A Base Level of Strength. This is what you earn for pushing heavy iron four days a week for 20 to 30 weeks. But once that journey comes to an end, where do you go from there? @Carl filled us in on what it takes to get started on Field Strong. And if you’ve got the time, equipment, and lifestyle that allows for the necessary recovery...do it! But, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got plenty of side-hustles and just don’t have the room in your schedule.
Hey, I get it. Right now I’ve got to balance teaching undergrads at Indiana University, collecting data in the lab, writing a dissertation, planning for a wedding, working at a local gym, programming for online clients, working with private clients, and writing for Power Athlete on top of spending time with my fiancé and continuing my personal growth. So as I finished up Bedrock, I didn’t want what I had worked so hard for to fade away because of The Hustle.
You want to keep your gains, but you don’t want lose ground on other aspects of life. You’re just looking to keep the blade sharp. But you’ve checked out Grindstone and you have your doubts. You’ve just come off of months of crushing iron and sprinting faster than you ever have. Now you’re asked to cut it all down to less than an hour twice a week? What is this mythical program?!
Last winter, after I had fully exhausted the resets of Bedrock, I asked the same questions and decided to jump on Grindstone. Fast forward three months later and I’m here to shed some light on the program through my own experiences so far. First, let's tackle the two major points of skepticism I had going into it:
- Can I really maintain strength with only two days of training each week?
- Will there be movements that capitalize on me having developed a Base Level of Strength (BLoS)?
Maintain the Gains
Before we can talk about expectations, we’ve got to talk logistics. As I mentioned, Grindstone is for the hustler...or the busy parent, or the graduate student, or anyone else who might have packed schedule. Taking that into consideration, John programs two days each week that are high priority, your “Mandatory Days”. Does this mean John is going to kick you out of the club if you don’t hit both days each week? No. But, in these two days you’ll get a compound lift of either the upper or lower body in as well as whatever the focus of that cycle is (assistance exercises, trunk work, condo, condardio, condoardio). And that's all you NEED for the week.
If you can get both of those in and you still want more, you’ve got two “Recommended” days waiting for you. These days are typically a combination of Jacked Street, conditioning, plyos, and/or trunk work. You get a little pump, breathe a little heavy, but protect yourself from getting to wrecked to finish out your week.
If you’re 10x’ing your week and have time for one more session, you’ve got an “Optional” day. Here we’re going aerobic. Intervals, calories, or flights of stairs if you’re a traditionalist. If you’re looking for a little something different, you could hit a 30:00 walk (I like to do this with a 30# ruck on my back). Keeping things low intensity will help ensure you're properly recovered for next week’s Mandatory Days.
The best part: all of these days are designed to be done in around an hour, start to finish. So, even a full week of Grindstone would come in just over half the time commitment needed for Field Strong.
Although there were some weeks where I hit all five workouts, there were plenty of weeks where I was lucky to get two or three training days in. When the end of the first six week cycle ended with finding a heavy single for back squat, I was worried. I hadn’t had a bar heavier than 85% of my 5RM on my back since Bedrock...how was I going to handle a heavy single? And, how far off from my heaviest single would it be? Side note, I was coming off hip surgery so the heaviest squats I had hit in the last year were my reset sets from Bedrock. So when I hit 385lbs, 25lbs more than anything on Bedrock, with a stronger position, I was stoked! And, as we close out the current 6 week cycle, I hit a heavy 5 deadlift this morning right where I left off in Bedrock.
I feel there are really two reasons I was able to hit those numbers. First, even though training days were maybe lighter, the principle of Compensatory Acceleration Training still rang true. Second, the addition of accessory movements, or at least movements we didn’t regularly see in Bedrock, continued to drive the stimulus needed to progress.
Adding Tools to the Toolbox
Bedrock is designed to adequately stress the 7 primal movement patterns. But, because proficiency is still being built and the foundation laid, the complexity of the stressors is limited. With the freshly established BLoS, emphasizing posture and position, we are now able to execute more technically demanding movements.
This was apparent in my first six weeks, where the focus of that cycle was “contrast training”, which involved supersetting a major lift with a plyometric exercise. My personal favorite was the squat + shin hop pairing, as the shin hops helped me keep that “explosive” feeling since we didn’t see power cleans as much anymore.
In addition to the new movements, Grindstone also brings in elements of Jacked Street. Since the volume is dropped, you won’t drive the same hypertrophic demands that were found towards the end in movements like vertical pulls. To make up for this, exercises like plate front raises, hammer curls, and the hex press were regularly planned after the main lifts or condo pieces for the day. With this current cycle’s focus being conditioning, sometimes it’s the promise of getting a nice pump going is the guiding light at the end of a tunnel full of suck. And, with the ability to take an extra day off if I need it, you have the green light to chase the pump.
The main reason I didn’t turn to Field Strong after Bedrock was my recovery. The last 4 to 6 weeks of Bedrock had beat me up pretty bad. Sleep was maximized at 7.5hrs a day and I was eating the Power Athlete diet with abandon, but I was struggling to get up for Thursday and Friday’s sessions. Adding more volume AND intensity on top of that would’ve been a recipe for disaster. For the first couple of weeks on Grindstone, I stuck to all five scheduled workouts. But, as I headed into my first full six-week cycle, I was hitting a volume of squats paired up with plyometrics on the first mandatory day that left me needing a couple of days to recover before I wasn’t feeling rough. Throw in weekend requirements, and I was left with some weeks of only two mandatory days and a light spin on the bike.
Initially, these weeks would frustrate me. I was so conditioned to training Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, week in, week out for months. I was used to getting under the heavy barbell regardless of how I felt. My old program dictated my recovery, but now my recovery dictates my program. If I’m not beat up, I’m in the garage by 5:00am. But on days me or my training partner aren’t feeling it, we pick up the next day right where we left off. It’s actually served as an exercise to help get in tune with my internal readiness, continuing the development of my personal accountability from Bedrock.
Listen...are you going to see the same gains you would in Field Strong? No. Are you going to be as big as someone who lives on Jacked Street? Probably not. But, are you going to be the most physically dominant parent in the parking lot picking up your preschooler? Oh hell yeah!
If you’re someone who can’t live the dream of working in an office that has two Sorinex Base Camp Racks; if you’ve got a family, job, school, or any combination of side-hustles then you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You need to keep the blade sharp, so you need a Grindstone.
Currently, Ben is finishing his PhD while serving a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville, molding the minds that will be the future of strength and conditioning coaches. He also helps support the Olympic Sports side of the Strength and Conditioning Department there as a sports scientist.