It's called "the Soviet miracle": Add muscle, carve out your midsection, and build endurance by taking long, comfortable rests—and not feeling the burn.
Pavel Tsatsouline 1 / 5
You’re about to discover how to get an Olympic-caliber physique using an old Soviet training method that’ll barely make you break a sweat, and may even feel easy—that’s right, easy, as in “not very fatiguing.” You’ll be in no danger of throwing up in the gym bathroom or sending your heart rate into the stratosphere. Yet it’ll help you get more ripped than ever before.
HOW IT WORKS: Circuit training is typically brutal, running you through multiple exercises without rest until you cough up a lung—that’s one way to burn fat. But the sports scientists of the former Soviet Union had a better one. It’s all about muscle fibers.
Type I fibers are designed for low-intensity, long-duration work, like running. Type II fibers are built for explosive strength activities, like lifting. The Soviets found that repeatedly working the Type II fibers to only mild fatigue, then letting them recover fully, caused them to take on more Type I characteristics. That is, their work capacity improved. And better work capacity in your strongest muscle fibers means being able to perform more reps, run faster and farther, and complete workouts with more energy than ever—all of which increase your fat-burning potential.
Surprisingly, the road to that level of endurance is a fairly easy one: Stop your sets before you feel the burn, rest till you feel ready, and repeat. As a result, your circuit workouts won’t be nauseating. In about six weeks, test your max reps on any of the exercises and you’ll realize you’ve got the body of a Hummer—with the mpg of a Prius.
DIRECTIONS: Alternate the two workouts (A and B) for three total sessions per week. So you’ll do Workout A twice in Week 1 and Workout B twice in Week 2. You’ll perform the same exercises each session but with different intensities.
Perform the exercises as a circuit, doing one set for each move in turn and resting as needed between sets. (When you can talk comfortably, you’re rested enough to go on.) Nevertheless, don’t sit down—keep your rest active by walking around. Repeat the circuit for 20 to 30 minutes, stopping when you feel your form has begun to break down.
Stand with feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell (or dumbbell) with both hands. Bend your hips back so the weight swings between your legs and behind you—keep your lower back in its natural arch. Now explosively extend your hips and allow the momentum to help you raise the weight to eye level.
WORKOUT A 2) Pushup Reps: Do one-third your max reps.
Brace your abs so your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Lower your body until your chest is about an inch above the floor. Perform only one-third of the most reps you know you can do. So if your max pushups in one set are 30, do only 10.
WORKOUT B 2) Pushup Reps: Do one-half your max reps.
WORKOUT A 3) Sprint or Squat Reps: Run 100 feet/squat until you feel mild fatigue.
For the sprint, drive with your knees and pump your arms as you run. Land on the balls of your feet. For the squat, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and your heels slightly elevated (e.g., you can stand on weight plates). Turn your toes out slightly. Bend your hips back and squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.
WORKOUT A 4) Suspended Row Reps: Do one-third your max reps.
Attach a suspension trainer to a sturdy object overhead and lengthen the straps to about hip level. Grasp the handles and hang from them so your body forms a shallow angle to the floor. Keep your abs braced so your body forms a straight line. Pull yourself up until the handles are at your sides.
WORKOUT B 4) Suspended Row Reps: Do one-half your max reps.