Brian Alsruhe’s Dark Horse Training Template Blog – Week 5


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.


Day 1

After the slight shoulder pain issue towards the end of last week, I opted to sub in the SS Yoke Barbell, which I enjoyed and think will continue to use for the rest of the program. This decision is a mix of personal preference – I am enjoying using the SSB for squat accessories, and also it should help with extra variety to the squat pattern, whilst saving my shoulder from overuse injuries, which in turn should mean I can squat more frequently.

As usual with this program, I seem to misread the program, for the subsequent volume sets, box squats are prescribed, which I missed last week. Personally, the SSB box squat feels better than a box squat with a straight barbell, due to the mechanics and weight distribution.

I did stick with the same 225lbs as last week for the dynamic effort deadlifts and was able to keep the timing of the EMOM to within 10 minutes, which is a great adapatation.

Day 2

I’m a big fan of antagonist push-pull exercises in the same plane for the upper body, e.g. overhead press + pull ups & bench press + barbell rows. The more typical barbell row allows for more weight to be used, as well as more body English to be incorporated than a typical Pendlay row, which is a positive, as it allows for more variety as well as more loading to be used, which should help provide a different stimulus to the back.

I set the pins for the bench press at the closest pin above my chest during a regular bench press to ensure as full of a range as possible, whilst eliminating the stretch reflex. This should help transfer over to the bench press, and almost make it like a ‘dead-bench press’ since you start from a dead start, much like the deadlift. This should transfer over to more strength out of the bottom of the bench press.

Day 3

I changed the static lunge with the dumbbells last week, to reverse lunges with a barbell in the front rack position. I like this variety of lunge, as it allows for a more upright torso position – due to the front rack barbell position and takes some stress away from the knee joint, due to the backwards step, rather than all the forces having to be stopped by a single front knee.

This week’s pause deadlift was at an inch or two above the ground. I like to perform the pause anywhere below the knee and hopefully an inch above the ground should help with initial power off of the floor.

Dynamic squats, increased by 20lbs by last week and still took 11 minutes, much like last week. I’ll take this as a good progression, the speed felt good and the form felt great. The weight is roughly 50% of my last tested one rep max, which is right where the speed work weight should be.

Day 4

Unfortunately, I was unable to add any weight to my pullups this week, but on the other hand, I was able to get 15 unbroken reps for 4 sets, which is a new result for myself. Continuous pullups have been a lagging performance of mine, which I think is also enhanced by my lack of conditioning, this could be a sign of improved conditioning!

I kept the split presses well within a manageable weight. Given the dynamic nature of the movement I don’t want to push to failure or near it, to minimize the chance of having to bail on the movement and drop the weight from overhead or incur an injury from a mis-catch. Given my relatively new exposure to this movement, I want to stay within a reasonable load limit, until my technical aptitude increases.

Changed it up for this week’s dynamic effort bench press, with 5 sets at 95 lbs and 5 sets at 115lbs, the increase in weight was a good choice, I think next week I’ll be able to perform 115lbs for the full 10 sets.


Based on a general overview of how the weight selection is progressing along with how the timing of the workouts are staying within a 90 minute time frame, I would argue my conditioning and strength are both showing signs of improvement. Unfortunately, not as good as I would like, since I am having to drop out sets of volume effort during the course of the week.

I am waiting to see how my results are effected with dropping of work sets.

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

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