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5-to-1 Strength image1

Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles
By Patrick Striet, CSCS | Jun 13, 2013

Part Two:The Five Phases of a Proven
Training Program for Enhancing Strength

[Editor's Note: If you have any questions about Patrick Striet's comprehensive and challenging 5-to-1 Strength and Conditioning Program, feel free to log in to the site and enter your question in the comments area at the bottom of this article. We'll forward your question on to Patrick. You can also follow Patrick Striet on Twitter at @pjstriet.]

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In part one of this series, I shared my thoughts on the biggest barriers trainees experience when putting together concurrent strength and conditioning programs over the long haul, gave my opinion on both their physiological and psychological wants and needs in terms of obtaining both structure and variety in their programs, and laid out the general template and structure which makes up 5 to 1.

In this installment, I want to delve into the specifics of each phase, provide some programming suggestions, and point you in the right direction if you feel the 5 to 1 approach is efficacious and can take your training to a new level.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the program and before you tackle each phase, the first thing you need to do is to pick 3-4 indicator exercises which cover the entire body. You will keep these exercises in each phase of the program and you should train them early on (preferably first) in your workouts, using traditional strength loading parameters. This means multiple sets of low reps using heavy weights (85%+ of 1RM) or working up/ramping up to a max effort set of 1-5 reps.

I don't care what strength building protocol you want to use. I personally like Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 approach and variations of it, using Prilipen's chart in the 80-90%+ range, or the Westside max effort method. If there is something else you like besides these, use it. The key is to pick 3-4 movements, keep them in each phase, hit them first or very early on in your workout, and try to get stronger on the movements each week. I'd suggest picking one exercise from each of the following categories:
  • Multiple Joint Upper Body Press (any bench press or overhead press variation)

  • Multiple Joint Upper Body Pull (any row or pull-up/chin-up variation)

  • Hip Dominant Multiple Joint Lower Body Movement (any deadlift, good morning, hip thruster/glute bridge variation)

  • Knee Dominant Multiple Joint Lower Body Movement (any squat variation)

Now that we've covered the importance of keeping a few key indicator lifts in the mix throughout, let's move on and look at the specifics of each phase of 5 to 1.

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Phase 1 (1-2 weeks)
One Full Body Lift

This is pretty self explanatory. The obvious thing to do here is to simply train the 3 or 4 indicator lifts you chose for strength and then add in a back-off set or two of moderate to higher reps (8-12) for each exercise. So, for example, you could do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps for each, using straight sets and 2-3 minutes between sets, and then hit 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps backing off in weight. Yes, I know, this will be a longer workout, but it's the only one you are going to do all week. You obviously won't be able to go quite as heavy on the 3rd and 4th lifts as you would if you did them first, but that's not a big deal. You can prioritize them in later phases. It might look like this:Barbell Bench 3-5x3-5 (2-3 minutes between sets); 1-2x8-12 (60-90 seconds between sets)
  1. Front Squat 3-5x3-5 (2-3 minutes between sets); 1-2x8-12 (60-90 seconds between sets)

  2. Chin-ups 3-5x3-5 (2-3 minutes between sets); 1-2xmax reps with body weight

  3. Barbell Hip Thruster 3-5x3-5 (2-3 minutes between sets); 1-2x8-12 (60-90 seconds between sets)

Phase 2 (1-2 weeks)
1 Upper Body Lift & 1 Lower Body Lift

Again, this is exactly what it sounds like. You are now doing 2 lifting sessions each week: one for the upper body only and one for the lower body only. You should get 2-3 full days of rest between lifts (Mon/Thurs for example). While you are still only hitting every muscle group and region once weekly, you are now upping the volume and focus for each and giving your body something different to respond to.
Open your upper-body-only workout with the press and pull you chose as indicator lifts and work them with whatever strength protocol you like, possibly adding in a back-off set or two for each. After that, balance pushing and pulling movements, both open-chain and closed-chain, for moderate to higher reps. Add in some direct arm work at the end and you are golden. Total volume should not exceed 25 sets.
For the lower-body day, do your big-knee-dominant and hip-dominant lifts first, working them for strength, with a possible back-off set of higher reps. After that, balance out the program with some single leg work, both knee and hip dominant, and some sled or prowler work. Total volume should not be greater than 20-25 sets.

Phase 3 (1-2 weeks)

We are now up to training three times per week, with one dedicated upper body lift, one dedicated lower body lift, and one total body lift, hitting all body parts and regions twice weekly, up from once weekly during phases 1 and 2. A Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs/Sat format works well here.

The upper- and lower-body-only days should look very much like the two days of phase two. My only recommendation here is not to perform your main indicator hip dominant movement on the lower-body-only day and only perform the big knee dominant movement. You can save your main indicator hip-dominant exercise for the total body workout and you should open up with it and prioritize it. After that, you can perform variations of the other 2 or 3 exercises you chose as indicator lifts, as you've already hit those indicator lifts earlier in the week. Basically, this total body day looks a lot like the phase one workout, with variations of some of the indicator exercises.

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Phase 4 (1-2 weeks)

This phase calls for four training days per week: two dedicated upper body sessions and two dedicated lower body sessions. We are still hitting each muscle group and region twice weekly as we did in phase three, but this time around the volume is increased for each and the overall frequency of the general workouts is higher. The schedule could look like this:
  • Monday: Upper Body (prioritize your upper body indicator pressing exercise and perform it first in the workout)

  • Tuesday: Lower Body (prioritize your hip dominant lower body indicator exercise and perform it first in your workout)

  • Wednesday: Off

  • Thursday: Upper Body (prioritize your upper body indicator pulling exercise and perform it first in your workout)

  • Friday: Lower Body (prioritize your knee dominant lower body indicator exercise and perform it first in your workout)

After the indicator movements are completed on each day, go onto your assistance and supplementary work. On upper body days, balance out and alternate both open- and closed-chain push and pulls, and finish things off with direct arm work. Alternatively, you could make one upper body day your "pressing muscles day," and perform work solely for the chest, front delts, and triceps. You could make your 2nd upper body day the "pulling muscles day" and perform work solely for the upper back, lats and biceps. It's up to you. There is a lot of wiggle room and freedom in how you can format this.

The same goes for your lower body only days. After the main indicator exercise on each day, you can do a mix of hip and knee dominant (both unilateral and bilateral) exercises, or make one day a hip-dominant-only day and the other your knee-dominant only day. Again, it's up to you. Regardless of what route you choose, limit total volume to no more than 25 sets per workout.

Phase 5 (1-2 weeks)
5 Day Body Part Split

This is the "pump and burn," "bomb and blitz" typical bodybuilding split phase. I, like most guys I've put on this program, love this phase. Say what you want, but there is a closet bodybuilder in all of us, and this phase satisfies that desire. It's fun. Period.

There are obviously a lot of ways to set this phase up. I, personally, prefer this:
  • Monday: Chest

  • Tuesday: Legs

  • Thursday: Back

  • Friday: Legs

  • Saturday: Shoulders and Arms

Again, it doesn't have to be this way but it's probably as good as any. As with every other phase, you need to keep your indicator exercises in there. If you are going with my recommended split, open up your Monday workout with your upper body pressing indicator exercise (unless it's an overhead press, which you can then save for Saturday), your Tuesday workout with your knee- or hip-dominant indicator exercise, your Thursday workout with your upper body pulling indicator exercise, and your Friday workout with your knee- or hip-dominant indicator exercise (whichever one you didn't do on Tuesday).

After the indicator exercises are out of the way, have fun. Hit each body part from a lot of different angles, with a lot of different equipment and modalities, and with a lot of different rep ranges, tempos, post-fatigue techniques (drop sets, negatives, mechanical advantage extended sets), etc. Just focus on keeping constant tension on the muscle, getting a pump, making the mind muscle connection, and all of that bodybuilding stuff. As I've said throughout this article, limit volume to no more than 25 sets per workout. Don't worry about the amount of volume or over-training with post-fatigue techniques, You are only doing this for a week or two and you can handle it.

At the end of phase five, you can head right back to phase one. After the high frequency of phases four and five, you'll be ready for a back off and you will welcome the opportunity to only train one day per week. You can also choose new indicator exercises at this point, or, if you'd like, keep milking the same ones. It's up to you.

What About Cardio?
I'm not going to get into many specifics about what type of cardio to implement. I'm going to leave that up to you as I don't want to start a debate about steady state vs. met con vs. HIIT, etc. All I'll say is that there should be an inverse relationship between the frequency of your strength training sessions and your conditioning sessions: when the frequency of strength training is high, the frequency of cardio should be low and vice versa. Here is what I've done personally and with clients in terms of setting things up:

Phase 1
  • *2 HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning Sessions (no more than 20 minutes per session)

  • 2 Medium Intensity Steady State Sessions (20-30 minutes at around 70% max heart rate)

  • 1 Low Intensity Steady State Session (long ass walk on the weekends)

         *you could tag one of these sessions onto the end of your weekly lift

Phase 2
  • *2 HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning Sessions (no more than 20 minutes per session)

  • 1 Medium Intensity Steady State Session (20-30 minutes at around 70% max heart rate)

  • 1 Low Intensity Session

         *you could tag one of these onto the end of one of your lifts

Phase 3
  • *1 HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning Sessions (no more than 20 minutes per session)

  • *1 Medium Intensity Steady State Session (20-30 minutes at around 70% max heart rate)

  • 1 Low Intensity Session

        *you could do these later in the day after 2 of your lifts if you prefer in order
          to consolidate training days and allow more recovery

Phase 4
  • 1 Medium Intensity Steady State Session (20-30 minutes at around 70% of max heart rate)

  • 1 Low Intensity Session

Phase 5
  • My preference here would just be to take 2 long walks during the week and throw out any medium-high intensity work as you are lifting 5 days per week

So, there you have it. If you've been in a bit of rut, have not been very amped up to train, are tired of the "same old same old," and basic progressive overload methods are failing to bring the results they once did, I hope you'll consider the 5 to 1 approach and give it a go. Have fun with it and train hard!

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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.

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