My apologies for not sending out an email for a couple
of days – we had Christmas and then we were traveling.
Just got back last night – took us almost 3 hours to get home
from the airport due to snow.
Anyway, I hope you had a really great Christmas or Hanukkah.
Don’t know if you caught it or not, but there was a big hubbub
a couple of weeks ago about which you should train for –
maximum strength or work capacity.
I stayed quiet because honestly, I just didn’t have the time
to get involved – I was trying to get ready for Christmas
and help my wife out because she had just gotten sick – along
with my 1 year old daughter. (Not fun, I can tell you.)
So which is better?
Is it better to be “StrongFirst” or train for work capacity?
At the risk of sounding like a fence rider –
The answer is “yes.”
Yes – train for BOTH.
(ALL my programs have you training for BOTH.)
It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.
Consider the following:
To be able to run 3 miles non-stop, you have to be able
to run 1 mile non-stop, right?
To be able to swing your KB for 20 reps, you have to be
able to swing it for 10 reps, right?
One of the beautiful things about the KB is that it’s a fixed
You can’t add weight to it like you can with a bar.
And that’s it’s major benefit.
It forces you to get stronger AND increase your work capacity
at the same time.
Take a 24kg KB. Swing it for 10 sets of 10 reps.
Then over time push that up to 10 sets of 20 reps.
You’ve just doubled your workload.
You’ve just increased your work capacity.
Yeah, but are you “stronger?”
What is Strength?
There are many different categories of strength:
– speed strength
– strength speed
– maximum strength
– explosive strength
– strength endurance
– static/isometric strength
– starting strength
– etc, etc, etc…
So how do you determine if you’re stronger because you
can now swing a KB for 200 reps when you could only swing
it for 100 reps?
Any person with half a brain in their head would say you’re
of course you’re stronger. You just doubled your workload.
How do you determine which “strength” is “the one” you
should train for?
How about the one that fits your goals?
I first started using KBs back in 2002 because they help
the average person gain “strength endurance” and “power
endurance” – which is what the average person needs
most to overcome their daily grind.
I know, I know, if I just focused on boosting their one rep
max on their deadlift, all that strength-endurance would
take care of itself.
If only it were so easy…
Here’s a story for you to prove this point.
Back in 1998, I was training a 125 pound wrestler.
We focused on pushing up his maximum strength in the
And he got really, really strong. He ended up with a powerlifting
legal 3x bodyweight squat.
And his deadlift was pretty close to that too. (At least 2.5x
When the season rolled around, he was getting pushed
around by his competition, who weren’t nearly as strong
as he was.
What was going on?
Turns out he couldn’t USE his newfound maximum strength
on the mat.
So we came up with unique exercises and loading ranges
over the course of the year that helped him express his
Many of the exercises were 1 arm dumbbell variations of
the Olympic lifts done for reps.
The result was that he was able to take charge again on
Look, at the end of the day, these types of “this v. that”
arguments are academic.
For every one example you give me I can give you another
to “contradict” your point.
Here’s a perfect example:
Louie Simmons, powerlifting coach extraordinaire, added
in work capacity training through sled dragging and his
powerlifters’ totals shot up.
Strong men need work capacity to get even stronger.
Conversely, I’ve trained endurance athletes and trained them
with low rep, high load strength work and they decreased
their run times.
Men/women with great endurance (work capacity) need
strength to improve their endurance.
See, it really all depends on the INDIVIDUAL and what
they need at any given moment.
Does the average person need to be stronger?
Does the average person need more work capacity?
How much of each is enough?
The person’s goal dictates the outcome.
I train my clients for strength AND work capacity, because
in my 20+ years of experience, you can’t go wrong with
I just bias one over another based on the client and their
And as I mentioned earlier, ALL my programs have you start
training your maximum strength levels and then have you
train for work capacity.
Take “Kettlebell STRONG!” for example:
You start with a 4-5RM on your best double KB Clean +
Once you’ve followed the program through to completion,
you’ll be pressing that old 4-5RM for a whopping 60 reps
per workout, with very little rest!
And yes, as a result, people’s 4-5RM’s go up, sometimes by
2 KB sizes.
They get leaner, stronger, more muscular, and have more
And isn’t that what we all want?
Speaking of “wanting” –