If I were to isolate three motor qualities that nearly everyone could use more of, they’d be:
A) Power (Speed-Strength)
B) Maximal Strength
C) Strength-Endurance
The rationale for my short list is perhaps obvious- in addition to greater strength, power, and endurance, the pursuit of these qualities leads to greater body composition and real-world athletic functionality. I might also add (as I approach my 50th birthday) that these three qualities are the first to recede with age, particularly if you’re sedentary.
Conveniently, these three qualities correspond with the three competitive strength disciplines: Olympic-style weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman. As it so happens, weightlifting drills are the most appropriate ways to express athletic power, while the three powerlifts lend themselves to the expression of maximal strength, and the various strongman events are great ways to train and test strength-endurance.
A simple way to implement all three of these qualities/disciplines is to initiate each workout with an Olympic lift (or variant), continue with a powerlift (or variant) and commence with a strongman event (or variant).
Training Frequency
Further, in keeping with the “three” theme, I’ll suggest training three days a week, which, by the way, is how many of the most accomplished strength and power athletes have trained throughout history.
Tight Random Spray
Finally, in an attempt to strike an optimal balance between specificity and variety, we’ll employ a “randomized tight spray” in selecting our daily exercise menus: you’ll pre-identify 6 different exercises for each quality-discipline, and then roll a dye to select each day’s three exercises. Here are sample lists for each quality, but please make these lists your own by customizing them to your own requirements- for example, if you’re experienced in full cleans or snatches, by all means, use them. Or if you can’t/won’t shouldn’t back squat but can/should front squat, plus that in to the maximal strength exercise menu in place of the back squat
Sample Exercise Lists
Olympic-lift Variants
1) Power Snatch
2) Power Clean
3) Power Clean & Jerk
4) Clean Pull
5) Snatch Pull
6) Power Clean & Press
Powerlift Variants
1) Back Squat
2) Deadlift
3) Bench Press
4) Rack Pull
5) Floor Press
6) Box Squat
Strongman Variants
1) Tire Flip
2) Vehicle Pull
3) Farmer’s Walk
4) Log Clean & Press
5) Repetition Deadlift
6) Overhead Barbell Walk
Assigning Loading Parameters
Loading parameters will be determined at least in part by the exercises themselves: Olympic and powerlifting drills should be done in multiple (5-10) sets of low (1-3) reps. The strongman events are a different beast: typically, these are done for time and/or speed, attempting to complete as many reps (or as much distance) as possible within a pre-determined time frame. One way to address this variable is to use a rotating set/rep format, where each week within a four-week cycle calls for a different pattern. For example:
Week One: 5×2
Week Two: 10×1
Week Three: 3×3
Week Four: 6×4
Then for the strongman day, you can set up a similar scenario, where time-frames and/or distance vary week by week. Here’s an example using the farmer’s walk:
Week One: 3 walks, 60 seconds each walk
Week Two: 3 walks, 90 seconds each walk
Week Three: 4 walks, 30 seconds each walk
Week Four: Maximum distance at a given weight
Mesocyclic Planning
Using a system such as the one I suggested above, I’d suggest that the first month be used to establish baseline performances for each drill. Then, in month two, seek to break your PR’s in each exercise/loading arrangement. After three months of this, change up your exercise lists and loading arrangements, and start fresh. Using this system, you’ll enjoy many months of specific, yet variable training that will make you bigger, faster, and stronger than you ever thought possible.

  1. Rob McElhenney 15 years ago

    Coach Staley,
    I have a question regarding the following comment….
    “After three months of this, change up your exercise lists and loading arrangements”
    The changing up of the exercise list part is fairly straightforward, but would you be gracious enough to give a quick example of changing up the loading arrangement?
    I feel like I am missing something that should be rather obvious to me. Since you said that Oly lift variants and powerlifting drills should be done for multiple sets of low(er) reps and that strongman drills are typically done for time or distance, that would seem to narrow the range of potential loading arrangements.
    Perhaps a quick example will knock some sense into me 🙂
    Thank you for your time and help and most especially for always writing high-quality articles that you are so willing to share.
    Hope all is well!

  2. Author
    Charles Staley 15 years ago

    Hi Rob, thanks for your kind words and also for your question. Even though I suggested that ” Olympic lift variants and powerlifting drills should be done for multiple sets of low(er) reps,” you can still get creative with your loading parameters. Here are a few examples:
    • 14×2, 2 minute rests
    • 10×3, 3 minute rests
    • 5×5, 5 minute rests
    • Base 5: establish a base weight of 5 reps, which you intersperse with sets 1 with increasingly heavier weights. Example:
    • Base 3: Same as above, but the base weight is for 3 reps
    • Pyramids: Start with a set of 5, then a set of 4, then 3,2,1.
    • Reverse Pyramids
    For the strongman day, although you are again somewhat limited, you can still alter distances, the number of repeats, and the length of rests between repeats. You can also mix various bodyweight drills (depending on available equipment, etc) with the strongman drills- for example, 10 pushups prior to the farmer’s walk.
    Hope that helps!

  3. Will Brink 15 years ago

    Good stuff Charles, and it mirrors much of my own changes in focus toward a balance of strength, endurance, performance, and bodycomp vs simple focus on LBM, ergo bodybuilding. What’s been most telling/interesting to me is, with the addition of GPP, strongman movements, etc, I have noticed both an increase in strength and improvements in bodycomp! Any fears I may have had many moons ago as a bber focused kid who thought burning one extra calorie outside of the bbing oriented training was going to sap strength, is long gone. My own Hybrid Program in the ebook looks to a more balanced program between strength, endurance, and bodycomp, but what you have above would be a great choice too. Good stuff!

  4. Rob McElhenney 15 years ago

    Coach Staley,
    Thank you for the helpful tips. And a hearty thanks, as well, to Mr. Brink, for this website and for having guest pieces from world-class coaches and people like you, Coach Staley.

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