Simple and Basic Programs : 3 days a week and 4 days a week flexible program templates


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I get e-mails all the time asking me about how to program, how each movements should be included, and how to get started in weightlifting or progress. I have developed templates that I use and taylor individually for every athlete or online client. I have decided to share some of my templates here. Each can be customized (by yourself) to fit your goals. If you do use these templates – all I ask for is to be credited (if you decide to support First Pull – that is also appreciated) . More importantly, if you do use them, I would love for you to write me and let me know how that goes for you.

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What I believe in 

I believe that the frequency of technical lifts is key and I believe they should be done together often. I believe variations to full lifts should be 50-50 when you are far from competition. I believe in simplicity – so only include variations that actually target your technical culprit. In other words, if you are not powerful, power movements are good. If you are slow under the bar, block work is good. If you don’t finish your pull, powers or muscle snatches are good. Etchetera.

Here is a link to some assistance exercise that I like.

I believe strength work should be a priority – but not prevent technical progress. The more strength work you do, the less energy you can put on technical work. The rule of thumb is to do the minimum strength work that allows you to keep progressing in your strength work and lifts. Minimum effort for maximal results. For instance, some people can squat once to twice a week and keep progressing on the squat and on the lifts. Others might need to squat 3 times a week. Start small, and add over weeks. Do too much and everything will break down.

I believe volume comes before intensity in your preparation. In other words, it is good to train on triples and doubles with a few singles here and there and to move on to more doubles and singles as you get closer to competition. Intensity should rise over weeks as volume decreases.

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I believe in the repeated effort method, drop sets method and wave loading methods. For the repeated effort method, the good old rep and sets schemes work well (eg 5×3, 5×5, etc) and they should be done with sub maximal weights very often. This is good early in the preparation, it helps to get back in shape and establish a baseline. For instance, if you can squat say 80% for 5×5, we know 4×4 @ 85% should not be a problem in the coming week.

When transitioning to higher intensity, I like to use the drop set method. Basically,we will go for a heavy single or double or triple followed by 2-3 sets of 1-3 reps with 10-15% less weight. It helps to spike up the intensity and yet do some work. I use wave loading mostly for intensity so closer to competition. I like 85%x2 90%x1-2 and 80%x2-3 85%x2 for 2 waves.

These are just ideas (and I have more tricks in my hat) – but it gives you a good idea of how rep and sets scheme evolve through the preparation. It also shows that variability in set and reps scheme is important for long term progress.

Deload weeks : use them when you are feeling under the water. Either cut down the volume in a half or play around with movements you are not used to for a week. Another way to do it – cut down the training time by half (do 2 movements instead of 4 for example).

Three 3 days a week template

3 days a week is not a lot – but it is good for someone who is starting or limited by time. Because of that, the template has to be repetitive but progress can be done nicely on such a template when starting. There are ways to include variations in there while still focusing on full lifts. For sets and reps, I will let you figure it out based on the comments above.

BTW : power clean + Push press is included as a CJ variation and so is PCL + PJerk

FP Template 1

1 2 3
Snatch Snatch Variation Snatch
Clean and jerk CJ variation Clean and jerk
Squat RDL/GoodMorning Squat
Pull Press Pull

FP Template 2

1 2 3
Snatch Snatch Variation Snatch
Clean and jerk variation CJ Clean and jerk
Squat RDL/GoodMorning Squat
Pull Press Pull

FP Template 3

1 2 3
Snatch variation up to 70%
then SnatchEx. power snatch up to 70%, Snatch up to 80%
Snatch Variation Snatch variation up to 70%
then Snatch
Clean and jerk variation up to 70% then CJ CJ variation Clean and jerk variation up to 70% then CJ
Squat RDL/GoodMorning Squat
Pull Press Pull

Four days a week template

Four days a week is the norm for beginner-intermediate lifters. My preference is 5 to 6 times a week but not everybody has that kind of time. Nevertheless, 4 days a week offers enough time slot to do a lot of things and be productive enough to progress in the first 1-2 years. Here is a basic template.

1 2 3 4
Snatch Snatch variation Snatch variation Snatch
CJ Variation CL or CJ variation Jerk or CJ Variation or CJ
Pull Squat Pull Squat
GM or RDL Press GM or RDL Press
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Managing volume and intensity

The rule of thumb is to do more intensity with the full lifts and more volume with the variations. Thus, if day 1 is snatch, it is a good idea to go a bit heavier (ex : 4×2 85%) and keep the intensity lower on day 2 and do a bit more sets (ex : 4×3 70% power snatch). Here is a concept worth knowing and applying.

Strength work, ab work and bodybuilding work

I included minimal strength work – just enough to progress. The more advanced you are the more you will have to play around and add frequency of strength work. It is a good idea to use variations for pulls, squats, press and posterior chain work.

The templates don’t included bodybuilding work – Feel free to add pullups, dips, pushups, rows, etc. to the mix after training. Dont forget bodybuilding work for the legs as well : step ups, lunges, single leg deadlifts, etc. all very important.

Abs and hypers should be added at the end of training. 

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6 thoughts on “Simple and Basic Programs : 3 days a week and 4 days a week flexible program templates”

  1. I find it interesting that you recommend 5-6 training sessions per week. Three coaches (all from the same gym) that I’ve spoken to all strongly believe anything more than 3 and at a stretch 4, is too much, due to “inability to recover”. This was not advice specifically for me but for a lifter in general. What would you say to such advice?

    1. It depends on your goal, training experience, and lifestyle. If youre lifestyle is good enough (don’t have to work 50 hours a week, etc.), and your plan is smart, it is the way to go. After a while, you need to do more – more volume and more intensity in due time. Adding sessions is the best way to add volume. Moreover, just because you are training 5-6 times a week, doesnt mean you have doing big lifts every day. Some days are bigger and some days are easier. that being said, no body gets on a podium training 3 to 4 times a week.

      1. Great article (as usualy JP). I think autoregulation ties in nicely to the 5-6 days a week training very well. I’m a beginner and I’ve found the extra sessions allow me to either get more exposure to the snatch or clean or jerk.

        Would your 5 and 6 days a week look very similar to your 4 day/week? Just two extra days of snatch (or snatch variant), clean & jerk (or variant) followed by pulls or squats and finish with pressing or GM/RDLs?

        1. depends on the needs of the athletes. The rule of thumb is 3 good sessions, 3 light sessions.

        2. Well I have a lot of needs haha I did read your article on ‘Why do we miss jerks?’ and it made me realize that I need to increase the frequency of them. The jerk and the snatch are by far my worst lifts from a technique standpoint. So increased frequency on those makes sense.

          From reading your articles and training with a few of the WLers at my gym I’ve realized my squat form was awful so I’m also addressing that. I clearly need to get my squat up, but also develop my posterior chain (which you’ve outlined in a few other articles). I’m just a little clueless on squat frequency given my age (34) and lackluster ability to recover. I know I can handle twice a week squatting and lately I’ve been doing 3 without joint issues.

          I’ve got a pretty good idea on how to approach programming for the rest. I was just curious on how I could program squats for the week (5-6 sessions). If this is beyond the scope of the article/comment advice I understand.

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