Some of you may already be familiar with the Litvinov Workout. To my knowledge it was made popular by strength coach Dan John. If you somehow have not read any of his articles, then please do yourself the favor and do so. I will focus this post on the Litvinov Workout, but i can highly recommend any of his articles and definately his book Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning (Affiliate link). His philosofy on training very much fits mine, which is keep it simple. Not in any way confusing simple with easy. You can get very, very good results with simple workouts and minimal time, but one thing you cannot, is get very good results without effort. You have to put yourself into it if you really want it – but hey, that is pretty much how you accomplish great things in any aspect of life.
My goal with training, was for the first maybe 6-8 years, purely based on gaining muscle. I had always, propably like many other young boys, been so fascinated by the very fit hollywood stars of the 90’s (Arnold, Stallone, Dolph Lundgren etc.). I always said to myself that I wanted to look like one of them one day – this definately set me of on this amazing journey lifting weights has been to me. I will dispense most of my learnings along the way on this blog, but for now only a short introduction to what has been the cornerstone of my training philosofy almost from the first day.
Even though my motivation primarily came from asthetics, I could never convince myself to do pure mass-oriented training. The strength had to rise along the way, or as others may put it; form had to follow function. This reflected itself in compound movements, 5×5 rep-schemes and other pretty basic stuff. I confess, I to, along the way, has tried some pretty crazy and stupid things, but heavy basic lifting has always been part of my workouts. I always was a firm believer of full effort for short periods of time instead of long drueling workouts.
This rather long and propably semi-boring introduction finally leads me to the topic of this post; The Litvinov Workout. As descibed in the beginning, I was introduced to this workout be reading Never Let Go by Dan John. Whenever I do cardio I almost always end up doing some sort of HIIT, and in the years I have built up quite a repository of proven HIIT-methods that I use for getting into shape. The others may come as later blog-posts, but for now we focus on one.
Given my predisposed love for HIIT, I was pretty much drawn to the nature of The Litvinov Workout. It fit al my demands head on. High intensity, simple, fast and brutally hard. This workout in its original form, is so basic that you can describe it in one sentence:
Eight reps of front squats with 405 pounds, immediately followed by a 75-second 400-meter run – repeat 3 times and go home!
Simple – oh yes! But then again, who outside of track & field has an outdoor squat rack sitting next to a 400 meter track? I sure as hell did not. This may keep me from doing the original form of the exercise, but I got the “WHY” that is behind this exercise and that would enable me to build my own little hybrid.
First of I needed something that I could bring along and use as weight for the front squat. The obvious substitute for this would be to use one or more kettlebells, but since I did not even own some of those, I had to be even more creative. My hunt for something heavy and unhandleable had begun. The most heavy things I had laying around, that were transportable size-wise, seemed to be sandbags for sandblasting. These weigh around 45 pounds a piece and with big thanks to Eastpack, two of those were able to fit inside a backpack. Now I had myself a very unhandy 90 pound weight to frontsquat with. Not in any way 405 pounds, but this would suffice.
To make it up for the lack of weight I set out to find a hill instead of a flat track. As the picture at the top of this post shows I found my hill. 300 meters that progressively got steeper – this was a perfect fit!
The modified Litvinov would act as a “finisher” at the end of my normal weight session. I would start of with a light warm-up by running a few times up and down the hill, and some dynamic stretching. The workout would then start by lifting the backpack up in front of my chest and hugging it like a teddy bear. A teddy bear in this case, that would cause you pain like you could only imagine Chucky, would be able to. Since my Eastpack “teddy” only weigh 90 pound I decided to go somewhere between 15 to 20 reps before dropping the evil bear, turning around and sprinting uphill. The first couple of steps would strongly resemble trying to run under heavy influence of alcohol. You try to exert maximal effort, but the intention does not seem to get all the way down to your legs. They at best skid a bit like Bambi until around 50 meters out, then the trembling and pain is substituted with nothing but… pain. Your breath seems like it left itself along side the heavy bear behind you, and the lactic acid burns like hell in your muscles. This should all signal you to do only one thing – keep running!
When you reach the end of the predefined lenght you had planned to run – which I guarantee, you will NOT exceed – then all you have to do is turn around, walk back and do it all over again. Some might ask how long you have to wait before going second time. This is easy, when you reach your beloved “teddy bear” you just pick it back up – the walk back will define your rest.
To sum up The Litvinov workout – laymen edition it is as follows:
Grab, lift and hug something heavy – front squat 10-20 reps – run like Bambi on crack for 2-400 meters – repeat 3 times – then crawl back home, again that would be like Bambi.
If you really want bang for the buck cardio-wise, this is right up there with the best. If you for some reason proves my “which I guarantee you wil NOT exceed” – statement wrong, please let me know.