Mullet power: John Inzer deadlifts 780 lbs. at 165 lbs. bodyweight. (Photo: Powerlifting USA)
Pavel Tsatsouline, former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, has made a name for himself in the world of strength.
He wrote the below article, outlining the simple routine of Russian Master of Sports, Alexander Faleev, for Built magazine, which folded before publication. Pavel contacted me to publish the piece here, and I am pleased to offer it to you as an exclusive.
Though I often suggest training to failure for maximal size gains (see “Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. in 4 Weeks”), the pre-failure approach detailed here is excellent for maximal strength development, and the repetitions can be further reduced for relative strength (per-lb. bodyweight) development.
Total read time: 12 minutes.
Read time for routine only: 7 minutes.
I have read a book that has made an impression: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.
The 4-Hour Workweek is not a dubious get-rich-quick scheme but a guide to ultimate productivity through ruthless elimination of non-essentials. “Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness,” states the author. “This is hard to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity. Few people choose to (or are able to) measure the results of their actions and thus measure their contribution in time.”
It is no surprise that Russia has borne a number of Ferriss-type strength and muscle building programs, mercilessly eliminating the non-essentials and delivering extraordinary gains. One is Alexander Faleev’s system that has gained many followers among Russian muscle heads in the last four years.
Comrade Faleev dabbled with powerlifting for seven or eight years, then took a few years off. He poured over years of his training logs looking for what worked and came back to the barbell with a vengeance. In just six months, he reached the coveted Master of Sports level in powerlifting.
Faleev has summed up his approach as “Nothing extra!” In one sentence, it is about doing only four things: the squat, the bench, the deadlift, and competing regularly. That’s it.
The system the Russian had developed for his strength and size breakthrough could have come out of The 4-Hour Workweek. Among Tim Ferriss’ tools for getting the most out of life is Pareto’s law. The essence of the law is that 80% of all results come from 20% of the efforts. Applied to muscle and strength, it means, if most gains will come from the three powerlifts, why waste your time and energy on curls and close-grip benches?
Before I will move on to the nuts and bolts of the training regimen I will address your objections. I can read your mind: “But I am not a powerlifter, and I don’t want to look like one!”
The sport of powerlifting (PL) has an unfair image of refrigerator-sized men whose faces turn red from blood pressure when they bend over to tie their shoes — or rather try to bend over and get stopped by an enormous “uni-ab”. To say that all PLers look like that is akin to stating that all runners are thin and wiry.
Look at photos of powerlifters in lighter weight classes. They are as hard as a rock, and many are ripped — without curls and cable crossovers. Take Texan John Inzer who held the world record in the deadlift for years, 780 pounds at 165 pounds of bodyweight or Ukrainian Oleksandr Kutcher, who recently beat that record with 793 pounds. These guys look more like gymnasts than refrigerators.
Tim: Oleksandr Kutcher pulls a light 694 lbs. and then needs chamomile tea.
Faleev’s 80/20 Routine
5 x 5 Progression:
For beginners, Faleev offers a straightforward progressive overload workout with 5 sets of 8 reps. Eventually you are supposed to advance to 5 x 5. In my opinion, you should go straight to 5 x 5. Sets of five are the meat and potatoes of strength training.
Start with a conservative weight. If you manage five reps in all five sets, next time add 10 pounds and start over. Not 5 pounds, and definitely not 2, but 10. For reasons that are outside of the scope of this article, Malibu Ken and Barbie jumps with tiny plates are a waste of time.
Most likely you will not bag all the fives on your first workout with the new weight. Perhaps you will get 5, 5, 5, 4, 3. No problem, stay with the poundage until you get all 5×5. Your second workout might be 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, and your third of fourth should get you to 5 x 5. Slap on another pair of “nickels” (5-lb. plates) and work your way up to 5 x 5 again. According to Faleev, the above progression will add 110-175 pounds to your max in each of the three powerlifts in one year, provided you are fairly new to the game.
Deadlift 1x per week; Squat and Bench 2x per week
You will be deadlifting once a week and squatting and benching twice a week, once heavy and once light for the latter two. Your light days are for honing technique, not for burning out your muscles with high reps. Do 5 sets of 4 reps (5 x 4) with weights that are 80% of the heavy day’s. For instance, if you did 5 x 5 with 200 on your heavy day, stay with 160 for 5 x 4 on your light day. That’s it! The key to the program’s success is in doing less.
The Russian recommends the following schedule:
Monday –heavy squat (SQ)
Tuesday –heavy benchpress (BP)
Wednesday –heavy deadlift (DL)
Thursday – light SQ
Friday –light BP
If training five days is not an option, four will do:
Monday –heavy SQ
Tuesday –heavy BP
Wednesday –heavy DL
Friday – light SQ, light BP
Not ideal, but if you have to cram your training into three days:
Monday – heavy SQ
Wednesday –heavy BP, light SQ
Thursday – off
Friday – heavy DL, light BP
Saturday – off
Sunday – off
Failure and Rest Intervals
Never train to failure! Don’t attempt a rep unless you are 100% sure you will make it. Ideally, keep one extra rep in the bank. “Save your strength for the next set,” insists Faleev.
Don’t get greedy.
Practice one lift per workout, stretch, and get out. Faleev stresses that you must wrap up each strength workout with static stretches. “The benefits of stretching are enormous. Stretching can increase your strength by 10%. It is a lot.” The man explains that “when you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is. Until the muscle has restored its length, it has not recovered. Hence he who does not stretch his muscles slows down the recuperation process and retards his gains.” Besides, tension and relaxation are the two sides of the same coin, “if the muscle forgets how to lengthen, it will contract more poorly. And that is stagnation of strength.”
Don’t rush your sets.
Do a couple warm-up sets if you must, then feel free to take 5 min. and even more between your work sets. Top power dogs take longer; 30 min. is not unheard of. Power loves rest and does not tolerate rushing. You may feel that you are completely recovered in 2 min. but take a full 5 anyway. According to Faleev, an hour is a good number to shoot for in your workout length.
Balanced Development: Biceps and Other Decorations
One common objection is: “But I will not get a balanced development if do only three exercises! What about my biceps and my…?!”
Faleev sticks to his guns: “For a sharp increase in muscle mass and [strength] results you must do only three exercises: the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift… when you deadlift a 550-pound barbell think what kind of a huge load is born by your biceps, shoulders, traps, and even neck… When you squat with a 550-pound barbell, think about the high pressure the athlete’s abdomen must withstand. An athlete lifting such weights cannot have weak abs by definition –the midsection is strengthened in the process of training the squat. If you bench 330, the muscles of your arms, chest, and the front delts will be so developed, than any bodybuilder will be envious. One must add an interesting detail–in the bench press it is very important to learn to use the lats when starting the bar off the chest. Perhaps someone will think of this as a paradox but the bench press develops the back as well, especially the lats.” Faleev states than the above numbers, a 550-pound squat and deadlift and a 330-pound bench, are “more than achievable” if you focus on these exercises and practice them for years.
And if you have not felt your abs when squatting, it only means you have not squatted heavy enough. “Bodybuilding is a strength sport. Don’t forget it,” admonishes Faleev.
The only legit reason for additional exercises is correction of a dysfunction or imbalance that puts your health at risk. An example would be a pronounced discrepancy in the hamstrings’ flexibility, your knees caving in when you land after a jump, or the failure to activate your butt muscles or “gluteal amnesia”. But diagnosis and correction of such problems is not something you can do on your own or even under the guidance or a personal trainer; you need a specially trained health professional. I suggest that you find one through Gray Cook’s website. Cook is the country’s premier sports physical therapist; in the last Super Bowl both teams were his clients. Get a tune-up from a professional on his team so you can safely focus on the basics and not do stupid things like extra leg curls “to balance out my quads”.
But back to our basics.
Faleev stresses that additional exercises are worse than worthless –- they are harmful because they drain valuable energy that your body could have directed towards spectacular gains in the big three. “…get rid of the excesses and just do what is necessary… When you give up the secondary exercises, you will feel that you are not training enough. You will be leaving the gym totally fresh. This is it, the energy for an increase in the load in the basic lifts. This reserve is what will enable you to ‘shoot out of the gate’!”
The above point cannot be emphasized enough; curls, calf raises, and other miscellaneous non-sense may not feel hard but they drain your adaptive energy!
The Fourth Element: Competition and Parkinson’s Law
Focus on the lifts that matter is half of Faleev’s power and muscle equation. Regularly competing in sanctioned power meets is the other half. Faleev observes that with a powerlifting meet date looming on the calendar, many an athlete have accomplished more in six months than others have in many years.
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss echoes him when he makes use of the Parkinson’s law to get results faster.
According to this law, a task will take as much time as you will allot for it. In other words, you will shine under the pressure of an ambitious deadline. Applied to iron, it means compete, and often! You will be forced to focus on what matters — your squat, your bench, your deadlift –– rather than fool around with what former Coach Powerlifting Team USA Mark Reifkind calls “random acts of variety”. Subscribe to Powerlifting USA magazine on Amazon. Find a meet near you three months away, and go for it! Look for “raw” meets that require that you compete without special squat suits, bench shirts, etc. AAU is one of the federations that hosts raw meets.
As the meet approaches, cut back from 5 x 5 to 4 x 4, 3 x 3, and finally, a couple of weeks before the competition, 2 x 2. Up the poundages accordingly. After the meet, take a week off, then start over with 5 x 5.
Faleev stresses that maxing in the gym is dangerous. Maxing out tests your strength but does not build it. A max workout in the gym amounts to missing a productive 5 x 5 day that you will never get back.
Tim: 5 x 5 isn’t just for beginners: Johnnie Jackson, one of the few champions in both powerlifting and bodybuilding, demonstrates the deadlift. I suggest not slamming the plates. Touch the plates to the floor as if a baby were sleeping in the room.
Faleev offers a formula that will help you estimate your max from your 5 x 5: multiply that weight by 1.2. This is not exact science, but it is much better than those ridiculous charts that claim to calculate your 1 rep max (1RM) from your 10RM.
Just decide what you want: The process of enjoying the pump, the burn, and the variety of exercises? Or muscles and power?
Faleev’s secret of success is so simple, it is easy to ignore: practice nothing but the powerlifts and compete regularly. Period. The Russian muscle man walks into the gym, trains one lift, spends a few minutes stretching, and hits the showers. Done!
Since he dropped all the assistance exercises his progress has been nothing but spectacular. Ironically, his gym buddies who sweat for hours wasting time on meaningless exercises consider him a slacker. He does not care, the wily Russkie has the last laugh with his strength and his mass.
# # #
About the author:
Pavel Tsatsouline is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, currently a subject matter expert to the US Secret Service, the US Marine Corps, and the US Navy SEALs. Pavel’s bestselling book Power to the People!: Russian Strength Training Secrets has been published in the US and Russia.
In real-time: Follow Tim and his experimentation with Pavel’s methods here.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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912 Replies to “Pavel: 80/20 Powerlifting and How to Add 110+ Pounds to Your Lifts”
Great article – thanks for posting Tim.
I´ll be testing these insights in my muscle lab!
It makes total sense to me that he could apply this principle to powerlifting so effectively. I was able to use the 80/20 principle for both the creation of my muse and in applying the same principle to P90x (my current experiment). Great article.
Also, Horacio Goday at La Viruta in Buenos Aires says hello. It was a fantastic Tango Lesson (and great mini retirement)! He wound up doing the opening of the BsAs video that we shot at La Viruta. Lots of fun had by all.
Jet Set Life
I love it when two of my favourite authors make a venture 🙂
Tim Ferris and Pavel Tatsouline. So glad to see them together.
Its a nice and good surprise.
Interesting post. Curious what Pavel thinks about replacing Dead lifts with “Cleans” (“Clean and Jerk” – essentially dead lift + overhead press). Also is this exercise routine recommended for “surfers” / swimmers. People who want to remain flexible, thin, but have power.
More on “Cleans”
Powerlifting can be thought of similarly to any sport in which there are weight classes. You should be able to redistribute your weight without increasing significantly using powerlifting as your strength training. Your body weight is regulated by your diet. When I started powerbuilding, I put on 20 lbs gaster than I wanted to because I wasn’t paying attention to my diet. I won’t do any bulking/cutting cycles because my only concern is performance/not looks. I do feel my healthiest at 200 lbs so my diet will be focused on staying close to that weight. If you looks at the powerlifting totals for even your average competitive 200 lbs powerlifter, you will see that smaller lifters are significantly stronger than your average 250 lbs gym rat.
Thank you Tim. You just helped me find my next workout routine for next month.
Thanks for sharing this. I should give this a try and ask advice on the specifics mentioned here. Great post!
Very interesting, sounds like my kind of workout. Might have to test this out. I’m certainly not doing well with the random acts of variety.
Wow, 2 of my favorite influences come together! By the way, Tsatsouline is probably even more known for his work with “kettlebell” training. Kettlebells are also very FHWW-ish in the fact that they take very little time for maximum results.
I’ve been into them for years, and my website was inspired by reading FHWW… so, two of my favorites really have come together!
Great Post Tim!
I only can say that this may not be for everyone. It’s great for PLer’s who only compete in these exercises, but that is a very limited population. I know many clients of mine who are PLer’s and cannot do a single chin up. Pavel mentioned that lats are used in the bench press, however, it is only used in a limited range of motion, not the best training method for trying to pull-up your own weight.
I think that a variety of full-body exercises should be employed, not just the PLers core 3. Pull-ups, rows, and overhead movements are 3 exercises I would include to achieve full-body strength. But I have to say, I agree with Pavel, throw out the leg extensions and bicep curls. You will never see me throw a client on a machine like that. Great application of 80/20.
Stay tuned when I use the approach of 80/20 and take my first mini-retirement to Greece and run my first marathon, the Classic Marathon from Marathon to Athens on an extremely low mileage training plan, inspired by Pareto.
Your Digital Trainer,
He wasn’t saying to use bench presses to work your lats, he said bench presses use your lats as a springboard to help ease the weight down and to help push the weight back up. Obviously Deadlifts work your lats for that. besides, you speak of how this routine isn’t efficient enough for actual functional total body strength and suggest pullups are necessary, but I can’t remember a single time in my 34 years of life where I’ve ever had to replicate the pullup motion in real life. I CAN, however, name countless times when I’ve had to squat down, bend over and pick something up, or push something away from me. ‘Functional total body strength’ is relative to the person. I don’t do pullups because I’m not a professional/recreational rock climber, as I assume most people who read this article aren’t either. And i think THAT’S one of the main points of this article: If you want to get better at something then do it often. You don’t do a lot of sit-ups to get good at bench presses, you get good at bench presses by doing a lot of bench presses 🙂
Being a rock climber myself for part of my life, I had to replicate the pull ups for years. Being able to do a decent amount of pullups will allow you to pull everything you need much better. If you need to climb, if you need to carry heavy stuff, if you need to row, you are basically pulling.
It seems that both authors are “pushing human beings” and therefore prioritise this kind of training. I can’t remember having to push something away from me that is so heavy as the kind of weight I can benchpress.
On the other hand, now that I am doing standup paddling seriously, I am a more “pulling human being”. Any heavy push exercises will add extra bulk to my body that will be counterproductive at the things I like doing.
Also, I like the concept of being strong at different angles. That is VERY important for climbing. That’s why we don’t just du pullups but we do very weird pulling exercises at very different angles.
I wouldn’t say that being very strong at benchpressing will help you press efficiently at different angles, like in the military press.
So, I agree with Jeremiah when he says this is not for everyone. It really depends on what you want to do with your body and what kind of specific strenght you would like to have.
Just my 2 cents but in general, this article is great and today I spent just 15 minutes at the gym doing JUST the dead lift. I have to say I feel fresh and awesome. I will track this and definitely use the concept (not the same exercises) in my weight training.
Great post! Pavel is definitely the man (Tim’s pretty damn cool, too). Rocking the big lifts with big weights – how can you go wrong?
I wonder… Since neither squats nor bench presses are safe to perform without a spotter: Could you switch the bench press for dumbell bench presses? And is there a safer version of the squats that is OK to do on your own?
They make a step rack for performing squats without a spotter. An adjustable height one is best so that you can do a full squat (breaking parallel) if you are training for competition.
If you are worried about the weight you have one the bar, it is too much. You need to go down. Because if you are not 100% you can lift it, you shouldn’t lift it. And, just ask for a spot and I do most of my squats sans spotter. The only time I have a spotter is at meets.
Christoffer, if you train at home, i would DEFINITELY recommend buying a Power rack for safety.
Is that Bill Clinton’s brother in the picture?
Great stuff. Still, for most folks the Super Slow Exercise Protocol (originally from Author Jones/Nautilus) would be more effective,efficient, and safe…1 set @ creepy-slow speed to failure, 8 or less exercises, 20 – 30 minutes a week! Guaranteed to outperform all other programs.
Google: Super Slow Exercise Protocol
If you want to get good at moving light weight very slowly, then super slow training is for you. You you want to develop significant overall, practical strength, powerlifting may be the answer.
Strangely enough, I switched up my workout last night to shoot for max & feel so much more energized today.
An article by Pavel, but not one mention of a kettlebell?
Everyone needs to do some weight training for overall health and performance. Powerlifting gets a bad wrap, but the principles are sound. Nothing more basic than picking up weight. I do think most folks would benefit more from a standing press than a bench press.
For more brutally simple and effective workouts check out Dan John.
Dan knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to put himself to the test to prove it.
I definitely agree when you say “I do think most folks would benefit more from a standing press than a bench press.”
I alternate standing press with bench press. Seems to get balanced pressing development and practical strength. Also prepares the shoulders and core for heavier weights when I start doing olympic lifts such as jerk and snatch.
OK, I’m a girl, so maybe I just don’t “get it,” but 5 1hr workouts a week – just for strength training, mind you – doesn’t seem very efficient to me. Add in a reasonable amount of cardio, like 3 20 minute interval sessions each week, and you’re up to at least 6 hours of gym time, plus the travel/changing/showering time per week.
Got anything more efficient, Tim?
try doing olympic squats ..5×5…..
you wont get a better mix of anaerobic / aerobic….ive seen rugby and afl players at elite level breathless and almost spewing after a 5×5 session ……add in some run throughs….thats not full sprinting but 50-60-70-80% of max speed…over 100m then 200m…..
you want a lean sexy body mam’…do the above.
Lean sexy rugby player and olympic lifter here. Mr. Redford’s post checks out
I have been a similar strength program at only 4 days a week for a few months now, and I have never been stronger. At age 35 I thought I was already over the hill but now I have reason to believe I will be my strongest when I approach age 40 based on linear progression.
Maria, there are lots of rest periods in each 1hr workout. Maybe there are some efficient non-strength things you could do during them?
chest to bar pull ups. 50% of your max reps and lots of sets
Very interesting article. I’m currently doing 2 days a week for lifting (upper body one day, lower body the other day), 8 exercises per workout, 8-12 reps (1 set) to failure as per one of your previous blog posts. This seems to be working pretty well. My fiancée and I have seen the best results in the gym using this routine than anything else we’ve tried, but we’re always looking to improve.
What are your thoughts in comparing our current routine to this 5×5, never to failure, routine of 3 key exercises?
Thanks a lot,
I am interested, whether the system as described helps with endurance as well I know a strong muscle will fatigue less but straight weight training for strength I don’t believe will help an endurance athlete. As was pointed out in a earlier comment, if you are training for cardio is well, it ends up being quite a long time spent training
No way! Strength just don’t translates into endurance and also not to explosive moves like a punch. It is very specific. But it will give you a well-built luck.
I think it depends on how specific you need your cardio to be. If you are training for a marathon, then maybe powerlifting isn’t the best approach. I am looking for balanced strength gains but wish to maintain a decent cardio base, so I incorporate a medium intensity cardio warmup of 5-10 minutes such as jump rope. Following a powerlifting session, I may do intervals on the rowing machine for an additional 10 minutes. This combined with a reasonable diet can control my body weight and keep me ready for just about any task life throws at me.
As a Titleist Performance Institute Instructor, this sort of stuff is right in my wheel house. I think it very important that before anyone does these types of workouts, they need to be physically screened to determine if their body has the stability/mobility to perform correct squats, dead lifts, etc.
For example, we would never start anyone with a dead lift until they can prove they can handle a bridge with leg extension. Dead lifts require proper glute function. Another example would be the squat…we would make sure that they can perform a deep squat, heels on the ground, and their butt past their knees before adding weight.
If they don’t pass our screens we put them through a progression of corrections with the goal of performing a dead lift, squat etc.
Just a few comments, for those interested in a similar and more detailed approach to the “80/20” approach to working out you should look into getting Rippetoe’s starting strength. It’s a great book that places major emphasis on all compound lifts and the importance of proper biomechanics etc.
As for the article above I’ve studied and am still studying the how much muscle recruitment you get from compounds lifts. To say that you gain as much muscle from doing compound lifts alone is not an accurate statement.
You do in fact gain if you use compound lifts because you are recruiting a large amount of muscle fibres which require your body to use more motor units to contract them but you would gain more muscle if you put time into individual’s muscles.
It really comes down to what results you want. Power lifters focus on being able to recruit large amounts of fast twitch fibres in order to lift large amounts of weight. The way they grow and look is much different from a bodybuilder or anyone who focuses on hypertrophy.
With hypertrophy, in a nutshell you are constantly aiming to destroy and rebuild your muscle fibers. Which is why mixing in compound and isolation would be ideal.
Sorry for babbling I’ll try to address this on my website another day. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you want to build maximal strength Power lift. If you want hypertrophy find a program that incorporates the important core compound lifts but you’ll need addition isolation work too
Tim, you should check out MuscleHack.com
Follows your philosophy of do less but gain more.
Tim and Pavel!
That’s what I’m talking about — 80/20 — less is more, it’s a key component of my DoubleYourGains’ 3-5 program.
The more you specialize the greater progress you make, and why spend time doing wrist curls when you could be deadlifting a bar bending load and getting better forearm work?
“Curious what Pavel thinks about replacing Dead lifts with “Cleans” (”Clean and Jerk” – essentially dead lift + overhead press). Also is this exercise routine recommended for “surfers” / swimmers. People who want to remain flexible, thin, but have power.”
Robert, I would not replace DLs with C&Js. The Olympic lifts require different loading patterns. http://www.danjohn.org/coach has an excellent free e-book on the subject.
“As a Titleist Performance Institute Instructor, this sort of stuff is right in my wheel house. I think it very important that before anyone does these types of workouts, they need to be physically screened to determine if their body has the stability/mobility to perform correct squats, dead lifts, etc.”
Ryan, well put. Comrades, http://www.functionalmovements.com is the place.
Wow this is too cool! I’m a huge Pavel (and Ferris) fan but I am more into the stretching aspects because I am hyper flexible or as Pavel would put it I am mutant flexible. Now I’m inspired to do more and have some good guidelines to live by. I’ll be passing this around for sure. Thanks Tim!
Your book was the first time I had the 80/20 rule put in proper context for me. Everyone always referred to it but I was too embarrassed to ask for a full explanation. I am not sure most people that cite it, truly grasp it. Asking the question, where else can I apply this rule has become addicting!
As an avid gym rat I am going to try the above. However, I am also scheduled to start one on one lessons with a UFC fighter and wondered if you think this workout would should be modified for aspiring fighters.
Great job on the article. I agree and have experienced many of the points Pavel made in the post. I had a 14 year football career with a power mentality (it was taught to us by our strength coaches) to become a better football player. Then transitioned into a drug free for life professional body building career in the WNBF for the last 13 years. I have competed alongside of some of the best truly drug free bodybuilders in the world. Dave Gooden, Francis Gay, Jim Cordova etc.
Also, for the last 8 years I have had the luxury of being arguable one of the busiest fitness trainers / healthy lifestyle coaches in the world with over 18,000 sessions with clients.
At this point of my career and at the age of 43 I have learned that it is never one thing or one mindset that gets results. It is always a combination to proven strategies that works best. With that being said I believe for the avergage person, with average goals that a program with some powerlifing moves, with some body building moves, some athletic functional plyometric moves, and stretching is the best approach.
In my trademarked FatLoss Lifestyle 12 Week body transformation program we use a wide variety of techniques. But for the base philosophy we try to make light weights feel heavy by going slow (a 3.1.3 rep tempo) and isometrically squeezing target muscles.
I can’t tell you how many of my high school and college buddies who kept up with the “How Much Ya Bench” power-lifting mentality for 10 years or so ended up with hip and shoulder replacement surgery. I would disagree with Pavel that there is a difference between muscle strength and hypertrophy (bigger). Usually a powerlifting mindset and strategy is going to put more stress on the tendons and bones and joints and the 3-1-3 rep tempo (put the mind in the muscle and squeeze) mentality is going to put the stress in the muscle.
On average bodybuilders who are going to have bigger muscles than powerlifters. Also, when trying to design a personal program we have to consider amount of time being spent on working out.
But, (not to blow smoke at you) if there is anyone on the face of this earth that can figure out how to create the best, most time efficient program that produces desired results, it is you Tim. And I know you are on a mission with this. Please let me know if there is anyway I can help you out. thanks for the backward link.
Darin (from the windy city)
I sent you a msg on a similar program a little while back called “Stronglifts 5 X 5”. I’ve been doing this program for about two months and have very noticeable results, i.e. rock hard legs and nice upper body definition. The wifey likes the changes.
You can Google it to see the website. It uses an add 5 lbs. each workout as opposed to the 10 in this article, however, the weight adds up quick.
Anyone interested in core strengthening (not body building which is more for looks) should give it a look. It has a very detailed routine for a full body workout each time.
I love the “read time” you included at the beginning.
Good article, Pavel’s stuff is always good to read.
Tim, thanks for sharing this, I ALWAYS loved Pavel’s info.
I am a HUGE fan of the methods that came from the 1970′ and prior to. These men were built with a rugged / athletic physique, I would say almost like 2nd rate Gymnasts.
I am more and more using the 80/20 rule to EVERYTHING I do as well, business and strength work.
I have a buddy who does this as well, and man is he putting on muscle and strength like never before.
He recently got into powerlifting / strongman and trains 4 x week.
He performs the military press, squat & deadlift and then has an event day w/strongman implements. He’s a BEAST!
You can’t go wrong with the squat and deadlift, I prefer to use the floor press slightly more often than the bench press, just to save my shoulders.
Many of the strongest men in the world followed the same advice of Pavel: they did the following on a regular basis:
– military press (barbell or dumbbell)
– power clean / hang clean / clean & press (barbell + dumbbell)
They also used some athletic gymnastics type movements such as hand balancing drills
The results were far beyond what I see coming through any of the typical gyms
This was an awesome post, thanks brother and thanks to Pavel!
Kill it Beast!
Simple, but not easy. That’s the way to go.
Great to see Pavel contributing an article to this blog! It is a great surprise to see.
I’ll have to slightly disagree about being unable to diagnose and correct imbalances on your own. Yes, hiring a professional with decades of experience certainly will expedite the process, but there’s still plenty you can learn on your own. I’m sitting here with a copy of Gray Cook’s “Athletic Body in Balance” on my bookshelf, and I read T-nation and other such websites and references on a fairly regular basis. While I’m no renowned expert on the topic of imbalances, I’ve learned a tremendous amount over the past several years. I enjoy the learning process too.
I guess my whole point is, there’s nothing wrong with trying to learn and DIY when you start. Grab a professional when you really need them.
“OK, I’m a girl, so maybe I just don’t “get it,” but 5 1hr workouts a week – just for strength training, mind you – doesn’t seem very efficient to me. Add in a reasonable amount of cardio, like 3 20 minute interval sessions each week, and you’re up to at least 6 hours of gym time, plus the travel/changing/showering time per week. Got anything more efficient, Tim?”
Maria, you are right, this plan is efficient only for someone who makes strength the #1 priority. May I suggest a very low volume “easy strength” plan where you do a couple of global exercises for the reps totalling 10 in low rep sets (e.g. 5-5, 5-3-2, 3-3-4, 4-3-2-1, etc.) 2-3 times a week? This type of a program builds strength without building mass and leaves you plenty of time and energy for sports. Please refer to my book “Power to the People!” for details.
From Jeremiah Bell:
“I only can say that this may not be for everyone. It’s great for PLer’s who only compete in these exercises, but that is a very limited population. I know many clients of mine who are PLer’s and cannot do a single chin up. Pavel mentioned that lats are used in the bench press, however, it is only used in a limited range of motion, not the best training method for trying to pull-up your own weight.”
Jeremiah, true, but this applies only to bigger, fatter guys. According to the statistics by Belskiy (2000) middleweight and light heavyweight powerlifters were good for 22.5 pullups. I am sure Inzer and Kutcher could do even better.
Pavel, as mentioned inthe podcast tha in soviet training athletes were able do do more than 50 chin ups. how would you recommend training if i want to reach something like 50 or more pull ups?
Comrades, thank you for your kind words about the article!
Thanks for the great comments. A few things:
1) The key here is — in my opinion — progression with one major exercise per session. If you cannot perform squat or bench press (though I’ve done so solo using a well-set power rack) — and let’s even suppose you can’t do the conventional deadlift — you would still get outstanding results using overhead press, trap bar deadlift, and bent rows, for example.
People will disagree on best exercises, but my two criteria are simple: 1) safe for you to perform and 2) large compound exercises.
2) Comparing training to failure (HIT/SuperSlow/etc.) with 5 x 5, single set to failure will consume much less time. However, keep in mind that Pavel’s objective is maximal strength, and his 80/20 is applied to exercise selection, not time.
Failure can be used most effectively for gaining mass and not for maximal strength development. Pavel’s suggested workout takes time because of rest intervals and stops short of failure, which is ideal for many athletes who cannot afford the neural fatigue of training to failure within their sport training.
3) Regarding kettlebells, more coming on that separately. Keep an eye on http://www.twitter.com/tferriss for my ongoing experiments with them.
Hope that all helps!
All the best,
Very interesting article. I will be trying this out, since I was spending way to much time in the gym with my current routine.
How ironic, just this morning I was doing 240 sit-ups thinking to myself if this is all I do today, then it will be a great workout. Tomorrow we’ll give the pushups *push beyond normal* power shot too.
After reading this, I am extremely excited to go the gym. But what training advice would you offer to pitchers or quarterbacks who rely on shoulder strength in addition to this program? Thanks
Tim here’s a great video of how to snatch a KB without wacking your arm.
I think the thing that may have not been clear in the article is why squats, dead lifts, and bench. These three exercises recruit the largest amount of muscle in the body. They use all your stabilizers and therefore cause a larger response by your body. They dump more testosterone (to over simplify). They are intense.
If you’re doing squats and dead lifts girls, you don’t need 2 hours of aerobics every week, unless your preparing for a specific endurance sport. Abs are made in the kitchen, strength is made in the gym.
Interesting read. Static stretching, however beneficial for general mobility and recovery, does not increase strength and has been shown in studies to decrease strength by significant amounts (more than 10% for sure). That part jumped out to me.
“I wonder… Since neither squats nor bench presses are safe to perform without a spotter: Could you switch the bench press for dumbell bench presses? And is there a safer version of the squats that is OK to do on your own?”
Chris, the dumbbell press will not cut it. You can bench safely inside a power rack with the safety pins set just beneath your chest level. If you miss a rep, just sink the chest slightly. Ideally, you should never miss a rep though.
I believe that the Zercher squat is even better than the back squat and you
can easily dump the bar. Here is a link to an excellent Zercher squat video, 505 pounds lifted by powerlifter Jason Burnell:
Hello, great article. Like Nautilus on steroids… Also makes sense, just remember to learn to do the exercises properly to avoid injury.
Tim, saw that you’re interested in the kettlebells, personally I’ve found Josh Hillis’ blogg very interesting, if you don’t know about him already you might want to check it out. Ok, know that this is a quite girly thing to say but, well I like to have muscles but I don’t want to look like Schwarzenegger, so he has some ideas for that as well..
and, for the rest of you: just found tenminutesforchristmas.com, some cool guys (Leo Babauta from Zenhabits and more) on sale.. might try to buy on of them to my bf for christmas, at least one easy way to reach the untouchables, yeay! well what won’t one do for charity?;)
merry christmas all of you!
I have tendonitis in my hands, leaving me with weak grip strength and plenty of pain if I lift anything heavy. I probably can’t even lift a fully loaded barbell. Is there an alternative to the deadlift?
You also forget to mention how to avoid looking like Johnnie Jackson. I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder as he does.
Just a suggestion – Ironmind sells a “healthy hands” kit that many people have reported cleared up their tendonitis within a few weeks to a couple months. I’ve just ordered it and plan to begin when it arrives.
From Bob Smith:
“I have tendonitis in my hands, leaving me with weak grip strength and plenty of pain if I lift anything heavy. I probably can’t even lift a fully loaded barbell. Is there an alternative to the deadlift? You also forget to mention how to avoid looking like Johnnie Jackson. I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder as he does.”
Use straps for now and get your tendonitis treated so you can pull without them eventually. It takes a lot of eating in addition to lifting to look like a bodybuilder. To get huge you need to eat so much that you start hating food. Simply don’t do it!
I like the tight focus on “nothing extra!”
I thought the answer to adding 110+lbs was going to be RedBull, but I like this answer better.
I’m surprised by the “never train to failure” point. Many moons back I worked out with folks doing a Bulgarian workout (which I can’t seem to find now), but every set was to “beyond failure” — meaning you needed a partner for every single set. We got a lot weaker the first couple weeks, but then the gains were incredible, and I’ve never found a routine that beat it in terms of efficiency and effectiveness (simple approach – short routines, push past failure, grow )
“Interesting read. Static stretching, however beneficial for general mobility and recovery, does not increase strength and has been shown in studies to decrease strength by significant amounts (more than 10% for sure). That part jumped out to me.”
Mike, it depends on the protocol. Efimov, 1977 documented instant strength gains of up to 9.4% and long-term strength gains as well with special static stretching (“Loaded Stretching”).
“I am interested, whether the system as described helps with endurance as well I know a strong muscle will fatigue less but straight weight training for strength I don’t believe will help an endurance athlete. As was pointed out in a earlier comment, if you are training for cardio is well, it ends up being quite a long time spent training.”
Watzzupsport, there are different types of endurance. PL training will not help with marathon but will help with moving furniture all day.
2 questions: can this training be combined with this on the rest days:
[Moderator: YouTube Link to “Peak 8: The Basics” video removed per YouTube embed policy.]
Is it viable to do all three exercises in all three of the sessions, provided the other two are 4x 80%?
Tim – thank you for posting this article. And thank you for the book – as a full time trainer and gym owner – it cut down my hours from 50+/week to 21/wk now and I’m looking forward to cutting it down even more (possibly to 12-16 hours spread over 3 days).
Pavel – thank you for writing it, comrade. And good link to Dan John’s stuff.
80/20 rule is excellent. That’s how we do CrossFit at our place – minimalistic and simplistic without delving into too much variety of funky stuff, emphasizing the basics.
And I’m pleasantly surprised to see so many names I’ve seen before on this blog out of all places – Jim B, Boris B, Pavel, Zach E.
Very cool indeed!
I am personally a fan of Scott Sonnon’s Clubbell. It allows six degrees of freedom and circular strength, ie left-right, up/down and backward/forward.
“…the dumbbell press will not cut it. You can bench safely inside a power rack with the safety pins set just beneath your chest level…”
I’m curious as to why dumbbell press can’t substitute for a regular barbell bench press. I would think that you could get a fuller range of motion with dumbbells and get a better workout from having to stabilize two independent weights.
Tim + Pavel, thanks for posting the article. I found it to be a good read with useful info.
Interesting, but I can’t imagine as a newbie coming into a gym and doing my own thing like this without being browbeaten by the instructor or regulars…
Seems like normal people could benefit from this idea too. Maybe not even 3 exercises, how about a combo? Deadlift sort of is like a squat, so you could do a deadlift with a press at the end, then just do 1 exercise! 80/20 the 80/20, that’s like 64/4 (64% results 4% effort).
Pavel/Tim – Great article. Master the basics, something that people just don’t do nowadays. Having been in the fitness industry long enough, I am over most of what is sold out there by trainers. That and it seems mainstream media loves to promote complicated and isolated movements, when most people need to use their body in movements, not by muscles. I would say the deadlift is the most important exercise for anyone to do (as I have had 65+ yr old grandmothers lifting DB off the floor). High reps,…low reps…high volume…all that can be played with but the movements of deadlift, clean (and press), squat, bench are the keys to muscle growth on a hormonal level.
Along with the 5×5 principle I also love the simplicity of an EDT style of volume training…just doing as many reps of 2 major exercises for 15min…all compound movements…superseting and never going to 100% failure (keeping the weight so you are doing anywhere from 5-8 reps per set). Then up the weights next time.
Keeping it simple….life heavy, eat to recover, sleep, progress workouts….and results follow. Wish someone told me all this when I was in high school doing all the stupid stuff like curls in a squat rack.
“Interesting, but I can’t imagine as a newbie coming into a gym and doing my own thing like this without being browbeaten by the instructor or regulars…”
Nestor, find a powerlifter in your area (you may need to go online as there are not many out there) and hire him for a few sessions. PLers are great people, very helpful and humble, as all truly strong people are. Those who give you grief are wannabes.
I need to know if im supposed to use a weight lifting belt, as some recommend not using one. Personal i would be scared not to use one but dosent this restrict the abs strength ?
So that’s Squat & Deadlft belt or no belt ?
Thanks and great article 🙂
A funny story about Pavel:
I attended a CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) workshop in Irvine CA in April of this year with a friend.
Pavel is sitting behind us.
My friend, not familiar with Pavel, turns to me and says, “I want to look like THAT guy. He looks lean, powerful, and fit”.
I look back and see that he wants to look like the foremost authority on Kettlebell training in the world.
I wished him good luck – and let him know he has HIGH standards!
Is there a good reason not to sub the standing barbell press instead of the bench press. I ask because I’m worried about my long term shoulder health with using the bench press as the sole pressing movement. Competition in the bench press event is not imporant to me.
I have a question though, i am a student looking to lose some weight and tone up, i go to the gym regularly (over a year on and off) and practise (though a little less now) martial arts. My question is, is there anyway to follow this exercise regime without the competing part? I am not a weightlifter and would not really like to compete i just want to get fit and healthy.
Cheers for any help/advice you can give
I can verify that this type of ultra simple training works extremely well. those who fear the unstoppable growth of gigantic muscles can rest easy. I had a number of female students who were dancers some years ago that did weight training very similar to Faleev’s. It was Pavel’s Power to the People program, for several months these women did heavy deadlifts only. Changes observed were these:
1) Quick and dramatic increase in overall strength.
2) Better posture and alignment.
3) Increase in jumping ability.
4) Improved flexibility.
5) Better endurance.
6) Improved balance.
7) More resistant to injury.
8) Slight shrinkage of the waist.
9) A few pounds gained on the scale.
10) Extreme hardening of the entire body.
11) Noticeable increase in full body muscle definition.
12) Improvement in confidence and general attitude.
13) Substantial improvement as dancers.
My students also used the second program outlined in PTP which is only deadlifts and side press. Results held steady, only an additional improvement in upper body and grip strength was noted. I later put together some other programs that very much resemble Faleev’s, adding bench-press or squats or even push-press, but never anything beyond those few lifts, always heavy and reps 5 or less. The dancers became ever more fit and capable. In order to avoid gaining muscle size we simply kept rest periods between sets over 2 minutes.
These are students I trained every week for several years and there was never any evidence of the much feared, and often spoken of, imbalance in appearance, strength or any other athletic ability. I still see these students occasionally after eight years, and the results of this type of training still hold. The dancers really loved these sessions, they had a reputation at our gym as superwomen and they used to brag about being powerlifters.
If you are concerned about correct exercise form or about a possible barrage of nonsense from gym “experts,” hire a powerlifter to train you as Pavel suggests, or buy his book or DVD, Power to the People.
Correct stretching only makes a person weak for a few hours after the stretching session. In the long run the athlete is made stronger and more capable. The key here is the stretching must be correctly executed and applied. I recommend Pavel’s Relax into Stretch book and DVD.
Awesome article and great comments BTW. – E
Not exactly on topic, but I love the “Total read time” at the beginning! I’m trying to apply the 80/20 rule to as much as I can and that includes my blog reading schedule. Maybe that should be included on all posts? Great post!
I can definitely see the similarity in your and Tim’s philosophies.
Well spoken and insightful as always.
Thanks for connecting me with the strongman in North Dakota. I’ve been checking out his site and it’s impressive.
“The height of cultivation runs to simplicity. Halfway cultivation runs to ornamentation.” – Bruce Lee
It says a lot in that when it comes to areas of your life as diverse as economics and strength training you choose to seek knowledge only from the most respected experts in the world like Warren Buffett and Pavel, respectively.
As someone told me recently, “The closer to the fountain, the more pure the water.”
Nice post. Thats a good lifting progression, I’ll have try it sometime. Nice to seei the theories from the book tied into the fitness realm.
As a fellow BJJ practitioner i wouldn’t mind hearing more about your training with Dave Camarillo, if you ever feel like writing about that.
“Seems like normal people could benefit from this idea too. Maybe not even 3 exercises, how about a combo? Deadlift sort of is like a squat, so you could do a deadlift with a press at the end, then just do 1 exercise! 80/20 the 80/20, that’s like 64/4 (64% results 4% effort).”
Slacker, read my book “Power to the People!” (Tim has provided a link on the bottom of the article). It does exactly that.
“Is there a good reason not to sub the standing barbell press instead of the bench press. I ask because I’m worried about my long term shoulder health with using the bench press as the sole pressing movement. Competition in the bench press event is not imporant to me.”
I prefer the overhead press myself but it does not go up on low volume like 5×5 for long. When the press was a part of the Olympic weightlifting competition Russian lifters had a saying, “To press a lot you must press a lot.” You will find a high volume press regimen in my book “Enter the Kettlebell!” (www.enterthekettlebell.com); the press program can be applied to barbells or dumbells as well.
You can BP safely if your technique is right. The “corkscrew” technique and using the lats properly protects the shoulders.
“I have a question though, i am a student looking to lose some weight and tone up, i go to the gym regularly (over a year on and off) and practise (though a little less now) martial arts. My question is, is there anyway to follow this exercise regime without the competing part? I am not a weightlifter and would not really like to compete i just want to get fit and healthy.”
Salim, it has been said that without a goal it is not training but “working out”. At least schedule an informal competition in the gym with your buddies.
From: Johnny Kuo
“I’m curious as to why dumbbell press can’t substitute for a regular barbell bench press. I would think that you could get a fuller range of motion with dumbbells and get a better workout from having to stabilize two independent weights.”
Johnny, the dumbell press is a fine drill but when you want to get more done with less you must choose only the exercises which allow you to use the most weight. This “irradiates” tension to other muscles and ups the systemic stress needed to stimulate muscle growth through elevated testosterone, etc.
“After reading this, I am extremely excited to go the gym. But what training advice would you offer to pitchers or quarterbacks who rely on shoulder strength in addition to this program? Thanks”
Peter, this is not a program for an athlete who simultaneously pursues another sport. After 5×5 of squats you will not be running too well. An athlete needs an “easy strength” lower volume plan such as the first workout in my bok “Power to the People!”
I used to follow a similar “bare basics” routine out of Stewart McRobert’s Hardgainer material. It espoused an even more infrequent workout schedule of 2 workouts a week or 2 every ten days even. It also used fewer sets, often only two or even one set per exercise per workout. I’m curious what you think about doing fewer sets with heavier weight. I am a particularly hard gainer myself so I know that even at only 5 reps, I would be sacrificing enormous quantities of weight in order to stretch it out over 5 sets.
I’m also curious about the advocation of not using 1-2 lb increments. Granted in the beginning you can very rapidly ramp up using 5-10 lb increments, it is very difficult to add even 5 lbs once you get close to your max weights for a given workout routine. After hitting the threshold of 5 lbs being too large of an increment, I have used so called “fractional weight plates” when close to my maxes to keep adding weight to the bar every week without losing reps. Perhaps it’s a bit nit picky, but I’m curious if there are any compelling reasons to go one route or the other beyond preference.
Pavel, what a great article! What are some of your ideas on how to apply 80/20 to cardio training whether that be anaerobic or aerobic endurance?
Can you do different variations of the lifts, say cycle deadlifts off plates, perhaps box squats, perhaps medium grip bench presses so that there is some slight variation and the ability to work on weak areas but the exercise is pretty much the same and you still get bang for your buck
From Brian Brookshire:
“I used to follow a similar “bare basics” routine out of Stewart McRobert’s Hardgainer material. It espoused an even more infrequent workout schedule of 2 workouts a week or 2 every ten days even. It also used fewer sets, often only two or even one set per exercise per workout. I’m curious what you think about doing fewer sets with heavier weight. I am a particularly hard gainer myself so I know that even at only 5 reps, I would be sacrificing enormous quantities of weight in order to stretch it out over 5 sets.
I’m also curious about the advocation of not using 1-2 lb increments. Granted in the beginning you can very rapidly ramp up using 5-10 lb increments, it is very difficult to add even 5 lbs once you get close to your max weights for a given workout routine. After hitting the threshold of 5 lbs being too large of an increment, I have used so called “fractional weight plates” when close to my maxes to keep adding weight to the bar every week without losing reps. Perhaps it’s a bit nit picky, but I’m curious if there are any compelling reasons to go one route or the other beyond preference.”
Brian, many top US powerlifters like Karwoski and Coan have used 1-2 sets successfully. If it works for you -do it. Just don’t justify it with being a “hardgainer”; not a helpful mindset.
Small weight jumps are good for beginners, than things start breaking down. You end up spending too many workouts near your RM and you only have so many before you crash and drop off the peak. And you end up spinning your wheels too long in the beginning of the cycle. 2-5% 1RM jumps are optimal. If you want to learn more, read the “Very Progressive Overload” article in my Power to the People Monthly (www.PowertothePeopleMonthly.com).
I’ve been leaning more towards this style as well. When lifting, I used to do ALL of the workouts. But I think it is more effective to more of the things that actually work.
I’ve been doing a similar workout called Stronglifts 5×5. I’ve put on a lot of muscle and weight. These programs really work well.
Sounds like a great workout for those who hit a plateau in their strength or really want to pursue power lifting.
But for someone like me who wants very high endurance for surfing and the much more lean/cut look, its not very suitable long term. Plus a good mix of cardio and weight lifting is supposed to be much better for you health wise.
“Sounds like a great workout for those who hit a plateau in their strength or really want to pursue power lifting. But for someone like me who wants very high endurance for surfing and the much more lean/cut look, its not very suitable long term. Plus a good mix of cardio and weight lifting is supposed to be much better for you health wise.”
Erick, for you a kettlebell workout will be perfect. http://www.enterthekettlebell.com
That’s quite an achievement 🙂
Thanks for sharing this tips.
Might come in handy if I plan to gain weight and build some muscle!
Great Post. Merry X-Mas to you and your family!!!
Jose Castro Frenzel
Thank you for the kind words, Pavel and Paul. Just a small note about the concerns of “too little” in the thread: Pavel is right when he says that something like just Deadlifts and Presses are enough for just about everybody. I have helped some women through tremendous physical transformations with just two lifts like these examples.
More is not better, more is simply more. A heavy deadlift or squat will literally spark your whole body (hormones, by the way, are best described, I was told, as “cascades,” like fireworks) into transforming. Doing 10,000 ab crunches will probably lead you to back issues and do little for the pot belly…but deadlifts and squats and presses, especially in a lower carb environment, will do more than hours and hours of fasting and aerboics…long term.
I have just come back from scouting the gym. There I found machines and spaces required to perform Pavel Tsatsouline’s program. I did only one quick rep for each of the three exercises. Then came home. It has been almost 2 hours but I feel Incredible. The workout as briefly as it was proved amazing.
My only concern is tweaking the program for my special circumstances. I am just 3 months out from meniscus surgery. only 20 % removed from the inside of my right leg. I’ll put about 80% of my max for the nxt three to four months and see the results.
I cant say enough the feeling these exercises give me writing this posting. I look forward to the next few months and anticipte what can happen.
Question to Pavel: Amazon says you cited the Warrior Diet in your Power to the People Book. What eating book would you recommend to a guy over 40 looking to stay trim and slim?
Once again think you to Tim and Pavel. These posts keep changing my life.
From Leonard Irwin:
“I have just come back from scouting the gym. There I found machines and spaces required to perform Pavel Tsatsouline’s program. I did only one quick rep for each of the three exercises. Then came home. It has been almost 2 hours but I feel Incredible. The workout as briefly as it was proved amazing. My only concern is tweaking the program for my special circumstances. I am just 3 months out from meniscus surgery. only 20 % removed from the inside of my right leg. I’ll put about 80% of my max for the nxt three to four months and see the results. I cant say enough the feeling these exercises give me writing this posting. I look forward to the next few months and anticipte what can happen.Question to Pavel: Amazon says you cited the Warrior Diet in your Power to the People Book. What eating book would you recommend to a guy over 40 looking to stay trim and slim?”
Leonard, ask your doctor about box squats; they are very easy on the knees. Learn the technique from westside-barbell.com. I have been on the Warrior Diet for 4 years or so and I love it. But I am not a nutrition expert.
Once again think you to Tim and Pavel. These posts keep changing my life.
A couple of questions from a swimming girl: would strong and big muscles gained by this be of any help in a 100 freestyle race? I need fast contraction, complex coordination and good shoulder and ankle mobility for a 1 minute race. Any suggestions how to accomplish that without spending 6 hours a week in gym? You see, there are of course a couple of kilometers to swim, too. Thanks!
Leonard Irwin – I am NO Dr., so please, take this as you will, but, I had my meniscus torn and 5 years later ACL torn –
I recovered best through lots of sled drags and box squats – these felt great. I also used bands for seated leg curls which can be performed during your warm up.
Just some friendly advice, please remember, I am no Doctor and am not telling you what to do, but, these 3 movements help speed recovery VERY quickly!
Thank you Tim and Pavel for your insight. I can’t get enough of these articles.
Focusing on the basic olympic lifts is leagues better than nautilus-machine training; but with the territory comes a need for in-depth description of the olympic lifts themselves, as well as the modality involved. You should look into Madcow’s 5×5 training, as well as Rippetoe’s Starting Strength.
I have used the 80/20 rule for fitness for close to a decade. I got my start utilizing Pete Sisco’s methodology (less is more). You can find more here:
My system is different now but it started with Sisco.
Here was my pre-plan to find a program that would work for me:
-need metrics to measure exactly what is going on to gauge process
1)Body fat percentage
2) Strength gains
3) photos and measurements
4) Time spent in the gym
I was very clear and truthful with myself about what I wanted and only worked to that end.
I use a spreadsheet that tracks my numbers. I spend 46 min in the gym every 5 weeks now. If I do anymore strength work than that I start seeing signs of strength loss or plateau.
I have picked up doing some “fun cardio” and yoga daily now but that is for a different goal (mind and health).
No matter what you do you have to be VERY clear about what you want and then ask “how can I measure this.”
Numbers tell a story.
No sooner do start reading “4 Hour Workweek” than do I find a mention on Tim’s blog of the strength trainer who, after years of my searching, started me down the right path toward strength, flexibility, and superb health. Good on ya, Tim. Pavel is THE man in the strength training arena.
I bought “Power to the People (PTTP)” over 6 years ago after years of “3 sets of 8” nonsense and getting mediocre results from the traditional bodybuilding type workouts. Using PTTP,my deadlift shot up from 275 pounds to 455 in a little over six months. My bench press went from 315 to 355. Using the “Russian Bear” protocol in PTTP I dropped 25 lbs while going from an XL to an XXL shirt.
The results from “Power to the People” convinced me to buy a kettlebell. I now own ten of them. If they didn’t work I’d still only own one.
I have invested, yes INVESTED, at least a couple thousand dollars in Pavel’s books, DVDs, and Kettlebells. I ain’t done yet, either!
I’m now 45 years old, 6′ and 225 lbs. On 12 Dec, ten days ago, I deadlifted 555 lbs. It went up fairly easily. I’m in the Military, I can’t afford to be weak. Pavel’s methods have ALWAYS delivered. I’m not only stronger, but also healthier, more flexible, and TONS more confident!!
Check out his Publisher’s website: http://www.dragondoor.com It’ll change you for the better.
Power to you!!
“A couple of questions from a swimming girl: would strong and big muscles gained by this be of any help in a 100 freestyle race? I need fast contraction, complex coordination and good shoulder and ankle mobility for a 1 minute race. Any suggestions how to accomplish that without spending 6 hours a week in gym? You see, there are of course a couple of kilometers to swim, too. Thanks”
Aspirinha, this is not appropriate training for a swimmer. Please consult with Kenneth Jay who is the strength coach for the Danish Olympic swimming team. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
From Mike Capper:
“Can you do different variations of the lifts, say cycle deadlifts off plates, perhaps box squats, perhaps medium grip bench presses so that there is some slight variation and the ability to work on weak areas but the exercise is pretty much the same and you still get bang for your buck.”
Mike, yes but you should stay with the same variation for 6 weeks.
“Pavel, what a great article! What are some of your ideas on how to apply 80/20 to cardio training whether that be anaerobic or aerobic endurance?”
Alex, as you would expect, I am partial towards kettlebells.
There are two books that you should read by Pavel, and one by Mark Rippetoe. First is Power to the People, which is a good book on basic strength training, it includes a program which works and is very abbreviated (~20 minutes per workout 2-5 times a week), and will not make you gain any weight size (particularly since you probably have a hard time gaining weight from swimming training). Second is Relax Into Stretch, which will show you just about everything you’ll ever need to know about flexibility. Finally, Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. This book is invaluable for it’s teaching of the proper Back Squat, Bench Press, Press, Deadlift and Power Clean.
Of course being stronger will increase your swimming speeds, just as being stronger would help a short/middle distance runner! Maximal strength training increases your inter- and intra- muscular coordination and force production abilities.
Comrades, thank you for your kind words about my article!
Power to you!
Is it correct to say that this exercise regime and kettlebells are mutually exclusive?
From Bob Smith:
“Is it correct to say that this exercise regime and kettlebells are mutually exclusive?”
Bob, not so but the KB regimen should not be too demanding. Just light snatches or swings for conditioning and get-ups for shoulder health. Like the “Enter the Kettlebell!” Program Minimum.
What are your thoughts and feelings on doing the Simple (S&S) swings on Squat days and the Simple (S&S) Get ups on bench days?
Thinking 24kg – 32kg on swings / get ups. Thoughts?
May I ask a couple of questions?
First, how would you recommend to adopt this routine in the case of 1 or 2 training sessions per week? And would it cause a large decrease in efficiency or not?
Second. What’s the point of “light” exercises? From everything I heard before you should usually give the muscle the maximum possible load, but after that give maximum possible conditions to rest and recover, including time and the absence of the stress between the training sessions. So are they really required and so effective? If yes, then why? And how “light” should these light exercises should be, how do I calculate the weights? And do I do them if my muscles are still sick from the last training?
And the final, third question. Is it ok and is it a good idea to add chin-ups before DL (my priority is wide back), add press-ups on bars after BP (for better load of chest and triceps) and add biceps curls after SQ (to give some stress to arms as well). I know that supposedly basic exercises will give enough load to your arms as well, but still I’m afraid it’s not enough and once a week or even once 1.5 week it wouldn’t be a bad idea to train my biceps as well.
So what do you think? Thank you very much in advance!
Awesome post! I am always trying to revolve my training programs around this sort of concept. With my programs, however, I always tend to add sets of abs and calves as supersets with the bigger exercises. I also usually include rows and pulls ups. Often I’ll even do 2 sets of dumbbell bicep curls for fun. Aside from those modifications, I definitely support this type of training. I think I’ll even formulate a workout program around these principles. Thanks