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Countdown to Strength Program Overview

This 5-week full-body training program will boost your strength levels across the board while also helping you build muscle and burn fat head-to-toe.

Countdown to strength 5 week training program

As you know through my #TrainWithJim series , I’m all about full-body training for maximizing fat loss as well as building muscle. But if you think I don’t care about getting stronger just as much as getting bigger and leaner, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Truth is, I don’t design any training program that doesn’t include a serious strength element, and my #TrainWithJim full-body workouts are no exception. You can, and will, gain strength with a full-body protocol, provided it’s programmed correctly.

Enter my 5-week full-body Countdown to Strength, a program I put countless hours into designing. It maximizes every training goal that fitness enthusiasts like you and I care about: muscle-building, fat loss, and, of course, strength, through a combination of adequate volume, high intensity, high frequency, and a logical periodization model that increases load and drops reps one week (microcycle) at a time.

Ready to get stronger? Let’s start the countdown…

Download the Entire Countdown to Strength Program Here

Stronger in 5

With the Countdown to Strength program, the weight on the three main lifts – bench press, squat, and deadlift – gets progressively heavier, as does the weight on most of the other exercises, albeit at different and varying rep ranges. Therefore, this is essentially a linear periodized scheme.

The “Countdown” refers specifically to the descending number of reps per set you’ll do for each main lift each week – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

In Week 1, you’ll do 5 sets of 5 reps for the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Then, in Week 2, you’ll increase the weight and decrease the sets and reps by one each, doing 4 sets of 4 reps. In Week 3, weight increases again, and total sets drop to 3 sets of 3 reps. In Week 4, same progression, where you’ll increase weight on the three big lifts and do 2 sets of 2 reps each. Finally, in Week 5 (the last week of the program), you’ll do 1 set of 1 rep on bench press, squat, and deadlift, which is basically testing your 1-rep max (1RM).

However, even when set-rep schemes are repeated in a given week for the main lifts (5x5, 4x4, 3x3, etc.), they won’t be performed the same way. Using Week 1 as an example, you won’t just be doing 5 sets of 5 normal-paced reps.

In some workouts, you’ll complete 5 sets of 5 reps with as heavy a weight as you can lift – about 60%-70% of your 5-rep max. These workouts focus on maximizing strength over time. In the workout charts below, these instances will be labeled “Heavy.”

In other workouts, you’ll be doing 5 sets of 5 fast and explosive reps with a light weight – only 50% of that used on the heavy 5x5 day. I’ll call these “Fast” in the workout charts. This workout builds power, which is important for exploding the bar off your chest (bench press), off the floor (deadlift), or out of the hole (squat). More power equates to more strength.

Finally, you’ll also have “Slow” workouts that call for 5 sets of 5 very slow reps – 5 seconds to complete the positive portion of each rep (concentric) and 5 seconds to complete negative (eccentric). For these sets, you’ll start with 50% of the weight used for the heavy workout. These workouts increase time under tension (TUT) of the muscle, which helps with muscle hypertrophy (growth). After all, you don’t just want to be strong – you want to look strong!

The same protocol will apply in subsequent weeks when sets and reps drop to 4x4, 3x3, and 2x2 – you’ll have Heavy, Fast, and Slow workouts for each of the three main lifts. (Week 5 will entail 1x1 on the three lifts but will basically just be another 1RM testing session without using specific rep speeds, so Heavy, Fast, and Slow sets are not applied.) Weight selection, however, will change from week to week for Heavy, Fast, and Slow sets.

In the Week 1 example above, you used 60%-70% of 5RM for Heavy sets, and 50% of the Heavy weight for Fast and Slow sets. As the reps decrease in subsequent weeks, the weight gets heavier by increasing the rep-max percentages each week. So you don't get confused, here's a chart to show you the weight progression (as well as rep speed prescription) from week to week.

Countdown Cheat Sheet: Weights & Rep Speed

On the three main lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift), where Heavy, Fast, and Slow are noted:

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*When you do the Fast or Slow reps before the Heavy (in a previous workout), you'll need to predict the weight you'll use for the Heavy workout. It's imperative that you write down how much weight you used in every workout for reference in subsequent workouts.

This periodization on

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