Getting Calisthenic — Strongman Oleksii Novikov Trains With Streetlifting World Champion Vitaliy Feschuk

Ukraine is home to a World's Strongest Man and Streetlifting World Champion.

The strength sports world is vast. You’ve probably heard of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, and CrossFit, but you may not be as familiar with streetlifting. Like its strength sports counterparts, it consists of athletes attempting two lifts for a total — the pull-up or chin-up and the dip. Competitions are for max weight, where additional weight is strapped to the athlete for each lift, or max reps. Leg days be damned, elite streetlifters have physiques that look like a middle ground between gymnasts and bodybuilders.

As fate would have it, the 2017 and 2018 World Streetlifting Champion, Vitaliy Feschuk, is from Ukraine — the home of 2020 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Oleksii Novikov. The fellow countrymen decided to head to Novikov’s gym to give each other a taste of their respective sport and filmed it for Novikov’s YouTube channel. Check it out below:

Novikov and Feschuk kicked off their training session with glute ham raises. Novikov performed them with a 50-kilogram (110.2-pound) weight plate, which seemed to stun Feschuk, who normally competes at a bodyweight of 90 kilograms (198.4 pounds). When Feschuk grabbed the weight plate, his reps went actually pretty smoothly.

I’m a pull-ups guy, but not that weak.

Once their warm-up was complete, they decided strongman training would come first.

Farmer’s Carry

The first strongman event they practiced was the farmer’s carry. The implements were new to Feschuk, who competes on a pull-up bar or parallel bars. Novikov loaded up the handled implements to weigh 60 kilograms (132.3 pounds), and Feschuk performed a planche on them as though it were a pommel horse. The streetlifter strapped on a lifting belt, figured out how to perform the carry properly, and performed unbroken laps down and back along the course.

The weight was upped to 90 kilograms (198.4 pounds) — Feschuk’s competition bodyweight — for the second set. Novikov made it look breezy, whereas Feschuk struggled somewhat but still ran it unbroken. Set three bumped the weight up to 110 kilograms (242.5 pounds), and Novikov suggested Feschuk drop the weights and turn for the back length of the course since he has not properly learned how to turn with weights that heavy yet.

Although the streetlifter admitted it was “not easy,” his farmer’s carry mechanics could likely convince many that he is a 105-kilogram category strongman. Each set up to this point seemed like any other day at the office for Novikov, whose farmer’s carry PR is 185 kilograms (407.9 pounds) in each hand for 20 meters. For context, Novikov’s next competition — the 2021 World’s Ultimate Strongman (WUS) contest in Dubai — will feature a 180-kilogram (396.8-pound) for 30 meters.

Feschuk dropped the weight back down as his form was starting to compromise (rounded back). Novikov tacked on an additional 20 kilograms (44.1 pounds) to walk with 130 kilograms (286.6 pounds) in each hand. Feschuk was successfully able to deadlift the implements but could not walk with them. His admiration for what the strongman is capable of grew.

How in the world does he do this? I have no clue how you could walk with it.

The farmer’s carry session was complete once Novikov maxed out at 150 kilograms (330.7 pounds) for two sets.


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A post shared by Vitaliy Feschuk | Calisthenics (@vitaliy.feschuk)

[Related: Build Muscle and Lose Body Fat With Calisthenics Training]

Atlas Stones

Next up on the program for the strongman and streetlifter duo was Atlas Stones. The pair started “light” with an 80-kilogram (176.4-pound) stone. After sufficiently taping up their forearms, the 2020 WSM champion explained that to lift an Atlas Stone properly, the center of gravities of the stone and the athlete need to be aligned. Then when picking up the stone, the hands scoop underneath, and the forearms squeeze the sides of the stone meaning there are effectively two points of contact: hands and forearms. Lapping the stone is a fluid motion combining the lift with the internal rotation of the knees before adjusting as needed to extend the hips and load the stone.

Feschuk loaded the first stone, but his arms were positioned in the bottom half of the stone rather than looping around. Novikov offered a useful cue that Feschuk used immediately to lift the stone properly.

Put your hands like…hugging it. Lift it more with your lats, not…biceps.

They rolled out the 100-kilogram (220.5-pound) stone and it was smooth sailing for Feschuk. He felt confident he could load the 120-kilogram (264.6-pound) stone. He lapped it but could not quite get the height to load it. Feschuk wanted to pack it in, but Novikov made him apply more tacky and try again.

How can you give up that quickly? It’s not drama class.

Apparently, Novikov has a potential future in both coaching and motivational speaking because Feschuk’s attempt made it look like he’s lifted stones his whole life.

Log Lift

Novikov’s empty log weighs 74 kilograms (163.1 pounds). The 2020 WSM broke down the movement into three steps — deadlift, clean, press. Deadlift the log, then lap it by “[pulling the] traps up.” While lapped, a slight roll forward positions the log to be “bottom-pointed at [the] belly.” From there, cleaning the log to the shoulders looks like rolling the log up the body. While in the front rack position, the elbows turn in and up so that the log can be pressed overhead while standing straight — this prevents pressing the log forward and hindering balance. Novikov highlights how the technique in the log lift is unique to comparable overhead events:

Weightlifters really struggle with the log. They expect…the [log] will shake on their chest, but it doesn’t.

The rest of the log lift session focused entirely on technique without adding additional weight to the log. Feschuk performed a triple with clean technique in the eyes of Novikov, and then it was time for them to switch roles and start streetlifting.


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A post shared by Vitaliy Feschuk | Calisthenics (@vitaliy.feschuk)

[Related: Turn Your Training On Its Head With the Handstand Push-Up]

Since Novikov is in the middle of preparation for the 2021 WUS contest, Feschuk decided the best route was to train pull-ups and dips with some additional weight in the three to five-rep range rather than max lifts. For context, Feshuk’s dip PR is 181.4 kilograms (400 pounds) — twice his competition bodyweight — and his pull-up PR is 120.2 kilograms (260 pounds).

In streetlifting competition, for a pull-up to count, the chin needs to reach the bar, but it does not need to be held (there is no down signal from a judge like there is in strongman). Athletes are allowed to choose as wide or narrow of a grip as they please.

Dips Technique

Novikov did not appear to have any issues strength-wise to hit many reps, but Feshcuk stepped in to specify some important aspects of proper dip technique. First, at the top of the dip, it is correct to “hold [yourself[ with the traps” — meaning they are engaged to position the body in a pike-like position. When performing each rep, the motion is not straight down but rather slightly forward so as “to spread the weight on delts, triceps, and chest evenly.” Finally, on the concentric portion of the rep, Feshuk advised not to be too “explosive, but lean…and press to get full extension.”

The weight increases were in increments of 15 kilograms (33.1 pounds). Feshuk commended Novikov on keeping his legs forward as he sees beginners often sling their legs backward, exposing them to injury by impinging the shoulders. Novikov made it up to 60 kilograms (132.3 pounds) before bowing out. Feschuk reached for Novikov’s 100-kilogram (220.5-pound) kettlebell and knocked out 10 reps.

Strongman Streetlifters

Novikov and Feschuk finished off their training session with their best attempt at Cirque du Soleil. Feschuk performed a handstand on top of a yoke, and then Novikov attempted to walk with that yoke. They made two unsuccessful attempts but managed to capture a few impressive photos.

The 2021 WUS contest takes place in Dubai on Sept. 17-18, 2021. That same weekend will feature the boxing match between 2018 WSM champion Hafthor Björnsson and Devon Larratt. Novikov’s two most recent strongman contest results were winning the 2021 Strongman Classic and a bronze medal at the 2021 Giants Live World Open. We’ll see if adding streetlifting to his preparation will enable Novikov to continue his podium streak.

Featured image: @vitaliy.feschuk on Instagram