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Sergey Bondarenko (Russia, 450/510 lbs. @235+): Useful Articles, Q&A, Form Check etc


Dear friends,

My name is Sergey Bondarenko and I am an Olympic weightlifting master of sports of international class (Russian top sports rank). This thread is my humble way to contribute to Olympic weightlifters community and to share my knowledge and experience which I received while making my path to Russian national Olympic weightlifting team.

I had my first weightlifting workout when I was 6. My grandfather and father were weightlifters so the choice of a sport was never a question in my family. When I was 11, I started to train regularly in my native town in Ryazan region in central Russia, finally ended with setting over than 30 regional records in various weight and age categories.

In 2006 I entered Oil and Gas University named after Gubkin and moved to Moscow. Moscow region was much more competitive in terms of weightlifting and my studying made it even more challenging. I was lucky to be coached by Alexander Skonnikov who also coached at that time a well-known Russian weightlifter, powerlifter and strongman – Misha Koklyaev.

I left the campus at 7:00 am and after the classes took a 2 hours bus ride to training camp, coming back to my place only by the midnight. That was my schedule for every working day. Hard work and persistence let me progress despite the unfriendly circumstances, by the year 2011 I set 8 regional records in Moscow and Russian national records in snatch (440 lbs., U23), participated in international competitions and trained in Russian national team camp.

By that time my best pulls were 450 lbs. snatch and 510 lbs. C&J and I decided to take a rest, devoting more time to education and starting coach career. Since that time I wrote numerous articles on weightlifting in Russia sharing them free of charge in various weightlifters communities. I also started coaching weightlifting in one of the most famous and well-know CrossFit facilities in Moscow and have a few junior trainees competing on international level. I also contribute a lot to the development of weightlifting in my native town and region, training kids and representing my region on various events.

Now I found that my knowledge and experience appeared to be helpful to many weightlifters both novice and advanced and decided to share my knowledge with athletes beyond the borders of Russian Federation.

I currently work on translation of my articles into English and writing the new ones. I will publish them here from time to time, encouraging you in-between to ask any questions on weightlifting training, technique and programs.



We are very glad to have you hear. To be quite honest the Olympic weightlifting threads here at t-nation are relatively dull. It would be nice to have some better discussion and hopefully your presence will add value to the forum.

We have more novice than advanced lifters, please post anything for newer lifters if you are able.



Thanks for the kind welcoming.
I’m going to post couple of starting articles that might be found interesting especially for the novice lifters.
I would be happy to hear any questions on the matter or topics that you would like to hear next.
Either ways will help me to understand the main focus with my translations.


That would be the first translated article of mine. It may be interesting to people who are just considering joining the magnificent world of weightlifting, who still try to weight all the pros and cons and not yet sure where to begin from.

I will start with more general articles so that the most novice athletes could follow it to more complicated ones, that will try to tackle all the arsenal of techniques and methods of advanced lifter.


Ideally, you would like to start weightlifting with finding an experienced coach. Even once you have read many books and articles on weightlifting, you will find it difficult to maintain the proper technique during performance of exercise yourself, because you need someone to control you technique on every phase of a lift and to notice your mistakes. However if you are not able to find a place where you can work on your technique with a coach, try at least to capture your lifts on camera so that you can review it yourself.

Of course, you would need some experience and knowledge to notice the mistake and find the correct exercise to eliminate it. Even if you are attentive and persistent and you may notice the worst mistakes yourself, there will still be many subtle ones, which will however significantly affect your performance and safety.

Though working out your mistakes yourself will be difficult, there are some guidelines which at least make it possible.

First and foremost - you need to check your physical condition.

That would encompass both general attributes and preparedness for hard work of particular muscles groups (back, legs, arms etc.).

You need to evaluate your muscle groups by the following criteria:

  • Pace;
  • Coordination;
  • Strength; and
  • Flexibility.

Find the weakest link of the chain and work on improving of this quality.

For example, if you have weak back and legs, while maintaining other qualities on the decent level, you need to focus on your back, and only then move to improving your legs. Working on your legs requires you to put significant training volumes on your squatting, which may lead to an injury unless your back is strong and well-prepared for such volumes.

Second – work your flexibility.

Even if you are nature gifted with decent flexibility and no way you have thought of it as of your weak attribute, most likely it is, when it comes to starting weightlifting. If you ignore focusing on your flexibility from the very start you will face a serious risk of injuries later on.

To maintain a stable position in the bottom of your snatch, holding your back tight and the loaded bar right over your head you need to be sure that:

  • Your shoulder and hip joints mobility provides for the required range of motion;
  • You have a decent lumbar-spine mobility (weightlifting has a tendency to form more distinct lumbar curve); and
  • You thoracic spine allows you to hold your shoulder blades tight (normally weightlifters have less distinct thoracic curve).

Third –working on technique.

While working on your technique, bear in mind the following basic principles:

  • Light weight only – you goal is technique, not personal records, so do not load the bar so that its weight would impair your technique.

  • More repetitions – you try to establish a movement stereotype. On first few reps of a set you are likely to make a mistake or few, but by the fifth (for example) repetition you may fix your errors and perform close to the right movement. Do not push it to the limit making tens or twenties. But doubles and triples on this stage may not be enough.

  • Start with the easiest movements and follow to the more complicated ones –basically you would like to teach the technique “backward” or “from top to the bottom”, try making overhead squat, if its fine move to the hang snatch from the middle of your thigh, once you succeed with it – try hang snatch from your knees, etc. At last you will manage it to the full snatch.

  • Focus on accessory exercises – overhead squats, drop snatches, etc.

Forth – build the basement.

You need to have a certain reserve of strength. Let us say you want to clean 220 lbs. bar. Technically, with a perfect technique you may do it if your personal record in front squats is 220 lbs. But that would mean that you have no strength reserve. Cleaning 200 lbs. will make you work on you maximum capabilities both on the pull and squat phases of clean, it is risky and energy-demanding. However if you front squat 270 lbs. than the second phase of 220 lbs. clean will most likely be an easy walk for you, allowing you to direct all your energy to a stronger pull.

The following exercises may help you to improve your muscles strength.

  • Legs – back squat (NB! Do not accept anything but full depth), front squats, overhead squats.
  • Back – various kinds of deadlifts (clean grip or snatch grip, with second pull or w/o, deficit lift or from power rack etc).
  • Arms – focus on press and push press. Avoid working on your biceps as it may impair rack position in C&J/front squats.
    While working on your strength, do not forget improving you endurance. Without it – that would be hard to continue adding on training volumes and intensity.

Fifth, the last but not the least – gym sessions is just a part of you training.

No matter how hard you train, you will not able to maintain progress, unless you recovery well. You need to plan training wisely not to get yourself into overreaching or overtraining. Your best friends are proper nutrition, decent sleep and bed regime, sauna and massages and other methods of recover, which deserve much more detailed overview, which you will soon see in other articles.

Try to stick to this recommendations, be persistent and dedicated and soon you will see the results!



What type of rep schemes do you recommend for young lifters (12-16yrs) to build legs and back? Our newer lifters only want to push for new personal records, but I think they should spend more time squatting for 8-12 reps. I am not completely certain how to go about building their backs without hurting them or boring them.



Thanks for your question.

Let me bring the recommendations that will be useful for novice.
Firstly, it is necessary to evaluate your physical condition, in particular:
a) legs;
b) back;
c) arms, etc.

Secondly, to analyze your following aspects:
a) speed;
b) coordination;
c) strength;
d) flexibility.

Thirdly, identify problem areas for further intensive work on them. For example, if you have weak legs and a weak back, you first need to work to a greater extent over the back, and then on your legs, because the main work in the weightlifting comes with free weights, without preparing the back you cannot fully knock yourself out in the squat - you can get injured.
Even if the natural back strength and flexibility are not the problematic, then in 90% of cases it is not enough to start active weightlifting training. If you do not do intense work to strengthen back, exercises may cause injury.

When you start feeling the pain in the back it is necessary to:

  1. Stop the workout, wait 2-3 days. If the pain is gone and does not appear again, the cause of the pain served as muscle spasm, this happens often;
  2. If the pain persists or comes again, it is necessary to consult a doctor, a medical examination, particularly MRI of the lumbosacral spine, if necessary other areas.

How to build up your legs?!
First of all, to increase the power rates of your legs, we must understand that the recovery periods in the major muscle groups are different.
Legs (or rather all the muscles included in the concept of “legs”) restores the longest, since it is the largest muscle group in the body, because legs are involved in almost all the weightlifting exercises, the gaps between the legs of training days should be much larger than in the training of the back or arms.

Of course, there are many methods to speed up recovery.
A) Pharmacological - sport supplements, pharmacy pharmacology and so on.
B) Non-pharmacological - massages, baths, cryosaunas and so on.

Scheme for leg’s development:
1 training (Monday) - supported squats on the chest 70 -80% of the best result by 2 times for 3 sets;
2 training (Wednesday) -Supported squats on the back of 65-70% of the best result by 5 times for 3 sets;
3 training (Saturday) squats on chest - under load! 90-95% of the best result by 2 times for 3 sets;
4 training (Monday) supported squats on the back of 70-80% of the best result by 2 times for 3 sets;
5 training (Wednesday) squats on the chest - supported! 65-70% from the best result by 5 times for 3 sets;
6 training (Saturday) loaded squats on the back of 85-90% up to a limit by 5-7 times for 3 sets. Squat in each set until unable to stand up, respectively, the weight is selected so that in each of the approaches is not less than 5 but not more than 7 repetitions, if less at least in one approach then reduce the weight, if more than at least two approaches then increase. If in all 3 approaches you could squat 7 times, then for the further loaded squats increase the weight.



In this article I will try to cast a light on the question that many novice weightlifter are often concerned about – how often should we train weightlifting? The answer will definitely depend on many factors, such as free time, recovery facilities, aims and ambitions, level of preparation and physical condition. Despite of willing to give an answer on this question to every athlete, I clearly realize that it is not possible within the scope of this article. However, I will answer it for two quite different group of sportsmen - pure amateurs combining sports with family and job duties and people who are able to surround themselves with perfect opportunities to pursue the highest sport career goals.

1) The ones that aim for paragon of sports performance.

If you are lucky to have loads of leisure time and your financial condition allows you to maintain perfect recovery condition (or if you are professional weightlifter) than training 5 to 8 times a week will be a decent choice of yours. Of course that would not be “go hard” every training session. You will try to make your sessions short and intense both in terms of time and number of exercises.

5 times a week will suit the following pattern: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat training sessions and Thu, Sun – recovery days.

8 times a week will make you schedule 2 training sessions every Mon, Wed and Fri (one at the daytime and the other one close to the evening).

Such intense weekly schedule practically requires you to maintain perfect recovery, scheduling sauna sessions for Wed and Sat evenings (i.e. prior to your recovery days) with a maximum load being scheduled for these very days (again because of the fact that they are followed by recovery days).

While choosing the right number between 5 and 8, bear in mind that the workload and training volume will be the same for every option – the only difference is the distribution of this workload among the training sessions (making 8-days-a-week training sessions shorter and simpler than 5-days-a-week).

Also note that normally, weightlifters of heavier weight classes would opt for less training sessions a day/a week, because they need more time for recovery and it is not that easy for them to keep their sessions short as they need longer warm-up.

2) Amateurs

I highly recommend amateurs sportsmen (especially novice ones) to follow 3-days-a-week model, however including the sufficient diversity of exercises in their training sessions. If you are fine with adding another training session – devote it to accessory/auxiliary exercises (jumping on a boxes, improving your endurance, flexibility etc.)

It will perfectly fit the following pattern – Mon, Wed, Fri – training days and Sat – auxiliary work.

The perfect time to conduct a training session is either right after the noon or somewhere after 5:00 pm. If you train early in the morning, in the lunchtime or late at the evening – your training sessions may not be that efficient. If however that is the only option available to you due to busy schedule, try at least to stick to the following rules:

  1. Let yourself have at least one hour rest between last meal and training session;
  2. Make at least 1,5-2 hours gap between waking up and training and between training and going to sleep.

If you can make these gaps longer – good, because basically they are just a minimum allowing you to minimize discomfort.

And never forget one of the most important rule that many trainees underestimate – it is better to “undertrain” than to overtrain. If you face overreaching, then avoiding decrease in performance will be a task much more difficult than adding some extra work if you realize that you have not stressed your muscles enough on your last sessions.


Periodization Basics

When you only start lifting weights things seem quite simple. You add the weight weekly/monthly, because you are becoming more strong, agile and profound in technique. However, that may not last forever, and once you will realize that you no longer can move the heavier weight than on the previous training. That is the time you realize that the appropriate dosage of workload is key to success on this level.

It is a very important issue one should bear in mind during preparation, however whilst you approach the competition date it becomes even more crucial. On top level strength is the quality that may not be analyzed putting a blind eye on temporal aspect. You may be shred, agile, fast and technique throughout all the year. But an elite athlete may not perform pulls with its maximum weight every other training.

I have seen some USA athletes doing really great job during preparation, showing decent methodological base and excellence in technique, but due to poor planning of workload in transactional period before the competitions, sometimes they scored on the competition 50 lbs. less than their best results in gym.
In this article I will not explain the nature of periodization, the rationale behind it and different models. Instead I will try to provide a very practical set of recommendations for each period of preparation and a clever reader will surely make its own conclusions on how it is connected with the idea of periodization.

Stage I. Preparation period.

This period lasts 2 to 4 months and is aimed on accumulating your strength while maintaining decent technique. The basic recommendations are:

Competition lifts: High rep range and low intensity (low weight in other words).

Strength work: It should occupy a majority of your training schedule in terms of time, diversity and volume.

The idea is to significantly increase your strength, even if it comes at a price of temporal (!) decrease of performance in competition lifts and maybe even in speed.

Stage II. Transactional period.

This period lasts 1 to 2 months and is aimed on transaction of the strength build on Stage I into results in competition lifts.

Competition lifts: Increase the diversity and the training volume of the lifts. Make them a priority in your training in terms of time, diversity and volume. Reduce the rep range comparing to Stage I and increase intensity (moderate weight). Diversity in this sense means that you shall perform different variations of the lifts.

Strength work: Try to maintain the level of strength you have achieved on Stage I. Building strength is no longer your priority, but saving is.

The idea is to increase your performance in competition lifts, whilst trying not to lose your strength.

Stage III. Pre-competition period.

This period lasts 1 to 2 months and now you are preparing yourself for that very day, where you are to show your best in 6 attempts.

Competition lifts: Avoid diversity now, stick only to competition variations of the lifts. Continue increasing intensity and decreasing range of reps.

Strength work: Simply minimize it.

The idea is to increase your performance in competition lifts aiming for new records and preparing to work on 1-rep range. You should accept that you results in squats and other strength work will decrease.

This stage also include going for PR to evaluate your results so that you could know what weights to lift on competition. Use the following recommendations to schedule such PR attempts:

Snatch – 7 to 14 days before the competition

C&J – 14 to 21 days before the competition

The exact time depends on some personal factors (time needed to recover). However, bear in mind that heavyweight athletes need more time to recover than their lightweight peers.

Stage IV. A week before the competition.

Now you should prepare yourself for setting new PRs. You need to rest and relax, but not to lose your focus and tonus.

Take this plan as the example.


Snatch 70-75% 3 sets of doubles
C&J 70% 3 sets of singles
Clean pull (from the stage) 90-95% (of best C&J) 4 sets of doubles
Front squat 70-75% (of best front squat) 3 sets of doubles


Snatch 65-70% 3 sets of singles
C&J 65-70% 3 sets of singles
Snatch pull (from the stage) 90% (of best snatch) 3 sets of doubles


Snatch 50% 3 sets of singles
C&J 50% 3 sets of singles

Sun – Competitions!


Dear Friends,

Looking forward of your questions!
Help me to understand what might be interesting for you!



How do you get yourself comfortable doing a full squat clean? I started to add some olympic lifts to my current routine and am struggling on figuring out the technique of catching the bar in the hole. Do you have any tips or mental cues to make this move more fluid?



Dear @kckfl349

Thanks for your question!

There should be no drop of the bar onto yourself, you need to catch it at the same height as
you lifted it after the second pull, it’s not really good when it drops on your
It’s worth to note that so called “muscular sence” will help to catch the bar at the right height. It’s being built up by the nature and also being developed with experience following such exercises as:

  • clean from the groin height
  • clean from the groin height with load of the back
  • clean “x”

Those exercises can be included into jerk warm-up activities. In addition it’s good to do clean with the half squat, preferably from the midthigh at the beginning of training.
Here is also a youtube link with my recommendation for the proper technique (so far only in russian): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1JA2MIOIWc


Thanks for the advice, I will have to start incorporating those and working on my technique.


Hello Sergey,

first thank you for tips you wrote above.

Now I would like to ask you a few questions about my training ritual.

I have to work (unfortunately), so I can’t do more than four weightlifting training per week (two hard and two easy) and I do “conditioning” once a week.

On monday I do my “heavy” training: snatch, c&j complex, pulls, squat, presses and a bit of core training.
On tuesdayI do assistive exercise for snatch and c&j, squats, snatch complex, high pulls, push press, rdl or "good morning (this is “easyer” training).
Wednesday is day off.
Thursday is “conditioning” day: I play indoor footbal with coworkers - I know it would be better to do that on wednesday, but sadly I can’t change any day of training schedule.
Friday is again my “heavy traning”: i do snatch, c&j, jerks from stands, squat and some core excercises.
Saturday is very easy traning day: some sprints and jumps, asistive work for snatch and c&j and some mobitility excercises.
Sunday is day off.

Now problem is that my main weekness in lifting is jerk. But by the time in the training I get to the jerks I am already a bit tired from snatches. Would you recomend that I do one day only snatch and other day only c&j?

Other question is about squats. I do twice a week back squat and once a week front squat. While ago I did more front squats than back squats and I felt more secure doing c&j.
So now I would like to change to do 2x a week front squat and only one time back squat. What do you prefer? More front or more back squats?

My main problem with jerk is position overhead. I can not lock it enough behing my head, so weight stays on my shoulders during lockout phase. I am trying to get my shoulders more mobile, but it is getting really slow.
But if I hold bar 2cm wider on each side for jerks versus during clean I can get the right position overhead.
Problem here is that when I hold bar wider on my chest (before the start of jerk) it is much harder to maintaing proper form. However I still can lift heavyer weight with wider grip. Any advice?

Thank you for your help.
Best regards,


Dear @ales1a,

Thanks for your questions!
And sorry for the late reply (a bit busy with my online trainings and seminars preparation).

Let me give you my short input on that.

For amateurs optimal training system is 3 times a week, with respect to a great variety of
exercises. In addition, you can add, from time to time, a fourth day for a total auxiliary
work (hopping training, improved endurance performance, etc.).

If you are a professional athlete, it is better to train 5 to 8 times a week.
The total load both at 5 days and at 8 days of training a week is scheduled about the same. But always obtain equally good recovery means.
The difference is that at 5 workouts a week, every single activity is of greater in load volume and in the number of exercises and in time than when the scheme is 8 times a week.

Now, one’s weekly routine is definitely determined individually and depends on your qualification, free time, current physical condition etc.
You can find a lot of interesting training material (in english) by following my instagram:

In addition, I’m doing some online training, doing review of the training video and give
correction’s recommendations, prepare individual training schedules etc… If
you are interested, contact me at my email sergeybondarenko1989@gmail.com


Dear friends,

As it looked like this question interested some of you, I publish here my squatting routine. That is definitely not the only one way to develop your leg strength and some may even find it not the best one, but it worked great for me and my trainees and I continue to use and teach it.

Week one - Mon

Maintenance Front Squats - 3 sets of 2 - 70-80% of your max front squat.

Week one - Wed

Maintenance Back Squats - 3 sets of 5 - 65-70% of your max back squat.

Week one - Sat

Loading Front Squats - 3 sets of 2 - 90-95% of your max front squat.

Week two - Mon

Maintenance Back Squats - 3 sets of 2 - 70-80% of your max back squat.

Week two - Wed

Maintenance Front Squats - 3 sets of 5 - 65-70% of your max front squat.

Week two - Sat

Loading Back Squats - 3 sets of 5 to 7 - 85-90% of your max back squat.
This one requires the weight to be set that way, so that your 5 to 7 rep will be really the last one. If you did not manage to make 5 reps in at least one of the sets, decrease the weight. If you did more than 7 in two or more sets - increase the weight. If you did 7 reps in every set - good, next training you should increase the weight.


I leave some intervals from a weight selection (70-80% and so) because different people have different relation between their 1RM and 5RM for example. You will soon start to feel the right weight which gives you sufficient maintenance effect without overloading yourself.


Dear @ales1a,

In addition to your questions…

I always opt for separate days for SN and CJ (except maybe last week before meet where they can be done in one day but with very low volume and intensty).

SN is athletic movement requiring speed and fresh muscles, that is why I try to start the week with it, being fresh after the rest day. I also try to do SN and CJ (respectively) in first 40 min of the training session, whily my focus and drive is still fine, following them with partial movements and strength work.

In Russian weightlifting camps (where national team prepare for international tournaments) sometimes SN and CJ are done in a single day but in separate sessions (morning and evening). But the facilities for recreation are close to perfect there. In real life, that would not be reasonable.


Hi Sergey,

I’d like to ask you two questions:

i) Right now I am cleaning 140 kg but I do not have much strength reserves ( my best front squat is 150 kg). I am an amateur athlete training 3x per week. I would like to add a 4th day of training on Saturdays to focus on strength ( squats ). What kind of system (sets/reps) would you recommend? I usually squat at least two times a week (low volume 2 or 3 reps) so I was thinking of perhaps adding volume of this 4th day?

ii) concerning the snatch I always feel more confident doing snatch from hang than from the floor ( I have some trouble creating tension from the floor). Do you have any exercises to recommend for this?