Programming Available Online Now!
Sarah testing out an experimental kettlebell protocol

Sarah testing out an experimental kettlebell protocol

Did you read yesterday’s post about how Randy’s athletes did awesome in their competitions over the weekend?

Well, that’s because he’s a great coach with great programming.

What doesn’t make the blog are the tons of folks who don’t compete, but are now stronger, more fit and are more able to enjoy the active Colorado lifestyle.

All of the coaches here love to geek out on programming ideas and methods. Theory can only get you so far, so we the gym as our laboratory to test and develop great things.

We are starting to capture those great programs and now they’re available to the entire world - not just those lucky enough to live in Boulder.

Blake just created a series of Kettlebell Foundations to get you started on the basic movements. I’ve included some of my specialty programs that I’ve tested over the years. We have Randy’s Lord of The Lifts program that showed great success last weekend (and a bunch of PRs in the gym for folks who weren’t even competing in the event). And of course, we offer custom programs built just for you.

Our philosophy is simple programming that doesn’t beat you down. Basic movements. Time-tested loading and volume patterns. Smart anti-glycolytic training. You finish the workout feeling better than when you started!

Our Programming Library Is Now Available Here

We will be adding to this constantly as we test and refine some of our ideas. We have some great things planned! Everything in our library has been tested by real folks at the gym, so we know it works or it wouldn’t be there.

Michael Deskevich
Weekend Competition Update: Feb 16-17

Week End Highlights.

First off, our high school senior sports performance athlete and soon to be Washington Husky Marlena Preigh defended her 2018 Simplot Games 800 meter title by setting a new personal best time of 2:06.08, breaking the 14 year old meet record for that event by two tenths of a second. Over the course of this indoor season Marlena has whittled (chopped might be a better metaphor) about 10 seconds off her best indoor time from last year. Congratulations to Marlena and to her brilliant running coaches Ric and Nell Rojas of RISE athletics. 

Madeline Younkin took second place overall in the Lord of the Lifts Super Total Meet. We don't do a lot of real deadlifting for Olympic Weightlifting training, but Madeline pulled 160kg in the Powerlifting portion of the meet which was 10kg better than the closest competitor.

I really appreciate Madeline, Mandy, Bre and Emily for taking on the challenge of this (somewhat) novelty competition and having fun in the process. Special thanks to Aaron G. for making the trip down Saturday and managing warm ups while I ran around like an arthritic, senile chicken with its head cut off (typical for me.) Couldn't have pulled it off without his help and cool head.

Bre leads off for the team in the Weightlifting competition on day 1.

Bre leads off for the team in the Weightlifting competition on day 1.

Mandi, on the comeback and in a new weight class, went 2 for 3 in the snatches

Mandi, on the comeback and in a new weight class, went 2 for 3 in the snatches

Emily snatching.

Emily snatching.

Emily gets after it during the squat competition on day 2.

Emily gets after it during the squat competition on day 2.

Madeline with some nifty footwork to save this lift. (She didn't bail but the loader did!)

Madeline with some nifty footwork to save this lift. (She didn't bail but the loader did!)

Randy Hauer
Get a Grip

I ran across this article about grip strength a few weeks ago. It's an interesting piece. The gist of it is, grip strength has long been associated with robust health and that modern culture has contributed to not only our hand strength withering away, but actually altering the anatomy responsible for good hand strength. 

Our arboreal ancestors needed grip strength to swing through the trees to hunt, forage and evade predators. Infant apes can hang onto their mothers for extraordinary periods of time because to survive they have to: evolution has selected for high grip strength. Even human babies have excellent grip strength. 

One of my former athletes is a world class obstacle course racer. Her first year of racing she tore up the pro ranks because of her two superpowers: her grip strength/upper body strength (from rock climbing) and her elite distance running speed. If you fall off the monkey bars, or can't pull yourself over obstacles, you lose time and get penalties. 

I suspect, though I have only my own observations to back this up, is that a lack of grip inhibits other expressions of strength. An interesting test of this is the Rolling Thunder dead lift handle that Iron Mind sells.

What I've found is, that when you reach the limit of your grip strength on this tool, your legs won't work, even though they may be more than strong enough. It's a bizarre sensation. This is why, I believe, that straps allow you to lift a heavier barbell than with a basic overhand grip: the grip is taken out of the feedback loop. If your nervous system senses the grip isn't up to the task, it will inhibit the effort.

I used to say that improved grip strength is free improved strength everywhere.Those 1RM deadlift tests where you reach your limit and the bar stays glued to the floor? Next time that happens, grab a pair of straps and see if it comes up. My bet is it is your grip holding you back.

Training your grip won't necessarily improve your health. It's only associated with good health but is not causative. However, training your grip might improve the quality of your everyday life and it might improve your overall strength.

Randy Hauer
The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - Muscle Fibers and Energy System Training

[This is part 11 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

I’m still thinking about ways to illustrate how the A+A protocol really does train all three energy systems without over training and causing a huge glycolytic acid load that your body has to recover from.

I have another thought based on where you spend most of your time training and the effects of that training on your body.

Above I have drew some probability distributions of where different kinds of athletes may spend their tie. The blue line is your typical low-and-slow endurance athlete. Someone who runs or bikes everyday and only does that kind of training. Some days they may go harder, some days they may go easier, but just about every day they are solidly working aerobically only.

The orange line is your typical CrossFitter or other HIIT folks (including all the fancy new studios that are showing up on the 29th street mall - they’re all the same). This kind of athlete does the typical 7-20 minute heavy and fast almost purely glycolytic work every day.

The green line is where the training would fall for a full well-rounded athlete who does the A+A protocol. They would spend their outside-the-gym time doing nice low-and-slow hikes and rucks. Even MAF running would could here. And then they spend a very small amount of time extending into the high power, high intensity work. This would be the A+A Swings, Snatches, or even some grinds and heavy complexes - basically our daily programming.

Now, let’s look what the training effect is on each of the energy systems. Remember, you don’t get to pick what muscle fibers are used. Your body always starts recruiting muscle fibers from the slowest, low-power, aerobic fibers up to the fastest, high-power, alactic fibers. That means, that no matter what you do the most aerobic fibers are always involved - they may not contribute much of the total strength and power output, but they’re always there and getting trained - this is why folks like CrossFit insist that HIIT trains your aerobic output but aerobic output doesn’t train your strength. Taking it farther, this is why A+A trains everything!


Here’s a graph of the cumulative training effect on each pathway. The blue line shows the total time each of the muscle fibers is trained for the athlete who spends most of their time in low-slow work. You can clearly see that the aerobic fibers are trained to the exclusion of all the other pathways. Exactly what we see with a non-strength training endurance athlete.

Now, take a look at the typical HIIT-based glycolytic all the time athlete. Yes, they do train all of their aerobic fibers. That’s good. But you can also see that the time spent engaging the glycolytic fibers is also very high. And it’s that high use of the glycolytic pathway that is the problem. That’s what causes acid build-up and damages your mitochondria. You’ll also see things like adrenal fatigue with these kinds of athlete because the demand for sugar is high (to burn in the glycolytic pathway) and the cortisol helps bring in more sugar. It’s like you’ve become accustomed to burning trash to keep your house warm, and when you run out of trash you find more ways to get trash rather than finding a better way to heat your house.

And now the green line…the A+A protocol has short bursts of very high intensity work, that means that we’re recruiting all of the muscle fibers and needing all off the energy pathways. But, we spend little time up there, we’re not over using any of them. We also dig a little into the gylcolytic pathway so that gets used, but not so much that we’re getting acid build-up. And, what I think is the most interesting, is that the aerobic pathway - particularly the low-and slow pathway is no worse trained with A+A than with pure aerobic training. In some intensity bands, it’s even better trained with A+A.

How do we implement the A+A protocol. Here’s the basic prescription:

A+A training is done with kettlebell ballistic movements (swings and snatches, usually) with a (relatively) heavy weight for up to five (snatches) or ten (swings) reps for many repeats.

Be sure to have plenty of rest between them to be almost fully recovered - begin the next one strong and end it strong also. The principal is simple: build up high quality heavy volume without chasing it with fatigue.

My favorite are snatches, but since they're so technical I usually stick to swings:

A+A is Alactic Ballistics - lasting around 10 sec + Aerobic recovery - lasting until you’re ready to go strong again:

Some essential points:

  • you must have really solid technique to begin with and willingness to work on quality in every rep, every repeat, every sessions aiming for mastering the movement

  • it is not the aim to reduce rest periods over time but rather to let it happen over time

  • you will get better without trying to get better, in fact pushing yourself to get better will result in the opposite happening.

  • using a HR-monitor is very helpful to get some biofeedback but don't let it control your training session

  • pay attention to what your body and breathing sensations feel like - not only from repeat to repeat, but from session to session also, as fatigue accumulates with heavy volume work

  • it is more of an aim over time to rely by feel to know when ready again

  • it may be an aim also, to help recovery for instance nose breathing only while resting, shaking the limbs out a bit, walking around, breath counting - fast and loose drills

  • there should be almost no mental pushing involved - it should be more boring than effortful

  • it is not about using the heaviest bell possible - a bell for five reps may be a bell one can swing/snatch around 8-10 strongly

  • hand care is very important, keeping callous short and soft using lotion when needed

  • one should build up to this kind of volume work - the number of reps in a session sneaks up on you

We do A+A work as a way to get stronger (heavy kettlebells build muscle) and to build your aerobic capacity in a way that doesn’t fatigue you.

My goal is for you to leave the gym every day feeling better than when you walked in. And for you to suddenly realize after a few months that everything else you do is easier. Fitness will sneak up on you.

Michael Deskevich
Mental Health Series Post 1: An Epidemic

I have read and heard a lot lately about how we are entering a mental health epidemic. The incidence of  anxiety and depression is increasing, as are deaths from suicide and drug overdose. I have personally struggled with anxiety and depression, and I know many others who have. Many of us are struggling, and many more are just a stressful life event away from a mental health battle.

I’m trained as a psychologist and neuroscientist, so it leads me to ask - why? What is going wrong, what is changing in our world - in society and in individuals - that is bringing anxiety and depression to so many people?

To start to answer this question, I tried to identify the factors that contribute to mental health. Here’s what I came up with as a first pass:

  1. Physical activity (of the right kind and amount)

  2. Good nutrition

  3. Sleep

  4. Calming brain state (through exposure to nature, meditation, repetitive movement)

  5. Stable support system/connection to people

  6. Controllable environment/manageable stress

  7. Sense of purpose/meaning

As a gym, we focus on the first part of the list, factors 1-3.  But as a psychologist, I am also keenly interested in the second part of the list, factors 4-7. In a series of posts, I will be exploring all of these 7 factors.

I do not have the answers, though I have some insights and plenty of questions. I will start with a high-level treatment of each factor, laying the key issues as I see them now. But this will be a research and discovery process, and I hope to really dig in to the literature and understand this in more detail. My 7 factors will probably themselves change, but I need a starting point, so here it is.

I think a thorough and broad-based analysis of mental health taking into account all of these 7 factors is long overdue and becoming increasingly urgent. I’m excited to reconnect with my psychology roots and really dig into this project.

Amy Santamaria
Barbell Strategy Members Competing this Weekend
Bre getting up with a big squat, with a little moral support from Madeline.

Bre getting up with a big squat, with a little moral support from Madeline.

Madeline, Mandi, Emily and Bre are competing this weekend at the Lord of the Lifts Super Total meet at Denver Barbell Club. This is a little bit of a novelty meet as it combines two disciplines: Olympic Style Weightlifting (snatch and clean and jerk) and Powerlifting (squat, bench and deadlift). Athletes will add their weightlifting total from Saturday to Sunday's powerlifting total for a Super Total.
If you want to come down and cheer us on, we start at 10am Saturday and 7am Sunday. Awards for both days should be done by noon. 601 W. 29th Ave. Denver, CO

Marlena putting in the work!

Marlena putting in the work!

Marlena Preigh, who is a senior at Fairview High School and runs for RISE Athletics club, will be attending her final Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho this weekend. Simplot is the premier High School indoor track meet in the country. If you want to tune in, you can buy a $12.95 one month "Plus" pass with which will be streaming live coverage. Marlena is one of the top high school runners in the country so look for something special in her 800 meter race this weekend. She's already knocked 6 seconds off her indoor PR from last year at this year's Husky Invitational at University of Washington in January.

Randy Hauer
Cured or Not?
What does cured or uncured mean, really? It's bacon!

What does cured or uncured mean, really? It's bacon!

[ed note: this is why I (Mike) hate the government. They redefine terms so that you think you know what it means but it doesn’t actually mean that. My new favorite twitter account is @CrimeADay]

I was on Twitter the other night and jumped in a thread about, of all things, Hot Dogs, Vitamin C and the Carnivore Diet.

The original tweet was based on Dr. Ken Berry's (possible) quote that most people could eat keto/carnivore quite successfully and cheaply with all beef hot dogs and guacamole.

Long thread short, another tweep tweeted that the brining and curing would destroy any possible vitamin C in any cured meat (uncured beef has some vitamin C contrary to popular opinion.)

Then I tweeted that my favorite brand of all grass fed beef, uncured wienie products had 30 grams of Vitamin C on it's nutrition label. Then I was taken to school by the aforementioned tweep on the ins and outs of USDA regulations on cured and uncured meat products.

Which led me to this little USDA discourse on the uses of certain additives in processed meat products.

Briefly, there is a particular list of additives that must be used for a hot dog, or bacon or other product to be legally called "cured." These are nitrites generally.

So this is where your "healthy food" food processors get away with a little technicality in labeling their products with the health-minded in mind.

I mentioned above that my hot doggies have Vitamin C in them. They do, and that vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) is added by way of Cherry Powder (listed in the ingredients.) My doggies also have Celery Powder, which is a natural product high in Nitrite.

So here is the technicality that makes what you think you are buying (uncured meat) actually be the product you were trying to avoid (cured meat.). As I said, cured meats must contain the above mentioned chemicals, which include ascorbic acid and nitrite, to legally be called "Cured." However, adding Cherry Powder and Celery Powder to your hot dog product do exactly the same things chemically as ascorbic acid and nitrite, but because you aren't using additives from the Cured list, by law you have to call your product "Uncured."

So, check the ingredient list on your next prospective uncured purchase at the Whole Paycheck store: chances are your Uncured product is actually Cured, but because of USDA regulations (and some innovative use of the inherent loopholes by food processors) by law they have to be calledhealthy, I mean Uncured.

Part 1 of 3: use of celery powder and other natural sources of nitrite as curing agents, antimicrobials or flavorings. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

Randy Hauer
The Vegerati are Coming, The Vegerati are Coming
You get to eat more added sugar than you do beef on this diet and industrial vegetable oils.

You get to eat more added sugar than you do beef on this diet and industrial vegetable oils.

If you have been following any of the goings on in the world of nutrition, you are probably aware of the slow slog towards undoing the bad science that gave us the lipid hypothesis of heart disease and the low fat, high carbohydrate USDA "heart healthy" dietary recommendations of the 80s. Science author Gary Taubes should probably get credit for leading the charge with his NYT Magazine Cover Article back in 2002 "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie"  Five years later, Taubes published "Good Calories, Bad Calories," a tour de force dismantling of the dietary guidelines which were based not on hard scientific evidence from random control trials, but on the soft and shifting sands of epidemiological studies which used cherry picked population data to support what turned out to be very faulty hypotheses.

The author Michael Pollan created a slogan from his research and writing on what constitutes a healthy diet: "Eat Real Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants." His documentary film "In Defense of Food" fauns over Seventh Day Adventist life spans, the plant based diet proponent and Harvard academic Walter Willett and former Cornell nutrition scientist Brian Wansink. However, in the film, Pollan neglects to mention that the SDA diet is a religious, not scientific diet or that Willett was an acolyte, friend and colleague of Ancel Keyes (the scientist who bullied everyone down the primrose path of low fat diets).

After the film came out, Wansink became a "former" professor because all of the published work Pollan featured in the film turn out to have been falsified.


Lately, the forces of Veganism have been organizing and gathering to present their own version of what humans should eat and why: the latest and most ambitious iteration being Eat-Lancet 
Eat-Lancet is funded in large measure by the Norwegian billionaire vegan Gunhild Stordalen and is using the scientific cache of the British medical journal The Lancet to push their agenda. (Oh, and it's no accident that Walter Willett is co-chair of Eat-Lancet. )Their goal to feed the planet in an environmentally sustainable fashion is laudable but their means and their science are, well, questionable. They basically want governments to pass laws and enact taxes to make you eat your vegetables. Oh, and take away your meat. Well, most of your meat at least.

Anyway read the links above and make up your own minds about it, but here are a couple of graphics that show what Eat-Lancet is lobbying the government to tell you to eat. They certainly have captured the "mostly plants and not too much" exhortations of Pollan, but they really miss the mark with fats: vegetable oils, generally speaking, are industrial products sold as food, but not "real" food. 

The Vegerati are Coming!! Are you ready? 

Randy Hauer
The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - Putting It All Together

[This is part 10 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

I’m done (maybe?) with the Biochemistry of A+A series. It’s been fun digging into what’s happening at the cellular level, and it forced me to read and learn more about what’s going on.

It’s a perfect example of how bottom-up observations drive the understanding better. For years, we’ve seen that the A+A style (even before A+A had a name) of ballistic kettlebell work has been great at training power and endurance - it’s that whole what-the-hell effect. Pavel and others have written numerous books on different ways to incorporate this into your training - It looks like the first book was 1998, so it’s been 20 years of observation and just now we’re getting around to really understanding the why.

But when you look at the sports science, it’s been the other way: top-down reductionist thinking and trying to isolate energy systems and muscle types. All it has produced is an endless sea of treadmills and HIIT classes dotting the landscape and tons of copy-and-paste fitness blogs that say the same thing. Oh, and lots of overweight and out-of-shape people.

What I love about A+A is that it really is a perfect example of the barbell strategy. The name of our gym comes from the core of Antifragility in the financial markets, but it speaks to the survivability of good ideas and rational approaches to life.

We can look at the A+A prescription two ways: what has survived the test of time “experimentally” - long, low-and-slow grinding work plus short, fast ballistics; or what looks like it makes the most sense from the biochemistry - long, low-power work plus short high-power demands periodically.

In the end we get to the same thing, the A+A protocol, which I’ll repeat here:

The key is repeated bursts of short intense work with lots of rest consistently practiced over weeks or months.

Let’s break that down…

...bursts of short intense work... - 10 seconds of heavy swings, fast viking push presses, even a few steps of a heavy sled push. We’re getting the most out of the energy we have stored for immediate use.

...lots of rest... - we like to have 4:1 or more rest:work. That gives us enough time to regenerate the ATP so that we can go fast again. The beta-oxidation is refilling our batteries, and that takes time.

...repeated bursts... - we do this for 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour. If we do it long enough, we don’t quite recover fully between sets. That means we will need to very lightly tap into glycolysis. We’re training that pathway without over-doing it and causing damages.

...practiced over weeks or months - If you keep coming back, day after day doing these style of workouts. It will tell your body that you need to have more efficient beta-oxidation to fill up your batteries quicker. Since any one mitochondrion cannot supply too much energy at once, your body builds even more mitochondria. You can burn more fat to make more ATP, you’ll have a lot of slow reactions happening in parallel. You’ll get a high power output without stressing your body. Building more mitochondria will let you effortlessly generate ATP quickly - improving your power output.

Oh, and I know of at least Margaret and Jyothi who are better biochemists than I am. So I welcome comments and corrections from the audience! I do want this to be right. We are the nerd gym, and you guys need to keep me honest.

Michael Deskevich
Fast Resistance Training for the "Older" Athlete
The great Howard Cohen, still competing and setting records in his mid-80s. Picture and article cited below.

The great Howard Cohen, still competing and setting records in his mid-80s. Picture and article cited below.

On Mondays and Fridays I have a group of masters runners who train with me. They range in age from 50 something to 79! Last week, the topic of age related sarcopenia (muscle loss) came up. It used to be held as immutable as death and taxes that muscle atrophy was an unavoidable part of the aging process. And, with some caveats, it still is. One caveat is that resistance training can put the brakes on muscle loss to some degree and even reverse it. Another is that strength can be improved at any age with the appropriate amount of work.

In older adults the loss of muscle accelerates after the age of 60. There are lot factors involved: denervation, hormone status and protein intake among them. The risk of crippling and life threatening falls increase with age, but can be attenuated with proper exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately, the twin losses of reflexes and fast twitch muscle fibers, both required for rapid balance correction, are difficult to regenerate once lost.

However a recent article makes the case for including light explosive training for older adults. In older adults at least, muscle growth is a secondary contributor to overall strength. So while remedial muscle growth is desirable and necessary for metabolic health, the neurological effects of training are more important for strength. The adage train fast to be fast applies here. Of course, individual orthopedic issues have to be taken into consideration, but where possible, moving weight quickly appears to be superior to longer times under tension for usable power.

So my masters crew can look forward to more power movements creeping back in as we get closer to outdoor season!

Baum, J. I., Kim, I.-Y., & Wolfe, R. R. (2016). Protein consumption and the elderly: what is the optimal level of intake? Nutrients8(6).

Deschenes, M. R. (2004). Effects of aging on muscle fibre type and size. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)34(12), 809–824.

Orssatto, L. B. da R., Cadore, E. L., Andersen, L. L., & Diefenthaeler, F. (2019). Why fast velocity resistance training should be prioritized for elderly people. Strength & Conditioning Journal41(1), 105.

Still going strong. (2017, May 2). Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

Randy Hauer
Taking My Own Advice

I’m on record saying that everyone needs to be doing long slow distance outside the gym as a crucial part of your AGT work. I’ve been doing my share of strength training and A+A work, but I’ve been neglecting my own LSD work too. So to keep me honest and show that LSD is an important part of a well-rounded training schedule, here’s my log.

2-4 times a week I’m going to spend at least 30 minutes on the erg and keep my heart rate below 140 (my MAF number). Over time, I expect that with the same effort (as measured by heart rate) I’ll be able to go faster.

I’m including two charts below that will automatically update when I include a new entry in my log.

The top chart is my pace in blue for every workout and my average heart rate in red. Hopefully the blue line drops and the red line stays constant.

The bottom chart is a cool metric. If the goal is to be able to do more work for the same effort, I can compute the number of meters I row per heart beat. That number should rise over time. We’ll see.

Michael Deskevich
The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - You're Doing It Wrong
Image created from data stolen from  this paper

Image created from data stolen from this paper

[This is part 9 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

So this series is becoming very Knuthian - I keep finding a new topic before I get to the end.

I might get a little rant-y in this post, and I don’t mean to be a misanthrope, but sometimes the fitness industry just annoys me. As I was in the middle of mapping out this series on the science behind A+A, I saw a blog post from a gym that rhymes with SchmrossFit that was about the different energy systems and how to train them.

It’s funny, because this really is like the religious wars where the closer you are in ideas, the more intense your arguments are about your subtle differences. I’d say on the spectrum of types of training, what we do is much closer to what they do than what you’d see at a globo gym. But I just dismiss the globo gym as totally wrong and not even worth discussing. But these guys are close enough that they could be doing right, they’re just not. At least it’s a marketing funnel, I get all of the refugees once they realize there’s a better way.

So the blog post I saw was three paragraphs of cut-and-paste about the “three energy systems” and that to be a well-rounded athlete you need to train all three of them. Yes, I agree with the sentiment - heck, I’m writing a whole novel about the importance of the three systems and training them - and not just to be a well-rounded athlete, it’s important to just being a healthy person.

From the article: “we want to develop athletes who have capacity in all time all three pathways can counterbalance some of the drawbacks of training in one pathway only.”

That’s a true statement, but if you remember from the muscle fiber post, you can train all of the pathways with simple non-suffering workouts. Since muscle fibers are recruited sequentially from low-power to high-power, then short high-power work will necessarily include all of the pathways. That’s the brilliance behind this whole A+A stuff. But when you look at the programming that they use to “train all of the pathways” it’s all in that 5-20 minute range, and it’s all “for time” which means beating on you glycolytically.

And then I see this quote: “Excessive aerobic training; however, decreases power, strength, and speed”

Gah, that’s a common refrain from the HIIT crowd. However, that statement comes from the equivalent of a big nutrition observational study - they look at what people are doing and then look for correlations. If I find a big group of folks who do lots of aerobic training, yes they will have less power, strength, and speed (on average) than a group of folks who do serious anaerobic training. But, that’s because they’re doing aerobic (low-power) training at the exclusion of anaerobic (high-power) training.

As we saw from the big muscle fiber post, if you only do aerobic training, you will not recruit the high-power fibers and they will be pruned. It’s not the inclusion of aerobic training that causes the loss in power, speed, and strength - it’s the exclusion of anaerobic training.

If you talk to the folks who really study this A+A stuff, to get the real benefit, you need to do lots of low-and-slow aerobic work outside the gym - long hikes, slow jogging, etc. The more the better, as it really builds your base. It won’t make you slow unless you only do aerobic work at the exclusion of the alactic work.

We all believe the same thing - the endless sea of treadmills at the globo gym is a bad thing - we just go about the solution in two different ways. They want you to feel the workout and explicitly use the glycolytic pathway. I want you to train it without using it. I’m right :)

Michael Deskevich
The Medical Evidence Against (Or For) Salt: Where Is It?
Picture Stolen From Harvard Med School Page Promoting Salt Substitutes

Picture Stolen From Harvard Med School Page Promoting Salt Substitutes

The New York Times has a great article on the current state of scientific evidence linking salt intake with heart failure. There isn't much. Yet it is one of the great medical dogmas of modern medicine: too much sodium gets blamed for heart attack, stroke and hypertension.

The article cites this month's JAMA's commentary by Northwestern University Medical School cardiologist Dr. Clyde Yancey says, " many other dogmatic statements that were fully embedded in cardiovascular medicine...the time has now come for sodium restriction in heart failure to be critically reevaluated. There is simply too much uncertainty for a conviction we hold as truth."

There is also an exhaustive review of the literature in this month's JAMA. Biblios to both articles are below. Unless you have a subscription to JAMA, you can only see the abstracts. Ask your MD to read them and make copies for you. Especially if you are being counseled to lower your sodium.

Spoiler Alert: "Limited evidence of clinical improvement was available among outpatients who reduced dietary salt intake, and evidence was inconclusive for inpatients. Overall, a paucity of robust high-quality evidence to support or refute current guidance was available. This review suggests that well-designed, adequately powered studies are needed to reduce uncertainty about the use of this intervention." (Mahtani KR, Heneghan C, Onakpoya I, & et al, 2018)

Yancy CW. (2018). Sodium restriction in heart failure: Too much uncertainty—do the trials. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(12), 1700–1701.

Mahtani KR, Heneghan C, Onakpoya I, & et al. (2018). Reduced salt intake for heart failure: A systematic review. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(12), 1693–1700.

Randy Hauer
The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - Mitochondrial Health and High-Power Aerobics

[This is part 8 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

The muscle fiber post sparked a few tangents for me. One was about metabolic flexibility. This one is about why A+A training actually does help train your aerobic endurance and power output.

When discussing the aerobic pathway, I mentioned that the rate limiting step isn't how much oxygen you can get to your cells, it's more about how fast the electrons which are ripped off of the oxygen are transported down the electron transport chain inside the mitochondria. So if one mitochondrion can only chug along so fast producing ATP, how do you get faster while staying aerobic?

Build more mitochondria!

Here's a not-perfect analogy because in the real world building more roads only creates more traffic. But let's pretend that's not true.

I have a bunch of cars in the left parking lot and I want to get them over to the right parking lot. The maximum lane capacity of any road is about 20 cars per minute regardless of the speed limit (I leave the proof as an exercise to the reader, but it's true!). That's a lot like the maximum transport speed of electrons in the transport chain inside the mitochondria. Only so many can come through in a certain amount of time. But what if we need more ATP in those slow, aerobic muscle fibers?


If I want to increase the rate at which I can get cars from one parking lot to the other, and I'm limited by how many I can stuff down any one road, my only solution is to build more roads. If I need more aerobically-generated ATP from my mitochondria, the only solution is to build more mitochondria.

That's exactly what we do in A+A training. The explosive 10 second work quickly depletes all of our ATP in all of our muscles. From the muscle fiber post: we go explosively so that we can recruit all of our fibers. And we go in short duration so that we don't get acid build up from the glycolytic pathway. Now we stop and do our fast-and-loose drills to recover. Since we're not actively working, we're going to primarily be using the oxidative, aerobic pathway to replenish the ATP.

At first, you'll notice that you need a long time to recover. It can be a couple of minutes to recover from 10 heavy swings for a newbie. That stress is enough to tell your body to start making mitochondria - the fancy term is mitochondrial biogenesis (which can be enhanced by burning good fats). Over time (if you don't force it) you'll notice that your recovery time decreases. That's the sign that A+A is working. You'll be getting more work done in a shorter time. But you'll be getting the energy from the clean burning aerobic pathway. That's a good thing! You get faster with less downside. That's why A+A training can help you with your aerobic performance - all without the need for your glycolytic acid bath.

This is easy - which is good if you need to not be sore when you leave the gym. But it's boring and you don't get immediate feedback that you're doing good work - which is bad for motivation. If you can pay attention to your body and your feelings of recovery, you'll notice that fitness is sneaking up on you - almost like strength sneaks up on you when you do a good strength training program.

Michael Deskevich
New cycle for February

I love boring programs. I stick with the same thing for long chunks of time, but I know that not everyone enjoys the boredom. So it’s time for a same-but-different change in the program.

Don’t worry! The theme of #lazystrong and AGT are still the focus here. We’re just changing up the movements a little. I’m sure you’re all tired of doing KB press, KB snatch, KB clean, and KB squats…so now it’s time for BB press, BB snatch, BB press, and BB squats.

Format for February

#1 TGUs - I’m sticking with the TGU check-in warm-up for all of Q1. So that doesn’t change.

#2 Skill - January was barbell skill/strength work, now it’s KB skill/strength work.

#3 Barbell Circuit - We’ll take my loose interpretation of the PlanStrong(tm) approach and do some more of my Monte Carlo Muscle barbell programming. Most of your lifts will be “Light” or around 70%, Medium is about 80% (round up), and Heavy is about 90% (round down). My approach this time is very similar to my 2018 Q4 Olympic weightlifting approach, I just cut the volume a little bit and spread out the sets over a few more movements. If you like what we did then, you’ll love this one.

#4 A+A Swings and Snatches - same as January

#5 Heavy carry - same as January

What about PRs and testing?

I don’t think that I’m going to do any test days for a while. I love what we’re doing right now. What I noticed in the last cycle is that if you keep working at 70% with VERY FEW excursions into the 80% or 90% range, very soon your 90% is better than your old 100%!

Last cycle we got a ton of surprise PRs. Folks were working on their heavy double and only after they were done did they realize that the doubled more than their old PR - and it was easy! Consistency trumps intensity. Doing 70% work every day (and yes, I do mean everyday - I program so that you can be here 5 days a week) builds better strength than going heavy and recovering from the stress.

So, let’s just keep letting strength sneak up on us for a few more cycles. My tentative plan is to take the week before the TSC and make that a test week. Folks participating in the TSC will use that as a taper and rest week (and then test at the TSC), everyone else can test some of the big lifts.

Michael Deskevich
How are those New Year's Resolutions coming?

It’s been a month since we all resolved to lose weight…again.

If you tried a trendy high-intensity training gym or some other fad, is it working for you? Maybe now’s the time to try a new approach to fitness - one that focuses on building strength sustainably.

The next cycle of programming starts next week. It’s the perfect time to jump in. We don’t focus on health and building strength using only simple tools and simple movements. Our “cardio” is very uncardio like. You won’t feel like you got a workout, but you will get fitter. We don’t want to beat you down or yell at you or make you feel like you should be working harder. It’s unlike the rest of the fitness industry - but it actually works!

Make a plan and come in and get started. Don’t worry about if you didn’t follow through with your resolutions this year. Every attempt at restarting a habit helps wire your brain. Seriously! The neuroscience of habit forming (or breaking) shows that every time you attempt to make it to your goal helps rewire your brain, and make success more probable. Don’t wait until next year, (re)start now.

Michael Deskevich
The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - Metabolic Flexibility
Image stolen from  this page  about metabolic flexibility

Image stolen from this page about metabolic flexibility

[This is part 7 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

As I was writing the Muscle Fiber post, I made another connection to some things I've been thinking about in the nutrition community.

There's lots of talk in the Keto world about teaching your body how to burn fat: aerobic beta-oxidation in the mitochondria. Or becoming "fat adapted". I'm going to talk more about how to generate higher power aerobically in my next post, but for now I want to look at the other extreme, what happens in the sedentary population who become obese. I'm wondering if that's yet another case of poor metabolic flexibility. This is all pure speculation, but hey, it's worth talking about...

A prevailing theory in the community right now is that fat storage is a symptom of other problems, not the cause. That is, you become obese because of another issue, not the obesity, driving the disease. Taubes talks about it in the context of insulin dysregulation. That is, overweight folks don't have energy and don't move because the insulin dysregulation keeps the energy trapped in fat. His words are "you're lazy because you’re fat, not fat because you're lazy" - or something like that.

Other theories are similar. A high-sugar western diet is so high in sugar and that sugar is so toxic in the blood that the act of getting it out of the blood and into fat is the safe way of storing it. So the adipose accumulation is the body's way of protecting itself against the sugar load. That makes sense too.

Let's think about these in the context of muscle fiber recruitment. I pointed out in the last post that you start recruiting muscle fibers from the slow, mostly aerobic ones and keep adding faster, anaerobic ones until the force needed is achieved.

If you're a heavy lifter, or do any high-power activity, you'll be recruiting more and more anaerobic fibers (in addition to the aerobic ones which are always there). That's good - the more things you train, the more things your body maintains for you.

Conversely, if you're sedentary only walking slowly and sitting, you're never using anything but the most aerobic of the fibers. You have little need for power, so you're not burning much fuel. But also, if you're never showing an need for the anaerobic fibers, your body is going to start pruning them.

I know I write a lot about how it's not good to be a sugar burner - but that’s mostly aimed at the CrossFit, HIIT folks who dig deep into glycolysis daily and for long periods. But if you burn sugar slowly (slow enough to clear the acid load), it's not that bad. In fact, if you prune your anaerobic fibers will you start to lose your ability to burn sugar? It seems reasonable - if the fibers that perform primarily glycolysis aren't there then your sugar consumption capacity will decrease. Leading to more sugar in the blood? Leading to more insulin to shove it into storage?

So while you'll never burn enough energy in a workout to lose weight, maybe there's other metabolic benefits to maintaining those high power fibers. I'm starting to see how having them around can contribute to metabolic flexibility.

Metabolic flexibility is great, there seems to be evidence suggesting that "energy in the blood" is the bad thing. We know sugar is bad, so we try to burn it or store it, and when we can't do either and it overflows back into the blood bad things happen. It also seems that's the case with fat (check out some of Dave Feldmen's work). If you have high cholesterol because you're moving fat around (from storage to use, e.g.) that's totally fine. But if you have high cholesterol because there's no storage left and your body is just using your blood as the last-change storage, that's when trouble happens. Neat theory, some data seems to suggest that.

Anyway, back to the main story: A+A will train all of your fibers and make you able to burn all kinds of fuel. That seems like a good idea.

Michael Deskevich
Optimal Diet for Humans
We can't say with certainty what IS an optimal diet, but we can say that this is probably not it.

We can't say with certainty what IS an optimal diet, but we can say that this is probably not it.

Another pretty good article from the NYT.

The actual study is cited below.

The gist of it is, the few remaining hunter gather cultures we can study tend to be healthier (albeit there live are much rougher in most every way than ours) and while their diets are not identical to each other, they all share one thing: they all eat real food. And while on average they do get more exercise than we do, actual energy expenditures are not much different than ours.

When it happens that former members of these groups move to the city, take on modern jobs and start eating like us, they get fat and sick like us.

So, eat real food and move around on a regular basis. There may not be anything more optimal than that.

Pontzer, H., et al. “Hunter-Gatherers as Models in Public Health: Hunter-Gatherer Health and Lifestyle.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 19, Dec. 2018, pp. 24–35. Crossref, doi:10.1111/obr.12785

Randy Hauer