With so many new and, supposedly, revolutionary workouts taking the world by storm all the time, it can often be hard to determine which are effective and which are little more than a gimmick. One of the workouts that has joined the social media frenzy of late is the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program.
However, while it may at first glance appear to be just more of the same, this workout is a totally different animal. Even the fact that it has been around for decades and has simply just re-emerged thanks to the prominence of social media should tell you that it is more than just a fad.
Despite that, many people still know very little about it, while others haven’t even heard of it at all. With that in mind, in today’s article, I am going to break down the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program.
From what it is, who it was designed for, and the goals it aims to help you achieve, I will explain everything you need to know about the routine. This will allow you to make your own decision on whether or not it is the right workout for you.
What is the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program?
The first thing we must do is make sure people understand what the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program actually is. Therefore, we will begin our article by taking a look into the background of the routine.
The true origin of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is unknown. However, it is widely accepted to have been popularised by a man called Pavel Tsatsouline. A personal trainer and drill instructor, he formerly worked in both roles for the elite Russian special forces unit known as the Spetsnaz.
After leaving the forces, he decided to try and bring the training techniques of the Spetsnaz to the rest of the world, to help people make the most of the benefits they offer. His belief was that working out should focus solely on improving strength and mobility, rather than building size.
He went about his goal by creating a number of instructional videos, in which he played on Russian stereotypes and incorporated humour to make them attainable for an average person. This included a carefully chosen setting and vocabulary, as well as jokes and regularly using the word “comrade”.
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program was one of the first routines he covered, as it was something he had personally used on both himself and his clients to incredible results. He believed that utilising your own body weight to build strength was the best way to give you overall control of your body.
Perhaps his greatest claim to fame though is being the one to popularise the use of the kettlebell in fitness circles, particularly in the west. This earned him the nickname “The Father Of The Kettlebell” and has changed the way millions of people work out around the world.
In the years that have followed, he has set up two separate companies and written or been featured in a number of fitness books. He continues to push his methods and use of the kettlebell in western gym culture and is even working to incorporate them into martial arts, to help the disciplines evolve.
The goals of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program are to improve a person’s upper body strength, particularly in the back, biceps, forearms, and shoulders. Meanwhile, it also intends to improve your mobility and range of motion in the joints surrounding all of these areas as well.
A 2nd more specific goal of the program is to help you boost your performance in pull ups and similar exercises, raising both the number of reps you can perform and the amount of weight you can lift. You can then transfer this to your other workouts to lead to faster development of your entire body.
The last intended goal of the Russian Fighter Pull Up program is to improve your calisthenic strength. This will give you better control over your body, allowing you to move your weight and complete more challenging activities and tasks more easily.
While Pavel Tsatsouline claims to not see increasing your size and muscle mass as a priority of training, this is also indirectly possible with the program as your strength and the length of your workouts increase. This will, however, depend largely on your diet as well.
The Science Behind It
The science behind the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is that at the top of each rep, you will put yourself in a position that resembles a traditional fighting stance, while having all the muscles necessary to do so fully contracted. This allows you to develop maximum power in this position.
In addition to this, you then have the fact that using calisthenics means you will be using the weight of your own body.
This allows you to work not only the main muscles but all of the connective tissues and supportive muscles as well. This gives you a more well rounded development and better control over your whole body.
By combining these two factors, you not only develop total body power in the most efficient way possible, but you also do so using techniques that are directly transferrable to boxing, martial arts, and the other similar sorts of combat and fighting that the program was initially designed for.
How To Perform A Pull Up
Before we get on to the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program Itself, it is vital that you know how to do a regular pull up in the first place, otherwise you have no chance of completing the workout routine. A pull up offers a range of benefits and is one of the oldest exercises around but is often overlooked.
To perform a traditional pull up, begin by holding a pull up bar with an overhand grip as close to each end as possible, at the very least making sure your hands are outside of shoulder width. Lift your feet off of the floor and pull them towards your butt by bending at your knees.
Lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended and make sure to keep your back straight. Engage your lats and biceps and use them to lift your body upwards in a slow and controlled fashion, bending solely at the elbows.
You should continue raising yourself until your chin passes the bar and aim to touch your chest to the bar if your strength and range of motion allows you to. Pause here for a second and really squeeze the lats as hard as you can, then slowly start to lower yourself back down.
When you are a few inches short of the starting position, immediately begin the next rep to maintain the tension at all times and repeat until you hit failure or your desired number of reps.
Stronger or more veteran lifters may want to raise the challenge by adding extra weight. This can be done either by holding a dumbbell in your feet or attaching a weight to a dip belt. There are also a number of other pull up varieties you can experiment with by altering your grip and hand placement.
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program revolves around performing pull ups with perfect, strict form. It is important you do each rep correctly, as any momentum you build will assist the reps and limit the quality and quantity of gains it allows you to make.
While the traditional version of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program uses regular pull ups, there is no reason it can’t be performed with any of the many pull up variations that are out there if you usually use one of them in your training.
You will be required to perform a predetermined number of reps in each set. Your sets can then be spaced out anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours, depending on your ability and how much rest you need. There are then 4 different versions of the routine you can use.
While all 4 versions have the same basic goals of building strength and improving the number of reps you can perform, each will be slightly better suited to a different kind of person, depending on your current ability and the main focus of your training.
In each variation, the first set of every day should see you training to failure. If you can hit the required number and still have something left in the tank, you may need to consider moving on to one of the more challenging options.
3 Rep Max Routine
The 3 rep max routine is a perfect option for those with limited strength who are just getting started or people training for extreme strength who like to add additional weight to their reps.
The program is designed to last for 12 days. Those who are just getting started can then move on to the 5 rep max routine, while those training for strength can add more weight and begin again. The 3 rep max routine has 4 to 5 sets on training days and looks like this:
- Day 1 – 3, 2, 1, 1
- Day 2 – 3, 2, 1, 1
- Day 3 – 3, 2, 2, 1
- Day 4 – 3, 3, 2, 1
- Day 5 – 4, 3, 2, 1
- Day 6 – Rest
- Day 7 – 4, 3, 2, 1, 1
- Day 8 – 4, 3, 2, 2, 1
- Day 9 – 4, 3, 3, 2, 1
- Day 10 – 4, 4, 3, 2, 1
- Day 11 – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
- Day 12 – Rest
5 Rep Max Routine
The 5 rep max routine is the normal version of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program. It is great for strength and can be used as either a start point or a progression for those who began on the 3 rep max routine.
The 5 rep max routine lasts for 30 days and features 5 sets on every training day. Upon completing your 30 day cycle, you can either add weight and begin again or continue following the same pattern until your max reaches 15 reps. The 5 rep max routine looks like this:
- Day 1 – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
- Day 2 – 5, 4, 3, 2, 2
- Day 3 – 5, 4, 3, 3, 2
- Day 4 – 5, 4, 4, 3, 2
- Day 5 – 5, 5, 4, 3, 2
- Day 6 – Off
- Day 7 – 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
- Day 8 – 6, 5, 4, 3, 3
- Day 9 – 6, 5, 4, 4, 3
- Day 10 – 6, 5, 5, 4, 3
- Day 11 – 6, 6, 5, 4, 3
- Day 12 – Off
- Day 13 – 7, 6, 5, 4, 3
- Day 14 – 7, 6, 5, 4, 4
- Day 15 – 7, 6, 5, 5, 4
- Day 16 – 7, 6, 6, 5, 4
- Day 17 – 7, 7, 6, 5, 4
- Day 18 – Off
- Day 19 – 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
- Day 20 – 8, 7, 6, 5, 5
- Day 21 – 8, 7, 6, 6, 5
- Day 22 – 8, 7, 7, 6, 5
- Day 23 – 8, 8, 7, 6, 5
- Day 24 – Off
- Day 25 – 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
- Day 26 – 9, 8, 7, 6, 6
- Day 27 – 9, 8, 7, 7, 6
- Day 28 – 9, 8, 8, 7, 6
- Day 29 – 9, 9, 8, 7, 6
- Day 30 – Off
15 Rep Max Routine
The 15 rep max routine is a more advanced version of the workout. It is a great option to help develop strength and improve definition. It is suitable only for those with a reasonable ability level, but may not be the best option for those adding weight to develop pure power.
This routine features 6 sets on every training day, lasts for 35 days, and looks like this:
- Day 1 – 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4
- Day 2 – 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Day 3 – 15, 12, 10, 8, 8, 6
- Day 4 – 15, 12, 10, 10, 8, 6
- Day 5 – 15, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6
- Day 6 – Off
- Day 7 – 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6
- Day 8 – 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, 8
- Day 9 – 17, 14, 12, 10, 10, 8
- Day 10 – 17, 14, 12, 12, 10, 8
- Day 11 – 17, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8
- Day 12 – 17, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
- Day 13 – Off
- Day 14 – 19, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
- Day 15 – 19, 16, 14, 12, 10, 10
- Day 16 – 19, 16, 14, 12, 12, 10
- Day 17 – 19, 16, 14, 14, 12, 10
- Day 18 – 19, 16, 16, 14, 12, 10
- Day 19 – 19, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10
- Day 20 – Off
- Day 21 – 21, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10
- Day 22 – 21, 18, 16, 14, 12, 12
- Day 23 – 21, 18, 16, 14, 14, 12
- Day 24 – 21, 18, 16, 16, 14, 12
- Day 25 – 21, 18, 18, 16, 14, 12
- Day 26 – 21, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12
- Day 27 – Off
- Day 28 – 23, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12
- Day 29 – 23, 20, 18, 16, 14, 14
- Day 30 – 23, 20, 18, 16, 16, 14
- Day 31 – 23, 20, 18, 18, 16, 14
- Day 32 – 23, 20, 20, 18, 16, 14
- Day 33 – 23, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14
- Day 34 – Off
- Day 35 – 25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14
25 Rep Max Routine
The 25 rep max routine is the most advanced version of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program and is reserved for only the strongest, most hardened athletes. It is the best option for all of the goals of the program, including building strength, size, and definition, and even improving mobility.
The 25 rep max routine has 6 sets on every training day and is an ongoing program, meaning there is no set duration, and you can continue following it and improving until either you reach your natural peak or no longer want to continue with the routine. The pattern of the routine looks like this:
- Day 1 – 25, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4
- Day 2 – 25, 20, 16, 12, 8, 8
- Day 3 – 25, 20, 16, 12, 12, 8
- Day 4 – 25, 20, 16, 16, 12, 8
- Day 5 – 25, 20, 20, 16, 12, 8
- Day 6 – Off
- Day 7 – 25, 22, 20, 16, 12, 8
- Day 8 – 27, 22, 20, 16, 12, 8
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Before we finish breaking down the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program, I feel it is important that we cover some of the most frequently asked questions associated with it. This will ensure you have everything you need to know before you decide to try the routine out for yourself.
Does It Work?
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program has been shown to be extremely effective. It can enable you to make huge strength gains in your upper body, improve your mobility and range of motion, increase your definition, give you better control over your entire being, and even help you to build some size.
The way you develop muscles and the surrounding connective tissues using a challenging form of calisthenics also seems to have the added bonus of making you more hardy. This can increase your durability and make you less likely to get injured when performing challenging physical activities.
Even if your only goal is to increase the number of pull ups you are able to do or the amount of additional weight you can lift while doing them, the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program will likely be able to help you achieve this faster than almost any other program.
What Areas Of The Body Will The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program Develop?
The main areas the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program will develop are the back and biceps, as they are the main ones responsible for performing a pull up. However, the abs, forearms, shoulders, serratus, and traps are all also involved, so will be developed to differing degrees as well.
Should You Do Other Workouts While Following The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program?
As the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program only works specific parts of your upper body, those looking for the most comprehensive development will need to train the other parts of their body as well.
It is especially important to do workouts to train your legs, while chest, tricep, and even ab, trap, and shoulder workouts are a great idea as well.
That said, the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program will take a lot out of most people and is best done when fresh, so you will want to pick workouts that don’t take too much out of you on your other body parts.
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is a unique yet incredibly effective workout routine. Having proven its worth through the years developing the bodies of elite Russian special forces operatives, it is more than capable of helping regular fitness enthusiasts to achieve their goals.
This guide will hopefully have given you everything you need to know if this is the right workout program for you. Not only that but, if it is, you should know which version of the program to use to get the best results, while having a good understanding on how to build around it as well.
That means there should be nothing left standing in your way stopping you from giving it a go for yourself. Those who want to really push themselves could even consider doing something like a 30 day pull up challenge as well, to make things fun, competitive, and as challenging as possible.