Advanced Exercises with Eastern European Names 3

By Tony Boutagy

Russian Deadlifts (Good Mornings)

For many decades, Russian weightlifters have performed an exercise to develop the posterior chain where they hold a bar on the trapezius and bow forward from the waist. They would perform this exercise both with a neutral spine and, for variation, with a rounded back. It was because the Russian weightlifters used this movement frequently, it because known as a Russian deadlift outside Russia. The Russians, however, have always called it a name that, when translated into English, means ‘Good Morning’.

Primary muscles involved:
The hamstrings, gluteals, adductors and the erector spinae in hip extension.

Set up:
*Place the bar on the trapezius and grip on the bar as wide as is comfortable;
*Set the feet hips width apart and turn the toes out slightly;
*Bend the knees about 20 degrees;
*Keep the chest up and watch forward;

*Initiate the descent by pushing the hips back without bending the knees further than the set position of 20 degrees – this movement, like the Romanian deadlift, occurs only in the hips and not the spine or knees;
*Keep the chest up which helps preserve the neutral spine;
*Either inhale or hold the breath during the lowering phase and lower until the spine almost loses the neutral curve.

*Drive the hips forward and the chest up;
*Finish in exactly the same position as the set up position.

Key Points:
*Keep the chest up and hands wide on the bar to maintain neutral curvature of the spine;
*Don’t allow the knees to bend further than 20 degrees otherwise the knee extensors become too active during the ascent.
*Keep the abdominals tight through the entire movement

*Try with a single-leg with the non-working leg as a counter balance behind.

Russian Step Ups
This version of the Step-Up was used extensively by many soviet track and field athletes to condition their lower limbs for explosive power. Because it gained such wide notoriety by the Russian athletes, it grew to become known in strength training circles as the Russian Step Up. Like all variations of the Step-Up, this movement starts with the non-working leg on the ground and the trunk completely upright.

Primary muscles used:
Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals and adductors

Set up
*Stand side on to a low box or step and place one foot close to the edge of the step and turn the toes out 15 degrees. The height of the step is dictated by the strength and flexibility of the client;
*Don’t try to impress friends with this movement by setting the step to high, as the only impression you’ll make when you fall over is not as attractive to the opposite sex as you think!
*Place the bar on the trapezius, set the hands just outside of shoulder width apart and keep the elbows under the bar, pointing the floor;
*Keep the trunk completely upright and the foot of the working leg should be flat on the step (which means that the knee will be forward of the toes). The knee of the non-working leg will be locked out with the foot dorsi flexed so that it cannot be used to generate force in the upward lift by plantar flexion.
*The non-working leg should be placed directly to the side of the working leg.

*Straighten the working leg and simultaneously drive the non-working leg up until the thigh is parallel to the floor;
*The trunk remains completely upright throughout the ascent, so think ‘chest up to the roof’;
*This is an explosive movement, to aim to drive up as fast as good form allows.

*Drop straight back down to the starting position;
*The lowering speed should be fast, 1-2 seconds. This minimizes the chance of allowing the hips to push back rather than straight down;
*The foot of the working leg should remain flat on the step at all times – don’t allow the heel to lift up;
*The distinguishing feature of a Step-Up is the trunk position: you lower the same way you lift- that is, the shoulders stay over the hips on both the ascent and descent. This means that all the work is performed by the quadriceps, rather than the glutes/hamstrings if the trunk were to lean forward during the descent;

Key Points
*Watch for knee tracking. All versions of the step up allow the knee to travel forward of the toes, however, watch that the patella tracks in line with the middle toes. Inward tracking knees indicate a weak vastus medialis (vmo) that might need special attention before attempting this advanced movement.
*Don’t allow the trunk to lean forward

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