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Russian Secrets for Power

7209-prime6Q: I’d like to get my bench press, squat and deadlift poundages up. I understand that the Russians have produced a lot of world champions in IPF international powerlifting competitions. What are the unique aspects of their training?

A: The International Powerlifting Federation was founded in 1972, and the first official IFP World Championships was held the following year. Due to strict rules and drug testing, the champions in IPF meets tend to be more highly regarded than those in many of the other organizations.

Russia has been a dominant force in IPF competitions, both the men’s and women’s teams. In fact, last year at the World Championships the Russian men won the team title and the Russian women placed second. It’s my understanding that the training programs of the Russian powerlifters are modeled after Olympic lifting programs, with lots of sets, high frequency and very few assistance exercises.

One accomplished Russian powerlifting coach who promotes such training is Boris Ivanovich Sheiko, who has recommended up to 40 sets of bench presses per week. Because of the high volume, the load is generally low, focusing on weights that are about 70 to 80 percent of the one-repetition maximum.

Another accomplished powerlifting coach who is a proponent of high-frequency training is Dietmar Wolf of Norway. It’s my opinion that he has done the best job of implementing cutting-edge Olympic-lifting methodology in the sport of powerlifting.

Q: How do you increase tendon strength? I heard that high reps of 20 to 30 with light weights is the way to go.

A: I prefer negative training for increasing tendon strength. Eccentric, or negative, training aides collagen production. Tendons have a slow metabolic rate with limited blood supply, making them very slow to heal. Eccentric movements stimulate blood flow, promote tendon healing and activate mechanoreceptors in the cells of the tendon, increasing its strength.

Negatives will also lengthen the muscle-tendon unit, increasing range of motion. For example, eccentric training is commonly used to rehabilitate, strengthen and lengthen the Achilles tendon. If you are new to it, begin by manipulating tempo with a four-second eccentric phase and a one-second concentric phase. You can vary that tempo by using a longer eccentric phase and an explosive concentric motion.

Q: Should I do aerobics to lower my blood pressure and improve my heart health? I hate stair climbers and treadmills, but I’m concerned that weight training is not enough for my ticker.

A: Consider that weight training dramatically improves heart function. It has repeatedly been shown to decrease blood pressure. A recent scientific review found that across eight trials, systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 6.2 mmHg. That is a clinically significant result because it is more than double the benefit of the typical blood-pressure-lowering medications.

Weight training also enhances arterial function and decreases inflammation. One review showed that older women who weight trained had lower C-reactive protein, an oxidative stress marker that causes an inflammatory status. The combined effect of lower systolic blood pressure, less inflammation and better blood flow can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by more than 14 percent.

Q: Is in-season weight training a good idea? My son plays high school and club baseball, and the coach is concerned that if he lifts weights too hard before important games, he will be too sore to perform well.

A: One popular expression in strength coaching is, “All things being equal, the stronger athlete will always win.” That said, why train your body to be weak? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when sport coaches exert too much influence on their athletes’ strength and conditioning programs.

Many sport coaches are so worried that their athletes will get too sore from training that they tell the strength coaches to work them light several days before a competition—or worse, tell them not to train at all. The result is that by the end of the season, when the most important competitions occur, the athletes will be weakest. Remember, it’s the volume of training, not the intensity, that is most likely to cause overtraining. During an athlete’s season, prepare for major competitions by reducing the volume first—but still go heavy!

Q: What is the best protein source for a postworkout shake?

A: I like whey protein. First, whey is high-quality protein that provides a greater array of amino acids in greater concentrations than other protein sources, so your body has more to work with. It triggers muscle building to a greater degree than either casein or soy.

Second, as convenient as protein powders are, if the goal is fat loss, use only whey protein after training and eat high-protein foods (meat!) for all meals. Energy expenditure after a whole-food meal is up to 50 percent higher than after a processed meal. Whole foods also favorably moderate insulin and blood sugar.

Third, whey supports immune function because it raises levels of the most important antioxidant, glutathione. Surveys show that a stronger immune system is associated with greater muscle gains.

Finally, whey excels in practical tests. Note the results of one such study that compared having trainees supplement with one of these three protein choices: three grams per kilogram of bodyweight a day of whey protein, the same dose of soy protein, or a smaller dose of 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight a day of whey.


• The large-dose whey group gained 2.5 kilograms of muscle.

• The soy group gained 1.7 kilograms of muscle.

• The small-dose whey group gained 0.3 kilogram of muscle.


The one drawback to whey protein is that a lot of people can’t tolerate it, or they become intolerant over time, meaning they need to rotate their amino acid source.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on the opposite page.   IM


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