I wrote this years ago and it is in the Q and A Section

The following is a nice little piece I wrote a few years ago. It definitely is the “shell” of the Intervention program. Now that the book is off to typesetting and printing, it is fun for me to look back at this and see my personal evolution. There is nothing “wrong” with what I wrote here, but the clarity of the system needed a few years of workshops, questions, and thought. I think I could sit down with Dan John from 1973, 1991 and 2001 and we would all recognize the points here.

The problem has been explaining them to others! If you have read this before, well, read it again. It’s funny to see the list of movements “shrink” through the years. In a recent blog, I quoted Kenneth Jay’s article saying that I don’t include rotation, but there is a funny little bit about that basic point right here. Enjoy.

Training Programs are great. I love to read new ones and I enjoy tinkering with old ones. I’m like one of those old guys who hangs around junkyards looking for spare parts for his Hot Rod that his wife loathes. Exercise selection is fun to consider and learning a new lift can be fun, stimulating and treacherous. Watching someone trying to learn the Squat Snatch from a fitness magazine with a fitness model demonstrating something the model has obviously never done before is not unlike watching a locomotive approaching a stalled car on the train tracks in a movie. It’s not “laugh out loud” funny, but “funny” like “what the hell are you doing funny.” Shopping for a new supplement or trying out a new herb can be like the early moments of dating: the first days of waiting for a reaction, the exciting new smells as you urinate, and then, usually, dumping the exciting new herb or supplement for somebody new.

And, that is the problem with most of us. Training programs and exercise selection and nutritional tweaks bombard us nearly every time we open the Internet or a new fitness magazine. We get deluged with “try this” and “do that.” How do we filter what works for us? How do we discern what will or won’t work?

I have a bit of advice for most of us that goes back to the Greeks: what is your philosophy of training? I’m serious, too: what are the basic suppositions that drive your vision of training, health, and fitness? In this short piece, I will overview my training philosophy as it has developed over the years. Before I take too much credit for genius, please understand that nearly every concept that I hold near and dear has been stolen from others much brighter and better than me.

In fact, as a football coach I heard Jimmy Johnson once speak in Las Vegas and he literally turned around my approach to coaching. Johnson, one of the rare people to win a National Championship in football (Miami Hurricanes) and the Superbowl (Dallas Cowboys), keynoted the annual coach’s gathering. Now, to be honest, I expected little. Generally, the “big names” come unprepared and talk to the High School coaches like we are newspaper guys, scratch a few marks on a board, and leave to go golf.

I was wrong. Johnson changed my vision of coaching. He summarized his approach to coaching with three basic concepts:

1. Simplicity. During the talk, he stressed that he didn’t like lots of this and that that confuses “your people.” One point he made still strikes me: “When in doubt, play the guy who makes the fewest mistakes.” Not a bad way to think about a lot of things in life….

2. Conditioning. Johnson didn’t want a player who could only play in certain situations. He stressed he didn’t like people coming and going on and off the field. So, to keep things simple, the athletes needed to be in condition.

3. Win the Sudden Change. Now, this is a technical football issue, but he simply wanted to beat the percentages when an interception or fumble happened for or against his team. Simply, he felt that if his team could handle instant adversity….or an instant gift…better than his opponents, he would win. He did.

From this talk, I began asking other coaches. In baseball, I talked to “Coach of the Year,” Steve Cramblitt. I wasn’t surprised when Steve had a list of three keys to success. On an airplane, I sat next to a Division One basketball coach and asked him his “secret,” again…three keys.

As a track coach, I took this advice and developed my keys to success in Track and Field. You shouldn’t be surprised that there are three points:

1. Simplicity. We need to break down each event into basics and have a word, a key phrase, for every movement. I knew that I had mastered this when I had a Japanese Foreign Exchange student place in the Region…barely understanding English, but mastered our discus technique with only the key words: “Stretch-1-2-3.”

2. Repetition. Nobody is going to do the full movements more than my team.

3. Etching. Etching is a mental technique where the athlete not only has a clear image of what he or she needs to do, but has a single focus term or concept to hang on during the highest levels of competition. For most of us, simply having a ritual is enough. I beat rituals into the heads of every athlete I coach so that they are on automatic pilot under pressure. I have had state champs tell me that all they could think of was “Stomp,” a term to simply get one foot on the ground in an event. Nerves can override years of training, so I teach the athlete from day one to practice a single focus concept.

So, how can this all help the general strength trainer or fitness enthusiast? Simply, I think we need to have a philosophy of how to train simply to filter out all the “noise” that we get from television, books, magazines and the net. Seriously, click on the TV and watch the infomercials talk about fitness and training and diet…you will be assailed with dozens of conflicting messages about how to shrink your body with spot conditioning, pills, and machines…and the next station will argue the opposite!

My philosophy for strength training, and no surprise here, is based on three concepts:

1. Movements, not muscle

2. “If it is important, do it every day, if it isn’t, don’t do it at all.” This is a quote attributed to wrestling Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable

3. Repetitions…lots of repetitions

Let’s look at each separately. First, I believe in coaching movements, not muscles. I am almost to the point as a coach that I am suggesting that we NEVER talk about anatomy in the weight room and I insist that we run screaming from the pseudoscience that dominates the industry today. Honestly, I have been told that “we” still don’t know what causes a muscle to grow…and it is obvious from the plethora of crap available on weight loss that we know even less about fat. The moment one of my lifters mentions a muscle group, I know he has been at the magazine rack at the supermarket reading the muscle mags.

“Blitz the Serraseruaputus into Submission!” What I have never understood is this: are these muscles in a war or is this a group of dinosaurs threatening to take over the world? What did the muscle do to deserve this? Certainly, we should find a peaceful solution to this crisis.

What begins to happen when you coach muscle groups is that you end up with what Pavel Tsatsouline calls “Frankenstein Training.” Rather than being body, soul and spirit…you end up with biceps, triceps, quads, and pecs. Well, most people don’t work their quads…but you get the point. I argue a different strategy…work movements.

The Big List

1. Horizontal Push (Bench Press, Push Up)
2. Horizontal Pull (Rows and variations)
3. Vertical Push (Military Press and variations)
4. Vertical Pull (Pull up, Pulldown)
5. Explosive Full Body (Total Body lifts: swings/snatches/cleans/jerks)
6. Quad Dominant Lower Body (Squat)
7. Posterior Chain (Deadlift)
8. Anterior Chain (Medicine Ball Ab Throw)
9. Rotational/Torque

It’s funny about number nine. For years, I thought I had figured that these exercises “just didn’t work” and I “didn’t use them.” Then, I had a young intern follow me around for a week and note that our athletes did “Half Turkish Get Ups, Windmills (three variations), Suitcase Carries, tumbling and dozens of variations of medicine ball throws. Hmmm…right. Besides those 200 reps a day…we don’t do any.

This isn’t original, by any means. In the 1950’s, Percy Cerutty recommended that his runners, including marathoners, lift! Now, I’ve been a fan of Percy for years. Cerutty was an Australian track coach/guru/fitness buff/nutcase who coached some of the best middle distance runners in the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Some consider him a nutcase, but rarely have I found normal people to have all the answers. Again, if you strive for normal, spend an hour at a Las Vegas casino and take inventory on the what “normal” is in America today.

Why was he crazy? He told runners to:

• Run up hills.

• Lift weights.

• Eat odd foods like oatmeal, veggies, and fruit.

Arrest him, I say!

Before I was born, he insisted that all athletes do the big five lifts:

1. A deadlift.

2. A form of pressing. Cerutty liked a lift called the “bench press.” I’m not sure if it ever become popular.

3. An explosive full body move. He liked the heavy dumbbell swing.

4. A form of pulling. Cerutty liked pull-ups and cheat curls. Cheat curls are like a power clean with a curl grip (power curls) or that bouncing heavy bar curl you see every gym-rat in the world do when he gets tired from strict curls.

5. An ab exercise. If deadlifts make you go one way, the ab exercise should strengthen you in the other.

After going heavy on these lifts with two to five sets of two to five (save for swings and abs where the reps go fairly high), you hang from a pull-up bar and stretch for a few minutes.

Recognize it? I think I’ve recommended this workout for thousands of people, after I, uh, invented it.

1. Deadlift (2x Bodyweight for marathoners!)
2. Bench Press (1x Bodyweight for marathoners!))
3. Power Curl
4. Swing
5. Sit up

We just haven’t come that far in the last half-century. In fact, we have regressed. How often has the high carb eating, stretchaholic, fat jogger in your neighborhood lifted?

It can be that simple, really. Strive to cover the nine major movements in your training and you should be fine. More than “fine,” really. Now, the big question: how often?

2. Dan Gable: “If it is important, do it every day…if it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

Great, now we know the moves…how do we decide “when” to do them? I argue: every damn day!!! Half the fitness professionals in the world suddenly just had heart attacks! So, how do we do it? We use the warm ups to attempt to do everyone of the big moves. Currently, I have my athletes do this:

• Crush Press Walk/Horn Walks/Waiter Walks/Suitcase Walks/Crosswalk/Farmer Walk/SeeSaw Press Walk
• Light Goblet Squats 2 sets of 8 Plus Hip Flexor Stretch
• Bootstrapper Squats
• Alligator Push Ups
• RDL Stretch and Deck Squats
• Hurdle Stepovers (Right, then Left)
• Pullups 3 sets of 8
• Ab Ball Throws 1 set of 25
• 50 Half Turkish Get ups
• “Rolling” Abs/Windmills
• Goblet Squats…Ten Seconds with -”123” Bottom Pause
• Swings

Don’t worry about the specific exercises or names here…the general idea is to do every move…lightly…in the warm ups. “Lightly,” is, of course, a relative term. I have junior football players using a 110pound kettlebell on the Goblet Squats. Here is the point: I think all nine movements are important…so, we do them every single day. With most athletes, the movement needs repeating…far more than most people think. At the elite levels of track and field and Olympic lifting, the total number of full movements is simply staggering. Many young people today are out of touch with movements like squatting from using chairs their entire life and kept from deadlifting and rotating from the Safety Lifting Police.

Now, maybe you don’t agree with me on this idea…it really is contrarian. “Most” people don’t train this way. I just know this: people on the cutting edge of Fat Loss programs and others at the top of the food chain in sports performance are doing methods like this every single day.
There is a million ways to do all the movements, but I have found that it works best in the warm up. In other words, do all the movements — or most of them — in the daily movement warm-up! I’ve stolen an idea from both Steve Javorek and Alwyn Cosgrove. Do complexes to warm up. Here’s one of mine, only mildly stolen:

• Power Snatch for 8 reps

• Overhead Squat for 8 reps

• Back Squat for 8 reps

• Good Morning for 8 reps

• Row for 8 reps

• Deadlift for 8 reps

Do these all in a row without letting go of the bar. Rest a minute, a minute and a half, or two minutes, and do it again. Try three to five sets of this little complex. This particular one is ideal for a day dedicated to vertical or horizontal pushing. If you do five of these complexes, you’ve done 240 movements that cover practically all the other moves.

Now, will this get you “strong” or “buff?” Well, it will rip the fat off of you, but the rest of the workout is the key to strength, fitness and health goals. So, how do you get strong…the base of all performance improvement?

Oh, but what about those movements that aren’t important? Don’t do them at all…

3. The “Formula”

Max Effort
Speed Work (Dynamic)
Isos (Deadstop)
Repetitions…lots of Repetitions

Getting strong is probably more art than science. Exercise science generally tells us what we already figured out in the gym a century or more ago. Several things seem to work:

1. Maximum Effort. Pushing the limit on a lift seems to make you better at pushing the limit on the lift. Simply holding a heavy weight seems to help you lift more. There is no question in my mind that “going heavy” trumps all the other toys we have in the gym for getting stronger. Of course, if you go heavy all the time, parts of your body begin to break off.

2. Speed Work or the Dynamic Method. Why do guys who snatch a lot seem to be able to deadlift a lot, too? Speed works in the weight room. Going fast with weights seems to make you able to handle more weight. Yep, you can take this too far. I don’t want to hear about how doing 500 fast pushups is the same as benching 500.

3. Isometrics…the Deadstop Method. Again, overhyped…but it works. Pushing as hard as you can without movement seems to make you really strong when you move. I prefer the “deadstop” method of putting a bar exactly at a sticking point and lifting from the deadstop. I even hang off the bar for a second to further limit the stretch-reflex, then try to blast the bar up.

4. But, the key is repetitions. The most obvious and most ignored of the methods is simply getting the reps in…

And, I get it. Nobody is a beginner anymore. Two weeks at the spa with a personal trainer and “I’m an advanced guy.” I recommend three sets of eight for a lifter and the world condemns me for faulty thinking. But, here is the deal: the fastest road I know to strength and body composition changes is increasing the reps. My athletes do hundreds…thousands of reps….a week in the important moves. A typical press workout for the athletes I work with on a typical day is up to 55 reps using the 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 method. Sure, it’s for beginners. Remember, though, if you don’t bench at least bodyweight, I consider you a raw beginner…no matter how may t-shirts you own that say “No Pain, No Gain” or whatever idiotic phrase of the day dominates the strength industry.

With Maximum Effort, I have a little thing called the “Rule of Ten.” I think you have about ten heavy, quality reps in a workout. It can be 3 x 3, 5 x 2, Six Singles, or 2 x 5, but around ten reps seems to be the maximum that an athlete can roll out in the “big” lifts like the deadlift, snatch, clean, squat, and bench. Sure, you can do more lighter movements, but in ME, you only get so much. Speed work, on the other extreme, seems a natural for more repetitions. Now, I am not arguing for more reps in a set, rather more total repetitions. Instead of 4 sets of 10, my athletes (for just one example) often use 8 sets of 5. Speed work doesn’t seem to work with singles, doubles or triples for the younger athlete, but one little sign of growing competence is the ability of my athletes to “get faster” on less reps. It is hard to explain, but “you know it when you see it.”

For the deadstop or isometric method, the rule is simple: one rep. Now, let me phrase that in reality…it might take up to five reps to figure out the weight for the one truly heavy isometric. The weight has to be so heavy that the bar doesn’t move! With the deadstop variety…isometrics crazy cousin…there might be a need for one or two (or more) lighter attempts just to be sure everything…including the equipment…is ready.

The coach has to embrace something I learned from a fabulous high school football coach years ago. When I asked him how he got so successful, he told me: “you can’t get bored watching the basics.” “You?” “Yeah…the coach all too often has seen the same thing over and over and wants to move on, but the team and the individuals are just learning it.” In other words, if you want to teach someone to squat…you have to watch them squat a lot.

For the individual fitness trainee, it means that you are going to have to learn and do lots and lots and lots of movements. I can’t say it any better than what I learned from a deaf discus thrower that I worked with a few years ago. He had become very good and I asked him his secret. He took his right middle finger and twisted it over his right index finger…and then slapped it into his left palm. In sign language, it means “repetition.”

Get used to it.

Two Typical Workouts using my system:
Example One
Warm up Complex (Five Total Sets)

• Power Snatch for 8 reps
• Overhead Squat for 8 reps
• Back Squat for 8 reps
• Good Morning for 8 reps
• Row for 8 reps
• Deadlift for 8 reps

Workout:
A1. 10 sets of 2 Bench Press with Chains (Try to increase weight as you go…within reason)

A2. Lawnmowers (8 right/8 left) (One arm kettlebell Rows)

B1. Snatch: 5 Sets of 3 (Technical Work)

C1. Power Curls: 5 Sets of 3 (Increase weight each set)

D1. Hanging Leg Raises.

Example Two:
Warm up

• Crush Press Walk/Horn Walks/Waiter Walks/Suitcase Walks/Crosswalk/Farmer Walk/SeeSaw Press Walk
• Light Goblet Squats 2 sets of 8 Plus Hip Flexor Stretch
• Bootstrapper Squats
• Alligator Push Ups
• RDL Stretch and Deck Squats
• Hurdle Stepovers (Right, then Left)
• Pullups 3 sets of 8
• Ab Ball Throws 1 set of 25
• 50 Half Turkish Get ups
• “Rolling” Abs/Windmills
• Goblet Squats…Ten Seconds with -”123” Bottom Pause
• Swings

Double Chain Max Bench Press
Single Chain Max Bench Press

Drumline: 5-4-3-2-1 (In the group of exercises, do the first lift for five, the second lift for five….then, the first lift for four, the second lift for four…adding weight each lift)

Front Squat with Two Chains
Pullups
Power Snatch and Overhead Squat
Thick Bar Deadlifts

Back to top