Pavel: 80/20 Powerlifting and How to Add 110+ Pounds to Your Lifts

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.

Enter Pavel…

Total read time: 12 minutes.

Read time for routine only: 7 minutes.

Pavel:

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

Saturday –off

Sunday –off

If training five days is not an option, four will do:

Monday –heavy SQ

Tuesday –heavy BP

Wednesday –heavy DL

Thursday –off

Friday – light SQ, light BP

Saturday –off

Sunday –off

Not ideal, but if you have to cram your training into three days:

Monday – heavy SQ

Tuesday –off

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 700 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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906 Replies to “Pavel: 80/20 Powerlifting and How to Add 110+ Pounds to Your Lifts”

  1. great article. this will help a lot of people that are starting put in powerlifting. I have been doing the russian boris sheiko routines (you can find them on this website: http://www.thatslifting.com ) for 8 months and have been making great progress. my squat has gone up by 25lbs, benchpress is up by 15lbs, and my deadlift is up 30lbs.

  2. Mr. Tsatsouline,

    My deadlift has on PTTP and have not improved in months.

    I am performing 2X5 five days a week (100%/90%) and cycling in 5 pound increments.

    What suggestions do you for breaking the stall?

    Brent.

      1. Thank you. btw… the PTTP program has dramatically improved my life…. not just strength but it has crossed over into all areas of my life.

  3. Hi Pavel:

    I’d like to incorporate the “double hand kettle bell swing” for fat loss purposes (kill the slight belly fat). How many sets, reps and times a week can I incorporate this exercise with the following workout routine:

    Monday: Heavy BP 5*5

    Tuesday: Heavy DL 3*3

    Wednesday: 80% BP Do 5 reps, with 120 sec rest, until I can’t complete 5 well. All other exercises, on other days I maintain the 5 min rest between sets.

    Thursday: Heavy DL 3*3

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Christian, do a search on “kettlebells and powerlifting” and the names of Donnie Thompson and Mark Reifkind. Boh have excellent articles.

      1. Thanks Comrade.

        Donnie is a machine: simple.

        I’m definitely going to incorporate the exercises you prescribed him (in relation to kettle bells). Especially after my heavy dead-lift session. Good for him pushing his boundaries; breaking new ground. I admire anyone that seeks excellence in their discipline.

        Some quick background…. 

        I’m 28, and have always been athletic, however after reading Tim’s book(s) and then finding out about your work, I took up the challenge to get stronger via the powerlifters’ mantra. 

        4 months ago….

        Had problems benching and dead lifting anything remotely respectable.  

        Me: 179cm 75 kilos 

        Then:  bench, 35kg, dead lift, 75kg. Sad. I know. I’m laughing at the numbers as I type. 

        Now:  bench 75 kg, dead lift 120 kg. Less sad. Getting better. 🙂

        Same weight, maybe 2 kgs lighter, or there about.

        Still a long way from my long term goal:

         

        1. Bench pressing twice my weight.

        2. Dead lifting 3 times my weight. 

        3. Body like Daneil Craig’s when walking out of the water in the James Bond movie (hence why I use your bear routine for the pump on my light bench day). Don’t want to be a ballon. Nice body, and focus on getting stronger at that size.  

        Again, I’d like to thank you for your help here, and your information in general. Good information is hard to come by, especially with so much garbage out there; in most disciplines, unfortunately. Getting the right info, helps you leverage your time significantly and ‘actually’ have a fighting chance to achieve your goal.

        As Benjamin Franklin once was attributed in saying: “Dost thou love life? Then waste not time; for time is the stuff that life is made of.”

        Thanks for helping me not waste time Pavel. 🙂

        Also: Tim…respect. 🙂    

  4. Pavel,

    I know substitutions are “verboten” but anyway can substitue “clean and press” for the bench? I have used the ETK/ROK templates but would like to concentrate on deads/presses. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Benedict, “verboten” indeed. Some of the reasons: the C&P requires much greater volume than the BP, cycling is not an option as there is a big jump between kettlebell sizes; there is additional lower back fatigue.

      1. I would also like to thank you sir, for taking the time and patience to answer the questions, one more if you don’t mind. In one of your books you mentioned your military friends who did “ladders with 16-24-32” on their presses, how frequently did they do them, and how many times did they ladder through to build a “bigger than military issued” body? They include any other exercises? Thanks again Pavel.

  5. Pavel,

    I first off want to thank you for your ongoing contribution to these posts! I have been working the PTP program off and on for a while now (got sidetracked with a career change and a move). I have seen a lot of strength gain and have notices my whole body has hardened like a rock.

    My question is; I have an old neck injury from a car accident that affects the scalenes on my left side. When I deadlift, it seems to really aggravate it especially as I am now working up to fairly respectable (for me) weights (300#+ 2×5). It will give me headaches and vertigo sometimes. Are there any adaptations that you can recommend so I can proceed? Should I cut out deadlift and just back squat? Rack pulls? Or do lower weight Romanian deadlifts in addition to squat? These are my thoughts, I don’t know what to do but I can’t put up with the neck issues, been toughing it out for a while now.

    My program is as follows: I deadlift, squat and bench 2×5 on Mon, Wed and Fri. Other than the neck issue I am progressing and cycling as per PTP protocol. I added the squat because I enjoy it and feel my legs respond well.

    1. Matt, thank you for your kind words!

      You need to find a chiropractor who is an experienced powerlifter. Where do you live?

  6. Pavel,

    I love your no-nonsense products! I just came across this article and will start the workout exactly as described next week. I was hoping you could clear up one thing for me. If I understand correctly, on the light days, the weight is 80% of the weight used for 5×5 on the heavy day for that week, and will go up as the cycle progresses. What do you do toward the end of the cycle when doing 3×3 or 2×2? Do you still use 80% of the heavy-day weight for the light days? And if so, for how may sets and reps?

    Thanks for your time.

    Rich

  7. I second “read “The Purposeful Primitive”, an amazing book.”

    Anyone hwo reads this post should also read The Purposeful Primitive

    by Marty Gallagher

    I am not a strong man by any means and am in fact training for a marathon at the moment but if you are at all interested in strength training this has some amazing insights. and a bunch of different ideas to suit you as an individual.

    One of the bst books I have read!

  8. Hi Pavel, thanks for taking the time to help us. I’ve done a couple of 5×5 8wk routines now with gains of 30-40lbs per routine on bench, and 40-60 sq and dead. I think these are good gains but wonder if i could get more. What are your thoughts on doing heavy 3×3 or 2×2 more than once a week towards the end of an 8 wk routine (last 2 weeks)? I was also considering doing Barry Ross’s maximal strength approach mentioned in The Four Hour Body – done 3 times per week. My plan was 3-4wks doing 5×5, 1 week unload, final 2-3wks with 3×3, 2×2 or Barry’s approach. I am only interested in maximal strength. Thanks again for your help.

  9. What do you think of doing light cardio, calisthenics, or core exercises in between powerlifting sets? The idea would be do add an energy burning component to the workout and utilizing the 3-5 minute rest period between each powerlifting set. For instance, in between sets of bench press, do a couple minutes of jumping jacks. Thanks for the continued and informative advice!

    1. Martin, I do not recommend it. Not only it takes away from your focus, it creates acidity in your system which will compromise your strength and muscle gains.

      Do not try to “improve” what has been proven to work well. This is the downfall of most trainees. The challenge is to stick to the plan without getting distracted.

      Power to you!

  10. THanks Pavel, I’m always looking for ways to improve if the current routine dries up. IN your experience have you seen quicker strength gains in someone doing (as an example) bench/dead four times / week (as one of the examples in Power To the People) as opposed to doing 5×5 once per week per major lift?

    1. Matt, it is possible that you will in the beginning. But you will not gain as much muscle. Most of your strength gains will be neural. This is how the Russian national team trains.

  11. I broke my jaw in March and I couldn’t eat solid foods or workout for 6 weeks. I lost strength and about 15 pounds of weight. I used this routine and I’m back to my usual weight and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. Also, being a minimalist, I like how this workout keeps things simple.

    I have a few questions that I’d like your input on:

    1. I play hockey (it’s how I broke my jaw) and I workout to improve my hockey play, not to compete in power lifting. My game has benefited from this workout. Based on some of your other comments and your Power to the People book, would my game benefit even more if I decreased the sets or reps (i.e. 3X5 or 3X3 instead of 5X5)?

    2. I deadlift a weight that now requires the use of wrist wraps to hold the weight… your thoughts on using wrist wraps?

    3. I avoided squats for the longest time b/c every weight coach stressed the importance of not letting your knees go past your toes or it will ruin your knees. But I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for your knees to not go past your toes a little bit. Your thoughts on this concept, is it okay to squat and have your knees go a little past the toes?

    4. What are the benefits of a wide grip vs. a close grip on the deadlift. And what are the benefits of using an over under grip vs. both overhand? Currently I use a wide grip with both hands overhand.

    Thanks for your input.

    1. CCM, my answers are in caps.

      1. I play hockey (it’s how I broke my jaw) and I workout to improve my hockey play, not to compete in power lifting. My game has benefited from this workout. Based on some of your other comments and your Power to the People book, would my game benefit even more if I decreased the sets or reps (i.e. 3X5 or 3X3 instead of 5X5)?

      VERY LIKELY, YES. LOOK UP ‘EASY STRENGTH’, THE NEW BOOK DAN JOHN AND I HAVE WRITTEN.

      2. I deadlift a weight that now requires the use of wrist wraps to hold the weight… your thoughts on using wrist wraps?

      FINE, AS LONG AS YOU DO SOME OF YOUR HEAVY DLS WITHOUT THEM. YOU DON’T NEED THEM FOR 3’S; USEFUL FOR 5S.

      3. I avoided squats for the longest time b/c every weight coach stressed the importance of not letting your knees go past your toes or it will ruin your knees. But I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for your knees to not go past your toes a little bit. Your thoughts on this concept, is it okay to squat and have your knees go a little past the toes?

      IT IS NOT OK. YOU NEED A GOOD COACH.

      4. What are the benefits of a wide grip vs. a close grip on the deadlift.

      USE A GRIP THAT KEEPS YOUR ARMS PARALLEL—THE SHORTEST AND STRONGEST WAY TO PULL. WIDE OR SNATCH GRIP DLS ARE A USEFUL ASSISTANCE EXERCISE.

      And what are the benefits of using an over under grip vs. both overhand?

      YOU CANNOT HOLD ON TO A HEAVY WEIGHT WITH A DOUBLE OVERHAND GRIP—UNLESS YOU USE THE HOOK GRIP.

      Currently I use a wide grip with both hands overhand.

      BUT OK TO USE ON LIGHTER WEIGHTS WHEN YOU ARE A BEGINNER.

      1. Pavel,

        Thank you for your answers. I will read Easy Strength when it comes out in bookstores in November. Until then, what sets and reps do you recommend I try on this workout to focus more on improving for hockey (3X3, 3X5, 2X5)?

        Thanks again.

  12. 2 weeks in the program, and i’ve started at 60kg benchpress

    now 70kg.

    started at 90kg squat now 100kg

    started at 125kg deadlift 135 now..

    This is going really really good, thanks Pavel for a great program! How long do you recommand to do your program?

  13. Hi Pavel,

    It is great you are willing to share your insights on this blog. Thanks for answering my previous question. I just read your Naked Warrior Book and wanted your advice about a program incorporating ideas from that book and your 5x5x5 program.

    5 days in a row of 5 sets of 4 exercises (Squat, BP, Deadlift, Weighted Pulls – switching order of exercises each day).

    For each exercise:

    Day 1- 5x 40% 1RM / 5x 50% / 5x 60% / 5x 70% / 5x 80%

    Day 2- 4x 40% / 4x 50% / 4x 60% / 4x 70% / 5x 80%

    Day 3- 3x 40% / 3x 50% / 3x 60% / 3x 70% / 5x 80%

    Day 4- 2x 40% / 2x 50% / 2x 60% / 2x 70% / 5x 80%

    Day 5- 1x 40% / 1x 50% / 1x 60% / 1x 70% / 5x 80%

    Rest Day 6 and 7

    As you see, the volume tapers off as the week goes on, though the Work Set stays the same. I’m also resting as long as I want between sets and making sure I always have a couple reps left during the Work Sets. I imagine the workout wouldn’t be everyone as it requires a fairly long time in the gym, especially early in week (that’s okay for me as I’m a personal trainer). I’ll up the weight slightly after each week for 5 weeks, and then test my one rep max the 6th week.

    Thanks!

    1. Martin, read ‘Easy Strength’ (new book I have coauthored with Dan John) for answers to your question.

  14. Hey Pavel,

    I have two questions.

    1)What would you say is better for strength, using this powerlifting program or replacing each exercise with olympic lifts?

    2)Regular Deadlift or Sumo Deadlift?

    1. Alex, Olympic lifts require totally different programming. And you need a coach.

      Sumo or conventional, whichever feels more natural to you. Eventually you might do both: start the cycle with the weaker style, then peak with the stronger one.

  15. It seems impossible to me to stick to that plan much time. Shoulders need some work to stand so much bench, your lats don’t get much work from the bench, yes, you need strong lats for strong benches, but I doubt strong benches will make your lats strong.

    I think that this plan would be great for someone who is strong, who has strong lats, strong shoulders… and can focus only on the big three, and skyrocket them. But for a beginner I doubt this plan will be good, because in the end he will be lacking in some areas, and it can lead to injury.

    Anyway, thanks for the article!

    1. c.gonzalez, unfortunately thus type of mindset is what prevents people from getting strong. Everyone is trying to hit every muscle and every physical attribute and in the end just wastes valuable adaptive resources on being mediocre in many things.

  16. Pavel,

    Thank you for all of the great advice you have given over the years to help us achieve our maximum potential.

    I have been doing the 5×5 routine for a few years and on my heavy Squat and Dead Lift days I tend to get winded after the sets. Mainly the 4th and 5th sets.

    What do you recommend for strength endurance?

    My most recent heavy Dead Lift day was 325lbs 5×5 @195lbs body weight

    Thanks again,

    John

    1. John, 5×5 with a heavy weight is supposed to be very demanding. You will feel tired. That said, doing only 3 sets of 5 for several months is worth a try.

      No need for any special endurance training, unless you have particular goals.

  17. I realize it’s not recommended but say If I were to add Military Presses once a week to this workout. What day should I do them? I know I’m being a hard sell but I want to keep my military presses strong as well as my shoulder development.

      1. Pavel,

        I had a suspicion that you might say that. One week into the program and we’ll see how it goes.

        Cheers and thanks for the advice.

  18. Pavel, when doing the PTTP type training, should the lifts be restricted to just Bench/Dead? If one needed to up the squat could I do Bench/Squat several times a week and do 5×5 dead once/ week on a different day? Also assistance lifts – should those be done on the PTTP program? Thanks again for your time and input.

    1. Matt, everything you describe is fine—but it is not the PTP plan. Consider the program from this article.

  19. I read this article and really liked the concept behind it so gave this program a try. Pavel did an outstanding job providing all the information I needed for the workout so I had no questions.

    Quick background info: I began working out in March of 2010 after my wife and I had our 3rd child. I tried several programs, the most I ever lifted prior to this program was during Rippetoe’s Starting Strength and my max lifts were

    Squat: 315×1 rep

    Deadlift 385×1 rep

    Bench Press 225×1 rep

    That was over a year ago. Since that time I’ve tried several different programs (crossfit, bodybuilder routines) but always hovered around those same numbers.

    I did not enter a powerlifting contest but I told some guys at the gym the week I was going to attempt a 1 rep max. I ended up spending an additional week attempting new 1 rep maxes at the urging of a few gym members who thought I could lift even more and they were right. A few guys had taped the lifts at the gym so I can provide video if anybody doubts me or the program, the only video I know of right now is this one of me deadlifting 435lbs which can be seen here:

    http://youtu.be/XFq1N05Kjcc

    My final lifts after last week were:

    Squat: 345lbs x 1

    Bench Press: 295lbs x 1

    Deadlift: 455lbs x 1

    By the way, you can see the plan I followed at the link, this is what I created for myself after reading the article and I filled it in each week:

    http://tinypic.com/m/f2vhoi/3

    Thanks a lot Pavel and Tim for this program. I started it over again this week with a couple of other guys in the gym, one of them wanted to include Shoulder Press and pullups. I’m going to see how it goes incorporating those lifts as well.

  20. Pavel, is there a downside to doing two lifting sessions on the same day of non-conflicting muscle groups (eg curls in the morn and bench/squat in the eve)? Or is it just better to do it in one session? All this assuming one has the proper amount of rest/nutrition and time to do it twice in a day.

    1. Matt, research shows that if you take a given volume of work and divide it into more sessions, you will make greater strength gains. The key is not to use this fragmentation as an excuse to increase the volume.

      In other words, 2×5 in the morning and 3×5 in the evening are better than 5×5 at once. But that does not give an excuse to do 5×5 in the morning and evening.

  21. Thanks for your reply Pavel,

    you made me reconsider my thoughts about training.

    By the way, what do you think about doing sumo pulls in the PTTP system? I feel my back more confortable in them than in the conventional ones, do you think there will be less back work then?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the people who are commenting in this blog.

  22. Hi Pavel,

    I’ve been working on this program for some time (about a year now). While I’ve made huge gains by following your program, Though I’ve added more rest (as I seem to recover slower than I used to). I’m just doing three session per week, one squat day, one bench day, and one deadlift. I am stalled on my bench and deadlift, while my squat keeps improving. Mostly, I am badly stalled on bench (no progress) while DL seems to inch forward bit by bit. Would it make sense to work in ladders (as per Return of the Kettlebell?) if I am not moving up at all on 5×5 on the bench?

    I can’t thank you enough for all your comments on this post!!!

    Matt

    1. MattC, kudos for sticking to the plan!

      It is time for a change indeed. Try this: lift three times a week, benching every time and alternating SQ and DL. Do 3 ladders of 1, 2, 3.

  23. Pavel, thanks again for your replies. Your reply to me used the example of a session of 2×5 in the morn and 3×5 in the eve being better than 5×5 all at once.

    I am one of the lucky ones with time to do this type of training (on some days). Would you recommend doing, say, bench press twice per day in the manner you described? I was under the impression the muscles needed 24hr to heal.

    Also, my wide grip pull down seems to be stalled and has been for some time. I’m too heavy for wide grip pull ups. I generally do a 5×5 routine but not going anywhere at the moment. Any thoughts on how I can change things up? I mainly only care about the three big lifts but like to be strong whole body. Thanks again.

    1. MattB, the answer to “how long does muscle take to recover?” is a complicated one. It is easier to say that it is OK to train several times a day occasionally.

      Try lock-offs for your pullups: hold the top position for time.

  24. Pavel,

    I want to share with this forum my success with this program.

    I used the PTTP program with BP and Sumo DL for 8 months. I weighed 198 lbs and ended up increasing my strength so much. I went from having a 325 lbs Deadlift to a 415 lbs Deadlift and a 270 lbs BP to a 325 lbs BP. That got my attention so I looked up more of your research and found this forum.

    I did the plan exactly as written for one year, except I had no access to a squat rack so I just did Sumo DL 5×5 2 times a week (one heavy one light day) And the same with BP. I did no squats. I did however do the Russian Bear program with pullups one day a week.

    I put on 20 lbs of muscle ( a bit of fat too due to massive eating, but not much) and I increased my Deadlift to 550 lbs and my BP to 365 lbs. and went from being able to do 10 pullups with just my own bodyweight to 20 pullups with 20 lbs strapped to me at 5 feet 9 inches and a bodyweight of 218 lbs. All this was done within ONE YEAR and 100% RAW with no gear, drugs or supplements. Not even whey protein powder.

    I Just ate tons of vegetables, pastas, eggs, meat, and stayed away from junk and too much fruit. I drank lots of milk and water but did not drink juice or soda . I logged every session, kept my rest between sets longer than 5 mins., got lots of sleep and didn’t stray from the program though I had a hard time doing that. I’ve always had exercise ADD.

    I want to thank you for your shedding of light on all the crap there is out there in the strength and fitness industry. My Bench Press became stronger than my max Deadlift was when I started to read your research and put your programs to the test. I put a lot of faith in your methodology because you are credible and your research and the research of others you quote is convincing and makes sense.

    Thanks to you I am more confident, well built, and strong as HELL! Power to you my friend!

    To anyone reading this, Remember the acronym K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid! Listen to Pavel and you will crush your PR’s. Welcome to the Party, the Party is always right!

  25. I’m going to give this a go. I was wondering though what happens on the light day when you start having to cycle?

    Do you just take 80% of whatever the weight is for that week? At the beginning of a cycle it seems that would be a bit light even for technique practice.

    (On a more personal note, I’d like to thank you, Pavel. I’m a recovering addict and in the first few months of being clean working with kettlebells did more to keep me sane than almost anything else at times and it led me to understand that exercise is probably even better for mental than physical health. I hope you keep writing for a long time.)

  26. @Mountain Man – Right on! Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve been working my way upward as well, and my numbers are far better than I’ve ever seen them. I’m gonna keep hammering away at it.

    To all others; (and as Pavel has said over and over…) the temptation is nearly constant, to do more and add this and that in an attempt to ‘make it better’. STICK To THE PLAN… END OF STORY.

    The Party IS always right!

    M

  27. Comrades, this is what a narrow focus can accomplish.

    Mountain Man, thank you for your kind words!

    Please do me a favor and repost your story as a review of ‘Power to the People!’: http://www.dragondoor.com/b10/ using your full name preferably.

    Thank you!

  28. Hi Pavel, thanks for the great replies!

    I read the article a few weeks ago, and thought I could use it with Power Cleans and Overhead Press.

    After reading through your posts, that was a mistake!

    At the moment I am doing 5×5 and 5×4 at ~80% for each exercise each week, plus Dead Lift once a week for about 10 good reps, as Dan John recommends.

    The aim is to increase strength rather than size, and at 61 years I don’t want too much volume.

    Should I stick with 5×5, or would some other program work better with these exercises?

  29. Will, what you are doing for the press is fine. The DL might need more volume—or it might work as is. Give it a couple of months.

  30. Thanks Pavel, will do.

    What about the Power cleans, is 5×5 not good with the quick lifts?

    I’m about 9 months into a two year effort to reach certain strength goals in my three lifts, after a brief gallstone problem left me quite thin and weak in January.

    I used to post on your forum occasionally about 10 years ago, when characters like Andy69, Garm, Johnny Pullups, Steve Friedes, Rob Lawrence, etc were posting.

    Power to the People was a turning point for me after years of trying conventional weight training, and never getting very far!

    I’m very pleased to see the success you have achieved, it is well deserved.

    1. Will, there are many reasons why quick lifts like power cleans need different type of programming. 5×5 will work—but with a twist. See ‘The Strongest Shall Survive’ by Bill Starr, a classic.

      Steve Freides still posts regularly. Rob Lawrence once in a blue moon but we do stay in touch. He stopped by at the RKC course in Philly a couple of months ago to stay hello. Steve Freides was one of the instructors at the same course.

      1. Comrades, Steve Freides’s story is truly inspiring. From a non-athletic music professor who spent months in bed with a bad back to a powerlifting champion with abs you can break your hand on if you punch him and full splits:

        http://www.dragondoor.com/how_an_injury-devastated_weakling_%E2%80%94_who_needed_his_wifes_help_to_walk_across_the_room_%E2%80%94_gained_a_complete_recovery_into_full-performance_strength/?CategoryId=4&Order=1&Author=Freides

  31. Pavel, Anything for you. I will post that on dragondoor.

    Matt C, Keep up the good work! Congrats on your accomplishments and power to you.

  32. Pavel,

    I posted the story on your PTTP review on Dragondoor. Thank you for asking me to do that. It’s an honor.

    Tim,

    I hope you are well.

    I met you at Sundance Resort in Utah a couple of years ago. Thank you for Your work as well. I am now researching something I could use as a muse to gain my new lifestyle as an NR. 4 hour work week is brilliant.

    I love the other material on your blog too. I am Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and am getting ready to learn German. I’m about to take a test to see if I can pass to do translating of Spanish and Portuguese for federal agencies. Passing will mean an advance in pay for me and better schedule. I already tested out of advanced levels at my universities in these languages and am confident I will pass this next one. The 80/20 rule was a great platform from which to gain fluency quickly.

    I have used the 80/20 rule to win a gold medal in a local powerlifting meet and some medals in Brazilian Jjiujitsu Tournaments by learning and drilling only the most basic high percentage success submissions, throws, escapes and sweeps. My professor has the same philosophies on learning BJJ. Nothing flashy, just getting the job done.

    You have proven again that you gain your knowledge from the best sources to hack life. Pavel was certainly a wise choice for you to have write a strength article. And thanks to that choice I have benefited once again from two wise men.

    Thanks!

  33. Pavel, I have always been interested in these programs. I was wondering if this one would be right for my current goal (actually I have 2). I am competing in raw powerlifting. My main goal is a 500 pound bench and my secondary goal is to continue doing full meets (not just bench and less concern for the other 2 lifts).

    A little background on me: Best gym lifts all done raw: 555 squat, 425 bench (touch n go) and a 675 deadlift.

    My current strength is: 500 squat, 400 bench and 625 deadlift.

    Would you recommend this program or have any other advice. I’ll be dong a meet in April and another in July.

    Thanks!

      1. currently in the 220s but I do not care if I go up. I just want that 500 bench.

        I am drug free (if that matters at all) and I vary my routines all the time. “Usually” I work up to one all out set for my main move. Sometimes I go for more volume. This week on bench I worked up to 335 for 5 sets of 5. SORE! The previous week I did 370 for 2 of 2. Since I did 5×5 on the bench this week I was going to with singles next week: maybe 315, 365, 385 and then see if I can get 405.

        I am interested in your recommendations. I like the idea of a very simple routine. My other concern is what I would use for weight if I started this. The 335 5 x 5 was ROUGH. I did not have another rep on ANY set and would have not got 5 reps with 340 either. Maybe just not used to the volume?

      2. Joe, I would consider Faleev’s program in this blog. Note that 5×5 weights are cycled. Put some weight on.

        Later Marty Gallagher’s style cycling. Read his books: “Ed Coan: The Man, the Myth, the Method” and “The Purposeful Primitive”.

        Power to you!

  34. What are your thoughts on the following 48 week periodization program. It is inspired by your chain yourself to the squat rack routine but focuses on the upper body. The key to the program is clean and press but the exercise does not appear until the second 16 week cycle. All sets and singles have a 1 minute 30 second rest break between them besides singles on clean and press and machine bench press. Clean and press is to be preformed as heavy as possible after the first introduction where the lifter tests his ability with singles and therefore allows up to 5 minutes rest between sets. Time between singles in Machine bench press is left to the discretion of the lifter so long as it does not exceed 1 minute 30 seconds ie shorter breaks may be used to build fatigue and then the standard for finishing singles. The idea is to specialize on upper body from the belt to the neck C&P is crucial for its effect on spinal erectors and exceeding bare minimum leg stimulation. Also I have the idea to follow the program with a significantly reduced program of similar nature after a 2 month break which introduces dead-hang chin, standing barbell curl, and weighted roman chair

    PHASE 1 Prone specialization -to be continued 16 weeks

    week 1

    monday flat bench 4 sets (fixed weight lifter is good for between 10-15reps 1st set)

    tuesday Dead Press singles (starting just above chest)

    Wednesday Incline 1 set, Flat 1 set, 1 decline set

    Thursday Machine Bench Press singles

    week 2

    Monday Dead Press singles (starting just above chest)

    Tuesday Incline 1 set, Flat 1 set, Decline 1 set

    Wednesday Machine Bench Press singles

    Thursday Flat Bench 4 sets (fixed weight lifter is good for between 10-15 reps on first set)

    week 3

    Monday Incline 1 set, Flat 1 set, Decline 1 set

    Tuesday Machine Bench Press singles

    Wednesday Flat Bench 4 sets (ASCENDING sets lifter is good for between 10-15 reps on first set)

    week 4 (active recovery week)

    Monday Incline 2 singles (heavy but sub-maximal)

    Wednesday Flat 2 singles (heavy but sub-maximal)

    Friday Decline 2 singles (heavy but sub-maximal)

    Phase 2- to be continued 16 weeks

    week 1

    Monday Flat 4 sets (fixed weight lifter is good for 10 to 15 reps for first set)

    Tuesday Clean and Press singles

    Wednesday Machine Bench Press singles

    week 2

    Monday Clean and press singles

    Tuesday Incline 1 set, Flat 1 set, Decline 1 set

    Wednesday Dead Press singles

    week 3

    Monday Clean and press singles

    Tuesday Flat 4 sets (fixed weight lifter is good for 10 to 15 reps on first set)

    Wednesday Incline 1 set, Flat 1 set, Decline 1 set

    week 4

    Wednesday 1 set alternating dumbbell press (heavy and conducted in a manner similar to breathing squats)

    Phase 3-‘SAID’ training

    week 1

    wednesday Dead Press singles (3 “sets of singles” with descending range of motion-power rack bars are raised for succeeding sets and 3 workouts are conducted with varied ROM-preferably morning-early evening-late evening split)

    week 2

    wednesday Clean and press singles

    week 3

    wednesday Machine Bench Press singles

    week 4

    wednesday Alternating dumbbell press (heavy and conducted in a manner similar to breathing squats)

    1. Ioannis, too complex for my taste. Remember that the more variables you have to track, the harder it is to know what works and what does not.

      The simplest, in my experience, way to up your overhead press is gradually building up volume in low rep ladders.

  35. Pavel,

    I expected you would be of the opinion that the program I devised was unnecessarily complex. You are of course indisputably one of the top experts regarding EFFECTIVE keep it stupid simple methods (KISS). I myself have always had horrible trouble with movements where the arms are the primary mover and it wasn’t until I applied an idea I read in one of your articles some years ago that I achieved “decent numbers” in any such exercise (my weights in such exercise are poor indicators of my strength level-I think its worth noting). I can’t recall the details of the article but it had something to do with setting up a bench in a garage and hitting the bench every time you passed through the room. I used this for clean and press and did three singles with a short break in between more or less 4-6 times a day monday through friday and also I would randomly drop weight occasionally and hit two rep sets. Anyway it got me from a 185lbs press that had been stagnant for years to 250lbs (at a bodyweight from190-200lbs) between april and december of 2004 or 2005 (technically the 250 was a layback but my strict press did improve to 225-235). Anyway I think perhaps you misunderstand the goals of my program. The goal is not to maximize poundage in the press but rather functional upper body strength in general

    I am about 195lbs nowadays and don’t have aspirations to make a strict press from a high bar squat position on traps with a ridiculous weight like 350 or something. I would like to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle primarily in the upper body and spread it evenly throughout. Like I said I intend to add dead hang chin Curl and weighted roman chair in a second sequence and put 5-10lbs of the weight on with those. We know of course that powerlifters and olympic weightlifters do not have perfect bodies (not to say these sports are illegitimate pursuits of course) but my inquiry is simply if the program seems reasonable to you. We have of course issues regarding ‘sport strength’ and imbalances between spinal erectors and leg/glutes which sully the benefits of OL/PL that factor heavily in my decision to embark on such a program. Anyway I guess a good question question is wether I am reading in-between the lines too much

    or if my logic is sound considering my goals and predisposition as a heavily leg dominant lifter who hasn’t a care for OL/PL total or numbers generally speaking

    1. Ioannis, a strict military press with 225 at under 200 bodyweight is something to be proud of.

      If you are looking for more well rounded development, consider Dan John’s “One Lift a Day” approach. For instance:

      Monday—FSQ

      Tuesday—Chinup

      Wednesday—BP

      Thursday—off

      Friday—DL

      Saturday—C&P

      Sunday—off

  36. Hi Pavel (or anyone that knows), I’m in SW WA state. Is there an organization that you would recommend if one wanted to be a fitness trainer? Thanks for all the insight you’ve given us.

  37. Matt, since I have developed the curriculum for two trainer certifications, RKC and HKC, I cannot give you an impartial answer.

  38. Hi Pavel i am currently using the program within this blog and i have seen brilliant gains in bench, squat and deadlifts. I have also read many of your other programs and they have been the start of great results! However i was wondering what your opinion might be on improving a challenge set to me by a friend for pull ups?

    The challenge was to complete 5 sets of 5 reps with 50 seconds rest between sets and i would have 40kg (88lbs) extra around my waist on a dips belt. So far i have achieved 5 sets of 4,3,2,2,1 with the 40kg so as you can see i have made progress however it has been slow and i have hit multiple plateaus along the way. I have used multiple workout strategies such as pyramids, ladders, straight sets and density training to get the reps higher so i was wondering what you would advise? Any input or help would be brilliant!

    Thank you again for your programs pavel they have been a great help!

    1. Jamie, great to hear!

      Do a search for the “Fighter Pullup” program article I wrote a few years ago. Once you have found it, please post the link here for others.

      Power to you!

  39. Hi Pavel.

    After considering some tweaking to my current program (5×5) for the new year, (I train for strength and power, and have plateaued a little, hence the tweaking) and reading Beyong BBuilding, Naked Warrior and PTTPeople, I realised that you seem to have two basic core concepts in your training : for strength a cycle of 5×5, and then grease-the-groove for establishing neural pathways and expanding vascular capacity of muscles. If that is roughly accurate (please correct if I am wrong) – do you suggest in your writings a way of combining these into some sort of cycle (maybe 5th week, instead of 50%, do a grease-the-groove style week for example)?? Or is 5×5 enough to achieve both.

    Thanks for any comments or suggestions.

  40. Matt, 5×5 and similar protocols focus on myofibrillar hypertrophy plus some neural gains. GTG is about neural adaptations and storing more creatine phosphate in the muscle. Sheyko’s system happens to have both built in.

    Consider six weeks of 5×5 followed by three weeks of GTG.

  41. Comrade..

    A belated happy new year to you and Tim.

    This article and subsequent responses have helped a lot of people (some like me who have never touched weights but who are quickly closing in on their powerlifting training goals).

    P.S. I wonder if ‘kettle bells’ should be rebranded to ‘Man Makers.’ It always makes me laugh when a friend looks at them in my backyard and comically says what’s this silly thing. Only to be humbled very very quickly by this ‘silly thing,’ as it breaks their ego: Fast!

  42. Pavel – wanted to give a quick update. Started the routine this week in prep for a meet in 11 weeks. Been sick with a few minor things and still coughing a little, but no time to worry about that.

    Numbers for the week are as follows: squat – 395, bench 315,deadlift 510 then the easy days: squat – 315 and bench 250.

    Did the squats and I am WRECKED! Way more volume than I am used to.

    Did the bench last night and that was pretty rough as well. Hard to breath deep and couldn’t stop coughing thorugh both training sessions.

    Since I am so sore at this point I made the decision to take today off, deadlift tomorrow and do both easy lifts (squat and bench) on friday.

    I think that minor change of taking Wednesday off will do me well in the long run.

    Looking forward to see how this works out and will update this blog for those that may be following along.

    = Joe

    1. Joe, consider a lower volume peaking cycle, e.g. Marty Gallagher’s. It should not mess with your cold.

      White lights!

  43. I may look into that for my next meet in July. This time around I wouldn’t mind hitting the higher volume and gaining some mass. I figure for my goal of a 500 bench I am going to need a pretty good foundation.

    I will certainly taper down the volume and up the intensity as my March meet approaches though.

  44. quick update:

    did deads today. legs still sore from monday (today is thursday) and I thought something bad was going to happen to my left leg on the first warm up set. did another warm up and wasn’t too bad. kept working up and ended up getting all 5×5 at 510.

    NOT looking forward to light squats and light benches tomorrow but going to give it a shot.

    hardest training week I have ever done. NOT used to this volume at these loads. However I am really looking forward to adapting and seeing some impressive gains.

    1. Joe, consider dropping the light squat day. At least in this cycle, since you started our sick.

      Power to you!

  45. Hi Pavel, quick question. What is the rest time between sets of the Russian Squat Assault on page 22 of Beyond Bodybuilding? I’m gonna have a friend try it (he’s stuck on wanting to ‘feel’ like he’s worked-out). I recently acquired four of your publications and truly appreciate the simplistic way you present difficult ideas. I’m benefitting greatly! Thanks for the help.

      1. Many of the programs you laid out in BB require a “full rest” (ie. > 5 minutes) between sets.

        I’m currently blessed with the ability to both work and train from home, and was therefore wondering if such a rest has a practical maximum. In other words, can I take 60 to 90 minutes between sets while performing a program like the Russian Squat Assault, and thereby distribute the sets throughout the day, sort of GTG style?

        In a similar vein, can I modify a program that calls for ladders by distributing the volume throughout the day, as long as I get in the specified number of reps at the required weight?

        Many thanks!

        -Ladon

  46. Ladon, it is not a bad idea. 60-90min would be good to experiment with. It takes a couple of hours to clear the lactic acid fully but at that point creatine phosphate concentration starts dropping too.

    “In a similar vein, can I modify a program that calls for ladders by distributing the volume throughout the day, as long as I get in the specified number of reps at the required weight?”

    Yes.

  47. Hey Tim. I’ve been reading this blog a long time and gotten an awful lot of value out of it. In fairness I thought I should try giving back a little.

    With comments!

    In the fall of 2010 I implemented this program for four months.

    My starting 1RMAX’s were:

    Squat: 260

    Bench: 175

    Deadlift: 300

    Total: 735

    I bet my roommate 10:1 odds that I could get the total over 900 by the end of the semester (four months) for a little extra motivation.

    I followed the program pretty much exactly, final totals were:

    Squat: 355

    Bench: 205

    Deadlift: 445

    Total: 1005 (I ended up reaching REAL deep for that deadlift to get over 1000+lbs)

    Percent improvement: 36.7%

    As far as nutrition went I ate close to a paleo/slow carb diet though my adherence to that has never been perfect (I will ‘cheat’ on a reasonably regular basis with something like..a sandwhich). Plus protein shakes after workouts.

    Some thoughts:

    1) My bench didn’t really improve that much on the program (compared to squat and deadlift) and I was disappointed by that. Perhaps my starting point was too low to get good results from a 5×5. I also found that my bench was the most inconsistent in terms of what I could achieve week to week.

    2) If you look at my data, my final deadlift was way higher than I expected going into that day. Maybe it’s tough to push yourself as hard as you should on a 5×5, especially leaving on in the bank, or maybe those charts to predict 1rmax are bollocks.

    3) Adherence to the program was not very difficult, and the difficulty of the program itself was not very bad. I had been crossfitting prior to this and found it both hard to stick with and rough on my body. This program was neither of those things. On the other hand, it gave me a fairly specific strength (slow, high end) where something like crossfit was more all around and more explosive (which I preferred for martial arts).

    I tracked my workouts every day (dates, planned workout, results, comments, etc.) I went to the gym and have the excel spreadsheet. If you ever want to data for any reason I’ll email you the file out of gratitude.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    1. Well done, Jim!

      Keep doing what you have been doing for the SQ and DL. Your DL happened have passed 200kg, an important milestone.

      For the bench try Marty Gallagher’s plan from the 4HB.

  48. Hi Pavel,

    I’ve been thinking about stretching and the CNS (central nervous system) and reading your book “Relax into Stretching”. To put my question simplistically : Is there a way to “unlock” a muscles static hypertonic, length?. I know you would personally have experienced and know and train elite soliders who would be both seriously strong but also under the most intense mental and emotional strain/trauma for long periods of time (say years). I could imagine this combination of the intense impact on the CNS together with physical repetitious posture and movement (like an amped up grease-the-groove) could cause imbalances in muscle tension which becomes a new normal for the brain, and which won’t “reset” once the intense pressure is over, and the muscles are relaxed and stretched.?

    Thanks if there is a simple answer – (I am guessing a lot of pain will be inevitable….?)!

  49. Matt, combat stress plus carrying the kit, sitting for a long time inside the body armour, etc. do tighten up the muscles. Stretching in the field can help up to a point. Breathing exercises help too (some units are taught relaxing “tactical breathing”). Most importantly, the US military is considerate enough not keep our guys deployed forever. Even those who go on multiple deployment come home often enough to rest, relax, and heal up.

  50. another update:

    finished up week 3.

    the 5 x 5s went like this for the past week:

    squat – 415

    bench – 325

    deads – 525

    all will be going up next week. I have continued to take wednesday off, pulled on thursday and then finished with my light squats and benches on friday.

    I’ll continue with the 5s for 3 more weeks and then start tapering down, 4×4, 3×3 and 2×2 (2 weeks of each).

  51. Does anyone know recommended rest times between sets (and series) for the Hyper-Potentiation workout article on the dragondoor.com site (written by Geoff Neupert? It would be for a Bench Presser who’s interested in Strength first but doesn’t mind size. Thanks everyone for all the help.

  52. Pavel, I noticed your publications recommend having an actual powerlifter help with technique. Do you (or anyone else) have a recommendation for anyone in the Vancouver, WA area (or Portland,Or)? Thanks again

    1. Matt, sorry, I do not know any PLers in your area.

      As for a question to Geoff, just post it on the DragonDoor forum.

  53. Hi Pavel,

    Just an update from Jan 3 : after maxing out for 5×5, then a week at 60%, I’ve switched to some GTG – decided to do 5×10 at 50%. That is fine for the major lifts (Deadlies, Squats, DB CandPress, Bench, Power cleans) BUT – I also do weighted dips and chins with 50% of my body weight extra. The weird thing – trying to do these with a ladder I am toast. Started with 10kg and get two cycles of a 2,4,6 ladder (missed 8). Then I try 4 sets of bodyweight and barely manage 2,4,6 … (4 or 5 for the last). I find it odd that the “strength” didn’t carry over for these (so to speak – I know it is not correlated).

    Will keep at it for one or two more weeks. Cheers

    1. Thanks! Pavel for your feedback, I value your opinion. I have always had a problem in deciding which lifts to drop. I started out with BeyondBB 5*5*5 with Deadlies, Squats, Bench, then some pressing and the weighted dips and chins as a must. That was three days (2, one day off, then 1) – then repeat either the DL or the Squat for the 4th at 50-60%, the idea of adding the power cleans for power training and just because they are killers – together with a press (DB C&P to simulate kettlebells) and one of the weighted BW exercises.

      Don’t know how to tweak that as they all seem “essential”?? Maybe a two week cycle?

      Even on the bench day I throw in some rows to balance the bench movement.

      Today at the start of my third week, I was a bit fatigued at the start, so not sure if that is indep. of this cycle or not. Will see tomorrow. I am surprised still that my body weight exercises (admittedly done at the end) are much more easily fatigued that the others.

      Thanks again for your comments!

  54. update:

    Pavel, thanks for all the help. I loved this routine but it proved to be too much volume for me at this point (especially while slightly ill).

    I went back to one working set per move and am doing well (bench could be better)

    This week: bench 345 x 3, squat 455 x 4 and pulled 565 x 4

    Should easily total 1500 plus in my meet next month (raw and tested).

    Also just ordered the Goddess Workout and the 18 pound bell for the wife. Looking forward to getting the Enter the Kettlebell dvd and the 53 pound bell for myself in the future.

    Thanks again.

    1. Joe, you have been around the block and must have good instincts. Lower volume it is. When you get well, perhaps you could try higher volume in the BP only.

      Good lifts this week. White lights at the meet!

      1. and a follow up from that meet:

        S-530 on second and passed on the third

        B-380

        D-650

        raw, natty, 242s (was 230 at weigh in)

        Next meet Sept 9th Push/Pull. Really looking to get over 400 on the bench.

  55. Thanks Pavel, you’re a legend. I was talking today with my strongman friend about dropping bench. I like your suggestions, thanks a lot. Week 3 is going well, easier. I think I’ll use such a GTC or power speed cycle in the future, maybe after 3 strength cycles.

    Cheers.

  56. Pavel,

    With Dan John’s 40 day workout could I replace bench press with clean n jerk on alternative days? 3 ladders of 1,2,3 for the kettle bell Clean n Jerk and normal 10 reps for Bench (2 sets of 5). And do the exercise 6 days a week instead of 5?

    1. Deadlift

    2. Bench n Clean n Jerk

    3. Pull ups

    4. Swing

    Thanks as always

     

    1. 1. Person takes advice.

      2. Person has success with advice.

      3. Person thinks he can make it ‘better.’

      4. Person realizes he is mistaken. 

      I’ll stick to what’s working. 🙂  

  57. Hi Pavel,

    Just a final update to round out my experiment with three weeks of GTG at 5×10 at 50-60%.

    This week back to 5×5 strength training with the same program and it’s been tough. Went up to 80% 1RPM and the strength was still there, but it was hard to crank it up. Oddly however!! – the “weakest” lift of the prev. 3 weeks (chins) was my strongest, today finishing with weighted chins, 4×5 and then my 2rep max (35%-60% bodyweight extra). A bit crazy.

    Gets me wondering if it is worth the effort – the disruption to strength training. Maybe I need it, but can tweak it.

    And gets me thinking about strength in terms of 1RPM but in the context of

    overall volume (eg a rep max doing 5x5x5 is “stronger” than the equivalent in a Wendler type program which is less intensive).

    Thanks again.

  58. Matt, please remind me, what lift were you GTGing, were you after one-rep strength or strength endurance, how often you did it, and what were the results?

  59. Hi Pavel – I just took my normal strength program of 5×5 and did 5×10 at say 50-60% of my 1RPM. I did it 4 days a week for three weeks, and took about the same time as my normal program, 1hour.

    My program normally is Mon DL 5×5, Shrugs3x5, Weighted Chins3x5 +Bweightx10. Tues – Squats 5×5, DB CP 5×5, Weighted Dips3x5.

    Thurs Bench5x5, Inc. Dumbell Bench5x5, Bent Rows3x5, DB rows 2×5.

    Fri repeat Mondays big lift at 60% 3×5, DB CP 3×5, Power Cleans (the focus) 5×5 then repeat Mon lift either Chins or Dips. The next week I’d start with last week’s Tues on Mon, last week’s Mon on Tues, Thurs the same, Fri adjust to do Mon’s new big lift. Sort of a two week cycle, squatting and DL three times in two weeks (one of them at 50%). Sorry for the detail – bit of a fiddled 5x5x5.

    I noticed the big lifts were fine on the GTG, but the dips and chins were noticeably more tiring. I did ladders for them, the first two sets I had 10kg strapped on, and could do 2,4,6,6, then bodyweight 2,4,6 is all I could manage for 4 sets.

    I am normally quite tight (oddly right side mainly, traps, neck, chest, hipflexor) on a good day, so I was thinking that would make me tire more quickly (I still got tight on 5×10).

    I train purely for strength. I ride twice a week for some fitness, and walk say 2hours daily for relaxation/de-stressing.

    Again I appreciate your interest and help! Thanks.

  60. Hi Pavel,

    I know you’ve been clear about not relying on the use of belts. However, I’m finding myself curious to try one. My low back is precarious from a downward slip of the S.I. I’ve had many prolotherapy treatments on the low back and hips. Regardless, I’m working with respectable weights on DL and BS but, at this point I feel it may be safer for me as I move up in the program. Is that a good idea, bad idea? Curious to hear your view for someone prone to chronic injury.

    Thanks for your feedback on all of these posts for so long! Its highly appreciated.

    -Matt

  61. Matt, this is a question for your doc. Find a doc who is an experienced powerlifter. Where are you based?

    1. Understood. I’m in San Francisco. Just curious to know if you think there are exceptions or times when its beneficial to use a belt. Obviously, they’re pretty widely used in serious lifting. I have no desire to compete, I just enjoy lifting and staying strong.

      Thanks again for your feedback!!

      Matt

  62. Matt, unless you compete, I do not see a point in using a belt. Even if one does compete, he should do most of his lifting without one.

    Ping Mark Reifkind, rifstonian@yahoo.com. He is based in San Jose, former Coach Powerlifting Team USA and current Master RKC instructor. He will send you to the right doc.

    1. Ok, thanks for the tip, that’s really helpful! I’ll stay belt free then.

      Thanks for your time Pavel!

  63. Hi Pavel,

    I posted here last Nov with questions about my routine, so here’s an update.

    You said 10 good reps per week for the Deadlift may not be enough volume, and so it proved.

    So I went into a PtP routine (2×5 on 2-4 days a week) for Deadlift, Power Clean and Overhead Press using 2-5% increase in weight per week, and going to 3×2 and 2×2 as the weights got heavier.

    This was for 8 weeks, adding 5kg per week for Deadlift, and 2.5kg for press and Clean.

    It worked well for Deadlift, it went from 130kg to 140kg.

    Press and Power Clean, no improvement.

    After two weeks break, I’m going to repeat the prescription for Deadlift.

    For Power Clean, work on technique, Clean Pulls and Front Squats.

    For Press, ladders and heavier Push Presses, and keep the volume up for longer. I felt like I was going backwards for the last few weeks of low volume.

    Thanks for the time you spend talking to us here!

    I’ll let you know how it works out about the end of June.

  64. Hi Pavel,

    I’ve been doing this program now for seven weeks and i gotta say this really works for me as i have never lifted this heavy weights.. And this is the progression of just over a month.

    This is my progression so far:

    Squat from 65 kg to 95 kg

    deadlift from 100kg to 125kg

    Bench from 70kg to 85kg.

    But i’ll have a couple questions too:

    1. In bench i had 85 kg full 5×5 on a fourth try last week, it felt really really heavy so should i next time do it 3×3 with 90 kg or try still to go for 5×5?

    2. About the last three weeks on a light day (i do bp and sq) i’ve started to feel little pain on my left shoulder and last week i had to stop on a fourth set on bench press cause it was too painfull.

    But after four days of rest it feels normal again, so could it just be cause of bad stretching or something? I don’t feel pain on a normal heavy day, just the second bp of the week.

    Thanks,

    NikoH

  65. Hi Pavel great article great teacher !!! the method rulez i personaly experience significant resaults from week 1!!! I just wanted to askt the following. I know that faleev is a system and you said that we shouldn’t add or extract exercises. However I would like to ask is it too sterssfull if I add once or twice a week 3 sets of 8-10 chin ups ( i can do more than 22) this is just for maintance of my lats.

    regards

  66. Hi Pavel,

    Would it be ok to replace the BP with the inclined BP in the Faleev’s program?

    Thank you for all the answers in this thread.

  67. Pavel – I had a few questions here answered and thanks! I do have some questions about your other techniques however (specifically greasing the groove). May I ask here or is there another method to contact you?

    Thanks once again.

    Joe

  68. Hey,

    Just reading 4HB and wondering if you can basically insert and pulling/pushing/leg exercise to Occam’s protocol. I know Tim says don’t change anything, but I’m wondering if anyone has experimented with this cause I’d love to add strength to different exercises than the ones he listed. Thanks.

  69. Hi.

    I just added 10 pounds to my benchpress and squat.

    While the jump from 220 to 230 pounds on the squat only set me back a few measly reps, the jump from 200 to 210 in bench press made my 5×5 go down to 4,4,3,2,2.

    Would it be better to add less on the bench press?

  70. Hey,

    If I don’t get all 5×5 reps on my heavy bench day should I try again on my light bench day? Or wait until the next week and keep my light bench as is?

    Answers would be greatly appreciated!

    –John

  71. Mr. Pavel,

    I’m a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and have been doing PTP for a while.

    My best pulls are over 400 for five reps.

    I have gotten weaker this year dropping to where 365 for 5 is hard.

    How can I modify PTP so I can get progressing again.

    Also from your history what would I need to pull for 5 to equal a 500 DL?

    I am a big believer in your work.

    Respestfully,

    Jes

  72. Thanks for this article!

    Dear Tim,

    I am an athlete trying to become the strongest and best at my sports. I am 17 years old and I have been reading your 4 hour body book. In it, you have a workout that consists of deadlifts and benchpress, Barry Ross’s workout, to gain major strength gains. I was wondering if, using this same concept, I could add power clean and squat to the workouts as well, or even replace the deadlifts with them? I have heard that squats and powercleans are the king of all athletic lifts and in my own personal opinion, they do help greatly in many of the aspects of sports. If I can, would I still see great results? Thanks for the great info! Hope you reply back!

  73. Awesome article! Andi like the loading pattern of 5×5 and the increases… similar to what i was doing, but i did it with 2’s instead of 5’s and only one max effort set…

    anyway. Good article.

  74. I love the blog. I bought all three books,kindle version. Absolute gold and all it does is make me think more and more! I saw this blog post and a couple of the other posts regarding powerlifting and thought i must ask this question. Although not powerlifting related but it is a sport and a skill thus i think could be learned in a fashion as you demonstrate learning other things. It is boxing. What sort of steps or routine could one carve out if they wanted to learn boxing and become good at it. Thank you

  75. Only argument is you say mr. Power Jackson uses this himself yet the man is a true mass monster in bodybuilding, superset, giant sets, isolation excercises, you name it, but he is stronger than most people I have ever seen, I’ve met jonnie a few times.

    The 5×5 theory has been around for quite a long time and it def works, but you can say Jackson uses it and expect people who follow both sports(powerlifting/bodybuilding) or compete in both like myself to not scratch our head

  76. I just finished Smolov and got a whopping 50kg increase in my squat but from all the dirty eating and drinking heaps of milk I have piled on a fair bit of fat. I’m now looking at starting the 80/20 next week with some additional cardio & conditioning, is this recommended? I’m looking to incorporate 2 farmers walk days, 1 HIIT session 20mins & 2 incline fast walks on a treadmill 30mins all will be peformed after training, also I will be eating a clean high protien and medium carb diet.

    1. Assuming you’re in good health & have no injuries, yes – go for it. I’m significantly stronger in my 40s than I was in my 20s, age need not be a barrier to progress.

  77. Hi. First, i’d like to thank you for this post. it really changed the way i train. i went from deadlifting 265 pounds for 3 sets of 6 reps to deadlifting 430 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps in less than 8 months.

    But now the thing is the deadlifts days are starting to get extremely difficult, and i’m starting to feel some pain in my hips and legs. is there an alternative training for when you feel you reached a good amount of weight? Thank you very much ! greeting from Brazil !

  78. Pavel, is it better to take 10-15 minutes of rest between sets or to space them out over the whole day? (on weekends at least).

  79. Also, I`m confused about lowering reps as you near a meet. I ‘ve been following the program for six weeks but I won’t be competing regularly. You wrote that I should switch to 4×4, 3×3 etc. “A few weeks before a meet”. Can you use more details? One last thing. I started conservatively, like you said, with all of my lifts at 105 lbs. Now I’m squatting 145 and DL 155 but after I moved my bench from 115 to 125 I got 3, 3, 3, 3, (forgot the last rep) and the next week 3, 2, 2, 2, 2 and today I have 3×3 so far… is it normal to just plateau?

  80. I will be competing in about nine months at a competition where bench press, squat and power clean are added up and divided by body weight. Any way I could modify this routine for the power clean?

  81. I am the regional trainer for powerlifting in southwest cameroon and also works as physical trainer for 21 motorised infantry battalion Buea.i tried this work out with my athletes and the results have been simply wonderful.Take it on and see for yourself.

  82. I’m extremely psyched to have discovered this! Let me be a bit sentimental…

    When I was 14 years old, I was trained by Roger Richards, a Power Lifter and Body builder from Rhode Island. He had a lot of success in the 70s and 80s. Sadly, a work accident rendered this Sports Master a quadriplegic. I’ve always been proud of him for his sports accomplishments, and even more so for his personal achievements. He has taught me how to push myself physically, and when I fall hard, to push through emotionally. Life is worth living.

    So here I read this article, because 32 years later, at 46 years old, I’m interested in increasing my strength and muscle mass. I thought: I wonder how much has changed in the sport of Power Lifting? What advanced ways of training will be available to me on the Internet?

    Would you guys believe, that this 5×5 method -one dead lift, two squat and bench days, (one heavy, one light) was EXACTLY how I remember Roger training me. No wonder I had a 305 dead-lift when I was just a kid -who only weighed 105 pounds!

    I’m going to get right back on it now!

    I can’t wait to tell Roger that he was ahead of his time.

  83. My left hip has been hurting a tiny bit when I run, play tennis etc. for the last couple of weeks. I completed my first set of 5 squats at 145 lbs this morning with significantly more pain. When I tried another set 2 hours later I was unable to squat all the way down on the third rep because the pain became too great for me to continue and I just racked the bar. What should I do?

    1. If u r new to lifting free weights it can be easy to get an injury because there r alot of accessory muscles that come in to play just maintaining balance throughout the movements. That being said less severe injuries will occur as opposed to using something like a smith machine because your not just isolating the large muscle group such as the quadriceps. If a larger muscle group becomes to strong compared to the accessory muscles then its easy to tear those smaller muscles. In your case if your older like myself (48) then u may get better just laying off it for a few days. Take some non-steroidals ie. motrin or I like MSM on a daily basis. Bottom line your body tells u when to stop or go lighter. If it persists seek an orthopod for a medical evaluation

  84. I tried Pavel’s program and love it. I went from benching 5 set of 155 to 5 sets of 195 in about a year. Now a question. I’ve been unable to push beyond 5 sets of 195 on the bench. Some stats about me: I’m 47 years old, 5′ 9″ and 180 lbs.

    What can I do to break through this plateau. I’ve been there for around 3 months. I can do 3 sets of 5 and 1 set of 4 and one set of 3.

    1. I would say to go on a “personal” competition: try 4×4, 3×3, 2×2 while increasing the weight and warm up accordingly.

  85. Alright by now my hip (and by hip I mean butt cheek) has forced me to only train bench press only for a few weeks and now I know that whatever it is, it’s not healing at all. Suggestions? Also, I`m 14, if that affects anything. If I don’t do pulls will I injure my shoulders with bench press?