Written by: Kevin Cann
A couple of weeks ago, decorated coach and overall legend, Boris Sheiko came back to TPS. He first came to TPS in June of 2015. All I really knew about Boris Sheiko were that his programs were very high volume and probably not a good idea for a beginner.
I had literally decided to get into powerlifting just a few weeks before this, and I was very curious about what he had to say. I also will never turn down a learning experience. I learned that Sheiko puts technique in front of everything else. As a beginner this was everything that I needed.
He decided to take online clients a month or two later, and I jumped on the opportunity. I have been his online student since October 2015. In this period of time I have put 60lbs on my squat, 30lbs on my bench, and 40lbs on my deadlift. A lot of these can be chalked up to beginner gains, as I was, and still am a beginner. I have also gained roughly 45lbs since I have started, and I am sure my change in weight has led to more weight on the bar as well. Would I have seen these type of increases doing something else? Maybe, maybe not.
One thing I can say for sure is that my technique has gotten a million times better. A lot of this is due to training with Murph, and a lot has to do with selecting weights where adjustments can be made and comp lift variations that help strengthen the weak areas of my lifts.
This time around I had a lot more familiarity with how Sheiko coaches and creates his programs. This helped to connect some of the dots that I had questions about, that he had not already answered in the time that I have been working with him. One of my favorite parts of the entire seminar was when he shared his story of meeting Louie Simmons a couple weeks earlier.
He explained how much he respected Louie Simmons and how popular he was in Russia. He also talked about how very different they are as coaches. In fact, they are nearly polar opposites in the way that they do things. Sheiko puts the major emphasis into technique. He believes this is the most important thing for a lifter to master.
Sheiko went on to explain that Louie Simmons puts the emphasis into strength development first. This does not mean that technique is not important, but it just has to be good enough to allow you to get stronger. I will get into this in more detail when I talk about the training session with Sheiko, but I want to expand upon this part for a second.
Two legendary coaches with very opposing views were able to sit and have a respectful discussion for 8 hours. There was no arguing that my way is better than your way and my lifters have done this and yours have done this. Instead of these two coaches having a pissing contest, they picked each other’s brains and tried to learn everything they could.
First of all, these guys are both 70 years old and still students of the sport and constantly trying to learn everything that they can. Sheiko said he took pictures of some of Westside Barbell’s machines that Louie had developed so that he can bring them back to Russia and make his students stronger.
He also got copies of all of his books and said that he can’t wait to read them and be able to take some of the information in there and make his students stronger. Not only did they have a friendly discussion, but Sheiko did not discredit anything that Louie had said, even though they are polar opposites. He went in there with the attitude of “How can I use this information to make my students stronger?” That is why he is such a great coach. Always trying to improve to better his clients, not to show off on social media, or argue with other coaches. We all can take a lesson from these two.
The seminar had technique corrections for all 3 lifts. Some of the biggest corrections in the squat were that people were walking too far out of the rack. Many people were taking too large of a breath as well. This was one of the first things he changed on my squat. He just wants to see you take a huff of air instead of a large breath.
The problem with taking a large breath is that when the chest rises, the upper back muscles do not stay tight, and it pushes the bar further away from your hips. It is also a waste of energy to take that large of a breath. Conserving energy is very important to Sheiko.
Many lifters at the seminar would accelerate the bar close to the lockout, causing it to jump on their back. Sheiko said not to do this, as the crashing of the bar may lead to injury later on in one’s career. All lifts should be powerful and smooth.
On the bench he widened many people’s grip to shorten the range of motion. Also, getting people’s feet in a spot that they were very stable seemed to be a big point of emphasis. On the deadlift he changed head position so that people’s heads were up and eyes were high up on the wall. Also, people would accelerate the bar a few inches from lockout.
This would cause the bar to jump a bit in the lifter’s hands. Sheiko explained that if the bar does not do that under maximal loads, then you should not do that lifting submaximal loads. Every rep should look the same whether it is 50% of 1 RM or 100% of 1 RM.
Many attendees had a hard time understanding the concept of not accelerating the bar at lockout. Sheiko explained that the bar needs to be accelerated in the middle portion of the lift as this is where the lift is most difficult and again that every rep should look the same. He has talked previously about elite lifters knowing how much energy they need to put into every rep, and I think that applies here as well.
A meet is a long day of lifting all out maximal lifts. A big piece that is often overlooked is the ability of the lifter to stay fresh into the third attempt deadlift. If we take every rep at 100%, from the empty bar through all of our attempts, we will have a higher risk of running out of energy by the time the deadlifts roll around.
The following day myself, and 4 other staff members from TPS, had a private training session with Sheiko. This was a really great experience to not only be coached, but to see how he runs a training session. The biggest takeaway I got from this was that he really means it when he says technique matters most.
He put a training session up on the whiteboard where we worked up to 85% squats for doubles and a long pause bench press at 75%. He had dropped a couple of the lifter’s weights significantly to work on some technique things and even changed the exercise variation for one. Just because a certain program was written on paper it does not mean that it cannot be changed. Every day is different and may call for adjustments. This is why having a coach is very important.
This was a great experience. It is one thing to work with a coach online and another to have the face to face training session. He made a couple of tweaks to my squat that really improved some of the technical flaws we were attempting to address from a distance. I look forward to making continued progress on my lifts and continuing to learn more from one of the legends of the sport.
Links to other Sheiko articles: