This is it. Here’s the weirdest training program I’ve ever designed.
That doesn’t mean it was the hardest to design. Certain programs are hard to design because the constraints of the client make it difficult to do so. Circumstances aren’t ideal, so you can’t do the things you want to do and have to instead find proper replacements. They may not have the right equipment, may not be able to train as often as needed or at the right times, or may have limitations as a result of their injuries.
In this case, the client was a healthy, strong male with plenty of experience and access to everything he needed, as well as a high level of motivation: well, okay, so it’s me. But this program represents the strangest thing I’ve ever done, because it represents not only a big deviation from the kind of training I’ve done in the past, it also represents a step forward in designing programs that I like to follow.
While I was in Saudi Arabia, I lost about ten pounds over the course of the three months I was there. Not having access to high quantities of food on the same level as I was used to in the states, I simply wasn’t able to eat as much, and was unable to get in adequate protein levels per day. It was simply a huge change in habits.
I also dabbled in increasing my cardiovascular ability, and worked with Complete Human Performance to increase the volume of my cardio without impacting my strength work. I absolutely love their programming, but was forced to put that on hold when I came back to the states, and have subsequently been unable to work out for a few weeks. When I came back, I resolved to focus more on bulking back up, using a more bodybuilding oriented routine in order to put on maximal muscular mass while bulking.
What arose from that is a pure experiment in seeing what I can do. I wanted to continue to build strength in the deadlift, my favorite lift, but I don’t care as much about my squat and bench and so will be doing them primarily for bodybuilding volume. I also wanted to get back into running. The end result is: a program focused on deadlift strength, full body hypertrophy, and distance running ability.
The program is based off of a modification of one of the templates from Alex Viada’s The Hybrid Athlete (the best book to read for information on hybrid training programs), particularly the hypertrophy and cardiovascular capacity template. I effectively added in more isolation work for small muscle groups, added more strength work for the deadlift, switched up the exercises used a little, and put a slightly heavier focus on running than the program does initially. (Since the original template focuses on general cardio capacity rather than strictly running, it uses a much greater variety of cardio than ended up in my final program.) Of course, on top of that I’m focusing on diet more in order to help put that weight back on.
Without further ado, here’s the base template for a single week:
Bench Press Warmup: Build up to 90%x1
Bench Press: 10-12x3
Push Press/Strict Press: 6x3
DB Overhead Press/Lateral Raise: 10-12x3
BB Row/Pullups: 10-12x3
Tricep Work: 10-12x6
Optional Row: 20-30 min.
Deadlift Warmup: Build up to 90%x1 (beltless)
Deadlift: Strength Work, Use Program of Choice
RDL/Deficit Deadlift: 6x2
Posterior Chain Work: 12x3
Cycle/Run 20-30 min.
Barbell Row: 6x3
DB One Arm Row/Reverse Fly: 10-12x3
Incline Bench: 6x3
Chest Fly/Pushup 10-12x3
Bicep Work: 10-12x6
Shrug/Power Shrug: 10-30x3
Optional Row 20-30 min.
Deadlift Warmup: Build up to 90%x1
Deadlift: Strength Work, Use Program of Choice
Front Squat/Leg Extension/Leg Press 10-12x3
Split Squat/Stepup/Weighted Lunge 10/legx3
Cycle Intervals/Tempo Run 20-30 min.
You can also use this day to perform accessory work focusing on biceps, triceps, calves, traps, shoulders if you feel that you’re lagging in developing any of these areas.
Long Run: 30-60min.
Notes on Progression:
The deadlift, the primary strength lift of the program, can be progressed however you want. You could do a 5x5, a 5/3/1, or even a Westside styled light/heavy day program. However you want to progress your deadlift, you can do it. I’m personally doing a direct linear progression from week to week with a 5x5, adding 5 pounds per week. The first deadlift day of the week is the heavy one, and then the second day I can either match that or do lighter work for volume. As I increase poundage, I’ll hit a point at which I’ll have to start dropping reps, and will do so whenever I can no longer hit X reps on the first set of the day.
Running is progressed primarily through the Sunday long runs and the Friday interval/tempo run, with a focus on improving distance as my speed improves. Other cardio work is done primarily to grease the groove and get some work in. Sunday will additionally probably begin stretching out past hour long runs at some point, assuming my body reacts well to the training.
Hypertrophy training is primarily volume progressed. Week to week, additional reps will be done with the same weight or more weight will be added. While it’s good to focus on volume for all lifts, it will generally focus more on the primary compound movements while the assistance movements will just be done to exhaustion or with a few additional reps as needed. When it comes to the BB Row/Pullup and the Chest Fly/Pushup, obviously I would need to focus primarily on adding reps if I were to do the bodyweight exercises. In places where multiple options are allowed, the options should be cycled through either to target individual weaknesses or to prevent stagnation. In the case of designing this program, my own weaknesses were used and so stuff like the deficit deadlift/RDL takes priority over the rack pull, another good exercise that could be used in that position. When it comes to non-named exercises, the actual exercise at hand is less relevant: when I say bicep work, for example, you could be doing any of the multitudes of bicep exercises out there. So long as you volume progress somehow, you’re doing it right.