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Kettlebell RTK Next Step

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
Today I completed the Grind Block Heavy Day of Return of the Kettlebell with 2x32kg in 41:02.

I was pleasantly surprised by how relatively easy this was; only the last two sets of five required the extra squeeze to finish.

I already have two 36kg bells waiting for me, and I'm just wondering what the people here thing about the optimal next step.

Trying to get the 75reps done even faster is an option but, given that I'm fairly well under the 45min target, I don't know if more clock racing is ideal. Maybe I could finish a little faster but I'm not sure how much benefit there is once you're already below the target time.

Alternatively, I could do the 2,3,5 ladders to build up to 100 reps with the 32s before adding in one 36kg. This seems like it might be a good idea to really lay a solid foundation of strength before adding a heavier bell.

Finally, I could add in a 36kg next week.

Another thing I'm wondering about is the starting all the way over at the bottom of the ladders ladder when you get a heavier bell. Is there an important deloading element to cutting the volume way down to 3(1,2,3) and then building back up, or is it more a go by feel kind of thing?

Thank you for your thoughts.
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
I decided to stick with 2x32kg and build up to 100 reps using 2,3,5 ladders.

Yesterday I got 100 in 1:04:23. I really enjoy 2,3,5 ladders and want to see how close to 45 minutes I can get.

One interesting thing is that, during the previous grind block, I actually failed a rep for the first time since starting this program going for the final rep rep on the 9th ladder. Everything felt great until halfway through the 5th rung of the final ladder and I had to abandon ship. Something interesting about how 2,3,5 ladders allow you to get a ton of work in without realizing quite how hard you're working.

My goal is to get thorough mastery of 2x32kg before upping the weight.
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
@Steven Ravnstag how many reps can you do with 2x36?
I forget to test most of the time but the last time I did (April 27th) I was able to do 5 pretty clean reps towards the end of the day when I wasn't feeling particularly strong. Maybe could have squeezed out 6reps but it didn't feel like the time to force it. My previous best with 2x36kg was 3reps and the third wasn't pretty.
 
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Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
holy $h!t !!! are you double snatching 32s and thinking of double snatching 36s :O ... amazing .. amazing .. amazing !!!
Thank you! I started the program with 2x28kg for the Heavy Day and that really helped me work up to the 32s. For whatever reason, the double snatch has never been a problem for me. It could partly be a matter of body proportions, I haven't tried 2x36kg before so we'll see how that goes.
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
Last Saturday was Ballistic Block 14, Heavy Day 1.

Previously I had worked up to 5{2,4,6,8,10) with 2x32kg but I think I added volume a little too quickly and just wasn't feeling good about the Heavy Days. I decided to drop back to 5(2,4,6,8) and focus on density some more.

Last block I made good progress rushing the clock and last Saturday I wanted to get 5(2,4,,6,8) done in under 30min, although I wasn't particularly optimistic about my prospects.

As if often the case, a session that began with low enthusiasm ended on a high note and I completed the session in 24:46.

I remember pretty clearly the moment during the first ladder when I did the math and saw that I might have a shot at finishing up in under 25min and then trying to decide if I wanted to commit mentally to making that happen. It's funny how much drama goes on in my mind sometimes when I aiming for a goal that may or may not be in reach.

This outcome was pretty tough for me and involved sticking pretty strictly to the following rests:

15sec rest between 2 and 4...

30-45sec rest between 4 and 6...

60sec rest between 6 and 8...

30-60sec before starting next ladder.

Between ladders, the rest would vary depending on how much time I could take off while still starting the next ladder before 5min had elapsed.

I made a sad realization that, in order to really "complete" a ladder in 5min, one had to finish resting after the top of the ladder in that time, too.

One thing I have found is that more rest at the lower end really does little to help and that what I really need is more seconds in the bank to rest before the 8reps.

Also, I think I am beginning to appreciate another purpose of the density period: that of making the heavy bells feel almost halfway between the medium bells and the way the heavies felt when I started.

I feel quite satisfied with this performance because it really feels like I have learned something fundamental while doing it. Additionally, I'm getting more comfortable with the wide stance/legs turned out foot position and with C&Js overall.

Finally, I have been doing 20,000m (about 45-50min) on my Concept 2 bike pretty frequently (not quite daily but probably 5x/week on average) and I think this has been very important to being able to move swiftly through the Heavy Days.

When the heart and lungs are well up to the task, all I have to worry about are the muscles whining and it's easy to ignore that when everything else is working properly.

That's a lot of writing for a workout consisting of only one exercise but , you know: "What an exercise!"
 

Tom Flint

Level 6 Valued Member
I’m really enjoying reading about your experiences with ROTK because it’s on my bucket list, probably for later this year.

Are you enjoying the program overall? Given it’s a strength/hypertrophy specialist program, have you noticed much in the way of muscle gain? I’m very impressed by your increased strength and work capacity!
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
I’m really enjoying reading about your experiences with ROTK because it’s on my bucket list, probably for later this year.

Are you enjoying the program overall? Given it’s a strength/hypertrophy specialist program, have you noticed much in the way of muscle gain? I’m very impressed by your increased strength and work capacity!
I like the program a lot.

Snatch/Press/Squat is probably one of my favorite movements ever. It just feels powerful and complete. Whenever I consider stepping away from ROTK, it's usually the thought of not doing this that causes me to stick around.

LCCJ gets more fun the more I do it; it's such an interesting lift in that it feels a lot like work. I don't know if graceful is the word, exactly, but there's a cool flow that you get in to with the clean and the first and second jumps.

Also, after a challenging Heavy Day, I find that I enter in to this extreme mellow, meditative state where I feel almost high. "Muscle Joy."

I recently moved out of a mountain home and this involved hauling a house full of heavy stuff to a moving van almost entirely by myself. It was 120 steps round trip to the truck and many trips involved carrying a treadmill, bike, many kettlebells, loads of books, kitchen stuff, etc.

I was really pleased with how up to the task the program seems to have made me. The regular cardiovascular work was important, too, but there's something great about being strong enough that carrying heavy stuff isn't a max-effort blowout.

I started the program at about 180 and now weigh between 218 and 220. Some of that is definitely fat as I haven't quite figured out eating enough without exceeding my needs, but it isn't anything dramatic. Recently I have been dialing food intake back a little bit to see how lean I can get while still progressing on this program.

Even now, though, this weight isn't weighing me down. I don't feel heavy or sluggish.

Medium shirts are becoming less viable for sure, unless they're from an athletic brand, and the back and shoulders are much wider.

I didn't really expect much muscle growth just starting out as I remembered reading years ago that, although 2x32kg is great, 2x40kg is when the weight really starts to trigger growth, but there has definitely been some.

The main thing that keeps me on this program though is how fun it is. The alternating blocks keep things fresh and every Heavy Days feels special because you only get two chances to progress before you're back on to the other lift.

It might be worth noting that my lifestyle is very conducive to maximizing my potential for recovery. I make my own schedule, work from home, and am able to prioritize sleep. I don't stress and, when I do, I can feel my recovery going down the drain. I am able to practice additional recovery activities that seem to help quite a bit. I don't do things that interfere with my lifting schedule.

I also have the luxury of being able to add in the other physical activities that are interesting to me and then dial them back as needed if I start feeling run down or whatever.

I add this because I have found that the difference in my lifting life when I have these things dialed in vs. when I allow things to slide a little bit is really night and day.
 

Tom Flint

Level 6 Valued Member
“Muscle Joy” - I love it! And I believe I know exactly what you mean.

Sounds like it’s a program that really suits you, and you’ve given it a really good run, too. I did a double take when I saw “ballistic block 14”! If that’s not long enough to know a program inside out, I don’t know what is.

I find the double snatch problematic (double 24s are pushing it but double 32s are my ‘meat and potatoes’ press weight) but I’m right with you on your affection for pressing and squatting, and of course the LCCJ - one of my very favourite movements. You’re right about it feeling like work - in a good way.

Also sounds like you’ve gained muscle in precisely the right places if your back and shoulders are wider!

Will you keep at it for the time being?

Lastly, I just want to commend you on your style of writing; your philosophical approach to training really shines through.
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
“Muscle Joy” - I love it! And I believe I know exactly what you mean.

Sounds like it’s a program that really suits you, and you’ve given it a really good run, too. I did a double take when I saw “ballistic block 14”! If that’s not long enough to know a program inside out, I don’t know what is.

I find the double snatch problematic (double 24s are pushing it but double 32s are my ‘meat and potatoes’ press weight) but I’m right with you on your affection for pressing and squatting, and of course the LCCJ - one of my very favourite movements. You’re right about it feeling like work - in a good way.

Also sounds like you’ve gained muscle in precisely the right places if your back and shoulders are wider!

Will you keep at it for the time being?

Lastly, I just want to commend you on your style of writing; your philosophical approach to training really shines through.
At the end of this week it will be 56 weeks total on ROTK. One of those weeks was a wash because of moving but, other than that, it has been consistent.

It's interesting how varied the reactions to double snatches are.

I really can't think of any reason to stop doing ROTK. It's a lot of fun and I'm still making progress and am able to do it along with the other things I like to do. Life doesn't quite feel complete without high volume overhead pressing. Plus I'd really like to achieve the goals of the program at the least and, once I do that, I'm almost certainly going to be curious about how much further it can be taken beyond that. I'm already thinking about LCCJ with 2x40kg, double Beast presses, etc.

And thank you for your kind words about the writing; I definitely think about this stuff a lot!
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Ok so since I often refer to RTK as the dynamo big brother of the ROP, some principles apply to both and I think they will make your current bells still challenging..

Restart the program. Initially work on being able to to (1,2) unbroken...

Now apart from the density format, work on being able to do (1,2,3) unbroken ..

Then once you can do that and can no longer shave off time, then start working on being able to do 1,2,3,4 unbroken
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
@Steven Ravnstag your consistent long-term approach to ROTK has inspired me to start the program right now!

Grind block 1, light day 1 complete… Looking forward to the journey.
Smart of you to begin with the Light Day.

For whatever reason it took me many, many read-throughs or RTK to catch the part where Pavel says something about starting each new block light and working up to your previous heavy numbers. It's so obvious once you catch it...

Two things I have been experimenting with lately are really moving slower with the Dimel Deadlifts and doing 10reps of squats at the top of each ladder rather than 5.

I have found that, if I take my time with the Dimels, I can really start to feel some decent fatigue in the glutes and upper back whereas, if I allow myself to move even a little too fast, these end up feeling like nothing.

I'm also having success with allowing myself to bend at the knees/lower the hips a little more during each rep as I have a tendency to do the "waterbird" (I think that's what it's called) thing where there's too much folding at the hips relative to the knee.

The extra squat reps I'm trying out just for fun, based on the part where Donnie Thompson said that he'd do sets of 10 with 2x40kg and feel satisfied.

I tried laddering up squats along with presses rather than just doing 5reps at the top once and didn't love it. It felt a little bit like junk volume, I guess, front squatting relatively light weights for sets of 1,2,3. It was distracting form the Snatch/Press ladder without adding much of significance to the squat.

Doing 5reps just at the top of each ladder as written= makes more sense than laddering squats, but I'm interested to see what happens when I up those reps to 10 at the top of each ladder.

I tend to crave heavier barbell work for the lower body while on this program and, although I have found that I can get away with a little bit of it (at least at this stage), both my mind and my body recognize that this isn't the smartest thing to do. Upping the front squat reps for a trial period seems like a decent compromise between the ultimate wisdom of sticking to the program as written (why make life this simple and easy!) and the obviously stupid attempt to add in any heavy barbell work.

Please feel free to share your experiences with the program as you go along. I have run into some issues here and there and overcome most of them and would be more than happy to relate any potentially useful experiences.
 

Steven Ravnstag

Level 3 Valued Member
Ok so since I often refer to RTK as the dynamo big brother of the ROP, some principles apply to both and I think they will make your current bells still challenging..

Restart the program. Initially work on being able to to (1,2) unbroken...

Now apart from the density format, work on being able to do (1,2,3) unbroken ..

Then once you can do that and can no longer shave off time, then start working on being able to do 1,2,3,4 unbroken
This sounds awful, almost like turning the Grind Block into a Ballistic Block kind of discomfort :)

So, you'd snatch and press once, then drop the bells between the legs, snatch again, then press twice?
 
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