Easy Strength: Your Answer For Size and Strength Part 2
In part 1 I discussed the 10 Rules to Easy Strength, the 6 Rules to Even Easier Strength (Dan’s 40-Day Workout), how to gauge if you’re adhering to the program properly, and a sample of each program.
All of the details that I laid out before still apply now so make sure you read Part 1 first if you missed it.
- Basic Strength
- High-rep Squatting
Get strong, squat heavy for lots of reps, and use complexes. That’s it.
Now of course there are the finer details of making sure you’re using the Easy Strength protocol and choosing the best exercises for the job. What might those be you ask?
- Best Armor building exercises with a Barbell
- Zercher Squats
- Suitcase Deadlifts
- Snatch-Grip Deadlifts
- Bench Press
- Curls – thick bar (fat-grips or wrap a towel around the bar)
- Best Armor Building exercises with a Kettlebell
- Double KB Clean and Front Squat
Here’s Jim Wendler’s take on basic strength using 4 lifts; squats, military press, deadlift, and bench press.
- Day 1 Front Squat and Bench Press
- Day 2 Deadlift and Military Press
- 15 minutes warming up then 3 heavy sets of each exercise
- Last set is for as many reps as possible and that’s the only number recorded
- If reps are going up, you’re getting stronger…
Basic strength can also be the Easy Strength we talked about just a few days ago.
- Powerlift but don’t lift like a powerlifter (2-3 exercises total)
- Get 6-10 reps in
- Do some swings
- Do some anterior chain work
- Get out of the gym
Make sure you’re following Nikolay Ozolin’s “Willingness to Train” chart and make sure you’re always at a 4 or 5.
- 5 = very large desire
- 4 = large
- 3 = average
- 2 = low
- 1 = unwilling
If there’s any doubt regarding a weight or a rep, don’t do it! Make sure to maintain your strength when building armor.
I’m actually doing this a little in reverse. I’ve included high-rep squatting into my strength program for the sole-method of building muscle. See Element 2.
I know there are more in-depth answers as to why you should squat heavy and often if you’re trying to build muscle, however I’m just going to state this.
There are a TON of muscle-building programs out there and I would be willing to bet that most, if not every one of them, include some form of squatting.
It’s the pump of all “pumps” for your entire body! Not to mention you can get pretty strong as well. A number of examples come to mind from reading Easy Strength:
- Tom Platz’s Squat Workout
- One day a week go really heavy
- The other day take a weight like 225 and do as many reps are you can
- Smolov’s Squat Cycle
- A specialist program for any athlete who does not have any skills to practice outside the gym…It’s brutal
- John McCallum’s 20-rep Squat Program
- Squat 3 days a week for 1 set of 20 reps, adding 5 pounds each workout
High-rep squatting is taxing to say the least. You must be careful not to over exert yourself for the sake of breaking Easy Strength rules and sliding into a vicious cycle of overtraining.
Dan John recommends a two-week break in period following these sets/reps:
- Week 1:
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Week 2
- Day 1
- Day 2
From there, strive for one back squat workout a week with a heavier and heavier weight and the other for more reps.
Complexes are the finishing touches to armor building.
A complex is a series of exercises performed with one tool (barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, etc.) without putting the tool down.
Complexes work because of the increased time under tension and the relative light load one uses to perform them. TUT + High Volume = Body Armor.
Examples of training complexes:
- Barbell – 8 reps of each exercise in order
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Clean and Press to start
- 8 Presses
- 8 Cleans
- 8 Double Front Squat
- 8 Deadlift
Dan also thinks complexes are great warm-ups. I don’t disagree.
While complexes are great and work well, I want to spend a minute talking about cluster training and its place in both armor building and strength development.
A popular method of mass building is commonly the 10×10, German Volume Training, and 5×5 routines.
Both work well but with a little twist, Dan shows how one might squeeze a little extra out of these routines. Let’s use the 10×10 as an example.
Simple math tells you that in a 10×10 workout you perform 100 reps with a given weight. That’s a ton of volume and hence why most people fry themselves after just a couple workouts. Remember in part 1 if the blog we talked about 10 reps as being the most you’d do in a single workout.
GVT done with clusters of say, 2,3,5 would look like this:
2,3,5,10 rest, 2,3,5,10 rest, 2,3,5,10 rest, 2,3,5,10 rest, 2,3,5,10
With cluster training you’re still using the same weight each set and still reaching a total number of 100 reps for the workout. However with the cluster-style of training, you get the additional benefit of “greasing the groove” during your smaller sets.
The low-rep sets allow you to focus on form and hammer through the reps. If you’ve chosen a proper load, the work with low reps will actually help you push through high rep sets of 10.
While your total volume is still at 100, you’re actually only performing 50 reps of challenging 10’s while the remaining 50 serve as attention to detail.
Dan agrees, “You’ll find little rest is taken between 2,3,5… easier to bust out the 10’s.”
I’ve recently been using ladders and clusters with my clients. My favorite is with kettlebell 1-arm military presses.
You can use the same weight the whole time and grease the groove, or you can perform a cluster in which you increase the weight but keep the same reps.
- Pressing Ladders
- 16kg x5, 24kg x5, 32kg x5
Your last set of 5 should be challenging but you should still be able to stop knowing you have 1-2 more reps left in the tank.
A couple last-minute tips for your armor building efforts…
Dan’s #1 Armor-building program
- 1 Double Clean
- 3 Double Presses
- 2 Front Squats
- Repeat 3-5 times
It’s worth noting that the double kettlebell front squat builds the “cobra muscles” of the upper back:- traps, rhomboids, and lats.
Additionally, Dan calls the kettlebell clean the best “gun” exercise you can do.
A couple tips you can apply to both part 1 and part 2:
- Light windmills make for great rest between swings
- Use various correctives and easy local strength drills such as neck work between sets of global exercises (deadlift, squat, bench press, military press, pull-ups, rows)
- During strong movements do correctives, foam rolling, and mobility work
- During rest periods of strong points (things you’re strong at) do the extra stuff (whatever else you feel you need – positional breathing, TRX work, etc)
- During rest periods of the movements being addressed to weak points – just rest!
Between part 1 and part 2 of this post, you have a TON of useful information to not only get you strong, but also build some serious armor in the process.
If you have any questions about setting up your own Easy Strength or Armor Building program please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to help you out.
Perhaps the most important tip of all is what my dad always tells me, “Enjoy the ride.” Easy Strength is just “easy,” you just have to have the patience and put in the work. In return, I know you’ll like the way you look and feel.