Wednesday, December 8, 2021

365 Days and Counting

A Guest Post About Training
Without Rest Days.


My client Ben has been training without rest days for over a year and has seen noteworthy improvements to his strength, stamina, and muscularity. What follows is his review of my coaching, methods, and his results. He produced what I consider to be one of the best personal insights about physical training on the internet. This post is littered with quality anecdotes and resources (while being hilarious). Ben provides understanding and ideas that will benefit your training, regardless of whether or not you want to forego rest days. But if that is something you are considering, then this post will make your venture easier.

Ben, thank you. Multitudes will become fitter, stronger, and more jacked because of you.

- Cody (GZCL)


Hello and a heartfelt “Sport frei.” My name is Ben, and I’ve been a remote coaching client of Cody’s since mid-2019. About a year ago, inspired by his own training updates and posts, I decided to give training without rest days a shot myself and have been training every single day since. And so, earlier this year, Cody asked me if I’d be interested in sharing my experiences with daily training in a guest post on his blog – which is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime privilege you just don’t pass up.

I’m the one in the green shirt.

Admittedly, Cody asked if I’d be interested in writing a short post. But as I was collecting notes and writing down ideas, I kept finding more things I felt necessary to include or wanted to elaborate upon to make sure I didn’t miss anything that might prove important. So while originally, this did start out as a casual write-up about my experience with daily training, it ended up turning into a much more comprehensive look at the implementation of daily training in an improvised home gym context, and includes notes on recovery, the mental and physical aspects of conditioning, changes in body composition, and equipment suggestions for training at home.

I did try to focus on my own experiences as much as possible and reference external sources wherever appropriate. But as you read this, you might find that some of the things I talk about may sound vaguely familiar – especially if you’re a frequent reader of posts about pyramids, twenty-sided dice, or programs named after sludge metal bands. The thing is, if you’ve found a way to consolidate high-frequency strength training and conditioning into an overarching concept that works for you, there aren’t a whole lot of wildly different conclusions to arrive at other than “it’s good”.

Before I get ahead of myself here though, it probably makes sense to start with a quick run-down of my training background and how we even got here.

"The journey of a thousand sets begins with a single rep."

After being an unathletic slob for most of the first 22 years of my life, I started lifting in late 2012 after a friend offered to teach me some basics. Which led me to the realization that working out could actually be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, who knew? I went on to run Phrak’s Greyskull LP for much of my first year of training, after which I jumped right into the 5/3/1 Boring But Big Three-Month Challenge. Over the years that followed, I ran a number of different programs, most notably Mike Hanley’s criminally underrated Montana Method, Ben Pollack’s Think Big, and Inverted Juggernaut. However, for the vast majority of my lifting career, my training was based around some variant of 5/3/1 or one of the many GZCL programs.

Fast-forward a bit to mid-2019 and I found myself realizing that while I knew I was getting stronger, that strength didn’t really translate into any new rep maxes. So rather than risk spinning my wheels for the next couple of years, I figured it was time to take things a bit more seriously and look into hiring a coach. I had a ton of success with Cody’s programs in the past, especially Jacked & Tan 2.0 and General Gainz, and had only heard great things about his remote coaching from previous clients on Reddit. So I decided to send him an email.

After the initial consultation, we started our first training block together: a 4x/week full-body routine using the General Gainz progression to build towards a new 1 RM test after twelve weeks. I probably could have made a post just about the first training block with Cody, but to make a long story short: during those first three months of coaching, I broke every single one of my previous PRs by a wide margin, and hit a 145 kg Bench, a 190 kg Squat, and a 240 kg Deadlift at an 80 kg bodyweight. Things went so well that I re-upped the coaching for another twelve week block right away.

However, in February 2020, somewhere around the middle of that block, things took a bit of an unexpected turn.


“Let's go to the basement, have a nice kettlebell, and wait for this all to blow over.”

When the German government first announced a lockdown with gyms shutting down for an unspecified amount of time, Cody and I considered simply pausing the remote coaching until the gyms reopened. ”Can’t be more than like two or three weeks, right?” lol

However, whenever I used to lift by myself, I had a pathological tendency to overthink and try to “fine-tune” whatever program I was running, trying to squeeze in every little stupid idea that I read in some T-Nation article ten years ago. Sometimes, it worked. More often than not, it ended up looking something like this:

“I wonder how I can combine Magnussen-Ortmayer with this Mountain Dog 2.0 program while incorporating RP volume landmarks and hitting the Juggernaut main lifts Doggcrapp-style in a Giant Set… Oh! No need to worry! I’ll spend the next three weeks building a spreadsheet with a graph comparing the INOL of weight progression on Face Pulls over the next six months to make sure I’m getting OPTIMAL growth! Scientific growth! A spreadsheet which I sure as hell won’t ever actually use because I’ll find something new by the time week two rolls around!”

=IF(fatigue>1, “OVERTRAINED!”, “making scientifically-optimized gains”).

In a normal gym environment, I was able to control my FOMO most of the time, but whenever I found myself dealing with a lack of equipment or direction, things used to get messy. So from some of his earlier blog posts, I knew that Cody had a ridiculous amount of experience with training under less-than-ideal circumstances and with going stupidly hard on the conditioning. And as I’d had the idea of emphasizing conditioning in the back of my mind for a while, I suggested that we keep the remote coaching going and switch to home-based workouts for the time being – making do with what I had available and making up for the lack of heavy weights with higher reps and lower rest periods.

I’d managed to pick up a used EZ-Bar, two kettlebells (16 and 24 kg), a few resistance bands, and a cheap Pull-Up bar early on during the pandemic before the run on training equipment started. Considering that I’d been lifting in a fully-stocked gym just two weeks prior, the equipment selection seemed pretty damn sparse. And while I added more and more equipment over time, those would become the foundation for all of the training that followed in the next few months. As it turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to make things work even when the heaviest weight you have access to is somewhere around 35 kg.



“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the lifetime-intermediate lifter’s there are few.”

I was incredibly fortunate in that my girlfriend’s rental contract included a small storage basement that I was able to turn into an improvised training facility aka the Dungeon©®™. I would say “repurpose”, but that’s not exactly true. Judging by the cut out pages of bodybuilding magazines from 1990 on the walls, one of the previous renters seemed to have had the same idea. 

Same thing as the Ancestors’ Shrine in the original Mulan movie, just sweatier.

Spending a couple of months with such limited equipment in a confined space really hammered home the point that training isn’t about equipment – it’s about training. No wait! Don’t close your browser! Yes. It’s stupidly obvious, or at least it should be. And yes, everyone loves their specialty bars and their multifunctional cable towers and their trendy little Belt Squat machines. I do, too. And I’m thankful that I was able to build up my own fairly extensive basement gym with a bench and a rack over time, because I do enjoy using those things. But it’s so easy to forget that you don’t need all of that to get bigger or stronger. For training purposes, the equipment is still just a means to an end. Unless you have an extremely specific goal (e.g. physique competition) or sport (e.g. Powerlifting) that you’re training for, you have an almost infinite number of options to gain muscle and get stronger, and most of them can be done with very little equipment. Having access to heavier weights is great and does allow you to make very consistent progress over long periods of time, but you neither need them for every single session, nor every week out of the year. No access to a bench? Easy solution: just don’t bench for the time being. If you think it’s the lack of a squat rack that is keeping you from training your legs hard, it’s not. Oh, and the reason your arms aren’t growing is that you only have a 20 lb barbell? I may have some bad news for you. If you train hard enough and smart enough, the equipment becomes secondary. A gym is not so much defined by the stuff that’s lying around as it is defined by its purpose. 

“Now you take this home, throw it in the basement, add some mood lighting, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a gym going.”

That’s also one of the reasons why throwing in some Strong(wo)man-style training can be such a great addition to your own training. “See that big rock? Go pick it up. If that’s too easy, pick it up and take it for a walk until I say stop – or until it buries you. Whichever happens first.”  It’s so easy to mistake a lack of options for a lack of possibilities. And to be quite honest, there’s a certain sense of satisfaction about simply going head-first through an obstacle rather than finding a convenient way around it.


“I am the master of my gains;
I am the captain of my Swole.”

If you walked up to a group of gym bros and said “I don’t have access to a Hammer Strength Plate-Loaded 30° Incline Chest Press at home, only a standard bench. There’s no way I can make gains with just a bench”, you’d be met with absolute bewilderment. If instead you said “I don’t have a bench at home, only some gymnastics rings. There’s no way I can make gains with just some rings”, there’s a good chance they’d be met with varying degrees of “Oh, yeah, that sucks. Might as well just not train then.” Hell, if I had a penny for every time an acquaintance told me about how they used to train five days a week before the pandemic but haven’t trained a single time since, I could have bought that 64 kg kettlebell a long time ago.

I guess for some people it’s still a bit of a dogma that if you’re not doing the “big four” barbell lifts (or variations thereof) you’re wasting your time and couldn’t possibly make gains. And once you’ve internalized the notion that you can’t progress without a specific lift or piece of equipment, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that’ll keep you from actually making progress with the things you do have access to. It’s the same thing I saw with a bunch of friends who bought a Pull-Up bar when the gyms closed last year, used it twice, and then stopped training because they thought it was pointless anyway to train with such limited equipment. 

Which, to be quite honest, blew my mind. Even if all they did for half a year was go hard on Pull-Ups and Push-Ups and Bodyweight Squats, they could have been in fantastic shape – and in much better shape than not training at all. So yeah, maybe you can’t Squat heavy triples in your bedroom. But you sure as hell can train in a way that would make heavy triples seem like a walk in the park. If you walk into a “one kettlebell only” training session expecting a half-assed workout because of the limited equipment, guess what – you’re going to put in half-assed effort. If you walk into that same session ready to crush yourself until you turn into a trembling blob of wet meat on the floor, and then keep doing it all over again and again, it’ll be one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Crying counts as self-care.

That said, this does not mean that you actually need to run yourself into the ground every time you train. It does mean that you should take every training session, regardless of training environment, so seriously that you decide whether or not to push the training intensity based on your goals and your recovery, and not have it be dictated to you by the available equipment.


“He was going to lift forever, or die in the attempt.”

So, around September 2020, when the gyms (briefly, as it later turned out) reopened, I realized that I didn’t want to give up the “barebones”-style home gym training after all. Cody and I set up a weekly schedule that would have me lifting at the gym twice a week to get in some heavier work again (specifically Squat, Bench, and Deadlift), dedicate two days to hypertrophy work at home (KB Pressing, Dips, KB Swing, Pull-Ups, a bunch of banded work for arms and delts), and set two days aside for bodyweight and/or lighter kettlebell-based conditioning sessions.

That single remaining rest day ended up being an easy cardio day (e.g. that horrible going-outside-and-running day). It quickly turned into a cardio-and-light-bodyweight-training day, similar to “Fun Runs” found in the Tactical Barbell books. And eventually, it morphed into another “regular” conditioning day, again involving bodyweight and/or kettlebell training. So the journey from six to seven training days per week really was a very gradual progression. 

I’ve been able to work from home rather than spend one and a half hours on public transit every day since the start of the pandemic, which gave me a lot more free time during the week. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have seriously considered training every day as anything more than “would be cool but just not feasible”. More importantly though, working such a physically-monotonous job and being unable to get in a whole lot of physical activity other than going for a walk around the same corner for the 50th time made me want to train every day.

Coincidentally, the gyms were closing down again for another lockdown just as we were about to plan the first official “No Rest Days” training block. At that point, I decided to go all-in on a home gym and buy some barbell stands and a cheap bench to remain independent from gym closures. This time, there was no more need to distinguish between “at the gym” and “at home” days as they became one and the same thing. We settled on a weekly routine that we’ve stuck to since December 2020:

– Four basic strength training days using the General Gainz progression (60 min each)

– One or two high-volume sessions to build work capacity or hypertrophy (10 to 20 min each)

– One or two fast-and-hard conditioning session (5 to 10 min each)

I would love to write something about how the first few weeks without rest days were so hard I almost quit lifting altogether, but that I gritted my teeth, prayed to Georg Hackenschmidt every night for the strength to carry on, and finally overcame – like a swole phoenix from the catabolic ashes. But to be honest: it was fine. Things went fine. We’d set it up over the course of weeks and made sure to ease into it when we did make the official switch. While it still felt a bit odd to not get a full day of rest here and there, especially when the DOMS kept accumulating, my body adapted to the demands perfectly well. To be perfectly honest, I was genuinely surprised by how quickly it became second nature, both physically and mentally.

Baby’s first milestone.

What I realized through training every day though, is that physical activity – specifically resistance training – isn’t something that exists in a vacuum separate from everything else you do. And the more you implement it into your life rather than treating it like some separate world entirely, the more you’ll be able to get out of it. A stronger back will solve approximately half of all the problems you’ll encounter in your life, ever. The other half can be solved by doing hard conditioning or marrying rich. Catching a shoddy KB Snatch at a bad angle and still walking away unhurt because of all the time and effort you spent building up your shoulder strength will take away a lot of the fear you might have about your physical fragility. And if you can grit your teeth and push through a hard ten minutes conditioning session, you’ll be able to grit your teeth and push through when a friend wants to show you a ten minute Youtube video on their phone (“it gets super funny soon, I swear!”). Good training affects everything else, and is affected by everything else in turn. And if you’ve got the basic stuff covered, all the complex stuff will fall into place just fine.

“Corporate needs you to find the difference between this picture and this picture.”



“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“That’s all fine and dandy, but I just don’t have the time to train seven days per week.”

I don’t want this to turn into another one of those “get off yer damn smartphones and watch less Netflix” rants… but yeah, sorry, you probably do. Even ignoring any time spent commuting, very few of us have time to train an hour each day, I’ll absolutely give you that. But squeezing in even five minutes of Push-ups and Squats is no more of a time commitment than a smoke break (Boo, stop doing that!) or reading another Reddit thread on the toilet. 

Back when I trained four times per week on a Full-Body or Upper/Lower split, each training session took me roughly an hour and a half. With four weekly training sessions, that used to put me at about six hours of training per week, including warm-ups and excluding the commute. With my current weekly routine, the four heavier sessions take just over an hour, and the three lighter or more conditioning-based sessions between 10 and 30 minutes, both including warm-ups. Which adds up to about six hours in total. How about that? The total time commitment really is not all that different. 

Taking some of the assistance or auxiliary work from your main training sessions and moving them to separate days is a really straight-forward option that will cut down on the time commitment of those main sessions, in turn making those easier to fit those into your schedule as well. I’m going to risk bringing on the wrath of Jim Wendler and suggest 5/3/1 Beefcake Training as an example. Take the Dips and Chins as well as the single-leg and ab work and move them to your off-days. Your 5/3/1 sessions shouldn’t take much longer than half an hour each, and your assistance sessions can be done in fifteen minutes, plus whatever conditioning you decide to do based on Jim’s recommendations. Add a seventh session for prehab (e.g. Curls, Face Pulls, Side Raises), and you’ve got a sustainable and productive 7x/week routine that will fit almost any busy schedule.


“I pick things up, I am a collector;
And things, well, things tend to accumulate.”

If you’re looking to get in some conditioning or assistance work at home, there isn’t a ton of stuff you need – nor a lot of space. Get a sturdy Pull-Up bar and some kind of suspension trainer, a kettlebell, and you’ll be set. 20% of the equipment will get you 80% of the way, and with a bit of luck, the whole setup might not cost you more than $200. 

With those three tools alone you’ll have an incredible amount of options at your disposal, such as Dips and Pull-Ups, Swings and Getups, the aforementioned Humane Burpee, surprisingly fun kettlebell shoulder work, the Armor Building Complex, ”Cindy”, and the Goshawk just to name a few. Without ever leaving your front door. In your underwear, if you’re so inclined. Add some resistance bands if you’re feeling fancy, and you have all of your bases covered. Getting back to heavy weights afterwards is just a matter of practice.

And keep in mind that if you purchase halfway decent equipment, it’ll last you ages. I have yet to meet anyone who accidentally broke a cast iron kettlebell short of throwing it handle-first onto a concrete floor. Even if – miraculously – a $75 kettlebell were to only last you six years, you’d essentially have paid just over $1 per month for 24/7 access to one of the most versatile pieces of training equipment out there. 

“Ok, but which kettlebell should I buy?”
Doesn’t matter as long as you use it. If it’s too light, do more reps.

Joking aside, I found a 16 kg bell the perfect starting weight to get into the swing (Ha! Not quite aside after all!) of things. It’s heavy enough to be fairly versatile at first, but light enough to learn new movements without fear of injury. Adding a 24 kg bell will allow you to pretty much cover all of your bases for the foreseeable future and keep the jump in weight somewhat manageable. If you’re still feeling adventurous after that, get a 32 kg bell. Of course, this will all depend on your build and strength, but it should give you a decent starting point for your first purchase. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start collecting kettlebells like Pokémon cards soon enough anyway.

It’s not a compulsion, I swear. I could stop any time if I wanted to.

Now that the pandemic is  over  almost oveprobably over soon  relatively sure to end at some point, the market for strength training equipment will hopefully relax a bit again. You’ll likely still have to pay more than you would have two years ago though because retailers have found that they can get away with charging people as much as they damn well please. During the absolute peak, a basic set of two 10 kg plates had more than doubled in price, and it’s been retracing only at a snail’s pace. You should be able to find some solid deals on used equipment though, either from people who are selling the Pull-Up bar they’d had wedged into their toilet door for the last year, or – unfortunately – from gyms that had to close. So if you do buy a piece of equipment from a gym owner, make sure you’re giving it a good home, and the attention it deserves. Don’t let the gyms have died in vain.


“An ant on a bulk does more than a recomping ox.”

Net weight gain from December 2020 until September 2021 was roughly about 5 kg. No hard data on body fat percentage changes, but on a subjective level it seems to have been a pretty decent muscle-to-fat ratio.

Whenever I lifted three or four days per week, I often found myself overeating on training days as I figured that because I trained hard, my body needed the calories to grow. Which was obviously true. However, I would then find myself undereating on rest days because I didn't train and thus figured I didn’t need as many calories and wanted to minimize fat gain, and because I’d eaten too much the day before anyway. So, all things considered, most of my past bulks were just sloppy recomps. And yeah, ever since Intermittent Fasting became a thing, people have been talking about recomping their way to the IFBB rather than spinning their wheels bulking and cutting. And since we all know that it’s theoretically possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time based on that one study with gymnasts that one guy did, and that protein synthesis is only elevated for X hours after training anyway, and that you can lose muscle and gain fat at the same time, why not the other way around, right? It’s just science. In practice, however, I found that this approach quickly turns into a nice big bout of self-sabotage. 

If you’re coming back to the gym after a break, taking things a bit easier for a while (like during the “Cruise” phases of Fortitude Training) or just focusing on other things in life, it can be a perfectly reasonable approach. But if you’re trying to get big and actually going through all that trouble of training hard enough to force your body to take the calories you’re feeding it and turn them into muscle, don’t give it an excuse to stop. Because chances are, it will. And why wouldn’t it? As has been said many times before: your body doesn’t want to gain more muscle mass. Muscle mass uses up precious calories of which you’ll need every single one the next time there’s a famine. What the hell is your body going to do with big arms while you’re starving to death? Make vultures go “Damn bro, would have been sick to see that that guy hit a Back Double Biceps. Anyway, dibs on the kidneys”? And, circling back to the main point, this is where training every day was a godsend for me. 

It also got me into baking. Which, as it turns out, is a very anabolically-complementary hobby for a mid-pandemic bulk.

An individual workout might signal your body to build muscle in the first place, but it’s the consistent training, day in and day out that makes it grow. Training every day made it easier for me to be consistent with my nutrition because it forced me to keep my calories up even on days when I didn’t lift heavy. If I hadn’t, the training demands would have crushed me. Conveniently, this also made it much easier to properly commit to stuffing my face without fear of excessive fat gain because how much fat could you possibly gain when you hit your conditioning this hard and this often? ’Less than you think.


“Lifting every day is like a grindstone; whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you're made of.”

After just over half a year of bulking, I took a short maintenance phase to get settled-in at the new weight before bulking up another three pounds. Upon reaching my highest weight ever, I started a proper cut that had me turn my previous post-bulk weight into my current post-cut weight. 

Some of the things that I found made ultra-high frequency training absolutely perfect on a bulk – like the constant state of muscular stress – are also the ones that can run you straight into the ground on a cut.

If you’re running a more traditional routine of 3 to 4 days of lifting with some low-intensity cardio sprinkled in here and there, you still need to be conscious of your stressors and how they add up, but you tend to have a reasonable amount of room for error. If you’ve pushed your lower back too hard and find that it’s still shot the next day, you can rest (literally rest) assured, knowing that you’ll have a full day of recovery either that day or the day after. As long as your lower back is somewhat recovered after 36-48 hours, you’re good.

If you’re working your lower back every single day – which, if you’re doing compound movements, you are – you either need to make sure that your volume and intensity are so spot-on that after 24 hours you’re recovered to the point where you can get in decent enough training again, or you need to find out how much stress you can add to an under-recovered muscle without digging your hole deeper and deeper. Going too hard in one session can easily bleed into every session for the rest of the week and zap any momentum that you’ve built in your cut, both in regards to performance and weight loss.

Similarly, if you think you might have hurt your back on a moderate-frequency training schedule, you generally have enough time between heavier sessions to find out if it’s “tweaked” and just needs a bit of rest and/or mobility, or if something went horribly wrong. When you’re putting stress on joints and soft tissue with such high frequency, you really need to be in tune with your body, and be able to determine when it starts reaching its limits, ideally before it does. 

Having said all that, this most recent cut has been the easiest cut I’ve ever done, even though I’m only averaging 6-10k steps per day as opposed to the 15-20k I had before the pandemic. Yes, aiming to spend a bigger part of the day moving and on their feet is a simple and effective way for people to get healthier and lose weight. However, being active and racking up those sweet, sweet steps on a cut has always made me absolutely ravenous, which in turn made it harder to stick to my calorie goals at the end of the day. Almost as if my body was trying to tell me “hey, you were super active today and burned a bunch of calories, but don’t worry, I made sure to increase your hunger so we don’t lose those precious fat reserves.” Yeah, thanks.

Short but frequent conditioning sessions on the other hand manage to completely subdue my hunger for hours after training. The last thing I want to do after hard conditioning is eat food. A little bit of oxygen and a floor to lay on is just fine, thanks. So I usually just down a quick protein shake afterwards and find myself three hours later, thinking “oh, right I should probably eat something”. So in stark contrast to easy cardio, it’s more like my body is telling me “that sucked. Let’s make sure you’re not busy digesting a bunch of food in case that happens again. Always gotta stay GAS STATION READY, BRO!” So for me, this has been an incredibly useful change in regards to body composition and stress resilience. 

Quite possibly the happiest I’ve ever been with the results of a relatively short cut. And I have come to forgive Cody for making me train my vacuum pose so often. No hard feelings, you were right all along.

And there’s another aspect to such high-frequency training that really was a huge help for me. On an intellectual level, I know that as long as the caloric deficit or bodyweight percentage change isn’t too drastic and I keep my protein nice and high while training well, I don’t really have to worry about muscle loss. Even if I were to lose a small amount of muscle mass during an eight week cut, I’d be able to quickly regain it afterwards. And yet, there’s always a small but persistent fear of muscle loss whenever I decide to cut. There’s that “overthinky” brain from earlier again. Training every day really did wonders putting my mind at ease about not stimulating my muscles intensely or frequently enough, and allowed me to focus on just getting on with the cut rather than worry about temporarily feeling flat or deflated.


“Long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”

I can hear people scurrying to their keyboards: “Sorry, but that’s bad. Those peaks of adrenaline are bad. You always need to keep your adrenaline low when training. Otherwise you’ll go catabolic and kill your gains. Everybody knows that.”

Alright. Sometimes training is just about going in, getting your work done, and heading home. Yes. But as I mentioned earlier when talking about training intensity: if, on those occasions where your training demands it, you do push hard enough for your body to snap into fight-or-flight mode, I’ve got some great news for you.

First off: Your dad and I are genuinely proud of you and your work ethic. And you should be, too.  

Second: Congratulations – your body is functioning exactly as intended, and is actively working to keep you alive during what it assumes to be a life-and-death situation. The cool thing is: short peaks of high stress that push your body into overdrive followed by long periods of low stress that allow your body to settle down is exactly what adrenaline is made for. The cortisol that your body releases whenever you’re doomscrolling until 3 am while trying to ignore the overdue bills on your kitchen table will do more to “kill your gains” than a few minutes of extreme physical demand a couple of times per week.

Is it easy? No. Does it look impressive? Also no. But is it fun? Absolutely not.

And yeah, everybody loves to make “is this crossfit? lol” jokes and laugh at Kipping Pull-Ups. Understandably so. But if more of you reading this took even half of the energy you spend on making Crossfit jokes and used that energy to go hard on your conditioning for a few minutes each day instead, you probably wouldn’t be so out of breath after sets of five. 

Avoid the unnecessarily risky stuff (no weighted single-leg Tabata box jumps for you, sorry) and stick to the stuff you’re confident you can hit even when it feels like you’re waterboarding yourself with your own sweat. The less you have to think about cues, the better. There’s a myriad of options and pre-made WODs to choose from on a bunch of different websites, and there’s always something you can do with whatever equipment you have available that fits whatever time you have available.

Other fantastic resources for hard conditioning sessions include Cody’s Conditioning Barney Style post (free!), Mythical Strength’s Book of Bad Ideas (free!), Johnny Pain’s Quarantactics (free!), the aforementioned Tactical Barbell (not free, but well worth your money), and just about anything by Dan John. It’s also ridiculously easy to set up these kinds of circuits without having to do a whole lot of thinking. Unless you’re deliberately looking to hit some movements or bodyparts harder than others (e.g. with shoulder-focused kettlebell complexes), stick to some combination of the basic movement patterns (i.e. Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Carry), and the muscular fatigue should be distributed pretty evenly. 


One must imagine Sisyphus with a pump.”

Simple stuff: set a challenging but achievable goal and keep moving for as long as it takes you to finish whatever you set out to do. 

Having a 800+ rep goal might seem a bit daunting (or even worse than that: boring) at first, and these sessions will feel like plenty of work. Because, well, they are. That said, they’re a wonderfully enjoyable break from trying to always one-up yourself all the time. Feel free to ease up a bit on the pace, allow yourself to stop thinking about stuff for once, and just focus on doing rep after rep after rep.

These sessions are also a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with more technical lifts, such as KB Snatches or Ring Dips. You’ll stay far enough away from technique breakdown and muscle failure to ensure that you can maintain speed and form throughout the entire session, while also getting enough volume to build confidence with those exercises. Take the opportunity to make sure your reps are clean (kipping is verboten) and don’t rush things unless you really feel like it.

One awesome option for these easier conditioning days are Density Blocks, aka the ideal compromise “between training and fucking around”. Pick one or two exercises, set a timer for anything between 5 and 15 minutes, and aim to get in as many clean reps as possible of each while maintaining a consistent pace throughout the session. So no maxing out after 2 minutes and sandbagging the remaining 10. For basic bodyweight exercises, your warm-ups shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. Just loosen up those joints, pump some blood into your muscles, and you should be ready to go.

Using the Beefcake Training example from earlier, these Density Blocks are perfect for getting in a bunch of Dips and Chin-Ups. I myself have had good success alternating them using some of Dan John’s rep schemes (e.g. 2 Dips, 2 Chin-Ups, 3 Dips, 3 Chin-Ups, 5 Dips, 5 Chin-Ups, repeat). Another, more structured and hypertrophy-oriented approach to this sort of work is Escalating Density Training. Going this route, you’ll have hit something between 50 to 200 quality reps in the time it might take your coffee maker to finish brewing in the morning. And you’ll be able to serve your partner (or cat) their breakfast in bed while glistening with sweat and rocking a gnarly pump. I don’t think anyone can put a price on that.

For some more inspiration on what those sessions might look like, check out Jim Wendler’s WALRUS training for some ideas. Lots of basic, meat-and-potatoes exercises done fast enough to work up a solid sweat but not so fast that you’ll hit a wall at any point. There are a number of longer WODs that don’t need to be done as fast as possible to be effective. Similarly, Dan John has written quite a bit about these “sustained effort” sessions and how beneficial they can be for just about any type of athlete. Another great option for these sessions is to take unilateral exercises and continually alternate sides. This gives your left side some time to recover while you’re working your right side (and vice versa) without you having to stop moving completely. If you’ve ever felt like trying out some old school strongman complexes, now is the time.


“Form follows Function.”

“It’s high-rep conditioning, it won’t build muscle. You’ll look lean but not big if you do that.”

I promise you that if you eat well and spend enough time working your way up from high-rep kettlebell work with a 16 kg bell to high-rep kettlebell work with two 32 kg bells, the mass you’ll add to your shoulders will make you run into door frames more often than you’d like to. You’ll end up looking like someone who keeps throwing heavy weights above their head like it’s a bridal bouquet toss – because that’s what you are at that point. This is all such an easy thing to grasp, but admittedly something that took me quite a long time to really internalize. Given enough time and effort, you become what you do. There’s even a fancy term for it: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands aka the SAID Principle. And it goes way beyond hypertrophy.

Work as a bricklayer long enough and you’ll have the forearms of a bricklayer. Squat hard five times a week and your legs will turn into those of someone who squats hard five times a week. Half-ass your conditioning, and you’ll perform like someone who half-asses their conditioning. Spend ten years in pursuit of an eight-hundred pound deadlift, and you’ll look like someone who has spent ten years in pursuit of an eight-hundred pound deadlift. And vice versa: if you want to look like someone who has spent a decade working up to an eight-hundred pound deadlift, spend a decade working up to an eight-hundred pound deadlift. Wherever you go, there you are.

You don’t need to “think positive”, have a “winner mindset”, or find “this one easy trick that personal trainers HATE”. You just need to consistently put in enough work over a long enough period of time to force your body to adapt. It can’t not

In my case, the most obvious aesthetic changes were a direct result of all the thousands upon thousands of reps I put into KB Snatches, Cleans, Presses, Windmills, and variations thereof over the last year. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had such massive DOMS in my side delts as I did the first time Cody put me through a conditioning session that included 50+ KB Snatches and Presses each. Yes, exercises like KB Windmills won’t turn you into Markus-Rühl by themselves. But as part of high-frequency training that hits your side and rear delts every day (sometimes just in a secondary or stabilizing function, sometimes to the point where you have trouble changing your clothes afterwards) they can be a huge asset that’ll help you build shoulder stability, thus allowing you to go heavier on your big lifts, and keep your shoulder muscles and tendons in a near-constant state of stimulation without necessarily overloading them every single day. Both bro-science and science-science circles tend to confirm that shoulders generally respond well to higher frequency. And so for me, hitting those exercises multiple times a week was an absolute game changer. I personally have truly come to believe that if you’re sticking exclusively to things like Lateral and Rear Delt Raises, you’re probably leaving some gains on the table.

Why stick to slowly raising light weights when you could occasionally throw a heavy one into the ceiling instead?

In addition to my shoulders, my upper back – specifically traps and rhomboids – and spinal erectors have gotten a hell of a lot thicker. I’d assume that my lats have grown as well from all the Pull-Ups, but like hamstrings, they’re one of those muscles that are really hard to gauge yourself. The combination of literally uncountable Swings, frequent Barbell and KB Cleans, and way too many sets of high-rep Deadlifts has absolutely paid off, and gotten me a fair amount of compliments over the last year. Case in point: my sweat angels have traps now.

Archangel Trapsael has blessed your internet browser! 

Share this pic for big neck gains, ignore to look like a Q-Tip.

And last but not least, a few days ago, I was rewatching some Bench footage from this week’s session and realized that “holy crap, I can see my serratus”. Not just a faint bump somewhere, the whole damn sawtooth-like thing. I’ve always found it to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing muscles of the entire body, so I was one hell of a happy camper. I’d occasionally thought about focusing on building it up specifically, but I would have felt like an idiot trying to do isolation exercises for my serratus. Especially when I could be spending that time on literally any other exercise instead. So I don’t know if it’s because all my benching over the last year was done with a slight incline (because my bench is crap when set to fully-horizontal), or it’s from two years worth of Dips. But whatever it was: it worked.

All things considered, I guess not spending time on silly little serratus isolation exercises was the right call.


"Low reps? Where we're going, we don't need low reps."

If you were to ask me today what my Deadlift 1 RM was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Hell, with the maximum weights I have available (~150kg), I don’t even know what my 10 RM is. And if were to go for a 1 RM test tomorrow and compare it to my previous lifetime PR, yeah, I’d definitely end up with a lower weight.

“See, you got weaker training at home.”

Did I, though? I mean, I certainly got worse at testing my strength.  But, for a second, pretend you’re a catapult, history’s third coolest siege weapon, and you’re about to go to town on a castle wall.

Trebuchets don’t work as well for this metaphor, sorry.

While you’re still merrily turning that winch, the guy next to you has already let loose twice to see how far it’ll throw. 5 meters. 10 meters. Neat. In that moment, he’s thrown more often than you, and is arguably better at catapulting things than you are. So you could stop and admit that you’ve apparently been doing it wrong. Or you could keep turning that crank again and again and again until the tension is so high that you’re more likely to break your lever rather than add another quarter turn – and unleash all that stored energy at once and break down whatever stone wall or unfortunate royalty stands on the parapet. Call it base-building, call it pyramid-foundation-digging, call it one hell of an off-season. The point is: know the difference between building strength and testing strength. Because the more time you spend building your strength rather than testing it, the more strength you will have built when you do test it. 

So I have no clue what my max Deadlift is. But I do know that at no previous point in my life would I have been able to hit 100 reps with three plates (i.e. 143 kg / 315 lb) in under 15 minutes, from what amounts to a 1” deficit, no less. So while I got less skilfull at Deadlifting for low reps, I absolutely got stronger. And given a proper taper to realize that strength in a Rippetoe-approved manner, I have no doubt that I’d be able to crush my old low-rep PRs to bits.

Pictured here: getting weaker.

This probably won’t come as a huge surprise after everything I wrote so far, but I personally do much better with a ton of volume rather than with lifting at maximum intensity relative to 1 RM. So generally sticking to higher reps was perfectly fine by me.

However, if you do respond better to or simply prefer heavier lifting, there are still a bunch of ways you can get stronger on lower rep maxes even with limited weights. The most obvious option is to rotate variations that are harder simply due to mechanical disadvantage or because they rely more on your weakpoints. I don’t know if he was the first to do so, but Blaine Sumner offered a really intuitive way of formalizing these variations in regards to carry-over to the main lift: Changing one variable from the main lift moves it down by one tier. The original concept relates heavily to Powerlifting, but I think it works fantastically well for these more general purposes – especially because it meshes so perfectly with the GZCL tiers. 

Say you’ve got a small home gym setup in your garage that allows you to go up to around 105 kg / 220 lb. You’ve already hit a solid 5 RM on Touch’n’ Go Bench at this weight, and want to stick to lower reps rather than push up to a 10 RM. So you change one variable that makes it more challenging (e.g. Touch’n’Go Incline Bench), and work that lift until it becomes your new 5 RM. Once you’ve done that, you change one more variable (e.g. Close-Grip Incline Bench) and bring that up to a 5 RM. Just leave the Bosu balls out of it. 

Turning your current 5 RM on Touch’n’Go Bench into a 5 RM on Three-Count Paused Close-Grip Steep Incline Bench is getting stronger. When the time comes and you find yourself with more plates to throw onto the barbell again – you simply work your way back by removing one variable at a time and increasing the weight whenever you stall. And I can just about guarantee you that your old 5 RM will be part of your new warm-up. It’s a little bit like a Conjugate-ish approach, but not Conjugate at all. So, I don’t know, call it Subjugate. Hell yeah, that sounds rad. Because, I don’t know, you subjugate one variation after another and see them driven before you, like Conan the Barbarian. Or just call it improvised Bench Press Wave Forms.

The second option is to stop worrying so much about carry-over to certain exercises and take the opportunity to work on lifts you’ve never paid much attention to before. That could mean weighted bodyweight exercises, variations of the olympic lifts, or odd lifts. Going heavier on unilateral work can be a fantastic option as well, as it requires noticeably less weight and can be a huge help in fixing your weakpoints and imbalances. You might not have enough weight to max out on Back Squats at home, but you just might find that you do have enough weight to max out Lunges. If you’re cool enough, that is.

A personal favorite of mine is the Bottoms-Up KB Press, with which I have grown to have a very passionate love-hate-relationship. I was supposed to start with a 16 kg kettlebell the first week Cody suggested I give it a go – but couldn’t even get a single rep with that. So I had to drop down to a cute little 12 kg for a few reps at a time and build up very slowly. Nowadays, I’m at 24 kg for an 8 RM, and I’m working towards hitting my “White Whale” PR and getting a single with two 24 kg kettlebells some time soon. It’s one of the most humbling and potentially frustrating exercises I’ve ever done, which is why the feeling of accomplishment after successfully going up in weight on this lift is incredible.  And they’re fantastic for shoulder stability and forearm strength, too.

Occasionally, there’s a very thin line between “oh yeah” and “oh no.”


"Cause baby, there ain't no volume high enough,
ain't no intensity low enough…”

If you’re someone who needs a long time to recover from a heavy lifting session, you might be wondering how the hell you’re supposed to make such frequent training work when you routinely feel like you got run over by a steamroller after a big Deadlift session and not moving ever again seems like a perfectly reasonable option. There’s a really easy solution though: instead of scheduling another big training day right afterwards, spend that day preparing for your next big training day. Or, summarized succinctly here: “unless you ran an ultra-marathon while carrying an Atlas stone, you don't need to spend your days off emulating a corpse on the sofa.” 

Even spending just ten minutes strengthening your tendons with some band work, getting the stiffness out of your joints and the blood into your muscles, or giving your lungs a reason to work hard will benefit your ability to perform in the weightroom much more than doing literally nothing

“But everyone tells me I shouldn’t do so much active recovery because it’s hurting my gains!” 

If a physical activity doesn’t help you recover, it’s not active recovery. It’s training. Which is fine. This whole post is about how training everyday is fine – as long as you know when to go all-out and when to save your strength for another day. If you’re going into a training session with the intention of doing one or the other, make sure you stick to your plan. 

If you’ve set out to do an easy session and later realize that the Humane Burpee you did drastically compromised your ability to train heavy the next day, it wasn’t active recovery. However, the big issue is less with the fact that you did too much that specific day, and more that you’ve been doing too little for the last few years. If 75 easy swings, 15 Goblet Squats and 15 Push Ups mess up your training, you probably need more of those, not less.

That’s once again where the famous tiers come in. T3 exercises aren’t just meant for getting a juicy pump, they’re also meant for strengthening the rest of your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system. Because the more resilient and well-rounded the foundation of your pyramid is, the better you can recover between demanding sessions and ensure longevity in your training.


"…ain't no pyramid wide enough
To keep me from getting too swole, baby.”

When speaking of strength as a general physical attribute, it’s true that “good training is lifting heavy things”. However, “do sets of five and absolutely nothing on your rest days or else you’re not doing the program” is more of an exception rather than the rule.

As much as people like to claim otherwise, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 isn’t just percentage-based barbell lifts. It’s an amalgamation of conditioning, assistance work, and heavy lifting. Matt Wenning’s work is explicitly based on the layering of general physical preparedness, specific physical preparedness, and skill development. Dan John’s approach involves a focus on physical versatility, submaximal compound lifts, and clean reps on heavy main lifts. Notice anything here? The end result looks a bit different in each of these examples, but the underlying concepts are practically the same across the board. And if you keep looking, you’ll find that the vast majority of strength training philosophies include foundational work that goes way beyond weights and cable towers.

Ss it turns out, the full sentence is something more along the lines of “good training is lifting heavy things fast, lifting light things repeatedly, running, jumping, and pushing, or pulling whatever you can get your hands on – and depending on your priorities, you should emphasize one or more of these aspects.”

Consistent physical activity, whether resistance training or other, will keep building your foundation in ways you might not always realize at first glance. Take George Foreman, arguably the hardest-punching boxer in history, when asked about his training in the early days of his career:

“I would go out and get the biggest tree on the property. Kinda an old tree… so big that you look at it and [you’re] almost gonna cry and you start chopping. Take days to get it down. Wood chopping. You’d have to stop and sit down and drink water. Do it some more. After six hours, walk away. Come back the next day.”

Specificity is great. But that’s the kind of raw physicality that doesn’t disappear after a peaking cycle. Now, is chopping wood for six hours each day a good pastime for your competition taper? Probably not. That’s the time to realize the strength that you’ve built in the weeks and months prior, and removing additional stressors plays a big part with that. Hell, six hours of anything is probably not the most reasonable option for most trainees at any time. However, it is the kind of work that, over time, will translate into a stronger and tougher body. One that can take a lot more punishment and probably won’t have to mope around on the couch after a couple of Deadlifts the night before. And besides, chopping down trees is just less trendy sledgehammer conditioning, anyway. So don’t get too hung up on specific exercises, and don’t be afraid to include less specific physical activities that will keep all your bases covered to make sure you can do more work better, recover from it faster, and get hurt less while doing it.

“But sitting in a deep Squat for five minutes doesn’t have direct carry-over to my multi-ply Low-Bar Squats-to-parallel from a Monolift!”

It seems to have decent carry-over to walking up the stairs unassisted when you’re 60 though, so maybe have a go at it once in a while. You might think of your body as a #ragefueled #beastmode #liftingmachine made for one purpose and one purpose only, but in truth it’s closer to a sentient tire tumbling down a hill while hopefully sturdy enough not to fall over and flexible enough to keep bouncing. 

And speaking of longevity, there is a fair amount of research suggesting that both tendons and bones benefit from varied and frequent training more than from occasional hard training: “Using these tissues, we have learned that sinews, like bone, quickly become refractory to an exercise stimulus, suggesting that short (<10 min) periods of activity with relatively long (6 h) periods of rest are best to train these tissues.” In my case, training shoulders and elbows every single day in one way or another has made them feel stronger and more robust than ever before, and varying the intensity, plane of movement, and overall exercise selection has been doing a great job of preventing overuse injuries.


“…and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most muscular and most powerful have been, and are being evolved."

Now, if you’re already training in a way that has you successfully progressing towards your goals, it’ll be smarter to take it easy with upping the extra work rather than jump into it head-first. If it’s a program that includes long-term progression towards a specific goal (e.g. any Powerlifting peaking program), don’t do anything unexpected that might mess with your progress. Maybe wait until after you’ve finished the Intense Mesocycle of your Smolov Squat Routine before adding Dan John’s “The Eagle” twice a week.

The more specific a program is, the less room you have for modifications. If you’re literally running a generic bulking routine, you have a lot more room to experiment in order to add conditioning or weakpoint-sessions on your off-days. 

Whether your heaviest weight is a fully-loaded 500kg Elephant Bar or 30 kg on a dip belt, you’ll want to start with a comparatively simple progression system for your main lifts and build your plan from the ground up. Rocks, pebbles, sand – you know the drill. Due to how adaptable they are, one of the many 5/3/1 variants, anything GZCL, and some of the Stronger by Science programs would be great options for a foundation here. My personal favorite, and the progression Cody and I have stuck with for the last two years, is General Gainz. The built-in auto-regulation makes it perfect for entering uncharted training territory where you can’t quite gauge how individual sessions might affect your recovery yet.

It should come as no surprise that your general assistance work and additional training sessions should emphasize those aspects you want to focus on. 100 KB Squats will do more for your conditioning than 30 weighted Dips, and 30 weighted Dips will do more for your hypertrophy than 100 KB Squats. So if your immediate goal is to get bigger, you might include more “bodybuilding” work closer to failure on your lighter days. If you’re looking to improve your body composition while being mindful of systematic fatigue, you might want to focus more on training density and keeping your heart rate up. That said, it’s a large spectrum from one end to the other, and most decent exercises and training sessions will fall somewhere closer to the middle than either extreme (almost like a dumbbell curve, am I right?).

So, stop taking “training every day” to necessarily mean “lifting heavy every day”. Try to think of it as “doing some type of resistance training every day that helps you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself”

For myself and likely for most people reading this, that means improving work capacity and building more muscle. Because the faster you recover between exercises and training sessions, the more work you can throw at your body. The more work you can throw at your body, the more your muscle will be able to grow. And the more muscle mass you have, the stronger you’ll become and the better you’ll look. But just as fitness goals and training environment vary from person to person, so too will the specific implementation.

For some people, this might simply mean doing extra Band Pull-Aparts and KB Swings every day because they’d previously spent thirty years hunched over in an office chair and can barely tie their shoes without back pain. It might mean doing some high-rep arm work every day because you did Starting Strength for the last ten years and it shows. Some might find that doing short compound sessions every day gets them the results and the enjoyment they’re looking for. For others, it really might mean lifting heavy every single day for a while. And maybe you’re someone who needs to push their body to its breaking point every single day to stay (reasonably) sane. If you’re looking to get absolutely massive right this second, the late great John Meadows put out a bodybuilding program that has you training hard every day for a month straight. Jim Wendler, who has always been extremely vocal about not overdoing frequency and volume just for the sake of it, recently shared a post about his own experience foregoing heavier barbell work for an insane amount of weighted bodyweight work – twice a day

Don’t take rest days because someone told you that you need to, or because you can only make it to the fancy Powerlifting facility X times per week. Your body can take a lot more punishment than you think, and I’ve never known anyone who got better at something by doing less of it. Take some time, be honest with yourself, and find out what you need to do in order to achieve the goals that you set for yourself or have someone help you. And if you genuinely come to the conclusion that taking some days off training each week is exactly what you need or want to do – that’s perfectly alright. I would be a much better bass player if I spent more time playing bass. And with the degree to which I’m currently (not) practicing it, I can admit that I will never be asked to fill in for Steve Harris on the next Japan Tour, as sad as that might be. But you know what? That is fine. Because while I enjoy playing bass, it’s not as important to me as other activities (e.g. lifting) or people (e.g. family) that I’m choosing to spend that time with instead. 

If training heavy twice a week is all you care to do, more power to you. Millions of people have gotten bigger, stronger, and healthier doing exactly that. And if you train reasonably hard, you’ll still be way ahead of everyone who doesn’t – especially the non-lifting you from the Kelvin timeline. At the end of the day, unless lifting weights puts food on your table or you’re a world-class athlete, strength training is a hobby. A supremely healthy and important one, but one hobby. And you should always allow yourself to have more than one of those. If you do find that doing some kind of physical training every day would benefit you though, don’t let internet wisdom about the alleged importance of equipment and rest days stop you. Find a way and crush it.