Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water: Have we taken AGT too far?

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by CMarker, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. CMarker

    CMarker Double-Digit Post Count Senior Instructor

    There are many reasons we want to stay out of glycolysis:
    1. It can lead to acidosis (too much hydrogen ions) that affects the signals from our neurons.
    2. Acidosis inhibits ATPase, which is needed to create ATP from creatine phosphate. We need that ATP for contraction and relaxation.
    3. Acidosis blocks muscle contraction by affecting tropomyosin.
    4. Acidosis affects calcium from being reabsorbed (so our muscles can't relax as fast).
    5. Large amounts of acidosis damages mitochondria.
    6. By using the aerobic system more, we become better at burning fat for fuel. We also shrink the glycolytic window (how much you need to be in glycolysis). Using the AGT style protocols builds a better aerobic base.

    Thus, it seems that AGT training is on the right track. For the most part, our aerobic system can clean up the messy parts of the glycolytic system (uses the by-products of the glycolytic system to create ATP). The key is we need enough rest. If we don't get enough rest, then our body starts getting acidic as the aerobic system can't keep up.

    As I read the awesome discussions, I see almost an aversion to going into glycolysis. There are great discussions about using the talk test and staying below the Maffetone number. I wonder whether there is a more nuanced view? There benefits to being slightly acidic and using the glycolytic system (e.g., it gets rid of less than optimal mitochondria, it can lead to hypertrophy). If we push into glycolysis and recover, then we can enjoy the benefits of the glycolytic system without the side effects.

    In the below graph, we see how different training affects lactate, which we can use as a proxy for acidosis (too much H+ accumulation). (above 4 is getting a bit acidic in most people). In the top line, sixty seconds of work pushes into glycolysis and the 120 seconds of rest is not enough to stop the accumulation. The second work to rest interval of 30 seconds of work and 60 seconds of rest is slightly acidic, but does not get too far out of control. The bottom line shows much of what we want to accomplish with AGT work. We do short amounts of work with enough rest to do it again.

    About two years ago, we experimented with a protocol that included about 30 seconds of heavy swings (think 25 swings with a 48kg for a male). There was then a 10 minute rest period (maybe 4 to 5 sets). During the 'rest' we did a Plan Strong styled press program of a few sets of presses. People on this style of plan experienced a great deal of hypertrophy and fat loss (they were also frustrated with me with the super long rest intervals). By pushing into the glycolytic zone a bit more, but not staying there a long time, people benefitted from the effects of a little bit of acidosis, but did not have the long-term problems with too much.

    My main point in writing this was that we don't have to be too afraid if we go over the Maffetone number or can't do the talk test after every set. We can create cycles of training where we are strict on our Maffetone number and other cycles where we touch into glycolysis and then back out. Furthermore, our peaking programs likely need to be glycolytic in nature to prep us for events (but a peaking cycle should be quite short and only once in a great while)

    I am likely going to use this as a start to an article (so feedback is appreciated). We also cover this topic in Strong Endurance and All-Terrain Conditioning seminars.
  2. CMarker

    CMarker Double-Digit Post Count Senior Instructor

    By the way, I get quite a few emails with people asking about research protocols. You can certainly email me (, but we also have this centralized form you can use as well:
    Research Protocol Request
  3. Brett Jones

    Brett Jones StrongFirst Director of Education Staff Member Master Instructor

    Excellent - Thank you Craig
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  4. offwidth

    offwidth More than 5000 posts

    Extremely well put Craig, and from my perspective right on the money.
    I have taken basically this approach for quite a few years now. Training for one or two big events per year. Of course now I have some science from the good work you and others have been doing to support my doings. This has been mostly the approach that House, Johnson, Twight, and others have been training Alpinists with.
    Thanks again.
    CMarker likes this.
  5. Sean M

    Sean M Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Fascinating how the 1:2 work/rest ratio has such varied effects, hinging on the work period duration. So it would seem the rest needs to be an ever increasing multiple of the work duration as the duration increases. Fascinating tidbit about the “on the 10:00” swing and press protocol.

    So it really comes down to recovery ability. Glycolytic isn’t harmful per se (indeed, useful in proper dose), but spending a lot of training time there without adequate recovery, is where you see the accumulated negative effects?

    Looking forward to the full article! And a book on AGT would be awesome too (y)
    Ryan T and CMarker like this.
  6. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    This is a very fascinating article Craig. Please let me know if I am understanding this and coming to proper reasoning...

    30 on : 60 off looks "slightly acidic" (lactic threshold??) - this could be considered good training for "peaking" phases
    10 on : 20 off is "low acidity (aerobic metabolism??) - better for "majority of training time" to limit mitochondrial damage?

    It'd be interesting also to see results on this for 10/20/30 seconds of work, but with other (eg 3:1 or 4:1) rest intervals. Am I also correct in the assumption that most strength-oriented plans, no matter what, are going to use a rest interval that allows complete CP restoration?

    PS posts and discussions like this are why I love this forum
    King Cobra Fit likes this.
  7. CMarker

    CMarker Double-Digit Post Count Senior Instructor

    Generally, correct. It becomes a bit more complicated as we need to consider intensity of the work involved. We can shorten rest if our intensity is reduced.
    The fun part is changing the work time, intensity, and rest. It is fun to get into all the details.
    Strength training rest over 3 to 4 minutes restores a good amount of CP. It takes about 8 minutes to get almost completely restored. It is a logarithmic curve with CP recovery coming quickly and then slowing down (the below figure is from mice). Playing with rest in strength training tends to affect GH and testosterone release, but that is a whole different topic.
    wespom9 likes this.
  8. Al Ciampa

    Al Ciampa Quadruple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    Good stuff, Craig. It's the nature of the beast with forums that the original message changes: AGT/A+A was never supposed to completely avoid anaerobic glycolysis; in fact, as you state, you should lightly dip into it regularly, but save the heavy work for a short peak before whatever floats your boat.

    While the graph is instructive, it is reporting data from elite runners running at a percentage of VO2max on a treadmill. Us mortals, especially as applied to KB ballistics, probably need far less work (in the longer cases) and far more recovery to see the same effects.
  9. Oscar

    Oscar Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Really interesting, thanks for sharing.

    About this, a while back I asked the following in another thread: If we are are doing AGT on a regular basis, S&S in my case, how well does the body respond to a more glycolitic program for 6 or 12 weeks? Afterwards, get some rest and return to AGT+LSS. In particular, I was asking about doing one of Geoff Neupert programs that usually last 6-12 weeks.
  10. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I have been mixing in something somewhat similar. I often train in small mini-sessions throughout my work day. One variation I use is longer sets of snatches with one hand switch (mostly between 10L/10R and 20L/20R). I use 24kg because I have one in my office and I don't need to use chalk with it. I might rest anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour between sets and accumulate anywhere between 80 and 200 total reps in a day.

    I've also tried stretching out my A+A snatch sets to 10 reps (not as strictly A+A at this set length), with expanded rest times compared to sets of 5 snatches or 10 swings.

    After doing a lot of more strict A+A training with shorter sets, I've come to think that one of the features of S&S is that it is NOT so strictly anti-glycolytic, as the set length approaches 20 seconds (from park to park), and it includes periodic testing with short rests, as well as continuous set sessions.

    I also much prefer the nomenclature of A+A compared to AGT. I would rather define the training by the energy systems that are the focus, rather than on trying to avoid something or being "against" something.

    To me, the common thread of this kind of training is the emphasis on longer recovery intervals. That's what makes it more sustainable over time, while facilitating a higher total volume. Having "permission" to recover sufficiently (or more than sufficiently) between sets also greatly reduces the MENTAL stress of the training, which I believe can be a significant part of the recovery demand. But within the long rest framework, load and set length can be manipulated in a variety of ways.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
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  11. Bill Been

    Bill Been More than 500 posts

    Make sure you cite sources for all the enumerated claims.
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  12. Kyle Kowalczuk

    Kyle Kowalczuk Triple-Digit Post Count

    Hey Craig,

    I just completed my second TSC last weekend. I have become hooked on performing well in the TSC and hope to go Elite once my goals are reached for my personal numbers and ranking. Since the fall TSC I have really embraced the ATG type training in an attempt to improve my weakest event, the snatch test. I was able to do so through this type of training and also applied it to the pull up event with the Grease the Groove protocol.

    I actually got 1 less pull up this time around (29). I believe this to be because I didn't use higher rep schemes in my training this cycle which would promote some glycolysis. This is the point of my post. The fact that you stated that sometimes dipping into that lactic acid type pump can be useful. Now my 1rm and 3rm weighted pull up have improved but because of the endurance effect of the amount of reps I am doing, it simply didn't help. I believe there to be a "sweet spot" for everyone based on the exercise and capacity.

    I also found that using hypertrophy type rep ranges and loads for the legs has helped upper body strength. Specifically the press (beastamer is one of my new goals). I believe this to be due to the fact that higher pump producing rep ranges for the legs can increase growth hormone production which the upper body can feed off of.

    Thank you for your post.
  13. Mark Limbaga

    Mark Limbaga Quadruple-Digit Post Count Elite Certified Instructor

    What were your results so far? I find this approach works better for some in building endurance for a snatch test as they need to be able to manage the accumulated fatigue better
  14. dcc449

    dcc449 Triple-Digit Post Count

    I think I saw you post this before, and think its a very interesting concept.

    Not to derail the thread, but two questions if you don't mind. Do you do this on top of all other training (i.e. both strength and endurance), or does it replace pieces of what you'd otherwise do? And, what training effect do you think it promotes? Assuming its similar to GTG (so neural development to foster increased strength) but perhaps given the above discussion there is a meaningful A+A type conditioning benefit as well?

    Again, I love the idea and am thinking about incorporating it myself...I'm just not sure why I'd do it...besides that I simply enjoy doing GTG-type stuff and think more moving around throughout the day is generally better than not.
  15. kenaces

    kenaces Triple-Digit Post Count

    Interesting stuff - Thanks

    Since I have been reading about this here in the forums and the SF blog I have been doing my own version of AGT - Strength training with KB/bodyweight while just working through sets slowly to allow for lots of recover + walking and easy cycling.

    Recently I have added climbing the stairs in my building for a few rounds 1-2 days a week with the idea that I will be better prepared for some hiking trips this summer(I live in FL so no hills to walk/ride). I have played around with 2 different methods:
    1) take the stair very slowly so that I keep HR below my MAF HR(one trip take ~4 minute up) and just build up # of trips
    2) take the stairs at slightly quicker pace where I get over MAF HR for the last minute or so(one trip takes ~3m) and then walk around the block for ~10m and add repeats?

    I like the idea of doing #2 and adding pack weight as I improve my fitness. This seems to be inline with what you are suggesting in your post above - right?

    Pros/Cons, thoughts, advice?
  16. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Yes. When I have trained for a snatch test, stretching out the set length (and building grip endurance), being able to tolerate the burn and get comfortable with the suck are very necessary, and being too paranoid about glycolysis will not get the job done. I guess more strict A+A to lay a base and a short peaking program could work (and has worked, according to @Anna C and @aciampa), but I've never tried it that way. I find that it takes me time build the length of sustained efforts with specific training over time.

    My training goals are mostly non-specific. My two biggest training goals are actually: 1) to consistently engage in the practice of training and 2) to enjoy doing it. More extended sets with long rests in between help with achieving both. It fits into my daily schedule and I do enjoy it.

    However, even though I don't have much in the way of specific performance goals, my main competitive recreational activity is playing basketball, so I use how I feel while playing and how I recover from playing as a subjective measuring stick for my training. The not so strictly A+A training seems (subjectively) to help me be comfortable with sustained high intensity efforts on the court, but it's much less stressful than HIIT type training, has a lower recovery cost, and fits much better into my day.

    My working hypothesis is that it is worthwhile to have some variety in set length, and consequently the contribution of the different energy systems, and that very generous recovery intervals facilitate this with the lowest possible recovery cost. But the practicality of it, given my main two goals stated above is the biggest reason I am doing it.

    I try to include some variety. Workday training is short bites during breaks. That's where I've been doing most of the longer continuous snatch sets I described in my previous post. I will also often mix in a few sets of double front squats or a DCl & DFSQ ladder set (without putting the bells down, 1 DCl/1 DFSQ; 2 DCl/2 DFSQ, etc, up to 3, 4, or 5), or have days where all my sets for the day are those drills.

    Some days I will do blocks of shorter sets, such as 4 sets of 5 snatches or 4 sets of 10 heavier swings more or less on the minute.

    Weekends I will often do longer sessions of short sets (more strictly A+A) with swings, snatches, or double cleans.

    On weekends and evenings at home, I will also do low intensity aerobic sessions on the NordicTrack skier, and sessions of clubbell and mace swinging.

    I supplement with some occasional pressing, OS stuff, and other pet mobility/prehab/rehab drills, random ab work, and so forth.

    I play full court basketball (with and against mainly high school and college kids) for a few hours about once a week, which is all my arthritic ankles and knees can take (I'm 53 years old, and when I say "arthritic" I mean I am under doctors orders not to play basketball and to avoid running or jumping for any purpose).

    It might sound like a lot, but it's mostly in small bites, and at a low level of perceived effort (except the basketball), I don't do nearly everything I described every day, and the longer sessions are while watching sporting events on televison, so it doesn't FEEL like that much. I try to focus on doing something rather than nothing, and I'm not as concerned with exactly what that something is.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
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  17. Augustus F-N

    Augustus F-N Triple-Digit Post Count

    Completely agree that going glycolytic has its place.

    My mantra is, repeat hard, train easy - and apply that to both glycolytic and anti-glycoytic work. Whether I'm doing A+A repeats or more standard HIIT, I want the repeats to be hard - hard in A+A because I'm using high power on each rep, and hard in Hiit because each repeat is longer, lung busting, and burning, even if I'm using less power. But each type of session as a whole, I try, is no harder than the other - both are a 6 or maybe 7 out of ten taxing, and I could do both again the next day if I wanted.

    If glycolysis has its place, do people find it most effective to use a glycolytic specific peaking cycle, or to use it sparingly within a cycle which otherwise avoids it (say, once per week as in the S&S continuous swings)?
  18. PatrickW

    PatrickW Triple-Digit Post Count

    So basically most of the year doing S&S ensuring enough rest between swings to almost completely recover most days and once a week pushing the pace by either trying 100 swings in 5 minutes or doing the continuous swing test. Then once or twice a year using a peaking program for an event?
  19. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    It probably depends... What are you peaking for? Are you working on health or fitness?
  20. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    First let me say that I have read all of the AGT articles, I appreciate the research that went into them, and they have had an impact on my training. However, I don't "worry" about whether or not I am in the aerobic zone or glycolitic zone. I don't have the patience to monitor my heartrate. My wife is the opposite - she actually had a blood lactate test done and trained with a heartrate monitor and all that. Maybe I'm lazy, but when I train I want some element of fun. For me it's simple. I do strength work, conditioning work which includes prowler pushing and kettlebells, and "cardio" which is running or riding my bike. As far as I'm concerned, if I'm running or riding my bike I am "aerobic." I have no doubt that there are times during a run or bike ride where I likely pop into the glycolitic zone, but I don't worry about it.
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