Russian Strength Training Techniques to Boost Your Routine

Russian strength training methods have a long history of producing great results. For many years Russia have produced great weightlifters, wrestlers, and strongmen.

Weight training is one of the best methods of strength training! If you want to start weight training safely and effectively, with the best info, diet, and routines, check out the 5 Day Beginner Weight Training Course!

So, here's how you can get a piece of some of that amazing russian strength.


Kettlebells are both Russian and a popular new method of working out. Personally, I think they are awesome!

Basically a cannonball with a handle, these guys provide an excellent way of getting stronger and building endurance. Kettlebell swings are especially useful for leg strength and explosive hip action.

Check out the link above for tons of information about kettlebells. Try them out; you will probably find tons of uses for this piece of Russian strength training equipment.

Pavel Tsatsouline popularized these in the U.S. and they are just starting to become mainstream. Many people are using them these days, from cross-fit enthusiasts to martial artists.

Pavel has also written a lot about various methods of Russian strength training using standard weights and bodyweight exercises as well. The following two tips are from his book The Naked Warrior, detailing effective methods for body weight strength training.

Grease The Groove

This is a technique that relies on your treating building strength as a skill. It's also easy to work into your daily routine.

It's easiest to explain as an example. And one example would be... hanging a pull-up bar in the doorway to your bathroom and, whenever you go through that doorway, do as many pull-ups as you can.

Not to death/exhaustion, but just till you're getting fatigued and your form starts to fail. For example, you might do 5 pull-ups every time you go throughout he doorway for 2 weeks.

And then up it to 6, which will be easy after 2 weeks of 5 pull-ups.

And then 7 a couple of weeks later.

You get the idea. You can also do push-ups whenever you go through the doorway, or just at intervals throughout the day.

The idea is to work the exercise into your daily routine. Make it automatic, make it frequent, don't work yourself to exhaustion, and you will gradually (and naturally) build strength.

Tension as Strength

This is another method that helps beginners increase their strength. Basically, you fill your entire body with tension.

When you first do push-ups or squats, there are parts of their body that are not tight. And these are gaps in your kinetic chain, draining energy from the movement. You wobble all over the place.

'Irradiation' is the scientific name for this principle. When one muscle group is firing, especially if it's a large one, it causes other muscle groups to fire more too.

An example of this would be shaking someone's hand. When you only squeeze their hand with yours your grip is tight, but if you tense you glutes (butt muscles) when squeezing with your hand then your grip will be much more powerful.

Basically, keep your body tight when doing any exercise. This will assure that your muscles are functioning at their peak strength.

Modern Training Methods

Many Russian strength training methods have become mainstream. One example is periodization.

Russian strength training has given birth to many aspects of modern strength training that we take for granted. Leonid Matveyev is one such person to 'change the game', as it were, for strength training.

In 1965, Matveyev gave questionnaires to Russian athletes who had competed in the 1952 Olympic games and asked them to detail their training routines. He then published his findings from these, and was the first to introduce the idea of 'periodization' to a wide audience.1, 2


The Russians also came up with the nomenclature used to describe periodization. They referred to yearly plans as macrocycles, and each 4 - 8 week period in there as a mesocycle.3

Periodization is a method of training where you do workout plans with differences in specificity, intensity, and volume of weight and lifts to a peak, then start another periodization cycle.4 Basically, it means that you change the exercises and the makeup of your workout routine when you stop getting fast results, after about 4 - 8 weeks usually.

Matveyev's original scheme began with the athlete doing a large volume of work (repetitions) at a relatively low intensity (weight). You then gradually taper down to a low amount of work at a high intensity. Then you take alight step back down the weight and work up again.

There are tons of different variations on that cycle these days, if that original one doesn't work for you. More than I can possibly go into here!


At it's core, Russian strength training embodies a hardcore mindset that many people lack these days. A win-at-any-costs drive and passion.

I was fortunate to talk to a friend from a Russian family who used to be a competitive climber and Taekwondo practitioner. Hearing her talk about the intensity of her training and dedication gave me goosebumps!

Historically (and today) Russia venerated strength and produced many champion strongmen and wrestlers. Alexander Zass, a famous strongman from the turn of the 19th - 20th centuries, was one of the greats. Known as The Amazing Sampson, he wow-ed crowds carried a grand piano, it's player, and a dancer on top of the piano across the stage as the finale of his strongman act.5

You don't build that kind of strength without the burning drive and mindset to get that strong - whatever the cost!

And Marketing…

This is the shadier side of the modern use of 'Russian strength training' as a brand. And not normally very accurate.

There are indeed some Russian strength training 'secrets', or at least training methods that are not widely known. But many times this is just a clever marketing ploy to get you to buy the...

NEW & IMPROVED SERET RUSSIAN STRENGTH TRAINING TIPS PACKAGE, for only 3 payments of 19.99 plus shipping and handling. And you get this sexy set of steak knives ;-)

And sometimes they're not even 'Russian' methods! Take anything that uses the Russian-ness of its methods with a grain of salt.

Right Now...

Now you should have an idea of what constitutes Russian strength training. If not, re-read this page. Try some of the techniques listed above, and see if kettlebells are for you.

And train damn hard!!!

Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!

• Click here to learn more about the other kinds of Strength Training Routine!


• Click here to leave 'Russian Strength Training Techniques to Boost Your Routine' & go back to the Complete Strength Training Home-page!

Russian Strength Training Techniques to Boost Your Routine

1. Bompa, Tudor, and G. Gregory Haff. 2009. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Leeds [etc.]: Human Kinetics. Pp. 126.
2. Baechle, Thomas R., and Roger W. Earle. 2008. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. Pp. 508.
3. Bompa. Pp. 239.
4. Baechle. Pp. 508.
5. Riordan, James. 1977. Sport in Soviet society: development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR. Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 17.

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