Barbell Strategy Periodized Strength Program

Barbell Strategy Periodized Strength Program

The core principle at Barbell Strategy is that getting stronger will make you better at anything else you want to do. We believe in frequent exposure to movements that will make you stronger. We do something every day to train your strength.

Every workout will start with a strength training phase where we will visit one of the core lifts. Proper form is the most important thing. We want every rep of every set to look beautiful. Then we add weight. Slowly. You should never miss a rep in the strength portion of class. Occasionally for the main workout we'll ask you to go heavy - that's when you're allowed to add enough weight that you may miss.

The Lifts 

We use the core strength lifts with a few variants to ensure that we're covering everything you'll need. The workouts will focus more on the big muscles and give your shoulders a break. I wrote a while ago about the revelation I had that most of the S&C literature I read is for 18-year-old football players and that the folks we mostly train are older and less power-centric in their activities. So we bias the movements we do toward the bigger muscles (to get the better hormonal response) and away from the shoulders (because many of you have a shoulder injury of some kind). The pool of exercises that we choose from in our periodized strength program will be weighted more towards squats and pulls with just enough necessary pushes to keep you strong but not aggravate anything.

The Method 

One movement will show up every day. You'll need to come to the gym often to see these movements with enough frequency to really progress. Rather than simply doing a 3 sets of 5 reps and adding weight each time (like we did in the past with our linear progression program), we are going to to approach our work in a periodized fashion. We'll cycle through 8s, 5s 3s and sometimes 2s and 1s. The cycle will be aligned to take advantage of the seasons so that you'll try to get strong during the winter. Most people do something active in the summer, and it's very likely that that summer activity would be considered endurance work, which is antagonistic to getting strong. So we'll focus the heavier strength work in the winter with some lighter cycles in the summer.


We will be providing warm-up and work sets in this program. I have noticed that when I leave the warm-ups less specified, some people will skip them or just do one set of warm-ups, while others will go overboard and get tired before they even get to their work sets. Pay attention to the rep scheme that we prescribe every day. It won't simply be a 3x5 like it has been in the past.  It will be written something more like this


In our notation, sets separated by dashes mean to go up in weight, and ones written as sets x reps mean stay at the same weight.  So the above notation means that you do two warm-up sets of 8, going up at each dash, followed by 3 work sets of 8 at the same weight.  For example, if this were squats and my working weight was 225, I'd do one set of 8 with the bar, one set of 8 with 135, and then 3 sets of 8 at 225.  Pay attention, different movements will have different rep patterns.

Select the Weight

When you see the rep scheme, you'll want to pick a weight that you can easily get through all of the reps without missing or allowing your form to degrade.  I reserve the right to assign penalty burpees for missed reps. Keeping proper position is more important than letting your ego choose a weight for you.

If you've been lifting long enough that you know your 1RM a lift, we'll use that to gauge a good starting point. 8s will be in the 75-80% range; 5s 80-85%; 3s 85-90%, 2s 90-95%. Use these as very rough guidelines; everyone responds differently to different weights.

Keep a Log 

Unless you think about this all the time, like I do, you'll need some type of log to know how much you lifted the last time you saw a movement. A simple notebook is fine. I'll even let you store it in the gym in a cubbie.