Last Updated 11th August 2016: During the early part of 2016, from January 2nd – February 13th 2016 I tested the 6 week strength training program by Jonnie Candito (linked here.) For anyone that doesn’t know, Jonnie is a raw powerlifter based in the US, he’s an incredibly strong individual and placed 3rd in the world IPF meet a couple of years back. He also has a very large 150,000+ subscriber base on youtube, with some great videos on squatting, deadlifts, benching and general powerlifting tips and advice. The best part of this strength program is that it’s 100% free although donations can be given via the Candito Training HQ website.
There are a number of training programmes on the website but the one I decided to test and review was the “Candito 6 Week Strength Program.” again this is totally free so feel free to go and pick it up!
The layout of the programme is pretty straight forward, it comes with a PDF and an excel. The excel itself is super easy to use, you simply enter your 1 rep maxes for the squat, deadlift and bench as well as a number of additional information such as date you will be starting the program, what unit you would like the results to be displayed in (KG or LBS) and your choice of accessory movements, such as an vertical upper back movement, shoulder exercise and a horizontal upper back exercise. This is all pretty self explanatory and only takes a couple of minutes to set-up and you have weights and rep sets for the next 6 weeks set-out instantly.
The format of the program is obviously across 6 weeks with the 1st week being your highest rep range and lightest weight, leading to your heaviest sets in week 5. The sets and rep ranges are very specific but there is also room for “feel.” For example MR stands for max reps for a specific set, this means you are essentially trying to hit a max rep PR when attempting this set. Jonnie also recommends not going for more than 10 reps on these MR sets, if you are above 12 reps you should consider re-thinking your 1 rep max figure.
This is a 5-5-4-4-3-Deadload style routine. By this I mean you will be training 5 times per week for the first 2 weeks, 4 times per week for the middle 2 weeks and so on. The reason the frequency decreases is due to the stress on the CNS (central nervous system) when performing heavy lifts. The CNS can become fatigued very quickly, whereas lighter weights with a higher rep range don’t have the same effect. This is why you don’t see powerlifters or weightlifters going too heavy 2-3 days before a competition.
This strength programme is based around compound movements (which is what any strength routine should be based around!) With the squat and deadlift on one day and an upper style day on the other. There are optional accessory exercises which allows you to get more sets in and work on accessory movements if you desire. Each week is also titled based on what is being achieved in the week ahead, for example “Week 1 – Muscular Conditioning” or “Week 4 – Heavy Weight Acclimation.”
Below is a screenshot of the format the program takes. A very simple layout makes all your exercises and rep ranges extremely easy to understand. Pro tip: Take a picture at the start of every week for the week ahead’s training and you won’t need to keep opening the excel doc on your phone.
Reading the PDF (for the first time before writing this article) Jonnie talks about the reasoning behind what he chooses and why he chooses the exercises he does. He also explains that based on a powerlifting “total” the squat makes up a higher percentage than your bench press. So therefore training your squat should come as a priority to any powerlifters utilising this training program, a 5% increase in your squat translates to a higher kg/lbs value than a 5% increase in your bench press. He also describes the “intensity” being a higher percentage of your 1RM, not necessary how difficult a set feels.
The accessory movements are very close to the compound lifts inside the programme itself, meaning there isn’t much variance in the lifts. For example a set of 3 front squats will have more total cross over value to your squat PR than 3 sets of leg press or lunges would have. You can find the full PDF on the background to the programme here.
There is a lot of flexibility in the program. The rep ranges aren’t set at a specific value, and there is also an element of “feel” involved. The exercises also compliment each other very well, utilising deadlift variations as an accessory exercise, not only improves your weak points in a deadlift but it also helps muscle hypertrophy due to the higher rep ranges for the accessory movements. For example the gruelling week 2 with rest sets at only 60 seconds after a close to max rep attempt is extremely challenging but does help you prepare for the later weeks when you have heavier weights.
Another aspect I liked about the program was although it was geared for overall strength it was a good insight into some of the common powerlifting training programs. Which is something I’d personally like to train towards in the near future. All aspects to the program have been thoroughly thought through, from the vertical and horizontal accessory movements, to the overall aim of the week ahead whether this be hitting 1RMs or simply conditioning yourself.
This is not a programme for beginners. If you’ve been training for less than 1 year I’d recommend looking into a beginner strength training programme as the DOMs from squatting 2 times a week in the first couple weeks will probably greatly reduce your performance and reduce the effectiveness of the programme in general. Similarly if you are an experienced lifter, having worked out for more than 4 years this powerlifting training plan might not be for you either. Although highly effective, I think the linear approach for seasoned lifters might not have the same results as they have on more intermediate lifters, instead you might want to look into periodisation powerlifting training programs or into the RPE training method.
This is one of my favourite workout programmes for intermediate lifters. During the program you can see relatively short term strength gains in as little as 6 weeks, which is a short period of time when you’ve been training for more than 18-24 months. On a personal level my lifts increased by approximately 5% across the board, with the bench press increasing the most. I’d highly recommend the program in general, you can pick it up from: http://www.canditotraininghq.com/free-strength-programs/
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