Writing a training program can be tough. You sit down with a blank spreadsheet thinking that you’re going to write the Picasso that is finally going to lead you to being the most jacked you’ve ever been, but before too long you’re in some kind of programming vortex where you’re trying to balance out horizontal pushing and single leg work like the quadratic equation.
I’m a big believer in less being more when it comes to training. I’d rather do fewer exercises but hammer each rep with focus and purpose than just touching on 8 or 9 different exercises in a session. I typically don’t program more than 5-6 exercises for my clients, and I often do even fewer in my own training.
The reason I say this is because if you’re going to do a little less total stuff, you need to make sure that what you put in your program checks a lot of boxes. One trick I picked up somewhere along the way to make this easier is the 2 barbell method. I’m not positive, but I think I stole it from Tony Gentilcore, so I’ll give him the credit on this one.
What you’re going to do is start each training day with a barbell lift. Pick a push, a squat, and a deadlift variation. For our example, we’ll use a front squat on day 1, an incline bench press on day 2, and a sumo deadlift on day 3.
Perform around 25 total reps and focus on getting strong. Mix some mobility or core work in between sets to add some density to your training, but nothing that’s going to take away from the main work. This is the meat and potatoes of your training.
Then, for your second exercise of the day, instead of gravitating towards the dumbbells or running the line of Hammer Strength chest press machines next, pick another barbell lift that’s similar to the first one of the day. So that might mean paused front squats, close grip bench presses, and RDL’s.
After the 2 barbell lifts, now it’s time to chase a pump and balance things out with a combination of dumbbells and bodyweight exercises.
This is a really effective tool to implement if strength is your ultimate goal, you’re training age is a bit lower, and/or you don’t have a much of an injury history. I like it a lot for high school athletes and guys in their 20’s to early 30’s who haven’t been on a focused training program for very long, but it’s totally effective with lifters older than this too. It’s just imperative that you listen to your body and don’t beat yourself up, so be thoughtful in the lifts that you pick and why.
The purpose is to keep the barbell, which is the most loadable tool we have, in your hands longer to facilitate getting yoked. The negative is that too much barbell work can lead to annoying overuse stuff in the shoulders, elbows, or knees. There’s a yin and a yang to everything. This is why training age, strength levels, and injury history is so important to take into consideration when designing programs.
Writing a program doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it’s also not a haphazard collection of stuff to do just for the sake of it. Be thoughtful on what you choose to spend your time on in your training, and pick the biggest bangs for your training buck. You’ll be in the gym for less time, accomplish more, and build some real strength and muscle.