by Max Shank T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
• Gymnastics moves can build a strong upper body but you need a few basic, heavy strength exercises to build a strong lower body.
• The following technique is great when you need a break from complicated schemes to just focus on doing quality work.
• Squats and farmer's walks, each for 20 minutes, along with some basic upper body work. That's all you need.
You don't need a complicated program to get strong and powerful. You don't even need a lot of time. Give me an hour a few days a week and I can give you the formula for a rock solid foundation... provided you bring some work ethic, of course.
I love gymnastics movements for building upper body strength, especially front levers and handstands. However, unlike many bodyweight-training-only guys, I respect and appreciate the power of good old-fashioned heavy lifting, especially for the lower body.
Load-bearing lower body work does something that you simply can't achieve with bodyweight training – it forces your body to build a stronger platform. In other words, with exercises like squats and farmer's walks, additional muscle is created in response to just supporting big weights.
The following program is designed to strengthen your load-bearing foundation quickly and efficiently. It's also decidedly no-brainer – perfect when the rigors of following the perfect program have zapped your training drive. The battle lines are clear and definitive. You just need to execute.
Admittedly, Part 1 is the least sexy part of the workout. I just want you to spend 20 minutes on power work, skill stuff, and upper body stuff at the beginning of your session. Your best bet would be to hit some upper body gymnastics movements along with some dumbbell snatches or jumping. This isn't the meat of the workout. That comes next.
Part 2 of your mission is to squat for 20 minutes. Put your bodyweight in pounds on the bar, set a timer, and start squatting. Move up in weight as you warm up and get in the zone.
Rest as needed, but don't be lazy. Do mobility work in between sets (I highly recommend thoracic bridge), but don't over-think things. Just work.
After 20 minutes are up, log your weights for the day and the total number of sets and reps you performed. Try to beat that number next workout. Now move on to part 3.
Part 3 is the farmer's walk. Set the timer for 20 minutes again and grab two dumbbells, each weighing half your bodyweight (so a 200-pound lifter would use two 100-pound dumbbells).
Now start walking. See how much total distance you can cover in 20 minutes. Rest as much as you need within the 20-minute work window. However, never lose sight of the objective, which is trying to beat whatever distance you did last time.
Here's a quick rundown of what it all might look like:
The 20/20 Workout
Part 1: Warm up and Ancillary Work, 20 minutes
Exercise Sets Reps
A Dumbbell Snatch 4 3*
B Handstand Push-up 4
C Front Lever Practice
* per side
Part 2: Squats, 20 Minutes
135 x 5 (warm up)
185 x 5 (bodyweight)
185 x 5
205 x 5
205 x 5
205 x 5
205 x 5
225 x 1
185 x 3
In between every set of squats, work on some mobility.
Part 3: Farmer's Walk, 20 Minutes
90-pounds per hand carry
In between each set of farmer's walks, work on hip mobility drills.
Work this session in three days per week on non-consecutive days. Choose a different squat variation each day if you want, or stick with one that you know you need to work on.
For the farmer's walks you might need to go lighter on some days for your last set or two. Remember, the goal is to just stick with it for 20 minutes and make progress every session.
Don't get too hung up on the individual sets. Go heavier if you like, or go lighter. Do sets of 5 reps on one day; go for singles on another. The only rule is that you must squat and farmer's walk for 20 minutes each.
At the end of a few weeks you should notice serious improvement in your overall strength, structural integrity, and grip strength. Not only that, but your manliness will be elevated by a factor of 10.
Take a mental break from calculated programming. Grab a squat rack, some dumbbells, a stopwatch, and start building a powerful foundation.