Testing “Easy Strength” Program to Get Stronger

I first came across the Easy Strength program by listening to an interview with its creator Pavel Tsatsouline on the Tim Ferris show. What drew me to the program was its simple approach to building strength which Dan John (a co-author of the Easy Strength book who has a great post on the easy strength program ) boils down to three core tenants:

  • Train as heavy as possible.
  • Train as often as possible.
  • Train as fresh as possible.

Rather than training different body parts on different days with Easy Strength you perform 5 different category of exercises 5 days a week. Then you do that for 20 or 40 days straight. After which you can change up the exercises within the category or keep going.

The five different categories of exercises are:

  • Push – bench press, military press, incline press, etc…
  • Pull – pull ups, chin ups, deadlift variations, etc…
  • Hinge – kettlebell swings, deadlift variations, etc…
  • Squat – back squat, front squat, overhead squat, etc…
  • Loaded carry – farmer’s carry, suitcase carry, etc…

Delving further into the world of Easy Strength I came across a post by Pat Flynn whose concept of fitness minimalism resonated with me. Specifically:

So here is my philosophy on fitness and life: Do the least amount you need to do to get the job done, and not a smidgen more.  Instead of a million different exercises, how about just two or three useful ones?

The Plan

My goal now that I’m older (38 years old) is not to prioritize getting bigger (aka “swole”), but to get stronger. My days of getting huge and jack are behind me and I don’t have the time nor desire to stuff my face in order to gain swole-ness. Plus did you know that strength relative to body weight (especially leg strength) as you age is supposed to help you live longer?

So far for the past 4 months I’ve been running an Easy Strength inspired strength program. I’m not sure if it’s because of the program, but anecdotally my deadlift has gone up 10 pounds.  Since I’m not sure the effects of Easy Strength on my one rep maxes I wanted to be more formal about my testing. For my next cycle I’ll document my current one rep maxes and test them again at the end of the 40 workout sessions (approximately 2 months). 

Lifting Stats as of Post Date (11-13-2018)

My current max lifts for key lifts at body weight 135 lbs / 5ft 8in (and when last tested):

  • Deadlift – 315 lbs @ 9-26-18 – Intermediate (340 lbs for Advanced)
  • Strict press – 125 lbs @ 10-30-18 – Advanced (150 lbs for Elite)
  • Bench – 170 lbs @ 2-13-18 (3 rep) – Intermediate (210 lbs for Advanced)
  • Back squat – 205 lbs @ 4-23-18  – Intermediate (280 lbs for Advanced)

The ratings next to my lifts are based on ExRx.net’s strength standard tables. Basically ExRx has taken the years of olympic weightlifting competition and training data they have and come up with strength standards relative to your weight.

Based on where I am currently my strict press is the best followed by my bench press (considering it is a 3 rep instead of 1 rep number). My weakest is my squat which and have been working on for the past year. I was doing more squats when I first started CrossFit, but soon after developed patellar tendonitis in my left knee (which I will talk about in another post). I think it was a classic case of too much too soon. The end result was that I took time off from any heavy squatting so that lift lagged behind

Next 40 days

Anyway, the plan now is for the next 20 workouts to work on these lifts:

  • Push – push press
  • Pull – legless rope climbs
  • Hinge – romanian deadlift
  • Squat – back squat

The rep scheme I will use is 6 sets with the following rep scheme: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 (rep scheme won’t apply to legless rope climbs which will be 3 sets of 2 climbs). So total number of reps per day per exercise is 12 reps or 60 reps a week. As you can see this is not a lot of reps and the Easy Strength doctrine specifically wants each of those reps to not be a struggle. Specifically:

For the next forty workouts, pick five lifts. Do them every workout. Never miss a rep. In fact, never even get close to struggling. Go as light as you need to go and don’t go over ten reps for any of the movements in a workout. It’s going to seem easy. When the weights feel light, simply add more weight

It’s good there is not high volume and not high intensity lifting sessions as I still want to do CrossFit WODs(workouts of the day). Since doing the program I found I still have energy for the WODs and if anything it just gives me a little extra volume. Since I am doing additional workouts you could say this is not the best test of the program, but I look at the WODs as more to develop fitness & endurance rather than strength especially since I’m always doing lighter weights (men’s RX is too heavy for me!).

After 20 workouts I’ll see how I feel and decide then whether to continue the same exercises or mix up the exercises to do another cycle of 20 workouts. I probably should throw in bench since I’m not really hitting any bench in the first 20 days. It would be interesting to see if bench goes up with just doing the shoulder push presses (probably not likely). After 40 workouts I’ll test my maxes again and see if building strength is truly this easy.

Will keep you posted.

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