Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why do antiglycolytic training? - Part 1

Marlena (she runs faster than you) doing walking swings as part of her AGT work to supplement her track workouts. photo credit:

Randy wants me to write a blog post about the biochemical reasons why AGT works. Before I get there, I want to look at it from a higher level. We don't need to worry about the tiny details of biochemistry to know why this works.

Biological systems are antifragile. Taleb's definition of antifragile is a system that gains from disorder. I like to use variability rather than disorder, but really it's all the same.

We have a gut feeling for biology being antifragile when we talk about strength training. We all know (I hope) that you get stronger by lifting some weight. You need to apply a stress to your body and it responds by becoming stronger to handle that stress. We also know that you should not make a first-time gym goer squat 600 lbs. That's too much of a stress which will break them.

Under the effect of a slight stress our bodies grow stronger to handle the stress.

We also have a gut feeling that this works with other activities, like running. You wouldn't go from the couch to a marathon in a day. You know that you need to slowly increase the mileage until your body can handle the distance.

How does antiglycolytic training take advantage of the antifragility of the human body to make you stronger?

Most people think that you need to damage your body and have it rebuild stronger. That's wrong; you need a stress that triggers your body to prepare for the next time it sees that stress.  In the context of strength training, you just need to lift some weight that you find hard and the next time you'll come in stronger.

Side note: yesterday was 1RM squat day. Kevin has been chasing a 300lb squat for as long as I've known him (6 years? or more?). He came in yesterday, didn't bother with a warm up and just did 6 singles and finished at 300lbs. Neither of us realized that it was a PR attempt until he was done. It looked like an 80% effort. Why? This last year he's been squatting 2-3 times a week, but never really going over 70-80% (of his old PR). The constant stress was enough to create the muscle growth needed for an easy test day.

Back on topic. With antiglycolitc training, our goal is the same. We want to stimulate the body to deal with the stresses of creating energy, but we don't need to (or really want to) damage the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in the process.

When we go at low intensity (approximately a heart rate less than 180 minus your age), you are burning fuel so slowly that byproducts don't get a chance to build up. This is treating your body like a low-emissions vehicle running lean.

When we go a high intensity we do it for such a short time that the waste products are buffered. The goal is to actually deplete our fuel fast and then stop before waste products are even formed. (Running rich but not long enough to clog your catalytic converter - for the car nerds.)

Both of those stresses are enough to tell your body to make more and better mitochondria. That way you can generate even more power next time. Increase your 100% and use less of it to go faster.

However when you are in that glycolytic metcon workout, you are going so hard that you're taxing your mitochondria (good), but the waste products are building up (feel the burn) and damaging your cells at the same time. You're bathing your cells in acid - literally!

There are some benefits to the glycolytic stress, but you need to do those workouts sparingly because the damage can easily outweigh the benefits.

In the end it all comes down to the dynamics of the biochemical reactions:

Low-and-slow: Waste products are created much slower than they can be disposed of so they never build up. This stress tells your body to build more energy capacity.

Short-and-fast: Waste products are created quickly, but the duration is short so not much waste is made so nothing builds up. This stress tells your body to build more power capacity.

Longer-but-hard: Waste products build up much faster than they can be disposed of so they hang out in the cell for a long time causing damage. This stress tells your body to deal with the waste products but doesn't actually make you stronger or faster. You're wasting your resources here.


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


press 8-5-3x5


2 TGUs between sets

Group Workout

6 rounds:
4L, 4R Kettlebell 50/50 push press at a challenging weight 


8 rounds:
1:00 double kettlebell rack hold
0:30 rest


2 x 20 partial PVC pullover


Sign up for classes

Strength Metrics

Get Xero Shoes