Barbell Strategy Endurance Program

Barbell Strategy Endurance Program - get the full ebook here 

More is not better. Suffering is not optimizing. Our approach to endurance training is different than the approach the rest of the industry takes. Conventional advice about endurance training is that you actually need to “endure” your workouts, suffer, and put in lots of time and long distances. A current understanding of biology requires more focus on health, rest, and listening to your body. Instead of giving you long workouts to suffer through, we put you in charge of your own workouts. We'll assign templates for you to follow, but you will have the ultimate veto power over any workout.

Our endurance program requires an open mind and a commitment to follow the plan. We are eschewing conventional wisdom and making recommendations that directly contradict the advice in popular training literature. Our program will only work if you are willing to try what we're prescribing and not drift or supplement with conventional work. You will likely feel so good and under-worked on this program that you will want to do extra so that you feel the typical suffering of endurance training. If you can ignore those feelings, you're ready to give our endurance program a try.

Who should do this?

Our program is a strength-based endurance program. It’s perfect for runners, cyclists, triathletes, even rowers - anyone whose typical event is over 2:00 in length (that’s anything 800m or longer in track). It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite athlete, a competitive age grouper, a serious amateur, or a weekend warrior, you’ll benefit from our strength-based approach. Elite athletes will need to supplement sport-specific work from their main coach. Weekend warriors will appreciate the additional free time because our program is much shorter than typical endurance work.

We also find that this program works wonders for masters athletes of all kinds. As you age, it takes longer to recover from your workouts, and the low-and-slow approach we take creates the perfect stimulus to get and keep you strong without wearing your body down.

Listen to your body 

The key to making all of this work is that you'll have to be in tune with your body. You'll have to pay attention to your day-to-day health (do I have the sniffles today?), your sleep (did I wake up feeling energized?), and your recovery (do I even feel like working out today?). Your answers to those questions each day will help direct you on what you do for your workout. You'll also want to make sure that you're having fun outside of the workouts. Play is as important as training, so do other things and make sure that these workouts aren't ruling your life.


Nutrition is the first step in our program, and it is a critical component to functioning efficiently. We start by transitioning you to a fat burning machine. Unless your body is efficient at burning fat instead of sugar, you'll not make the gains in performance. For this reason, you need to commit to a diet change if you're going to do this program. 
Adjusting your diet so that you can become a fat burner is the key to this whole program; it won’t work without that piece. Becoming a fat burner can be a hard transition, so if you have an important event scheduled within the next month, you may want to wait to start this program until the event is over - your performance may get worse before it gets better.

Nutrition is too nuanced to cover here, we have a much more complete discussion in our free ebook, get it here.

Here are some simple rules to follow:

No sugar. Don't be ridiculous about it, there may be a few grams of sugar in bacon to help it cure - that's okay. Don’t drink sugar, including "healthy" stuff like juice. 

Limit carbs in general. Stay below 50g/day if you need to lose some fat, go up to 100g/day if you're happy with your body composition, and go up to 150g/day if you need to gain some weight. Play with this so you feel good and are fueling your activity. You may be surprised what 50 or 100 grams of carbohydrate actually looks like, so keep close track and don’t just vaguely estimate. 

No grains. There's no redeeming value to grains. Don't eat them - and that includes all grains, not just gluten-containing grains. 

No vegetable oils. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (precisely the "heart healthy" stuff that's been promoted) are no good. They burn dirty, they promote inflammation, and they're suspected carcinogens. Read labels and don't eat anything with vegetable oils (corn, canola, sunflower, soybean, safflower, etc.) 

Eat plenty of protein from meat, fish, and eggs. You'll want to keep your protein intake up during your transition to fat burning. Your body can turn protein into carbs (see also, gluconeogenesis) if it needs them. So during your transition, you could eat up some muscle if you're not eating enough protein. A safe estimate is to consume about 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass each day.

Eat plenty of saturated animal and tropical fats. Don't be afraid of lard, tallow, palm oil, or coconut oil. That's where you'll get your fuel. If you're hungry or running out of energy, eat more fat.


Every workout in our program has a strength component. We believe that strength is the most important skill, even for an endurance athlete. 

Generally, we'll write the strength portion as something like "accumulate 15 reps at 5RM". First, take a few warm-ups to get to your 5RM for that movement. For your first working set (after your warm-up sets), lift until you know the next rep will be ugly - that should be somewhere near 5 reps (since it is your 5RM after all). Then put the bar down, rest 30-60 seconds, and do more attempts until the next rep would be ugly. Repeat until you get all the reps done. Your working sets might look something like 5-4-3-1-1-1. If you get them all done easily, like 5-5-5, in your next strength workout with that movement, increase your weight by 5-10 lbs. The key to the strength component is to work with perfect form at a heavy weight and keep progressing in weight when it becomes easy for you.

We define a 5RM as the largest weight you can lift for 5 perfect reps. The 6th rep would either be impossible or would have compromised form. A great starting place is about 80% of your 1RM. If you don’t have a 1RM, a great way to find your 5RM is to start very light and do 5 reps of the movement. Slowly add weight until you can no longer move the bar fast with perfect form. Stop adding weight once the bar starts to slow down significantly. Use this as your starting point as your 5RM. If you can easily do the 3 sets of 5 with that weight in the strength portion, then you can add weight the next time. If you need to spend a day to find your 5RM for a movement, don’t do the strength work too, count the work to find your 5RM as your strength work for the day.

Aerobic Work

After the regular 5RM-based strength work, the program will either be a more specific heavy strength movement or some aerobic work. 

Each day, you will decide whether to do this option based on how you feel that day and what events you have coming up. You do not have to do both every day - you should be finish the workout feeling better than when you started, so adjust accordingly. We try to design the workout to follow the same pattern as our main S&C class so that you can feel like your part of class and doing the same thing as everyone else - you won't feel like the odd man out if you do our endurance program.