• Generalized Intermediate Program

      I get lots of people coming on the site asking for a program check. Actually thoroughly checking a program is an involved process and it usually requires more information than the poster supplies. Whatís more, it turns out that ďis this a good programĒ is actually a bad question. Yes, thereís science and some hard rules when it comes to planning training. But thereís also a lot of art to it. So posting a program and asking if itís good is kind of like posting a picture of a painting and asking for a critique. You can critique some stuff, but how you paint isnít going to be the same way I paint.

      With that in mind, I decided to write the General Intermediate Program. This is a simple 9 week program for people to use and use as inspiration for their own programming.

      When I get a new athlete for coaching, I first gather a lot of information. This keeps me from making assumptions during the planning process and helps me to write effective training from the first training day. In an instance like this, Iím building a generalized program, so there isnít a person to provide those details. That means theyíre left as assumptions.

      In order to be as clear about my assumptions as possible, Iím going to write this program for an avatar. That means Iím going to write it for a person who doesnít really exist, but is a composite of many people who often ask this question. The closer you are to the avatar, the better it will work for you. The further away, the more stuff should change.

      The Avatar
      This program is written for David. David is 30 years old and weighs 215 pounds. He has been lifting for 4 years and has posted Class 3 numbers in the Russian Classification Chart. He comes from a background of various 5x5 programs and has done a short stint of 5/3/1. He is able to continue his transition from a 3x weekly template to a 4x weekly template. He has read enough articles on the RTS site to be familiar with RPEís and Fatigue percents. He has no significant injuries and no significant time restrictions. He has basic equipment. David trains and competes raw (no knee wraps). He deadlifts conventional style and his sticking points are all at the bottom of the lift.

      The Program
      Week 1
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      3ct Pause Bench Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets

      Tuesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Floor Press Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Front Squat Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets

      Thursday
      Exercise Protocol
      Pin Squat Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x6 @10 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Push Press Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      2" Deficit Deadlift Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Close Grip Bench Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets
      Snatch Grip SLDL Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) No Drop Sets

      Week 2
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Bench Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Tuesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Pin Press (mid range) Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      303 Tempo Squat Work up to x7 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Thursday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt, wraps Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Close Grip Incline Work up to x7 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      Rack Pull (below knee) Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      J.M. Press Work up to x7 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Lever Rows Work up to x7 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Week 3
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      3ct Pause Bench Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue

      Tuesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Floor Press Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Front Squat Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue

      Thursday
      Exercise Protocol
      Pin Squat Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x8 @10 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Push Press Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      2" Deficit Deadlift Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Close Grip Bench Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Snatch Grip SLDL Work up to x5 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue

      Week 4
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Bench Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Tuesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Pin Press (mid range) Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      303 Tempo Squat Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Thursday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt, wraps Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Close Grip Incline Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      Rack Pull (below knee) Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      J.M. Press Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Lever Rows Work up to x6 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue

      Week 5
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x7 @10 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Close Grip Bench Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Wednesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Push Press Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue
      Front Squat Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      2ct Pause Squat Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Pin Press (chest level) Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Snatch Grip SLDL Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Week 6
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Close Grip Floor Press Work up to x6 @8 (Repeat) 6-9% Fatigue

      Wednesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x4 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Military Work up to x6 @8 (Repeat) 6-9% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Squat Work up to x6 @8 (Repeat) 6-9% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt, wraps Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Bench Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 6-9% Fatigue
      Pendlay Rows Work up to x6 @8 (Repeat) 6-9% Fatigue
      Week 7
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x6 @10 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Close Grip Bench Work up to x4 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Wednesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Push Press Work up to x4 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue
      Front Squat Work up to x4 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      2ct Pause Squat Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Pin Press (chest level) Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Snatch Grip SLDL Work up to x4 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Week 8
      Monday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Bench (touch and go) Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Close Grip Floor Press Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Wednesday
      Exercise Protocol
      Competition Raw Bench Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Deadlift w/belt Work up to x3 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Military Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Squat Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Friday
      Exercise Protocol
      Squat w/belt, wraps Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      2ct Pause Bench Work up to x2 @9 (Load Drop) 4-6% Fatigue
      Pendlay Rows Work up to x5 @8 (Repeat) 4-6% Fatigue

      Week 9
      Monday: Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. Work up to 92% of previous 1RM for one set of one.
      Wednesday: Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. Go through your warm up routine (not heavier than 80%)
      Friday / Saturday: Practice competition. Test 1RM in Squat, Bench, and Deadlift

      Other useful articles:
      Understanding RPE's
      Fatigue Percents Revisited
      Anything in this section
      Comments 242 Comments
      1. Greg Barkans's Avatar
        Greg Barkans -
        Thanks for doing this Mike.
      1. southhillbarbell's Avatar
        southhillbarbell -
        Thanks Mike, still learning.
      1. sparkskk's Avatar
        sparkskk -
        Good stuff Mike. I would have thought that there were more than two people who would appreciate this article. But it's only been up two days I suppose.
      1. jarndt's Avatar
        jarndt -
        This is awesome! Thanks for sharing, Mike!
      1. FrmrHoss's Avatar
        FrmrHoss -
        Don't give away all the trade secrets for free . I'm sure this will be a really useful guide for many lifters.
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        lol, I thought about that, Chris. But the truth is, there's a ton of nuance in what I do. The avatar will be close for a lot of people, but there are always special circumstances. And besides, something like this provides a good start, but it still needs a long term development plan (hint: jumping from 5/3/1 to 5x5 to whatever else is not a long term development plan). All that is stuff that gets built into the coaching packages.
      1. usuallyunusual's Avatar
        usuallyunusual -
        I am new here...so my question is, for the competition raw bench, are those consecutive paused benches? And on the squats with wraps, those are knee wraps? Even for the raw lifter? Thanks for your time...
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        Yes, Competition Raw Bench has a competition pause on each rep.

        Something else I should have specified is the wrap situation. This was written for someone developing their squat without wraps. The program does make use of knee wraps at times. This is to provide an overload effect. It gets you handling more weight than you otherwise would. If you intend to compete with wraps, you'll have to make some modifications.
      1. purple_persuader's Avatar
        purple_persuader -
        What is "load drop"? And..no assistance exercises?
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        Learn about fatigue percents here.

        There's tons of "assistance" in there. Anything that isn't a contest lift is "assistance". If you mean nothing like GHR's and tricep extenstions... right, don't waste your time on that stuff. If you're interested in strength, think movements, not muscles.
      1. ChadHydro's Avatar
        ChadHydro -
        Hey Mike, how do fatigue percents work in repeats? From reading other articles it seems like 4-6% indicates an RPE increase by 1 so 4-6% @8 repeated would mean stop @9. What does 6-9% look like when doing repeats?
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        You've got it, Chad. At 6-9% it's going to be 9.5 or 10. Usually at this point, I'd use some combination of repeat and load drop.
      1. ChadHydro's Avatar
        ChadHydro -
        Got it, thanks Mike!
      1. bgibson's Avatar
        bgibson -
        Hi Mike,

        Starting in week 5, when switching to 3 days a week from 4 days is that to continue "David's" transition from 3 days to 4 days per week? I see the first 4 weeks giving him a healthy dosage of greater frequency then backing off to allow him to adjust. Thanks for your time.
      1. EmmaE's Avatar
        EmmaE -
        Quote Originally Posted by Mike Tuchscherer View Post
        Yes, Competition Raw Bench has a competition pause on each rep.

        Something else I should have specified is the wrap situation. This was written for someone developing their squat without wraps. The program does make use of knee wraps at times. This is to provide an overload effect. It gets you handling more weight than you otherwise would. If you intend to compete with wraps, you'll have to make some modifications.
        I was wondering, what might be an easy to make modification for someone who does compete in wraps?
      1. xolix's Avatar
        xolix -
        great article ! how should i work up to 4 reps for example ? 5-10 % steps with 4 reps until i hit the 9 rpe ? or doubles till the topweight ?
      1. sparkskk's Avatar
        sparkskk -
        Xolix, I'd suggest doing whatever warm-up reps you need to feel ready for the next jump in weight while trying to arrive at the top set as fresh as possible. I've found that I like to do my first work set approximately 7-8% less than I'm aiming for with the top work set. The first work set then gives a good guideline as to what jump in weight might be appropriate that day and whether the PR set is on.
        For example, my deadlift w/belt (x3 @9) from earlier today went like this:
        80 kg x5
        120 x3
        150 x2
        180 x1
        Add belt
        200 x1
        215 x3 @7.5
        232.5 x3 @9

        I've found that the weight for the top work set (I.e. your initial) can be more accurately judged with one or two work sets where you know you won't hit your required RPE. More experienced lifters might be able to use singles or doubles in the warmup to judge the top set but this is what suits me at this point in time.

        Hope that helps, Mark.
      1. xolix's Avatar
        xolix -
        thanks . now my situation is : i am not (more) a programjumper , so i do my really own training after over 15 years of experimenting . lower body works awesome with a max rep set 531 and sometimes singles after a minimum top set . upper body was good with conjugate , but i changed it to the version like mikes article "learning to grind" , max effort work to 3 rm instead of 1 rm and on my second benchday i gor for 4-8 rm or use somemultible sets like 5x5 or 6x3-4 reps . every single trainingday is fun to me which is very important too for a trainingprogram .

        ontopic , my deadlift exploded after changing the reps from dead stop to tngo reps from 280 kg in comp. to 305 kg raw . i never do max singles in training , so i never fail a deadlift-starting rep AND the time under tension with heavy weights is longer . and i work the muscles for deadlifting on the negative too .
        i would really give this program a try , but after my big meet in februar . its not smart to change things that works , i know .

        what do you all think of my training ?
      1. IronTherapy's Avatar
        IronTherapy -
        I look at this kind of four day/week, full body program and my first reaction is really just thinking about how much time it seems like it would take. I already feel like I live in the gym enough as it is, and this would have me setting up and warming up for three big lifts, then doing a decent amount of challenging volume, so with potentially lengthy rest periods between sets -- that seems like it would add up quickly. How much time in the gym per session would you expect for an intermediate program like this, typically?
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        A session with 3 main exercise slots... it's probably going to take you two hours depending on how much warm up time you need. If you need 30 minutes of foam rolling to get going, then it's easily going to be longer. But an intermediate lifter shouldn't be that beat up.
        Given the avatar, I'd expect it to look something like this:
        10 min warm up
        20 min work sets
        10 min warm up
        20 min work set
        10 min warm up
        20 min work sets
        That's 90 min if you're totally focused. It can easily slop outside of that though, which is why I say 2 hours.