Monday, May 12, 2008

Stronger or just doing more reps?

It's always an honor and a challenge to train swings with the swing queen. I always love training with my wife. She's just flat out tough. And cool :))
Just a bit of fire in the eyes.

This subject came up last year when Pavel and I got talking about the difference between lifting more weight in a lift like the bench press and actually being stronger in the move.Think about a lifter who just lays down on the bench, takes a medium grip, little or no arch and just plants his feet;doesnt stand UP on them.He will lift a specific number. Then assume this same lifter takes a wide grip, a giant arch, stands up n the feet so the butt is just barely on the bench and lowers the bar as low onto the chest as the rules allow.He could add 20-50 pounds to his lift immediately but is he any stronger? No. He is just lifting more weight with 'efficiency' of technique.
Is it legal? Yes. Ethical? Of course, as long as all the things done are allowed in the rulebook. But has the lifter gotten stronger. No again.
I've been thinking alot about this as I've made my forays into the land of the SSST and timed sets trying to 1) figure out why so many do so many more reps more easily than me and 2) how can I learn these 'tricks'.
So I learned how to corkscrew the weight down, hold the bell with the false grip, learned David Whitley's super secret double breathing technique and voila! My reps went up ALMOST OVERNIGHT! Whereas before I would start to feel fatigue with sets over 15 now I could do sets of twenty on one arm and ssst style sets of 50 with very low heartrates. In fact, using the breathing technique lowered my HR so much in Snatch Vo2 work I was worried I wasn't getting enough work!
But there is always something about going to an RKC to pull one's head out of one's ass and get back to HARDSTYLE! basics, lol.All this focus on reps and reps and longer and longer sets made me forget about the School of Strength that the RKC is and that it is the basis of all endurance as well.
Training should be hard. Competition should be easy.
Plus, after spending some time on the phone yesterday with Randy Hauer, RKCTL one thing he said to me really stood out: " when you get down to it, anything over 3-5 reps and you're not working power, you're working something else."
Exactly. I got so enamored of my new found rep ability I forgot I had to keep my strength and power base up as well. I got a good lesson today with my swings.


One arm swings
5/5 per arm focus on maximum power and acceleration on each rep. Hardstyle baby!
change weight each set
20 kg x 15 sets
24 kg x15 sets
28 kg x15 sets
150 reps each weight
450 total reps
24,000 pounds( 12 tons!)

rest between sets varied from 15 sec to quickly as I could mark it down shake it out and get going. Not bad, and as Tracy says it's WAY harder to put it down and have to keep picking it back up, then to just keep going. Which was precisely the point. Hard and fast.
I could really feel my grip giving out at the end too,mainly on the left hand.Trying to be as explosive as possible with as much internal focus( kime) as possible ain't no joke. I miss this sort of stuff and will add it in on swing day as well as ssst snatch training occasionally as well; although I still have to practice the skill(efficiency) of doing the reps with as little effort as possible to get the most reps possible.
It was great to get to train with my wife today. It's always easier and tougher when we are training together. She always pushes herself hard and it's no joke just trying to maintain ,much less keep up the pace. crazy.

2 Clubbell Rockits.
2 15 lbs x20 rep x 7 sets
140 reps

Two arm flag press
25#x8/8 x4 sets

two hand shield cast
15# x20/20

one arm shield cast
15#x8/8x3 sets

BW 160! finally back to normal.



Denis Kanygin said...

Sounds like a great workout!

I agree that better technique does not equal more strength. Of you can always think of that strength always being there, just waiting to be released by proper technique...

Aaron Friday said...


Mark Reifkind said...

not done yet bro,thanks.

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks denis for the post and for visiting!I think one can think of the strength always being there IF one trains for the strength as well as the comp technique. If one falls into the trap of only training technique( or what is easy or one's strength) then that would not be true.
it's like pl'ers who only train in the sumo position. they never really get strong as they could because they are never out of a position of good leverage and the back and hips don't have to work as hard.

Randy said...

I gotta be careful about what I say...never know where it will turn up! As far as the strength vs technique thing goes, I like to look at it as "technique is the means through which strength is expressed". It's already been said about sprinters for example that no one would say "so and so isn't really fast, he just has good technique". The myofibrillar molecules in the body may not be rearranged by improving technique...but maybe the CNS is altered (in a more or less significant way)...and as far as strength as a skill is concerned (and whether or not the bar is lifted)that's where the game is played. Maybe.

Boris said...

"Strength is a skill."

I get your point w. the bench press Rif, but I wonder if the distinction here really matters that much. When I was hovering right around the RKC standards, I was pretty irritated seeing other people who I could outswing, outsquat, and outDL (by a large margin) do as many (or significantly more) reps. I've been trying to refine my technique as well and my numbers have gone up. I don't feel like my strength or conditioning has lost anything though - the improved efficiency, if anything, has made it "easier" to push things harder and longer.

That said, I agree w. Randy Hauer's statement and lifting something heavy once will always be fourhundredmilliontenthousands times more fun to me than lifting something light 100 times.

Sean Schniederjan said...

so many interesting things in here rif. i have two points:

if the bencher works at it and puts on 25 lbs with his "bad" technique, is he stronger than if he uses good technique that will increase his BP by 50? in one sense he is stronger in the former situation, but the knowledge in the latter situation made his BP go up by 25 more lbs! knowledge IS strength. this applies to ssst as well. you know some tricks and you can do more and that makes you stronger, at least in some sense of the word. so isn't the goal to increase your knowledge strength and your physical strength? after all, we are intelligent beings doing something any animal could do, lol. (maybe not, that might be an interesting discussion)

i've got to learn some of these tricks to the ssst. i got up to 240 without them (well, at least some of them).

Mark Reifkind said...


in sport the skill has to be refined and the more efficient one is the better. in training the stress on the systems has to be correct in order to elicit an adaptive response. same with sumo deadlifting. you can refine technique with it but it will never make one as overall BULL strong as conventional because the leverage is better. If you only train in preferred leverage positions you dont get as much overload.
now you do have to be carefull you dont get too out of position or injuries increase. fine line.
and yes being efficient will allow one to do more overall work but it still is overloading only one variable. you need to train all the aspects,over time,especially your weak points in order to get stronger or do more reps( same thing)

Mark Reifkind said...

sorry randy didnt think you'd was a very good point and made me realize all this endurance focus had made me back off too much on my higher power work.

Mark Reifkind said...


first off, the difference isnt 'bad' technique versus 'good' technique as opposed to "no " technique versus a very refined technique.
if bencher two uses refined technique to do more weight he will win a contest. but if he is to improve he will have to do some work NOT in his leverage zone( close grip, different angles,weak points etc).
there is a carryover between special exercises and competition lifts. bench for powerlifters is a comp lift just like snatch for gs'ers is a comp lift.
from my wsb perpective one doesnt rely on building the comp lift but instead using it for speed and technique work and building strenght power and endurance with the use of special, rotating exercises designed to address weak points.
the same can be done with a kettlebell training schedule.
there are MANY different types of strength and you get what you train for. If you are lucky :))

Boris said...

Those are interesting thoughts Rif and I like the WSBB analogy.

I don't know what the answer is, I'm sure that a diehard "OTW'er would say that a more appropriate analogy would be a competitive PLer purposely doing elbows flared to 90 degrees bench press, or rounded back DLs as training lifts and saying that somehow that was better for gaining strength - yes, they might get stronger, but it's putting a lot of needless and potentially injurious stress on things. I'm not saying this is so necessarily, but it would probably be the other perspective.

Anywho, I enjoy the conversation - thanks.

Bob Garon II said...


Very good write up. I have a couple questions though.

What is the form for the false grip?

Also what is David Whitley's super secret double breathing technique? I would like to use it.



Bob Garon II said...

Also what is the "Flag Press" and the "Shield Press"?

Thanks again

Mark Reifkind said...

check out march 15 bog entry for the false grip data. david is coming out with an article on it soon. its basically an exhalation and inhalation in the bottom and at the top of the snatch.two exhalations per rep- double breathing. listen to the video of me doing the last snatch workout.

Mark Reifkind said...

bob please do a search on my blog for flag press and shield cast. there are blog posts on all.

4 Ranges, RKC said...


awesome points. Something to think about, especially in my own training.

BTW: did you get my email? I sent it to your giryastrength email address. It was about clubbell training. I just got a pair of 15's, 25's, and a Jr. Bruiser, and I wanted your input on a couple of questions.