A Speed Based Complex
Power maintenance is primary. From an early age, I’ve always appreciated my body’s ability to move with coordination, quickness, and skill. From long jumping and sprinting the 100m in college, to powerlifting and kettlebell training today, the pursuit is of power has piqued my interest.
In hardstyle kettlebell training, the girevik applies both strength based grinds and high speed ballistics in a symphony of hinges, squats, pushes, and pulls. Depending on the goal of the athlete, programming the big six exercises (swings, snatches, cleans, presses, squats, get ups) will be dependent on skill, strength, and power.
Girevik: a kettlebell lifterhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettlebell_lifting
In my own training, I often bias power focused complexes for improved conditioning and power maintenance. At 35 years of age, my goals are simple: maintain my athleticism, muscle mass, relative and absolute power, and maintain my aerobic fitness. So when designing a complex, I aim for the biggest bang-for-your buck exercises to provide a stimulus of growth.
As a former jumper and sprinter, I’m not stranger to plyometric exercises. With that said, properly performed plyometrics should be performed with low volume because of their high-intensity nature. As an adult, I find that using double kettlebells with overspeed eccentrics is akin to plyometrics, but much safer.
Since power training will cause central nervous system (CNS) fatigue, I program my own training to have minimal volume: MED (minimum effective dose). In truth, I feel great on two power training sessions per week. I know you might not think that’s enough, but I fill my other days with trail running, hiking, and being on my feet for hours with clients.
Even with an MED programming, loading the tissues with high eccentric forces is a pursuit that must be scaled over time.
Although an arbitrary strength measurement, I believe that once an athlete can achieve a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift or 2x bodyweight back squat, they should be “strong enough” to train overspeed eccentric exercises.
The Ballistic Squat
An Introduction to the Overspeed Front Squat
I am a proud StrongFirst Elite trainer. I vow to act with honor in my designation and offer nuance behind our tried and true program. Something that I’ve wanted to develop is a method of loading the knee and ankle flexors without plyometric exercises.
In StrongFirst curriculum, we predominantly train high power hip hinge dominant ballistics. But after reviewing my own form while completing and clean and jerk to front squat, I had a realization: I could catch the double bells into a deep squat without the tradition “catch” into quarter squat.
With double kettlebells fixated in the overhead position, I could allow the kettlebells to free fall while also dynamically pulling downward. If this movement became seamlessly integrated with a front squat, I could harness an overspeed ballistic squat that heavily loads the knee and ankle flexors.
The Overspeed Front Squat
The overspeed front squat is my answer to performing a power based squatting movement with double kettlebells.
Just as “spike” or banded kettlebell swing offers an overspeed effect (high degrees of tension are created in in the eccentric, or, downswing), the overspeed front squat operates similarly.
In exercises like the double kettlebell push press or double kettlebell jerk, the girevik must dip and drive using their hips. Imagine the girevik performs a drive but allows the bells to stall or “float” in the air. From this overhead position, they can allow the bells to drop dynamically into a “catch.”
But with a new intention, the girevik can also quickly pull the kettlebells from float to catch and immediately drop into a squat. The girevik would need to harness accelerated forces of gravity through a stiff core and resilient legs in order to not lose their form.
As the girevik reaches the sticking point of the front squat, they can reverse their eccentric pretension and immediately reverse the motion into a powerful concentric squat. Since the upward phase of the squat is performed with rapid speed, the kettlebells should drive into a float as the hips lockout, preparing the girevik for another overspeed front squat.
To practice this movement, one should first practice StrongFirst style dip and drive phases with subsequent catches like in push presses or jerks. Once one can demonstrate a seamless transition from airborne to catch, they can then practice the overspeed front squat.
To demonstrate, here’s an example of a drive and float like in the double kettlebell push press or double kettlebell jerk:
Next, the double kettlebell push press float is caught in the rack and the girevik immediately pulls into a squat. From the sticking point, the girevik explodes upward out of the squat and lets the bells float again. The movement is completed for the designated number of reps in the rung:
By using the overspeed front squat along with double snatches and viking push presses, Power Threes employs constant speed and tension.
- Double Kettlebell Snatch
- Double Kettlebell Viking Push Press
- Double Kettlebell Overspeed Front Squat
This complex is based on a delta shift in reps on each rung of the ladder:
3 x 1, 3, 5 ∆s –>
(∆s signifies that the rep counts move to the right on each rung of the ladder)
On the first rung, the girevik would complete: 1 repetition of double snatches, 3 viking push presses, and 5 overspeed front squats.
1, 3, 5 ∆s
On the second rung, the girevik would complete: 5 repetitions of double snatches, 1 viking push press, and 3 overspeed front squats.
5, 1, 3 ∆s
On the third rung, the girevik would complete: 3 repetitions of double snatches, 5 viking push presses, and 1 overspeed front squat.
3, 5, 1 ∆s
That’s the completion of one ladder.
ext, you’d move back to the original reps and completion of 2 more ladders. This is the base of the program. For a strong man, use double 24kg as your “medium” or “heavy” day.
With a 3 x 1, 3, 5 ∆s ladder system, the girevik is completing:
|Ladder||Double Snatch||Double Viking Push Press||Double Overspeed Front Squat|
|1||9 reps||9 reps||9 reps|
|2||9 reps||9 reps||9 reps|
|3||9 reps||9 reps||9 reps|
|Total:||27 reps||27 reps||27 reps|
I am an athlete that thrives on high intensity and low volume. I can easily maintain my strength and power with two intentional sessions per week. With this said, my training plan might vary from your needs.
In providing resources for the masses, I offer a three day per week training plan:
I have found that simple programming is not only utilitarian, but offers the potential for ramping or offloading depending on one’s sporting goals. I do not want reinvent the wheel. I look to a common theme in StrongFirst programming:
The York Barbell Template.
The York Barbell Template combines three days of training:
Day 1: Heavy
Day 2: Light
Day 3: Medium.
What I have found that works for me is varying this template to:
Day 1: Medium
Day 2: Heavy
Day 3: Light
If using Monday, Wednesday, Friday as the three training days, I prefer to have my Monday as a medium load training day. As the week progresses, I find that mid week has fewer clients and I’m able to focus more on training. Wednesday becomes the heavy day. I like to program my light day on Friday so that I can prepare for a weekend of mountain climbing or trail running.
Finishing the 3 x 1, 3, 5 ∆s ladder with 27 reps of each movement is a worthy base.
|Medium – Double 20kg||Training|
|Heavy – Double 24kg||Training|
|Light – Double 16kg||Training|
But as mentioned, I can easily thrive on two days of training per week. This could be done in a 3 x 1, 3, 5 ∆s ladder with double 24kg each day. Or, I could do one day heavy day and one medium day.
|Medium – Double 24kg||Training|
|Heavy – Double 28kg||Training|
Adding a heavy, double 28kg kettlebell session would require a change in volume to accommodate the load. With doubles 28kgs, I would aim for 3 x 1, 2, 3 ∆s.
Of course, I allow flexibility in my programming in case of a weekend trip to the mountains, work travel, or other miscellaneous plans. The point to remember is that the base for Power Threes is always 3 x 1, 3, 5 ∆s with double 24kg kettlebells.
I will almost always add pull-ups or chin-ups into my program to maintain vertical pulling strength. Similarly I will almost always add in a few targeted core exercised to ensure proper posture and core strength. Examples are the ab wheel, hanging leg raise, and side plank.
n my current cycle, I am maintaining my aerobic fitness for a summer of mountain climbing. The Power Threes complex serves its purpose in maintaining my outright speed and power. Although I thrive on adequate rest and recovery and MED training, other athletes might need more targeted accessory exercises for their goals.
In conclusion, I love the way Power Threes turned out. My first week of training was mentally challenging. Not only does one need to focus on performing the volume correctly, but must also maintain near-perfect form to ensure proper exercise dynamics.