Litvinov Workout: So Simple, So Hard!

Personal trainer Bury St Edmunds

The Picture above is all I had available for my workout today, 2 20kg kettlebells and a field. The result was one of the toughest workouts I’ve done .

I decided to experiment a little bit with a workout that I had been meaning to try for a while. It’s called the Litvinov workout or Litvinov sprints. Basically, you do a heavy compound movement that works the whole body and immediately follow it with a sprint. So Simple. I know this isn’t a new workout but today was the first time i’d got round to trying it and i know a lot of people won’t of heard of it either so I thought I would share my experience.

I got this workout from one of my favorite books –  ‘Never Let Go’ by coach Dan John, I love his outlook on training. Anyway, in the book, Dan recalls 2 lessons learnt by an American discus thrower called John Powell. Powell had failed to qualify for the 1983 World championships finals, despite leading American discus throwing for the past decade. In his book, Dan then goes on to say how Powell had noticed that his training hadn’t really advanced much. Meanwhile the rest of the world’s athletes were leaner, faster and more muscular. Powell was said to of been especially impressed with the gold medal winning hammer thrower, Sergey Litvinov.

The workout Litvinov had been using to get so strong and muscular was simply this – 8 reps of front squats with 405 pounds, immediately followed by a 75 second 400m run. Repeated 3 times. From this workout, Dan says he experimented and had his own athletes do various different lifts and sprint distances. As some of the exercises he tried, Dan mentions cleans, clean and presses, clean and jerks, deadlifts, front squats, overhead squats, back squats and variations of snatches and swing with kettlebells or dumbells.

Now, the version I did today wasn’t quite as hardcore at Sergey’s 405 lbs front squat for 8 followed by a 400m run but it was still pretty damn hard.

I found myself a nice little hill on the field, 25-30 degree incline maybe, and about 80m long. I had never done this workout before so experimented a little bit with the exercises. I also only had a pair of 20kg kettlebells, which i think were possibly a little light.

First set I tried front squats with both Kettlebells – 12 reps, drop ’em and run. This first sprint was a strange experience, my arms were going but my legs just couldn’t keep up. Keeping balance was also really hard but it wasn’t all that tiring. I walked back down for Set 2.

I rested until I had just about caught my breath back. This time I had a go with 2 arm snatches for 10 reps before the hill sprint. This sprint was much harder, lungs were starting to burn now. I also learnt that doing kettlebell snatches while standing on a hill and facing up it is a pretty good way of making that exercise a little harder.

Set 3 – 20 double handed swings. F***k this! – My thoughts at the top of the hill after this one. Says it all I think.

After a bit of a longer rest, I did do a couple more sets using front squats again but with less reps. Those finished me off nicely, I felt so sick it was unreal. I definitely feel like front squats are the exercise to go for with this workout. I’m not exactly sure why but they just felt like they fitted in better than the others. I’d like to try them with something a bit heavier but it was still seriously hard work.

Aside from the sheer amount of calories you will burn as a result of these workouts, I think the mental toughness it demands is what makes it really amazing. You will hate it, feel like absolute shit and your insides will be on fire but after pushing through it, you will feel like an absolute hero. Its an addictive feeling. Give it go, you will love it! (when its over that is).

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