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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dan John's 40 Day Workout - My Experience and Takeaway's

Ever since I got a hold of Easy Strength (and even a bit before), I'd been intrigued by the concept of the 40 day program. The idea, in a nutshell, is: pick five lifts, do them every day (or every workout) for 40 workouts in a row. My original plan to try it out was put on hold by my SFG prep, but once the SFG was over, I figured I'd give it a shot.

My program was based off of a template I got from Michael Perry of Skill of Strength, who also provided me with guidance through the program. Whatever errors I made are my fault, not his :-).

For movements, I used
  • One Arm KB press
  • Pull up
  • Deadlift
  • Kettlebell Swing 
  • Ab Wheel
The workouts alternated between four rep schemes
  • 2x5
  • 5-3-2 (increase weight as reps decrease)
  • 6 singles
  • 1x10
Swings were the exception. Those were done in timed sets of 2-12 minutes, with the weight varying based on the time.

The template I had called for about five or six training sessions a week.


The big result for me was that I finally broke a double bodyweight deadlift, which also was a first time personal record. I probably could have pulled an extra 10 pounds or so, but I was being conservative.

I successfully pressed the 36kg kettlebell for a single on a couple of the singles days (but not all of them. More below).

I'd never done weighted pullups before, so it's hard to tell if they improved or not. I did a "sorta max" of seven during the last singles workout.

The swings were swings. Occasionally, I scrapped doing a timed set in favor of just doing 100 swings. (Usually this was when I was working out in my basement and was worried about waking my son).

My ability to use the ab wheel improved marginally, which means I moved from really, really, sucky, to just really sucky.

Observations and takeaways

It took me a bit to get into the groove of this program, and I don't think I really found it until about halfway through. I'm glad I ground it out, but after the SFG, doing a more kettlebell focused program might have made more sense. I had the KB bug fairly hard.

For me, right now, trying to train six days a week is too much. Having a weird schedule and a 15-month old son meant that I had days where I was trying to train on way to little sleep. A program where I get a full day to recover suits me better at the moment.

The singles was my "stupid ego" day. On the other days, I could follow directions and keep the weights relatively easy, but on singles day, I always felt the need to chase a heavy load. I'd consider taking out those days on the next go around, and just doing 2x5 or 5-3-2 days.

Exercise selection really matters. I'm terrible at pullups and the ab wheel, which made regulating both of those hard. On the 1x10 days, I had to change the scheme for pullups because doing 10 pullups is a max effort for me, not a rest. Similarly, the ab wheel is a huge struggle for me.

I seem to do better with reps than with timed sets right now. Timed sets make me either rush, or not work hard enough.

All in all, it's a good program, and I'd definitely use it again (though not right now). Mike's got another program for me to keep working on bring up my deadlift, which I'll start in July after I get back from vacation. Until then, I'll hit some kettlebells and do some maintenance work with the DL.

Addendum: I tested my 1 arm KB press yesterday, and I can now clean and press the 32k for five reps (though the last rep was a little ugly). So, that's a big improvement as well.

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