Monday, February 12, 2018

Spin Ups


Summary: About 7,550 words legitimizing fuckarounditis. Estimated 30 minute read time.

Listen to the narration on YouTube here.


Some may call it hazing, but we just called it training.

A dozen years ago I was a young Marine newly assigned to the Security Forces Company at the submarine base in Bangor, Washington. The duty wasn’t much. Stand post. Endure boredom and long hours on your feet, or ass, should one be destined to drive on post. I did a whole lot of both in Washington. The Marine Corps Security Forces Company (MCSF Co.) was comprised of four individual platoons and once the command’s orientation program was finished I was sent to the newly created 4th Platoon. The climate of the command was harsh and very competitive. This came forth out of fear of lackadaisical attitudes and individual complacency. Leading up to this I had always strived to be in a billeted position. As a boot Marine this mostly required physical fitness and not being an idiot. Providence made me decent at each. This created early success in Bangor.

     After being “in the platoons” for a year and some months a person finds themselves over the whole standing post bit. There was a way out, only one known: to try and get into the Close Quarters Battle teams. Simply referred to by everyone as CQB. The short-term requirements were attending and graduating from the specialty school in Chesapeake, VA. The shorter-term requirements were getting the OK from the platoon commander to get your Chesty Puller loving ass kicked all day and night for a few weeks at Spin Ups before even getting a school seat in Virginia. The reason – identify the weak early. The Spin Ups program that the Bangor CQB teams ran was insanity. Early morning physical training became all-day physical training with its endless marksmanship drills, calisthenics, and runs.
Saw more shit than most veteran outhouses.

     I never had the opportunity to go to Spin Ups and join the CQB teams at Bangor. Fortunately, I was put on a meritorious promotion board and found myself being a Corporal running classes at the command’s orientation program. Part of me always wanted to see what Spin Ups was like. A slightly bigger part was cowardly afraid of failure – it looked hard! Back at orientation I had the pleasure of watching many of my friends suffer the fury while at Spin Ups. This was because the school house’s training field was shared by all. The training methods employed by the leadership of the CQB Teams were likable. These were combat hardened Marines forging hard young men before my eyes. Consistency, practice, effort, these things honed the killer abilities desired. That last one especially sought after by the instructors. The more effort a student showed, the better they performed, which built consistent outcomes, consistently powering that effort. Less fueling motivation than it was generating momentum.

     Looking back this concept gives inspiration because what Spin Ups sought was the motivated individual and in beating the crap out of them forge a more prepared individual. Ready to get what they wanted, really. The program taught skills and developed abilities specific to the school Spin Ups students were hoping to attend. This wasn’t pure chaos, although one could see where a Lance Corporal in his second week of the program may think so. Conceptually, it was expected immediate progress, small parts soft-core hazing, masked in Esprit de Corps, in preparation of more lasting training. This brief period of aggressive training identified the underperforming areas of the Marine and hammered them bloody.

This training intent can be successfully applied in the gym, whether it be the already motivated lifter, a competitor or hobbyist, or one seeking new motivation; stale from their old training, unsure of where to turn next. Everyone wants to get better: more fit, stronger, leaner, faster, so forth. How can these ideas borrowed from the Leathernecks be made applicable to normal folk?

Red dot is GZ. If memory serves correctly, this was
after a particularly quick gasmask hike back from the wire.
Spin Ups – The 1st Application
Improving Deficiencies.

I have endured periods of training where I was both bored and broken; not a fun boat to row. In these times it seemed like I was working directly against the current. It is easy to think the solution could be to row harder - to bury the oars and pull! But no, the better solution is to get out of the way of what is working against us and find a better way. Spin Ups can present those ways; even ones before unseen or unconsidered.

     In the gym “work” is comprised of the various exercises, sets, and weights that are lifted. Everyone who lifts longer than a year will come to a point where they are unsure of exactly how they want to move forward in some regard, maybe in small part or whole, but they have an idea of where they want to go. An easily understood example is a person who has been struggling on all three lifts, the squat, bench press, and deadlift, finding no means to improve one or all. Each of the three is seemingly stagnant but the choice presents itself: “Do the fucking program?” Or, maybe the bench press is more appealing these days so prioritize that instead?

Except their training hasn’t prepared them for that venture. The volume, the intensity, the consistency of effort in a specifically focused plan like that has been absent. Knowing where one wants to be but not knowing the steps to appropriately get there is a tough thing to face in training.

     That is where using these ideas may prove helpful. The Spin Ups concept prepares the lifter for what is ahead in training. Whether it is known, or not, as Spin Ups can be a phase of discovery. A powerlifting meet, a Spartan run, or finding new hunger. Use Spin Ups not (only) as a means of hazing training but also as a mind set and frame work to produce results in the desired training heading. This concept may also expose training ideas of new interest like permit dabbling into strongman, finally. This is one way that Spin Ups may serve as a spark of newfound training motivation alongside genuine progress.
The training field.  The stairs in the background
everyone at Bangor went to war with.
These two though, genuine warriors.

Wanting to improve a single lift or muscle group, but unsure of exactly how? Stuck in a relationship with a program that’s got you down and want out?

I’ve periodically implemented short periods in my training that kick my own ass in preparation for something else further down the line. That’s a piece of Spin Ups’ purpose. The intent of these training blocks, typically just two to three weeks, can be various and some may consider them ethereal, even illogical. Like improving motivation to train or to even be in the gym at all! Mostly though, I used these short blocks to ramp up my abilities in specific areas. Lifters might do something like this for either of those two reasons.

The second will be addressed first – ramping up abilities in specific areas. When arriving at Spin Ups a Marine might handle the pistol like their hands are on backwards. How does one improve such a cursed individual? It is far too late in the trimester for an abortion, said the Doc. The only practical answer is to work hard at improving this fault in their ability. The grunt answer nearly massacres entire squads of 19-year-old infantrymen. Our backwards handed friend may have only handled the pistol a dozen times before. Now that his instructors have identified this, cruel yet honorably, they require he handle its 34.2oz a dozen hours a day, for the rest of Spin Ups. Those reading this have no need for such rabid concentration. Instead, the intent of improving rapidly towards a known goal can be applied; albeit with obligatory effort.

An example will be familiar to those who know well the common “off the shelf” programs of our day. Much like our imaginary Marine going from handling the pistol infrequently, to very frequently, lifters may want to increase their movement frequency. For those doing something like 5/3/1 they may want to move onto Smolov for their squat or bench press. Within GZCL program templates, like going from Jacked & Tan modeling to UHF (Ultra High Frequency) which can have 2x or 3x the frequency as the former.

Knowing they want to move into a bench press centric cycle the lifter would start adding in triceps, delt, and pec accessories on days where the main lift was squat, or deadlift. Typically, those days would have back or leg accessories planned. When performing these added T3 accessories they should be hammered using max reps, cheat reps, anything to get in a little extra work at the end of the session. It starts with just a little work, so the effort can be very high. Details follow on how initial additions focus the development of those muscles involved, instead of simply adding more of the compound lift. Two main reasons:

1. Accessories are kept lighter and recover more easily even with very high training effort. An important factor to consider during this training cusp, which must remain sustainable. This begins developing specific muscles involved in the bench press and functions well as a means of identifying lagging muscles early. Doing more sets with triceps over pecs, push downs vs. flyes for example, begins working on them sooner rather than later.

This is great because in a short period of time the lifter will be adding bench anyways and when they do, they are better prepared to do so. When beginning a training cycle predominately built on a single lift like Smolov for example, or UHF to a lesser extent, these minor faults will not result in failure.

2. Wanting to bench more often, and doing so immediately, could lead to bad decisions. Some are prone to this, perhaps the reader. Definitely the author. Thus, #1. Same goes for squatting and deadlifting. Consider this practice in delayed gratification. 

The "opposite" session is after a five-minute rest period – so that the lifter comes back fresher. It allows effort to be higher, which makes the gym more fun. The load and volume should be enough to get a pump, not so much to be sore later that day. If squats and deads went well this short “second session” is higher in effort almost naturally; which must be high in this period. If the squats and deads do not go so well, the new additions serve as a saving grace at the end of a workout. At least there’s a killer pump at the end of this mess.

     As mentioned above adding in T3 work more frequently and in ramping volumes is the first step. This progresses into T2 adjustments, further preparing the lifter for the more stressful work desired in the T1, which soon follows Spin Ups. If a lifter wants to begin doing more deadlifting then things like hamstring curls, hyper extensions, and barbell rows should begin taking a larger priority; initiating this preparatory phase. Adding these to their current plan in the final two to three weeks sets them up for success when beginning their lift centric training plan.

     This is successful because there are two mindsets. The first is that of the lifter who doesn’t want to sacrifice the results of their current plan in its final weeks. The second is the lifter who wants to get on with it anyways and maybe bite off more than they can chew. Both are urged to look ahead and plan their training strategically. Think about where they want to be in three months, not three weeks. Still further, three years.
Give time to consider the finer parts
of such a marvelous pyramid.

These two to three weeks of Spin Ups in this example are just focused training additions to an existing plan. In later examples Spin Ups may be the whole plan. Using lofty deadlift ambitions as an example goal, a T1 bench session would be quickly followed by something more deadlift related like hamstring curls, hyper extensions, and rows. A specific example using a lifter who wants to increase their deadlift in their next training cycle, but knows they currently lack posterior chain work capacity:
Current weekly training schedule for Lifter A.

D1: T1/Squat, T2/Pause Squat, T3/Legs & Abs

D2: T1/Pause Bench, T2/Close Grip Bench, T3/Pecs & Triceps


D3: T1/Deadlift, T2/Stiff Leg Deadlift, T3/Back & Biceps

D4: T1/Overhead Press, T2/Incline Bench, T3/Shoulders & Triceps



Desired weekly training schedule with increased deadlift related and back work in an effort to progress the deadlift specifically later on down the road. (Earning that double wide certification.)
D1: T1/Squat, T2/Pause Deadlift, T3/Back & Abs

D2: T1/Pause Bench, T2a/CG Bench, T2b/RDL, T3/Pecs & Triceps

D3: T1/Deadlift, T2a/Deficit Deadlift, T2b/Row, T3/Abs & Biceps

D4: T1/Press, T2a/CG Incline Bench, T2b/deadlift, T3/Shoulders

    A description of a 3-Week Spin Ups, where they are “spinning up” their posterior chain general strength and endurance as well as deadlift frequency soon follows. This is how a lifter can to go from the first schedule to the second sensibly. Also notice that the lifter understands the need for triceps focus in their training. When considering a new weekly training schedule, they have opted for Close Grip (CG) alternatives in the T2 to supplement the T3 triceps work that is no longer planned. Maybe they have ran Spin Ups before and found out then how poorly their triceps were developed.

     Week 1: Day 1, T3 first changes to back & abs. Do accessories for max reps, repeating the same weight for multiple sets. Striving for a certain average rep:set or total reps; depending on how personally that movement progresses best. The new T3’s would ideally match in volume those of the old T3’s at minimum. On Day 3, the lifter drives the T1 a little harder too; perhaps pushing an AMRAP within one rep of failure. This prepares them for the upcoming deadlift centric training cycle. Row variations loaded as a T3 are added to prepare them for a heavier T2b Row in the future plan this day. Progression should be by volume first, otherwise 5 to 10 lb. added per week. Do that for the next two weeks. Abs and biceps finalize the T3 shift this first week, obviously these need no motivation to train.

     Week 2: Add in the lighter T2b RDL work to Day 2 and 50% of the volume initially planned to D4’s T2b deadlifting in the future plan, which is heavier, thus it being at the end of the training week. This allows for recovery over the weekend. The new RDL work should start with one set, then two, then three. By the time “Week 4” rolls around, which would actually be Week 1 of the new deadlift plan, T2 RDL work capacity is up to normal T2 ranges of 20-30 reps in a workout. Day 1 and 3’s T3 movements should have reps added to the same weight, or weight added with very similar total reps.

     Week 3: Change D1 T2 to Pause Deadlift from Pause Squat. This adds in the final component to frequency. Its time under tension and intensity being relatively high, which is why it was added last. The two weeks prior acted to prepare for this. Ramp up intensity on the row variant for D3 and add in remaining volume for D4’s T2b deadlifting. The “spinning up” of the posterior chain has occurred gradually and the new deadlift plan can be tackled with greater skill, strength, and confidence. Additionally, that new plan has likely been improved by means of the Spin Ups creative process. More on that later.

The thing to remember while making these changes is that this cusp of training is perfect for identifying what works and what does not. Use a Spin Ups phase to dial in abilities and refine the structure of the desired plan for future gains. In this sense Spin Ups is a sort of semi-planned and dedicated “Fuckarounditis” where a lifter is permitted leeway so long as it functions to show where they need to go and demands effort to get there. Knowing the steps exactly week to week or month to month is far from important most of the time. Progression is deciding the heading and acting with effort in that direction.  

Knowing that more deadlifting was most desired in their training future the lifter in the example above gradually improved their lifting capacity to better serve that function. The row type, deficit amount, etc., can change workout to workout in Spin Ups. This allows finding the things that work best individually. Similarly, the T2 movements from Days 1 and 3 could be swapped because of a recovery need that was found during this phase. Small changes made because the need was identified early builds a more resilient foundation for future success. The deadlift is a prime example of an opportunity for more people to “ease into” grater workload using Spin Ups. How many programs off the shelf lack pulling volume? Too many.

This is the less harsh version. The version more closely aligned to the intended purpose of Spin Ups - physical and mental preparation, rather than the subversive yet still highly sought-after purpose of crushing a person. The above details how one could go about improving their capacity, without knowing all the specifics of a future plan. In doing so they begin working on what is wanted sooner (getting it done already!) while also earning previews into needs and abilities that serve as a muse for training planning. The Spin Ups period of two to three weeks allots plenty of time to get specifics in order while building the momentum needed to begin that new phase successfully.

Spin Ups in this use is a period of gradual experimentation where the lifter adds work and sustains effort in the chosen heading. This prevents reckless training which can result in over-soreness, wholly different from overtraining. Minimally, the incremental additions produce muscular endurance results within three weeks, this means a hard switch from one program to another is less likely to break a lifter off. Maximally, they are more likely to start off a new training plan without hang-up because the last three weeks prepared them for this new training direction. That means PR’s come quickly.
 Gains Train.
Some old train.


Workout modifiers and the Spin Ups concept.

These are things that many already do in the gym. Stuff like drop sets and last sets pushed for as many as possible. Framed within the Spin Ups concept these training modifiers increase effort, which is either #1 or #1 for reasons to do Spin Ups phases. If training is stale, these actions serve to provide momentum needed to break free.

     An Example: A lifter has been training with a 5x5 for a few months, making some progress, but not “feeling” like they are doing a lot in the gym. (Really, a common complaint.) For two to three weeks they could do a Rep Max set and Drop Sets (Both, One, or any combination of those that follow) to drive effort in either strength or endurance. This Spin Ups phase is harder and afterwards the data points earned allow the lifter to better figure volume and intensity needs, perhaps requiring a small shift from the original 5x5, which they continue onto. Likeliest scenario for these trainees - not using enough weight before!

Rep Maxes and heavy singles: In many common training plans and in personally coached environments a lifter may have to, or want to, do a single set at a heavier weight than the called for work of the day. For example, a 3x3 in the T1 was planned, but today the lifter was feeling good so they worked up to just one heavier rep before going lighter to that 3x3. The goal is a textbook single rep slightly heavier than the called for 3x3 weight.

This would be an “over warm single”, or many other names, but the idea remains the same. The work of the day has been modified by adding in higher intensity and very little relative volume. A Spin Ups phase could implement frequent overwarm work to assess technical limits in one’s lifts. Across three weeks finding where in the range of motion form breaks down, in what ways, at what weights. Does form hold strong even up to a 2RM? If so, great. What about follow on reps, does it consistently remain in good position with sound bar control across a few heavier reps? Thus, the reason to do not only overwarm singles, but more so, 3, 4, and 5 rep maxes as overwarm sets. In most cases lifters experience radical decline in lift quality across reps during heavy sets. Not simply in posture, but also rep speed slowing; a valuable goal for improvement in the T1. Use overwarm rep maxes in a current plan during Spin Ups phases to identify technical faults early, so that a future plan can close the gap more permanently.

Drop Sets: The 3x3 is done, but still more work is needed to be performed, whether for development of technique, endurance, or strength. A drop set would be preferred if the 3x3 weight limited the amount of work or sacrificed technique. Lowering an amount ranging from 10% to 20% is typical and permits more volume within technical capacity. There is little room and sparse time for reps with poor form. Using drop sets assumes that the 3x3 was near the intersectional limits of volume, intensity, and technical ability thus requiring a reduction in load (intensity) to develop the remaining two; volume and ability.

Example Drop Set Progressions:
*3x3 is simply an example*

Endurance Focused
Week 1: 3x3, drop 20% for 2 Max Rep Sets.
Week 2: 3x3, drop 20% for 3 Max Rep Sets.
Week 3: 3x3, drop 20% for 4 Max Rep Sets.

Week 1 identifies two things. The first being endurance after a near limit workload (the 3x3 sets). The second is follow up performance to that initial drop set MRS, or "rep out" – this is a truer sign of muscular endurance. The first drop set can go incredibly well simply because the reduced load has an affect on the nervous system. Muscle fatigue will have genuinely set in by the second set and the rep drop better identifies capacity. The following two weeks works on adding volume to the same relative percentage; assuming the 3x3 is progressing in weight week to week. Alternatively, a lifter could opt to hold the drop set Max Rep Sets (MRS) at the Week 1 weight for the remainder of Spin Ups, building a base of volume at that weight.
Strength Focused
Week 1: 3x3, drop 20% for 2 Max Rep Sets.
Week 2: 3x3, drop 15% for 2 Max Rep Sets.
Week 3: 3x3, drop 10% for 2 Max Rep Sets.

In this example the progression holds the number of sets, although the amount of volume could go up if the lifter excels each week adding reps to their two sets. However, the intensity progression each week may prevent that. This starts with a large drop, just 80% of the previous workload, which should permit significant volume with good quality. The next two weeks get heavier, 85% and 90% relative loads, which drive work capacity near those limits of the 3x3 or other used straight sets. There is no standard amount of what should be expected as normal when it comes to these drop percentages and reps one is able to perform. If a lifter finds themselves tiring after follow on sets in their normal T1 work this method of drop set strengthening could prove useful in developing their intensity capacity.

Last Set AMRAP: Extra reps are performed at the end of the set because the lifter “is in the groove”. Gaining more volume at this higher intensity means more work is being done by the lifter. That’s effort in action. These are great when technical limits are strictly enforced. Unfortunately, this modifier is often abused for the sake of showmanship or needless PR’s; “PR’d my 11 Rep Max Today. #HerniasForGains” The AMRAP is preferred over the drop set when the weights can be pushed and maintained with good quality, otherwise, use a drop set to gain that volume and sustain movement quality. Because the AMRAP is at a heavier load a lifter may find the need to use just one in a workout; not being able to survive another kind of modifier.

     Last set AMRAP’s are also a great means of identifying how many pounds were left off the bar in the straight set. Say a lifter that does five sets of three reps and the last set they pushed to six reps, this informs them that an increase of 10 pounds the next week should be no problem. If there is an off day just 5 pounds! If, however they failed to even opt for an AMRAP, maybe alternative means should be employed. Consider holding the weight for the straight sets and utilizing drop sets for a few weeks to work on building capacity.

Max Rep Sets (MRS), (Repeated AMRAPs): When appropriately applied the weight lifted keeps the technical limits in mind. The purpose is to drive each set to within one or two reps of actual failure. This modifier is high effort because the load remains consistent and more reps are gained after already high effort sets. Typically done in the T3 because it is great for getting a pump, this works equally well for driving progress in the T1 and T2, but again, technical limits with the movement should be strictly enforced. Got an extra five reps on a T1 AMRAP and they all looked textbook? Rest three minutes and repeat the weight.  Readers will surprise themselves. Lifters with sound technical limits capable of great sustain across repeated AMRAP’s, or Max Rep Sets (MRS), may find this a source of new inspiration (pain) and progression in the format of volume PR’s within limited sets. More information on this kind of training can be found in the Volume Dependent Intensity Progression (VDIP) post.

Rest Pause Reps: Ceasing the movement for only a few seconds, always less than 10, which is likely still too high, then doing just one to two more reps. Repeating this process within one rep of failure. Or with a spotter, or several, to failure. Very similar to AMRAP sets, but allows for greater extension of effort.

Each of these workout modifiers can be planned in initially or done in the moment. Most focus on gaining more volume in a session, each for a specified reason, so make sure they are employed purposefully.

Many have workouts planned weeks on end, progression mapped out by the pound. Some have nothing planned at all! A Spin Ups phase allows one to use these modifiers to paint a picture of their overall aptitude. The sustainability of this brief, but intense phase, is less a consideration. Remember, limit such phases to three weeks. Greater attention should be paid to gathering specific points of data in this “limited purposeful fuckarounditis” so that a more sustainable plan can be made and moved on to.

     Few lifters know how to properly apply the above modifiers. Those who do are advanced and elite level lifters; although not everyone who fills those ranks understands when to cap an AMRAP, how much is too much to reduce for a drop set, what lifts respond best to rest pause, what their actual technical limits are, etc., In the short span of two to three weeks an existing program can be altered to provide a lifter the opportunity to find these things out for themselves. Not familiar with drop sets? Try some out, expect harder workouts, but have fun with the effort. Likewise, with using MRS on accessories rather than straight sets of 10 reps; 3x10 commonly. Always doing a 5x5? A few weeks of Rep Max finding (within technical limits!) on occasional workouts can give clarity about the carry over of volume work to limit strength as well as generate training momentum – because the work is paying off!

     For more inspiration on identifying problems, the decision making and action processes required for solving them, look to the OODA Loop created by John R. Boyd, renowned fighter pilot.

A straight up killer invented that.

Spin Ups – The 2nd Application

Kicking Your Own Ass, Properly.

     The prior expanse detailed how training could occur, somewhat normally, while implementing concepts from the Spin Ups program. Requiring effort foremost. Yes, the structure, progression, all those things matter; still less so than effort. The Marines of Bangor CQB did not only use Spin Ups as a means to improve their skills and abilities quickly. There was also an element of physical hardening too; after all they’re Marines! People broke at Spin Ups and that was OK. Those who did not earned the right to rush into buildings guns blazing while the rest waited outside.

     Recall that the instructors at Spin Ups were the top guys already in Close Quarters Battle teams. These were corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants, who had seen combat and were seeking nothing less than the same killer instinct from their subordinates. The tightness of their shot groups often dictating how many reps or miles more remained in the day. The instructors alongside the whole time. Perform or die. The consequences in those circles are that simple. Now this is a mindset that is truly hardcore. Nothing close to the fa├žade seen in social media super stars or the branding of gyms and goods as such today. The lesson here is to understand the nature of the decision that put these men in those positions. The U.S. military is volunteer and those highly skilled positions are few, but very sought after. The danger is the draw. They want to be the tip of the spear, so they fight to get there and fight to stay. (That’s the hardcore part.)

     When a lifter begins to doubt their resolve mid workout they should recall that they wanted to do Spin Ups and should not let themselves down.

“I train for no reason other than nearly killing myself. It is my perfect drug. What is your prescription Dr. Feelgood?”

     This section details specific workouts and their related ideas. Not for the meek or those too far out of shape, this portion of the write up more closely reflects the actual Spin Ups as it was performed; translated to gym friendly training of course. That being said the Spin Ups “program” portion below should not be considered exact but more of a guide. Keep in mind the demands at Spin Ups in Bangor were highly endurance driven, lots of cardio, lots of reps. As such the gym friendly version below contains reflections of the same. The format is flexible enough that if a lifter needed to take an easy day, they could.

     The Spin Ups weekly training plan is far from complete. This is where one’s creativity in the weight room can be expressed, igniting new progression as well as new training ideas; recall that ethereal intent spoken about earlier. Training in such a way can be more than progression by weight on the bar or reps jotted in a notebook. The proper use and understanding of modifiers and active adjustment of training based on forecasted needs isn’t motivating, it is more than that – it generates training momentum. Spin Ups also serves as inspiration for other modes of improvement which may later be stumbled upon.

     This could be a good thing, or a bad thing. Depends on the lifter. Some Marines would show up to Spin Ups completely unaware of their actual abilities, whether physical or mental. They were dropped immediately… after a few runs and shit. Should one bite off more than they can chew do not take it as a loss, it is an opportunity to continue applying the progressive corrective action Spin Ups is about. Let’s assume the cardio portion is too much, take a few steps back and start again by strictly regulating the rest taken between sets and exercises. This will increase workout density, which improves conditioning. In the very best way Spin Ups gives lifters a three-week excuse that legitimizes fuckarounditis for the sake of “data collection” because they “need to dial in their next training.”

That’s the story. Stick to it. Let’s party. (Just don’t be mad if it doesn’t stop and the next program never happens because Spin Ups is masochistically enjoyable.)
Not Bangor's missile magazines, but close.
Run up and down those all day. Welcome to Spin Ups.

Spin Ups – The Program: Weeks 1 through 3

     The unfortunate theoretical backwards handed Marine, some 230 months late for an appointment, begins their day at Spin Ups with a run to the dry-fire range. A short, but always too fast jaunt. This is the first portion of the Spin Ups “program”. After a proper warm up, 3 to 5 minutes on the bike followed by Joe DeFranco’s Agile 8 is suitable for most, perform the following:
    Rotate through Workouts A and B. No more than four A/B workouts in a row without a rest day. Workouts C can be done as able, Session A can count as an "active recovery" day; very similar to, although not exactly like a rest day.

    Begin and end both Workout’s A and B with: Row, Bike, or Run (track, stepper, elliptical, or treadmill OK) a half mile, or equivalent, at the fastest pace
    Progression: Faster time each week.
    Consequence if slower: 1 Pull Up, 2 Mountain Climbers, 3 Push Ups for every 3 seconds slower. All reps done as fast as possible with no rest.
     “Excellent pace Marine!” The instructor would say to Lance Corporal Backwardshands. Now real training can begin. Remember, that was the Spin Ups class’ short run to and from the training field. Consider this time on the torture device of personal choice the same. After which training with free weights begins, like a pistol and rifle – right?

Note: Always keep 1 to 2 reps in the tank, never realize actual failure in the T1 or T2. MRS (Max Rep Sets) also means Max Recoverable Sets!!!  

Workout A

T1: Upper Body Push, Vertical or Horizontal – Find 7/5/3RM’s then reduce load by 20% and perform 2 Max Rep Sets.

Example: Spin Ups Week 1 requires finding a 7RM, do that, leaving 1-2 reps in the tank. Assume it is 315 pounds. Multiply that by .80 and repeat that weight for the drop sets, which rounds to 250 or 255 due to plate math. Week 2 would be a 5RM with the same corresponding drop percentage.

Progression: When the workout is repeated do the opposite push. If it was bench press last workout, this time it should be incline or overhead press. Follow the simple Rep Max descent written above (7/5/3) and add one set to drop set each week. Further determine loading by re-reading drop set portion in this post. Readers could opt to keep drop set weight consistent across weeks and drive reps (endurance) or increase them weekly (strength.)

Rest 2-3 minutes between drop sets.

T2: Lower Body, Squat or Deadlift Variant – Use 65% to 75% of known Training Max; suggested as a technically sound 2RM possible any day of the week at the start of the program.

Progression: Using the same load week to week try to add reps using only three sets, each for “max” reps; always keeping one rep shy of failure.

Consequence if total reps aren’t met: Use rest pause method to gain reps until prior week’s total is met or beat. If rest pause is not practical then perform follow up Max Rep Sets (MRS) as needed.

Example: 32 reps were earned in Week 1, but only 28 in Week 2. A lifter would have to do four more reps using rest pause to tie their past performance. They do five though.

Rest 1-2 minutes between each set.

Alternative Exercise: Use a barbell row instead of a deadlift.
[Cardio Intermission] 10 to 15 minutes back to the chosen method of cardiovascular training; bike, rower, treadmill, track, etc.

Progression: This is a more casual pace, but still quick, “to the next range” for LCPL Backwardshands if it were. For the reader, it’s a cardio break before crushing the remaining T3 exercises. T3a through d keep body weight only.
T3a&b Super Set: Push Ups & Pull Ups, 3MRS each
No rest between movements.
Rest 30-60 seconds between each super set. 
T3c&d Super Set: Back Step Lunge & Ab Wheel, 3MRS each
No rest between movements.
Rest 30-60 seconds between each super set.

T3e Challenge – Barbell Bench or OHP. Choose the opposite plane of what was done in the T1. In fewest sets possible: 1st Attempt, 50 reps. 2nd Attempt, 75 reps. 3rd Attempt, 100 reps with just the bar. As the workouts rotate this challenge alternates horizontal and vertical pressing. If the volume increases are too much, hold the volume and attempt to progress by doing fewer sets to achieve the total desired reps.

Workout B

T1: Lower body, Squat or Deadlift Variant – Find 7/5/3RM’s then reduce load by 20% and perform 2 Max Rep Sets. 
Example: Exactly like described in Workout A. Keep in mind options of front squat, opposite stance deadlift, specialty bars, even paused variants. Think outside the box with regards to T1 movement selection. As a general rule, keep them compound movements. Once again, understand drop set progression choices as well.
Progression: Same as described for T1, Workout A.
Alternative Exercise: Use a barbell row instead of a deadlift.
Rest 2-3 minutes between drop sets.
T2: Upper Body, Horizontal or Vertical Press Variant – Use 65% to 75% of known Training Max; suggested as a technically sound 2RM possible any day of the week at the start of the program.

Progression: Same as T2, Workout A.
Consequence if total reps aren’t met: Same as T2, Workout A.
Rest 1-2 minutes between each set.
[Cardio Intermission] Back the chosen method of torture, this time for much longer. Whereas in Workout A the intermission is shorter and at a casual pace, this intermission is longer, and harder.

Progression: Week 1, 20 minutes, sprint final minute.
Week 2, 25 minutes, sprint final 2-minutes.
Week 3, 30 minutes, sprint final 3-minutes.
These won’t be actual sprints, but the intent is to kick up the pace to the fastest sustainable for that final brief period.


T3: Barbell Conditioning
Three options for T3’s in Workout B. Each are conditioning circuits to be performed with the barbell. The progression is making these faster! So, record times! Rotate these T3 circuits through Workout B as desired. Keep weight and rounds the same when repeated - focus on improving reps and times!
    Circuit Option 1 – “More Cardio Death”
Bike, Run, or Row 250m (or equiv.) then do 10 push-ups.
Repeat this until zero push-ups.

Recording split times shows endurance gains.

    Circuit Option 2 – “Backattack”
BB Row, 135 pounds x 10 reps
Deadlift, 135 pounds x 10 reps
Barbell Roll Out (like ab wheel w/ bar), x 10 reps
Pull Ups, Body Weight x Max Reps
Repeat for 3 Rounds, Record time.

Recording pull ups per set shows endurance gains.

    Circuit Option 3 – “Oppress’n Pull’n”
OHP, 95 pounds x Max Reps
Push Up, Body Weight x Max Reps
Pull Up, Body Weight x Max Reps
BB Row, 95 pounds x Max Reps
Repeat for 3 Rounds, Record time.

Record reps each round for all lifts. Improvement shown across weeks in that reps drop less across sets.

The above three circuits are simple and straight forward to perform and understand in terms of flow and their progression across weeks. Be sure to record data, it will be tremendously helpful in showing actualized progression during Spin Ups (also making clear the path forward!) These T3’s are by no means the limit of what is possible. The only warning is to keep them fairly simple to execute and they should help round out a training plan. Even while in Spin Ups the chaos should make sense, which is why there is substantial back accessories in the T3 circuits written above; pull ups, rows, the like. This is because it is trained less directly in the T1 or T2 as written. To aid in filling this gap a lifter can choose the T1 Barbell Row in Workout B as noted. If one chooses to do so the T3 can be balanced in other ways. 


Workout C

     “C” is for cardio. Choose one or all, depending on schedule and abilities. Workout C is a mandatory workout having three choices:
            Session A: 45 to 60-minute run, swim, bike, or row at an easy to moderate pace. This is the easy one, everyone can do this, and should be doing this.

     Session B: “10 Minutes. Then add a Minute.” Choose a method of cardio and go at a moderate to hard pace for 10 minutes. Once 10 minutes is crossed think, Can I add a minute at this pace? If so, do, and keep going. Do not hesitate. Try to maintain the pace continuing to add time, do not add minutes and get slower.



Session C: “Three Miles, Three Ways.” Run, Bike, Row (or Swim…) a mile a piece. Pace these as desired, order them as desired. Don’t drown. (Recall inspiration here is the U.S. Marines, great swimmers, who still drown. Don’t do that.)
Swim Qualification was always fun.
Keep it to three weeks of hell.

     Seriously, this kind of training should be hard. It should leave a lifter at the end of their workout feeling like calling an Uber. Train that hard during Spin Ups. Push the cardio, cheat reps to get some extra in the T3’s. Do not be sloppy, but use momentum to get to wherever necessary or wanted in training. That was the purpose of going to Spin Ups for the Marine anyways – to get out of standing post and into the Close Quarters Battle teams. It takes effort to get there though. One may choose to undergo a Spin Ups period to improve a specific ability, like the bench, or just as likely, to simply crush themselves in the gym for a few weeks. In either case it is where they wanted to be. It is understood that both endeavors are in their own ways a means of progression. The first obvious, the second more ethereal. Neither can be sustained with high intensity for long, so keep Spin Ups to just three weeks.

Bordering broken, but ready for what’s to come. (After a decent rest.)

     Shivering, wet, and miserable but nearly finished with this nightmare, LCPL Backwardshands is in his final days of Spin Ups and his joy is nearly boiling over. Only weeks ago did he earn the nickname, but now due to relentless drills he has become a regular pistolero. Not only that, but the associated training that came along with the increased pistol handling: Magazine and weapons changes, marksmanship drills, even the wild PT, all of it he noticed carried into a big pool of abilities. He finishes the program ready for a weekend off and an easy to follow. After all, it’s been a hard three weeks. Soon he will have a school seat in Virginia where yet again he must prove his skills to become a close quarters marksman. That, he understands, is a longer course. Sure, it may have easier days than the easiest in Spin Ups – the harder days though, he has only heard of. Backwardshands the gunslinger is happiest of all that he has not let himself down while at Spin Ups; the M9 as cumbersome as it is. (It’s always the pistol’s fault.) CQB School should go well he thinks, driving a few more nails with each trigger pull, whispering “No more standing fucking post.”

     In similar ways Spin Ups can wholly improve a lifter’s training. The first application of this concept is to identify deficient areas in abilities or in musculature and begin gradually increasing volume and intensity in the direction necessary for improvement over a two to three-week period. This can be done through week to week restructuring as detailed in the first section. The path towards improvement does not need to be clearly laid out either – act first, create movement in the direction of known heading. That momentum drives effort by means of various workout modifiers, like overwarm rep maxes, drop sets, and AMRAPs. Data further exposing the needs and desires required for more lasting progress. These modifiers serve as identifiers in training and are important. Which is why they should be recorded! They inform lifters of what must be paid attention to, in one way or another, and from these future training should be based. For that reason, training modifiers require high amounts of effort. The second application of Spin Ups needs less conclusion – kick one’s own ass purposefully, know why it is being done, and how it applies to a grander personal vision of progress. Lifters who implement phases like this find themselves standing less “post”; meaning training plateaus.

     Spin Ups as applied to the gym is not a program. It is more of a frame of mind, like having one’s gaze always cast ahead; looking for whatever fissures may halt progress. The gradual shift of accessories, knowing what modifiers to use, why, when, and how to apply them to future training planning, understanding the difference in creating momentum versus motivation – these things are proactive resolution so that crossing the gap never needs to happen. It has been filled before arrival! Those who attended Spin Ups did so because they wanted a perceivably better position, fairly soon, and understood the hard work necessary to get there. Lifters can use these concepts in the same manner to ensure continued progress in the gym. Getting stronger, leaner, bigger, more fit and generally becoming a better human being will never be easy. It requires effort.
Sprint to the gym and get some.