Happy NEw Year!

It's been a while since my last post here. What can I do, I am not an inpiring girevik anymore. I am very pleased with my progress in the recent months: I squatted 100 kg, and even without ruining my back! Even though I am not concentrating on other exercises I am making some progress there too. I look fairly muscular, and not only according to my wife: I get asked what sport I do from people I haven't seen for a few months.

I got stronger, and it also feels good. To complete the picture of fitness happiness I need to drop about 10% of bodyfat, however, given my willpower this is not likely to happen any time soon!

It's been a good year for me in all respects. I have become a better anaesthetist in the last twelve months. My family life and the relationship with my wife and daughters is great. My attitude to life has changed: I am more relaxed about the past and the future, and as the result I sleep better.

My resolution for the next year: none. I am done setting goals around dates. Things happen for a reason. Past is gone, the future has not come yet, and the present is fleeting. Life is what happens while you're making other plans. To make the God laugh tell Him about your plans. I don't see the need to search for more quotes on the topic.

There is nothing wrong with planning and trying to improve life. It is equally important to not lose the perspective of life. Couple of years ago I went to the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains. The caves are great, but I could not enjoy the experience because of the fucking tourists and their cameras that flashed non stop. What's the purpose of taking a photo? To fix the memory probably. So what memory you're are talking about if you're not even looking at the caves right now, while you're here? There is no better experience than... well, direct experience! I am not sure if I am making myself clear, honestly - I don't care much. The point is, every day stuff is way more important than a dream about the future.

The best training plan for me is to go downstairs to my garage gym and work out. Will I achieve double bodyweight squat? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? If I spend more time with my daughters, will it make my and their lives better? Definitely, and it does not matter if during the time together I am giving them a lecture or we simply watch a movie together.

Anyway, I don't want to spend too much time in front of PC. Happy New Year everybody! I wish all your goals and aspirations come true in 2012. Stay healthy and happy. All the best!


Training update

I wasn't well in the last couple of weeks and didn't train as much as I should. Nothing serious, some abdo bug, but uncomfortable enough to keep me from the barbell. yesterday was the first session after 10 day break. I lost couple of kilos of weight, and it makes itself clear during nsquatting: the barbell feels heavier. I managed to get up to 90 kg, but that was it.

More worrying thing is the uncomfortable state of my lower back this morning. This is especially disconcerting, as yesterday I made sure I get nowhere near pain and stopped as soon as the low back muscles started tiring.

Around 90 kg seems to be my current training limit. My initial plan was to try get to 105 kg and then swiath to another program, something along the lines of Russian squat routine. Master's Routine by Randy Hauer from Dragondoor looked all right for the purpose. I think I will have to make the transition earlier and at lower weight. I am going to give it a go starting this or next week, whenever my back feels up to it.

The routine is well known and is described here: Russian Squat Routine for Masters. It uses 60, 70 and 80% of 1RM, which for me would be 55, 65 and 72.5 kg. The program calls for squatting twice a week and consists of 16 sessions, lasting 8 weeks. For Masters or not, it looks bloody tough, so there is a high probability of me bailing out in the middle of it (hopefully not). Hopefully the routine will make my back stronger and prepare me for heavier weights.

Squat thoughts

One of the readers in the comments posted the link to Maxwell's blog post on squat: here. While some Maxwell's comments may be right, some points of his critique of this exercise are wrong.

The first video of his post demonstrates supposedly technically good squat. Maxwell especially fond of the curvature of the lower back by this trainee. while admiring the lordosis though, he misses the fact that this squat is done above parallel. We can start arguing if it was above or just at, however if there is any doubt it means this squat is too high.

The second video demonstrates the loss of lordosis as the trainee goes deeper. This is true, the guy is a nice example of this problem. However, this does not denigrates squat. Developing flexibility necessary for good squatting is not that difficult, especially for a young and slender guy on the video. This is especially strange that the critique comes from Steve Maxwell, the coach who knows a thing or two about stretching.

As alternatives Maxwell proposes pistol, goblet and other variations of the squat. Once again, some statements are outright wrong.

Take pistol, for example. Done the way it is demonstrated on the video it loads lower back quite significantly. How fo I know that? Because when I had problems with my lower back I tried doing loaded pistols. To my surprise even doing them with 5 kg caused considerable lumbar pain. I am not good at physics, but someone who is interested can estimate the load on the spine when the weight is held by the arms outstretched far forward. Pistols also encourage the loss of lordosis, far more than barbell squats, and in combination with the weight held in fromt of the body lumbar flexion can lead to problems.

Goblet squat is not a bad lift, but not as a substitute for barbell squat. it is actually a great exercise for the development of sufficient flexibility and technique for doing heavier squats. It teaches you to push the knees out, helps keep the back concave and encourages to go to the very bottom.

As Maxwell's blog is devoted mostly to martial arts I can see the point that lighter variations of the squat may be more useful for fighters and grapplers. I don't have a problem with that. Wrestlers probably don't need huge absolut strength, and that is Maxwell's area expertise.

I, on the other hand, squat for the sake of squatting. My goal is to squat more. You can argue about functionality of this goal, but I don't really care about it. I am sure though that it is impossible to look weak if your squat numbers are decent. I have never seen a squatter with thin arms, and while all squat variations are useful and in many instances safer than the conventional one, none of them with give you the satisfaction of being very strong. The first video on Maxwell's blog post has to be watched on Youtube. Incidentally, that page has the link to the video embedded below.

I don't think goblet squats or weighted pistols can produce strength similar to this. Somehow this guy manages to squat right down without loosing lumbar lordosis. Could be the result of right coaching: get flexible instead of bitching about how dangerous squats are. While I probably never be able to squat with this amount of plates on the bar, I understand the feeling it gives you.

Training templates

For the last several months my training program revolves around squats. Mostly Shaf's ladders, or sets of four on easy days. On other days training is not structured at all at this stage. Sometimes I will do dips, sometimes chiuns, presses and so on. My main problem is lack of time. Australian health care works on the basis of 10 hour days, and when traveling is included, I spend up to 12 hours or more away from home every working day. At the end there is very little time to take away from my family, as well as not much enthusiasm for training. Hence such an abbreviated program.

What's interesting though,. this lack of time and training volume doesn't seem to be a big problem. I am progressing with my squatting quite well and should reach my goal of 105 kg by the middle of December (hopefully). I am also in fairly decent shape and feel reasonably fit.

When a conversation deviates to fitness, it seems most people believe that in order to stay fit you have to train often and long hours. More is probably better until some point. On the other hand, less is better than nothing, and you don't need twenty exercises to cover all the muscle groups. Sure, doing only squat will lead to some imbalances. On the other hand, not much is required to compensate for the lack of variety, and minimalist program I am doing seems to work quite well.

In hospital tea rooms some of my colleagues react with interest to the adverts of fitness contraptions (they usually promise more training effect than the previous one, usually advertised fifteen minutes ago on the same channel). When I ask then how many pushups they can do, they usually come up with objections that pushups "don't work the traps, the calves..." and so on. The end result of this attitude is that these guys end up doing nothing at all.

Never mind others. I have always been convinced - and my latest training experience confirms it - that squat is the king of exercise. (Deadlift is probably too, but I just prefer the squat). For now, squatting couple of times per week and supplementing it with random stuff has been working well for me.

The state of affairs

I am still not justifying the name of this blog. I am mostly focused on squat, so dabbling in other lifts, such as standing press, dips, chinups etc., is not particularly consistent or goal oriented. I am thinking though of making better effort at them. I also want to add deadlifting to my training. That is when I completely sort out my back.

Which is, I must confess, is not one hundred percent. During the last session I again managed to tweak my SI. Nothing too serious, but uncomfortable. Learning to listen to my body still eludes me. Even though I am very careful and attentive, the damage becomes obvious only after the fact. The same this time: On the second rung of the last ladder I felt sharpish pain in the back, and it was clear that this is it. Never mind, I still finished the last tripple, so not to violate the completeness of the workout. It's not bad now, but not good enough to get under the bar again.

Back pain or not, I am still fopcused on my goal of squatting 1.5 times my bodyweight by the middle of December. The only thing is, I added a few kilos, so the goalpost moved from 105 to 107 kg! Well, I will follow the line similar to "intention to treat" in research and will be happy with the initialy set number.

It feels good to gain strength. I feel solid and mechanically more stable. I easily move patients on the operating table when needed. The knowledge of being able to lift positively affects the mind too.

I gained some size in my thighs, as well as unsightly belly. Nothing too large, but larger than I have ever had. I am not worried about it now, all of it will be dealt with later, when I reach my goal.

Tomorrow morning I am seeing a chiropractor, and goddammit, it is Terra from the Irongarm! The world is very small.

Back to training

It took two weeks for the SI to calm down, and now I am back to squatting. I decided to reduce my training volume to save my joints. In the last session I was able to improve: I did three 1/2/3 ladders with 75.5 kg.

Very interesting observation: after two week break squatting was easy. In fact, very easy. I was very cautious about my back, but the actual lift was easy. This brings me back to the question of the frequency of training.

Drastically reducing the volume and the load and even stopping training for up to two weeks befor an event, is a common tapering practice among coaches. You get fresh to the competition and have better chances of making new PR. Would this approach work for training? Will making long breaks between loading a muscle group or going at the same lift ensure full recovery? Will it reduce the chance of trauma? There is a lot of data suggesting that reducing the frequency of loading a particular muscle group may be beneficial.

This topic has been beaten to death at Irongarm, and I have been ridiculed there for these ideas numerous times. Not that I care. The fact is that every industry is ruled by dogma. I can throw numerous examples of this in medicine: saturated fat is bad, hypothyroidism is diagnosed by TSH levels, cricoid pressure prevents aspiration and so on. I suspect the situation in sport is similar. So when Prof Sergeev conducted his experiments (for uninitiated check this blog) and got very good results, his trainees were literally hijacked from him and put into the traditional program of training, even though it was immediately detrimental to the results.

There is more data coming out from sports research suggesting that more is not necessarily better, by a long shot. For example, swimmers do not benefit from increasing the number of training sessions (check http://www.pponline.co.uk/ if you're interested). Glenn Pendlay once recommended reducing training volume and increasing intensity for older trainees: http://www.davedraper.com/fusionbb/showtopic.php?next_end/1/fid/64/tid/24146/ 

Fuck the opinions and dogmas. I am not training for the next world championship and don't mind experimenting a little. I am going to reduce the session volume significantly and see if it is beneficial. Not more than three ladders with the working weight. Frequency wise - I will try to reduce it too, though this is more difficult: I like the feeling of heavy weights on my back. One solution - to do other lifts on other days, like weighted dips, chins, rows etc. Some bodyweight exercises and yoga wouldn't hurt either. More variety, less wear and tear. Recently I read about Doggcrapp principles and I like it too: short workouts, high intensity, rotating thriough many exercises.

Anyway, follow my training log if you're interested.

Squat takes a knock

Shit, another injury. I had this pain on the right to my lumbar spine for a while now. Wasn't too bad, and I kept training. In the last two-three weks it intensified, to the point that I could hardly walk. The pain also descended and is now pretty much localized around the right sacro-iliac joint. It is worse on standing and walking, better when sitting down.

For the last several days I've been doing exercises from http://thelowback.com/fix.htm. They are very useful, and combined with the abstinence from squatting they seem to help. I am feeling better, though still far from one hundred percent.

For now I am going to concentrate on exercises that don't involve loading of the spine. It sucks, because I really like the feeling of moving heavy weights (well, heavy for me). I am not going to rush my recovery and hope to be able to get back in the cage. I guess for now I can try progress with chinups, dips, ring exercises etc. Shit, I can't even do any cardio: running/walking and kettlebell snatches all hurt! Hell with it, in the meantime I'll try get rid of the fat I picked up in the last couple of months.

Training update

My squat is progressing, and couple of days ago I reached 70 kg. It's not much, but it is a nice psychological step, my bodyweight. I've been very disciplined in training so far. In retrospect I understand that the main cause of injury is progressing too fast and not backing off. It's good to talk about intuitive training, but not everyone is good at it. In fact, it's probably the minority of very experienced loifters who have good feeling of their bodies. For me,when things go well and I make new PR, the desire is to do better and better. Which I do and... get injured.

I am following ladders described by Shaf. One rep, short rest, two - rest, three - end of set. It manages the fatigue well and does not let the muscles of the lower back to get too tired. The goal is to make every rep crisp.

There are two ways to cycle the load: reduce it or skip the workout. So, training heavy, medium, light three times a week or heavy once a week is similar in a way, except for the weekly volume. I try squat once a week and do other exercises on other days, mostly military barbell press or weighted chinups. The main focus is on squat.

I like keeping track of things, so here is the chart of my progress. Left axis - the load, right - volume.

Until nex post.

A break from the blog

I am deviating from GS, so once again the name of my blog is not reflecting what I do. For the next couple of months I am going to log my training at Irongarm:

My IGx training log

8 June 2011

Recovering from very unpleasant flu, this workout is a light one.

BB squat:
20 kg x 5
30 kg x 5
40 kg x 3

55 kg: 1/2/3 x 3

16 kg KB press ladders:
1/2/3 x 1

Straigh legs situps x 17

Squat ladders feel very nice actually.

New plan +

Forgot to mention. Besides dips and chinups I am also going to do presses. Again, with much less emphasis on progressing than squats.

I am having a bad bout of flu right now. So will start as soon as I get better.

New plan

Here is the new plan.
Main part of every workout - BB squat. The rest of exercises - weighted chinups, weighted dips, ab work and KBs, jerks and snatches.

I am planning to try increase weight by 2.5 kg every week. On "heavy" days I will follow Shaf's ladders, 3 x 1/2/3. On alternative sessions I will decrease the weight by 20 - 25% and will either do similar ladders or simple 3 x 5, just for the sake of variety.

After squatting - 2-3 sets of either dips or pullups, or both, depending on the mood, 6 - 10 rep range. No particular emphasis on progression in these exercises. Once a week GS jerks, longish sets. Squat first on heavy days, on light days GS first. Ab work every session.
Main goal is to to stay injury free and increase strength. Try and keep some conditioning with KB lifts.
Starting next week...

31 May 2011

No time to train. Bloody hell, I should probably sit down and reflect on my commitments in life...

BB squat:
20 kg x 5
30 kg x 5
40 kg x 5
50 kg x 3
55 kg x 5 x 3 sets

OAMP 24 kg KB:

A lesson with the coach

On the recommendation of one of the nurses in one of the hospitals - her husband is a lifter - I went to see a coach, Pete Upham, who runs Shire Speed and Strength gym in Sutherland in Sydney. The gym is really cool: not a single mirror on the wall, no machines, just free weights, about five pairs of stands for squatting, oly lifting platform and couple of large tyres.

Getting advise from a coach is useful, to say the least. He filmed my squatting and dissected my technique into little phases, and then corrected them. I worked up to the set of five with 57.5 kg and decided to call it quits. I highly recommend coach Upham and his gym.

I hope the lesson is useful, and I will be able to progress in squat. I really like it. Besides, I have a cool squatting cage in my little gym in the garage, it shouldn't just stand there! In two weeks I have an appontment for the deadlift.

21 May 2011

BB squat:
45 kg x 5, 3, 2

24 kg OAMP:
7 x 2 sets

12 kg x 7

17 May 2011

The Blogger was for some reason unavailable for posting, and several workouts I did during the last week are not logged in. Didn't do GS lifts. Did light squats (got to 47.5 kg), weighted chinups, some KB presses and some rings stuff.

Today - back to GS.

2 x 20 kg jerk:
10 minutes, 57 reps

Fuck, that was hard at the end.

I tried the KB flip, the one Wild Bill posted on Igx. 12 kg was relatively easy, both pronation and supination. 16 kg - only pronation, but both arms. Yey!

20 kg x 4, 2 sets
BW - 10 (failure)

50 kg squat:
5, 3, 2.

7 May 2011

2 x 22 kg jerk:
7 minutes/37 reps

BB squat:
42.5 kg x 5-3-2

I tried adding back squat to my training several times for the last few months, but every time it made my back sensitive and I dropped it. Decided to try it again. Last session I did 40 kg x 20 reps, so far so good. I am going to do PTTP template from Pavel's Russian version of the book: 5-3-2 (instead of 5 x 2). The weight is laughable, but I am in no hurry. For now main goal is not to get injured.

3 May 2011

10 x 2

40 kg squat:
20 reps

15 x 2

2 May 2011

2 x 22 kg jerk:
4 minutes/24 reps
5 minutes/29 reps

27 April 2011

2 x 22 kg jerk:
3 min/21 reps
3 min/23 reps

8 x 2 sets

2 x 22 kg alternating holds:
15 seconds rack/top:
5 cycles

Dips on bars:
15 reps

Thoracic Mobility by Denis Kanygin

I posted here a few times about my back troubles. I must say, though at times I was in agony, overall I am not a serious back pain sufferer. These pains are liek your mother in law: annoying, but she is family, and you have to put up with her for the better good.

When I was in my 30-s unusual back trouble bothered me for a while: thoracic back pain. It wasn't the result of lifting or twisting. I just started. Curiously, it appeared in the mornings after long night sleep. In other words, on weekends when I got at six o'clock it was fine, but on Saturdays and Sundays when I could sleep late when I got up I could barely move because of pain.

The solution was exercise. If I had pain I did 10 minutes of mobility drills recommended years ago my my friend. It is difficult to describe these exercises; when I have time I will rather post a video. In any case, thoracic pain was sort of coming and going, the usual for arthritic pains. For years I was pain free.

In recent times I had several episodes of low back pain, and it probably isn't a coincidence that thoracic pain started appearing from time to time. I think this time I can at least partly blame lifting kettlebells for it. It seems that repeated jerks present considerable load for the thoracic spine. I don't know of any studies, with power plates, muscle tension measurements or otherwise, however after a high volume session upper spine feels like it has been mersilessly molested. again, these pains are not interfering with my life to any significant extent; they are more an inconvenience that reminds you of the fact that you are not getting younger.

As luck has it, several weeks ago Denis Kanygin asked me to review his new ebook: Thoracic Mobility and Flexibility for Kettlebell Lifters. It's not like it is a miracle: I had an ailment and - voila - Heaven sent me the Book. But it is something I could read straight away. You might remember my very positive reviews of Kanygin's GS DVD, so I was sure the quality of the material is going to be good.

It is not a large volume, rather a booklet. It gets straight to exercises which are presented on good quality photos and are easy to understand.

I didn't have anything to lose and did some exercises for couple of weeks. My ADD prevents me from sticking to something as systematic as structured mobility drill, so I did this and that, now and then. Even with such chaotic approach I can see results: I get less pain on waking up and generally feel more mobile.

It has been brought several times on Igx that older trainees should probably spend more time on mobility and flexibility drills. I am going to continue doing thoracic exercises from the book sent by Denis and recommend it for gireviks. Material written by Denis is available from his site: http://www.kettlebellsystema.com/

22 April 2011

This day brings back memories: this is the birth day of Lenin. Memories - because it was celebrated very loudly when I was growing up in the 1970s. Good or bad, my country of birth is Soviet Union, now non-existent. Western publicists love to muse about Communism, even though most of them have no idea what it is or was, theoretically or in reality. Karl Marx was a great economist after all. Some things about that country were bad, really bad, like freedom of speech, bureaucracy, censorship and low living standard. Some were good and even great. There is no honest way to get rich, so many people channeled their energy into education and culture. Overall general knowledge of the average Soviet citizen was way above that of an American. I received my education in USSR - for free, mind you, and it was good enough to be able to get licenced in two foreign countries: South Africa and Australia. I am not missing Soviet times, but it was my childhood and I feel... gentle on dates like 22 of April, 7 of November, 5 of December or 9 of May. My childhood was happy and bright, no matter what is currently fasionable to say about those times.

Where was I. Ah, the workout.

2 x 24 kg jerk:
2 min/14 reps
2 min/16 reps
2 min/17 reps

Rest 3 minutes

2 x 24 kg cleans:
off the floor, 7 singles

24 + 32 kg farmers walks:
1 min x 2

19 April 2011

2 x 24 kg jerk:
1 minute/8 reps
1 minute/9 reps
1 minute/10 reps

Rest - 2 min (set time + 1)

13 April 2011

2 x 18 kg jerk:
10 minutes/60 reps

End of microcycle. While I cannot predict what happens when I start hitting meaningful weights - 24 kg and higher - but for now I really like this program.

9 April 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
7 minutes/37 reps

20 kg OA KB squat:
10 x 2

Dips x 20
Chinups x 10

4km run

3 April 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
4 min/24 reps
5 min/28 reps

rest - 5 min

17 kg snatch:
switch every 10 reps
200 rep/13.5 min

Long snatch sets are cool...

31 March 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
3 min/22 reps
3 min/23 reps

Rest untimed.

20 kg snatch:
on the minute:
5L, 5R, 5L, 5R, 10L. 10R

2 x 20 kg FSQ:
10 x 2 sets

Snatch workout variation.

Browsing through old posts on various GS forums I stumbled across an interesting post on the Ukranian GS board. One of those moments: something you've seen before but didn't appreciate it at the time. The post was from esteemed Ukranian coach Moroz on snatch training, his reply to a question how to improve snatch numbers. The poster could snatch 24 kg 165 times, after that his grip gave up. His training included snatching 32 kg 5 x 50 on Mondays (25 + 25) and 24 kg on Thursdays: 8 x 80 reps (40 + 40), up to 200 - 220 per hand.

The reply is as follows.

Alex, your general endurance is sufficient, you have to work on the special one. Try work out three times a week. In order to avoid overtraining train like this: Monday - medium load, Wednesday - light, Friday - heavy. After 2 or 3 weeks of serious training deloading week: minimal load with light weights.

Variants of medium session.

32 kg - 3 minutes or 24 kg 4 minutes. Alternatively - half snatch (high pulls). Alternating hands or switching every 3 - 8 reps until failure. This way, however, has one danger: almost everybody gets their hands ripped.

Variants of light session.

16 kg 10 - 20 min or 24 kg - 3 min.

Variants of heavy.

1. 24 kg - 7 min
2. 28 kg - 5 min
3. 24 kg (28) - left to failure, switch, right to failure. Without rest switch again and so on. If best snatch is 160 plan to do 220.

4. Left: 28 kg - 50 reps, put down, 24 kg - 30 reps, then 16 kg - 50 reps (130 reps total). Without rest repeat the same with the right arm.

5. 24 kg - 5 min. Minimal rest - repeat.
6. Sometimes (not more often than once every 1 - 1.5 months): 32 kg switch every 10 reps.

Variants are endless, however work closest to competitive conditions should predominate. Make it a goal to snatch 24 kg for 220 reps. Based on this perform this lift at 21 per minute, slower with heavier bells. Think this through and plan for the next 2 months.

After deloading week you can plan max set, not necessary with 24 kg, you can do it with 16 kg as well, but at good tempo and for 12 - 15 minutes.

Every Friday stand with the 32 kg bells (by the sides - Smet), gradually increase the time from 2 to 5 minutes. Strengthen the back and the legs. It is desirable to run once or twice a week. Obviously, work on the technique. Work on "the pendulum", powerful pull and relaxation. Best wishes. The end of post.

It is interesting to see how serious coach avoids giving definite set/rep recommendations. It's rather "think it through and plan", with lots of options and tweaking, not something that sells very well to the masses. Lots of templates are variations of continuous snatching. Static standing holds are also popular with Russian gireviks (as are hangs from the bar) and apparently quite useful.

29 March 2011

2 x 22 kg jerks:
2 min/14 reps
2 min/16 reps
2 min/17 reps

Rest 3 minutes

16 kg snatch:
max GS set::


27 March 2011

2 x 22 kg jerk:
5 x 1 min/10 rep, rest 2 min

16 kg snatch:
switch every 20 reps
10 minutes/160 reps

BW dips on bars:
15 x 2

26 March 2011

4 km jog.

24 March 2011

2 x 16 kg jerk:
10 minutes/64 reps

This is the last workout of the microcycle. The goal has been met (55 - 65 reps in 10 minutes).

Cutting it short: I think I am coming down with a cold. Wanted also to do long snatch set, but taking into account that I have to work this weekend I rather not. These bells aren't going anywhere.

I am enjoying my current program. It is easy to follow, and only one workout out of six has ten minute set in it. So far - so good. Next cycle starts next workout, whenever it's gonna happen.

19 March 2011

2 x 18 kg jerk:
7 minutes/37 reps

Short session. Lately I have insomina and have been waking up at ridiculously early hours of the morning. Today isn't so bad, I just woke up 2 hours earlier than set alarm time. Instead of idling in bed I went downstairs and jerked some bells, the next step of my training progression. Doing this in the morning is hard: I am not a morning people. So one set and then breakfast.

I haven't done long sets in a while, and for now the biggest problem for me is pain in the heels of my hands, the pressure areas of the handles. There is no remedy for it except for getting used to. Otherwise GSing two 18 kgs is not particularly hard. Next session is 10 minute set with 16 kg, hope my palms are gonna let me do it.

Training template and thoughts

Few months ago I contacted Sergey Rudnev and asked him (Him!) to write me a simple program for jerks, taking into account my age, physical fitness and the fact that I don't have much time to train. He kindly did that, however soon after I damaged my back and abandoned lifting altogether for good several months, only after a few workouts. In a few words, the template was doing jerks with varying weights, with the duration of the sets gradually increasing, culminating with one 10 minute set at the end of the microcycle. Next microcycle - increase the weight by 2 kg, repeat. After completing 10 minutes with 24 kgs - start again with higher cadence. The recipe for eternal progression.

To be an absolute pain in the butt couple of weeks ago I contacted Rudnev again with a strange request. The problem is that I have Etalon bells adjustable by lead shot. It is a bit of a pain to change the weight in the middle of the workout, mostly because it took time. So I asked for a program where every workout is done with the bells of the same weight. I even suggested some sort of progression myself. Rudnev was surprised but very accomodating, and suggested somewhat different template.

I am not at liberty to disclose it, because Rudnev has contractual obligations with IKSFA. As Shaf said, training for GS is not that difficult to figure out. The scheme I am following is a microcycle going from chorter sets with heavier bells to longer sets with lighter weights, culminating with one 10 minute control set. You can get some idea by following my blog, it's not a rocket science and everyone can figure this one out.

On a different note, I've been somewhat disappointed in IGx. This is my favorite forum: uncensored, unregulated, rude and unreserved. Opinions are shared freely, and names are called without delay. I like shit stirring and have been called names a few times. I like provoking that crowd, and results haven't been disappointing most of the time.

Lately, however, I get a bit uneasy, for several reasons. Over the last couple of years there have been more and more strange posts. Rant, for instance, has been frankly fooling around forever, but recently his outright jokes - that should be taken with laughter - have been met with spite. Frankly, Rant is one of the most interesting posters there, fun and politically incorrect, with very high threshold for being offended. Sure, he throws provocative posts now and then, but that's what that forum is supposed to be for, not serious discussions by gurus.

I am surprised by the lingering hate of Eric Lifford. I've never met that man and personally have no opinion of him. Sure, couple of years ago he wrote some dubious blog posts promoting AKC, where he mentioned apparently non-existent military event in Afghanistan, with emphasis on kettlebell fitness. So now there is this sticky thread with name calling which apparently will hang there to the eternity. From the very beginning I was surprised by the intensity of the reaction to Lifford's post. I have deep dislike of the army, and my service in the army is limited to the Faculty of Military Medicine and one month in the actual army barracks, the obligatory in then USSR, therefore I don't feel the same way servicemen do about this. But this is how I see it. Sure, Lifford may have invented stuff, which is not very nice.On the other hand he wasn't critical of the Army or the war, neither he insulted servicemen directly. At worst it was a lame story used for dubious marketing, hardly the first or the last. To me, the reaction it caused was out of proportion.

Alas, as I said, I am not in the military and cannot understand the feeling to the full extent. However, I disagree with the fact that the issue still lingers on the forum. Even accepting the point of view of Lifford committing the most serious crime, by keeping the topic alive gives the perpetrator more power than he deserves. Would you like a plate on your house announcing that someone is a cunt?

Lastly, the couch thread. Crossfit or not, how come the thread dissing others is the most popular on the whole forum? It is not even sticky, but gets refreshed virtually every day. I still don't know why Crossfit gets so much bad rap. I know one of CF coaches in Sydney, and his knowledge and attitude to training is solid. Sure, rhabdo and cult like culture. I don't see however how it is different from the Biggest Loser or Boot Camps. I still don't give the rat's ass about either, but I find the popularity of the thread distasteful. What was it: superior minds discuss ideas, while inferior ones talk about people?

Whatever, I guess. This is my blog, and I can allow myself a rant or two once in a while. Irongarm is still a fun place, free and lightminded. I hope it does not deteriorate to the level of celebrity magazine.

16 March 2011

2 x 18 kg jerk:
4 min/25 reps
5 min/29 reps

16 kg snatch:
max set, one switch
50L/62R, just under 9 minutes


14 March 2011

2 x 18 kg jerk:
3 min/21 reps
3 min/23 reps

2 x 18 kg FSQ:
10 x 2

Brisk walk 4 km

13 March 2011

500 m breaststroke swim.

Front plank, one legged:
2 x 10 seconds

Ring dips: 15, reps

Towel pullups: 8 reps.
This shit is brutal.

Chinups on bar:
10 x 3 sets

12 March 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
2 min/14 reps
2 min/17 reps
2 min/20 reps

16 kg snatch:
switch every 10 minutes
200 reps/16 minutes

Cadence of snatch during the set was about 12 per minute. It was intended more as a cardio workout than specific training for snatch. Kind of long slow run. Though my HR at the end of the set was 188/min, so this intensity is probably at lactate threshold rather than aerobic.

I just ordered Maffetone Method on Bookdepository.com. Very curious to read it.

I want to experiment with some 16 kg snatches. Want to do the same 200 reps but making sure heart rate doesn't go above 130 - 135, my range according to 180 formula. So, if it goes above, put the bell down and rest until HR is below 125, then snatch again. It will probably take 30 - 40 minutes that way. Want to see if these workouts will make any difference in addition to what I am currently doing.

10 March 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
1 min/8 reps
1 min/9 reps
1 min/10 reps

20 kg snatch:

Aerobic fittness

I did some search on Maffetone Method and bumped into his website. There are several interesting articles, and I got interested in his method of calculating max heart rate. Instead of the traditional 220 minus half the age he uses 180 minus age minus some number depending on your fitness level, Full article is at this link: Maffetone MaxHR formula The number obtained is considerably lower than that derived by using conventional equation. According to Maffetone training at low intensity is more beneficial than pushing yourself every time you train. I guess read the article and make your own opinion about it.

Maffetone method seems to be quite popular among runners, and there are lots of testimonials where running slower during training resulted in faster race times. Are long sets with 16 kg bells similar to long slow runs? Who knows, I guess.

3 March 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
2 min x 5 sets, rest 2 min, @6 reps/min

2 x 20 kg bumps:
20, 25. Rest liberal.

Hanging leg raises x 10

Alternating static holds:
20 sec rack/20 sec OH:
3 reps. Pain in the heels of the hands, need to get used to longer time under.

10 x 2 sets

2 March 2011

45 minute run

Played with the HR monitor. The idea was to keep my HR below 70% max. The formula is

HRrest + (HRmax - HRrest) x 0.7

In my case it is 70 + (193 - 70) x 0.7 = 156

Actually, most of the time my HR was below 150/min. The run was very pleasant, and I could have easily run double the distance. An easy session, by definition.

28 February 2011

24 kg swing:
10 x 4, 30 x 1

32 kg OAJ:
5 reps on the minute, alternating hands:
10 min/50 reps total

Gets heart rate right up quite quickly!

Bar pullovers:
5 non-stop

Weighted chinups:
20 kg x 5

26 February 2011

2 x 20 kg jerk:
15 x 1 min sets @/6reps/min

It's interesting how fatigue accumulates during repeats. After a few sets my heart rate would get to 140-150/min. Between the last several sets it was constantly aroubd 160-170. The technique also demand more attention as the workout progresses: more relaxed rack, stuck in shoulders at the top, deeper second dip, deeper more conscious breathing.

Wasn't too hard. The back is behaving. I hope to get back to 24s within the next couple of months.

Next thing: I strapped my new HR monitor to my chest and did:

12 kg snatch:
switch every 10 reps, 200 reps total
more of a back rehab set than anything plus testing my HRM

HR during the workout:
Min: 111
Avg: 163
Max: 193

Not too bad for a 48 year old I guess. According to the equation I have exceeded my Max HR. At no time I felt completely out of breath. Interesting how such small weight can get the HR right up. Says something about my low fitness level too, of course. Anyway, I am going to experiment with this toy some more to see if adds value to training.

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.

Return to the kettlebell and slow burn reflection

I have been enjoying BW training. However I am beginning to feel restless without kettlebells. I have been incorporating them into some of my workouts and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. My back seems to be taking light snatches and jerks well, and I will do more of them in the near future. I also decided to re-start posting my training here. Hell, how many blogs does one need...

Recent posts on IGx were related to HR monitors and slow burn training by Maffetone and Mittleman. I haven't read the books, but I understand that the idea is to train at lower intensity - read lower HR - in order to build endurance base and burn fat. From the reviews and crums that I can gather I prefer another book on the subject, Heart Monitor Training for Compleat Idiot, by John L.Parker Jr., the author of Once a Runner, apparently a bestselling cult novel. I actually bought the latter a while ago after reading all the rave reviews. I couldn't finish it, it was so boring, and now regret not buying Heart Monitor Training instead.

Anyway, the philosophy of Parker's HR training is to find the low and high intensity HR zones and alternate workouts between below 70% and above 85%. I think the idea is perfectly suitable for GS training. Getting above 85% is easy: just do heavy jerks or snatches. For easy days though you can do continuous snatching with multiple switches, with light bells and at slow cadence, anything between 10 and 20 minutes long. They help getting used to long sets and at the same time are not particularly taxing, mentally of physically, just like a light jog. You can do them in front of TV too.

Continuous snatching is a good way to train for GS snatching set, and I did a post on this method a while ago. Light long snatches are more of a cardio workout at low intensity, very suitable for light days.

Just a thought.

New blog

My new blog, http://workoutwithexcuses.blogspot.com Its main theme will be general strength and fitness for the average middle-age person like myself.


23 January 2011

Front levers (bar):
one-legged, max x 3

Back levers (bar)
Max x 2 (very weak, but both legs out and horizontal)

Bulgarian dips on rings:
9 x 2 sets

Horizontal rows (rings):
10 x 2 sets

Weighted pistols:
12 kg racked - 3R/3L

L-hold on rings:
10 seconds x 2

And that's the plan for the next several months: mostly bodyweight training. Every time I pick up a weight I feel it next day in my lumbar back. Alas, some of us cannot become heavy squatters/pullers etc.

My training with BW goes way back to my young years when I did gymnastics. Never at serious level - I started it late - but I could do a summersault, handstand, flac, and some other cool things on the bar and rings. I used gymnastic drills for strength training and was really fit and looked good too. The more I think about it the more I realize that every one of use has predisposition to certain activities. Some are good runners (like my wife), some are built to lift heavy things. Some of us, on the other hand, are better at gymnastics.

And that's what I am going to do next, gymnastic drills. Planks, levers, handstand work, L-holds, rings etc. They are good enough to satisfy my expectations of strength. I will continue doing weighted chins and pistols, just not crazy weighted. Nothing loading the spine to any meaningful extent. I will do some training with kettlebells, however they will not be my priority for the next year. I need to deload and heal my spine, so no serious weight bearing exercises for now.

Another goal for the year - and I started working on it - losing body fat. I am quite lean as it is, but want to get my BF in under 10% area (it is 17-18% now). I am dieting like crazy - low carb/high protein and have already become quite anti-social: eating out with me is not fun at all. My barbecue is working full time, I expect neighbours complaining of smoke very soon.

In view of all this the title of the blog no longer satisfies its content. I decided to stop posting here. I will leave this blog dormant. After all, over the years I have posted a lot of useful info and lots of controversy, and it will be available to those who are interested. For my current training I will start a new blog and will soon post the link for those who would like to follow my musings.

Thanks for those following my writings over the last couple of years. Farewell and all the best to all brother ketleballers.

20 January 2011

Stressed out, can't sleep, woke up at 5 am. Instead of lying in bed and listening to the storm of worrying thoughts decided to try a light workout. I never worked out so early in my life, so curious to see what it's like. Half a protein bar pre-workout, for what it's worth.

Front squats:
bar x 5
40 kg x 10 x 3 sets

Bent over rows:
40 kg x 10
50 kg x 10 x 2 sets

Working out definitely helps de-stressing. Off to work now.

19 January 2011

Very, VERY stressful day. Thankfully, it's all over by now. I made T-bone steak for dinner on the Big Green Egg, a little bit of Glenfidich and now decided to do some training.

16 kg x 8
12 kg x 6 (failed)
BW x 8 (failed)

Farmers walks:
24 kg x 1 min x 2
Killed the forearms

Short and sweet. I am in HIT phase now. If anything it is very time saving. Will see about the results. I suspect with my level of strength anything I do will lead to improvement.

16 January 2011

8 km walk with the dog along the beach. Swim in the crazy surf later.

6 x 10 sets

15 January 2011

Before breakfast:

Pushups - 5 sets of 10.


16 kg snatch:
change on the minute, 15 reps/min
10 minutes - 150 reps

Good cardio workout.

12 January 2010

Deadlift - touch and go:
50kg x 16

16kg x 8
BW x 9

16kg x 10
BW x 11

There are couple of reasons for touch and go deadlift. First, usual training training ADD. I haven't done them before and decided to try. Second, lowering the weight seems to force better technique on me, which is sort of good for my back.

I am thinking about a program for the year ahead. I want to get stronger, yet don't want to abandon kettlebells and GS. Yet I don't have much free time. So it should be something like jerks once a week, deadlift once a week and couple of good compound exercises like chinups, dips and handstand pushups. This should keep me fit enough. I still have to work out the set/rep scheme. Suggestions and links to good programs that combine the elements of GS and weight lifting are welcome.

6 January 2011

Happy New Year everyone! Holidays are over, and now it's time to fix the damage done by inactivity and binging on sweets.

I haven't been disciplined enough to enter my workouts which - I must mention for fairness sake - have been rather sporadic. Anyway, first official workout of the year is here.

Chinups. Rest strictly 1 minute:
6 x 5 sets + 2 reps

16 kg x 10, rest then 10 reps BW

One Arm Overhead Squat 20 kg:

Renegade Rows:

Roman Sit-ups:
8 reps