The 4-Week Stronger-Than-Ever Weightlifting Program
I turn 32 in the coming days.
Wait one second, let me read that again.
Just had to check for a second. That is a true statement, but one that is hard for me to believe. I turn 32, but I am stronger than I have ever been, except for a moment in college when I was thirty pounds heavier and squatting three inches higher.
Just last week I totaled over 300kg in an Olympic weightlifting meet for the first time in my life. A goal I first set for myself at the age of seventeen - finally off my bucket list. I am closing in on a 500lb back squat and front squatted over 400lb. Over the past twelve weeks I have hit personal records on the following:
- 10-, 5-, 3-, and 2RM Back Squat
- 5-, 3-, and 2RM Front Squat
- Power Clean
- Power Jerk
- Clean and Jerk
This newfound mid-life strength is the result of the program you have before you. I call it the stronger-than-ever program. Well, to be exact, my new records are the result of that program and some pretty freaking hard work. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that my athletes that have been on this program have hit personal records in every one of the above lifts and more, as well.
About the Stronger-Than-Ever Weightlifting Program
This is a four-day-per-week program. The best timing for the training sessions is going to be a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday type split. If that isn’t possible, then find some combination of day on, day off, two days on, day off, day on, day off.
You’ll need the days off to recover from the intensity and volume of the training days. Stacking the middle of the week with two days on is possible because day three on the program is a lighter day, so your squats will be at a lower intensity and jerks are rarely as taxing as the classical full lifts.
The basic daily plan is to squat, complete some variation of a classical lift, do a strength-based auxiliary movement, and complete the session with some basic bodybuilding work. This isn’t a Bulgarian, Russian, or Chinese program, but rather I have selected it after experimenting with many different Olympic lifting protocols. With trial and error under my belt, these exercises are chosen in the order and quantity I know works best for a majority of lifters.
This isn’t a program for Olympians, but neither you nor I are one of those. Instead, this is a program meant for the common lifter, the people who are obsessed with using the iron to get stronger and be more powerful.
You’ll be squatting four days a week. Three days of back squat and one day of front squat. Across the four weeks you will find a strictly linear periodization of either increasing volume or increasing intensity. The goal of the program is to hit a 5RM by the end of the cycle in the back squat.
Day one is always high rep and heavy back squats. Day two will be a higher intensity, but lower volume front squat day. Day three will be back squats again for high reps, but at a lower intensity, and we will wrap things up on day four with higher intensity and consistent reps on the back squat.
You’ll note the squats are always placed first in the session. This can be odd when you are used to a program that has you squatting later in the program, but I have had great success with squatting first and sapping some of my strength away before hitting the competition lifts. While my legs may be fatigued, I find my technique is more buttoned up and sharper for the competition lifts later in the session.
Each session during the week will feature some variation on a classical clean and jerk or snatch. Each of the first three days will only feature one of the three lifts, and the final day of every week will feature both lifts at a higher intensity.
Early in the program, you will be completing the classical lifts using some variation of a complex or combination movement. The goal with these is to have the bar in your hand for longer than you are accustomed and get something I like to call “sneaky” volume. No one needs to or should want to do five-plus reps on a snatch, but three reps of snatch and a couple additional overhead squats can get you used to the bottom of the snatch position in a hurry.
Each day will also feature a strength lift or two that is some partial repetition movement designed to both dial in your technique and also get you used to handling heavier loads before having to hit them in the classical lifts. Typically, these movements will be a pull for the snatch and clean or a jerk squat (the dip portion of the jerk). In my lifetime, I have never cleaned, jerked, or snatched something before handling it during a pull or partial movement. Getting your body ready for that load later down the line is an important part of the preparation process.
Some Olympic lifting programs shy away from these movements altogether. If it ain’t a squat or a classical lift, it’s worthless, right? Well, not so fast.
The bodybuilding portion of training prepares your body for larger loads in the future. By thinking about weak points - shoulders, elbows, trunk - and then training them specifically, we can prepare ourselves for more demand in the classical lifts and the squats.
This program is not designed to peak you out for a meet, but it is definitely one you can use to start building your strength. Start to enjoy the grind and embrace the daily squatting. Your lifts will thank me later.