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. 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 1 of the article series we discussed the methodology and some of the madness that went into creating the program. In part 2 of this series we discussed Day 1 of the program and how we work heavy lower body work into each week. Now it brings us to Part 3. Here we are combining Days 2 and 3. The reason for this is Day 2 is heavy upper body work and the same rules as heavy lower body work apply here with only some minor changes. Most of this article will be spent going over Day 3 which covers our take on speed work.
Day 2: Pressing All The Weight
Not much more can be said about the Max Effort Upper Body days of this program. The approach is identical to the Max Effort Lower body days and follows a 2-5 rep scheme for your top set as you work through training cycles. For this day the two exercises I use and build off of with variations are the Bench Press and Overhead Press. I like to alternate between these two exercises for two reasons: 1) In my personal experience, an athlete performs a lot of their movements and work standing up. So why would you develop your pressing power solely lying down? 2) Solid shoulder health is key to continued success in what ever athletic feats you are working towards. With that being said, I have found that excessive bench pressing can tear the shoulders up and as with the lower body days, the variety will target the pressing motion in different ways and allow you address any weaknesses you may have with the motion itself.
As with the Day 1, here is a list of exercise variations for you to incorporate into the Day 2. Remember, these are simply going off of working with a straight bar. Adding in chains, bands, and various types of bars gives you an even greater variety but these are some basics to get you started.
- Incline Bench Press
- Floor Press
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Bench Lockouts
- Bench/Incline Bench/ Floor/Close Grip Bench Press with a 10,5,3 second eccentric phase
- Bench/Incline/Floor/ Close Grip Bench Press with a a 1-5 second pause in the bottom
- Strict Overhead Press
- Snatch Grip Press
- Push Press
- Seated Press
- Z Press
After the main exercise I like to have athletes use dumbbells for either max rep sets or a few heavy sets. Dumbbells are preferred over barbells because the stabilizers are recruited to perform the movement more so than with a barbell movement. Try and have the dumbbell movement closely relate to the main barbell movement performed. When performing these movements I have athletes choose one of two set and rep schemes: 2 sets of max reps two and a half minutes rest between sets or 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps as heavy as possible. For the max reps the goal is not to do 21 on the first set and be dead for the next set and only get 6. Choose a weight that you can get for 10-20 reps and when you are feeling like you can squeeze out 2-3 more reps end the set and then start the timer for the next set. The same applies for the second set, DO NOT GO TO FAILURE. When you feel like you can squeeze out 2-3 more reps cut it because you still have more work to do.
The following accessory exercises should be similar in nature with the Day 1. Work should be done in the 2-3 set and 10-15 rep ranges. For these exercises it’s preferred to choose either a row type exercise or upper back movement and a triceps exercise or core movement to this day (if you did not do them on ME Lower.
Below is a sample Strength Upper workout:
Main: Snatch Grip Press to 5RM
Accessory 1: DB Shoulder Press 4×6 as heavy as possible
Accessory 2: Seated Rows 3×12 or Lat Pulldowns 3×12
Accessory 3: Rolling Triceps 2×20 or V-Ups 3×20
Day 3: Speed Work AKA The Fun Stuff
Of all the days on the program this is by far my favorite. Being an explosive athlete in track and field and now in weightlifting, these types of movements are fun and challenging and my preferred method of training. This day is inspired by the Dynamic Effort method but before you start to lace up your TR Lites (little plug of Mark bell’s power shoe) and grab every band or chain imaginable, hold your horses. Since the goal of the program is to be more athletic and a better all around athlete, you want to perform movements that do exactly that.
Now don’t get me wrong there will be box squats and speed pulls but that is not where these days stop. My preference is to follow suit with Days 1 and 2 and rotated between a traditional Dynamic Effort set up and a more athletic approach. So a training block can have two weeks of box squats and speed pulls and 2 weeks of jumps,weightlifting movements, etc. This is where the fun begins. It is recommended to use variations of the clean, jerk, and box jump for this selection. For more skilled athletes in the weightlifting, snatches can be added into the mix as well but in my experience the clean and the jerk are easier to get people to do with consistent technique. These movements should be done in the 3-6 sets of 1-3 reps. If you are not proficient in the snatch, clean, or jerk and their variations stick with jumping movements. As with barbell exercises the variations are limitless.
Below are some variations to consider for Day 3:
- Standing Box Jump
- Seated Box Jump
- Straight Box Jump
- Single Leg Box Jump
- Depth Jump
- Hurdle Hops
- Stair Jumps
- Broad Jump (sets with 1-5 reps can be done as a single rep)
- Reverse Broad Jumps (sets with 1-5 reps can be done as a single rep)
- Single Leg Broad Jumps (set with 1-5 reps can be done as a single rep)
The next movement is more what you would expect and is where we incorporate box squats and speed pulls. These movements are done with lighter weights, the sets and reps are as follows: Week 10×2 @ 65-70%, 82 @ 70-75%, and 6×2 @ 75-80%. The biggest thing to point out is these percentages are for those who are NOT using bands or chains. The reason these percentages are presented first is that there are some people who have never used chains or bands and there is no need to complicate things. If you are a more experienced lifter and want to include accommodating resistance (chains and bands) with these movements then lower the percentages by 10% and work with those for your work sets. When choosing a box height I please do not getting carried away. There is no need to boost your ego and by moving bigger weights a few inches. Get some work in and at least get to parallel. A bench will simply suffice but if you if you use a box at or around parallel will be the most beneficial for the athlete. There are plenty of other factors to focus on in your training and with exercises selection, there is no need to make mountains out of molehills when determining the best box height to use.
After all this work it is best to choose one or no accessory movements and get out of the gym.This is meant to be a lighter day, the focus of the entire workout is keeping your form and the intention of moving the weight with speed. For the accessory movement I would choose either a posterior chain movement of 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions or a core movement of the same sets and repetitions. While the weights may not be heavy in relation to Day 1 or Day 2 you are still putting in a significant amount of work.
Two sample Day 3’s or Dynamic Effort Lower days would look like this.
Power Cleans 6×2 @ 80%% of power clean best with 2 minutes rest between sets
Seated Box Jumps 6×3 increase height until miss occurs with 2 minutes rest between sets
Death March 4×20 each leg
Box Squat 10×2 @ 60% of back squat best with 1 minute rest between sets
Deadlifts 10×2 @ 60% of deadlift best with 1 minute rest between sets
Plank, weighted 4x :30 holds
Now that was a lot of info. Hopefully if you have questions up to this point this answers a lot of them. The purpose of Days 1 and 2 is to work on maximal strength with a variety of compound movements. The focus on Day 3 is to make sure the athlete is incorporating efficient movement patterns with force at lighter percentages. Basically, Days 1 and 2 you are the Hulk, Day 3 you are Ricky Bobby. If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, make sure to do that so you receive our free barbell program. . Until next time stay strong!