The 40-Workout Strength Program
Here's what you need to know...
1. Pick one exercise from five categories: a press, a pull, a hinge movement, a squat, and a loaded carry.
2. The first 10 workouts involve doing these same movements every day, but with varying set and rep schemes.
3. The important thing is to never miss a rep, and when the weights feel light, add more weight.
4. After the first 2 weeks, you can either repeat the first 10 workouts 3 additional times, or you can make small changes to the movements every 2 weeks until you reach 40 workouts.
Pavel Tsatsouline once summed up strength training in three sentences:
1. Train as heavy as possible.
2. Train as often as possible.
3. Train as fresh as possible.
How do you do that exactly? Pavel suggests this:
"For the next forty workouts, pick five lifts. Do them every workout. Never miss a rep. In fact, never even get close to struggling. Go as light as you need to go and don't go over ten reps for any of the movements in a workout. It's going to seem easy. When the weights feel light, simply add more weight.” Pavel called the program "Easy Strength.” I tried it. I picked five exercises I needed to do and did them. Old Personal Records's fell, and yes, it seemed "easy." Here's my version of the program.
The 40-Workout Strength Program
You need to pick five exercises. All five will be performed on each training day, five days per week. Pick one from each of the following categories:
1. Press Movement: Floor Press, Double KB Overhead Press, or Single KB Overhead Press
2. Pull Movement: Double KB Deadlift, Pull Ups (weighted / un-weighted), Trap Bar DeadLift, BarBell Deadlift
3. Hinge Movement: You can combine the pull movement and the hinge movement – as most of deadlift exercise are also hinge movements – or do an exclusively hinge movement like kettlebell swings in the 75-100 range.
4. Squat Movement: Goblet Squat, Double KB Squat
5. Loaded Carry: Farmer's walk, waiter's walk, etc. Vary the distance and load every time.
The Plan: Two-Week Block
Train each of the five exercises each day using these set and rep schemes:
Monday (Day 1) 2 x 5
Tuesday (Day 2) 2 x 5
Wednesday (Day 3) 5/3/2
Friday (Day 4) 2 x 5
Saturday (Day 5) 2 x 5
Monday (Day 6) 2 x 5
Tuesday (Day 7) 6 singles
Wednesday (Day 8) 1 x 10
Friday (Day 9) 2 x 5
Saturday (Day 10) 5/3/2
Sample Plan: Two-Week Block
Monday (Day 1) – 2 x 5
A. Double KB Press (Press Movement)
B. Double KB DeadLift (Hinge Movement): This counts as a pull and a hinge movement.
C. Double KB Squat (Squat Movement)
D. Farmer's Walk (Loaded Carry Movement): 100 meters out and back with three stops.
E. TRX Body Saw (Optional Add-On): 5 reps x 2 sets. Again, you'll repeat each of these movements every training day.
Tuesday (Day 2) – 2 x 5
This can be heavier or lighter depending on mood and feel. The important thing is to show up and get the movements in. If one day is too hard and compromises the next day's workout, that's fine as long as you lighten the load and continue getting the reps in without compromising speed.
Wednesday (Day 3) – 5/3/2
Begin with the 5-rep number from the usual 2 x 5 workout. Then add some weight for three reps, and finally add some weight for two reps. Be sure to get the double. Most people on this program find that this workout is the test for how things are progressing. The weights should begin to fly up on the double. That's good, but stop there. Remember, this is a long-term approach to getting strong. Don't keep testing yourself.
Friday and Saturday (Days 4 and 5) – 2 x 5
These are potentially the most confusing days in that the load on the bar depends on how you feel. If the effort feels easy and light, "nudge" the load up. Here's the secret (again): The goal of this program is to gently raise your efforts (load) on the easy days so that the bar feels light.
Monday (Day 6) – 2 x 5
After a day of rest, day 6 is going to feel easy and that's how it should be. Get the reps in.
Tuesday (Day 7) – 6 x 1
Day 7 has a simple rule: You'll do six singles, adding weight each rep. It can be 5kg or 50kg, depending on how each single feels. It's not a max effort on the last set; it's just the sixth single. If the loads feel heavy, just add five kg. If the bar is flying, add more. For people who come from the tradition of "smashing your face on the wall," day 7 is confusing. Your goal is to determine the load based on how the weight feels. If it pops right up and feels light, toss on the plates. If it doesn't, respect today and realize that you're going to have plenty of opportunities to get stronger in the future.
Wednesday (Day 8) – 1 x 10
Day 8 is a "tonic" day. Go really light and just enjoy ten reps. It can be as light as 40% of max. Just use the movement to unwind after the previous day's heavy attempts.
Friday (Day 9) – 2 x 5
Day 9 is often the day when people start to understand the reasoning behind the program. This is the day where the weights seem to often be "far too easy." That's the sign of progress in this program.
Saturday (Day 10) – 5/3/2
This is often the day where people test themselves a little. This is fine as long as you feel like going after it. Again, don’t miss.
Week 3 and Beyond, Option #1
The original program required that you repeat Weeks 1 and 2 three additional times. It works well. By week 5, I was a machine on the lifts and broke lifetime personal records, smashing my overhead press record and crushing my old trap bar deadlift record . That represented a staggering improvement. So Option #1 is to simply keep on keeping on.
Week 3 and Beyond, Option #2
This is the best method for most athletes. You make small changes to the movements, switching from Double KB press to KB floor press, Double KB deadlift to trap bar deadlift and goblet squat to double KB Squat.
This is Pavel's "same, but different" approach. That small change seems to keep enthusiasm high for the entire 8 weeks. After 40 workouts, you'll be stronger than ever before, guaranteed.