Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review: LRB-365

by Paul Carter
46 page PDF plus an Excel spreadsheet

LRB-365 is a one-year training program by Paul Carter, who writes the blog Lift-Run-Bang (contains NSFW language).

If you have ever read LRB, the blog, you will know what to expect here:

- very straightforward advice
- extremely smart and thorough knowledge of what works in strength training
- no frills but complete programming
- blunt, coarse language
- you'll do your reps and like them

That is what you will get here.

This program is somewhat unusual because it's not a cycle-by-cycle program, or a 12-week cycle, or a "get ripped in two weeks" program. It's an entire 52-week year, much like how Nate Green's book is put together. However, it's not meant to be shuffled around.

The program is broken up into blocks of 6-14 weeks each, covering an entire year. The individual blocks are not meant to be used separately, but rather to be done sequentially starting from January 1st all the way through to December 31st. It includes blocks of strength, conditioning, and very high-rep lifts meant to give you a break to let your body recover and supercompensate.

It includes rep ranges from singles all the way up to sets of 100, a personal favorite of mine.

If there is a simple philosophy behind this program, it seems to be this - consistency and recovery trump short term intensity. If you are consistent with your lifting and stick to a reachable goal, and if you prioritize lifting heavy enough to get stronger but light enough to avoid being worn out, you will get stronger. Much of the lifting is in a lower intensity range than usual in a strength program, but which would be familiar to someone doing 5/3/1. A recurring theme is to go light, aim for something not much heavier than your "everyday" (or probably better stated "any day") weights, and "crush" them. It's getting the most out of the weights you need to get stronger overall and in the long run instead of maximizing what you lift and hope you can recover from it before the next workout. Balance between lifting and recovery is stressed over and over.

The program is aimed at both strength and aesthetics. You want to both be stronger and look stronger at the end of the year. It also addressing peaking - during the year you'll work up to a maximum of strength, which you aren't expected to maintain. You can't, anyway, so why try to stay at your personal best all year? Instead you use peaking to help you increase your maximal strength and also to increase your base, everyday, lift it with total confidence on an off day kind of strength.

If there is one thing I'd like to have seem addressed, it would have been doing this program while also doing an outside sport. It's hard to lift 3-4 days a week plus do some light conditioning when you're doing MMA 2-3 times a week, play basketball in a league, skate in your adult hockey league, etc. Basically, how to treat that as your conditioning. But to be fair the program is aimed at people who lift just to lift and get stronger, not those who are competing. Still, it's something I hoped could have been worked in. The lack doesn't detract from the book's value for everyone else.

The book's one main "limitation" is that it's meant for a whole year, starting in the winter. That doesn't make it so useful for someone who is injured right now (and thus can't commit to specific lifts for a year), or who picks the book up mid-year, or whatever. But it's a question of focus - what it gives up in pick-it-up-and-do it can make up in specifics, since you are expected to have done everything in the book up to the current cycle. Much like how a game for a console system can be written with exact hardware requirements in mind, this program dispenses with worries about you doing things out of order.

The price is a great selling point. In this day of $77 $47 hard-sell webpage advertised programs, $10 is both a steal and a relief. It's a relief because there is no hard sell or deadlines or pressure. Plus $10 for a whole year program, solid diet and training advice, and a spreadsheet to ensure your lifts match the expected percentages - it's a real bargain for what you get. The PDF isn't very long, but it's complete, with little or no wasted text.

Diet the diet advice is very straightforward, and emphasizes healthy whole foods over supplements and processed food. Like the rest of the book, it's extremely blunt instruction too. You aren't getting out of eating your vegetables here, and there isn't a lot of leeway given to try and justify cheat meals instead of eating on the plan and eating good food.

Can I substitute things in the program? Yes and no. No, in that you're meant to do the program as written. Yes, because the program as written gives you choices in many places. So if you can't bench because of a bad shoulder or squat because of a back issue, you can replace those exercises. Once swapped in, though, you're expected to stay with them and follow the program. If you need something more flexible, this might not be the program for you.

Content: 5
out of 5. It is a complete program and diet, and it has everything you need to do what it's telling you to do.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Good layout, easy to read, well written. However, a few typos and some minor errors distract a bit from the text.

Overall: If you are male, want to get bigger and stronger and leaner, are willing to follow directions, and are motivated to do one program for a year, this is the book for you. It is very straightforward, it comes with a spreadsheet to help you program your lifts, and the advice is no-nonsense. It is also only $10 and you get a lot for $10. Highly recommended.


  1. I like his writing and ideas, but these sorts of programmes rarely work, because who can follow something precisely for a whole year? Life happens.

    Even 531 has this problem, what if you get sick or injured or go on holiday?

    That's why I like stuff like Starting Strength for beginners, and then stuff like Easy Strength for people past the first 6-12 months.

    So many of the programmes we get are like what we were taught in PT school - periodised programmes which assume the person is a full-time athlete being paid to train.

    1. If you get sick or go on a holiday, you just need to reset your training maxes. It's not totally obvious how, but that'll happen with almost any program, even a linear progression one. Both 5/3/1 and LRB-365 do have the flexibility to deal with problems that come up, if you're willing to make the effort to adjust the program. I mean, as a trainee and a trainer alike, I am always needing to adjust the program when issues come up.

      I'd argue that there is a real benefit to a program like LRB-365 even if you do have it disrupted by outside issues. It's better to have a year-long plan with some built in slack and then have to adjust it than to have no long term plan at all, just in case you have to take time off. If this was a program designed like a Soviet training block, and required full-time training, I'd agree with you - it would be too inflexible for anyone except professional athletes in strength sports. This isn't that, it's just a year of building on cycle after cycle, depending on what you get out of the previous cycle.


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