USGSF adjustable girya review

Last week I received the brand new girya from It is competition size and it is adjustable. That is why I went through trouble of getting it from another country. Nothing too unusual here, however, because USGSF is getting their giryas from Russia.

Its original weight is 16 kg, and in keeping with the rules and requirements of girevoy sport it is painted yellow. It is hollow and has a screw at the bottom. The overall quality is very good: the thickness of the walls and the bottom about 1 cm, strong enough to hold large loads of whatever filler you choose to increase the weight.

The handle is a bit rough and requires paint stripping and polishing. At this stage though my coach suggested I keep it as it is. I guess it will force the correct lowering technique.

Depending on the material you put in it, according to the ad on USGSF site the weight of this bell can be increased to 44 kg. This is far above the weight I am able to handle at this stage. But having an adjustable girya to me is very useful. There are a few training methodologies where the weight of the bell changes from set to set, as in Ryabchenko’s method. Even if you don’t follow it, it just makes sense to vary workouts between heavy, medium and light, and adjustable bells save space and money.

I can foresee the headache of adjusting the weight. I will need to buy the led shot in large quantities (15-20 kg) and the scale to weigh the bell. This is not as convenient as using the plates, but I guess I just will have to go with it.

The verdict – I like it. The price is $125 plus postage, which is fairly high for Australia. The versatility of it, however, makes it worthwhile for me. I am going to order another one, so that the equipment problem will be solved for a while.
PS. After I posted the review on the Irongarm Forum I received a post that the maximum weight one can squeeze in this bell using the small ledshot is extra 16 kg, i.e. the maximum weight achieved will be 32 kg. 44 kg may be reached only if the bell is filled with melted led.

First program for the beginner

After several training sessions and evaluating my technique my coach drafted a program which I have been following from the end of May.

16 kg two arm Jerks – 5minutes, 8 reps per minute, total 40 jerks OR
16 kg two arm jerks – 6 minutes, 7 reps/minute, total 42 reps - on alternate sessions

Good rest before the next set.

16 kg snatch, 3 minutes and 48 reps/arm
16 kg fast snatch set: 1 min and 20 reps/arm

24 kg one arm push press, 2 sets of 12, top hold 2 seconds.
24 kg one arm swing waist level, 2 sets of 2 min each arm

Push presses are very popular among Russian gireviks and for some reason are called schwoongs. The technique of one-armed schwoong is very close to that of a jerk: the albow must be planted on the hip or waist, the lockout must be well defined, the shoulder must be in the socket and you must be as relaxed as possible in the top position. After checking my first set Dmitri told me to pause in the top position for for 5 seconds and later reduced this time to 2 seconds.

One-armed swings are an absolute killer. Because they are done to waist level, there is very short pause for resting, if any. By the end of the set you feel muscles you never existed. Currently I cannot do longer than 1 minute each arm at the end of the main workout. But these swings teach efficiency. You stop tensing the RKC way and start using more muscles doing them, as well as changing the angles and the technique so that various muscle groups get some rest. Yeah, some rest…

So far I am pleased with the results. Here is my latest video of jerks.

Although the technique of jerks has improved since May, it still sucks. Dmitri commented that

- The elbows still come off before pushing. That leads to loss of speed and explosiveness.

- Not anough attention is paid to the lockout of the knees. They must be locked pretty much at the same moment as lockout of elbows.

- Incorrectly cleaning the bells. The bells should swing back under the butt, not only the knees and the handles must pass the hamstrings. In short – more backswing when cleaning.

Something to pay attention to in the next workout.

Saturday session with Paul Tucker

Last Saturday, the 21st of June, Paul Tucker came to Sydney and conducted a training session at the Crossfit Sydney venue. Paul is the President of the Australian Girevoy Sport Association and has wealth of training experience with kettlebells. His site is He is a GS fanatic, and I couldn’t miss the chance of getting his advice on training.

One thing I can say without exaggeration: Paul is strong like a horse (I am tempted to say like Tasmanian Devil). And his knowledge of GS is very solid. As I understand it, Paul is mostly self-taught, and this brings hope for those without access to a qualified coach.

Including Paul six people took part in the session. It tells you how small GS is in Australia. We went through the technique of various lifts, starting with clean and press. In GS type of training it is done in a different way from Hardstyle. You don’t brace or tense and breathe on the way up rather than down. Actually, it is two-cycle breathing: press-breathe in, breathe out in top position, lower-breathe in, exhale in rack position. The same pattern of breathing applies to cleans, jerks and snatches. Because GS lifts are done for time it is important to find a breathing rhythm that allows maintaining work for a while. I guess this is one of the secrets behind Valeri Fedorenko’s 2006 snatches at the Arnold Classic of the same year.

Inhaling adds a little push to the jerks, and this was also mentioned by Ryabchenko in one of his articles on GS training. Paul made a very valid point that if you feel like bracing and tensing during GS lifts probably the weight is too heavy for you.

I was reasonably happy with my snatch, and it was interesting to observe that it takes time to get the corkscrew on the way down for some people. While playing with the snatch I once again realized that it can be done in three ways, just as Dmitri Sataev mentioned on his DVD. It can be done primarily by the back, by the legs or with the intermediate variant, where you move your knees backwards during the bottom phase. As the result, the body folds slightly and the biomechanics of the lift changes making it easier. As the fatigue accumulates during timed set, it also makes sense to alternate the technique as the set progresses.

The most upsetting part was double jerks. Upsetting because I though there was something seriously wrong with my technique and because of that I suck at this lift. I though Paul is going to correct me and my numbers would go right up. No luck. As it turned out, after following Sataev’s recommendations on the form, my technique is ok. It’s just that this bitch is too hard! So as they say, back to the drawing (bleeding?) board. As they say on Russian forums, you want to jerk a lot – jerk a lot. I guess…

Frequency of training

How often should one train? Is it small volume every day, a la Pavel, or more intensive/higher volume sessions less frequently? This post will discuss one of the views.

A while ago Mike Mentzer created a little revolution in the bodybuilding world when he stated that one should train less frequently. The actual interval, he said, depends on the recovery ability of a particular athlete and, therefore, must be chosen individually. For some trainees training as infrequently as once a week would be the most beneficial. Mentzer supported his claims by many observations of his clients and himself. His methodology also implied training to complete muscular failure and only one set per body part (something like this, anyway). And, of course, the methodology implies primary application in bodybuilding.

About a year ago I came across a book by Vadim Protasenko written in Russian on the same subject. His goal was to verify Mentzer’s claims with published research. He started from the very beginning, what causes muscular failure on the physiological level. Next – what makes muscle tissue grow and so on. His conclusion was similar to Mentzer’s, that long recovery intervals are beneficial for training. However, the premise behind it was different. Mentzer claimed that the improved result is due to recovery. According to Protasenko, allowing long intervals between training session leads to some degree of detraining and increases the sensitivity of the muscle to training stimuli. Never mind the actual reason behind it, both authors claimed that long intervals between training sessions are good. Protasenko, however, instead of complete rest, rather favored infrequent heavy sessions with light sessions in between. Cycling loads leads exactly to this way of training: the load increases from session to session, and as soon as you hit a new high you start the cycle with much lower all over again, thus working maximally only once every two weeks or so.

Beautiful theories are nice, but is there a confirmation to it? Can a method developed for bodybuilding be relevant for other sports too? In turns out yes, there is. In April this year there was a post on the Rybinsk Girevoy Sport forum with the link to an article by Protasenko which discusses much earlier publication by Sergeev and which has direct relevance to the topic of the frequency of training. The discussion is in Russian and can be found at I will try and recite it here as close as I can.

Sergeev was a Professor, holder of Doctorate in Medical Sciences and the Head of the Department of the Functional Morphology of the Institute of Physical Culture of USSR. The name of the article was “About some theoretical research and the experience of implementation into coaching practice achievements of biological science” It had been published in the “Nauchno-sportivny vestnik” (Scientific sport newsletter), a peer reviewed journal devoted to the sport science in 1980. According to Y Verchoshansky, the rejection of the ideas expressed in this article by the Soviet sports establishment was the key reason of Sergeev’s resignation from the Institute. I am too lazy to translate the whole article here and will only cover its main points.

According to the previous research by Sergeev on the muscle, heart and liver of rats his group came out with the theory of training process. According to that there were several phases of adaptation. The diagram of the process is below.

The first section s the period of fatigue, the actual training session.
ФОУ - the Phase of the Residual Fatigue
ФПвР. After that – the Phase of Increased Work Capacity
ФПнР, the Phase of Decreased Work Capacity
ФСР the Phase of the Stabilization of Work Capacity and finally,
НУР New Level of Work Capacity.

Solid line marked “Исходный уровень работоспособности” is the Initial Level of Work Capacity, dotted line marked “Новый урoвень работоспособности (адаптации)” is the New Level of Work Capacity. The blue line is the actual Work Capacity.

According to the author’s theory is that the phase of the Increased Work Capacity is not the conclusive stage of adaptation to training session and is its transitional phase only. New level of adaptation at the end of the process lasts 3-4 days, and if no stimulus is applied again, the effect may be lost. In other words, de-adaptation occurs.

Experimental data has also shown that the application of repeated training stimuli before the adaptation process is complete (such as during supercompensation phase) indeed leads to the increased work capacity, but eventually ends up with the state of chronic physical strain or, in other words, overtraining and eventual decrease of work capacity. From the point of view of biological science it is the least efficient way of adaptation.

Based on the above theory, the author and his coworkers came up with the biologically based system of training (BBST). Its main premise is that after completing the training session and the organism reaches the new level of adaptation, this level is maintained with training load of low volume applied every 1-2 days during which the organism must be put in conditions reflecting new level of adaptation. УДН is the maintenance load, or literally “holding load”. This is shown on the diagram below: when a new level of work capacity is reached several stimuli (training session) are applied in order to stabilise the achievement.

In practice the method is implemented in the following way. The athlete is assessed in terms of his physical level and bioenergetics and the goal is set (for instance, maximal strength of strength endurance). The type (specificity) of load is chosen according to the goal. The athlete then is given training session until fatigued. The phases of adaptation are monitored and the process can take from 1 to 7 days. As soon as the new level of adaptation is achieved, the athlete is loaded with the new stimuli for the maintenance of the new level. The idea behind these maintaining sessions is to every time get the athlete to the level of the initial loading level (as during first training session). The duration of the adaptation period, as confirmed by experience, is 7-18 calendar days, of which training days are 4-7. Total volume of training – that includes initial as well as maintenance loading – is within 3-7 hours, and is sufficient for the achievement of the training effect close to maximal. DURING THE ACTUAL PHASES OF ADAPTATION THERE IS NO TRAINING.

In order to test the theory in 1977 the Institute of Physical Culture and Central Sports Club of the Soviet Army signed a contract. The following was decided.

  1. To select the experimental group of young athletes of 18-20 years of age who have never done sports before, but have the physical characteristics suitable for training in rowing.
  2. To refine the practical aspects of BBST in its application to rowing, including the initial and maintenance loading and the general system of training.
  3. As the result to have highly trained athletes based on BBST.

The experiment started in 1977. Individuals for the experiment were carefully selected, and after deriving suitable loading parameters the training process has started. During the period from 24 May to 14 July 3 training cycles were completed, 14-16 days each. The results were impressive. In fact, the results in testing parameters were similar to that among athletes who were earlier included in the national team.

However, from August 1977 this experiment was interrupted. The coach working with the athletes realized that the group consists of unique sportsmen who are able to achieve high results. He obtained the approval of the sports bureaucrats to train them according to “his” method, which was the accepted methodology at the time (the volume of training was significantly increased, training two-three times a day was introduced, training with barbells, long distance running etc.). One week cycle was also introduced. As the result after 2.5 months the testing parameters returned to the pre-experimental level. And only after a year of such training they came back to the levels achieved at the end of the experiment (July 1977).

After that, of course, the relationship between the scientist and the Army Club went sour. However, they were given a group of junior rowers to experiment with, and the results were outstanding. From the tables of the results it follows that in one cycle that lasted 17-19 calendar days, out of which 6 were training days and pure training time (rest time subtracted) from 1hour 44 min to 3 hours 52 minutes the average power of work increased from 200 to 520 kgm/min. This fact was used during the preparation of the “silver eight”, when rest period of one and a half months before USSR Spartakiade did not negatively affect the results of that group. The BBST was applied to other groups of athletes with equally impressive results.

Here it is. Benefits of less frequent training confirmed by serious research. Unfortunately, the article does not discuss the process of identification of the phases of adaptation, and I would guess it is done by observing symptoms and signs (feeling rested, resting heart rate, reaction of heart rate to stimulation etc.) as well as measuring some physical and biochemical parameters.

How is it applicable to Girevoy Sport? Well, one of the methods of training for GS developed by Ryabchenko in a way reflects ideas expressed in the text above. I will discuss this method in detail in future postings. For now I will mention that Ryabchenko’s system implies working with kettlebells significantly lower than competition bells and utilizing training volumes well below competition numbers.

8th of May, the first session.

The first workout was... interesting. And humbling. I consider myself a reasonably strong individual. I could squat 110 kg before screwing my back and deadlift 120. I have snatched 24 kilo bells many times for many sets (of 10 reps that is). I tried timed sets before and knew that they are very different from workouts done in the traditional way, for reps. I never had the patience, however, to stick to them in my training. From the previous attempts of working for time I already knew that at my level of training I could only use 16 kg bells.

I decided to film myself during this first workout and send the videos to Dmitri. It turned out to be a good idea, as my technique sucked completely. Here are the links to the videos.

I know, it looks pathetic. But you have to start somewhere. Dmitri’s comments with my elaborations on the technique of my jerk are as follows.

Hanging elbows. Elbows must be planted on the hips or lower abdomen. The bells should be pushed by the legs, sort of initiating the movement pushing through the elbows. Ideally arms should serve as passive connectors between the bells and the body. It is achieved by two leg dips: one at the beginning of the jerk, second when the initial upward movement of the bells is slowing down.

Not connecting the bells on the way down. When lowering the bells you should tilt the head slightly backwards and the hands must meet at the level of the forehead. This reduces the load on the arms.

Lowering the bells to the shoulders instead of dropping. This lead to increased fatigue of the arms and shoulders.

Bending the legs when catching the bells after lowering. It is not a big problem with smaller bells, but with bigger weight it leads to fatigue and negatively impacts on the numbers.

At the top position shoulders must be sucked into the sockets and elbows fully extended. This position must be held for at least 2 seconds. It must also be as relaxed as possible. Apparently it can be used for resting. (At this stage I find it difficult to believe).

I must confess, it was more than I expected. I thought my technique is reasonably ok, but it turned out to be nonexistent. My first communication with the professional coach once again underlibed the importance of proper instruction.

The Beginning (blah, blah)

My familiarity with kettlebells goes back to my youth when I was growing up in the former USSR. Giryas were everywhere. They were in every sports class at schools and almost very hous had one too, usually from the younger years of the owner. The most common way to demonstrate – or compare – strength with kettlebells was to press them. Friend ofmine had two of them, 24 and 32 kg, and when I was about seventeen I bought 16 kg one for myself. Immediately I was introduced to an exercise I never new before (and did not do for couple of decades after), farmer’s walk. It was unintentional: I just had to carry the bloody thing from the shop to the tram stop, then from another stop to my home. It eventualy followed the fate of its many relatives: collected dust most of the time and was only pressed during drunken parties in order to impress girlfriends.

At the peak of Perestroika at age of twenty seven I left then still Soviet Union and settled for the next thirteen years in South Africa. As many of my contemporaries, I was training with weights since youth, on on-and-off basis. I continued this pattern in Johannesburg, without any meaningless progress. Well, it brought some benefits, of course. While I was training I was fit and reasonably strong. However, I could not show any serious achievements for my training, such as heavy squat or big muscles.

In the early 2000s I was browsing the Amazon for books on stretching and came across the name Pavel Tsatsouline. I bought his Beyond Stretching and, by chance, just because the name of the book was intriguing, Power to the People. That book changed my views on training. There was a link to Dragondoor with its forum which I quickly joined. After I moved to Australia in 2004 I bought Pavel’s another book, Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Purchase of two kettlebells followed, 16 and 24 kg, and I started training the RKC way. Despite growing up with kettlebells around me, most exercises I discovered for the first time. I started doing snatches, swings, cleans and presses and turkish getups.

Couple of years ago I started getting interested in Girevoy Sport. No other sport has its primary goal as strength endurance to the degree GS has. And to my surprise, this aspect of training is mostly overlooked in books on training methodology. I have books by Tomas Kurz and Mel Siff, in both of them this topic occupies not more than couple of pages.

At some stage, about a year ago, my interest in kettlebells cooled down and I started training with the barbell, mostly in squat. The training was progressing well until I maxed out on one of the weekends and completely fucked up my lower back. I could not properly move for about a month. My back eventually recovered, but the incident made me realize that this activity is potentially dangerous. This was confirmed by the fact that most elite weightlifters and powerlifters regularly suffer from back pain, the impression I got from reading about this sport. My enthusiasm for heavy squats never returned to pre-injury level.

Few months ago my interest to GS was re-sparked by furious discussions on the Dragondoor and Irongarm forums. AKC was fighting with RKC over whose dick is longer, and some observations dropped by the AKC supporters sounded very interesting. I decided to give GS another go.

The problem was, I didn’t know where to start. I found a DVD devoted to GS by Dmitri Sataev from the, with very good explanations on the technique. Sataev is former protegee of Valery Fedorenko, the head of the AKC and formed World Champion. However, there were no training programs on the DVD. As I speak Russian and GS is primarily a Russian sport, I went to verious GS forums based in Russia. The reply on “how to start” was unanimous: get your technique right with a qualified coach. But where do you get a GS coach in Australia? I contacted AKC, but they did not have GS coaches in this country. Mike Stefano’s site offered online training, but my email was unanswered. Eventually I contacted Sataev again and it turned out that he offers online training. I started training under his guidance at the beginning of May 2008.

So that’s it. I am just under two months of training and so far there has been some, though modest, progress. Though I am starting this blog a little late, I intend to post my progress here regularly, as well as other info that may be interesting to GS enthusiasts.