As noted yesterday, I figured a couple of things out about my training and I needed to start figuring out a few more things.

What follows is my attempt to prioritize my goals and adjust my training accordingly. Warning: This post may include some rambling as this is literally me trying to figure some stuff out, but what the hell, right?

The thing is, by the end, I should have a plan for tomorrow and for moving forward.

Step 1: Prioritize

It’s vital that I prioritize my goals because, well, some of them are a bit antagonistic to one another. Long-term, what I want is easy. I want to be lean, strong, and have solid conditioning so I can actually use my strength for whenever it’s called for. I don’t care anything about being bigger except in so far as it may help me increase strength. Aesthetics are not a priority.

While that’s the destination, I have to deal with what I have in front of me right now, and that’s a weight problem.

As of right now, I’m down 29 lbs from where I started on April 18, 2018. I didn’t even start messing with diet until sometime in May. During that time, I’ve averaged about 1.5 lbs or so of weight loss. Now, I’m OK with that because that’s a nice, safe amount, but being OK with something isn’t the same as being happy about it.

This is especially true since there have been a few weeks where there was an increase. Now, one of those was my birthday weekend where my family insisted on going out to eat for both my birthday and my sister-in-law’s which is the day after mine.

Yet the weight loss has been modest on a week-to-week basis. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but I’m getting impatient. Plus, there are other goals to consider here.

So here are my priorities for right now.

  1. Sustainability
  2. Weight loss
  3. Increase strength
  4. Improve conditioning

Of course, these have been my priorities for the last six months, but I haven’t really done anything for conditioning. I’ve screwed around with conditioning, but my programming never really factored those in until this last program, which I included giant sets in to help improve conditioning. They do help a bit, but only if you have the right weights to make it a challenge in the first place.

How Do I Apply Those Priorities

Now that I have my priorities, and I know what I haven’t done for the last six months, it’s time to start trying to figure out how to make everything work.

For one thing, though, while improving conditioning is my #3 priority, it’s actual importance probably has to bump up a bit. The reason? Because conditioning work will help improve fat loss. While the conditioning isn’t as great a priority, it’s important because it helps tick off two of my priorities.

Now, sustainability is my prime priority, though, but here’s the thing. My training will change as my needs change. If I’m conditioned like a pro-MMA fighter, then that’s not nearly as important anymore. I don’t need more conditioning at that point. Maintaining it is important, but the program will need to change because the priorities have changed.

Sustainability needs to be part of the overall philosophy–in other words, the idea of training forever should be the focus–rather than the guiding principle on any particular training modality.

For example, jumping rope may be hard on the joints long term. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t help me get conditioned in the short-term.

So that’s something to consider, which I guess means sustainability probably shouldn’t be listed as a priority. Oh well.

Alright, so…

I need to lose more fat. Conditioning will help with that.

I could also further cut my calories, but I don’t want to do that unless I absolutely have to. I’m going with around 1,500 calories a day as it is, which is lower than I’d like, but it’s the only way I made the scale move downward. To cut it any more would be to drop it down to around 1,200. While that’s considered “safe” by some, it also doesn’t leave me anywhere else to go. As such, I want to leave that arrow in the quiver for now.

So, conditioning…

I need to start formally programming conditioning work into my training. That’s clear.

I also need to lift and, as noted yesterday, lift heavy. I also need to do more than the big four lifts, since I don’t feel they miss important parts of the body.

That means I’ll need to also add lifts to counter this.

I also want to use some strongman movements, not because I want to compete but because I think they’re incredibly practical for how we actually use strength in our day-to-day lives. Besides, I really love farmer’s walks. What can I say?

All of that to say that I need to lift heavy, lift more than the Big Four, do some strongman stuff, and have conditioning.

Laying It All Out

Alright, here we go.

First, I do kind of like how this last program was broken up. I never had more than a day off, but that wasn’t an issue. I always had a training day to look forward to, so I think I’ll keep this setup.

Wed-Overhead Press

However, this is incomplete. I mean, I could probably do just fine with this to a point, but it’s not going to really be the kick in the ass I need to get to those goals of mine.

With that in mind, I’m also going to train an antagonistic movement to go along with each of the Big Four. Now, with that in mind, there are a couple of antagonistic movements that actually are the Big Four. Namely, squat and deadlift are basically antagonistic movements of one another. Which is fine.

After all, I can’t help but wonder if part of the problem with my squat lately has been the lack of volume.

Now, this gives me a program that looks like this:

Mon-Deadlift, Squat
Wed-Overhead Press, Pull-up
Fri-Squat, Deadlift
Sat-Bench, Row (barbell, t-bar, etc)

That’s a good start. But now, where do I add in strongman movements? Where do I add conditioning work?

Excellent questions. I haven’t got a clue. But I’m about to figure it out.

Adding Conditioning

Now that I have my basic lifts, I need to add some conditioning work. Let’s start with the tools I have or can easily get for conditioning. This rules out things like rowing machines, treadmills, ellipticals, stair steppers, and so on.

What I currently have are kettlebells, a push sled, a Rogue speed rope that I keep tripping up on, and my feet. I can also pick up a beginner’s jump rope easily enough.

Believe it or not, that gives me a good bit to work with.

I happen to enjoy kettlebells, which are fantastic for conditioning. The swings alone can be a great workout in and of themselves. While may praise their strength-building properties, I tend to view them better as conditioning tools. Especially since they don’t scale up as easily as barbells or dumbbells, which makes strength gains kind of wonky.

So those are definitely a possibility. Tim Ferriss swears by these things.

But I also just bought the sled and I’ll be damned if I let this kind of thing go to waste. Besides, it was actually kind of fun. I really felt it in my hamstrings and glutes, making Friday not an awful workout in the least.

Then there are things like farmer’s walks, which I’ve already said I love doing, but can also be used for conditioning work as well.

The thing is, I need to scatter this around enough so that I have enough rest and recovery, but don’t miss things I actually enjoy. So here’s what I’m thinking:

Mon-Deadlift, Squats, Sled Drags
Wed-Overhead Press, Pull-Ups, Farmer’s Walks
Fri-Squats, Deadlifts, Sled Pushes
Sat-Bench, Rows, Farmer’s Walks

This will, hopefully, add in conditioning in a manageable way. Farmer’s walks can be about strength or conditioning so I can refocus those for Saturday’s workout if needed to prevent overtraining.

Now, this lacks things like jumping rope or kettlebell swings, but that’s alright.

You see, I have this belief that the human body doesn’t need quite as much recovery from training as we like to believe. What it needs is time to make adequate adaptations.

In the initial phases of this program (assuming this doesn’t suck), Tuesday and Thursday are left open. This is to allow time for adaptation, and an opportunity to add swings into the program if I begin to adapt to the conditioning work and need more of a kick.

The thinking here is to drive increased fat loss through increased caloric requirements while maintaining a caloric restriction, and that should work. After all, I’m already losing weight. Increasing the number of calories my body burns should increase that as well.

But eventually, the body adapts to things.

If/when that happens, I still have Tuesday and Thursday to try a Ferriss-like swing program to kick it up a step or two.

The idea here is to keep ingesting as many calories as I can get away with. In fact, my hope is that fat loss increases too much and I have to add calories back into my diet to slow it down. It might not be realistic, but…

Anyway, the idea with the calories is to minimize metabolic adaptation. This is where your metabolism essentially slows down because it thinks there’s a famine (short version). It slows down the metabolism because it wants to make the most use of everything it can.

Metabolic adaptation from my previous weight loss escapade is probably why my calories have to be so low now. With that in mind, you can imagine why I don’t want to drop them any more than necessary and might actually be willing to increase them.

But Strongman Stuff?

My thinking on strongman lifts is that it might be a good idea to use variations of the big lifts when they’re the antagonists, and strongman versions might be kind of ideal. For example, an axle deadlift on squat days.

I may also include things like tire flips from time to time as conditioning. My tire isn’t all that heavy, after all, so it’s not a good tool for strength training, but I think it might work really well for conditioning. Maybe swap it out as needed.

I could try adding in some loading exercises, but I’m not sure I really want to fool with those at the moment. Maybe after I’ve got a bit more weight off, I’ll start looking in that direction and at the possibility of things like atlas stones, etc.

Another thing I’ll do is remain open about using the axle for the overhead press. Sometimes, that might be a fun way to shake things up. We’ll have to see.

Wrapping Up

Will this work? Who the hell knows. I’m not a programming expert. I used to think I was, but nope. I wasn’t. Not even close. I was a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Now, I know that I’m not even close. But I do believe that my thinking here is sound. At worst, it won’t do me any harm, at least in the short term. If it’s too much, I can adjust as needed. If it’s not enough, well, we’ll step things up.

However, if it’s not enough, I’ll probably just step up the conditioning work since the main priority is fat loss, but we’ll have to see. I’m not sure my ego could take my lifts getting weaker, so again, we’ll have to see.

If you’ve read all the way to the end, I’m impressed. This is…well, it’s long as hell, and it’s rambling. I appreciate it.

Also, if you have thoughts on the issue, though, please let me know.


Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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