Easy Strength Program
A few years ago Pavel Tsatsouline recommended a strength training method that was dubbed “easy strength”. Dan John also had his version of the program and countless other people have done some rendition of it. The gist of it was this, pick 5 compound movements, do them everyday for 40 days, Do about 10 total reps per day per movement, Train lighter than you want to and test rarely. There is more to it than that but that's the meat of it.
I have attended a couple seminars by Pavel and read pretty much anything he has written and I have always liked his approach. Basically do things as simply as possible. But don’t mistake this for as easy as possible.
I came up with my own version of this Easy Strength Program over the last few years, stealing most of Pavel and Dan’s ideas, discarding a few, and adding some of my own. Any good training program is always a nice mixture of theft, ignoring advice and making things up. Of course none of this means much unless:
1) The person writing the program has not tried it or at least convinced someone else to
2) The program does not produce the intended effect.
My previous modified programs fit both of these criteria. I did the programs myself and I always got stronger by the end. I also always learned something each time I tried this program. Some little, seemingly insignificant detail, that prompted me to make minor changes. What I have come up with is the program I put before you. I call it the 4-6-10 Strength Program. Here are the Cliff Notes:
This program is Powerlifting specific
6 exercises - 4 mandatory, 2 optional
Each exercise is done 4-6 days per week
Program runs 4-6 weeks
Each exercise is done 6-10 reps total for the day
Rep scheme never repeats 2 days in a row
No missed reps
I want to follow the advice of “train as often as you can, as heavy as you can, while staying as fresh as you can”. To me that translates to, “live to lift another day”.
Now let’s get into it in a bit more detail …
Powerlifting specific is pretty self-explanatory however you would not have to be a powerlifter to benefit from my choices. You would only have to want to get stronger in the squat, bench press, deadlift and military press. Yes I am aware the military press is not a specific powerlifting exercise but it’s my program and I do what I want. Also if you don’t regularly press overhead you should really reconsider how you live your life.
The 6 exercises are the ones mentioned above but more specifically the high bar squat, paused bench press, conventional deadlift, and the military press. In addition, I chose the barbell curl and the ab rollout or walkout. There is actually competition for Military Press and Strict Curl so I thought they would be a worthwhile addition and a stronger midsection helps all lifts so that's why the rollouts got the nod.
I wrote this program with myself in mind and that brought up 2 considerations:
I am going to be 46 sooner than I am going to be 45 again
Sometimes life happens and you can’t, shouldn't or simply don’t want to train everyday.
In the past I found training a bit less some weeks allowed you to avoid the dings that come along with productive strength training, and the older I get, the more relevant that is. I want to follow the advice of “train as often as you can, as heavy as you can, while staying as fresh as you can”. To me that translates to, “live to lift another day”.
I plan to run the program for 4 weeks because to me that seems like enough time to tell if something is productive or not. Less experienced people may benefit from longer and I may as well, but I plan to test after 4. If I choose to run it longer then I will. Once again, I do what I want.
Each training day you want to choose a set x rep combination that adds up to between 6-10 reps total for the day. 2x5, 5x2, 3x2, 2x3, 3x3, 6x1, 1x6, 1x10 are a few acceptable choices. All exercises do not have to and probably should not be done to the same rep range either. You may do 3x3 for your squats, 6x1 for military and 1x10 for your bench for example. The combinations are endless.
You can do any rep range you choose on any given day but you can’t repeat the same set rep scheme 2 days in a row. I would also caution against doing a particular scheme way more often than the others. You have lots of options, use them.
No matter what rep scheme you choose you should never fail a rep. You should never almost fail a rep. All reps should be crisp and clean. What I would describe as “no doubters”. If you can’t really tell the difference from your first rep and your last on video, you are on the right track.
The inevitable question I am going to get is “how much weight should I use?” Honestly, I have no idea. I can’t give you an exact percentage of 1rm because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses throughout the rep ranges. Some women can use 85% of 1rm for 10 reps while some guys can only use 50%. Sorry there is no absolute formula and you are just going to have to figure it out with a little trial and error. My advice, and it should not be taken lightly, is check your ego and start lighter than you want to. This goes back to the last point; you should never come close to failing a rep. This does not mean it should be ridiculously light, but you have a lot of reps to do over the next 4-6 weeks, so keep that in mind if you start grinding.
So that's all there is to it. Simple yet effective. At least I think it will be. Hey I am the world’s biggest guinea pig and I experiment on myself all the time. I will give a few updates as I go along the next month and I will report what happens. The good and the bad. It wouldn't be worth doing if I didn’t learn something.