on. Guess what, GS athletes also go for runs, how’s that for variety?
If you want to become stronger and improve endurance GS lifts will cover it. They will not make you the elite runner of boxer, and neither will Hardstyle, Oly lifting or whatever else is claimed to be superior. You will get pretty fit and will look pretty good. Snatch and jerk will make you explosive and can help you lose weight if this is the goal. Doing them for timed sets will test your mental quality. Long cycle – which is a combo of two great exercises - will make you gasping in minutes and is probably one of the most time efficient workouts you can think of. Enjoy.