Training and writing a basic program for yourself

Training and writing a basic program for yourself

If you have been around lifting for any time you eventually figure out something on how to write a program or maybe you think it is overwhelming. Well it is not. Getting good at it is tough, but again it is not as hard as it sounds. As much as I get asked how to get bigger ,stronger and all the usual questions, I thought maybe I would throw out some easy steps to get it started writing the basics.

If you have been around  lifting for any time you eventually figure out something on how to write a program or maybe you think it is overwhelming. Well it is not.  Getting good at it is tough, but again it is not as hard as it sounds. As much as I get asked how to get bigger ,stronger and all the usual questions, I thought maybe I would throw out some easy steps to get it started writing the basics.

When I get asked those vague questions on how to get stronger, I begin to narrow down what they are really after.   Most want one of their lifts to go up like the squat or deadlift.  You can go into this or that but my main question is have you written your own program? The answer is always no but they followed this or that program. That is fine and part of the figuring it out process but eventually you have to figure out how YOU get strong. This is completely different from everyone else and will always be as such.

As far as programs go, no one has found the holy grail  of training yet so don't get hung up on the style worrying whether you have chosen the best one.  If you are truly trying to get strong and big, you will cross all these paths eventually from  Westside, Sheiko, Block, Linear periodizaton, progressive overload, Bulgarian, 5/3/1, 5x5 to etc and so on till infinity.  Just start.

A few questions to ask:

1/ What do you like to do or what are you good at-squat, bench, dead, rows, etc.   Your program should have a certain amount of this type of work, after all it makes you happy and it is easier for you.  An example was for me was benching.  Like every dude growing up, we all wanted a big chest and arms, so we benched, inclined, declined, flyed away at the gym.  I was good at it, in other words ,so I did more of what I liked and less of what was not near as fun or easy.

2/ What are you terrible at and hate? I hated pullups, deadlifts and biceps, calves(he he..) so I did way less early on.  Your program should have a good bit of this type of work as there is a reason you hate it. You aren't as strong or good at it.  Plus, if you attack your weaknesses, you will get stronger in your other lifts you are good at. This never gets fixed by the way, when you get one better, another weaker group will need to be focused upon.

3/ Where are your lifts at now? This isn't a guesstimate. We all think we are way better then we really are at any time. If you don't have a solid number writing a program will be disappointing. I am as guilty as anyone at this at beefing up my numbers(fronting) as anyone early on in my career.  After a few smacks to face bombing out or doing a lift the way it is intended as in a competition, I came to the realization that I was not near as good as the fantasy in my head.   Always keep dreaming of the numbers you want and they will change as you get stronger but have a actual number to base it off of.

4/ How many days a week are you gonna train or can- 3, 4, 6 days?

Okay here it is.  Adapt as you need

1/Determine the length of the cycle knowing you will test out at the end. It can be a meet, mock meet in the gym or get a max day.  Generaly, I suggest  8 or 10 weeks tops.

2/ Determine your days. Say a 4 day to make it easy, with  Monday-squat, Tuesday-bench/upper max, Thursday-Deadlift and Friday-bench.  Generally 3 days off between sessions is optimal for recovery.

3/Keep it simple and use your current real maxes . You need technical/speed work to get good at the lifts so 65%to 75% for 3s-6to 8 sets. You also need a decent heavier day/sub maximal day for each lifting day.  No need to max out past 90% meaning 85%(3 to 5reps) or 90%(2 rep sets). On the sub max days, a good rule is to leave one in the tank. Keep going up in weight until you struggle to get the 5,3 or 2 reps in. This means if you think you can go up in weight but not get the reps in then the day is done-leave it there! If you are doing too much your body will let you know quick.

4/Rotate maxes and technical/speed work. One week max squats and speed deads on 2nd training day and the opposite the following week. Example-Week 1 max box squat monday,  speed deads-Thursday. Week 2 Technical/Speed Squats-Monday, Max rack pulls Thursday. Whatever your needs are, go with that. Nothing is in written in stone. Adapt as necessary. We went to Big Z's seminar in Georgia awhile back and it was very similar  and he continues to follow it this way.  This guys has been at it two decades plus winning all the titles numerous times.

5/Plan a main secondary exercise right after your first lift..  This is where you pick the move that you pretty much hate because you aren't good at it It should be a compound move.  Rack lockouts, overhead pressing, good mornings, kettlebell swings-anything you hate or have a terrible skill level at.  Generally, I would say 3 to 6 reps but lean towards the 6 range. Work up to the point where going up in weight means you won't get the prescribed reps and it is done-prob 4 to 6 working sets.

6/Accessory work with a decent battle plan is 3 to 5 exercises post the main lift and secondary exercise.  Most of these are for general development and hypertrophy.  Keep it simple with a medium to semi high rep range.  Continue to work weaker parts as much as possible but with alittle more isolaton work like curls, pushdowns, back pulldowns, upper back work, etc. Same set frame  looking like 3 to 5 sets.  So, 3 to5 exercises with with 3 to 5 sets each . Again reps should be a struggle to get the numbers in. Continue to inch up in weights as much as possible. If you do 4 exercises split them into most hated and like like.  ALWAYS DO AB WORK on training days. I liked them beforehand as a warm up and always get this area involved as it is critical to successful lifting.  6 to 8 sets. Some some weighted and some other various obliques and bird dogs/planks etc.

7/ Fill in the blanks. Literally , just fill in the days on a spread sheet with your days. I told people do the easy things first. You know you aren't going to lift much the week of your test out or meet. So that one is pretty much blank.  You can do some light work early in the week but give yourself about 5 days before you test it out with pretty much no training

Next, fill in the speed/technical work.  You know you ain't going that high on it(remember 65% to 75% tops)  You can work  up over weeks if you like 65%, 70% and 75% over 3 weeks if you like and start over or any combo that suites.

The max effort work will be the hardest part.  If you don't have much equipment then rotate high bar, low bar and front squats as a example. If you have all the bars then pick the worst and most hated for the majority of weeks.  Pulls of all sorts. Good mornings are fabulous developers.  Close grips, pin lockouts, boards, no limit here either.  Max work is the hardest part because you have to figure out what you suck at and plan to attack it. It will not be ignored!

Once you have those it is almost over, just accessory work.  A lower example day might be:


1/Max front squats

2/ Wide stance belt squats

3/ KB double swings

4/ Hypers

5/Stability ball hamstrings

6/Calf work


To this day, I still tell people to do this first and I will look at their program.  Not many take me up on it.  You can recovery this, warm up modality that, nutrition plan this,   but until you do your own  training cycle you have adopted someone else's that worked for them. There is nothing wrong with that, we all learned from someone else and made plenty of progress  but eventually they won't work for you if you wish to continue to get bigger and stronger. You will just go through the motions.  If you learn to do this for your self early on whether it works right or wrong, you will figure it out much faster.   It is like riding a bike or driving a car, until you do it,  it is not truly known.  It is empowering to do your own things and falling down is part of the process. If you don't fall down on your own, you can't get up on your own.  Self Enquiry is the simplest way to success.



Activations with tim tam

Reverse Hypers 5x12 pre, 2x12 post

Upped the time sets on the iso leg press.  This was pretty terrible.  Started with a semi wide for 5 mins, medium for 5 mins, close stance for 5 mins.  Lots of stopping at the time and holding but no racking the sled. After awhile my left leg did not want to stay locked and wobbled a good but like a nervous twitch.  Right leg was cool like Honey Bunny.

Tim tam some calf and tibia activations to loosen it back up.

5mins of GMs with strong band. Again several pauses at top at lockout.  Interestingly, my upper back and lats kicked in alot so for those wanting to get some static work in this area, it is a option, maybe not the 5mins but 2 to 3 should light it up.

Finished with stepmill for 20 mins



Stepmill 30 mins



Activations with tim tam and boomstick

Stepper 30 mins

5 mins alone training today.

After mulling around trying to conjure up some  interesting way to train, I settled on 5 minute sets. It really just started as the idea of pressing the fat bells for 4 sets moving up each set off a steeper incline. So my concept today was just to keep them in the air and descend at pace the shoulders would not blow apart at , hold at the bottom with some push back on the elbows to light up the chest and back alittle differently and press at regular tempo.  This happened but also just alot of static holding at the top.   The first 3 sets were doable and sucked as bad as they sound but the weight did not cause alot of instability.  The last set my lefty was jumpy on the descent in around the 90 degree mark(basically where if I had a infra and supra spinatus, they would kick in more).  This type of training is boring but at the same time difficult as your mind is constantly wanting a way out and launches in all directions of assault  to get you to quit.   I regulated the breathing so this wasn't a issue unless the last set when the difficulty was higher and the brain was trying to run away.   This training lit up my upper back as well as a added bonus. Eventually the more time you are under tension, the more the cavalry will come to your side to aid in the task at hand, hence more upper back and lat help.

Added a couple of 5 minute sets of long ab strap static holds with the back.  This was more of guilt thing thinking I needed more work. Faced machine with strap right above the elbows and held it in a standing row position.  Focused on driving the elbows down to engage more lats and back like the Weck Coiled snake method.   Again regulated breathing was engaged.

Press 4x5 mins

Back 2x5 mins


30 min stepmill


Activations with Tim tam and boomstick

Reverse hypers 5x12

Body master squats 8x5, medium stance

5 mins straight two hand swing with comp bell. (rarely use these but wider handle and make a long set more doable. (tim tam to the traps, pecs and biceps after)

Stepmill 30 mins


Activations with tim tam and boomstick. Did about  10 mins of BT of the psosas and mid section

Mag grip 20 sets

Face pulls with long strap 4x50

Machine press 7x50

Sand dune  work on rotators. Fist push up position , keep arms straight and rotate picking and sinking fists.  Lots of tricep, back abs, and lovely rotator work.


Activations manual with boom stick and Indian club

30 mimutes step mill.


Tim Tam activations

Reverse hypers 4x12

Used farmers walks to to some what I call Barto GMs. It is a variation of seated GMs except he used his Dead sled. Worked up to 3x8 with 140lbs per side.  Seated Gms were never that fun or difficult as they always smashed my low back like SSB squats.

Then did step ups with same Farmers walks.  Cut the weight way down and worked up to 3x5 leg

Seated hamstring curls with 15 sec 10 x10

Leg extension 10x8 with same rest period

20 stepmill


Shot new videos, one for the new short track magic carpet sled made for short indoor drags.  Dressed up like a Nascar driver  and almost died from sweating in this thing.  The sickness that has been riding me for about 2 months now had me feverish again.


Drug sled for 30 minutes  inside as I was had to work a couple more hours on Sunday then usual.


Activations  with Tim Tam and boomstick

Reverse hypers 6x12

Belt squat warm ups preliminaries. Did both wide stance and close stance 10 reps and 5 reps supersetted. 6 sets

Reverse band sumo deads with squat buddy(full cheater style) and hook grip to top it off. worked up to 455x5x3 sets

Stepper 20 mins


Activations with Tim Tam

Goal was 20 sets Mag grip pull downs and 20 sets on the hammer incline press with 15 to 20 sec rest on the press section.  Averaging 10 reps per set on each.

Stepper 20 mins


25 mins stepper

Hammer press. Used a tempo based on breath this time for pressing.  Wife told me about a 8 rounds breath count of Inhale=4 sec. Hold =7 sec,  Exhale=8 sec for one cycle. The exhale requires me to use the mouth to regulate for the 8 count.  Normally the 8 cycles can bring you down to a much lower parasympathic state which is the main concept. Round 20 reps each cycle

Rear delts same 8 cycles  breathing. Rep total 60 reps per set at 3 rounds

Seated back row machine 8 cycles 60 reps 3 rounds


Activatoins with the tima tam

30 mins stepmill


Activations with tim tam

Reverse hyper 5x12

leg press with average bands using  squat buddy 5x3

Lunges with squat buddy 3 rounds of 100 feet. ABout 20 to 25 reps total each

3 laps sled


3 extended laps sled(mile and about a half drag total.


Reverse hypers 3x12

3 laps sled , heavy, med and light rounds.



Activations with the Tim Tam

Tsunami bar pulldowns 8x12 20 sec rest

Dead stop dumbell rows 5x10 per 10 to 20 sec rest

Ab wheel(was gonna do the usuall 4 or 5 sets but just did 1x40 to 50

Hammer decline press  1x80 moving down the handle, 1x24 moving up the handles, 8x2 same up the handles.  little bit of static work for 4x2 rounds

20 mins stepmill



Activations with Tim Tam and boomstick.  Pretty stuck so had to break out the boomstick  for some extra work on the abs fro the calves and psosas areas.

Reverse Hypers 6x12

Inverted rows on suspension straps. Tried something I either hadnot done in a while or at all.  Started about 20 links up on the chain. Rep were 10 a set dropping the chains down a link each set.  20 sets total

Used same set up in suspension strap except started at the bottom and worked up for 17 setsx8 reps and then one set for 24 reps( It was just a bit too high to keep going up.

Did some heavy drags with the upper strap over the shoulders dropping weight each set but increasing the distance each lap-3 laps total.

Probablly another week of upper/lower combined  until we get to the new year. Sorta evaluating where I am going go with training. Normal shit but we are also revamping alot of business activities as well.


3 laps sled


Activations with Tim Tam

Long ab strap pulldowns 6x15

Rope work 30 sec on 15 off for 5 rounds

High pulls 5x3,

Wide grip snatch deads 3x3

Stepper 20 mins


Activations with TIm Tam

Elite American cambered grip bar for winshield wipers 6sets and then pressing with softees 8x10

Pushups 7x10 non stop on platform moving down each set

Double swings working up in weight(ending with 106s)nonstop as possible reps 20, 15, 12, 10 ,8, 6, 5, 3. Had to take the Indian clud to the neck to keep it from locking down right after.

20 mins stepper


Stepmill 20 mins


Activations with Tim Tam

Row on hammer leg press 8x10

Bench 10x10

Deadlift on Hammer leg press 12 sets

Reverse hyper 5x12

Walk 3 laps


20 mins stepmill


Activations with the Tim Tam and boomstick

Just getting back into it alittle today. We had the meet on Saturday and awhole lot of other year end and unexpected things happening so training has been little or none-ish.  Plan is just to do a bit of both upper and lower daily until I can get back on the regular and also see where I left off with my last squat day and the hip saying naw brah. Anyhow, here is the action for today

Assisted pull ups 6x10 with about 10 sec breaks and then back down the stack for 6x6

Followed that up with assisted dip 8x10 then same 8x6 back down the stack

Leg press with 5x10 moving in about every 10 reps with the stance. Moved up each time in weight for 4 rounds

20 min rower


A few activations

Planks and side planks 4 rounds each

Tsunami bar press for 20 reps followed by squats for 10 reps nonstop for 6 rounds

12/14 20 mins stepmill


Tim Tam activations

Long ab  strap obliques 6x8 per side

One arm kb rows off treatment table. First time I tired them off the table.  Bit more focus required as I wanted to not leverage my other side to make it easier.  8x10  per side

Various kb floor presses and flyes for time

Went off the rage train at the wife so went and did a hour of bike with my hat down and headphones on. About 35 minutes it broke and I just worked on some shamanic meditations.  One type of meditation is dismemberment where you get torn apart and in some cases consumed by the animal spirit you asked to do the ceremony.  Everyone has there own interpretation and no journey is the same, but this was just mine.  I asked the eagle for the dismemberment and I looked down and he was ripping the guts out first and swallowing them. Then the arms, legs and head.  After some swirling in the gut, he threw me up basically whole again and I was better in the head. Basically, I know my ego gets in the way and I get angry about some irrelevant shit not related to me at all. The shamanic journey enables me to let go of it and cool off by getting away from my brain when it is in default mode.


Lot of Tim Tam activations, boostick work

10 min Jacob's Ladder

10 min stairs by two with a side step motion on both sides on the way down(rehab work in my eyes)

3 laps walk


15 mins of stepmill and more recovery work. Not much brusing yet.


Reverse hypers 6x10

Squats. Worked up to 450x3x3. Did 1x2 1/4 squats with 550, 2nd one came up and locked out and then my right hip/IT quadilator said I hate you today and did the shaky shake pop.

With that the end of the training day, did some activations and recovery work to loosen it up and get some blood to the area.

15 minutes of light stepmill


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