The Punch the Clock Training Program

A progressive strength program doesn’t have to be fancy to work.

The following is a “punch the clock,” workman-mentality training program. The intent is to progressively raise your overall level of strength. It is not designed to make you peak in a particular exercise at a particular moment. I have based the program on Easy Strength by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline.

In this article, I lay out a microcycle of five training sessions. The program consists of five workouts to be done in succession, on different days. On the sixth training session, the microcycle starts over. The simplest way to implement this protocol is a week with five training days and two rest days. If you have problems with recovery, you can scale down to three sessions a week. Anything less frequent than that, and you will probably be losing your gains faster than you can acquire them. In the following description, week = microcycle, day = workout.

The goal is to raise overall strength. [Photo credit: Pixabay]

An Introduction to “The Five”

Every day you will do five exercises, one for each of Dan John’s five basic movement patterns (“The Five”):

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Loaded carry

Each day will be heavy for one of the exercises, medium for two of them, and light for the remaining two. You will rotate daily so that by the end of the week, each of “The Five” has had one heavy, two medium, and two light days. For each of “The Five,” this program has one primary exercise which you will choose. You will do that exercise three times a week with one heavy, one medium, and one light day.

For each of “The Five,” the program also has one secondary exercise. Its purpose is to support your primary exercise. You will do it two times a week with one medium and one light day. I will suggest an exercise for each pattern, but can select a different one, according to your equipment and your experience.

Sets and Reps Overview

With the exception of the loaded carries, your set and rep scheme will be the same:

  • Light days: 2 sets (per side if the exercise is unilateral) of 5 reps with your 10-12 rep max (or about 50-60% of your 5RM)
  • Medium days: 2 sets (per side if the exercise is unilateral) of 5 reps with your 7-8 rep max (or about 75-85% of your 5RM)
  • Heavy days: 10 reps total (per side if the exercise is unilateral) in 3-5 sets.

For your heavy days, start out with 5 sets of 2 reps and work towards 2 sets of 5 reps. Once you can complete 10 reps in 2 sets of 5, add weight and start over with 5 sets of 2 reps. If you can only do singles, it might be too heavy for you. As you progress your weights on your heavy days, move the weights up on your light and medium days accordingly.

There are several daily templates possible, use at your discretion:

  • Light – Heavy – Medium – Medium – Light
  • Heavy – Light – Medium – Medium – Light
  • Light – Heavy – Light – Medium – Medium
  • Light – Medium – Heavy – Medium – Light

Notes on Specific Movements

Turkish get ups (TGU): There are several possible ways to program the TGU. The one that seems to work best for me is to do 10 alternating reps (five each side). On light and medium days, I do them without rest, but on heavy days I rest as needed. The goal on heavy days to get all the reps done with no rest.

Kettlebell step ups: Start out with the light TGU weight on your light day, medium on the medium day. Hold the bell by your side and do 10-20 marches starting with your left foot (left up, right up, left down, right down; that is one rep). If the weights feel too light, go one size heavier the next time you’re at it.

Feel free to throw in one or two warm-up sets, especially for your heavy exercise of the day.

You may add some direct ab work if and when you feel like, especially on the heavy hinge day. Last, I would suggest doing your loaded carries at the end of your session (except maybe on their heavy day).

Exercise Suggestions


  • Primary: Dead swing or double dead swing (DSW) – Park the bells after each rep; focus on explosiveness.
  • Secondary: One-arm dead snatch (SN) – Park the bell after each rep; focus on explosiveness and symmetry. Keep your hips, trunk, and shoulders square at all times. There’s still a back-swing at the beginning, so do not pull the bell straight from the ground.


  • Primary: Double front squat (DFSQ)
  • Secondary: Pistol (PST) – Focus on tension and pressurization. I suggest doing them in alternating fashion, but it is not mandatory.


  • Primary: Pull up (PLP)
  • Secondary: Renegade row (RR) – Focus on symmetry. Pull the bell with your lat, rather than curl it.


  • Primary: Double press (DPR)
  • Secondary: One-arm bottom-up press (BUP) – Focus on total tension, wedging under the bell. Don’t ‘balance’ the bell, but make it part of your arm.


  • Primary: Turkish get up (TGU)
  • Secondary: Kettlebell step ups (KSU) – Focus on straight arm, packed shoulder, full extension without side hinge. Stand tall and proud, and move as a single unit.

The Microcycle Program

Day 1:

  • DFSQ – light
  • PLP – medium
  • BUP – medium
  • SN – light
  • TGU – heavy

Day 2:

  • DSW – heavy
  • RR – light
  • DPR – medium
  • PST – medium
  • TGU – light

Day 3:

  • DSW – light
  • PLP – heavy
  • BUP – light
  • DFSQ – medium
  • KSU-medium

Day 4:

  • PLP – light
  • DPR – heavy
  • PST – light
  • SN – medium
  • TGU – medium

Day 5:

  • DFSQ – heavy
  • DPR – light
  • RR – medium
  • DSW – medium
  • KSU – light

More on kettlebell training:

Hike, Swing, and Park for More Kettlebell Power

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