The Toughest Workout (Part 1)

I am reposting this blog about the Litvinov workout because I have been getting a lot emails about a good tough WOD for new comers to toughness training. I especially got a lot of response this week due to my article in this week. Here is the link.

For all my new readers from, welcome to!

Ascendftermath_b(In part one of this post, I talked about the Litvinov workout as one the major workout protocols that will be used in this mental toughness program. The concept of the Litvinov workout is so simplistic – you pretty much pick so heavy weight and then run like hell. You are combining anaerobic and aerobic movements in the same session. The problem with conventional training is that they separate weight training from cardio work. On one day, they lift weights and on the next day, they hop on the treadmill. The Litvinov workout mixes both heavy strength works with cardiovascular work. This approach may not sound like a big deal, but trust me, when you lift something really heavy like a deadlift and then do a short run, your body has never felt this level of overall discomfort before)

The first challenge you will have with the Litvinov workout is the set-up. If you belong to a CrossFit facility, you won’t have this problem. Lifting weights and then going outside to do a run is commonplace. However, if you are at an average commercial gym, it may not be so practical especially if there is a blizzard outside or if your gym is on the 20th floor.  The biggest problem you will have is after you do the strength portion of the Litvinov using a barbell and go outside for a run, when you return your barbell might be gone. This could be a real problem if you belong to a small gym with limited amount of barbells. So in upcoming Litvinov workouts in this mental toughness program, there will be many variations to the second part of the cardio portion. But for today’s post and WOD, I want to concentrate on the classical Litvinov WOD – deadlifts combined with a 400m run. If you have never done a Litvinov workout, no form of training can ever prepare you for the upcoming physical and mental strain from this workout protocol. Nothing.

So I suggest you set up your deadlift as close as possible to the door and right before you leave for the run portion of the workout, drape a towel over the barbell. In gym etiquette, this implies that you are not done using the weights.

When you first start doing Litvinov workouts, get used to a lot of stares and curious looks from those in your commercial gym wondering what the hell you are doing, especially when you get back to the gym, doubled over and gasping for air like somebody just stabbed you in the stomach. Trust me, for the wannabes at your commercial gym, watching you train like an animal will be a billion times more interesting than the crap they got on all those flat screen TVs plaster on the wall showing the E-Channel or some silent sporting event on ESPN. (Beware – a post on the sorry state of the average global gym is coming soon.)

What makes you even stand out even more is when compared to everybody else at the gym is just how causal your average gym rat is. Most are probably sitting on a high tech machine or admiring at themselves in the mirror while doing curls. But, this is the power of the Litvinov that I love and you will too – you and everybody in the gym will realize very quickly that you are the only one that is working your ass off while everybody is going through the motions of traditional single body workouts that are boring and most have plateaued at. As exhausting the Litvinov workouts are, they are also very inspiring to one’s self. As I said on the part 1 of this post, there’s just something so damn empowering when you are doing something in front of others that they wish they can do and won’t try because it just looks so freaking daunting.

For me and most of clients, the first couple of sets of the Litvinov is just misery. However, something about the Litvinov that begins to take over you mentally when you get past the halfway point of the WOD. The worse is over and you begin to pick up steam. Instead of slowing down, you lift with more speed and go all out during the last 50 yards of the run. You begin to get really aggressive with your mind-set and actions and sometimes, down right mean. For me and my clients, when we get into hyper this state of aggressiveness, we just look like we are pissed off and it is expressed in our body language. And when we do the 400m run, people watch out. We will run your ass over if don’t get out of our way. That’s the rush of confidence and assertiveness you get when you overcome a brutal physical challenge that almost broke your spirit. This high just makes you want to kick more ass and everybody around you can sense it too.

So the lesson I want you to gain and hone in on today’s Litvinov WOD is to reverse from feeling at your most weakest to feeling at your strongest. This is a skill that you will practice throughout your mental toughness training. It may sound like an impossible task to most of you, but it isn’t once you focus on your mental thoughts and believe in the power of the mind. It is the mind that dictates strength and energy and not the body.

The first thing you must believe in is that just because the body is fatigued does not mean the mind is. When the body is close to being out of energy it has no effect on the mind. In fact, when the body is tired, your mind needs to automatically become active and calculating. It must be infused with aggressive thoughts to promote you to action. The point of all this suffering and misery from the Litvinov is to teach you that your mind has the capacity to turn extreme exhaustion to sudden adrenaline. A mind that is proactive and unrelenting can energized your body to do what you wish it to do.

For today’s WOD, learning to channel aggressive and defiant statements will be your test today. When the workout is making you have a hard time moving, you must not have passive thoughts like “Please let me get through this” You must have unyielding thoughts like “I refuse to be slow down. Nothing will stop me.” When the Litvinov is close to making you quit, you can’t have wishful thoughts like “I hope I can get through this workout.” You must learn to put your foot down on the threat of quitting with strong reassurance statements like “I know I can get through this.” 

Your thoughts effect your actions. If you have weak action thoughts like “I just want to finish this WOD.” You probably will pace through the WOD with no intensity. On the other hand, if you have aggressive action thought patterns like “I’m going to steamroll this last set,” you will more than likely finish the WOD with authority. And finally, when the negativity starts to seduce you with statements like “I can’t do this”, you mind retaliate with strong positive statements that can’t be argued like “I must do it.” 

Goal for today – learning how an aggressive mindset will always lead the body to do what it wishes.

Now go experience this for yourself.

Today’s WOD:

5 sets

Deadlift – 5 reps (use a heavy enough weight so that by the 5th rep, you are feeling very uncomfortable)

400 meter run (it doesn’t have to be exact. A good rule of thumb is a run about 1:30 or half a block and back)

Scaled down version of this classic Litvinov WOD:

1. Do only three sets.

Acceptable substitutions:

1. Run on treadmill or jump rope for a minute in place of the 400m run.