Easy Strength: What is it?

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Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by JimZipCode » Sun May 20, 2018 5:40 pm

SubClaw wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 3:52 pm
I did Easy Strength using a 3x3 sets/reps scheme exclusively...
I just finished reading Easy Strength, finally, yesterday.

I've read a far amount ABOUT that book over the years, and a fair amount of Dan John posting "even easier" stuff and commentary. I was excited to finally get to the book.

Wow, was it disappointing. For one, it's a rambling disorganized mess. It's framed as the transcript of a conversation or series of conversations between DJ & Pavel. It doesn't READ that way. It reads like they solicited an essay or set of essays from DJ, and then asked Pavel to react / comment / chime in via email. So you've got wallpaper of DJ musings, and then an inset of commentary illustrated with Pavel's head.

I'm not trying to say that it's without value. There's some nice nuggets in there detailing research, stuff I can imagine wanting to reference back to. But the #1 takeaway message seems to be, different people with different goals might need to train differently. That's a valid message, but maybe not sufficient basis for a book. If you want to get better at your sport, then do your sport, and only spend a little time lifting. That makes sense; but again, maybe not quite a book.


I did like the formalization of the quadrants:
  • Q1: Kids first developing physical qualities in their sampling period
  • Q2: Fighters and football players
  • Q3: Me and most everyone else
  • Q4: Power lifters and sprinters: "narrow" specialist athletes
I have reservations about the logical rigor, think it could be divided differently: but it's a nice first pass at segmenting the population. Sure as shit a big step up from the Xfit theory.


But I have this question coming out of the book: what exactly is the Easy Strength "program"?

Is it 2-3 "bang for the buck" exercises, 2-3x per week, at 80%-95% of 1RM?
Is it the 40-day plan with 5 exercises hitting the big-5 movements? 2x5 for the lifts and 1x20-50 for the explosive conditioning move?
Is it the whole-body "Rule of 10" program DJ talks about?
Is it the Justa singles daily deadlift at 70% of 1RM? They spend a lot of time on the importance of low %s, like 50-70. So is that the recommendation?


I mean, I read all over this board about how people have "done" Easy Strength or "tried" Easy Strength, or changed up their program with a block of Easy Strength. It seems damn weird that I come out of this book with no idea what any of those people did. Exactly what program is "Easy Strength"?


Maybe I'm just not the target audience. If it's for experienced lifters and trainers and coaches, then there are a lot of IDEAS in here that one could use to spice up one's training or programming for clients. I can see that it could be a very valuable resource.

But man, it is at least a little confusing.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by SubClaw » Sun May 20, 2018 7:20 pm

Well, Easy Strength is not a program 'per se', with fixed exercises, percentages, reps and sets. It's a philosophy of training with some rough guidelines built-in.

These are just suggestions:

- Do between three and five exercises per workout.

- Do no more than ten reps total per exercise.

- Work always between 60% and 80% of your 1RM. Yes, that means if you are doing singles, don't use more than your 80%. It's called Easy Strength for a reason.

- Try to avoid smaller plates. Keep using the same load over and over again until it's ridiculously easy. Then bump the load quite a bit.

- Train between three and five times a week.

- Don't expect to improve all your lifts. That's why it's generally recommended to pair squats and swings or deads and goblet squats. Doing both squats and deads at the same time is not a good idea. My personal recommendation would be: a lower body exercise (squat or deadlift variation), an upper body pull, an upper body push, a swing/goblet squat for much higher reps (depending on which lower body main exercise you picked) and some form of loaded carries. You are supposed to improve significantly in one or two of those five exercises. The rest are for maintenance.

- Every workout could be done with no previous warm up and, when you finish it you should feel fresh enough that you could do it again no problem.

- To me, it's just another clever variation of the 5x5x5 of the PttP programs. The hardest part is letting go of the "unless it's killing me, I'm not progressing" mindset. And, of course, the lack of strict guidelines about load, sets, reps, frequency, rest... It's all up to you.

- Even Easier Strength offers a much more traditional structure.

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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Fat Cat » Sun May 20, 2018 8:55 pm

Everybody raves about DJ but I'll be goddamned if I can understand why. Rambling disorganized mess pretty much sums his body of work up.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Sangoma » Mon May 21, 2018 4:45 am

I am sure DJ knows his stuff, given decades of practice as the coach. The problem with his stuff is the same as with any other sports training writer: the necessity to produce words eventually leads to either repetition or contradiction with earlier writings. And sometimes stuff gets sucked out of the thumb, for the sake of letter production.

Easy strength as I understand it is the method of strength training based on the reverse logic. Direct logic: in every lift there is some percent of you max that you can lift without warm up and which requires only moderate effort. Say, my max squat is 100 kg, but I can do one rep with 60 or 70 kg without breaking a sweat. When, as the result of training, my max increases to 120 kg, then I will probably be able to squat 80 kg without significant effort. Easy Strength follows the opposite logic: in order to improve your max you can work on increasing your lower effortless load. To do that you lift moderate weights until they become too easy, then you increase the load. So the volume is quite low, while the intensity is moderate. In my case I would squat 60 kg for 5 reps x 2 sets without warm up. When it starts feeling too easy I will increase the weight to 65 kg. And so on. This way fatigue does not accumulate and strength training does not interfere with your main sport. Junta's method follows the same idea: you do lots of singles at 70% of max, which is not difficult, gradually increasing the volume, followed by the increase in load; this leads to the increases in max strength.

Dan John wrote about 40 day challenge, which is what Pavel recommended him to do: 40 days of lifting, 2 sets of 5 reps in five lifts, easy intensity, increase the weight when lifting becomes ridiculously easy. For some reason it has been misunderstood more often than not: "easy strength" morphed into "40 day challenge", which kills the very idea of this method, which is... gaining strength easily, as without much effort.

To be frank I liked Pavel's sections in Easy Strength somewhat more than DJ's.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by SubClaw » Mon May 21, 2018 4:54 am

Fat Cat wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 8:55 pm
Everybody raves about DJ but I'll be goddamned if I can understand why. Rambling disorganized mess pretty much sums his body of work up.
"Intervention" is a masterpiece. Give it a try.

I can't be objective about this. I like DJ. I love his work. And he really, really, really gets out of his way to help people: the other day some random guy who never posted before on DJ's forum asked something regarding training high school athletes and Dan offered to call him and help.

I also love when you attempt to tweak this or that and, not only he doesn't give you shit for it, but he patiently encourages you to "do it for a while and report back". Good luck doing that with Rip or even Pavel or almost any other coach out there. He is truly open to suggestions.

Anyway, I can see why his particular writing style is not anyone's cup of coffee.

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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by JimZipCode » Mon May 21, 2018 1:51 pm

SubClaw wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:54 am
I can't be objective about this. I like DJ. I love his work. And he really, really, really gets out of his way to help people: the other day some random guy who never posted before on DJ's forum asked something regarding training high school athletes and Dan offered to call him and help.
That's unsurprising to me. He seems like an excellent coach and a good guy.

The problem is that his coaching seems more art than science — and is probably the better for it — but that makes it tough to write a simple declarative "Do This" program.

I do like his sort of homespun attitude, like most of the time all you need to do is cleans, front squats and loaded carries (or whatever). Then just go play your sport, or take a walk of something. Don't overcomplicate; oh and make sure you eat breakfast. The attitude or approach resonates. It's just that the book isn't focused: it's like 20 different programs, not one or three.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Mon May 21, 2018 4:33 pm

ES is a disaster. Read PL's log for a smarter application of the principles applied to the PL moves.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by SubClaw » Mon May 21, 2018 4:56 pm

Blaidd Drwg wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:33 pm
ES is a disaster. Read PL's log for a smarter application of the principles applied to the PL moves.
I remember something you posted a few years back about increasing your shame/base level and your maxes will follow, that resonated with me.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, but it kinda does sound like ES. So I take it that your dislike is not the concept but the implementation.

How would you do it? I'm genuinely curious.

I'm thinking that, maybe, this progression you suggested 8x3 > 6x4 > 5x5 > 4x6 > 3x8 (using the same load during the entire cycle) might fit the bill.

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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Mon May 21, 2018 5:42 pm

SubClaw wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:56 pm
Blaidd Drwg wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:33 pm
ES is a disaster. Read PL's log for a smarter application of the principles applied to the PL moves.
I remember something you posted a few years back about increasing your shame/base level and your maxes will follow, that resonated with me.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, but it kinda does sound like ES. So I take it that your dislike is not the concept but the implementation.

How would you do it? I'm genuinely curious.

I'm thinking that, maybe, this progression you suggested 8x3 > 6x4 > 5x5 > 4x6 > 3x8 (using the same load during the entire cycle) might fit the bill.

Conceptually, it's fine. Implementation wise, it's DJ...which is to say, too rigid and too loose, consumed with silly spider chart standards and totally missing the boat regarding conditioning. Frankly I liked the book...then I tried it...then I built soem templates for young T&F athletes using the ideas I learned...by the time I was done, I realized I'd scrapped every single element of the book and subbed it with things that worked in real time for actual humans.,

How I'd do it for baseline strength is the way Jack does it. I've seen him hitting these off the cuff workouts in person so I know it's mold-able. I can't really give a good blanket answer because it would really depend on the goals. If you look around at how Bobby approaches training for gen purpose and rucking, or the way Jack uses these principles for strength and baseline conditioning you'd have a starting point.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Fat Cat » Mon May 21, 2018 5:46 pm

SubClaw wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:54 am
I can't be objective about this. I like DJ. I love his work.
To be clear, my words are directed to his published works, not the man himself. I am certain he is a perfectly decent human and I mean no personal attack.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Hanglow Joe » Mon May 21, 2018 7:57 pm

I did the 40 day program and set some PR's with it about 5 years ago. It's boring. I just did 2 x 5. I tried it again last year, quit after 10 days.

Like most fitness writers, I read it for entertainment purposes, if I pick something up, great if not no harm done.

Nice guy who has done a great job staying in demand and carving a nice niche for himself on the internet.

The 10k kettlebell swings program is best done in 10 days. That does create results.

The programs where I've had the best success I've figured out on my own when to progress and when to add weight.

Intervention is not something that would interest me. I've been lucky not to have had to do joint mobility, fought through any major injuries. At 49 I can still play basketball and just deal with sore knee caps for the next day. Physically, most days I feel in my 20's.

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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by powerlifter54 » Wed May 23, 2018 3:05 am

There are things I really like in this book, and some I just miss the point of, like the quadrants. Not saying it is wrong but just don’t get it.

I do like the concept of leaving reps in the bank, and the idea of 10 reps per day for frequent training, and of course the walk away idea. Which I think the got from me. I think the number is higher but it ES got me in the ballpark. I have tried and like the 40 day workout but it is really for those with the time to do that kind of thing or when coming back from an injury.

I like the completion and recovery/peaking stuff at the end. It isn’t clearly organized, but for me the ideas were great to add to and crosscheck my experience.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Sangoma » Tue May 29, 2018 12:59 am

SubClaw wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 4:54 am
"Intervention" is a masterpiece. Give it a try.
This is true. I forgot that I bought it a while ago. Really good book for amateur athletes like most of us here.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Protobuilder » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:00 am

I get the feeling that DJ simply puts out article after blog post after article and his publisher sits around collecting what he posts. When it reaches a certain threshold for word count, they slap it into a book.
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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by MeatPlow » Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:05 pm

It depends.

Now, getting that out of the way I wish that DJ would have gave credit were credit was due about 5-2-3. I am about sure someone had used it before, but as far as it on the forums I was the first to talk about using over at the old P&B board. There was thread on there about me using the 5-2-3 set/rep on the 50/20 program to rack up really high reps in the 20 min time limit. DJ said that he loved the idea and would be using it. Damned if he didn't hahaha. Wish Shaf still had that stuff in archive.

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Re: Easy Strength: What is it?

Post by Boris » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:16 pm

I think the knock that DJ doesn't write a lot of "Do This" programs isn't exactly fair. He's experienced enough to know that there are a lot of things that "work" and "it depends on goals". Hell, I don't write programs for anyone except my swimmers anymore because they are the only ones who have no choice but to do what I say and I know that their goals are completely clear/simple/unambiguous to everyone (to get faster). Do what you want and build around that.

Here's my review of Easy Strength. It probably reads like a fanboy post and, yeah, that's probably fair - always been a fan of DJ and Pavel's writing. I agree ES isn't as easy to read as some other (Pavel/DJ) writing, but I liked the format well enough. It does feel like it jumps around and that can be distracting for some. http://squatrx.blogspot.com/2012/01/easy-strength.html

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