Creative Commons License photo credit: scarndp

The most repeatedly asked questions in regards to exercise more often than not refer to exercise programming or protocols. For example, your response to articles here on Balanced Existence such as The Connection Between Human History and Your Health may be an urge to become more physically active and/or to become stronger. If this is the case – fantastic!

This urge may however be immediately followed by a problem – what should you do? The specific answer for you will always depend on your goals. However, what I hope to present here and in a number of following articles is some of the exercise protocols I use that I know are highly effective based on my own experience and the experience of many others. But first, we interrupt this program…

Warning: Incoming Rant
In my opinion if you are physically weak you should be taking immediate steps towards becoming strong unless a medical condition precludes all possibility of doing so. I’ve found that it is the last refuge of the weak to scoff at the strong. This is because they know not of what they speak. Not the first freaking clue.

Similarly, for those who are worried about becoming “big” from lifting weights – forget about it. The – “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to get big” – statement gives me a repeated concussion from slapping my own forehead. Such concerns are not founded in the real world or on anything resembling actual experience, which is to say this is a completely unfounded excuse. Load bearing exercise (weight lifting) performed correctly is phenomenally good for you – physically, mentally, emotionally and yes even spiritually.

Someone that says this sort of thing is doing nothing other than expressing their own ignorance. To become big from lifting weights requires significant dedication and consistency as well as specific exercise programming, diet and recovery protocols. Getting big and ripped doesn’t just magically happen. If this describes you, do yourself a huge quality of life improving favor, drop the lame excuses and learn how to safely move heavy (for you) weight. Now that I’ve got that off my chest lets move on to today’s workout.

The Workout

152.5kg (335lbs) x 5
145.0kg (319lbs) x 5

Barbell Military Press
55kg (121lbs) x 5
50kg (110lbs) x 5


  • 3min jump rope for warm up.
  • 1min quick mobility limber up.
  • 5 burpies followed immediately by 1min jump rope as active rest for 5 rounds.
  • Continued with 5 burpies followed immediately by 2min jump rope for active rest for a further 5 rounds.

Important Exercise Programming Notes
The deadlift and military press routine utilizes one big pull lift (the deadlift) and one big press (the military press). The workout requires nothing more than a barbell and some plates that are relatively inexpensive and will last you a lifetime. It is ultra minimalist so you can easily do it at home in a very short amount of time each day. And you will become bull strong if you stick with it without necessarily getting bigger. If your emphasis is on getting strong take 3 – 5 minute rest breaks between sets to ensure full recovery. If you want to put on some muscle try resting just 90 seconds before the second set. The weight for the second set should be approximately 90% of the first set. Perform the workout 5 times per week.

Today’s workout was the first in what’s called a cycle. At the end of the previous cycle I deadlifted 165kg (363lbs) x 5 and pressed 67.5kg (148lbs) x 5. After a short break begin a new cycle at a weight slightly higher than the beginning of the previous cycle. For the deadlift the increase is around 5 – 10kg (10 – 20lbs) and for the press this might be 2 – 5kg (5 – 10lbs). Generally, the more experience you have the smaller the increases become. Cycles last for around 12 workouts (no more than 16) and the weight is increased 2.5kg (5lbs) each workout until the current cycle ends with a new PR (personal record).

The whole process then begins again. This way burnout or injury is avoided and the gains keep steadily coming. If you would like to give this protocol a try don’t do what some do and complete just one cycle or even just one week of workouts and complain that it’s not working. The program works – If you actually do it. My first cycle back in November 2008 ended at 125kg (275lbs) x 5 in the deadlift. Before this month is out (September 2009), just 5 cycles later, I’ll deadlift 175kg (385lbs) x 5 and before November this year I expect to deadlift 2.5 x my bodyweight or 197.5kg (434lbs) for a single rep. This is using nothing but chalk. I do not use a belt. You can read more about the deadlift here.

Full credit for this program which is called Power to the People goes to Pavel Tsatsouline. If you’re interested I highly recommend you check what the master himself has to say in Power to the People (that is an affiliate link). It goes into far greater detail than I ever could in regards to techniques for building phenomenal strength without bulk using this simple minimalist routine. It also explains how to safely perform the deadlift.

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