The Russian Workout: Secrets of the Soviets

The Russian Workout: Secrets of the Soviets

Most of today’s top strength coaches were greatly influenced by the training methods that came out of the former U.S.S.R. After all, during its controversial reign (from 1917 to 1991), the Soviet Union owned the individual sports stage, pulling in countless world titles and claiming the most gold medals in seven out of nine Olympics. Once the Iron Curtain came down, Soviet training science migrated west. Your goal may not be to clean and press a mobile home, but if you’re looking to build muscle fast, you’ll benefit from the workout we created with those secrets.

How It Works:

Russian methods were amazingly simple yet brutally effective. In our variation, you’re performing only three exercises. Between reps on each exercise, pause for a three count, then lift. This pause will train you to keep tight form—no bouncing the bar off your chest on the bench press. Because your body isn’t used to holding those isometric contractions for prolonged periods, you should also see fast growth. The sets and reps use the Russian “ladder” method—a great way to recruit muscle fibers without
the risk of burnout.


Frequency: Perform twice per week, resting two days between sessions.

Time Needed: 60 minutes

Do It:

Estimate your 10-rep max (the heaviest weight you can lift for 10 reps) for the bench press, front squat, and tug-of-war row. On your first set, perform one rep, then rest three to five minutes. Perform two reps, rest, then do three reps. Repeat twice more (that’s three ladders). Use the same load on every set. Perform all the ladders for one exercise before moving on to the next. In the “down” position of the bench press and squat, pause for three seconds, holding your breath, and then lift. Do the same in the second position on the tug-of-war row, when your back is contracting hard. Each workout, add five pounds to each exercise. Continue every week until you can no longer add weight. At that point, reduce pauses to one second—this should extend the effectiveness.

The Exercises:

Exercise 1 Exercise 2 Exercise 3

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