In this article, I am going to share my feelings, thoughts, and results of my own training having followed the Russian percentage system for a 6-week program on deadlifts.
Let’s start by going way back to 2019, somewhere near the beginning. As I can’t recall when I actually pulled this 180kg, but I never posted it at the time due to how ugly it was, but I did post it alongside a much cleaner-looking 170kg.
Now if I recall correctly, this lift would have been mid-way through my rugby season and the trend I noticed with my own lifting is that producing a new 1RM during the rugby season was almost impossible (for me) due to essentially always rehabbing something on a weekly basis just so I could play again on Saturday.
I would argue that the way I play is very detrimental to my own body, i.e. throwing everything I had every game 100% of the time made my midweek training a nightmare, making progress almost none existent. Now on top of that statement.
Could I have trained better at the time? Yes
Could I have trained smarter? Yes
Have I learned from these mistakes? Yes, massively!
Will I change the way I train in the future alongside rugby? Yes
Now let’s pull up a couple of videos showing my ‘strength’ leading up to the beginning of the Russian % system. Here we have my first 1 rep max after the initial England lockdown, phone has this dated as 31st July. This was maybes my 1st or 2nd session back at the gym since we had reopened and I managed a 160kg deadlift with relatively good form and speed. Now I can see a couple of things in this video that could have been better.
Hips shoot up a bit fast
Hair is monstrous (Yes, its a mullet)
But overall, a good lift considering no barbell work for about 4/5 months. One thing I do remember after this lift was the DOMS though and a slight pain in my trap muscle on my left side, other than that I was raring to go and start building again.
So in the same week as this new trapbar 1RM I also hit a new Bench press PB of 107kg, strict Overhead press of 75kg and a new Deadlift max of 185kg.
Annoying thing is, there was more there that day for the deadlift, but I had chosen 185kg as my attempt to beat my old PB by 5kg. And any attempt after that would have been futile due to fatigue. I was happy though.
Now the November lockdown came and it was sh*te! I did 3 workouts in the month, 3! That was it. I had no motivation to train at home with the few kettlebells I have and my bands. But I did cycle a bit. So I did have that going for me. Of the 3 workouts I done, me and my peers did the dreaded MURPH workout, which if you are unsure of what that is, here it is, for time:
1 Mile run
100 pull ups
1 mile rune
It was the most gruesome workout I think I’ve ever done. Some people may look at it and think “I could do that, doesn’t look so bad” and that’s what I thought. How naïve. This workout is a joke, no one should ever do it. I’ve never had DOMS like it in my legs. My legs literally didn’t work for about 4 or 5 days AND then I got what would be considered normal DOMS, so overall my legs essentially didn’t work for about 9 or 10 days on any normal level. 0/10 would not recommend! Done it though.
Now onto the juicy bit. Lockdown ended and I picked up training again right out the gate, couldn’t wait to get back in the gym and start lifting again and working. This time with the intention of building off the back of the 185kg deadlift. This is where my fellow coaches at 60 Smarter come into play, Both Dan and James offered forward the Russian % system to me. I had heard off and seen this program before but never attempted it due to rugby commitments.
As the basic premise of this program is to train at 80% of your 1RM, 3X a week, slowly increasing reps each session. It was far too intense (I thought for me at least) for me to properly follow this program through during the rugby season. Enter the end of the 2nd national lockdown and I was ready for some intense training that was going to push me to my limits and increase my 1RM.
The 6-week program goes as so:
- W1 D1 – 6×2 @80%
- W1 D2 – 6×3 @80%
- W1 D3 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W2 – D1 – 6×4 @80%
- W2 – D2 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W2 – D3 – 6×5 @80%
- W3 – D1 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W3 – D2 – 6×6 @80%
- W3 – D3 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W4 – D1 – 5×5 @85
- W4 – D2 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W4 – D3 – 4×4 @90%
- W5 – D1 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W5 – D2 – 3×3 @95%
- W5 – D3 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W6 – D1 – 2×2 @100%
- W6 – D2 – 6×2 @80% (Deload)
- W6 – D3 – 1×1 @105+%
Again, a couple of disclaimers before I go into this.
I ran this program based on 175kg not 185kg as I had a month off and didn’t feel as strong.
This program is rumoured to be for people on PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs).
I didn’t really focus on any other lift at all, essentially only training 3 days a week.
It worked regardless.
Week 1 The first week of this program is hard. It has you working with 80% of your 1RM! 3 times! In 1 week! And as expected due to the 1 month break, the reps were hard and slowish, but moved OK.
Weeks 2 and 3
I entered week 2 feeling good. The premise of the program is to have you get use to this load and volume. My 6X2 sets already starting to feel more and more comfortable but also faster and more powerful. Come the end of week 2 the volume is at 6X5 which is a shock to the system.
Enter week 3.
Arguably has one of the hardest sets you’ll ever do; 6X6 at 80%. This really tests your mental fortitude and determination. I did this session well rested and well fuelled. And it moved well.
Weeks 4 and 5
Week 4 is where the sets and reps start to come down but the % increases by 5 every other session. Again, this is where things step up a notch in difficulty and stress on the body. And by the end of week 4 you are hitting 90% of your 1RM for 4X4, which is insane! But trust the process.
I believe at this point in the program I also started to do less work after the main sets were completed as the accumulation of stress and fatigue was important to keep on top off.
Week 5 sees an almost nice week, with 2 “deload” sessions and one hard session.
3X3 at 95%. These moved well and felt good. By this point it is almost guaranteed that you have already smashed your PB. Nothing to do now but to finish the program.
Week 6 – Retest week
Week 6 literally starts by beating your PB, but for volume. 2X2 with your 100%, if you can pull your PB for 4 total reps, it is no longer your PB. The “deload” 6X2 this week felt ridiculous, fast and comfortable. Almost felt like an empty bar. And then onto the juicy part. the precipice of the program.
You have just worked incredibly hard for 6 weeks ofr this one session. To retest and smash your PB!
Enter the last session.
I was well rested and well-fuelled again. Weighed in at 94kg (About normal for me) ready to smash my PB. I’ll post the video below showing warm-up sets and a new PB of 195kg!
Overall, I think this program is great. It is super simple to follow and is almost absolutely guaranteed to help you improve your 1RM. The most important parts to consider are stress and fatigue management. You probably can’t hit other things as hard as normal as it will take away from this. I.e. you don’t want to be also training your back and legs separately to fatigue them before deadlift.
The more focus you can put into this program, the better the results. I resulted in gaining a 10kg on my PB.
If there’s anything else you would like to know about this program, let me know.
Thanks for reading.