Brian Alsruhe’s Dark Horse Training Template Blog – Week 2. 11/7 – 11/13


For the next 12 weeks I’ll be training with the free training template created by Brian Alsruhe, known as the “Dark Horse” program. His YouTube video explains all the details and lays out the program. Lift Vault has done the work for m̶e̶ you and created a Google Sheets copy of the program.

The program is a total of 12 weeks, with nine working weeks, split into three phases of three weeks. One week is a deload week and there is a two week testing phase. The program takes up four days a week. It is also a self-regulating program, which makes it great for trainees of any skill level.

In essence, the program is a powerlifting & strongman hybrid program based on conjugate periodization. Dark Horse also utilizes ‘giant sets’, which are in essence circuit training with weights. The focus isn’t primarily on building one rep max increase, rather building a more general strength and conditioning program, which would serve well for a strongman competitor or other athlete.


Day 1

Day 1 went well, I am feeling more confident with the box squat with the SS Yoke bar. I am using a wider stance than usual as a way to add even more contrast to my regular squat (If my preferred squat stance width was wider, I would opt to use a narrow box squat stance). I am also choosing to perform a slight pause at the box, where I almost sit down and relieve some tension from the bottom of the squat, almost imitating a pin squat. This should help with strength out of the hole, when I use a regular squat.

The volume set went well, my personal target for AMRAP set is to perform at least two reps over the prescribed set for the other two sets. The weight moved well and my conditioning is slowly adapting to the new demands I am calling for.

This weeks deadlift EMOM work was very tough. I exceeded the minute marks on the last few sets, which stretched out the 10 minute time limit. As the weights increase, my conditioning needs to catch up. My speed doesn’t slow down too much towards the last half, mainly being out of breath is the biggest limiting factor.

Day 2

Another successful day with the bench press, I was more conservative with the weight choice than I should have been for the max effort sets. But I personally prefer to err on the lesser weight, especially when dealing with my shoulders. Nevertheless, for the foreseeable future, I will be keeping the medium grip bench press as my go to style of bench pressing, as this is allowing me to bench press with no pain experiences.

My AMRAP bench set leads me to believe that my Max Effort weight selection was too light, as I was able to reach 14 reps with the prescribed weight reduction, generally aiming for 2 above the prescribed reps is a good number for the weights used in Max Effort. Next week I will be less conservative and push the weights a little more.

The dynamic effort was cut short out of my workout. The top of the lift feels especially difficult and is a constant reminder that I have to stay focused throughout the entire press and remain tight and braced. When I focus on form, the weight moves effortlessly with a lot more coordination.

Day 3

Today’s workout was especially brutal. Not having performed sumo deadlifts in a few months, I didn’t realize how heavy I was going with the singles in Max Effort, being only 20lbs shy of my conventional deadlift PR, I believe I could have matched the weight if I had a bit better planning. The sumo is feeling a lot better technique-wise, which makes me think that once the technique is down, I should be able to surpass my current conventional deadlift PR.

Combining the front squat and sumo deadlift is quite taxing on the cardio system and I think it is exactly the movement combo that makes this workout tough and very rewarding. There’s really no place to hide away or coast in the workout, since the front squat is a relatively weak lift for myself and the higher rep range makes it especially taxing on the conditioning.

I had to extend out the 10 minute EMOM set to 14 minutes, as I struggled to keep up with the clock at this weight prescription.

Day 4

Being able to workout on a sunny day was great, as I was able to take advantage of some outdoor conditioning with the tire sled. Simple walking drags and then Y-pulls back. Really helped get the shoulders and arms ready for the workout.

The push press, much like the overhead press with bands, is a great way to teach the body how to brace properly. Since both add a dynamic nature to the press, if there is a lapse in technical execution, then the weight feels quite awkward and doesn’t go up quite as smoothly or as nicely as when the technique is dialed in. It’s a great way to ensure technique is at the forefront of my mindset when going into the overhead press.


The warm ups for the max effort work is taking a bit too long, I think next week I will focus on warming up just the main movements and omit the abs and conditioning work. This way I can shorten down the workout times, as the are dragging out ever so slightly, which is not something I want to happen.

Learn more about Brian Alsruhe at his website, and his YouTube Channel for more great resources.

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