Posted by: robertim | July 20, 2011

Stronger in 40 – Dan John’s 40 day program

3X10, 3X8, 4X12, 5X5, 3X3… Anyone who has been lifting long enough, especially if they were taught to lift in high school, will probably immediately recognize those numbers as common set/rep schemes. 3X10’s and 4X12’s are commonly used for “Hypertrophy” or as an introductory program for newbies. Many experts will argue that it’s ineffective for one reason or another (as experts will), but I do find there is some merit to having someone do a large number of reps with light weight and correct form so that that form is drilled into the body. On the other end of the spectrum, 5X5 and 3X3 is used for strength building: low Reps and high weight and gain strength as quickly as possible without impeding recover of the the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that high reps can often put you at risk for over long periods of time.

Last year, on my first go around dropping weight, I tried something that was completely counter intuitive to these notions, and I figured I would right about it here. It’s 10-5-5-10 and it has the potential to kick your ass.

How did I come up with that? Well, I was searching for a fat loss lifting program that would torch body fat and let me build strength. Yup, like a newbie I was looking for fat loss and strength gains. As I read everything Dan John writes, I stumbled upon his 40 day program. For fat loss, that was both the simplest and hardest part. It’s all about diet. Whether you go primal or do something like the velocity diet, fat loss will only come with discipline. As for the lifting program, he recommends for the next 40 lifts, doing the SAME thing! That was kind of earth shattering for me, as depending on how many times a week you lift, that could be the same 5 lifts for 8-13 weeks. The imbalanced development alarms were going off in my head. However, he proposed a very balanced approach; 5 lifts, including the a warm up lift with goblet squats or overhead squat, including:

1. A deadlift (he’s says a posterior chain movement, but we all know this means deadlift)
2. Upper body push (bench press variation)
3. Upper body pull (row or pull up)
4. A simple full-body explosive move (Dumbbell swings)
5. Something Abdominal

He proposes you do 2 sets of 5 on the first three, and one set of 20-50 and 5, respectively on the last 2. Additionally, you don’t worry about progress you just strive to do you’re best everyday. That being said, it seemed to me relatively hard to do without warming up as I have bad joints, and I was overweight, and as much as dieting helps, I wanted a little extra push from the weight training side. I effectively tacked on 2 sets of ten at the beginning and end of the lifts. The first set of 10 was to be ~50% of what you’re first set of 5 was going to be and the last set of 10 was going to be 50% of what the last set of five was. Each week, I workout I would strive to either do better than or the same as the lift before, even if it was just an increase of 5 lbs on one of the sets. I find that this enables you to both warm up and get the high reps that speed fat loss and initiate hypertrophy. And at the end of this, I was able to pull my first 600 lb deadlift. I kept the recommendations for the explosive movement the same, but I made number the abdominal movement 3X5. Additionally, I used a weighted abdominal movement, like weighted leg lifts or cable crunches. Few people realize that like all muscles in the body, if you want the abdominals to grow, they need to be weighted, not just “crunched” a thousand times a day.

As I’ve written before, I love reading and performing Dan John’s lifting regimens. He always works to simplify, and sometimes, we get way to caught up trying to learn and do new and interesting things that we stray away from the classic lifts that will benefit us the most and rocket our progress. If you find yourself stagnating, you might want to try the 40 day program. Do it right and you will torch fat, and add some pounds to your maxes.

For More info on the 40 Day Program, check here:


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