As mentioned in previous posts, its important to track metrics about your health that actually tell a story, and are actionable. It’s no secret that I think tracking your overall weight is a waste of time if you aren’t gathering other data points to tell you something about the weight number you see.
A metric I’ve become very curious about is my VO2 max. For a deep dive on the metric, check out this Wikipedia article. In a nutshell, the number is a measure of the maximum level of oxygen you can metabolize during exercise. A higher number is good. When researching ways to train VO2 max improvement, I stumbled upon an interesting book called Viking Warrior Conditioning. The book was an interesting read. It does a DEEP dive on cardiovascular fitness and training aerobic capacity. The author’s thesis is that by following his kettlebell snatch protocol, you can see significant gains in your overall VO2 max.
One exercise. One protocol. Big gains in VO2 max. Kettlebell snatch.
Most training protocols I’ve seen to increase VO2 max involved high intensity sprinting, rowing, or other similar type of cardiovascular work. This protocol called for progressively high intensity kettlebell snatching with a very specific prescription for reps and time. Here is the best part – the first level requires you to complete 80 sets of kettlebell snatches (in a row) before you can advance to the second level.
Sign me up!
My plan is to execute the protocol as the book prescribes, and see what type of gains can be accomplished with this protocol. In order to do this properly (within the bounds of my resources), I’ll need to:
- Define how to do a kettlebell snatch properly
- Define how I’m going to track/measure my VO2 max and define when I’ll measure
- Execute the program
How to do a kettlebell snatch:
I’ve done swings before, but never the actual swing to a snatch. I tried doing it dry (without instruction), and it hurt my wrist. The damn kettlebell clanked down on it. The book offers an explanation and some pictures, but they didn’t tell the whole story. I found this on YouTube, and it was very helpful:
It took me a few practice sessions, but pretty soon, I was snatching like a pro and not hurting my wrist. Doing his dry steps really helped. Specifically the high pull. That was kind of my “ah-ha” moment. Once I got that down, I was catching the bell softly before it crushed my wrist.
How to track my current VO2 max:
The most accurate method would involve a treadmill stress test with a mask strapped to my face. That is a bit over the top for what I’d like to accomplish. I’m going to rely on two estimates, and track the trends. As long as the estimates are “wrong” by the same factor each time I measure, the TREND will tell me how I’m doing.
Method 1: Garmin Vivosport
This is my fitness tracker of choice. It measures heart rate, has an integrated GPS, and also estimates VO2 max. This will be one of the numbers I use to track my trend. I’m currently a 44, and have a resting heart rate of 47 bpm (this number will be important in my second estimate).
Method 2: The resting heart rate method
You can estimate your VO2 max with the following formula…
VO2max = 15.3 * (maximum HR / resting heart rate)
In this case, my VO2 max using that formula is 59.05. For the purposes of this exercise, I estimated by maximum heart rate (again – not going to a lab for this) by using the following formula:
Maximum HR = 208 – (0.7 * age)
In this case, my theoretical maximum HR is 181.4 bpm.
So, my goal for this experiment is to see if those numbers go up. For the Garmin Vivosport, I’ll be at the mercy of what the computer calculates. For the math approach, it looks like the key will be my resting heart rate going DOWN. That loosely makes sense – if my cardiovascular health improves, my resting heart rate going down should correlate. To keep things consistent, I’ll take readings and chart them after the last workout of the week. More to come on program scheduling later.
I also need to decide what size kettlebell to use. The book suggested starting around 35 lbs. That seems like good advice, so I went and bought one and my local sporting goods store. Note – these things are EXPENSIVE. I kept the receipt because if it was too light or heavy (based on testing feedback from the book), I’d want to swap it out.
UPDATE – the kettlebell weight is good!
Execute the program:
cMVO2 Test: this is the “entry level test” where you figure out what rep number you will use for the first level of the protocol. It’s basically 5 sets of kettlebell snatches for a specific duration of time. BUT, each set has a difference cadence/frequency for you to follow. Finally, on the 5th set, you are supposed to go for maximum reps in the alloted time. It my case, it was maximum reps for 60 seconds. I did 27. According to the protocol, I’m supposed to divide that number by 4, and that will tell me how many reps I use for level 1. In this case, I’ll be doing 7 reps.
I have a decision to make – I need to figure out how many times a week I want to do this protocol. The book offers a few suggestions/paths, and lays out the pros/cons. I’ve decided that I’m going to do this 2 times per week, with no less than 2 days rest between each session. I want to allow for maximum muscle recovery.
On to the workouts…
Continue reading Program Test – Viking Warrior Conditioning