Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Big and Small sessions

This is going to be a big part of the new big-15 program and has given me a way to kind of pin down the "type" of sessions to be done during a template.

This could have gone in the book but I will give you guys this out of the fucking goodness of my plums.

It seems simplistic, because it is.  But one of the great things about simply applying a label to a session, is that it reminds you of what it's about.

Big sessions are essentially sessions where you use multi joint movements, and move as much weight as possible.  Usually 1-3 "big" movements are done in a big session.  Volume is more limited, and a bigger emphasis is placed on working as hard as possible.  After the big movements, lesser movements can be done as supportive work, or not, depending on feel.

Big workout.......

A big lower body session could be squats with a 50% set, followed up by hamstring curls and calves.  Or it could be squats then hack squats, then some calves if after those two big movements you are spent.

Upperbody is always a push, a pull, then either some light assistance work, or a secondary press.  The secondary press can be done in a myriad of ways.  Volume with light to medium weight, or up to a heavy ass single, if you went balls out reps on the first press.  There is some playing room after the first push and pull.  This is the time where you get to play a little bit, but also work hard.

These are your hardest sessions of the week.  Pretty much no matter who you are, 2-3 is going to be the max number of big sessions you will do in a given week.

A small session are usually single joint movements, but can be multi joint.  However an emphasis is placed on volume, working fast, and not worrying too much about progression, but not throwing it away all together.  A small workout would be something like face pulls for 6 sets of 20, then curls and triceps and abs.  All in a circuit or just with very little rest.

Cable face pulls.  A new fave and this chic is jacked too, which is uper cool

You don't have to go heavy to make this work, and in fact, the emphasis should be on going light, and resting very little to force as much blood through the working area as possible.

Some high level overview ways to think about splitting up your big and small sessions -

Training for absolute mass - 3 big and 3 small - You will actually have 2 upper and 2 lower workouts that you rotate in here.  So one week you'd do upperbody #1 and #2, and lower body #1, and the next week lowerbody #1 and #2, and upperbody #1.  You can even split this across 1,2,3 workouts for upper and lower as well.  I would not exceed three however.

Training for recomp - 2 big 1-3 small - Basically, this is for guys like myself, who are near their peak, need a little more recovery time, but still work hard as fuck to make gains.  I can't do 3 big sessions anymore because of the poundage I move.  No, I'm not Kazmier, but for me, the lifts I move I don't recovery fast enough from anymore to train 3X a week.  That's why the little sessions are so beautiful.  I can do 2-3 little sessions on top of my big ones, and fill in all the cracks to what is usually a very limited program.

Training with in-season sports - 1-2 big 1-2 small Not a lot different than training for a recomp, but possibly training even less.  For a guy that is training in MMA for example, he could even get away with 1 big lower session (squats and deads), and 1 small session (pull aparts, arms, abs, calves) one week, then 1 big upper body session the next week (incline, rows, clean and press) and 1 small lower body session (lunges, leg curls, calves).

These templates and splits leave LOTS of room for individualizing and customization.  The important thing to remember is what a big workout is, and what a small workout is.  Jesus fucking christ, don't ask "can I do db bench presses on the small workout day".  Do that on a big workout day.  The small sessions are not supposed to zap recovery much if AT ALL.  Use the small sessions to hit stuff like rear delts, cuff work, biceps and triceps, and rehab any nagging injuries.  If you're a bodybuilder, use them to do stuff like bring up lagging bodyparts by targeting those areas with an isolation movement.

This is part of the new foundation of my ideology because I have really evolved my training into this, and it has worked beautifully.

More on this in Strength - Life - Legacy.


  1. Actually I've been training like this for five weeks now and I really love it. I usually do three big-three small sessions per week.

  2. Paul,

    Off topic question a bit but wanted to hear your advice. My fiances best friend recently started dating my fiances ex. Her friend thinks that there is nothing wrong with this and that the four of us should be able to hang out. I told her friend and my fiance I wanted nothing to do with that shit and that I feel uncomfortable with my fiance hanging out with her friend when her ex fuck buddy is there. I am a jealous guy so naturally I want nothing to do with this situation. This friend is a terrible influence on my fiance. In fact a lot of her friends are terrible influences on her. I firmly believe that friends come and go and if someone isn't making you a better person or adding some sort of value to your life than you cut that person out. Plain and simple. Life is to short for dealing with that shit. My fiance just can't seem to wrap her head around this fact.

    The question is, how do I handle this with my fiance? She has been friends with this girl for a long time and has friendships that go back a lot longer than when I came around, each one negatively effecting her and our relationship. Every time I bring stuff like this up she gets defensive. She says I am insensitive and that she can't just throw away these friendships. How should I approach this situation? Sorry for the novel.


  3. Paul, I'm about to enter a period of about 6 weeks where I can only train Friday-Sunday. I've been tinkering with a program for that period that incorporates stuff I've done before successfully on a 2-day split along with some things I've never tried. I've never asked for programming feeback before, but here goes:
    a)Clean and Press - Medium to Heavy depending on progress/feel
    b)Back Squat - Medium to Heavy depending on progress/feel
    c)DB Rows - 5 sets of 15-25
    d)Leg Curl variation - 5 sets of 10-20
    e)Farmers Carries - never done these, but thinking to do them for time. Something like down and back with 45 second rests for 15+ minutes.
    a)Steady State or Hard Conditioning based on progress/feel
    z)Steady State in the morning
    a)Front Squats - Medium to Heavy depending on progress/feel
    b)Deadlift - Heavy to Very Heavy depending on progress/feel
    c)Dip variation - 5 sets of 10+
    d)1 of GHR, RDL, DB RDL (rotating every week) - 5 sets of 10+
    e)Sledge Hammer Swings - for time; 15+ minutes
    Mid-Week at Home:
    a)Bodyweight work - lunges and push-ups
    b)Band work - pull-aparts, OH extensions, biceps curls

    Goals here are fourfold:
    1) Maintain or slightly improve the bigger lifts
    2) Maintain conditioning levels (diet will obviously be a factor)
    3) Bring up one muscle group (hamstrings)
    4) Squat, Pull, and Push every session with more Pulling than Pushing

    1. too much shit for me.

      Fri - big 1 squat/deadlift (alternate each week), abs, condition all in the same session
      Sat - big 2 bench, chin, overheads
      Sun - small 1 face pulls, lunges, biceps, triceps

    2. I hear you on "too much shit." I've gotten myself in trouble with that before on 2-day splits. I'll pare it back.

      To drill down a bit, you think my goals 3 and 4 are unrealistic in this situation? (I had some success bringing up biceps on a 2-day split before, but maybe you find the hamstrings are a different animal?)

    3. You have to decide that. I tend to go after battles I feel I can win.

    4. Thanks. Appreciated as always.

  4. Forgive me lack of understanding, but are we supposed to do 3 big sessions a week, on top of 3 sessions? Working out 6x a week for all out mass? Or is it 3 big movements, followed by 3 small movements all in one workout?

    Very much looking forward to your book, Paul.

    1. Read it again Anonymous........3 big workouts a week, and 3 small ones......that's 6 times a week.

  5. Jesus, I typed out a long response and then somehow it got fucking deleted.

    First off, I agree with your philosophy. I do not keep friends around that do not add something to my life in a meaningful and positive way. I cut loose of the leeches very quickly.

    Second, that's not jealousy. I wouldn't let my wife hang out with a friend who was dating one of her ex's regardless of the situation. I also think it's fucking odd that her friend would date her ex. I think it's odd for him and her, and the fact that your fiance doesn't think it's weird.

    Anyway, all relationships require flexibility to keep working. If that is truly something you have told her bothers you, she should respect it.

    If you have talked about it before and told her you aren't cool with it and she doesn't care, personally, I'd offer up a flexible plan that should could stay friends with her friend but can't hang out with her if he's with her. If she balks at that I'd say that I'm trying to make a compromise here in order to show I am willing to do so. Then I'd say start laying down ultimatums if she doesn't like your compromise.

    You want a woman who is willing to walk through fire for you. If she's not willing to give up a friendship that is clearly deteriorating your own relationship, do you think this is the girl that is going to stay with you regardless of what comes down the pipe?

    You have to ask yourself these questions.....and ask her those questions as well. That's my take.

  6. Paul,

    Thank you for the response. I cannot seem to register why she continually wants people in her life that won't let her forget her past or that won't challenge her to be better. I appreciate the advice. I will get back to you and let you know how it works out.


  7. Soon I should have a barbell and a bunch of weight for my garage gym but nothing else (yet) so I will still go to a commercial gym for my main workouts. With this limited equipment at home what would you do to take advantage of it possibly incorporating the small workouts somehow? I was thinking of using it just to get some extra volume on lifts like OHP, Barbell rows and RDLs


    1. I have a whole chapter dedicated to training with just a barbell and pair of adjustable dumbbells in SLL. Pretty awesome.

  8. Hey Paul, have you ever tried myo-reps? They seem like they would fit your small workouts pretty well, and I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about them

    1. nothing during the small days should ever even be remotely heavy.

  9. You could've called them hard and easy as shit days and you'd probably still get questions about the appropriate effort for easy workouts.

    1. I've never understood how something so easy, as lifting, can get so complicated for people.

    2. The principle of "lift more weight and/or more reps over time" doesn't sell.

    3. It doesn't to young guys who want it all now. But for guys who understand there is a process behind lifting and attaining worthwhile goals do.

      No quick fixes, no short cuts.

  10. do you incorporate the 50% sets in your strong 15 reloaded as well?

    1. No. Back off sets are there but you don't want to be training to failure for several sets while training for maximal 1 rep max strength. The rep in the tank philosophy is best there.