Pavel Tsatsouline Principles of Strength Training

, March 15, 2017

One of the unanimously accepted but repeatedly neglected components of endurance training is the benefit of resistance work, heading to the gym and using weights. An enlightening podcast from The Tim Ferriss Show interviews Pavel Tsatsouline of StrongFirst, a strength coach who has an ardently binary approach to training. Principles of enjoyability, learning and controlled training burn through in this 2-hour recording.

Here’s a short transcript from the original podcast, “The Science of Strength and Simplicity“, though you should really listen to the entire interview to get a better sense of the Minsk native’s sense of intense calm and furious training.

There is such a thing as “irradiation”.  The phenomenon of irradiation. What it really means is if you contract a muscle, the tension from that muscle is going to spill over to the neighborhood muscles.

So, for your listeners, I’d like to try this: Make a fist. You’re going to feel tension in your forearm. Now make a tight fist. You’re going to feel tension in your biceps, triceps. Now make a white-knuckle fist. You’re going to find that tension is going to spread into your shoulders, your back, your lats, and so on. OK folks, you can relax now. 

Certain areas of the body have this great overflow of tension, so the gripping muscles are amongst them. Why? In part, because they have such a great representation in your nervous system, in your brain. As for the abs and the glutes, that has a lot to do with creating your inter-abdominal pressure. So what does this mean exactly?

Visualize your muscles as speakers, and visualize your brain as the gadget that plays the music, whatever it is; iPad, iPhone, whatever, record player, doesn’t matter. The amount of your pressure, the pressure in your abdomen, the abdominal pressure, that’s the amplifier. That’s the volume control. So by increasing the pressure in your abdomen, it’s like you’re turning up the volume. And vice versa. 

Instead of trying to extend a movement using incorrect posture, Tsatsouline suggests doing exercises for shorter lengths of time. In the case of the plank, this could be 10 seconds. But the goal is to contract everything during the rep or hold, aside from the neck and face. Contracting glutes, abs and fists, pretending somebody’s going to come by a “kick you in the ribs”.

The mantra is simple, and can be summarized in this weekly structure: train 3 times per week, each time doing 3-5 sets, of 3-5 reps. “Focus on contraction. Don’t focus on fatigue. Don’t focus on the reps.” Now there’s headspace.

Share your own strength tips with