Russian Bear Programming Questions

marcelotine

Level 4 Valued Member
Unfortunately, my squat related knee pain is not going away so I am thinking of stopping Faleev's program and switching to Russian Bear. I hope that once this lockdown is over I can access a Strong First coach and get some in-person coaching on my lifts.

I have to say, there seems to be very little guidance or details on the Bear in the PTTP book. When he says reduce frequency "but not by much', I assumed that it would mean training 3-4 days a week as opposed to 5. However, I saw a comment by @Pavel Macek in another post that for the Bear Pavel apparently advises doing DL only 1x/week and BP 2x/week.

1. Can someone explain the discrepancy between his advice and what he actually says in the book?

2 Also, if anyone can speak from experience and share what they have done personally with the bear that would be much appreciated.

3.I was also wondering if I could do 3 lifts as opposed to 2, and alternate between BP and OP (similar to starting strength). Is this a reasonable idea? If not, is there a reasonable way to fit in both BP and OP into the program?

This is what I was thinking for my week:

Mon - DL & BP
Wed - DL & OP
Fri - DL & BP
Next Monday, DL & OP....and so on.

But now that I'm reading that DL be should done only 1x a week with the bear I might have to reconsider the overall plan.

Any and all details regarding the bear would be greatly appreciated, especially in regards to training frequency, cycling starting weight, etc.

I greatly appreciate your advice.
 

marcelotine

Level 4 Valued Member
"Because of the increased work load you may have to reduce your training frequency somewhat, but restrain yourself from cutting back too much. The US powerlifting community used to accept training each lift once a week and keeping their set number low as the gospel. Recently it has been raving about a multiple set, low rep, three-sessions-for-each-lift-per-week workout, imported from Germany by Stephan Korte. Heavy but never-to-failure, frequent, and high volume training delivers!" The second underlined section would seem to imply that he is encouraging 3 sessions per week for the Bear. That's a monstrous amount of deadlifts!
 

marcelotine

Level 4 Valued Member
Here is another question. PTTP cycles are generally supposed to be 8-15 workouts long. If you are doing the Bear and DL 1x/week and BP 2x week, do you cycle them separately? I know for PTTP, the 2 exercises can be cycles separately, but I would prefer to cycle the lifts together (in line with what Faleev reccomends regarding cycling - that approach makes a lot more sense to me).
 

q.Hung

Level 6 Valued Member
For the back-up sets I would use rack pull/block pull instead of full deadlift.
I think you can still deadlift 3-4 times per week as long as only one season as the bear.
 

Timo Keskitalo

Level 4 Valued Member
Because there is no set amount of sets you should do, I would not worry about it. I emphasize that I have not done this. Don't do block pulls etc, do deadlifts. You probably will not get into as high numbers as with PTTP, but it doesn't matter. The point is the total volume. Keep changing resistance, a wave or linear, what you like. When you have a high scale of resistance you have a better chance to go forward. Keep true to yourself. When you start to feel fatigue stop, so you can train the next time also. Or check the book about this. I don't have it with me now.

3-4 days a week is e.g every other day. If you can/like to train like that, do it. Pick a starting point, keep in mind that your max of cycle is probably lower with bear. If you pick too high, start again a bit lower. After a few cycles you will see if it works or not. How? I have to guess. If you don't get to 80+ % of 1RM in cycle your training frequency is too high with the bear.

You probably have quite different numbers in DL and BP so it could be hard to get the same cycle. At least do different shapes of wave for them, free wave.

Finally, it's about building muscle. You'll have to eat a lot.
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
For those interested, here is the original suggestion on Bear frequency:

I regularly save interesting posts and advices from the forum - what I wrote above was recommended by Pavel few years ago here on the forum or the old forum or in the comments of some of his articles.

Question was:

In your book Power to the People you state that when on the BEAR program that “because of increased work load you may have to reduce training frequency… but not too much.” How many days do I train durring the BEAR? Do I do the press and DL same day or not? It does not specify that in your book.
Pavel wrote:

"...try benching twice a week and deadlifting once."
 
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william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
In ~2008, me and a buddy started the Russian Bear, deadlift and overhead press. We were not used to the high volume. 3 days/week, 20 sets, 225 lb (deadlift). Every day we added 10 lb. It sucked. Our shins bled, we were beat up and sore (this was before my back problems). We were miserable. We made it 2 weeks and quit.

Dont follow my mistake. Ease into it. It takes months and years and decades for your body to adapt to handle the volume we were attempting. But also the Intensity too. Start light. 225 was way too heavy for us! Since I lasted 6 workouts, I am not qualified to tell you what to do, but I can tell you what not to do.

Ease into it. Maybe start with PTTP (1 work set with 2 back off sets if I'm remembering the program). Over time slowly increase the number of back off sets.

Stop when form breaks down or when the concentric bar speed starts to slow or if you feel beat up. I also suggest doing controlled drops on the eccentric and standing up and resetting in between each deadlift rep ( to ensure form doesnt break down).

To me, The Bear is like the 20 rep squat routine. I have learned that these types of programs are not my cup of tea. However, I have no doubt that they delivers results. But it takes a special person with tremendous will power, work capacity, and dedication to stick with this to get the results.

Eat and sleep like a true bear! Ease into it and stay safe! Good luck!
 

Spartan Agoge

Level 1 Valued Member
When I was doing the bear, I was doing it like this:

Workout A
Squat: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
Bench: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

Workout B
Deadlift: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
OHP: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

3 days/week, week 1 A-B-A, week 2 B-A-B etc.

It worked fine, but you must not start with such a high volume. You have to build it slowly. Start with 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 3x5 80%, and add 1-2 80% sets in every workout.

If you don't want to squat, you could do sumo deadlift instead.
 

Timo Keskitalo

Level 4 Valued Member
I would like to hear why?
Because we're talking about general power level building, because bigger movement patterns give better stimulus, because if you leave starting point of the lift too high, you might use "too big" weights and overload your CNS. These are my guesses.

Because Pavel said deadlift is the best, not partial deadlift.

All'n all... the original bear example was not that you'll do 20 sets from the get go. You might take a couple of years to get to that level. Also, I'd never expect to do even by far the same amount of sets when working out. Not even when on the same weights on different cycles, and far less when your volume sets are <55% or 68% of 1RM. If I could do six volume sets in the start of cycle and three in the end, I'd be happy. If not, there's plenty of room to progress.


If you don't want to squat, you could do sumo deadlift instead.
Sumo is a great variety.
 

Timo Keskitalo

Level 4 Valued Member
When I was doing the bear, I was doing it like this:

Workout A
Squat: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
Bench: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

Workout B
Deadlift: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
OHP: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

3 days/week, week 1 A-B-A, week 2 B-A-B etc.

It worked fine, but you must not start with such a high volume. You have to build it slowly. Start with 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 3x5 80%, and add 1-2 80% sets in every workout.

If you don't want to squat, you could do sumo deadlift instead.
This would be a great way to try this. Just don't do sumo dl in here instead of squat?
 

marcelotine

Level 4 Valued Member
When I was doing the bear, I was doing it like this:

Workout A
Squat: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
Bench: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

Workout B
Deadlift: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%
OHP: 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 10-20x5 80%

3 days/week, week 1 A-B-A, week 2 B-A-B etc.

It worked fine, but you must not start with such a high volume. You have to build it slowly. Start with 1x5 max set, 1x5 90%, 3x5 80%, and add 1-2 80% sets in every workout.

If you don't want to squat, you could do sumo deadlift instead.

Thank you for the response! How long did you do the Bear and what kind of results did you see? Were you doing anything else at the time? How did you feel when you were on the Bear - it sound like it could leave someone feeling totally trashed.
 

q.Hung

Level 6 Valued Member
Because we're talking about general power level building, because bigger movement patterns give better stimulus, because if you leave starting point of the lift too high, you might use "too big" weights and overload your CNS. These are my guesses.
Not exactly, if the weight for rack pull is based on the weight of previous deadlift.
And wouldn't the CNS be stressed more with lifting from the ground (deadlift)?

Because Pavel said deadlift is the best, not partial deadlift.
Deadlift is a great exercise for maximum strength, but it's a poor choice for hypertrophy.
You cannot lower the weight slowly with heavy deadlift, which is quite necessary for building muscle.
With rack-pull, you can do that and really train the upper back.

The original Bear is a poor choice for hypertrophy. If you want to practice a single lift, do 1-2 heavy set(s) then more lighter sets to grooving the movement, the Bear would be fine. But if you are looking for hypertrophy protocol then the Bear is very unproductive.

Pavel and Fabio's Reloaded is a much better program in terms of gaining muscle.

Or the Bear using squat instead of deadlift (let's call it the Panda).
 
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Timo Keskitalo

Level 4 Valued Member
Not exactly, if the weight for rack pull is based on the weight of previous deadlift.
And wouldn't the CNS be stressed more with lifting from the ground (deadlift)?


Deadlift is a great exercise for maximum strength, but it's a poor choice for hypertrophy.
You cannot lower the weight slowly with heavy deadlift, which is quite necessary for building muscle.
With rack-pull, you can do that and really train the upper back.

The original Bear is a poor choice for hypertrophy. If you want to practice a single lift, do 1-2 heavy set(s) then more lighter sets to grooving the movement, the Bear would be fine. But if you are looking for hypertrophy protocol then the Bear is very unproductive.

Pavel and Fabio's Reloaded is a much better program in terms of gaining muscle.

Or the Bear using squat instead of deadlift (let's call it the Panda).
CNS could be the wrong choice of words. I think that if you do rack pulls you don't use all muscles that could be involved. Also when starting high where you can pull more than from the floor, you'll end up doing more reps than you really should, which will flood your muscles in that restricted ROM. I don't know the English phrase for that. I'm getting childish. Why would you do the bear when you have millions of body building programs that are much better for hypertrophy?
 

q.Hung

Level 6 Valued Member
CNS could be the wrong choice of words. I think that if you do rack pulls you don't use all muscles that could be involved. Also when starting high where you can pull more than from the floor, you'll end up doing more reps than you really should, which will flood your muscles in that restricted ROM. I don't know the English phrase for that. I'm getting childish. Why would you do the bear when you have millions of body building programs that are much better for hypertrophy?
The lower back can handle much less volume compare to the upper back and other muscles using in deadlift. So that's why I advocate using block/rack-pull instead. You still practice the pull, just in a different part.

The Bear is poor choice for hypertrophy imo. But the OP wants to do it, and he(?) asked others' ideas, so I put mine on, and I think it would be better: he can stills do the bear, can gain a bit more muscle and not feeling beat up like when doing tons of deadlift.
 

Timo Keskitalo

Level 4 Valued Member
The lower back can handle much less volume compare to the upper back and other muscles using in deadlift. So that's why I advocate using block/rack-pull instead. You still practice the pull, just in a different part.

The Bear is poor choice for hypertrophy imo. But the OP wants to do it, and he(?) asked others' ideas, so I put mine on, and I think it would be better: he can stills do the bear, can gain a bit more muscle and not feeling beat up like when doing tons of deadlift.
Ok. Getting stronger starts with the midsection, low back and abs. The book probably tells you to stop before you feel beat up. PTTP AND the bear are essentially about being strong, the bear having a twist to hypertrophy. That's why I'd say train the deadlift and your low back will be stronger.
 

Spartan Agoge

Level 1 Valued Member
I did the Bear for 4 months(previously I hade been doing PTTP for 6 months).
I saw some full body hypertrophy, and also, I built volume capacity which helped me later.

The Bear might seem very harsh, but, because of the fact that you don't go to failure, and that the reps per set are low, it is more gentle to the body and the cns than GVT for example(at least for my body).

When I was doing the Bear, I was also doing 3 sessions of medium intensity cardio per week(jogging 20-30 minutes).
 

AndyMcL

Level 6 Valued Member
I did a Bear cycle a few years back with squat and press. I saw awesome results, getting PRs in front squat and press as well as putting on about 5lbs of muscle.

What I did:

-3x per week
-I did top sets of front squat and OH press. But did the backoff sets with back squat and push press. I found this was a lot easier to recover from.
-Monday was the heavy day, Wednesday light, Friday medium
-Monday worked up to a relatively heavy set (~80% of 1RM is a good starting point) of 5-3-2. Back off sets at 80% of top set.
-Wednesday, same weight you did 5-3-2 with, but just the set of 2. Do same number of backoff sets, but just as doubles instead of sets of 5.
-Friday, top set of 3-2, then back off sets of 3
-Push Monday pretty hard, but never go to failure
-Do relatively short blocks (3-4 weeks)
-To save time I did superset the backoff sets

This is an example week for squat

Example week for squats:

Monday
5-3-2 @245lbs
10x5 @205lbs

Wednesday
2 @245lbs
10x2 @205lbs

Friday
3-2 @245lbs
10x3 @205lbs

Wednesday and Friday add up to the same volume as Monday. Monday is tough to recover from. But, other two days are not too crazy. By breaking it up into lots of backoff sets you can still get solid volume but not kill yourself.

I superset the press with weighted pull ups (only top set, no backofg sets of pull ups), and did 30-50 swings during warm up. Didn't have enough energy for much else.

Recovery needs to be on point. Lots of sleep. Lots of food. Rest of the week was light; couple days of low-intensity cardio.
 

marcelotine

Level 4 Valued Member
Thank you all for your feedback - as always, I appreciate it greatly.

Based on your comments, and discussions on the Bear in older threads, and upon further reflection of my own goals and circumstances, I think the Bear is not best program for me right now.

I have decided to continue with Faleev's program but wihtout the squat, and try and progress as far as I can with the other 2 lifts.i night add a third exercise like the OP or the bent row when I have to do a New cycle.

I will revisit the Bear at another time ....
 
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