Power To The People – 10 Years Later

It was almost 10 years ago that a book arrived in the mail that would change my life.

Power to the People! : Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American
Power to the People! : Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American is by Pavel Tsatsouline.

Prior to this book, I had been lifting weights as the muscle magazines taught me. You know the hit-the-body-from-every-angle with multiple sets of 8-12 reps. It works wonders if you are a steroid-taking mesomorph. Not so much if you’re a drug-free ectomorph. You are always sore and your strength levels never seem to go up.

Impressive Gains

Then I read Power To The People and everything changed. Pavel taught me to reduce the reps to just 3-5 and increase the weight. And to get stronger, I’d have to increase my rest between sets. The focus of the weightlifting plan wasn’t numerous isolation moves, but deadlifts and a pressing move. Hammer those two hard and strength will follow was the message of the book. And it worked.

During the first three years of using the Power To The People protocol, I gained almost 20 pounds of muscle. For the first time in my life, I was benching my weight. I could squat almost 300 pounds and deadlift over 300 pounds. Not bad for a recovering Stick Boy. This book made me a believer in low-repetition weight training. I’ve been preaching against low-weight high-rep training ever since.


I met Pavel in 2004

The Russian Bear Got Me

A few years into the workout regime, I decided to try Pavel’s Russian Bear protocol for gaining mass. It included:

  1. low reps 4-6
  2. high sets 10-20 (not a misprint)
  3. end each set a few reps before failure.

This was too much for me. I started to get back pain and I hurt my right wrist so bad I needed surgery. I was sidelined from lifting for over 6 months. My body stopped gaining muscle and I was often in pain. Although these days I know better, then I would often work through the pain or work around the pain. That never worked. I’d be sidelined with an injury for weeks. Then I’d return to the gym and start the build-up process all over again.

Half Power

For the past few years, I’ve played a balancing act between following the basics of Power To The People and focusing more on bodyweight exercises (chin-ups, dips, push-ups). I’ve reduced my number of workouts and weight as a strategy to avoid injury. I fell into a sweet spot of maintaining a decent amount of strength where I could stay injury-free.

Going Forward

Last December, for the first time since 2001, I started a brand new weightlifting strategy. I’m using the High-Intensity Big 5 Workout described in the outstanding book Body By Science. To learn more about that style of workout read High-Intensity Training at Ideal Exercise. So far I am enjoying HIT. For the first time in years, I’m giving 100% in the gym without fear of getting injured.

My 10-Year Review

Power To The People is an excellent book. I can’t blame Pavel for my injuries. I will say that the volume of work described in the Russian Bear section is probably excessive for drug-free ectomorphs. I must thank Pavel for getting me away from the muscle magazine nonsense. Although I don’t follow his program right now, it is the program that has worked best for me so far.


Add yours

  1. did you review power to the people? is it KB centric?

  2. @Chuck – Power to the People does not cover the Kettle Bell. I have read all his other books. His 2nd best book is on mobility. The rest are over priced pamphlets.

  3. Surpised you don’t care for “Enter the Kettlebell.” I’ve been working that system for the past six months and making steady gains. Pavel calls it “Power to the People” for kettlebells. The book does have some fluff for sure, but I think it does a good job of teaching kettlebell basics on the fundamental moves. It’s a lot easier to get hurt with kettlebells than BBS style workouts, though.

    On an unrelated note, are you taking your BBS workouts to failure? If so, are you finding Pavel’s concerns about working to failure unfounded?

  4. @Geoff – Actually it appears I read his earlier KB book and not “Enter the KB”. For such a technical move, my question is video training may be better than a book?

    As for your question, it is the very topic of my next post.

  5. Geoff:

    I am surprised that you think it is easier to get hurt with KBs than BBs. I feel people tend to overload BBs way more and that is where they hurt themselves. Because KBs are fixed weight and most gyms don’t have real heavy ones, they tend to have less potential for injury imo. Although the long cycle stuff could lead to repetitive stress injuries. But that is just crazy. I had a friend ask me to train with him on that and I told him I don’t like endurance stuff.

  6. @Chuck – I think Geoff used “BBS” to mean Body By Science, not barbells.

  7. now that makes sense. thx for setting me straight.

  8. There is a lot to be said for Power 2 People. I unlike you MAS am a drug free endomorph. I also had an injury that slowed my progress. That said I put over 100 lbs on my bench in a year. The best part was I did not gain weight which does not happen when I lift. So for endomorphs who gain muscle lifting when they don’t want to I’d recomend this

  9. I appreciate your review, is your review and you are entitled to your opinion. I am a drug-free 37 year old ectomorph and my body has been transformed with the bear routine. It is not a beginners routine and the volume should be regulated, there is no need to do 3 times a week, additionally you are supposed to stop as soon as you cannot complete a set of 5 with good form, this is made clear in the book.

    I tweak the number of deadlift days from 1 to 2 times a week depending upon feedback from my body, bench I stick to twice a week.

    Stick to good form & cycle to allow your ligaments time to strengthen. An awesome book and an awesome routine, love Pavel’s stuff, can’t beat it. I tried Ripptoes and 5×5, but nothing beats the Bear (for me).

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