Continuous snatching redux

In January I wrote about continuous snatching as the way to build strength endurance. At the time I took a hiatus from BJJ due to a mild heart issue and was toying with this method. In fact, I did quite well - I could manage 40 minutes of 12 kg at the heart rate below 130/min. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but you don't get to judge it until you try it for yourself. Then I came back to BJJ. My training ADD came back too...

Last week I injured my back during BJJ training. My SI joints were on fire. So I am taking a little break from wrestling. I am getting these creeping thoughts that maybe at my age BJJ may not be my thing. I'll see. 

Recently it came to my attention that this training method is part of the Strong Endurance course by Strong First. Apparently, you are supposed to start pretty low, with 60 - 70% of the weight you can snatch for 100 reps in 5 minutes. The protocol - apparently - goes like this: snatch 5 times every 30 seconds, switch hands, continue until you can pass the talk test, but no longer than 40 minutes. Then snatch 5 reps every 20 seconds. Eventually you do 5 reps every 15 seconds. When you can do THAT for whatever time you chose you can increase the weight. That's what I was told by someone anyway. 

Interesting choice of switching hands every 5 reps - I did it (on the cue of Boris) every 10. I changed to 5 rep switch when HR was starting to climb close to 130/min. I reckon increasing the reps before switching hands can be an alternative progression. Makes sense for GS. 

My current training program consists of two things: push ups in Megareps style (currently 100 reps with two green bands) and chins, sometimes Megareps with 1 green band, sometimes bodyweight. Also dabbling, though not systematically, with Program Zero by KneesOverToes guy. My knees, hips and lower back give me trouble on regular basis, and these exercises have the potential to make them better. In any case, the program makes sense for general purposes. 

I am also going to add continuous snatches to my training. Every protocol is called something these days, so I will call it CSn. 

I should give some thought to the reps per arm. It's quite interesting to watch the HR monitor: when you switch hands HR drops by 5 - 10 beats/min, then builds up. As the session progresses HR climbs up, but the drop still happens, though not as much. 

Some ten years ago I was doing continuous snatching with 20 kg. Switch every ten reps. My best was something over 200 reps. Cadence was not regulated, no HR monitor or talk test. I am guessing if I can last 20 - 30 minutes at 10 reps/min with the same weight and HR below 130 it would indicate quite a good endurance. 


Completely by chance I came across the video below. It is supposed to debunk Pavel's interview with Rogan. Except that it doesn't.

This guy is a legitimate exercise physiologist/researcher. Which is surprising for two reasons. One - he doesn't seem capable of making a coherent systematic argument. Two - he doesn't seem to have a clue about actually coaching people. He believes that all your training has to be specific to the event. So if you are a miler that's all you have to do, run a mile every time you train. And you have to do it at maximal intensity. That's it. 

If it were so simple... I am guessing this character never heard of Verkhoshansky or Mel Siff. One piece of research by Verkhoshansky has demonstrated better results when cross training replaced more traditional way. Mell Siff, in his Supertraining, summarised training theory. One aspect of which is developing various physical qualities necessary for a given sport. Some of these qualities are subordinate, meaning that you have to develop them in certain order. 

Anyway, I don't have the time to dig deep into the muscle biochemistry, this subject is not my strongest. Neither I want to copy the style of the video, which is mostly filled with exclamations, sighs and self-promotion. Sure, some things Pavel says in that interview may be criticised. The question is though, how important are those things. Take an ancient martial and healing art of Tai Chi. It is based on the concept that from the point of view of Western science is completely wrong. Chi flowing through energy channels and so on. But then there is plenty of research demonstrating that Tai Chi is good for you. In that case, who cares about the underlying theory?  

It's the same with Pavel's rant on Joe Rogan. Sure, he presents it in an outdated way, but then who cares (except some seriously insecure sports scientists)? The question is, will it harm you if you decide to train using Pavel's methodology, even if the concept regarding the energy pathways involved is misunderstood and misrepresented by Pavel? 

Aerobic base is worthwhile to develop, in spite of what Mr (Dr?) Kay says. You can achieve some results with specific training, but it can only take you that far. Eventually you hit a plateau, and how to get through that is the domain of practical coaches. Not pencil pushers with "arm's length list of publications". 

Continuous snatching

Courtesy Boris from Irongarm, continuous snatch tests came to my attention. Again, that is, as I used to do them some years ago, though in a somewhat different format. Boris the Monster mentioned in the goals thread that he wants to snatch 24 kg for an hour non-stop. I sort of spaced this out at the time, but then the topic came up again, and I decided to give it a go. 

As I said, I used to do them years ago (more than ten years ago), simply switching hands every ten reps. My best at the time was 230 reps. Boris gave me the idea of cadence. He said he snatches at 10 reps per minute, switching every ten reps. I tried, and after the first session I am hooked. 

I am currently working on my aerobic base by jogging MAF style. This was triggered by an unpleasant arrhythmia episode followed by a coronary angio at the end of October. There is some plague, non-obstructive, nothing too bad. Still, improving the endurance base wouldn't hurt. I turned 58 at the beginning of November, and so my working HR is around 122/min. I am a shit runner, and so first few sessions were a mix of jogging and walking, as my HR was easily shooting over 135 - 140. Dammit, my wife walks faster than I jog, but what can I do... At least I can now jog for an hour non-stop.

One day it was too hot outside, so I grabbed a 10 kg kettlebell, put on my Polar strap (the one you put on the chest) and set up the GymBoss app to beep every six seconds. Switching hands every ten reps. Later, as the hear rate was climbing over the MAF level I would switch hands every five reps. 

Surprisingly, this felt pretty incredible. First session with the measly 10 kg felt like a proper jog. I stopped after 30 minutes when my HR was persistently over 140. Next session - 45 minutes, this time I hit 140 right at the end. 

Next workout was interesting. I decided to snatch 2 kg, and for about 5 minutes my HR was hovering under 110. I stopped and took my wife's HR monitor - same result. Soon after starting the session I tore couple of calluses and so I stopped. Next time - 30 minutes with 12 kg no problem. Next workout will be with 16 kg. 

I think this is a cool substitute for jogging. I can see a few advantages and a few problems with this training. 


1. Involvement of different muscles. Good for overall development and may be advantageous for certain sports. For example, endurance of lower limb muscles in BJJ is not a big plus, but endurance of upper limbs and the trunk muscles is. To which degree muscles involved in snatch will be engaged in BJJ - anybody's guess, but variety will probably be beneficial. 

2. Change of scenery. Joggin' in the rain or in the heat is not fun, so the ability to do aerobics indoors is useful. 

3. Useful for Girevoy Sport training. I could change my HR by adjusting the technique of snatch: deflecting the torso back on the way down, delaying the pull on the way up, rotating the arm in at the top. ALl this improves economy, which is a plus for GS. 


1. Hard on the hands. Like any other training that involves lots of snatches. 

2. A little hard on lower back, at least for me. Because of that I decided to limit the sets to 30 minutes. 

Lastly, I can see several ways to progress. 

1. Duration to weight. Start with light KB, snatch at a chosen cadence. You stop the workout when HR hits a pre-determined level (or does not descend below that level after switching hands). Eventually you reach the desired duration of the set. Then increase the weight. 

2. Duration to cadence. Reach the desired duration of the set at a given HR, then increase the cadence. 

3. Cadence to weight. Builds on No.2. After reaching the desired cadence increase the weight. 

I am not sure if it is possible to reach the level of extreme fitness, but so far I like it. Opinions will be appreciated. 

Large gains

Few years ago I had a session with the Starting Strength affiliate in Sydney. When it came to planning the progressions the coach said: get fractional plates. If you add 1 kg to 110 kg squat you are getting stronger without too much effort.

Few years before that I trained under the guidance of Sergey Rudnev, a coach who hardly needs an introduction. Being five times World Champion he also produced scores of Master of Sports in Girevoy Sport. One of the first things I was supposed to do is to get intermediate kettlebells. I got an adjustable one.

More recently I did a post about Dmitry Sokolov and his method, Megarepeats. This method is also about slow, gradual progression in the number of reps and the load in your given lift or movement.

Enter the Strong First and its King, Pavel Tsatsouline. I don't need to advertise that guy - he has books, seminars, articles and what not and is an acknowledged guru of all things kettlebell. Pavel's greatest strength is the ability to read in Russian, and translating Russian sports research is a very productive activity. Something I have been doing here when GS info elsewhere has been very limited.

I don't have a problem with Pavel's writings in general. Every training method has its ups and downs. The same about Russian research: some is great, some is so-so and some of it comes up with unsubstantiated conclusions. This is not the point of this post however.

The point is when something debatable becomes a law. Something that is supposed to be followed with the dedication of of that to the Biblical commandments. I am talking about weight progression in kettlebell training. More precisely, in the program Simple and Sinister.

In 2013 Pavel wrote an article: 6 Reasons for the Leaps Between Kettlebell Sizes. In Pavel's opinion the progression should be done in large jumps - from 16 kg to 24 kg and from 24 kg to 32 kg. Not immediately, of course, but gradually adding a set or two Ove the course of several weeks with the kettlebell next size.

The article is an opinion piece, and all of the six reasons presented by the author are debatable. Let's quickly go through each of them.

Number 1. 

Soviet scientists like Prof. Arkady Vorobyev discovered that sharp changes in load are superior to small changes when it comes to delivering the message to your body: “Get strong!” Russians scoff at those mini-plates many Western bodybuilders add to their barbells. 

Pavel doesn't do a great jib referencing his articles, and this one is not an exception. The link "Arkady Vorobyev" takes you to the Wiki page with Vorobyev's bio, not his research that supports the statement in the paragraph. I don't have the time to look for Vorobyev's research, but I am certain of two things. One - his research relates to weightlifting's which is maximal effort for one rep and not to kettlebells, which - never mind GS or Hardstyle - is lifting for many reps. Including S&S which is 100 reps. Two - he did not mean 50% increases in training load which what going from 16 to 24 kg is. 

Number 2. 

Dan John, Master SFG gives the second reason. 
Why I like kettlebells: you have so little choice. Dumbbells go up in many gyms by ten pounds, some five, some even a pound at a time. A thousand machines for bench presses… a million combos.

Stop! The brain can only take so much!With kettlebells, I have really only up to three choices… often only one… for an exercise…Less choice: less mental RAM going out the door. The more you choose, the less you have left over to push the workout. Those leg innie and outie machines can convince you that you are working your legs. You’re not… but you can use your brain to convince you that you are…
No choice. More work.
I suspect there is context to this statement. Sure, there is time when limited weight selection is useful - such as when coaching a group of students - and there is also time and place when weights in small increments are useful. The quote is a little bizarre - it mixes together exercise selection and weight progressions, but can argue there is a connection. My mental RAM is pretty capable of 1 kg weight increases though. 
Number 3. 
A Senior SFG has noted that a very gradual progression in weight enables the trainee to sneak up on a heavier bell. This robs him of technical “a-ha” moments. 
Technical a-ha moments do not require heavy weights. From my modest experience, it's the reps that give you the realisation of technical aspects of a lift. There is a actually a cognitive disconnect here. On one hand, Pavel is against the grinds and Easy Strength is a common theme in his writings. On the other, in this instance you have to all tense up and brace for a weight that is much more challenging than your current one. Remember - we are talking about 50% increase. 
I may be ignorant, but I don't get it how "sneaking up on heavier bell" is a bad thing. 
Number 4. 

Baby steps rob you of an opportunity to man up against heavy weight.

Baby steps also decrease the risk of injury. "Man up" ego trips are the main reason lifters get injured. "Heavy" is relative and it varies from day to day. If you are training for a GS competition pushing yourself on regular basis in training makes sense: you may not be in your top form on the competition day and have to learn in advance how to deal with it. On the other hand, if you are lifting for general fitness you don't have to do it. 

Number 5. 

Those baby steps also prevent you from developing the ability to accurately estimate your strength on a given day. Russian powerlifting coaches occasionally hold an in-house competition for their lifters—allowing only one attempt per lift.

And so you will not be able to accurately estimate your strength on a given day... And if you get injured by doing a TGU with the weight that is beyond your abilities you will know for sure that you shouldn't have tried it...

Number 6. 

Last but not least, most Russian strength coaches insist on doing a lot of quality lifts with medium weights. Russian kettlebells force you to do just that. Say you want to make a transition from pressing a 53-pound bell to pressing a seventy-pounder. That is a 32% jump, a true leap of faith! There is no way you can overcome the big one without first working up to pressing fifty or more perfect reps per workout with the smaller one. Bill Starr will tell you that the broader is the base, the taller pyramid you can build.

I have no problem with lots of quality lifts with medium weights. I just still don't see how this calls for 32% up in weight progression. Start with a given weight, gradually build up the volume. When you are ready increase the weight by 2 kg. Repeat. What's wrong with that?

I want to clarify couple of things about kettlebells in the former USSR. Girevoy Sport as such became more or less popular only in the 1980-s, and before then kettlebells were used to supplement other training. Nobody knew of KB lift other than one arm press. I may be wrong, but I am talking from the point of view of an average Soviet citizen. Moreover, everything in USSR was in short supply, and to me it is no surprise that kettlebells existed in only three sizes. It's not because of some sophisticated science, but because that's what we had. Sure, it had advantages, but limited selection made training difficult. 

Most importantly, it is dogma and following someone's ideas blindly that interferes with the training progress and get people injured. A few days someone asks about his troubles progressing from 16 to 24 kg in S&S. He can barely press 24 kg off the floor with two arms, what should he do? What is the problem for him to use smaller increase in weight, say moving to 18 or 20 kg bell? Is this going to rob him of a-ha technical moment? Should he be worried about not being able to estimate is strength on a given day? Will his mental RAM get overloaded by using a smaller kettlebell? According to Steve Freides the answer is yes to all of the above. 

I am a strong believer in slow progress. Small incremental increases that are almost unnoticeable. own the weight, increase it a little and so on. Kettlebells are not very cheap, and the idea of dishing out considerable amount of money for intermediate sizes can put some people off getting them in the first place. It shouldn't. Kettlebells are a useful training tool. You can also save a lot of money by getting adjustable kettlebell, like I did. Or you can still progress from 16 kg to 24 kg, but not in a way described in S&S. Instead of doing the same lifts - TGU and swing - you can do something else, such as clean and jerk, rack squat, loaded carries etc. and get stronger that way first. The try the S&S lifts with heavier bell again. 

After doing many stupid things over the years I would say the most important thing in training is to not get injured. Progress is less important. Forget about the dogma, progress slowly, and you can do it until the old age. 

Variations of HIIT

This is the illustration of HIIT variations from the book:

Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training: Solutions to the Programming Puzzle
by Paul Laursen and Martin Buchheit. These guys published two major review articles on the subject, and I am going to rehash them in the near future.

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.

Rapid change
Hydrogen Ions
Stable levels
Growth Hormone
Free Creatine
Structural effect
Energy source
Doesn’t address
Weak points

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.