By Patrick Striet, CSCS ProSource
At age 35, I've been hitting the weights and relentlessly pursuing increased strength and fitness for 20 years now (I can't believe it's been that long). I've also been training people from all walks of life and working within the fitness industry in some capacity for 17 years. What's more, I've been obsessively studying all aspects and components of strength and conditioning for the same length of time.
I don't tell you all of the above in an attempt to impress you, validate my expertise, or pat myself on the back. However, given the amount of time I've been involved in this field and pursuing my favorite passion and obsession, I've learned a great deal about program design, the psychology of fitness enthusiasts, and the barriers many of us face in putting together result-producing programs and adjusting those programs over the long haul. Here is what I've learned and what has become evident (in no particular order).
Three Requirements for True Long-Term Fitness and Conditioning
People need progressive structure and organization to their training in order to gauge progress and quantify what they are doing. This is what separates training from simply "working out".
On the other hand, people want and, to a lesser extent, need a lot of variety in their training to say motivated. This variety could be in the form of exercise selection, loading parameters, training splits, frequency, training modalities/tools, or the fitness qualities or components included and emphasized.
People generally have a hard time organizing and programming both strength and conditioning activities concurrently. People who want to be jacked, strong, conditioned and lean know they need to include both strength and conditioning activities into their programs, but it's often times difficult to manage them, especially when attempting to have both structure AND variety. Strength and "cardio" (I call it conditioning) are competing demands, yet both activities need to be included on a consistent basis to some degree. People want to get stronger, yet also train for size, stay lean, be in condition, try out new stuff like METCON circuits, HIIT, try different splits, etc. It can be tough to try to program all of this, get it all in, and satisfy all these wants and needs.
What if there was a long term approach you could take which allowed you to address the 3 points I discussed above? What if there was a general "plug and play" template you could use which would allow you to have structure, plenty of variety, allow you to try different splits, allow you to get in enough conditioning, allow you to both over-reach at times and back off at others, and generally address a bunch of different fitness qualities and turn you in to a jacked, lean, conditioned badass while allowing you to always be psychologically motivated and salivating to train? Is this something you'd be interested in? If so, allow me to offer such a prescription.
The approach I'm going to lay out I've coined 5 to 1. Why the name?
The program always has you training 6 days per week (and if you can't train 6 days/week, this approach is not going to be for you). The first phase of the program has you performing conditioning activities 5 days per week while only hitting the weights 1 day per week. Over time, this ratio will be reversed, and the final phase of the program will have you lifting 5 days per week to only 1 day of conditioning.
I am bad at coming up with unique and "catchy" article titles, and this article is no exception. One of my favorite bands of all time is The Doors, and my favorite song of theirs is "5 to 1". That's about as good as I could do while somehow keeping the title relevant to the content of the article. Sorry for the lack of originality.
Is the 5-to-1 Approach For You?
Before I move on, it's important to address who exactly the 5 to 1 approach is for. While I strongly feel 5 to 1 could serve any "specialist." whether it be a power lifter, bodybuilder, field athlete, etc., I'd say it's best suited for the general fitness nut who wants to improve and maintain a bunch of different qualities and be well rounded. Basically, if you are interested in being strong, jacked, in great condition, having fun with the training process and staying relatively lean, then this approach will be for you. I'm not saying it's going to optimize any particular quality, but I'm confident in saying it can help turn you into a well rounded fitness badass.
Are there better programs strictly for hypertrophy? Sure. Better programs for pure strength? You bet. Better ones for building elite endurance? Certainly. But if you are looking for a bit of everything, and a program you can use and modify for the rest of your life, this is a pretty good choice in my opinion.
In part one of this article, I'm simply going to lay out a very general template, with very few specifics, and provide general concepts. I really want you and other readers to be able to make this template your own. After all, that's why they call it a template. In part two, I'll give you my opinion on how things could be done and break down each phase based on my own experience applying it in the real world.
Here is what the general template and approach looks like:
Phase 1 (1-2 weeks)
Conditioning: 5 days/week
Strength Training: 1 day/week using a full body workout
Phase 2 (1-2 weeks)
Conditioning: 4 days/week
Strength Training: 2 days per week using 2 full body workouts
Phase 3 (1-2 weeks)
Conditioning: 3 days/week
Strength Training: 3 days/week using an upper/lower/total split
Phase 4 (1-2 weeks)
Conditioning: 2 days/week
Strength Training: 4 days/week using an upper/lower/upper/lower split
Phase 5 (1-2 weeks)
Conditioning: 1 day/week
Strength Training: 5 days/week using a body part split
That's enough for part 1. I hope I've piqued your interest and left you interested enough to come back to mull over the specifics and nuts and bolts of the program in part 2. Until then, stay strong and train with a vengeance!