there is no substitute for experience

Week 2 of Simple and Sinister Training

I began a 6-week session of Simple & Sinister kettlebell training last week. I started easy to recover from a 6 week heavy swing protocol that left me beat up the week before. I met the time goals of the S&S workout using a 20-kg bell for swings and a 16-kg bell for get-ups easily.

The Simple & Sinister kettlebell workout includes a warm-up of goblet squats, short bridges, and halos in three sets of five reps. The ultimate workout is 100 one-handed swings alternating left and right in sets of 10, and then 10 get-ups. The plan is to workout 5 to 6 days per week. The Simple goal for a man is to complete 100 swings in 5 minutes, and then, after one minute of rest, to complete 10 get-ups in 10 minutes using a 32-kg kettlebell.

This week, I continued S&S training using a 24-kg bell for swings and a 20-kg bell for get-ups. I focused on technique and allowed my heart rate to come down substantially between sets. I took about 10 minutes to complete 100 swings and 15 minutes to complete 10 get-ups.

Swings with the 24-kg (53 pound) kettlebell feel light, but my conditioning must improve substantially before I can complete 100 swings in 5 minutes.

Get-ups with the 20-kg (44 pound) kettlebell are challenging. I might be able to get up with a 24-kg bell once on a good day soon, but I think I will need 3-4 months of steady work before I own get-ups with the 20-kg bell and become ready to train with the 24-kg bell.

I expect to be doing swings with the 24 and get-ups with the 20 kg bells until March/April unless I surprise myself.

S&S training can be completed in about 30 minutes, but I workout Monday through Friday and rest on Saturday and Sunday most weeks. Training 5 days in a row demands maintaining a measured effort. Pushing too hard can make workouts counter-productive due to accumulated fatigue, so I allow myself only a little play with other activities.

I added a few pull-ups (1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1 = 6) and a few push-ups (1 x 7, 1 x 5, 1 x 3 = 15) as a finisher today. Other favorite activities that I may include from time to time include hill sprints, military presses, single leg deadlifts, and suitcase carries.

My experience with Lazy Endurance

I signed up to participate in a research program conducted by StrongFirst months ago without knowing anything about what I would have to do. I learned in early November that I would be following a Lazy Endurance protocol for 6 weeks, training 4 times a week. The killer news was that the training was one-handed swings with a 32kg kettlebell.

I had not picked up my 32 kg (70-pound) bell in more than a year. When I did one-handed swings at all, I had been using a 16 kg bell. The first thing I did when I got the training instructions was to go to my garage and test to see if I could swing a 32 kg bell with one hand without dropping it! I could, but just barely.

I honestly did not think I was strong enough to complete more than a token number of one-handed swings with a 70-pound bell, but the training protocol did not allow men to participate with anything lighter. I decided to start and see how far I could go.

I did it. I completed every swing as prescribed for the entire 6 weeks. I lost my grip and dropped the bell once the first week, and then managed to hold on thereafter.

The goal was to build endurance without losing strength or power by completing 5 heavy swings on the top of every minute for sessions lasting anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes. The protocol allowed breaking long sessions into parts. I broke several sessions into halves and broke the one 60-minute session into three 20-minute sessions.

My hands were a big challenge because I was unprepared for the stress generated by swinging a 32 kg bell day after day and my hand-care was lax. I got a helpful consultation from a StrongFirst Facebook group and learned to tape up properly during the second week. By the end of the third week, my hands were back in good shape and I ended the six weeks with healthy hands.

The weekly demand waved from 400, to 540, to 700, to 280, to 600, to 800 swings.

The plan called for active rest between sets. I dropped to the floor and completed ten 6-point rocks after every set of swings. I think I would have suffered an injury if not for the restorative power of the rocking. Thank you Original Strength for everything you have taught me!

The plan allowed for “training strength 3 days a week” in addition to the “conditioning” work of the heavy one-handed swings. I added a few pull-ups, double front squats, and double presses one or two days per week during the first 4 weeks. I didn’t add anything the last two weeks because I was afraid of using up something I might need to finish. What I found was that pull-ups felt easy after swinging a 70-pound bell for a while and I look forward to testing myself with pull-ups soon.

Did it work? My conditioning as measured by a 10-minute running test improved marginally. I ran maybe 100 yards farther after 6 weeks of Lazy Endurance training. I don’t think StrongFirst will count that as a big success. But this program produced big results for me! I transformed from being a skinny guy who swung a 35-pound kettlebell to a skinny guy who swung a 70-pound kettlebell with one hand 3,320 times in 6 weeks.

During week 6, I realized that I CAN achieve the StrongFirst Simple standard of using a 32 kg kettlebell to perform 100 one-handed swings in 5 minutes and 10 get-ups in 10 minutes. I’m not even close today, but I think there is a reasonably good chance that I can be there by this time next year.

This week I started a new block of training: six weeks of the Simple and Sinister protocol. I am taking it easy with swings this week, doing 100 one-handed swings with a 20 kg bell and 10 get-ups with a 16 kg bell 5-6 days per week. I will start training swings with the 24 kg bell next week and get-ups with the 20.

New to Dynamic Variable Resistance Training – Sandbags

I still love kettlebells and I still love rocking, rolling, and crawling – the Original Strength resets, but I gave myself a new shiny toy – a strength shell from Ultimate Sandbag Training. I trained with it for about 30 minutes today and am looking forward to more sessions in the future. I worked with about 30 pounds for the first 20 minutes and then went up to about 50 pounds at the end after I felt like I might be doing what I was doing competently.

This video does not reflect what I was doing today, but I find it inspirational and am posting it here to remind me of what I want to do in my next workout.

Working harder and easier than ever

As noted in the previous post, my new normal workout is three 30-minute segments. Kettlebells and pull-ups in the morning, rucking with 26 pounds in the afternoon, and Original Strength resets – rocking, rolling, crawling, etc. in the evening. I did not begin rucking until the second half of March, but still averaged 52 minutes of exercise daily. I actually took 5 days off during March including 3 days in a row the first week when I was exceptionally busy.

I am very happy with the time I am devoting to working out and do not plan to “try” to devote more time in April. Although I enjoy my routine of three 30-minute segments, I don’t think I must train that much every day to achieve my goals.

My kettlebell and pull-ups workout today felt like something I will settle into for a while. Here’s what I did.

Prying goblet squats
16 kg kettlebell – 4 x 5 = 20 reps, 700 pounds

Goblet squat curls
16 kg kettlebell –4 x 5 = 20 reps, 700 pounds

One-handed swings
16 kg kettlebell – 10 x 20 = 200 reps, 7000 pounds

Suit-case carry
20 kg kettlebell – 100 yards L/R = 200 yards, 88 pounds

Pull-ups – 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 = 10 reps
Body weight 190 x 10 = 1900 pounds

Total weight: 10,388 pounds

The pattern I followed was to complete one dead-hang pull-up after 10 L/R = 20 swings until I had completed 200 swings and 10 pull-ups. The last thing I did was to walk up and down the hill in front of my house with a 20 kg kettlebell, first in my left hand and then in my right hand.

I experimented last week with using the 20 kg bell for my one-handed swings, but the increased weight irritated my already tender left forearm.  I am staying with the 16 kg bell for swings until my arm improves.

The reason I say that I am working harder and easier than ever is that devoting 52 minutes to training every day of the month is more effort than I have devoted to training in maybe 10 years. However, the kettlebell work, pull-ups, rucking, and rolling is fairly easy and leaves me feeling energized all day long. I like feeling energized all day long. I may keep this up for a while.

My new normal

I have been training steadily and have adopted a new standard program. I don’t get it all done every day, but am missing doing something on very few days. My new normal is to spend 30 minutes with a kettlebell and pull-up routine, 30 minutes walking with a weighted backpack, and 30 minutes performing Original Strength resets.

This morning I performed 20 goblet squats with a 16 kg kettlebell, 200 one-handed swings with a 16 kg kettlebell, and 12 strict, dead-hang pull-ups. This afternoon I strapped on my backpack with a 12 kg kettlebell inside, walked to the park near my house, circled the park three times, and then came home. This evening I got on my gymnastics mat in front of the TV and spent time practicing diaphragmatic breathing at a pace of 4 breaths per minute for a few minutes. Then I spent time rocking, performing segmental rolls, and crawling backwards and forwards.

The hardest thing I am doing is walking with 26 pounds in my backpack. Considering that I used to CrossFit 3-4 times per week when I weighed 30 pounds more than I currently do, I would not think that 26 pounds in a backpack would be a big deal, but it is. I’ve gotten a few tension headaches after my weighted walks. I can’t imagine walking for hours the way some people do. I may upgrade to a military grade rucksack to see if that helps.

My left forearm has been sore and tender for almost 6 months. I  had to stop doing Turkish get-ups because a heavy kettlebell irritates my left arm too much. I have been limiting how much time I spend crawling. I will schedule something with an orthopedic surgeon within the next few days to see what he thinks about resolving the issue. Massage and limited use does not seem to be helping.

Averaging 41 minutes of exercise per day

I started tracking what I was doing for exercise back in October 2014. I set a goal for 2015 to exercise at least 15 minutes per day, five days per week. So far I am averaging 41 minutes per day every day. I actually tend to take at least one day off per week and sometimes two, but rarely exercise less than 30 minutes and often exercise 60 minutes.

Most of what I am doing are Original Strength resets like rocking, head nods, segmental rolls, and dead bug work. I had set an aggressive goal of Spiderman crawling a significant amount every day, but suspended that plan in consultation with experienced Original Strength practitioners who warned me that the persistent soreness I was experiencing in my left forearm meant I should avoid Spiderman crawling until it was resolved. So now I am doing 10 minutes of baby crawling many days.

I miss picking up heavy iron, swinging kettlebells, and performing pull-ups, but have decided to give myself several months of performing Original Strength type work exclusively to see how much progress I can make resolving some of the “mechanical” issues I have had for years in my left shoulder, elbows, and now forearms.

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