The Forty Day Workout…Again

A good question came up on the StrongFirst forum about the inclusion of something into the “40 Day Program.” It occurred to me as I was answering this question that we are at the ten-year anniversary of when I first discovered this program.

Charles Staley was hosting his annual Boot Camp. Now, the name means something different now in the fitness industry, but in the early 2000s or so, it meant a full day immersion of learning about strength and conditioning. As the event approached, one of the speakers dropped out.

At the time, the now Mike and Mindy Pockoskis were training with Charles. The story goes that Mike said: “Don’t worry, Charles, ask Dan John to come down, he can fill an hour.”

Charles replied “who?”

And, so it began. I gave an impromptu Olympic lifting workshop on Friday, then spoke on Saturday. I spoke just before Pavel Tsatsouline and we became fast friends after this event and our relationships continues today. I had been following his work for about five years and I had already stole a number of concepts about grip work, ab work and tension from him already.

When discussing the discus, he famously told me:
“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. It is going to seem easy. When the weights feel light, simply add more weight.”

I made the best progress of my career. After literally doing everything from two years of Nautilus, Olympic lifting, crossfit, bodybuilding, peaking programs, Soviet Squat cycles, a gallon of milk a day and, honestly, ‘you name it,’ I made the best progress of my career.

So, three quick thank yous:

Thank you to Charles Staley for trusting Mike and Mindy and inviting me down.
Thank you to Pavel for being brilliant and clear.
Thank you to Chris Shugart at t-nation.com who reviewed the Boot Camp and told the world about my work for the first time.

If the program is so good, then why can’t most people follow this simple plan? Several reasons:

1. I like this one: I am a genius and I have this super power to allow me to follow directions.
2. Many people aren’t experienced enough to trust a process of “letting go” for forty workouts.
3. The devil, as always, is in the details.

This was a barbell plan that people tried to turn into a bodyweight, kettlebell and TRX plan with triathlons, mass building and mountain climbing with Orcas. This program is the ultimate “Park Bench” plan. Now, I know people hate me overusing the concept (if you don’t know it, I will include in the appendix of this blog), but it comes down to this:

Park Bench Training Programs: For most of your training year, a training program that has little expectations. You get the work done and gently nudge yourself along in several areas. Counter to what you would think, most people make their best progress here.

Bus Bench Programs: Usually, almost by definition actually, these have a time limit, usually two weeks, six weeks or as many as 16 weeks. At the end of it, there has to be a marked change in what we are focused on. This can also be a peaking program for an athlete. Let me say this: if you don’t actually perform at your best on a peaking program, I argue it didn’t work. Sorry, I am a jerk.

Quickly after I began explaining the original 40 Day workout, people asked me to improve it with the inclusion of Kettlebells and bodyweight movements. I sinned and offered this:

1. For the next 40 workouts, do the exact same training program every day. (For the record, I find that most of my goals are reached by day 20 or 22, so you can also opt for a shorter period.)

2. Pick five exercises. I suggest you do a squatting movement like the goblet squat or overhead squat as part of the warm-up, as you don’t want to ignore the movement, but it might be fun to focus on other aspects of your body.

3. Focus on these five movements:

• A large posterior chain movement (the deadlift is the right answer)

• Upper body push (bench press, incline bench press, military press)

• Upper body pull (pull-ups, rows, or, if you’ve ignored them like me, heavy bicep curls)

• A simple full-body explosive move (kettlebell swings or snatches)

• And something for what I call an “anterior chain” move (an abdominal exercise). I think the ab wheel is king here, but you can also do some other movements best suited for lower reps.

4. Only do two sets of five reps per workout for the deadlift and push/pull exercises, and one set of 20 to 50 for the explosive move. Do a solid single set of five reps for the abs.

5. Never plan or worry about the weight or the load. Always stay within yourself and go heavy “naturally.”

6. Don’t eat chalk, scream, or pound on walls. Simply do each lift without any emotion or excitement and strive for perfect technique.

Since that time, I have answered literally hundreds of questions about this and whether or not the swings were enough, too much, blah blah blah. When the book, “Easy Strength” came out, we honestly didn’t do a good enough job clarifying this, so I included a much better explanation in “Intervention.”

In this blog post, I explained “Even Easier Strength” as well as I possibly could do at the time. If you are NOT going to read Intervention, I can only do so much to explain things in a blog.

Some of you remind me of the famous joke:

A man goes into church and kneels down on the pew. “Lord, you gotta help me. I have hungry babies at home and it’s getting cold. Please help me win the Lottery.”

For 21 straight days, this repeats. Finally, on Day 22, the man kneels down and says “Lord, you gotta help me…” and a voice BOOMS out from Heaven:

“Hey, go half way with me…buy a damn Lottery ticket!”

For the record, those who simply have just jumped in and did it have done well. A few examples:

Peter Lakatos

I have started the 40 days program right after the Easy strength seminar. I have picked the one hand KB bench press, the pistol and the pull up. Around the 21st day started to feel the effects, as mainly without any crazy max training or even extremely intense workouts things started to work. At the end of the program I was able to 5 reps with the 48kg on the single hand bench press, 60 kg pistol and 48 kg pull up – below 80 kg bodyweight. Since then I did the program again with deadlift, pull up and military press – same remarkable results.

Michael Kurkowski, RKC

I had to write you to tell you how much success I felt from the 40 day “even easier” strength program.
After the Reno “easy strength” workshop, I planned out the next two months of training on the plane home. With the time schedule I new I had to train, I decided to do “even easier” strength, focusing on 5 days a week, trying to increase my 2×5 days each time. I did this program without faltering, and guess what…I got stronger!
Not only did my strength increase(I hit PR’s in my DL, FSQ, and pull up) but some intangibles came about that I didn’t fully expect. My energy increased drastically, I slept more soundly, and my appetite was through the roof! I gained 6 pounds during this time without increasing my body fat. I was so excited to do this program and it doesn’t disappoint. I wanted to finish the program before I started working it into my clients calendars, but now I have three clients currently in easy strength and they are feeling amazing. Great stuff Dan and I hope to catch you this weekend in rhode island for the training summit.

Karen Smith became an “Iron Maiden,” the difficult challenge of a female pressing a 24K Kettlebell, doing a Pull Up with it, and a Pistol with the bell, by following this simple template:
Monday:
1. TGU 24kg 1/1
2. Tested IM skills 24kg PU only get nose to bar, 24kg MP r/l and 24kg Pistol r only
3. PU w/12kg
pistol w/ 12kg
4. MP x20kg
SLDLx20kg

Wednesday:
1. Pull up/ pistol ladder 1 (20kg) 2 (16kg) 3 (12kg)
2. TGU w/ 20kg MP at top r/l
3. Dbl 36kg DLx5
Dbl 20kgs SW x 5

Friday:

1. TGU 24kg 2/2
2. Stacked MP ladder(two kbs different weight each rung)
3. Pistol x16kg
Dbl FSQ x16kg
4. PU x 16kg

Only thing that changed was sets and weight depending on how my body was feeling but this was my starting weights when I wrote this program.
(Dan’s note: readers, don’t worry about the initials, just look at how simple things are here. She CRUSHED the challenge.)

The issue was that most people still come in going too hard on the easy days and missing reps on the harder days. I think Pat Flynn nails the thinking here:

“The key:

“Simplify: The Secret to a Good Exercise Program

Minimalism, applied directly to fitness, it might look something like this:

Frequent, low rep, high-quality strength work + Less frequent, high-intensity metabolic conditioning + As much joint mobility and low-intensity cardiovascular activity as possible.

Strength train 5 days a week, frequently, low-rep, constant load. Here’s what I mean: pick a couple of lifts—actually, use my friend Dan John’s fundamental human movement blueprint: push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carry.

Example:

Military Press (push)

Pull Up (pull)

Swing (hinge)

Goblet Squat (squat)

Get Up (loaded carry).

Work each lift, each day, and in the manner of 1,2,3,1,2,3 (ladder format). Because the frequency is high, the volume is low, and so is the density, too. The intensity, in my book, should not be waved—meaning, start your cycle with a “heavy” load, say, your 5 rep max, work that for three months, in the manner just mentioned, or until it starts to feel “light.” Then, reassess, bump the weight up to what is hopefully your new 5 rep max, and repeat the operation.

In effect, the load has been waved by not waving it at all—no calculating percentages, none of that hooey. You just get strong instead, which, to me, is far more appealing than having to deal with the inconvenience of math. This is strength training in the extremest simplicity.

Two to three days a week, perhaps a bit less or a bit more, depending upon your sport, recovery, and other such etceteras, add in some high-intensity metabolic work. I like sprints and kettlebell complexes, because they are simple, and metabolics should be simple.”

1-2-3-1-2-3 with the SAME weight is probably easier to follow than the original 2 x 5 or my EES method.

I like this book A LOT from Pat. I have a popular review. One site took my review, then basically just said: “Yeah, what he said” as their review. In his 90 Day Program in the book, he adds Power A and Power B…a concept I like a lot. I just have simply added Vertical Jumps with a target, but keep it simple. Note, too, that in his 90 approach you don’t do every movement every day, although you certainly touch on everything, but you slide through them as you march through the weeks.

The reason I always add either an ab wheel or Hanging Leg Raise or L Sit Hold to this should be obvious: if you are doing deadlifts as you core hinge…maybe swings or swings in the warm up, you might (might!) need something to go the other way. I call it “anterior chain” as kind of a joke, but it stuck and I think it makes a lot of sense a decade later still.

So, if you are doing a 40 day template, rule one is this: do the 40 days. Right or wrong, finish it, then, come back and make it better. I do 21, 40 and 90 day workouts all the time. I just get into them and follow it along and don’t judge it. Then, after you finish, ask those big questions about too much or too little.

So, Pat gives us the Template here:

Frequent, low rep, high-quality strength work + Less frequent, high-intensity metabolic conditioning + As much joint mobility and low-intensity cardiovascular activity as possible.

Now, let’s talk about equipment and how that will impact what you do.

In any typical gym, home or commercial, one will find a range of equipment. I’m not sure I had to type that, but I can guarantee this:

Someone who is new to fitness will have NO idea how to approach any or all of the toys and tools in the facility and decide what to do, what not to do and not even have a clue about some of the stuff.

I have an approach to training called the “Killer App.” Very simply, it is using any tool available for you, but focusing on the BEST things that this tool can do. What are the tools?

Bodyweight
Mini-Bands
TRX and Suspension Trainers
Ab Wheel
Kettlebells
Barbells
Everything else, including all those expensive machines to work your “innie and outie” muscles.

Pavel Tsatsouline has a marvelous way of looking at range of tools from the standpoint of “adjustability” and “availability:”
When it comes to precise load adjustment, the barbell rules. There is a very exact 1RM and the coach can program something like 88.5% of that number. Or he can choose to add a small amount of weight as a means of progression.
The bodyweight is the least cooperative in the weight adjustability department. You weigh what you weigh.
The kettlebell is in between. The weight is adjustable, but only in large increments. It is a 33% jump from 24kg to 32kg and a 25% jump from 16kg to 20kg, and so on.
When it comes to availability, the tables turn. Bodyweight rules. As George Samuelson, SFG II has put it, bodyweight training is “strength for everyday carry.”

As a frequent traveler, I figure this: I will always have my body with me. So, I often do my “Planks as a Program” on the road:
Push Up Position Planks
Bat Wing Planks
Pelvic Tilts
Goblet Squats

I get plenty of Suitcase Carries when I travel with my family, so my Loaded Carries are covered.

It’s easy, nearly universally, to slip a Mini-Band into my carry on bag, so I can do Pelvic Tilts followed by Mini-Band Lateral Walks and finish with Goblet Squats and get a great butt workout.

If the trip is a bit longer and I pack an extra bag, my TRX fits in the suitcase with a minimal amount of space and can provide a lot of work in my hotel room. Honestly, if traveling with another person, the Ab Wheel fits in well, too.

Kettlebells and Barbells have to stay home. Sorry.

So, mastery of bodyweight planks and movements gives you an ability to train anywhere and you can spice it up with some light pieces of equipment. Before I discovered kettlebells, I bought a pick up truck to lug my barbells near discus and shot put rings so we could do “mixed training.”

My little white pick up was a fixture at fields throughout Utah for a few years, but carrying a kettlebell out to ring was a lot easier. Neither works well as carryon luggage even when you are Delta Diamond.

There is also the issue of “Bang for the Buck.” This concept comes from my years of teaching Economics, a course in which I stayed ahead of the class as best I could. Basically, it comes to this: what is the most impact I will get from the money I spend.

Now, I love machine training, but the price tag to do a set of pec flies is actually stunning. And, once you have the pec fly, you need the bicep curl, the triceps extension and just keep naming human movements. Each unit could run you up to $25,000 (yes, I have that right) and you can do some excellent work with your room filled with machines that could easily pay for retirement.

I am really not exaggerating: machines are expensive. They are very good, but most of the movements can be done usually better but universally “as well” for much less of an investment. It might cost you as much as nothing to do many great exercises and movements.

There’s a great show about how the computer went from being something only NASA would use to literally being my sole form of entertainment and work for most people.

It came down to a simple thing: spreadsheets. An accountant saw this and said, “I hire 200 people to do this forty hours a week and you’re telling me I only have to push one button?” That’s the killer app.

For the kettlebell, it’s the swing, the goblet squat, and the get-up. The TRX and various rings give us the horizontal pull, the one-arm pull, and the various T, Y and I’s for the upper back. For the Mini-Band, those five-dollar small rubber wraps, the Lateral Walk will teach you more about your butt than an anatomy class. Simply, wrap the band around both of your socks and walk sideways (laterally) like a shuffle step in basketball. Too easy? Just keep going…

For the barbell, it’s the deadlift and the press (all varieties). Mastery of this simple list will give any athlete all they need from the weightroom and any person the body of their dreams. Mastery walks hand in hand with simplicity.

So, how about an inexpensive, entry level “40 Day Challenge” for you? Yes, I am wonderful thank you.

The “warm up” should be something simple. Pat Flynn has me doing five minutes of Naked Get Ups and Marc and Mike have both noted that it has done marvels for me in terms of movement. Good enough reason for me to keep doing it, right? Next try this for five rounds:

15 Swings
1 Goblet Squat
10 March in Place (every time the right foot touches, count “one.”)41VSyaSSXqL
(This is Tim Anderson’s favorite. Amazon won’t let me link to his “Pressing Reset” book, but the pic will have to do.)

This, by the way, is also a low level “Litvinov” workout…more on this in just a second, okay?

Press (any variation, any tool)
Deadlift (any variation)
Try the approach from Pavel’s Pull Up program and the TGU idea from “Simple and Sinister:”

Find something that you can do for maybe three reps…anytime and anywhere. Pat argues 5-8 reps, and, frankly, that is fine, too. Do the reps like this:
Workout One: 1-1-1-1-1
Workout Two: 1-2-1-1-1
Workout Three: 1-2-2-1-1
When you get to either “3-3-3-3-3” or “5-5-5-5-5” or, honestly, anything you are striving for here, add load. Yep, that simple.

Then, a few sets of TRX “Ts” or “Ys” or just rows. If you don’t have one, don’t worry too much.
Then, add in the Minimalist Stretching…or anytime really.

“Finishers”
Ab Wheel for 5 good reps
Lateral Band Walk back and forth. Alternate each day with a Suitcase Carry or Waiter Walk. If you are lateral walking right, hold the bell in the left hand; “dragging the bell” is what we call it.

So:
Warm Up
Naked Turkish Get Ups

15 Swings/One Goblet Squat/10 March in Place x 5

Press and Deadlift: Five heavy sets each

TRX Rows: a few sets
Min Stretching and Mobility

Finisher

Ab Wheel
Dragging Lateral Mini-Band Walk

That’s more than five exercises, but it is really simple to do. Mix in some walks and follow the mere basics of proper eating and you are fine.

Seriously, you can do worse! Don’t worry about the differences in one program that you see on the web that is 40 Days of X or Y, look at the common threads. This is done marvelously in a new book Marc recommended to me:

Towards the end, she does a great job showing how, in the big picture, there is a lot of the same in diets from as far reaching from Paleo to Vegan.

Oh, on the issue of the intro to Litvinovs: every so often on the net some ill informed person will note that Litvinov never did these. First:
I don’t give a shit.

John Powell said that he did them and then he went home and changed the way he trained. He then…at age 40!…had the best years of his life. When I introduced them to some rescue teams, injuries disappeared. When I introduced them to a very high level military person, he was able to overcome crippling injuries and return to combat. Sadly, he was killed in action and I continue to keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

Litvinovs were “game changers” for football players and wrestlers. They work. And, isn’t that good enough? So, I get it: this is the Wild West of the internet and we all want to sit at the big kid’s table. “Maybe Daddy will love me if I show him that others aren’t as good as me!” Remember to keep Rule One in mind whenever you are looking at success: “As long as it is working, don’t ask why it is working.”

Appendix A: Park Bench and Bus Bench Workouts.

My old boss, Archbishop George Niederauer, has a wonderful way with words. He is the most well read person I know and he has this interesting way of simplifying the most complex things into bite size pieces for the rest of us. He speaks often about two kinds of prayers, the kind where you ask for something and the kind where one simply talks with God. A few years ago, he wrote an article about this concept and gave us a simple image to understand it.

In the “Tale of Two Benches,” Archbishop Niederauer describes sitting on a bus bench. When one waits for a bus, one is filled with expectations. The “G” bus should be here at 8:11. If I look up at 8:11 and don’t see it, I begin to panic. At 8:13, my day is ruined. We want to get off this bench and get going somewhere else! The bus should be here now. Wait…now!

The park bench, however, is a time to sit and listen and watch. We wait for nothing. The local squirrels that showed up yesterday may or may not be here today. And, that is okay. We don’t call the city squirrel police if they don’t show up when we want them to show up.

Both of the benches in our examples might look and feel the exact same way. You might find the same wood, the same metal and the exact same back rests in both of our benches, yet our expectations will be radically different. Niederauer uses this image of the Bus Bench to describe those times we ask (demand) things from God and the Park Bench describes those times we are simply communing with those things greater than us in the universe.

The approach most athletes take to competition is the “Bus Bench” image. “On Saturday, the 26th, I will defeat all who show up, break all my personal records, find perfection in all I do, and meet the person of my dreams.” This, my friends, is the “G” bus of sports preparation and life. It is a tough model to follow. As I look over my 45 years in organized competition, I can only think of a few times when the G Bus showed up on schedule.

For most athletes most of the time, and for most of us for most of our lives, the Park Bench model is much more appropriate. When you compete, or simply train, take time to enjoy the view, breath the air, and don’t worry about the squirrels! Whatever comes along during your competition or training should be viewed through the lens of wonder and thanks. My great joy in competing in Highland Games has a lot to do with the friendships made, the variety of events, and the party atmosphere. Highland Games athletes simply don’t make fools of themselves complaining about a bad performance. The events make a fool of you!

To get a “Park Bench” mentality, the athlete has to realize that, at best, very few competitions are going to be perfect. In addition, when the stars arrange for you to have those perfect competitions, you had better not try to mess it up with a lot of extra energy, you just have to let it go. The Park Bench also helps you with the 20% of competitions where things go all wrong. If you can keep your wits, feed a squirrel or two, you may just salvage this competition! By the way, nothing frightens your competition more than a serene smile on your face; they will think you are up to something!

I fully believe that life is a competition. There is just enough Darwin in me, as well as a master’s degree in history, to believe that our life is tenuous at best and your survival, without any hint of irony, reflects on your fitness. Without worrying about hyperbole, I feel this is the “why” of lifetime fitness. Your survival might depend on your fitness, so why are you slamming your head against a wall to get it?

Train hard, but enjoy competition. Compete hard, but enjoy your training. One key final point must be kept in mind at all times: NEVER judge a workout or competition as “good” or “bad” solely on that single day. I often tell my new throwers: “Sorry, you just are not good enough to be disappointed.” Judging one’s worth as an athlete over the results of single day is just idiocy…and will lead to long-term failure. Epictetus, the Roman Stoic philosopher tells us: “We must ever bear in mind –that apart from the will there is nothing good or bad, and that we must not try to anticipate or to direct events, but merely to accept them with intelligence.”

If that is too complex, I have a favorite story:

A farmer had a horse and a son. One day, the horse died. All the neighbors said, “Oh, how bad.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” The next day, the neighbors got together and bought the farmer a new horse. They all said, “That’s a good thing.” Farmer said, “We’ll see.” The following day, the horse threw the son while trying to break the horse. The son broke his arm. The neighbors all said, “Oh, how bad.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” The next day, the army came into the town, drafted all the young men, save the son with a broken arm. They all died in the first battle. The neighbors said to the farmer, “Oh, how good it was for your son to have a broken arm.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

So, what does this all mean? First, let things happen and don’t judge them as good or bad. Enjoy the opportunity to train and eat well. Second, find yourself a community of people who support your goal and be sure you “support your goals,” too. Do my ideas work in sports and life? We’ll see.

So, what would be an example of a Bus Bench workout? To be honest, it is the kind of thing most people want. Call it a program, a cookie cutter approach, or a training manual, but it is that long page after page after page of “do this” and “do that” that most people want to have in their hands.

I have done Bus Bench Programs that have names like:

• Bigger Arms in Two Weeks
• Two Weeks to a Tighter Tummy
• Six Week Soviet Squat Program
And, the list goes on and on. Generally, Bus Bench programs have a built in time like two weeks to twelve weeks and, if you follow the directions, you should be changed in that time. If not, the program FAILED. Complain away.

I recommend that everyone should have about two Bus Bench programs a year. Clarence Bass, a body builder noted for his lean physique and is known as “Mr. Ripped,” continues to schedule an annual photo shoot to insist that he has a focus each year to, well, get on the bus. After age 70, it is still working well for him. Many people use January as a time to refocus and the weeks leading up to bikini season. I applaud the effort.

The issue that I have with most people is that they turn all 52 weeks of the year into the Bus Bench mentality. The internet forums discuss this all the time about how whatever is latest and greatest is the right answer. Open one of your deep dark closets and look at the miracle pills, goos and patches that have been touted as the answer to all your problems.

I have survived high carb, low carb, high fat, low fat, high protein and low protein diets to learn that most diets are simply the Bus Bench mentality at play. And, please listen, this in important. Two weeks on the Atkins Induction diet honestly works miracles for some people.

As I often state: “it worked so well, I stopped doing it.” Here is the thing to remember: if you honestly tried 500 calories a day and an injection of beef plasma every day for a few weeks and you failed to achieve your goals, BLAME the program! If it was a success, refocus for a while, readjust your priorities but don’t celebrate with two-dozen doughnuts. One dozen is plenty!

I can’t emphasize this enough: the Bus Bench approach to training and diet is RIGHT. It is absolutely right about twice a year. Like the old joke about a broken clock (a broken clock is exactly right twice a day) a focused, disciplined attack on a goal is a great thing to do. Just not all the time!

Every aspect of life and fitness is best served by a healthy mix of Bus Bench mentality and Park Bench mentality. I’m convinced that that the bulk of one’s time should be spent doing Park Bench work.

Josh outlines for you a clear Park Bench mentality to training most of the time. For many of us, this is difficult, as we tend to want to engage our bodies and training like an army preparing for battle.

There is a time for those hard workouts. There is a time for those strict diets (or ways of eating). Just not ALL the time!

Appendix B: My Emails TO Pavel during the original 40 Day Challenge

Pavel,

Well, after all the insights from Sunday, I’m humbled. I officially know nothing. Well, I can type.

I went through “Naked Warrior” and found the sections on “Leakage.” I have done the “drill” for the discus about two to five times a day…mentally, looking for leakage. Our hot tub is perfect for the hip flexor stretch. Tonight, it was 105 degrees F and I put one leg to the back…one to the front…relaxed and breathed deep, then just tensed the glute as hard as I could. I found the “Bow and Arrow” in the hip flexors.

I also reread Power to the People. My plan…as I sort of explained on Sunday…is shaping up well:

Two weeks of Clean Grip RDL and Inclines with Chains
Two weeks of High Hang Snatch and High Hang Clean
Two weeks of Sumo DL and Inclines
Two weeks of Hang Snatch and Hang Cleans
Two weeks of Snatch DL and Military
Two weeks of Snatch and Clean…maybe test then.

Also, some abs…I reread “Bullet Proof Abs” so I’m doing the Twist you showed me as well as evil Wheel. Some swings and some other stuff, too.

I also firmly think that the reason Peaking programs NEVER work (I tend towards hyperbole, but I believe it here) deals with your insights on the reminiscence idea of the nervous system. That is why taking days, weeks or months (the old Soviet “Active Recovery” for O lifters and throwers: play elite volleyball for two months) usually leads to more progress than training.

Well, I don’t want to ramble, but thanks. I learned a lot and I appreciate it.

Two

I was a little surprised to keep adding weight all week with my Clean Grip RDL. I started light this week, just to get the flavor of doing the same lift without warmup. I ended up with 265 for two sets of five without ever putting the bar down. (I have extensive left wrist issues…no big deal, just part of an athletic career)

The inclines benches with chains were way too light by the end of the week, but I don’t have as much experience there, so I didn’t add. I will this week, probably daily. I’m also keeping the reps at three.

Really striving to work the tension issue and really getting a handle of the loss while discus throwing.

Three

The Martial Arts DVD really helped with what you are trying to tell me. I think the mental image of bring my rib cage to my pelvis…with the belly button still point up is going to be hard to do in the throw, but then I kept watching:

“SQUEEZE” your legs. It’s funny, because John Powell of discus throwing fame, tells us to work on the same exact idea…while trying to bust a 60 meter throw: squeeze your legs together to put energy into the discus. It made me laugh, I knew this, but didn’t know it.

I’m on my Sumo Deadlift week. I was going to do a week of fast stuff, but I did four days in a row of it and reconsidered my needs. I’m also doing the “loose” joint stuff. I’m a tension machine.

Thanks again for everything. I should be getting the k-bells this week and I will be adding a few ideas from there, too.

Four

Josh, someone who had access to our discussion, asked how I can basically outline a good plan, then, it seems, leap to some other direction as “I see my needs change.” Good question.

My concern in training is often simply “enough is enough.” Years ago, you might remember from my workshop, I got my squat up to 605 for three…yet my discus throwing did not improve. A few years later, with nothing but light front squats (not much over 165 to be honest) and 115 POUND overhead squats (I admit…lots of reps, but all fresh) and some hill sprints, I threw the discus farther. 1/6 the load seemed to help me toss farther.

So, now when I start to sense that “okay, I got it,” I can take a two-week plan and morph it. I’m a fast twitch creature, so after four days of quick lifts, I realized that I was fine…so I shifted back to the deadlifts. I went from Clean Grip DLs to Sumo style. Last night, and I am going easy here, I just nailed sets of 3 with 375…much more like clean grip deadlifts than true Sumos. I expect 500 next week or so, while still doing my conditioning stuff.

I’m breaking the training into a very simple concept:
The DL and Incline for strength
Tech work (discus) each workout, usually simply getting into a position and squeezing every damn muscle in my body, then finding a way to squeeze more, shaking it out, then trying to think “what did I learn?”

The plan was to sneak in alternating weeks of quick lifts, but I get the sense I don’t need them. This might flip in the next few months, but right now this is my approach.

Oh, the videos I am watching are “Martial Power.” Excellent. Your “one stop shop” for all this thinking.

Five

Pavel, this is Throwing: the Advanced Course. I get what you were trying to teach me in Las Vegas. I have watched this about three times and I have developed a couple of throwing drills holding a medicine ball between the thighs and working the footwork.

Thanks again. I have almost the whole set of Kettlebells and I am experimenting with some ideas. My Incline Bench Press (my test for the Fall) is going through the roof. No warm ups, in fact, I just leave the bar loaded and just keep adding. I have a short-term goal of 300+ (pounds) and want to see “how easy” I can do it.

Training is going well. I need to lose some fat, but I am trying to knock one goal out at a time.

Six

You know, I am barely getting out of my own way today with all these night classes that I teach, my day job, my kids, and I am just sitting here trying to get fired up to train in a literally freezing gym. So, your kind words will get the fire going in me. I appreciate that.

I’m off to do some deadlifts, incline benches, k-bells and some throwing drills. I dedicate the workout to all of you who read my work.

Seven

I walked my two pood k-bell out to the field yesterday and threw the discus and alternated with a k-bell workout. Hard to believe that I threw the discus in December in Utah, but the weather warmed up to something that melted the snow and I took advantage of it.

A couple of observations: I have a certain “fame” for Mixed Training. When athletes stay and train with me, we almost always carry out bars, bumpers, sleds, Farmer Bars, tires et al to the field to train with as we throw. The K-bell seems a very simple way to eliminate the bars and do strength training while we throw. Since I often have to climb a fence to get to a place to throw, it is nice to only have to get one 70 pound thing through the space under the fence.

Next, it was odd being “winded” before a throw. I would do one armed front squats or snatches or “around the bodies” or clean and press, then do the drill Pavel taught me, to tense everything I have, then squeeze my Inner Thighs together, shake it all out and throw. It works amazingly well.

The upside of all of this is that I am rethinking my standard approach to coaching throwers. I’m thinking about adding a kbell circuit to the rotation that I coach the athletes with on the field.

Eight

A little background here: just before Charles Staley’s bootcamp, where I met all you fabulous people, including Pavel, Paul Northway donated an excellent Incline Bench and lots of 45s to the Murray Institute for Lifelong Fitness. So, after talking with Pavel, I decided to have a 300 pound Incline as my year’s goal and I was thinking June of 2005.

I started with sets of five with 165 and then would mix 3 x 3 with 165 on the easy days. Then, I just started bumping the weights up. Soon, I just left four big plates (225) and knocked off a few sets ‘whenever.’ A few weeks ago, because 225 was easy, I moved up to 245, then 265. Tonight, while doing Romanian Deadlifts, a little fun with kettlebells, some easy pullups and L-Sits, I snuck up to 285 and got a double. I thought, hey, that’s kissing your sister. So, I put it up to 300 and got two easy. I could have tried a third, but it is below freezing and my girls are the closest spotters and they were in the house. Anyway, 300 for 2!

Nine

I promised Pavel that I would keep updating my progress. I decided on a set of goals after meeting with Pavel in Las Vegas and met (and destroyed) those goals by mid-December. (I posted on this: a 300 pound incline press for a double and I haven’t inclined since Jimmy Carter was president, so I gave it whirl. I have nailed a big deadlift and 21 chin ups.)

So, I tinkered with my discus throwing technique until I addressed all of last year’s issues (the big one: I’m 47 and I can’t seem to find a quick cure for that) with the “Linkage” technique. I keep coming up with new ways to squeeze a med ball while pulling on a doorjam while flexing my left side and trying not to further scare the neighbors.

One thing I added was about three sessions of Evil Wheels a week and a lot more kettlebell work. First, I am fat, so I need to lean out. Both my dog and me seem to come out of winter with an extra coat. Moreover, I also am experimenting with a system of using a kettlebell during my throwing sessions by simply adapting my ‘circuit training’ system of coaching the discus.

Something along these lines:
1. Kettlebell Snatch
2. Full Discus Throws focusing on the day’s technical issue
3. Swings with same kbell
4. 2-3 or Half Circle Drills with discus…or something else technical
5. Figure 8′s and Maybe those Lunging Figure 8′s
6. Max throws…build up to 6
7. Press with kbell
8. “Soviet Drill” March back 20 feet or so of best in #6 and see how easy you can throw it…if I toss 170, how easy can I toss 150.
9. Suitcase or Waiter Walk and go home.

I will discuss this and the improvements in Las Vegas at the convention. Clearly, I’m on to something.
Ten

I told Pavel I would keep him up to date on my progress. Well, three years ago, I broke my wrist into small pieces at a lifting meet and had a couple of surgeries and a long rehab. Yesterday, I finally beat the mark I made three year (and a week) before with a 321 Clean and Jerk. I did 319 in Baton Rouge back in 2002. Of course, when I was younger I was quite a bit better but I didn’t train this little then, either.

I haven’t changed anything since Las Vegas. I might change the variations on the deadlift, but basically I am still deadlifting, Incline Bench Pressing, chin ups, some fun Kettlebell stuff (especially when I am throwing), some Evil Wheels, and that’s it.

This should be an interesting track season.

Eleven

Pavel asked me to keep up to date on my progress. I have basically simplified a lot of things but a couple of ideas seem to have helped recently.

First, I snatched 242 (a little too easy but I am really not training for the O lifts this year) and Clean and Jerked 321 at a meet a few weeks ago. I also think I have learned a few nice tricks for my mind this track season. My goal right now is to break the WR in the Wt. Pent in August and toss over 180/55meters in the discus (I throw the 2k). At my age, that is pretty good.

Once thing I have done recently is to increase the amount of fish I am eating. As I looked over my career, I noticed that health is becoming more an issue, so I upped my salmon intake and basically tossed in more fish…and fish oil capsules…when I can. I already nailed some of my training goals (a 300 pound incline was done for a double in December, so I raised it to 315) and an RDL of 400 for three, so I changed that goal to a Snatch Grip RDL for 3. That could be done any day I feel like it, but I thought I would build up anyway.

Basically, I am doing the Evil Wheels, Kbell Swings, Chinups, Snatch Grip RDLS, and Incline Bench Press daily with no real set or rep scheme. Just “whatever.” I also work on the discus and various throws when I can. Weather has been an issue this year, I threw a lot in December and early January, but it has been tough to do much lately. Snow and mud are not good for throwing: you lose too much equipment and slip waaaaay too much.

I will continue to clean up my diet and I will let you all know how things are going…

Twelve

I got caught between professional commitments (workshops in St. George, Utah and stuff up in Salt Lake City on Sunday), personal issues (I have lots of friends in Las Vegas…) and the possibility of a meet on Saturday (which didn’t work out as the meet was over when I got there), so I didn’t spend the kind of time I wanted to with the Convention.

Pavel’s introduction was excellent. We jumped right in and I got a much better appreciation of the “wedge.” It is something that I “know” but have a hard time explaining. Good stuff.

I liked Steve Maxwell’s joint workout. I have incorporated a few things immediately:

1. Yoga Squats…Sun Salutes with Kbells
2. More windmills
3. The Halos…Haloes. I liked them a lot. Good stuff.

I enjoyed seeing lots of people again. Dan M from Seattle was a pleasant surprise and I also bumped into two former students from Judge Memorial which is amazing to think about anytime.

Next time, I will schedule things a lot smarter and only do one thing at a time.

Right.

  • Kurt Schmidt

    Dear Dan,

    thank you so much for making public what you have derived and distilled from your experience!

    I am currently half way through the 40day programme.. and what should I say.. you have made me a happy man already.. Pulled 200kg for the first time and benched 125kg.

    Do I understand correctly your park bench principle that the 40 day workout could be a 240 day-workout, with the remaining days reserved for peaking/specialized programs?

    Thanks in advance for an answer!

    Kurt

  • Daniel John

    Let’s get you reading “Intervention.” You can do two 40s back to back, but you would start getting twitchy for something focused. I usually do 40s then some kind of challenge. The 10,000 Swing challenge was perfect really: 20 workouts of 500 swings. Or, do something like peak for a meet or contest. In my workshops, I tell people to label months “on” or “off.” Off months would be 40 day workouts and would be about 8 months a year. On, the “go for it” training and competing, is, at best, four months a year. Depending on your career and life, you choose when you light it up.

  • James Marshall

    Thanks for revisiting this Dan, I think the point about being able to stick with something for 40 workouts is crucial. You wrote in a previous post about having to wait for “strength and health” magazine each month to get a new workout. That meant sticking to something for a month. This poxy internet means you can download 12 different workouts a day and never get good at anything.

    I like the “peaking” bit in between the park bench workouts too.
    Happy new Year.

  • Jason Grobe

    Great Article Dan, Thank you!

  • Kurt Schmidt

    Thank you for your quick reply and your suggestions!

    Actually, a couple of hours I bought Intervention.. excited to see what I’ll find there!

    As for programming.. I will take a look at what the year has in store work-wise and work backwards from there.. For peaking I think I’ll go with a cycle of Korte’s 3*3 to further progress with my main lifts..

    Thank you very much again, and have a great New Year’s Eve!

    Best wishes from Germany

    Kurt

  • Daniel John

    You bet, thanks…

  • Alex Chaney

    What kind of ladder rep scheme is recommended for kb swings?

  • Kristijan Leitner

    Hi! I have a question. We should take five exercise ( deadlift, bench, pull up, swings and abs roller), do 2 sets of 5 for each exercise! Of course before workout we should warm up! As I understood , I should do it for 40 days…?! I have a question? I am doing same workout every day, but can I do something more, for example some cardio, running?
    I am endurance athlete, but I am interested to add some strength, so I think to incorporate this 40 days wourkout in my training! I think to do it every day + my normal endurance ( running) training…. What’ s your opinion? Looking forward to hearing from you soon….thx. Kristijan

  • Brian

    The blog was good, but the appendixes were amazing. Those old emails were super cool. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Scott Tighe

    Great blog post really enjoyed it.
    Would 2 days a week work for this low of volume ?

    Thank you

  • Joseph Tang

    Dan, I’ve always been fascinated by this program. For quite some time I’ve been getting told how full body routines are 3 times a week etc. I’m just wondering what are your thoughts on a workout A & B scheme with Easy Strength? E.g. Deadlift one workout, squat the next etc?

  • Daniel John

    That would be a totally different point than this blog. But, of course, it is fine. Everything works, just make sure you have some kind of plan…long term.

  • Daniel John

    Read my other blogs on two days a week training. Some of the dumbest comments ever on on that one thread.

  • Daniel John

    Look at the numbers, those on honest, real world workouts and numbers.

  • Daniel John

    Marc…this was the post you were talking about.

    Yes, you can do anything you want. Your second sentence doesn’t really follow the program (2 x 5 swings?).

  • Daniel John

    I thought that was clear in the example. 5 x 15. Read the earlier blogs for details on other variations.

  • Steve Freides

    Dan, there is so much good information in this one blog post that I just read it again – I think that’s the fourth time, and I’m again finding things I realize I didn’t “get” until just now. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up and post it.

    -S-

  • Joseph Tang

    Thanks for the reply Dan, I opted to do two weeks of A then B etc. I’m actually enjoying the efficiency of the workout. I’m hoping to log the full 40 days, as I was struggling to find logs with that many days in them.

  • dmberta

    Great post! While I havn’t finished reading Easy Strenght or Intervention yet(I have read Never let go and your online content), this at least firms up thoughts I’ve had on making the 40 day workout ideas work with the cardiovascular conditioning work that makes me personally feel better.

    I did endurance sports(marathon, ironman) intensely for a couple years,and then two years ago I stopped. For two years I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with drastically reduced training time and alot of your content, as well as that of others in your community have helped me ideas for working through my issues. When I stopped training high volume, I tried to turn the intensity knob up too high on the training time I had left and ran into some issues with beating the heck out of my nervous system. Unfortunately while exercising for 14.5 hours left me with alot of will power, it didn’t leave me with alot of sense on when to pull back and ease off especially in pursuits like strength where I was still inexperiened.

    Anyway just wanted to thank you for all the content you’ve kept online. I am guessing some of the content in the article above is covered in beter detail in Intervention? As I read Easy Strength, I am realizing what you have kept up online is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Igor Torfs

    Dear Dan
    What an impressive post. Thank you for sharing all this information.

    When I was 10 years old, I wanted to have a ‘healthy mind in a healthy body”. Your insights over the last 15 years were staggering.

    I started S&S with 16 kg but it was too heavy for me. I quickly realised my strength (& recovery, job with two kids, you understand) was not sufficient and went the route of Easy Strength.

    Today I did my first workout of the “entry level” 40 day program. What a blast. Thank you so much.

    One thing for the younger guys: it’s not because Dan John states something ridiculously simple, it isn’t valuable

    LISTEN TO jOHN & DO IT

  • Alex James Calkins

    Your books have reaffirmed training ideas I had been tinkering with when our mutual friend Wendy Bradley introduced me to your work and shared NEVER LET GO with me. INTERVENTION arrived in the mail with a signature and the words “never let go” at exactly the right moment in my life.

    Thanks for all that you do.

  • Brent Berman

    Dear Dan,
    Just saw your smiling face in the training feature section this month’s Men’s Health. So nice to see you getting the recognition you so richly deserve. I have never looked at training the same since reading your work and just wanted to say, Thank You!

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