Monday, September 30, 2013

Punching the clock, training some KB jerk

I guess people who compete at the top levels already have most of their lifetime general physical prep done. I read things like "kettlebells one day, running the other day, 7 days a week". I'm not nearly good enough - not nearly healthy enough, frankly - to do just that.

This season is working well for me because my goals are technical, not numeric. At a spring meet last year, I failed in a jerk. So, I worked on jerk. Over the next 12 months, I finished the 10:00 at three different meets. At a meet this autumn, in a heavier bell class, I failed in a clean. So, I need to build my hands. This training season is all about addressing weakest links and strength and basic skills.

I've always hated doing just jerk without cleans. I hear that a lot in Long Cycle crowds. We also capitalize Long Cycle but not jerk. This was a jerk day. Heavy work with gear, several sets of 5-10. Light work without gear, feeling where the bells lay on my hands and in the rack. I still maintain that training time without protection is a valuable addition. Placement on the wrists and in the rack is too influential over the long set to overcompensate with wrist armor and belts.

My jerk is currently limited by my lack of quickness. I'm also doing 2 days/wk of quick barbell squats and deadlifts, 50-80% of max, with box jumps and sprints as supersets. I'm getting quicker, and my legs are growing. I'm also doing step-ups to build my deficient hamstrings and reinforce my damaged leg.

The last thing I'm doing this season is not setting hard numerical goals. I'm doing 5 or 6 sets of basically everything, but I'm working well within physical limits. Don't tear palms. Don't get shaky and negative overhead. Don't miss tomorrow's session due to today's mistakes. The volume and running and goals will come in a couple months.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Skills and Maintenance

I have about 5 months before my next meet. That's easily 3 months of GPP and skills work before I have to start focusing on competition. The first thing I noticed when I resumed training kettlebells was that my grip endurance and skin durability had already degraded. The second thing was the extended load-bearing in the rack. General barbell training does not prepare you for this specific sort of discomfort.

My list of priorities is basic: speed, mobility, armoring my hands, basic kettlebell movements in volume. I've had good results training cleans and jerks separately before; it prevents overall systemic failure from stopping you before skill-specific failure would. And, I've realized in previous posts that my legs are strong but slow, too slow to advance in this sport or to be generally athletic.

M - KB jerks, swings, presses/pushups, upper back therapy
Tu - Superset fast squats and box jumps, volume cable rows, leg therapy
W - KB cleans, swings, presses/pushups, upper back therapy
Th - Superset fast dead lifts and sprints, volume cable rows, leg therapy
F - KB jerks, swings, presses/pushups, upper back therapy
Sa and Su off
Daily Indian clubs, frequent foam rolling

The sets and reps are extremely free-form on the kettlebell work, stopping before failure and before tearing my hands. The barbell work is 5x5 with the speed work 2-3 reps after each set. This is my last two days as a sample.

Th DL: 5x5@50-80%, box jumps or sprints, rows
-DL warmup, test x5, alt short sprints
135,155,155,175,175 x
Cable rows: @100#, 10,15,15,10
Stretch, notes: a few SLDL and step-ups. Right hip is shakier than left; probably needs therapy each session to keep up. Upper back icky late afternoons this week; add prone cobras.
F KB Jerk sets, Presses, swings
-Press 5@20,8@16
-Jerk sets, get to 24s
2x24: 4x5
-Swings: 24kg 25,25
-Push-ups 13,12
-Prone cobras: 25,25
Stretch, notes: some abdominal work, stretch hips
Clearly, this will be pretty repetitive over time and won't always be online. I'll post when most of the work is 24kg and above.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

21-day Squat Challenge Report, Fall of 2013

I finished 21 straight days of squat on Sunday, 08 Sep. I posted an early introductory piece a couple weeks ago, and this will be a summary of how it went. While this idea of high frequency training, even daily near-maximal training, is common to the Olympic weightlifting paradigm, I have to credit Nick Horton for this particular challenge. (,


First, I came into this fresh off a kettlebell sport season, only two days after a meet and a road trip. I had not lifted heavy in months, so I began with a 4-day warmup. I also had a multi-pronged need to maintain some upper body work, so the outline for the first 2 weeks follows.

A - back squats Squat Nemesis, 50 dips, 50 cable rows
B - front squats Squat Nemesis, 100 cable rows

The last week only had one day of front squats, as I tried to emphasize the heavier movement. My triples and fives at the end were done until I lost bar speed, as I do tend to grind heavier weights.


I hoped my 1RM numbers would increase more. I did see my volume shift toward heavier weights, even though my 1RM did not move.  The 21-day graphic below does not show my 4-day break-in or my front squat days. My front squat days were more therapeutic than heavy, and they were never heavy enough to include in the overall stats.

Blue - total volume for the day, divided by 100 to fit within the scale. Varied between 4,000 and 6,700lbs.
Red - volume expressed as multiple of that day's 1RM.  Increased from 20x to 33x by the end.
Orange - percentage of each day's total volume in Zones 1 and 2 (>70% and >90% of each day's 1RM). Began around 62%, ended at 75% on highest-volume days.

My overall volume fluctuated as expected. I quit hitting heavy weights entirely around day 10, both front and back. The last 5 peaks show my volume increasing, both in raw numbers and as a multiple of 1RM, indicating more work done heavy. I also just quit doing work sets in Zone 3 entirely. My warmup strategy changed drastically, and the last few days wasted very little time or volume.


What I need is speed, and I think I know how to address that. I grind squats out of the hole, ever since my leg injury a few years ago. This may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

My back has never felt better. You really cannot overtrain the upper back. This has changed my ideas about recovery and work capacity, and my press motion is still good. I will row every time I'm at Elite Fitness, at least twice per week.

I'm resuming kettlebell training this week, with barbell work for assistance. I'd rather not bore the world with columns about how I did the same 4 workouts for the next five months, so I'll update at milestones. See you on the platform in February.