View Single Post
Old 12-06-2006, 11:50 AM   #20
Steve Shafley
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,273

OLAD is "one lift a day"

It's a workout that Dan has talked about for years, and that I've done with good results as well. It's not a workout for those who are just learning the lifts, though. I'd recommend more frequency and less intensity for those learning.

Let me post some old emails and stuff that I kept from when Dan and I discussed this way back in 1999 or so. It's long, bear with me and my somewhat less seasoned self from 1999.

Dan posted his One Lift a Day stuff at the OSSTB. The text of the post follows. A link to Dan's site is posted at the end. For those who have never went through Dan's site, I thoroughly recommend it.

The One Lift a Day Program

Perhaps two of the most interesting articles ever to appear in Strength and Health were the two part “The American System” from the “Behind the Scenes” column by Tommy Suggs. For the purposes of this review, I will only look at the “One lift a day” guys, but the “Hungarian Systems” was the second most popular. The Hungarian System basically alternated light and heavy weeks, light being 60 percent, and heavy cycling through a classic percentage wave. Lifting days alternated between power days and “classic” or full lift days. Personally, I used this system for a month but I really overtrained. The workouts took a long time and I used very little support systems, partners, whirlpools, saunas, drugs, et al. So, I feel I cannot comment well on the program.

Note: these are the training weeks for the third week before the Trials

The three heavy weights on the “One lift a day:”
Joe Dube-Olympic Team Member-Heavyweight Class
Olympic Tryouts-462 Press, 336 Snatch, 468 Clean and Jerk, 1267 Total


Press: 135 for 5, 135 for 5, 225 for 3, 295 for 2, 355 for 2, 405 for 2, 425 for 2
Clean High Pulls: 225 for 3, 305 for 3, 375 for 3, 425 for 2, 450 for 2, 480 for 3 singles


Back Squats: 225 for 5, 315 for 5, 405 for 3, 505 for 3, 575 for 3, 625 for 3, 675 for 3, 700 for 1


Snatches (Performs power snatches until weight forces him into full snatch position) 135 for 3, 135 for 3, 205 for 2, 245 for 2, 275 for 2, 295 for 2, 310 for 2, 325 for 1


Clean and Jerk: 225 for 3, 305 for 2, 355 for 1, 385 for 1, 415 for 1, 435 for 3 singles
Snatch High Pulls : 225 for 3, 275 for 3, 295 for 3, 315 for 3, 335 for 3, 355 for 3


Work up to a light poundage on the three Olympic Lifts

George “Ernie” Pickett
Olympic Team Member- Heavyweight Class
Lifts at Trials: 457 Press, 341 Snatch, 462 Clean and Jerk, 1261 Total

Training Program
Snatch: 135 for 5, 205 for 3, 255 for 2, 295 for 2, 305 for 1, 320 for 3 singles

Seated Incline: 135 for 5, 205 for 3, 295 for 2, 315 for 2, 335 for 2, 345 for 2, 355 for 2

Cleans: 225 for 3, 305 for 2, 355 for 2, 355 for 2, 385 for 1, 405 for 1, 420 for 3 singles

Front Squats: 225 for 5, 305 for 3, 355 for 3, 405 for 3, 455 for 3, 500 for 2

Approximately 85 % of limit for a single on Olympic Lifts (Note: every once in a while will go all out on Saturday.)

Bob Bednarski
Olympic Team Alternate-Heavyweight Class
Lifts in Trials: 424 press, 358 Snatch, 451 Clean and Jerk, 1234 Total

Military Press: 135 for 5, 205 for 3, 250 for 3, 250 for 3, 275 for 3, 300 for 3, 325 for 3
Note: Dave Turner, a fine O lifter and Math teacher, did the percentages on this and feels Bednarski may have gone too light here. He got behind on the press at the trials and had to make huge jumps to try to edge out Dube and Pickett.

Cleans: 135 for 5, 225 for 3, 300 for 1, 350 for 1, 400 for 1, 425 for 3 singles

Squat: 315 for 5, 405 for 5, 475 for 5, 525 for 5, 575 for 5, 625 for 1

Snatch: 135 for 5, 205 for 3, 250 for 1, 285 for 1, 305 for 1, 325 for 3 singles

Work up in three Olympic lifts to approximately 1200 total

Squats: same sets as Wednesday, except skip the last set

The roots of this training for Bednarski came from the time he went from a 950 total to 1100 in four months. He moved up a weight class and focused on weak points, especially his legs.

A typical week:
Monday Morning:
Squats: 325 for 5, 375 for 5, 425 for 5, 475 for 5, 500 for 2, 525 for 1
Press: 225 for 5, 255 for 3, 285 for 3, 305 for 2, 325 for 1, 340 for 1
Clean and Jerk: 355 for 2, 375 for 1, 400 for 1, 400 for 1, 415 for 1, 400 for 1

Wednesday Morning
Squats: 305 for 5, 350 for 5, 400 for 5, 450 for 3, 475 for 2, 500 for 1
Snatch: 225 for 5, 255 for 3, 285 for 2, 305 for 1, 315 for 1, 325 for 1
Clean and Jerk: 355 for 2, 375 for 1, 400 for 1, 400 for 1, 415 for 1, 415 for 1

Squats: 350 for 5, 375 for 5, 400 for 5, 450 for 3, 475 for 2, 500 for 1, 525 for 1
Snatch: 225 for 5, 255 for 3, 285 for 2, 305 for 1, 315 for 1, 315 for 1, 315 for 1

Try limit on three Olympic Lifts

In December of 1968, this workout was reported in his “Lifter of the Year” article:
Monday: Presses, working up to 5 sets of three with a moderate poundage-350 to 385 pounds.
Tuesday: Snatches, up to five sets of three with 305.
Wednesday: Squats up to three reps with 450-500.
Thursday: Clean and jerk up to 3-5 singles with 405-425.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Total or work heavy on two lifts.
Sunday: Squats up to three reps with 450-500.

One forgotten little workout that I like of Bednarski’s was his first “Lifter of the Year” award after he did so well at the 1966 World Championships. Best lifts at the time: 402, 352, 446
Noon workout
Squat: 305 for 5, 355 for 5, 405 for 5, 455 for 5, 505 for 3
Military Press: 132 for 5, 220 for 5, 264 for 3 (for five sets of 3)

Isometric Work: 3 pulls, bottom, midway, top, 1 squat midway, 3 presses, start, middle, finish

Squat: Same as Monday

Snatch 132 for 5, 220 for 3, 264 for 2, 286 for 1, 308 for five singles

Power Cleans: 132 for 5, 220 for 3, 264 for 3, 286 for 3, 308 for 3 sets of 3

Work up to three Olympic Lifts to 90-95 percent of limit.
Two weeks before a contest he goes up to starting attempts.
He gets at least three days’ rest before a meet.
This is the program that I stole to do my best O lifting. Of course, it worked so well, I dropped it and did something else.
One Lift A Day...1999 Conversations with Dan John My one lift a day set up initially looked like this:

Nice to hear from you, thanks for dropping me the note. I did want ask a few questions and listen to your suggestions on the subject:

1. Integration of cardio and strength training. Unfortunately for my lifting, I have started my cardio training for rugby. This generally includes sprint-interval, short hill runs, and an occasional distance run. (2-3 miles). I was very attracted to the one lift per session style, because it seemed to offer a way to optimize recuperation and to allow me to increase my strength during this period. A rugby match consists of 90-100 minutes of sprinting, tackling, pushing, shoving, and occasionally brawling, just to let you know what kind of rigors I must endure, since I am unsure of your familiarity with the sport.

2. Rotation of the big exercises. I am planning on rotating exercises when they become stale. I think I included this in my first post on the subject, but to re-hash:

Bench press variations: regular, incline, decline, dumbbell
variations, partial ROM, bottom start

Squat variations: squat, front squat, bottom squat

Pull variations: power clean, power snatch, high pull variations, ballistic shrug.

Overhead press variations: press, push press, dumbbell press, 1 arm dumbbell press

Do you think this might allow me to train without taking a "rest" week? Alternatively, I could drop all weight work and just perform sandbag and sled pulling. I have straps for my sled that allows me to do upper body pulls, pushes, explosive work on it, etc. Additionally, I am planning on using the sled for an "recovery" type workout as per Louie Simmons recommendations (for more information on this, read his GPP article in the archives of "Strength-Online" at

3. What about performing a few repetitions of a pylometric exercise instead of speed work? I would use depth jumps and drop push ups off of small blocks for the squat and bench press. I would probably just stick with the
speed work for the pulls and overhead press.

Anyway, here is my final breakdown, starting today:

Sunday: rugby cv training
Monday: Noon: bench press/ballistic push up
PM: 1 tricep exercise/1 back exercise for ~5 sets
Tuesday: Noon: squat/depth jumps
PM: sled work
Wednesday: AM: rugby cv training
Thursday: Noon: overhead press/dumbbell speed press
PM: 1 tricep exercise/1 back exercise
Friday: AM: rugby cv training
Noon: Power clean/dumbbell clean
Saturday: --rest--

Looking back on this, that seems a tad ambitious. My actual breakdown of training looked like this:

Monday: squat, jumps with dumbbells in my hands
Tuesday: bench, push up plyometric drops off 6" platforms
Thursday: power clean
Friday: overhead press, light fast dumbbell presses

Dan's reply to the above email follows:

Steve, the "speed work" is plyos! We found that "Mixing" lifting with plyos, not only a huge timesaver, led our athletes to be more explosive, measured by vertical jump tests. In addition, and a benefit to you, you work
explosively while tired, which will carry over into rugby. Yes, I know the sport well.

On cardio, it is always difficult to mimic competition conditioning. The Soviets discovered this with soccer, guys were excellent at drills, but lost the skills in games. Someone simply had everyone take pulse tests. During the drill tests, pulses were at 80, in games 180. So, they devised ways of testing skills with the higher pulse rates, soon the players games skills improved.

So, what does this mean? Pure cardio rarely carries over into sports, pure skill training rarely carries over into sports. Your sled idea has merit for rugby. Now, devise a way to mimic a game. Perhaps, 30 varied "bouts" of pulls? 10 seconds, 3, 20, 5, 3, 8, etc... where you may jog easily for 20-30 in between? This seems to fit what most rugby players do in a game. Certainly, throw in a finisher, too, at the end. Some psycho long pull or something.

The recommended "week off" is just something I, we, have seen too many with multisport athletes, i.e. guys who use lifting to improve another discipline. The body can only take so much. Like a rubber band, if you keep stretching it, over time it breaks, not snaps. I am only pointing out that
you should plan this time off, rather than be forced into it by injury or illness. You choose, of course, but experience shows this to be true.

Whenever I break this simple rule, I pay. Now, if I am only lifting, this can be an "easy" week, but you have to ease off sometimes, unless you are a raw beginner.

Keep me informed,

He also had this to say about rest weeks, which I still find to be true.

One thing, I don't necessarily want to put on the big board: you need every fourth week either off doing this or devoted to play and fun. Three weeks on, one week off. If not, after a few weeks, you will get bored, injuried
or stifled in progress. It is better to plan the days off, rather than be forced to take them
One Lift A Day...1999 Conversations with Dan John Here's the repetition scheme:


What do you think about a triple wave with a 3/2/1, 3/2/1, 3/2/1, repetition scheme? I find I am concentrating mostly on progressively heavier singles, then dropping back to a triple or two before heading back up. I have used this wave with some success before. Each corresponding wave would be a
bit heavier than the earlier wave. This pattern seems to be working, and I am attempting to add weight to my highest single as often as I can.

Oh well, anyway, I did squats/dumbbell jumps today, and worked my way up 10 lbs heavier at my highest weight than last week. I decided to do a bit of ab work, if there is time remaining, but nothing else. I finished in 40
minutes today, but was dawdling in between sets a bit

Dan's reply to this email was:

You may find the middle wave to be the heaviest. It works really well, in fact, at the Olympic training center, they do four of these waves in a row. One thing, though, be sure to measure this program against your goals. You may need the 5's and 8's for your sport, the added muscle mass and perhaps the conditioning. You may think about
Week one: waves of 10, 8, 5, 1
Week two: waves of 5, 3, 1
Week three: waves of 3, 2, 1
Week four: unload
Don't ignore the high reps! They provide some relaxation against the heavy loads of triples, doubles and singles. On week one, that single could be just an easy heavy, even as low as 80%. The Cuban lifters used to live at 80% singles, with 10 sets of 10 in the squat and "muscle moves." They would dump the volume before meets and be very fresh.

And by the way, if you are done under forty minutes in a squat work out, you weren't fooling around. Good workout.

Keep me informed. By the way, when I add ideas to your ideas, I'm not trying to one up you, just trying to give you some food for thought.

And that's pretty much it. One of my first conversations with Dan, and I still can read it over and find things I have forgotten.

The results of the One Lift A Day experiment?

The first cycle: Matched all previous PRs in the lifts used.
The second cycle: 10 lb pr in squat, 15 lbs pr in power clean, 15 lb pr in overhead press. I have to check, but maybe it was a 5 lb pr in bench.

The third cycle? Well, I never did that. I'll quote Dan here, loosely "Since it was working, I decided to try something else."

The key concepts of this rather long missive are:

1. Specialization works
2. Speed work works
3. A week off lifting, or doing light athletic activities every 3-6 weeks is essential to maintain long term progress (this is the rule I break so often)

I am sure there are more.
Looking through the Archives... I found this:

Here are descriptions of the exercises I plan on using:

Bench press variations: bench press, incline press, decline press, close grip bench bottom position bench, bench lockouts. Pick an new exercise to work on every 3-5 weeks, always trying for a new personal record.

Squat variations: squat, front squat, bottom position squat, squat lockouts, high and low box squats. Rotate exercises every 3-5 weeks as per the bench press

Deadlift variations: deadlift, partial deadlift, high pull, deadlift on platform (extending ROM), trap bar deadlift

Rotate exercises every 3-5 weeks

Bench press assistance: 3 categories

Triceps: rolling dumbbell extensions, triceps extensions variations (to throat, chin, forehead), weighted 1/4 dips

Back: chin-up variations, lat pulldown variations, rowing variations

Shoulders: shoulder press variations (barbell, dumbbell, 1 or 2 arm, press
behind neck),push press, lateral raises (to front, side, or rear)

Squat/Deadlift assistance: good morning variations, cable pullthroughs, stiff-leg deadlifts, high rep partial deadlifts, hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions, power cleans, power snatches, power shrugs, glute/ham raises, manual hamstring curls, step ups, 1 leg squats, lunges

I am sure that many will recognize the Westside Barbell Club influence int his routine, especially variation in the exercises, and some of the assistance exercises listed. I also couldn't come up with anything better
than performing the competition lifts on Saturday, and might drop that and only perform it once a month. Additionally I was thinking about moving everything a day down, making Thursday and Saturday rest only days. I have also come up with a push/pull/squat variation of this, providing myself with
a more well rounded overall strength program. It has been suggested that I double wave the max effort work. I find this plan attractive due to the short, intense, concentrated training session, and hope to optimize recovery on it.

Well, I apologize again for the length of this post, any opinions are welcome:

Steve Shafley

Here are some addtional points from Dan:


Steve, the hard thing about this program is that you only do one exercise. At Utah State, I threw the shot, disc and hammer. So, if I did poor in the disc, I could get back in the other two. This program is like the years I only threw the disc: there is not a lot of ways to salvage a poor workout.

So, here is what helped me.

The double pyramid or "wave"

Rather than just going heavy up the pyramid, Dave Turner and I tried the double. You can certainly use this in the powerlifts.
Power Snatch
135 for 5
205 for 5
225 for 5
245 for 1
255 for 1
Start to struggle, go lighter!
185 for 3 (just killed the weight)
205 for 1
225 for 1
245 for 1
265 for 1, that was easy?
(Actual workout from journal and I included the notes)

The other idea is mixed training. Now ignore this if you wish, but read a Russian thing that said to mix a 30% lift for pure speed after your core lift.
For benches, drop on the floor after each set and try to do clapping pushups.
For squats, you could jump with dumbbells
For deadlifts, cleans with dumbbells

For the o lifts, I had to be clever, so I invented the "whip snatch" basically, a snatch from the crotch for 8 quick reps. Clean grip snatches for the C and J. It seemed to work.

Looks like this:
Clean and Jerk 275 for 3; step back to waiting bar "loaded with 85ish pounds," set of 8 clean grip snatches, as fast as I can. Full Rest.

You will find yourself fresher than ever in a few weeks. Also, I began to find that I only had to squat twice a month. I squatted then jumped. Since you are going so heavy and hard, you just don't need the pounding. In other words, there is no cycling here, when you do a lift, you really go after it. Now, a powerlifter may have to do things differently, I don't know. I was clean, too, so maybe I couldn't do what others could do in the gym. When I cut back to biweekly squat workouts, my cleans were unaffected. I certainly felt fresher.

One final comment: can you really deadlift every Saturday? That lift kicks the crap out of me. Maybe this would be a lift to do only monthly during your Saturday total. Let's be honest: will you lose your technique on this lift? I don't think so.

Be sure to keep me posted.


Steve here again:

As an aside, I have changed the program to be a more all around strength program, additionally, I have pretty much dropped assistance sessions, and will start this kind of work when I start another westside type cycle:

Monday: bench/ballistic push ups
Tuesday: squat/jumps with dumbbells
Wednesday: off
Thursday: overhead standing press/fast dumbbell presses
Friday: power clean/snatch pulls from hang

Additionally I am pulling a sled 2-3X weekly, a great workout, and doing hill sprints 2-3X weekly, another great workout.

I will rotate variations of the exercises in and out as needed. I am also thinking of adding stiff leg deadlifts or good mornings in on Wednesdays. Workouts are about 25-35 minutes long. I alternate neck work and ab work every other session as well.

Sorry, this whole message is huge, but I feel there is lots of good stuff in here.

Steve Shafley is offline   Reply With Quote