Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Blog Address

Here's my new blog address:

Please contact me here.



Thursday, March 05, 2009

Quality or Quantity--Why Not BOTH?

I'm starting to see it as the beginning of a trend now.

Some more prolific fitness coaches and trainers are starting to buzz about "quality."

What does "quality" look like?

Well, Z-Health has a pretty good answer in it's "Four Elements of Efficiency," which I'm not going to get into here, but they definitely make you aware of junk reps.

Of course, the RKC promotes nothing but quality in its programming and material--low rep grinds, medium to high rep ballistics. Ladders are SOP for good reason.

But it seems like most trainers and trainees focus on or get stuck in the rut of quantity. For example, not long ago the movie, "300" came out. Then youtube was filled with "300" style workouts--300 reps of whatever completed in the shortest amount of time. Some of it, ok, almost all of it was pure ugly. Junk reps.

Well, how do you keep the quality up and push the quantity without burning out neurologically? As I already mentioned, ladders are one way.

How about another?

Compound lifts like the Clean and Press.

More specifically, complexes.

Complexes are a series of compound exercises performed sequentially with the same weight without rest. All the reps for one exercise are completed before moving on to the next exercise in the sequence.

Steve "Istvan" Javorek, Romanian Coach Emeritus, coined the term, although I'm pretty sure the Soviets (Russians) were using them at least at the same time as Coach Javorek. I first found them back in '97 when I was a peon Strength and Conditioning Coach at Rutgers.

Anyway, the weight used is usually light enough to really focus on your technique, but because you never put the bar down, you become taxed metabolically. This becomes a great way to perform a lot of high quality work (assuming your technique is correct in the first place) in a very short period of time--making for very time efficient training sessions. Complexes can be manipulated for a variety of goals: fat loss, strength, hypertrophy.

I've been using them for the last two weeks with my barbell because my left hip is still gooey and I can't put the KBs between the legs without compensating still. (It's been almost 12 months since I hurt it again and I didn't realize how badly until last December--but it's almost better.) However, I prefer kettlebells due to greater ranges of motion, more grip duress, and faster movements.

Here are the two I've been alternating between. One's a snatch-based complex and the other is a clean-based complex.

Complex 1: Snatch-based
  • Snatch High Pull from floor (to throat) x6
  • Power Snatch from above knee x6
  • Pressing Snatch Balance x6
  • Snatch-grip Behind Neck Push Press x6
  • Good Morning x6
Complex 2: Clean-based
  • Clean Pull from floor x6
  • Power Clean from floor + Military Press x6+6
  • Front Squat x6
  • RDL x6
  • Row x6
I've been timing myself and each complex takes approximately 2 1/2 minutes to complete. I then rest for 5 minutes and repeat. They are pretty brutal. I'm definitely out of shape. Not using the KB routinely has hurt my conditioning levels for sure. But, as I said, the light weights allow me to keep my quality up. My body fat is down and my muscularity is up.

Here's one of my favorite KB complexes:
  • Double Swing x5
  • Double Snatch x5
  • Double Clean + Press x5+5
  • Double Row x5
That's 25 reps and it usually takes a minute to complete. The Double Snatch is usually the limiting exercise here or possibly the press, depending on your lower body strength levels, so make sure to use a weight dependent on completing your weakest exercise.

Rest 2 minutes.

Repeat up to 6 times. Brutal.

By keeping the reps low you can focus on quality and still push the quantity. Quantity, or volume, as we know, is key for growth.