Tough week last week
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I’m always talking about investment in your health and strength as analogs to finance - heck, the gym is named Barbell Strategy after all!

Last week wasn’t the best week for the markets, it also wasn’t the best for those of you doing the powerlifting-ish program leading up to the TSC. I can’t explain what happened to the Dow last week, but I do know why last week’s training didn’t go so well.

This is our second cycle through the 5/3/1, and the weights are getting kind of heavy. I purposely didn’t put a rest week between the two cycles because I wanted to save it for the week before the TSC. So right now you’re over-extending a little bit. No wonder most people had trouble with their heavy triple front squats and bench presses on Thursday and Friday.

But remember this - a bad workout or two doesn’t mean you’re weaker, it’s just a reflection of being tired at the end of a week and the difficulty of this program. It’s just like panicking because the stock markets went south last week.

A point that Taleb made in Fooled by Randomness is that we pay attention to the noise much more than the signal. He notes:


A 15% return with a 10% volatility (or uncertainty) per annum translates into a 93% probability of success in any given year. But seen at a narrow time scale, this translates into a mere 50.02% probability of success over any given second as shown in the table. Over the very narrow time increment, the observation will reveal close to nothing. Yet the [investor’s] heart will not tell him that. Being emotional, he feels a pang with every loss, as it shows in red on his screen. He feels some pleasure when the performance is positive, but not in equivalent amount as the pain when the performance is negative

The moral of that story is to invest only for the long term. Buy your securities and walk away. Don’t watch the day-to-day prices. The same goes with strength training. If you’re following the program, eating well, and sleeping enough, you will get stronger. Day-to-day, or week-to-week variations are just that, variation. Don’t pay attention to them, the emotional asymmetry around negative thoughts will bring you down. I try to avoid that by having only a few times during the year that we actually test. Tests are just a snapshot in time, over-testing will emphasize the variations not the overall gains.

One more heavy week and the next week we coast into the TSC, ready to lift heavy.

Michael Deskevich
Cholesterol is a meaningless measurement

It’s late on a Thursday and I don’t have much of a real rant in me. But I did just read this article by Dave Feldman and I thought was worth sharing.

For those of you who don’t know Dave, he’s another software guy turned health guy. There’s something about us software guys who can examine a problem and come to the root cause. I’m going after the fitness side, he’s going after the cholesterol side. Either way we’re subverting the standard way and trying to learn outside the system.

His hypothesis is that cholesterol is a meaningless measurement. True, there may be some gradient effects that mean a chronically high cholesterol may in some case contribute (in a small way) to heart disease. But even if it were true that high cholesterol is bad, the measurement you get at the doctor’s office is wrong.

That is, the current accepted idea is that cholesterol is a long term reflection of your health - you need to change your diet for a long time and do your health-care-system-approved exercises to bring down your cholesterol.

It turns out that cholesterol is a very transient measurement. It can change by hundreds of points in a few hours just depending on your meal. I’ve seen talks where Dave draws blood, eats a meal, gives a talk and draws blood again. Based on his meal he’ll make the prediction of up or down and by how much and he’s right! In the course of a morning he can move his cholesterol by hundreds of points.

That is the noise on the measurement is actually greater than the measurement itself! Your cholesterol value will depend more on time since last meal and what that last meal was than anything else. (One of his talks is about how to game the system to get your doc off your back.)

Long story, but Dave is moving out of pure nutritional effect on your cholesterol measurement to what exercise can do to your values. Here’s a link to his latest experiment where he was able to change his cholesterol readings based solely on resistance exercise (lifting weights). I’m tired and haven’t fully digested it, but it’s worth reading and seeing how quickly you can change these so called diagnostic values that so much of our healthcare is based on. I find it fascinating.

Michael Deskevich
Movement Shapes Culture Shapes Movement
 The sea is awash in bland crossovers with no soul.

The sea is awash in bland crossovers with no soul.

I’m a car guy. In Boulder that probably equates me with an NRA member, but I love cars.

I’m also a huge fan of Katy Bowman. For those who don’t know her, she’s a long time advocate of movement. She has a great message about movement and culture.

Just like we evolved in a certain nutritional milieu, we also evolved along with movement. That is, we are not static beings. When we move, that movement is like nutrition for us. We need our bodies to move to function correctly.

For example, our lymph system requires movement to pump the fluid around. Or simply moving your joints through all of their range of movement (are you going to Kinstretch?) is what keeps them healthy, and able to move - why would your body spend resources to keep a joint fresh if you never use it?

Lots of health problems can be traced to not moving. Hip and back problems? That’s probably because you sit all day. The act of sitting shapes your bones and muscles to adapt to sitting (which is not what we’re supposed to be doing).

Not moving may be dangerous to you, but that’s where it stops right?

Not so much. As a culture, we change and adapt to the norms. So the more people who sit, the more we all sit. The more we sit, the more normal it is and the younger we start people sitting (schools anyone?) and then we get more and more comfortable chairs. We have bucket seats in our cars. And “ergonomic” desk chairs that support us so much lest we spend any energy to even sit up. And now when babies are born they get buckets to sit in. And those buckets will shape the development of their hips which then mean that they’ll need fancier chairs earlier. And so on.

At first they came for the chairs, but I’m not a sitter so I didn’t care.

But now they’re coming for my cars!

The new BMW 3-series will come to the US for the first time without a third pedal. The Ultimate Driving Machine! Much (all?) of the 911 lineup only comes with the PDK. I guess it’s getting to hard to use two feet when you drive.

Last year Ford announced that they’ll make no more cars except for the Mustang. The only cars that anyone sells are loss leaders to bring the fleet average fuel economy down.

Why are they not selling cars? No one wants them anymore. Why does no one them? Well, it’s because they can’t get in or out of them. I quote from an article in Jalopnik this week (emphasis mine).

The real reason SUVs and crossovers are performing so well isn’t as much about cargo space, all-wheel drive for bad weather or our desire to own vehicles that project an image of rugged, outdoorsy individuality: it’s just that for an aging and increasingly unfit population, they’re just easier to get in and out of.

This is no great revelation if you’ve been following car buying trends the past few years. But this story in The Detroit Free Press really drives the point home, talking about what a critical factor ease of entry and exit has become to car design.

And it adds that as automakers want their products to look sexy, youthful and dynamic, so this isn’t really something they like to talk about:

Easy entrance and exit will become more and more important as the population ages and huge groups like Gen X move into their 50s and 60s.

“Seat height is key,” Knudsen said. “People like to be able to slide in, not lift themselves up or down.”

Automakers don’t talk about this much. It’s a truism that people want cars that make them look younger, not reminders they’re less limber at 60 than 40. Nonetheless, the incoming tide of small SUVs will fit aging drivers and people with limited mobility like a glove.

“Front-seat access is the No. 1 factor in comfort and safe driving,” said Sherry Kolodziejczak, national coordinator for driving safety at the American Association of Retired Persons, which represents 38 million people over 50. “The small SUVs tend to have wider door openings and lower sills to step over. Step-in height is really, really important,” not just for the elderly, but for many people recovering from injury or surgery, said Kolodziejczak, a professional occupational therapist.

The ideal seat height is about 21 to 27 inches above the ground, Knudsen said. Other factors include the size of the door opening, from top to bottom and front to rear. Nobody wants to bump their head getting in and out of their vehicle.

“Getting into a sports car is a controlled fall into the seat and a climb out,” Smythe said. “A pickup is the reverse.”

It’s an interesting game to play, when you think about it. No automaker wants to be seen as the old people brand—Cadillac and Buick still suffer from that “the car you got from grandma after she died” image today—but they have to make things to accommodate the needs of an increasingly aged population.

You can see how our choice of being a sedentary culture has actually changed the market for what’s available. And then the act of being so lazy to get in and out of your cars will make you weaker because you never have to lift your body weight up (or control it going down). And then cars will adapt to an even weaker population and people will keep getting weaker.

So if I program more squats it’s not because I’m mean, it’s because I want to skew the market so that we’re not stuck with an endless sea of bland boring crossovers. And maybe I want you to be healthy and live longer too.

Michael Deskevich
Welcome Bert to the Team!

[Mike here - join me in welcoming Bert to our team. You may have seen her around this last week, though I did a poor job of introducing her to everyone. As usual, the smart folks are able to find us even though we don’t do much advertising. She’s a former science teacher, so she’ll fit right in to our nerd gym culture. I’m really happy she found us and is joining our team!]

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in physiology, movement, and scientific thinking. I also grew up loving to help other folks learn, whether it was teaching private music lessons or tutoring. These passions led me to my first career as a secondary science teacher. I loved being in the classroom with students finding new and creative ways to guide kids to an understanding of scientific phenomena, meeting them where they were at and helping elevate each learner to the next level. I filled out the rest of my schedule with coaching sports of all types, running the gamut from ultimate to cyclocross, and led expeditions for middle schoolers in the front and backcountry on skis or in hiking boots.

Eventually, “The System” got to me. In Washington state, where I taught for over five years, the State Supreme Court ruled that public schools are so critically underfunded it’s unconstitutional. The legislature is in a constant gridlock over budgets, daring the courts to fine them and make the crisis worse, taking away even more money from the schools. It’s tangled and frustrating and has these terrible concrete repercussions for individual kids who aren’t getting the resources they deserve and don’t have a say in the matter, as folks who are too young to vote.

Overworked and underpaid, I became a part of the massive statistic of teachers who burn out several years into their career and look for something else to do. I shifted my perspective, looking for something that would fulfill my love of science and provide the joy I get from helping people learn. I invested all this time and effort into developing a robust set of teaching skills through my Masters in Teaching program at the University of Washington and my years of experience in the classroom and out; I figured I should put those skills to use! I’d also spent nearly 15 years throwing myself into the game of ultimate frisbee, not only coaching youth teams wherever I taught, but also playing at the highest levels of the game.


I reached out to a well-known Strength and Conditioning Coach for ultimate players, Ren Caldwell, and asked her what it would take for me to make that the next phase of my professional life. By the time the school year was over, I was interning with her, learning the ropes of sport-specific strength and conditioning. Since that time, I’ve gotten a long list of letters behind my name that represent an ever deepening understanding of movement patterns. I also helped open an incredible facility with Ren and another woman, Kira Morin. The past two and a half years have taught me more about myself and my resiliency than I ever imagined possible. (Y’all, opening a small business is hard. Really hard.) Oh, and last fall I captained my ultimate team to a National Championship -- ask about my most absurd tattoo sometime!

This summer, my housemates and I were informed that our house would be sacrificed to the condo overlords of Seattle (all hail), and I knew it was time to finally make the move out to Colorado I’d been contemplating for about 10 years. I feel really fortunate that the Google algorithms revealed Barbell Strategy as the first result when I typed in “strength and conditioning Boulder”, because it’s the top of the list in my heart. The simple elegance of barbells and kettlebells, with maybe a couple bands, balls, and boxes, is all you really need for excellent functional training -- especially when your backyard is so full of great opportunities.

I plan to pursue my dedication to sport-specific training here, working with personal training clients and small groups to set up customized training plans that push folks toward their goals. While my true love is ultimate, I’m interested in breaking down the fundamental movement patterns of any sport and finding ways to mobilize, strengthen, and empower those patterns for performance and injury resistance. To me, a great training plan is like a recipe for a great meal. We’ve got all these different elements layering over each other in different amounts, often seasoned to taste for the individual, and after cooking for a while, we get something fantastic!

Bert Abbott
Last Day to Order Shirts
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I’m going to place the order tomorrow when I get home, so make sure you get your shirt order in. A bunch of you have told me that you intend to order one. Go do it right now!

I want to place the order so that we get the shirts in time for the TSC.

Lots of folks asked me why the 2018 shirts have 2015 on them. James thought it would be cool to have our “established date” on there. Maybe I’ll find a way to add “est.” on the graphic somewhere, so that everyone feels better about that.

Order form is right here

I never order extras of the special edition shirts, so you need to pre-order through Custom Ink!

Michael Deskevich
The best gym in Boulder...

…is not us!

I completely forgot about these awards until I happened across a post from a winner this weekend. So I’m a little late in announcing, that we didn’t win again!

Seriously though, you don’t want to go to a place that wins these awards. They’re just a tally of number of votes, so that means the cheapest, most over-crowded place is the one that gets all of the votes.

And then when you check out the announcement pages, it’s all ads. So even if you do “win”, you probably don’t win until you purchase an ad. You probably also have to purchase the plaque and the graphic to put on your website too.

I’m happy being small and underground and giving the best training I can even if it isn’t popular or exciting enough to get tons of votes.

Michael Deskevich
How often should I come to the gym?

When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. As you’re probably painfully aware, my favorite tool in the gym is anti-glycolytic training.

One of my favorite aspects of AGT is that it leaves you feeling fresh and energized rather than tired and sore.

Last night I was watching something on TV about a therapist who worked with workaholics. He tried to talk to his patients about a metric for how hard you should work. Some people love working hard, even to the detriment of other parts of their life, so you can’t make a hard-and-fast rule about what’s the proper number of hours to work.

The metric that seemed to resonate with the most people was that you don’t want to work so hard that it interferes with future work. That is, you may love working 18 hour days 7 days a week, but if that much work burns you out that you need to take the next two months off sick, then you’re doing it wrong.

When I heard that, my mind went to exercise. How much and how often should you train or practice? You don’t want to train so much that it interferes with future training. You shouldn’t always be feeling like you’re recovering from something.

This is why I love the AGT approach and the variability that we put in the program. If you follow the spirit of our daily program you should be able to train more or less consistently without getting to the point that it interferes with your future training. You don’t need to plan rest days. Of course, take one if you’re not feeling great or if other stresses in your life line up to conspire against you. We don’t want to add to your stress!

Michael Deskevich
Snatches and more snatches today

Lots of snatches today.

Sometimes the epicycles line up that way.

Remember, on days like this when it’s clearly not a focused strength day that I intend the work to be AGT.

What’s AGT? I’ve written a lot about it. But we’ve had some new folks in the last couple of weeks and I want to reiterate what we do so that it’s clear.

AGT is “lazy strong” and “lazy endurance”. Everyone is used to going to the gym to “do your cardio” and “feel the burn”. That’s exactly what we don’t do with AGT work.

The type of AGT work I focus on with our students is A+A or "alactic plus aerobic”. That means we hit the short-high-power work briefly and then have long rests to let the slow-low-power aerobic system replenish our energy.

We never hit the glycolytic system - and that’s on purpose! The glycolytic system is for emergencies only - it can generate power quickly, but it leaves a lot of waste behind. That waste, in the form of lactic acid, is the burn you feel. We don’t want you there. It can damage your mitochondria, and takes a lot of time to recover from.

You can get the same training effect with A+A work without the beat-down of the glycolytic work. When you’re done with A+A work, you generally will feel refreshed and leave the gym feeling better than when you came in - unlike after a CrossFit WOD.

It takes discipline to do A+A work, you need to be patient and listen to your body. You need time to recover between sets and know how to feel that recovery. If you need help, we can use a heart rate monitor to get some rough biofeedback.

How do you execute an A+A workout? Short bursts (5-10 swings, 3-5 snatches, etc) of high power work followed by long rest (1-2 minutes). Sometimes I prescribe the rest, sometimes I leave it to you. It just depends on what we’re aiming for each day.

Here’s a small sampling of my past articles on this for the newbies. It’s good to know how we do our work - it’s not what you’re used to from other gyms!

Why do antiglycolytic training? - Part 1

Why do antiglycolytic training? - Part 2

Why do antiglycolytic training? - Part 3

Mitochondria Biogensis, Anti-glycolytic Training, and Vegetable Oils - Part 1: Fuel

Mitochondria Biogensis, Anti-glycolytic Training, and Vegetable Oils - Part 2: Theory

Mitochondria Biogensis, Anti-glycolytic Training, and Vegetable Oils - Part 3: Execution

Antiglycolytic training: invest in your future

Here's why you'll still get fit with the #lazystrong approach

Kettlebells, Hiking, and Biking

Michael Deskevich
Order your shirts!
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Only a week left until I place the orders for the Special Edition Fall ‘18 shirts. If you’re thinking about getting one, don’t wait. I won’t be ordering any extras!

Order Here

Michael Deskevich
Cognitive Dissonance Anyone?

Quick! If you want to lose weight, what advice are you going to get from everyone including your doctor? “Eat less, move more”, “Spend at least 20 minutes three times a week moving”, “Do more cardio”…

For some reason - probably our “work ethic” culture - we have this feeling that the reason we’re all sick and fat is that we don’t work out enough or that we can just do more to counter act that birthday cake we just ate. It doesn’t work that way.

I found this article yesterday that shows how even when the actual reason is right under our nose, we still don’t get it. The article is about zoos needing to limit the access of modern fruit to the animals because it makes them fat.

Zookeepers in Melbourne have had to wean their animals off fruit -- which is now so full of sugar that it has made them fat and rotted their teeth.

The cultivation and selective breeding of fruit has made fruit so sugary that they are now too unhealthy for the animals.

And we scroll down half a screen we have

Fruit for humans is linked to reducing risks of heart disease, cancer and stroke.

It contains fructose and its fiber, water and chewing resistance mean that the sugar it contains hits the liver more slowly than the free sugars in soft drinks…

So, it’s obvious that eating an evolutionary inappropriate diet is bad for animals in a zoo (including primates!) but that it’s totally fine for humans to eat the same stuff. Don’t you think that matching a human diet to our ancestry would be a good idea too?

Or is it just that evolution and environmental effect only apply to animals, not humans?

How does any serious nutritionist not put 2 and 2 together?

Michael Deskevich
If you're over 50, don't ever do these exercises.

I posted this picture last week without context, and then I found the article that it was from. Because of the backlash, they updated their original title from “don’t do these…” to “modify these…” Regardless, it’s just crap pop-culture stuff that keeps everyone weak and sick.

Let’s go through the list. tl;dr - they’re wrong, you should squat and deadlift.

Running Stairs - If you don’t have the balance, that’s a bad thing. And I wouldn’t suggest running down stairs, that’s just hard on the knees. But there’s nothing wrong with a quick sprint up some stairs, and it’s much better than the suggested alternative of using a stair climbing machine. That’s just going to make you sweaty and tired and not actually make you more fit. And training your balance through challenging things will improve it - so that you don’t fall and break a hip later.

Hot Yoga - “I don’t have time for Yoga.” But seriously, I’ve never tried it. Some folks who I know that have done it find it refreshing and sweating does help clear out toxins and stuff. I’m not sure about the safety of getting really warm and loose and stretching farther than you normally would. Let’s call this one a draw.

HIIT - No one should do that more than once every couple of weeks. I’m on record more times than I care to link to here about how frequent HIIT is bad for everyone in the long run.

Spin Classes - Same thing as stair climbers. Go ride a bike, don’t fake it. It’s just HIIT in disguise.

Push-ups - Uh…WTF? You mean, you shouldn’t be able to push yourself up off the ground? Yeah, don’t do 100 of them and do them poorly. That goes for the CrossFitters out there too. There are probably a dozen people in the world that can properly do 100 push-ups for time with perfect (safe) form, and you’re not one of them. Do enough to be functional, but don’t break your shoulders or waste your time worming your push-ups.

Squats with weights - You mean there are squats without weights? That’s just called sitting down. Squats and deadlifts are probably the two most important things for someone to be able to do. Unless you don’t like getting out of chairs. A mini-rant aside:

This weekend I was at the rec center for Alek’s swim lessons. I was just hanging out waiting for lessons to be done and started talking to an older gentleman - probably in his 60’s or so - telling me how important it is for him to be there so that he can keep moving. I totally agreed with him and then proceeded to watch him put a medicine ball between his knees while he sat on a box for reps. No one ever would have come up with that on their own, so I assume he had a trainer tell him that. Why would you ever tell someone to do anything that would help make their knees valgus when they squat. “Knees Out!” is the cue. Any half-brained trainer should know that one. If you’re telling older people do to squats badly and they get hurt, that doesn’t mean that doing squats is bad for old people. You’re just telling them to do stupid things.

Bench press - It’s not bad, but it’s not where I would focus my time if I wanted to be efficient in the gym. It is useful at making your chest and shoulders bigger. Big muscles are good for all of the hormonal effects (it’s cold and flu season, so a few more myokines floating around in your system is probably good). If you have the time and can do it safely - by all means, get those beach muscles. And the sub they suggest is Rowing? Yeah, an erg is great, but it’s nothing like the bench press - pulling is not the same as pushing.

Burpees - I’ll give them that one. No one should ever do burpees, They suck.

Pull-ups - Again, why limit your ability to move your body? Body weight movements, pull-ups, push-ups, and TGUs without weight (aka standing up) are all fundamental things that enable you to participate in life.

Crunches - I agree, waste of time. Kettlebell swings will do more for your core than any amount of crunches.

Dead lift [sic] - The most maligned movement out there. I don’t get it. God forbid you ever pick something up. Keeping people away from the deadlift out of fear of injury is what makes everyone weak and prone to injury. It is hard to teach (funny, that the simplest movement, and a fundamental human activity - picking things up - is the hardest to teach), but done properly, you don’t really need anything else. Full body work, big muscles, heavy weights. It makes you a better person. And we have no age limit at the gym on who can deadlift - just ask Bobby.

“Dead lifts can put a lot of strain on the hips and torso,” says chiropractor….

Yes, that’s true. Strain is a good thing. That’s what makes you stronger. If you want to take the easy way out and do your glute bridges (her substitute movement), you’re never going to get stronger. If you don’t pick heavy things up, your core will atrophy, and if your core atrophies, your back will start hurting because it has no support. And then you’ll bend over to put something in the dishwasher and throw out your back, and you’ll say, “Wow, it’s good that I never deadlifted since I just hurt myself holding a spoon - imagine if I had some big scary weight!”.

Jumping Lunges - Yes, waste of time for most people. Not dangerous, but you can use your time better elsewhere.

Sprints - Seriously? Just go talk to Bobby, our 100m sprinter, and tell him he shouldn’t be doing those. You’ll have to catch him first.

Leg presses - Yes, but no one should do those - just squat.

I hate all articles like this. They take a topic that everyone thinks they’re an expert on (nutrition is this way too), they find some scary statements, find a “doctor” to give them some quotes and then scare people away from being strong and healthy. And then next year a different “health” publication will republish the same article with a different “expert” backing them up. There is no science here, but it gets repeated so many times that it just becomes part of the culture. If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed. (Now, this has been Godwinned.)

Michael Deskevich
One month until the Tactical Strength Challege - are you ready?

We’re one month out from the TSC - October 27 - doors open at 10:00, we’ll try to get started with the first flight at 10:30.

It’s my favorite semiannual event. Whether you’re doing Blake’s morning program or my evening program, you’ve been training for it!

Actually, as long as you’re training both raw strength, and strength endurance, you’ve been training for the TSC.

I, personally, just use the TSC as a mid-year checkup to see where I am. I rarely train specifically for it, it’s just a good way for me to see how my training has been going. Though this year, I do need to focus on the deadlift, some of you are getting too close to me!

I also like to use this as an event to show folks what the gym is all about. We, of course, invite all the local StrongFirst followers to participate with us. But we also invite anyone else in the community who knows how to deadlift, pull-up, and snatch to participate. Bring your friends and family, everyone is welcome.

Please sign up for the TSC here so that I know who’s coming. If you’re not a member, use that link too. It will ask you to create and account and sign the waiver and then you can enroll. I think this is going to be a pretty popular event this year, so I would like to have all the lawyer-y stuff done before that morning.

Michael Deskevich
Here's why you'll still get fit with the #lazystrong approach

I’ve been working on yet another way to illustrate why our #lazystrong (Alactic+Aerobic, Anti-glycolytic Training) approach works - and why it’s better than glycolytic training. It didn’t all come together in my head until a bunch of us were talking at the gym this week (talking while resting between sets!).

One of our members really tries to get everyone he knows to come to the gym. Unfortunately, he knows too many people who go to gyms focus on glycolytic work, so the #lazystrong is a hard sell. When we explain our approach, we get things like “but you still sweat in a workout right?” (Yes, you’ll sweat, but that’s just because we don’t have air conditioning.)

Getting hot, out of breath, and sweaty is not a workout (any idiot can do that - go do 100 burpees for time!). A real workout is something that makes you feel better when you’re done. If you don’t walk away from a workout feeling refreshed and better than when you walked into the gym, you went too hard.

Let’s say you didn’t believe that staying out of the glycolytic pathway is actually good for you, would you believe the physics argument? Doing the same amount of work faster doesn’t actually burn any more calories. It’s true, work is just the force applied times the distance moved. And energy and work are equivalent.


1 (food) calorie is about 3000 ft-pounds of work. That is, lifting 3000 pounds 1 foot, or 1500 pounds 2 feet, or 1000 pounds 3 feet, 3-300 lb deadlifts, etc all require 1 calorie of work. Is it better to do 15 touch-and-go reps really fast (a la CrossFit) or to do 3x5, 5x3, or even 15 singles? You’ll definitely feel the burn (and your back) if you do 15 fast reps. It may take a long time to work through 15 singles, but you are doing the exact same amount of work. If your goal is fat loss, you won’t be burning any more calories by going faster.

All you’re doing when you go fast is risking injury and intoxicating yourself with acid waste products from glycolysis.

When you finish your workout with the long kettlebell complex, you don’t get a better workout by rushing it. It’s the same work in the end. If you go slow, take your time, there are even more benefits. If you’re fresh for each round, then each round is done with maximum power and tension. Each rep is perfect and you get the most out of your effort. If you view training as focused practice, you will improve. Movement quality is more important than speed.

In fact, if you are fresh and are working at a manageable weight, then you can actually get more work done, and more of it will be quality work. Imagine the heaviest kettlebell you can press for 6 reps. If I have you do three sets of max effort with that weight, you’ll probably get 6 on the first set, 3 on the second, and maybe 1 one the last for 10 total reps. If we count the good reps, then you probably only have 4 on the first set, the last two probably were sketchy, 2 on the second set, and I doubt the last set even looked good. So that 10 total reps with 6 being quality practice. The rest is just cruft - at best wasting your time, at worst teaching you bad movement or even hurting yourself.

But what happens if I tell you do the same weight in sets of 3. You could probably do 3-3-3-3-3 with no issues. You’ll get more work done (15 reps). And if you’re stopping before fatigue in each set, all 15 will be good, pretty reps. Rather than going to failure and wasting your time with bad reps, go easier, take your rest and do better.

You will get better practice and training done and you will not feel crushed. I know that’s hard to sell to the fans HIIT, CrossFit, and various other colors of theory workouts, but it’s true. You don’t need to feel like you got a workout to get a workout. Use your workout to prepare you for your life not take away from it because you’re too sore to do anything else.

Michael Deskevich
Fall Shirt Design - Order Now!
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Rather than leave it to democracy, I made an executive decision that James won the fall design contest this year.

Place your order here

We have guys and gals t-shirts, guys and gals tanks, and hoodies (the design will be on the back of the hoodie, even though the order form shows it on the front).

Get your order in right away, I’m going to attempt to get it shipped here before the TSC at the end of October.

This is a special edition order, I won’t be ordering any extra, you need to buy it here if you want one. Every year, people forget and think I’m going to be nice and have extras. I won’t. That’s what makes it a special edition shirt. But as an added bonus, you’ll get them at cost, when you order them here.

Michael Deskevich
Kettlebells, Hiking, and Biking
 No picture of the bike ride, though I wish I had my camera for that one - I blew past someone in a full kit from one of our competitors.

No picture of the bike ride, though I wish I had my camera for that one - I blew past someone in a full kit from one of our competitors.

I always say that we have a bunch of different cycles in our programs, most of the time everything is reasonable, but sometimes they all line up to give you a difficult week or day.

Everything lined up this weekend to be difficult - I pulled a PR deadlift on Friday (yay!), went on a long ride on Saturday (my first since the boys were born), and then a long hike near the divide (>10k ft altitude) with Illy in the backpack on Sunday.

I should have been destroyed by the weight and the volume of work I did, but I felt great. I was most surprised by my performance on the bike.

I haven’t done a real ride for at lest 5 years, probably more. I go out with the boys, but that’s easy stuff (for now) at their speed. I had a chance to go for a long ride by myself on Saturday - and even found a neighbor to join me as I was leaving. He was a real cyclist and what surprised me was that I was able to mostly keep up with him on the trail. More importantly, when we got back from the ride, I felt perfect.

I haven’t done any real endurance work ever. The most I do are 10 minutes of A+A swings, or sometimes a 20 minute A+A snatch set (5 snatches on the minute, so the work:rest ratio is actually really low)

I know academically that the Alactic plus Aerobic work (a form of Anti-glycolytic training) is exactly what we should be doing. It makes sense, I’ve written articles on why it’s the right way to train. I know that working for 10 minutes a day can actually train your real world long-distance endurance. But it still doesn’t feel real until you experience it yourself.

It’s another example of the WTF-effect with kettlebells. You don’t need to train long work, you don’t need to constantly tap into the glycolytic pathway in training. You will get better for real life by doing simple easy work.

I even had lots in the tank when I needed to tap into the glycolytic work to cruise up a rocky technical section too! Mountain biking is lots of alternating between exploding and enduring. I never felt out of my depth. Even after years off of the bike!

Oh, and my strength was so much better that balance was trivial too - I’m not an extraordinary technical rider, but I did much harder trails that I typically did in the past too. Balance is an expression of strength!

You bikers in Boulder better be reading this - don’t be beating yourself up with glycolytic-acid-bath-HIIT workouts, silly balance ball nonsense, and generally wasting your time. Get in here, do our A+A strength program and you’ll magically get better at your sport.

…and I didn’t even get a chance to talk about the metabolic efficiency that AGT give you. When you have lots of mitochondria that can metabolize fat in parallel, you don’t notice the altitude nearly as much anymore.

Michael Deskevich
Membership Waitlist

Earlier this summer, we announced that we’d be starting a waitlist in the fall. Since it’s the equinox, I guess that’s the official start of fall.

Get on the waitlist

An easy way to avoid the waitlist is to schedule a 1-on-1 session with a trainer. We’ll give you a great personalized introduction to how we do things at Barbell Strategy and then you’ll be ready to jump into our classes.

Michael Deskevich
Youth S&C Class
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We had our first Youth S&C class last night. I was able to catch part of it while I was getting my workout in. Blake is great teaching the youngins!

If you have any (or know of any) middle or high school students, we’d love to teach them how to get strong! Get them in here.

Kids don’t play enough and they spend too much time sitting in school. Or if they’re doing organized sports, they’re doing too much sport-specific work and not getting the good base of strength that they need.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some scary meathead powerlifting session. This is a really smart and gradual introduction to how to move and get strong, and since it’s at a special time, we can give lots of personal attention to everyone.

Michael Deskevich
Does weightlifting make you smarter?

tl;dr - yes

Last night the topics of conversation got really nerdy. We went from big data statistics to DNA repair pathways in about 15 minutes.

That kicked of a discussion of how was it possible that all of us found each other? How is it possible that all the nerds workout together at the same place?

And of course that set off another discussion about the cognitive benefits of weightlifting. My Twitter feed has been full of this discussion lately too. I’m sure it’s selection bias but I follow a lot of folks who are mathematicians, programmers, and weightlifters, so the discussions get nerdy quick.

So am I a brilliant marketer that found a way to get all of the smart people in Boulder to workout here? Or is there something else going on? Well we all know my marketing skills…

It does seem that there is a connection between weightlifting and improved cognition. I know, for me that I figure out tons of complicated work problems between sets. In fact, that’s really the only time I’m creative. When I’m at work, I’m just implementing the stuff I thought of while lifting.

Since it’s bad form to reference Twitter threads to prove my point, I went digging in the literature and found these two recent articles (one, two). Granted, they are about improving cognition (or reversing cognitive decline) in older folks. But what helps older folks keep their marbles may also help the younger folks make other connections and improve creativity.

So I don’t know why we all found each other, but I do know that if we have a special population of very thoughtful folks and that we aren’t a typical meathead gym full of broscience. And I’m really proud of that.

Michael Deskevich