Have it all!

Bryce Lane 3-6-02

The basics

I have thougth many times about one workout that could give you "it all" or as close to it as possible. A simple, short, to the point workout where you would get stronger in a very practical sense, increase your work capacity and conditioning level and add bulk if you eat like you mean business. A no-nonsense workout that could take you from dweeb to superhuman for the price of blood, sweat and twenty minutes of your TeeVee time a few days a week. I got the basic idea for this from an article by Charles Staley called "Escalating density training" which was more about bodybuilding. This is a great deal more general and is aimed at people who want "the big picture", and the bigger the better.

Here's how it works. For twenty minutes you do as many reps as you can of your chosen compound exercise, squats, deadlifts, power cleans or snatches, clean & presses etc. You do this twice a week. You use the same weight throught the twenty minutes. About 75-80% of your gym-maximun in good clean form is fine to start. Begin with something you can easily do and add as you can.

Do sets of twos, threes or even fives or tens, your choice, mix it up if you need to. Do a set and when you are able to focus again, then do another. When you can get the right number of reps in that twenty minutes then up the weight 5-10% next time and work up again. I like 10% jumps since I tend to do better with a bigger drop in volume and more of a challenge with the weight. However if you like the more gradual approach then by all means, use it.

I try to shoot for fifty in that twenty minutes since that number both keeps up my heart rate and breathing and makes it possible for me to use heavy weight in the 75-85% range. However the number you choose could just as well be anywhere between 20 (anything less than this isn't really doing much) and 100 reps (higher than this and the weight may be too small). If you can do 100 reps with 1.5 x bodyweight in 20 min. in the squat then you are one very conditioned individual with plenty of useful strength as well. That’s something to shoot for; or 50 reps 2 x bodyweight in 20 min. in the squat or 50 reps x bodyweight in the barbell clean and press are other worthy goals. I'm sure you can see the idea.

Here are a few exercise combinations you might consider:

My Favorite:

Mon/Thur.-- Barbell Clean & press-20min

Tues/Fri-- OL Squat -20min




Tues/Fri--Dips + chins supersetted-20min. (there are many combinations to do this way)



Mon/Thurs--DB Clean & Press--20min

Tues/Fri--DB Farmers walk--20min (intervals of as long as you can go instead of reps)


For odd object fanatics

Mon/thur--Barrel or sandbag clean & press--20 min.

Tues/fri--heavy object carry for distance--20min (intervals of as long as you can go instead of reps)


Mon/thurs--Rock or barrel lift --20min

Tue/Fri--Sandbag curl& press, Farmers walk each 20min. (if you are very-very serious)


You get the idea. Use compound exercises that will get your heart and lungs going along with everything else. If you want to do an assistance exercise or two, do them afterwards and not too many of them. For most of you that won't be much of a problem for obvious reasons. I like doing rockovers (tilt up barbell then support in balance with one hand) and curls. When you are finished, lay down, get your breath back and go have a carton of milk, a protein drink, or eat a nice big meal. You just earned it.

At the same time you have done many lifts with a high percentage of your max, you have gotten your heart and lungs working "overtime-plus", you have done a great deal of "work" in the mechanical sense, and you have only used twenty minutes to do the whole job.

If you start by doing 30 reps with say 300# in the squat and after a couple of sessions you get fifty, You are of course stronger, you have increased your conditioning and work capacity and if you eat enough decent food you will likely increase your muscle mass also. You can pretty much forget about all the complicated set/rep and weekly schemes and simply concentrate on doing more work in your alloted time. When you reach fifty reps or your chosen number, then you increase the weight and work up again.




Is it really that simple? For the most part, yes. However not everything is so smooth sometimes, you will have staleness and reverses eventually. Here are a few little detours to make sure your progress continues.

The first is to take a week off from the regular work and do only heavy singles. Go in and work up to one to three reasonably heavy singles in your chosen lifts, You can do this every day or every other day. I like every day, but some people don't get along well with that and should go every other day or monday/wed/friday. Some of you may find it useful to do three weeks of the regular twenty minute sets and then on the last week of the four, do the singles, find out how much stronger you are now and get a little bit of a rest before you go full out again.

Another approach is suppose you simply can’t get past 300# x40 in your twenty minutes of squatting? You can keep hammering away or you can increase the weight to 325# or 330#, then work up to thirty with that, then drop back to the 300#'s and get the fifty much easier. You can also take all the time you like to get the correct number of reps and then aim for decreasing the time it takes you to do them till you get down under 20min.

Yet another is for if you are more interested in the conditioning aspect or tend to run out of breath quicker than you might like. You drop the weight a bit and work towards doing many more reps than fifty. Use that as a starting point and shoot for the moon. Work up to one hundred reps if you can. If you can do that with anything over 1.5x bodyweight then there is not much in nature, sports, work or life that will wear you out.

One more idea is to pick a similar exercise and change to that one for awhile. It should be very similar though. Switching from full squats to leg presses, isn't going to be a big help, but changing from squats to, front squats or deadlifts would be fine. You will still be getting plenty of work, that’s for sure!

One way to arrange a program using a couple of these strategies is:

Three weeks:

Mon/Thurs --BB Clean & Press--20min

Tues/Fri--OL Squats--20 min


One week

M,W,F,--BB Clean & press--work up to near max single

T,Th, Sat,--OL Squat--work up to near max single


Three weeks

Mon/thur--Bench press--20min

Tues/Fri-- Deadlift, trap bar Deadlift or high pull--20min


One week

Mon/thur--Bench press-- work up to near max single

Tues/Fri-- Deadlift, trap bar Deadlift or high pull-- work up to near max single

And so on in a two month repeating cycle. There are other ways using these ideas also that you can easily imagine on your own.


This is "the whole enchilada" so to say. I could make this a much longer article but it really is this simple. You can get stronger, better conditioned, and even bigger in twenty minutes a day, four days a week. If there is a better deal out there, buy it, then write me!