Conceptual basics of training

One of the readers of my blog posted a question related to an article from Rostov site which I missed for some reason, probably because my PC did not want to open it. The reader kindly emaild the article to me, and I did monumental job of translating it. It was worth every line. The article is called Conceptual Basics of the Training Process in Girevoy Sport and is written by Romashin YA. Honorary Coach of Russia, Master of Sports. Senior Research Fellow of the Department of Physical Preparation and Sport of Serpukhov Institute of Missile Armed Forces. As I mentioned, it is published on the site of GS Federation of Rostov District, The article is long and will require some tedious reading. On the other hand you can print it out and use it as the training manual, it is so comprehensive. Forgive the clumsy style at times, I did the best I could to convey the meaning.

Training for sports is none other that one of the most important means of “changing one’s nature”. Exercises used in training considerably change the abilities of the body. When training with kettlebells adaptation is expressed in the growth of the musculature, strength and strength endurance increases. Let’s consider the theoretical aspect of training the most important physical qualities of a girevik.

One of the most important qualities in GS is muscular strength. It has various manifestations: maximal strength, for instance in barbell squats, barbell and kettlebell presses; speed-strength – kettlebell snatch and jerk; speed – throwing of the tennis ball. For girevoy sport maximal strength and speed-strength are defining qualities.

Incorrect strength topography can impede interfere with learning rational technique in GS. Often in beginner gireviks the strength of the flexors predominates over the extensors, the leg muscles are undeveloped. They try to perform the lifts by using the muscles of the arms and insufficiently involve the muscles of the legs and the trunk.

As mastership develops the strength of arm and trunk flexors does not change considerably, and in best gireviks the strength of flexors is the same as in gireviks with first ranks, while that of extensors is considerably higher.

General endurance is especially important for gireviks. It allows handling large volume of exercises, not to get overly tired from the warm-up and prolonged competition, recover faster and train more effectively. High level of strength endurance is one of important indicators of athlete’s health.

Endurance is defined as the ability to overcome fatigue. Only training to fatigue and overcoming this fatigue can improve endurance.

In regards to the development of strength endurance the opinion is sufficiently unanimous that the best way for its development is to perform competition lifts in difficult conditions or in large volume. This does not preclude, however, the use of special strength exercises, which is confirmed by current methods of training elite gireviks. Strength endurance depends on the economy of the energetic processes and the rate of recovery of energy resources, on anaerobic and aerobic capacity of the body and on the so called “strength reserve” from max strength.

The relationship between the load and the number of repetitions has been established by Zatsiorsky in 1970. The number of repetitions is dependent on maximal strength when the load is sufficiently high and is not less than 25-30% of 1RM. That’s why if it is required to repetitively overcome higher resistance – more than 70 – 80% of 1RM – then endurance gain happens automatically because of increases in max strength, and in that case it is not important to specially develop it (for instance, for a weightlifter). However, when the load is lower, it is important to train for both: strength and endurance. Therefore, if a girevik can press two two-pooders 3-5 times then he has to pay more attention to strength training. But if he can jerk two bells 20 times and cannot do it 30 times, he has to develop strength endurance.

The following combinations of methods to develop strength and strength endurance may be used in training.

Maximal effort method.
Load: 1-3 RM
Number of repetitions: 1-3.

Repeated efforts method. Repetitive overcoming of non-maximal resistance with non-maximal numbers of repetitions.
Load: 6-8 RM
Number of repetitions: 4-6

Same but:
Load: 12-15 RM
Number of reps: 8-10

Other variants of the above method:

Repetitive overcoming of non-maximal resistance
Load: 20-30 RM
Number of reps: to failure

Same but not to failure
Load: 35-60 RM
Number of reps: 15 and more

The methods closer to the top develop predominantly strength, while those at the bottom are aimed at endurance, with strength endurance in the middle.

Depending on the exercise used and the methods and the amount of work, training load may be higher or lower and have either global or local effect on the athlete’s body.

The selection of loads that are adequate to the athlete's condition is one of the most important problems of training. The loads must ensure the best effect for improving the results.

For evaluation of the training load in girevoy sport various criteria are used, such as volume, intensity, the number and the sequence of exercises, regime of muscular activity etc.

Volume and intensity characterize training load. At the same time coordination difficulty, mental intensity and environmental factors are taken into account. The amount of weigh lifted during training session is volume, and the amount of work performed per unit of time is intensity.

By volume the total weight lifted during one session, week, cycle etc. is implied and is expressed in kilograms or tones. Volume in GS in classic lifts is often measured by the number of repetitions. For convenience of planning volume is classified into low, medium or high. Absolute value of volume change depending on the athlete’s level and period of training. Usually low volume is below 50%, medium 50 – 70%, high 70 – 90% and maximal more than 90% of athlete’s maximum.

The volume used by gireviks of high qualifications in one session can be 1 – 3 tons, in a week – 20 to 60 tons and more, in a month – 60 to 300 tons, year – 600 to 3000 tons and even more.

Volume determines the athlete’s technique. Large loads that cause fatigue have destabilizing effect. That is why it is important to find for each athlete not the maximal load but optimal, providing the best training effect. Without volume work it is impossible to create solid functional base for increasing the intensity of loads and, therefore, the improvement of the results. That is why the volume and intensity are always tightly connected.

In girevoy sport intensity is usually defined as percent of maximal result in jerk or snatch. It can also be expressed as the degree of strain during each exercise. For example, kettlebell snatch at intensity of 70% of maximal. Or as performing part of training with increased intensity in part of training session. In this instance, part of the training session – say, several sets of snatches - would be done at higher intensity. The former instance refers to the intensity of the exercise, the latter - intensity of training session.

Intensity of session is determined by the number of exercises, the level of effort while doing them and the duration of rest in between. Varying the degree of effort (the number of repetitions) and time of rest allows manipulating the intensity of training.

Increasing intensity by increasing the effort in a lift is necessary for a girevik in order to improve functional ability of organs and systems, the organism as a whole in regards to the specific demands of girevoy sport as well as general physical preparedness and development of strength. Increasing intensity by increasing the density (precise translation – Smet) of the session serves improving strength endurance.

It is well established that with increasing the load heart rate increases and vice versa. Because of that dosing the load based on heart rate is popular in sports practice, by referring to the maximal heart rate of the athlete. This method is most applicable for classical GS lifts, as they have cyclical character. In training for strength intensity is defined as percent of 1RM.

Changing volume and intensity of training it is possible to manipulate the result. The relationship between volume and intensity is established first of all by setting the goal and only then by determining the volume that the athlete is capable of. Every athlete is unique, different, that is why training load must be defined individually. Only then it is possible to achieve the best result.

Planning of Training

Continuous improvement cannot be possible without planning of the training process. The tables below contain approximate training template for a month. Do not ask me why longer tables are narrower than others, it is because of my Webdesign skills (about 2 out of 10). The columns in all six tables are supposed to be continuous.


In kettlebell exercises – numbers are percent of maximum for each set
In barbell exercises – percent of 1RM times reps times sets
C – control set (going for the max)
“+” – the quantity defined by trainee/coach

As mentioned above, the most important quality for GS is strength endurance, and the athlete must constantly monitor his strength level as well as special endurance. Because of that training session must be constructed in a way that ensures the development of both strength and endurance.

Yearly training period is divided into two half year cycles. The first one has two periods: preparatory and competitive, the second – three: preparatory, competitive and transitional.

The large training cycle general physical preparedness is built, on which further foundation is built. This foundation then serves as the stage for the development of high level of physical qualities. The process can be compared with three steps in a staircase. The stronger the first step the stronger and higher can be the second one which, in turn, will allow reaching higher level of physical qualities of the athlete. It is important to remember that the level of the first two steps must be maintained at constant level until new level of training demands their further improvement. At each new training stage volume should decrease (or maintained at the same level) and intensity must increase – this is the basic principle of training for exercises (movements) that define the success of the athlete in his sport. In GS it is obviously jerks, snatches and long cycle.

In other exercises the progress may follow different principles. It is very important to be consistent in the development of every physical quality. It means that exercises used at lower levels of training – for the development of strength and endurance – must gradually be replaced with exercises aimed at improving strength endurance, the quality that defines the final result.

In the macrocycle first two steps of training coincide with preparatory period of training, the third – with the competitive.

In the preparatory period of GS training is directed at improving health, building the base for successful learning of the technique and its improvement, improving general and special physical preparedness, developing mental qualities, improving theoretical knowledge in methodology, physiology and hygiene of the sport.

In half yearly cycle the preparatory period lasts for up to three months. During the first step of training the session (two months) is planned in such a way that half of it is devoted to the development of strength, and half to general endurance. This step is characterized by large volume at moderate intensity. During the second step two thirds of training is devoted to strength endurance and one third to strength. Volume decreases or stays the same while intensity increases.

Competitive period in the half yearly cycle lasts for 1.5 – 2 months and is divided into three periods. First two of them are pre-competition. During the first period 2/3 of the load are directed to strength endurance and 1/3 to strength. During second – ¾ to strength endurance and ¼ to strength. In the third, which is the period of competition – all loads is used for the development of strength endurance and main emphasis is on classic kettlebell lifts.

During competitive period the share of exercises for general physical preparation is decreased. Volume decreases, intensity keeps increasing. 7-10 days before competition volume and intensity are decreased, and 1 – 3 days before competition the athlete is given rest.

Transitional period in half yearly cycle lasts for up to four weeks. It completes the cycle and lies in between the yearly macrocycles. During this period the athlete performs some general exercises as well as exercises from other sports: skiing, athletics, swimming.

For athletes of high qualifications who often participate in competition and demonstrate high results throughout the whole season it is recommended to use multicycle planning of training. The first cycle lasts for 3-5 months. The number of other cycles depends on the competition calendar and usually is equal to the number of competitions.

The effect of training for strength endurance is defined by the following parameters: the size of the load (weight), the tempo, duration of work and its character, rest intervals, duration of training session, initial level of strength endurance and the capacity of the cardiovascular system. The basic means for the development of strength endurance are classic GS lifts as well as other exercises with weights performed mostly with multiple repetitions of non-maximal resistance until significant fatigue.

If barbell exercises are used for strength endurance, the weight is 40 – 60% RM, 10 – 18 repetitions and 4 – 6 sets.

If working with kettlebells for strength endurance the methods vary depending on the stage of training, as in the table below.

In kettlebell exercises the load must change from 25% to 75-80% of athlete’s maximum. For instance the load in double jerk in multiple sets may look like this: 25, 30, 80, 45 and 35 %. Endurance is better trained with exercises done at moderate rate. According to the laboratory data, in this case the individual is capable of performing work 40 times higher than at the beginning of the experiment, while if working at high rate the increase is only 4.5 times.

In the process of developing strength endurance it is appropriate to perform work in difficult conditions but in movements that by structure and coordination are close to the specialized lifts. Using 16 and 24 kg bells it is necessary to work to failure, thus increasing aerobic capacity of the body. Using 32 kg bells and heavier facilitates improving work capacity in “complicated” conditions. The athlete is forced to significantly increase the effort while the structure of the movement is more or less preserved. This trick also has certain psychological effect, and when he competes in “normal” conditions after “complicated” he is expecting good results from himself. This “complicating” should not be excessive as it can cause considerable problems with the technique and learning incorrect habits.

Depending on the period of training and goals rest time between sets fluctuates from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. For example, when doing interval training rest is decreased to the minimum while reps per set are increased.

Therefore, having the knowledge of the basic principles of GS training, methodology of the development of basic physical qualities and properly planning the training process it is possible to achieve outstanding results in this sport.


Anonymous said...

Я тоже не смог ее открыть, поэтому и не читал!
Можешь послать мне ее на русском? Хотя более менее понял и на английском, конечно...
У меня как раз в ноябре городские соревнования, там узнаю свой максимум, и можно будет от него составлять план.

Дикий Билл.

Anonymous said...

I've learned more from your blog in one day than I have scanning the internet for GS articles in a year. Seriously. You are doing us a great service by translating these articles from Russian, and giving us a different twist on training that doesn't involve marketing or sales.

Thanks so much for the info and keep it coming.


Another over 40 lifter

Jim Lane

Marko Suomi said...

Thank you so much for this information!

Anonymous said...

As for me, this blog already long time is somewhat like RSS of GS. My working day begins from this blog :)
Keep writing, Eugene!

Wild Bill

Undercover escape artist said...

Simply brilliant. Makes me want to learn Russian!

Aleksandr said...

I'm from NY,working as fitness professional at Reebok SportsClub/NY.
I'm from USSR and former military background,worked with KB for years i training and teaching others.
I found your translating very usefull for someone who can't speak and read Russian.
And translation is done very professionaly.
That would be nice if we can contact directly,and discuss some aspects of GS training.
All the best.