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A Strength journey: ETK, PTTP, Beyond Bodybuilding

December 31, 2009 07:29 AM

Brief history. Back in 2003 at the ripe old age of 33, I realized my life was taking a rather sedentary turn and basically I was getting fatter. Not obese by any standard, but I knew that by the time I was 40, well … I was going to look it. So I decided to do something about it. Started running, went to a nearby gym, sorted my diet and within 6 months completely changed my look, my health, and my life. Fast forward five years, and you have someone who is still training still, eating well and … exactly where they were after making those initial changes five years earlier.

August '07
Bored and de-motivated in my training, I was browsing the Internet when I came across a link to "kettlebells". I thought - "they look cool", so I started researching what you did with them. Eventually I ended up with a 20kg and taught myself to use them via youtube. 20mins of swings later, and one very sore back, some better instruction was required. Purely by chance I purchased a second hand copy of the from eBay and had my first introduction to Pavel.

January '08
Bought (ETK) and started training kettlebells properly. Short time after having read ETK to death and totally hooked on this simple no BS training system I bought (PTTP - which I think for anybody interested in strength training is essential reading).

Feeling inspired, I set myself three main goals, the half bodyweight press, secret service snatch test (SSST) challenge, and to dead lift 500lbs by the time I was forty (Sept 09). The last goal was a bit more of a distant dream than a real goal, bearing in mind this is coming from a man who had never dead lifted before, never lifted anything heavier than 20 kg's over his head and had spent 5 years maxing out on crappy commercial gym machines.

So taking one goal at a time I set about training ETK as close to the letter as possible, changing to a proper old school gym with barbells, and learning how to dead lift on the variety days. My first pull was 80 kg's. January - February had the ROP done with the 20kg, a few months after the Rite of Passage (ROP) was completed with the 24kg. Bring on the 32kg. Things slowed down a bit from here, 32kg was a whole new level. The idea of pressing the 40kg seemed ridiculous.

Every few workouts though another milestone would pass, or a minor setback overcome and the goal would seem closer. All the while I was noticing gains in everyday strength and more importantly an increase in confidence and sense of well being that I did not have from my old gym training.

September '08 - my birthday
Previous week had seen 5 ladders of 4 done on the ROP with the 32kg and I had taken a few days off. Was feeling pretty good so I thought lets try. Ten minutes later the 40kg Press was done and on video. Absolutely stoked! So satisfying when you set a goal, follow the program, stick to it for long enough and eventually achieve it.

Traditionally a time when I try to gain a little muscle I decided to try the bear program from PTTP and see if I could push up my dead lift numbers. At this time I was also suffering from a sore shoulder (a surfing injury). For the press I used the curl grip bench press from, as it is very easy on the shoulders. 10 weeks and three cycles later training bear twice a week with the occasional program minimum (ETK) workout thrown in on off days my weight was up ten pounds and the dead lift was up to 170kgs for 5 reps. Took a week off at Christmas and during that time studied Beyond Bodybuilding.

Just for variety I thought I would do something different and switched to the "strong as you look" split from Beyond Bodybuilding. Mainly so I could train more often to relieve the boredom of winter (the bear is brutal and I could only manage twice a week). The only change I made to the split as written was to substitute the suitcase dead lift for the conventional dead lift.

8 weeks later and another 8lbs gained in bodyweight. Having taken a few easy workouts to deload recently I witnessed a couple of other guys in the gym dead lifting 220kgs. Inspired by this I thought about time. Warmed up with a few lighter singles and put 200kgs on the bar.
After a few seconds getting tight using every trick and technique learned over the last twelve months, gripped the bar and pulled. The weight came straight up, no problem. 440lbs done. One year almost to the day to my first ever rather shaky pull. Bring on the 500lbs.

Now, that snatch test…

Alastair Hart is a 39-year-old aerospace engineer, surfer and kettle bell enthusiast from England.