Even Easier Strength

Even “Easier Strength”

Years ago, when I first met Pavel, he challenged me to do a “40 Day Workout.” I followed his simple instructions to a “T:”

“For the next forty workouts, pick five lifts. Do them every workout. Never miss a rep, in fact, never even get close to struggling. Go as light as you need to go and don’t go over ten reps for any of the movements in a workout. It is going to seem easy. When the weights feel light, simply add more weight.”

So, I did exactly as he said. On the 22nd workout, alone in my garage gym, I broke my lifetime best Incline Bench Press record that was 300 for a single. Without a spotter, in a frozen garage, I benched 315 for a double. All the other lifts went through the roof and I was as amazed then as I am now.

It is “too easy.” In fact, it is so easy that I have had to break it down into literally dozens of pages of article to make it as simple as possible! And, the more I try to simplify it, honestly, the more lost some people become about the program.

I am not entirely convinced that I am a genius, but somebody has to prove to me why I followed those simple instructions so easily and vast hoards of trainers can’t seem to follow the concept without the obvious answer is that I have an unrivaled intelligence. Or, perhaps, I just can follow simple rules.

So, I came up with “Easier Strength.” I didn’t want to but I was exhausted explaining to people that “Three Sets of Three adding weight each time” meant to do “Three Sets of Three adding weight each time.” So, my frustrations, I think, lead to even more clarity.

Let’s start with an advanced experienced trainer who has “never” done any Loaded Carries. (In three weeks, I will be a genius as the Farmer Walks alone will change everything.)
There are a few “rules” before we begin:
1. Never miss a rep!
2. Follow the “Rule of Ten” for the appropriate lifts for an advanced lifter; if Patterning needs to be done, do it as often and as much as necessary; and, use the rules of 15-25 for the appropriate half body lifts.

Advanced athlete’s warm-ups:

10-25 Goblet Squats
75 Swings (Sets of 10-25; really grease that Hinge Movement)
1-5 Get Ups (Half Get Ups are fine as is the Kalos Sthenos variation)

“Easy Strength” for an Experienced Lifter
Week 1
Mon (1) 2 x5 Tues (2) 2 x 5 Wed (3) 5-3-2 Fri (4) 2 x 5 Sat (5) 2 x 5

Week 2
Mon (6) 2 x 5 Tues (7) 6 Singles Wed (8) 1 x 10 Fri (9) 2 x 5 Sat (10) 5-3-2

Lifts for the above:

Press Movement
: Change the lifts every two weeks, “Same, but Different.” So flat bench press, incline bench press, and military press can be exchanged for each other after every two-week block

Pull Movement: Either do Bat Wings in combo with the press, two to three isometric holds for about ten seconds every workout, or simply skip this and get the work in from the other movements.

Hinge Movement: There are two options here depending on need: either pick a deadlift variation (and rotate it every two weeks, for example, thick bar deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, clean grip deadlifts, orthodox deadlifts, Jefferson Lifts or Hack squats) or do kettlebell swings in the 75-100 range. (These options will all cover the need for pulling, too.

Squat Movement: Again, ideally one would alternate movements after every two weeks, front squats, back squats, overhead squats, zercher squats or safety squats are all fine.

Loaded Carry: Vary the distance EVERY time, and probably the load…if you can.

Important Note: This is not the “Order” of the workout. More on that later…

The workouts

Two sets of Five: it should be easy and be like your second or third warm up lift in a typical workout. The idea, the “secret,” is to get THIS workout to feel easier and easier!

Five-Three-Two: Five reps with your 2 x 5 weight, add weight for three, then a solid double. Make the Double!!!

Six Singles: I don’t care how you do this, but add weight each set. No misses!

One set of ten: the day after six singles, very light load for ten easy “tonic” reps.

Example Workout for an Experienced Lifter:
Monday, Day One.
Incline Bench Press: 165 for five reps, 165 for 5 reps (300 Max Single)
Thick Bar Deadlifts: 185 for five reps, 185 for 5 reps (265 Max Single)
(This is the Pull and the Hinge Movements…an advanced lifter)
Front Squats: 185 for five reps, 185 for 5 reps (405 Max Single)
Farmer Walks: 105 with each hand, 100 meters out and back (three stops)
Ab Wheel: five reps.

Day Two can be heavier or lighter depending on mood and feel. The important thing is to show up and get the movements in. If one day is too hard and compromises the next day, that is fine as long as you lighten the load and continue getting the reps in without compromising speed.

Day Three “should” begin with the five rep number from the usual 2 x 5 workout, then add some weight for three, and finally add some weight for two. Be sure to get the double. Most people on the easy strength program find that this workout is the test for how things are progressing. The weights begin to fly up on the double and that is good, but stop there. Remember, this is a long-term approach to getting strong and don’t keep testing yourself. Save the big effort for, well, never.

Day Four and Day Five are the most confusing days. Again the load on the bar “depends” on how you feel. If the efforts feel easy and light, “nudge” the load up. Here is the secret (again): the goal of this program is gently raise your efforts (load) on the easy days so that the bar feels light. If you start out lifting a weight, say 205 at one effort level and in a few weeks you are lifting 245 at the same perceived effort and speed, you ARE stronger.

After a day of rest, Day Six is going to feel easy and it should be like that. Get the reps in.

Day Seven has a simple rule: you will do six singles adding weight EACH rep. So, it can be five pounds or fifty depending on how each single feels. It is NOT a max effort on the last set, it is the sixth single. If the loads feel heavy, just add five pounds. If the bar is flying, add more.

For people who come from the tradition of “smashing the face on the wall,” Day Seven is confusing. Your goal is to determine the load on how the weight feels. If it pops right up and feels light, toss on the plates. If it doesn’t, respect today and realize that you are going to have plenty of opportunities to get stronger in the future.

Day Eight is a “tonic” day, the way we used to use the term. Go really light and just enjoy ten repetitions. It can be as light as 40% of max (or lighter if you feel like, too) and just use the movement to unwind after yesterday’s heavy attempts.

Day Nine is often the day when people see the reasoning behind the program. This is the day where the weights seem to often be just “far too easy.” That is the sign of progress in this program. I remember actually thinking I misloaded the bar and I had to double check my math as the bar seemed to be far too light to be right.

Day Ten is often the day where people “test” themselves a little and this can be fine as long as you feel like going after it. Again, don’t miss.

Week Three, Option One

Now, the original program designed by Pavel demanded that you repeat Weeks One and Two for three additional times. Oh, and it works well. By Week Five, I was a machine on the lifts and broke lifetime Personal Records, smashing my Incline Bench Press record by fifteen pounds (and doing it for two reps, not just a single) and crushing my old Thick Bar Deadlift record (from 265 to 315). This is staggering improvement. So Option One is to simply keep on keeping on.

Week Three, Option Two
I like this one more for most athletes. You make small changes to the movements, from Bench Press to Incline Bench Press, Thick Bar Deadlift to Snatch Grip Deadlift and Front Squat to Back Squat. This is Pavel’s “Same, but different” approach. That small change seems to keep enthusiasm high for the entire Eight weeks.

Week Three, Option Three
I have a few athletes doing this now and I believe (maybe “hope” is a better word) that this is the better option for speed and power athletes. It is both a “deload” week and week filled with more metabolic challenges.

Day One
Push Press or Push Jerk (“Rule of Ten”) Five sets of Two, adding weight each set, is a great workout.
Litvinovs: After doing a Hinge or a Squat movement, either sprint, sled or prowler immediately after finishing the first movement. In a gym setting, this can be difficult, but I have done this outside with great success with just a kettlebell and a hill. The complete article will be in the appendix.

Day Two

Left Hand Only!
• Waiter Walk
• Suitcase Walk
• Single Arm Front Squat (Kettlebells are best)
• Suitcase Deadlift
• One arm row on the TRX (or suitable device)
• One arm Bench Press.
Reps, sets, load, time and every other factor “depends.” The idea is to push the stability and symmetry muscles and movements. There is an odd metabolic hit to these moves as one sweats a lot more than expected doing this. So, for example, this can be done with a single Kettlebell in a park (which is wonderful, by the way) and the athlete can challenge various aspects of training and get a good workout while also practicing mastery of body position and dynamics.

Doing just one side also frees up the mind a little bit. It is pretty obvious what you will be doing in a few days so you can experiment a bit and play the edges of tension and relaxation as you train.

Day Three
Push Press or Push Jerk (“Rule of Ten”) Five sets of Two, adding weight each set, is a great workout.
Litvinovs: After doing a Hinge or a Squat movement, either sprint, sled or prowler immediately after finishing the first movement. In a gym setting, this can be difficult, but I have done this outside with great success with just a kettlebell and a hill.

Day Four
Right Arm Only!
• Waiter Walk
• Suitcase Walk
• Single Arm Front Squat (Kettlebells are best)
• Suitcase Deadlift
• One arm row on the TRX (or suitable device)
• One arm Bench Press.

At the beginning of Week Four, the athlete will mix up the variations in the basic movements (Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Loaded Carry) and progress along using the same rep and set template in Weeks One and Two.

After finishing the program (Weeks One and Two repeated four times total; Option Three would be a twelve week program), fully assess mobility, basic strength levels and the program vis-à-vis your goals. I would suggest maybe an FMS screen and blood tests, too, but costs can be an issue.

Now, the workout itself does NOT necessarily go in this order:
1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Walk/Run/Sprint under load

In fact, I think the real insight of the past ten years for me is understanding the role of perceived strengths and weaknesses by the athlete in their training system. It has changed the way I view “programming.

Simply, divide the TIME involved in workout in half. So, yes, it will involve math. If each day is an hour workout (about right for most strength programs), the total time for strength training in the above template is five hours a week. I think elite athletes can train in the weight room up to ten hours a week, but that would mean actual athletic training would be upwards of forty hours a week (including film, games, and all the rest. And, “all the rest” can be a lot of time for a professional).

My simple method is this: divide the time in half. The first half of every training session would be devoted to the perceived strengths that the athlete has in the five basic human movements. This time would also include mobility and flexibility correctives. It is an aspect of human nature that I have come to simply acknowledge: if I reward you with what you do well, you will do the little things like correctives.

The other half of the training time will be dedicated to weaknesses or omissions. Since the athlete will be learning some new skills and movements, all energy has to be devoted to mastering the new tasks. I remember well learning to squat deep with Dick Notmeyer and every set and rep was stressful physically, mentally and emotionally. It flat out hurts!

Some movements, like the warm up movements of Goblet Squat, Swing and Get Up, also serve as correctives for many athletes. If the athlete is learning the squat, a set of Goblet Squats in between a set of Bench Presses is actually quite instructive. It develops the pattern certainly, but it also gives some extra time to master the movement. If you ever give this an honest try, you will be amazed at the simplicity of this game-changing tweak.

Correctives can be those Kettlebell moves labeled in the warm-ups, but it also includes any specialized mobility work like we would find in the FMS library of movements. It can also include foam rolling and general flexibility work, too. So, instead of resting between sets, you are actively battling your issues.

It doesn’t always work perfectly with time as advanced athletes often have few weaknesses in the weight room. But, almost universally, they ignore Loaded Carries and struggle with squat depth. So, finishing a workout with Squats and Farmer Walks or Predators is going to be exhausting and it might be the right time to simply rest.

And, just a short note here on recovery. Do it.

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