The Simple and Incredibly Effective Russian Squat Program


This month marks 40 years since one of the controversial Olympic Video games of all time, but the legacy of Montreal 1976 nonetheless burns shiny. These had been the Olympics through which 25 African nations boycotted the occasion – in protest at New Zealand’s rugby tour of South Africa through the apartheid period. The place Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn) shattered world data to assert decathlon gold. And the place Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored the primary ever excellent 10 – after which six extra – in her pursuit of a gold medal trio, aged simply 14.

However none of those sporting Hallmark moments have a foot within the current (excluding Jenner, maybe, who’s seldom absent from the MailOnline’s sidebar). As a substitute it’s the Soviet Union weightlifting staff – that snaffled seven of the 9 accessible golds – and, extra particularly, their deeply coveted scripture: the 1976 USSR Weightlifting Yearbook.

4 many years on, this elusive textual content is lengthy out of print, although its teachings cross from health club to health club like a photocopied Masonic handshake. The content material is easy – a six-week plan of barbell squats thrice per week, with a view to upping your one rep max (1RM, or the utmost you’ll be able to carry if you happen to solely need to do it as soon as) – but, to its weights room disciples, the Russian Squat Routine is a gym-floor Holy Bible.

However in a contemporary health period that embraces CrossFit, HIIT and dynamic body weight exercises, can a middle-aged, monotonous, suitably Soviet prescription of heavy steel nonetheless maintain weight? Or has health club bro and hipster tradition collided to falsely trumpet a long-outdated development? In the event you blew the mud out of your hip flexors, you simply may discover out.

Barbell squats are the only only train to pack muscle to your body.

In a New York Instances essay bearing the headline “What’s The Greatest Train?”, Professor Stuart Phillips nominated the squat, branding it “very potent” in combating the results of sarcopenia – in any other case often known as the breakdown of muscle mass that comes with ageing. So that is one thing each man must be contemplating.

Positive aspects aren’t restricted to maintaining the Reaper at bay, both. Typically dismissed as a mere leg day staple, loading bumper plates onto a bar, getting low and driving upwards engages a laundry checklist of higher physique elements – your shoulders, again and abs amongst them. It’s additionally the only motion to interact your whole posterior chain (comprising of the glutes, hamstrings, abductors and decrease again) and quads concurrently.

For the gym-shy, time-starved and/or those that need their session simmered right down to a single transfer, think about squatting as your gym-based cheat code.

“Squatting is the kale of exercises – it’s a superfood,” claims Ben Rowe, a merchandising machine-sized bodybuilder and lead coach at Staff Benbo. “Because it’s a compound motion, squats will help in constructing muscle in your whole physique. It’s confirmed that your physique triggers a rise in development hormone and testosterone, whereas day-to-day actions like climbing stairs or bringing within the meals store grow to be a breeze – as squatting improves stability, mobility, energy and joint stability.”

The Russian Squat Routine is the gold commonplace for taking lifters to the following stage.

It’s no nonsense and 0 frills – however with a four-decade-strong file for outcomes (together with these shiny Montreal medals). With three classes evenly spaced all through every week, the primary 9 progressively up the amount whereas sustaining 80% of your one rep max. The next 9 classes see quantity diminished, forward of a climactic ultimate day in week six, the place your new 1RM is calculated. The programme guarantees a 5% 1RM enhance, colossal for sturdy squatters whose progress may need plateaued; the distinction between gold-and-champers or bronze-and-a-crying-fit at elite stage.

Quite a few rivals have since emerged, together with the Smolov Programme (a torturous routine that spans 13 weeks of super-heavy squats); Westside Barbell Conjugate Technique (two squat days per week – the primary most effort, the second dynamic squatting and deadlifting) and 5/3/1 (one session of back and front squats per week, for 4 weeks, of various effort).

However there’s a purpose we’re nonetheless discussing the Soviet programme in 2016 and never, say, that of the East German Olympic staff. And never simply because the latter fell foul to a state-sponsored doping scandal. Whereas a cynic may additionally stage a wholesome dose of suspicion on the Soviets – notably given Russia’s present suspension from Rio – you solely want whisper “Russian Squat Routine” within the weights room at your nearest health club to see how extremely it’s nonetheless regarded immediately.

To correctly check the Soviet strategy, I subjected myself to the exhausting programme.

I’m a reasonably energetic gym-goer of common health, so somebody identical to you, maybe.

Upon arrival at Health First Liverpool Road on day one, I discover an ally in Matt Smith (no, not that one. Or that one). A towering, pleasant PT of 28, Smith combines northern allure together with his personal inspirational again story – simply three years in the past he was 11st heavier with a 54in waist.

“It’s pretty easy,” Smith says of the Russian Squat Routine. “I feel the explanation it’s so common is as a result of it’s lasted 40 years. Weightlifting could be fairly faddy, protocols come and go, and issues get picked up and handed round. However observe this to the letter and it really works.”

As my gentle palms grow to be carefully acquainted with the rack’s chilly metal, the early shock will not be the monotony that comes with performing the identical train advert infinitum; there’s loads of accent work, from foam-rolling to separate squats and calf raises. Or the load: as soon as a 1RM is calculated then, by design, every squat is inside your capabilities. It’s kind. I’d at all times presumed my straight again and protruding bottom gave ample safety to my backbone whereas squatting, however all through week one Smith meticulously readjusts my place.

Instructions are provided on a loop (“Arse underneath!” “Chin down, chest up!”) till it turns into a reflex. Had I tried the programme solo, I’ll have carried out 300 squats with chiropractor-baiting grace or, extra doubtless, a handful earlier than struggling an harm. “It’s undoubtedly a two-player recreation,” confirms Smith. “You want somebody that will help you with the bodily monitoring side.”

Because the programme progresses, the one disadvantage I expertise comes from consecutive coaching days depleting my power. The plan itself advocates a day’s relaxation between classes – so it can not shoulder an excessive amount of blame – nonetheless the Soviet Union circa 1976 clearly didn’t anticipate the every day diary of a 21st-century male. That stated, bunching up classes doesn’t derail progress, and is put into context by Smith. “Hashtag: life,” he muses.

Hurtling towards the climactic ultimate session, I really feel I’ve succeeded. From a beginning weight of 12.5st, I’ve shed practically 4.5lb of fats, whereas gaining 4.7in on my thighs and 1.2in on my biceps. I’m down 2.7in on my waist, and likewise a belt notch.

Regardless of the rigorous, repetitive type, I discover myself relishing the programme – even eager for the squat rack on relaxation days, the place beforehand I may need prevented it. In addition to, there are few issues fairly so nourishing as hauling a bit of steel that weighs greater than you do.

Six weeks in, my 1RM skyrocketed from 90 to 112.5kg.

That’s 25% development, maths followers. Say what you want in regards to the since-dissolved Soviet Union, its effectivity on this regime can’t be dismissed.

Following my decisive squat – a sweaty, shaky-legged affair that left me prostrate, gasping for breath and feeling like a deflated social gathering balloon – Smith expressed a proud sense of bewilderment that, “You had been solely alleged to get to 94.5.”

As he clutched my arm and eased me gently on to my Elvis Presley-cum-Bambi legs, he laid down the gauntlet for one ultimate problem. “Discover out what animal weighs 112.5kg,” he provides, grinning. “As a result of that’s what you simply squatted.”

So, tackle the Russian Squat Programme and also you too might develop sturdy sufficient to carry a harbour seal, striped dolphin or, fittingly, Eurasian brown bear cub. They’re large, and terrifying, and mostly present in Russia.

For more information on Matt Smith or to guide private coaching classes, go to With due to Health First Liverpool Road: