Another template for strength endurance.

Browsing the Web I came across the term Strong Endurance. Strong First conducts seminars under this title. Obviously, the information is not shared in great detail for commercial reasons. The pitch for the seminar mentions Russian coach Andrej Khozhurkin, and I looked him up. Google search of his name comes up with the link to his book, The Theory and Methodology of Pullups.

For those capable of reading Russian or those prepared to torture Google Translator here is the link: The Theory and Methodology of Pullups

It is a very detailed manual of coaching athletes for maximum pullup competition. I will briefly describe the essence of the method. 

The reasoning behind the method goes as follows. Adaptation response are aimed, on one hand, at creating the appropriate training stimulus and on the other, against the undesirable (excessive) changes of the internal environment of the body. Hence the dilemma: should training aim at creating these very undesirable changes in order to elicit appropriate adaptations? Or should training load be selected in such a way that these changes are avoided altogether or delayed? Apparently the answer is both. 

If you want to prepare the body for work in unfavourable conditions - for example during progressively increasing lactic acidosis - training is aimed at creating these conditions. For example, in middle distance running (400 and 800 m) where main mechanism of energy utilisation is anaerobic glycolysis in weeks leading to competition athletes perform large volume of anaerobic training, which makes this energy pathway more efficient. 

On the other hand, if you want to achieve optimal utilisation of lactic acid then training of the same very middle distance running has to aim at increasing the aerobic oxidation of energy substrates, which will delay the moment where lactic acidosis leads to failure. In this case training load will be completely different. The paradox is, improving aerobic function of the muscle also improves its functioning under glycolytic conditions. 

Therefore, glycolytic training has to comply with the following: it has to lead to the rapid use of glycogen in the muscle followed by supercompensation; it also has to lead to the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle in order to develop resistance to acidosis. 

On the other hand, anti-glycolytic training aims at increasing work capacity not by improving the resistance of the muscle to lactic acid and the ability to function under more acidotic conditions, but by slowing down its production by improving oxidative capacity of the muscle. 

By following one training template, but varying the load as well as the ratio of the duration of work and rest periods it is possible to train both glycolytic and aerobic pathways. The best translation of the method used for this purpose and described in the book I could come up with is Repeated Series. 

Repeated Series consists of several sets separated by fixed rest intervals, followed by longer rest and then repeated, one or more times. For example, five sets of six pullups with one minute rest, rest 15 minutes, then repeat the series two more times. 

Principles of Repeated Series Template

Spreading the goal reps over several sets. 

Self-explanatory. If you can't do it all at one break it into parts. Plan total desired reps over several sets with short rest interval. More on this later.

Planned change of parameters. 

In words it goes like this: from large number of sets with low reps towards small number of sets with large reps via gradual reduction of the number of sets with corresponding increase of reps per set. The total number of repetitions remains roughly the same in the series. Nothing other than EDT. 

According to Seluyanov and Myakichenko the main factor leading to the increase of aerobic capacity of both fast and slow twitch fibers is the functioning of mitochondria at high intensity and at the same time relative low acidity of the muscle cell. This is achieved by breaking training load into parts: first, each set does not lead to the excessive lactic acidosis inside the cell and, the second, during pauses between sets ATP is aerobically re-synthesised. 

As work capacity of the muscle fibres increases the utilisation (breakdown) of lactate improves as well. At macro level this allows the athlete to increase the number of reps per set. 

Continuous control of training parameters

In simple words change only one thing at a time. In case of pull-ups loading parameters - such as the number of repetitions in the first set of the series, rest intervals between sets and series, number of sets in the series and the session and so on - stay the same, and the progress is gauged by the total number of repetitions in each series. 

This way every training session is testing (to an extent), and this allows to adjust the training process as required. If, for instance, the number of repetitions in the first series of the session does not increase as expected the session is postponed for the next day. Timely postponed session will lead to more progress than the one conducted in unfavourable conditions. 

Volume in the series

It is important not to make a mistake when planning the starting load of one training series. If the total reps in the series is approximately equal to the desired result then energy systems are taxed fully from the very beginning of the training process. Sufficiently long rest between series (not less than 10  minutes) makes each series the "energetic burst" to which adaptation will have to occur. 

Number of sets in one series

The more sets in a series the more aerobic the load (given the same rest intervals between sets), but at the expense of longer time required to achieve the final result. Fewer sets with more reps in each on the other hand will shift the load towards anaerobic glycolysis. 

It is empirically established that if rest intervals between sets are 2-3 minutes then the initial series has to consists of 4-6 sets. For novices the number of sets should be higher (5-6), than for more advanced athletes (4-5). (It is implied that fewer sets mean more reps in each - ES). 

Some will ask the question: why should I do 5 sets when I can do 4? Why 4 when I can start with 3 sets straight away? Unfortunately if you start with low number of sets (with the corresponding higher reps) at the end of the series excessive acidosis of the muscles becomes an issue, and it can do more harm than good, progress wise. While mild-moderate acidosis activates enzymes of the respiratory cycle in mitochondria and improves aerobic energy production. Therefore in order to develop cellular mechanisms that prevent excessive acidosis the number of sets stays high and the number of reps in each set stays low. 

Rest between sets

As muscles are relaxed during rest lactic acid is washed out by the blood flow. Intra-muscular oxygen stores bound with myoglobin is also restored during rest between sets. Aerobic glycolysis during rest also leads to the elimination of oxygen debt accumulated during work; during this process creatine phosphate spent during the set is restored. 

Number of reps in one set

This is touched upon in the paragraph on the number of sets. If the number of reps in the first set is too high the load take on the glycolytic character, and the number of reps in the second set of the series will drop sharply. From the author's experience it follows that if the number of reps in the series does not exceed 50% of the best result of the athlete than in the first two sets of the series he will be able to perform all planned reps in the first two sets of the series. 

Number of series in a session and rest between series. 

Ideally rest between series should be selected in such a way that the restoration of energy systems occurs to the point where fatigue achieved during the series does not significantly influence the results of the next. In this case the series can be considered as being relatively independent of each other, and the load will be distributed in the form of "energy bursts" that eventually trigger adaptation. 

However, in order to be able to perform the same number of repetition in the series rest has to be sufficient for complete elimination of lactic acid from the muscles. This, however, can take up to 1.5 hours. Therefore, in order to avoid spending the night in the gym rest needs to be shortened to the acceptable duration. This way each consequent series is performed before full recovery, and we have to accept that the number of reps in the series will go down as the result of fatigue. 

During hard session the number of series has to be no less than three. Maintenance session can have two series, and recovery session can have only one series consisting of 4-6 sets. 

It goes without saying that the load has to be increased gradually. 

Rest between sessions and periodisation. 

Interval between sessions has to be planned in such a way that by the beginning of the next session the athlete was in the phase of supercompensation. To determine if this is so is not hard: if at the next session the results improve at the sam level of perceived exertion then recovery is adequate. If the result is the same or worse recovery is insufficient. 

Recovery between sessions is significantly influenced by rest between series. If the athlete can afford to rest an hour between the series recovery between sessions is accelerated, and the athlete may be tempted to do hard sessions every second day. 

If rest between series is 10 - 15 minutes recovery can take several days. In this case sessions have to be broken into hard, moderate and light (developing, restoring and maintenance in the original text). 


Perceived exertion in this text is divided in three zones:

Green zone - effort typical for training sessions.
Yellow zone - effort typical for competition of low importance
Red zone - max effort, typical for important competitions

Most of training must be performed in the green zone. 

Putting it all together.

Let's say my current best is 10 pull-ups and I want to achieve 25. 
I am going to start training twice a week doing series of 5 sets of 5 reps. 
Training twice a week: hard and easy session.
Hard session - three series, easy - one.
Rest between sets - 2 minutes.
Rest between series - 10-15 minutes. 

Starting goal is to complete all reps and sets in both series. If I reach failure in a set I will continue pull-ups in rest-pause fashion (20 seconds rest), until I cannot do any more reps. 

Once I achieve reps and sets I will reduce rest between sets to 1 minute and between series to 5 minutes. 

Further progression:

4 sets of 6 reps, rest 2 min/10 min between sets/series
Reduction of rest to 1 min/5 min

3 sets of 8 reps, similar progression in rest times
2 sets of 12 reps and finally
1 set of 25

In any case, this is not different from EDT, except for extra series that are performed while some fatigue sets in from previous work. 

If I had to modify this method I would probably vary total number of sets in the series. This way easy session would have one or two series of half the number of sets of the hard one. something like this. 

My concerns. 

In terms of this method for GS I would not be terribly enthusiastic doing the number of reps planned for competition every training session - three times over. The same for pull-ups. I would do maybe one hard session for every two or three easy ones. 

Other applications

I think this method is really well suited for circuit training to supplement other sports. Most templates have you do several exercises back to back for several rounds, with some breaks between the rounds. This method calls for adding breaks between actual exercises eventually adding reps, decreasing rest and increasing the rounds. The idea is to perform the circuits at moderate RPE.

For example in my case it would be:

5 pullups, 1 minute rest
5 x 70 kg barbell squats, 1 minute rest
5 x (2 x 16 kg) KB presses, 1 minute rest, 
5 x hanging leg raises, 1 minute rest, 
5 x 15 kg weighted dips.

Rest 5 minutes, repeat twice more or until the form starts to get ugly.

Progression by reducing rest between series to 1 minute, i.e. being able to do three rounds back to back.

Next cycle:
Drop back to the initial rest, increase the reps to 6-7, repeat the progression. 
Eventually progressing to 10 reps.

After being able to do the circuit with 10 reps back to back three times - increase the weight and start again. Something like this. I am tempted to try this for my BJJ training if I find the time.