Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your Challenge - 2012 - Squat Push Pull Condition for 1 year

The continuation of my article about Superman can't be Batman is this.

I challenge anyone reading this, whose progress has sucked, is frustrated, hasn't made any gains in a while, and is a chronic routine changer to get aboard the bandwagon for the next 12 fucking months and do this.

Three times a week.  You will do a squat, a push, and a pull each workout.

Two days a week you will condition.

Two days a week you will work on mobility and do prehab.

Yup, this is nothing more than three full body sessions, madcow, starr, rippetoe, what the fuck ever you want to call it.

However I am going to change some things up, as I see fit.

The Q&A will be available each week to make adjustments.  But they can't be wholesale changes to the routine unless you have a legit disability to perform one of the movements.  Then we'll work it out.

Before you start you must state your goals for the next 12 months, and what your PR's in the big 3 are.

I want you to look at this in 4, 3-month phases.  We will use the strong15 spreadsheet in terms of programming the big3.  I will show you how to split this out in the routine.


Day 1 - 
Squats - cycle - DO NOT do the pause squats today
Push - Overhead Work - Seated/Standing/PBN/Db Press - You will pick one of the 4 for each 3 month block. - Including warm ups you will go 10,8,6,5,5,5   The 5,5,5 can be with the same weight or up to a top set.  I don't care.  Just pick a version and stick with it for each 3 month block.
Pull - Use the back off sets of deadlifts from the strong15 here.

Day 2 - 
1-Legged Squats/Lunges/1-Legged Leg Press - Ok so this is not quite a squat, but 1-legged work is invaluable.  5 sets of 10 here.  What I recommend is to do 2 sets of 10 for warm ups, then add weight for the last 3 sets of 10.  Do not ignore 1 legged work.  It's invaluable for injury prevention.  And hard.
Push - Bench - cycle including the back off sets
Pull - Db Rows/Cable Rows/T-bar Rows/Weighted Chins - including warm ups, 10,8,6,5,5,5.  Same principles concerning day 1 of overhead pressing.  Pick a row/chin for 3 months and go after it.


Day 3 -
Pause Squats - cycle (so you will use the back off sets of pause squats in the strong15 spreadsheet here or the "test" set)
Push - Incline Press/Incline Db Press/Db Bench Press/Hammer Strength Press - including warm ups 10,8,6,5,5,5  You get the idea.
Pull - Deadlift - use the strong15 spreadsheet here and work up to the single for the day.

Conditioning - 
2X a week.
Hills/Sprints/Prowler/Car Pushing/Sledge Hammer/Bag Work - 20 minutes.
You do not need to kill yourself here.  Just think about "getting in shape".  If you are out of shape, take it easy the first few weeks until you start feeling better.  Remember, you have 12 months.  Don't kill yourself the first two fucking weeks trying to be a hero.
Abs - Ab wheel or decline sit ups - 3 sets of 10-20  Do this after the conditioning.


Restoration - 
2X a week
Steady state - 30 minutes
Foam or PVC roll - IT band, quads, upper and lower back.
Stretching - hams, IT band, hip flexors, rotator cuff
Injury Prevention - curls, rotator cuff, calf raises, - 2-3 sets of 20 for each

You will be training everyday.  If you miss a day, don't sweat it, but try not to miss a day.  If you do.  Just make it up on the next day you can.  If you get sick, train through it unless it's the flu or a chest cold.  Then take the time off.  If you have a cold or whatever, nut the fuck up and train.

Every three months pick a new movement if it is an option.  Try to set some new PR's on the sets of 5 with that movement near the end of each training phase.

Cycling -

This is NOT complicated.

You will program like you want to hit a LITTLE PR every 3 months.  You will not actually hit that weight.  You will eventually hit it on a following cycle, but it will be lighter than you anticipated.  You will only hit 93% of it.  You need to use some calibration here.  If you SMOKE the 93% you know you are good for what you programmed for.  If the 93% crushes your ass, then you overestimated what you were capable of.

Breaking it down a little more -

On Monday you will squat the programmed 5,4,3,2,1,1,1 with no back offs.
On Monday you will deadlift with the back off sets.  This is 2x5, or 2x3, or 1x8 (if you have the strong15 you know what I'm talking about).

On Wednesday you will do the bench cycle INCLUDING the back off sets.

On Friday you will do the pause squat or back off squat set that is programmed.
On Friday you will do the 5,4,3,2,1,1,1 for the deadlift that is programmed.

Notes - Do not ask me "can I add...."  The answer is no.  Squat, push, pull, condition, rehab and mobility.  I have given some options above.  But I want the focus to be on progression, conditioning, and staying injury free.

I will be making a new tab on the main page for this post.

Notes - 

  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT OVERESTIMATE YOUR MAX.  If you do, your training will fail.  The weights should be OWNED every week.  This will build confidence and help you tweak technique as well.  At some point the weights will get heavy, and this is a must and a need.  It will happen.  But you can run a flying 40 faster than you can from a dead stop.  Start off light in order to get a flying start towards your goal.
  • Clean up your diet.  Most of you know what this means.  I don't feel like being a dietitian about this.  Cut the shit out.  Eat lots of quality protein, fats, and carbs.  Reduce carbs if you know you need to drop some flab.  Add some in pre and post workout if you want to gain mass without excess fat.  
  • Yes, you're deadlifting twice a week.  Spare me the CNS bullshit.  It's just that.  Bullshit.  One deadlift session is heavier, one is light.  Same for squats.  Once you get in shape you'll be surprised at how much work you can do.    
  • I'll have to repeat it because some won't listen.  Don't kill yourself on the conditioning work.  20 minutes of intervals twice a week, with two days of steady state will get you into solid shape.  MMA fighting shape?  No.  But it will give you a base in case that's something you wanted to transition into.  
  • Own this shit, and own your fuck ups.  If you have been flopping around every few months from routine to routine dig down for once in your life, and do 12 months of nothing put squat, push, pull.  I have covered, not smothered, the other issues enough so that you should be able to stay injury free, get into condition, and have some variety in your training.  Don't be a wanker about this.  Make a commitment to lifting heavy iron on the basics for 1 fucking year, and sticking to a program.  If you're not better from top to bottom after that 12 months I'll send you a free shirt or something.  
  • This kind of training is not new, but it works and works well.  From noobs to advanced guys, it has something to offer.  If you are a noob you get a whole fucking year to build a solid base.  If you're an advanced guy that has been stuck or piddling around, wondering what the fuck to do, now may be a  good time to go back to the roots.  If you're coming off an injury or a long layoff, this kind of training is especially money.  I know it was for me.  
  • Make yourself accountable for 1 fucking year of this.  It's not that difficult.  If you know you're going to lift weights until you have no teeth and are shitting your pants without knowledge of it, a year is nothing.  And you'll be better off for it.  


  1. Awesome post, Paul. Although I have been lifting for a while, my ability to design programming for myself is not where it should be. Working with this template for the next 12 months should remedy that. My current PRs in each lift are 305 bench, 455 squat, and 500 deadlift. My goal is to add 250lbs to my powerlifting total in 12 months. That would be then a 355 bench, 555 squat, and 600 deadlift.

    The weak link in that is my pressing, but with the squat and deadlift it is just the matter of the application of will. I am also going to worry about getting to around 12% body fat before I start chasing big 1 rep max PRs.

  2. Jesus, this is a great blog. If I only had one job or could afford to go to multiple gyms this kind of challenge is exactly what I would like. As it is, I look forward to reading along and taking inspiration from those that take part. Thanks as always for hammering away at what you know works, and for encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

  3. Paul,
    Man, I really needed to read this. I had a pretty nasty hip injury a few months ago and it has completely wrecked my lower body training. I've been working with really light weights on both the squat and DL, but I haven't had a lot of real structure to my training--so seeing this post couldn't have come at a better time.

    I'm definitely in on this, but I do have a question about the set-up. The conditioning and recovery work won't be a problem as far as finding time to get that stuff done. The training part I can only make it to the gym on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Do you see this as a big issue since on one day (Saturday) I'd be doing pause squats and the next I'd be deadlifting? Just wanted to get your opinion on this before I hit the road running.


  4. brian - situate it like this.....

    wednesday -
    squats - cycle to heavy singles
    deadlift - cycle to heavy singles

    saturday - pause squats
    sunday - back off deadlifts

  5. Excuse my ignorance, but who is the guy in the push picture? I know Captain Kirk is in the Squat picture and Konstantinovs is in the pull picture, so does the push guy's name start with K too or something?

    Oh, and I'm really looking forward to Chaos and Bang 2

  6. Paul, do I cut back on assistance work for the next 12 months, or do I insert on an as needed basis?

  7. Back to the basics. Squat/Push/Pull. Got it.

  8. I am in.

    Squat: 385x5
    Bench: 210x8
    Dead: 430x5

    Goals, I will do my first meet on March 23rd at the USAPL Battle on the Border. I basically just want to go in confident and not bomb out, secondary goal would be to total 1400.

    But my big goal this year is to Squat 5, Bench 3, and Pull 6

  9. What percent of your E1RM would you plug into the max portion of the strong 15 spreadsheet?

  10. Really glad someone else actually thinks programs are very long endeavors--4 weeks is a joke.
    "Your body adapts after 4 weeks! You must switch programs!!!"
    No, the next issue of Muscle and Fitness/Flex/whatever comes out in 4 weeks...
    And last time I checked, adaptation was the name of the game.
    Good post, Paul.

  11. Great post Paul. I'm going in for hernia surgery soon and have been taking the past couple weeks off trying to nurse a bad chest strain after hitting some weighted dips. I think this type of training will be great once I'm able to hit the gym again in full stride. Thanks for this

  12. I'm so in!

    Deadlift 455x5
    Bench 225x5
    And if my legs get their shit together
    Squat 315x10

    My goal is to have a total above 1000. Right now i'm hanging out just under 900.

  13. Paul, thanks for all you do. I'm in!

    Info (long): Steve, 6'7", 237lbs, 35 years old, washed up athlete. Big time program flipper and accountability is a great thing!
    I compete in both the Highland Games and Sprint triathlons (the ultimate generalist, I know. But what the hell, I enjoy doing both).

    Squat - 295 last week, all time PR is 335 two years ago
    Bench - 280, 335 all time PR two years ago
    DL - 365, all time PR is 420 two years ago

    2012 Strength goals by 3 month cycle (these are the "1st/2nd/3rd attempts I plan to enter into Strong 15 worksheet) per 3 month block:
    1.Squat – 295/315/335, 315/335/355, 335/355/375, 355/375/405 – this would be70lb all time PR
    2.Bench – 275/295/315, 295/315/335, 315/335/345, 325/345/355 – this would be 20lb all time PR
    3.DL – 315/365/405, 365/405/425, 405/425/445, 425/445/465 – 45lb all time PR
    4.Set PR’s on all Highland Games events

    Condtioning goals:
    1.Sub 2hour half Marathon – first one this fall was 2:11 and did not go all out
    2.Get faster from last year’s sprint tri times (this will not be hard)- will be swimming with master's swim club at lunch twice a week - I'm a terrible swimmer so this is 100% anaerobic or interval, LOL. Two easy days of run or bike for steady state.

    Cleaning up my diet big time too. I am at 16% bodyfat mainly because I was a fast food eating machine and I set an all time record for pie/fudge/toffee consumption this holiday season. It was impressive.

    Did Day 1 today. I did box pulls (mid shin) as my back off DL sets as (a) you have written about them before as acceptable, (b) I'm actually weaker from mid shin than from the floor and (c) being so tall and having a hard time maintaining a great pulling position from the floor, seems the boxes might be a smart orthopedic choice for the light day. Plan to pull from the floor on Day 3 per cycle.

    Sorry for the length but I'm all in! Let's hit some PR's!

  14. I'm definitely giving this a go. I have problems with getting my squat weights up, but i actually came to an epiphany the other night and found every piece of the squat that works for me.

    Squat: Testing it Friday
    Bench: 225x5
    Deadlift: 310x7

    BW: 185

    Goals: 1086 Wilks total

  15. Patrick - Plug in a realistic goal to hit. You gotta use some calibration for that.

    A note to everyone. Notice that you're squatting and pulling via programming on Monday and Friday now. I switched that out. It only made sense after I thought about it.

  16. Where can we find the strong15 spreadsheet?


  17. Hi Paul, a question regarding the use of Strong 15 worksheet for 3 month blocks. The strong worksheet has 11 weeks (9 weeks of training, 1 week off or light work) and the week of the meet. This program use 4, 3-month phases (so 12 weeks). How can we use the Strong 15 worksheet to better fit with the 3 month phase? In week 11 can we use the light work and in week 12 we can go for PR in all tree big movement? Thanks for this program, Marius

  18. Good post, I'll try this in 9 weeks after my current program will need subbing.

    However! When is a "Little PR" too little? That is to say, do you believe it's possible to undersell yourself on a PR attempt. Is all progress created equal?

  19. Marius - I say to break it down in quarters as more of a mental issue. So you'll reprogram every 9 weeks. But just make some movement changes every 12.

    F. Moore - It's in my programs that I sell. Philosophy of Training programs. Link at the top.

  20. Hey Paul, I have 2 questions. If I do the lifting days on Mon/Wed/Fri, should I put the conditioning on Tues/Thurs or something different? With the 1-leg squats are you talking about "pistols", or something like a split squat (rear leg raised)?
    Your blog is incredibly informative and inspirational. Thank you for all the work you put in to it. - MC

  21. Yes, split squats with rear leg raised.

    I would put the conditioning days on Tues and Thurs, and then use the weekend to recover with the restorative work.

  22. How would you up the program if you had lift two days in a row. Due to work schedule i have to lift sat,sun, tuesday or wednesday. Just bought the program and plan maxing out on lifts this weekend to see where i,m at exactly before starting. Thanks John.

  23. It shouldn't change because you lift two days in a row. It can still be done.

  24. Let me add here, you can run the full 11 weeks then do a "fake meet" or just reprogram after 9 weeks and keep going. All up to you. Use some calibration to decide how you feel.

  25. Paul, when you talk about calf raises do you mean standing? I've seen where some guys question the value of seated. I've always had naturally big calves so have never really messed with direct calf work before, but I'm going to run your UB program and want to do it by the letter.

  26. Just use all variations. Seated, 1-legged standing, donkey, whatever. I find them all to be about equal.

  27. While I won't be running this specific template, I'm going to be applying the basic principles with an RTS style program. My current best are (all at 190):
    Squat 330
    Bench 235
    Deadlift 435

    My goals are a 2xBW squat, 1.5x bench, and 2.5x squat. That should put me close to a class 1 total in the 198s.
    Thanks for all you do paul. I really appreciate it

  28. I had my first lifting workout of the template. I thought the test set of squats combined with the deadlift, as I am in week 3 of my latest strong 15 cycle, would have been too much. It was not. Once my work capacity increases it should not prove to be an issue anymore.

  29. Hunker down for the long haul Ramon.

  30. I'm in !

    Squats - high bar and no belt. Deads - conventional and no belt. Bench - close grip and paused.

    Current PR's - Squat 200kg (440 with belt) Bench 150 (330) and Deadlift 230 (500 with belt)

    Starting weights are 155 squat (done today) 122 bench (120 for an easy paused double last week) and 200 deadlift (easy 200 last week with belt)

    Aims for the year - 220 squat, 160 bench, 250 deadlift - I'd like to be able to Ab Roll 20kg for 10 (currently 10 x 6, I think) and do a single standing Ab Roll. I quite fancy a 100kg PBN for 5 too (currently 80)

    Conditioning is beyond horrible - I have 30 pounds of fat to loose

    I'd like to be able to rattle off 10-15 minutes on the rower at sub 2.00/500m pace (currently near death at the 1.45 mark)

    I'm 40 in July and would like to compete around that time as a mid point to see where I am.

    Paul - are Dips acceptable for Day 3 ? Dumbells are a pain to set up and load at home.

    My home gym will be fully lit and heated by the end of the week (electrician booked) so I can fit most of the work around my stupid shifts.

    My dog's leg is fully healed so we can do the steady state stuff and the sprints together !

    Day one completed today - some sort of conditioning tomorrow.

  31. I'm in. 6'2", 195ish.

    Squat - 290x5 (not at this right now... at about 300x1 presently)
    Deadlift - 350x5
    Press - 140x1
    Bench - Not really sure, prob ~200 or a bit over?

    I'd be happy to get my squat to squat 350, pull 420, bench 230, and press 160 by the end of the year. I just pulled these numbers out of my ass.

  32. Hey Paul,

    can I cycle the overhead work as well instead of hitting 3 sets of 5s?

  33. You can still cycle it with 3 sets of 5. Just add 10 or 20 pounds a week to it. Start off light.

  34. Paul,

    On the 8+ rep day for the DL in Strength15, what sort of rep range should I hit? Or is it a AMRAP style day?


  35. No just do the 8 reps. If you can hit that 8 you should be good for the max. Again, this is probably going to change in the next version which I will be running for the meet in April.

  36. So, I'm way late to the party here. I don't even know how I found this link, but I downloaded the spreadsheets, program, etc. and have made pretty good progress so far. I am 56 years old with tons of battle damage that I won't bore you with. Had rotator cuff surgery earlier this year. Started with a pathetic total of 640 and am up to 715 after six months. My deadlift actually went down so I think I need to make a few adjustments before the final six months. Took a couple of weeks off due to overseas travel and I'm ready to do my final six months. I toyed around with some bodybuilding in hotel gyms but its really boring after attempting strength work. My goal is to total 1000, get better conditioned and achieve some permanent fat loss. Will update again after the next three months. Thanks, Jack

    1. Wow that's great, Jack! You may be late to the party, but you're here. That's all that matters. Have a great holiday season!

  37. Paul, Thank you for your Blog. Its great to come here and get some common sense advice. So, I finished my year. Final results: started at 640 and wound up at 780. I think I could have made 800 but I was on the road for 30 days when I tried my maxes. Been working out at random military gyms, not getting enough sleep and the diet has been horrible. So what now? I want to try to continue to work on my goal to total 1000, lose some belly fat and improve conditioning. Any ideas? Thanks, Jack

  38. Paul thankyou for this simplicity and thankyou for calling me out as i have jumped and jumped and failed this year completely.Wasted so many ml's and time and calories for results that simply dont add up.Im taking a few weeks off and doing moderate weight and then it begins.