Week 4, Day 1

There’s been so much going on last week I didn’t really have a chance to post.
So today I’m beginning week four of my nine-week program. Sadly, I have to admit I missed quite a few sessions so far.

To every bad thing there’s a good thing, though. In my case, that’s massive strength gains. Chris and I have just completed the second out of six cycles, each cycle consisting of three workouts. Altough I have been talking a lot about the program lately, I’ll describe it here once again, this time with visual footage, as I’m convinced this is one of the best programs when it comes to building raw strength at a basic level.


As I’ve been out of the strength game for about 6 months, I consider myself something of a beginner again, both in terms of technique (which needs to be rebuilt) as well as power (which I need to regain). The programs main purpose is injury prevention through muscular improvement. I once heard the sentence „a strong back doesn’t know pain“ and I find it to hold true not only for the back but every part of the body. Rather being a „functional guy“, I despise isolation exercise (there’s exceptions, such as when it’s done for rehabilitation of an injured joint. In most cases, though, it isn’t). Also, I want to limit my time in the gym to two sessions per week and use the rest to concentrate on other physical qualities (e.g. endurance) and – surprise, surprise – becoming a better fighter, as this is what I do.

Recently, I’ve been studying Mark Verstegen’s and Mike Boyle’s books. Quite frankly, they made me smile. In his „Functional training“ book, Boyle states that:

  • „Functional training attempts to focus on multijoint movements as much as possible“
  • „The number one goal of strength and conditioning professionals is injury reduction“
  • „Most coaches would agree that functional training is best characterized by exercises done with the feet in contact with the ground and without the aid of machines“
  • „Functional training is a system that encourages the training of balance and the balancing of training. It is characterized by actions such as squatting and lunging or pushing and pulling“
  • „… emphasis is on attaining a balance between pushing and pulling strength and between knee-dominant hip extension (quadriceps and gluteals) and hip-dominant hip extension (hamstrings and gluteals)“

I could go on and on, but after reading through my program (which I designed long prior to reading all that functional-training books) you’ll see why those statements made me smile.

The Program

Basically, what we’re doing is a nine-week progression. It’s built around the „big three“:

  1. Squat
  2. Bench Press
  3. Deadlift

Also, there’s two (after cycle three it’ll be three) „support exercises“:

  1. Military press
  2. Bent-over rows
  3. (after cycle three) Pullups

In each cycle, there’s three workouts, each of which is dedicated to another „big lift“. The first workout of every cycle is the „Deadlift“ day, on which the deadlift 1RM (the amount of weight you can lift for a single time) is re-established and the PR (personal record) is (hopefully) broken. In workout two, the same is done for the bench press. The last workout in each cycle is dedicated to squatting. All other exercises are performed on a 4×8 base, so it’s four sets of eight reps.

Last friday, we had „squats day“. It is important to note that when doing heavy barbell squats, a squat-rack is advisable. When trying to beat my PR and squat 140kg, I went through too big a range of motion and would have been seriously injured if not for the rack.

As my PR on the last „squat day“ was 134kg, I was shooting for 140. Having failed that, I reduced the weight and did 135.

Since I was able to do the 135kg with perfect form, I did the 140 again, through a smaller range of motion this time.

Here, the second rep was great, the third was crap. Next time, I’ll be doing 145 for one rep.

Having completed the „max exercise“ (namely, squatting), we went on to bench pressing (horizontal pushing, 4×8 @65kg, will go to 67,5 next week).

The „hip-dominant“ counterpart to the (knee-dominant) squat is, of course, the deadlift. (Here, it’s 4×8 @100kg)

If you remind Boyles statement about „balancing out pushing and pulling“, the next exercise seems obvious: Bent-over rows (horizontal pulling, 4×8 @50kg).

Last, but not least, there’s the military press (vertical pushing, 4×8 @37,5kg).

You might have noticed that there’s one movement pattern lacking for a truly balanced workout: vertical pulling. It will be added after the next cycle in form of wide-grip pullups. The reason we don’t do it from the beginning is simple: the workout would just be too demanding at our current fitness level. The whole session takes us about 80 minutes. Now, with longer rest periods, it’d certainly be managable to throw in the pullups, anyhow, this would prolong the session significantly – something we don’t want to happen. So, when in week five we’ll be adding the pullups, we’ll still be shooting for roughly 80 to 90 minutes for each session, not longer.

Both Chris and I have greatly increased our strength levels (for example, I’ve been doing 4×8 squats @80kg in the first session – next time I’ll be ding them 4×8 @100kg. That’s a 20kg improvement), so obviously the program is working.

Having described the strength days in detail, I’ll describe the other parts of the program in the next posts.

So long,

take care

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