Is Pavel’s Russian Bear Routine The Secret To Muscle Growth? How about no?

| by Truth Seeker |


The Russian Bear protocol is a relatively popular hypertrophy routine designed by Pavel Tsatsouline. It requires you to perform only 2 exercises. In the original program, the movements of choice are the deadlift and the overhead press.

The first major flaw of this routine is the high deadlift volume. I’ve heard of people doing deadlifts for 20 sets. I am sorry, but this type of training can potentially hurt you.

I used to be one of those delusional lifters looking for the sacred way to build muscle mass. I was convinced that there is a deeply hidden underground secret that can make anyone big naturally. This led me to stuff like the Russian Bear routine.

At the time, I was naive enough to accept for a fact that the buff Soviet commando described in the book Power To The People had really gotten huge as hell as a result of his “deadlift diet”. After all, Pavel wrote that if you train his way, the police might be looking for steroids in your house as a result of your new size.

Ironically, the book even describes the eating regimen of Kirk Karwoski who used to wake up at night to get extra meals in. Cool, but Pavel forgot to mention the obvious – Karwoski was as natural as Ronnie Coleman. As a natty, this approach will simply make you fat.

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

I doubt there’s a person who has gotten “criminally” big thanks to the “special Soviet tactics” built in the routine. People on the Internet have reported some gains (e.g., 5 kilograms in a month or two), but without measurements and body fat control, you can never know whether those gains are muscle, water or fat. 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.

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.

  • Don’t believe in special Soviet tactics. The party is not always right.

  • You can’t become as big as the professional powerlifters naturally.

  • The Bear Routine won’t help you break the natty limits either.

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  1. 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

    1. Mark Winchester

      Totally disagree. The DL is incredibly effective for mass. Pavel’s BEAR is easily the most effective bbing routine in existence. Works like magic for me & in a former SUPER SQUATS devotee.

  2. Curtis

    Wow. You haven’t tried it but you’ve decided it won’t work because….? Reminds me of Judge Judy. Her mind is made up often before she hears the evidence.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I don’t have to try everything to know the outcome.

  3. Mr Singh

    The bear routine is a very good routine. Even at 20 sets (x5) the total reps are no greater than 10×10 german volume training..which has the same objective..rapid increase in mass, if your diet and rest is spot on, you will make good gains. 3×12 can also get you injured! Any routine can, if your form is poor. I do agree, the exaggerated language within the book, does not aid in credibility, but the routine certainly achieves it’s objective.

  4. Fred Kantor

    I think the 20 plus sets are safe as long as you do them correctly. Remember all sets are said to be light enough to have PERECT FORM. One you start to loose for stop. I would think you have less chance of injury and better chance of recovery by doing it every 2-4 days instead of 3X a week.

  5. John

    If you personally believe this program will not work, then do not try it. I, personally, am doing the program now and after a month I have zero injuries. In addition, I use a trap bar for my volume sets (being smart). Like others have said, do not bash a program if you’ve never tried it.

  6. Mark Winchester Sr

    Attn. John

    What did you ultimately gain using the BEAR?

  7. Dr. Mike

    Exercise is only dangerous if performed in a dany manner…
    If you are under the delusion that 20 sets of squats are” safer” than 20 sets of dead’s, you might want to reconsider your premise…
    If you fail in the dead, you drop the weight…
    If you fail in the squat, you most likely will get pinned with the weight…
    Power racks aside, the chance of injury is still present.
    Now with regard to the modern day obsession with “CNS” stress …
    Put 500 on your back for a couple of sets of 5 and when you’re able to walk again, get back to me about easier it is to recover from this type of effort…
    Complete nonsense…

  8. Keith James

    To say you don’t have to try the routine to know if it’s good or not Is a beginner’s way of saying they don’t like that routine.
    That is just silly. Give it a go and see, a 5kg gain from a month or two is good.

  9. Frank

    The routine works provided the trainee uses good form. 5kg gain in a month or two is not too much for someone who beings high volume training. Granted a person gains a lot on steroids, but some muscle can also be gained naturally. Too negative and naive of a post.

  10. M

    When form begins to break down, you either lighten the weight or quit. If form doesn’t break down, you’re good until it does break down. If it takes too long, the weight was too light.

  11. M

    Discounting drug use, water-weight, fat-weight, underweight novices finally eating, the >1% genetically-endowed, returning lifters re-gaining lost mass, there’s no reason to expect more than 1 lb a week mass-gain at first, & 1 lb a month after the first few months.

  12. M

    Ultimately simple. Do 2 lifts correctly, you’re set for life. 1pull, 1push. After they get heavy, they hit the whole body. No bench, rack, or spotter required. It’s what we kids all did in the garage in the early 60s. I should’ve never stopped.

  13. Ryan

    Worked well for me.

    I did bench press, deadlifts and barbell curls, make sure you eat well also.

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