What is a Minimalist Approach with Max Results?

Can anyone suggest a plan to get strong with the least amount of sessions?

I row and run. Endurance is my primary goal. But I lack real strength. And I don’t want to overtrain.

Grateful for advice and real life examples from those who achieved real results on less.


5/3/1 . You’re welcome.

Also you can’t overtrain, only under-recover. Lumberjacks and dock workers never got Rhabdo. Some olympians train twice a day with weights. So eat and sleep for your goals, unless you’re super-elite, overtraining won’t happen.


Read my training log.

I’ve built a 415 back squat and 600 deadlift (while maintaining at least a modest ability to run; I do have a background in strength training from teen/college years, then a five-year interlude of mostly running after college football to lose some weight, now back into mostly strength with a weekly run or two) with a very low-volume program that could most likely be adapted for an endurance athlete.

Read about the “Daily Dose Deadlift” program. I’d give that a whirl if I were you. You can easily enough work up to 3-5 daily singles on the deadlift, 5 days per week, either by doing an AM run / PM lift schedule or maybe even by doing your lifting right after running. Most of the lifts are done at 75-80% and the total volume is low enough that recovery should be fine so long as you eat & sleep well.


Honestly, I would probably not suggest 5/3/1. At least not the templates I’ve used. Many of them are time-consuming, the volume can be highish, require quite a bit of recovery, and most are at least 4 days. I’m not sure how that jives with rowing and running/endurance as the main goal?

OP, you could do 1,000% awesome, which is a 5/3/1 3-day template. It takes about 45 minutes if you push it and superset the supplemental work with the main work, but I’d suggest CTs Strength Circuits instead.


Maybe the one lift per day workout by Dan John could be worth a shot.

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Follow @ActivitiesGuy.

@anon50325502 is also correct but there are a couple 5/3/1 templates that might work. I’ve personally modified every 5/3/1 template I’ve used to fit me. I think the Training Maximally template is good for building strength on whatever lift you choose to do. If you stop after the main lift or minimize your accessory work then it can be very short and to the point.

The problem I see with your post is that it seems like you prioritize rowing. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s tough to make strength or size gains when it’s your secondary focus.

Competitive athletes typically improve their strength in the off season and then do minimal work in season to maintain it. You might need to focus on lifting while doing minimal rowing for a while. Once you’re happy with the results then you flip flop your training and go back to full time rowing with a side of lifting.


I actually thought about suggesting this, too, but ultimately I don’t think it is a great idea for OP’s intended goals. Reason being that Dan John’s program really wants to you go hard on that lift (i.e. something like 7x5 heavy on your squat day) and I actually suspect OP would find recovery from the hard squat/deadlift days to be rather difficult.

I think OP would be best served with something like Daily Dose Deadlift.

If his max deadlift is currently 365, I would do this workout 4 days per week (say, Monday-Thursday):


…and on the fifth day (Friday), would do the same thing but have the last rep of the day be a little heavier (maybe 315 in week 1, 325 in week 2, 335 in week 3, etc). Run that for 6 weeks. Profit.

Of course, it depends if OP has more specific strength goals (i.e. if he wants to hit a certain number of pushups or pullups or something else specific). But if he is seeking general real-world strength, I think this might fit the bill. Certainly has worked for me.


Is it more important for you to have FEW sessions or shorter sessions? Also is strength without bulk ok?

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Mike Westerling (of Built by Mike fame) has a philosophy of both low volume and low frequency.

Check out his blog for a sample program.

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Definitely look into things like @ActivitiesGuy training log and maybe even the Hepburn method. Anything that is singles, doubles or triples done at a submaximal weight increasing over time will get you stronger without impending on recovery.

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CTs layer methodology might be another one to check. It’s one lift a day if memory serves.

*said ramping meant layer.

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By definition, there can only be one priority or primary goal. Even if your main, overall goal is better endurance work, 12-16 weeks of strength-focused work would payoff big in the long run (no pun intended. Wait. No. Sort of pun intended).

If you compete, focus on building strength in the offseason. If you don’t compete, then bring strength work to the forefront while keeping some conditioning in the mix to maintain.

You won’t overtrain if you follow a good training plan and support it with smart eating. Nutrition is often the biggest obstacle with endurance athletes who think they need to restrict calories to keep their weight down or, on the flip side, pay no attention to diet because they think eating whatever/whenever is fine because it’s burned off with all the miles.

^ This. Huge difference. There are effective plans that have one exercise per day for 20-30 minutes five or more days per week, and there are plans that have just two workouts per week lasting an hour or so each.

Either way can work as long as it’s well-designed. Thib’s layer system and Dan John’s OLAD would be the former. Wendler’s effective training for busy men or this plan by Mike Robertson would fall into the latter.


I was gonna recommend Dan John as well, but a different program. I don’t have the link, but it’s searchable. It’s a 2 day per week program he posted years ago. It can be done in 2-3 hours per week, split over 2 sessions, and it’s something I’ve done, with success, when I have been extraordinarily busy in my personal life and had little time for the gym.


2 workouts.

Squat, bench, row on the first day.

Deadlift, overhead press, pull ups on the second day.

Throw in a little arm/shoulder work each day for funzies.

Bish bash bosh.


When I travel for work for extended weeks that is basically what I follow minus the deadlift.

Day 1 - Squat, Bench, Rows, Abs, Lower Body Assistance if time
Day 2- Front Squat, Overhead Press, Chin Ups, Abs, Upper Body Assistance if time

Good question. I think fewer sessions.

You’ve all been fantastic. Thank you.

I will likely get flamed for suggesting this. If you’re relatively new to lifting the work of Arthur Jones, Ellington Darden, Mike Mentzer is worth a read. If just for the iron nostalgia.

Jones was all about working as hard as you can for 1 set of an exercise, taking it all the way to “momentary muscular failure”. Then he’d immediately have the guy go to the next lift without catching his breath at all.

He trained people full body 3x per week in this manner and he was rather dogmatic that his way was the best way to train. Which of course is nonsense, there’s no best way to train.

Not saying this is the panacea of “minimum time/maximum results” training. But I recommend trying a few of those workouts. If you stagger the lifts right (upper->lower->upper) you can get through 10-15 exercises in less than 30 minutes with very minimal rest.

They reduced me to a gasping puddle of sweat when I tried to go through them fast like he recommended. I recommend putting your weakest lifts at the beginning of the workout and strongest ones later. And choose the weights carefully. If nothing else it’ll teach you some grit and the difference between quitting a set because of actual failure (form failing/danger) and fatigue or will power.

It’s been a while since I read Darden’s book on HIT, but I thought the rest periods were much longer than this. I remember HIT being about training once a week, if not even less frequently. Do you have any good reading on the topic?

Machines go a long way with this style of training, as you don’t have to focus as much on trying to stabilize the movement when you’re dying, haha.

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If you read Darden talk about the Colorado experiment in “The New Hit” he talks about how Casey was given two 2 minute rests in a 27 minute workout where he was moving absolutely stupid weights (502x13 on back squat after leg press and leg extensions). If you read what Arnold wrote about Viator from his time training there was that Viator was a freak and an absolute maniac in the gym who worked harder than anyone he’d seen. Doing forced reps after anyone else would’ve quit. There’s a stand alone PDF on the Colorado experiment you can get for free that outlines the workouts.

My guess is guys like him, metzner and the others are the absolute elite. They can just work harder than us mortals. But I can still try to get more work in less time. In Darden’s book there are more normal rest periods for mortals.

Sergio Olivia claimed that he wanted to kill Jones on several occasions because he’d mock you between sets to get more work out of you. Maybe that’s why Jones always carried a gun, even in the shower.

I might have to break out one of these workouts this week for fun. I’ve noticed with 5/3/1 I’m getting lazy and just going through the motions. I can’t remember why I stopped doing them. Probably lack of gaining 45lbs in 28 days lol.

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