Sunday, March 8, 2015

Russian Bear Routine Revisited

One of my personal favorite routines in the "Russian Bear Routine" from Pavel's Power to the People. I've used it in a could different ways and periodized it as well.

I'm planning out a training cycle using the base protocol for the big lifts and adding supplementary work in. The basic scheme is a top set of 5 reps (heavy but a PR and not to failure), then a set of 5 with 90% of that weight, and as many sets as you can do with good form for 5 reps. Some days you may get 10 (or more!), some days maybe 5 or 6. Once your form starts to go, call it a day. I like this because it's self regulating and you can get a lot of volume done as well.

Example:

Back Squat:
315 lbs x 5 reps (rest 5 minutes)
283.5* lbs x 5 reps (rest 2 minutes)
252* lbs x 5 reps for as many sets as you can maintain form (rest 1 minute between sets)

*If the percentages make numbers like that, just round up or down depending on the next closest multiple of 5, so 285 lbs and 255 lbs.

I have taken this a step further and implemented some periodization, working to a training block with sets of 5, then sets of 3 with a final week where you push a PR. I usually work two exercises per day with the Russian Bear protocol, then add appropriate accessory work.

There's different ways to implement the protocol, all dependent on how often you want to work. I've squatted twice per week using the Russian Bear, one day being the protocol and other either squats or front squats for speed and low volume. I wouldn't deadlift more than once per week due to the volume. Power cleans, snatches, swings, or anything of that nature would be fine. I have actually used power cleans, keeping the reps to three.

Here's a good basic outline for the routine (I prefer some assistance work so that could be added as well):
Elite FTS: Russian Bear Routine

Here's a really good variation of the routine from Evolve Lab:

Russian Bear Program: Foolproof Path to Explosive Strength and Muscle Gain


An issue that I have come across while researching the routine was injuries. There's a lot of volume and the frequency is quite high using mostly compound lifts (deadlifts, squats, presses, etc). There's a few reasons for this, but one big reason I see is the lack of assistance ("bodybuilding") work. This is common for a lot of the Modern Lifting Bro routines. 

This is the reason I prefer to add assistance and "bodybuilding" work. For a long time, I never did much assistance work, and 90% of what I did was some sort of squatting, pulling, pressing or cleans and snatches. And I paid for it. Assistance work is essential for strengthening weaknesses, fixing imbalances and helping with recovery. If you've ever seen Pumping Iron, you know the scene where Arnold talks about the pump and coming:



I will do a whole post about assistance and pump work and why it's important, especially with a routine like this, but do not be afraid to add curls, calf raises, cable movements or any other lifts of your choice for sets of 8-15. Don't go overboard as the volume is already high, but 3 sets of 8-15 reps with a moderate weight is a good range. 

Feel free to post results or experience with the routine! 




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