Hacking Beginner Like Gains?

It’s no secret that you achieve the highest percentage results in your first few months of training.  Whether it’s fat loss, strength increase or endurance gains your body goes through it’s most intense adaptation during the introductory phase, which can often last eight months to even a year if you are going through proper progressive overload.

My question is, can we do anything about the slowed gains once we exit the beginner category?  Is there anything we can do to re-sensitize our body to react as intensely to the stimulus of weight training as it did when starting out, or are we forced to accept slower, more hard earned gains over time?

For the sake of this entry I am going with a widely used benchmark to define “non-beginner strength” as someone who can deadlift 2x body weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and respect the process of slowed gains.  It forces us to program smarter, really dial in accessory work, focus on diet and all around work harder for our results.  It separates the dedicated from the weak and makes us appreciate our five to ten pound PR increases, additional two pound fat loss, four minutes off half marathons, etc. and not take them for granted when they previously happened every other week.

It’s like Joey Fatone accustomed to having hot blondes throw themselves at him for no reason at all and then when the fame subsides, he gets pumped when he pulls a 6.

Or something like that?

Eh, that was forced.

It’s why I was so excited to see Jandy hit a PR while also losing seven additional fat pounds in the process.  Both categories hit a temporary stall (she was in month 11 with us) and  two-for-one strength and fat loss accomplishments are even rarer once you are past beginner, so she was really a boss with that one.

So…what am I getting at here?

I have a theory.  It’s based on absolutely nothing other than simple repetition of stimulus, I have not read this anywhere even though I’m sure I’m not the first, so this could just as likely blow up in my face as it could be successful.

My theory is this.  If you take someone heavily trained in weights and remove them for a period of 30 days, they will experience beginner-like gains in strength when they start heavy lifting again.

Remove the stimulus to which the body is adapted and new adaptation occurs when you re-start the process.

At least that’s the plan.  I’m undergoing a 30-day “cleanse” of weight training of any kind, save for one day with farmer’s walks and Turkish get-ups.  I want to keep one day of central nervous system accessory maintenance but no deadlifts, cleans, presses, squats, kettlebells, dumbbells or weights of any kind.  In their stead will be a heavy dose of plyometrics, rings, pull-ups, pushups, pistol squats and other challenging body weight workouts that stimulate without load.

This is not to say I believe myself incapable of continued gains if I didn’t do this, I just want to see what removing it all from someone who is experienced does to the program as a whole.  Strength, energy, body composition, etc.  The whole nine yards.  Does it go way up?  Way down?  Remain the same?  Leaner and stronger?  Leaner and weaker?  Leaner and the same?  Your mom and your face?  All of the questions made it worth investigating to me.

So, here’s the breakdown of my training for the next 30 days.

  • Monday – Plyometric & Ballistics
  • Tuesday – Rings
  • Wednesday – Sprints
  • Thursday – Traditional Body Weight
  • Friday – TGU & Farmer’s Walks
  • Saturday – Optional 2 mile run/Rest
  • Sunday – Optional 2 mile run/Rest (pick one day for each)

Now, is there a chance that I see a decrease in strength across the board when I go back to re-test?  Absolutely.   In fact, I would say it is likely.  I never go jogging so I am anxious to see the effect of even low volume has. But what I am hoping for is a two step back, five steps forward type of rebound ultimately leaving me stronger because of it.

I’m also coming from a cycle of resting four days a week so the shock of six days is intentional.

Robby Sparango and Elyse Paulson from the gym are going to be alongside me during this experiment since they are both strong, want to shake things up and are also sick bastards like myself.

Here are our baselines prior to starting.


  • Weight: 6’0″, 174 lbs.
  • Body Fat: ~10.5%
  • Deadlift: 405#
  • Jerk: 240#
  • Hang Clean: 215#
  • TGU: 115# Barbell
  • Squat: ~305#*
  • Standing Box Jump: 51″
  • Box Jump w/ Approach: 57″
  • Broad Jump: 9’10”

*I have only recently started heavy squatting due to a cranky knee.  I am taking whatever results happen to my squat with a grain of salt since frankly, my squat is in “beginner” phase due to recent frequency.  The 305# is also estimated from recent 3R training. 


  • Weight: 5’7″, 164 lbs.
  • Body Fat: ~14%
  • Deadlift: 375#* (405# before lumbar strain)
  • Press: 175#
  • Hang Clean: 175#
  • TGU: 115# Barbell
  • Standing Box Jump: 47″
  • Box Jump w/ Approach: 53″
  • Broad Jump: 8’5″

*Robby’s outlier will be deadlifts since he was pulling 405# at around 145# prior to a strain.  He has also previously pulled 430# at a weight of 156 pound body weight so I believe post-experiment deadlift results may be skewed.

Elyse (below)

  • Weight: 5’8″, 136 lbs.
  • Body Fat: ~15.6%
  • Deadlift: 300#*
  • Press: 140#
  • Hang Clean: 145#
  • Squat: 195#
  • Standing Box Jump: 41″
  • Box Jump w/ Approach: 44″
  • Broad Jump: 7’9″

This is not exact science nor will this prove anything concrete, so please, save the “_____ is flawed with this experiment”.   However, I think this will be a great indicator of what to expect in general if you temporarily remove certain stimulus to which you are previously overloaded.

  • Weight Training
  • Endurance Training
  • Low-Carb Diet
  • Fantasy Football
  • Yoga
  • Caffeine
  • Etc.

Deadlifts every week, running five miles daily, two cups of coffee every morning, jager shots every weekend.  If you do something ALL the time then you are going to adapt and ultimately see diminished effects from it.  I want to know if we can reverse that by simply removing stimulus for a short period of time.

At the very least I will come away with more knowledge to make Performance360 a better place to train.  Always learning.  Never settling and relying on what works in the present.  That’s the goal.

We shall see.  Let the games begin!


  1. While obviously not the same thing reading this reminded me of the Dan John 40 Day (workout) program found in Easy Strength. While it’s not something I’ve personally tried basically it’s a reduce weight and volume approach where you focus on 5 movements (posterior chain-deads, push, pull, explosive, and anterior chain (ab wheel)). 2×5 on the 1st three and higher rep on the explosive stuff. Basically your weights are all done off feel and you go heavy or light (between 40%-80%). I was intrigued especially because I saw it as an opportunity to really tidy up form on some of these movements.

    I’ll be interested to see the results of you all’s trial. You guys have some great stuff going on at P360, I watch jealously from the other side of the country in Atlanta.

    1. Thanks, John. Very cool regarding the Dan John stuff. I am not familiar with the details of that program but sounds similar in concept. Excited to see where this goes!

  2. My lower back has been in bad shape since March, kept me out of the gym, off the field, and in the PT studio. I’ve been getting really frustrated about not getting to workout (but can at least get my socks/shoes on without trouble now). I decided a low impact activity like swimming might be a good way to become active again, and would allow me to test my lower back.

    Let me tell you this: Swiming. is. hard. Like really effing hard. I’ve swam in a lake recently, or even a couple laps at a pool, but had not done a swimming workout with sets in over 15 years. Holy shit. Seems to fit right into the whole body weight workload mentality of your endevour. Yesterday was Day 1 for me. I was thinking you could incorporate it on one of your weekend days instead of two option running days. My best friend from high school coached college swimming and gave me the following work outs to get started. Obviously the workouts can be shortened, or times needed to complete can be increased depending on skill/fitness:

    Day 1

    200 Swim Warm Up

    8 x 50 freestyle @:50, or 1 Min if need

    200 Swim

    8 X 50 Stroke @ 1 or 1:15 (Back, Breast, or Fly, or combination)

    200 Swim

    8 x 50 Pull @ 1 min (No kick)

    200 swim cool down

    2000 yards total

    Day 2

    500 Swim

    (3 x 100 Pull/Kick/Swim Hard) x 5 = 1500

    2000 yards total

    Day 3




    IM= fly/back/breast/free

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