Kirill Sarychev and his 335 kg unequipped bench press is just one of the many reasons when Mr. Sheiko speaks wise men listen.
It’s 4 am and I am leaving my flat in Edinburgh to board a 6:50 am flight to London Heath-row maybe not the ideal start to a Sunday morning but there are only so many times in your life one of the greatest strength coaches in the world is running a seminar in your country.
Once I landed in Heath-row I took some time to myself to finish an article and get some coffee before making my way to St. Mary’s University’s Performance center where the seminar was being held.
It was fitting surroundings for the caliber of the speaker the fact that they had 4 Elikeo powerlifting bars was a real nice touch I haven’t seen in any other performance center in the UK with the steel powerlifting plates to boot. The seminar started off with a 3-hour lecture where Boris walked us through his training philosophy and took questions throughout which he answered patiently and diligently.
The Science Bit
Breaking up the year. – Boris works on three orders of detail when planning out a powerlifters annual cycle
Macrocycle – an annual plan which has all competitions and dates inserted with important competitions highlighted for peaking (1-2x per year as a maximum to reach a true peak). Lifters were categorized into 3 broad categories and their lifting schedule would reflect this –
Beginner – 6-7x per year at city and regional level
Intermediate – 4-5x per year at regional and national level
Elite 2-3x at national and international level
General thoughts on the annual plan
- Do your annual plan in December so you know in advance where are the competitions. When training people online main problem is people don’t know when they are going to compete.
- It is a big problem for preparation not to know competition schedule for the athlete. 5 Competitions in current GBPF calendar that would work for an elite athlete of the 5 2 competitions are highlighted as important. Athlete must peak best for these competitions.
- Same process for a beginner but will highlight the important ones. can’t improve results competition to competition. It doesn’t matter what sport you compete in you cannot show peak results all year round.
- Depending on the level these peaks will happen at different levels of competition. Preparations are split into 4 blocks. Each competition represents a block. Each block is split into a preparatory period and a competition period after important competitions 1 week of rest.
Breaking your year into mesocycles
Once you have scheduled your competitions the next order or business is to go into some finer detail and split up your individual competition preparations into mesocycles. Typically Boris will split a competition into 2 types of mesocycles
- Preparatory cycle (period of higher workloads and more targeted technique lifts with less time on competition lifts) can be 4-16 weeks.
- Competition period (consisting of competition lifts and lower workloads) normally 4-6 weeks but not more.
- Each mesocycle consists of 4 micro cycles
Depending on an athlete’s level they will train with different frequencies
- Beginner – 3x per week
- Intermediate – 3-4x
- Elite – 5-8x per week (only professional athlete)
Some more detail on Boris’s classification and their volume split
- Beginners are straight off the street (70% general assistance and 30% fitness)
- Intermediate who have trained for 1-1.5 years and have been done a handful of competitions (40% Strength Development 60% competition specific prep)
- Elite lifters are on a national team (80-85% lift specific training 15-20% general training)
Beginners and intermediate use more exercises to improve technique. In order to improve technique you need to do a very high number of lifts with 5-6 reps per set. Beginners will use the same weight and increase volume for months at a time. In the second month they increase reps by 5 kg week on week.
The most important task as a trainer is to teach proper technique if they learn early how to do this they will do it for the rest of their life. It is easier to teach the correct technique then to correct imperfect technique
500-600 lifts per month for a beginner.
Intermediate lifters follow an individualized programme based off percentages.
Elite lifters will lift 300 – 350 lifts per month
Getting into the Nitty Gritty – organizing the week
Competition months are in red, we can see relative intensity in blue. When we do an annual plan we can not predict how the athlete will feel later down into the block so this is what is called a “example plan” as it might change further down the line. Normally the training plan has to be adjusted Illness etc will happen because we are not machines.
Boris worked heavily off variation he showed us 12 example plans (they are called example programmes because he does not work off templates each programme is based off the lifter) some with lower levels of volume (300 lifts) and some with much higher levels of volume (800-1000 lifts). If you have ever seen one of Boris’s routines online you will appreciate that he doesn’t even repeat workouts.
The overloading in his programme seemed to come from having higher numbers of lifts in weeks of the 4-week sample. For instance, a 300 lift plan might have 43% of lifts in week 1, 20% in week 2, 15% in week 3 and 12% in week 4. In this particular plan, the overload week or where the athlete is getting the most adaptation is from week 1 in the programme.
Boris said he would never repeat the same loading cycle twice in a row. Some of the plans had 2 overload weeks, some had the overload week at the end of the block and others has it in the middle of the block.
He organised his sessions to include 3 keys lifts with assistance put into the programme at the end. When asked about tracking volume he answered that some more modern trainers started to track the volume for “good mornings, bicep curls and delt raises etc” in his opinion this was bullshit. All Boris seen the need for recording volume and intensities was for the three competition lifts of variants there of that would be classified as “preparation exercises”.
An example session might look something like the following –
1 – Pause Squat – 2 sets 5 @ 50%, 3 sets 4 @ 60% (22 lifts, Relative intensity 55%)
2 – Close grip Bench Press – 3 sets 6 @ 60%, 2 sets 2 @ 75% (22 lifts, Relative intensity 67.5%)
3 – Squat – 4 sets 4 @ 70% (16 reps, Relative intensity 70%)
4 – Chest – 5 sets 8
5 – Lats – 5 sets 8
Session lifts – 60, Session Relative Intensity – 64%
A couple of things to note
- Intensities above 50% are recorded
- Sets are spread over a range of intensities.
- Focus is on the power lifts and their variants.
- Assistance work is included but not recorded.
2x squats in one session wait wut?
Boris will programme 2x lift variants (squat, bench press or deadlift) sandwiched with a separate juxtaposed lift in the session. So for example you may perform squat, bench, squat or bench, deadlift, bench. The rationale being it allows for the lifter to get a greater volume of work in through the session whilst getting a break in between exercises to allow for a better quality of work throughout.
The exercise selection and variation isn’t thrown in for the sake of it either each of Boris’s students will have a spread of exercise selection and volumes designed to allow them to help prefect their technique whilst working on getting stronger.
How the week looks
- Monday – Full Session
- Wednesday – Full Session
- Friday – Full Session
With rest of the days being used for total or active rest.
- Monday – Full Session
- Tuesday – Full Session
- Thursday – Full Session
- Friday – Full Session
Elite (national Russian team member)
- Monday – 2x sessions (AM/PM split)
- Tuesday – 1x PM session
- Wednesday – 2x Session (AM/PM Split)
- Thursday – Active Rest
- Friday – 2x Sessions (AM/PM Split)
- Saturday – AM Session followed by massage or sauna.
- Sunday – Rest
Overload or “Shock” Methods
After Boris went through his sample plans and explained the methodology behind his programming he went through some of the more novel and fatigue inducing methods he would use with his lifters.
He primarily showed pyramid loading schemes that would stay on the same exercises and either use the number or reps or intensity to increase the intensity set to set. He also included some caveats for including this sort of training –
- It should only be used in the Preparatory period of training.
- It should be used at a maximum of 1x per week.
- Some of the more intense pyramids should be used only 1x per month.
- These methods should only be used for bench press and squat exercises.
Here is an example of a rep based period he showed us.
Squat – 70% RM – 3 reps + 4 reps + 5 reps + 6 reps + 7 reps + 8 reps + 9 reps + 8 reps + 7 reps + 6 reps + 5 reps + 4 reps + 3 reps – Total lifts 75, RI = 70%
The lifter would perform the sets in a linear fashion and take as much time required after each set to recover as they needed. He showed us 12 different variations that could be utilised in the preparation cycle to create an overload.
The rest of the lecture session was interspersed with questions and answers from the audience which may be accessed at the bottom of the article in the Q+A section.
The Practical – Squat, Bench and Deadlift Technique
After a 30 minute break we started the practical part of the seminar 6-7 lifters where pre-chosen for each lift from the list of participants. They performed a set with 70 kg and then Boris chipped in with some technique adjustments. You will be able to see this in more detail from the videos provided for each lift from the seminar.
The Squat problems and suggestions
- Over breathing before squatting. Boris didn’t seem to agree with an over dramatic intake of air one of his reasons was it could cause the chest cavity to rise to much which can affect your balance if the bar moves. He recommended a half breath between each rep and for the lifter to hold it through the entirety of the rep. The lifter would breath and hold between each repetition.
- Looking down. Boris got a few lifters to gaze at his hand as they squatted so they were looking up to the same degree throughout the lift. He reasoned that looking down can cause a lifter to utilise the back muscles to much making the squat inefficient. He also recommended looking up to be better for balance.
- Dive bombing. Boris did not like lifters dropping into the squat to fast again one of the main reasons was a loss of balance. He recommended lifters to take a nice controlled tempo.
- Standing up too fast. Similar to dropping into the squat Boris wanted lifters to stand under control especially through the final 1/3 of the lift one of the main reasons was to stop the bar jumping off the lifters back as it can be cause for disqualification or cause a lifter to lose control.
- Boris adjusted the bar position for a few lifters but he didn’t advocate a particular place on the back it seemed to depend on the lifter’s build and technique.
- Again similar to bar position he also adjusted a few people’s foot position but again this seemed to be more down to the lifter’s build.
- He recommended that the lifter should stand with the feet slightly turned out and that the knee should travel in line with the toe.
The Bench Press problems and suggestions
- A few slimmer lifters didn’t arch enough. To help to rectify this Boris suggested that they perform some exercises to get more flexible and allow a bigger arch (featured in the video).
- Boris was keen for lifter to show a proper lock out on each repetition. His main reason being when on the platform a lifter will go into automatic mode and will revert to whatever they do in training for this reason he was big on lifts being completed to competition standard. Proper lockout and competition standard technique was pushed throughout.
- He recommended a wider grip for some lifters (seemed again to be mainly aimed at thinner lifters) to help them to shorten the range of the lift. He recommended that if you are going to widen your grip it should be done gradually so you don’t lose strength or have an opportunity to build strength in your new grip. He advised lifters to move out 2 fingers in width train with this grip for a month and then move out again. This process was to be repeated until a lifter was at the maximum legal width.
- For breathing again Boris wanted lifters to hold their breath during the lift and to take a half breath in between each rep.
- Boris was not keen on lifters rattling out reps he wanted it to be completed with a clear lockout to be shown with each rep being smooth. If a lifter had a problem with their elbows and couldn’t achieve a clear lockout they were recommended to talk to the refs before the lift during competition.
- Lifters where told to keep the bar under control so when it reaches the chest it should come to an almost immediate halt this was recommended as it would lead to a nice fast press command in competition.
The Deadlift problems and suggestions
- Lifters where again advised to have their head up during the lift to allow them to utilize both back and leg muscles during the movement.
- The bar should be in contact with the lifter at all times Boris said he wanted to see holes in people’s trousers from keeping the bar so close to the body he was emphasizing this during the lock out as well.
- Boris adjusted quite a few people’s hip angles from the start of the lift. A common adjustment was for a sumo lifter to have their hips set higher. Again these adjustments seemed to be based off a lifter’s stance and build.
- Locking out the legs to early was a mistake that Boris spent quite some time correcting for one lifter. He wanted him to have knee bend when he came past the knee to allow him to utalise both legs and back muscles during the final portion of the lift. He recommended some combo lifts such as pausing at the knees or performing one full and 2 top half deadlifts per rep as an exercise to help drill this.
- During the lockout Boris wanted lifters to actively press the bar in against their thighs to keep it close as they locked out the lift.
Question and Answer
How about the deload?
In some programmes lifters will get an entire month off (boris only gives one week) if an athlete takes more than 2 weeks off they can lose 50% of their training efficiency more rest = detaining which leads to a decrease in overall fitness.
Going from European to Worlds a month off could lose fitness and produce worse results than only taking a week off. Maybe make it more appropriately timed?
Week of recovery is normally active rest where they will perform general activities like swimming, football etc. Worst case is to take week off completely on the couch drinking beer and watching football.
Training during Injury or Illness?
During an illness if you have a elevated temperature you should not train as it places more strain on the heart. If you have a little bit of a illness but no elevated temperature then you should train but lighten the workloads (around 10%}. If an athlete has a muscle strain or problem around a joint then train pain free. It is better to lose 2-3 days than loose 2-3 weeks from making a problem worse.
If you are fatigued or injured then you must reduce your training loads.
Would you test a 5RM?
Shake if he was to do a strength test he would test a 1rm never anything above as lifters do not do this in competition.
What happens in a linear programme when an athlete gets injured? They are too set and doesn’t give the athlete a solid base.
When choosing how to load a block there are many variations you can use what you need to choose is where that load comes in the month and the block must vary. This is a varied programme where overload comes in different places it the programme.
Variation allows for periods of overload (high weight lower volume) with periods of recovery (higher volumes lower weights). Very rarely will an athlete lift above 90% in their programme they will come to 80-85% in their training.
Multiple lifters would lift under national level records yet still show world record results when the time came. You can get fantastic results with 80-85% intensity
50% and above is included in the number of lifts. Recording total volume is a waste of time we need to look at competition lifts, preparatory lifts. General fitness lifts just use number of lifts no need to calculate relative intensities or volumes.
What is a preparatory exercise?
It is for competition lift or have a part of the competition lift. The task is to work on muscle development or to work on the weaknesses that they have in the competition lift. Also to work on the technique or to address some technical errors with in the exercise.
How long does an athlete spend in the gym?
There are two types of athlete the one who has a goal and comes to the gym and trains during the preparatory period they lift for 2-3 hours. Other athletes come to the gym to have a talk they socialise with the other lifters what they need is someone with a whip who will chase them in the gym.
For beginner 60-90 mins same for masters lifters
Heavier lifters take longer to recover from workouts so will spend longer in the gym.
The length of a training session is dependent on an athletes ability to recover.
How often does it make sense to train with 90% and more?
It works well for weightlifting to train more in this zone and is backed up by evidence and science. Athletes can’t train for a long period of time with 90% plus loads and in the first 2-3 weeks you will get great strength gains but after that it decreases especially because of the psychological reasons you can’t lift for prolonged periods since you need to prepare yourself mentally for this weight.
Weightlifters can handle this much more because the weights they use are much lower than those used in powerlifting. The average weight they lift is much higher heir average intensity is 75%. When Boris was with the national training weightlifting team he noticed the highest effect was between 69-73% RM if they train with for 75% average for 2-3 weeks then they will be overreaching or over training. The reason the average percentage of training is higher because they take their maximum lifts from snatches and jerks.
Because we work off actual competition or actual gym results in the competitive lifts it is not possible for us to train at those percentages. We can not train with higher average percentages without over training. In american programmes the average weight they utilise is 85%.
The reason Boris’s programmes look less intense in because they produce volumes and percentages with warm ups.
Before you pick a programme decided if you can do it or not. It doesn’t matter how good the programme or the trainer is you always have to adjust it for yourself. Always take your percentages from your current 1RM not what you want to lift in competition or in the gym.
When programming do you use variant 1RM or just competition result 1RM?
For all preparatory lifts we take the percentages off the competition lifts. Depending on the variant then we will use varying percentage
For all preparatory lifts we take the percentages off the competition lifts. Depending on the variant then we will use varying percentage
Deadiift with chains – 65-70% RM
Deadlift from blocks – 95-110% RM
If you set a personal best 4 weeks out from a competition?
If you want to increase 1RM after an initial test do not adjust your training to your new max as 1 month is not long enough to adjust to the new training loads.
For intermediate lifters band tension in bench press the load on the bar will scale with the band tension or the chain weight. The percentage of lifts or the relative percentage does not really vary with the athletes levels what may vary will be frequency and volume.
Differences in training women and men?
First the physiology and type of body with cycles (recovery time) there are women who train with the intensity of men. Differences in performance with changes in frequency and intensity
The volumes and intensities need to be lifter specific since training response is very individual you need to adjust all programmes to the individual.
For deficit deadlift 70% is a good working load and the exercise must be performed from higher than 5cm (one plate).
Variation in the programme.
There should be variation in the programme higher intensities and lower volumes or higher volumes and lower intensities.
During a competition period the number of total lifts will decrease it is a similar principal however in all competition periods regardless of the variation or overload week then the last week is always the lightest leaving a deload week. The most important implication is the week before the competition is the week with the lowest total work and for 2 weeks before competition there will be no lifts above 90%.
Athletes will normally test 1 RM 17-21 days before competition. Elite athletes do no test true 1RM this tends to be only athletes who perform well in all the lifts. Usually a lifter is weak in one of the three disciplines. For these lifters they should test up to the limits on their weaker lift. Would only go up to 90% on the lifts that they are proficient at.
Beginners and intermediate will normally test right up to the limit reason being it is good for their mental development as a lifter. For example boris had one 90kg lifter would lift in training a good enough total to place 3rd but come the day of the competition he would get so nervous he would lift a total that was 30 kg less than he was capable of because he would get so nervous and would place 6th or 7th.
In final week before competition the % does not reach above 75% ad during the week of the competition there are 2 sessions during the week that are effectively warm ups. This rest gives them more chances to recover more and reach super compensation.
If an athlete tests 1RM 17-21 days before at competition we would expect the athlete to lift more the way they train but it doesn’t work all of the time! Depending on how the 100% looks if it was easy then they will plan more but if it looked harder they will plan 95-97% RM for competition.
Starting a Sheiko inspired routine.
If you are not sure of what planning or block to train use lighter cycles and if it is easier use harder cycle with more lifts but never repeat the same training cycle variances key!
To start we should look for 300-400 total lifts.
Warm ups before lifting –
Athletes will start the session with general preparation exercises like a dynamic moment they use a 10-15 minute period for which they prepare. After the general warm up they will use a targeted warm up or they will start to lift specific warm up or preparation.
The warm up is down individually to the athlete it is at there own descresion.
Stress loads – i.e. 70% 3-5-7-9-8-6-4 / 70% 3-7-5-8-4-9-6
Athlete will rest for 2 mins for lower reps and 5-7 mins for higher reps.
90% of Boris’s athletes find straight top pyramid and down because it is mentally more challenging to go up to a top set or 9 reps set because it keeps coming up and up. You can only do this sort of training during the preparatory peroid after such a session the leg muscle needs a long time to recover. If you want to try it do not start with higher than 65%. Do not perform more than 1x every 2 weeks during the preparatory period.
Pyramids only really used for squat and bench press not recombined for the deadlift. During deadlifting you have a very high load on the legs and back this sort of training increases the chances of back injury. 90% of 1RM shouldn’t be done every week.
Why vary your exercises and loads?
Doing the exercises spread over different loads and percentages and using variants with in the same training session is much better than performing the same training volume using flat sets x reps. If an athlete needs to improve technique then a pause of 1-2 seconds, chains can be used to improve the accent in the squat.
The box squat is used to touch and stand not to sit on the the box and to try and to stand hard. The box is used for an athlete who needs to get used to the depth of the squat normally done to competition depth.
That concludes my recap of the Boris UK seminar. In all I would highly recommend any lifter or trainer to attend any of Boris’s seminars if you have the chance to as he brings not only a massive wealth of experience and success but also a very different and thought provoking take on programming for maximal strength.