The Russian Philosophy of Training
This is taken from Stuart McGill’s book “Ultimate Back and Fitness and Performance”. I am referencing the points he made and applying them to the sport of Powerlifting. Work Mr McGill used was by Siff (2002), Yessis (1987) and Matveyev (1981).
The 8 Principles
1/ The Principle of Awareness: The athlete must complete formal education to understand their own mind and body from several perspectives. These include basic function of the organ system, physiology, biomechanics, psychology etc all of which the athlete utilizes in an attempt to optimally control and gauge work.
So applying this to Powerlifting is really easy. Look at the human body understand what it does through anatomy/physiology textbooks then look at what movements Powerlifters do. From looking at the movements read up on human biomechanics/motor patterns. Once there is some form of education then athletes can look at periodization/specific training programmes for their sport. This added knowledge will greatly improve your own understanding of training and performance goals.
I am not expecting people to go and start doing a degree you can find this information in your local library or on the internet. When been prescribed a training programme with sets/reps/rest periods/tempo/volume/intensities etc question your coach/coaches. Understand why you are doing this, if you know why it makes you a better lifter you’re your lifting experience will be more enjoyable
2/ The Principle of All Round Development: Effort is directed towards developing a wide variety of qualities including physical strength, speed, coordination, and endurance together with will-power, mental toughness, group influence and exemplary moral conduct – to name a few.
For Powerlifting we can’t just focus on 1RM all the time we need to focus on other components of fitness. We have to look at flexibility/mobility to a degree not be hypermobile/hyper flexible as they aren’t the priority. We need to have enough range to reach the movement requirements for the lifts but any more range can be questioned “do we really need to be spending this amount of time doing stretching where I can spend more time working on XY or Z?”
The 4 main qualities for any all-round strength athlete said by Chad Smith of Juggernaut training Systems;
Maximal Strength: One rep maximum (one repetition maximum or 1RM) in weight training is the maximum amount of force that can be generated in one maximal contraction
Explosive Strength: is characterizes by the athlete’s ability to display powerful efforts in the shortest amount of time. Explosive strength is determined by the relation of Fmax / tmax. (Defined by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky)
Work Capacity: the general ability of the body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body. (Defined by Mel Siff)
Special Strength: This is a lengthy one to explain;
Special strength does not always mean transfer. Special strength exercises are just a tool to increase performance. The theory is that the more specific the exercises, the more than gains in them will transfer to your sport. In most cases this is true. But in some cases it is not. Beginners, for example, can get great transfer from more general exercises. The more varied or basic the movements in the sport, the more this can also be the case. And even putting the same exercise in various programs can create different results. Using special strength exercises optimally in a well-designed training plan will create the most transfer. This was written by Martin Bingisser of Juggernaut Training System’s.
(video and article linked in references)
These 4 qualities what Powerlifters should be aiming to train as they will help get the most bang for your buck so to speak. It will give you your biggest return.
3/ The Principle of Consecutiveness: This principle is operationalized at two levels. The first recognizes the systematic increments in challenge (of all variables noted in the previous principle) as the training program progresses. The second level recognizes the pacing within a training session to ramp up intensity and correspondingly ramp down intensity at the conclusion.
Certainly these qualitative descriptions are supported by science, showing the beneficial biomechanical consequences of this regimen. In addition, injury prevention approaches utilize this principle to reduce tissue stress. During static postures, tissues at the joint interface accumulate micro deformations. A well designed warm up slowly introduces motion as these tissues regain their “normal” confirmation, preventing destructive stress concentrations.
1st Level: Simple translation it is about understanding and recognising the progressive overload through these small increments (these “overloads” are of the previous principles).
2nd Level: Is do with pacing yourself through a session. Rather slow down a warm up and a session than speed it up as from experience rushing any exercise results in injury. Take many warm up sets you feel you need to for the squat, bench or deadlift.
4/ The Principle of Repetition: This is based on Pavlov’s three stage theory for development of conditioned reflexes. The first stage requires the athlete to understand what must be learned; the athlete directs full concentration on the repeated performance, perfecting the motor and skill ability. The final stage is characterized by the athlete no longer needing to concentrate on the task since the task is automatic. Perfect practice technique together with repletion, rest and recovery are vital for optimizing this principle.
Practicing makes you better only if what you are practicing is what you are required to do.
Relating back to the earlier principles athletes have to understand what they must do to improve. Learn new training methods/cues/training styles etc to push their performance. Once they have been educated and understand what they need to do they will do the necessary movements/work to develop a particular movement or skill. This can be a CNS adaption (3 weeks) or a muscular adaption (6 weeks or more). Once the task has been done for a long period of time it becomes automatic. Elite Powerlifters are not focusing on the skill of the squat they are focusing on recovery, training knowledge as they know everything about the movement.
5/ The Principle of Visualisation: The athlete must be able to visualise the movement at many levels. They must be familiar with kinematic patterns at different joints, in motor patterns in different areas in the body. One technique that we employ to optimize this principle is to have the athlete draw the motion and motor patterns of the task following his/her analysis of the components. This obviously is an academic session away from the competition arena. We are often made aware of major misperceptions or misunderstandings on the part of the athlete through this principle. It can be extremely valuable for progressing to optimal performance.
Powerlifters can do this by drawing out their movements for each lift (squat bench and deadlift) either on a blank sheet of paper of writing out the movement as a form of text. This can be used a mental imagery cue before they go and lift.
Hands close squeeze upper back together into the bar
The weight is light and part of me
Set feet for unracking brace core/expand it into the belt
The weight is light I have lifted this in training
And so on until you get to the point where you have completed the lift.
6/ The Principle of Specialization: Two levels of specialized training are recognised as vital. The first is usually well incorporated in various specificity training principles of the physical variables, while the second is not as well recognized and practiced – namely the practice of elements that are experienced only in competition. This may include distractions of audiences or other athletes, or challenges from unpredicted weather for example.
Specificity of training we all know, to train for powerlifting you must train like a powerlifter and not an Olympic weightlifter.
But how specific should one go? Should we try to replicate the competition as much a possible? I think so. We should try and recreate “mini comps” in training cycles to reinforce what you will experience an actually meet. Such as timed warm ups, more people watching you train. This can also bring in an effect known as the “Hawthorn Effect” where ones performance will improve when significant others are watching.
7/ The Principle of Individualisation: Every athlete is an individual from many perspectives. This implies that no single training regimen will suit all in a sport or all members of a particular team.
This is stating that no two people will have the same physioligcal and psychological response to the same exercise intervention.
e.g. if myself and someone whom was of the same family/same age/same gender/same height, weight/strength etc and we ran the same programme such as 5/3/1, Cube, Starting Strength, Texas, Westside whatever.
We would get different results as everyone’s body will respond differently to stress.
8/ The Principle of Structured Training: This principle operates at two levels. The first level pertains to the design of a single workout. The session typically begins with a warm up with specific effort directed to tissue joint and physiological systems warm-up and for creating conditions for skill learning. The main component of the workout typically begins with activity to perfect technical and tactical skill, and then progresses to speed and agility training, then to strength training, and finally to endurance training. This is followed by a concluding phase to enhance eventual recovery and enhance retention of motor skills.
The second level of this principle deals once again with progression from one session to the next. Athletes cannot maintain peak performance levels. If they truly peak, they will breakdown the person. Periodization consists of planned cycles of training that may incorporate many mini-cycles within the larger cycles. Obviously, this varies widely between sports and events.
We can look at these 2 levels for structured training in the following ways;
Training Session: What you are training on the day. Today’s training is quads and glutes orientated and will cover back squats, front squats, GHR etc.
Microcycle: A microcycle is typically a week because of the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the weekly calendar. Each microcycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macrocycle.
A micro-cycle is also defined as a number of training sessions, built around a given combination of acute program variables, which include progression as well as alternating effort (heavy vs. light days)..
Mesocycle: A mesocycle represents a phase of training with a duration of between 2 – 6 weeks or microcycles, but this can depend on the sporting discipline. A mesocycle can also be defined as a number of continuous weeks where the training program emphasize the same type of physical adaptations, for example muscle mass and anaerobic capacity. The goal of the planner is to fit the mesocycles into the overall plan timeline-wise to make each mesocycle end on one of the phases and then to determine the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given mesocycle falls.
Macrocycle: A macrocycle refers to an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal competition of the year. There are three phases in the macrocycle: preparation, competitive, and transition.
– Preparatory Phase: This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases. And the specific preparation is the shortest.
– Competitive Phase: This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.
– Transition Phase: This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks (maybe longer) but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions and may be sports specific. It allows the body to fully regenerate so that it is prepared for the next discipline
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AUTHOR – Andrew Richardson
Mcgill, S. (2009). “Ultimate Back and Fitness and Performance”. 4th Edition. Wabuno, Backfitpro Inc.
Marchese, R; Hill, A. (2011). “The essential guide to fitness: for the fitness instructor”. Sydney, NSW: Pearson Australia. p. 135.
Matveyev, L., (1981) Fundamentals of Sports Training, Progress Publ. Moscow (English)
Siff, M., (2002) Supertaining, 6th editon, Supertraining Institute, Denver.
Yessis, M., (1987) Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness and Training, Arbor House.