The Strength Agenda Way Barbell Program is a program that I have used for years before my weightlifting days and continued to use with athletes of all backgrounds and the results have all been the same: you are going to get stronger off of the program. So if you’ve been following along with the first part of this series we discuss the how and why of our Barbell Program. As promised we are going into depth on each day and how to set them up so you can keep on progressing towards your strength goals. In Part 2 we are going to explain our take on Max Effort Lower Body work or day 1 of the program.
Like most strength programs that are out there, Max Effort (ME) Lower Body centers around the squat and the deadlift. These two exercises are the king of building leg strength and have withstood the test of time so why try to reinvent the wheel? On the ME Lower day your first exercise will be a variation of either the squat and deadlift. The program is laid out in four week training blocks alternating each ME Lower day between a squat and deadlift variation. So the body will only be squatting and deadlifting heavy two times a month. This may not sound like a lot but if the program is done right it will be more than enough to see the results you are looking for.The purpose of this program is quality over quantity. There is no room for crappy reps, so when you are performing a set every rep counts. Focus on making the reps as crisp and efficient as possible.
Remember that variety is key in this program so make sure you are changing up the exercises and not doing the same movements over and over. Remember to also address weaknesses and issues you have with certain lifts. If this approach is taken to the exercise selection of ME Lower days you could go a year without repeating the same movement. Below are some sample exercises to choose from that have been incorporate with athletes. The possibilities are endless when you start adding in chains, bands, different bars, etc.
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Zercher Squat
- Box Squat
- Back/Front Squat with a 1-5 second pause in the bottom
- Bottom Up Back/Front/Zercher Squat
- Back/Front/Zercher Squat from Pins
- Back/Front/Zercher Squat with 10,5,3 second eccentric phase
- Conventional Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Top Down Deadlift
- Conventional/Sumo Deadlift from pins
- Snatch Grip Deadlift
- Conventional/Sumo Deadlift with 1-5 second pause at the top
- Conventional/Sumo Deadlift with 10,5,3 second eccentric phase
- Conventional/Sumo Deadlift with 1-5 second pause off the floor
- Conventional/Sumo Deadlift with 1-5 second pause at the knee
Remember to change things up and not get into a habit of doing the same things over and over. Be smart about your selection and remember these are just a few of the choices available. Various bars, bands, and chains can also be added to the lifts for even more variety.
After the main exercise it is necessary to focus on single leg work and addressing weakness through your accessory work. Depending on the main lift we suggest you use the opposite system for your single leg work. For example, if your main exercise is back squats, then I would choose some time of a single leg deadlift or lunge variation for your single leg work. We recommend the athlete should perform work on this movement for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Following this exercise choose 2-3 high rep accessory moves to address imbalances or weaknesses you may have in your movement patterns. The focus of these exercises should be posterior chain work or you can add a core movement on this day as well. While choosing these exercises, keep in mind they should be performed in 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps. When performing accessory work the goal should not be to go to failure (unless told to do so). You should focus on the muscles being worked with moderate weight and as the bro’s say “chasing the pump”. The hardest part of the workout should have been the main exercises selection, the accessory work is meant to help address a weakness and get blood flowing to the area being worked.
Below is a sample Day 1 or ME Lower workout:
Main: Back Squat with a 5 second pause in the bottom, work up to 1RM
Accessory 1: Reverse Lunges, front leg elevated 4×12 each leg
Accessory 2: Weighted Glute Bridges 3×10
Accessory 3: Banded Stepdowns 2×15 each leg OR Straight Leg Sit Ups 3×20
Other Considerations: Maxing Out, Back Off Sets, and Rest
As you read the workout above the term “1RM” or “1 rep max” is used. I am reluctant about putting the word “max” in the program and these articles but when talking about going heavy that seems to be to universal term to do so. One thing to keep in mind is with this program you should not be going to a true max. You will very rarely see workouts where it’s posted to go to a 1RM, most times the workout will call for a “max” in the 2-5 rep range. When working up the athlete should focus on pushing to a heavy set at the prescribed number of reps. After you complete your set ask yourself “Should I go up?” You will most likely end up with one of three responses “Yes”, “I’m not sure that was pretty tough”, or “no”. In our opinion the first two answers warrant going up in the weight, obviously the third does not. There is no need to push and risk injury and even if you gave the “maybe” response, listen to your body and if it’s time to shut it down then do so and move on. But there are those few times when training and you are feeling really good that you need to say “screw it” and get after it. DO NOT MAKE A HABIT OUT OF THIS. That’s where problems occurs, either in the sacrificing form for more weight, pushing when it’s clearly not there, or doing something stupid that can lead to injury. Stick to the plan and focus on making steady progress week in and week out.
Back off sets are something I am becoming more fond of and incoporating more into my athletes training as well as my own. After you work up to a heavy set, back off sets are a good addition to add in to your work. What is a back off set or down set? These sets are after the top set for the day is reached in an exercise and you drop the weight back down and hit a few more reps at a higher percentage. Recommended sets and reps for down sets are as followed: 22, 3×3, or 3×5 with percentages between 70-85% of what was worked up to for that day. Back off sets are a great tool for still get more quality reps in with a specific movement but dropping the weight to accomplish two things: 1) A successful set with no failed reps and 2) Reinforcing a smooth, efficient movement pattern with the lift itself.
As the program has come out there are lots of questions asking about how much rest is needed. Whether it’s rest between sets/exercises or between the different days, we have the answer for you. For Days 1 and 2 on the program I would rest AT LEAST a day after. Some folks may need two but I would suggest splitting the workouts up in a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday split depending on what your schedule allows. For the workouts themselves, we recommend you take as much rest as needed for the main movement. Depending on your recovery abilities it could be anywhere from 1-5 minutes. Towards the end of the main exercise the rest should be longer then when you first started warming up. For the supplemental and accessory work keep it short. Rest should not be more than 1-1:30 minutes. If you need more than 90 seconds to complete a set of curls then back it off a little bit. Remember should not be going all out and crawling away from the dumbbells, kettle bells, barbell, or machine you are working on at this point.
So there you have it. Now you have the tools to set up your Day 1 or max effort lower work and most questions should be answered. As with everything please comment below or find us on any of our social media channels and ask any and all questions you have. Remember that we are giving away a free version of the barbell program so if you haven’t done so sign up for our newsletter to get it. This multiple part series is meant to explain the method behind the madness and allow for you to create your own individualized program based off the template.