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Kettlebell S&S Recovery Question

Ap0c

Level 1 Valued Member
Hello! I have been lurking in this forum for quite a while and read many helpful threads. I've finally worked up the courage to ask my own question.

I've been following S&S mostly consistently for quite a while (two years), and would like to reach timed simple before moving to something more advanced...or so I think. I believe that my main issue in achieving this goal has been patience and understanding of recovery (which both stem from not getting the right help). I would like to know what to look for that indicates that I am fully recovered from the previous session, e.g. soreness levels or other subjective feelings to look out for. Ideally I would have a checklist that I can look at, but I understand life is rarely that simple.

For a little more context, I feel that I can safely swing/TGU with a 20kg bell most days of the week. I have tweaked my back a couple times with the 24kg, and this is why I've spent so long working at this goal. I think what happens is that I begin introducing the 24kg bell and attempt to stick too rigidly to a schedule such as "3 on 1 off, add a 4kg heavier set every 10-12 workouts," thinking that I can push through a mild amount of soreness. When this soreness is in my hips and hamstrings, I think this leads to a dysfunctional hip hinge and then a tweaked back, at which I point I go visit the doctor and start over at square 0. I think if I implement more active feedback in my scheduling, i.e. better self-assessment of recovery, that I can overcome this silly injury cycle.

I also practice martial arts 2-3 days/week (mostly escrima lately). These practices can vary in physical intensity, all the way from practically receiving a lecture to acid bath conditioning circuits/sparring, so they are a little hard to plan around. Lately I've decided that trying to do S&S and these practices in the same day is not worth the potential risk.

So, in fewer words, I am basically wondering how to better assess my recovery so that I can know when to add weight, stay the same, or take a rest day. How much soreness is too much? How much fatigue is normal? etc.

Thanks for any help/insight, and let me know if there's anything more you need from me.
 

IMayAgainKnowChris

Level 5 Valued Member
Hello! I have been lurking in this forum for quite a while and read many helpful threads. I've finally worked up the courage to ask my own question.

I've been following S&S mostly consistently for quite a while (two years), and would like to reach timed simple before moving to something more advanced...or so I think. I believe that my main issue in achieving this goal has been patience and understanding of recovery (which both stem from not getting the right help). I would like to know what to look for that indicates that I am fully recovered from the previous session, e.g. soreness levels or other subjective feelings to look out for. Ideally I would have a checklist that I can look at, but I understand life is rarely that simple.

For a little more context, I feel that I can safely swing/TGU with a 20kg bell most days of the week. I have tweaked my back a couple times with the 24kg, and this is why I've spent so long working at this goal. I think what happens is that I begin introducing the 24kg bell and attempt to stick too rigidly to a schedule such as "3 on 1 off, add a 4kg heavier set every 10-12 workouts," thinking that I can push through a mild amount of soreness. When this soreness is in my hips and hamstrings, I think this leads to a dysfunctional hip hinge and then a tweaked back, at which I point I go visit the doctor and start over at square 0. I think if I implement more active feedback in my scheduling, i.e. better self-assessment of recovery, that I can overcome this silly injury cycle.

I also practice martial arts 2-3 days/week (mostly escrima lately). These practices can vary in physical intensity, all the way from practically receiving a lecture to acid bath conditioning circuits/sparring, so they are a little hard to plan around. Lately I've decided that trying to do S&S and these practices in the same day is not worth the potential risk.

So, in fewer words, I am basically wondering how to better assess my recovery so that I can know when to add weight, stay the same, or take a rest day. How much soreness is too much? How much fatigue is normal? etc.

Thanks for any help/insight, and let me know if there's anything more you need from me.My questions would be if you’re eating enough and resting enough and how your general stress levels are? I feel like those three things affect my recovery more than the training itself.
My questions would be if you’re eating enough (getting enough protein first off but also enough of an energy source in carbs or fat... whatever tickles your fancy), sleeping enough and how your general stress levels are. I feel like those had more of an impact on my recovery than the training being difficult (up to a certain point) if that makes sense.

Re read your question again and realized I didn’t really answer it... for me when I went from the 16 to the 24 it was basically when the 16 felt super easy and I was hitting in the “timed simple” time frame consistently. That doesn’t mean you can’t up the weight before hand though.

I guess I don’t really have an answer other than push yourself but trust your gut. Sorry.
 
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Papa Georgio

Level 6 Valued Member
Hello! I have been lurking in this forum for quite a while and read many helpful threads. I've finally worked up the courage to ask my own question.

I've been following S&S mostly consistently for quite a while (two years), and would like to reach timed simple before moving to something more advanced...or so I think. I believe that my main issue in achieving this goal has been patience and understanding of recovery (which both stem from not getting the right help). I would like to know what to look for that indicates that I am fully recovered from the previous session, e.g. soreness levels or other subjective feelings to look out for. Ideally I would have a checklist that I can look at, but I understand life is rarely that simple.

For a little more context, I feel that I can safely swing/TGU with a 20kg bell most days of the week. I have tweaked my back a couple times with the 24kg, and this is why I've spent so long working at this goal. I think what happens is that I begin introducing the 24kg bell and attempt to stick too rigidly to a schedule such as "3 on 1 off, add a 4kg heavier set every 10-12 workouts," thinking that I can push through a mild amount of soreness. When this soreness is in my hips and hamstrings, I think this leads to a dysfunctional hip hinge and then a tweaked back, at which I point I go visit the doctor and start over at square 0. I think if I implement more active feedback in my scheduling, i.e. better self-assessment of recovery, that I can overcome this silly injury cycle.

I also practice martial arts 2-3 days/week (mostly escrima lately). These practices can vary in physical intensity, all the way from practically receiving a lecture to acid bath conditioning circuits/sparring, so they are a little hard to plan around. Lately I've decided that trying to do S&S and these practices in the same day is not worth the potential risk.

So, in fewer words, I am basically wondering how to better assess my recovery so that I can know when to add weight, stay the same, or take a rest day. How much soreness is too much? How much fatigue is normal? etc.

Thanks for any help/insight, and let me know if there's anything more you need from me.
I'd start by getting your form checked. Get with an instructor or upload videos. If you you keep tweeking yourself with bad form, no recovery is going to fix that.

When you get that fixed, go 3 days a week. Then try to add more days slowly over time. When workouts seem to get too hard, or you feel a little weaker, then back off. Pain is not part of the equation. It's normal to feel a little tight, and there can be some soreness if you try to progress too fast, but pain is bad.

Good Luck
 

acutaiar12

Level 6 Valued Member
For recovery, sleep is priority #1. Nothing else will matter if you aren’t sleeping properly.

Second is food. Sufficient protein for recovery and carbs/fat for energy. Eat for performance!

Third would be managing stress levels: meditation, mindfulness, etc. Sometimes, because of life, it’s hard to control our stress levels but it’s amazing the toll chronic stress places on you. Your body can’t recover from the stress of daily swings and get ups if it’s constantly bombarded with other stressors, whether physical, mental, or emotional.

Those are the most important in my opinion in terms of recovery. If those are taken care of then there are some additional things to add if you want/have the time:
•saunas
•cold showers
•hot/cold contrast
•massage
•inversion
•walking

Increasing your work capacity with 1-2 days of LISS cardio may help your recovery over time. Also having sufficient flexibility and joint mobility will aid in your recovery from day to day.

I also agree that you should get your technique looked at back a certified instructor. How will your body recovers will not matter if you tweak your back due to improper technique.

I hope this helps in some way.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I agree with all the answers so far.

Also, try taking 3 days off. If your next session after the rest feels way different from that you are used to, like, "WOW, I feel fresh and powerful!" then you should take more recovery so that you are closer to that feeling more often. In the long run, your training is more effective if you are able to bring that "you" to your training sessions.
 

Adachi

Level 6 Valued Member
when to add weight, stay the same, or take a rest day. How much soreness is too much? How much fatigue is normal? etc.
I had three things that would routinely come to mind when I would think about gauging my progression to the next step load.

1. Energy levels.
I didn't ignore my energy levels but I gave it the least deference.
When I was feeling sluggish and stretching out my rest periods I would take that as I sign that I may not own my current step load.
When I was bursting with energy and quickly returning to the bell for the next set, I would take that as I sign that I was making progress towards the next step.

2. Soreness.
I definitely took a day off or two when I was feeling sore all over.
This happened the most when I was transitioning from the 16kg to the 24kg.
But as time went on, I was better managing my rest periods and I experienced very few days after the 24kg bell that I needed to take off for soreness' sake.
But I think of excessive (whole body) soreness as a sign that taking more time for recovery might be good.

3. Form
When I would film myself, I always strived for perfect form, but I rarely got 100 crisp effortless swings in a session.
And my sessions where all ten TGUs had sloth like movement and pauses were actually periodic, not daily.
I could tell when a vast majority of those reps looked and felt effortless, it was probably time to move on.
I experienced this in my second full month training all 10 sets with the 24kg bell. The reps became effortless. I could do the sets with perfect form at the drop of a hat
My 32kg bell was very late to arrive so I had lots of time to practice with the 24kg bell.

But most of all. The moment I knew, was when I could sense that it was boring during the set.

Once I felt so bored and disinterested, that I was thinking (in the middle of a set) of which basket of laundry I should fold first, when I was finished. And, that's when I knew it was time to move up and move on.
 
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oab

Level 2 Valued Member
Lots of good information in the answers above but you will need to customize it to your own situation.

Part of your recovery will depend on the nature of your martial arts training. For example, if these were long exhausting sessions then you would need to reduce the overall load ie from martial arts and also S&S. One way would be to go for 3, or even 2, S&S sessions per week. This reduced frequency is often suggested for those training martial arts. It will likely slow progress on S&S (especially 2 sessions/week) but the balance between S&S and other physical activities is something that you will need to consider (ie it is your choice to decide).

Sleep is another one that can be overlooked. You need at least 8+ hours, every night.

Stress management via natural mental rest is also important. As I have previously mentioned in other posts, I prefer an approach involving relaxation of the body and mind so that the mind slows and stills. This approach dovetails really well with Strongfirst type training and\or martial arts that emphasize physical relaxation. Such people will find this component easy enough, however, learning how to let the relaxation spread to the mind, almost as if it happens by itself will let the mind settle down, slow and then become still. Afterwards, there is calm. A good regime is to practice this approach for 2-3x each of 10-15 minutes daily. This method was taught by the internationally recognised psychiatrist Dr Ainslie Meares' who I like to reference in credit.

You will need to consider all the recovery factors mentioned here (and in the other answers) and figure out which parameters need to be altered. Although, I would stick with the main ones ie amount and type of physical activity, stress reduction, nutrition, sleep etc before looking further.
 

acutaiar12

Level 6 Valued Member
Another tip I've got is to do the warm-up and then assess how you feel. Do you feel ready? Do you dread the session? Do you feel like you'd have to push through? Soreness itself is not the best indicator, I find.
If I ever feel like I’m dragging, I make myself do the warm-up mobility exercises no matter what. Usually, after the warm-up, I feel much better to tackle the swings and get ups. If I don’t, then at least I got some active recovery in for the next day.
 

Ap0c

Level 1 Valued Member
Really excellent thoughts, and I'm so happy how quickly they come in! I'll try to reply to the aggregate.

I'm 5'7", my weight has consistently stayed between 155 and 160 for the past year, and I'm relatively lean (I reckon 12-15% body fat, but I've never had it measured; I can see my abs clearly when I flex FWIW). I eat greater than 120g of protein per day, usually closer to 150, which I think is sufficient. Presumably at this level I don't need to gain substantial muscle mass to make progress, but it usually helps.

I think my sleep and stress levels currently need to be addressed. Fortunately my work stress will strongly diminish very soon, but one of the big problems lately has been sleep. Part of this is related to the immense work stress, but also I need to have a chat with my cat...

I'm definitely guilty of pushing through soreness and sluggishness. I think it's good to be able to do that to some extent, but maybe I can set a soft rule where if it persists more than 1 day or is more than a minor feeling (esp. after the warmup), no S&S, even though I'm always itching to practice more swings and getups.

Some more specific replies:

I agree with all the answers so far.

Also, try taking 3 days off. If your next session after the rest feels way different from that you are used to, like, "WOW, I feel fresh and powerful!" then you should take more recovery so that you are closer to that feeling more often. In the long run, your training is more effective if you are able to bring that "you" to your training sessions.

Funny enough, I had done this by circumstance in my last cycle and I was shocked by how much power I had in the swings after the multiday rest. Then there was a quiet voice in my mind telling me I should drop my frequency and feel that more often. Of course I didn't listen, but I think you're spot on here.


You can track your heart rate variability (HRV) daily. This is a quantitative metric that can supplement the physical, feel - oriented guidelines for levels of recovery. One uses a heart rate strap and app such as ithlete.

This is an interesting idea. I have a science background, so having something quantitative would really speak to me.

Overall, I think I need to be more comfortable taking advantage of the flexibility of the program, and actually vary the variables.

As far as getting my form checked, I'd like to make a video. Should I make a separate thread for that, or just put it here? I know ideally I would go see an SFG. I think I'll be in good position for that soon.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
As far as getting my form checked, I'd like to make a video. Should I make a separate thread for that, or just put it here? I know ideally I would go see an SFG. I think I'll be in good position for that soon.
Happy to take a look, and either on this thread or on a new thread is fine. If it's on this thread we have your history included for context, but a separate thread just looking at technique works too.

Time with an SFG will always be a great investment! Even if we give you some pointers here, it won't detract from the value of that when you get a chance to book some sessions.
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
You can upload the vids here and we'll give you feedback but as Anna mentioned, a session with an SFG either in person or virtual will speed up the learning process and lessen the risk of injuries for you
 

Paul R

Level 2 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
You might find the info in this podcast just released by Andrew Huberman interesting/helpful. At around 1:20:44 in he gives 3 ways to determine if you've recovered.
1. HRV as mentioned by Fraser.
2. Grip strength. If reduced then not recovered.
3. Carbon dioxide Tolerance Test. If reduced then not recovered.
All explained in the video.

Bonus:
At around 53:17 in this podcast he talks about a cold protocol I thought was fascinating. It involves cooling via palms of hands between sets to increase work capacity. Been trying it past couple of weeks and anecdotally, I do feel ready for another set faster than say doing fast and loose.

.
 

acutaiar12

Level 6 Valued Member
Last week, I re-read the chapter on breath mastery in S&S and I started incorporating it into my sessions.

After each set, I would try to take these slow, deep breaths (also trying to use intranasal breathing as much as possible).

If we’re discussing recovery between sets, this is a game changer!

To give you an example, before focusing on my breathing, my swings would take ~22-26 minutes while passing the talk test. Now that I focus on my breath, they take ~14-16 minutes! (The weight hasn’t changed eithe. Still 28kg)
 

Paul R

Level 2 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
If we’re discussing recovery between sets, this is a game changer!

To give you an example, before focusing on my breathing, my swings would take ~22-26 minutes while passing the talk test. Now that I focus on my breath, they take ~14-16 minutes! (The weight hasn’t changed eithe. Still 28kg)

If you're talking about the cooling protocol, yes it's recovery between sets.
I'd be interested in yours and anyone else's results as you have a good baseline to go off to check for improvement.

I was in my final weeks of an auto-regulated SLDL program and already pushing the limits of how many sets I could get in the 15 minutes. My numbers did go up using the cold, but part of me wonders if that's just the program working. Another anecdote, besides the faster recovery, was rep quality in the set following the cooling would feel as fresh and as strong as they were at the start of the session.
 

CMHoward

Level 5 Valued Member
At 59 years of age and over 40 years pushing and pulling iron here's what I've learned.
Pavel is way ahead of the curve with S&S 2.0 and Q&D.
I cant stress enough that for STRENGTH less is more.
Go as heavy as form allows, lower reps, adequate rest between sets.
S&S is just right for me at this point. I GTG weighted pull ups, but its always low rep. If I can do 5 reps, I up the weight.
I hit Sinister, but backed off to a 40 kg, do S&S 3 times per week timed (for the cardio benefits). I know I can go heavier, do more reps or movements, etc....but why?
Time is of the essence, bang for buck principle.
Heres a guide...if you can do S&S timed, 3 times per week for 2 solid weeks...you're ready to move up a kb.
Introduce the heavier kb, increase the rest period to 2-3 minutes between sets and very gradually decrease the rest period.
If you hit a snag...back off. You will never hurt your progress by taking a day or three off.
Listen to what your body is telling you, don't feel guilty about a rest day. It's a journey. It's not a competition...it's not about achievement...its you getting strong and maintaining that strength injury free.
 
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