The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

The Evil Russian Speaks: Part 1
An Interview with Pavel Tsatsouline


the Russian said. He did not say please.

"Now? Here?" I asked.

"Uh, okay."

So it began. Over the next hour, I learned to up the intensity of my squat, to instantly jack up the power of my bench press, and to increase the speed of my punch. No, I wasn't in some dank Russian gym and I wasn't in an elite European training center. I was in the lobby of the posh Hyatt Regency hotel in Columbus, Ohio, interviewing up and coming strength guru, Pavel Tsatsouline. It was the first interview I'd conducted that left me sore the next day.

I first heard about Pavel "The Evil Russian" Tsatsouline from those involved in the martial arts community. Many were breaking through their stretching plateaus by using his techniques. I picked up a few of his books and videos and was immediately struck by Pavel's in-your-face ideas about strength training. Frankly, I'd never heard of most of the exercises he'd written about and immediately disagreed with at least half of what he had to say. In other words, I was intrigued and had to learn more.

Pavel isn't a big guy, nor does he want to be. Wiry, functional strength and power is his game. His body is more Bruce Lee than Arnold, and he's more interested in training for combat than training for the beach. As a former physical training instructor for Spetsnaz, the Soviet special forces, his job wasn't to make them pretty, but to make them into efficient killing machines. The fact that they developed rock hard physiques was almost a side effect.

Pavel holds a Soviet Physical Culture degree in physiology and coaching and was also a nationally ranked athlete in the ethnic-strength sport of kettlebell lifting, a practice he's now attempting to popularize in America. These days, Pavel is proud to say he's a "capitalist running dog" and is living the good life in California with his American wife. Pavel spends his time writing books, making videos, holding seminars and training American SWAT team members and other law enforcement professionals.

I'm just glad he's on our side.

Testosterone: Pavel, you've written that bodybuilding is the worst thing to ever happen to strength training. What's up with that?

Pavel:

T: You're pretty quick to call out bodybuilders and their "fake" muscles. What's so bad about being big?

Pavel:

T: So you're more about functional, real world strength?

Pavel:

T: Interesting. What can you offer bodybuilders?

T: Okay, so how are you going to accomplish this?

Pavel:

T: Okay. [I squeeze his hand as hard as I can.]

Pavel:

T: Did I squeeze your hand harder the second time?

Pavel:

T: Haven't you written that squeezing the bar really hard when benching can increase your poundage?

Pavel:

T: [Panting] This is great stuff.

Pavel:

T: Tell us about breathing and training.

Pavel:

T:How can we modify this karate breathing and apply it to weight training?

Pavel:

T: Anything else on reflexes and bodybuilding?

Pavel:

T: So when you apply all these strength-training principles to bodybuilding, you can lift more weight, which means you get bigger, faster?

Pavel:

T: Gotcha. Let's get into your history a little bit. Where did you grow up?

Pavel:

T: Were you involved with sports?

Pavel:

T: When did you come to the States?

Pavel:

T: A bank vault was your personal training facility?

Pavel:

T: How did you get involved with writing books and articles?

Pavel:

T: What's your current involvement with EAS and Muscle Media?

Pavel:

T: They could use you. You were a top kettlebell lifter in Russia, correct?

Pavel:

T: You mean those that did only kettlebell work beat out those actually practicing the events?

Pavel:

T: Fascinating. What's your stance on steroids?

Pavel:

T: You write a lot about training men for combat. You say that a warrior doesn't have time to warm-up when someone is coming at him to kill him. So what did training men for war teach you about training the average person who just wants to be in better shape?

Pavel:

T: So what do you think about warming up before a workout for the average guy? Is it overrated?

Pavel:


Part 2 of the interview will be posted next week.


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