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Navigating Girevoy Sport Training

March 9, 2007 07:35 AM

Pavel asked me to write this article upon returning from The Veterans Snatch Classic 2006 meet in Hamburg, Germany. After I finished swearing, I realized I've wanted to organize my thoughts about training and this presented a very good opportunity to do so.

I turned 45 in 2001 and for some reason decided a bit of strength would do me a world of good. You can't go far searching strength training on the Internet without running into Dragon Door and so I bought Power To The People! In that book, Pavel asks that we only do two things so I gave it a try and it worked nicely. I was making decent strength gains. He then unleashed his kettlebells and I thought to myself, no way in hell am I interested in this. Since one could substitute dumbbells I reluctantly decided to spring for the book. And four weeks later my 16kg kettlebell arrived. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to get it off the ground. I bore you with all this so that you can appreciate where I started. I started from nothing - unable to snatch the 16kg during six solid months of trying. Andy68, a former member of the dragondoor forum, came to my rescue. He said, "get the damn thing over your head somehow and make sure you are stable in that position. If you are, just go for it". And so it started.

Pavel let it be known that not only could kettlebells serve as a convenient home gym but also that there was a sport associated with them called Girevoy Sport. Twenty people decided to give it a whirl and on May 15th, 2003 we did just that in a field in Virginia. We did our best interpretation of GS on that day and once again with Pavel's help we were off and running.

Fast forward to 2006. In May I did 126 snatches in San Diego and 104 in Hamburg. (More about the discrepancy later.) Now, they are certainly not the best numbers in our country today. For those you'll have to look at folks like Jen Morey and Catherine Imes. They are our talented female athletes and the secret weapons for the future. My numbers are pretty average but they represent a ton of work, analysis and consistent training. My strength lies in perseverance, analytical thinking and observation. I think I've learned a thing or two along the way, which I am more than happy to share.

1. Building the foundation.
I used the density training protocol. For an explanation of Ethan Reeves's density training please see dragondoor post # 70795. I chose a number that was too high and wound up doing 160 snatches each and every workout. I developed a shoulder injury that took two years to heal. Yeah, yeah, yeah - my fault and if I had it to do over I would do the same but with half the volume. I would have also added some basic strength routines involving heavy good mornings and heavy overhead lockout military presses. A dear friend suggested these and I've benefited by listening.

2. Working hard but going nowhere.
I hit 80 reps in late 2004. That was my max for a long time. I contacted my good friend Steve Cotter for his help in getting me off of this plateau. While working with him I discovered how to analyze my current weakness. Since it always changed I had to stay on top of it with proper assistance exercises. Grip, endurance and proper recovery could now be assessed and I was now able to track my progress. Duh. Such hindsight always makes me feel silly.

3. Hitting my stride.
With Steve's help I made some progress. I must say that making progress, no matter how small, feels wonderful. I am just as excited now, as I was when I did my first snatch. Here is how my training is cycled now.

Strength Phase - Two plus months using Pavel's 3-5 workout (see Beyond Bodybuilding). I do squats, deadlifts, barbell military presses and chin-ups during my workday. I'm lucky to have my own business and my lovely staff knows where to find me during down time. When I'm at home I'll use kettlebells and alternate heavy cleans, presses, front squats jerks, swings and get-ups intelligently. Low reps with the number of sets dictated by how I'm feeling. There will be no injuries for me these days. I also do not snatch during the first month. The second month is more of the same but I add low rep snatches with the 20 and 24 kgs. And take away whatever exercise is currently irritating me for whatever reason.

Volume Phase - I spend two months trying to increase my snatching volume. I go back to a density type workout gradually increasing the total reps and decreasing the time. One thing I've found helpful is to only work on one hand at a time. An example would be - ten sets of seven snatches on the right side with 20-second rests. I then rest for however long I need and then proceed with my left side. I may do a bit more on the left, as it is my weak side - maybe 12 sets. I gradually increase the workload throughout the month, waving it weekly. Of course long sets of swings are also imperative. I do strength work very sparingly during this time.

GS in Earnest - Four to six weeks max! Now is the time to do max sets about four to five times a week. Now, what has made a tremendous difference for me is to once again address only one side at a time. That would mean going for a long set on the right side followed by a rest and then a long set on the left side. Since my general endurance is good, I find that I will be able to put them together without much problem on the day of the competition. I was aiming for between 120 and 130 snatches in San Diego and it wasn't much of a surprise for me to combine both arms and get 126. If you separate the two sides you can reap all of the benefits of a very long set without the mental burden of one long combined set since you are doing this four to five days per week. I start the week out doing a fairly long set and each day go a bit higher. I take Friday off and then go for a true max on Saturday. I then take Sunday off and start out a bit higher than the previous Monday. I make Saturday my max effort day, as Saturday is usually the day of any given competition.

So there you have it, a basic blueprint for navigating my GS training.

On the trip to compete in Germany I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Paul Tucker in Hamburg. He's worth a trip to Tasmania! Anyway, prior to the meet he mentioned to me that if you were accustomed to a certain kettlebell, you would experience a 20 percent drop in your total if you use another type of kettlebell such as the competition bells. He said he found this to be true as he switched bells during his stay in England prior to the German meet. Damn if that wasn't the case! I hadn't given it another thought until I did 104 and 20 percent of 126 is 101! Pretty clever man that Paul. This is just something to think about if you are in a similar situation.

Perseverance and patience are the traits necessary for GS. If you don't have these traits GS is an ideal method to develop them. GS is a lesson in diagnosis. You must analyze each set. Something will cause you to either stop or at least want to stop. Carefully discover what that particular weakness is. Work patiently until you have overcome that weakness and you'll find that it no longer exists but there will be another in its place. There will always be another weakness but along the way your numbers will go up. Tenacity is the key and you can learn a lot about yourself during the process.

Lorraine Patterson, RKC is a 50-year old dentist in NY. I excel at boring, repetitive tasks making GS an excellent outlet. I'm thrilled that I'm slowly improving and hell, it keeps me off the streets.