Behind the Whiteboard: What Goes Into a Training Cycle?

Since we opened doors in 2011, we’ve always taken pride in differentiating ourselves through our workout design. In a world of increasingly available opportunities to change, we have kept our calibration by prioritizing a few basics. Though every few years, we make subtle tweaks to the execution, at it’s core the following principles when creating a four-week training cycle have remained relatively untouched for the last decade.

Intent

At the very heart of what makes P360, P360, is that each day has a purpose. After all, an aimless plan gets you to an aimless destination, and we don’t like that. We fundamentally believe that we have an obligation to get you the best results possible and we just don’t see any way to make the argument that random training achieves better results than purposeful training. For example, let’s pretend that you and I set out to separately summit Mt. Everest. You’ve got a map and a plan and I’m just out for a casual stroll up the hill, no real agenda, plan or checkpoints. Just la-dee-fucking-da. You’re odds off getting to that peak and my odds of ending up a popsicle are both strong. In more realistic context, let’s say that you want to do a pull-up. Do you think that working on pull-ups on Tuesdays for four straight weeks is better than getting to it whenever your Coach feels like magically making it appear on the board?

There are a few infallible truths about fitness and high among them is this: repetition and frequency yield the fastest improvement.

While your daily workouts aren’t as extreme as climbing Everest, the analogy holds. A plan with purpose rules all.

Daily Focus

This means that in each cycle we always assign the following themes.

  • (2) Strength Days: Monday & Wednesday
  • (2) Skill Days: Tuesday & Thursday
  • (1) Build Day: Friday
  • (1) Varied Fitness Day: Saturday

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Let’s examine how each daily focus works. 

STRENGTH: M/W

In every cycle, we pick two of the bigger barbell lifts and give them their own day to shine like the Justin Biebers they are, spaced out with 48 hours to be able to recover from strength efforts (Monday + Wednesday). Barbells are the most effective way to engage the entire body in a strength format, and while we will always be the first to admit that the barbell has limitations, it is still king of the jungle when it comes to getting you strongest. Kettlebells and dumbbells are better at certain things than barbells, but if someone tells you they are better at developing strength, you have our permission to stick your finger in their drink.

Plus, barbells are just a ton of fun and we like to position them at the forefront of the P360 program because if you have fun, you show up.

SKILL: T/Th

‘Skills’ are loosely labeled as such and it’s really just a catch-all term to illustrate a theme of the day. We’re not talking about nunchuck or bow staff skills, but instead areas of development like core stability, pull-up strength, single leg work, plyometrics, or aerobic capacity to name a few. It’s really important to understand that SKILL days are not mutually exclusive of strength. You are absolutely getting stronger everyday you train at P360, but on these skill days we are not concerned with training at low reps and heavy loads, like we are on STRENGTH days. In these days, we’ll typically see a little bit more focus on muscle endurance and aerobic work, probably more overall volume of work, whether that be in the form of high or low intensity.

BUILD: F

Build days are for, you guessed it, friend. Building muscle. Gettin’ jacked. We used to try so hard to cater our muscle building language to the “muscle will make me bulky” crowd’s delicate sensibilities, producing long form content about the science of muscle benefit. Honestly? After ten years, we’re fuckin’ over it. And it’s time for a paradigm shift. If you’re scared of building muscle, don’t come here. You’ll just end up being an annoying member. Muscle improves metabolism. Muscle fights off illness. Muscle correlates to longer life. Sorry we’re not sorry for building it.

BUILD days will always have a barbell lift at the foundation of the day, performed in a higher rep count (8+) so that we are stimulating muscle growth, as opposed to the lower rep strength days that use heavier loads to target more of a strength effect. And yes, there is a subtle yet important difference between training strength and building muscle.

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VARIED: Sa

Saturdays are our #FreeBritney day where we let it all out of the box. On Saturdays, it’s all about as much change of pace from the week as possible without any set theme, agenda, or outcomes. Think of it almost like free play, we’re moving in a variety of ways and incorporating lots of different movement variations. If the week was perhaps skewed a little bit more towards shorter, higher intensity workouts then Saturday would likely balance that out with a longer, more aerobically focused workout. Anything goes.

Here’s how this might look in practice.

  • Monday: Back Squat (Strength A)
  • Tuesday: Plyometrics (Skill A)
  • Wednesday: Hang Cleans (Strength B)
  • Thursday: Pull-Up Strength (Skill B)
  • Friday: Deadlift (Build)
  • Saturday: Varied

As we wrap up this ‘Daily Focus’ section, I want to take a moment and stress to you that the key term here is ‘focus’. It does not imply exclusivity. Meaning, just because Friday is a BUILD focus, it should not imply to you that we don’t build muscle Monday through Thursday. Please be smarter than that. It’s simply that on Friday it gets prioritized. Same should be said for every other daily focus. Think of the week together as a building a Chipotle bowl. You’re adding individual items down the line, but once you get home it gets mashed up all together and consumed as a sum of its individual parts, not separated. Unless you’re a sociopath.

Appropriate Pairing

It’s easy to make a list of tasty ingredients, but getting them to end up a deliciously moist soft and buttery scone requires some precision. In our world, that arrives in the form of movement pairing. For example, of the two STRENGTH focused days, one is always an upper body focus and one a lower body focus. In addition, the BUILD day is always going to be a different movement pattern that the STRENGTH days. If we are doing something like a squat on a Monday, then Friday will almost certain have a hinge or upper body focus. Additionally, you’re not going to see a ton of repetition of movements in a given week. For example, if you do a push press on Monday you are not going to see that movement again the rest of the week, same goes for the secondary movements like ring rows, kettlebell swings, and burpees (barring few exceptions).

It’s also important to understand that we are a total body everyday concept, so there are going to be some naturally repeating patterns. We try to avoid overuse of certain muscle groups, but much of that is going to be on the user (you) to have some common sense and not to try and attend every workout.

Week 4 “Finals Week”

We believe that what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed, gets improved. So for those who are able to display safe movement pattern while under fatigue, at the conclusion of every cycle we have a different measurable each day of the week. It could be a strength test like a 2R back squat, a skill test like a max Turkish Get Up, a Become More Club entry opportunity like Flight or Prison Yard Club, or a benchmark score-based workout.

 

Variety…Kinda

While we believe variety to the most vastly overrated primary focus for a training program to take, we also recognize its importance in keeping your workouts energized and engaging. Said another way, we’re not such fitness snobs that we fail to recognize your lack of desire to do the same shit over and over again. We understand that we’re not charting out ways to make rocket fuel more efficient, and that your fitness should be fun and stimulating. Our library of Performance360 movements is a little over 700 movements, and while we always include the most effective movements as often as possible (squats, deadlifts, cleans, rows, presses, swings, etc), each new cycle will typically usher in 15 – 20 movements that were not performed in the previous cycle.

Variety is a lot like ingredients in a burrito. The right ones create magic, but too much and it’s just a sloppy mess. Or worse yet, those places that half-assed only add the cheese to one side so you have that weird thing that only half your bites have cheese. Lock it up, folks.

Scalability

Finally, we always have our staple options, as all of our main movements will always have a starting progression and an advanced performance-based option. This is often most obviously reflected in the major lifts, so for example:

Main: 8R Back Squats @ 60%

Progression: 10R Goblet Squats @ 75%
Performance: 3R Back Squats @ 90%

While our workouts are not for everyone, they are most certainly for anyone. We’ll never leave a man or woman behind simply because they can’t quite do something just yet.

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To recap:

  • Everyday has a purpose.
  • 2 days get a strength focus, 2 days get a skill focus, and 1 day gets a muscle building focus. 
  • Every cycle culminates into Week 4 “Finals Week.”
  • You’ll always have options to ease the learning curve, or to keep you advancing.

See you on the floor.