The Litvinov Workout: Two Thumbs Up, or Dumb as Dirt?

Life coach extraordinaire Dan John loves the “Litvinov workout” (as do I).  Charles Poliquin, though, apparently thinks the whole Litvinov idea is ludicrous.  Two at-the-top-of-their-game, highly respected strength and conditioning coaches (and toss one crazy Physical Culturalist into the mix for shits-and-giggles) , two polar-opposite points of view on Litvinov-like protocols.  So damn, who to believe?

Andy Deas recently posted a fine article (But Mike Boyle Said the Squat was Dead?), in which he addresses the issue of unwavering acceptance of delivered-from-on-high, “guru” proclamations.  What we need to consider in this particular instance of John (and TTP) vs Poliquin, folks, is context.

Consider the diverse client base of each of these fine coaches.  Poliquin works mainly with Olympic level athletes — think bobsledders, skiers and the like — as opposed to Dan John, who works primarilly with the high school athlete, the Highland Games crowd; CrossFit enthusiasts.  Two very different trainee bases, two very different sets of overall needs, goals, skill-sets, metabolic conditioning requirements and, well, you get the picture.  And, not surprisingly, two drastically different takes on the same exercise protocol.

Again, this points to my assertion that programming has to be an n=1 affair; at the very least (and, as in the case with S&C coaches who must work in a group setting) programming has to match the n=1 requirements of the particular sport.  Dan John deals with athletes who face a very high degree of unknowns/variables in their sport; in comparison, Poliquin’s athletes face much less in the way of the unknown/variable factor.  Think of the demands placed on a football player, versus those placed, for example, on a bobsledder, and you can easily see why each coach feels the way he does (and passionately so!) about the Litvinov workout.

Bottom line?  If a Litvinov-like workout suits your athletic needs or fitness goals, then by all means utilize it.  At its essence, the Litvinov is simply a hardcore bout of GPP (general physical preparedness), no more, no less.  There is no particular magic with a front squat/400 meter pairing (other than the fact that it’s brutal!); I’ve paired tire flips and sprints for an effective, challenging, and downright fun-as-hell workout.  And make no mistake about it, I still hold Charles Poliquin’s opinion with the highest degree of respect.  In this particular instance, though, I have to respectfully disagree with Charles’ across-the-board disapproval of “the Litvinov”.

As an example of the n=1 approach to programming, consider how S&C coach Joe DeFranco utilizes a Litvinov-like approach (focusing primarily on the alactic anaerobic energy system) in the training of Houston Texans linebacker, Brian Cushing, here.  I’m curious as to what Charles would have to say about this particular method of training; seems pretty spot-on to me.

Delivering and receiving information via electronic formats such as blogs, bulletin boards and the like is fantastic for the immediate spread of information — the drawback, of course, is that the medium discourages the full development of well-rounded ideas; pros and cons of an idea or stance cannot be fully parsed-out.  It’s up to the reader, then, to do that parsing himself, to ask the critical “but…” and “what if…” questions.  Neglect the very important step of asking “in what context is this statement being made?” at your own peril.

Now I’m quite sure that Charles would disapprove of the following workout as well, but it suits my needs just fine; not only that, but it is concise and, well, quite a bit of fun.  A little Friday afternoon frolic to kick-off this past weekend:

power snatch: 115 x 5; 135 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

in a super-set with

ab wheel roll-outs (on toes, slight knee touch at full extension): bw x 8 for each of 7 rounds

Then on to a superset of the following –

btn push-press: 165 x 7; 185 x 6; 195 x 4

semi-supinated pull-ups: bw+45 lbs x 6, 6, 6

A couple of Workouts, and Gut Health

Look at the contrast between these (my latest) two workouts; this is what I consider to be “Conjugate for the masses”.  I do think it’s possible to blend power emphasis work with HIT/strength work and the more MetCon-ish/HIIT sessions as well — all within the same overall plan.  Add a dash of some bodybuilding-like volume work and, well, we’ve got all the bases just about covered.  For most folks, I’d place a premium (and therefore more emphasis) on strength, work which can be effectively and efficiently accomplished using various HIT methods.  Work on these other physical aspects (or “strengths” as Louie Simmons tends to term them) can be feathered-in, though, quite nicely and, in my experience at least, without undo fear of overtraining.

Monday’s workout:  a short and sweet superset here, followed by a little CZT work –

*Gunthor-style clean and jerks: 115 x 10; 135 x 7, 7, 7, 7, 7

rev grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 7; 45# x 7, 6, 6, 5, 5

No rest between sets or between exercises in the above superset.  Then it was on to:

CZT horizontal  chest press: 3 hyper-reps (a max negative followed immediately by a max positive effort; 3 reps in rest-pause fashion)

CZT horozontal leg press: 3 hyper- reps

*Werner Gunthor; Swiss shot puttin’ bad ass from back in the day.  Possessed with the work ethic of a single-minded madman, and with a penchant for hellish training regimens.  Cast from the same mold as  Soviet Hammer-man Sergey Litvinov.  These two exemplify the term “power personified”.   Now, for what I call “Gunthor clean & presses”, check out the man himself demonstrating them at the 1:05 mark in this impressive clip.  The clean and jerk is a great movement, no doubt — however, I like Gunthor’s method a bit better, due to the incorporation of a reactive catch/pressing motion.  The Olys are great, but sometimes a derivative works better for athletic applications apart from the sport of Oly lifting itself.  And yeah, the audio is in French (note to self: I should have paid a little more attention in school) — but damn, do you really need much of a narrative, here?  Look out!  Heavy duty explosive work ahead:

I followed that beauty up with a HIT beat-down on Wednesday at the Efficient Exercise downtown studio.  Bouncing between the various Efficient Exercise studios allows me to pretty much do it all, in a weightlifting sense.  The fact that I now live about 1 mile from Lehman high school (nice outdoor track!), and work in central Austin (with an abundance of parks) allows me to get my sprint on whenever I want…and the fact that I’m now in Austin means that, yes, I am smack-dab in the middle of fixie heaven 🙂  Needless to say, I’m never at a loss for a workout outlet.  Here’s Wednesday’s dates with a HIT session:

Tru squat: (weight – 100, counter weight – 115, wide stance, 3rd pin, 4010 tempo) 15, approx. 15 secs rest, 15 – then immediately to:

Super-slow leg curl: 160 lbs x 10, approx. 15 secs  rest, 12 –  4040 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 10 ( 4040 tempo), then immediately to:

Nautilus chest press/crunch: 170 x 8 ( 4040 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 215 x 9 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric pull-downs: (20# midline add), 9 reps @ 5010 tempo

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 170 x 9 (2040 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 resp-pause singles (40×0 tempo)

Notice that a pre-exhaust methodology prevailed here.  And yeah, so I preceded and followed that little jewel with a 5-mile, hard fixie jaunt.  Needless to say, I slept well Wednesday night  🙂   …and I’m still feeling it a bit today.

A couple of items to check out:

Gut health, from NPR’s Fresh Air, with Terry Gross.  We in the Paleo community are hip to the idea of maintaining an active an healthy gut flora, and the benefits of a Paleo diet toward that end.  The mainstream is just starting to come around to the healthy gut flora concept, though they’re still years away (or so it seems) from connecting the dots between a Paleo diet and a rockin’, healthy gut.  Can body fat levels be altered simply by altering gut flora?  You bet; check it out.

…and Skyler Tanner waxes poetic on the notion of “easy” results.  Workouts that are short in duration?  You bet; short on intensity, though?  Not on your life.