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Alexander Fedorov remains a mythic figure. He is best remembered as the 6'1", 280-pound, 25-year-old behemoth who stunned the muscle world by holding his own in three-man callouts with Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler at the 2003 Russian Grand Prix. These are the 10 training principles that helped a skinny Russian kid expand into a legend.
In September 2003, while bench-pressing 485, Fedorov tore his right pec in four places. Because his chest was severely diminished during his six pro contests over the following three years, the injury had a monumental impact on his career trajectory. It also affected his training style. Gone were the workouts in which he strived to continuously push up more and more metal for low reps. “When I started training, I was always trying to use more weight with every workout,” he stated. “I was obsessed with getting stronger. That’s all that mattered to me. After the injury, I’ve been using much less weight and doing more reps. I almost always try to get 10 reps per set.”
Fedorov toiled in a gym created years earlier by his father and his father’s friends in an equipment building in a sprawling St. Petersburg cemetery. Most of his training knowledge he learned from his self-taught dad and from trial and error. This and Fedorov’s meager workout equipment led him to include several unique exercises in his routine. Let’s focus on four.
It wasn’t sloppy form that caused his pec tear. He toiled under the tutelage of his bodybuilder father from his first workout at age 13. So the younger Fedorov was always instructed how to perform exercises precisely. Whether using heavier weights and lower reps before the injury or moderate resistance and reps afterward, strict form has always been one of his core principles. “I want to make sure I keep the tension on the targeted muscles, so I always use proper form,” he said in 2005.
If you read Fedorov’s training routine from top to bottom, you have to go all the way to the 15th exercise, the cable rear lateral, to find one performed with a machine. Mechanical exercises were limited to mostly legs and back, and even those were done with only the most basic machines, such as a hack squat or a lat pulldown. The cemetery gym was born in the dark days of the old Soviet Union, when St. Petersburg was still Leningrad. Forget the latest modern contraptions.
The elder Fedorov felt lucky to have barbells and dumbbells and a bench or two. This ethic carried over to the younger Fedorov’s training even after the fall of communism, when he had access to more workout options. He still trained in the cemetery shed mostly with dumbbells. “I prefer free weights because of the freer range of motion,” he averred. “They make me work harder.”
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He has never been one to stick to the same exercises and techniques for workout after workout. Instead, he regularly switched up all sorts of variables, including exercise selection, exercise order, rep schemes, and intensity techniques. “I never do the exact same workout for a muscle that I did the time before,” he said. “I don’t want to have the same results, so why would I do the same workout?”
Many bodybuilders split their thigh training into separate quadriceps and hamstring sessions. The argument for doing so is simple. These are both large body parts and are crucial to contest success. Furthermore, if you hit hams after quads in the same workout, you may not have the energy and intensity to give both sides of your legs the barrage
During five of his seven workouts (biceps, hamstrings, back, triceps, and quadriceps), Fedorov did an exercise that worked his left and right sides separately. To do this, he even incorporated the aforementioned unique exercises, one-arm low-cable rows and cable leg adductions. “Whenever possible, I want to include an exercise that lets me fatigue each of my two sides alone,” he stated. “Your left and right sides are never exactly the same in terms of strength, so if you include a one-arm or one-leg exercise, you knw you can push each side to failure during those sets.”
He switched it up when he hit delts. His shoulder workout consisted entirely of supersets. Each of his three superset combinations was focused on a different deltoid head. Dumbbell front raises paired with underhand shoulder presses targeted his front delts. Dumbbell side laterals coupled with medium-grip upright rows
At 25, Alexander Fedorov met and even surpassed his goal when he held his own with Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler in his pro debut. But his career appeared to end disappointingly just three years later. Now he's returned to the pro competition circuit. After eight years away from the stage, he’s aiming higher. Victory. – FLEX