Tag Archives: greyskull

Lift Three Times and Call Me in the Morning

I started lifting weights with sincerity two years ago.  Since then I have noted significantly enhanced martial arts performance, reduced lower back pain, and improved functional strength.

After listening to Dan John on the Art of Manliness Podcast I added the Bear Hug Carry to my regimen.  Here’s me walking off 110 lbs using a Size L Ironmind sandbag.   I had worked my way up to 140 lbs using a heavy bag strapped with weight plates, but that started to feel unsafe.  So  I bought the bag, de-loaded 25% and restarted the progression (details below) because the new set-up requires me to squat really low and that really changes the game.

So, what’s my prescription?  Add Bear Hug Carry to your training regimen.  Start light and work your way up the way I did.

To be clear, I’m not a weightlifter,  power lifter, or bodybuilder.  I’m just a martial arts instructor in his mid-fifties who’s looking to stay strong as long as possible.  I’ve got grand-kids I want to be able to spar with someday (assuming they want to do martial arts of course).  

I’m not trying to give my life over to weights — martial arts are my primary focus!  So I just train three days per week for about half an hour.  Here are my current lifts and PRs:

Mon/Fri Dumbbell Bench Press (60@ hand) Yoke Squat (175 lbs) Bear Hug Carry (140 lbs)
Wed Handstand Push-ups (6 reps) Sandbag Get-ups (just started) Back Bridge (110 lbs)

I use a slightly modified version of the Greyskull LP program, which means all lifts work as follows:

  •  2 warm-up sets — 2 x 10 at 50% of your current weight.
  • 3 working sets — 2 x 5 at 100% of the current weight.  Third set, as many reps as you can.
  • Never push to failure — stop at the rep before failure when you say to yourself “I’m probably not going to make the next rep with good form.”
  • Rest 1 minute between sets.
  • Add or reduce weight each and every training session.
  • If last session you got 5 to 9 reps on the third working set, add 2.5 lbs to an upper body lift or 5 lbs to a lower/whole body lift.
  • If you did less than 5 reps on the third working set, de-load 10% next session.
  • If you got 10 or more reps on your third working set, double the standard increase.

If you’re a martial artist training with weights, please share your thoughts and insights in the comments — thanks!


Periods, Cycles and the Power of Greyskull

About a month ago my son told me he started a new weightlifting program called the Greyskull LP by John “Johnny Pain” Sheaffer.¹  I was intrigued, so I did some research.

This is one hilarious picture (thanks to Matthew Oliphant, whoever you are). I can’t believe how perfect it is for this blog post!

My research revealed two things.  (A) The Greyskull LP program is highly regarded by many experts, and (B) the science of strength and muscle hypertrophy  has progressed a great deal since I got my fitness instructor certificate about ten years ago.

So I started the program, modified slightly for dumbbells because that’s what I have and I don’t want to spend money and space on barbells.  Results are amazing. Only three weeks in, and I’m already pushing more iron that I ever have before.

Which brings me to another realization.  The “LP” in “Greyskull LP” stands for “Linear Progression” and it’s probably what makes the program so effective.


Linear progressions, clipboards, and rigid systems have not been my thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely rigid about my workout schedules.  I don’t skip workouts and I repeatedly have to check myself to prevent over-training.  But for many years, at least since this post back in 2013, I have been rolling dice to arrive most aspects of my solo workouts (except for grip strength).  Does that give me good all-around fitness?  Probably.  Does it help prepare me for anything, in true martial arts fashion?  Maybe.  But random workouts cannot  match the consistent gains of progressive, period-ized workout programs (especially when it comes to weight training).


Bottom line: I recommend a mix of progressive, random and static or maintenance workouts, depending on the goal or goals.  

Here’s what my workout schedule looks like right now.  I’ve added colors and the letters “STA,” “LP” and “RND” or “MIX” after each section so that you can see which ones are which type.  Red blocks are static or maintenance workouts, green are progressive, and yellow are random or mixed.


I’d be interested in the opinions of other martial artists.  How do you train? In your opinion, am I on the right track or lost in the weeds?


¹ My understanding is that the program is called the Greyskull (with an “e” instead of an “a” to avoid copyright issues) because it makes you look like He-Man.