Five Phase Mastery Progressive Resistance Training

Five Phase Mastery Progressive Resistance Training

In July of 2016 I will celebrate my 55th year of progressive resistance training. I commenced weight training at age 11 in 1961 and by age 14 I had won my first Senior Men's Regional Weightlifting title in Olympic lifting. By age 17 I had captured my first National title and set my first National record as a teenager. I don't recount these accomplishments to elevate myself, rather to illustrate that I didn't commence my half-century iron journey as some lackadaisical kid sporadically performing a few sets of curls and bench presses; rather I have been immersed in the hardcore world of elite progressive resistance training for five decades and at a very high level. I was thrown in with grown men operating at a national level at a very early age.

After working with Tier 1 Spec Ops on an individual and group basis, I have pondered long and hard about what streamlined strength program I could create that would aide in their critical role as the tip of the United States Military Spear. I obtained some helpful input from you individually, some of my senior students, particularly former Special Operations veterans and of course the Secret Service Counter Terrorism members that I work with…In about this same time, I recalled a famous phrase that Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest used to encapsulate his strategic philosophy. An illiterate idiot savant and tactical genius, Forrest pared his entire strategy down to an irreducible core essence: he reduced his cavalry mobility philosophy down to six words,

"Git thar furst-est with the most-est."

This stimulated my thinking - could I boil my resistance training approach down to six words appropriate for Tier 1 Spec Ops and their unique requirements?

"Get the most-est for the least-est."

Get the most results for the least amount of time investment. Military physical training is not athletic training, not even elite athletic training. Military goals and modes can and should be substantially different than those of the elite athlete. Athletes are adept at a single pie sliver - Tier 1 Spec Ops need to be adept at a vast array of interrelated tasks.

It occurred to me that for Tier 1 Spec Ops, time is their most precious commodity.

Tier 1 Spec Ops have to have time to run, jump, shoot, dive, parachute, study communications and tactics, engage in PT and deploy - they do not have the luxury of engaging in hours of leisurely gym time: being a Tier 1 Spec Op means every single undertaking must generate maximum results for a minimum time investment.

How simplistic can a system be made before it loses effectiveness?

My particular area of expertise is the attainment of brute power. The wonderful thing about acquiring raw strength is that it is not, and should not be, time intensive. Factually, too much gym time is counterproductive for the attainment of pure power.

There exists a simplistic system of strength, a minimalistic resistance training strategy of impeccable pedigree: this system is already pared down and reduced to its irreducible core essence. I felt this particular barebones strength system would be ideal for military use and would adhere perfectly to the idea of gaining the most power and strength in return for the least possible time investment.

Best of all, this strength system is not some lame compromise nor is it a theoretical abstraction that could, possibly, might work - this exacttemplate was used by the greatest powerlifters in history. I became exposed to this system early on when it was taught to me by the first Super Heavyweight World Powerlifting Champion, Hugh "Huge" Cassidy in 1972. I, in turn, have taught it to hundreds of students subsequently - including my top student, a Hall of Fame lifter, Kirk Karwoski, that set the World Squat Record (1,003 pounds) in 1995. That record still stands in 2011, sixteen years later.

The poker game Texas Hold'em has a catchphrase: "A game that takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master." Ditto for our Purposefully Primitive minimalistic power and strength resistance training is the exact strategy

  • Once a week work up to a single, all out top set in each of four core exercises.
  • Master technique: success is dependent on acquiring technical perfection.
  • Each week for 12 successive weeks systematically push top set poundage upward.

That is it: that is all there is to it. Variations of this core strategy were used by the greatest powerlifters of the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. The effectiveness of this barebones methodology is borne out by a shocking fact: 61% of deadlift world records set by ancient lifters using this now out-of-fashion approach still stand today. Old School lifters are mathematically and irrefutably stronger than modern lifters using ‘more advanced' strategies.

This battle-tested philosophy has been used for decades by world class strength athletes. Keep in mind that this strength philosophy - along with the "straight line" periodized planning strategy that invariably accompanies it - is not an end-all be-all, rather the foundational core; the starting point, upon which an indeterminate number of valid variations can be constructed.

There are endless variations for our ultra-basic Purposefully Primitive foundational resistance training theme - before being allowed to delve into thematic variations, we need master the theme; the core techniques and the elemental tactics. Pristine techniques and periodized tactics will serve those that master them for decades.

I now pass along to you these time tested techniques and traditional tactics that my strength mentors once passed along to me.

Let us concentrate on doing fewer things better.


"Get strong in your lifts by training them with artificially compromised leverage. Perfect your techniques!"

Valentin Dikul
(Russian strongman, first person in history to deadlift 1000 pounds)

The Five Phases of SQUAT Mastery

The ultra-deep, paused, weightless squat

Ultra Deep Squat Perfection

Behold squat perfection: We are born with the ability to squat perfectly. Life causes us to lose this innate ability; our strategy is to "relearn" and recapture lost "primordial wisdom." Note knees over ankles, vertical shins, upright torso; pelvis is tucked under. Baby will rise up using leg power alone. This is our core technique, our foundational position for all subsequent squats.

Key Technical Points

  1. This first variation is the key squat technique, the foundation on which all subsequent squat variations are built. Learn it, master it.
  2. Find an appropriate stance width: not too wide and not too narrow.
  3. Sit back upon breaking knees.
  4. Keep weight balanced mid-foot; do not shift forward or backwards.
  5. Imagine a stake driven through the mid-foot to keep one grounded.
  6. On ALL squat variations, knees are FORCED out during descent and ascent.
  7. Synchronize the inhalation with descent.
  8. Arms can be used as counter-balance during descent and ascent.
  9. Diaphragm breathing; inhale pushing pressure into the lower abdominal.
  10. Knees should stay over ankles as much as possible.
  11. Knees should never travel out in front of toes.
  12. Ass-on-heels, we mimic the baby, we go all the way down.
  13. In the bottom position, exhale; relax and sink further, lose all tension.
  14. Inhale to ascend; use diaphragm breathing; push gut out against thighs.
  15. Alternate technique: inhale, sink to bottom and arise, exhale at top.
  16. When ascending DO NOT let the tailbone shoot up first!
  17. Perform three sets of 20 paused reps.
  18. If technique breaks down, curtail the set immediately.

The ultra-deep, paused kettlebell goblet squat

Key Technical Points

  1. Hold a kettlebell in "goblet" position.
  2. Alternatively, hold twin kettlebells in "clean" position.
  3. Adhere to all the technical points of the paused weightless squat.

The ultra-deep, paused barbell front squat

Olympic Weightlifting Champion Niam Suleymanoglu Front Squat

Olympic champ Niam Suleymanoglu: front squat perfection. 463 pounds weighing 132; note vertical shins and torso.

Key Technical Points

  1. Position a barbell in the squat rack. Step under bar facing it.
  2. Use "press grip" or the "cross-hand" over-grip.
  3. Ankles should be under the barbell, rotate pelvis forward, stand erect.
  4. Step back; take several "adjustment" steps.
  5. Adhere to all the technical points of the no-weight and goblet squat.
  6. Sit back, knees over ankles, descend all the way, knees forced outward.
  7. The lower you descend, the higher elbows are raised.
  8. At the bottom point, exhale; allow poundage to drive you down further.
  9. Pause at the bottom while maintaining an upright torso.
  10. Breath using the diaphragm; fill lower abdominal region with pressure.
  11. Alternate technique: inhale, sink to bottom and arise, exhale at top.
  12. Come erect; DO NOT let the tailbone rise up at "turnaround."

The ultra-deep, paused hi-bar barbell back squat

High Bar Squat Olympic Champion Anatoli Piserenko

Hi-Bar squat perfection: Olympic champion Anatoli Piserenko gives 738x3 a ride: note depth and position

Key Technical Points

  1. Facing barbell, place left hand on bar, then right hand, grip width optional.
  2. Step under bar until ankles are under barbell.
  3. The bar sits on back where neck meets the trapezius in hi-bar position.
  4. Rotate pelvis under, stand straight up.
  5. Step back and take adjustment steps.
  6. Stance width is identical in previous squat variations.
  7. Adhere to all technical points used in previous squat variants.
  8. Inhale using diaphragm breathing; at low point exhale.
  9. Allow poundage to push you to the bottommost position.
  10. When time to ascend, inhale mightily using diaphragm inhalation.
  11. Alternate technique: inhale, sink to bottom and arise, exhale at top.
  12. Maintain upright torso; knees over ankles; knees forced out throughout.
  13. Push upwards without allowing to tailbone to rise up.

The slightly-below parallel, no pause, low-bar back squat

Doug Furnas Barbell Squat

The greatest squat technician in history: Doug Furnas squats 880 weighing 220. Note uprightness of torso, perfect depth, knees pinioned outward. This is structural and architectural perfection. I coached Doug at National and World Championships. Doug eventually squatted 986 pounds.

Key Technical Points

  1. Facing barbell, place left hand on bar, then right hand, grip width optional.
  2. Step under bar until ankles are under barbell.
  3. Bar sits lower on back; on muscle shelf atop rear delts in "low-bar" position.
  4. Rotate pelvis under, now stand straight up.
  5. Step back and take requisite adjustment steps.
  6. Stance width is identical to all previous squat variations.
  7. Inhale using diaphragm breathing on the descent.
  8. Descend to a point where upper thighs are slightly below parallel to the floor.
  9. At turnaround, arise explosively.
  10. Maintain inter-abdominal pressure on descent and thru 2/3rds of ascent.
  11. Exhale 2/3rds of the way erect.
  12. Maintain upright torso throughout - keep knees over ankles throughout.
  13. Push upwards without allowing to tailbone to rise up.
  14. The knees forced out throughout.

The Five Phases of BENCH PRESS Mastery

The no-tension, paused, dumbbell flat bench press

Key Technical Points

  1. Sit on an exercise bench with two dumbbells pulled tight to torso.
  2. Lay back while simultaneously rotating bells outward into start position.
  3. Allow the muscles of torso and arms to relax.
  4. Bells will stretch chest and delt muscles downward in "pre-stretch."
  5. Slowly and with control push bells upward and inward, touch bells at top.
  6. Lock elbows completely.
  7. When lowering bells, pull downward with tension in arms and flexed lats.
  8. Relax at bottom of rep, let bells stretch chest and shoulder muscles.
  9. Stay relaxed in the neck and upper traps/levator scapulae.
  10. Pause at the turnaround, where descent becomes ascent.
  11. Push upward slow and smooth in non-explosive fashion.
  12. Push is purposefully difficult making light poundage feel heavy.

The regular paused dumbbell bench press

Key Technical Points

  1. Get the bells into starting position and press them to arms length.
  2. Push upward and inward in reverse V push: up and in, never outward.
  3. Lock the elbows at completion of 1st rep.
  4. Lower with tension, pull the bells down; do not lower them on limp arms.
  5. Inhale on the descent using diaphragm breathing.
  6. Pull the bells down to the highest part of the chest.
  7. Do not release tension.
  8. Pause and push to arms length, exhale using diaphragm exhalation.
  9. Lower with tension, pause with tension, explode with tension.

The touch-and-go dumbbell bench press

Key Technical Points

  1. Follow all the technical rules of the paused dumbbell bench press.
  2. No pause at the bottom turnaround.
  3. Do not bounce the dumbbells.
  4. Smooth transitions from descent to ascent.
  5. Complete elbow lockout.
  6. Touch and go dumbbell benching allows for "over-load."

The paused barbell bench press: three grip widths

Mel Hennessy Competitive Bench Press

Irish Mel Hennessy presses 545 weighing 215 in 1967. Huge Cassidy and I watched Mel make this lift and a subsequent 585 using this flat-as-a-pancake, all power style. Back then competitive bench presses were done with a TWO SECOND pause: referee would count, "one thousand and one, one thousand and two - PRESS!" This ‘make it harder' mentality has been replaced with ‘make it easier mentality.' Note street shoes. This type of power is built taking small, sequential steps.

Key Technical Points

    1. Lie back on a bench; take a slightly wider then shoulder width grip.
    2. This is your neutral/normal grip.
    3. Eyes are underneath the barbell.
    4. Exhale and simultaneously push upward, breaking bar from supports.
    5. Lower with tension.
    6. Synchronize lowering with diaphragm inhalation.
    7. Do not allow elbows to flare out, "tuck them inward" as you lower.
    8. Lower down to the high point of the inhaled chest.
    9. Push upward in a precise arc: bar starts and ends over the eyes.
    10. Standard or neutral grip width is used for 60% of bench press training time.
    11. Wide and narrow grip barbell bench grips are each used 20% of the time.
    12. Wide-grip bench press: go out one fist-width wider than standard grip.
    13. Narrow grip: one fist-width narrower than neutral/normal grip.
    14. Wide-grip builds starting power and these are paused.
    15. Narrow-grip builds finish power and are done ‘touch and go' style.

The touch-and-go barbell bench press

Key Technical Points

      1. Follow all the technical rules of the paused barbell bench press.
      2. No pause at the bottom turnaround.
      3. Do not bounce the barbell off the chest.
      4. Smooth transition from descent to ascent.
      5. Hard lockout, flexed elbows.
      6. Touch-and-go allows for muscular "over-load."
      7. Overload technique promotes and instills explosiveness
      8. Overload is only allowed after previous phases are mastered

Pat Casey Olympic Bench Press

Irish Pat Casey (lots of Irish power-men back in the day, including Cassidy and Gallagher) hits a 575 opening bench press attempt. Pat went on this day to blast up 615. Casey took this ponderous poundage out of the racks by himself and replaced the bar onto the tiny, supports without spotters. Again, these were bench presses done with 2-second pauses. Back in primordial days of yore, men sought ways to make lifts more difficult: nowadays men seek ways to make lifts easier. We resurrect this ancient philosophy of making resistance training hard - ponder the irresolvable contradiction of making resistance training easier.

The Five Phases of OVERHEAD PRESS Mastery

The overhead dumbbell press

Key Technical Points

      1. Clean the dumbbells to the shoulders and either stand or sit.
      2. If standing lock out thighs, glutes and tense torso: lean back slightly.
      3. If seated, maintain leg and torso tension throughout; don't go limp.
      4. Keep pressure in the lower trunk via diaphragmatic breath.
      5. Press the bells overhead - up and in, the bell path forms a reverse V.
      6. Hard and complete lockout.
      7. Inhale in synchronization with the descent.
      8. Pull the bells down with tension. No freefall.
      9. Slow the poundage as it approaches the turnaround and pause.
      10. Lower to hairline or bottom of the ears.
      11. Push overhead explosively.

The overhead barbell press

Pete George Overhead Barbell Press

Olympic champion Pete George illustrates perfect press lockout position. Note flexed legs and slight lay-back. The clean and press has become extinct: nowadays trainees sit and press exclusively; often using inferior press machines. While there is a place for seated lifts, standing barbell and dumbbell presses are the most difficult and therefore the eternal choice of the hardcore elite.

Key Technical Points

      1. Clean the barbell or take weight out of a squat rack, stepping back.
      2. If standing, lie back slightly; tense legs and glutes to create push platform.
      3. If seated, set bench one notch below 90-degrees.
      4. If seated, maintain leg and torso tension.
      5. Both standing and seated, press bar as close to face as possible.
      6. Lock out hard and hold lockout.
      7. Lower with ever-increasing tension.
      8. Lower to below the chin: no half reps or partial reps.
      9. Barbell goes up and back ending locked out directly over the skull.
      10. Finish standing press by pushing the laid-back inclined torso erect.
      11. Lower with tension and recline slightly to achieve incline push position.

The press-behind the neck

Bill Pearl Seated Behind The Neck Shoulder Press with Olympic Barbell

Bill Pearl: seated press-behind neck; note grip width. We avoid Bill's thumb-less grip.

Key Technical Points

      1. PBN can be done standing or seated.
      2. Grip width is wider than shoulder width: note Pearl photo.
      3. Set up as if to squat with wide grip width, step back as if to squat.
      4. If seated, position bench behind squat rack, step back and sit down.
      5. On seated, sit - but don't relax leg tension; push off tense legs.
      6. Standing: lock out legs and torso, push head forward, push upward.
      7. As bar clears back of head, allow bar path to move forward.
      8. Completed lock out has bar directly over top of head.
      9. Lower down and back with ever-increasing tension.
      10. Lower to hairline.
      11. At turnaround, push upward without hitting back of skull.
      12. Lock-out hard and hold for a beat before lowering.
      13. Inhale on descent, exhale on ascent.

The steep incline dumbbell bench press

Key Technical Points

        1. Set bench lower than 90-degrees and higher than 45-degrees.
        2. Use dumbbells for safety: barbell with spotters.
        3. Push straight up - bells touch at completion of each rep.
        4. Lock out hard.
        5. Lower with ever increasing tension.
        6. Turnaround is just below chin.
        7. Throughout the set never lose torso or leg muscle tension.
        8. Inhale on descent, exhale while pushing to lockout.

The 45-degree incline dumbbell bench press

Pat Casey 200 lb. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

Pat Casey again, this time pushing a pair of 200 pound dumbbells, 400 pounds total, for five reps. In this display of raw power, Pat has muscled these monsters into start position without assistance. This shot was taken in 1965 at Bill Pearl's old gym on Manchester Avenue in Los Angeles.

Key Technical Points

        1. Set bench pad to 45-degree angle: fixed incline benches are 45-degrees.
        2. Stand in front of incline bench with dumbbells on the floor.
        3. Clean them to shoulders.
        4. Sit down onto the bench pad, maintaining leg tension.
        5. Once in start position; push bells upward and back.
        6. Follow all technical points addressed in the steep incline press.
        7. Never push dumbbells up and out as they will get away from you.

The Five Phases of DEADLIFT Mastery

Develop strong legs

Sly Anderson Conventional Deadlift

Sly Anderson demonstrates perfect start position for conventional deadlift. He will use leg power to break the 766 pound bar from floor to his knees. Weak-legged lifters might assume this position but at takeoff allow the tailbone to shoot upward to put weak legs in a more advantageous push position. Problematic, the weak-legged lifter makes a devil's bargain and takes the easy start in return for an excruciating, spine-killing finish. Great deadlifters embrace the hard start in return for the easy finish. Note vertical shins that allow for straight up pull.

Key Technical Points

        1. To build a superior deadlift build superior leg strength.
        2. Deadlift technical flaws are related to weak legs in relation to back.
        3. Weak legs send a signal to brain, "we need help!"
        4. The brain responds: "allow the hips to rise."
        5. High hips places legs in better push position.
        6. High hips decrease the thigh push stroke.
        7. This is "avoidance compensation."
        8. The solution is to develop leg power.
        9. Weak legs place increased stress on the spinal column.
        10. The lower back is used as the prime mover instead of the legs.
        11. The perfect deadlift is a muscular relay race.
        12. Legs start the pull, lower back takes over, upper back completes the lift.
        13. Good deadlifters trade the hard start for the easy finish.
        14. Bad deadlifters take the easy start in return for the excruciating finish.
        15. Good deadlifter contort body to accommodate straight line upward pull.
        16. Bad deadlifters make barbell conform to their out-of-position body.
        17. When completing the perfect deadlift, everything "arrives at once."
        18. Imperfect deadlifts lock out legs first.
        19. Spine then derricks out-of-position payload poundage into place.

The kettlebell Sumo deadlift

Key Technical Points

        1. Think of the kettlebell and barbell Sumo deadlift as a "reverse squat."
        2. Assume your squat stance with a kettlebell placed between feet.
        3. Squat down - don't bend over - arms hang straight down.
        4. Grasp kettlebell with both hands.
        5. Inhale on descent, exhale on ascent.
        6. Come erect with limp arms, upright torso.
        7. Lockout completely.
        8. Descend with ever-increasing muscle tension.
        9. Touch the floor lightly with bell bottom - do not loose muscle tension.
        10. The instant bell touches floor, reverse direction.
        11. Come erect and lockout fully.
        12. No bouncing the bell off the floor at the turnaround.
        13. Observe all squat rules: erect torso, knees over ankles, knees forced out

The Sumo deadlift

Ed Coan Sumo Deadlift

Ed "King" Coan: the greatest powerlifter of all time. Ed pulls straight up to break the bar from floor. Coan deadlifted 901 weighing 219; pound-for-pound the greatest powerlift of all time. I was his competition coach for a decade.

Key Technical Points

        1. Place barbell loaded to 135 pounds at your feet, vertical shins touch bar.
        2. Squat down - don't bend over; grip barbell between thighs; narrow grip.
        3. Do NOT set hips high - this causes "spinal derricking."
        4. Knees over ankles; shoulders over bar - not in front.
        5. Tense entire body - break bar from floor using leg power alone.
        6. Do not let the tailbone shoot up at takeoff.
        7. Bar is pulled upward in a straight line; everything "arrives at once."
        8. Inhale while descending.
        9. Weight plates lightly touch floor; when plates touch begin upward pull on next rep.

The conventional deadlift

Gene Bell Conventional Deadlifting

Gene "The Machine" Bell has embraced the difficult start and is now in perfect position to reap the reward of an easy finish. Bell, world champion and world record holder, has pulled the 800 + bar from floor to knees using leg power. He now simply drives his hips forward to finish the lift. In a perfect deadlift, sumo or conventional, shoulders never get in front of the bar: the ‘over-under' hand grip improves grip strength by 30%. Bell, as does every great deadlifter, pulls the bar upward in a straight line and contorts his body to accommodate the straight-line pull. Bad deadlifters make the bar contort to their out-of-position body.

Key Technical Points:

        1. Place barbell loaded to 135 (or more) at your feet.
        2. Stance width is 8-12 inches between heels, no more.
        3. Squat down with vertical shins.
        4. Grasp barbell with hands slightly outside legs using over/under grip.
        5. Shins and torso are as vertical as possible.
        6. Optimally, the torso and shins maintain position; only the femurs move.
        7. Pull barbell upward in a straight line.
        8. Everything locks out simultaneously.
        9. Improper deadlift locks legs out first, then the torso is derricked erect.
        10. Inhale on the descent: load more tension as bar approaches floor.
        11. Olympic plates touch lightly and evenly on floor.
        12. Begin the upward pull the instant the plates touch.
        13. Squat down; don't bend over on subsequent repetitions.

Deadlifting with straps

Key Technical Points

        1. Follow technical point of sumo and conventional deadlift using weightlifting straps.
        2. Straps allow overload: turn a single into a triple, a 3 into a 5, a 5 into an 8.
        3. Learn how to adhere straps smoothly and effortlessly.

Mark Chaillet Minimalistic Strength Training

Mark Chaillet pulls 835 weighing 219 in 1980. Mark was my training partner for six years. The barbell has gotten out of position on him; his legs are straight yet the poundage is not locked out, leaving him in the unenviable position of having to derrick 835 to lockout. His best all-time lifts were an 880 deadlift and a 1,000 pound squat. Mark was King of minimalistic training. His routine never varied: on Monday he would work up to a single rep in the squat and bench press. On Thursday he would work up to a single rep in the deadlift. Each week for 12 weeks he would push upward 20 pounds in the squat and dead, 10 in the bench press. Mark never performed any other lifts of any kind - ever! He was one of history's great deadlifters and showed how much power could be built with so little time invested.


"Straight-line periodization has set more world records and created more world powerlifting champions than any other tactical planning strategy. Master straight-line periodization before pursing more exotic periodized variations, such as ‘wave cycling' and ‘stair-step cycling'."

Don Rienhout Below Parallel Squat with no Weightlifting Belt

Big Don Rienhout circa 1976: here is how we used to roll. 838 pounds is taken below parallel without even wearing a weightlifting belt: knees over ankles, vertical shins, upright torso. This technique is applicable and attainable regardless of the squatter's height, weight, limb length or bodyweight. Stance width is critical for obtaining proper technique. Play with stance width and don't be afraid to experiment.

How to Periodize

So now that have you been exposed to proper techniques in the squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press - now what?

In the world of strength training the use of periodization is standard operating procedure and should become an integral part of your training. Periodization is another word for preplanning. Elite strength athletes will lay out 3-4 months of preplanned workouts ahead of time; identifying target poundage, number of sets and reps for each and every workout.

Hall of Fame lifter (and current world record holder) Kirk Karwoski and I would lay out his periodized training template twice a year: before the national championships and world championships. For the last few years of his career he was able to complete an entire 12-week periodized game plan without missing a single preplanned set, rep and poundage target. Other greats such as Ed Coan and Doug Furnas were equally adept.

Hall of Fame Lifter Kirk Karwoski World Record Squat

Kirk Karwoski squats 1003 pounds at the 1995 Nationals.

Here is how an individual with a 200 pound squat, a 150 pound bench press, a 300 pound deadlift and a 100 pound overhead press might lay out a 12 week periodized game plan. Each set and rep combination is performed after taking as many warm-up sets as needed.

Workout 1

This template can be modified and utilized regardless current strength levels.


        • All lifts start off at approximately 50% to 65% of current max
        • All lifts end up roughly 15% to 25% above current max
        • All lifts utilize pristine technique
        • Optional: In early phases, multiple top sets can be used
        • Never start off too high or too low

Stronger Man Periodized Cycle

Let's assume the athlete has a 350 pound squat, a 300 pound bench press, a 400 pound deadlift and a 180 pound overhead press.

Workout 2

        • The stronger the lifter, the smaller the % increases at cycles end
        • Small weekly poundage jumps work best
        • Coan, Karwoski, Furnas, Chaillet used 20 pound weekly squat/dead jumps; 10 pound weekly bench jumps - 1.5% to 2% of max poundage
        • These periodization charts are basic; many sophisticated variations exist
        • These periodization charts are conservative with ‘active rest' week built in
        • Other factors can be periodized: bodyweight, calories, cardio modes, etc.

Creating Your Own
Periodized Training Template

In a nutshell, the way to periodize or "cycle" any lift is as follows….

        • Create a realistic goal
        • Establish a realistic timeframe
        • Reverse engineer: work backwards with a calendar, pen and legal pad
        • Place the realist goals within a specified timeframe
        • Work backwards to establish weekly poundage benchmarks
        • Every 3-4 weeks alter the variables in anticipation of stagnation
        • When instituting changes, make them dramatic, not minor

Scenario: let us assume a 195 pound individual is athletic, but slightly out-of-shape coming off the winter holidays; he wants to take ten weeks to lean out and shape up. His previous deadlift best was 390x1 and his leanest, most athletic and functional bodyweight in the past has been 185-188 pounds.

Workout 3

In ten weeks time our hypothetical individual has morphed from a soft 195 into a rock hard 180 pounds. His deadlift, a great overall strength indicator, has leapt upward by a full 10%, from 390 for 1 rep to 435 for 1. He has regained his cardio condition by tweaking his run durations and weekly frequencies. In 70 days he has gotten himself into prime fighting condition. This is a fairly conservative example and mirrors what I do with clients and students every single week.

About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.