I’ve written A LOT of programs for myself, for my athletes, and for my clients over the last 20 years. I’m not sure how much “a lot” is, but I’ve literally got files and files of them.
For example, I just released a Kettlebell Fat Burning Program, Kettlebell Burn, and one of the biggest questions I got and always get is, “Can I do _____ with this program.”
My response is always – “You can do anything you want – it just might not give you the results you desire. It alters the way the program was designed and therefore I can no longer predict the results.” Or something along those lines…
This often meets with a confused look from the individual I’m speaking with – or a moment of silence if we’re talking over the phone. (Email responses vary…)
And that gets me to my main point – and it seems to be one that not a lot of people take into consideration these days – it’s not how much work you can do, but, rather, how much work you can recover from.
Read that again.
The rule of thumb is generally as follows:
- The more volume in your program, the more recovery you need.
- The higher the intensity of your 1RM, the more recovery you need.
- The more “dense” your program, the more recovery you need.
- The more learning that occurs, the more recovery you need.
- The more effort you exert, the more recovery you need.
There are other factors we often fail to take into consideration for recovery.
- Daily stress levels.
- Amount of sleep.
- Quality of sleep.
- [Over]Dependence on stimulants.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Body toxicity levels.
So how do you account for each of these factors, since obviously there are at least 11 variables to manipulate?
My good friend Brett Jones made a great point to me a couple of years ago – “What’s the least you can do and still make progress?”
There’s a question for the ages, huh?
That kind of flips things on there heads, doesn’t it?
Well here’s what I’ve noticed after 20 years.
- I can train 6 days per week and make progress if my training sessions are 20-30 minutes.
- I can train 5 days per week and make progress if my training sessions are 30-45 minutes, but the closer to 30 minutes the better.
- I can train 4 days per week and make progress if my training sessions are 60 minutes per less AND they’re designed as a upper/lower split.
- I can train 3 days per week and make progress if my training session are 45-60 minutes and they’re total body.
- I can train 2-3 times per day 3-4 days per week if I use 10-15 minute training sessions (sometimes 20 minutes).
Those are the parameters.
As much as I wish they weren’t so, they are. I love to train. So I would prefer 6 days per week 1-2 hours at a clip. But those days are gone forever.
So, what’s the “best” program for the “average” trainee?
I think it’s pretty simple.
And it’s not very profound, either.
And it’s been said by other fitness professionals, too.
Train 3 days per week.
Use a total body program.
Pick 2 upper body exercises – one pulling and one pushing, and one lower body exercise, preferably hip dominant like deadlifting over squatting.
Here’s how you’d set it up:
Pulling – Chin ups
Pushing – Push ups, feet elevated
Lower – Deadlift
Pushing – Military Press
Lower – Squat
Pulling – Single Arm Row
Lower – Single Leg Deadlift
Pulling – Pull ups
Pushing – Push ups
And it would really be that simple.
You would adjust your reps and rest periods according to your priorities.
And yes, I know, you could do a “split” if you wanted, but you better be strong and “need” the recovery.
(If you have to ask how “strong” strong is, you aren’t strong…)
In order to do that, I would still use a 3 day per week program, but I would do only 2 workouts – using what’s called an “A-B” Split. You repeat one of the days each week so in a 2 week period each workout is performed 3 times. (Wk1 – A-B-A, Wk2 – B-A-B). I’ve used this many times in the past, each time with great success.
I would pick one upper body exercise to focus on and one lower body exercise to focus on. For example, the Deadlift and the Military Press (kind of similar to Power to the People!). And then add in 2-3 complimentary exercises in after each main exercise.
A. Military Press, Chin ups, Parallel Dips, Ab-Wheel
B. Deadlift, Step ups, Hyperextensions/Glut-Ham Raise, Hanging Leg Raise
And yes, I realize these programs are not sexy. They’re not at all sexy. If you want sexy, buy your wife some lingerie and take her out for a romantic dinner (my apologies to the ladies reading this…) Don’t confuse the two.
What you want is results. What you need is recovery.
These templates will provide you with just that – the right balance of results with the right balance of recovery.
Plus, the best part is, you won’t be spending a large majority of your free time working out so you can do more of the fun stuff you want to do and more of the responsible stuff you should be doing but aren’t.