Conditioning for GS, part 2 (Intervals)

I mentioned in my last post that interval training is a great way to improve metabolic measures of fitness. In a fantastic review article on interval training by Martin Buchheit, it has been suggested that there are six different outcomes that should be considered for improved performance. These are: 1 metabolic (O2 system), 2 metabolic (O2 system) + neuromuscular, 3 metabolic (O2 system + anaerobic system), 4 metabolic (O2 system + anaerobic system) + neuromuscular, 5 metabolic (peripheral O2 system + anaerobic system) + neuromuscular and 6 neuromuscular (see figure 1). His recommendations were based on traditional modes of training such as running and cycling. The focus of this post will be on interval training, however I will tweak these to apply them to GS as best I can and offer non-traditional alternatives. Bear in mind my last post on exercise modes, kettelbell training is less aerobic than running etc… With these categories you can better tailor your training to meet your needs, however sometimes it can help to keep it simple and think about improving your weaknesses.

This is taken from ‘High-Intensity Interval Training, Solutions to the Programming Puzzle’ by Martin Buchheit & Paul B. Laursen.

HIT types

Training outcomes Traditional/Cross training Moderate for GS Non-traditional cross training*
Category one Metabolic (O2 system) Short – moderate intervals (<60s) Long slow pace set
Category two Metabolic (O2 system) + Neuromuscular Short – moderate intervals (<60s) at a faster pace than category one A training set of short – moderate duration (<180s) constant/even pass
Category three metabolic (O2 system + anaerobic system) Short – long intervals N/A (see below) Sled/Prowler training, battling ropes
Category four metabolic (O2 system + anaerobic system) + neuromuscular Repeat sprints, short or long intervals a training set of short – long duration or intervals Sled/Prowler training, circuit training
Category five metabolic (peripheral O2 system (not heart) + anaerobic system) + neuromuscular Repeat sprints or Sprints intervals (maximum speed 85% +) (long rest) Sprint set of short – moderate duration with long rest Strongman training, barbell complexes, circuit training
Category six neuromuscular Speed strength training Short – Heavy, Speed or ‘touch’ sets Strongman training

*exercise used, volume and resistance will vary the training outcomes

In this table with the exception of category one, any category will have a GS movement neuromuscular component, because you are training a skill. Additionally, programming and each mode of training will have a large impact on the outcome. Category five is proposed to improve peripheral components of the O2 system. This means that there is also a central component that needs to adapt to training. Simply, the peripheral adaptations are at the level of the muscle and the central are upstream systems like the heart and CNS. You may use cross training with traditional modes as a means of targeting central components, whilst using strongman training to target adaptions at the level of the muscle, in the hope that this has transference for GS performance (I will go into this in greater detail in another post).

Here are some examples of different types of intervals.


Short intervals Long intervals Repeated sprints
60s:60s work to rest @ 90% vV02max – 20 minutes(cross training only)8s:12s work to rest @ max – 20 minutes15s:15 work to rest x 14 + 3 minutes rest x 2-4 

30s:420s work to rest @ max – 20-30 minutes

4m:4m work to rest x 42m:2m work to rest x 53m:1m work to rest x 3-4 Short (cross training only) 5s:35s work to rest x 6 x 2-6Long

20s:60s work to rest x 4-6 x 1-3

Another concept he talks about is the anaerobic speed reserve. This is the difference in vVo2max or your minimum running speed at Vo2max – your anaerobic speed reserve is your difference between vVo2max and your maximum speed. This is not hugely important for GS, however I’ve been experimenting with a way to measure this. I use competition RPM pace (this will not be vo2max) versus max RPM pace (over 0.5-1 minute). In terms of GS performance this will give you an insight into your ability to sprint in the last minute. I also suspect that if there is a large difference between the two, you may be at risk of burning yourself out if you call upon your anaerobic system to hit tough longer RPM sets. From my experience, if you can’t manage a constant pace, but rather you sprint for 40s then rest for the remainder and repeat that 10 or however many times, then you are most likely calling upon the anaerobic system to meet this RPM (thus it might be helpful to increase the power of your aerobic energy system). This is not a huge deal in a comp or if you train three or four times a week, but if you train like this every day I think you will burn yourself out. I’m start to prefer to do a rep every x second as opposed to RPM. I will go in this in greater detail in another post.

As a general rule your technique (efficiency), aerobic and anaerobic systems are all very important to GS performance. It’s not always easy to identify the weakest link without specialised equipment. However, limiting factors are not always the energy systems – ie during the snatch/long cycle if your grip gives way first, legs or lockout during jerk/long cycle. These issues would be considered technique (i.e. poor finger lock or rack position) or local muscular endurance issues. On the other hand if you feel overwhelmed and your heart is jumping out of your chest, but you can maintain form with a slowing pace, then conditioning maybe an issue. These may be simple ways to identify you weakness links within the categories of local muscular endurance (lockout/fixation, grip, quads) or energy systems/technique.


Take home message

Interval training can be structured for different outcomes. If you can identify your weakness you should choose a protocol that will help you. When in doubt try to get the bulk of your training/conditioning for GS based movements because this should improve your technique. Don’t stress if you can’t isolate a weakness, just use a range to improve your overall conditioning and or local muscular endurance. I think 30s or longer intervals work best for GS training, however shorter intervals are great for cross training.


My name is James Ross, I’m a qualified personal trainer, strength & conditioning coach and sports scientist. I am a founder and coach at The Richmond Gym in Melbourne and started the website

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