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Author : Pavel Tsatsouline | Reviewer: Jonathan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power To The People : Russian Strength Training Secrets

 

Dinosaur Training author, Brook Kubik, wrote (in Hardgainer mag issue 44).."what do you do if you only have a barbell? - no stands, rack or bench?" He said you deadlift and press. "Don't you think you'd be big and strong all over if you could standing press big poundages and deadlift two or three times as much?"

Tsatsouline takes this philosophy and runs with it in Power To The People.

Tale of the Tape: PTTP is about 125 pages, including a few ads for his other books.

What's the book about?

  • Maximum strength using minimum exercise and training time
  • Using bare minimum equipment (a Barbell)
  • Very few sets & reps
  • Never train to failure
  • Flexible training cycles
  • Whilst it mainly concentrates on strength rather than size, Pavel does include his "Russian Bear" routine

Tsatsouline's book revolves around just 2 exercises, done for just 2 'work sets' each with just 5 reps in each set. Read that again. Yes, just 2 exercises and 2 sets of 5 reps! Your entire workout is done with 20 reps.

The first exercise is the the deadlift. Pavel much prefers it to the squat - although you wonder if it's because Pavel looks more like a (albeit a bit skinny) deadlifter than a natural squatter. That the deadlift is one of the most productive exercises you can do with a barbell is nothing new. So from that point of view, Power to the People is a bit seen-it-done-it.

His second exercise is the Side Press. - the old time strongman lift. Basically you hike a barbell overhead with one hand. Yes that's right, just one hand. Arthur Saxon could hoist over 300lbs that way and Pavel reason's that if you can get strong in that, then that's good enough.

I do have slight reservations about using a one arm barbell press as the mainstay of the book. Firstly the torque created by a centrally held barbell makes balance tough and increases the risk of injury. I wonder if just substituting it for say a regular two handed, barbell clean and press would mean you shifted a lot more weight in a safer manner, which in turn would stimulate more overall strength. Anyway, the PTTP principals can be applied to any exercise, so the choice is yours.

Good Stuff:

  • Pavel thinks machines are crap - yey!
  • Pavel champion's the 'big exercises' - multi-joint 'whole-body' exercises
  • You only need a barbell
  • You don't need to train for hours (ten mins a day should do it)
  • Minimum fatigue! Yep, you read that right.
  • Good explanation of training cycles
  • Good instruction on deadlifting and side press technique.
  • Never trains to failure - echoing the way Olympic lifters train + similarities to John McKean and John Christy's writings.
  • No gloves, no belts, no mirrors and no fancy training shoes.
  • Easy to read - ecletic use of quotes from Mark Twain to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Not-so-Good Stuff:

  • The writing is a bit cheesy. He hams up the "Evil Russian" bit a lot.
  • Actually it's a bit more than cheesy, it often comes over like those 3 page "Finish a Fight in 3 Seconds using Secret Russia Special Ops techques" adverts. eg. "Build Massive Muscles with a classified Soviet Special Forces Workout" - classfied? huh?
  • You need to buy a barbell or have daily access to one.
  • Doesn't fully explain some of his theories, instead he asks you to trust him and says, "The Party is always right". Highly frustrating.
  • There's not that much in it. 2 main exercises - one of which, the deadlift is well documented by every weight training author out there.
  • Could have been a bigger book, 125 pages isn't much for the money - see above.
  • Or it could have been a MUCH smaller, much cheaper book. Lots of padding.
  • Pavel cherry-picks quotes from other Strength Writers that agree with his theories, yet the methods those writers employ are totally different to PTTP. For example, he quotes Dr Ken Leistner several times to support PTTP, yet at the same time, trashes the HIT method that Dr Ken avocates. Same with Ken Hutchins and Super Slow. And he quotes Stuart McRobert in his "Power to the People Manifesto" - even though he is against the training method that McRobert promotes. Odd.
  • The 2 page chapter on Power Stretching is just an ad for another book of his.
  • Ad for the $159! 'Paveliser' Ab machine - er, I thought Tsatsouline was against isolation exercises and the PTTP was supposed to be a cheap, low tech philosophy? Or do we just trust the Party again?

 

Pavel's methods have certain similarities to the way Olympic lifters train - ie. Very low reps, never to failure, long rests between sets, frequent training (if you follow Pavel, you'll know he's up for training 2-3 times a day). It was also very similar to John McKean method of 'Single-ing" (McKean is a champion weightlifter in Old-Style lifts, like the Hip lift - he also trained his phenomenally strong son).

PTTP also shares similarities to John Christy & Stuart McRobert's work to a certain extent - ie. abbreviated routines to avoid overtraining. His "Russian Bear" routine is very similar to the German Volume Training (GVT) that was trendy a few years ago - so in theory it should work - although some actual evidence of succesful PTTP trainees is scant.

But does it work?

Yeah. Sort of. I tried it after a very long layoff and within 8 weeks moved my deadlift from 80kgs to 200kgs. Training was novel and fun. Doing only 4 work sets lets you fit a workout in pretty much anytime day or night. However my own gain was a strength regain - ie back to previous levels of strength. After that I needed to cut down on frequency - Deadlifting once a week was better. Which brought me back to a McRobert style of training. However, your recovery abilities may be better, so it's worth a shot.

In theory it works, but I wonder if the 2 exercise, 20 minute a day regime is tailored as a 'quick fix' sales pitch than actually the most effective way to train given the same amount of time per week.

Conclusion

Despite reservations, I did enjoy this book. Well worth getting if you have an interest in strength training. It's particularly good if you're looking for a way to train with minimal equipment.

It's cool to be able to fit in a quick workout at anytime of the day - eg. you can get one in whilst waiting for the kettle to boil for a cuppa - and doing only 2 exercises for 2 sets is a refreshing change. Because you never train to failure, the routine doesn't leave you wiped out, like, say a HIT routine.

But I don't think I could recommend it to a skinny 'hardgainer' looking to gain strength and mass. The McRobert Brawn series of books would be much better for that, as I know it works. However, if you've got a few years of weightlifting under your belt then it's well worth a blast - and you could use the same methods to train Olympic style exercises like the Push Press, Overhead Squat, Power Clean etc.

 


Where to buy : From Amazon.co.uk

  • Power to the People by Tsatsouline - get strong on only 2 exercises/sets a day. Buy it *
  • Russian Kettlebell Challenge by Tsatsouline - build 'real-world' strength. Buy it

If Amazon.co.uk don't have it in stock - they definiately have it at Amazon.com - here's the link.


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