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Observations on Injury, Overtraining, and the important/ insignificant aspects of tr


New member
1. Injury and overtraining:

These two things have a direct correlation. In terms of my recent back injury, I would have to place pretty much all of the blame on overtraining, and perhaps a very, very small amount of the blame on a brief lapse in concentration.
After looking over my training in the past 6 months or so, I can see clearly that I let things get way out of hand. I was training in a similar fashion to Arthur Saxon and his brothers, a training style which boarders on lunacy. In hindsight, I'm really surprised I got away with training in that fashion for as long as I did. Check out a typical kettlebell day for me over the past six months, and I think most of you will agree that the amount of work was extreme and really unnecessary:

1. 2 bells clean and press- 3 or 4 sets or rest pause
2. weighted chins- - 3 or 4 or more sets
3. 2 bells snatch- 3 or 4 sets or rest pause
4. stiff arm pullover- 2 or 3 sets
5. 1 bell swing snatch- 2 or 3 sets
6. 2 bells deep deadlift off blocks- 2 or 3 sets
7. 4 bells deadlift- work up to heavy set of 10-15 reps
8. hanging leg raise- 2 or 3 sets
9. neck work and sometimes calf work

With the exception of the neck and calf work, every exercise on that list hits the low back, shoulders, and legs either directly or indirectly. In the last couple of months I did tone down that amount of work slightly, but then the above factors must be added to the introduction of heavy half squats, Olympic squats, and bottom position squats, OFTEN PERFORMED ON THE SAME DAY IN MULTIPLE SETS. To be blunt, I was really an injury waiting to happen.
In terms of half squats, check out the following quotes.....
Fred Hatfield's feelings on half squats: "worthless and dangerous".
Dan John's feelings on partial movements: "extremely easy to overtrain on them, particularly if using full range movements on the same training day".
I was doing to much of to many things, end of story. I think many of us can relate to this, for a couple of reasons. One, it is the American way to think that more equals better. Two, it is only human to believe that if a little bit of this or that does me some good, then some more might do me more good. This simply is not the case.
All of this leads into............

2. The important as well as insignificant aspects of strength training:

What are the important aspects of strength training? Well, I used to have a little motto in regards to training (and life in general, really), which I certainly strayed far, far away from in my past six months:

"When in doubt, Simplification is what its all about."

Isn't that the truth? When you break strength training down, it is really an incredibly simple art/sport ( I don't believe it is a science. The physiological changes in the body because of strength training might be a science, but I really don't think training itself is).
In training, there are really only a few things that ultimately matter, and as far as I'm concerned the following list covers those few things:

1. placing sufficient stress on the muscles
2. getting adequate rest
3. getting adequate nutrition
4. progression
5. working as many muscles as possible utilizing as few exercises as possible. In other words, doing the least amount of work necessary to see results.

What more need be said? Productive training is really as simple as that. To many people (myself included), become overly concerned with training a "variety" of movements, for the sake of working the muscles in a "variety" of ways.
For the record, I'm not talking about bodybuilders and split routines. We all know how absurd that type of training is. What I'm talking about is people who know what productive movements are and end up using WAY TO MANY OF THOSE PRODUCTIVE MOVEMENTS. That is exactly how I lead my body into a state of overtraining and eventually injury. Just look at the list of lifts I was doing in ONE training day that hit the same muscle groups! I could have cut that list down from 9 exercises to just clean and press, pullups, and one arm snatches one day and some sort of squat on another, and gotten superior results. And I probably wouldn't have hurt myself either.
The truth is, if you pick only 2,3 or at most 4 of the really big, result producing movements, you will cover all your bases. Check out the routines of some of the biggest, strongest, and fastest men in history, and they will all have this trait of ultra simplicity in common. If you need concrete examples, do some research on Tommy Kono's, Doug Hepburn's, Norb Schemansky's, and numerous other lifters training, and you will see what I'm talking about.
In summary:

1. Simplify your training!
2. Do the least amount of work possible necessary!
3. Eat and sleep well!

Not exactly rocket science, huh?


New member
The gold medal belongs to...

the man who not only works harder but also, and perhaps more importantly, smarter than everyone else. I think an old coach, dick green, who was an assistant coach on the american national team sponsored by york back in the mid 60's told me that. You have a good point. Intense training is always a tightrope walk balancing work, and rest. As such it requires a razor thin focus. Keep what is absolutely necessary, discard everything else. Good luck with your back.


New member
To add one corollary - Do what you enjoy.

Of course there are limits to this rule, for instance, I don't enjoy ab work that much but I know it is an important component of strength so I do it. But the rule, in moderation, is good to follow. Here is an example - I don't particularly like doing windmills or bent presses. Now, before anyone goes ballistic, I think this is a very functional and worthwhile exercise and I probably would benefit from it. I just never warmed up to it. I prefer working my lats doing power cleans; I find them fun and I do them.

Currently I base my workouts along the philosophy of "a squat, a push, and a pull." Throw in the dreaded abs once in a while. For KBs I do snatches mostly; I save the C&Js for the barbell. I feel this takes care of my entire body including cardio. What else is there to do?
Excellent John and you should turn this post into an article n/m

Excellent John and you should turn this post into an article n/m


New member
You are correct Sir!

I had an interesting conversation with Coach Hartzell about RICE some months back after a severe ankle sprain complete with bone bruising. In fact, while I was talking to him I had my lower right leg submerged in an ice bath and when I told him he went through the roof! I did the tractioning with the mini bands and the video and was lucky enough to get a visit with my ART provider very soon thereafter and she even vouched for the tractioning. Although she didn't use bands and just used her hands, it was still tractioning and specific movements and massage that almost completely rid me of the pain and swelling. I happened to have my bands with me last Saturday at a volleyball tournament and when a teammate went down with an ankle sprain I hooked him up with the bands and we did some tractioning inbetween matches. He was able to continue for the rest of the day and we ended up winning the whole thing. Pretty cool stuff...

Marty RKC

New member

Unfortunately, human nature facilitates us to learn in this way. Experience is the best teacher(nothing like getting hurt to put things in perspective).

In my experience of injuries though I've had few, says that an injury occurs over a longer period of time then people think hence progressive.

It obviously depends on the nature of the injury. In your case you may have strained and strain over months and then the "straw that broke the camel's back". As I've learned and preached though I'm not sure it has been mentioned "listen to your body". Take care and a speedy recovery to you.



New member
This might be the Pot calling the kettlebell black but...

imho, some of you guys are taking this density/bear/every day stuff too far. JP, your workouts blow me away. 5 exercises a day max, and that might be too many! You might be able to hit back every day but the exercises have to change, or you have to wave or go heavy, medium, light or a random skip day. If you can't go two days without working out you have a problem.

imho, the concept of this being art not science is key. we work very hard in the beginning of our training lives learning to not quit during workouts, then we have to spend the rest of the time learning to quit when it is more productive to take a walk and eat a huge meal and go to bed. which i did today and might do again tommorow.


Gypsy Dancer

New member
Great insight, well written, and perfect timing...I needed this - now! Thanks! n/m

Great insight, well written, and perfect timing...I needed this - now! Thanks! n/m


Rob Lawrence

New member
And all this time I was assuming you were superhuman

John, I was honestly surprised that you got injured, but I always wondered how you managed to do that level of volume. I figured it was either your age, or the fact that you started training young and had worked up to that workload. I figured the really abbreviated stuff was for old guys like Brett and me and that you would continue on your merry way. Re Saxon, I don't know how he trained that way. I sometimes think these guys had excellent levels of GPP from manual labor etc., but more likely we just don't hear about the times they were injured. It probably would have been bad for their showmanship. Anyway, I'm sure you'll apply your intelligence to the problem and come through the injury intact w/no serious consequences. Good luck and good post.



New member
Thanks for this post John!

I came to the same conclusion and realized I spent most of 2002 in an overtrained state. As a proud, red-white-and-blue-blooded American, I should re-read this post every few months, just to remind myself!



Jimmy Todd

New member
Re: Great post - one question

This post shows how truly intelligent and thoughtful you are about your training. I have printed it and saved it for the rainy day when I will need it.

A lot of people were congratulating you for the amount of work you could do. I even saw Pavel chime in about it. Now people are telling you how wise you are to back off.

What do you make of that?


Jimmy Todd

New member
Re: Jack, great observation

but I have to disagree on density training being part of the problem. It is the best way to get a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time without killing yourself.

That said, one must choose weights, sets and reps wisely as well as not do the same thing everyday. But that isn't any different from any other mode of training. Variation and not hitting the limit everyday is the key.

The fact that the KB competition is looming will only contribute to the problem, I suspect. Wait till everybody is trying to see how many snatches and jerks they can do in the last few weeks before the event.


Pavel Tsatsouline

Com. JP, what makes daily training harder to implement is the need for constant backing off -in your case 5x5 of BW pullups for instance -or training very far from your RM(GTG). Heal fast, it's an order!


New member
Outstanding post!

I plan to print this off and hang it on my training room bulletin board. I'm sorry you got hurt, and hope you you heal up soon, but thanks so much for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with the forum.
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