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.
First day of the final week of the second phase went well. The trend of cutting out volume work continues, with the omission of the last two volume sets, which still meant I completed the workout in 1 hour 45 minutes. This is stemming from my slowness between each movements.
The pause squats for singles with the SSB went well, with a top three sets at 380lbs. I have no comparison/benchmark to compare this against, which is indicative of a minor problem with the undulation and variation of the template, it becomes difficult to compare progress week to week on a true apples to apples way. The weight being used is 82% of my last tested one rep squat max (460lbs), but the movement is completely different, as well as a different barbell. Week 5 I hit 270lbs for 5 reps, Week 4 I reached 315lbs for a triple, with a straight barbell.
The dynamic deadlift went well, I stuck with the same weight (225lbs) loaded on the barbell, but increased the band tension by going from the light EliteFTS short bands to the average EliteFTS short bands. A rough measurement of my grip to the floor is 29″, and that equates to around 142-150lbs of felt weight at the top of the deadlift, 367lbs – 375lbs total weight at the top.
The pin bench press didn’t go as planned. The good news was that I didn’t fail due to shoulder pain, the bad news is, I failed because of weakness. After the third rep on the last set, I wasn’t able to press out the weight again. One thing I may have to work on in the future, is the ability to grind through a sticking point, what felt like a point of failure was the sign for me to stop pressing, I may have to at least give the weights some extra time under tension to push through a sticking point and potentially I would have been able to get the fourth rep, although this wouldn’t have helped me achieve a fifth rep.
The dynamic overhead press, didn’t feel as strong today either. Opting to stick at the 95lbs which I have been using for the last few weeks. The lift is somewhat stalling out, I attempted 105, but because of a slow down in speed, as well as a breakdown in technique – my lower back was arching a bit too much in order for me to try and press explosively. Dropping the weight back to 95 allowed me to lift with a lot more speed an better technique. At the very least, I am getting in some volume for the shoulders and more practice at the dynamic effort
If you don’t already know, I am a big fan of accessory lifts that make the movement harder, without having to increase the load on the barbell, a pause deadlift is a great example of this. Due to the increased time the lift takes, as well as the stopping of momentum, the paused deadlift is a more difficult movement than a regular deadlift. Which means I am able to still stress the body with the movement without having to increase the weight on the bar, which will help temper overall accumulated stress.
To save on time, I opted to skip the last two sets of volume work, in order to stay under the 90 minute mark. I’m not sure how big an effect this will have on my final outcome of the program, but I have been preferring to cancel out the volume work instead of cancelling out the dynamic work, which I think will have a better carry over for outcomes.
The dynamic squat, saw an increase of 20 lbs over last week, which is a great result. Speed and technique were still great for the 10 sets across.
Super stoked with the 200lb split press for a triple, this was the first time really doing this movement and I was somewhat hesitant in pushing the limits for the loading during the earlier weeks. This was one movement where I didn’t do any heavy singles, rather opting for threes & fives, this was more for a safety perspective, because I didn’t want to worry about having to bail on a heavy single. I was also factoring in my inexperience with the lift and the probability that I won’t perform this movement after the program. I am hoping this will help transfer over some power & strength to my standard over head press.
My dynamic bench press weights increased this week, which was great and is showing some good signs of progress, I think the lack of involvement of the triceps during the split press, helps with getting more weight & speed with the bench at the end of the workout.
The final week of phase 2 went a lot better than the last week of the first phase. I think there was a relatively better performance overall, indicated by less failed reps and sticking more closely to the workout time line. I felt a lot less fatigued after each workout, which I would assume is being attributed to an improvement in my conditioning levels.