Brian Alsruhe’s Dark Horse Training Template Blog – Week 3


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.

Check out my Training Vlog on YouTube, where I document each of my workouts and provide my thoughts about the training program.

Week 3

Day 1

Overall, the day went well I think the performance of the box squats for a new one rep max was adequate, nothing spectacular, but at least it is small progress. I am feeling more confident with using the SS Yoke bar as well as performing box squats and am getting accustomed to the pause on the box that is recommended by the folks at Westside Barbell.

The Romanian Deadlifts felt good, I did resort to using wrist straps in order to keep up with the weight, I don’t want my grip to be a limiting factor in this exercise. However, I do feel that the RDLs help with making sure my lower back stays locked in, as the movement helps to keep tension on the lower back throughout the entire movement. I tend to lower the bar just to below knee height, for my personal preferences, I tend to lose the feeling of tension in the hamstrings when I go too low in the RDL.

Like last week, the dynamic effort deadlift EMOM set, took longer than prescribed, with my rest periods expanding out by 10-30 seconds towards the last half of the session, indicating a less than adequate performance and reflecting my poor conditioning.

Day 2

The medium grip bench press is still feeling great with no shoulder pain/discomfort. Stoked with the 265lbs for the five reps, as well as the volume effort’s AMRAP set. Unfortunately, my fear of a failed bench press prevented the 10th rep.

Another thing to note, is my decrease in weights used for the subsequent volume sets. When compared with the first two weeks, where I was able to use the same weight for sets across, would suggest a potential for regression, rather than progress. However, with the complexity of the program I am waiting to see how the progress is.

Also, there was a significant decrease in weights used for the dynamic effort work relative to the first two weeks. My mistake here was most likely dropping the weight too much, rather than dropping 30 lbs from the prescribed weights, I could have attempted a heavier weight.

Day 3

Another day that pushed the workout time length. Again, the point of the workouts is to keep them short and take advantage of the shorter rest periods. A little more discipline on my part in execution would help. This may mean I have to temper the weight choices, in order to allow for a shorter recovery time, since bar weight isn’t the only variable coming into play with the program.

The sumo deadlift weights lifted didn’t really align with estimated weights to be used based on last weeks heavy single. Not a surprising result with the trend of the rest of the third week. I also had to cut the dynamic effort by half and still had the workout last over the 90 minute mark.

Day 4

Super happy with the new push press PR, as this was the first time I’ve been able to put 225lbs overhead, regardless of the method of lifting (I haven’t done this with a pin press either). If my logic is correct, this should help with some carry over to the strict overhead press, as now my body has experienced at least holding the weight over head for a split second.

I was trying hard to keep within the time frame of 1 hour 15 minutes and had to cap it at 1 hour 30 minutes, which meant eliminating the last portion of the work out. I think I am taking too long with the breaks, in spite of using the timer to keep track of rest periods, in between each movement I am dragging.

This may be a good sign that the deload/rest week is coming at the correct time, as accumulated fatigue may be setting in with the density of this program.


I think one thing to note with the dynamic effort work, is to keep an eye on the speed and load selection. I’m noticing that as the weight is getting heavier the speed it slowing and form is beginning to break down. I will keep an eye on this when the next phase begins, as the two big benefits from dynamic effort come from executing with perfect form and high speed. With the very low rest periods in between, I may have to reduce the weights, to a more under 60% of one rep max to maintain speed and form.

Most of the workouts started to push out the 90 minute mark, which is something I was hoping to avoid. In the video, Alsruhe explains that the workouts should only take 75 minutes max. Which is making me rethink the load selection, since my rest periods are elongating out, suggesting a lack of ability to recover between each set. After the break I want to focus on getting back to 75 minute workouts, which will entail lowering the weights being used to focus on keeping strict rest time periods.

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

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