The Least You Can Do


The least you can do is the most you should start with. It’s tempting to “go big or go home” when it comes to starting or re-starting a fitness plan. You’ve done it before – bought a book, dropped $120 on the Insanity program (obviously having forgotten what Einstein said about insanity), or bought a piece of equipment off late-night television. You did the program faithfully for a day or so, then something came up, then you started again, and then you stopped for good. It’s not your fault – well, sort of.

The problem you ran into is that you tried to assume too many changes at once. Being a creature of habit is helpful, and allows you to be more efficient in life. Being a creature of habit also makes changing habits hard. You’ve heard the stat: try to change more than one habit at a time and you’re more than likely to fail. The crazy thing is that by only choosing one habit to change, there are still many obstacles to success.

sugar2One of this mistakes we make is thinking that a habit change is only one little change, when in fact, it is made up of many small changes. For example, quitting eating sugar might seem simple enough, by the reality of the habit is that you eat sugar many times a day in many different situations…this makes it several habit changes. You would be better served to break it down into more discrete elements, such as “no added sugar” on foods, or “avoid packaged sweets” – each of these choices being easier to keep track of and prepare for that simply avoiding all sugar.

Additionally, starting out with additive changes is a good idea. Don’t think about taking things out of your life, but make sure to add habits instead. Our first recommended habit change is to start taking a multivitamin and a fish oil tablet each day. You simply get one of those weekly pill boxes that old people have sitting on their kitchen counters, put two pills in each box, and then take them right after you brush your teeth in the morning. You added something very simple, and tied it to a habit (teeth brushing) that you already had established.

Additive changes are useful, too, because they can push out some bad habits. For example, if you are on the coffee – soda – beer hydration plan, simply setting a water2water-drinking goal can make a world of difference. Fill a 2-liter jug with water, and plan on drinking it each day. As you adapt to having more water in your diet, you’ll notice that you don’t drink as much soda, or coffee, or beer, simply because you can only drink so much.

Regardless of the habit, make the changes as small as you can stand at first, and add to them only when you have a new habit firmly in-hand.


In-Season Strength by Charlie Manganiello

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and the air is getting warmer. You’ve probably even dusted off your race schedule and summer goals on the calendar you’ve been staring at for the last six months. Unless you’re an ice climber or skier stuck in the Northern Hemisphere, the “in-season” is upon us. In some way, shape or form, you are striving to perform well in a triathlon, run a half-marathon faster than last year, bike 100 miles without killing yourself, or send your hardest route to date. Maybe, you’re even planning to run your first 5k. Regardless of the goal, you’re looking to perform your best on game day.

Now stop…

Remember all those early mornings and late nights at the gym strength training? All those sessions, just dreaming about running through the Wind River Range, crossing the finish line at a race, or clipping the chains on your latest send? You were probably thinking, just a few more months and I don’t have swing kettlebells for the whole summer, I don’t have to pick up a heavy barbell only to drop it again after lifting it two feet, or even think about doing another Turkish get-up.

You probably see where this is going…


Strength training is still important, even during your sport specific season. To not strength train in-season is like putting money away for retirement for eight months out of the year and then proceed to spend part of the money saved the other four months on frivolous items. With this cycle you’ll have a very hard time saving money, and with strength training this cycle makes it hard to stay strong. Why not maintain all your hard work instead of letting it all go just to start over again?

Studies have shown that once you stop training, strength can diminish in as quick as two weeks. I’m no accountant, but if you also stop saving money, you’ll save less. You should strength train like you save money. Some months you can sock more away and other months you put just a little away, but at least it’s something. How can we stay strong without spoiling game day performance? We will reduce the volume of our strength sessions by two-thirds to one-half, but still lift heavy.

For example:

Lets say your training weight for the deadlift is 185lbs and you did that at 5×2 or 3×3 (or whatever set/rep scheme that was around 10 total reps). For in-season training you will perform the same lift at the same weight, but at 3×2, 5×1, or 2×3. Instead of doing 9-10 reps you’re doing 5-6. The volume is lower, but you’re still handling the same heavy weight. By doing this you’ll never be far from strength. You should perform this twice a week (maybe as little as once a week) and work it into your training so it doesn’t interfere with your scheduled events, most likely a Monday and Wednesday or a Tuesday and Thursday.

Remember to stick with the four major movements when strength training.

Hip dominant/Hamstring – Deadlift or RDLs
Knee dominant/Squats – Front Squats or 2 Kettlebell Rack Squats
Pull – Pull-ups or some variation of the Row
Push – Bench press or Military press

There are lots of options to progress or regress each movement and that’s fine, but just stick to the principles. You should pick one of the four patterns to focus on and put the other three in between sets as “fillers,” just to grease the groove. Rotate to another movement pattern after 4-6 weeks.

Don’t forget to add these in every sessions as well:

Total Body – Turkish Get-up or Farmer Carries
Anterior Chain (AKA: Core) – Hardstyle Plank or Ab Wheel

Remember, these session should be approached like you’re practicing strength. You are not working hard in these sessions. Let me repeat. You are not working hard in these sessions. You are barely breaking a sweat or maybe not sweating at all. At no point are you increasing weight, even if it feels easy. You can attack the numbers once you start your off-season training. Your session should clock in around 30 minutes after you’ve properly stretched and warmed-up.

Save money and lift heavy weights often. Don’t lose what you’ve already worked so hard to gain.

Strength be with you!


Charlie Manganiello

Charlie’s 40 Workout Challenge

Is Your Strength Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

40 Workouts – 8 Weeks

It’s so easy you won’t do it!

Disclaimer:  I did not invent this.  I plucked this gem out of a book called Easy Strength written by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline.  I know, they sound like strong dudes, so I trusted them.

 The summer season was coming to a close, the leaves were turning, and old man winter was closing in.  I thought to myself, “time to get strong.”  For the last year or so I’ve always wanted to try this plan, but always had a lame excuse.  “It’s too long.” “I want to climb more.” “This will hurt my conditioning.”  All valid: I did climb less, it was long, and my conditioning did suffer.  But guess what, I got a heck of a lot stronger and strength is the foundation for anything we do.  I was still able to climb and ski a bit, but this workout was the focus.  Remember, make the goal the goal… and strength was my goal.  I have failed at making the goal the goal many times before, but this time I followed through.  The feeling at the end was worth it. Trust me.

Don’t over think this, it’s really as easy as it looks!

Here is the description of the workout as written by Dan John:

1. For the next 40 workouts, do the exact same training program every day. (For the record, I find that most of my goals are reached by day 20 or 22, so you can also opt for a shorter period.)

2. Pick five exercises. I suggest you do a squatting movement like the goblet squat or overhead squat as part of the warm-up, as you don’t want to ignore the movement, but it might be fun to focus on other aspects of your body.

3. Focus on these five movements:

• A large posterior chain movement (the deadlift is the right answer)

• Upper body push (bench press, incline bench press, military press)

• Upper body pull (pull-ups, rows, or, if you’ve ignored them like me, heavy bicep curls)

• A simple full-body explosive move (kettlebell swings or snatches)

• And something for what I call an “anterior chain” move (an abdominal exercise). I think the ab wheel is king here, but you can also do some other movements best suited for lower reps.

4. Only do two sets of five reps per workout for the deadlift and push/pull exercises, and one set of 20 to 50 for the explosive move. Do a solid single set of five reps for the abs.  Also, you can vary your load by also mixing in five sets of two reps per workout for the deadlift and push/pull exercises.

5. Never plan or worry about the weight or the load. Always stay within yourself and go heavy “naturally.”

6. Don’t eat chalk, scream, or pound on walls. Simply do each lift without any emotion or excitement and strive for perfect technique.

That’s it!

Here is what I chose to do:

Weighted Pistol Squat –  2×5+5 or 5×2+2

One-Arm One-Leg Push-up – 2×5+5, 5×2+2. or 5,3,2 (Varying heights)

Weigthed Pull-up – 2×5 or 5×2

Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing – 2×25 or 2×50

Barbell Roll-out – 1×5

80% effort and gradually go up!

A look at my progression:


Workout 1

Weighted Pistol Squat –  2×5 (25lbs)

One-Arm One-Leg Push-up – 2×5 on 24” box

Weighted Pull-up – 2×5 (25lbs)

Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing – 2×25 (35lbs)

Barbell Roll-out – 1×5 (135lbs on bar)


Workout 20

Weighted Pistol Squat –  2×5 (50lbs)

One-Arm One-Leg Push-up – 5,3,2 – 5 at 9” – 3 at 6” – 2 on ground

Weighted Pull-up – 2×5 (50lbs)

Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing – 2×25 (70lbs)

Barbell Roll-out – 1×5 (135lbs on bar) Almost did from stand

Workout 40

Weighted Pistol Squat –  5×2 (70lbs)

One-Arm One-Leg Push-up – 5×2 – 2×2 at 6” and 3×2 on ground

Weighted Pull-up – 5×2 (70lbs)

Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing – 2×50 (60lbs)

Barbell Roll-out – 1×5 (135lbs on bar) Didn’t quite get from stand

I purposely chose not to do the deadlift, even though it was suggested.  I had already deadlifted a lot before I started this plan. Instead, I chose the pistol squat, which is knee/quad dominant and I read articles where folks head a lot of success with the pistol in this plan.  Also, ski season was just around the corner!

The following week after the last workout I was able to pistol squat 100lbs (two-thirds my bodyweight) with my left leg, military press 70lbs with my right arm, which I couldn’t budge before this workout, performed a 100lbs get-up with my right arm, and almost did a pull-up with 100lbs…I kind of chicken necked at the very end.  All were PRs by a long shot!

This is all I did for 40 straight workouts, Monday through Friday for eight weeks and the results were amazing.  The New Year is here.  If getting stronger is one of your goals for 2015, give this workout a shot.  If you stick with it and follow through you won’t be disappointed.  Is it boring, yup.  Is it a sexy and fun workout, nope.  Does it work, hell yes!




Charlie Manganiello


“Absolute strength is the glass.  Everything else is the liquid in the glass.  The bigger the glass, the more of everything else you can do.” – Brett Jones