Kentucky Strong: Add 100 Pounds to Your Pull

TAGS: Add 100 Pounds to Your Pull, Kentucky Strong, Chase Karnes, program, deadlift

The following program is basic. I’ve used this and similar setups with clients and myself, and had great success—it works. This exact program has been used to take a client's max deadlift from 315 to 415 in 24 weeks. There’s nothing revolutionary about this. It’s just a smart, simple program that works. This works exceptionally well for beginner and intermediate lifters.

Long story short, I had a high school wrestler who began training with me last fall, six weeks before the season started. Once wrestling began, he was unable to make it in to train with me. During the season he injured his shoulder and required surgery. Once he healed up from surgery, he gave me a call to get back into the gym. Finally, we resumed training together on May 29th. This time around, his goals were a bit different. For example, instead of training for wrestling, he wanted to get as big and strong as possible. Training with our strongman crew, he also decided he'd like to compete.

He’s a natural, athletic kid who has pretty good genetics. The first session back in, I worked him up to a 1RM on his deadlift. Because he's been lifting consistently for a few years, has great body awareness and natural athleticism, I wasn’t worried about working him up to a 1RM. This gave me a baseline of where he was. We worked him up to 315 pounds for a solid, but difficult rep. After one more jump up in weight, he missed 335. (Note: I don’t always test a 1RM with clients. Sometimes I’ll use a 3RM or 5RM. There are special situations where I won’t even test them for a long time. Instead, we will just progress from session to session. This really does vary from individual to individual.)

While we also wanted to bring up his squat and get him accustomed to the strongman events, my main goal was to bring up his deadlift and rehab his shoulder to allow him to press pain-free. Not knowing how the squat would affect his shoulder, the deadlift became the main focus. Adjustments to this setup would be based on his feedback.

He is only able to train with me once a week so I set his program up as follows:

Monday: Full Body (train alone)

Wednesday: Full Body (train with me)

Saturday: Strongman Event Day (train with the strongman crew)

I’m only going to show the programming for his lower body, as the deadlift was our main focus.

On Monday’s when he trained alone, I limited his reps to five on the squat and deadlift, and used a simple 5x5 progression. He was instructed to perform each rep as explosively as possible and work on perfecting technique. The first few weeks are pretty light, but progress overtime. This is by design.

He squatted and deadlifted every week. When working him up to his training 5, 3 or 1RMs, we avoided missing reps. He was instructed to always leave at least one rep in the tank.

Accessory work: I’m not going to get into what he did because everyone has different weaknesses. Just do what YOU suck at. Train YOUR weak points.

I won’t be detailing the event days below, but typically it looked like:

Week A:

Log Clean & Press

Farmers Carry

Atlas Stones

Week B:

Log Clean & Press

Yoke Walk

Carry or Medley

For those who don’t train strongman events, organize the template slightly different. I’d like to see another day or two of rest between squat/deadlift days, with the strongman events removed from the program:

Example #1:

Monday: Full Body (Squat/Deadlift)

Wednesday: Full Body (Single leg work)

Friday: Full Body (Squat/Deadlift)

Example #2:

Monday: Lower (Squat/Deadlift)

Tuesday: Upper Body

Thursday: Lower Body (Squat/Deadlift)

Friday: Upper Body

Example #3:

Monday: Lower Body (Squat/Deadlift)

Tuesday: Upper Body

Thursday: Full Body (Squat/Deadlift)

24 Week Deadlift

Phase 1

Deadlift: All percentages below are based on a training max. His training max was 85% of his true 1RM.

Squat: All percentages below are based on a training max. His training max was based on 85% of his estimated 1RM. Since his squat technique wasn’t as proficient as his deadlift, I worked him to a 5RM instead of a 1RM. This was used to establish his estimated 1RM.

The training max or everyday max is a very important part of this program. Using a true max for this program will not work properly.

Monday- Alternate A and B for six weeks

Week A- Squat

Week B- Deadlift

Week 1: Squat: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 2: Deadlift: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 3: Squat: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 4: Deadlift: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 5: Squat: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Week 6: Deadlift: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Wednesday: Alternate Week A and Week B for six weeks

Week A- Deadlift

Week B- Squat

Week 1: Deadlift: 5 reps @ 60%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met.)

Week 2: Squat: 5 reps @ 55%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met.)

Week 3: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met.)

Week 4: Squat: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met.)

Week 5: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 65%, 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. This is a training 1 rep max. Not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively.)

Week 6: Squat: 3 reps @ 65%, 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively.)


Phase 2

Deadlift– All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 pounds to his deadlift training max.

Squat– All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 pounds to his squat training max.

Monday- Alternate A and B for six weeks

Week A– Squat

Week B– Deadlift

Week 1: Squat: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 2: Deadlift: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 3: Squat: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 4: Deadlift: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 5: Squat: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Week 6: Deadlift: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Wednesday- Alternate Week A and Week B for six weeks

Week A- Deadlift

Week B- Squat

Week 1: Deadlift: 5 reps @ 60%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Week 2: Squat: 5 reps @ 55%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Week 3: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.)

Week 4: Squat: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.)

Week 5: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (This is a training 1 rep max. Not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively. Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for a heavier single than phase 1.)

Week 6: Squat: 3 reps @ 65%, 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (This is a training 1 rep max. Not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively. Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for a heavier single than phase 1.)


Phase 3

Back off sets are added after hitting RM for the day. All back off sets are done beltless.

Deadlift– All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 more pounds to his deadlift training max.

Squat– All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 more pounds to his squat training max.

Monday- Alternate A and B for six weeks

Week A- Squat

Week B- Deadlift

Week 1: Squat: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 2: Deadlift: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 3: Squat: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 4: Deadlift: 70%x5, , 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 5: Squat: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Week 6: Deadlift: 75%x5, 85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Wednesday- Alternate Week A and Week B for six weeks

Week A- Deadlift

Week B- Squat

Week 1: Deadlift: 5 reps @ 60%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Back off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 65%

Week 2: Squat: 5 reps @ 55%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Back off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 65%

Week 3: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90%

Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.

Back off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 70%

Week 4: Squat: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.)

Back off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 70%

Week 5: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 65%, 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (This is a training 1 rep max, not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively. Continue working up, making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for a heavier single than phase 2.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 3-5 @ 75%

Week 6: Squat: 3 reps @ 65%, 3 reps @ 75%, 3 reps @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (This is a training 1 rep max, not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively. Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for a heavier single than phase 2.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 3-5 @ 75%

Phase 4

Back off sets are added after hitting RM for the day. All back off sets are done beltless.

Deadlift – All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 more pounds to his deadlift training max.

Squat – All percentages below are based on a training max. We have now added 10 more pounds to his squat training max.

Monday- Alternate A and B for six weeks

Week A– Squat

Week B– Deadlift

Week 1: Squat: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 2: Deadlift: 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5, 65%x5

Week 3: Squat: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 4: Deadlift: 70%x5, 80%x5, 90%x5, 80%x5, 70%x5

Week 5: Squat: Omit– Deadlift Testing Week

Week 6: Deadlift: 75%x5,85%x5, 95%x5, 85%x5, 75%x5

Wednesday- Alternate Week A and Week B for six weeks

Week A- Deadlift

Week B- Squat

Week 1: Deadlift: 5 reps @ 60%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 65%

Week 2: Squat: 5 reps @ 55%, 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, 5 reps @ 85% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 5RM is met. Go for a 5 rep PR here.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 65%

Week 3: Deadlift: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 70%

Week 4: Squat: 3 reps @ 60%, 3 reps @ 70%, 3 reps @ 80%, 3 reps @ 90% (Continue working up making 5% jumps until a 3RM is met. Go for a 3 rep PR here.)

Back-off sets: 3 sets of 5-8 @ 70%

Week 5: TEST Deadlift: 1 rep @ 65%, 1 rep @ 75%, 1 rep @ 85%, 1 rep @ 95% (Continue working up making 5-10% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for an all time PR here.)

Week 6: Squat: 3 reps @ 65% TM, 3 reps @ 75% TM, 3 reps @ 85% TM, 1 rep @ 95% TM (This is a training 1 rep max, not a true 1 rep max. There is some left in the tank, but the bar is approached aggressively. Continue working up, making 5% jumps until a 1RM is met. Go for a heavier single than phase 3.)


He finished this phase with a PR pull of 415 pounds, a full 100 pounds heavier than his pull just 24 weeks before. And he had some left in the tank. Even on this testing day, I didn’t allow him to miss a lift.

So what will we do now?

He will continue to follow these 6-week phases above, slowly increasing his training max, setting 5 and 3 rep PRs, hitting a heavier training single than the phase before, and progressing on this as long as he can. A lot of people like changing programs, switching things up, etc., but I firmly believe if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. This is working for him, so there’s no need to change a thing. When the weights start becoming too heavy to finish without missing reps or missing weights, we will reset his training max. I’d simply subtract 20 pounds from the current training max and progress from there. Eventually he will have milked it for all it's worth. Then, the changes will come. The only changes we will make before this happens will be his accessory work. This will be determined by how his heaviest single of the previous phase looks like and what his weak point is at that moment.

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