3 Things Russians Do That Will Help Beginners Instantly Lift More, Without Getting Hurt.

Do you like the idea of getting stronger, AND reducing your chances of injury?

Okay, dumb question. Of frickin’ course you do.

For some reason, those seem to be mutually exclusive — we think of people who are incredibly strong as always tickling the dragon’s balls.  AKA just waiting to get hurt.

And sadly, it isn’t always those who are trying to become the next Hercules that are the ones that sustain injury – anyone can become fatigued, lose position, and tweak our back/neck/shoulder/hip/knee/big toe.

Besides a busy schedule, injuries are a close second for reasons why beginners fall off the wagon.

But do not fear, the Russian Superman is here.


There’s a crazy-strong Russian guy named Pavel who has taken the idea of creating ‘tension’ to the masses and the results are wonderful:

  • Better, safer technique

  • Weights feeling lighter, instantly

  • Increased stability and balance

Pavel is the human behind the gold standard of kettlebell certifications: StrongFirst. His teachings and techniques are behind world record holders, championship sports teams, and even more importantly — millions of people who are now being coached safely and effectively.

I digress – long story short, that’s why we use StrongFirst principles here at AMP.

There are many smart training principles that will help YOU become strong AND minimize injury.  Some of those include practicing the fundamentals, staying focused while you train, developing strength, getting a little better ever day, and learning how to control your body’s tension.  

Today, we cover tension comrades.

What is tension?

Put simply, the purpose of tension is “When we press or pull an object from the ground, the force of the press needs to get transferred into the ground. If we are loose like a noodle, our press must overcome the wobble. If we are tight, the force gets directly transferred into the ground. ” (Via http://www.strongfirst.com/sherringtons-law-irradiation-tension-important/)

How do I create tension?

Step #1: Grounding

What this means:

tip: imagine you're trying to make a raptor claw with your foot to grip the floor.tip: imagine you're trying to make a raptor claw with your foot to grip the floor.

tip: imagine you’re trying to make a raptor claw with your foot to grip the floor.

Not surprisingly, grounding has everything to do with your relationship with the ground. You can think of your feet as your body’s foundation — like your home, you want that foundation to be solid and stable rather than mushy.

How to do it:

Start by gripping the floor with your feet – this ensures a strong, stable, and active foot position that will give your ankles, knees, and hips the foundation the need to do their job.


Next, create tension through your hips by spreading the floor with your feet. This helps take our already stable base and gives it energy.

From there, keep your feet ‘rooted’ into the ground like you’re a mighty oak.

THIS is your base of support for any exercise.



Step #2: Breath

What this means:

Well, besides the fact that breathing is essential to life, you can actually hack it to maximize strength and keep your posture optimal while training. Without going all ‘fitness nerd’ on you, it has a lot to do with creating pressure between your pelvic floor and diaphragm. They’re like the bottom + top of a can – the tighter you can get them on, the harder it is to bend or break.


How to do it:

Chances are if you’ve ever done yoga… You’re on the right track, but you aren’t quiiiite there yet. Although deep, slow breathing is great when you’re trying to create relaxation, they are far from optimal for lifting things over your head.

  1. Preparing to lift – tighten your abs as if you were ‘bracing for impact’.  Then, when your abs are tight AF, you want to inhale through your nose and ‘breathe behind the shield’.  You should feel your torso become solid.
  2. Performing the lift – As you initiate the press with your arms or legs maintain a braced torso and spit/hiss without spitting. Feel your core muscles tighten up? That’s what we’re talking about.  Matching this breath with the lifting portion of the exercise will give you more power!

Step #3: Tension through extremities

What this means:

Despite its self-explanatory name, creating tension–by gripping your hands tightly — does far more than work grip strength. When you’re lifting anything with one arm at a time, keeping the opposite side tense will help to share the load and encourage great posture.

How to do it:

This has many, many applications, but the most common mistakes we see being made are during things like single arm presses, single arm carries, and one leg deadlifts. To make the MOST out of these things, try to create tension in the opposite arm by squeezing your fist as hard as possible, or in a single leg deadlift by ‘pressing the rear leg through the wall’ (Don’t actually do that, for obvious reasons)



Creating tension may be the single most important thing to learn as a beginner. If you’re nailing tension, you’re probably nailing technique.

What to do next:

Practice, practice, practice! Better yet, practice under the supervision of an SFG instructor at AMP! We’ll teach you all of the fitness things, and make sure you’re 100% safe and comfortable with each step.