Two-Lift Programs, a Conversation Starter

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Two-Lift Programs, a Conversation Starter.

I will start with a couple of assumptions.

Adherence is more important than design. The brilliant program that gets tried but quickly put aside is like the tree that falls in the forest and no one hears - does it make a sound, and did that program actually accomplish anything? A program can't be termed "good" if it doesn't do "good" for a significant portion of the people who attempt it.

Balance is overrated. The idea that a lifting program must touch on all the "basic human movements" is fundamentally flawed. One should move in as many, varied ways as possible, at least from time to time, but that doesn't mean heavily loading every possible movement pattern. A lifting program can do what a lifting program needs to do and only contain two lifts. A lifting program doesn't need to be balanced - a life does. Train flexibility. Walk. Eat well. (We all could, and should, add to that list.)

My favorite two-lift programs:

Deadlift with two hands, standing overhead press with one hand. (PTTP)

Swings, getups. (S&S)

Squat, bench press.

-S-
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
I trained for some time recently with only or mostly deadlifts and overhead presses. I think it worked well.

Most of my kettlebell training throughout the years has been with the clean and the press. It's simple and effective. But these days I think swings and get-ups are my go-to with the kettlebell.

Squats and rows is a pair that I think that should work very well but haven't tried. Maybe alternate it with the deadlift and press pair.

I'm in no hurry with my training these days so I don't really go for two-lift programs at the moment. I think that I get more with more, so to say. I do see that the effect of the extra exercises diminishes the more I add them, but with intelligent programming and enough time it doesn't get too bad. I lift because I love it, I'm not really looking for a minimum effective dose. Still, I typically find it best concentrate on an exercise or two a cycle with the rest getting less emphasis.

I agree that balance in general is overrated. But there is a lot of space for individual needs. I also agree that all basic human movements don't need to be in a single program. But I do think that they're worth training at some time of a training year, for example.
 

Shahaf Levin

Level 5 Valued Member
One should move in as many, varied ways as possible, at least from time to time, but that doesn't mean heavily loading every possible movement pattern. A lifting program can do what a lifting program needs to do and only contain two lifts. A lifting program doesn't need to be balanced - a life does. Train flexibility. Walk. Eat well. (We all could, and should, add to that list.)
I agree.

I have been doing two-lifts for about 18 months.
Did in that time
Alternating 2 week blocks of ES deadlift & bench press with S&S.
Bent press & Swing (Bent & sinister) - most of the time by a landslide
Bent press & crawling (one each day)
Hands & thighs lift & TGU / Bent press

When I have a try to a 3 lift program it just seemed too much stuff... If anything pattern needs greasing I add it to the movement prep
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

I'd go for
> Swings & Bent Presses
> Swings & Get ups
> Pistols and OAOL PUs

In daily life, as long as you move - training mobility and flexibility - with the right minimum dose, eat and rest properly...

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Michael Scott

Level 7 Valued Member
I find it interesting to read this thread to this point, and not see anyone including snatches. There is no ill will or malice in my statement. I just find it interesting that swings, C&P, overhead press and TGU's are the go to exercises from two instructors and three forum members that are esteemed in their own right.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I find it interesting to read this thread to this point, and not see anyone including snatches. There is no ill will or malice in my statement. I just find it interesting that swings, C&P, overhead press and TGU's are the go to exercises from two instructors and three forum members that are esteemed in their own right.
Snatch + Bent Press makes an excellent two-lift program. I didn't include it in my list only because it's one I've never done. Good one!

-S-
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
I can't stay with only two lifts for any length of time. Last time I did was during my "circuits" phase and the one that got the nod most often was snatches and sandbag get-ups.

Before that it was double front squat and one arm military press for a strength/grind period. I stayed with that for a couple of months and was eager to switch to a more varied routine.

I currently do 4 movements per workout and change up those every other or every third with similar variations so I'm swapping grinds for more high rep work.
Push/pull/hinge/squat
 

JeffC

Level 7 Valued Member
Doing only two lifts does not work for me. PTTP sounds good in theory, but in my practice it does not work.

I have been doing great with two PTTP main lifts of Bench And Deadlift. I need more variety or I develop issues. I need a Squat pattern. The first time I did PTTP I did not Squat and it hurt me in the long run. With all the pressing if I am not doing work for the upperback I will develop shoulder issues. I also like some specific Grip work.

My assistance and corrective work is light and does not take much from the main lifts. As loads increase and recovery becomes taxed the other stuff will have to diminish and eventually go away. That’s why I try to do as much as I can before intensity ramps up to stay ahead of any issues.

I know doing only two lifts is not enough for me to be functional and pain free.
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I don't think working all the human movements in a workout is fundamentally flawed, nor do I think that a two lift program will create imbalance.

LOAD two lifts a day - great. And move around in other patterns unloaded as much as you can.
Many good programs only prescribe heavy doses for two lifts, but it doesn't mean the warmup can't include other patterns that are unloaded, or lightly loaded. S&S is the perfect example. Goblet squats are at a far less weight than one would load for strength gains, but are still practiced in a way that doesn't detract from the main focus.
 

Bro Mo

Level 6 Valued Member
I need more variety or I develop issues...I know doing only two lifts is not enough for me to be functional and pain free.
There is a lot of wisdom to work on many planes of movement and movement patterns. The only way to fit them all in within 2 exercises seems to be using complexes and chains. Something like:
  1. swing + clean + front squat + press + get-down + OS roll + burpee + pull-up
  2. run + swim + ruck
On a more serious answer to the original question, I may try something like these when I feel compelled.
  1. Clean & Jerk, Rope Climb
  2. Sprint, TGU
  3. Burpee, Pull-Up
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
I read somewhere about snatches + push ups. Haven't tried it but sounds good.

+1 @wespom9. 2 loaded exercises plus some lighter variety sounds good, like s&s.
 

Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
I find it interesting to read this thread to this point, and not see anyone including snatches. There is no ill will or malice in my statement. I just find it interesting that swings, C&P, overhead press and TGU's are the go to exercises from two instructors and three forum members that are esteemed in their own right.
I often focus on double clean and front squat (call it just double front squat if you think a compound lift is cheating the "two lift" parameter--I do them both ways) and snatches. @Steve Freides mentioned compliance -- these are two exercise that I enjoy a lot and that happen to complement each other. By contrast, TGU is a "go away" rather than a "go to" for me.

I don't think working all the human movements in a workout is fundamentally flawed, nor do I think that a two lift program will create imbalance.

LOAD two lifts a day - great. And move around in other patterns unloaded as much as you can.
Many good programs only prescribe heavy doses for two lifts, but it doesn't mean the warmup can't include other patterns that are unloaded, or lightly loaded. S&S is the perfect example. Goblet squats are at a far less weight than one would load for strength gains, but are still practiced in a way that doesn't detract from the main focus.
+1. I tend to focus on one or two exercises at a time -- in terms of doing them very consistently, loading them, and progressing them. That doesn't mean I only DO one or two exercises at a time, but everything else is more supplementary/complementary. For instance, I regularly do a lot of mace and clubbell swinging, often for very high volume, but I don't think of it in the same way as my core lifts at any given time.

I have been doing great with two PTTP main lifts of Bench And Deadlift. I need more variety or I develop issues. I need a Squat pattern. The first time I did PTTP I did not Squat and it hurt me in the long run.
I can relate. I did PTTP for an extended period without doing much squatting of any kind. After a while, I found that on the basketball court I was too grooved in the hinge pattern, which messed up my defensive stance and hurt my leaping (no, the hinge is not at all the same pattern as a vertical jump, at least in most contexts within the game of basketball). But I don't think that was a problem with the program as much as my overall programming around it.
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
This may seem odd, but... capt'n crush grip training & heavy sandbag shoulders (bodyweight).

Also, in my opinion, lifting a heavy sandbag hits all the basic movements. Breaking it off the ground is a deadlift. Pausing with the bag on your knees in a sort of sitting position, then standing up is a zercher squat. Cleaning / curling the bag up is either a hinge or a pull, depending on technique. And finishing the move by pushing up over your shoulders is a short ROM press or at least a isometric press.

Google or check out youtube of folks shouldering heavy rocks and sandbags, and I bet you can find a hinge, pull, squat, and press in the movement.
 

DavThew

Level 6 Valued Member
I have really enjoyed using ring dips and front squats in combination in the past. It was very helpful to work out some overdevelopment of the posterior chain/underdevelopment of the anterior chain.
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
Kettlebell

- swing and get-up
- snatch and bent press
- clean and press
- clean and jerk

Barbell

- deadlift and bench press
- deadlift and side press
- Zercher squat and bench press or side press

Bodyweight
- one-arm pushup and pistol

Dumbbell

- swing and press (note: dumbbell swing is actually a swing-snatch, quite different form a kettlebell swing/snatch)
- clean and press
- snatch and bent press (again, snatch is different - dead snatch)
 
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