30 November 2010

I don't post all of my training lately, mostly because a lot of it is unstructured and happens away from home. I do pushups and pistols at work several times a week GTG style. It raised eyebrows at first, but by now most of my colleagues and nurses are used to it. Today I returned from work early and could train properly.

16 kg weighted chinups:
3 x 4 sets

Dips on bars:
10 reps at slow tempo
2 reps very slow: down, up and pause 10 seconds each
Lots of burn and pump

12 kg swings:
1 set of 20
Light weight just to test the waters and start low back rehab

Hang on bar 60 seconds

2 x 12 kg overhead squats;
1 set 0f 5 reps
Surprisingly difficult: my shoulders are very inflexible

23 November 2010

12 kg weighted chinups:
3 x 5

Ring pushups:
15, 15, 11

20 November 2010

Today is the classic "when you are in a hotel and have no access to equipment" day. The feast for BW trainees. I am on call at a remote hospital. The theatre is covered by a very competent senior trainee, and I have to jusy be in the vicinity and be available for something horrible. After having lived and trained in South Africa the difference in definitions between these two countries are fairly different. Violent crime and serious road trauma in Australia are rare. I can be on call at a major trauma hospital and not come across a patient with something more serious than a broken arm as the result of fooling around on monkey bars. Well, that's why I am here, away from the stress of crime. It's good when local newspapers, in search of a sensation or scandal, dig up domestic animals rights abuses or seriously discuss the harm of Family Guy for young minds. It's certainly better than discussing a girl shot and killed over her mobile phone or hijack of a car with the mother and her two kids in the middle of Sandton.

But forgive me as I digress. I am working out in the most primal way in the motel room.

Frog stands:
10 sets of 7 seconds
As prescribed by Coach Sommers in his Gymnastic Bodies. Very unusual cramps and spasms all over the body. Good anterior pump. Wrists feel molested.

Chinups (on some decorative boards placed between the cupboard and the wall)
The boards don't look too relaible, and I am moving very slowly (an excuse for superslow of sorts)
7, 6, 7, 7, 4. Last set really slowly both ways, nasty burn at the end.

Handstand pushups:
5 x 3 sets
Right shoulder is sore and too much pressure in the head

3/leg x 7

Lizard stretch
Hamstring stretch
A bit of PNF

Finisher: 22 pushups

18 November 2010

During the last week I was doing some GTG a la Pavel at work. Sometimes I do pushups between cases, yesterday I was doing pistols. Haven't done them for a while and feel quite weak, but did 9 reps per leg. Today short home session.

5 x 7 sets, rest 1.5 min

Dips on bars:
10 x 3 sets, rest 1 min

Deception of big numbers

Aspiring gireviks have for ever been inspired by monsterous numbers displayed by champions. Few days ago someone posted the video of Denisov making a new world record, 116 reps for long cycle with 32 kg bells. The numbers are without doubt impressive, however some math may reveal something we might miss.

Denisov’s bodyweight is around 110-115 kg. The weight of the bells he lifted – 64 kg – represents about 60% of his bodyweight. On the other hand, for someone in the weight category under 65 kg it would represent 100% of bodyweight. The latter athlete will produce fewer repetitions with this load and his achievements will not be as impressive as Denisov’s. And this illustrates a major drawback of GS.

I don’t remember if it was Rudnev or Lopatin who said that light and heavy gireviks are in fact involved in somewhat different sports, even though it is still GS, just because the load/bodyweight ratios are so different. If Rudnev did 116 reps in LC with two 20 kg bells I doubt if anyone would gave it another look, even though lifting that weight is similar to Denisov lifting two red bells. There have been calls for changing the weight of the bells in GS according to weight category, however so far nobody has been interested. It is probably more because of the traditional nature of this sport. Sumo, strongman lifting and – to some extent heavyweight armwrestling – are similar in this respect.

Big guys will always be the most impressive in sports where size matters. However doing some math can be useful, especially for those of us in the Masters and Veterans category. The age makes us more fragile. The ability to recover from training and heal from injuries goes down, and more care should be taken in order to stay injury free and avoid overtraining. Sure, there are role models like Fuglev and Louie Simmonds, but is it wise to model ourselves on these guys? Do you have the luxury of planning your life around training? Do you actually want to turn into the full time sport professional?

I think it was WKC/AKC that several years ago who suggested smaller bells for older athletes. When this proposal has been first published I was critical of it. After all, a sport is a sport, and rankings should follow its origin, Mother Russia. Now, recovering from sore back I admit that my reaction was somewhat cavalier. As we age it makes sense to loosen up and not try and chase superhuman achievements, in physical sense. High volume AND intensity will eventually catch you. It’s ok to push yourself when you’re 18 and don’t have full time job, family, kids and myriads of other worries. It is entirely different when you hit your forties.

I mentioned it before on these pages and now am convinced more than ever before: intensity – both in terms of the weight of the bells and the duration of the set - should be used with care and infrequently. Vast majority of coaches on Russian sites recommend lifting lighter bells for higher reps as the staple of training, and virtually all GS programs I have come across use 10 minute sets once every 5 – 10 sessions, the rest is variation of technical drills, tempo, volume and GPP.

There is another point that is applicable to every athlete: the deception of specificity of training. It is believed that in order to do jerks better you should do more jerks. While this is true to a point, it also has drawbacks. Doing only one lift causes muscular imbalance that may lead to vulnerabilities. Most GS lifts tend to develop mostly posterior chain and neglect anterior muscles (not my idea). In order to avoid imbalances all-round GPP is very important.

In the book on Block Training Verkhoshansky conducted a very interesting experiment that lasted three years. One group of middle distance runners were trained the traditional way. Experimental group ran half as much as controls, but also did assistance drills: plyometrics, strength exercises, intervals and so on, structured into overlapping blocks. At the end of every year competition times of the experimental group were better. It seems to makes sense for GS as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised doing more pushups, pull-ups, running and other drills would improve GS numbers. Technique-specific drills are also important: overhead and rack squats, static holds, partial presses, bumps, swings and so on.

14 November 2010

Went to the beach this morning. While there did three sets of pushups with variable width.
10 (normal), 15 (wide), 10(diamond)


Dips on rings:
11, 13, 10

10 kg weighted chinups:
2 sets of 3

Dips on bars:
10 - normal speed
2 (!) - 10 sec down, 10 sec up, 5 sec pause at the top)

Slow reps have certain charm. Give a good pump too.

Pullup top holds:
20 sec x 2

Hamstring stretching.

Lifting story and long service leave

I discovered Pavel when I was still living in South Africa, around 2003. In 2004 I moved to Australia, and my interest in Pavel's writings continued. I eventually bought Russian Kettlebell Challenge and Beyond Bodybuilding, among his other books. In 2005 I bough one 16 kg and one 24 kg bells, the latter one ugly sucker, one of the first productions of Kettlebells Australia.

In retrospect I realize that my training wasn't correct, mostly because of too much volume and intensity I tried to cover. I injured my shoulders, elbows and hips several times. All of it healed though.

In 2008 I read Dan John's works and - of course - was impressed. One of the lifts he recommended was clean. The next day I tried it - and immediately pulled my back. In retrospect I realize it is because I lowered the bar instead of dropping it to the floor (I don't have a platform to do it). Nevertheless, it wasn't so bad, and the back healed quickly.

I continued various templates of lifting and at some stage decided to improve my deadlift and squat. At bodyweight of 70 kg I got to 115 kg in squat with good depth (don't remember the DL PR, it wasn't too impressive, about 120 kg I think). When unloading the plates from the bar after hitting squat PR after I got up my back was sore. The pain increased in the next few hours to the point that the next day I could hardly walk.

A few months after I started this blog and decided to focus on Long Cycle I damaged my back again, this time by incorrect lowering during re-clean with two 24s.

In the next couple of years I had two more episodes of serious back pain, once triggered by cleaning kettlebells and once - the latest - by bending over to pick my shoes (I did squat two days ago).

In retrospect I realize that my back problems are self-inflicted. I probably still do too much volume and my technique is far from good, especially in squat.

I did some sort of sports from adolescence. Never too regular or programmed, however I was always reasonably average-guy-strong and in reasonable shape. Looking back I can say that best results in terms of strength, looks and lack of injuries came from my gymnastics training. When I was about 20-21 I was literally obsessed with grinding routines on parallel bars and rings. I started gymnastics late and never participated in any competition, let alone being on one of those admired Russian gymnasts. But I could do a few elements, and especially summersaults helped break the ice when trying to impress the girls.

I have had back pain for the last three weeks. It is most certainly the result of my incorrect technique of squat and deadlift and to some extent kettlebells. The fact that it is recurring worries me: I am doing something that may lead to long-term problems. I don't want to end up like some of the patient in the pain clinic I was involved with in Johannesburg, on opioids and in constant pain. My low back is not the only problem: in the last five years I also had several episodes of severe neck pain, to the point that I had to miss work. So here is my spinal health plan.

  1. To stop lifting for the next six months, both barbells and kettlebells. Not a very rational decision, but I want to give my body sufficient time to heal and re-adjust itself.
  2. Instead of lifting I will concentrate on bodyweight exercises: pullups, rings, handstand stuff and running.
  3. Find a good osteopath/chiropractor/kinesiologist and see him on regular basis. The idea is to get guidance in correct musculo-skeletal behavior and special exercises for the back.
  4. Find a coach who can help me with the technique of big lifts. I know of a few people who could help me here.

This plan means that for the next six months this blog will not justify its name. I will get to kettlebells as soon as I can, but it will be 12 kg snatches, not something one would want to follow on the GS blog. I will keep posting my training here for those who are curious. After all, if the plan works and my back gets back to what it was 30 years ago it may be used by someone else.

11 November 2010

6, 6, 6, 6, 7.

All reps slow and in good form.

Testing the waters

My back is getting better (after very unpleasant two and a half weeks), and I am carefully testing the ability to flex some muscles.

Dips on bars:
10, 10, 10, 13


Still hurting a little when doing something involving lower body. Hopefully will feel ok for more serious workout by the weekend.

3 November 2010

I am working like a dog and in addition to my low back my neck is sore as well. Today I decided to do pushups after every patient I attend to. The reaction of my staff was amused and funny at the beginning. After several sets however one young nurse joined me and did a set too. It feels good: less of the tired feeling in the shoulders at the end of the day.


Pushups - 7 sets of 10 in variations
BW squats - 2 sets of 15