Mike Prevost’s Series on Rucking

This might be as good as anything I have ever seen.

It’s two parts:

Part One

Part Two

If you need a simple “Do This” program, you might not find anything better than to “do this:”

The basic ruck strength training program consists of one big movement exercise for each of the six basic movements, performed as 3-5 sets of five repetitions, loaded as “sets across” done two times per week on non-consecutive days. The goal is to lift heavy with good form.

Ruck Program Overview:
Monday:  Four movements: squat, vertical push, pull, core
Tuesday: Run
Wednesday: Conditioning
Thursday: Ruck
Friday: Four movements: hip hinge, horizontal push, pull, core
Saturday: Ruck


The first and most important consideration in “peaking” is understanding that the athlete needs “a lot of water under the bridge” to peak. And, I mean, the athlete needs a lot of water here. Nothing drives me more crazy than someone telling me that they are peaking for some low level crap lift or event. Before we can even begin discussing this “peaking” thing, the athlete has to be up the pyramid a little bit. In other words, you don’t peak for a 200 pound bench press: you simply bench press for a while, then ask someone to spot you and you make it. Now, a 1000 pound bench press, which is something I can barely imagine much less comment on, is going to demand some peaking.


The greatest resource for peaking is simply answering this question: “how did you do it before?” I literally “mine” my journals like a prospector seeking clues to unusual performances. Then, I follow the directions from other successful ventures and apply them to my next goal. I know there is nothing shocking here, but so few people do it. So, if there is a rule number one for peaking it would be this: compete. Then, sit down with your journal and a piece of paper and write down what did or didn’t work.


Everyone ignores this advice, so mentally, I watching people skip this section to find the “real truth.” Go ahead, I am sure you will all be back. Okay, let’s pick up again: every great lesson I have from peaking comes from my athletes or my experience and the discipline to spend some time noting what worked. Here is a million dollar hint: make a list of things to bring to a competition. Listen, I don’t follow my own advice here! Years ago, I went to a National weightlifting meet and brought my wife’s lifting card. I didn’t double check before I left and I was naked on a scale in Louisiana when the issue was discovered. One of my athletes, Paul Northway, laminated his check list to his training bag and would pull out everything once before a meet and then recheck and restock everything days before the meet.


I discovered years ago that packing three to seven days before a meet actually insured more success than a bunch of percents on a computer program. I think it puts one in a championship mode early and this little practice allows the athlete to begin to move into “meet mind” versus what most people have on game day, “monkey mind.”


So, Peaking 101 involves two basic principles: first, learn from your own experience. Mine is different. I react to this or that and need to do this and that to be ready. You need to figure this out for yourself. I found, for example, reading Chess books before lifting to really help me out on the platform. The depth of analysis seems to allow me to relax physically and put my mind miles away. When it is time to hit it, I seem clearer. It might not work for you. The second principle of peaking is to prepare your gear, your travel issues, your nutritional needs and your details well before the morning of the competition. Notice, I didn’t once mention reps and sets. I probably won’t.


The key to peaking is and always will be mental. There is a phrase in throwing: Long warm ups are poison!” In other words, tossing a good throw in the warm ups before competition is a good way to strangle yourself during competition. So, I plan my warm ups to insure I won’t throw well. I have taught my athletes the same thing: do drills and throws that get you warm, prepare you mentally, and feed your ego some other way besides trying to win the warm ups. For the record, I believe that most people give away more championships than they win. Stop doing that.


The mental side of peaking involves lots of little steps. For example, I know at the state track meet, the athletes will be huddled into chairs, not allowed any music or coaching, then marched out on the track. So, why wait until the morning of state to let the athlete know that? I talk about it every day and every week and even come up with strategies to “poke fun” at the all too important officials. When, they march the athletes out, for example, one of my throwers decided to march like a member of band. A few minutes later, she broke her old personal record as other competitors seemed to forget where they were today.


My issue with peaking actually might be better phrased with the idea of parenting. If I am really tired one evening and my daughter pukes on me, I can’t simply say “sorry, I am dead tired, but I can bet I will be a helluva dad next Friday!” Honestly, today is a meet or competition, show up and compete.


Now, the longer you play the game, the more you know about your peaking strategies. I discovered as I got into my forties that my last two weeks of going into something important was crucial. Now, it wasn’t crucial in terms of load or volume, but crucial in terms of “Not RUINING everything!” In other words, I found that really light weights and really gentle technical work, including an honest assessment of last minute weaknesses that I could address, was all I needed. I learned this, of course, by studying my journals, but the lesson is clear: don’t blow it in the last few days of something important by tossing away all the hard work with some bad decisions. Like a Bachelor Party the night before a wedding, don’t ruin yourself because of bad timing.

Another Way to Look at Hypertrophy

The problem with standard hypertrophy programs, beside their built in boredom, is the inability to jack up intensity. We tend to let accumulated fatigue, which is good in the case of high rep squats, to limit the load. By breaking apart the sets just a little bit, you can add more weight to the bar and actually cut rest periods between what we traditionally called “sets.”

For example, I have shared an interesting way to do the German Volume Training, the ten sets of ten, workouts. Rather than letting reps 60-100 dictate the load, we play with this rep scheme: 2-3-5-10. We use the same weight each “set” and rep and strive to do a total of five of these clusters. It adds up to 100 reps, with only five sets being that rep reducing tough set of ten. What is amazing about this program is that you often find that you put the bar down or in the rack and almost immediately do the double because that set of ten was hard but “anybody” can do two. Oddly, the triple is done quite quickly and, as I often think, “might as well do the five, too. So, between those hellacious tens, you nail ten more reps with surprising little rest.

If hypertrophy honestly is “time under load” or “time under tension,” it logically follows that more load (because you are NOT doing ten sets of ten and roasting yourself in the process) in less time would lead to greater muscle mass. Now, you don’t have to do 100 reps. Oddly, I have found that doing three clusters (2-3-5-10-2-3-5-10-2-3-5-10) seems to be enough for any athlete. It is better to leave a little in the tank, especially for a drug free athlete, than to go to the edge with this magic 100 rep barrier.

What is actually more exciting is a very interesting variation on the five by five workout. The reps simply drop out the last set of ten, so we have 2-3-5. There are two very innovative changes that seem to really work well in the ‘big lifts,’ the Bench Press, the Military Press, the Squat (all its variations) and the Deadlift. As I noted in a previous article about “five sets of five, the big issue is, of course, what do “you” mean by 5 x 5? Since writing that article, I am even more confused about the dozens of variations of what I used to consider the simplest workout for bulk and power.

Here are the two innovations: first, stick with one weight throughout the workout. Of course, you know that, but with this rep scheme of 2-3-5-2-3-5-2-3, you can handle far more load than the traditional five sets of five. You are not held back by that heavy last set of five that often forces one to take a lighter first four sets. Certainly, some of the options, like the Wave, that I offered in my first article have value, but this has been an issue for many of us for years. Yes, I realize that someone is going to post something like “I thought 5 x 5 was obvious,” then add a whole new variation that no one has ever seen before.

With this first option, the lifter only has to deal with two big sets of five. So, try to find a weight that forces you to give it all (obvious note: get a good spotter on the Bench and Squat) on that second set of five. The same odd rest issue shows up: for whatever reason, and I am sure the science guys know the biology behind this, it is a quick recovery to get that double in after the heavy set of five. And, once again, since you have nothing better to do, that triple often happens out of breath. I would suggest only timing the whole duration of this variation and see how fast all 25 reps are finished. Honestly, it goes fast even with a serious load. Small reminder: this is not a powerlifting workout! It is intended for the use of our audience interested in a nice mix of power and bulk. Again, if you have more plates on the bar and the workout finishes faster, isn’t that hypertrophy training?

The second option is really opening my athletes eyes. It is so simple of an adjustment, many will dismiss it and note that “I’ve been there, done that.” Well, good for you. Let’s review the second option.
First Cluster: 2-3-5
Now, ADD weight!
Second Cluster: 2-3-5
Add more weight.
Third Cluster: 2-3-5
Challenge Cluster
Add more weight.

You can use the first Cluster as a warm up of sorts and what is funny is that the program begins to take on the one of the earliest recognized programs in lifting, the DeLorme Workout.  Doctor Thomas DeLorme worked with some guys rehabbing from World War II and found that weightlifting worked wonders on injury rehabilitation. Originally, he thought that 70-100 reps were the key but later discovered: “Further experience has shown this figure (the number of sets in a workout) to be too high.” The number of sets was reduced from 7-10 to a much more realistic three sets. During the first set weight was at 50% of the persons 10 rep max. The second set it was increased to 75% and it finished at 100% of the subjects 10 rep max. This became known as the “DeLorme Technique” although a guy named “Watkins” also authored the study.

This second variation can reflect those numbers except we focus on the five rep max (a number in many people’s experience that rewards bodybuilding training more than higher reps). Try this variation in a simple workout after any kind of intelligent workout. I have been training my athletes with the second variation (40 total reps, three plate changes) with the Front Squat, Bench Press and Power Clean (or Power Curl, a curl grip clean using the legs) mixed with some Hurdle Walkovers and some Farmer Bar Walks. This is not a fancy workout, but the load really impacts the athletes. If you can do some kind of Hurdle Walkover or hip mobility work during a training session that has a squat and deadlift or clean variation, I strongly recommend it. I also like to finish this workout with a Farmer Walk, but keep it within reason.

The Geometry of Fitness

Probably somewhere in your deep, dark past, you sat in Geometry class in high school. You learned something called “Proofs,” and it was all about two things: “Givens” and “To Prove.”


Givens are things you might not even notice, but they have a huge impact on you. When you were told line A to B was parallel to line C to D, it was parallel, even if it didn’t look right to you. If you are a monotheist, somehow and sometime you are going to have to face the question of why do bad things happen to good people. If your given is “I drive on the right side of the road,” your first taxi ride in London is going to be a thrill ride.


Most people have givens when it comes to fitness and health. The problem is this: are your givens true? I spend my days working with people striving to attain serious fitness goals, but almost daily we run into their “givens.”


I worked with a former high school wrestler who knew he could easily get back to his old “wrestling weight” around 150 pounds when he merely weighed about 100 more. His given was this idea that he had, somewhere in storage, a massive amount of free will, self-discipline and gung ho.


When he weighed 150 or so, he had teammates wandering over to the wrestling room with him. Waiting for him was a coach in sweats with a towel around his neck worried that the 100 degree room was too cool. For three hours, he trashed around pushing, pulling and gasping for the thrill of the wind sprints at the end. Since it was winter, he also picked up a solid case of the flu that really got that bodyweight down.


Most people’s givens simply don’t reflect the reality of their life today. I knew a woman who had a “go to” diet whenever her weight popped up: Day One, seven eggs, Day Two, seven oranges, and Day Three, seven bananas. That’s all. Each day, just seven items and it worked, she always lost weight. Two days later, she would put it all back one plus a few extra pounds for the trouble.


It worked once and she was convinced that this was always the case. It became her given.


Think about it a little bit: what are your givens? When you decide to “get in shape,” do you go out the door for a jog even though you are trying to get in shape for an explosive sport like basketball? When you decide to drop a few pounds, what is your given?


My point is simple: most people’s givens don’t stand up to reality. As we age, we tighten up in the pectorals, biceps, hip flexors and hamstrings. Sadly, most guys bench and curl and literally age themselves (think of the caricature of an old man stumbling along with stooped shoulders and bent arms) during most workouts.


The glutes are literally the seat of power and few gym people train with deep squats, swings or the O lifts. Hill sprints work well here, too, by the way and give you that “burn” that Ron Burgundy preached to us. When I was young, the ads in the magazines told us that “shoulders make the man,” but rarely do we see overhead presses for “barn door wide shoulders” anymore.


For fat loss, let’s get back to basics. Eat your colorful vegetables just like mom told you to do. How did bagels become a breakfast given is a mystery to me. Drink sugar free and calorie free water when you are thirsty. If a carbohydrate comes in a bag or a box, push it aside for a while.


If you really want to get your bodyweight down, join the military. I understand the French Foreign Legion is looking for volunteers. Oddly, this is the given most people have for fitness…they need to literally have a gun pointed to their head.


Rethink your givens through the lens of where you are and what you have around you. In a typical gym, you have dozens of pieces of equipment that weren’t around in your youth and can get you to your goals quickly. Suspension equipment, Kettlebells, Atlas Stones, Farmer Bars and a wild world of training equipment might trump your experiences of two or three decades ago.


Explore the new world of fitness. Get yourself fit by doing new and challenging sports and games. Rock climbing, for example, is as exhausting as any wrestling class and the rush of excitement will do more for your hormone profile than any thing over the counter at the nutrition store. It will also clearly show you why a few pounds around the middle is a bad idea.


Challenge your givens. Explore movement and activity. Try something new in fitness and watch your body composition change.