As a student of strength, I like to learn from different different strength coaches. One strength coach that has influenced me in recent years is Pavel Tsatsouline. I’ve dipped my toes in one of his programs.
Pavel Tsatsouline is one of the most respected strength coaches. He’s the Chairman of Strongfirst Inc. and has trained athletes and military personnel. I first heard of him when I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show. Since then I’ve been reading up in his training principles and implementing them in my workouts. I’ll be sharing some the training principles I’ve been using.
Grease The Groove
This principle is about training frequency. The more often you do a movement the better you’ll be at it. This is a big reason why I’m squatting or deadlifting every workout. The more often you do a movement, the better your nervous system will respond to it. A more efficient nervous system, the greater the strength potential.
In this philosophy, the weight you use doesn’t matter that much. The key is just doing the movement. You can use this next time you’re in the gym and resting in between sets. If you see an open power rack or bench, go in and do three light reps. Those three reps won’t strain you but after an hour in the gym, you’ll see that you got in an extra 30 reps of that movement.
Pavel also emphasizes maximizing muscle tension especially for the core muscles. He recommends tightening up your muscles even when lifting light weights. This is valuable because it teaches your body how to brace itself when lifting heavy. I take advantage of this training approach when doing my speed work. Not only do I focus on moving the weight as explosive as possible but I also squeeze my core muscles as if I was getting ready to max out. Doing this improves the mind- body connection when lifting.
Pavel also recommends squeezing the barbell or dumbbell you’re using as hard as possible in order to maximize tension. I’ve noticed that this helps engage my entire body during a lift. There’s something special about how you use your hands when lifting. It sends a message to the rest of your body that it’s time to do something serious.
Good Reps Only
This training principle goes around that idea that you should focus on getting quality reps only and avoid struggling with your lifts. Pavel’s philosophy is completely against training to failure when trying to gain strength. I wish I embraced this philosophy earlier in my fitness journey. I’ve failed on lifts before and it sucks.
An example of this training philosophy is if you can 10 reps at a certain weight, do only three instead. I’m someone who enjoys lifting at heavier weights so I use this principle by doing a few less reps than I can. Instead of six reps, I do three. The key is using set and rep ranges you know you’ll be able to successfully complete.
Another benefit of this training principle is it’s good for your lifting longevity and confidence. The more you see yourself succeed in a lift, the more confident you’ll be when adding weight. The only times I deviate from this approach is when I do paused reps or maxing out. Paused squats are meant to be difficult. Even then, I try not to do more than I think I’m capable of.
Pavel Tsatsouline is one of many fitness icons I’ve learned from. For any fitness or life goal you have, I recommend studying the experts in that area.