Using Russian Complex Training for Size and Strength

Using Russian Complex Training for Size and Strength

When you’re aiming to pack on muscle and at the same time improve your strength, you’ll need to find a training system that will support your goals.

Russian Complex Training might just be the go to system for you. Read on to learn more about:

  • What is Russian Complex Training
  • How to programme RCT into your training
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the considerations?

What is Russian Complex Training?

Russian Complex training (RCT) was introduced in the former Soviet Union and consequently became popular throughout the Eastern bloc and Bulgaria.

Essentially RCT alternates a heavy resistance exercise with a biomechanically similar explosive movement– these movements although similar lie on each end of the typical ‘strength-velocity’ curve. Typically the athlete would complete this type of training during strength-speed or speed-strength phases (particularly during linear periodisation).

From a neurophysiological perspective RCT aims to create a potentiation (neural ‘on-switch’) effect allowing the activation of as many motor units and therefore muscle fibres as possible. In order to maximise this effect the rest period in between exercises and sets is kept around or below 3 minutes– less than this and the athlete may suffer latent fatigue due to existing metabolic by-product that have not yet been flushed from the muscle.

Longer than this and the potentiation effect may be lost. ~3 minutes seems most effective at maintaining then neural stimulus of the higher loaded, first activity through to the second, more velocity-based activity.



Here are two examples of RCT programming. The first is a lower body anterior knee (quadriceps)-dominant programme and the second is a posterior hip/knee (glutes/hamstrings)-dominant programme

Example 1

A1: Back Squat- 3-5 reps @ 85-95% 1RM ~3 minutes rest

A2: Jump Squat- 10 reps @ 15-20% of the load used in A1 ~3 minutes rest

(Repeat A1-A2 for 3-5 sets total)

Example 2

A1: Deadlift- 3-5 reps @ 85-95% 1RM ~3 minutes rest

A2: Jump Deadlift (hex bar)- 10 reps @ 15-20% of the load used in A1

~3 minutes rest

(Repeat A1-A2 for 3-5 sets total)


It is recommended that for an increased systemic, structural effect that an intra-session lower body-upper body split is utilised i.e completing a lower-body RCT then and upper body RCT each session. A


  • Recruits and fatigues more muscle fibres meaning potential for a better growth stimulus
  • Improves muscle synchronisation meaning better transference to sports performance
  • Improves rate coding meaning increased power production and strength
  • Increases overall power and work output meaning better conditioning


  • Thorough performance testing needs to be completed first in order to ascertain volume and load relationships
  • Ensure this training is periodised to allow central nervous system recovery and avoid potential non-functional overreaching and/or overtraining