USSR 1974 & 1976 SQUAT ROUTINE REVIEW (2021)

Soviet Union at the Olympics - Wikipedia
1976 Olympics USSR

These routines were utilized for the 1976 Olympic Games by the USSR Weightlifting Team. To paint a picture of how successful this team was in the 1976 games they won seven of the nine available gold medals. Off the back of this success this came the “1976 USSR Weightlifting Yearbook”; the holy grail scripture used to this day by weightlifting coaches.

The ‘1976 USSR Yearbook Routine’ can be found in Artie Drechsler’s book ‘The Weightlifting Encyclopedia’—a must have for weightlifters as reading material.

The most notable lifter at the Montreal 1976 Olympics was Aleksandr Voronin who is still to this day considered one of the greats of weightlifting (and rocked this crazy looking singlet seen below). He took the gold medal in the 110+kg event with ease.

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1974 vs 1976 Routine

I do get asked a lot which one is better; 76 or 74 routine? I believe they are both great routines, however, I do favor the 1976 routine as its better suited for advanced and intermediate lifters. However, both have you training your squat three times a week with no variation exercises. Both are six weeks duration, however, the 1974 routine is fixed three weeks and then an optional additional three weeks if you tolerate high work loads well. But for the sake of comparison I will say both are six week programs:

1964 vs 1976 Comparisons

19741976
Six Week duration Six week duration
277 reps total volume277 reps total volume
intensity ranges between 60-90% of 1RMIntensity range between 60-105% of 1RM
You perform sets of five or sets of three repsYou perform variety of rep schemes from sets of 6,5,4,3,2, and 1
No undulated training structure or peaking. Follows an undulated training system peaking for a projected new 1RM week six.
Three day training frequency; 2 light-medium days and one heavy day per week. Three day training frequency; 1-2 heavy days and 1 light day per week

to summarize I would say the 1974 routine is better suited for Novice to Intermediate lifters. The 1974 routine is better suited to those new to squat focus program’s. The 1976 routine is better suited for later staged intermediate and advanced lifters who have run undulated training programs before and can handle frequent high intensity loads (85%+ of 1RM).

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USSR 1974 ROUTINE

the 1974 routine is split into two options, each lasting three weeks in duration. They claim option two is only achievable IF you tolerate high work loads. However, I wouldn’t say it’s really excessively high work load. You might want to run a deload week between option one and option two and it should be more than achievable.

Option One Routine Overview

Monday is your medium intensity day ranging from 75-80% of your 1RM for sets of five week one and two, then sets of 3 for week three. Wednesday is your heavy day, you are performing 85% of your 1RM for sets of five peaking at 6 sets of 5 reps week two. Friday is your light day, performing only 4 sets of 3 for 60% of your 1RM.

Week one is your introductory week, Monday you perform 4 sets of 5 at 75%, Wednesday 5 sets of 5 at 85% then 4 sets of 3 at 60% on Friday. Monday and Wednesday with one day rest between each session is tough, it’s high volume for heavy sets of five reps. However, week two is challenging because you perform 6 sets of 5 on Wednesday at 85% of your 1RM. This session is high volume and high intensity. Week three I consider to be your deload week because you are performing the same intensities as week one however for fewer reps per set and overall volume.

Option 2

Option two is the final three weeks of the program, you peak at 90% of your 1RM rather than 85%. Monday each week is consistently 75% of your 1RM for week one 3×5, week two 4×5 then a deload in volume week three for 4×3. Wednesday is you max effort heavy day, Monday you perform 90% of your 1RM for 4×5, week two 85% for 6×3 then week three 3×3 at 80% of your 1RM. Friday is your light day, low volume and low intensity, week one and two you perform 4×3 for 60% of your 1RM then week three you perform 4×3 for 65% of your 1RM. Quite simple.

Week one for me is the most challenging due to the 4 sets of 5 at 90% of 1RM. Monday and Friday are not so taxing week one which is how your able to pull off this week without burning out. Week two is your volume week performing a total of 50 reps, the highest volume in option two. Monday you are performing 75% of 1RM for 20 reps followed by 18 reps Wednesday at 85% of 1RM. A total of 38 reps in just two training session at sub-maximal weight with one day recovery between sessions makes this leg of the week challenging. However, performing triples at 85% of 1RM on Wednesday is more manageable than week one’s 90% of 1RM for 4 set of 5 reps.

Week three is your deload week, the percentages stay the same as Week two for Monday and Wednesdays training sessions, however the training volume is gravely reduced. You perform just 12 reps on Monday at 75% of 1RM for sets of three instead of five, Wednesday you perform 80% of 1RM for 9 reps for sets of three and 65% on Friday for 12 reps. This means your only performing 33 reps in one week of training. Significantly less than the 47 and 50 reps previously achieved in week one and two.

MY ADVICE: perform the full number of sets stated on Wednesday, don’t aim to achieve the bare minimum! If that’s your mindset then this program is not for you!

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USSR 1976 Squat Routine

The 1976 routine is not the same as the 1974, in fact it’s quite different in structure even though both run for six week and have the same training frequency of three days per week.

1976 Routine Overview

I split this routine into two phases, phase one is introductory and high volume focused, then phase two which is high intensity focused whereby you are peaking to set a new 1RM following an undulated training progression.

PHASE ONE

During phase one the training intensity remains at 80% of your 1RM, that never changes regardless of the rep scheme. I split the training scheme into two categories, you have the 6 sets of 2 reps at 80% which is your medium intensity and volume training days. Then the sets of six as your high intensity-volume training days. The high intensity-volume days follow an ascending training scheme adding one set each session until you reach six sets of six. Below you can see this progression, the intensity remains consistent, the volume increases each training session by six reps until you max out at 36 reps for six sets of six at 80% of your 1RM.

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PHASE TWO

I consider phase two to be your ‘Transmutation-Peaking’ phase following an undulated training progression which can be seen in the below table. On the training sessions whereby you are not following the undulated progression you are performing 6 sets of two reps at 80%. The 6×2=80% days are you medium intensity-medium volume days because you are only performing 12 reps for sets of two the volume and intensity is manageable and won’t lead to crippling fatigue and overall over-training.

The other training days are the heavy days whereby you are increasing the intensity by 5% each session, however, reducing the volume and rep scheme in a logical progression. You start with five sets of five and finish at one heavy single for your PROJECTED 1RM. Week four and five I found to be the most challenging physically, week five I considered to be a deload week whereby two sessions you’re performing six sets of two at 80% of 1RM and just one undulated training session for three sets of three at 95% of 1RM.

MY ADVICE: Phase two is intensity focused so prepare yourself mentally, take rest days between sessions for recovery and NOTHING ELSE!!! Don’t perform any accessory or assistance exercises at any point during the routine. It’s applying the K.I.S.S philosophy: Keeping it simple stupid!

Phase Two Undulated Progression
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