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           Truly Huge Fitness Tips
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             FITNESS TIPS FOR 8/19/2003
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Beyond Bodybuilding: Interview with the "Evil Russian" Pavel Tsatsouline   
  
Pavel Tsatsouline is America's hottest trainer and author of the 
book "Power to the People!" He recently took the time to share some of 
his early training experiences with us and even design a great workout 
for all-around conditioning.    

GM: How did you first become interested in physical culture? Could you 
describe some of your early training? 

Pavel: My father is a fanatic of self-improvement and he got me interested 
in martial arts and physical conditioning. A Soviet Army officer, he had 
me do military style PT -pullups, one-legged squats, running, etc. In my 
teens I got hooked on the hard simplicity of kettlebells. There was no 
looking back.

GM: You have a great story about how you came to America and opened 
your first gym inside of an abandoned bank vault. What did this gym look 
like? What kind of equipment did you have?

Pavel: It was a cool 'courage corner'. An old downtown bank no longer 
had any use for a couple of its vaults, submarine doors, metal bars, and 
all the works. It tried to rent them out to an armored car company but the 
latter already had all the facilities it needed. For me it was a perfect 
fit -you could drop any weights without problems and nobody could hear my 
victims' screams. I started with the basics: a barbell with a lot of plates, 
a pullup stand, and power rack. Later I had a machine shop drill extra 
holes in the cage and got some toys like a thick bar. For kicks, I 
displayed a copy of a book titled The History of Torture on my desk. 
It never failed to make a new victim look for the exit.

GM: How has your own training changed throughout the years? What 
are your current fitness goals and what does your current training look 
like?

Pavel: FDR once said, "Do what you can with what you have where you 
are." When I first came to the States I trained on a children's playground, 
did isometrics, and lifted whatever odd objects I could find. I also made 
makeshift 'rings' out of nylon webbing and tied them to the doorway of a 
storage locker in the basement of my apartment building. I stupidly 
reasoned that I did not need rings for my hands and I could just stick 
my hands into the loops. After the first set the nooses tightened 
around my wrists and I was stuck. My feet barely touched the floor and 
I hung there crucified. I had never seen another person in the storage 
locker area and I was facing a very unpleasant death. Flexibility 
helped; I managed to loosen up one of the nooses with my toes. 

I mostly did deadlifts and heavy ab work from Bullet-Proof Abs at my 
bank vault 'courage corner'. Then I got some kettlebells from Russia 
and jumped back in. These days I mix things up: kettlebells, deadlifts, 
pullups, pistols, heavy abs. I do not do them all at once though. My 
current goal is to master the hook grip deadlift.

GM: How do you train soldiers differently than civilians? For example, 
how would the training of a soldier compare to the training of an 
athlete?

Pavel: Let us use strength as an example. An athlete can afford to be 
strong due to large muscles but a soldier or a Marine cannot. In 
wartime and even during exercises muscle rapidly melts away, thanks 
to malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and stress. A military man must 
gain strength by retraining his nervous system to contract his, even 
shrunken, muscles harder. 

The above style of neural strength training is ideally done when the 
trainee is totally fresh. But a soldier must exert himself when he is 
exhausted. Therefore at least some of the strength practice must be 
conducted in a state of fatigue, sometimes extreme fatigue. In the 
Spetsnaz it is an SOP to initiate a new guy by putting him through 
all sorts of hell and then have him fight a few fresh and experienced 
guys hand to hand. Applied to neural strength training, you could
hump ninety pounds of gear on uneven terrain or go for an ocean 
swim, and then do your pullups and kettlebell snatches. 

To sum with an analogy, an athlete is like a racecar that performs 
like a clock on a perfect track, with top grade fuel and oil, etc. Pull 
it out of its ideal environment and you have got a problem. A 
soldier is a Hummer that will perform under most adverse 
conditions.

GM: How do you train someone for peak performance in these 
opposite ends of the spectrum, endurance and strength?

Pavel: Kettlebell training has been documented to improve a 
soldier's 'ends of spectrum' PT. Following is such a workout I 
designed for a friend in the Force Recon:

Pavel Tsatsouline Training Routine

Monday

-Weighted pullups -5x5
-Alternate the pullups with cleans and presses (military, not push 
presses!) -2x24kg KBs, also 5x5
-Rock bottom front squats with a one second pause -2x32kg KBs -5x5
-Snatch with a 32kg KB -5 sets, hard but not to failure
-Alternate the snatches with strict hanging leg raises -5 sets

Wednesday

-One arm C&Js with a 32kg KB -10 min, play it by ear
-Heavy abs -5x5 
-Pullups -100 total
-Alternate with front squats, sets of 10 with 2x24kg KBs
-Snatches or swings with a 24kg KB -alternate sets of 10-20 with 
100 yd jogs (not sprints! the jog is for recovery) for as long as you 
can handle it
-Cough up a hairball!

Friday

Start over.

After three weeks reduce the reps by 50% for a week -very important!

GM: The content of your books is very diverse, everything from yoga
techniques to ideas from old school powerlifting. You seem to have 
mastered both the science and the practice of weight training. How 
did you study to become as knowledgeable as you are? 

Pavel: Thank you for your kind words! Formal education is only the 
beginning in any field. You must remain a humble student for the 
rest of your life. I am constantly learning something new, be it from an 
old Russian textbook, a neuroscience journal, or a pre-WWII Strength 
& Health. It does not change my 'low tech/high concept' training 
message but helps me to sharpen it. 

GM: Thank you Pavel!
 
Note: Pavel Tsatsouline is the author of "Power to the People!"
A book about Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American
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