Recently for some variety (somewhat same but different) I ran two experimental programs back to back that tied into each other. I thought I’d share them for anyone who might be looking for ways to shake things up a little.

The Turkish Get-Up & Double Kettlebell Front Squat Experiment
The first was a 4 week Turkish Get-Up (TGU) and double kettlebell front squat program. The TGU’s were completed ladder style. So week 1 was roll to press and back down, then roll to press and up to elbow then back down, then roll to press and all the way up to post on the hand and back down. This was completed back to back with the same arm sometimes with very brief breaks between rungs. After repeating with the other arm I’d clean two unevenly weighted kettlebells and perform 2 sets of 5 double kettlebell front squats. I’d switch the uneven kettlebells for the second set so both sides were worked evenly.

I did this three days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On the second week I called the roll to press and up to elbow rung one and the hip bridge rung three. Then in week three the roll to press, up to elbow and up to post (the half-up) was rung one with up to kneeling as rung 3. Everything else remained the same. In the final week (4) I did three sets of 3 full TGUs switching arms each rep for 9 total reps per arm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I completed this program using a 32kg bell for the TGUs and a 20kg bell in the double kettlebell front squats. The results I could see were mainly in the pressing department. I went from being able to press the 32kg bell 3 times with my right (with a re-clean between each rep) to being able to press it 5 times with no re-clean. My pressing grove felt much better and I could press the bell up without leaning away from it at all and pull it down with good solid tension.

What’s a Turkish Get-Up?

If you can’t see the video, watch it here.

The Zercher Experiment
This translated nicely into my second program which I called The Zercher Experiment. I worked the Zercher squat 5 days a week using a minimalist 5/3/2 rep scheme keeping the weight on the bar the same for all 3 sets. I started out rather conservatively at 70kg and 3 weeks later ended the cycle at 105kg. I simply added 2.5kg each day.

In addition 3 days a week I used a kettlebell clean and press and bent row or pull-up workout. For me this involved the 32kg bell. Week one began on Monday with 1 ladder of 3, Wednesday was 2 ladders of 3 and Friday 3 ladders of 3. The second week I added an extra ladder to each workout from week 1 and then I did the same again in week 3 so that by Friday of week 3 I completed 5 ladders of 3 with the 32kg bell using less rest than ever before.

For the uninitiated ladders and rungs refers to a type of set and rep scheme that works wonders for strength without generating much hypertrophy, meaning not a lot of muscle size increase. To use the kettlebell clean and press as an example, 3 ladders of 3 rungs involves cleaning the kettlebell and pressing it once with each arm. Put the kettlebell down, pause briefly and then clean it back up again and press it twice with each arm. Put it back down, rest for a moment, re-clean the kettlebell and press it three times with each arm. That is one ladder of 3. Now rest for 2 or 3 minutes and repeat the previous steps 2 more times for 3 ladders of 3 rungs in total. This will give you 18 reps per side for the workout. In my case I included bent over rows or pull-ups after each clean and press rung using the same ladder and rung scheme. The pulling movement of bent over rows or pull-ups balances out the strength and physical development given by the pushing movement of the press.

What are Zerchers?

If you can’t see the video, watch it here.

I only just finished this program today so it’s too early to talk concretely about results as such. All I do know is that in 8 weeks (including 1 back-off week) I’ve gotten significantly stronger with the 32kg kettlebell. I plan to test my 1 rep max with the Zercher squat next week (shooting for 120kg+). Possibly the week after I will test how this has all translated with my deadlift.

The Zercher squat and kettlebell program could easily be cycled for continued gains in strength. All you would do with the Zercher squat is start a new cycle 5kg or so heavier than your previous beginning weight. In my example I started at 70kg so my next cycle would start at 75kg and end at 110kg. Then you do it all again. With the clean and press and bent row or pull-up you could just add a rung (go from 3 rungs to 4) and go for another run up again in the same fashion as before. In my example I would end the final Friday of the cycle at 5 ladders of 4 rungs for 50 total reps.

Some Background
I started with a 20kg bell back in September 2007 and worked through Enter the Kettlebell’s Program Minimum and the full Right of Passage. Afterward I got myself a 32kg bell and worked for a couple of months before I could press it. Then I got my hands on Power to the People! and started deadlifting exclusively. 10 months of Power to the People! style deadlifting guided me from a 110kg 1RM to a conservative 182.5kg 1RM with plenty in the tank. I weigh 80kg. Once I hit that 400lb deadlift I decided I wanted to up my pressing strength towards a body weight press and so experimented with the program(s) above. Early in the New Year I plan to use Adam Glass’ Radiant Dawn program to strictly press the 40kg bell overhead with one hand.

Wrapping it Up
Whatever you’re doing I feel everyone (with some very rare exceptions) should work at being stronger today than they were a month ago. And to be stronger next month than they are today. Achieving true strength takes solid preemptive planning, dedication, consistency, self-discipline and a willingness to experiment. All of which are critical qualities for success that translate into almost everything else of value in your life.

If you can’t do these things now with something as simple as picking a weight up off the ground how are you ever going to exemplify these qualities when it really counts? Achieving what you want in life is far more complicated than getting strong. If you haven’t practiced or ingrained the qualities or skills such as planning, dedication, consistency, self-discipline and a willingness to experiment and adjust dynamically your chances of success in life are not very good. Time to start practicing right now. Go pick up something heavy and enjoy the personal development.

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