Note: About five years ago, I wrote up the following workout for operators and martial artists in my newsletter.
Run. Shadow box. At intervals you have set for yourself—so many minutes or so many phone poles—stop and do one to three pistols. At the next stop do a couple of one-arm push-ups. Here and there do both pistols and push-ups. No rest at all and just a couple of reps.
This is StrongFirst roadwork. It does not replace your dedicated strength training. It adds a severely lacking high force component into one’s conditioning. Steady state endurance interrupted by occasional intense contractions is much more specific to the needs of a fighting man or woman than high reps of low intensity exercise, such as circuits of high rep pushups and bodyweight squats.
The Science Behind StrongFirst Roadwork
Your muscle uses three energy pathways:
- The first, most powerful and least enduring, is alactacid. You can go very hard for ten to thirty seconds—and then the tank is empty.
- The second energy system, glycolytic, takes over. It has a lot less power—less than half—but last for several minutes, typically two to six.
- Finally, it is the turn of the aerobic system. It produces even less energy—but it can go on forever.
This is an oversimplified pictured below, as all pathways operate at the same time, but good enough for our purposes.
More and more Russian research is revealing that athletes from combat and team sports are making a mistake killing themselves in the glycolytic pathway—doing high-rep circuits to “burn.” The new paradigm is—train your maximal alactacid power (MAP) in ten- to twenty-second bursts of intense effort and your ability to replenish your tank aerobically. The conditioning portion of the training regimen in my new book Kettlebell Simple & Sinister is designed in that exact manner.
There is a lot more to say on this topic and we shall continue this conversation in the future. For now stop being enamored with the glycolytic pathway and the “burn.” As one Russian professor has said in a lecture to wrestlers, “Whose muscles are more acidic in the end of the match?—The loser’s.”
Maximal anaerobic power + speedy aerobic recovery