Monday, March 09, 2015

Faleev Method versus Tim Ferriss' method for powerlifting

A few weeks ago, Tim Ferriss had Pavel Tsatsouline on his podcast discussing why Soviet powerlifters in the 1980s were so amazing (not the steroids) and the various techniques recommended to increase lifting power. There are a lot of awesome tips in that episode. Tsatsouline is the man who introduced the kettle bell to America. That drew me to a previous post on Ferriss' site by Tsatsouline on powerlifting-- how to increase your gains with the minimum effective effort. Tsatsouline introduces the Alexander Faleev method, which I paste below. Below it, I paste Ferriss' somewhat similar method from his book The 4-Hour Body, which I'm currently reading. I thought the comparison would be helpful:

Tsatsouline/Faleev Method:
For beginners, Faleev offers a straightforward progressive overload workout with 5 sets of 8 reps. Eventually you are supposed to advance to 5 x 5. In my opinion, you should go straight to 5 x 5. Sets of five are the meat and potatoes of strength training.

Start with a conservative weight. If you manage five reps in all five sets, next time add 10 pounds and start over. Not 5 pounds, and definitely not 2, but 10. For reasons that are outside of the scope of this article, Malibu Ken and Barbie jumps with tiny plates are a waste of time.

Most likely you will not bag all the fives on your first workout with the new weight. Perhaps you will get 5, 5, 5, 4, 3. No problem, stay with the poundage until you get all 5×5. Your second workout might be 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, and your third of fourth should get you to 5 x 5. Slap on another pair of “nickels” (5-lb. plates) and work your way up to 5 x 5 again. According to Faleev, the above progression will add 110-175 pounds to your max in each of the three powerlifts in one year, provided you are fairly new to the game.

Deadlift 1x per week; Squat and Bench 2x per week

You will be deadlifting once a week and squatting and benching twice a week, once heavy and once light for the latter two. Your light days are for honing technique, not for burning out your muscles with high reps. Do 5 sets of 4 reps (5 x 4) with weights that are 80% of the heavy day’s. For instance, if you did 5 x 5 with 200 on your heavy day, stay with 160 for 5 x 4 on your light day. That’s it! The key to the program’s success is in doing less.

The Russian recommends the following schedule:

Monday –heavy squat (SQ)
Tuesday –heavy benchpress (BP)
Wednesday –heavy deadlift (DL)
Thursday – light SQ
Friday –light BP
Saturday –off
Sunday –off

Faleev offers a formula that will help you estimate your max from your 5 x 5: multiply that weight by 1.2. This is not exact science, but it is much better than those ridiculous charts that claim to calculate your 1 rep max (1RM) from your 10RM.

Just decide what you want: The process of enjoying the pump, the burn, and the variety of exercises? Or muscles and power?

Faleev’s secret of success is so simple, it is easy to ignore: practice nothing but the powerlifts and compete regularly. Period. The Russian muscle man walks into the gym, trains one lift, spends a few minutes stretching, and hits the showers. Done!

Tim Ferriss method from the chapter Occam's Protocol II
Sets of 5 repetitions in each exercise with one minute rest in between. Cadence should be fast but controlled on raising, 2-3 seconds on the lowering.
If you feel you can lift more (in a set after completing 5 reps) wait a minute, increase weight by 10 pounds, attempt again. Repeat until fewer than five reps.

After you fail to complete five reps, calculate 70% of your last full five-rep set (60% if shoulder press). Take a 3-minute rest and perform a 5/5 cadence set to failure with this weight.

Workout options if you go to a gym:
Workout A:
Close-grip supinated pull-down.
Machine shoulder press (optional: abdominal exercises from "6 Minute Abs")
Workout B:
Slight incline/decline bench press
Leg press (optional: kettlebell or t-bar swings x 50)
Stationary bike x 3 minutes at 85 rpm

Workout options if you don't go to a gym:
Workout A (free weight option):
Yates row with EZ bar (ideal) or barbell.
Shoulder-width barbell overhead press.

Workout B (free weight option):
slight incline bench press w/shoulder-width grip.
squat (optional: kettlebell or t-bar swings x 50)
stationary bike x 3 minutes (to mitigate soreness)
My thoughts: 
The biggest difference between the two is that Ferriss writes you should lift until fail-- and defines "fail" as actual incapability, not "If I rest a minute I could do a few more."That is hard to achieve in real life, especially if you're like me and working out by yourself in a garage with no spotter. Tsatsouline, however, says you should always leave something in the tank-- never go to failure.

Here's how I've compromised between the two:
This morning, I struggled benchpressing 160 pounds with 5 sets of 5. So, following Tsatsouline, I did as many as I could in 5 sets (so, 5, 5, 3, 2, 2). Then, following Ferriss, I scaled back 30% (to 110) and did as many reps as I could (11). The problem, as mentioned above, is without a spotter I don't bring the bar down unless I'm highly confident I can get it up again. That means after my "failure," and resting a couple minutes I was ready to do another set (8-10).  Ferriss contends I can stunt muscle growth doing that next set, but I'm not sure. I'd appreciate the input of anyone knowledgeable.

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