The Lifting Guide – Part 3: Training programming for fat loss

One question I get asked pretty often is:

How to design a training program for fat loss?

My usual answer is: You don’t need to do a special training program to lose fat; What you really need to do is to sort out your diet and to create a calorie deficit!

Even though this is the most important thing you have to address, there are a few tweaks you can do for your training that will help you lose fat faster.


First of all, let’s agree on what you want to achieve by training and dieting at the same time. It’s most likely

  • Losing fat
  • Not losing muscle (or even building muscle, which is a bigger challenge, but not unrealistic with a well-designed training program especially for beginners to lifting)

In order to lose fat you need to burn more energy than you consume, it’s a no-brainer. However, the biggest problem I see among my clients is that they don’t move enough to burn sufficient energy to see weight loss, even if they eat a low-calorie diet.

To be honest, the same applies to me! I sit most of the day in front of my computer and my energy expenditure by the end of the day is around 1200 kcal. Where should I cut calories from if I want to lose weight? There isn’t anything to cut from. For this reason, the most important thing in such cases is to increase the energy expenditure by moving more. You can do it by choosing to walk or cycle into to work if possible or to take short walks in the morning, your lunch break or in the evenings or even by increasing your energy expenditure during your workouts. And here the workout design comes into place.

If you don’t move enough throughout the day, you will need to move more during your workout. The things you can do are:

  • Increasing your repetition range to 8-15 repetitions, in the case that you trained in a low rep range targeting strength gains before
  • Decreasing your rest periods: Don’t wait 5 min to recover between the sets. If you use lighter weights and higher rep ranges, 2-3 minutes should be enough
  • Move while you are resting: In the rest periods between sets I usually walk around in the gym to get more movement in and burn more calories
  • Pair-set- exercises: Instead of completing all sets of one exercise and then going to the next, you can pair set two exercises, which will save time and keep you moving throughout your session. This in turn burns more calories.

How to do it: Do the first exercise, then rest for about one minute while walking to the equipment you need to perform the second exercise. Do a set of the second exercise, then rest of a minute while returning to the place where you have done the first exercise. Do a set of the first exercise, and start all over again.

Tip: Sometimes, depending on the gym I train in, I try to structure the exercises in a way so that I need to walk for some time when I transition between exercises. I would choose a piece of equipment that is located on one side of the gym for exercise one and the equipment that is located on the other side of the gym for exercise 2.


But what about HIIT?

Aren’t we supposed to burn lots of energy in a short time and get the super high after-burn effect that will make us burn fat for hours after the workout? 

Without going into details I can say just one thing: If it sounds too good to be true, it is most likely not true or not as significant as we want it to be!

The same applies to HIIT. It’s not only that the afterburn effect is not as high as we want or need it to be, but it is also my experience that HIIT is highly taxing and makes it difficult to recover from (especially for women). Due to the effort that is put into HIIT, the general exhaustion level increases and strength training  - the training we really need during fat loss to maintain the muscle mass! - suffers. 

Also, don’t forget, the day has 24 hours and you have to put in constant effort in working on your weight loss goal. You can’t expect that 15 min HIIT a day is enough to create an energy deficit that is high enough if you sit on your ass 99% of the time you are awake!


I hope this article has shed some light on the sad fat loss reality, which we often don’t want to hear and has inspired you to increase your daily movement, if fat loss is your goal.

Are you confused about different diets and HOW MANY CALORIES you should eat?

Are you unsure what TRAINING PLAN is best for YOU?

Then check out ScienceStrength packages to get the results YOU want:

Personalized Macros Package

will optimize your diet by providing you individualized calorie and macronutrient targets for YOU and YOUR goal (weight loss, muscle gain or maintenance), tables with portion sizes and substitution options, meal suggestions with different macronutrient and energy content, delicious high-protein recipes AND the

'Fit Your Macros' Calculator + Video Tutorial on how to use the calculator. The calculator will make it easy for your to understand how to fit your macros. You can use it to make your diet versatile and include new foods.


Training Plan Package

will give you highly effective workouts custom tailored for YOUR training stage. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced lifter and your goal is building muscle and strength in the most efficient way, this package will give you the workouts you need. There are different options to choose from; whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts with volume and training frequency adjusted for YOUR training stage.


The Lifting Guide – Part 2: Your sets – the difference between progress and failure

Do you really know how many sets you should be doing in order to make your muscle grow?

If you aren’t sure and have doubts about the training volume you should be using, then this article is exactly for you.


The number of sets for each muscle group per week or per training session depends on your training stage.

Screenshot (1267).png

Beginner: If you are a beginner to resistance training than you will see results with as little as < 3 sets per training session per muscle group, if you train twice a week (< 6 sets per week). 

Advanced: It seems that advanced lifters and athletes in particular should do even more sets per muscle group, per week.

But is there a cap? How much is too much?

Even though the evidence is lacking, it seems like doing 9 sets per muscle group per training session is too much. There seem to be an upper limit of what gives you more gains.

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2017). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2017). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

If you were to ask me about how I design training programs, I would tell you that I usually use 10-20 sets per muscle group, per week for intermediate lifters and for advanced lifters 20-45 sets per muscle group, per week, depending on their training history and the ability to recover.

Well, after clarifying how many reps and sets you should do, one question remains:


How much weight should I use?

I think the answer to this question is the simplest one:


I hope this article can help you with making sure that your training volume is high enough for gains!

If you don't want to bother with calculating the optimal training volume for each muscle group and want to get an optimal program designed for your training stage right now, then check out my Training Plan Package.

The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts with training volume adjusted to different training stages.


In part 3 of this series I will address the question of how to design a training program for fat loss. Stay tuned!

The Lifting Guide – Part 1: Choose the rep range that makes your muscle grow the most

Have you ever asked yourself one of the following questions?


  • Am I doing sufficient sets?
  • Am I using the right weight?
  • Am I working in the right rep range?
  • Which workout should I use for fat loss?


Finding the right training program for personal goals is challenging. The high abundance on lifting programs on the internet and hundreds of different opinions doesn’t make it any easier.

For this reason, I decided to address these frequently asked questions and make it as easy as possible for you to decide which program is best for you. In this article I will give you useful tips on how many sets and reps you should be doing depending on your training stage, your genetics and your goal.


Let’s start with the rep range

The repetition range you should work in depends on three factors:

  • Your goal
  • Your muscle fiber composition (that is determined by your genetics and your sports background)
  • The muscle group you train

There are two types of muscle fibers in your muscle; slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers.

Slow twitch muscle fibers respond to high rep ranges (higher than 8 reps) using lighter weight and fast twitch respond to higher weights and low rep ranges (less than 8 reps) or fast, powerful reps using lighter weight.

  • If you are an endurance athlete wanting to enhance your performance, you will need to focus on slow twitch and high rep ranges.
  • If you want to improve your strength and power, you will need to focus on fast twitch muscle fibers using low reps with heavy weights or fast movement.
  • If you are a bodybuilder whose goal is to increase muscle size (ie, you want to look really BIG), you will need to focus on both, fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, to get the maximum growth in the entire muscle.

However, this is not the end of the story. Now your genetics comes into the game. Muscles aren’t equally divided into 50% slow twitch and 50% fast twitch muscle fibers. The muscle fiber composition doesn’t only vary from muscle group to muscle group (ie, is different for quads than lats) but also is individual-dependent. Every person has a different muscle fiber composition depending on the sports background and the individual genetics. Yes! Your genetics do really play a role, as I’ve written previously in my post “Your Best Training Plan Is In Your Genes”.

The inter-individual differences can be hugely pronounced, especially for quads. Whereas some individuals can have only 5% of their quads consisting of slow-twitch muscle fibers, others can have as much as 90% slow-twitch muscle fibers in their quads and only 10% fast-twitch.

Thus, it is a no-brainer that if a person whose quads consist of 90% slow-twitch muscle fibers trains with very heavy weights in low rep ranges, this type of training will optimally train only 10% of this person’s quads. In fact there was a research study that showed that matching training type to the individual genetics leads to highest improvements, in both endurance ability and power. As power is closely related to strength, it is very likely that the same would apply to power as well.

And yes, you got it right. In contrast to the widely-accepted rule I stated above that one needs to lift heavy weights to gain strength and power, this seems to not apply to individuals with endurance-type genetics (people whose muscle consist mostly out of slow-twitch muscle fibers).


But how do I know what type of genetics I have?

This is how it works:

Take 80% of your 1 repetition maximum (1 RM) for the exercise that targets the muscle group(s) you want to test. Thereby this muscle group should be the limiting factor of your performance (the reason why you can’t do more reps when you miss a lift). Squat and bench press would be good candidates. Deadlifts in contrast not that much, as you always risk getting a lower back fatigue and subsequent injury if you go all out on deadlifts. Mostly, it is the lower back and not the legs that is the limiting factor for deadlifts.

After you warm up, do as many reps as possible (without killing yourself…please ask someone to spot and adjust the safety bars to the right height).

  • If you do less than 8 reps, then the muscle group you targeted is fast-twitch dominant and it makes sense for you to choose a program with low reps and high intensity.

  • If you do much more than 8 reps, then a program that implements high reps makes sense for you.

  • If you do about 8 reps, then your muscle fiber types are mixed and you should try to implement both, high and low reps.

Screenshot (1200).png


From my experience, most lifters can do between 8 and 13 reps, thus, they have a mixed fiber type and it makes sense for them to train in both rep ranges, high and low rep range. However, I have seen a few exceptions to this rule; male lifters who could squat only 3-5 reps at 80% or on the other side of the spectrum, female athletes who could squat more than 20 reps at 80% 1RM. Obviously, for these lifters most of the squat training should happen in the low rep range using heavy weight or in the higher rep range, respectively.

Nevertheless, even if the lifters who are slow twitch fiber dominant have to train mostly in a high rep range for strength (1RM) gains, it is crucial to include some heavy, low rep sets into the training routine too to get a feeling of heavy weight. Otherwise it is easy to freak out if suddenly you feel much more weight on your shoulders than your are used to. To go one step further, some powerlifters even include exercises like just unracking heavy weight without moving it (e.g. benching or squatting) just to get their bodies used to the heavy load. Then even the personal maximum won’t appear that heavy any more when testing 1RM, which give a lifter a huge psychological benefit.


To cut the long rep-range-you-need-to-train-in short:

Test your muscle fiber composition using the 80% test and work in the rep range(s) that target the majority of your muscle fibers. For most people, except outliers of course, it makes sense to implement sets with 3 to 15 reps into their training routine.


The issue with reps should be clear by now.

But how many sets should I do?

This question will be answered in part 2 of this series, stay tuned…


Don’t want to wait until next post and want to get an optimal program designed for your training stage right now?

Then check out my Training Plan Package.

The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts with training volume adjusted to different training stages.

Why Powerlifting Isn’t About Power - *nerd stuff*

There are two common misconceptions that drive me crazy as a competitive powerlifter. First one is that I lift weights above my head in competitions. No, guys! I definitely don’t do this. This is what Olympic weightlifters do. I squat, bench and deadlift.

The second one is that powerlifting is about power. This also isn’t the case. I know the name of this sport implies that it is about power and that may be confusing, but powerlifting is not about power. Powerlifting is about strength. In this post, I am going to explain to you why.

When we look at some physical equations (which I don’t want you to bother with here, just google them if you are really interested in it) we see that force needs to be applied to move an object. This is pretty logical. You need to apply force to move the bar with weights. The bar doesn’t move itself.

Power, in contrast, is the product of force and velocity (speed) of how fast you move the bar.

The goal of powerlifters is to move as much weight as possible and all of us probably agree on the point that it is not possible to move very heavy weight (close to your 1RM – the maximal weight you can lift) fast. Indeed, the highest speed of lifting and the highest power output was measured at weights that are at about 30% 1RM. In contrast, force output increases (= 'strength') steadily with increasing weight.

As powerlifters lift heavy weights and not baby weights at around 30% 1RM, powerlifting is about strength and not power.


Shouldn't I lift more explosively?

I often hear the advice that also powerlifters should try to be more powerful and explosive. However, I don’t agree with that. What matters in my opinion isn’t the powerfulness and high speed, but acceleration throughout the lift (starting with moderate speed and trying to get faster throughout the lift). Otherwise, there is the risk that one gets stuck before the completion of the lift. Well, one learns from their own mistakes. In the video below, you can see me attempting a 147.5 kg (324.5 lb) deadlift. This was before I realized that acceleration is the key and tried to lift powerfully and explosively.



Maybe I could have saved lots of time and avoided errors, had I dug through research literature sooner or met one of the world’s top coaches a lot earlier. Boris Sheiko, one of the most successful powerlifting coaches, stresses frequently that powerlifting is not about power, but strength. One of the most common mistakes he corrects during his seminars is that deadlifts shouldn't be performed jerky, but starting slowly off the ground and experience acceleration up to the endpoint of the lift (to learn more read my article: “Powerlifting Professor Sheiko - from Russia with Strength (part 1)”).


Also, research literature on strength training describes the negative effect power and speed may even have when lifting heavy weights:

"It is impossible to exert a high force in very fast movements. If an athlete performs the first phase of a movement too fast, the ability to apply great force in the second phase may be somewhat diminished. For instance, too fast a start in lifting a barbell from the floor may prevent an athlete from exerting maximal force in the most advantageous position - when the barbell is near the knees." - "Science and Practice of Strength training" by Vladimir M Zatsiorsky


That is enough science, just tell me what to do!

The first thing to do is to try to accelerate throughout the lift, meaning trying to get faster during the challenging part of the movement (e.g. upwards movement for squat, bench and deadlift, chin-ups). However, trying to accelerate throughout the lift often requires lots of mental focus while lifting. Integrating band and chains work into your training routine mimics the acceleration. The bands get stretched and chains get longer throughout the movement, which makes it easier to keep the mental focus, because you have no other choice than pushing harder to complete each rep. For this reason, exercises such as squats, bench or deadlifts with bands or chains are highly efficient for powerlifters.


Got stuck with your training? Then consider a consultation with me to bring your training to the next level!

Cardio Kills Gains?

Many of my clients who want to become shredded (aka lose fat and gain muscle) ask me whether they should include cardio into their training routine.


The reasons for doing cardio are kind of obvious:

- Cardio increases energy expenditure, which is good if your goal is weight loss

- Cardio is good for staying fit from an endurance perspective

- Cardio can be fun for some people (definitely not everyone!)


However, there is a downside to doing cardio because it is supposed to counteract strength and muscle gains.


But is cardio really so bad? In some research studies that were conducted on untrained individuals, the subject could gain both, strength and muscle, while doing cardio besides lifting. However, what applies to total newbies isn’t necessarily the case for someone with training experience.


In a research study, 30 resistance trained men were divided into four groups and they completed a 6 weeks training program, during which they trained three times a week or didn't train at all (control group).


One group did only strength training. The second did strength training three times a week and endurance training once week. The third group did strength training and endurance training in every session. And the fourth group did not train at all. The strength training program implemented a whole body training routine using compound movements and the form of endurance training was treadmill running.

At the end of the study, the strength training only group and the group that had only one cardio session a week in addition to strength training, had the highest lower body strength increases. In contrast, the group that did cardio after every session gained significantly less strength than the other strength training groups.

Upper body strength increased similarly in all training conditions. While lower body power, measured as the jump height participants could reach, increased only in the strength training group that did no cardio.


Screenshot (984).png


What we can learn from this study is that endurance training has the highest negative effect on power gains. If you are an Olympic weightlifter or do any other sports for which power is important, then you should avoid cardio as much as possible. (Side note: Power sports are those in which you have to do strong, fast movements. In contrast to the widespread belief, powerlifting is NOT a power sport because you can't lift very heavy weight fast.)


The more endurance training you do, the less strength you gain. However, the interference between endurance and resistance training is a local process. For this reason, running for instance, doesn’t affect your upper body strength gains (except when running makes you so tired, that you can lift properly or don't eat enough so that your body uses muscle as fuel). However, if you want to gain lower body strength, you should ideally choose a form of cardio that doesn’t involve your legs; arm ergometer for example.


Also, if you want to maximize your gains, you should perform your endurance and resistance training in different training sessions. In an ideal case, on different days. The worst thing you can do is train legs and do treadmill running straight after your leg workout!


If you are interested in muscle size gain (muscle hypertrophy), then I have good news for you. Muscle hypertrophy is more related to strength than it is to power. For this reason, I expect a similar or maybe even less interference between endurance training and muscle gain compared to endurance training and strength gain. However, the guidelines I have given above for performing cardio and strength training on different days and using the muscle groups you don't need to grow for cardio still apply.

Do you want to recap everything in video format to memorize it better? Then watch my video on this topic.


And if you want to bring your training to the next level and finally make those gains, check out my Training Plan Package.






How To Build A Full-Body Routine


“There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger


In my previous article, I described that whole body programs are highly beneficial for maximal muscle growth for advanced trainees who train every day, for intermediate lifters who train every second day or beginners who train once in 3 days times per week.

Screenshot (845).png


In this article, I will explain you how to put together a good whole body workout routine.


Set priorities

The optimum program for strength and muscle gain targets the most important muscle groups every training session. What the most important muscle groups are depends on which muscles you want to grow the most.

If you want to have big biceps, but don’t care about your legs, then you it makes sense to hit biceps with a higher volume and training frequency (at least when you are intermediate or advanced lifter) and put up with the fact that you will possibly end up with chicken legs.

But let’s assume that you want to create a balanced body and develop all of your muscle groups. To illustrate what an efficient training day would look in this case, read the next section.


What exercise to choose

The aim is to hit all main muscle groups in the training session. Compound movements, like squats or bench press, target several muscle groups at the same time. This is great because one doesn’t need to waste lots of time training each muscle group in isolation. Also, compound exercises allow you to lift more weight and look badass!

  • Front squats target mostly legs (quads) and glutes, but also the abs.
  • Bench press targets mostly chest, but also triceps to some extent.
  • Hip thrust is a very good glute exercise, which also activates the leg muscle and the lower back.  
  • Lat pull down trains the back and biceps.
  • Lateral raises target the shoulders.
  • As most compound movements don’t use calves, it makes sense to do a calf exercise a few times a week if you want to grow your calves
whole body program.jpg


You don’t need to use the same exercises for each training session. You can choose from a variety of exercises that target the same muscle groups. For example, you don’t always need to do front squats for your legs, you can also use other type of squats, such as back squats, goblet squats or even exercises like leg extensions, if you want to focus mainly on your quads. If you don’t know what are the best exercise for different body parts, check out my training plan (link). It contains a list with most efficient exercises for different body parts.


How to arrange the exercises

Have you ever wondered what exercises should you do first? What exercises should you do at the end of your workout?

Here is how I do it:

Every workout starts with exercises that involve several big muscle groups and then progresses to those that target fewer muscle groups. I choose this structure, because it increases the work output (thus, trains muscle better) and reduces the risk of injury.

Additionally, I increase workout efficiency by placing the exercises into the right order. I alternate exercises for different body parts. I don’t put two exercises that target the same body parts straight after each other (isolation exercises at the end of the workout may be an exception to this).

For example, I start with a lower body exercise like squats and continue with an upper body exercise (bench press). This way the lower body can rest before doing hip thrusts. Longer recovery period will result in increased performance. Increased performance means that you can do more rep at with a weight that optimal for strength and muscle gain. Doing more high-quality reps hits the muscle more and results in a better growth.

exercie order.png



Now you have all the tools you need to create a highly efficient whole body workout routine and get those gains!


P.S. If you don’t feel confident enough to create a program yourself and are looking for the most optimum training program for YOU and YOUR training stage, then check out my Training Plan Package. The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts.


How to transition from a beginner to an intermediate program

Only if you challenge yourself, will you improve!

If you started training not too long ago and have experienced the first muscle gains, then you are probably really pleased with your progress. Well done! However, as time passes and your body gets more and more used to the type of training you do, your progress will start diminishing until it completely stops. When this happens it’s time for a change. In this article I will tell you how you can successfully break through a plateau and continue making gains as an intermediate lifter.


Training frequency 

Most beginner’s training programs have a training frequency of about 2 to 3 times per week implementing whole body workouts. In the advanced training stage however, it would make sense to increase the training frequency. If you follow a whole body routine, you can train every 2 days. If you want to train every day, then an upper-lower-body split would work well for you as an intermediate lifter. 

Screenshot (832).png

Just as a side note: I often use training programs with a high training frequency also for beginners. This is because many beginners are really motivated to get into resistance training. As such, I don’t see any reason to give them fewer training days; if they want to train, then they should train frequently but the volume in each training session shouldn’t be too high so that they can adapt easily and not get sore. Beginner stage training programs are the only ones, where I would recommend a body split, such as the typical bodybuilding style split program (ie leg day, chest-triceps day, back-biceps day) for those who want to train every day. 

Higher training frequency has another benefit, in relation to compliance: if you have a fixed schedule, then it is easier to stick to it and stay on track. This is true because most people I have seen falling off the wagon, have done so in their rest days, when they just didn’t know what to do and maybe didn’t have a structured schedule. This is again why I see a frequent training program beneficial for everyone. For intermediate and advanced lifters, because they make better muscle gains this way and have a consistent structure and for beginners because it makes it easier for them to stay on track. 


Training Load

When you become an intermediate lifter, you can start lifting heavier. When you look at most beginner programs, they are usually done with a higher rep range. 

I am aware that there are some beginner programs that train in a 5-rep range, however I personally don’t recommend this because when someone is new to resistance training, it is vital that they learn to perfect their technique first and this is better done with more reps and lighter weight. Of course, when they have advanced and improved their technique they can reduce the rep number and increase the weight. This also has another advantage, which is also targeting more of your fast twitch muscle fibers (slow twitch muscle fiber are responsible for muscle endurance and fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for power and strength). 

There are genetic differences between people when it comes to muscle fiber composition. This is particularly pronounced in the quads; some people have more of the slow twitch muscle fibers, while others have more of the fast twitch muscle fibers. For the people that have more of the latter, they respond to higher weights and lower reps, as such it doesn’t make sense for them to train with lower weights and higher reps. Besides genetics, the exact muscle fiber composition is also influenced by the training background; if you train for endurance, the number of your slow twitch muscle fibers increases and if you train for strength and power then you get more fast twitch muscle fibers (reference). Thus, the exact composition varies for everyone. If you want to know how to test what your estimate muscle fiber composition is and what rep range is more beneficial for you, read my article: “Your Best Training Plan Is In Your Genes


Training Periodization

The third point I want to make is with regards to including periodization. When you are a beginner and have just started with resistance training, you can actually increase the weight in almost every session or every two sessions. For example, you may start off squatting with just the bar in your first session. In the following session you may add 5 kg, then in the following another 5 kg. After some time, you may then reach a plateau and you can’t increase the weights, without doing fewer reps or with your technique going slightly off. This is when periodization makes sense (I know the word sounds really fancy, but it will make sense soon!).

To put it simply, periodization means that you train with different weights and in different rep ranges.

For example if 50 kg is too heavy to train in the 8-rep range, then you can train with just 40 kg in the 8 rep range, 50kg in the 5 rep range and maybe 60 kg in the 3 rep range. This way, your body adapts to new training stimulus and it is definitely more beneficial than trying to lift the same weight all the time; instead it results in more strength and muscle gains.

There are different models of training periodization. The first one is linear periodization, where you have your training split into three different phases: the hypertrophy phase, the strength phase and the strength power phase. 

During the hypertrophy phase, you usually lift in a higher rep range, usually up to about 10-12 reps, though I have seen some programs bringing this up to 15 or 20 reps. On a side note, regarding hypertrophy: I personally do not think that it makes sense to go above 10-12 reps for most individuals in that phase. This is simply because if your goal is to gain muscle and strength, you would just push the adaptation towards endurance, which isn’t your goal because endurance is the opposite of gaining muscle and gaining strength.

During the strength phase, you usually lift around the 5-6 rep range and during the strength power phase, you would then lift around 1-3 rep range. The length of each phase can be as long as 6 weeks, which means you would train in the first 6 weeks around the 10 rep range, then in the following 6 weeks in the 5-6 rep range and in the 3rd 6 week range you would train in the 1-3 rep range.

Another periodization model, is the weekly undulating periodization model, which is where you train in the first week for hypertrophy, the second for strength and in the third for strength and power.

The third model is daily undulating periodization, where you vary rep range every day. To give you an example: your first training session in the week would be around the 10 rep range, and your second around the 5 rep range and then your third around the 1-3 rep range.

Screenshot (880).png


When looking at the research on periodization, weekly or daily undulating periodization appears more superior to linear periodization (if you want to learn more about periodization, check out the Bayesian PT course). This is why this is also the type of periodization that I use for training programs that I design. 

Now you have all the knowledge you need to design a training program that will give YOU the most gains.

Good luck & happy gains!

P.S. If you are looking for the most optimum muscle gain training program for YOU and YOUR training stage, then check out my Training Plan Package. The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts with the training volume optimized for your training stage.

Would like to listen to all the information again? Then check out this video!

How To Choose The Best Training Program For Your Training Stage

I get asked these questions all the time:

“What Training Program Is The Best?”

“How Often Should I Train?”

My answer usually is: it depends on your training stage. If you are a beginner you can’t expect that you can successfully rock an advanced training program and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in one month. If you are advanced, but follow a beginner program, you are just wasting your time by not challenging your muscles enough and not getting the gains you could be gaining. If you are an intermediate lifter, you are somewhere between both worlds. Depending on your training stage, the time period changes in which your muscle grow after you’ve hit them in the gym. 

Screenshot (830).png



If you are a beginner, with less than 1 year training experience, the muscle groups that you train in a training session grow for up to 72 hours. This means you have to hit each muscle group once in three days to get maximum muscle growth.


You can do either a whole-body workout every three days or an upper-lower-body split routine or you can follow a 3-day split routine to get optimum muscle growth. The difference between a whole body workout and a split workout is that in a whole body workout you train every muscle group in each training session and in the upper-lower-body split you alternate between upper and lower body training on different training days. In a body part split workout you train different muscle groups on different days.

A 5-day split program, which is designed to train every muscle group every 5 days or once a week (depending on how many rest days you take), will give you some gains, but not optimum growth as your muscle will grow only one half of the week.

Screenshot (828).png



If you are an intermediate, with about 1-2 years of training experience, the best strategy for you is to follow a whole-body routine and train every two days with one day rest between the sessions or alternatively using an upper-lower-body split.

If you do a 3-day split routine, your muscles won't grow on one of the three days (as your muscle growth window is about 2 days and you train each muscle group once in 3 days). For this reason, the 3-day split routine is not the optimal routine for you.

A 5-day split routine will leave most of your muscle without growth for the most time of the week.



If you are advanced, with more than 2 years training experience, the case is clear. If you want maximum muscle growth you should do a whole-body workout every day. Or at least train the muscle groups you want to grow the most every day.

Screenshot (832).png

It is important to note that it is vital to regulate the rep and set number carefully when you do daily training. If you are highly advanced, but don’t do enough sets, you won’t get any results, however, if you do too many sets per muscle group in every session, the sets may get 'wasted' and your performance may decrease if you stress your body too much. You can find more information on this topic in my article on training frequency.


Now you have all the knowledge you need to choose the training program that will give YOU the most gains. However, knowledge without execution is just philosophy. So, what are you waiting for?  Go to the gym, lift and make gains!


P.S. If you are looking for the most optimum training program for YOU and YOUR training stage, then check out my Training Plan Package. The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts.



Why You Should Train Every Day

Hey Bro, do you want to maximize your gains?

What training program do you follow? Is it a one-body-part-per-day split routine? If so, then you are completely off-track.


How often should I train?

Although there isn’t too much research on high frequency resistance training, there is evidence that higher training frequency (training 6 times a week for example) with a lower volume per session (doing fewer sets) is more beneficial for muscle gain than just a few long training sessions a week.

There was a really cool experiment done on Norwegian elite powerlifters (not a research study, just an experiment within the national team). The outcome was that training 6 times per week leads to greater strength and muscle gains than 3 days per week when the weekly training volume and program are the same.

Recently a new research paper was published, in which the scientist established the following model:

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8


Each peak represents muscle growth after a training session. Training 6 days a week (black curve) is better for muscle growth than 2 days a week (grey curve), because the total area under the back curve is higher than the area under the grey curve (the time muscle are built).

Increasing the number of sets from 3 to 9 sets per muscle group when training only 2 days a week, doesn’t give you more gains, as the additional sets will 'get wasted'. It seems like there is an optimal number as to how many sets per session one can do to achieve optimal growth. Doing more sets in one session doesn't give better results.

The researchers concluded:

“Performing fewer sets per session at a higher frequency will likely be sufficient for increasing muscle size while also limiting fatigue to allow for higher frequencies and thus more frequent stimulations of muscle protein synthesis. Performing more sets per session while using a lower training frequency may reduce the time spent in a positive net protein balance because the large number of sets performed within a given session may exceed the ‘anabolic limit’, resulting in wasted sets.”


Of course, the individual training stage also matters. Trained individuals are used to the stimuli of resistance training. For them, muscle growth returns to baseline levels within 16-24 hours after a training session (black curve). In contrast, beginners grow muscle for up to 72 hours after a training session (grey curve). However, even for beginners, a training frequency of more than twice a week is also beneficial (because they get more spikes and there is more area under the muscle growth curve).  

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8


Want to recap? Then watch this video


For people who are at an advanced training stage, not only does the optimal training frequency change, but also the optimal training volume. For most persons who are beginners to resistance training, 9 sets per muscle group per week are sufficient to get optimal results, however, advanced lifters should train with a higher volume to achieve optimal muscle growth (If you want to learn more on this topic check out the Bayesian PT course). This means that if you are an advanced lifter and train 6 days per week, you may need to do 3-5 sets per muscle group each workout (this means that whole body workouts are more beneficial than split-type workouts).


Size vs Strength – Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting

The research paper presented above didn't discuss optimal frequency for strength gains. That’s why I am going to expand with my thought on this topic. If poor recovery isn't an issue, higher training frequency is also beneficial for strength gains, as observed in the Norwegian elite powerlifters experiment. This makes sense, as hypertrophy and strength go hand in hand. However, you can’t expect a linear increase in strength if you increase your training frequency in a linear manner. There are diminishing returns with increased training frequency. This applies to many other things as well; there are diminishing returns for muscle gain in an energy surplus, there are diminishing returns for calorie deficit when cutting (higher kcal deficit doesn't result in more weight loss), etc. Nevertheless, there is an advantage to strength gains when it comes to higher training frequency. Higher frequency is beneficial for the improvement of lifting technique. Lifting is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get.


Individual variability & lifestyle variability

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. One must consider individual cases.

Genetics: If someone has poor genetics and poor recovery, then a higher training frequency could make more sense for bodybuilding, than for powerlifting.

Energy balance: In a caloric deficit, it can make sense to decrease the volume. However, training increases energy expenditure and can be considered as additional activity that makes it easier to lose weight. If you tolerate a high training frequency and volume, then I would rather keep it. This also allows you to keep your calorie intake higher. Higher activity is not only beneficial for increasing energy expenditure, but may also reduce the drop in resting metabolic rate resulting from adaptive thermogenesis in an energy deficit. Particularly during energy deficit it is important to consume enough protein to enhance recovery and prevent unnecessary muscle loss.

book no bg.png

If you struggle to get sufficient protein without excessive calorie and carbohydrate intake, check out my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fat Loss Cookbook or get Science Bakes Protein Pancakes and Waffles Mix with whooping 30 grams of protein per serving.

Lifestyle: A stressful lifestyle, chronic sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption and eating too much junk are issues that have to be sorted out, no matter what your training frequency is. All of these factors reduce body’s ability to recover and are counter-productive for muscle and strength gains.


FAQ – You asked, I answered.

What if you don’t have the time to do 3-4 sets for each muscle group every workout?

  • Smart exercise choice: Choose exercises that target several muscle groups at once = compound exercises (e.g. squat for quads and glutes and, of course, to some extent back and abs).

  • Set priorities: Choose what muscle groups you want to grow the most. If you want to get big shoulders, but don’t care about your biceps, do 5 sets of a shoulder exercise and fewer sets of biceps curls.

    • Side note: you train biceps automatically when you train back, e.g. rows or chin ups. If you frequently train your back, you can skip biceps isolation exercises on most days and do them only a few times a week, except if you want to be the person with the biggest biceps in your gym. If this is the case, do 5 sets of biceps curls every day :)

  • Do paired sets: Paired sets are sets in which you alternate 2 or even 3 exercises with a short rest between the exercises (not back to back like supersets). Usually, I choose 2 exercises for completely different muscle groups, e.g. lower body and upper body (leg extension and shoulder press). I try not to pair set difficult compound exercises like squat, bench press or deadlift, but pair set isolation exercises. However, if it is not possible due to time constraints I pair set heavy compound exercises with light isolation exercises (e.g. deadlift with lateral raises or bench press and calf raises).


I currently train 3 times a week doing a full body workout. Should I increase training frequency?

If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, and not a total newb, then yes. 


What rep range should I do?

This depends on the exercise and your genetics. If you are slow twitch muscle fiber dominant, a higher rep range may be beneficial for you. If you are fast-twitch muscle fiber dominant, you may want to decrease the rep range. For more info, read my previous blog post.


Is it better to do 2 sets 6 times a week instead of 4 sets 3 times a week for each muscle group?

I wouldn't necessarily do only 2 sets per workout, at least not for body parts that are important for you. For muscle groups you want to grow the most, I would do 3-4 sets as often as possible, for other muscle groups, 1-2 sets if you don't have the time to do 3 sets.


How do you structure your training?

I usually do

1. Squat or Deadlift (or Good morning/Hip thrust on my easy days)

2. Bench press (different variations on different days)

3. Back exercise

4. Shoulder exercise

5. Exercise for hamstrings if squat was my first exercise or exercise for quads if deadlift was my first exercise

6. Triceps or Biceps or Lower back (depending on what my current priority is and what exercises I have done earlier in the session)


Did you like this article? If so, then share it with your friends on social media. I would really appreciate it! Thank you :-)


Lose Weight. One Pancake At A Time!

Screenshot 2019-05-07 at 13.09.49.png

The yummy way to lose weight

Anybody can lose weight and gain muscle by eating healthy meals full of protein, because it keeps you full und energetic. And now, it's easier than ever!

Enjoy our Pancakes and Waffles for breakfast with whooping 30 grams of protein. Add some daily activity and see your body transform.

The reason why Boris Sheiko's programs are so successful

Just recently, once again, I had the honor to work with Boris Sheiko, one of the most successful powerlifting coaches in the world, and support him as his interpreter during his seminar. This time, there were two particular features about his seminar. First, it was his first seminar in Germany (finally, I can connect the dots and it makes sense why I grew up in a bilingual German-Russian environment :) ). Secondly, it wasn't the typical powerlifting seminar. The seminar was carried out in a crossfit gym and athletes with different backgrounds were present: powerlifting, weightlifting, strongmen, crossfit and even karate.After the theoretical part of the seminar (see my previous blog posts - #1, #2, #3 - for the content), all athletes showed their lifts and Boris Sheiko made technique corrections and suggestions on how to improve.


The first question, Boris asked each athlete was: "What is your sports background?" and only then he made suggestions. You might be a bit surprised why sports background matters. If the squat technique is correct, it shouldn't matter if one is powerlifter or weightlifter or crossfitter after all. Right?

However, it does matter a lot. These are the small technical refinements that matter, such as the bar position, stance width, range of motion, etc. that determine the squat efficiency for the individual sport or the individual goal.

To give an example, let's take a powerlifter, a weightlifter and a bodybuilder and the way everyone needs to squat.

The goal of a powerlifter is to push as much weight as possible. This means that a shorter range of motion (not a full squat, but just below parallel or to parallels, depending on the federation rules this lifter competes in) and a low bar position are most beneficial.

A weightlifter doesn't really care about squat because his competition disciplines are snatch and clean & jerk. However, squat develops leg strength and is a good assistance exercise for his competition lifts. For this reason, weightlifters squat with a full range of motion and high bar position, in which the lifter's position is more similar to the one in his competition lifts.

A bodybuilder has muscle growth as his main goal. How much weight he can or want to push, is a secondary issue, that is mostly determined by the size of his ego. Thus, a full range of motion, automatically implying a high bar squat position (the one you can push less weight with), make more sense for a bodybuilder.

What do we learn from this? Sports background determines what exercise form to use. The lifting technique should be adjusted to individual goals, which Boris Sheiko does for all of his students.

However, it doesn't end here. What exercise form to use is pretty easy to determine, but what about program planning? If we just look at strength building programs for powerlifters, there are so many different options. Which one is the best?

Here it is totally dependent on you as an individual. As long as you aren't a complete newb (everything works for a newbie), a good program is the one, that works on your limiting factors and eliminates them, no matter if these are weaknesses in your technique, muscle groups that are lacking behind or even psychological issues, such as little confidence to lift heavy. To cut a long story short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is no program that works for everyone, as everyone has a different limiting factor....but...

...but, if all programs need to be individualized, and there are no programs that work for everyone, how can it be that Boris Sheiko's programs you can download from his page led to such drastic strength improvements for so many lifters even without individualization? (Just as a side note: Also Boris Sheiko says that all programs need to be individualized)

In my opinion, there are three reasons for it:

1. Boris Sheiko analyzed dozens or even hundreds of training log books from his athletes. Looking at the data he found correlations for training intensity and progress and he implements these findings into his programs.

2. Based on his longstanding experience he knows what are the most common mistakes and weaknesses lifters have. For this reason, Boris Sheiko uses variations of competition lifts in his programs that improve these weaknesses. No matter what your limiting factor is, the chance is pretty high that some part of Boris Sheiko's program will address it. 3. His programs are designed for the right genotype.

Designed for the right WHAT?

As I described in my previous blog post, there are genetic differences between people. These differences may play a crucial role for program design. Some people, whose genetic trait is classified as the endurance trait, respond better to low intensity high rep programs, even if building power and not endurance is the goal. Others, however, carrying the power trait respond better to high intensity low rep programs. The probability that the majority of powerlifters carry the power trait is very high. People like to do things they are naturally good in, like in the case of powerlifters lifting heavy stuff for one rep or just a few reps. Thus, it is reasonable that a successful powerlifting program targets exactly this group. If we have a look at Boris Sheiko's programs, we see that *surprise, surprise* the majority of competition lifts or variations of competition lifts are trained with low rep numbers. This is what I meant by saying that the programs are designed for the right genotype. They are designed for a powerlifter.

Take-home message: In my opinion, Boris Sheiko's programs are so successful, because they

  • are designed for true powerlifters (...the guys who like to lift really heavy stuff, because they're naturally good at it),
  • fix most common mistakes powerlifters do and
  • use optimal average training intensity for powerlifters.

Happy lifting!

Want to hear more from me? Then subscribe to my list - in case you haven't yet - to get updates, ideas and tips on training and nutrition :)


Your Best Training Plan Is In Your Genes

No progress? Bored with training? Need a change? Then it's time to start a new training program. But how do you know what training program is the best for you? There are thousands of training programs out there; high rep, low rep, high intensity, low intensity, body part split, whole body workouts - you name it.


When completely lost in the training program sump people tend to choose the workouts that gave others great results reasoning like that:

"My buddy did this program and he got super ripped and strong!" or

"I will train like Arnold Schwarzenegger, his training program obviously made him to a legend!"

Now the intriguing question is, if a program was great for your buddy, will it be necessarily good for you? Or will training like a professional bodybuilder automatically make you looking like one? Or do other factors, such as genetics, for example, play a role for training progress?  

Just recently a very interesting research paperon genetic differences between individuals and how they influence the success of training programs was published. The scientist distinguished between two genetic traits; the endurance trait and the power trait. Research study participants with the power trait achieved more progress in power and endurance performance by following a power-oriented resistance training program (high set number, low rep number, higher intensity) and those with endurance trait improved more in endurance and power following an endurance-oriented resistance training program (low set number, high rep number, lower intensity). This finding is very intriguing, considering that the latter group experienced a higher increase in power (which is on the opposite side of the spectrum than endurance) doing endurance training and not power training ( dumbbell gains!!!:D ). As strength is closer related to power when it comes to adaptations to training, it is likely that higher repetition training results in higher strength gains in endurance genotype and low repetition (higher intensity) training in power genotype. But what exactly is this genotype you speak about?

Well, genetic heritage may influence muscle and strength gains one experiences as the result of resistance training. Muscle fiber composition, consisting of slow-twitch (endurance) and fast-twitch (power and strength) muscle fibers, also is a genetic heritage. The endurance-oriented slow-twitch muscle fiber content of quadriceps can range from 5 to 90%, depending on the individual.(ref) This difference may also influence the response to resistance training. For slow-twitch dominant trainees, it is likely to be more beneficial to train with high reps - even when strength and power increase is the goal - and for fast-twitch dominant lifters using low rep numbers. If you aren't fancy doing genetic testing to get a clue about your own muscle fiber composition, you can do the 80% test.

This is how it works:

Take 80% of your 1 RM for the exercise of your interest and after you warm up try to do as many reps as possible.

  • If you do less than 8 reps, then the muscle group you targeted is fast-twitch dominant and it makes sense for you to choose a program with low reps and high intensity.
  • If you do more than 8 reps, then a program that implements high reps makes sense for you.
  • If you do about 8 reps, then your muscle fiber types are mixed and you should try to implement both, high and low reps.

Speaking from my own experience as mixed fiber type, I made the most progress when I followed a program that implemented both, high-rep-lower-intensity and low-rep-higher-intensity type of training.

Another thing that is important to mention is that the muscle fiber composition of different muscle groups varies. For this reason, you can't do the 80% test for squat and apply the numbers to bench press, for example. You need to do the test for each exercise you are interested in.

(If you want to become an expert in program individualization and programs design, I highly recommend taking part in the Bayesian PT Course).

Also, there is a difference between men and women. In general,resistance-trained women are more slow-twitch muscle fiber dominant, thus it makes sense for most women to train with higher reps and higher volume.

Ready for gains? -  Here is what you need to do:

  • Do the 80% test to determine what rep ranges you should focus on to build muscle and strength.
  • If you don't know what are the best exercises for muscle gain, read this article.
  • If technique issue with squat, bench or deadlift is the limiting factor for your strength progress, read this.
  • If you don't know if whole body workout or body part split is appropriate for your training stage, read this post.

Good luck! :) If you still don't know what to do, ask me  :) ...and don't even think of using pink dumbbells!


Powerlifting Professor Sheiko - from Russia with Strength (part 1)

What fits better to the name of my blog, than writing about the only professor of powerlifting who came from Russia with strength? I had the amazing opportunity to accompany Boris Sheiko on his 2016 UK tour and acting as his interpreter. Professor Sheiko was the head coach of the Russian national powerlifting team for 7 years. At that time, his team was undefeated and his athletes won 39 gold medals and 22 silver medals at world championships. Spending three days with Boris Sheiko I got a great insight into his training strategies, ideas and coaching principles. I would like to start with his most important advice:

"It is never too late to fix technique!"


                       Photo taken from Boris Sheiko's Instagram page

At the seminars participants had the chance to lift in front of Boris Sheiko and got individually tailored advice on how to improve their technique. I realised that some technical inaccuracies appeared throughout the board, actually the same I make. Here is an overview of the most common mistakes and Boris Sheiko's suggestions how to fix these.


Depth: If you can't get deep enough and break parallel, do pause squats. When you pause, the weight on the bar will push you down and bring you into the right position. If your squat is too low (weightlifter-style) then you waste your energy. Do box squats using a slightly below parallel box (in height) in order to get used to the right depth. However, don't sit down, just touch the box and go straight back up. The important thing is to keep tight and not to relax the back.

Knees go in: If your knees go in on the way up, most likely your adductors are weak. You can strengthen them by using adductor machine or doing exercises with rubber bands.

'Squat morning' If you 'good morning' your squat (butt shoots up first) on the the way up, then your legs are probably too weak. Implementing front squats in your training routine and doing squats holding a 8-10 kg kettlebell in front of you when you warm up, can help you to fix your 'squat morning'.

Bench press It is important to note that there two 'types' of competition bench press: 1. narrow grip - targeting more the triceps 2. wide grip - targeting more the chest muscles

Every time, when a novice lifter comes to Boris Sheiko's gym, he has to show how he does close grip bench press. If the lifter pulls his elbows in, then narrow grip is more suitable for him. In contrast, if the lifter flares his elbows out, then he should widen his grip and use the more chest-dominant technique in the future. For those who do wide grip bench press, dumbbell fly and pec deck are useful assistance exercises. They stretch and strengthen chest muscle, tendons and ligaments.

Most lifters were encouraged to work on their arch, especially those, who compete in the lighter weight classes. Light lifters do not have any reason not to arch (except an injury prevent them from doing it). Both, arching and wider grip, shorten the range of motion and allow powerlifters to lift more weight. In this case, the shorter the better, especially if it is about winning a championship.

Another great advice from Boris was decreasing the speed of the bar before touching the chest. For competitive lifters it may significantly decrease the time the bar has to be hold on the chest before getting the 'press command'. Actually, Boris Sheiko makes all his athletes pausing the first rep of each set, no matter if they have a 'one rep set' or 'five reps set' planned in their training. The aim is to automate the performance of competition lifts. The competitor has to lift automatically, as competitions are usually very stressful and the time to think about one's technique is lacking. The same applies for locking out the elbows. Dear competitive lifters, please, lock out your elbows at each single rep in training.


Deadlift practice was most most entertaining part of the seminar. 90% of the lifters made the same 'mistake' (me included): Jerking the bar. Boris Sheiko stressed multiple times that powerlifting - in contrast to olympic weightlifting - is not about explosiveness, but strength. The lifts have to be performed slowly and not jerkily. Even when a lifter warms up using light weight, it isn't a reason to make the bar fly off the ground. It is an useless waste of energy. Experienced lifters put just as much energy into a lift, as it is required to move the weight, no matter if 100% of 1 RM are on the bar or just 50%.

Another inaccuracy is that many lifters look down, instead of looking straight or keeping the head neutral. Boris wondered: "What are you looking for? There is no money on the floor."

The technique coaching part allowed me to understood why many of Boris Sheiko's programs include deadlifts with pause. Many lifters lock out their knees too early or keep the bar too far away from the body during the lift. This takes the legs out of the movement. The back has to do most of the work. When pausing it is hard to keep the bar far away from the body. For this reason, most lifters will pull in the bar automatically when doing pause deadlifts and get used to keeping the bar closer to the body.

Last but not least, the Powerlifting Professor was very surprised finding out that most participants do conventional deadlift and not sumo deadlift. Although, sumo deadlift is not ideal for everyone, many lifters could benefit from the shorter range of motion and the fact that two of the biggest and strongest muscle groups; leg and back muscle; work simultaneously when pulling sumo. Boris highly encouraged the participants to give sumo deadlift a try. One should practice sumo deadlift for at least one month before deciding which deadlift version to use. As all good things go by three, also I am back to pulling sumo. I tried switching to sumo two times already, but went back to conventional every time. Now, I am looking forward to repeat this challenge.


For more info on Boris Sheiko and his programs check out his web page and his facebook page.

Part 2 of the series: Epic Programs for Epic Lifters – Boris Sheiko’s Secret Weapons

If you are hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends


Epic Programs for Epic Lifters - Boris Sheiko's Secret Weapons (part 2)

Why are Boris Sheiko's athletes so successful? What outstanding training strategies does one of world's best coaches use?

Let's dig deep and get the answer to these questions.

1. Program format - healthy athletes are happy athletes

One key point of Boris Sheiko's training programs is to vary training load every week (image below). His ideas is to create a solid foundation an athlete can maintain, even if one or two training sessions have to be skipped, for example due to illness. The variation principle aims to prevent overtraining and limit the risk of injury that can easier occur following a program that increases the load in a linear manner.

week 1
week 1

This is only an example how the training load can vary over time. Many different combinations of load distributions (small, medium and large load) are possible.

2. Training structure - save reps, double sets and lifts

Compared to Boris Sheiko's programs, the popular 5 x 5 scheme looks like cardio. On most training days the number of repetitions for the main lifts is kept fairly low, even for sets below the targeted working weight. The low rep number allows the lifter to focus on each singe rep and do it with a perfect form. This strategy clearly counteracts the "Screw the form, I just want to be done"- effect that often kicks in after 2-3 reps with a heavy weight. The high set number makes up for the "lost reps".

A unique characteristic of Sheiko programs are the  double lift session. Boris Sheiko is the first coach who came up with this idea. Here is how it works: in the same training session, one of the main lifts is trained twice. However, different variations of the competition lift are used. For example, the training session starts with deficit deadlifts, followed by bench press and then the lifter goes back to another deadlift variation (e.g. rack pulls). The bench press block between two deadlift variations gives time to recover and improves the efficiency of the second deadlift session. This example shows how Boris Sheiko's training sessions are structured:

program example
program example

This is a training section from Boris Sheiko's 4 day program.

Another interesting characteristic of Sheiko's programs is the high amount of 'half movements'. For example, deadlifts up to the knees. The idea behind it is to split the lift into two parts. Performing only one half of the movement allows the lifter focusing on this particular part to practice a difficult technique sequences until perfection.

 3. Exercise choice - focus on muscle you need the most

Boris Sheiko's recommendations on most important assistance exercises may surprise some of us: hyperextensions, exercises for abdominal muscle and box jumps.

Indeed, his programs have an exceptionally high number of lower back exercises, such as hyperextensions and good mornings. In contrast, other popular back exercises, such as lat pulldown or row, are rare or even not nonexistent in his programs. Give it deep thought. It really makes sense. A strong lower back is much more important for a powerlifter than big lats. Big lats aren't too bad for benching, but a strong lower back is crucial for squat AND deadlift. These are the exercises you pull the most weight with in a competition (except you are Jennifer Thompson).

Now answer the question: How many times a week do you train your lower back? I am totally with you, hyperextensions are as boring as hell and good morning is the weird exercise, especially when done seated. However, both exercises are crucial for powerlifters.

Let's move on. Training abs to increase core stability makes sense. But why the hell box jumps? - Well, box jumps are a good exercise to develop power in the preparatory period. Power development is beneficial for strength, despite the fact that powerlifting is not about power, but strength. Strength and power are not the same. Explosive power - you see in Olympic weightlifting - has no place in powerlifting.

I know, some of you are confused now. The opinion that a lift, especially deadlift, has to be explosive is widespread. Don't worry, I will discuss the 'explosiveness controversy' in the third part of the Sheiko blog post series ;)

Hey you,  hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends


Explosiveless & Success - Boris Sheiko's Powerful Advice (part 3)

EXPLODE!!! - That's how my friend cheered me on. I did it; lifted more explosively and it worked. I spent many training sessions practicing speed deadlifts. I focused on lifting with power, speed and explosiveness. Do you know what happened? The bar started flying off the ground. Even on my 1 RM attempts the speed off the floor was incredible! Some time later, while interpreting at Boris Sheiko's seminars I had to think of my explosiveness experience. Boris Sheiko stressed several times that powerlifting isn't about explosiveness and that the weight should be lifted slowly. I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Why is it wrong to be explosive? Explosiveness helped me to lift at least 10 kg more off the floor after all (to be fair I should mention that it was much more weight than I could ever lock out :P ).

As you may know, I am scientist, analytical thinker, problem solver…I put on my thinking cap and thought about explosiveness for a while.

It seems to me that there is a difference between explosiveness and speed the maximal force a lifter applies when going for the maximal attempt. Imagine, you apply your maximal force to your 1RM lift. The bar will move slowly, because it is heavy as hell. If you apply the same force to 50% of your 1RM, you will get speed and explosiveness. The bar will fly off the ground, because you apply your maximal strength to a sissy weight. The point is that you don't need to put your maximal strength into a 50% lift. Apply just as much force as needed for a particular lift. Anything above is waste of energy. Boris Sheiko pointed out that experienced lifters put just as much energy into a lift, as it is required to move the weight, no matter if 50% or 100% are on the bar.

My personal conclusion from the explosiveness confusion is that a lifter needs to learn how to apply maximal force in order to lift more. Doing speed lifts with light weight might be helpful for getting the feeling how to apply maximal force. However, it is not necessarily optimal. Explosive movements have the tendency to be fast, chaotic and imprecise. When you go for your maximal attempt; however, you should aim for perfect technique and optimal bar path. Rushing (= being fast and explosive) at the beginning of the movement increases the risk of getting into a suboptimal position and missing the lift. Does it make sense?

All good things must come to an end, so does my Boris Sheiko UK seminar series. I would like to complete it with Boris Sheikos powerful (but not explosive ;) ) advice for successful training:

"In my opinion, some of the most important factors are the ability to work hard and self-belief. I tell my students: "Hard work never goes to waste." In other words, hard work always yields good results. If an athlete doesn't believe in himself, doesn't believe in his abilities and that he can reach his goal, then he won't achieve anything."

Happy lifting and PRing :)

What? You would like to know more ? Ok, if you are hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends


The best training routine

“What is the best training routine?” – I heard this question so many times. Usually, my answer to this question is another question…Well, to be honest, other questions

What is your goal?

What is your training status?

What is your current training routine?

Most of the time ‘the best routine’ type of question is asked by beginners or intermediate lifters who want to get stronger.

If you don’t know what category you belong to and how many times a week you should train, check out is the NSCA classification and guidelines below.1

table 1
table 1

Ok, now let’s have a look at the ‘I want to get stronger’ part. Do you want to get stronger to get better in a particular sport (e.g. football) or just because you want to be badass? If it is the first, then consult a strength and conditioning coach to get advice what training routing makes sense for you. If you are one of those who want to hulk up, then read on…(for most women probably tone up ;-) )

If you just started resistance training,

… you have to learn proper technique first, before you start lifting heavy. I mean powerlifter-type of heavy. Your workouts should be challenging, use the black dumbbells, not pink ones ;-)

… you will see progress, even with low training frequencies (2-3 times a week).1

… you should give yourself enough time for recovery.1

Once you become more advanced, you

… can increase your training frequency to ≥ 3 times a week.1

… can start implementing a split routine type of training. This means you will train different muscle groups on different days. Some examples for split routines are given in the table below.1

… should plan your training sessions so that there is at least one, but not more than 3 rest days between sessions targeting the SAME muscle groups.1

… can start following programs like 5x5 if you want to get ‘powerlifter-type’ of stronger. Such programs are often described as beginner programs, however, in my opinion, these programs are good for ‘beginners with resistance training experience’. If you have never lifted before and start doing heavy sets of 5 without even knowing what you’re doing, then snap city may become your next destination.

table 2
table 2

Table adapted from ref. 1.

Tips based on my personal experience:

Exercise selection

Free weight compound (multi-joint) exercises rule. My strength and size progressed a lot when I started powerlifting training doing heavy squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, rows, dips and pull-ups. I had one year resistance-training experience at that point and have seen some progress, however, it was nothing compared to the results I got after I decided to stop toning up and start hulking up… it took me 1.5 years to get my squat from sets of 5 at 40 kg to sets of 5 at 105 kg.

squat hulk
squat hulk

...not sure if you will get such a beautiful, radiant skin's the result of a unique combination of heavy lifting, vegan lifestyle and all the GMO work for my PhD :P

dead hulk
dead hulk

Also, machine exercises have their place in the program. I usually do them at the end of a training session, when I am more tired. It allows me to focus on particular muscle groups and reduces the risk of injury.

Isolation exercises are good to work on particular weaknesses that are the limiting factor for your strength development (e.g. if you get stuck with your bench progress because of your weak triceps) or if your goal is to increase the size of a particular muscles for esthetical appearance…for instance, if you think that it is super badass to have a huge biceps, but don’t care about your chicken legs.

Exercise order

Do compound exercises or the exercises where the risk of injury is higher first. Basically, the exercises you need the most focus and the most power for. Many machine and isolation exercises can be done at the end of a training session.


Work on your form! It will never be perfect. If you are not sure if you lift with a good form and you don’t have anyone to check on it, then record yourself on video. Analyze your videos and do your own research on how proper technique looks like. In the emergency case, if you are not sure if you perform an exercise correctly, upload your videos to the internet and ask for advice. However, be cautious about the advice you get. Many people on social media love giving advice, no matter if they are knowledgeable or have no clue. Thus, screen for competence.

Also, never forget: different people have different opinions, different strategies and approaches to techniques. Stay open-minded and think about tips you get. Find what applies to you and works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Time & Intensity

If you are short on time or want to increase the intensity of your workouts try to do supersets. Alternate exercises for different muscle groups, so that one muscle group can rest while you’re training the other (e.g. lat-pull down & leg curls superset).

If you want to increase your workout intensity to the ‘YOU ARE A MACHINE’ level, then you can add plyometrics to your supersets. Box jumps and burpees are great.

However, know what your workout goal is. If your workout focus is strength progress, then keep your rest periods longer (3-5 min) and do NOT superset. Heavy deadlifts and burpees superset is a no-go! In contrast, if your goal is to do a workout that keeps your heart rate up and increases your energy expenditure, then jump the hell out of it.

Everything is about balance

Guys, even if a big chest is your number one goal, please, train your back with the same volume as you bench.

And, ‘I want abs ladies’ – if you do 500 crunches every session, please, don’t forget to do 500 back extensions as well ;-)

For more, more advanced crowd (>> 1 year training experience)

A further increase in training frequency and volume, training each muscle group every day, may be actually beneficial at this stage.2,3,4

Do you think it will cause overtraining? Then try Smolov and tell me your opinion after you completed the program. Smolov won’t make you necessarily stronger or technically better, but will show you how adaptable the human body is. Often the limitation is not a person’s physical strength, but mental strength. Of course, when running a very intense training program, recovery is incredibly important. Eating right, sleeping well and reducing stress, all of these factors are crucial if you want to train with high volume and frequency and see progress.

For updates on nutrition, training and science subscribe to my list


  1. Baechle TR, Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 2008.
  2. Kim PL, Staron RS, Phillips SM. Fasted-state skeletal muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise is altered with training. J Physiol. 2005; 568(Pt 1): 283–90.
  3. Raastad T., Kirketeig, A., Wolf, D., Paulsen G. Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week. Book of abstracts, 17th annual conference of the ECSS, Brugge 4-7 July 2012.
  4. Häkkinen K, Kallinen M. Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes. Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology. 1994; 34(2): 117-124.

FASTED CARDIO – beneficial or pointless?

Of course, there is no simple answer to this question. In my opinion, it is more important to ask instead: What do I want to achieve with fasted cardio?


Fasted cardio to improve body composition

According to a study conducted on normal-weight women, fasted cardio is not more beneficial than cardio in fed state when it comes to fat loss.1

For 4 weeks, 20 healthy, young, non-obese women on a calorie-restricted diet performed 1 hour of steady-state aerobic exercise 3 days per week. The study has shown that there was no significant difference between both groups, fasted group lost 1.1kg fat, whereas fed group 0.7kg fat on average. Although the difference of 0.4 kg is not statistically significant short term, it may become significant long term. A time period as short as 4 weeks and a sample size of only 20 subjects can give a rough idea, however, not conclusive proof.

Also, the efficiency of fasted cardio may be population dependant. Physique athletes trying to achieve an extreme level of leanness readily apply fasted cardio as a fat loss method. For very lean individuals fat mobilization may be more challenging than for normal-weight individuals. Thus, there is the possibility that fasted cardio is more beneficial for people with low body fat content.

It seems like the same finding apply not only to steady state cardio, but also to high intensity interval training (HII). A study on obese/overweight women showed the same extent of body fat loss and muscle gain, no matter if training was performed in fasted or fed state.2

Although it is not conclusive if fasted cardio is more beneficial for weight loss, there is some evidence that it counteracts weight gain under calorie surplus.3 Subject following a high-fat-high-calorie diet (50% fat and approx. +30% calories) for 6 weeks gained less weight when trained fasted (two 60 min and two 90 min training sessions per week). Fasted group gained 0.7 kg, fed group 1.4 kg and the not exercising control group experienced 3.0 kg weight gain on average. Also, the study showed that fasted steady-state cardio improved whole-body glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity during high-fat-high-calorie diet. For this reason, fasted cardio may be a strategy worth considering during the holiday season to counteract weight gain.


Fasted cardio to improve endurance

Some studies suggest that fasted anaerobic training may be beneficial for endurance athletes. A larger increase in maximal oxygen uptake and muscular oxidative capacity was observed for fasted subjects.5 Interestingly, a greater increase of oxidative activity of the trained muscle was seen for men compared to women.4 Also, there is evidence that fasted endurance training increases the storage of muscle glycogen.6


Bottom line

If fat loss is your goal and you are fairly lean already, then give fasted cardio a try. Otherwise, personal preference is the critical factor. It doesn't matter fasted or not as long as you do it …. or at least do something to create calorie deficit. It doesn't necessarily have to be steady-state cardio.



(1)      Schoenfeld, B.; Aragon, A.; Wilborn, C. D.; Krieger, J. W.; Sonmez, G. T. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2014, 11, 54.

(2)      Gillen, J. B.; Percival, M. E.; Ludzki, A.; Tarnopolsky, M. a; Gibala, M. J. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013, 21, 2249–55.

(3)      Van Proeyen, K.; Szlufcik, K.; Nielens, H.; Pelgrim, K.; Deldicque, L.; Hesselink, M.; Van Veldhoven, P. P.; Hespel, P. J. Physiol. 2010, 588, 4289–302.

(4)      Stannard, S. R.; Buckley, A. J.; Edge, J. a; Thompson, M. W. J. Sci. Med. Sport 2010, 13, 465–9.

(5)      Van Proeyen, K.; Szlufcik, K.; Nielens, H.; Ramaekers, M.; Hespel, P. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011, 110, 236–45.

(6)      De Bock, K.; Derave, W.; Eijnde, B. O.; Hesselink, M. K.; Koninckx, E.; Rose, a J.; Schrauwen, P.; Bonen, a; Richter, E. a; Hespel, P. J. Appl. Physiol. 2008, 104, 1045–55.