The Dark Side: Quicker, Deadlier, Darker.

By Tom Furman

Upon Reading Pavel Tsatsouline’s book, “The Quick and The Dead”, my mind took a parallel path. With the timed intervals and exercises, it was possible to get an ample amount of work done. It wasn’t “one and done” like the old Nautilus training, nor a circuit, but the alternation of a push and a hinge done to varying time frames with small variations in form. The variations in time and form were determined by the roll of a die. This kept some randomness. The same work, but just slightly different. Short term explosive effort with adequate rest was designed according to the citations given, to improve specific energy systems.

I saw it another way. It was more focused than the old circuit training or Peripheral Heart Action Training as championed by Chuck Coker, Arthur Steinhaus and Bob Gajda. It was also a way to accumulate up to 100 reps per exercise in a condensed period. FAR better than sitting on a machine and texting, which is the current training method.

Such training was coined, “Anti Glycolytic”. Short bursts of training followed by specific rest intervals. I found this reference from PhD Kenneth Jay.

September 26, 2017 · Kenneth Jay
“Anti-glycolytic” is the new buzz word in the kettlebell training world…but is not even a real word used in exercise science.. at best it would refer to training below/up to the Lactate threshold and then it’s just low/moderate intensity aerobic training..(or alternatively only using the ATP-CrP system which would make it maximal speed training)

But tell me again how staying away from something (ie. aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis) is gonna make you better at it????

Here is a link to the term “Anti Glycolytic” on Pub Med.

Whatever term used it is a method to train an energy system in an efficient and simple means. It is uncluttered. Not really hypertrophy and not aerobic as aerobic training is defined, but specific, to a range of exertions. To be clear, this definition of aerobics is very clear -

“Essentially this- heart rate itself is no indication whatsoever of “cardiovascular conditioning” or training- heart rate simply indicates either a neurological or endocrine stimulation of the SA node.

Weight training DOES strengthen the heart, in a way- when a heavy load is moved by the muscles, the vessels within the muscle temporarily occlude. The body releases catecholamines, and the heart rate increases to maintain blood flow not just to the working muscles (pushing against occluded blood vessels), but blood flow to the rest of the body (hindered by muscular occlusion). Note that NO additional blood is returning to the heart- the heart is simply pumping harder to maintain adequate perfusion. This strengthens the left ventricle (LVH)- this concentric hypertrophy of the heart DOES enable the heart to pump harder, but doesn’t carry with it ANY of the other benefits of cardiovascular training.

Low intensity steady state work is different. The momentary load from the muscles is not enough to occlude vessels- as work is done and metabolites created/fat broken down and oxygen needed (as a terminal acceptor in the ETC), the heart rate increases to provide MORE constant blood flow specifically to these regions. As there is no occlusion of these blood vessels, the rate of blood RETURNING to the heart increases as well. This means the heart is not just pumping out more blood, but filling with more as well. This eccentric hypertrophy not only increases whole-heart strength, the heart’s own support network (arteries), and vascular elasticity in the entire body, it also stimulates the benefits on a cellular level (mitochondrial density, etc.) that come with cardiovascular training.

LVH, combined with poor vascular elasticity, sudden heavy cardiac load, poor circulation, lousy cardiac perfusion, and stimulant usage is a GREAT recipe for afib, hypertension, and other health issues- which is essentially what a routine consisting of lifting and HIIT (only) can create.

So, to repeat, the work MUST be low intensity (low enough to NOT cause complete muscular contraction), the heart rate must be elevated but not so high that it is unsustainable, and consistent over the course of a given time period (steady state).” — Alex Viada

The program, without spelling out the details, uses variations of the push up and kettlebell swing. The kettlebell snatch is also used. That means the movements are primarily a push and a hinge. This aligns with the old saying that all you really need is a big push and a big pull. (traditionally a press and deadlift). However with minimalist programs there can be the problem of being too minimal. There will always be outliers like Herschel Walker who can get by with a few moves, but long term adaptation might promote a lack of balance. What about the rest of the body?

If training localized energy systems is the goal, perhaps broadening the reach of your training might be of use. Why not include a pull, a squat or a lunge? The answer is easy. Do it. The construction is a bit more tedious. What moves can be done and how should they be grouped? I have a few ideas. The lower body one is of curious origins.

For an upper body pull, the first thought would be pull ups. However working explosively and for duration using that exercise might be unreachable of some or injurious to others. What might be better is to do horizontal rows on rings or any suspension apparatus. There is the ability to scale the movement and the independent hand holds are easier on the joints.

Another possibility is the Modified Gorilla Row. This can be done with dumbbells or kettlebells. I use the term “modified” since you will be driving the non moving arm into the handle of the weight on the floor. It’s like bracing for ground & pound in an MMA fight. This reduces fatigue on the lumbar region as well as some shearing force over the multiple rounds of effort. Exploding up with the weight is more comfortable with a stable base. If the trainee’s range of motion is limited, the kettlebells or dumbbells can be elevated with blocks to make this more accommodating.

But what about the lower body? The answer to any question, world poverty, third world debt or the zombie apocalypse is SQUAT. That is a simple answer, but hardly nuanced. A better choice that is scalable and loadable is the dry land drills used by speed skaters.

The legs of speed skater Vincent DeHaitre

Due to limitation in ice time, speed skaters have developed some insane drills to mimic their sport. The advantages to using a few of their exercises are apparent.

  1. Little to no equipment is involved.
  2. The skill level for the workout enthusiast is low. For the speed skater it must be more specific and under the eyes of a coach.
  3. There are ample drills to choose from and try out.
  4. You can start with no added weight, then slowly add resistance. The resistance is added on the low back/hip area. This can be a weight vest loaded low and on the back side. It can be a barbell plate or kettlebell held behind you. Olympic legend, Eric Heiden used inner tubes loaded with sand on his low back.

This video is a wonderful example of TEN drills. Some will be efficient and others won’t. Try them out before you structure your workout.

The use of long duration aerobic activity is, of course, mentioned in the Quick and Dead book. The benefits of this modality is obvious and explained above. There are no shortcuts. It must be included in your training.

“Everyone wants some magic pill — some life hack — that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist.” — Jocko Willink

The typical set up for a workout is rounds of push ups alternated with rounds of kettlebell swings. Both of these exercises can be scaled to be easier or harder or different. That’s the part we know if we are already using the program. However here is the other half of the body, the dark side. It gets less sun than the, “big push and big pull” world. Here is a the set up

a. Explosive Modified Gorilla Row-or-Horizontal Row on Suspension.

b. Dry Land Speed Skating Drill.

That’s the ‘pull’ and the ‘squat’.

The standard from the book is —

a. Kettlebell Swing

b. Explosive Push Up

These sessions should be alternated, and sandwiched between pure aerobic sessions. This can be rowing, running, rucking, elliptical, biking, swimming. Five to six total workout days per week. If you are short on time or tired, opt for the aerobic work. Of course some mobility and core work is a wonderful warm down for either workout.

There is another component to all of this. Training increases mitochondria in the human body. Losing mitochondria is part of aging, that is why exercise remains the most economic and effective tool in the longevity tool box. There are benefits to both aerobic and strength work in the process of mitochondrial biogenesis. There is some evidence of the value of nutritional intervention in the form of food supplements. Of the many possibilities, PQQ is interesting. There is rat data, which I’d ignore, but a bit of human data in this study.

If you have money to spend on unproven supplements where the research is rather young, by all means, go for it. Just remember, there is no free lunch. You can’t practice caloric restriction or fasting while you sit on your butt and gobble down handfuls of questionable chemicals to live forever. Remember the word is, “supplement”. If anything, these nutrients are a tack-on item. Maybe a good bet, maybe not.

Whatever you choose, don’t neglect 50% of the human body. Train the Dark Side and double the benefits.

If you need more personalized fitness coaching, contact me now at physicalstrategies@gmail.com

I have limited space so don’t delay.

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, “Seasons of Temper”, is available at tomfurman.com. His guide to mobility, “Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Rubber Bands”, is available on Amazon.

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Tom Furman

Tom Furman

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and fitness most of his life. He’s currently a fitness coach and been blogging since 2005. www.tomfurman.com