Another Josh Hillis Gem

My library of books and magazines sweeps over a century of writings in several languages and dozens of different goals. I can pull out dozens of methods of getting bigger, stronger, faster and better, but rarely does something make me stop and laugh and wonder:


“Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?”


It’s so simple you might miss it. We know from the research of Delorme and Watkins that somewhere between 20 and 30 total quality reps per lift each workout is “all you need.” Of course, the sets and the load can make this sound either really easy or impossible.


Josh Hillis recently spoke in Chicago and he made a point so simple that I wonder how we all missed it. Let me summarize his approach to getting variation into your reps and sets that will keep you coming back month after month after month to the weightroom.


His point was this:


Week One you do ONE set of exercises per bodypart.

Week Two you do Two.

Week Three you do Three.

Week Four you do Four.

And, you simply repeat that.


Add the end of the four weeks, you can either repeat the exercises you have been using or switch them around to another variation.


The research for the past sixty years seems to support Delorme and Watkins point about total quality reps. So, lets try something simple:


Week One: One set of twenty. Now, in some movements, like the squat, this is going to be exhausting. Load will have to be light and I would recommend erring on even lighter than you think the first month. This week is also the deload week so enjoy the change up in load, reps and sets.


Week Two: Think about two sets of 15. This will still be in the higher rep range, but you will certainly feel the bodybuilder’s pump here.


Week Three: The classic three sets of eight workout will be fine. This workout has been tested, tried and triumphed by a lot of lifters. Always assess the load on the LAST set here.


Week Four: the traditional power, bulk and bodybuilding workout of four sets of five. Use more weight on the bar. Use spotters and train heavy and hard. Next week, we deload!

At the start of Week Five, slide back to one set and assess. The weights will “feel light” and the workout will go very quickly.


Pick basic movements for this workout.

Push: Bench and Military Press

Pull: Rows and either Pull Ups (loaded) or Pulldowns)

Squats: Back Squats will be the only option for some, but the other variations are worth learning (overhead, front and Zercher)

Hinge: Deadlift and DL variations (Trap Bar, Rack DL, Snatch DLs)


If you want to do more, do more exercises like arm work and all the rest during the first two weeks of the month. For the two heavy weeks, cut back all of the extra and focus on the big lifts.


We all know that we need to cycle load, reps and movements. Josh’s idea is a simple way to make it work.

Now What?

I was at the UPS store sending a copy of Before We Go to Jordan Syatt. He had visited my house and we had a delightful time. I signed a copy…and he forgot it. The UPS guy picked up the book, held it next to my face and asked:

“Did you write this?”


Jordan and I talked a lot…as happens when strength coaches sit down together. The conversation came up about writing. He asked me; “What is your favorite book of yours?”

I said:

Can You Go?

“Wait, no…
“Now What?

“But you just can’t get it yet!”

Well, now you can. Although CYG focused on everybody, with a hint about how I train elite performers, I could argue that Now What? focuses on elite performance.

I would lose that argument! Now What? is my attempt at showing how the tools of time management, the principles of elite performance, daily habit checklists and—what everybody seems to want—programs fit together for both the person chasing fitness (and I explain that) and chasing elite performance.

Let me pat myself on the back: When I did the Audible part of the book, I sailed through it. Rarely did I have to go back and repeat a messed-up word, sentence or paragraph.

It flowed.

I think the reason the audio book was so easy is simple: The book links together concept after concept building up to the simple idea that “Performance should be better than practice.”

In addition, I offer some answers to the most difficult of questions for the athlete, spouse, scholar and artist:

Now What? [That’s a link to the new book!]

Trim your waistline

If you let your waistline “slide” over half you body height, we need to address this. For your health, and how nice you look, you need to bring that measurement down.


You need inefficient movements, so we have been working on an idea based on doing three kinds of work in a bit of circuit: big movements, cardio machines and longer Loaded Carries. Let’s look at one example:


The basic Template

300 Swings

2 x 500 meter Rows

1 Cook Drill (about 400 meters total)


One does not need to do these in order. The following is a great workout:

100 Swings

500 meter Row

100 Swings

500 meter Row

100 Swings

Cook Drill


The general explanation is this: The bulk of your Inefficient Exercises should be fairly big movements that will naturally prod the body into deep breathing. There should be some bellows work in the lungs and this can be done with swings, Goblet Squats, Burpees or any training that makes you move up and down and back and forth. The Get Back Up drill would fit here, too.


I recommend Phil Maffetone’s numbers for this training. Very simply, he uses the formula 180 minus age (with a few variations) to figure the high range for the Heart Rate. When the HR dips below 160 minus age, it is time to get going again. Reps and sets change when you use a HR Monitor to control a training program. When the HR goes above 180-Age number, stop. When it goes below 160-age, go.


You can do this with skipping, running, jump roping, hiking, blading or whatever you feel like doing. I like the control of Kettlebell swings, when the buzzer goes off you either stop or start, but everybody is different.


We also encourage work with standard cardiovascular machines for some of the inefficient exercise training. Several bouts of around two minutes seem to have a positive impact on HR, body temperature and accelerated breathing without impacting the other qualities like strength and power too much. So far, two bouts of around two minutes each with a piece of cardiovascular equipment seems repeatable and doable every day. Tossing in these two heats makes the rest of training more inefficient.


Finally, some form of Loaded Carry or Rucking to finish off the fat burning session seems to help. We can practically kill you with Car Pushes, but we want a repeatable, moderate finisher that will insist that the whole body works in union and provides some challenges for the whole fat burning process. HeavyHands, Cook Drills, Rucking or any other carry that extends to about five to fifteen minutes is fine.


Cook Drill

Loaded Carries demand integrity. Gray Cook has a wonderful drill that we call the Cook Drill at my gym:


Pick a weight you can hold in the Bottoms Up position at the rack. Shift hands and retest on the other arm in the Bottoms Up position. You will settle on the load that you can hold in a Bottoms Up Rack in either hand. Generally, men can use the 20 Kilo and women the 10 kilo on the first outing.


Now, begin walking, but with one small thing:


Hold the weight extended above the head in the Waiter Walk position. As you continue, wait until you feel like you are losing integrity. Then, shift to the rack. Hold this position until you feel that same loss of integrity. Then, shift to the Suitcase Carry position.


When you start to lose the integrity in the Suitcase position, shift hands and follow the same progression: Waiter to Rack to Suitcase.



Train Three Days a Week…Then What?

I think you should lift weights and train generally three days a week. You should focus on what you need to take care of in the gym, strength, mobility or body composition.


What about the rest of the time?

Let me answer this in a roundabout way. For a while, I have been explaining the Fundamental Human Movements in a slightly different way.


Push, Pull and Squat work in a different way than the other movements. DeLorme’s numbers of 20-30 quality repetitions works well with these three movements. These movements naturally tend to work towards hypertrophy, mobility and, ultimately, strength.


In a proper program, you should Push, Pull and Squat with the exact same total number of reps. This doesn’t, for clarity, work with Hinge, Loaded Carry and the Sixth Movement.


Push, Pull and Squat also tend to lead to increase in natural hormonal production. You can de-age by getting your Push, Pull and Squat in.


I call the Push, Pull and Squat the Sex Drive movements.


The Hinge and the Loaded Carries build athletes. We test programs by measuring the Standing Long Jump and the Farmer Walk and, oddly, one can improve both without every do either movement for months at a time. But, if your SLJ and FW improve, we know something good is going on.


It’s hard to figure reps, sets and loads for either movement. 500 Kettlebell swings or a 500 pound deadlift for one might be a very taxing workout. Loaded Carries are almost just “Hey, go down and back.” Yet, when done correctly, these movements carry over into all areas of performance.


I call the Hinge and Loaded Carry the Thrive movements.


Finally, we have that bizarre catch all, the Sixth Movement. It is everything else. But, here is the key: when you need a Sixth Movement, you NEED it. Rope Climbing might have no value to you…until you need to climb something to save your life. The same goes with swimming or CPR: There is not a lot of need for it, until you need it.


I call the Sixth Movements the Survive movements.



For the athlete, a focus on Thrive will help performance. To look good on the beach, Sex Drive.


But, you need to take care of Survive first. Have you seen your eye doctor, dentist or MD lately? If not, take care of this! Do you know how to take a tumble, First Aid, or CPR? Address that. Here is my whole list, from “Do this right now” to “It would be good to take care of this soon.


  1. Eye Doctor, Dentist, Medical Doctor
  2. Breakfalling and Tumbling
  3. First Aid, CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver (and using a Defibrillator)
  4. Defensive Driving or Advanced Driving Course
  5. Swimming Class
  6. Bicycle riding and bicycle repair
  7. Stress Management course or appropriate application of stress management tools
  8. Personal Finance Course
  9. Gardening and/or gardening class
  10. Survival Course/ Survival Skills


Once you master these, then get back to thriving and sex driving.