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The Split

May 25, 2010

EDIT: Check out “The PBB Training Split” – as this post will not be updated, while that page will.

In the Continued Evolution post, I attempted to provide a framework for my thought process in developing a worthwhile training split and workout recommendation that would fit the Tao of PBB.  The following is that split, along with workouts that I will be using.

As always before starting any fitness program, please consult a physician to make sure you’re healthy enough to participate.  I take no responsibility for any injuries suffered because you weren’t ready to do this or you had a pre-existing injury that flared up as a result.

General guidelines:

  1. Don’t be a pussy.  Lift with proper form and push yourself.  There is no ego under the bar, just moving weight through the appropriate range-of-motion.   If you can only squat 135 pounds with proper form, start there and don’t worry about it.  Your real strength will skyrocket when you work with your body’s natural expression rather than against it.  If your tired, go home.  If you KNOW you have a little left in the tank, but had a hard day at the office, and think it would be best to call it a day, you are wrong.  Get to it.  Know your limits, don’t make excuses.
  2. Before you start playing with things, try this template for at least the full 6 weeks, then tinker.  Really, you should go 2 full cycles, so 12 weeks.  Stick with it and you will see results in fitness and strength levels.
  3. Buy (and read) Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.  You can find explanations throughout the internet on both used, but it’s in the details that you’ll get the most out of both.  Starting Strength especially is an amazing resource for proper form and understanding why we do the things we do in the gym.  $50 total investment and you will actually get your money’s worth, as opposed to that bottle of NitroTech Hardcore or Nitrix.  Trust me.
  4. Stop your set if maximum speed against the bar slows or when form breaks.  We want to put maximum force against the bar on every rep with outstanding form.  Going to failure is an awesome way to show toughness and learn your boundaries, but get your JV football coach out of your head while doing this program – you will burn out quickly and overtrain if you continually train in a to-failure manner.
  5. If you’re sore, you’re probably: not eating enough, not sleeping enough, pushing to failure too often or all three.  In the meantime, try an Epsom salt bath and get some extra sleep.
  6. Stick to a paleo-esque diet while working through this plan (this should go without saying if you’re on this site).  Meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little starch (no grains/legumes), no sugar.  If you want to gain mass more rapidly, try GOMAD.

The driving force behind this split is that we want to be able to train the multiple factors of true fitness throughout the week, focusing on barbell movements and progressive improvement in the gym.  I haven’t toyed with any of the conjugate methods to this point, but the theory is incredibly sound – train multiple strength and energy systems throughout the cycle as well as in the same session.  Training days are broken up by “max” and “dynamic” effort or repetition work.  Add in some sprints, strongman training and 5/3/1, and the PBB split is born!

With inspiration from and a tip of the hat to Joe Defranco’s WS4SB program

Don’t freak about the question marks.  Those two days are OPTIONAL sprint/interval/body-weight conditioning workout, something that isn’t too taxing.  If you are going to condition, only one of the two (preferably the day after the rep-upper) should be intense enough to produce soreness.  You need to take those days to recover primarily, so you really could wrap up your workout on Friday and pack it in until Monday.  If you’re not going to, I suggest getting out and have  a good time outdoors – maybe some walking or playing games like frisbee, golf, kickball, or whatever you like.  For example, I play in an adult baseball league where the games are typically on Sundays.  I leave it open to you to decide, but if you do end up conditioning and you’re not recovering by Monday, be honest with yourself.  Take those days and rest until your work capacity increases.  Another option is to make sure you get some conditioning in after two of the workouts during the week, then you likely won’t need (or want) to on the two off days.  You can play or rest or whatever.  If you feel the need to break a sweat everyday, I don’t blame you, just remember recovery and relaxation are essential to making gains in the gym and on the athletic field!

You can mix up the days however you want, but you are going to need the 72 hours between squats and deadlifts, and this is non-negotiable.  The hormonal adaptations to squatting and deadlifting are too strong to ignore and you need to be recovered fully to ensure proper recovery.  So, it could go Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday or Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday or however.  As long as you leave those 72 hours between squat and deadlift, I don’t care how you break things up.

The following is an example of a week:


  • Squats – Wendler 5/3/1 (sufficient rest, 3-5 minutes)
  • Squats – 5 sets x 10 @ around 40% of 1RM (shortened rest, 60-90 sec rest)
  • Farmers Walks – grab heavy DB’s and walk 30 yards or so till you’re tired or 2-4 sets

Heavy Upper

  • Press (no knee bend, no hip thrust – ) – Wendler 5/3/1 (3 mins or so rest)
  • Press – 5 reps x 10 @ ~40% of 1RM
  • Chinups – work up to 2-3 weighted sets of low reps followed by 1-3 sets to speed/form failure

Ab work optional (if you’re not gassed by this point), only if the workout is under 45 min at this point.  Renegade Rows and hanging ab raises would be good choices.

Also, a proper chin/pullup in my opinion involves a dead hang and elbows crossing the plane of your back.  This should put your chin well above the bar in either variation.  If these two criteria are not met, the effort does not count as a rep.

Dynamic Effort Lower/Optional Complex

Sprints can be added to the end of this day if the workout is around 40 min at this point – and this is a good way to add in sprints if you desperately want to, but if you’re not recovering and you’re sprinting, stop.  It’s that simple.  Alternately you could do the first lift, then do the conditioning.  Double alternately, you could exchange the second and third lifts of this day with some complexes; I suggest the Randy Couture or the “BeZercher.”

Some alternate lifts for the DB Split Squat Jumps: (Box Jumps with higher boxes – 3-6 sets of 5 or so, box squats – 3-6 sets of 2-3 reps, kneeling squat jumps)

Upper body for reps

  • Pullups or chinups – Set a goal number for the day, like 35 total.  Get the number regardless of how many sets it takes.  See above video for proper form.
  • DB/BB Military Press or Pushups (medball pushups or other variations work here – do a lot, 100 for regular pushups)
  • Invert Rows – work up to doing 100 total
  • Dips – work up to 100 total
  • Do some ab work on this day – Renegade Rows, Hanging ab raises, sprinter sit-ups, etc

This workout should be up-tempo, short rest periods, in and out of the gym.  Superset-ing the opposing body moves (ie, dips + Chins, Rows + Press, etc) could also work here.

These bodyweight-type exercises should leave you out of breath and legitimately tired by the end.  If you have any juice after, AND you did not condition the day before (when the Dynamic Lower falls before this day), you could add in some intervals or sprints.  This is yet another time to be brutally honest with yourself in two ways:  1. if I didn’t condition yesterday, am I really tired enough to not be able to do a few intervals?  2. if I did condition yesterday, and I feel like I can do conditioning today, did I work hard enough today?  ONLY you can determine the appropriate answer to these.  Make the right call.


  • Deadlift – Wendler 5/3/1 (long rest, 3-5 min)
  • Deadlift – 5 x 10 @ ~40% 1RM (short rest)
  • Glute-Ham Raises – 3 x 8-15 reps

Planks/hanging ab raises/jump rope are all acceptable, OR you could just go home, you did just deadlift.

So, there you have it.  Fairly simple system, it’s the kind of thing that must be felt to be truly appreciated.  Try it for the 6-12 weeks and see what a difference it makes in your strength and fitness, then get back with me.  I’ll post an email eventually (if anyone starts reading this) and you can ask any questions that might come up.


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