The Russian Approach to Size and Strength

The following template is inspired from the work of the late Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky, who was a senior track and field coach for the Soviet national team for many years, a pioneer of the shock method of training (known as plyometrics), and an innovator in the area of planning and training periodization.


Method #1

4 sets x 10 reps @ 4-0-2-0 tempo, 1 minute rest
Decrease the load by 5% each set.

Method #2

3 x 10-12 @ 4-0-2-0, 2 mins.

Method #3

5 x 8-10 @ 4-0-2-0, 2 mins.

Method #4

8 x 6-8 @ 4-0-2-0, 3 mins.
Use partner assistance if necessary on last repetition of a set.

Method #5

2 x AMRAP + 2FR @ 4-0-2-0, 3 mins.
AMRAP – As Many Reps As Possible
FR – Forced Reps
Partner assistance during the concentric action for 2 additional reps.


Method #1

4 x 4-6 @ 3-2-X-0, 4 mins.

Method #2

6 x 2-3 @ 3-2-X-0, 4 mins.

Method #3

8 x 12,10,7,5,12,10,7,5 @ 3-2-X-0, 4 mins.

Method #4

9 x 10,5,2,10,5,2,10,5,2 @ 3-2-X-0, 4 mins.

Method #5

10 x 5-6 @ 3-2-X-0, 4 mins.


Method #1

4x 2-3 @ 5-0-X-0, 5 mins.

Method #2

6 x 3,2,1,1,1,1 @ 5-0-X-0, 5 mins.
Start at 90%1RM and increase load 2-4% each set.

Method #3

3x 4-5 @ 5-0-X-0, 5 mins.
Use 10-30% greater than your 1RM and perform eccentric training.
The load is raised to the initial position with help of partners.

Method #4

6x 1-3 @ 5-0-X-0, 5 mins.
Use 20-40% greater than your 1RM and perform eccentric training gradually increasing the weight each set.
Use eccentric hooks (aka weight releasers) – bar weight should equal 70-80% 1RM.


Use an undulatory, or wave-like, sequence of intensity among programs in the following manner:

Program #1 – Maximum Size Method #1
Program #2 – Size & Strength Method #1
Program #3 – Maximum Strength Method #1
Program #4 – Maximum Size Method #2
Program #5 – Size & Strength Method #2
Program #6 – Maximum Strength Method #2
Program #7 – Maximum Size Method #3
Program #8 – Size & Strength Method #3
Program #9 – Maximum Strength Method #3
Program #10 – Maximum Size Method #4
Program #11 – Size & Strength Method #4
Program #12 – Maximum Strength Method #4
Program #13 – Maximum Size Method #5
Program #14 – Size & Strength Method #5

This plan presents five gradually increasing waves of intensity. By the end of the final program, the athlete will peak. Personal records will be set at this point.

The duration of each program is determined by frequency and rate of adaptation.


To determine the ideal frequency, pick which scenario describes you best:

The 3 In 5 Approach: Day 1 — Day 2 — Off — Day 3 — Off
Use this approach if you’re in your late teens or early twenties, still going to school, get plenty of sleep, get plenty of sex, eat right for the most part, and live in your parents’ home.

The 3 In 6 Approach: Day 1 — Off — Day 2 — Off — Day 3 — Off
Use this approach if you’re in your thirties, have a family, work full-time, try to get eight hours of sleep but it’s more like six on most nights, skip breakfast every once and awhile but try for four meals a day, and get sex once a week if you’re really lucky, but you’ve got to pull tooth and nail for it.

The 3 In 7 Approach: Day 1 — Off — Day 2 — Off — Day 3 — Off — Off
Use this approach if you’re in your mid-forties and beyond, you run your own business, you’re lucky to make it home for dinner most nights, you live off two or three meals a day with plenty of coffee to keep you going, you can barely afford three hours a week to train, your son wants a car even though his grades suck, your daughter is planning to wed a guy she met last week, your wife couldn’t be any bitchier if she tried, and sex is only something you see on cable.


To determine the duration of a program, one must make progress each workout: either a 1-2% increase in load or a 1-2 rep increase with the same load as the previous workout. When you fail to progress in this manner, it’s time to change the program.


Day 1 – Upper Body (Vertical Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)
Day 2 – Lower Body (Quad & Hip Dominant, Trunk/Hip Flexion & Extension)
Day 3 – Upper Body (Horizontal Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)


Perform no more than four exercises per workout, and many times just two (multi-joint) exercises are all you need particularly during a maximum strength phase. Workouts should last no longer than an hour. By alternating between antagonistic movements, rest intervals can be cut in half allowing double the work to be conducted in that time frame.

Choose from the following pool of exercises:

Vertical Push Movements: mid-incline close-grip barbell press, mid-incline mid-grip barbell press, mid-incline pronated-grip dumbbell press, mid-incline neutral-grip dumbbell press, high-incline close-grip barbell press, high-incline mid-grip barbell press, high-incline pronated-grip dumbbell press, high-incline neutral-grip dumbbell press, seated close-grip barbell press, seated mid-grip barbell press, seated press behind the neck, seated pronated-grip dumbbell press, seated neutral-grip dumbbell press, seated rotary dumbbell press, standing close-grip barbell press, standing mid-grip barbell press, standing one-arm dumbbell press

Vertical Pull Movements: close-grip chin-up, mid-grip chin-up, close-neutral-grip chin-up, mid-neutral-grip chin-up, close-grip pull-up, mid-grip pull-up, wide-grip pull-up, mixed-grip chin-up, sternum chin-up, sternum pull-up, lean-away chin-up, lean-away pull-up, wide hand-to-hand pull-up, wide-grip cable pulldown, mid-grip cable pulldown, mid-reverse-grip cable pulldown, close-reverse-grip cable pulldown, close-neutral-grip cable pulldown, mid-neutral-grip cable pulldown

Horizontal Push Movements: decline close-grip barbell press, decline mid-grip barbell press, decline pronated-grip dumbbell press, decline neutral-grip dumbbell press, decline rotary dumbbell press, flat close-grip barbell press, flat mid-grip barbell press, flat pronated-grip dumbbell press, flat neutral-grip dumbbell press, flat rotary dumbbell press, low-incline close-grip barbell press, low-incline mid-grip barbell press, low-incline pronated-grip dumbbell press, low-incline neutral-grip dumbbell press, low-incline rotary dumbbell press, parallel-bar dip

Horizontal Pull Movements: seated close-neutral-grip cable row, seated mid-neutral-grip cable row, seated mid-grip cable row, seated mid-reverse-grip cable row, seated one-arm cable row, seated one-arm elbow-out cable row, seated one-arm rotary cable row, seated rope row to neck, standing face pulls, one-arm dumbbell row, one-arm elbow-out dumbbell row, one-arm rotary dumbbell row, bent-over barbell row, bent-over reverse-grip ez-bar row

Quad Dominant Movements: back squat, back squat heels-elevated, 1 ¼ back squat, bottom-position back squat, wide-stance back squat, front squat, front squat heels-elevated, 1 ¼ front squat, bottom-position front squat, barbell hack squat, front-foot-elevated back split squat, front-foot-elevated front split squat, front-foot-elevated dumbbell split squat, front-foot-elevated low-pulley split squat, back split squat, front split squat, dumbbell split squat, low-pulley split squat, rear-foot-elevated back split squat, rear-foot-elevated front split squat, rear-foot-elevated dumbbell split squat, rear-foot-elevated low-pulley split squat, back step-up, front step-up, dumbbell step-up, reverse step-up, side step-up, dumbbell lunge, back lunge, front lunge, lunge onto step, lunge off step

Hip Dominant Movements: bent-knee deadlift, bent-knee podium deadlift, snatch-grip deadlift, snatch-grip podium deadlift, t-bar deadlift, t-bar podium deadlift, sumo-style deadlift, barbell jump, sandbag jump, glute-ham raise, cable pull-through

Trunk/Hip Flexion Movements: supine sit-up, supine twisting sit-up, decline sit-up, decline twisting sit-up, Swiss ball crunch, Swiss ball pullover crunch, Sicilian crunch, supine knee-in, low-pulley knee-in, hanging knee-in, supine two-leg lowering, decline two-leg lowering, decline dragon flag, hanging leg raise, Swiss ball side flexion, Swiss ball twisting side flexion, side flexion on back extension machine, standing dumbbell side bend, standing barbell side bend, standing cable side bend, Saxon dumbbell bend, Saxon barbell bend

Trunk/Hip Extension Movements: dumbbell back extension, barbell back extension, Romanian dumbbell deadlift, Romanian barbell deadlift, Romanian cable deadlift, seated good morning, standing good morning, wide-stance good morning, reverse hyperextension

Elbow Flexion Movements: standing barbell curl, standing ez-bar curl, standing cable curl, standing dumbbell curl, seated dumbbell curl, incline dumbbell curl, preacher barbell curl, preacher ez-bar curl, preacher cable curl, preacher dumbbell curl, standing reverse-grip barbell curl, standing reverse-grip ez-bar curl, standing reverse-grip cable curl, standing reverse-grip dumbbell curl, seated reverse-grip dumbbell curl, preacher reverse-grip barbell curl, preacher reverse-grip ez-bar curl, preacher reverse-grip cable curl, preacher reverse-grip dumbbell curl, standing hammer curl, standing midline hammer curl, seated hammer curl, seated midline hammer curl, incline hammer curl, standing rope curl, standing twisting rope curl, lying cable curl, lying reverse-grip cable curl, lying rope curl, lying twisting rope curl, seated Zottman curl, preacher Zottman curl, seated offset-grip curl, seated twisting offset-grip curl, incline offset-grip curl, incline twisting offset-grip curl, concentration dumbbell curl, concentration cable curl, preacher one-arm dumbbell curl, preacher one-arm cable curl

Elbow Extension Movements: decline dumbbell triceps extension, decline dumbbell twisting triceps extension, decline barbell triceps extension, decline ez-bar triceps extension, flat dumbbell triceps extension, flat dumbbell twisting triceps extension, flat barbell triceps extension, flat ez-bar triceps extension, incline dumbbell triceps extension, incline dumbbell twisting triceps extension, incline barbell triceps extension, incline ez-bar triceps extension, seated two-arm dumbbell French press, seated one-arm dumbbell French press, kneeling two-arm cable French press, kneeling one-arm cable French press, seated barbell French press, seated ez-bar French press, standing cable pressdown, standing reverse-grip cable pressdown, standing v-handle pressdown, standing reverse-grip v-handle pressdown, standing rope pressdown, incline rope pressdown, standing one-arm cable pressdown, standing one-arm reverse-grip cable pressdown, standing one-arm rope pressdown

Note: The terms “vertical push”, “vertical pull”, “horizontal push”, “horizontal pull”, “quad dominant”, and “hip dominant” are part of a classification system introduced by Australian strength and conditioning coach, Ian King, in his book Get Buffed! These are multi-joint movements; whereas, trunk/hip flexion & extension and elbow flexion & extension are all single-joint movements. The exercise list provided above is not exhaustive by any means – I’m sure you can think of many exercises that are missing – but it should be more than enough to get you through this plan without repeating an exercise … plus I don’t feel like typing all day long! I have intentionally omitted the Olympic lifts – feel free to include them as a hip dominant movement for your athletes that are competent in performing them correctly!

To give you an example of how to structure your routines, let’s take a look at the first wave of this Russian attack.


Day 1 – Upper Body (Vertical Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)

A) Close-Neutral-Grip Chin-Up
B) Seated Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press
C) Preacher Reverse-Grip Cable Curl
D) Flat EZ-Bar Triceps Extension

Day 2 – Lower Body (Quad & Hip Dominant, Trunk Flexion & Extension)

A) Back Step-Up
B) Low-Pulley Split Squat
C) Romanian Barbell Deadlift
D) Low-Pulley Knee-In

Day 3 – Upper Body (Horizontal Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)

A) Parallel-Bar DIp
B) Bent-Over Reverse-Grip Ez-Bar Row
C) Kneeling Rope French Press
D) Incline Dumbbell Curl

4 sets x 10 reps @ 4-0-2-0 tempo, 1 minute rest
Decrease the load by 5% each set


Day 1 – Upper Body (Vertical Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)

A1) Mid-Grip Chin-Up
A2) Mid-Incline Dumbbell Press
B1) Seated Midline Hammer Curl
B2) Standing Reverse-Grip Cable Pressdown

Day 2 – Lower Body (Quad & Hip Dominant, Trunk Flexion & Extension)

A1) Back Squat
A2) Hanging Leg Raise
B1) Bent-Knee Deadlift
B2) Decline Sit-Up

Day 3 – Upper Body (Horizontal Push & Pull, Elbow Flexion & Extension)

A1) Decline Close-Grip Barbell Press
A2) One-Arm Dumbbell Row
B1) Incline Dumbbell Triceps Extension
B2) Standing Reverse-Grip EZ-Bar Curl

4 sets x 4-6 reps @ 3-2-X-0 tempo, 2 minutes rest
Note: The 2-second pause is taken at the top position for the seated midline hammer curl and at 30 degrees of elbow flexion for the standing reverse-grip ez-bar curl. For the rest of the exercises, the 2-second pause is taken at the bottom position.


Day 1 – Upper Body (Vertical Push & Pull)

A1) Wide-Grip Pull-Up
A2) Standing Mid-Grip Barbell Press
B1) Close-Grip Chin-Up
B2) Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Press

Day 2 – Lower Body (Quad & Hip Dominant, Trunk/Hip Flexion)

A1) Front Squat
A2) Glute-Ham Raise
B1) Snatch-Grip Deadlift
B2) Sicilian Crunch

Day 3 – Upper Body (Horizontal Push & Pull)

A1) Flat Mid-Grip Barbell Press
A2) Seated Mid-Grip Cable Row
B1) Decline Close-Grip Barbell Press
B2) Seated One-Arm Cable Row

4 sets x 2-3 reps @ 5-0-X-0 tempo, 2.5 minutes rest

Some workouts will seem short and you will be tempted to do more. Don’t! There is more than enough stimulus to promote muscle size, strength and power gains necessary for improved athletic performance. And yes, size does matter in sport to a certain extent. “Optimum” hypertrophy is required for “maximum” performance. Muscle protects athletes from injury… if it is obtained in the proper manner. Performing high volumes of slow, limited range isolation movements on machines will not help. In fact, the opposite – it will hinder performance and set you up for injury. Along with energy system work (i.e., interval training) to address work capacity and body composition, as well as regular games and practices, this plan can be used successfully with professional and recreational athletes.


Yuri V. Verkhoshansky, Maximal Strength Training In Speed-Strength Sports

Excerpt from “Special Strength Training – A Practical Manual for Coaches” published in 2006 by Ultimate Athlete Concepts ( and available from the publisher.

Translation by Dr. Michael Yessis. Retrieved from:

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