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