Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
When lockdown started, I like many other people didn’t know what to do with myself! I wasn’t used to having all of the added free time on my hands. Gyms closed, strict travelling measures in place, I knew I needed to focus on doing something that would keep me active physically, but more important alert mentally. That was then when the idea came to me.
I decided to attempt to try out Andy Frisella’s 75 Hard Program. For those of you unfamiliar with Andy Frisella’s 75 Hard program, I discussed the challenges & the process in much greater detail in last weeks post. But, an overview for anyone who didn’t get to read it is: for 75 days in a row you must complete the following tasks before you go to bed at night:
I knew that if I was to do 2x45 minute workouts a day for 75 consecutive days, everything would have to be on point right through from my nutrition, hydration, sleep, mobility and just my recovery in general. In order for everything to work effectively, it would have to start out with a well devised training program.
My first session of the day was almost always strength work. I treated this as my main session of the day and I looked for overload in it each week (doing a bit more than the previous week). The other 45 minute workout had to be outside – so for this I did a walk (sometimes with a 20Kg weighted vest on), a cycle or an outdoor mobility/recovery session.
How I would structure those workouts required some thought. I decided to primarily stick to my favourite split (Upper & Lower x2) and integrate it with a full body workout, a conditioning workout and a light recovery session. It is important to note my main training goal was to get as lean and toned as possible. And I wanted to accomplish this by doing a combination of power and speed work, heavy strength training and a small bit of hypertrophy and conditioning. Here’s how my weekly training schedule looked:
Monday: Lower Body & 45 Minute Cycle
Tuesday: Upper Body & 45 Minute Cycle
Wednesday: Full Body & 45 Minute Walk
Thursday: Lower Body & 45 Minute Cycle
Friday: Upper Body & 45 Minute Cycle
Saturday: Conditioning & 45 Minute Outdoor Mobility
Sunday: Arms, Upper Back & Core & 45 Minute Cycle
Although both workouts had to be at least 45 minutes, 45 minute gym workouts don’t cut it for me. I usually spend about 10 minutes warming up & priming my body before I ever even touch a weight. So all my strength sessions would have been around 1h & 15 minutes.
Devising a training plan
I treated the two upper and lower sessions of the week as my main four sessions. So when I was doing out my training program, I started planning out these four sessions firstly and built the other three around them.
Upper & Lower Body: Monday’s lower body session emphasised more power and speed work while Thursday’s lower body session focused more on max effort lifting. For upper body – it was the opposite. Tuesday was max effort day while in Friday’s session, the focus was on building strength, getting plenty of reps in and even doing some dynamic effort work.
Full Body: Wednesdays full body session was a combination of jumps, Olympic lifting and heavy chin up and landmine shoulder work (which I deliberately didn’t do on Tuesday). Wednesdays session had to be carefully planned so that I didn’t tire myself out for Thursdays leg session while at the same time doing different upper body work from the previous days upper body session.
Conditioning: Saturday’s conditioning session was gruelling and it involved wearing a 30Kg weighted vest while doing 6 rounds of full body circuit work. This usually took about 75 minutes training at about 70-80% of my max heart rate. I like to wear a heart rate monitor for conditioning sessions in particular to analyse my training zones. These sessions burn up to and even sometimes over 1000 calories (note this is not always the sign of a good workout). My traps and upper back were well worn out from wearing the vest for over an hour.
Arms, Upper Back & Core: Sunday’s session was understandably the lightest of the week after a hard week of training (and particularly hard conditioning session). I don’t do much direct arm work – chin ups, tricep dips and compound lifts are a great way of directly and indirectly building them. But, Sundays session was mostly just some light shoulder shocker work, arms, upper back and some core work. This is not taxing work and the goal was to feel better leaving the gym than I did going in so I would be fresh for Monday’s lower body session.
I’ll address my nutrition and recovery in next weeks blog post but it was an area I had to pay close attention to if I wanted to train for 7 days a week.
Just a side note on programming - the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know! After qualifying as a PT initially, I thought I knew everything! In my mind, my methods were flawless and I couldn’t see any fault with them. But the deeper you dive into this field, the more you read, the more courses you do and the more you self-educate yourself, the more you realise how little you know! I’ll forever have a ‘white belt mentality’ and always seek for ways to better myself. So when I write out programs – whether they’re for my clients or for me, I completely overthink them and sometimes stress myself out over deciding on the ‘best approach’ to take. When you look at the finished product on paper, it might seem like they’re so basic and easy to write. But I take pride in what I do and genuinely care about delivering the best possible service to my clients. That is why a program is more than just writing down the exercises, sets and reps. They are a reflection of my service and the results I get. So when it comes to writing them out, I make it a matter of pride to give them my full attention and deliver my best service.
With that being said, doing out this 7 day plan for myself wasn’t just a matter of writing down a couple of exercises and hoping for the best. It took me about 3-4 hours to do out each phase every 4-6 weeks. The details matter and I tried to ensure all the boxes were ticked for the specific goal I wanted to accomplish.
After failing at completing the 75 Hard program twice, this would’ve carried me right through from the start of April to the middle of July – more than 3 solid months of consistent training and good nutrition (not 6 minute abs or a 28 day transformation which you see being sold online!). While my weight only dropped from 86 to between 83/84Kg, I did get leaner and increase my lifts and accomplish everything I set out to do from a training standpoint. I still had just over 2 weeks left in my own training program. Program hopping is so common nowadays but in order to see the benefits of a plan, you need to complete it from start to finish. It’s common for people to try something out for two weeks before moving onto something fancier seen on Instagram that looks better than their current routine. While I was tempted to pack it in and start something new, I decided to stick it out. To help me stay motivated, maintain my training intensity and ultimately finish out my program, that’s when I started thinking about booking the photoshoot for the date I was due to finish up 75 Hard.
Failing at the program twice left me with a lot of soul searching to do. I’m naturally hard on myself and sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. I found it hard to accept the fact that I f*cked up not once, but twice – both times forgetting to take a simple photo. So booking this photoshoot meant more than just getting some photos I can use on Instagram! It meant that even though I didn’t finish out the 75 Hard program (which I plan to do again in the future), my hard work didn’t go to waste and at least something good came about from it.
If there’s anything to be taken from this blog post it’s this – it’s better to try and fail than not try at all. Even if you don’t hit your target, taking action puts you in a much better position than remaining stagnant. Doing this program was something I had been thinking about for over a year. The mental benefits I got from starting 75 Hard far outweighs the physical benefits. It was a great experience even if, at times I feared what was in store for ,e that day! But sometimes you have to feel the fear and do it anyways.
Is there any goal you’d like to reach that you’ve been putting off?
Thanks for reading.
In next weeks post, I’ll share how I devised out my nutrition to help me train 7 days a week and get leaner at the same time.
P.S. This approach worked for me but may not work for you. If you’re currently feeling stuck, don’t know where to start or have reached a plateau in your own training approach, claim your free consult call now and I’ll help devise a plan which will build momentum and allow you to hit your training and nutrition goals.
Adrian McDonnell -
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