Strengh Sensei Bookshelf

Power to the People

Pavel Tsatsouline’s insight into the Russian Training System

The strength training methods of Russian athletes have often been ignored by many American coaches because the material available was poorly translated, difficult to understand, and often contained little practical information. Pavel Tsatsouline has tried to “bridge the gap” in helping US coaches understand the value of Russian methods with books he wrote for a general audience. One of these books is “Power to the People.”

Known for his work in popularizing kettlebell training, Tsatsouline is a prolific writer who writes tongue-in-cheek about Russian culture and ingenuity. While referring to his readers as “comrades,” he jokes that NASA sent men into space in Cadillacs, whereas Russia sends them into space in tin cans. Along the way, he displays a remarkable understanding of the history of the Iron Game in the US.

Tsatsouline says he attended the Physical Culture Institute in Minsk, where he earned a degree in physiology and coaching. He was a physical training instructor for the Soviet Special Forces. As an athlete, Tsatsouline was nationally ranked in the sport of kettlebell.
He speaks English well, has a sense of humor, and has become a popular speaker and workshop presenter.

One of the prevailing themes in Power to the People is that you don’t need expensive equipment to get fit or even a gym membership. If you invest in a barbell set and a chin-up bar, you’re good to go — although he believes a set of kettlebells would be a great idea. Basic barbell exercises Tsatsouline promotes include the deadlift, barbell side press, floor press (so no need for a bench!), and the barbell curl.

Russian weightlifting champions posing with a fan at the 2015 IWF World Weightlifting Championships. (Photo by Ryan Paiva, LiftingLife.com.)

Regarding program design, Tsatsouline emphasizes the importance of striving to get stronger, but that it’s important to back off the intensity to allow the body to recover (as Charles Poliquin would say, “Fatigue masks fitness!”). He refers to such training as “cycling.” To show the reader how to cycle their training to achieve continual (not continuous) improvement, he presents these training cycles: Linear, Flexible Wave, Structured Wave, and the Step Cycle.

In addition to showing his “comrades” what to do, Tsatsouline provides insight into ways 
to improve the quality of your workouts by increasing muscular tension. He says you can accomplish this by using special breathing methods and getting the entire body involved in every lift, even if it’s an arm curl.

Power to the People is 117 pages and contains numerous drawings, photos, and learning tools such as quotes and summary statements to reinforce key ideas. Pavel Tsatsouline’s book is not the ultimate research on the science of Russian strength training, but it’s a good start.

[You can purchase Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People at Amazon.com.]

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