Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Soviet System

It finally happened: I've gone full weightlifter. I've been enjoying Olympic style weightlifting for over a year now, but I had been in limbo regarding the type of programming I was following. I'd snatch until my face fell off and then deadlift or squat maybe. I enjoyed it all, but there wasn't much science to it; just random stuff each day. I definitely wasn't putting 100% into either weightlifting or powerlifting.

Enter Ivan Rojas, a weightlifting coach in Elliot, Maine. He is the owner of Risto Sports, a weightlifting equipment company, and has coached a number of high-level athletes: Carlos AndicaDiego Salazar, his wife Gwen Sisto. For those of you who don't follow Olympic lifting, you may recognize this other client of his:

CrossFit's own Annie Thorisdottir uses Ivan as her weightlifting coach. Me and my buddies set up a meeting with Ivan at his gym so we could prepare ourselves for the Bay State Games in July. If we are going to do something like this, we want to be as prepared as possible.

With Ivan at the helm, we've all undertaken a drastic change in programming. Ivan coaches the Soviet System of training, which is one of the earliest training systems available. It's a simple template that calls for high volume and low intensity as well as technical mastery of very few lifts. My own program (4 days per week) involves only the following lifts: full snatch, full clean and jerk, power snatch, hang power snatch, behind the neck jerk, high bar back squat, front squat and snatch pulls. 8 exercises, with total volume of 470 reps split between them each week and 1,880 total reps each month.

I went into this program with a PR snatch of 90.9 kg and Ivan anticipates me being able to hit 110 kg at the competition. If I can do this, I'll be almost as happy as Donny Shankle.

We are all now on our 3rd week of this program, and everybody feels pretty ragged. The volume for each of us is different (3 of the guys are doing 6 days a week, 1 is doing 5 days), but it's a huge change for everyone. We all have different volumes of exercises depending on our strengths and weaknesses. Other than feeling like crap, my snatch technique feels so much smoother than it did before. I'm hitting far more of my lifts than before and I'm sure next time I max out I'll see some progress.

I'll continue to update regarding this big training change! Have a good day and go lift some heavy shit!


  1. Talk about finding a diamond in the most random place possible, Eliot Maine, raise your hand if you've heard of it before you read this.

  2. I've heard of Eliot Maine, I think that's where my great grandfather is buried.

    No deadlifting? Are you going through withdrawal?

    Mike, make sure you keep us posted about the competition so we can all come and cheer you on.