The EasyStrength Workout

By Andrew Heffernan |

What if getting strong could be easy? In a culture that tells you gain is forever associated with pain and you’re supposed to go home if you don’t go hard, that’s a pretty off-the-wall idea.

A few years ago, strength coaches Dan John, a champion discus thrower, and Pavel Tsatsouline, a former special-forces trainer, asked that question. The strength-training program they created shows that it is not only possible to get strong, but it might be the best way to do it. People who try the program — including John himself — reap the benefits of strength training and wind up stronger than ever.

“We all have this idea that it doesn’t count as exercise unless you end up a sweaty mess on the floor,” says John.

In fact, the hardest part of this eight-week, 40-workout Easy Strength program is not the workouts themselves; it’s getting past the belief that workouts have to be hard to be effective. “You won’t get pumped. You won’t get sweaty or sore,” says John. “What you do get, however, is strong.”

He acknowledges that this doesn’t look like a normal workout regimen — and that can be a stumbling block for many people.

“I wrote the book on this program. I made the best progress of my career on it, and yet I still struggle with it,” he says.

“It shouldn’t be this easy, but it is.”

The Plan

You’ll do the same strength-training workout — save for weight increases — five times a week, for eight weeks. Forty workouts in all. Each one will take you just 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Here’s a template of what each gym session will include, along with John’s suggested exercises.

Warm up. Spend five to 10 minutes on low-intensity cardio and calisthenics.

Perform each of the following movement types:

  1. Pull something toward you from arm’s length.

Perform a power movement. Quickly and explosively contract your lower-body muscles (and possibly upper-body muscles as well) to jump or accelerate an object in your hand or hands.

Perform a core exercise, focusing on precise movement and proper bracing rather than speed.

The Strength-Training Moves

Rack Deadlift

  1. With your lower back still in its natural arch, bend at the hips and knees, lowering the bar to the support bars. Repeat.

Incline Bench Press

  1. Press the bar back to the starting position and pause. Repeat.

Note: Always use a spotter when lifting heavy weights.

Kettlebell Swing

  1. Repeat until the set is complete, then “park” the kettlebell in front of you.

Assisted Pull-Up

  1. Lower yourself with control until your arms are straight. Repeat.

Ab Rollout

  1. Slowly return to the starting position.

This article has been updated. It originally appeared as “Strength Made Easy” in the January/February 2018 issue of Experience Life.

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