Friday, January 22, 2016

An Ideal Workout Scheme

I've got some significant advantages this year. I'm self-employed, at a gym. So I can set my own schedule, which means I get a full night's sleep every night, and I'm at the gym almost every day. As such I can set myself up with an ideal workout program.

Odds are that none of my readers can implement a program like this. That's fine. By explaining what ideal is we can look at it as a thought experiment and also take the achievable parts and implement them where doable.

What's Ideal?

First we need to establish what ideal we are looking for since ideal is necessarily based on objectives. The plan I'm about to describe is not ideal for a marathon runner or a tennis player. The objective I wanted to work on is maximum strength as a foundation for developing sport specific characteristics. As such the plan is a modified powerlifting routine.

Powerlifting is competition in Deadlift, Squat and Bench Press. Our basic, core movements with a program geared towards the highest strength possible - that is the highest 1RM. I also wanted to include the Olympic lifts because, as a(n actual) power athlete, I need those characteristics as well. (Powerlifting is not actually maximum power, the Olympic lifts do that. And competition in the Oly lifts is called weightlifting, even though it's not actually the most weight - go figure.)

The only real omission in powerlifting is a dynamic back exercise, since the deadlift is basically isometric for the spinal erectors and upper back. There are also overhead movements missing, though the bench does work those muscles and the overhead lifts from the Oly lifts cover that reasonably well. Therefore, my plan added these components in.

The plan

The plan's outline comes from this blog post by Greg Robbins over at Eric Cressey's blog.
  • Monday - Squat High
  • Tuesday - Deadlift Low
  • Wednesday - Bench High
  • Thursday - Squat Low
  • Friday - Deadlift High
  • Saturday - Bench Low
The days are divided up by our core exercises, so that we get two days of each, which is a lot of training volume. More volume gets us technical training as well as gains in weight moved. This plan keeps the same muscle group from being used maximally two days in a row e.g. my back is relevant for the squat but not maximally like it is for the deadlift.

There are two days between each day of a core exercise, which is sufficient recovery time.

There are no two days in a row of High intensity, thereby allowing me to recover in a whole body sense and not just in a muscle specific sense.

The heavy days have a warm-up portion for the main exercise as well as the maximal lifts. These are submax and help me dial in my technique as well as utilizing post-activation potentiation. The linked article describes this component.


Squat HighDL LowBench HighSquat LowDL HighBench Mid

Planks1-Leg StabilityTurkish PartsPlanks
PrepBox JumpTurkish Get-upHeavy ThrowSingle Leg BoxBroad JumpYoga Push-up
OlyCleanSnatch HighLandmine SnatchClean and JerkSnatch LowLandmine Jerk
Main Warm-upSquat Warm-up
Bench Warm-up
DL Warm-upIncline Bench
MainSquat HighDeadlift LowBench HighSquat LowDeadlift HighBench Mid
1-arm BenchSplit Squat1-arm RowLat Pulldown

Suitcase CarryRDLWrist CircuitOH SquatSLDLPallof
YTI - ScapulaExt. Rot.

Wrist Ext/Flex
* Squats are Front Squats - of course.

What else is going on

All of this is in addition to the regular training that I undertake. So there is the conditioning at the beginning of each of my classes, which includes some velocity-power work and more of the trunk stability components.

Plus, of course, there is all my technical training with the sword. Altogether I was getting about 12-14 hours a week of intense training. Plus the walking to and from work (a kilometer each way) and to any other place since I don't own a car. And going out dancing periodically. It's a lot.

Actually, it was too much to start with.

The down side

I overtrained. I felt like I'd done too much lifting to get technical training in as well, so my swordwork was decreasing. I recognized it fairly early and made adjustments. I removed some exercises (which is already reflected above). And I reduced the volume on others. I hit a sustainable point though. It just took some trial and error.

Applying it to your own case

Well, now how does this apply to you? Many ideas are possible. Here are a few ways:
  • First you can arrange your schedule around the core lifts instead of body parts or some such. You do Deadlift, Squat and Bench every time for a 3-day schedule but each day there is a most important, most intense lift.
  • You can run a 4-day program with Deadlift and Bench one day, and Squat and Pullup another. It's still more.
  • Perhaps this just motivates you to do a Powerlifting program for the early phases of your periodization.
  • Just put more sets in for the core lifts, at submax intensities, to get the technical training time under the bar. 
There are lots of other possibilities and I'd love to hear your thoughts, too.


I encourage you to put a lot of thought into what you could be doing to maximize your training. 

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