Dan John: 30/30 for 30 Programming Q & A

How do you program 30/30 for 30 weekly?
As usual, the ink was barely dry (on the pixels on the screen) and questions began to arise about the 30/30 for 30 protocol. As with everything in life, the transition from hearing about something and then doing it is rife with issues.

I wasn’t surprised by the first question:
How do you program this weekly?

The answer could easily be “it depends,” but we have found that this simple 30/30 for 30 programming can be done daily, mixing anything from cardio work to mobility to flexibility to Original Strength to hypertrophy.

That mixture would work well for most experienced trainers. Others need more guidance. Recently, Mike Prevost posted an amazing video in his Ruck Training article that included this template:

Both Mike Brown and I agreed, at once, that this was a marvelous way to work the common client, those we called “Everybody Else.” We would recommend switching the runs to walks, but let’s look at this from the 30/30 for 30 perspective.

Monday could easily be a 30/30 workout mixing the fundamental human movements with something easy like high-knee marching in place with heavy hands or a combination of easier cardio machines.

Tuesday might be a long walk. Some research argues that only 100 total minutes of exercise per week benefits longevity by up to seven years. Between the Wednesday ruck and the three easy walks each week, you can easily get your 100 minutes with 20 to 25-minute walks.

I struggle starting my walks, but once I get going, I love them. I learned a good lesson from the Velocity Diet: Popping out of bed and going for a walk is as good as a pot of coffee. Now, when you get back, drink your coffee of course, and enjoy the glow of starting a great day.

Wednesday is Ruck Day. Mike Brown and I are doing this seriously. It’s very simple. We have weighted vests, but you can use a backpack with weights. I taught at Catholic high schools and some of the girls were carrying 50% of their bodyweight all day long. Don’t be afraid to load up a bit.

We alternate very simply: Week One is a longer walk. I carry 40 pounds, so I can really feel the load as we come around the final corners. Week Two, we still wear the weighted vests, but we add two pounds per hand of Heavy Hands. This is BY FAR the hardest way to do this and it really raises the room temperature.

Thursday is always an easy day in our gym. A light refreshing walk ties in perfectly with this program.

Friday, return to Monday’s basic template and finish off with a walk on Saturday. Do as you wish on Sunday.

This is just one approach, of course.


An Extra Insight from Rucking
The idea of rucking lead me to an insight a while ago. With truly overweight people, walking can do amazing things.

. . . Until it doesn’t.

If you have been around a while and listened to people, you often find that weight loss on the scale works when people simply add walking . . . at first. By the way, The Economists Diet by Christopher Payne Ph.D. and Rob Barnett does a nice job reminding us to use the scale daily to show the big picture of feasting and fasting. I am finally convinced that a scale has power in the weight-loss wars.

Walking works. Then, it doesn’t. Rucking explained this to me! If you weigh 300 pounds and go for a walk, the cost of this exercise is going to be high. As you lose weight, you become more and more efficient; the weight loss will slow, perhaps even stop.

So, I have this idea. If you start off at 300 and get down to 290, add a vest or backpack with a few pounds and slowly build up to 10. If this keeps the weight loss on the scale coming down, keep adding pounds. From my experience, everything heavier than 30 to 40 pounds becomes far too unwieldy for appropriate training.

In other words: Keep your walking as inefficient as possible. Ruck.

Why so much rest?
Another common question from our participant’s BEFORE they begin their first round of 30/30 for 30 is:

“Why so much rest?”

Well, like the famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein goes: “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

In the first few minutes, those 30 seconds will feel long. In the last few minutes, you will hear “Are you kidding me? That was 30 seconds?”

When I combine swings for about 20 in 30 seconds followed by rest and then high-knee march in place with heavy hands, my heart rate monitor indicates I am NOT dropping HR very much during those 30 seconds. I’m going very hard for the full 30 minutes. It’s 300 swings and that is a lot of swings. Trying to encourage myself to “smile and shake things out” is very difficult.

Ask the “rest” question after you do it a few times.

Planks usually aren’t very hard. Why do you make it seem like they are so tough on this program?
Planks have an odd relationship with the fitness world. Planks must have a PR specialist that insists that:

“All news is good news.” Planks get into the fitness news a lot . . .
Planks are the answer.
Planks are worthless.
Planks only give you x,y and z for so long.

Planks, in my view, are actually underrated for teaching tension AND for the cardiovascular hit. I think they are overrated for abdominal fat loss and all the rest of the magical stuff we preach about spot reduction.

Let’s look why planks suck in 30/30 programming.

First, and this won’t be obvious, we tend to do planks on the ground. Every plank begins and ends with getting up and down off the ground. With my “Get Back Up” exercise (see Can You Go? and the Essentials of Coaching and Training Functional Continuums video I did with Gray Cook for more detail than you can possibly need), we quickly discover the heart rate benefits of getting up and down off the ground.

So, there’s that.

Next, every exercise has built in rest stops. Depending on your build, you probably have a sticking point on every exercise, and the rest of every movement is momentum. With planks, no momentum. No sticking point. No rest.

Finally, tension does things to the cardiovascular system. If you want to raise your blood pressure, drive in a traffic jam with screaming kids, then do a few isometrics. Your doctor might call 911 for you. Tension is underappreciated for its role in so much of training. Use it to get that heart going.

Oh, and for clarity: Planks are hard . . . done correctly. As much as I hate writing “it depends” as an answer, I think I hate having to say “done correctly” even more.

Is this “The Answer?”
No. Certainly, this program has value. The rest-to-work ratio of 1:1 has been around forever; I’m sure the Spartans had an “I go, You go” system of training.

There is nothing new under the sun about circuit training. Universal Gym had large posters on the walls of the early 1970s gyms showing this basic training plan. It worked then and it works now.

Here is what it does do: The 30/30 program eliminates clutter. Adding an appropriate warm up and a complementary cool down gives the clients and athletes an appropriate training session. We use Tim Anderson’s Original Strength mixed with some TRX work for both warm up and cool down.

It’s “pretty good.” The chase for perfect will confound and confuse you, but 200 pretty good workouts a year are going to do marvelous things for your body.

Never ignore pretty good.


Gray Cook, Dan John & Lee Burton Essentials of Coaching and Training Functional Continuums Video

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Tim Anderson on Crawling

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How to Measure Heart Rate Variability, Joel Jamieson

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Measuring heart rate variability is a non-invasive gauge of the autonomic nervous system. It's a technology that's now available at an affordable price so coaches and trainers can use it to monitor an athlete's training and recovery state. Joel Jamieson, a strength coach who works with a variety of athletes, explains heart rate variability in this lecture, and describes how he uses it to guide his training programs both daily and over the long term.

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