Why you need to be patient in training and do more reps

The following is from RKC Team leader Shannon Scullin, our PT manager at Read Performance Training.

Three hundred get ups and counting…

A couple of weeks ago I started a new training program that included one hundred get ups as my recovery day. The goal was to use a light weight and focus solely on technique.

I often include get ups in my workouts but I usually slot them in as the warm up, along with all my mobility work, never use anything lighter than a 16kg kettlebell and very rarely have I used them as my main workout to build strength. Occasionally I may change it up by drilling a particular movement pattern in each stage of the get up, such as the bent press, as a precursor to my main strength/skill session or for a bit of variety on a rest day but never really thought of them as a strength building exercise.

Although a “recovery” day on paper, the one hundred get up session has turned out to be the most beneficial session of each week and the strength, stability, mobility and coordination gains I have made while doing get ups has been a real eye opener for me.

My first recovery day started with a 12kg kettlebell. Although an extremely light bell, I was rather daunted by the task of doing one hundred get ups. I planned to do one get up on each side on the minute, every minute, focussing on perfect technique each time.

Prior to commencing this training program my PR for get ups was a 28kg kettlebell. But I could only get up with it on my right side. The same with the 24kg kettlebell, I could get up on my right side. The roll to elbow was a piece of cake on my right but I just couldn’t get off the ground on the left. This was really frustrating for me. Clearly I had the strength there to do the get up but my body just did not have the coordination to move efficiently enough to lift the weight on my left side.

Within the first  five to ten get ups of my session I began to notice some pretty amazing things happening in my body. All feelings of intimidation dispersed and I felt myself falling in to a zen like state of bodily awareness. I stopped thinking about how many reps I had done or how many I had left to go and focussed solely on my body and what it was feeling.

The first thing I noticed was that my planted foot became “suctioned” to the ground. With each new repetition, without even trying, my foot naturally planted itself without me having to think about it. After a further few repetitions I noticed that my shin was vertical, like a flagpole imbedded in cement. A few more repetitions down the track and my glutes started simultaneously switching on as my foot suctioned to the ground. The more repetitions I did the more I felt my body becoming synchronized, my shoulders flattened out in to the ground, my lats automatically switched on, the roll to elbow became smooth and effortless, my straight leg remained straight, on the ground, toes pointed to the roof and this beautiful movement that I was performing was just as perfect on my left side as it was on my right!

With more than seventy repetitions down  I noticed something else – I wasn’t fatigued, not even the slightest little bit of lactic anywhere in my body. As a matter of fact I felt amazingly relaxed. Like I could do get ups like this all day long!

With the first one hundred get ups done and dusted I was feeling amazing. No, really. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! But I couldn’t help but wonder if I had gone a little too light and what would happen if I went one bell size heavier? So the following week I set out to do the same workout with a 14kg bell. One get up on the minute, every minute. Five to ten get ups down and the same process of bodily awareness enveloped me, only this time it happened a little quicker. Rather than taking five to ten reps to feel each adaptation it was taking two to three. This whole experience blew my little mind wide open!

Two hundred get ups down and some eye opening results I wondered what would happen if I went up a bell size and completed the workout with a 16kg bell? Almost immediately my body fell into the synchronised state it had been in during my previous sessions, until I passed the sixty mark – lactic and fatigue had started to develop. I felt my body start to compensate to keep the bell up. I felt myself pushing the bell away rather than letting the muscles simply contract to hold everything in its place. I began focussing on the weight and what it was doing rather than my body and how it was functioning.  Clearly I had gone too heavy too quickly.

On Friday, my training program changed slightly so the one hundred get up recovery day is no longer included in my training, however I decided to do a few get ups as a warm up to one of my sessions and just for shits and giggles thought I’d see if I could build up to using the 24kg. To my astonishment not only was I able to execute a get up on both my left and right sides using the 24kg bell but I was able to do it multiple times! You bloody ripper!

To build strength and improve on technique we need repetition.  But not just any old  “get the bell up there any way you can” kind of repetition. The weight must be lifted with good form, allowing muscle fibres to become synchronized. Once your muscle fibres are coordinated you can focus on lifting heavier. Adding load allows for maximum activation of the motor neurons used to contract the muscle fibres. The more often we lift the load with good form, the stronger the impulse sent from the motor neurons to the muscle fibres becomes, resulting in an increase in strength.

We often use a heavier kettlebell for our get ups just because we can but how often do you think to use a lighter bell, and I mean a MUCH lighter bell, and just groove technique? In my case, multiple repetitions with the lighter bell not only resolved my issues with coordination but it enabled me to lift that heavier bell and further understand the intricacies of the get up which I will now be able to share with anyone I teach.

Am I going to do get ups with the 24kg bell from now on? No. Am I going to train using a lighter bell, grooving perfect technique and occasionally test myself with a heavier bell? Yes.
Don’t ever be afraid to drop the weight down and increase your reps focusing on your technique. Because when it comes down to it, under load, your body will always revert back to the technique it has trained the most. So it makes sense to groove perfect technique with a lighter load and test that heavier load occasionally, doesn’t it?