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”
Wow – just read the whole set of comments and article – lots to digest. I am truly impressed with your knowledge and plan to check out some of your materials Pavel!
I’ve been lifting for a few years, nothing too scientific or intense. Currently I do dumbbell presses (3×5 maxing out at 210lbs – between 2 weights), deadlifts (2×5 max at 205 lbs) and squats (3×5 max at 215lbs). Then I do some other training with TRX, bands, plyometrics and HIT training in between. I work out weights once every 5th day with a cardio HIT in between where I can fit it. This works nicely for me because my schedule can really get in the way of training days so sometimes if I know a 5th day will be problematic I move my weights to day 4 instead and I do my cardio day on the day that fits between. I’m 5’9″ about 160lbs and 12% body fat.
Q1 Anyway I would like to try one of the programs you describe and simplify….it seems like, as you have said, not to mess with the schedules/programs and you also said light days may not be necessary. The four day program shown in the article would then drop to 3 days I assume – my question is say if I start with this program:
Monday –heavy SQ
Tuesday –heavy BP
Wednesday –heavy DL
Friday – light SQ, light BP
but then on a subsequent week I miss a day for some reason – how do I get back on track safely and properly? Let’s say I cannot make my workout on Wednesday that subsequent week, can I do the heavy DL on Thursday? I guess I am just trying to understand how critical the timing/consistency is from week to week, day to day. I’m not looking to set any Olympic records, just looking to improve strength and size and play some sports socially on the side – would perhaps like to look a little more cut – I will check out your site for integrating kettlebells.
Q2 Any of your books you would suggest for my starting out with your programs? Seemed like the PTTP and ETKB books are often recommended by you. It sounded like for a more cut look you’d recommend ETKB – would that then completely replace a “Faleev-style” workout and any HIT sprinting?
Thanks so much! Power to you! Hope you are working a 4 hour work week!
Any trainers/lifters you would recommend in the Boston area?
Andreas, consistency is very important in a PL cycle, at least for your heavy days. If you have doubts about making it, it is better to do another program.
You are right, you will not need to sprint (unless this is a part of your sport) if you train with kettlebells.
Indeed, I recommend ‘Enter the Kettlebell!’ for starting out with KBs: http://www.dragondoor.com/b33.html
Our certified RKC kettlebell instructors in the Boston area are listed here:
Power to you!
thank you very much for sharing this. I just bought your book Pttp and like it a lot.
Question about cycling: if I understand you correctly, cycling is essential for Falev’s plan. I do not plan to compete in strength events, so what exactly should I do?
Work at this to increase my weights for what- 4 or 6 weeks or 3 months (which?), and then take a week off and drop the weights down all the way to 10 pounds above my current starting weights and start all over again? (this obviously does not seem to make sense, you would spend most of your time getting back up to where you were already)….or what?….as you can seet I really don’t know how to incorporate cycling correctly…. what I am looking for with your simple program is an equally simple cycling plan… Thanks.
Capello, if I may…before you start cycling, Faleev’s book calls for you to climb as far as you can until your lifts stall and you can’t complete 5×5 even after three weeks of working at it. (Pavel has suggested on this thread that if that happens to one lift in particular and the other do are still progressing, you might suddenly change the lagging lift to a 3×3 and ride the progress awhile longer.) That initial climb will take you a loooong way if you’re pretty new to the game.
After that is when you start cycling, according to Faleev’s plan. He favors 10 week cycles, pretty much just as you outlined (i.e. set a new goal that’s, say, 15 lbs. heavier than your last top poundage, and cycle up to it over 10 weeks, then repeat). Once you’re at that point, your progress will have slowed and you’ll need the run-up in order to make that next set of PRs.
Incidentally, Faleev wants you to cycle all three lifts together. That is, you reset them all at the same time. That’s pretty unusual advice, AFAIK.
Thank you very much… I guess when I am at the first stall, I will get Falev’s book…
Capello, thank you for your kind words!
Set a PR of a kind: 5×5, 1×5, etc., then take a week off and start over slightly heavier. The duration of a cycle depends on the plan.
you said Periodization is the key……..
so now my question is
can I train all year long doing your technique ? or not ?
can i train the heavy style training all year long
periodization can also mean change the type of exercises right ?
there is sooooo many opinion about this
me I love heavy training I can’t help I love it
when I try set around 9-12 for all the week …..I don’t feel like it’s enought …doesn’t make sence ?lol not sure
for the question about steroid I wanted to have a better answer cause I still frustrated about people who does it and have other people thinking they can achieve that kind of physique by train and eating :):):)
anyway hope to hear from you Pavel
Jerome, “periodization” means training planning. It can involve changing exercises but does not have to.
Ignore the opinions, stick to the plan, do nothing extra.
Since I’m over 50, I decided now would be a good time to try this powerlifting thing. I don’t want to wait much longer……. But I do have a question on deadlifting. One poster said sumo-style was better for the back- do you agree? I don’t have a back problem, but also do not want to develop one. Tried both- and I’m still going up on weight both ways. But soon I’ll be up to a heavy weight, I think (I started with a light weight- old tendons need some advance warning on a change, I have found….). So do you see an advantage to one or the other?
Oh- started this a couple months ago, weighing about 175, 5’11”. But I knew squats would give me sore muscles, as I hadn’t lifted in 6 months; I started with 100 lbs on the bar for all 3. Had sore legs, like I knew I would, after the squats; DOMS hits me harder as I get older. But up to 165 on squats, 135 on benches, and 185 on DL- onward and upwards, I say! Still same weight- but the muscles aren’t sore anymore. So I thoink its a success!
It seems we’re at similar strength levels. Friend me on facebook, and let’s celebrate each others’ successes! Look up “Heyward Boyce” in Louisville Kentucky.
My back has felt a lot better since I started stretching afterwards- 5 minutes of favorite yoga poses.
Today was the fourth week for me. I started squatting at 135lbs. and today squatted 175lbs! Really looking forward to the 145lb bench tomorrow!
Tim, thanks for posting Pavel’s excellent article. Pavel, I’ve learned loads (and gained a ton of strength) from your books and articles. 5×5, pull-ups, pistols, and the wheel of pain. Rock on, Evil Russian!
Hey Heyward! Sorry, didn’t check back until tonite. I’ll see if I can find you.
Hey power people- got a new PR today! 145lbs. 5 x 5.
Cool! I hit the 195 on DL, but left one in the tank; 5,5.5,5,4, so next time is easy. My 145 was 2,2,2,2,2……… more this week!
Roger, there is nothing wrong with sumo. If you feel more comfortable with it, go for it.
Thanks, Peter! Power to you!
Pavel posts on here. Still not used to that.
Roger- where are you on facebook? I’m the only Heyward Boyce in Louisville! Get on there so I can brag about today’s 155lb bench press- 5, 4, 5, 5, 5!
Deadlift tomorrow! Going for 240lbs!
what do you think about those MMA weight training ?
they are really really intense ? or what about the 300 work out as well extremely intense
do you think it’s a waste of time ?
That routine looks tough, but the results will speak for themselves. I just started lifting and even though it says I will add 110 pounds to my lift, I see a lot more happening.
what do you think about those MMA weight training ?
they are really really intense ? or what about the 300 work out as well extremely intense
do you think it’s a waste of time ?”
Jerome, I suggest that you research the method of a highly successful strength coach to a few top UFC fighters Steve Baccari. His methods are very 4HWW.
Pavel, I’ve read a couple of your books. I’ll just humbly join to all the praises for the wealth of useful information that comes from them.
Due to the time constraints I can manage to go to the gym three times a week. So I fit perfectly into described three day routine. Do you think that days of can be filled with your “naked warrior” exercises, or it would be better to just rest, conserve strength and recuperate for the big days in the gym?
T1000, thank you for your kind words! Just rest and eat; The Naked Warrior will wait.
I know this goes back a ways, but after reading a lot of the responses to other commenters on the blog, is there anyway you could break down what info source is recommended for particular types of sport, i.e. which program of yours you’d recommend for martial arts, swimming, running, etc. I think that might be helpful to some of the other readers.
Pavel, first of all thank you so much for your contributions.
After reading your responses to earlier comments about the proper training for someone who participates in another sport (I’ve started to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 3 times per week for 1-1.5 hours), I bought your PTTP book.
My Jiu Jitsu gym has a strength training area with barbells, benches and racks, so I no longer need my regular gym membership. The only thing I’m questioning is whether or not it would be detrimental to perform the PTTP routine right before my Jiu Jitsu class (it would be much more practical to do this rather than drive to the gym twice a day.)
Do you see any problems with this assuming that I get perhaps 15-30 minutes of rest between the strength training and the Jiu Jitsu and that I have a protein/blueberry etc type shake?
Also, do you think 3, 4 or 5 times a week of PTTP strength training would be ideal considering exertion needed for the martial arts practice.
Last question: is it possible to do Deadlifts and Bench Presses instead of Side Presses?
Cameron, the two programs I can recommend to any athlete are “Enter the Kettlebell!” (http://enterthekettlebell.com/b33.html) and “Super Joints” (http://www.dragondoor.com/b16.html). The rest may or may not fit your needs. Please let me know what they are.
Have been deadlifting now for 5 months. My variation is as follows:
I lift the weight, hold it for 8 seconds and then drop it, so each deadlift cycle is 10 seconds (up/hold/drop = 1/8/1 secs) with a 10 second rest between reps.
Each session progresses from 5×3, 5×4, 5×5, 5×6 etc, with a minute rest between sets. Each week the weight is increased.
Any thoughts on this type of training?
Albers, if you pointedly drive your feet through the platform while staying tight at the lockout it could be useful (we use this technique at RKC kettlebell instructor courses to teach “rooting”) but iso holds are not meant to be a full time DL plan.
Justin, go ahead and do the PTP program before your BJJ, you will experience a tonic effect. 3/week, deadlifts and bench presses.
Albers, what is the purpose of holding the bar at the lockout for 8sec?
Many thanks for spending so much time answering the myriad questions posed here. Your insight has been extremely valuable.
I got your Power to the People and Beyond Bodybuilding books and have a few things I’d like to run by you.
I’m pretty tall – 6’5’’ – with long arms and legs relative to my torso. Sleeve and inseam both 36’’.
I’ve never had much luck with bench pressing or military pressing, but weighted dips to a 90° elbow angle seem to work pretty well for me. My questions are:
1. Would the PTTP program be effective with the dips as the pressing movement?
2. Do dips tend to build drooping pecs as decline bench presses do per BB?
3. When I need to back off to 80% to cycle intensity with dips, and doing so calls for less than body weight, is it okay to use the assisted dip machine? Right now I can do 5 dips with 15lb and weigh 200lb, so hopefully I wouldn’t need to use the machine past the first few cycles.
Thanks in advance for your input. It is truly a privilege to be able to pick your brain like this!
Ladon, thank you for your kind words!
Dips are OK on the PTP plan once you get strong enough not to use a machine. Meanwhile, follow the PTP plan for the DL; for dips use the “Fighter Pullups” program: http://www.kbnj.com/FighterPullupByPavel.htm
Thanks for the feedback Pavel.
I noticed that you responded to another comment by saying that when doing PTP, adding an extra set of 5 reps could be beneficial if progress started slowing down at some point.
I’m going to continue doing the basic PTP 2×5 + BJJ for now, but I was wondering if moving up to 3×5 perhaps 2-3 months from now (after a few cycles) might allow me to add some more size without over training.
If one was to move up to 3×5, would one do the last 2 sets at 90% weight of the first set or could one do all 3 sets at the same weight?
Final question, would adding squats at some point be beneficial? I know the you’ve said that the 5×5 squat/bench/dl program would be too much to combine with martial arts.
Justin, experience shows that going beyond 10 total reps adds fatigue and muscle and is rarely applicable for fighters.
Do a search on Dan John’s “40 Day Workout”.
Firstly thank you sincerely for your books and sharing your training knowledge, (and Tim Ferriss). I have most of your books, and love them all. If I may ask your advice please on the following – (excuse the length/background detail, I hope it is of use to others).
I basically follow your “3-5” method outlined in Beyond BB – trying to cycle with a deload 60-80% every 4 weeks, but do a 5,5,5,4,3 the third week, and the 4th week 5,5,5,3,1. That’s because I train with a Strongman who suggested I try Wendlers 531 program which I did for two months – didn’t like it. The gains were superficial. However I found it hard to crack some 1Rep Max’s with the 5*5.
I also try a two week program – Mon Tue Thurs Fri, with the following : DL with 3 sets Shrugs, 3 sets Weighted Pullups, 2 Sets BB and DB Rows, b) Squats, Walkouts (a two inch squat just off the pins, walking out the lighter weights) 5 sets BB Clean and Press, 3 sets Weighted Dips. c) Bench 5 sets, Incline Bench 5 sets, either the same Rows or 4 sets of Cl&Press, to give the second Row or Press for the week d). Repeat Monday. Second week start with the opposite of prev. Monday – so squat if it was a DL.
My squats are pathetic – chronic tight HipFlexors I think so I can only go partial depth – so I force full depth doing a box-squat sort of squat off pins – compensate doing the walkouts.
Anyway – three weeks ago I was doing Deadly’s, week 3, and feeling suprisingly good. Did for first time a last set of 5*5 4 reps at 95%1RPM, then my strongman friend said go for 4 plates. I was feeling ok – so went for it – got it half way and couldn’t lock it out (it was 45lbs above my last lift). He said I was basically using my lower-back, poor form (which I have since realised is like my squatting problems). I was wasted after that effort and learnt the lesson that training is more “on-the-nerve” than perfect nutrition. But from then on my DL’s have gone backward quickly. Today I could only manage 4 sets at 80%. My strongman friend says that Powerlifters say you should make sure you get 99% of a 1RPM attempt (not sure if that is psychological or physiological). I don’t know if I am overtraining – as the “odd thing” is my 1 or 2RPM for everything else peaked this week (sort of as I expected if I continued my cycle from that DL attempt). I am like you in that I just want to be strong (not big) and have the DL as the core lift of my workout – yet it has just gone pearshaped. I value your thoughts/advice/suggestion/comments! Thanks – Matt.
Matt, I think you are confusing different training plans. Stay on 5×5 for awhile (without maxing), then try Wendler’s plan; both have proven to work.
To learn how to increase your squat depth and hip flexor flexibility see an RKC instructor or refer to my book ‘Return of the Kettlebell’.
To learn to hold the back locked in DLs do what the Russian National Team does: one day a week do partial pulls: first from the platform to the knees (50-70%), then from the knees to lockout (80-110%).
Don’t DL on the nerve.
Pavel or Tim,
I want to maximize the number of pull-ups I can do. Since this is more about maximizing power and not only strength, what modifications would you suggest to your plan?
Google “Grease the Groove.” It’s all there.
Matt, “grease the groove” or “fighter pullups”: http://www.kbnj.com/FighterPullupByPavel.htm
These are exactly the lifts needed to gain muscle. There are so many people using those useless exercises trying to gain size and getting nowhere with them. If they only knew.
Pavel I was wondering if you could answer a couple of training questions for me. First since i do not have access to a squat rack and I was wondering what you thought about doing the following three times a week.
Dead-lift 3 to five reps
Press 3 to 5 reps
Snatch 3 to 10 singles
Clean and Jerk 3 to 10 singles
Anyways I wondered if incorporating my three favorite lifts (DL, C&J, and Press) into a program could give me similar progress to the program you describe in the article or if I would be better off doing something like the 5×5 with BP DL.
Also I noticed from reading some of your comments that you mentioned that press responds less well to low volume than bench and wondered if doing something like splitting it off the above workout and doing something like hitting 3 sets in the morning and 3 in the evening 3 times a week would be sufficient.
In case it is helpful at all here are my best lifts
(my body-weight was between 190-210lbs) :
205lbs strict press 100kg press with layback
Bench press 250lbs
John, if you want to use Olympic lifts you should do complexes for building muscle. Look up Geoff Neupert’s work.
Pavel I appreciate your advice but actually I’m primarily interested in developing upper body strength. I’ve been following the following program since November:
1 set BP
DL 1 rep set with 2x5PR
2 sets BP
singles DL(not exceeding 5)
BP 3 sets
I intended to use a weight in BP I could do at least 3 times working up till I got a set with 13 reps and then adding 20lbs+ and repeating. Currently I’ve acheived 415×5/2 in DL on Monday, 405×7 (DL Wednesday), best single 525 DL (friday) but have not got more in a set on BP than 205lbsx9. Anyway I had a tear to my right triceps and only the inner (medial head) functions. My press/BP I have worked on more but I am able to make better progress on SQ/c&J/DL because I have “good legs/back”. Also My Press/BP drops much more after a layoff than the other exercises for example I never spent much time on c&J and haven’t done any for about three years but could probably get bak to my pr of 280 in 2 three months even if i had done nothing but it would probably take me at least six or seven from where I am now to get to a 220lbs layback press because my arm strength seems stubborn and disappears even if i take a short break from working it. My Pr in DL on the other hand was achieved in 2003 and I have not done SQ/DL since then (I did O-lifting in september-december 2006 working up from 135 sn 185 C&J 145 Press to 205/280/220). Any way my rationale for focusing on the above program is that DL is better from SQ for upper body and creates testosterone/growthhormone and that doing this and bench exclusively would maximize upper body development. I am however able to be more productive on Sq/dl/c&j than upper body exercises and also apparently on press (though i was working on all three O-lifts for the time) than bench press. I would ask therefore since I seem better on full-body movements if I should focus on something like complexes as you suggested or try to do BP/DL in hopes of maximizing upper body strength (I do not care so much for numbers in any given exercise so much as upper body strength/development)
Just to add to my earlier (3posts above) question and “answer” it myself – I am finally back to DL maxes. Took a forced 60% week and dropping back on the intensity to one heavy DL per week.
While not recommended – I did learn a little about not resting, intensity cycling, and fatigue. I notice at times I feel keen but fade after 3reps – muscles tired, other times I feel a bit off but grind out 5reps ok – nerves drained. Interesting – when I was weak/tired, my grip was a sign ie. it was weak, and when I feel strong my grip is strongest.
As well – it is interesting to me that all exercises reach their strongest at virtually the same time ie. same week. Says something about strength and the 80:20 principle.
I would recommend the Geek-to-Freak principles after this little detour in my training.
Still – if anyone knows why and how to fix hipflexor strength imbalance (right tight, left weaker) I am keen to learn?! Thanks.
Matt, your grip strength (not the absolute value but the dynamics) reflects the state of your CNS, something Russian coaches have been using since 1950s. I wrote an article about it in ‘Hardstyle’ earlier in 2010.
I am several weeks into your recommended program and am very thankful for all of your help answering many of the questions posed here, here are three more:
Do you think adding a light deadlift day would slow down progress in all three lifts, or would it just slow down progress in squats and bench press a little, and speed up progress in the deadlift a little? (I ask because my deadlift form is the weakest of the three, and adding a light day would be a good time to work on it.)
Is it okay to work in an exercise like power rack finger curls on Thursday and Friday (light days) to up my weakest link – grip strength? (recommended in your Beyond Bodybuilding) If so, is it okay to superset them with the 80% 5×4?
And what besides knuckle-pushups would you recommend for strengthening wrist stability and straightness for the bench press (my other weakest link)?
Thanks again for this article and all of your published works, you have given me a completely new perspective on strength training.
Jeremy, finger curls are OK. Use ‘Captains of Crush’ grippers for your grip. Light DL days are OK on some programs but on this one.
I have found ‘Never train to failure” is so key in building strength.
Excellent post! I just turned 50 and have been “recovering” from some nagging Crossfit related injuries (I did 2 years of Crossfit and although in many ways I got very fit, my strength did not really improve too much). I just saw this posting shortly after reading a great article in Men’s Journal Nov 2010 (The one true path to fitness); the article was talking about strength training using basic powerlifting exercises, etc. but it also mentioned a few “rehab” exercises for people. I have been incorporating these “preventative” exercises in the morning for the last 4 weeks while starting Faleev’s program, with a couple of tweaks:
M-heavy bench 5 x 5, light squats 5 x 5 – finish with handstand holds and “pistol” practice
W-deadlift 5 x 5 (I use a trap bar as it’s easier on my back). pullups 5 x 5
Shoulder press 5 x 5
F-light bench 5 x 5, heavy squats 5 x 5. weighted dips 5 x 5
Since I’m happy with my appearance and weight I’m only looking to increase my strength and this program made alot of sense for me.
After 4 weeks I’ve gone up 30lbs in squats and DL and 20 lbs bench.
At a bw of 178 I benched 185 x 5 x 5, trap bar DL 270 x 5 x 5 and squatted
210 x 5 x 5. On the light days for bench and squats I use 80% of the weight of the heavy days; the only difference is I do a 4 second “lowering” on the eccentric portion of the lift. Not big numbers but the strongest I’ve been in the last 2 years. I’ve backed off cardio alot (I do aprox 10 min/workout of run or rower and something on weekends – example 10 x 100m at track) and feel like I haven’t really lost any stamina. The rehab exercises I think helped with several nagging injuries in my shoulder, low back, neck and knees.
My all time best bench was 275 x 1 and DL of 385 x 1 when I was 20 and I think I may have a shot at this in the next 12-18 months if I don’t reinjure myself…I’m pretty stoked!
I’ve been following Pavel for a little while and really want to incorporate more KB workouts, but I find that my neck and trap area gets really sore/stiff after a tough KB workout (I have a history of neck issues)…any recommendations for exercises/stretches that may help for the neck/trap area?
Great posting…keep up the great work Tim and pavel!
Doug, thank you for your kind words!
If your traps cannot take much, just do swings and get-ups (Enter the Kettlebell Program Minimum) in addition to your powerlifts. No snatches.
Hello Pavel, first of all it is an honor to have a coach of your caliber answering personal question, I’ve heard much about you and I’ve recently started applying the principles outlined in your books.
I have a few questions:
I have started following the PTTP program with the additional 1 set of BP and weighted pull up. I definitely did not feel that it is enough, so I’ve added the naked warrior (1 arn pushups, pistols, & added 1 arm chinups) and other daily exercises for abs (janda sit ups, ), neck bridges and arm wrestling pulls. I also shadow box twice a week and do zaryadka.
As many, I have an irrational fear of stopping any of these, with the thought that I might lose power in these specific skills. I understand that I am trying to walk two dogs with one leash.
First question, how much can I really push the envelope considering that PTTP and strength growth is a top priority? I want to eliminate all the exercises that can be covered through PTTP. In essance, I’m not sure that it will cover the abdominal, upper back, & leg power AS WELL as Janda sit ups, pullups and pistols do. Also, will my arm wrestling strength increase only with the PTTP program?
Another question, how would you recommend using the PTTP principles to increase punching power?
And one final question, even if I do boil it down to just PTTP, it does not seem enough at all, can i add a couple of weekly set of the deadlift or overhead press to make it a bit more challenging but not bear-like? (since I’m not willing to eat to the point of hating food, I’m also following the warrior diet)
Thanks in advance,
Constantin, if you want to do more exercises look up Dan John’s “40 Day Workout”.
And another question, how does one achieve a high level of performance in many fields if you can’t drastically improve in all of them together at the same time, while training one type will make you “lose” performance in the other?
Constantin, it is always a compromise. The exact answer depends on the sport. Something called ‘block training’ is very helpful; look up the book by that title by Vladimir Issurin.
It looks like you may no longer check this thread, but big props for following up on it for nearly 2 years after the original post.
If you are still out there, I’m wondering about finding a middle ground for PTP and the Faleev program. I’d like to build strength in the 3 power lifts, but don’t really care about bulking up and don’t want to commit an hour a day to the gym. I don’t need to be a professional powerlifter, just want to find the minimum effective dose to build some strength that will fit in with my schedule.
Would it work to just do SQ, BP, DL once per week on separate days with 2×5 type sets as prescribed in PTP?
Just cut back your squats to once a week and do only 3×3. Keep your DLs and BPs the way Faleev wrote it.
I am a former athlete (basketball and baseball pitcher), but I when it comes to weight training, I am definitely a beginner. I started this program a few weeks back and have seen instant success and I love the simplicity of it. Here is my situation/question: I have noticed on days that I do my 5×5 BP, my right shoulder feels some pain/discomfort and feels like it is pulling forward. My first thought was to do some upper back workout to supplement.
I have since added a 5X5 T bar later on the same day of my BP workout. This seems to have eliminated any discomfort in my shoulder. Am I on track in doing this? Is there a better exercise to work my upper back. I feel like the DL works this muscle group, but I have to wait 48 hours before my Wednesday 5X5 DL workout and I was feeling constant discomfort in my shoulder in the interim. Thank you!
Brandon, you need to see a doc and then a corrective specialist like a CK-FMS. Simply adding rows will not fix it. Power to you!
Pavel, thank you very much.
The level of your dedication amazes me, to see that you are posting years after the thread has started.
Thank you sincerely for taking the time to post replies to my earlier posts. It is genuinely appreciated. Thank you – you are most kind.
I have a Bear question. In PTP you state the Lithuanian based soldier lifted 40-50 tons a workout, but imply that the Bear Program is based on two lifts, PTP style. As a former Elite Level Sprint Kayaker, and have done 50 tonne workouts (metric), I find it difficult to comprehend the number of exercises, sets and reps the commando lifted, and on two exercises? Our sets/reps were 9 exercises, 9 sets, done as a 20-2-20 pyramid. Now of course you will say that this is not within the training guidelines set out in PTP, BB etc, and I’d agree. But I’m fascinated to know the actual schedule, and in particular, the frequency of the Bear. And also, given that the trooper was more than likely doped, being a “Potemkin Village” on legs, what modifications would be needed for a drug free athlete?
Craig, it was twenty years ago and I do not remember the specifics of his workout but he definitely did more than two exercises.
I would not try high volume more than twice a week.
thank you so much for taking the time to reply, and clearing up a long standing query for me. I only ever did the 50tonne workout once a week, with a 6 x (10 x 10)….funny how the Hungarian Kayak Program became the GVT? and a heavy session as well as 80- 120km in the boat.
Often we would do 15-25 tonnes per session, 4 – 6 times a week, all based on the same or similar lifts. My coaches were from Eastern Bloc countries, and this type of training was common, (and still is….). I was wondering if you had any comment on this type of training, specifically for sprint kayaking, were 100 strokes on each side were taken over a 500m race. It’s an ongoing argument in the sport as to the value of this type of training vs. max strength/power training (in fact it’s the subject of my PhD.I’m also looking at high vel eccentrics to) I’m certainly happy to send you my PhD Study Questions for you to look at, too, if you have an e-mail I can forward it to.
Thanks again for your time,
Hi Pavel I just sent a reply, but I think it just disappeared, so sorry if I’m repeating myself.
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to reply! Secondly, I was wondering on your opinion of high volume training for power endurance sports, in particular sprint kayaking. We often did 15-25 tonne sessions, sometimes up to six times a week, and the same lifts/ muscle groups. This type of training was/is really common in the sport in Eastern Europe. My coach was Hungarian. In fact my PhD studies involve comparing high vol/rep st tng vs max/st power vs hi speed eccentric training for race performance. The “logic” was you need to be strong to move the boat, but you have to do it 100 times on each side in a 500m race. If you have a personal e mail, I can send you a copy of my research introduction, and see if you have any ideas that may help, too.
Thanks again for your time,
Many coaches talk about balancing the shoulder joint i.e number of upper body pushes should match number of upper body pulls.Would only benching lead to injury
Yes, only benching will lead to injury. Absolutely.
Craig, kayak is not my specialty; look up books by Prof. Vladimir Issurin.
thank you for your reply. I have some presentations by Proff Issurin, and a couple of my friends trained under him (very successfully).
I guess, rather than being a kayak specific question, I was asking more in relation to any power endurance sport, as I know each sport has it’s own quirks.
In your books and DVDs my impression is that your idea is something along the lines of train for improving strength in the weights room, and other qualities with the sport itself. I’m wondering if this still applies to sports, like kayaking, rowing, speed skating etc where high levels of power endurance and fatigue management are required, or would you modify the strength training. As this is potentially a book in itself a very short answer is most welcome.
Thanks again, and all the best for the New Year,
Sorry let me clarify, I ment benching with squatting and deadlifting also.thanks for your time
John, unless you have particular asymmetries (check with a physical therapist or another specialist), you do not need to add rows if you BP and DL.
MAIN QUESTION: What sort of program and cycle do you recommend someone who can train 3x/week, looking to compete in powerlifting for summer 2011?
THANKS, FIRST: I must thank you both for all the great content you’ve provided. I’ve always exercised regularly, but it was “Freak to Geek” that got me back into the weightroom. I didn’t know how to lift properly so I read Starting Strength. Then I fell in love with strength-based training and got the urge to compete and followed “80/20 Powerlifting” for the past 6 months.
1) I love the simplicity of 80/20PL, but am not sure how to build effective cycles with it, e.g. how much should poundage increase when going to 4×4, and how many weeks do I train 2×2?
2) I am also experiencing The Choice Effect due to all the awesome material you two have put out! I read “Effortless Superhuman” and “Eating the Elephant” in 4HB, then finished PttP cover-to-cover in a day. And now I’m haunted by thoughts of getting 400lbs deadlift with plyo and sprints, 240lbs benchpress training different grip widths, or scrapping 5×5 for the 2 heavy sets in PttP.
All lifts stalled for the last 2 months…I did not know to cycle and forgot never train to failure, but after PttP and 4HB I know better now!
If either of you could help me with my main question, that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!
I think I may have figured out the answer to my second question: the “Effortless Superhuman” and “Eating the Elephant” in 4HB, because of their involvement, are best for deadlift/sprint and benchpress specialization, but not for someone trying to score a high powerlifting total.
However, I’m still lost on my first question: for cycling the 80/20 Powerlifting, how much should poundage increase when going to 4×4, 3×3, 2×2, and how many weeks do I train 2×2?
Hey Tim and Pavel, thanks for the awesome information. I have been following both of you for sometime so it is fun to see you both supporting each other. I LOVE less is more!
Susan, thank you for your kind words!
Hey Tim and Pavel,
Great article. I have read nearly all of your books (4HWW, 4HB, ETK, PTTP etc.). I am a drug-free power-lifter getting ready to compete in an all-power meet in the next week. I have been using a mix of Westside and EliteFTS (Stronger Phase II) methods for the past year. I spend a lot of time on accessory work, with moderate gains. My current “Raw” total is 1330 @ 220 (SQ-455, DL-515, BP-360). Within the next few weeks after the meet, I plan to map out the 5×5 plan for a 2-3 month period with very few changes (occasional Prowler sprints for recovery/conditioning). Also, I plan on transitioning my diet to reference the “Slow-Carb” eating plan mentioned in Tim’s latest book. I plan to compete at 198 later this Summer.
On my light/speed days, I always worked around 40-60% of my max for max effort lifts. What is the reasoning and science behind 80%?
Should I occasionally add in KB swings?
I plan on documenting my progress, so I will keep everyone informed on my gains!
Paul, Russian PL methodologies usually do not have the speed day, so 80% is just heavy enough to notice, light enough to take it easy.
Mixing different methodologies is very difficult. Jack Reape is one of the few who does Russian/WSB it well; do a search on him, he has written many excellent articles.
As for kettlebells in your regimen, they probably will help. Google “Donnie Thompson and kettlebells”. Donnie has some good articles on Elite Fitness and Dragon Door websites. A very smart man.
I’m a rower, looking to simplify the weight room work to a minium so that I can focus on the all important on-the-water technical training. Does this training transfer effectively to weight training for endurance sports?
John, no, PL type training does not fit a rower. You will end up gaining a lot of muscle in areas not helping your sport and you will take away a lot of energy from your rowing practice and possibly set yourself up for an injury.
I consider you one of the experts in understanding how the nervous system is so important in training. I’ve gone back to re-reading PTTP and watching Rapid Response and always get something new from them. I was wondering however if you know how I can learn to “train” the nervous system better (ie. manage, strengthen if possible, etc). I am in the middle of a 4-5 week cycle of 5×5 and today have nothing. Managed to crank out a last set at 80% for my deadlies this morning and a few weighted pullups, but then was toast – or the CNS side of my strength (energetically fine). Lucky I wasn’t doing C&Press. I don’t know what I’ve done to do this – maybe because I’ve been doing some lunges and (trying!!) to do some pistols (they are great hey – but I am only on a partial so far) instead of squats (tight HipFlexor) and also some #2 CoC’s gripper (my hand is feels like its been squashed now so will give that a rest). I ride twice a week….? Don’t know. If it was week 4 it would be normal. Apart from that nothing’s really new in my training. If anything I am doing 25% less – after a Christmas break realised I was pushing things a bit and not getting stronger. Thanks if you have any ideas!
Matt, you need to do fewer exercises and you should cycle.
Last year I wrote an article in ‘Hardstyle’ how to evaluate the state of your CNS with regular grip testing—a Russian technique going back to the 1950s.
Thanks – I’ve tried to find that article but haven’t had much success. I’ll keep trying. But thank you once again for your reply. I do cycle, at the moment just a simple linear cycle yet will have a look at Beyond BBuilding again.
Intuitively I wonder if breathing would be correlated with the CNS ie. breathing outside of direct training. That and grippers.
I was fine the next day (after my above question) but musclularly tight. Learning too through experience.
If I may ask – I seem to find I can do more than say what you’d recommend in PTTP or the 5x5x5 (Beyond BBuild) – and can DL over 2 bodyweight, and will make gains doing this in all exercises. The fact I make gains makes me want to keep that cycle’s intensity (#sets, 1RPM’s etc.). I still peak however, so tweak – but find I still peak in the new cycle perhaps at the same volume/intensity level. Hmm – will have to think about that.
I am trying lunges and pistols and am feeling that along with doing less, so it is hard to judge any strength gains at the moment (doing less).
Thanks once more for your generosity in time and knowledge replying!
Can’t believe this thread is still alive! Eighteen months on, I’m two weight classes bigger and making progress all the time.
Faleev’s book is online, and it takes plenty of time to run it all through Google Translator, but it’s fun.
Don’t. Mess. With. The. Program.
Matt, ask the folks at http://kbforum.dragondoor.com/kettlebells-strength-conditioning-forum/ to help you find the free PDF of the issue of Hardstyle with my article about CNS and grip testing.
Thanks Pavel! I will do this and look forward to reading it. I am enjoying doing “less” with my program as you’ve suggested (I should have edited my above post before submitting as it is a bit shonky). I am suprised I feel tight and weaker after tweaking my program, but give it a full cycle or more and I’m sure it will be fine. I am adding a power day instead of repeating my first day of my program for the week (so 4 days a week) to give my “strength” extra rest. Pistols are my new friend! (well partials).
Thank you once again Pavel.
I managed to find and read that article on the CNS – it is great. Very interesting and helpful. Thank you ! I can see now why you structure your programs/cycling like you do, and why the 80/20 is also so successful.
I wonder if there are long term and short term CNS cycles? Anyway – thanks again for sharing you expertise here!
Matt, the ‘long term CNS program’ is simply keeping the nervous system’s tonus level.
I started doing the 80/20 about 3 weeks ago, and have seen continual progress and no slowing down (though I think that I can partially attribute this to starting off at a low weight to not injure myself). I love the simplicity of the program, and look forward every day to topping my last lifts. Im about 6’1″ 220 lbs, and would like to lose about 15 lbs of body fat, and get to being able to 5×5 my body weight on bench, 1.5 my body weight on squats, and 1.75 my body weight on deadlifts. I only have time to hit the gym 3 times a week, and have been following the program as you laid out. I’ve also been doing 3-4 minutes of jump roping in between my sets (which, with the normal 5 minutes of rest, expands my sets to around 10 minutes each). I also have started following a gluten free diet (similar in spirit to the Rob Wolff article Tim posted), though I still consume dairy. Would you recommend this? My primary concern is fat loss, but not at the risk of losing strength. Will the jump roping help me shed the weight quicker, or should I just cut it out?
P.S. oh yea, I wanted to say that I appreciate your emphasis on stretching in the article. I am constantly amazed by how many people my age (i’m in my 20s) can’t even come close to touching their toes. Definitely helps with form and avoiding injury–thanks again
Rob, don’t jump rope with between sets; save it for another day.
Set your goals higher, e.g. BP 1.5bw, SQ 2, DL 2.5. Power to you!
That makes sense. It’s as if you anticipated my real question – can this tonus level be pushed higher or lower? The reason I ask is from experience – I pushed myself for about 8years (study mainly) and then had to have about an 8yr rest with very little “excitement” (left with a chronically tight HFlex) – plus I find that I seem to plateau at about a constant workout vol (I was going to mention this in my dodgy post a few above) – so reps*sets*max weight seems to remain fairly const, despite changing specific lifts or cutting back sets etc.
I have had about 20yrs of thinking working out is diet and exercises – yet now realise the CNS which includes stretching is more important. A big thanks to you Pavel.
The paretto law applied to bodybuilding! I was not expecting it! I really learned something, now I have to do a similar workout plus a good cardio training. Thank you a lot.
I just read The Fighter Pullup.
If I plan on doing starting the 3RM program, how long should I be resting between sets?
Murph, 3-5 min, no less.
Thank you so much for your help with all our questions.
I have one to add to the pile, if I may:
Do you recommend the 10# jumps for both male and female trainees? I have certainly seen in training many females that larger jumps are difficult for them to maintain and so I am tempted to alter what you have presented but I will defer to your experience and knowledge when using this program.
Al, generally jumps of 2% of your max will work.
I have read much of your writings and find it very interesting. Also I am surprised to find that you take the time answer the questions of lifting enthusiasts to this post. Anyway I would be grateful if you could give me some advices in my pursuit of fitness. Unfortunately I am in confined living spaces and very busy these years; I cannot get away to the gym on a regular basis and no longer have my power rack or treadmill. My good friend Aleksander is a big kettlebell enthusiast always trying to convert me from my barbell lifts and such (and would of course be convenient considering my space limitation) but I am to set in my ways with the barbell lifts I suppose. Anyway I develop program to make two workouts 1) clean and jerk + squat and 2 Clean and Press and Bench Press. In workout 1 I take as heavy a weight as I can do with 25 repetitions lowering the last jerk behind the neck for repetitions in back squat with time limit of 20 minutes. In workout 2 I make 25 repetitions in Press and make repetition set in Bench Press with time limit of fifteen minutes. With Press and jerk I always take from the floor doing triples, doubles or singles and taking some rest between with best form. I work once in morning and once evening three times in the week with break in between days taking three off M, W, F-Tu, Th, Sa…Anyway I have taken 3 years from lifting before I start one month ago. I understand you were a kettlebell lifter before and wonder if my program is good enough for cardio and has more carryover than splitting Jerk, Press, Squat, and Treadmill or Bench, DL, Chin up and Treadmill-I feel anyway the heart work much harder and more muscles in Jerk or Press with the new method. I used to do maybe one hour twenty minutes with good breaks every other day (with running on alternate days) taking maybe 5 days off every five weeks before and switching every 3-4 month from OL to PL…. anyway I appreciate your advices if this is good program
Ioannis, since your workout uses Olympic lifts, you would be better off asking an expert. Ping Geoff Neupert, email@example.com.
Pavel, thank you so much for your help. I have one more question.
I need to make some serious strength gains, no doubt. Say I’m doing the 5×5 program. Could I still do some light swimming on the side, in order to practice my technique? The drills I’m thinking of are very effortless.
Are you familiar with Total Immersion? Tim has featured it before. TI focuses primarily on efficiency and comfort in the water, and emphasizes form over conditioning.
Murph, very easy low volume swimming is fine.
I have just finished my first week of the Faleev program (using the 4-day template) and my qusetion to you is with regards to the suggested weight increment increases of 10lbs. My beginning weight for the squat (185) and bench (155) was where it should be, but as for the deadlift (225) I felt I might have been a bit too conservative with the starting weight. In week 2, can I increase my deadlift by more than the suggested 10lbs?
Robbie, I would not. Use this as an opportunity to practice your DL technique before the weights get heavy. You will still get stronger.
Thank-you for the advice Pavel and power to you as well!
I am currently forced to change my cycling/program to address some poor posture and flexibility issues. I was wondering if you recommend sets&reps for staying at around 60% 1rep max for the main lifts for a while.
I was thinking of perhaps doing some speed training with the above. Have you written anything on developing speed I could read?
Thanks in advance for your help! Matt.
Matt, stay with 5×5, even with 60%, but add 3sec pauses on the bottom of the SQ and on your chest in the BP. Stay tight and don’t relax. Then explode. No need to pause your DLs but make sure to squeeze them off the platform rather than jerk.
Another option: do a search on Dan John’s 40 Day Workout. It uses even lighter weights—40-60%—and builds strength very well.
Thanks Pavel for those suggestions. I’ll stick to the 5×5 with a pause/explode and check out Dan’s program too. Looking forward to this for a change.
AND reading RelaxIntoStretching again!
I wanted to keep you posted on my progress. I started Dec 1 with the Mon-Fri 5X5 program (3 months ago). Starting weights were as follows: BP 105lbs, SQ 65lbs, DL 95 lbs. Now 15 weeks later (I took Week 11 off), my current weights are as follows: BP 145lbs, SQ 165lbs, DL 215lbs. I am really excited about my results so far and so thankful for you posting this blog. The joint and back problems I once had are now a thing of the past. Thank you so much! I do feel like I have plateaued some on my bench press though, any suggestions? I want to eventually get up to 225/300/375 and I feel like I am on my way.
Brandon, switch to close grip benches for one cycle.
Power to you!
For a good year or more, I followed your linear periodization method for sumo deadlifts. Starting with:
135 X 5 (two sets)
145 X 5 (two sets)
215 X 5 (two sets)
There was some variation, but I was able to get my 5RM up to 295 lbs. (I’m 5’5″, 142lbs.)
Unfortunately, sticking to mainly this exercise for lower body eventually left me with some knee pain. My chiropractor says my IT bands are very tight from overtraining the hamstrings. I’ve backed off on the weight, and am doing leg adduction, cable kickbacks, and using a foam roller on the IT band and quads to even out my legs.
I’m terrible at squats, else I would do those.
What are your recommendations for a more balanced lower body routine that will:
– Allow me to keep powerful legs
– Focus more on endurance
– Help me avoid injury
I really like deadlifts, but don’t want to promote further injury. I have been careful with my form.
Mr. B, congrats on pulling more than twice your weight!
Check with your chiro if switching to behind the back DLs (not Hack SQs) for some time would help. Or just SQs.
When pulling sumo push your knees out and “spread the floor” but don’t let the insides of your feet unload.
Thanks for your feedback. Are there any other multi-joint exercises, that will help balance the quads and hamstrings?
“Are there any other multi-joint exercises, that will help balance the quads and hamstrings?”
Mr. B, there are but in this case it is your chiropractor or other health professional who should advise you.
I in the united states we have a time honored tradition, although apparently falling into disfavor to some extent these day, of telling girls to repeat to themselves and or mentally fixate upon the concept of increasing one’s bust size. The specific phase they are instructed to use is “I must, I must increase my bust” although this can be performed orally or simply mentally fixated upon; a girl needed not actually say it and was actually typically encouraged not to do so in the presence of others or while in the workplace. Strangely enough this does in fact appear to result in noticeable albeit relatively minor improvements….. Anyway you refer in your books to neurological adaptation frequently and often relate that frequency and intensity are of more relevance than volume and ‘diversification of strategy’ for lack of a better phrase. My question of course being whether mentally fixating on being stronger could possibly replace some of the arduous pushing and pulling, sweat and tears, and of course most relevantly to our discussion of strength gain the time allocated to BB, PL, OL, or strongman…. Does it work for dudes too?
Ioannis, mental training greatly helps one’s strength. However, there is plenty of worthless psychobabble on the market. Read the ‘Brain Train’ section in Marty Gallagher’s ‘The Purposeful Primitive’ book and find old book by Dr. Judd Biasiotto, ‘Psyching’.
I am 16 years old and grappling 6times a Week. I also follow this powerlifting routine 4 times a week. But i Do zercher squats that i took from poweer by pavel from fighterMagasine in sweden and a lot of other things that come from you. Is this a good routine for grappling or should i change something.
Thanks for a great program.
Mario from yugoslavia.
Mario, the Zercher SQ is much better for a grappler than the back SQ.
This PL routine will put on too much weight for grappling. You need a lower volume program; I may have written some for ‘Fightermag’. If not, wait a couple of months until we release ‘Easy Strength’, a book I wrote with Dan John.
Do you mean the Simply Strong Workout in Fightermag. But i want to add DL to it because i think it is the most fun part. But now i want to gain like 6 lbs so do you think that i should stick to the powerlifting Routine and the change to the other or should i change right away?
Mario, I don’t remember the specifics of the Simply Strong workout.
Gaining 6 pounds is easy, you don’t need a PL routine for that. Just eat more calories and protein and get more rest.
Pavel, I have been powerlifting for about 2.5 years and have you to thank for incredible gains. My question is: What kettle bell drill would you recommend while doing the 5×5 routine?
I understand that 5×5 was designed with no other lifts in mind, but keeping my KB skills fresh is important.
thank you for all of your contributions,
John, what are your goals?
My goal is to progress with the 5×5 routine and find a competition or two with in the year.
A problem I am having is when I complete a set of heavy Squats or D.L.s toward the end of my sets I get light headed and feel the need to sit down. The first thought that came to mind was to do a KB drill to assist with the endurance needed for heavy lift days.
Johnny, don’t hold your breath non-stop; this could be a problem. Don’t hyperventilate between sets. Walk, don’t sit, right after the set. If the problem persists, check with a doc.
Look up writings by Donnie Thompson and Mark Reifkind re KBs and PL.
When performing the deadlifts should all reps be performed at a dead stop no bouncing or touch n go right?
Ronald, I prefer pulling from a dead stop but both ways are correct.
I have a question regarding Strength Gains from Strength Building programs. I know when starting these type programs it’s best to do these programs while bulking and eating a surplus so you can get the most out of the program while performing minimal to no cardio so you can focus solely on strength gains and to ensure maximal recovery.
If I do this program for 3 ~ 4 months and I eat a ton of food and let’s say I put on about 20 pounds, and I would like to shed off some of the fat I put on for the summer. Would you recommend still doing this type of program while just changing up my DIET (consuming less calories) and start leaning out for the next 6 weeks.. Or would you recommend a different approach and do more HIIT programs and implementing more cardio type program? and If I choose the second option when I get back on the strength training program will most of the strength I had achieved still be there? If I end up losing a lot of strength wouldn’t it be optimal just to keep sticking to this type of programing while changing up my diet to consume less calories and add some moderate cardio sessions while accepting the fact I will probably not get stronger but my lifts will stall?
Ronald, Marty Gallagher’s ‘The Purposeful Primitive’ answers your questions about going from one type of training to another.
Could you let me know why you don’t use “ken and barbie” weights but instead of 10lb weights? Or direct me to a source that explains more on the subject?
Xiaochen, I did in an article titled ‘Very Progressive Overload’ several years ago. In a nutshell, small increases make you spend too long training light (you are wasting time) and too long training heavy (you burn out).
Your contributions to strength training are very well appreciated! I’ve made great gains after reading your material. Just wanted to say thanks.
Question: I’m an ex downhill ski racer with more injuries than should be legally permitted. I’ve been trying to progress on the 5×5 SQ DL and BP and have found it very difficult. Major issues: I have an old SI injury, dislocated my hip and have some missing medial meniscus and bad rotator cuff. I seem prone to tweaks and injury at near max loads. My chiropractors only advice is “take it easy”.
I’m 6’1″ 200lbs and currently at 5×5 of 265 on DL, and 200 on SQ, 200 BP. Just curious, at what point do you advise people with imbalances like mine to back off of the big weights? And if I should back off and go lighter, where do I go from here? Is there another program you’d recommend?
Thank you for your kind words, Matt!
Find a chiropactor or some other doc who is a serious athlete and who will give you more pointed advice than “take it easy”.
Get FMS screened (more info in 4HB) and get appropriate correctives.
Once you have done that, my guess is, if you replace SQs and conventional DLs with sumo deadlifts, you will be fine.
Shoulders are fixed quite well by exercises like kettlebell get-ups by skilled physical therapists. So you will probably be able to bench too.
That’s what I wanted to hear! I’m not ready for the Barbie weights just yet.
I will work on your suggestions.
Thanks so much.
One more question. In Power to the people you talk about the high rep programs women use. Well, my wife has been struggling to lose 10+ pounds for some time by working the high rep Jillian Michaels type programs. What program is best for her to slim down and not bulk up. I’m assuming you’d add a 2×5 deadlift program 3-4 days a week. But would that be enough or would you do that in addition to cardio or the high rep program?
Matt, have her try the ‘Kettlebell Goddess’ by Andrea Du Cane from http://www.dragondoor.com.
Hello Pavel, what book should i buy for martial arts strength and grappling. I am already reading Power to the people and waiting for ‘Easy Strength’. Thanks for the help before, i have gotten really strong in the back since i cutted down from 5×5 to 3×5.
Mario, your best investment right now would be hiring an experienced powerlifter to help you perfect your technique.
If you taper to 4×4, 3×3, and 2×2 on heavy days as you approach a meet, what do you do on the light days? Sticking with 80% of heavy day, eventually the light day weight would be approaching your 5×5 max which doesn’t seem very “light” for a 5×4.
Brian, please read my recent article: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2011/03/17/pavel-deadlift-program
Greetings Pavel, Tim.
This comment may be 2 years late, but I hope I can (still) get answers to my questions (only 2):
1.) Why deadlift only once a week?
2.) Why isn’t the front squat included in the routine?
I understand that if you want to get strong in the powerlifting lifts, apply the law of SAID – train the powerlifting lifts – bench, squat and deadlifts. But I’ve read that front squats help deadlifts – front squats make the quads stronger, and the body also uses the quads for the pull, and not make it exclusive to hamstrings only (this happens when one has weak quads, or so I’ve read).
Would it be a good idea to include a light deadlift day along with heavy front squat in a session? Or would the front squat be a waste of time?
Kev, there is more than one way to get a job done. There are elite Russian lifters who DL 4 times a week—and there are those who do it less frequently than once a week.
The FSQ indeed does help the DL. As an option, if you are not a powerlifter, you may replace the back squat with the front squat in the above plan. Marty Gallagher does that with many of his clients.
Here is a DL plan with a light day:
Thanks for taking the time to reply to an old blog post, Pavel. Really appreciate it.
What a great site. I’m turning 54 this year and back into lifting heavy after a ;ay-off for years. Arthritus and bulging discs aside everything is going well. I’ve got all my strength back after a full year of 7 day a week workouts and it feels great. I’ve used a regiment of 12 sets X 7-8 reps at maximum weight and it’s working well, and supersetting is helping the cause. I find at over 50 I need to workout 7 days a week to keep my tone where as 20 years ago 4-5 days a wekk was fine. Just part of getting older. I plan on never stopping again for the rest of my life and possibly competing again at 55. My wife has gotten into a bit of weight training and dieting as well and at 53 looks great. Thanks for all the info, again a fantastic site! Living well and healthy for good in Eastlake, Ohio!
Gary, cut your reps to 4-5 and you will do even better. Power to you!
Thanks Pavel for the advice, I will try the 4-5 rep workout as I want to improve my bench poundages. Great site! Best of luvk to you- Gary
I would be curious in how to apply this principle to the Olympic lifts rather than power lifts. From my training with an Olympic lifts coach, I have seen that we have used a similar minimal variety approach, but it is still not quite as spartan in nature. I would like to know if anyone has applied this level of minimal variety with much success in that arena.
Nolan, minimalism will work but you should not try to apply the 5×5 format to the quick lifts, they call for different programming.
A question from left field if its allowed Com. Pavel, what is the best or two best questions about fitness and weights that you have not been asked yet? I would love to hear an answer from a true master 🙂
David, “How do I get motivated?” The answer is: “I have no idea”.
David, “How do I get motivated?” The answer is: “I have no idea”.
To cut a long story short I’ve learned a bit about neruoscience and the conscious /unconscious idea, basically motivation is all about our internal programmes that we run, often on an unconscious level, the ultimate answer rests in us using a very nice part of our brain which works on automatic
For example I read up a little on Furman who has the Guiness book of world records for having the most world records, – and as an 80-20 principle just ask the person what would motivate them and feed back the answers in a short and long time frame – there is a bit more to it than that but then you enter the realm of therapy. The person will answer with a sort of story or imagining of themselves, and this story or imagining will shape their destiny or good or not for good.
Who knows maybe I’ve got it toally wrong though?
Peace and thanks for the inital article words to live by 🙂
Good article. I think you can learn a lot from powerlifters. Whether your exercise is dead lifts, squats or bench press. They way they perform the exercise is very useful in regards to the proper form for that exercise. If you think about it when it comes to powerlifting, if you do not use the proper form, most likely you are going to get injured.
I have been doing your Power to the People program since Auguest 16, 2009 and my DL has progress to 410X5 a couple of weeks ago. I am 53 and not think (240) and truthfully that maxed my body more than anything I have ever done. Usually I had only been going to 388 for five reps. However I seemed to have stalled for a while.
Since doing this program my legs and body have transformed. Last night my son commented I had legs like a 25 year old (I hope he meant male).
Could you suggest how I could alter my program to get 15 more pounds my DL. My goal is to DL 425 for 5 reps which should equal a 500 DL. I don’t want to put 500 pounds on my body just do the reps to equal it.
Deadlifts! Oh yeah! I love them. I like doing single leg stuff like rear foot elevated split squats and single leg deadlifts though. Halving the weight will generate the same strength gains. It also takes 50% off spinal compression which is huge!
Mike, sorry to disappoint you but you are kidding yourself. The one-legged DL is a fine exercise for the hamstring and the ankle but it will never make you truly strong. The folks you see in the gym doing all sorts of circus tricks will never be strong.
Unless you have specific health problems, do not be afraid of spinal compression from properly done deadlifts. There are many chiropractors among powerlifters—including Franco Columbu who pulled over 700 weighing 181.
Hands down, kettlebells are the way to go! Forget about workout machines once and for all, a set of kettlebells is everything you ever need! Pavel and Tim, you guys rock!
Spasibo, Tovarisch Alex!
I’m currently using Faleev’s program with some minor changes. Progress has been linear for the squat and deadlift, but I’ve been lagging a little with the bench press. Though, that’s not that bad when compared to the left elbow inflammation I’m getting from benching. My elbow hurts the most when I unrack the bar. It still hurts a little when I proceed to lock-out, but not as much as when I unrack. Thankfully this inflammation has not turned into an injury, yet, but I’m decreasing the poundages to work and maintain that weight. I’m actually thinking of throwing in some accessory works to strengthen the upper body; I suspect the inflammation is caused by a muscle group(s) weakness. Would you recommend including accessory work?
If yes, what’s the best to include? There’s so many accessory work – bent over barbell rows, pull ups, dips, skull crushers, close grip bench press, overhead presses etc. – that I know that I can do, but I’m a minimalist when it comes to training, and I’d like to include only those which are the most necessary and conducive and least time consuming towards my goals. A friend of mine who has an elbow problem from squatting told me that bicep curls worked well in alleviating his elbow problem, and I wonder if that would do the same for me.
Correction for paragraph 2, line #7: It hurts AT lock-out
Kev, poor SQ technique could also be causing the elbow problem. First, I would get checked by a doc. Second, I would have a powerlifter check out your technique.
KevL, are you hyper-extending your elbow at lockout? If so, that might be the issue…make sure to keep your arms straight at lockout, and not go past that.
Mountain, I might have hyper-extended my arms whenever I unracked the bar. I think I’ve already figured out the problem.
I’ve been learning a few things from EliteFTS’ Dave Tate’s video on “So You Think You Can Bench”. He teaches how to squeeze the shoulder blades, sink the traps into the bench, and imagine ‘pulling’ the bar apart – all techniques which reduce my reach for the bar. As the gym’s bench rack isn’t adjustable, that only made things worst. Because my arms have ‘shortened’ when I apply those techniques, I think I may have hyper-extended my arms in efforts to unrack the bar.
I have Relax into Stretching and have watched Loaded Stretching (an amazing DVD watching you! ) – yet I am having trouble “unlocking” tight muscles. From my neck (head forward) – tight chest, tight errectors/lumbar, tight inner thigh – so I can’t get down in a squat, or my butt down for a deadlift (so end up doing morelike a Stiff legged). While I get by, am pain free, and am making small gains on 1RepMaxes – I know my lifting suffers because of this. I have spent too much money on Physios and Chiropractors without any help to want to continue with them.
I understand heavy lifting would make one tighter than usual – so am wondering how to seriously stretch to fix my imbalances, then train so as to remain flexible while strong. I cycle with a simple 5×5 with about 8 exercises (DL, Partial squat, Bench with pause, DB Clean and Press, Power cleans, Chins with weight, Dips with weight, rows) and do some simple stretching daily in the morning.
Thanks for your help.
Matt, you need to see a corrective specialist. E-mail Brett Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, he will help you find an SFMA qualified doc in your area.
Thank you once again Pavel. I will contact Brett and look forward to seeing what he can recommend. I’m grateful for your help. Cheers.