Back to the Grind

There’s a lot going on in life. I have a two year old daughter, a new house in a new state, many new neighbors and friends, and worried about going into a cold winter without a wood-burning fireplace.

So I’ve got a few things on my mind this night of Christmas, 2021. But training remains constant, as it always has, as it always will.

Let’s talk about training.

Since I last wrote, I brought my 5×5 barbell regimen to a temporary halt in order to move to my new home, by truck, halfway across the country. That was a great experience. I packed up my squat stand, bar, and kettlebells, along with the rest of my apartment, and took a two-day drive from California to Texas. Because I had to pack the barbell equipment up, I spent the last couple of training days with my kettlebells.

I continued on with S&S after the move, keeping up the clean and press and snatch practice in between. I did swings and getups on the S&S with the 32kg and 40kg, slowly incorporating the heavier weight into nearly all of the sets. Wanting to develop more skill, I did as many clean and presses and snatches as I could in addition to S&S. At some point I moved on to an alternating schedule of S&S and ROP. I was also experimenting with barbell training. Obviously, this got tiring. I eventually dropped everything to pursue a 13-week cycle of the Rite of Passage only, as written in Enter the Kettlebell (Tsatsouline 2006).

This time on the ROP, I started with the 24kg. I didn’t think it necessary to go back to training with the 16kg, and I did not want to deal with skinned wrists again from that smaller bell. After a few weeks, I was doing five ladders up to five reps of the clean and press: 5(1,2,3,4,5). Not having revisited the text for a while, I continued on with the 24kg for about three weeks at the same number of ladders.

I found that doing this, I wouldn’t be able to further increase my strength or size. So I went back to the text, and lo and behold, there was a small paragraph saying that I should be progressing to the next weight when able to do the top sets. There was also mention, in a different paragraph on a different page, of waiting until able to press the higher weight for five reps. However, this section of the book was written a bit confusingly, so I went with the first fork in the road.

With the 32kg, I started over with three sets of singles. I was barely able to do a set of three clean and presses on the Hard day. It was heavy! After a couple of weeks, I did acclimate. However, one of my shoulders was pretty aggravated from the weeks of pressing. I had a gym incident a long time ago that still bothers me. Pressing seems to have annoyed it, although swings and getups did wonders for my shoulders.

Regardless, I finished week 12 at 5(1,2,3) with 32kg. I tested myself on week 13 on the clean and press and snatch. I put up three presses on each side – not impressive, but the most I’d done to date at least. Snatches were pretty dismal at 80 count by the 10 minute mark, with the 24kg girya. I thought I’d see how long it took me to put up 200 snatches, since that was what I was ready to do that day. It took me just over 29 minutes to do 204 snatches. The following week was pretty dreadful at work.

During the last two weeks of ROP, I began planning my next 13-week training regimen. The general idea I have is to go from explosive strength with kettlebells back to absolute strength with powerlifting. At first I had set my sights on Mass Made Simple by Dan John. Then I realized I didn’t want to do such high rep sets, and wanted to push heavier weights. This was fed in part by reading Marty Gallagher on powerlifting. I got excited thinking about minimal movements, and settled on a program centered around the four core powerlifting exercises.

I’m on a quest still to continue my strength building from years back. I realize that the one factor I neglected when first venturing into powerlifting, body mass increase, was a big one. This time around, I’m purposefully eating more protein and food in general. Earlier, when I first discovered the world of eating good fats, veggies, and clean foods, I realized that I did not need as much food to sustain strength and energy.

However, when I reached my peak that time, I think the key to progressing would have been to increase my body size through eating more. I didn’t do that because at the time I wasn’t interested. I wanted to travel and didn’t have a gym nor time nor resources to train the same way. So I found kettlebells, and that carried me through these past several years quite well. It’s time, however, for the next season of life. It’s time for abundance again.

At the end of the second week of this program, I’m enjoying the feeling of mass again. It’s nice to push bigger weights, to get that barbell on my back again, and to see the effects on my legs, torso, and arms. It’s going to be a few cycles before I get back to my previous meet lifts. That’s okay, I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.

Here’s to a great new year.

Live powerfully,