Last year I picked up Dan John's Never Let Go, a book I recommend to anyone serious about their training and/or coaching. In it John writes about his philosophy of training and tells interesting stories along the way. One area of the book that really stood out to me was a chapter called "The Litvinov Workout."
You're probably wondering why I found this so interesting. The reason is that it is such a unique combination of training techniques, yet it's so simple. During a Litvinov workout, you lift then you sprint. That's it.
Yes! Lift then sprint! Grab your bar or your kettlebell, head down to your local park/field/street and do 3 sets of lifting followed by sprinting, then go home. Simple.
The Litvinov Workout Explained
As I said, the workout is comprised of a lift then a sprint, done one after the other with no break in between. But what lifting exercises do you do? How long do you sprint? How much do you rest? What are the recommended sets and reps? The answers to these questions can be found below.
Part 1: Lifts
Dan John recommends starting with a Front Squat, but he says you can use any big lift. So in theory, you could use the Squat, Deadlift and even the Bench Press as the lifting exercise during your workout (although dragging a bench/rack down to your local park might not be practical, so you might need to assess some other options).
Here are some other lifts you could potentially use:
- Clean and Press
- Clean and Jerk
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
And here are the recommended lifts that require minimal equipment:
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
- Kettlebell Swing
Gradually increase the weight used every time you complete this workout.
That's Part 1 of the workout explained. Now on to Part 2, Sprints.
Part 2: Sprints
The original Litvinov workout required a 75-second, 400-meter sprint. That is quite taxing, but if you're really looking for a gut-busting workout that will test you mentally as much as it will physically, then go for it. Just take into account your sport and physical condition.
For example, if you're a soccer player who weighs 70 kilograms, you should be able to complete the workout with a moderate amount of recovery time between sets. If you're a 100-kilogram rugby-playing prop forward, you're going to find the 400-meter run difficult.
A more achievable starting target is a 5-second sprint at full speed. Perhaps use a distance that will take you roughly 5 seconds to sprint, or have a friend time your runs. Either way works. Over time, build this up to 10-, 15- and 20-second sprints.
Initially, don't focus on recovery times—just focus on recovery. As you become more conditioned to this workout, you can break out the stopwatch.
Take a 3- to 5-minute break between sets to ensure you recover fully. Remember, you're giving 100 percent effort to each set so you will need a lot of time between them.
Reps and Sets
As I mentioned earlier, it's 3 sets. How many reps per set? Just the one! You might think that's not enough, so why not head out and do the workout and then come back to me and let me know how you were feeling after 3 sets.
Ok, so it's one rep in each set, but how many reps in each lift? Dan John recommends 8, and I'm not going to argue with Dan John! So do 8 reps of the lift, sprint, recover. Do this 3 times.
It's all well and good knowing what the workout is and how to do it, but why should you do it? Well, below you'll find a number of worthwhile reasons.
It's a high-intensity exercise routine in which you work at 100 percent effort, so you will be using a lot of energy (and burning fat) by doing it.
It's fast and efficient. Complete your lift (which should take you 60 seconds or so), run for 5, 10, 15, or 20 seconds and then rest for 3 to 5 minutes. The maximum amount of time you should spend on the workout is 25 minutes to a half hour.
If you don't know about the benefits of weightlifting and its impact on an athlete's speed and power, you really should. Doing 3 heavy sets of a Front Squat on a regular basis will increase your power and speed, even without incorporating the sprint afterward.
The sprinting aspect of this workout is fantastic in two ways.
First, there's a clear contrast between the two exercises. The lifting part requires a lot of force and is performed at medium to low speed, whereas the sprinting requires much less force but is done at maximum speed. For those of you in the know, this is a well-established form of training called contrast training which is used to develop speed and power.
Second, it allows you to focus on your sprinting technique. Focusing on the basics of sprint mechanics will allow you to develop a good sprinting technique that can make you far faster than other athletes.
Putting it all Together
Let's paint the big picture and put it on this post for you. The Litvinov workout goes like this:
- Perform 8 (fairly heavy) reps of either the Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Snatch or Kettlebell Swing.
- Straight away with no break, drop the bar and sprint for 5, 10, 15 or 20 seconds.
- Rest for 3 to 5 minutes (or longer if you're a beginner)
- Repeat the above 3 times.
- Go home.
Straightforward, simple and effective. Exactly what you want from a workout.
Don't limit yourself to the above. Get creative and see what works for you. In his book, Dan John explains how he experimented with Sled Sprints, so nothing is stopping you from experimenting with exercises and variations you prefer.
Some ideas about how you can develop this further:
- Multi-directional sprints
- Reaction sprints
- Use other explosive exercises such as Box Jumps instead of sprints
- Play around with reps and sets on the lift
- Focus on your upper body by performing a Bench Press then an explosive upper-body exercise such as Clap Push-Ups
That's it! Go lift weights and sprint. Soon, you'll reap the benefits! Big thanks to Dan John for educating me about the Litvinov workout and its fantastic sporting benefits.
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