Back to GS. The easy way.

Today's workout:

2 x 20 kg jerk:
10 x 1 min sets @5 reps/min

Chin-ups: 17 reps - new PR!

I bumped into an article by Marty Gallagher, the latest Dragondoor guru on fitness and strength. While I don't have anything agains his wtitings (I haven't read Purposeful Primitive) I cringed at the  article on cardio at his blog. Gallagher's premise is that going endless jogging on treadmills is useless, instead you should do something short that leaves you gasping for air, intense and brutal.

The idea that interval training is superior to LSD (low slow distance) is the current rave. It is time sparing, brings results faster, loads the anaerobic and so on, and so forth.

Intervals are very useful. However it is just stupid to believe that they can replace anything else. Every endurance coach will tell you that frist you have to build the aerobic base, by walking and jogging. Then, gradually you increase the intensity and add more advanced workouts, including high intensity intervals. This is so well known that I am not even going to look up a reference. In fact, every book on running or cycling for beginners tells you that.

What about advanced trainees? Sure they spend their training at higher intensity? Maybe, or maybe not. Here is the link to an interesting article: Endurance training: large amounts of low-intensity training can develop base conditioning and aid recovery
I recommend you read the whole thing, it's not that long. In essence, the research in Germany looked at training of elite rowers (probably the closest sport to GS) and foung that about 95% of training was spent doing low-intensity work. Only about 30 minutes out of 12-14 hours of weekly training was done at high intensity.
As mentioned in the article, it seems the best way to train is as coined by the respected cycling journalist and coach Fred Matheny put it almost 15 years ago in an article in Bicycling: ‘NML (no man’s land) workouts provide a kinaesthetic sense of working hard but expose the rider to too much stress per unit gain. Instead most base training should be guilt-producingly easy, and the top end, high-intensity-training (HIT) should be very mentally hard, not sort of hard’. This truth is reflected in the fact that elite of virtually every sport follow this principle, as shown by the illustration in the article.
The article concludes: whatever endurance athlete type you are, train low, train high can work for you. This does not mean ‘go easy, we don’t want to push ourselves do we?’ Inclusion of the very high intensity (Z3) work is absolutely critical. However, for long-term success, you need to construct your training so that the body can evolve in a very patient way. Many athletes, even with the best coaching, only see on average a 2 to 8% improvement in a given year, especially those who’ve got several racing seasons under their belts already. If you’ve been struggling in no man’s land and not making much progress, try using train low, train high approach and set realistic improvements of say 5% (not 10 or 15%) faster for 2010. And if you remember the valuable three golden nuggets above, better times are ahead.
For GS it means one thing: long timed sets that leave you breathless should be done seldom, not more often that once every couple of weeks. This has been reiterated numerous times by various Russian coaches, the latest being Leonid Rudnev. It seems that using the same HR training zones make sense for GS. Repeats that keep average heart rate within reasonable limits, probably below 70% max HR, may be optimal.
As it is stated in the article quoted above: you can train excessively in the tempo ‘no man’s land’ zone for years. But while it gives you a buzz from your workouts and gets reasonable performances, the inputs verses the outputs never match up.
I stated many times here that my motivation of doing GS is not getting to MSMC and dominate the world. I will leave amazing tricks to people like Denisov and Morozov. I like lifting these metal balls and like the result they produce. When I meet new people they invariable ask: you go to gym often, do you? Thet's good enought for me, to look and feel good.
Couple of days ago I ordered a cheap HR monitor on eBay. I am going to give it a good try, to see how useful it is for GS.


Dave Riley said...

I use keetlebells and boxing as key elements in my workout. But since I suffer from very chronic Fibromyalgia I am hampered in my ability to engineer a routine.

That said -- and we're talking not so much 'looking good' but surviving pain and muscle contraction -- I've found that any time I go to the max -- such as in a group exercise class -- I'm stressed over and the worse of my symptoms will kick in.

Much as i have tried over the years to push my training up into the really intense zones for longer periods, I am always thwarted by the consequences. which only lead to setbacks. The sweet point -- the therapeutic threshold zone -- is always going to variable day to day but sustaining in its own good time.

Nonetheless, I've found that while Girevoy is a great tool I need to supplement not so much with weight training devices but I get a lot of reward from Gymball work -- especially as an option on those days I cannot manage KB lifts.

A good day I'll do both KB and ball.

Shaf said...

Apparently Gallagher's flip flopped completely then in that article, The Purposeful Primitive is chock full of stead state activities.

Mick Valentine said...

next comp 9th April mate, come along, even if only to count ;)

Alexander said...

Thanks for an interesting post.
It worries me though :-).
I train until breathtaken several times a week and often goes up to the +90% of max HR. 70% of the heart rate is very few reps for me.
On the other hand, I don't progress very much either, so I will read and contemplate this several times.

David said...

thanks for another thought-provoking post.

Pascal said...

Hi Eugene
I found your blog through another where you recommended as an intelligent source of info on kettlebell training. I've read some stuff on your blog and it's clear that with your profession and passion a lot of knowledge has been acquired!

I'm looking to start a business selling kettlebells in Spain and currently getting together my 'facts' on the benefits of kettlebell training to help with marketing. Kettlebells are virtually unknown of here.

I was wondering if you could spare a minute to point me in the direction of any good resources or share some of your own opinions. As a doctor I wouldn't be averse to taking a quote or two from yourself if you don't mind!

Many thanks


Mark said...


It is so good to read this. As a trainer I was sucked into the "intervals are superior craze!"
I noticed myself and others continually getting burnout and injured. I think there are many people burning out but most are too proud to talk about it!
I have recently had a big change of opinion and completely revamped my training systems with great success.

I think what is especially damaging is people performing desk jobs and beasting themselves 3x week at the gym with high intensity training. Their energy system become unbalanced and although some fast initial gains are made it usually won't last long, and it sets off a whole lot of metabolic problems. The "big book of endurance" by jeff maffetone really opened my eyes to this.

I saw a quote recently "train within your limits and they will expand, train to your limits and you will find them" can't remember where I saw it, but quite fitting for the subject I think.

Keep up the great blog!