I’m sensing that many of my readers are getting very interested in daily training. It would be irresponsible of me to send my readers off to battle unarmed, so I wanted to extend some advice as to how you can make daily training work for you. I believe that all types of routines can be very effective, including body-part splits, upper/lower spits, and push/pull splits. And I believe that every individual can make each type of split work for them, through program design variable manipulation. To me, daily training is a lifestyle. I suppose that many bodybuilders feel the same way about body-part split training. Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to daily training, it will be very hard to stray from it. Split routines just don’t seem complete anymore, and they don’t leave me feeling accomplished. To each his own though, and I will continue to train alongside my bodybuilding brethren with no judgment.

The fact of the matter is, I like to squat. I like to press. I like to pull. I like to do these every day. As long as I’m gaining strength and building up work capacity, who’s going to stop me? I’ve learned a ton from Broz but I have different goals than his lifters. I’m not an Olympic weightlifter, nor do I have any plans to Olympic weightlift or have a genetic predisposition to succeed at the sport. But my goals do entail being as muscular and strong as I can possibly be (without gaining a bunch of weight). I’ve learned that I respond very well to frequency. It seems that the more frequent I lift heavy, the stronger I get. I have made adjustments to allow this system to work for me, and I’d like to give you some clues as to how you can allow it to work for you too.

Law of Diminishing Returns?

I’ll be perfectly honest here and admit that I don’t know where the boundaries lie. How many squat sessions per week result in maximal adaptation? Five? Ten? Twenty? I have no idea. Obviously at some point you’d outstrip your ability to recover and would therefore go backward. If you got to the point where you were setting an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night and squat, then that would be absurd. The point is, the maximal number of sessions is probably more than what you’re currently doing. Much more.

Personally, I like training five days per week for around an hour. If I were an Olympic lifter, or if I trained competitive Olympic lifters, then I would start experimenting with twice daily max squatting and longer training sessions. I’ve seen way too many impressive videos on Broz’s Youtube page to deny the effectiveness of his system. But when you’re like me and you’re not competitive, I like to have some days off and I like to be out of the gym within an hour. Whether this is optimal or not is beside the point. The point is that you don’t need to fear increasing your training frequency as you’re probably not reaping your maximal frequency benefits and you’re most likely nowhere near the point of overtraining.

The Biggest Problem with Daily Training is Overzealous Lifters

Meatheads are excessive. Moderation to us means 3 sets instead of 4 or 2 scoops of whey rather than 3. We have it engrained in our heads that the only way to see results in the gym is to go absolutely berzerk. We have trouble tempering our enthusiasm.

Inside the Meathead’s Mind

Johnny Meathead can max squat 365 lbs and max deadlift 455 lbs. Here’s his previous lower body regimen:

Monday

back squats 225 x 5, 275 x 5, 315 x 3, 345 x 1, 350 x 1

back extensions 100 x 12, 100 x 12

Thursday

deadlifts 315 x 5, 365 x 3, 405 x 1, 435 x 1

Bulgarian split squats 135 x 6, 135 x 6

Enter Broz

Johnny Meathead reads an article about John Broz and immediately decides to change it up.

The lower body portion of week one of daily training goes like this:

Monday

Pre-workout notes: This is exciting! I’m going to get freakishly strong and jacked!

back squats 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 335 x 1, 355 x 1, 365 x 1

deadlifts 315 x 3, 365 x 1, 405 x 1, 425 x 1, 455 x 1

Notes: Very tough workout. Wiped out!

Tuesday

Pre-workout notes: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sore and exhausted. But what I feel is a lie, so I gotta train through it. I’ll just squat today and I won’t do deads.

back squats (after considerable warm-up) 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 325 x 1 (this is feeling heavy), 335 x 1 (grinder…I need to be going up not down, I’ll move to 345 anyway), 345 x 1 (form sucked)

Post-workout notes: Oh well, I’m adjusting to the new routine, tomorrow I’ll be stronger.

Wednesday

Pre-workout notes: Somehow I’m more tired than yesterday. This is tough! I guess this is the dark phase Broz talked about.

back squats 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1 (knees and low back aching), 325 x 1 (rounded low back, knees caved in, painful! I’ll just do some high rep back-off work), 225 x 3, 225 x 3 (since I got a shitty workout on squats I’ll do some glute ham raises to hit the hammies)

glute ham raises bw x 10, bw x 10, bw x 8

Post-workout notes: I don’t know about this routine. I don’t think my body is built for it. I’ll give it a couple more days and see how it goes.

Thursday

Pre-workout notes: Feeling very tired and beat-up. What I feel is a lie so I’m going to ignore that my body is telling me to take a day off. Maybe I’ll just do front squats today and speed pulls.

front squats 185 x 3, 205 x 3, 225 x 3, 245 x 1, 265 x 1, 275 x 1 (knees hurting)

speed pulls 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 315 x 1, 315 x 1 (back hurting)

Post-workout notes: My knees and back are aching pretty bad. When is the soreness going to go away?

Friday

Pre-workout notes: My body is officially exhausted. I feel like I got hit by a train. Who knows, maybe I’ll be stronger today.

back squats 225 x 3, 275 x 3 (feeling very heavy), 315 x 0 (failed, what the hell? there’s no way I’m getting weaker, I’m just not warmed up, I’ll try it again), 315 x 1 (got it, but my back rounded, my knees caved in, and my weight shifted forward, I’m calling it a day, this sucks!)

Post-workout notes: I’m supposed to come in tomorrow and squat again after this lousy performance? No way! This type of training just doesn’t work for me. All those assholes doing daily training are on steroids. Since I’m natural, this just isn’t for me. My body just can’t recover.

What Johnny Meathead Should Have Done Instead: Easing into Daily Training

There are a number of ways you can ease into daily training successfully. Here are some of them:

1. Have hard days and easy days. Maybe the easy days entail simply doing 135 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps. For the first week, do 2 hard days and 3-5 easy days. For the second week, do 3 hard days and 2-4 easy days. For the third week, do 4 hard days and 1-3 easy days. For the fourth week, do 5 hard days and 0-2 easy days. Now you’ve successfully acclimated yourself to the new stresses.

2. Or, you could keep doing 2 heavy days per week and just start bumping up the poundages on the easy days. Add 20 lbs per week to the load you use on your easy days. Within 2 months this equates to a 160 lb jump and now you’re using heavy loads 5 days per week.

3. Just use the front squat for the first two weeks, then start adding in the back squat.

4. Be strict. When you were doing two lower-body workouts per week you could get away with letting your form slide 15-20%. Now you’re in the big-leagues buddy. Don’t let your form deteriorate more than 10%. Better yet, keep it at 5%.

5. Don’t perform any grinders. Don’t use any load so heavy that you can’t perform the concentric portion in under 3 seconds. Better yet 2 seconds.

6. Just do speed deads for the first couple of weeks with 50-70% of your 1RM, then start going heavier.

7. Autoregulate!!! Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling right, just go through the motions. Don’t get caught up with numbers. In a couple of months you’ll have more experience with the new methodology and can make educated decisions regarding what to do when you’re not feeling your best. For now, err on the side of safety and don’t push it too hard on these type of days.

8. Don’t do any back-off sets. After a month, start adding them in.

9. Use variations. Broz is building Olympic beasts. He’s learned that ultra-specificity is King. I’m not an Oly lifter, so therefore I’ll add in different auxiliary lifts and variations. If your back is dodgy, do front squats and hip thrusts or back extensions (should be called hip extensions). If your knees are dodgy, do high box squats and really sit back, then do RDL’s. If your adductors are dodgy do narrow stance high box squats and rack pulls. Most of the days you’ll feel okay, but there’s nothing wrong with altering your training and allowing for more variation in order to suit the present conditions.

10. Stay away from failure and true maxes for the first month. Stick with an upper limit of 90-95% and leave a rep in the tank.

Give Yourself 8 Weeks to Break Into Daily Training

These are just some of the ways you can ease into daily training. If you’re like me, then you want to train for the rest of your life. I think I’ll be deadliftin’ til the day I die.  It takes time to build up work capacity, but rest assured you can and will adapt. For this reason, don’t rush it. Take your time building into daily training.

The problem with most lifters is that they go from A to Z overnight. This is a recipe for disaster. Go from A to B to C to D and so on.

Just One Example of a Suitable Week-One for Johnny Meathead

Monday

Pre-workout notes: I’m excited about daily training, but I’ll make sure to temper my enthusiasm and enjoy the process.

Back squats 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 335 x 1

Speed deadlifts 225 x 3, 255 x 2, 275 x 1

Post-workout notes: That wasn’t so bad. Let’s see how things feel tomorrow.

Tuesday

Pre-workout notes: Feeling great. No complaints.

Back squats 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

Back extensions 100 x 8, 100 x 8

Post-workout notes: Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy

Wednesday

Pre-workout notes: Feeling great. No complaints.

Back squats 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

Back extensions 100 x 8, 100 x 8

Post-workout notes: Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy

Thursday

Pre-workout notes: Feeling very strong and explosive today. No soreness.

Back squats: 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 335 x 1, 365 x 1 (wow, that’s my max, but I think I have another 5 lbs in me), 370 x 1 (new PR!)

Speed pulls: 225 x 3, 255 x 2, 275 x 1

Post-workout notes: Damn, this Broz guy is onto something! Just by adding in some more frequency I’m getting stronger. And I’m not even going really heavy yet! Can’t wait to see how things continue.

Friday

Pre-workout notes: Not as sore as I’d normally be following a day after a new PR was set. That’s a pleasant surprise. Going to be smart and go easy today.

Back squats 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

Back extensions 100 x 8, 100 x 8

Post-workout notes: Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy

Long-Term Results

Each week, Johnny Meathead will gradually increase his volume and intensity. Within a year, he’s now doing the following (I’ll pick two typical days):

Monday

back squats 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 3, 365 x 2, 385 x 1, 395 x 1, 405 x 1, 365 x 3, 315 x 3 (notice his max has moved up 40 lbs and he’s doing this almost every day)

speed pulls 315 x 3, 405 x 1, 455 x 1, 315 x 3 (the difference here is that he’s using his previous maximum weight but it’s nowhere near a max for him; it’s more like 80% and he could easily pull around 80 more pounds if he wanted to)

Tuesday

front squats 225 x 3, 275 x 2, 295 x 1, 315 x 1, 335 x 1, 275 x 3, 225 x 3

hip thrusts 225 x 5, 275 x 5, 315 x5, 365 x 3

Notice that Johnny has gotten much stronger at everything? He has built up his work capacity and can tolerate the daily loads.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a science to acclimating to daily training. The body can and will adapt to higher workloads, but you have to be smart about it. I kept quiet about daily training because I wanted to experiment with it myself before advocating it on my blog. I’ve been doing it for five months now and I’m hooked. In fact, I was having two of my clients experiment with it before I moved away and they saw excellent results in terms of strength gains and body composition improvements. No matter what you think, you can make daily training work for you, and there’s a good chance that you’ll see more strength gains on this routine than you will from any other type of training. Just don’t be an idiot and jump into things too quickly and then dismiss the methodology. If you do this, daily training isn’t the problem; you’re the problem. Formulate a wise strategy and watch your numbers climb.

50 Comments

  • Kevin says:

    Great article Bret! I have been following a similar program by Dan John http://danjohn.net/2011/06/even-easier-strength-perform-better-notes/ It’s amazing how adding volume makes strength gains jump. Keep of the great posts.

  • Great article Bret, this should be compulsory reading for anyone wanting to try the Broz style of training!

  • Rob says:

    Bret, this article clarifies a lot of questions for me (and everyone else, I’m sure). A few more questions that maybe will get addressed in the future:

    – Where/how would you fit upper body lifts into this program?
    – Would there be any detriment to throwing in some core work (e.g. cable chops) along with the assistance lift?

    Thanks a ton, Bret. Keep up the awesome content.

    • Bret says:

      I usually alternate between upper and lower body. For example, I might do front squats, then incline press, then good mornings, then bent over rows, then a core exercise. I always try to throw in 1 or 2 sets of core at the end but know that it’s not necessary every single session.

  • Halvor says:

    Do you have any recommendations for athletes involving in other sports/activities maybe 2-3 times a week. For example playing some sort of basketball, football or just doing some general conditioning. I remember you recommended not to use this kind of training for athletes, but in a modified form etc half an hour a day, less sets etc. couldn’t it be used with success. Performing a 4 day 2-splitt routine with two hard lower body workouts could be quite taxing as well….

    • Bret says:

      Halvor, I’d stick to one strength session per day for around an hour and on the days you play ball you can drop it down to 30-45 minutes. Ease into it and learn about how your body reacts to it.

  • Ted says:

    Good post, Bret!

    I would like to add one piece of information to the daily training discussion going on here and on other websites.

    Former World’s Strongest Man Pfil Pfister once said that fellow Strongman Mark Felix trains his deadlift every single session. And when you know Mark Felix, you know deadlifting.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MArKUWjes_8

  • Neal W. says:

    Bret,

    I alternate between BJJ and strength training once per day, 6-7 days per week. Would you consider this daily training or does it only apply to strength training?

    • Bret says:

      Neal, I’m referring to strength training. That’s not to say that BJJ isn’t intense and doesn’t work tons of muscle…it’s just different.

    • Clement says:

      Hi Neal, I practise martial arts too – 1h of muay thai followed immediately by 1h of BJJ.

      In this case, it’s even more important to listen to your body. I’d even venture to say that BJJ practice is not as intense as a day of good ol’ heavy squats for a series of top singles.

      Martial arts should be practised every day, much like olympic lifting, to perfect your technique!

  • John says:

    As always, great article Bret. What kind of hypertrophy gains have you and your clients seen training this way? Do you think daily training is optimal for hypertrophy and strength gains, or would a a rep range of say 3-6 reps be more applicable?

    Thanks!!

    • Bret says:

      John, I don’t think that daily training is optimal for hypertrophy. In other words, I don’t thik bodybuilders should make the switch. For a combination of max strength/power/size, I think daily training works wonders for a majority of folks though, especially natural lifters.

  • Stephane says:

    Great article Bret as this clarifies many of the questions I had in mind.

    I have to ask how upper body training comes into play and if you separate the emphasis in training into lower specific and upper specific. In other words, your upper specific phases would involve an upper exercise brought to a heavy single with the squat poundages remaining relatively light).

    Again, awesome stuff!!!

    • Bret says:

      Stephane, I don’t think you have to emphasize one over the other. You can train upper body and lower body heavy each session. I alternate bench press, close grip bench, and incline press and I do heavy singles with one back off set for a set of 5ish. With rows I do more reps of course.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Bret, I think the article you did with Broz was life-altering, (which is the second time you’ve altered my training/life, #1 being hip thrusts!). What’s great is that on the T-Nation article, some of the more seasoned readers really came through with some very do-able methods to control volume.

    I think I may have found the sweet spot with 4-front squat plus back squat sessions a week. I’m building my upper body work around the squat sessions, sometimes before, sometimes after, sometimes at a wholly separate time. I am also now using hip thrusts as both a primary strength movement (ramp up to 360-430), and on some days as a glute activation movement..(ex. 225×20)

    The best thing that I can say is that at times I feel bulletproof! It’s a great feeling waking up literally craving to train vs. being so wiped that you have to take ibuprofen to get out of bed. You are so correct that our enthusiasm can work against us sometimes.

    You are the shizzle, BC!!

  • Eric Helms says:

    Bret, I’ve been doing 1 upper 1 lower hypertrophy workout weekly, in addition to 2 full body sheiko workouts on a week, and I’m on a diet, I keep the volume capped on hypertrophy days and follow the sheiko 29 template right now, but spread it out so its 2 days/week instead of 3/days a week since I’m about 3lbs over stage weight and in a caloric deficit.
    So I end up training legs and upper body 3x/week each, but lower volume, some weeks I squat 3x/week….I tell you what muscle maintenance and strength maintenance and aches and pains are at an all time low this year!

  • Evan says:

    Nice post Bret. I like how you called out Broz on his inane “your body is lying to you” theory. As if millions of years of evolution produced a nervous system that generates pain for no reason!

    Anyway, I think the bottom line with making frequent full-body training work is to control the effort. Whether you’re doing low reps or high reps, you’ve got to control the effort. If you’re working out like Dorian Yates, and you’re doing full-body workouts every day, then you WILL overtrain! From my own experimentation I’d say that you want to be between 7-9 on a 10-point exertion scale.

    Again, thanks for the informative post.

    • Bret says:

      Evan,

      I actually believe in that comment 100%. It’s one of Broz’s greatest insights to be clear. What he means is, you can’t rely on your body to be honest about your strength on a particular day. I cannot even begin to tell you how true this is, and everyone who has experience with daily training will likely attest to this. Some days you feel like complete crap and you think up every excuse why you should take the day off. Then you end up loosening up and setting a PR. Other days you feel great and feel invincible, only to get to the gym and find yourself having an average performance.

      This is not to say that you shouldn’t listen to your body and autoregulate. It does not mean that you should completely ignore pain. It doesn’t mean that you should train through anything and everything. It just means that your body is often full of shit 🙂 and is just trying to be lazy. I can think back to football practice in high school. I’d wake up every day so sore and tired. I wanted so badly to have a day off. But the coach made me train everyday, and eventually I got used to it. Now, I believe in building into things gradually, but you’ll be amazed at how your body adapts to higher frequencies if you stick with it.

      Personally I’ve been doing 5 full body workouts per week. Some days are 9’s and some are 8’s and some are 7’s. I definitely don’t feel overtrained. I believe this approach works better when you stick to mostly lower rep ranges and compound lifts.

      Take care! -Bret

      • Evan says:

        That’s the problem with pithy overly-general statements–people are going to misinterpret them (like I did). I agree that general energy levels should not be taken seriously and that excellent workouts may still occur. However, if you’re experiencing joint pain or soreness, you should definitely be more cautious. I think people can and should work through mild soreness and joint pain–but they should keep the stress to a minimum. Moderate to extreme soreness and joint pain should either be worked very lightly or not at all. I remember one time I was performing squats when my legs were EXTREMELY sore. I was doing my first warmup set with only the BAR and I ended up pulling an adductor muscle. It took 2 weeks to heal!

        Regarding optimal workout frequency, it seems like one should look at the research literature. I’ve read quite a few studies (usually with untrained subjects) that found that 3 full-body workouts per week were better than 1 or 2. I’m not familiar with any studies that have looked into higher frequencies.

        Another question that is relevant to this topic is what the optimal level of effort should be on a high-frequency program. I’ve been looking for studies that have systematically investigated this issue, but I’ve been unable to find any. What I’m looking for is a study where one group is performing an exercise at 100% effort (i.e., to failure); a second group at 90% effort; a third group at 80% effort; and so on. So, for example, if your 8 RM weight for the barbell curl is 100 lb, then performing a set of 8 repetitions with a 90 lb barbell would constitute 90% effort. Perhaps you’re aware of such studies. If no studies have systematically investigated this issue, then I think this might be a very interesting study to conduct.

        Thanks for your time.

        • Bret says:

          Evan, I know the feeling. The hamstrings part of the adductor magnus is a huge hip extensor and I believe that that is the adductor that takes the biggest beating during squats (though all the adductors produce hip extension down deep).

          To answer the other question, many guys have created RPE systems and the like, but I’m not aware of too much research in the area (but there is a study showing that autoregulation was superior to linear or undulating periodization…can’t remember which one).

          I think that the effort also depends on form and grinding. Do a slow grinding round back deadlift and you’ll be wiped out for a week. Do an explosive deadlift with a big arch and you’ll be fine the next day.

          And you’re right, a good study could be made of this.

          Bret

          • Evan says:

            I think grinding reflects effort. The more effort you put forth (and the closer you get to your capacity), the more you’ll grind. That’s why people grimace more during a grinding rep than a fast rep.

            And, by the way, the reason why I think effort is so important is because mental effort reflects muscle activation. The more psychological effort you expend, the stronger the signal from the brain to the muscle will be. Muscle activation will be similarly high at the end of 10RM set or a 1RM set. And I believe it’s the high muscle activation which causes the stress to the muscle tissues (at least to the high-threshold fast-twitch fibers).

            And I agree that faster reps are not as stressful. But again I think that reflects the lower effort (and muscle activation) that occurs with faster reps. Correct me if I’m wrong as you’ve done more EMG work than I have, but I don’t believe fast reps with light loads produces very high muscle activation.

          • Bret says:

            Hey Evan, this is not true. Explosive lifting leads to very high levels of muscle activation. For example, if I did a jump squat the quad MVC would be through the roof. This is why you need to control the tempo when you compare exercises; otherwise the explosive lift would have an unfair advantage. -Bret

          • Evan says:

            Bret,

            With a squat jump you’re still moving your entire body weight. I wonder what the muscle activation would be if you did a fast rep with only half your body weight–or a quarter of your body weight (like on a leg press machine for instance).

            But obviously volume is important too. with a grinding rep not only is effort (and muscle activation) high, but the rep is slower and therefore the muscle is experiencing the tension for a longer duration. Thus one grinding rep represents a greater “volume” than one fast rep.

            However, I still think that controlling effort is the key to making frequent training work. It’s been my experience that if the effort is too high, then even a surprisingly small amount of volume could put you past the threshold into overtraining land.

  • Shon Grosse says:

    Gymnasts who are beyond a beginner level spend 15-24 hours weekly, up to 6 days a week in the gym with otherworldly strength gains. With great coaches, injuries are minimized because exercises are rotated even though similar muscle groupe are worked. Hypertrophy and strength even in prepubescent males can be impressive.

    I am not stating this is the way to go for all, just pointing out another example of effective daily hard training for strength that flies under the radar.

    • Bret says:

      Gymnasts, prisoners, Oly lifters, laborers, athletes, etc. Lots of people training quite frequently and still seeing great physique results. I’m not saying it’s optimal for every purpose either, but for the strength/power/hypertrophy triad I think it is. And good point, the role of the coach is critical in this regard to make sure good form is used, autoregulate when the athlete is wiped out, etc.

  • Matt P says:

    The first time I went through a daily-training setup, I broke myself in with front squats and then gradually added backs into the rotation. Training five days a week M-F, I squatted for four of them and left Thursday for some heavier deadlifting. Worked as well as anything.

    This time, knowing what to expect from it, I just dove right in to the six-day squatting extravaganza. I love your example above, cause that’s exactly where I think people go wrong — they get too enthusiastic and too focused on the *weight* instead of what’s happening in their bodies.

    You gotta autoregulate and shape the program to your body. That’s how this system does its magic. Yes, you will be weaker for a few weeks. You will get beat up. But guess what? Nobody said that training was easy. Nobody ever promised that getting strong would be pain-free. If you want it, you gotta work for it.

    It’s still amazing how many people are writing to me telling me how much stronger they’re getting, and how much better they’re feeling, by lifting heavy and often. There’s no secret, no magic program, just lots of hard work, consistency, and paying attention to your responses.

    • Bret says:

      I overdid it a bit my first time around (which is why I could write for the meathead so easily in this post). But after a while you start understanding the system much better and you learn how to make it work best. And you’re right; people do feel better (as long as they don’t beat themselves up too much). It definitely affects the physiology of the muscles and tendons. Thanks Matt!

  • Rob Panariello says:

    Bret,

    My two cents for whatever it’s worth….

    Based on my experiences in the training of “traditional sport” athletes i.e. football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, etc, not the athletes that are competitive Olympic Weightlifter’s, Powerlifter’s, or Body Builders, my opinion is that it is the exercise performance volume, not the exercise intensity that most often gets an athlete into trouble. This is certainly not to suggest that exercise intensity is not to be carefully programmed, but excessive exercise volume is what usually causes breakdown and injury. Please note, in this described post we are utilizing weight lifting to enhance our athlete’s performance, not creating weightlifters of our athletes.

    In the weight room we instruct our athletes to lift weights, regardless of the intensity, as fast as possible. So even at sub-maximal weight intensities, maximal (speed) efforts are performed. Obviously at higher weight intensities the bar speeds will be slower, but whether it is a factor of the amount of heavy weight lifted, or the increased speed of effort in the lifting of a lighter weight, the efforts that our athletes perform are all maximal. The difference is the exercise volume performed for the workout day, week, or month.

    Let’s take the sport of football, as this is a very physical game performed over a long season. Probably the best examples for endorsing the lifting maximal loads occurred during my time with NFL Strength Coach Johnny Parker. One may think that in-season football workouts should be of “lesser weight intensity” due to the physical beatings the players sustain during a long pre-season, in-season, and if fortunate enough, the playoffs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Johnny utilized an in-season system of players lifting heavy loads. Now football players do practice during the week and also have a heavy contact day(s) as well. They may be tired or a little “beat up” after practice, but they still lifted heavy these days. The reason why they could heavy was the player’s ability to recover quickly. This is why prior to taking on such a program as you have described, the athlete has to be initially prepared with an adequate work capacity (GPP). As exercise performance volume changes (increases) so does the work capacity (it improves) enabling the athlete to perform more work (increase strength and power).

    However, during the in-season we don’t want high exercise volume, but we do want high exercise intensity. The mistake that most coaches make (in my opinion) is as the sports season progresses that they want to keep their athletes “fresh”. This is a mistake because they shouldn’t be as concerned with “keeping the athletes fresh” as much as they should be concerned with “keeping their athletes strong”.

    The examples I previously mentioned (an individual and team examples) are as follows: a running back set a PR in-season in the Power Clean on a Wednesday and rushed for 202 yards in a regular season game on a Saturday (at the end of the season). The best example I may provide is how an eventual Superbowl team played for 17 weeks and then had 35 individual players set a PR in at least 1 exercise lift in the SAME PLAYOFF WEEK.

    Weight intensity is so important (and we certainly need intensity) in training but so is controlling the exercise volume. Set appropriate exercise performance volumes and your heavy intensities will follow. For those that would like to increase their number of training days (off-season), once your exercise volume for the week is set, a simple example for the daily division of these reps would be as follows:

    5 Day Workout

    Monday 27%, Tuesday 13%, Wednesday 15%, Thursday 30%, Friday 15% = 100% of the reps for the week

    6 Day Workout

    Monday 26%, Tuesday 11%, Wednesday 19%, Thursday 11%, Friday 22%, Saturday 11% = 100% of the reps for the week.

    The workout days with less exercise performance reps available will require less specific exercises to be performed. If there are enough daily workout reps available, then two workouts for the day may be appropriate. It is also very important to determine the weight intensity (zone of intensity) for when the athlete starts counting the exercise reps performed, i.e. at 60% 1 RM, at 70% 1 RM, at 80% 1 RM, etc…

    Lastly, I would be very careful with your described program of high intensity. Many athletes THINK they can lift heavier weights at higher volumes than they are prepared for. Often enough their eyes (egos) are bigger than their abilities so to speak.

    Just my opinion

    • Bret says:

      Rob, I always love the anecdotes you share. They’re priceless. I am in complete agreement that strength can and should be maintained in season, and that keeping exercise intensity up is the way to do so. I also really like your volume fluctuations in your weekly examples. Finally, I an in complete agreement that the system needs to be modified considerably when you deal with athletes, and that most athletes would try to do too much if left to their own devices on this type of system and would need some checks and balances put in place. Thanks! Bret

    • Carlo Buzzichelli says:

      Hello Bob,

      I agree that the main culprit for injury in sport training is the volume, anything done in low or moderate volume can be eventually recovered quickly (locally and systemically). I would add that the intensity of aerobic training and the intensity of effort (not the intensity relative to the 1RM) in strength training have to be kept below max if injuries have to be avoided at all cost, unless VERY low volume is used. Local and, especially, systemic recovery is the key. To give you and the readers an idea of how systemic recovery, even of apparently almost indipendent (if that could even be possible) physiological systems, can affect injuries, I want to mention that the dutch élite coach Henk Kraaijenhof found, using the Omegawave testing device, a correlation between the state of recovery of the heart and hamstring injuries. What we get from this is that the innate intelligence of the human body, which is nothing less than a self-survival system, “sacrifices” a skeletal muscle to defend a “hierarchically” (survival wise) more important muscle (the heart). In the same way, a body loaded with an excessive volume of diverse stimuli, as it happens in sport preparations, for instance, will more likely get injured. In fact, this is also what emerge from the work of Tim Gabbett, PhD, as it was presented at the 7th World Congress of Science and Football (presentation available here: http://www.youtube.com/user/wcsf2011?blend=1&ob=5#p/search/0/6K7bOOteRjk). True, we want to use weightlifting to prevent injury and to improve the performance of our athletes, and we use it with a lot of time constraints (both in preparation length, and workout length), which call for a higher average intensity, thus a lower volume. I also agree that we need high intensity and low volume during the season.

      Training to maximize strength without time constraints, like most weightlifters, powerlifters and strength training enthusiasts do, is a different beast. The high volume, mostly reached thru the work in the Zone 1 and the Zone 2 of intensity (50-70% of 1 RM – soviet scale), either via longer workouts or higher frequency, is a must to improve the intermuscular coordination in competitive exercises, which is the foundation of a higher level of strength in such exercises. This approach can be seen in most eastern block weightlifting programs, in Pavel’s 40 day program, in Dan John’s “Easier Strength”, in Sheiko’s workouts, and so on. What makes this approach less suitable for athletes is that the intermuscular coordination trained in/for/with general exercises (requiring of volume and time), has no carryover to sport specific movements, especially if specific training is performed extensively. The only use of such intermuscular coordination work for general exercises (i.e. technical work for strength exercises) would be the strength progression over time of the general exercises themselves, that would give a higher general stimulus in the mid and long term; thus we could eventually consider such approach suitable for those individual sports athletes with whom several years of coaching are presumable.

      Best,
      Carlo Buzzichelli

  • Clement says:

    Hi Bret, I have two questions pertaining to this kind of training:

    1. When you alternate lower and upper body exercises, do you go for an upper body max attempt as well?

    2. How are you currently training and how frequently do you deadlift heavy?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Bret says:

      Clement, yes, I go for a max press. Some days I do bench, some days incline, and some days close grip. Every once in a while I’ll throw in military press as well, and every once in a while dips, db bench press, db incline, or db military. Usually it’s bench or incline though. I can press every day, but most people wouldn’t be able to get away with this. The style of lifting matters…a powerlifting style bench will beat you up less than a bodybuilding style bench. With bench, incline, and close grip I go for maxes, but with the other lifts I mentioned I go for reps. But then sometimes I don’t max. For example, I might do 3 x 5 or 5 x 3 on close grip bench. And let’s say I’m maxing and I get a certain weight pretty easy but I’m not quite sure if I’m capable of getting 5 lbs heavier, I just won’t go for it. I’ll “save it” for the next day.

      As for the deadlift, lately I’ve been doing deadlift one day and good mornings the next. Some days I’ll max on the deadlift while others I’ll pull for speed. I always leave around 10 lbs in the tank on my maxes, meaning that if I let my form slide I could always max at a little higher weight. Every once in a while, I won’t do any squats or deads if I’m feeling really beat up. For example, today I just did 4 sets of hip thrusts. Usually I front squat or squat and deadlift or good morning 4-5 times per week.

      • Clement says:

        Wow, that is some really high intensity! I guess that by pairing your exercises, you get to train more efficiently. Thanks for your reply!

      • Sven says:

        Hi Bret. How would you fit in a few low level plyo drills, and a few sets of hang power cleans or snatches into this? Or would it be too much, on top of squats and deadlifts? Also, I suppose there’s no room for any isolations? Cheers.

  • allie says:

    I adore training 4-5x a week. Its not EVERY day by any means but is more than the previous max recommendation floating arond of only 3 days a week. Great article and helpful insight!

  • Yusef says:

    Thanks for this article, Bret. A few of my colleagues are trying this form of training adapted directly from Broz’s methods and experiencing some knee pain. I’ll shoot them a link to this post and hopefully that will get them to tone it down a bit!

  • Corey Grant says:

    Dear Brett, Ive been doing the daily training and been using your progression model as you prescribed, and ive been enjoying it very much and ive been getting stronger and stronger. I usually do DL for speed and throw in some GM’s heavy once or twice a week. The thing is I miss doing my high rep Deadlifting, im thinking throwing them in on friday or saturday at the end of the week would suffice, but i know lots of DL taxes the CNS, im wondering would 3 sets of 10 reps of DL at the end of the week once a week be too much? I’m honestly feeling as it may be viable

  • Thomas says:

    Great post! I’ve done 3 days of this type of squatting so far, and am ashamed to say the johnny meathead pre and post workout comments sound very much like me LOL! I will definitely slow down, introduce some light days and ease into it. My only concern is this point ‘ 5. Don’t perform any grinders. Don’t use any load so heavy that you can’t perform the concentric portion in under 3 seconds. Better yet 2 seconds.’
    Is that meant when easing into it, or all the time? Because I don’t think that’s what John Broz had in mind. I saw a post from his Q&A on bodybuilding.com, where he told another poster that the max should either be (a) a failed attempt, or (b) a rep so hard that if a fly were to land on it you would fail. If you meant that just while easing into it, obviously it doesn’t apply, though.

    thanks again for the post

  • Tim says:

    Should I be doing power cleans every day? I have been doing them for 5 weeks or so and I’m not really progessing much?

    Ok SO I have been following this routine for about 5 weeks now and had to take one week off due to illness.
    Monday / Friday
    Heavy back squat 160kg 3×3 last few fridays work up to a max single.
    Some kind of row 3×10
    Power Jerks two or three sets to work up to a tough double. On Mondays

    Wednesday
    Front Squat 3X3 @ 60kg ( 50% Max)
    Row 3×10

    Tuesday / Thursday.
    Backsquat 110kg 3×5 reps

    The last couple of weeks I added regular bench and shoulder work. Just three sets on each, monday – wed, friday.

    Speed Deads every day 110kg 3×3 ( max 190kg) for the first three weeks. Now doing Power cleans daily instead.

    Also doing rotator work every day

    Well I hit a PB in back squat on friday and beat my previous which I was stuck on for around nine months. I squatted 180 easily when my previous best was a shaky 170, more to the point it felt easy and I knew I could have easily done 190 which would have been a 20kg gain in 5 weeks. Not bad at all and now I definetly believe in this programme and the methdology behind it! the week which I hit my PB I had dropped daily speed deads too.

  • Tim says:

    Bret I eventually hit 195kg parallel squat after around five weeks training as above. I then kind of platuead for around two months, can one continue to squat 5 days a week and progress ?

  • Minimalist says:

    Great article Bret! I tried daily squatting 5×5 and was dying by the end of 6 days, just as you described, so I just deduced daily maxing is not for me.

    Reading your approach made much more sense.

    I will be giving this a try soon I think!

    Thanks again.

    L.

  • Bilal says:

    I am sorry i am posting this here but i had no idea how else to contact you.I have some doubts

    1.While doing push ups what is the optimal position for neck?looking down and forward or chin tucked?

    2.Should my chest touch the floor while doing them?

    3.is the 45 degree angle of elbows with shoulders optimal or should the elbows be tucked in ie hands shoulder width apart as opposed to a wider hand placement?

    4.While doing pull ups should the elbows be tucked in always for proper recruitment of lats?

    5.how can i actually pull through my lats instead of biceps and forearms(i read somewhere that you are supposed to imagine your forearms as just hooks and pull through your back…).

    6.How to initiate the pull up smoothly by scapular retraction and should i arch my back always and keep it that way during pull ups?

    6.crossing feet during pull ups or not?

    7.Breathing technique for both push ups and pull ups.

    Thanks a lot
    Looking forward to your reply
    Yours sincerely

  • Dominick says:

    I find this way of training amazing. Since I train at home with no squat rack nor bench, I use the barbell hack squat for the deep knee bend aspect of strength, which I cycle with the Jefferson squat. I found the transition into daily training easier than I thought: I had been training full-body 3-4 times a week with some volume, so I basically spreed it over six days (pretty much like those Norwegians). Wow! My BB hack squat went from 365 to 405 within a month! I know now how it feels to come in, hit a PR and then come back the next day and lift 10 pounds more with even less of a struggle. I did a double at 375; a weight I couldn’t budge just two months ago. For the deadlift, I’m learning to feel from the bar speed when I’m ready to test for a new max (if I feel up to it). It would be hard for me to go back to a different training style!

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