‘Simple and Sinister’ Refining your training volume and intensity

A workout should GIVE you more than it TAKES out of you

Pavel Tsatsouline outlines the functionality of linear, refined training programs with optimal periodisation of intensity and volume in his book ‘Simple and Sinister’. Pavel introduced Soviet Union training techniques to the American armed forces and later to the general public. He is the majority reason why kettlebells became such a utilised and well-known tool in the western fitness industry.

‘Simple and Sinister’ discusses 2 staple kettlebell movements that combine to create power, hypertrophy (muscle building), stability, mobility, and consequently a perfect blend of quick lifts and slow movements – the kettlebell swing and the Turkish get up. He explains ‘It is vain to do with more what can be done with less’. The intent of this was to provide the greatest benefit and development from the fewest exercises and a single piece of equipment.

The quote in the previous paragraph explains perfectly how programming and training should be approached, or at least acts as a framework to build from. Pavel’s program simply accumulates 100 kettlebell swings (10×10) and 10 Turkish get ups, 5 days per week. The get ups can be performed with lunge or squat variations, and the swings with double or single arm, but the aim is always to accumulate 100/10 reps, as beyond this point we see diminishing returns in hypertrophy and general stimulus. It is as this point, Pavel says, that the workout will give you more than it takes out of you.

Every exercise or workout has a point at which the intended energy system (ATP-PC, glycolytic and oxidative) and/or technical practise will no longer be efficient or useful, and should therefore be stopped upon that optimal rep range or time domain. For example, if you are performing 10 single reps of a clean at 90% of your maximum weight, there will be a point at which your power, precision and timing will decline, and continuing the reps will only offer fatigue (diminishing returns of the intended stimulus).

The aim of this framework is to dedicate practise to fewer movements (and movement patterns) per day. Perfect your foot posture/pressure, become faster in the swing without rushing (apply more power), brace and contract muscles optimally in each part of the Turkish get up. In this way, it is better to master 2 movements to 90-100% capacity, than 10 movements to 50% capacity.

Of course this applies to Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting and the kettlebell, but how can this be applied to CrossFit? A sport with 9 foundational movements, and many more variations. We should not take these principles to their fullest extent, but use them to refine our practice and intent of all the exercises, modalities and time domains. Next time you train try to refine the intent of each movement, understand why the workout is as long/short as it is, and apply the correct intensity to this. Remember, more is not better, it’s just more.

Trust the process,

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