Pavel Tsatsoulines Foundations of Strength Training

Stage lights of today’s article are directed on somebody you probably have not heard of. On the other hand,  you apply a lot of his training philosophies in your strength training routine. His name is Pavel Tsatsouline. Who is this guy? He is Belarusian from Minsk and holds a university degree in physical training from Belarusian State University and he is a chairman of Strongfirst organization. An interesting and successful path from, as he would like to say in his comic tone, this comrade.

East meets West

This Spetsnaz drill instructor came from the Soviet Union to the States and started working with navy seals, marines and army special forces. When somebody has that kind of background, you know this is a guy who you listen to. Later he decided to leave the army structures and he turned the arow of his knowledge toward the wide masses of exercisers. He is particularly notable for popularizing the kettlebells in the western strength training world.

What are the key points he highlights when it comes to the training philosophy? He is a protector of training simplicity. From his point of view, the thing which you need when it comes to becoming stronger and healthier is a linear progression in training. You achieve that by choosing the right exercises and for Pavel Tsatsoulin those are the ones which have more benefit with less injury risk.

Dysfunction or a deficiency

For Pavel, the minimum you have to achieve in your training is to get rid of dysfunctions and deficiencies in your movement patterns and in your exercises. Mobility, flexibility, right activation and mastering your body is something you have to achieve to start „real stuff“. One more interesting thing in Pavel Tsatsouline training philosophy is the statement that power and the tension are the same things. Muscles are producing force and more tension you get the more force output you will exert. In that tone, he underlines two approaches to becoming stronger. First is to build a „larger engine“ and the second one is to learn how to contract your muscles. The shaking hand example here is always actual here. Pavel suggests testing his thesis by shaking your friend hand and squeeze as hard as you can. If he is strong enough he will deal with it. If that is the case, squeeze his hand again and now contract the abs as hard as you can. He will definitely feel it now. That is an example of taping into tension reserve you already have, instead of just building your muscles.

Next foundation of Pavel’s training is training stress. Definitely, you will put your body under training stress with his routines but how much stress are we talking about? The best word would be – optimal. He is a big fan of hard, but short routines that do not lead you to muscle failure. He often talks about the Russian elite weightlifters and their training approach. They work on 70-85% most of the time. They have just short „travels“ to 90+% of their max and they regularly do just 3-4 repetitions and no more than that.

Readings and videos

When it comes to the literature and video materials you need to take,  there are several books and video coverages of different topics.

The good starting point would be Pavels Relax into stretch. Here the basic mobility and flexibility drills are presented. You will teach how to construct your warm-up and cool-down routines. This will lead to decreased injury risk in your strength training routine.

Next reading you should keep an eye on is  „The naked warrior. Here you will find a variety of bodyweight exercises and proper techniques. Some of them are very basic but as the pages go, the things are becoming serious. Also, you will find a different kind of bodyweight exercises progressions.


The third reading is definitely Enter the Kettlebell. This is a must-have piece of training literature for everybody who calls himself an athlete. Here, basic kettlebells exercises and their techniques are explained to details. When it comes to kettlebells, Pavel Tsatsouline is definitely a guy you listen to.

Now when you got the basic stuff, there are some optional reading you would like to have.

Power to the people, and  Return of the kettlebell are the stops when you master the basic. Here you will get a knowledge of more advanced techniques and strength training approaches which will definitely do good for you.

Your turn

Now when all of the pieces of information are given to you, start absorbing knowledge. Search for Pavel Tsatsouline books and watch the video materials where everything is presented to details. The pieces mentioned above are training literature everybody should have if they want a serious approach to their strength training. In the end, as Pavel would say, „Are you, serious comrade?“