Do Something Difficult Sessions (DSDS's)

In a typical week I spend my time writing programs and managing the training loads and volumes of around 50 academy athletes in my day job, as well as writing more programs and answering questions for my many online clients.  In and around this I try and get in 4-6 training sessions in for myself, usually with my colleague Owen  at the same time, so we are constantly discussing our own programming, changes we could make to improve things, as well as technique alterations and exercise modifications that will best help us to achieve our goals!

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Despite spending so much of my time discussing something I truly love, every now and then I really cannot bare the idea of planning my own training sessions out.  The idea of selecting exercises and planning sets and reps schemes just does not appeal to me, whether it is due to general fatigue or the desire to do something completely new to entertain myself, sometimes I just want to do something hard and get out of the gym again.  This is where I came about my Do Something Difficult Sessions or DSDS’s for short!

DSDS’s are usually something I come up with on the spur of the moment, although occasionally I come up with something that I keep in the bank for a future time when I want to change it up a bit!  Before I go on though, I do just want to make some key points about how I set up my DSDS’s.  Firstly, it is very rare that I do a session that contrasts too extremely with my overall goals!

The majority of the time I am looking for increased strength levels in the big lifts along with a certain level of athleticism that enables me to hang with my athletes during sessions.  Therefore I do not foresee any future DSDS’s involving running a marathon or swimming the channel!  The reason I do not allow myself to be too random with my DSDS’s is that if I were to complete a session that is completely alien to my usual training I might risk an injury from exposing my body to a training stress I cannot handle.

Even if I were to not get injured in the session, I would almost definitely end up with some serious muscular soreness for at least a few days afterwards, this would limit the training I could do the rest of the week and prevent me from getting back to my normal training schedule right away.  This is no good to me!

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Another thing worth mentioning about DSDS’s is that they constitute perhaps 1 out of every 40-50 training sessions I do.  When I train I have a clear plan of what I want to achieve and this is in line with my goals, if I were to train in this way too often it would no doubt lead to me failing to reach my goals and becoming extremely frustrated.  This would be especially true if I were training for a specific event.  Athletes need to realise that they have a finite amount of time and energy to use for training and recovery.  It would be an extremely rare occasion that I would recommend an athlete perform these sort of sessions, if they are feeling generally fatigued I’d much rather they lower their volume and work harder on some recovery techniques than mix it up with random sessions!

Having said all that I do love it when I get to train this way, I keep my ‘exercise toolbox’ pretty limited most of the time.  I think implements such as Kettlebells, Slosh Pipes, Battling Ropes, etc. are great for certain things, however they often don’t quite fit with my specific goals!  My training tends to revolve around heavy Back and Front Squats, Olympic Lifts, Deadlifts, Overhead and Dumbbell Presses, Pull/Chin Up Variations and Rows (especially Pendlay Rows or Prone Pulls).  Around 90% of my gym time is taken up with these movements and it has served my goals very well.

As Dan John says “the goal is always to keep the goal the goal”!  Kettlebell Swings are great but if I want a heavier Back Squat there are more productive ways to fill my time.  So on the odd occasion I decide to ‘mix things up a bit’ it’s often fun to involve some of these exercises and bits of equipment!  This is also where I’ll often take the opportunity to train some ‘Strongman’ type events, or even sometimes I might use one of my usual ‘go-to’ exercises, however in a rep/set scheme that I am not used to or in a way that I know will pose a challenge beyond the usual strain of going for max weight!  Below I’ll list off some DSDS’s I’ve used in the past for you to have a look at, starting with what I used for my training session today!

DSDS 1
KB Snatch X 5reps/hand
Slosh Pipe Zercher Squats X 10reps
150m Run
6 sets with 1 minute between each set
Followed this with Overhead Slosh Pipe hold, 3 repeats of my maximum possible time (my best was about a minute)

DSDS 2
Battling Ropes, 20reps of each variation, 15secs between each variation for a total of 20sets;
2 Handed Waves, Alternate Hand Waves, Right Arm Side Wave and Left Arm Side Wave.
Finish this with 1 minute of 2 Handed Waves as a final ‘blow-out’!

DSDS 3
Deadlift singles at 70-80% of your 1RM.  1 rep every 30secs for 20mins, equalling 40 total reps.

DSDS 4
KB Suitcase Carry (like a Farmers Walk only with 1 hand at a time).  Carry the KB for 20mins as far as you possibly can, swopping hands whenever needed.  This works particularly well if you have numerous obstacles to go around/over/under during the walk!  I walked round my family’s farm for 20mins and the obstacles resulted in a special kind of exhaustion by the end!

DSDS 5
Yoke Walk, pick a distance, usually 15-30m and then work up to a max weight for this distance.  No drops allowed!

This is just a list of some of the DSDS’s I have actually tried and liked, however the list really is endless! Feel free to send me your own ideas to try out too.  Anything that takes the thinking out of my own training every now and then is welcome!  If you try any of these DSDS’s yourself, let me know how you go as well.  Some of them are great to use as a standalone session when you are short on time and others can be used as an excellent finisher after some more focused training!  Just remember when designing these, the aim is not to break yourself for the rest of the week! We want to get back to normal training feeling fresh and energised either the next day or the day after that.  As long as you stick to that, go for it, don’t overthink it and Do Something Difficult, you will enjoy it…. Possibly!

Stay strong
Rhys