Russian Paratrooper Training – 1973

Russian Paratroopers - Rope Climbing

One of my problems with the fitness industry is the assumption that new ideas are automatically better than those that came before. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen prominent trainers criticize what they describe as the old school approach. To no surprise, such criticisms are often nothing but blanket statements that lack even the slightest hint of critical thinking. With that said, let me remind you that hard work isn’t new, nor is physical strength. Man has exercised for centuries and we aren’t the first generation to get it right. If you don’t believe me, look no further than a group of Russian paratroopers from the 1970s…

What’s Old Is New

Perhaps I’m partial since I was born in the 70s, but I’m not surprised by the strength and athleticism displayed by these soldiers. What might be surprising however is that much of what’s featured in the video is popular in today’s world of fitness.

These solders lifted kettlebells, climbed ropes, performed calisthenics, and ran obstacle courses. They also worked on gymnastics, self defense, and tumbling. In today’s world, you’d pay a hefty membership to train at a gym that offered so many options. And if you did find such a gym, you’d be hard pressed to find a single trainer who was proficient in so many areas.

Russian Paratroopers - Kettlebell training

No Secrets

Ironically, there’s no denying that many of today’s athletes and trainers would struggle to keep pace with these soldiers from the 1970s. The Russian paratroopers were strong, conditioned, and well versed in a variety of techniques.

Russian Paratroopers - Finger pushups

Fortunately, you don’t need an overpriced gym to train similarly to these soldiers. Much of their physical training can be performed with minimal equipment. You might not be able to shoot live ammo in your backyard, but calisthenics can be trained virtually anywhere. There are also countless options for home based pull-up bars and punching bags. Even kettlebell prices have dropped in recent years.

Therefore, it is clear that the success of these solders wasn’t based on the equipment they used. The same equipment is widely available in today’s world. Our population isn’t growing heavier by the day due to a lack of equipment. We have access to more equipment than we ever did. Our real problem is a deficiency in effort.

In summary, while the world continues to seek faster and easier ways to get in shape, the experienced know that shortcuts don’t exist. What worked in the past still works today. You don’t need to be a Russian paratrooper to regularly push yourself hard with the basics. All that you really need is the willingness to consistently challenge yourself with a true effort.

As Ray Lewis once said, effort is between you and you. It’s up to you to find it and it’s up to you to apply it. No one can do it for you. Most people don’t need more information about exercise. They just need to apply more effort to what they already know. That’s the hard part.


“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” – Stephen King


  1. I have own two kettelbells and have use bodyweight exercises coupled with running, swimming, cycling etc its a wonderful combination for health and stamina. If I need more strength I just move over to more advanced exercises. Do you have any sandbag training videos?

  2. The old videos you embed in your posts are part of the reason why i like this blog so much.The hand to hand combat part may seem a little goofy but no doubt these guys were like iron.Cheers 🙂

  3. Old school and I like it! I don’t want to be a paratrooper but definitely I really want to have the physique of paratrooper, very flexible, it won’t have results right away but for sure I will develop this! Nice article Ross!

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed the article and video embedded! They certainly were “well versed in a variety of techniques”. I think far too many people focus on a narrow field of physical mastery. I understand and appreciate it, but incorporating other techniques can only make oneself more rounded.

  5. Great find Ross! I have a fascination with the Russians and their training methods they always seem to be basic no fluff ways. Most of our methods in the boxing club I help coach at is from the bloc also. Keep em coming!

  6. Hey Ross,

    This is an off-topic question related to boxing sparring. Perhaps the question demands a “it depends” answer. Anyhow, I was wondering whether you think that during sparring, fighters should throw hard punches or is sparring more an activity to hone skills and build ring confidence? When I spar, the power I use typically depends on the power my opponents use. If they try to hit me with powerful punches, I reciprocate and vice-versa. But, I wonder is there an informal rule that says that fighters should punch as if a championship is on the line or should they fight in 3rd or 4th gear in terms of punching power.

    1. There isn’t a single answer. A high level pro who is preparing for a major bout will have hard sparring sessions. He’s got to prepare for what he will face on fight night. A beginner on the other hand isn’t prepared to spar with that intensity. Unfortunately, beginners often get out of control as they don’t have the discipline or experience to spar without going all out. As soon as they get hit, they react by swinging wild.

      It all boils down to experience. What you are doing is on par with what’s generally accepted however.

  7. Awesome find! I love these old training videos. Simplicity and intensity are key. Too many people miss that and look for quick fixes.

  8. Great article, but the video looks like a propaganda film. The Russian army had a special training battalion whose sole purpose was to display immense feats of athleticism to promote the idea of an unstoppable red army. I have friends and family who were actual десантники (Disantniki – russian for paratrooper). They told me that bootcamp was mostly hazing and manual labor.

  9. Video looks like a propaganda film based on the fine motor skills. Especially since we have entire literature the only thing different about Russians from Americans is that they performed lots of heavy, manual labour. Soviets weren’t above having entire battalions dedicated to showing off the Red Army’s prowess.

    Nevertheless, it’s interesting some of the workouts prescribed are the same one used in WODs for military and hunter athletes. Time never changes.

  10. Hello. Decent article. It is exactly as written. I was born in 1973 and serving in the airborne troops began in 1994. Our training looked exactly like the Russian movie that you inserted. In addition, for each sub-unit was a “sports corner” where we had only the simplest equipment: a ladder, pull up bar, handrails, mattress and “referentki” (kettlebells) weighing 17.5 kg, 25 kg and 32.5 kg. The training was simple and very effective. Today I am 42 years old and I’m still “in training”. PodsyÅ‚am you a picture of my “iron friend”
      Best wishes!

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