Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to push yourself to the max every time you go to the gym. We present to you a two-month, strength-training program which is tested on real subjects and brings real results.
Everyone knows that training to become stronger is hard, both physically and mentally. But what if we told you that you could make it easy. This may sound completely ridiculous at first since we’ve all been hearing incessantly that “no pain, no gain” and that you should either “go hard or go home”. So you can’t be blamed for thinking otherwise.
Most people are misled to believe that if you don’t end up covered in sweat on the floor and barely catching your breath it doesn’t count as an “effective workout”. The hardest part of this strength program for most people will not be the workouts themselves but coming up to the realization that you don’t need to have an intense, brutal workout to be effective. You won’t get a huge pump. You won’t sweat as much and you won’t feel sore for days on end afterward. What you will get, however, is insanely strong.
This program may also cause a lot of people to pass on it just because it doesn’t look like a regular training regimen. It was designed by Dan John, a champion discus thrower. He has also written a book on this program. He says he made the best progress of his career on it, and yet he stills struggles with the fact of how incredibly easy it is, but it’s not widespread knowledge.
The “Easy strength” plan
You will do the same strength-training workout, (except for the weight increases), 5 times a week for 8 weeks. That will be 40 workouts in total. Each workout will take you just 15-20 minutes to complete. Below is the template of what each workout session will include, along with Dan’s suggested exercises.
- First of all, warm up. Do 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio like running on the treadmill, elliptical machine and or body weight exercises.
- Perform each of the following movement patterns:
- Hip hinge exercises: sagittal plane movement where the hips are the axis of rotation between a neutral lumbopelvic segment and your thigh. Basically movements where you keep your spine straight and bend your hips (think deadlifts, rack deadlifts, kettlebell swings etc).
- Press exercises: Movements where you press something at arm’s length, either over your head or away from your chest whilst you lie on your back.
- Pull. Pull the weight toward you at arm’s length.
- Do a power movement. Contract the lower-body muscles (possibly the upper ones as well) quickly and explosively to jump or accelerate the load in your hand or both hands.
- Do a “core” exercise, focusing on moving the weight with proper form and properly bracing the core instead of trying to lift it as fast as you can.
Hinge – Deadlift – 2 x 5 reps
Press – Incline bench press – 2 x 5 reps
Pull – Chin Up – 2 x 5 reps
Power movement – kettlebell swings – 30 to 50 reps
Core movement – ab rollout – 2 x 10 reps
The reccomended “easy strength” training movements
- Rest a barbell on the floor and attach the correct amount of weight to each end.
- Approach the bar keeping your feet shoulder width apart and pointed forward.
- From a squatting motion, carefully grasp the bar.
- Lower the hips so that the thighs are level to the floor
- Stand up, raise your hips and shoulders, and carefully lift the bar off the ground.
- Lower the bar and return to the starting position.
Incline bench press
- Place a barbell on the uprights of an incline bench press station, load it with a relatively medium-heavy weight and lie on the bench.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor, grasp the barbell evenly with your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width. Push the barbell off the uprights until your arms become straight without locking them out.
- Then, slowly lower the bar until it touches the chest, whilst pulling the shoulder blades together.
- Push the bar back to the starting position and pause for 1-2 seconds. That’s one rep. Repeat.
Note: You should always use a spotter when doing this exercise.
- Stand with your feet just slightly wider than shoulder-width with a kettlebell placed about one foot in front of you. Hinge at the hips to reach down for the kettlebell and grasp it with both hands.
- With your core braced tightly and your lower back flat, quickly hike or snap the kettlebell backward, high between the legs.
- Afterward, reverse the movement by driving the hips forward forcefully while fully straightening your legs and strongly contracting the glutes. This way, the kettlebell will swing out upwards and in front of you. You mustn’t try to lift it with your arms.
- Once the kettlebell reaches its top position, which would be about the shoulder level, engage the lats and core to bring it back between your legs.
- Repeat this movement as many reps as needed, then place the kettlebell in front of you, just like before you started.
- Grasp the bar using an underhand grip, palms should be slightly narrower than shoulder width apart; allow your arms to fully straighten out.
- Pull the shoulder blades together and pull your chest toward the bar until the chin passes the bar.
- Then, lower yourself slowly in a controlled manner until the arms are fully straight. That’s one rep. Repeat.
- Kneel on a pad, grasp the handles of an ab wheel, with your shoulders positioned directly over the wheel.
- Keep the arms straight and your core braced. Then, start by slowly rolling the wheel forward as far as you possibly can, allowing the chest and the hips to come as close to the floor as possible. Don’t allow your back to arch, keep it straight and rigid.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Choose the load carefully. As John says, the entire point of the program is not to work so hard on each workout that you’ll barely be able to do the next one but to do just enough and be prepared to come back to it the next day and repeat it, this time even increasing the load a bit. Pick a weight you can lift for the prescribed number of repetitions with relative effort but minimal fatigue. You should never miss a single rep on this program. You’re never lifting to failure.
- Progress slowly. When the weight you chose when you started this program becomes easy, only then are you allowed to increase it by 5-10 lbs.
- Stick to the movements you’ve chosen. Unless a particular movement is causing some kind of pain or discomfort, don’t change it.
- Rest properly. Take at least two minutes of rest between sets of each movement.
- Vary the power movements. You can perform the 20 to 50 reps of the explosive power movements however you wish: in sets of 5, 10, 15, 20, or one long set, all of them done with excellent execution form.
- Don’t push yourself too hard on the core work. Do this single set with focus and proper form, but see to it that you don’t overdo it with extra weight or by doing additional core work.