This month marks 40 years since some of the controversial Olympic Video games of all time, but the legacy of Montreal 1976 nonetheless burns vibrant. These have been the Olympics during which 25 African nations boycotted the occasion – in protest at New Zealand’s rugby tour of South Africa in the course of 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 good 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 an alternative it’s the Soviet Union weightlifting staff – that snaffled seven of the 9 obtainable golds – and, extra particularly, their deeply coveted scripture: the 1976 USSR Weightlifting Yearbook.
4 a long time on, this elusive textual content is lengthy out of print, although its teachings cross from gymnasium to gymnasium like a photocopied Masonic handshake. The content material is straightforward – a six-week plan of barbell squats 3 times every week, with a view to upping your one rep max (1RM, or the utmost you’ll be able to elevate in the event you 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 Or has gymnasium bro and hipster tradition collided to falsely trumpet a long-outdated pattern? In the event you blew the mud out of your hip flexors, you simply would possibly discover out.
Barbell squats are the only handiest 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 generally known as the breakdown of muscle mass that comes with ageing. So that is one thing each man must be contemplating.
Beneficial properties aren’t restricted to protecting 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 record of higher physique elements – your shoulders, again and abs amongst them. It’s additionally the only motion to have interaction your total 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 all the way down to a single transfer, contemplate 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 Group Benbo. “Because it’s a compound motion, squats will help in constructing muscle in your total 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 develop into a breeze – as squatting improves steadiness, mobility, power and joint stability.”
The Russian Squat Routine is the gold customary for taking lifters to the following degree.
It’s no nonsense and nil frills – however with a four-decade-strong report 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 lowered, forward of a climactic last day in week six, the place your new 1RM is calculated. The programme guarantees a 5% 1RM improve, colossal for sturdy squatters whose progress may need plateaued; the distinction between gold-and-champers or bronze-and-a-crying-fit at elite degree.
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 every week – the primary most effort, the second dynamic squatting and deadlifting) and 5/3/1 (one session of back and front squats every week, for 4 weeks, of various effort).
However there’s a cause 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 degree a wholesome dose of suspicion on the Soviets – significantly given Russia’s present suspension from Rio – you solely want whisper “Russian Squat Routine” within the weights room at your nearest gymnasium to see how extremely it’s nonetheless regarded at present.
To correctly take a look at the Soviet strategy, I subjected myself to the exhausting programme.
I’m a reasonably energetic gym-goer of common health, so somebody similar to you, maybe.
Upon arrival at Health First Liverpool Avenue 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 attraction along 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 believe the explanation it’s so widespread is as a result of it’s lasted 40 years. Weightlifting will 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 delicate palms develop into intently acquainted with the rack’s chilly metal, the early shock just isn’t 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 supplied on a loop (“Arse beneath!” “Chin down, chest up!”) till it turns into a reflex. Had I tried the programme solo, I could have carried out 300 squats with chiropractor-baiting grace or, extra seemingly, a handful earlier than struggling an harm. “It’s positively a two-player recreation,” confirms Smith. “You want somebody that will help you with the bodily monitoring facet.”
Because the programme progresses, the one disadvantage I expertise comes from consecutive coaching days depleting my vitality. The plan itself advocates a day’s relaxation between classes – so it can not shoulder an excessive amount of blame – nevertheless 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 last 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 fashion, 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 occasion balloon – Smith expressed a proud sense of bewilderment that, “You have been solely purported 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 last 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 elevate a harbour seal, striped dolphin or, fittingly, Eurasian brown bear cub. They’re huge, and terrifying, and mostly present in Russia.
For more information on Matt Smith or to e book private coaching classes, go to fireandsteelfitness.com. With because of Health First Liverpool Avenue: fitnessfirst.co.uk