Hey !


Over the last week we laid out our repetition menus for power, strength, and assistance, and then we talked a little about conditioning for the general population client.  Using the examples we put up alone, you could provide years of variety to a client without even changing movements.  Pretty crazy, huh?

Rather listen? Do that by clicking the link below:

Loading Strategies Audio Lesson


And let’s face it- are you, or your clients, going to acclimate to intensity, volume, density, or movements first?


A lot of us sure reinvent the wheel with adding and changing movements, so that muuuuust be the answer, right?


Unfortunately, and yet fortunately, no.


So now what?

Remember what Dan John said in our Q&A about creating success?


His client pointed at him and said:


“YOU can’t get bored!”


So really, we probably just need slight tweaks to intensity, volume, and density- and only occasionally change up the movements.


[It’s of note, you’re following a program like that now!]


This week we are going to look at types of loading strategies, or what I like to call our “loading type menus.”


Here’s how this all came about…


I (Chris) was managing the training of about 150 people/month, writing completely individualized programs.  You get the drill by now, these programs all looked similar, but they were tweaked to the individual’s goals, strengths, limitations, deadlines, etc…  As time went on, I found myself staring at the computer screen for hours, trying to come up with the next great program, wasting way too much time in the process.  So, I eventually hit a breaking point, and it caused me to step back and looked at what I most commonly do.  Essentially, I said, “hey dude, what can we systematize here?”


Fast forward a bit and I had common rep schemes for power, strength, and assistance laid out.  I had common phases laid out to make blocks for similar goals.  And I categorized the most common types of loading strategies I employed.  THAT is what we will look at today.


With that being said, there is a lot of information to follow.  Don’t let it overwhelm you!  These are possibilities of some things you can do to provide slight tweaks to the basics.  As you go through these, keep one exercise in mind per category, and think of how you could progress someone through that one exercises for years on end.


Let’s jump in!




What types of loading do we commonly use for power?


Well, I can only speak for myself.  But I commonly use the following:


  • Straight sets
  • Cluster Sets
  • Complexes
  • Chains
  • Ladders


Straight Sets


We use these most commonly.  In fact, it’s what you’ve been doing thus far in Strength Faction.  Think along the lines of traditional sets and reps.


  • Overhead Medicine Ball Throw      3 x 5 = 5 overhead medicine ball throws


Cluster Sets


Think of cluster sets as mini sets within a set.  Or maybe you’ve called them rest-pause sets.  We’ve been doing these a lot within Strength Faction…  We also commonly prescribe breaths instead of time, for rest between clusters.


  • Hang Power Clean      3 x (2, 2, 1) = 3 clusters of 2, 2, 1, totaling 5 reps per set with about 3-5 good breaths between clusters
  • Speed Bench Press      4 x (3 x 1) = 3 clusters of 1, totaling 3 reps per set, with about 3-5 breaths between clusters




Multiple exercises performed for multiple reps, with a single implement, consecutively (i.e. no break).


  • Barbell Complex (Clean Grip Countermovement Jump, Hang Power Clean, Push Press)      3 x 3/ = 3 jumps, followed by 3 hang power cleans, followed by 3 push press.




Multiple exercises performed for single reps, with a single implement, consecutively for rounds (chains).


  • Single Arm Kettlebell Chain (Swing, High Pull, Snatch)      3 x 3 chains/ = 1 swing, 1 high pull, 1 snatch, repeated for a total of 3 rounds before switching hands




Now we’ve got some variety within the category.  There are three types of ladders that we commonly use (some of these are closely related to cluster sets):


  1. Rep Ladders
  2. Time (Density) Ladders
  3. Weight Ladders

Rep ladders


Multiple, or single, exercises performed for escalating reps per round, with a single implement.


  • Single Arm Kettlebell Rep Ladder (Swing, High Pull, Snatch)      3 x 1-3 = 1 swing, 1 high pull, 1 snatch, then 2, 2, 2, followed by 3, 3, 3
  • You can do these complex style where you don’t put the implement down, or you could prescribe rest between ladders.
  • If it is done with a single exercise, you would set the rest between rounds.


Time (Density) Ladders


There are a lot of options here.  I’ll lay out a few examples…


  • Same reps, less rest.
    • Kettlebell Swing      3 x (3 x 8 @ 1:00, :45, :30) = 8 reps, rest the remainder of the minute, then 8 reps, rest the remainder of the 45 seconds, and finally 8 reps, rest the remainder of the 30 seconds, then repeat for the remaining two rounds.
  • Same reps, more rest.
    • Just the inverse of above.
  • Increasing or decreasing time.
    • Kettlebell Swing      3 x (3 x :10, :15, :20) = swing for :10 seconds, rest for prescribed time or breaths, then repeat for :15, and then :20


Weight Ladders


  • Increasing Weight
    • Hang Power Clean Weight Ladders      3 x (1, 1, 1) = 3 sets of 1 light hang power, 1 moderate hang power clean, and 1 heavy hang power clean
  • Decreasing weight
    • Inverse of above



Paul Anderson

Paul Anderson


Speaking for myself again, here’s the common types we use for strength:


  • Straight Sets
  • Triphasic (eccentric emphasis, isometric emphasis, and concentric emphasis)
  • Cluster Sets
  • Strength Complex


Straight Sets


Same as we used them for power!


  • Squat      5 x 2 = 2 reps of front squats




The name does not imply that we implement Cal’s and Ben’s system, but rather that we are influenced by it.  It all comes down to manipulating tempo of exercises for given purposes.  Typically we employ an eccentric focus for a few weeks, then an isometric focus, and finally a concentric focus.


  • Eccentric Emphasis Bench Press      3 x 3 (3XX1) = 3 reps with a 3 second eccentric (lowering), no pause, explosive concetric (up), and 1 second pause before the next rep
  • Isometric Emphasis Bench Press      3 x 3 (X2X1) = 3 reps with a fast descent, 2 second pause in the bottom, fast press, and 1 second pause between reps
  • Concentric Emphasis Bench Press      3 x 3 (XXX1) = speed reps with 1 second between reps


The build up prepares the individual to be able to control the varying points of the lift to increase rate of force production.  Essentially, the athlete/individual that can turn the weight around the fastest, wins- or at least in the weight room from a GPP standpoint.


Cluster Sets


Same as we used them for power!


  • Deadlift      4 x (1, 1, 1) = 3 clusters of 1 rep with some good breaths between reps


Strength Complex


Combining strength movements with related plyometric movements.


  • A1. Barbell Front Squat  3 x 2
  • A2. Hurdle Hop  3 x 2


Again, there are more options you can throw in for strength.  Choose what fits your system!




Honestly, I don’t use a whole lot of variety for assistance…  Here’s my three favorites:


  • Straight Sets
  • Density
  • 1.5 Rep Sets


Straight Sets


You get it by now!


  • Single Arm Dumbbell Chest Press      3 x 10/ = 10 reps per side


Density Sets


We use density sets to control the tempo of our assistance work sometimes.  We simply write a time before the exercise name, much like this:


  • A1. 1:00 Density Barbell RDL      3 x 10
  • A2. 1:00 Density Dumbbell Chest Press      3 x 10
    • This would simply be performed at 10 reps of barbell RDL, then rest the remainder of the minute.  At the top of the next minute, perform 10 dumbbell chest press.  Repeat for 3 sets.
    • The time can be whatever you’d like it to be for your desired outcome.


1.5 Rep Sets

We use 1.5 rep sets to get a little more time under tension, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

  • A1. 1.5 Rep Split Squat      3 x 8
    • Lower to the bottom of the split squat, come back up half way, return to the bottom, and then all the way up.  This completes 1 rep of a 1.5 rep split squat.




Oh conditioning…  This one could get crazy.  To make a short list of types that we use is a tall order.  But alright, let’s look at a few:


  • Straight Sets
  • Fixed-Fixed
  • Variable-Variable
  • Fixed-Variable
  • Variable-Fixed
  • Completion
  • Density
  • Count-up – Density
  • Countdown-Density
  • Straight Sets-Countdown (for time)
  • Straight Sets – Count-up (for time)
  • Distance
  • Circuit




Fixed time for work, fixed time for rest


  • Rower      6 x :20/:40 = :20 work, :40 rest, then repeat




Work to set heart rate, rest to set heart rate.


  • Rower      6 x 85%/75% = work to 85% max heart rate, rest to 75%, then repeat




Work to set heart rate, rest for set time.


  • Rower      6 x 85%/:40 = work to 85% max heart rate, rest for :40, then repeat




Work for set time, rest to set heart rate.


  • Assault Bike      6 x :20/75% = work for :20, rest to 75% max heart rate, then repeat




Work until goal is hit, reps or distance, usually recording time of completion and working to beat it in future sessions.


  • Kettlebell Swings      100 reps = you don’t really need an explanation do you?  Get 100 reps however you deem reasonable.  Keep great form.  Break it up into sets.  Record the time.  Beat that time.
  • Assault Bike      1 Mile = same as above




Prescribed time to complete prescribed repetitions, remainder of the time to rest- just like in assistance.


  • 1:00 Density Rower      6 x 150m = 150 meters every minute for 6 minutes


Count-Up – Density


Prescribed time to complete prescribed repetitions, remainder of the time to rest. Increasing repetitions per set.

  • 1:00 Density Rower      6 x 50m, 75m, 100m, 125m, 150m, 175m = 50m, rest remainder of minute, 75m rest remainder, etc…


Countdown – Density


Prescribed time to complete prescribed repetitions, remainder of the time to rest. Decreasing repetitions per set.


  • 1:00 Density Rower  6 x 175m, 150m, 125m, 100m, 75m, 50m = opposite of above!


Straight Sets-Countdown (for time)


Perform straight sets exercise for set reps per set, alternated with countdown reps exercise for descending reps per set. Record time to completion.


  • A1. Kettlebell Swings  10 x 10
  • A2.  Push-ups  10 x 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, …
    • = 10 swings, 10 push-ups, 10 swings, 9 push-up, 10 swings, 8 push-ups, 10 swings, 7 push-ups, etc…  Record time, aim to beat it in following sessions.


Straight Sets – Count-up (for time)


Perform straight sets exercise for set reps per set, immediately followed by count-up reps exercise for ascending reps per set. Record time to completion.


  • A1. Kettlebell Swings  10 x 10
  • A2.  Push-ups  10 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …
    • Same as above, but count up.




Perform exercises as prescribed, sometime with built in rest between exercises, other times continuous movement.


  • Circuit   2 x 2 Rounds/:60
    • High Handle Sled Push x 20yds
    • Push-up x 20
    • Low Handle Sled Push x 20yds
    • Inverted Row x 20
      • Go through all of the exercises twice, circuit fashion, then rest for :60 and repeat.


Before we go on…

What do you want?


Don’t go just adding in crazy loading types for variety sake…  You need to have an important conversation first.


  • What’s the goal (what do you want)?
  • What fits the goal?
  • What’s your “why?” ← You should be able to rationalize everything on that program!


For now, do yourself a favor and build your menus!!  The more than we can write down these systems, the easier we can pull from them in the future.  As you build an understanding, you will hear the goal and go to your menus.


  • These rep schemes makes sense.
  • This block layout makes sense.
  • These loading types makes sense.


Go make your menus!


Next week we put it all together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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