The Zombie Killer: Sergey Litvninov (by Mike Hom)

The Zombie Killer: Sergey Litvninov
By Mike Hom

I have to say that I love Brent’s articles on inspirational lifters. I’m also fond of the heroes of 70’s Big. Doug Young would make any guy and girl wet between the legs and Pisarenko sported a ‘stache that would make Ron Jeremy envious. It’s no wonder why both men are co-captains of the 70’s Big Hall of Fame. But, if I had to a pick a hero that inspired me beyond measure to train hard, it would be Sergey Litvinov.

Before I go into why Sergey Litvinov would be the first defense against Zombies, as well why he should be inducted into the 70’s Big Hall of Fame, let me give a bit of background on the man and how I came to know about him.

Litvinov is the subject of an article written by Dan John that I immediately took to heart when it was first published years back. I sincerely doubt Dan John embellished any in his article, but even if he did, I don’t care. It has inspired literally scores of people to try to emulate the same caliber of athleticism that was described in this article which can be found here. Go ahead. Google “litvinov” or “litvinov workout” and the first hit will be Dan John’s article on T-Nation as well as other related sites.

If you are too lazy to read the article, Litvinov was a gold medal winning hammer thrower that inspired American Discus Thrower John Powell to switch up his training regiment through his observations of Litvinov’s training. Dan John described the standard Litvinov workout to be very simple but extremely tough.
Try this on for size:

“Eight reps of front squats with 405 lbs., immediately followed by a 75-second 400-meter run. Repeat this little combination for a total of three times and go home, thank you. Let’s just stop here and marvel at what Powell observed. A 196 lbs. man front squatted 405… eight times!”

Let’s not forget that he did this 3 times total for a total of 24 squats at 405 lbs. Now, I don’t know about every one of you 70’s Big readers but I can back squat 405 lbs. for a double on a good day and front squat 315 lbs. The man did this eight times and then ran 400m in 75 seconds. 75 seconds is over 30 seconds slower than the current 400m world record, but is still faster than what most people can do. Compound the fact that the man squatted 405 lbs. eight times prior to running makes this an incredible feat. The only other bit of information about Litvinov’s training is from wikipedia ( and the entry states Litvinov was rumored to be able to muscle snatch 100kg / 220 lbs. for quick sets of 10. Now, whether that it is completely accurate or not doesn’t matter. The mythology surrounding this man was that he could MUSCLE SNATCH 100 kilos for quick SETS — not A set — of 10.

A few only slightly less plausible rumors about Litvinov’s capacity:

  • Milo carried the calf. Litvinov carried Milo.
  • Litvinov was known for his use of max effort box jumps to augment his power development. Typically he’d warm up at 24″, 48″, and then progress to the Matterhorn.
  • Once, Litvinov was accosted by a horde of angry lumberjacks. Rather than thrashing them thoroughly, as he clearly could have, he made a peace offering of beer and sausages. They drank and ate, and proceeded to see who could chop down trees the quickest. Thus, Timbersports, one of the manliest athletic events ever, was created.

I know that astute readers will catch on to the fact that he is below 200 lbs. Further, the picture of him in Dan John’s article shows that he is clean shaven. OK, so there’s a few things going against him. So why does he deserve to be inducted into the 70’s Big Hall of Fame?

I think we have established, to some extent, that 70’s Big is not merely about the physical appearance of your being. It is an attitude. It is about training as hard as you can to achieve tangible goals. Are you eating to facilitate your goals? Are you doing what you can to get as strong as you humanly can within the context of your every day life? Are you training intelligently to ensure long term success? That, among other things, is 70’s Big for me. Litvinov illustrates that he was willing to train hard to achieve his goals. After all, he is a two time Olympic medalist and set three world records in the hammer throw, which brings me to reasons as to why he would be the first defense against a Zombie invasion.

Assuming he had a good deal of strength in his other core lifts relative to his front squat, he embodies a good mix of strength and speed, which I feel is extremely important. Let’s say, for example, you had a comrade trapped under a heavy object and a group of Zombies were headed towards your direction. You would want to sprint over there and lift the object up to your partner and this might require a deadlift, or some semblance of a clean to get that object completely off the damsel — I mean, partner — in distress. Further, you want to be able to grab your partner and run if necessary. Let’s face it, you can’t be a skinny twit who can run miles but have a hard time carrying anything heavier than a water pack. Conversely, while huge strong men will generally not have an issue with lifting, heaving, and carrying heavy weight, zombies may overtake you for reasons stemming from bad conditioning. That is also assuming you get to your partner before keeling over from being out of breath. Either way, it’s not a good look. Litvinov could probably sprint over to you, pick you up, and set you upright. Then he would probably immediately sprint over to some type of cover, lift pieces of broken car and toss them at incoming zombies. If he had hammers with him, I’m sure he would make Thor jealous with how he could toss a hammer through multiple zombie heads.

So, I guess I am kind of going against the grain here with this nomination of The Litvi into the 70’s Big Hall of Fame. But, let’s face it. If I needed someone to pull me out of some wreckage in the middle of an urban jungle, I would want someone who had the uncanny strength AND conditioning to save me and other team members while carrying cinematic-movie-levels of ammunition and ordnance to combat the Zombie horde. He would also need to throw hammers at show stopping distances to let Zombie heads blossom and burst forth a sea of blood of brain matter. And finally, he would need to have the raw power to perform multiple Spartan kicks to punch a hole through a Zombie’s chest on any given day.

Yeah, I’d have him on my team.

You Are Not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake

Superlatives have been bandied about way too much these last few years. We used to reserve terms like “great,” “best,” and “elite” for truly rare, truly spectacular moments or performances. Now, everything is great. Or it’s the Best. Post. Ever. And elite…hell, we all know what happened with that one.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. You are not elite. That’s fine. I’m not either. We do the best with what we have. But there are a few among us who have the genetics, mental focus, ambition, support, and luck to make it to the top.

I would like you to meet a friend and teammate of mine who may one day join the elites. His name is Devin. He has already won nine junior national championships in judo (there are three each year). He is 6’2” tall and weighs 210 pounds. He is twelve years old.

I am not one to pimp child athletes. Kids are usually too young and too immature to handle the scrutiny they get. I make an exception in this case because Devin is well-adjusted, has good family support, lives in Wichita Falls (where there aren’t many distractions), and plays judo (a sport nobody really gives a damn about).

The physical gifts are obvious. And because he is so big, he has been able to train with adult players the last few years. As a result, he has acquired some “game” from each weight class he passed through on the way up. He is a 200-pounder that throws stuff normally seen on the 66kg mat.

Mental focus and ambition go hand in hand. Judo is about mat hours and competition. The training is fun because we have a good club. State and regional tournaments are fun because we take a good size group. That’s easy. It gets harder at the national level, where it’s just the kid, the parents, and the coach. At the international level, it’s the kid and whatever coach is assigned to that squad (not always your personal coach). Beyond that, it’s spending every weekend on the road, sleeping in cars or hotels, and fighting in every gym in North America.

A typical match for Devin against an older opponent

There is a social cost to be paid as one advances in an individual sport such as this. Luckily Devin trains with several older junior athletes who are already on that path. He also got to spend some time with Ronda Rousey (2-time Olympian, Bronze in Bejing ’08, Silver in Worlds ’07), who talked a bit about her life as an elite judoka. He has time to be a kid now, but that free time will quickly vanish as he continues to pursue an Olympic dream.

Support is key to succeeding in judo or any other sport. He has great family support (meaning parents, not judo parents). He has a good local club. And he has friends when he wants to cut loose.

And then there is luck. In our club, there is a core group of adult players who have been competing, training, and teaching with each other for several years. These guys have all been able to train with and teach Devin SAFELY. As fortune would have it, we are all in different weight classes. So Devin has basically spent 6-9 months learning the habits and techniques particular to each weight class. As I mentioned, as he moves through weight classes, he retains some of the “game” from each. This kinda sucks for me, since I’m just now getting him. It’s like fighting Duncan McLeod.

Devin throwing me with his favorite technique, harai goshi

The coach is the most crucial piece here. Roy Hash has been Devin’s coach since he started judo five years ago. He makes the decisions of how to push, when to push, when to let Devin fight up a weight or age class, when to fight in senior tournaments, and when to put the brakes on. It is a delicate balancing act that can make or break a player.

So, with all the pieces in place, how does he train? He spends two (sometimes three) days a week in class with the Texoma Judo Jujitsu Club. He spends another evening a week training with a club in Dallas that has several older nationally ranked junior players (this was Roy’s recommendation, which is rare in the coaching world). He supplements with the occasional camp, including a recent one he was invited to at the Olympic Training Center.

He trains two days at the gym (he recently started linear progression with Justin and is currently squatting 205x5x3, benching 130x5x3, and deadlifting 205x5x1). He also does 2-3 sessions a week of running and cardio with his mother. This will change some as he hits puberty (kids are not suited for anaerobic training) and when his matches start lasting more than a few seconds.

I spend one day a week with him working on throwing combinations and groundwork. By the time he is fourteen, I will no longer be able to handle him. And I’m ok with that.

Demonstrating a few throws

The bottom line is that, to be elite, you have to have the right gifts and be in the right circumstances. Devin is a good kid with immense physical gifts, talent, and interest in judo. He has a good group of coaches, parents, training partners, and friends around him. If everything stays on course, he could make a run for the rings in next decade or so.

But right now, he is twelve. The best anyone can do for him (or any other kid) is to encourage him and cultivate whatever talent he has. Me? I’ll be slamming him into the mat for the next year or so…just in case.

Video Comparison

PR Friday
Post your weight lifted, gained, and number of females that you know who can toss “men” around.


We like 70’s Big readers to get strong. Then we like 70’s Big readers to compete. In something. Well, the Highland Games is an option. Gant competed at one last year, and he’s getting ready to do another this year.

Gant is primarily a judo player these days, but has competed in a lot of stuff (I don’t know, ask him). I have videos of him squatting and pressing from this past week (he’s on the 5/3/1 program) as well as a video of him throwing a shot in preparation of the Highland Games competition he’ll be doing, which cannot be included in this website. Make the comparison between his squat, press, and put and report back to us whether you think the strength movements are going to help his throwing or not.

You’ll notice Gant is squatting with a shim under his left foot. He’s got some pelvic problems that require constant adjustment. When squatting on a shim, the imbalance makes it easy for the lifter to drift onto their toes, and you’ll see that a bit here. Oh, and after talking, Gant and I are of the opinion that these squats do look high, but also of the opinion that lots of squats on video look high. He’s a little high on a few, and that’s why I try to yell about it.

Funky left elbow/shoulder thing on the last rep of the presses. You’ll see Gant’s displeasure. I also don’t recommend trying to coach and film at the same time. I like my unnecessary “speed” cue in the middle (it’s a good cue if the lifter is doing touch and go, but he wasn’t, and I guess I blurted it out).

Edit: This is actually 195 for reps.

Putting it to practice throwing the shot. Oh, and yes, Gant realizes he won’t be throwing a shot in the Highland Games.

Note: I’ll do something about the narrow width of the site later (I don’t know how to do it myself).

Mike Barwis Will Eat You

Mike Barwis is the current strength and conditioning coach of the Michigan Wolverines. He’s an accomplished coach who has worked with all sports at the collegiate level, professional athletes, and Olympians. However, he’s best known for aiding the football programs at West Virginia (’03-’07) and Michigan (since ’08).

Let me preface the following thoughts with a few statements:
– I don’t know Barwis
– I’m not a Michigan fan
– At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen any programs by Barwis, only articles and a crazy YouTube video I’ll link below
– His track record speaks for itself

My impression is that Barwis has a general strength program, and then he quickly converts this strength into what I will refer to here as “usable strength”. Obviously if someone is very strong and they cannot apply that strength into proper, efficient, and effective movement on the field, then they are of no use to the football coaching staff. In the video below, Barwis explains his gamut of conditioning, movement based flexibility, and increasing the athlete’s ability to do their job on the field with sport specific work. It’s kind of hard to summarize the “Barwis Philsophy”, since his explanation of his program lasts nine minutes:

You’ll notice the guy is…full of energy. You’ll notice he has a raspy voice. You probably now understand why he garners respect from his athletes — he shows them that he cares by exhibiting his commitment to their success. As he succeeds, his reputation grows, and he is nearing Chuck Norris status.

Apparently he owned two pet wolves that he used to wrestle. He has a MMA background (that he doesn’t talk about much). Some West Virginia players attempted to catch him off guard and give him a friendly woopin’, but he took them out before they knew what happened (read about it here on Wikipedia). But most importantly, he treats his athletes like family.

And let’s not forget his accomplishments. One example is Brandom Graham, who weighed 315, benched 315, and power cleaned 225 when he got on campus. Now he’s 265, benching 495, and power cleaning 445. Barwis makes it known that they aren’t concerned with only weight room strength, but taking that strength and applying it to football, yet those numbers with Graham are still impressive nonetheless.

There are countless games where Michigan has performed well in the second half, and the entire team attributed it to their superior conditioning. Barwis gets is athletes strong and conditioned, and does so while earning the respect of all of his athletes — this means I’m a fan. Good stuff.

Not Impressed

Spring semesters all over the country are coming to a close. For most college football programs, this means that most of the athletes will go home for a couple of months before coming back for pre-season practice before school starts. A typical program will put their players through a gamut of tests to see how well (or not?) they improved. The LSU football did such a thing, and recently posted an article about it.

Before I say anything else, let me clarify that I’m an SEC guy. I like LSU in the sense that I will root for them when they play non-conference teams. I’ve watched many memorable games (my favorite being a defensive showdown a few years ago with Auburn — the 4th quarter was amazing). SEC Football is typically some of the most impressive, exciting college football in the country. The teams yield impressive athletes and the conference is known for the quality of intra-conference competition. I’m not crazy about one college football team or another, but I do dislike some teams. LSU is not one of those teams. I say all this, because college football fans are fucking nut jobs and I don’t really care to get into a crazy fan war.

With all that being said, one phrase comes to mind when I see the results of LSU’s testing:
Not impressed.

Sorry. Scroll down in that article and look at the top 5 squatters. 545, 535 (3 times), and 510. Really? These guys are the cream of the genetic crop from high school. Some of them may have a shot at the NFL, and they play on one of the best teams in one of the best conferences in the country. Even I squatted 500 for an easy triple a few weeks ago. I will give Patrick Peterson some props — he’s a cornerback listed at 6’1 and 211 (which means he’s actually 5’10” and 195). In other words, he is almost squatting the most on the team weighing around 200 pounds while there are guys who weigh 290+.

Yes, I understand these guys are football players and their primary “sport” is not lifting. But I really expected to see some 600+ squats on the team. Maybe even 700.

I’m not really impressed with the clean numbers either. The best clean, which was a school record, is 374. Granted, I’ve never cleaned 170 kg yet (I’ve done 165), I just really expected these genetic freaks to be doing more. It is important to note that Michael Ford (a sophomore running back who is listed at 5’10” and 207) led the team with a 42″ vertical jump AND was third on the team with a 352 lb clean. There is definitely a correlation between these two activities, and neuromuscular efficiency dictates this. It’s genetic, so you either have it or you don’t. Sorry I’m not sorry.

The other lifts tested were the jerk (which I found surprising, but good on them for incorporating the jerk into their program and getting pretty decent numbers) and bench press. Now, these fulls definitely went into beast mode on the bench. The top BP was Drake Nevis, a defensive lineman listed at 6’1″ and 292 lbs, at 475 lbs. Obviously these guys are raw, and that’s damned impressive. Guess who got second on the BP? Michael Ford at 425. Read that again — a 207 lb running back just benched 425. Fuck.

The hand timed 40 yard dash is iffy, though. If you’ve ever followed SEC 40 times (cough, cough, Florida), then you know they are comically low. The fastest time was Patrick Peterson, that little ol’ cornerback who squatted 535. Now, it is hand timed, but if you have a dude like that running that fast with that kind of strength behind him…he’s gonna do some damage.

Guys like Patrick Peterson, Michael Ford, and Drake Nevis are why football continues to be an impressive sport. Knowing that they possess that kind of ability makes me want to follow them throughout the season. I like guys that work hard in the gym.

But, football is a game that is dependent on the hips, and this makes squatting and cleans the most important exercises to improve performance. I would have assumed these lifts would have been monstrous, and they are right about what I am capable of. I coached somebody who played football in college with Brian Urlacher, and they said he power cleaned 405. That’s the kind of stuff I expected to see. Until I see some 600 pound squats, I will continue to be “not impressed” no matter how good their 40 times or bench presses are.