By Tom Furman
“Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT
Done dirt cheap
Neckties, contracts, high voltage
Done dirt cheap.” ~ AC/DC, Dirty Deeds.
Some years ago while reading about the training methods of lifter Anton Anasenko, I came upon the term, “Dirty Work” or “Black Work”. Anton would extend his sets longer than the standard ten minutes to twelve or even twenty minutes. He used the term, “Black Work”. I didn’t fully understand it’s purpose. I decided to ask Misha Marshak, Master of Sport, whom I met at the 2007 World Kettlebell Championships in Miami. His reply clarified things greatly.
“Black, in this case means “rough draft “— not the actual jerk workout. In Russia we say black work or dirty work if you don’t care about the technique or about perfecting the motion. The main goal of this black work is to break a sweat or just kill yourself at the end of your main workout.”
This method seemed to work well for Anton Anasenko. He is an Honored Master of Sport, swims in icy lakes, hunts and runs marathons in Siberia. Basically he’s a harder man than you.
Some trainees have used this method as a one shot, bare minimum tool to improve strength, endurance and burn some calories. It takes some ramping up to get to longer sets. Breathing, relaxation, technique, grip and pace need to be adjusted.
How does one do a, “Black or Dirty Set”? Very simply, you use either the snatch or long cycle. Between each rep, you insert swings. 2, 3, or more as a type of active rest. A lower skill possibility is to do this with one ‘bell only and do a clean and push press. It requires less technique and is easier to master. There are two possible ways to “stall” while still doing the work. By swinging more or by holding the bell in your rack. This is often called, “resting in duress”. Doing the Dirty Work with one bell also facilitates transferring the bell to the other arm. The systemic load remains the same, but the isolated load on the arm and grip changes. You are not limited by localized muscular fatigue.
The overall effect of such training is dramatic. You are using a relatively light load in the form of a kettlebell and a lifting methodology that distributes the effort over the whole body. This is not bodybuilding isolation work.
“I don’t train to get fucked up, I train to fuck other people up. So while you are limping from “squat day” I’m beating you senseless” — Vladimir Wong
Adaptation to Dirty Work is not the same as “lifting fast or circuit training”. It is a mix between strength and aerobic adaptation. This is explained fully, HERE.
While Dirty Work checks a lot of boxes, I feel a full training program needs a few more elements. For the recreational trainee, two such sessions per week should suffice. One longer, one shorter. This can be the snatch or the clean and push press. If you are training for kettlebell sport, then the standard long cycle or snatch are indicated.
The other element I’d like to round out training with is either step ups or rucking. If you choose running, fine. You are good to go. Both step ups and rucking bring into play the lower body in varied ways. With Dirty Work, you are locked in a stance. Step ups and rucking solve that issue. They are both relatively easy on the knees and hips.
The four variables to measure with both step ups and rucking are -
Well rounded advice on rucking can be found, HERE.
A rugged step up challenge can be a great goal. Check this out HERE.
The warm down from step ups or rucking should take the lesser used muscle groups through a fuller range of motion in the form of a super set. This need not be pushed hard, but should never be excluded.
This program calls for two Dirty Work days and two Step Up/Rucking days. That is a four day program. The other three days you should recreate, walk, do yard work, run errands and STRETCH. Take a yoga class or do static stretching on your own. Just do not neglect this. If you choose to add, subtract or modify this workout, it becomes something else. In the words of Frank Martin —
“Rule #1. Never change the deal.” — The Transporter
For more personalized training I am available for Online Fitness Coaching. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson) His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ‘backyard’ workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers and Coast Guard Rescue Divers. His best selling ebook, “Armor of War’’, is available at tomfurman.com. His guide to mobility, “Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Rubber Bands’’, is available on Amazon.