Greyskull Linear Progression is one of the best workout programs you can find. It was written by John Sheaffer back in 2012 and looks to combine elements of hypertrophy and maximal strength training. This program can be modified depending on your goals and is something that can deliver progress for months if not years.
For the full program I recommend tracking down the PDF titled Greyskull LP Second Edition as well as 50 Greyskull Approved Conditioning Workouts for the Modern Viking. Below I’ve outlined the main principles and layout of the Greyskull program.
The Base Program
- Every session starts with an upper body pressing movement, either overhead or bench press.
- The upper body exercise alternates each session, meaning a training cycle that repeats itself every two weeks.
- Most exercises involve three sets with the exception of deadlifts, where multiple heavy sets tend to overload the body.
- Warm up sets do not count towards these three sets
- The notation 5+ means you complete as many high quality reps in the final set as you are capable of doing. Don’t compromise form.
It’s entirely acceptable to do this with only two sessions per week, which would eliminate the need for a two week template. Due to the lower back demands of an Overhead Press, Day 1 of Week 1 would be dropped (and Week 2 entirely) leaving Bench Press & Deadlift in one session and Press & Squat in a second session. These could be placed anywhere in the week, ideally with at least 48 hours separating them.
The basic concept of getting stronger is to lift more weight every few sessions. With Greyskull you should start with a weight you are likely to fail at between 8 and 10 reps. From there you increase Squat & Deadlift by 2.5kg every workout and Pressing movements by 1kg every workout.
Greyskull includes a ‘reset’ method for when you fail to achieve the desired number of reps. If you fail at a weight, then next session use 90% of that weight and add 1 or 2.5kg per session until you surpass your previous sticking point. For example, failing to complete 3 sets of 5 reps on the bench press with 100kg would mean dropping back to 90kg the next session, and working back each session to 92.5kg, 95kg, 97.5kg and finally 100kg.
Greyskull LP “Plug-ins”
Now that you have the basic program, you can customise the sessions to suit your needs by adding exercises where you see fit. Those are not to be seen as “assistance” movements and should be performed with maximal intensity, and may include:
- Direct Ab Work
- Direct Bicep/Tricep Work
- Direct Calf Work
- Direct Forearm Work
- Olympic Lifting
Sets and reps are not set in stone, but as a general guide would include 2 x 10-12 reps for the direct training and 2 x 6-10 reps for Pull-ups/Dips/Rows. Olympic lifts should be limited to a handful of singles.
Frequency or Ladder Method
In Greyskull both push ups and chin ups are targeted as higher volume exercises. With the frequency method the aim is to spread 5-6 sets of the exercise across the day with the goal of minimising fatigue. With the ladder method the reps increase from 1,2,3.. stopping short of failure, and then repeated again from 1.
In both cases you should train these 5-6 days per week and the goal is to complete more reps of the exercise each week in a steady progression. For example, completing five sets of 10 push ups Monday to Saturday, taking Sunday off, then completing five sets of 11 push ups the following week. That will mean a total of 300 push ups in week 1 and 330 push ups in week two.
If you are completing body-weight chin ups or pull ups, an alternative strategy is the Ladder method. This is more intense as it involves clustered sets at one point in the day. If you can do 10-12 quality pull ups you might try sets of 1,2,3 then 4, before repeating again from 1. The rest periods should equal the time taken to complete the reps, so if three pull-ups takes you 8 seconds, you would rest 8 seconds before the next set.
Greyskull Conditioning Method
This is my personal favourite approach to conditioning I’ve read anywhere and I used the Greyskull conditioning exercises in 2018 to get a visible six pack (and a beard) in 10 weeks.
The main rule of conditioning is that it should be relatively intense and last no more than 10 minutes. That means if the session calls for 150 jump squats and you’ve only got to 125 when it reaches 10 minutes, you stop. As mentioned at the top of the article these can be found in a PDF titled ’50 Greyskull Approved Conditoning Workouts..’ and is quite easy to track down online. Here are a few of my favourites:
- 20kg Powerbag lift to shoulder and squat x 50
- 15 Tuck Jumps / 15 Sit ups x 10
- Football pitch: run the length, walking lunge the width x 2 laps
- 5 Burpees / 10 Pushups x 10
- Tabata Front Squat (use a light weight!!)
- 150 Jump Squats
Additionally, there is a low intensity element which is brisk walking. I included 40-60 minutes of brisk walking several mornings per week on my fat loss plan. I would take 5 grams of EAA’s (Essential Amino Acids) to minimise the breakdown of muscle tissue, then go for a walk on hilly routes around my town for up to an hour before breakfast. See my full fat loss program detailed below.
What you choose to add to the base program is dependent on your goals and should be quite instinctive. Looking for Strength? Only add in one or two additional lifts. Hypertrophy? Some additional lifts and the frequency method. Fat loss? Learn to love those conditioning workouts. If you are an absolute beginner then the original program PDF outlines half a dozen example layouts for each session.
If you want further information then the Greyskull PDF is available online.