A couple of months ago Muscle & Fitness magazine ran a feature about how to train like a Commie. The title may not be politically correct but the content of the article was something worth talking about. Think back to movies like Rocky or The Karate Kid or heck, any movie in the 80s or before that featured some foe from the Soviet Union. What did all of those characters have in common? They were muscular, fit, healthy and almost unbeatable. Head out to a gym or ask a lot of guys what sort of body they want and they’ll usually say they want the abs, the pecs, the muscle, the ripped and cut look. So who better to go to than the Russians for tips on getting this look?
Workouts need to begin with stretching and the biggest mistake many make is that they do the usual static, dull, stand-in-one place stretch. Stop. Your body was built to move and even with a stretch, you need to get your muscles warmed up. Do dynamic stretching: skip, high kick, jog, jump rope. These and other moves will get you going and ready for an intense workout.
Next, learn how your body functions. Here in the U.S. guys will do one routine and will stick to it for days and months and while they’ll see slight changes, they’ll hit that glorious “plateau” and will be stumped as to what to do to overcome it. Over in the Soviet state, athletes and their trainers understand that the body adapts to any exercise you do after 6 weeks. In other words, every 6 weeks, change it up in the gym or do something new to continue to change your body. After a few weeks, add more weight to your lifts; go from running a treadmill to jogging outside; use lighter dumbbells or a kettlebell instead of just sticking to a barbbell. CHANGE!
Ever hear a guy talk about getting a massage or hitting the steam room after a workout? You probably thought they were just trying to get their rocks off (which may have been the case) but in actuality, they probably were doing more good for their muscle development than you thought. Steam rooms, saunas, and all things sweat-related are great for muscle repair. In fact, gym lovers are starting to create their own DIY sauna to allow their muscles and overall health to improve while at home – not just using the gym services. Russian athletes were always taught the importance of refreshing and recovering from an overly taxing workout. Alternate between recovery methods like saunas, massages, showers and baths to help your muscles repair and recoup faster.
Lastly, Russian training is really all about technique. Many guys will run to the gym and hop onto a machine or will thrust a dumbbell into the air without properly learning how to do anything. Ask a trainer or search online for tips and the proper way to lift so that you not only are benefiting from your exercise but are preventing yourself from being injured.
Here are a few “Soviet” moves to try the next time you workout”
1) Plyometric Push-Up [Chest, triceps]- Lower your body to the floor as if you’re doing a regular pushup. When you’re almost touching the floor with your chest, explosively push back up so that your hands leave the floor. Land on your hands and repeat. (5 sets, 5 reps each).
2) Hanging Leg Raise [Hip flexors, abs]- Hang from an overhead bar with your hands positioned outside shoulder width. Raise lets parallel to the floor and with your feet together try to raise your feet all the way to your head. (3 sets, 15 reps each)
3) Good Morning [Lower back, hamstrings]- Position a barbell across your shoulders and back (or across your traps for those who know a little anatomy). Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and grip the bar firmly as you bend at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. Slowly return to starting position. (5 sets, 5 reps each).