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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:45 pm 
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The 40 Day Workout

A few years ago, Pavel Tsatsouline, noted kettlebell master and perhaps the keenest mind in strength I've ever met, gave me a simple program. Be wary, this program is so simple that you'll ignore its value.

1. For the next 40 workouts, do the exact same training program every day. (For the record, I find that most of my goals are reached by day 20 or 22, so you can also opt for a shorter period.)

2. Pick five exercises. I suggest you do a squatting movement like the goblet squat or overhead squat as part of the warm-up, as you don't want to ignore the movement, but it might be fun to focus on other aspects of your body.

3. Focus on these five movements:

• A large posterior chain movement (the deadlift is the right answer)

• Upper body push (bench press, incline bench press, military press)

• Upper body pull (pull-ups, rows, or, if you've ignored them like me, heavy bicep curls)

• A simple full-body explosive move (kettlebell swings or snatches)

• And something for what I call an "anterior chain" move (an abdominal exercise). I think the ab wheel is king here, but you can also do some movements best suited for lower reps.

4. Only do two sets of five reps per workout for the deadlift and push/pull exercises, and one set of 20 to 50 for the explosive move. Do a solid single set of five reps for the abs.

5. Never plan or worry about the weight or the load. Always stay within yourself and go heavy "naturally."

6. Don't eat chalk, scream, or pound on walls. Simply do each lift without any emotion or excitement and strive for perfect technique.

So, the workout might consist of these five movements:

Thick bar deadlift
Bench press
Heavy biceps curls
Kettlebell swings
Ab wheel

For the record, this is exactly what I recently used in my workouts. I often did this five days a week, and found that my lifts naturally waved up and down throughout the week and the full 40 days. Sometimes, something like a 250-pound bench press would feel so light for both sets of five that I had to hold back on the excitement to do more sets and reps.

The secret to the program is that you get your volume from doing up to ten sets of a lift in a week and the load increases as you naturally feel like the weights are "easy." It is that simple.

The first time I tried this program under Pavel's direction, I added 15 pounds to my lifetime incline bench press during the twenty-first workout, approximately a month after starting the program. I did this max with no spotter and I got the lift for a double. It was a 15-pound improvement over my lifetime best with an extra rep as a parting gift without doing a single hard workout. Just two sets of five anytime I entered the gym.

You can certainly come up with your own variations, but try to stick with the basic five movements and don't stray far from two sets of five. You'll be amazed at how quickly your strength will improve after just a few weeks. Also, notice the element of randomness in this workout.

With a home gym, I can train this program daily, but I naturally find that I take days off here and there simply because of the nature of life. You could do all 40 (or 20) days in a row, but things will come up.

After finishing either all 40 days or when you feel your strength has come up to a level that more advanced training methods are appropriate, feel free to move along. The short time you invest in focusing on strength building will do wonders for your muscle mass as you begin to attack super sets or whatever you deem important.

The 40 Day Workout might be an excellent way to progress through the V-Diet, or any other diet strategy that involves a set number of weeks. After ending the 28 days of the diet, one's strength will take off as you ease off the strict nutritional efforts.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:21 pm 
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Grim Hamundarson wrote:
Anything more specific about load and progression?
I seem to remember, in previous discussion about this, that Dan himself said something to the affect of, "guys come to a program like this without being strong enough".
I'm thinking about doing this at some point in the next few months.


Danny John wrote:
I could write a 600 page rant on that question. Here is the thing: percents don't work, excel spreadsheets don't work, planned lifting doesn't work. I know, I know, someone is going to post how they followed x or y for six months. I have tried them all. So, with the 40 day, you toss out load. I usually suggest you start out with like your third to last warm up on the Bench Press for 2 x 5. So, that might be 205 or 225 for a 405 bencher. And, that is easy!

You do that this week twice and next week you toss on some more weight the first time you do 2 x 5. It goes up just as light, just as easy. By definition, you are stronger. You do that with all the variations and movements, here is the note I sent one of my athletes:

Farmer Walk or Suitcase Walk (FW: Bell in each had; SW: Bell in one hand, then switch) Vary the distance EVERY time, and probably the load…if you can.

Two sets of Five: it should be easy and be like your second or third warm up lift in a typical workout. The idea, the “secret,” is to get THIS workout to feel easier and easier!

Five-Three-Two: Five reps with your 2 x 5 weight, add weight for three, then a solid double. Make the Double!!!

Six Singles: I don’t care how you do this, but add weight each set. No misses!

One set of ten: the day after six singles, very light load for ten easy “tonic” reps.

60 percent of the workouts are 2 sets of 5, one in ten is Six Singles (followed by 1 x 10) and 20 percent (2 of 10) are 5-3-2.

I made it that simple, because people just can't get their damn heads around the idea that you can get really strong by doing the movements. Here is the thing: if you train the 40 day workout, five days a week, that is eight weeks. Now, MOST people have NEVER done a program for 8 weeks, so the success might simply be...

you do what you say you need to do.

I have had dozens of emails where the person starts easy strength and a week later gets hurt doing some BS thing they read in a blog or decides to Olympic lift, Highland Game, Crossfit, and Zumba...

The reason it is so easy to win, in my opinion, in sports is simply focusing on the task and lifting to support it. I can't believe when I hear football teams are doing aerobic dance, long distance runs, swimming...you name it...

Have the courage to do something for eight weeks. If it is bullshit...and it might be!...then move on. Most trainees have never done the same thing for two workouts. It is something I learned from Dick Notmeyer: we snatched and clean and jerked three days a week and Jerked off the rack and front squatted two days a week for TWO straight YEARS. Then, he let me bench and squat and my numbers were off the charts. This is when I did my very first deadlift and I pulled 555 because the gym record was 550. I don't recommend this, but damn it, it works...


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:49 pm 
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good man

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:57 pm 
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Danny John wrote:
Some more information on the Forty Day Workout...

Since it keeps popping up, I am going to share what I am working on. This is only a page or two of a much larger piece:

Let’s start with an advanced experienced trainer who has “never” done any Loaded Carries. (In three weeks, I will be a genius as the Farmer Walks alone will change everything.)
There are a few “rules” before we begin:
1. Never miss a rep!
2. Follow the “Rule of Ten” for the appropriate lifts for an advanced lifter; if Patterning needs to be done, do it as often and as much as necessary; and, use the rules of 15-25 for the appropriate half body lifts.
3. Advanced athlete’s warm-ups
10-25 Goblet Squats
75 Swings (Sets of 10-25; really grease that Hinge Movement)
1-5 Get Ups (Half Get Ups are fine as is the Kalos Sthenos variation)



“Easy Strength” for an Experienced Lifter
Week 1
Mon (1)__Tues (2)_____Wed (3)______Fri (4)_______Sat (5)
2x5 2x5 5-3-2 2x5 2x5

Week 2
Mon (6)__ Tues (7)____Wed (8)_____ Fri (9)_____ Sat (10)
2x5 6 singles 1x10 2x5 5-3-2

Lifts for the above:

Press Movement: Change the lifts every two weeks, “Same, but Different.” So flat bench press, incline bench press, and military press can be exchanged for each other after every two-week block

Pull Movement: Either do Bat Wings in combo with the press, two to three isometric holds for about ten seconds every workout, or simply skip this and get the work in from the other movements.

Hinge Movement: There are two options here depending on need: either pick a deadlift variation (and rotate it every two weeks, for example, thick bar deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, clean grip deadlifts, orthodox deadlifts, Jefferson Lifts or Hack squats) or do kettlebell swings in the 75-100 range. (These options will all cover the need for pulling, too.

Squat Movement: Again, ideally one would alternate movements after every two weeks, front squats, back squats, overhead squats, zercher squats or safety squats are all fine.

Loaded Carry: Vary the distance EVERY time, and probably the load…if you can.

Important Note: This is not the “Order” of the workout. More on that later…

The workouts

Two sets of Five: it should be easy and be like your second or third warm up lift in a typical workout. The idea, the “secret,” is to get THIS workout to feel easier and easier!

Five-Three-Two: Five reps with your 2 x 5 weight, add weight for three, then a solid double. Make the Double!!!

Six Singles: I don’t care how you do this, but add weight each set. No misses!

One set of ten: the day after six singles, very light load for ten easy “tonic” reps.


Example Workout for an Experienced Lifter:
Monday, Day One.
Incline Bench Press: 165 for five reps, 165 for 5 reps (300 Max Single)
Thick Bar Deadlifts: 185 for five reps, 185 for 5 reps (265 Max Single)
(This is the Pull and the Hinge Movements…an advanced lifter)
Front Squats: 185 for five reps, 185 for 5 reps (405 Max Single)
Farmer Walks: 105 with each hand, 100 meters out and back (three stops)
Ab Wheel: five reps.

Day Two can be heavier or lighter depending on mood and feel. The important thing is to show up and get the movements in. If one day is too hard and compromises the next day, that is fine as long as you lighten the load and continue getting the reps in without compromising speed.

Day Three “should” begin with the five rep number from the usual 2 x 5 workout, then add some weight for three, and finally add some weight for two. Be sure to get the double. Most people on the easy strength program find that this workout is the test for how things are progressing. The weights begin to fly up on the double and that is good, but stop there. Remember, this is a long-term approach to getting strong and don’t keep testing yourself. Save the big effort for, well, never.

Day Four and Day Five are the most confusing days. Again the load on the bar “depends” on how you feel. If the efforts feel easy and light, “nudge” the load up. Here is the secret (again): the goal of this program is gently raise your efforts (load) on the easy days so that the bar feels light. If you start out lifting a weight, say 205 at one effort level and in a few weeks you are lifting 245 at the same perceived effort and speed, you ARE stronger.

After a day of rest, Day Six is going to feel easy and it should be like that. Get the reps in.

Day Seven has a simple rule: you will do six singles adding weight EACH rep. So, it can be five pounds or fifty depending on how each single feels. It is NOT a max effort on the last set, it is the sixth single. If the loads feel heavy, just add five pounds. If the bar is flying, add more.

For people who come from the tradition of “smashing the face on the wall,” Day Seven is confusing. Your goal is to determine the load on how the weight feels. If it pops right up and feels light, toss on the plates. If it doesn’t, respect today and realize that you are going to have plenty of opportunities to get stronger in the future.

Day Eight is a “tonic” day, the way we used to use the term. Go really light and just enjoy ten repetitions. It can be as light as 40% of max (or lighter if you feel like, too) and just use the movement to unwind after yesterday’s heavy attempts.

Day Nine is often the day when people see the reasoning behind the program. This is the day where the weights seem to often be just “far too easy.” That is the sign of progress in this program. I remember actually thinking I misloaded the bar and I had to double check my math as the bar seemed to be far too light to be right.

Day Ten is often the day where people “test” themselves a little and this can be fine as long as you feel like going after it. Again, don’t miss.

Week Three, Option One

Now, the original program designed by Pavel demanded that you repeat Weeks One and Two for three additional times. Oh, and it works well. By Week Five, I was a machine on the lifts and broke lifetime Personal Records, smashing my Incline Bench Press record by fifteen pounds (and doing it for two reps, not just a single) and crushing my old Thick Bar Deadlift record (from 265 to 315). This is staggering improvement. So Option One is to simply keep on keeping on.

Week Three, Option Two
I like this one more for most athletes. You make small changes to the movements, from Bench Press to Incline Bench Press, Thick Bar Deadlift to Snatch Grip Deadlift and Front Squat to Back Squat. This is Pavel’s “Same, but different” approach. That small change seems to keep enthusiasm high for the entire Eight weeks.

Week Three, Option Three
I have a few athletes doing this now and I believe (maybe “hope” is a better word) that this is the better option for speed and power athletes. It is both a “deload” week and week filled with more metabolic challenges.

Day One
Push Press or Push Jerk (“Rule of Ten”) Five sets of Two, adding weight each set, is a great workout.
Litvinovs: After doing a Hinge or a Squat movement, either sprint, sled or prowler immediately after finishing the first movement. In a gym setting, this can be difficult, but I have done this outside with great success with just a kettlebell and a hill. The complete article will be in the appendix.

Day Two

Left Hand Only!
• Waiter Walk
• Suitcase Walk
• Single Arm Front Squat (Kettlebells are best)
• Suitcase Deadlift
• One arm row on the TRX (or suitable device)
• One arm Bench Press.
Reps, sets, load, time and every other factor “depends.” The idea is to push the stability and symmetry muscles and movements. There is an odd metabolic hit to these moves as one sweats a lot more than expected doing this. So, for example, this can be done with a single Kettlebell in a park (which is wonderful, by the way) and the athlete can challenge various aspects of training and get a good workout while also practicing mastery of body position and dynamics.

Doing just one side also frees up the mind a little bit. It is pretty obvious what you will be doing in a few days so you can experiment a bit and play the edges of tension and relaxation as you train.

Day Three
Push Press or Push Jerk (“Rule of Ten”) Five sets of Two, adding weight each set, is a great workout.
Litvinovs: After doing a Hinge or a Squat movement, either sprint, sled or prowler immediately after finishing the first movement. In a gym setting, this can be difficult, but I have done this outside with great success with just a kettlebell and a hill. The complete article will be in the appendix.

Day Four
Right Arm Only!
• Waiter Walk
• Suitcase Walk
• Single Arm Front Squat (Kettlebells are best)
• Suitcase Deadlift
• One arm row on the TRX (or suitable device)
• One arm Bench Press.

At the beginning of Week Four, the athlete will mix up the variations in the basic movements (Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Loaded Carry) and progress along using the same rep and set template in Weeks One and Two.

After finishing the program (Weeks One and Two repeated four times total; Option Three would be a twelve week program), fully assess mobility, basic strength levels and the program vis-à-vis your goals. I would suggest maybe an FMS screen and blood tests, too, but costs can be an issue.

Now, the workout itself does NOT necessarily go in this order:
Warm-Ups
1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Walk/Run/Sprint under load
Correctives

In fact, I think the real insight of the past ten years for me is understanding the role of perceived strengths and weaknesses by the athlete in their training system.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2011 3:51 am 
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If you want follow up, just ask. If I miss a question here, just email me: dan@danjohn.net, but let's answer it here.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 3:41 pm 
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Danny John wrote:
If you want follow up, just ask. If I miss a question here, just email me: dan@danjohn.net, but let's answer it here.


Dan after running the 40 day and sticking with the same exercises the entire time, would you jump to another program to mix it up a bit and then revisit it, or can you stick with it and just select different exercises? I just completed the program and really enjoyed it. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 9:40 pm 
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Here is someone who followed one example:
http://www.skillofstrength.blogspot.com/
Pretty nice summary here.

As for your question, you can do the two plus one model for just about forever...say six months or so. I would suggest doing the forty day program, then taking a new honest evaluation. If you missed doing goofy stuff, add it in. If you need variety, toss it in. I suggest that people who have really clear goals use the 40 Day Program. Otherwise, it is a "nice" idea. Does that make sense?


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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 10:37 pm 
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let's say...you had an older "athlete" (experienced but with all the baggage and poor recovery you'd expect) who was concentrating his energy on learning the HG throws, plus discus.

for this guy,a limited number of daily exercises would seem to be perfect for maintaining and even building baseline strength...however we know that learnign the throws, especially the heavier HG throws can be pretty physically as well as mentally taxing, how would you balance?

limit the number of movements? rotate the throws? rotate the movements?

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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 4:29 pm 
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Well, throwers throw.

You need to consider like three movements a session in the weightroom and rotate them every two weeks or so. Keep finding a weak link or lift and do that. The other two movements (of the three) are the basics like a press and a deadlift or squat. As a thrower, you can ignore some explosive work in the weightroom after a while. For you...and I am just guessing...bodybuilding stuff AFTER the basics wouldn't be bad. If you want a big template, email me and then we can post it here, but I need some specifics...


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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 2:31 am 
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email sent.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:26 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:08 am 
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Clarification please, if I were to use the following exercises as posted above;
Thick bar deadlift
Bench press
Heavy biceps curls
Kettlebell swings
Ab wheel
What would be the warm-up protocols for the two 5 rep work sets for the push/pull/DL?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:50 am 
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Anybody ?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:36 am 
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Do what you need to get warm.
But doing a 30 minute warm-up for a 20 minute lifting session with submaximal weights might be a bit much.

Do it if you feel like you need it though.

I'm doing this with front squats only right now and usually just do some front squats with the bar and then get going. On days where I might go heavier, I might do a bit more, but not much.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:19 pm 
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Damien wrote:
Do what you need to get warm.
But doing a 30 minute warm-up for a 20 minute lifting session with submaximal weights might be a bit much.

Do it if you feel like you need it though.

I'm doing this with front squats only right now and usually just do some front squats with the bar and then get going. On days where I might go heavier, I might do a bit more, but not much.


Thanks.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:56 am 
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I have been goblet squatting with a KB and then swinging said KB with a little MOB real quick. I think I might do some OHS in the next few weeks.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:17 pm 
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I realize this hasn't seen any activity in a while but...

I started this last week and am enjoying it. As I was re-reading the original post, I realized that this program does not have to be done 5x per week. Correct?

Week 1 was easy and so was Mon & Tues this week. Today everything felt heavy. Now I know Dan said this would happen and to keep on working through it. I am just looking ahead as in if I am hitting multiple shit days in a row then I would throw in a 4 day work week. The important part of this is repeating the same workout each time you workout for 40 workouts... not days. Am I correct?

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:11 pm 
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Right, at three days a week, it is around 13 weeks, but it doesn't matter really. The key is that for 40 days, or 20!, you do what you say you will do. That's the key.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:06 pm 
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This is a good find for me. I've been on 5/3/1 almost non-stop for two years. This will be a refreshing change of pace.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:29 am 
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I know a lot of you, rightly, don't click links:
http://danjohn.net/2013/12/the-forty-day-workout-again/


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