Continuous snatching redux

In January I wrote about continuous snatching as the way to build strength endurance. At the time I took a hiatus from BJJ due to a mild heart issue and was toying with this method. In fact, I did quite well - I could manage 40 minutes of 12 kg at the heart rate below 130/min. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but you don't get to judge it until you try it for yourself. Then I came back to BJJ. My training ADD came back too...

Last week I injured my back during BJJ training. My SI joints were on fire. So I am taking a little break from wrestling. I am getting these creeping thoughts that maybe at my age BJJ may not be my thing. I'll see. 

Recently it came to my attention that this training method is part of the Strong Endurance course by Strong First. Apparently, you are supposed to start pretty low, with 60 - 70% of the weight you can snatch for 100 reps in 5 minutes. The protocol - apparently - goes like this: snatch 5 times every 30 seconds, switch hands, continue until you can pass the talk test, but no longer than 40 minutes. Then snatch 5 reps every 20 seconds. Eventually you do 5 reps every 15 seconds. When you can do THAT for whatever time you chose you can increase the weight. That's what I was told by someone anyway. 

Interesting choice of switching hands every 5 reps - I did it (on the cue of Boris) every 10. I changed to 5 rep switch when HR was starting to climb close to 130/min. I reckon increasing the reps before switching hands can be an alternative progression. Makes sense for GS. 

My current training program consists of two things: push ups in Megareps style (currently 100 reps with two green bands) and chins, sometimes Megareps with 1 green band, sometimes bodyweight. Also dabbling, though not systematically, with Program Zero by KneesOverToes guy. My knees, hips and lower back give me trouble on regular basis, and these exercises have the potential to make them better. In any case, the program makes sense for general purposes. 

I am also going to add continuous snatches to my training. Every protocol is called something these days, so I will call it CSn. 

I should give some thought to the reps per arm. It's quite interesting to watch the HR monitor: when you switch hands HR drops by 5 - 10 beats/min, then builds up. As the session progresses HR climbs up, but the drop still happens, though not as much. 

Some ten years ago I was doing continuous snatching with 20 kg. Switch every ten reps. My best was something over 200 reps. Cadence was not regulated, no HR monitor or talk test. I am guessing if I can last 20 - 30 minutes at 10 reps/min with the same weight and HR below 130 it would indicate quite a good endurance. 


Completely by chance I came across the video below. It is supposed to debunk Pavel's interview with Rogan. Except that it doesn't.

This guy is a legitimate exercise physiologist/researcher. Which is surprising for two reasons. One - he doesn't seem capable of making a coherent systematic argument. Two - he doesn't seem to have a clue about actually coaching people. He believes that all your training has to be specific to the event. So if you are a miler that's all you have to do, run a mile every time you train. And you have to do it at maximal intensity. That's it. 

If it were so simple... I am guessing this character never heard of Verkhoshansky or Mel Siff. One piece of research by Verkhoshansky has demonstrated better results when cross training replaced more traditional way. Mell Siff, in his Supertraining, summarised training theory. One aspect of which is developing various physical qualities necessary for a given sport. Some of these qualities are subordinate, meaning that you have to develop them in certain order. 

Anyway, I don't have the time to dig deep into the muscle biochemistry, this subject is not my strongest. Neither I want to copy the style of the video, which is mostly filled with exclamations, sighs and self-promotion. Sure, some things Pavel says in that interview may be criticised. The question is though, how important are those things. Take an ancient martial and healing art of Tai Chi. It is based on the concept that from the point of view of Western science is completely wrong. Chi flowing through energy channels and so on. But then there is plenty of research demonstrating that Tai Chi is good for you. In that case, who cares about the underlying theory?  

It's the same with Pavel's rant on Joe Rogan. Sure, he presents it in an outdated way, but then who cares (except some seriously insecure sports scientists)? The question is, will it harm you if you decide to train using Pavel's methodology, even if the concept regarding the energy pathways involved is misunderstood and misrepresented by Pavel? 

Aerobic base is worthwhile to develop, in spite of what Mr (Dr?) Kay says. You can achieve some results with specific training, but it can only take you that far. Eventually you hit a plateau, and how to get through that is the domain of practical coaches. Not pencil pushers with "arm's length list of publications". 

Continuous snatching

Courtesy Boris from Irongarm, continuous snatch tests came to my attention. Again, that is, as I used to do them some years ago, though in a somewhat different format. Boris the Monster mentioned in the goals thread that he wants to snatch 24 kg for an hour non-stop. I sort of spaced this out at the time, but then the topic came up again, and I decided to give it a go. 

As I said, I used to do them years ago (more than ten years ago), simply switching hands every ten reps. My best at the time was 230 reps. Boris gave me the idea of cadence. He said he snatches at 10 reps per minute, switching every ten reps. I tried, and after the first session I am hooked. 

I am currently working on my aerobic base by jogging MAF style. This was triggered by an unpleasant arrhythmia episode followed by a coronary angio at the end of October. There is some plague, non-obstructive, nothing too bad. Still, improving the endurance base wouldn't hurt. I turned 58 at the beginning of November, and so my working HR is around 122/min. I am a shit runner, and so first few sessions were a mix of jogging and walking, as my HR was easily shooting over 135 - 140. Dammit, my wife walks faster than I jog, but what can I do... At least I can now jog for an hour non-stop.

One day it was too hot outside, so I grabbed a 10 kg kettlebell, put on my Polar strap (the one you put on the chest) and set up the GymBoss app to beep every six seconds. Switching hands every ten reps. Later, as the hear rate was climbing over the MAF level I would switch hands every five reps. 

Surprisingly, this felt pretty incredible. First session with the measly 10 kg felt like a proper jog. I stopped after 30 minutes when my HR was persistently over 140. Next session - 45 minutes, this time I hit 140 right at the end. 

Next workout was interesting. I decided to snatch 2 kg, and for about 5 minutes my HR was hovering under 110. I stopped and took my wife's HR monitor - same result. Soon after starting the session I tore couple of calluses and so I stopped. Next time - 30 minutes with 12 kg no problem. Next workout will be with 16 kg. 

I think this is a cool substitute for jogging. I can see a few advantages and a few problems with this training. 


1. Involvement of different muscles. Good for overall development and may be advantageous for certain sports. For example, endurance of lower limb muscles in BJJ is not a big plus, but endurance of upper limbs and the trunk muscles is. To which degree muscles involved in snatch will be engaged in BJJ - anybody's guess, but variety will probably be beneficial. 

2. Change of scenery. Joggin' in the rain or in the heat is not fun, so the ability to do aerobics indoors is useful. 

3. Useful for Girevoy Sport training. I could change my HR by adjusting the technique of snatch: deflecting the torso back on the way down, delaying the pull on the way up, rotating the arm in at the top. ALl this improves economy, which is a plus for GS. 


1. Hard on the hands. Like any other training that involves lots of snatches. 

2. A little hard on lower back, at least for me. Because of that I decided to limit the sets to 30 minutes. 

Lastly, I can see several ways to progress. 

1. Duration to weight. Start with light KB, snatch at a chosen cadence. You stop the workout when HR hits a pre-determined level (or does not descend below that level after switching hands). Eventually you reach the desired duration of the set. Then increase the weight. 

2. Duration to cadence. Reach the desired duration of the set at a given HR, then increase the cadence. 

3. Cadence to weight. Builds on No.2. After reaching the desired cadence increase the weight. 

I am not sure if it is possible to reach the level of extreme fitness, but so far I like it. Opinions will be appreciated.