Looking for additional structured strength programming to supplement the general physical preparedness (GPP) resulting from programming at CFDR?

The world of fitness resources, programming options, literature and sources on the internet can be absolutely mind numbing in the variety and options available to the public.  So how do you go about making sense of things and finding a supplemental program to help you reach your fitness goals?

Keep it simple!

Here are a couple key concepts to think about- taken from Timothy Ferris, author of The Four Hour Body, and http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog and Pavel Tsatsouline, former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor and author of Power to the People and Enter the Kettlebell.  The following program is simple in its design, but very hard in its execution and the results will be outstanding.


1. Applying the Concepts of an Italian Economist To Your Strength Training- Pareto’s Principle And The 80/20 Rule.

Among Tim Ferriss’ tools for getting the most out of life is Pareto’s law. The essence of the law is that 80% of all results come from 20% of the efforts. Applied to muscle and strength, it means, if most gains will come from the three power lifts, why waste your time and energy doing supplemental work that includes anything else?

Pavel further outlines a program for strength training that is as follows:

Pavel’s 80/20 Routine

5 x 5 Progressions:

For beginners, Pavel’s offers a straightforward progressive overload workout with 5 sets of 8 reps.  Eventually you are supposed to advance to 5 x 5. In my opinion, you should go straight to 5 x 5. Sets of five are the meat and potatoes of strength training.

Start with a conservative weight. If you manage five reps in all five sets, next time add 10 pounds and start over. Not 5 pounds, and definitely not 2, but 10. For reasons that are outside of the scope of this article, Malibu Ken and Barbie jumps with tiny plates are a waste of time.

Most likely you will not bag all the fives on your first workout with the new weight. Perhaps you will get 5, 5, 5, 4, and 3. No problem, stay with the poundage until you get all 5×5. Your second workout might be 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, and your third of fourth should get you to 5 x 5. Slap on another pair of “nickels” (5-lb. plates) and work your way up to 5 x 5 again. According to Pavel, the above progression will add 110-175 pounds to your max in each of the three power lifts in one year, provided you are fairly new to the game.

Deadlift 1x per week; Squat and Bench 2x per week

You will be dead lifting once a week and squatting and benching twice a week, once heavy and once light for the latter two. Your light days are for honing technique, not for burning out your muscles with high reps. Do 5 sets of 4 reps (5 x 4) with weights that are 80% of the heavy day’s. For instance, if you did 5 x 5 with 200 on your heavy day, stay with 160 for 5 x 4 on your light day. That’s it! The key to the program’s success is in doing less.

The Russian recommends the following schedule:

Monday –heavy squat (SQ)
Tuesday –heavy bench-press (BP)
Wednesday –heavy dead lift (DL)
Thursday – light SQ
Friday –light BP
Saturday –off
Sunday –off

If training five days is not an option, four will do:

Monday –heavy SQ
Tuesday –heavy BP
Wednesday –heavy DL
Thursday –off
Friday – light SQ, light BP
Saturday –off
Sunday –off

Not ideal, but if you have to cram your training into three days:

Monday – heavy SQ
Tuesday –off
Wednesday –heavy BP, light SQ
Thursday – off
Friday – heavy DL, light BP
Saturday – off
Sunday – off

Failure and Rest Intervals

Never train to failure! Don’t attempt a rep unless you are 100% sure you will make it. Ideally, keep one extra rep in the bank. “Save your strength for the next set,” insists Pavel.

Don’t get greedy.

Practice one lift per workout, stretch, and get out. Pavel stresses that you must wrap up each strength workout with static stretches. “The benefits of stretching are enormous. Stretching can increase your strength by 10%. It is a lot.” The man explains that “when you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is. Until the muscle has restored its length, it has not recovered. Hence he who does not stretch his muscles slows down the recuperation process and retards his gains.” Besides, tension and relaxation are the two sides of the same coin, “if the muscle forgets how to lengthen, it will contract more poorly. And that is stagnation of strength.”

Don’t rush your sets.

Do a couple warm-up sets if you must, then feel free to take 5 min. and even more between your work sets. Top power dogs take longer; 30 min. is not unheard of. Power loves rest and does not tolerate rushing. You may feel that you are completely recovered in 2 min. but take a full 5 anyway. According to Pavel, an hour is a good number to shoot for in your workout length. (Source: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/12/18/pavel-8020-powerlifting-and-how-to-add-110-pounds-to-your-lifts/)


Mullet power: John Inzer dead lifts 780 lbs. at 165 lbs. bodyweight. (Photo: Powerlifting USA)


2. Use Competition As A Motivator And A Goal:

With a power lifting meet date looming on the calendar, many an athlete have accomplished more in six months than others have in many years.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss echoes him when he makes use of the Parkinson’s Law to get results faster.

According to this law, a task will take as much time as you will allot for it. In other words, you will shine under the pressure of an ambitious deadline. Applied to iron, it means compete, and often! You will be forced to focus on what matters — your squat, your bench, your dead lift –– rather than fool around with what former Coach Powerlifting Team USA Mark Reifkind calls “random acts of variety”. Subscribe to Powerlifting USA magazine on Amazon. Find a meet near you three months away, and go for it! Look for “raw” meets that require that you compete without special squat suits, bench shirts, etc. AAU is one of the federations that host raw meets.

As the meet approaches, cut back from 5 x 5 to 4 x 4, 3 x 3, and finally, a couple of weeks before the competition, 2 x 2. Up the poundage accordingly. After the meet, take a week off, and then start over with 5 x 5.



If you’re looking to build your strength base, either to get up to RX’ed weights on the workouts or to be able to pull a car off of a baby stroller, remember these points.  Applying the 80/20 rule to your strength program will pay off huge dividends as long as you keep things simple and work HARD- remember you are looking to accomplish 5×5 and then jump by at least 10 pounds for the next time you train that movement, not 2.5 or 5 pounds.  Stretch afterwards to assist in recovery and adaptation.  We will look into how this can apply to the endurance/conditioning athlete in another post.

Workout of the Day
5 rounds not for time of:
2 Deadlifts (as heavy as possible)
Max Rep Dead-Hang Pull-ups
Max Rep Ring Dips

If you can do more than 10 in a row for the Pull-ups/Dips, make them weighted!