Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

StrongEndurance Recap

This July I had the good fortune to attend the highly anticipated inaugural presentation of Pavel's Strong Endurance seminar.  


A common question I have received in recent weeks is "how does this course compare to Plan Strong?" Based on what I understand from those who have attended Plan Strong, this course is very different in the amount of calculation required. This course is very thick with chemistry and biochem with an emphasis on substrate utilization and cardiopulmonary physiology...but you don’t have to calculate anything in Strong Endurance!! 

Although the chemistry and biochem can seem daunting if you lack a background in those areas...fear not! The course does shift toward more practical application as it progresses. And despite the abundance of scientific references both in speaking and in the manual, Pavel points out several times that "Coaches often have an intuitive understanding of these concepts even without formal education."  I would also add that the manual is actually extremely readable in the "science-y" sections and makes plenty of sense when reading it after the course.  

Another common question is "does this course deal with endurance principles applied to strength training, strength training for endurance athletes or how to train endurance athletes within their main program?" The answer is mostly the first, somewhat of the second and less of the third. Most of the practical examples given, such as the programs at the end of the manual, involve the kettlebell and bodyweight exercises. The application of this type of training to endurance athletes for their strength training was somewhat addressed, but mostly indirectly. But ultimately, the anti-glycolytic approach is very consistent with the general philosophy of the most successful endurance programs throughout history.   

Here are some notes from the weekend. This barely scratches the surface of the content, but hopefully can offer an idea of what Pavel addressed. I should also note that Pavel was MASTERFUL in his delivery of the content, speaking almost entirely from memory and aided only by a handful of old school transparencies (which I don't believe I've seen since high school!!) 

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*What is Strong Endurance? 

  • The ability to sustain....high power, speed, strength 

*Taken many familiar concepts within his system and applied them to the world of endurance.  

*Weak endurance = bad burpees; many punches thrown weakly 

*Training should allow for the ability to recover and come back the next day. (This is seen throughout programs such as Simple and Sinister and the Grease-the-Groove strategy.) 

*There's a bigger message here, one dictated at the whole person (recovery, mental stimulus). Can you come back and train the next day? Sustainability. Peaking correctly.  

*Train to delay the onset of fatigue and maximize velocity at a given output (in running, say someone is running 5 min miles at 95% effort level...rather than train them to tolerate the discomfort of the 95% effort level, structure training around improving the performance at that 95% level) 

*Always being ready and calm (reflection of tactical realities). This point resonates more deeply than the superficial view of "just take more rest and don't crush yourself in training." Training in this manner represents a significant commitment to a certain mindset  

*Adrenaline vs nonadrenaline ratio in animals 

  • Adrenaline = fear/anxiety (prey) ->>Rabbits 50:1 
  • Noradrenaline = reflect certainty (predator) ->>Lions 1:1, whales 1:4 

*Management of stress – Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers -> Lion isn't worrying about things out of control - > lesson here is that physical stress affects body in similar way to mental stress 

*Why do we glorify adrenaline? Better to use just enough to get the job done

*In life you pay for everything...will you pay high or low?

*Hydrogen = acidosis 

*What can go wrong with hydrogen? -> Remember the Hindenberg 

*Burning H+ is like jumping off the roof to get down a building; better to take the stairs or elevator 

*Most of the energy in the body is not "liquid" (not "cash") 

*ATP is a capacitor, not a battery; stores are limited but body also recycles 40kg 

*Free radical concentration is correlated with lifespan 

*Intense exercise creates free radicals (mismatch of suppply/demand) 

  • Too much traffic; not enough O2 

*More damage to mitochondria --> increased disease risk 

*Certain things are neither good nor bad (ie bacteria)...Just depends right place and right time  

*Relaxation is an active process = pumping of calcium 

*Enzyme is a "boss chemical"-> doesn't do any work, just tells others what to do lol 

*Myoglobin is a capacitor for O2 

*"If you don't know how, we'll teach you. If you don't want to we'll make you" - Old Russian military saying

*Benefits of stiffness for running (technique and biomechanics play a role in this discussion) 

*Size principle (slow twitch muscles activated first) is overruled if movement is reflexive (ie trip on curb)- don't want slow fibers to put on the brakes 

*Rest/inactivity is a cue for Type II (sit on couch = more type II). But problem is you'd lack other support mechanisms (biomechanics, aerobics) 

*How to maximize type IIX fibers for power athletes 

  • Train alactically 
  • Avoid LSD 
  • Limit volume of all exercise (replace with visualizaiton) 
  • Take days off 
  • Big taper 

*Slower relaxation = more sustained contraction 

  • Type I – acquires mitochondria free of charge 
  • Type II – can develop in type II ST fibers but is there more cost? 

*Pain is not relevant in itself ->how does it affect function 

*Emergency energy system (myokinase reaction) -> last ditch effort to produce energy or remove H+ 

*Way to prevent going into the well – reduce glycolysis 

"Turning the body into metabolic waste is not a good idea" 

*Sometimes we do things to push limits (competition, military selection), but must have purpose 

*Coaches have an intuitive understanding of stuff even without formal education 

*Even a 30 sec all/out = 50% of max power  

*Industry has done a "bait and switch" in defining "sprint". True sprint could not last more than ~10 seconds 

*Alactic O2 debt = replenish O2 

*Lactic O2 debt = replenish O2 and remove waste 

*Recovery is not one thing (heterochronicity) 

  • CP recovery 
  • H removal 
  • CNS 

*Recovery rates accelerate drastically if intensity decreases.(The difference in output of say a 75% effort and a 85% might only be 10% but the difference in recovery might be substantially more...makes sense why we see many programs centered on a 50-75% effort level for most reps) 

*Its not the cellular level that matters; it’s the organism level (function) 

*Pathological models solve short term problems with long term consequences 

*You have to pay for everything – if you improve in one area you pay for it elsewhere 

*Tradeoffs – the economics of training 

  • Cross adaptation – weight lifters have lower mitochondrial density 
  • Digestion problems in marathoners due to blood shunting  

*Essence of Strong Endurance – it is possible to budget today's resources in a some way that you don't have to pay full price 

*Remain within the range of high activation and overactivation (too low = quiet activation; too high = overstress) 

*Body needs to respond to low intensity – hear the rustle of a snake but not blinded by bolt of lightning 

*Endurance is more complex than strength 

*Endurance requires functional capacity and tolerance to unfavorable environment 

*VO2 max is not a limiting factor 

*Most important variable is stroke volume -> stretches heart via high volume training (low intensity) 

*Higher VO2 max = faster rate of detraining 

*Problem with early interval studies = peaked too soon, gains in VO2 max unstable (not a matter of good vs. Bad...timing and dosage are key) 

*Need some period of psychological prep but not too much!  

"Appalling how risks are downplayed in the west"  

*Heart can go glycolytic if you "redline" too much 

*Don't train heart with circuit training focusing on grinds (too much time under tension) -> higher cost of doing circuit training with weights (*Key point to get out of this is timing and dosage are important. There is no "bad" training, just understand what the costs are of what you are doing) 

*Long term preparation - Reduce training loads gradually when you stop competing 

*Athletes who ignore GPP tend to have heart problems later 

*Traditional endurance training focused on tolerating acidosis--> In Strong Endurance goal should not be to accustom body to acidosis  

*What is the objective 

  • Same output longer 
  • Same fatigue 
  • Low acidosis 

*Options: change performance capacity or tap into reserves 

*Fewer exercises in a circuit = more local adaptation 

*For some people "Fast first" can work for endurance (But beware of orthopedic issues) 

*Increase total and increase percent of total at which you can operate 

*After an interval session replicates CFS symptoms 

*High catabolic effect with HIIT 

*Little carryover between dynamic and static strength endurance 

*Ascending ladder – get aerobic system online 

*"All reps are not created equal" 

*Beyond the intermediate level, the ability to relax is what distinguishes athletes 

*Two types of adaptations 

  • Hypertrophic = SNS response = lower level athletes 
  • Relaxation = aerobic contribution increases, muscle relaxation speed increases, noradrenaline increases ("second wind") - Example: sprinting – ability to relax hamstrings/quads at right time (= motor learning....most favorable conditions for learning? Anti glycolytic) 

*Controlling facial expression/shoulder tension -> relates to excitation of CNS (what happens when the suffering begins?...) 

*Too much tension over relaxation -> extra long planks = teaches body to stay in middle ground (no max power, no relaxation) 

*Morning exercise reduces CNS excitability 

*Efficiency = economy + using correct muscles 

  • Increase ceiling 
  • Work at lower percentage of max 

*When you are redlining a function the energetic cost goes up exponentially (see value of threshold training) 

*Reaching into reserves deeper is a tactic not a strategy (Strategy = economize energy) 

*Diaphragm stress -> lower limb blood flow 

*Strive to maintain same breathing mechanics start to finish 

*Improved breathing = better recovery (Stay out of glycolysis = ingrain quality breathing habits) 

*If you target a particular quality, make sure you maintain it afterward 

*An occasional acid bath isn't bad 

*Mitochondria detrain faster than hypertrophy 

*"Improvements must come at the same level of same effort" 

*The more you fraction the load, the more effective training will be (more frequency) 

*For alactic training – you aren't depleting glyogen stores (can fuel with high fat, high pro, moderate carbs) 

*Stimulating mitochondria requires low energy state (one reason to not use preworkout) 

*Too many people think "What can I take, not what should I eat?" (note: Master SFG Fabio Zonin led the nutrition interlude)

*Post workout supps – ok to prevent acidosis but take care of diet first 

*Peaking does not build anything – it allows for expression of qualities 

*Two types of trianing 

  • Create capacity to get stronger 
  • Express capacity 

*Glycolytic adaptations are perishable 

*Body shuts down glycolysis as protective measure 


Through this course, Pavel has taken best practices from the world of endurance and applied them to world of strength, and perhaps most importantly, delivered the information in a language that truly speaks to a strength-based audience. Like everything in the StrongFirst curriculum, the magic is in how elegantly the different pieces weave together to create a principle based system built on a granite foundation. 

If there was a simple, actionable take-home point I could apply on Monday, it was reshaping the perspective on how we approach kettlebell ballistics. Normally, we think of swings and snatches in high volume contexts. But one finding that has emerged from beta tests of Strong Endurance programs has been the value of intense, low rep (below five) sets of swings and snatches. In terms of a "what the hell effect," some early users have found unexpected transferance of low rep, high weight snatches in not only improving snatch reps, but also 1RM in the military press. And of course, the real magic in this outcome is the ability to improve performance at a "lower cost" (without hypoxia and acidosis).