Why You Should Train Like Russian Hammer Thrower Sergey Litvinov

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If you were plundering the world of athletics for fat-loss solutions, you probably wouldn’t start with those sizeable bundles of muscle who excel as hammer throwers. But – if you want to be leaner, faster and more muscular – you should.

This fat-loss workout is based on the game-changing methods of Russian hammer thrower Sergey Litvinov, who blew the old guard away at the 1983 world championship when he won gold aged 25. In training he would follow huge compound lifts with 400m sprints, for three rounds. Simple, but it proved so effective it revolutionised the sport.

You have two options with the following workout, designed by Steve Kowalenko, head coach at W10 Performance City Road in London and a fully certified Gym Jones instructor (follow him on Instagram @virtus_fit). The first three move combinations are for true Litvinov disciples but you’ll need access to weighted sleds and a running track, and to lift heavy outdoors. If that’s out of reach, the section below suggests gym-friendly alternatives that follow a similar principle and will torch calories – as long as you’re willing to push way outside your comfort zone.

How it Works

The Litvinov principle: pair the grind of a heavy compound lift with an explosive sprint done as soon as you drop the bar. Three rounds is all you need. The high metabolic cost of this short intense workout will leave you burning calories long after the workout.


For the first move, use the lift we’ve suggested or one you know you can do. The target is to hit eight quality reps then sprint immediately. Rest until you’ve fully recovered – don’t underestimate this – then repeat for three total rounds. Make sure you do the second move as dynamically as you can to reap the full reward. The next time you do either workout aim to go further or harder to keep melting calories and getting fitter. Always warm up using Kowalenko’s pre-workout checklist.


Prepare your body for high-intensity action with Kowalenko’s five-step warm-up strategy.

  1. Roll: First spend a few minutes ironing out any knots (otherwise known as self-myofascial release) in your muscle tissue with a foam roller and lacrosse ball.
  2. Groove: Mobilise your major joints by carefully rotating your ankles, hips and shoulders, and moving through the full range of motion for your knees and spine.
  3. Move: Use your bodyweight to activate your muscles by performing wall squats, lunges, press-ups and pull-ups, varying the tempo from slow to fast.
  4. Jump: Crank up the intensity with some high knees, heel kicks, jump squats, jump lunges, short shuttles and sprints.
  5. Build: Work up to your big lifts, beginning with just the bar for ten reps, then 25% of your target weight for eight reps, 50% for six, 70% for four, 80% for two and 90% for one rep.

Litvinov Workout 1

Prep a barbell and prowler sled ready for action.

Hang power snatch


Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 0 seconds

Hold the bar with hands twice shoulder-width apart. Hinge forwards at your hips so the bar is just above your knees. Generate power by driving your hips forwards and use this movement to raise the bar above your head, keeping the bar close to your body on the way up. Quickly drop into a quarter squat so you don’t have to lift it as high, lock out your shoulders and stand.

Sled sprint

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Sets 3 Distance 20m Rest as needed

Drop the bar and grab the sled handles with your arms outstretched. Keep your body low and your hips below the level of your shoulders as you pump powerfully with your legs for the full 20. Fight the burn. Don’t bite off more than you can shove. Between 20 and 50kg added to the sled is plenty.

Litvinov Workout 2

Set up in the middle of your local running track to unleash your athletic prowess.

Front squat


Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 0 seconds

Rest the bar across your upper chest with your hands holding it in place and your elbows as high as you can get them. With your chest up and your back straight, squat down, keeping your weight on your heels. Lower until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, making sure your knees stay wide apart, then drive back up. This is much better for core-strengthening than the back squat.


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Sets 3 Distance 200m Rest as needed

After the final rep, sprint down the running track, keeping your knees high, core braced and energy up. Recover, slowly. Jog as far as you need to between sprints to recover.

Litvinov Workout 3

Bring the bar to the foot of a steep hill and get to work.

High pull


Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 0 seconds

Hold the bar with hands double shoulder-width apart. Hinge forwards at your hips so the bar is just above your knees. Generate power by driving your hips forwards and use this movement to raise the bar to chest height as you rise onto the balls of your feet, keeping the bar close to your body and your elbows high. This is all about raw power generated by your glutes – not your upper body.

Hill sprint

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Sets 3 Distance 50m Rest as needed

After the last rep, dump the bar and charge up the hill. Keep pumping your arms and pushing hard to the finish line. Breathe, hard. Note, the ideal distance depends on the incline. If you’re crawling over the line, shorten it.

Gym-Friendly Litvinov Workout

Remember to begin each workout with the warm-up outlined above.

Gym Workout 1

Line up a bar and rowing ergo side by side and clear the decks.

Hang power clean


Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 0 seconds

Hold the bar just above your knees with hands just outside your thighs, hingeing forwards at your hips. Generate power by driving your hips forwards and use this movement to raise the bar to chest height. Quickly drop into a quarter squat, bringing your arms under the bar to catch it on the top of your chest, and stand up.

Going too heavy can wrench your traps as you lower the bar. Keep the load light and the movement powerful


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Sets 5 Distance 300m Rest 3 minutes

Set the bar down and get on the rower. Strap your feet in, bend your legs and grab the handle. Keeping your body upright and shoulder blades slightly retracted, drive through your legs until they’re almost straight, then pull the handle in to your sternum and lean back for a full stroke range. Reverse the movement, arms first, then legs.

Gym Workout 2

Grab a heavy kettlebell and get swinging.

Kettlebell swing


Sets 5 Reps 30 Rest 0 seconds

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Start the swing by driving your hips forwards to push the kettlebell off your body. As you lower, hinge at the hips by pushing your glutes back. When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, drive your hips forward, allowing the kettlebell to rise to head height.

Go heavy with the bell to get the same testosterone-boosting pay-off as a big front squat

Mountain climber

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Sets 5 Time 60 seconds Rest 2 minutes

Start in the top of a press-up position. Keeping your shoulders locked and hips low, jump each foot forward alternately so your knee comes towards your elbows but your hands stay on the ground.

Gym Workout 3

Pair the deep squat of the goblet with the deep burn of the burpee

Goblet squat


Sets 5 Reps 20 Rest 0 seconds

Cup the kettlebell so the handle is pointing to the floor with your elbows tucked in close to your body. Keep your chest up as you lower into a squat, ensuring your knees stay wide apart, then drive up to stand.



Sets 5 Time 60 seconds Rest 2 minutes

Drop to a crouch with your hands on the floor and jump your feet back into the top of a press-up. Jump forwards again, then drive up off the floor and clap your hands overhead.

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.