Warm and Loose

Part 1 in our series “Physical Culture with Alexey Faleev.” Find the full table of contents here.

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Like Faleev’s cheekbones, his system could not be more Russian if it played a balalaika and recited Pushkin over a chess board covered with vodka and pickles.

There are three things (OK, four) that I’d like to go back and experience again for the first time:

  • learning Chinese, when each conversation was a fresh mystery;
  • lifting kettlebells, whose weird centers of gravity made it like driving a sports car recklessly fast on a twisting road;
  • and starting out in powerlifting with Alexey Faleev’s system. 

I can’t go back in time, but I still get a vicarious thrill because lifting-and-throwing partner Michelle Skadisdottir is starting the Faleev program! Unfortunately, in English we only have one short article on his system, so I’ll gradually publish the notes I made years ago while I struggled through Faleev’s book (Sekrety silovogo treninga, 2009).


Today we’ll begin with a subject that is almost an obsession with Faleev: keeping athletes warm.

Stay Warm and Loose

Faleev believes in a looong warm up. For a workout where you will reach cruising altitude with 300 lbs., he wants you to warm up with 15 reps with an empty bar, then 10 reps with 100#, then 8 with 180#, 6 with 220#, and 5 with 260#. [There’s nothing magical about these particular numbers. Just do five warm-up sets, starting with an empty bar and working up to 80-85% of the day’s working weight.]

He also wants you to prepare your muscles for strain with some kind of hot liniment.

In America, powerlifters use liniments made for horses. They stink but are very effective. When applying to the hip creases, carefully avoid contact with the, um, organs of generation. Maybe I am especially bumbling, but I constantly had misadventures in this department. Not fun, and a real distraction from training. I recommend a few practice runs beforehand, experimenting with different underwear options, using a harmless moisturizer before you risk the horse stuff.

President Putin can strip to the waist and wrestle bears if he wants, but Faleev insists that you dress warmly when lifting.

Finally, Faleev wants you to dress warmly too. Abbreviated costumes like you see in the Chrome and Fern Pleasure Palaces (commercial gyms) are out of place. Real lifters wear sweats. This is simply a practical matter: muscles, tendons, and ligaments are soft tissue. Life taffy, they are supple when warm but when they got cold and then are suddenly pulled hard, they can break.

You get to rest a full 5 minutes between sets, but you should stay standing and walking around. You guessed it—Faleev is afraid you will take a seat, cool off, and stiffen up. But more than keeping your muscles warm, Faleev wants to keep your heart rate slightly elevated and keep you “inspired.” More tomorrow on “inspiration” and what I think of as Faleev’s “Sports Spiritualism.”

10 thoughts on “Warm and Loose

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