The StrongFirst school of strength offers several programs to structure your training and develop your athletic qualities. Simple & Sinister, of course, our staple and the theme for multiple articles on this blog. But also, Rite of Passage, Total Tension Complex, and a number of more specialized programs authored by our instructors.
All these programs have one point in common: each of them is focused on a limited number of exercises. That is necessary as we only have so much physical and mental energy. If we spread ourselves too thin, we would hardly be able to produce any noticeable result. And if we decided to push harder, we might end up with an injury or a systemic failure.
There are times, though, when “spreading ourselves thin”—within reason—might be a good idea, if not a necessity.
Programs and Practice
Maybe you’ve signed up for our upcoming, first-ever French edition of the SFG Level I Certification. You already have the necessary level of strength and stamina to pass the tests. You need to be sure, though, that your technique is up to par, so you need to practice the six SFG skills.
Or maybe, you’re already an SFG. You teach classes and workshops and assist at StrongFirst Kettlebell Courses and at SFG Certs. You want to not only be able to impeccably demonstrate any given technique of the curriculum, but also to show a certain level of strength. An SFG instructor should be an example, an inspiration for students. Thus, you need to practice the SFG skills.
Another possibility is that you’ve spent eight or twelve weeks on a Plan Strong or Strong Endurance program. Before undertaking another one, you might want to find your basic level of strength and skill in our fundamentals. Again, you need to practice the SFG skills.
All the above is the rationale for the following program. It is designed to let you practice the six fundamental exercises of the SFG Level I curriculum, while maintaining your strength in each of them. As a matter of fact, you should be able to increase your strength every week, by small increments. That is the concept of kaizen, small improvements compounding over time.
You will train six days a week. On days 1, 2, 4, and 5, you will work on your strength and skill in double cleans, double front squats, presses, and snatches. On days 3 and 6, you will do Simple & Sinister.
I surmise the latter does not need additional commentary. The only piece of advice worth giving here is: do not push too hard. Keep your S&S sessions anti-glycolytic and focus on skill, rather than on the timer.
Let’s talk about the other four days of the program. Every day, you will work the four skills mentioned above. Their order, volume, and load will differ, but each day will follow the same template:
- Exercise 1: heavy (about 80-90% 1RM)
- Exercise 2: light (about 60-70% 1RM)
- Exercise 3: light (about 60-70% 1RM)
- Exercise 4: medium (about 70-80% 1RM)
Easy Reg Park: Heavy Exercise
After the appropriate warm-up, you will do a total of 10 reps in no more than 6 sets. That means, if you’re starting with a new weight and are only able to do solid singles, do 6 sets of 1. The next week (there’s only one heavy session per week for each exercise), you might be able to do a couple of doubles (1-2-2-1-1-1) for a total of 8 reps. Later, you will progress to 5 sets of 2 for a total of 10 reps. At that point, keep the total of 10 and try to reduce the number of sets. Your end goal is 2 sets of 5 reps.
Do not feel obligated to follow any particular progression template. One week, you might be “almost there” at 5-3-2, and the next week you might “regress” to 1-3-4-2. As long as you uphold the technical standard, ebbs and flows won’t matter much.
Unless you keep regressing several weeks in a row. That might betray neural fatigue and means you’ve probably pushed too far, too quickly. In that case, be smart and manage appropriately by doing one or more of the following:
- Bump a size down on all days in that exercise
- Reduce volume
- Make all your days light for that exercise for a week or two (more on this below)
Easy Reg Park: Light Exercises
Here, you will only do 2 sets of 5 reps (for each exercise). But the technique must be stellar. Do not just bang out those reps. Take the opportunity to hone every single detail, starting with the setup, feet position, and grip, and going all the way to the breathing, timing, and posture in the lockout. Actually, spend extra time in the lockout position to make sure everything is flawless.
Easy Reg Park: Medium Exercise
Here’s where Reg Park comes into play. For the last exercise of the day, you will do 5 sets. The first two sets should have 5 solid reps each (otherwise, the weight is probably too heavy for the medium day). In the three other sets, you will work up to 5 reps, too (over time), but you must follow the rule Pavel gives in his article on Reg Park’s template: do not attempt a rep unless you are 100% sure you will make it.
Exercise Distribution Over the Week
The four exercises are paired up as follows:
- Upper body (press and double clean)
- Lower body (snatch and double front squat)
Note: I consider the double clean to be a pull, which I pair here with a push (the press). As for the snatch, although it combines several patterns, I consider it primarily as an explosive hinge, which I pair with the double front squat.
“Pairing” means that when, on a particular day, one exercise of a pair is heavy or medium, the other will necessarily be light. On the next day, the two exercises of a pair switch places. They keep alternating in this fashion during the whole week.
Here’s the routine I’ve been following the past several months:
- Double front squat (heavy)
- Snatch (light)
- Double clean (light)
- Press (medium)
- Double clean (heavy)
- Press (light)
- Double front squat (light)
- Snatch (medium)
- Simple & Sinister
- Press (heavy)
- Double clean (light)
- Snatch (light)
- Double front squat (medium)
- Snatch (heavy)
- Double front squat (light)
- Press (light)
- Double clean (medium)
- Simple & Sinister
Easy Reg Park: Notes on Exercises
As you can see, this template also manages to alternate (intensity- and volume-wise) the one-arm overhead exercises (press, snatch), as well as the heavy loaded ones (double clean, double front squat). When one of those is heavy or medium, the other is always light (on the same day).
There’s a “hidden bonus,” though. On the heavy double front squat days, you’ll have to do heavy double cleans, too. But, as the volume is pretty low (remember, no more than 6 sets total), it should remain manageable.
Another note on the double clean: in order to maximize the power output and reduce the reliance on the stretch effect, I prefer doing them in “power” or “dead stop” fashion (parking the kettlebells after each rep). You can also choose the dead stop variety for the snatch, for the exact same reason. Be aware, though, that with heavy kettlebells your technique might slip over time toward a weightlifting one—less hinge, more leg drive.
Remember what you’re practicing here is the SFG skills. Do not modify technique to beat your personal record. This is why, for the snatch, I prefer to pause in the lockout. I start the rep by pulling the kettlebell down and shoving it back into a deep hinge. Then, I explosively reverse the movement and shoot the kettlebell back into the lockout as quickly as I can. If you’ve never done this and would like to try, keep in mind that your usual kettlebell will feel much heavier than its nominal weight. So, start on a lighter side.
Easy Reg Park: Loads
To select your loads for Easy Reg Park program, we will follow the rule of the Soviet coaches Pavel mentions in his article. So, the general rule will be:
- For your medium days use your 7RM weight
- Use one kettlebell-size up for your heavy days
- Use one kettlebell-size down for your light days
Again, that is the general rule. Given that kettlebells jump sizes by 4kg, you might not be able to exactly match your 7RM. In that case, go lighter. Remember, on your medium day, you need to be able to file at least the first two sets at 5 solid reps. You’ll be better off going lighter and do 5×5 on your first session, than going heavier and not being able to do 5 on those first two.
If your weights are on the heavier side of the spectrum (leaning toward the Beast), doing the two light days with one-size down kettlebell(s) might be too much (in the context of this program). In that case, do at least one of your light days (typically, after your medium and before your heavy day) with the kettlebells two sizes down from the medium.
For example, for your double front squat:
- Day #1 (heavy): 44kg
- Day #2 (light): 36kg
- Day #4 (medium): 40kg
- Day #5 (light): 32kg
Easy Reg Park: Progression
The rule of thumb for going heavier is:
- On your heavy day, you must be able to do two sets of 5 solid reps (in this case, “solid” means no excessive struggle on the last rep)
- On your medium day, you must be able to do five sets of 5 solid reps
It is likely you won’t achieve both at the same time. Please, do not compromise. Do not get ahead of yourself by increasing your weights too early.
If you first achieve two sets of 5 on your heavy day, keep doing them and work on your speed and control. If you first achieve five sets of 5 on your medium day, you may also try waving the volume. Instead of doing five straight sets of 5, do 5-6-5-4-5.
Easy Reg Park Program: The Press
“To press a lot, you need to press a lot.” We’ve all heard this statement, and we all know it’s true. So, if you’re feeling good, but your progress in the press is stalling, you might want to increase your pressing volume. Do this only on light days.
Start by adding sets of 5 on Day #5, before adding them on Day #2. As this is optional, you can actually vary the number of additional sets from week to week. Think about varying the rep volume per set: instead of doing 5-5-5-5, do 5-6-4-5, for example.
Also, instead of adding volume on Day #2, you may try some specialized variety:
- Press with a 5-second lockout (hold that plank!)
- Press from feet-together stance
- Press from feet-inline stance
- Kneeling press
- Half-kneeling press
And so on. Be smart and don’t struggle. If it feels too heavy for a light day, use a lighter kettlebell.
Easy Reg Park: Adaptations
Despite its relative simplicity, do not let the Easy Reg Park program fool you. It still represents a good amount of work that you’re adding to everything else you do in your day-to-day activities. Listen to your body and keep your training log up to date.
As I said earlier, you might notice you’re regressing on your heavy or medium days. Or maybe, you feel overall tired (bad mood, lack of concentration, and so on). The program might be the cause of it or not. Nevertheless, you must consider your daily activities on the whole, and it’s probably the program you will need to adjust in order to recover.
You have several options:
- Limit your heavy and/or medium sets to 2
- Bump down a kettlebell size on some or all of the exercises, on all the days
- Every session, replace the light exercises with 10 minutes of Fast & Loose, as well as mobility work
- Do all the exercises as light (two sets of 5 reps with the light weight) on every session, changing their order as indicated by the template
- Do only the two light exercises of the day
As you can see, the Easy Reg Park program allows for a good deal of adaptation. That is because its first goal is to structure your practice. You’re not under pressure to reach particular numbers at the end of a particular period of time.
Beyond the six SFG skills, the Easy Reg Park program combines and alternates the four movement patterns (push, pull, hinge, and squat). Add to that a ballistic hinge (swing) and a loaded carry/ground work (get-up) on Days #3 and #6, and you have a pretty complete program. Which means, you should be able to replace the SFG skills with other exercises (as long as they’re fundamental) and still get that kaizen strengthening effect.
For instance, my intention is to try this program with:
- A barbell deadlift (hinge)
- A barbell back squat (squat)
- A barbell military press (push)
- A weighted pullup (pull)
- A kettlebell snatch (ballistic)
- A waiter/rack/farmer walk (loaded carry)
Other combinations are possible. Whatever the case, before attempting such a program you need to learn the proper technique in each exercise. Therefore, please, find a StrongFirst instructor in your area for coaching and feedback.