In the beginning he was Christopher Bellew. By the time he was at college he had become Chris Bellew. Later, in the Bohemian crowd of San Francisco, he was called Kit Bellew. And in the end he was known by no other name than Smoke Bellew. And this history of the evolution of his name is the history of his evolution…
Not long ago, my father and I were having a typical father and son conversation, about rest periods between sets. He reminded me of Smoke Bellew, a classic story by one of our favorite writers, Jack London. The protagonist, a city slicker, tries “high intensity interval training” in the wild:
He fastened the straps to a ninety-five-pound sack of beans and started. At the end of a hundred yards he felt that he must collapse. He sat down and mopped his face. “Short hauls and short rests,” he muttered. “That’s the trick.”
Sometimes he did not make a hundred yards, and each time he struggled to his feet for another short haul the pack became undeniably heavier. He panted for breath, and the sweat streamed from him. Before he had covered a quarter of a mile he stripped off his woolen shirt and hung it on a tree. A little later he discarded his hat. At the end of half a mile he decided he was finished. He had never exerted himself so in his life, and he knew that he was finished. As he sat and panted, his gaze fell upon the big revolver and the heavy cartridge-belt.
Kit plodded along the trail with his Indian packers. In recognition of the fact that it was to be a long pack, straight to the top of Chilcoot, his own load was only eighty pounds. The Indians plodded under their loads, but it was a quicker gait than he had practiced. Yet he felt no apprehension, and by now had come to deem himself almost the equal of an Indian.
At the end of a quarter of a mile he desired to rest. But the Indians kept on. He stayed with them, and kept his place in the line. At the half mile he was convinced that he was incapable of another step, yet he gritted his teeth, kept his place, and at the end of the mile was amazed that he was still alive. Then, in some strange way, came the thing called second wind, and the next mile was almost easier than the first. The third mile nearly killed him, and, though half delirious with pain and fatigue, he never whimpered. And then, when he felt he must surely faint, came the rest. Instead of sitting in the straps, as was the custom of the white packers, the Indians slipped out of the shoulder – and head-straps and lay at ease, talking and smoking. A full half hour passed before they made another start. To Kit’s surprise he found himself a fresh man, and ‘long hauls and long rests’ became his newest motto.
Modern Russian sports science supports “long rests” for your conditioning.
Most coaches still base their endurance training on the XX century model of muscle cell energy supply. They train the power and the capacity of each of the three energy systems, alactic, glycolytic, and aerobic. Glycolytic capacity training or “HIIT”— the antithesis of “long rests” — is especially popular.
Revolutionary research by Prof. Victor Selouyanov teaches us that instead we should be focusing on building aerobic power plants — mitochondria — in our muscles. In slow twitch fibers, it can be done by building the fibers themselves. They grow with new mitochondria pre-installed at no extra charge. (I explained how in the Should You Train Your Slow Fibers? series of blogs.)
In intermediate and fast fibers, mitochondria are developed by pushing the fibers into light acidity (slight local fatigue), then backing off and recovering aerobically over and over. (Kettlebell Simple & Sinister does just that.)
If you let the “burn” in the muscle rise too high, you literally destroy the mitochondria, the very thing you tried to build. And, as new research suggests, being “acid” could lead to worse problems than that, in addition. Al Ciampa, SFG warns:
Deep and frequent glycolytic training, the brand so common in fitness training today, that leaves you lying on your back sucking wind in its wake, causes an accumulation of cellular damage that will express itself on a systemic level as daily lethargy, a lack of energy, and eventually, adrenal exhaustion/shutdown which begins a cascade of endocrine problems that your doctor will not likely figure out. Research suggests that frequent exposure to the free radicals and lactate produced by continued exercising above the cell’s ability to use oxygen (high-intensity anaerobic work) causes cellular organelle damage that accelerates aging and cause ill health. You can see this cluster of symptoms manifest in a typical high-intensity junkie who walks around like a zombie, is only “awake” when it is time to train, and is in and out of the doc’s office for unexplained health issues. Deep glycolytic training is a highly volatile form of rocket fuel that should only be minimally dosed by elite athletes preparing for an event that either grants them a million dollar paycheck, or an Olympic gold medal.
Russian science to the rescue.
Maximov, Selouyanov & Tabakov (2011) classify predominantly anaerobic work of different intensity as:
- Maximal power exercises (90-100% intensity contraction, <20sec duration)
- Nearmaximal power exercises (70-90% intensity contraction, 20-50sec duration)
- Submaximal power exercises (50-70% intensity contraction, 1-5min duration)
To counter the side effects of acidosis Prof. Selouyanov insists on plenty of rest between sets. A 1:2-6 work to rest ratio is recommended, but, unless you are very well conditioned aerobically, play it safe with 1:4-6.
And when it comes to the submaximal power zone notorious for its crazy acidity, the scientist demands unimaginable to many 10-30 minutes of rest! In addition, he warns against any all-out efforts 1-5 minutes in duration — except in competition. Not only do you burn up your mitochondria, but great psychological and endocrine stress in this zone quickly leads to overtraining.
In all zones the rest must be active — walk around and do “fast and loose” drills rather than plop on the deck and suck wind.
Applying Long Rests to TSC Training
Here is how the above “long rests” recommendations can be applied to the TSC five-minute snatch event with a 24kg kettlebell:
- On Monday, deadlift and then do 10-20 sets (sum of both arms) of 7-10 one-arm kettlebell swings with 40kg on the minute every minute.
- On Wednesday, snatch 32kg hard with your left arm for as many perfect reps as you can. Stop before your grip gives out or you compromise your explosiveness. Park the bell and rest for 4-6 times the duration of your set before matching the reps with your right. (E.g., you got 10 reps in 30 seconds with your left, so you rested for 2-3 minutes before hitting your right.) Repeat for 4-6 sets (sum of both arms).
- On Friday, go for full 5 minutes — with a 16kg. While maintaining our trademark explosiveness dial the effort of each rep down to 50%. And carefully maintain the pace you intend on using in competition. Do 2-3 sets in this manner with 10-30 minutes between them. As an option, do a time ladder of 4, 5, and 6 minutes.
Let “long rests” become your new motto.
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