Is Pavel’s Russian Bear Routine The Secret To Muscle Growth? Honestly, I don't think so.

The Russian Bear protocol is a relatively popular hypetrophy routine designed by Pavel Tsatsouline. It requires you to do 2 exercises with incredible training volume. In its original form the movements of choice are the deadlift and the overhead press. Well, I am here to tell you the major downside of this routine – volume deadlifts could be dangerous.


When done for high amounts of sets and reps, the deadlift can injure you quite easily. This is the main reason why similar high volume deadlift routines are not very advisable and don’t work well in the long run. Well, probably in the short term too.  I heard some people doing over 20 sets on this routine. Your back will love you.

I used to be one of those delusional lifters looking for the sacred way to build muscle mass. Probably still am to some degree, although I no longer believe anything that sounds too good to be true. I was convinced that somewhere there is a special muscle building blueprint, hidden carefully and strategically by the mainstream media, waiting to be discovered. I needed that deeply buried underground secret, which is why I was reading alternative sources that lead me to stuff like the Russian Bear routine. At the time, it was rather easy for me to believe that similar routine truly add slabs of muscle to your frame.

I was naive enough to accept for a fact that the buff Soviet commando described in the book Power To The People really got huge as hell from his “deadlift diet”. After all, Pavel said that if you train his way, the police might be looking for steroids in your house because of how huge you have become. Amusing.

Ironically, the book even describes the eating regimen of Kirk Karwoski who used to wake up at night and eat to gain mass. Cool, but Pavel forgot to mention the obvious – Karwoski was as natural as Ronnie Coleman and similar approach will only make you enormously fat as natural. 275 lbs of muscle at under 6′ naturally and only because of eating at night?

Sure. The sky may be the limit, but only planes can take you there.

While now I understand well that this is a specific writing style and a large exaggeration meant to attract your attention, I was inclined to believe that massive muscles were possible with similar eating and overall training approach. I am sure many others felt/feel the same way.

I have never done this routine and probably never will, and I doubt there’s a person who has gotten bigger from it despite the “special Soviet tactics” that are involved. People on the Internet have reported some gains, such as 5 kilograms in a month or two, but without identical full body before and after photos you can never know whether those gains are muscle, water, fat or whatever. The fact that the scale is moving means nothing by itself, except that maybe you are eating more than before.

Thankfully, those ignorant days are over for me and probably for most of you reading this post.

To summarize:

  • The deadlift sucks as a volume exercise most of the time. The squat is a better choice because it’s less stressful on the nervous system and easier to recover from. It will also trains your legs more than the deadlift, if you squat high bar of course.

  • Don’t believe any kind of “special tactics”. The party is not always right.

  • You can’t become as big as professional powerlifters naturally, provided that by big you mean muscular and not a fat hippo.


  1. Jimbo

    “ignorant days are over”, you’ve never tried it!

    So what if the squat trains legs harder, it doesnt lead to a better back and traps than deads. The squat is worse as it’s a much more technical lift, so without correct coaching, there are far more injuries awaiting.

    What a weird, unnecessary article

  2. paul

    Bob Peoples would disagree,incredibly heavy deads on a daily basis.High frequency training is becoming increasingly popular and succesful.A brief trial would add some weight to your argument

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