Some Results and Q&A About Combining The 40 Day Program and the PLP Program

In the previous article in this series, I explained how and why I combined The 40 Day Program with the PLP Program. Check it out here to get the full story: How and Why I Combined the 40 Day Program and the PLP Program.

At the end of the first article I dropped some crazy comments. Comments like:

Combining The 40 Day Program and the PLP Program…

  • Was the most important training experience of my life.
  • Had a crazy effect on me both mentally and physically.
  • Delivered surprising results.
  • Was the catalyst of conquering skinny-fat syndrome.
  • Was the equivalent of going Super Saiyan 4. (My armpit hair turned red. Just a little.)

And you're probably wondering who what when were and why these things happened.

Stop wondering.

Just read.

The results of the 40 Day Program + PLP

Let’s get one thing straight: For the 60 days I combined these two programs, I didn’t care about progress. Ever. I had the most lackadaisical attitude of my training life.

I don’t think I looked in the mirror, “physique gawking,” more than twice. I never cared about how strong I was. Or how strong I was getting. Training was just “something” that happened every day. I was emotionless.

90% of the time I deadlifted 225 pounds. (Around 50-60% 1RM at the time.) I floor pressed a 75 pound dumbbell. I hip thrusted the same 225 pounds that was on the bar for deadlifts. I curled 95 pounds because it was easy to throw 25’s on each side.

My exertion rating for weight stuff, on a scale of 1-10, was about a 5. Didn’t care to strain more. Sometimes strained less.

But here’s what happened…

First, I stopped hurting. Gone were the minor aches and pains I had prior to starting.

1. My right shoulder was a wreck. I couldn’t overhead or bench press. (Why I opted for the unilateral dumbbell floor press.) But my shoulder slowly started feeling awesome. Day in and day out. It never failed. Overhead carries felt so damn good. Haven’t had any shoulder problems since. And I’ve been incline pressing and overhead pressing regularly. (In addition to playing softball and throwing regularly.) Not once did I do a fancy or frilly “prehab,” “rehab,” or any other “-hab” exercise.

2. Back then my chronic knee pain was creeping back too. My left leg (bad knee leg) was the only leg I could use when I was on crutches. It hated life. But two weeks into the program the pain subsided.

3. My body felt great. No pain. Anywhere. I felt like I could tackle the world.

Second, I started growing. Ironic considering I wasn’t training or eating for growth.

My arms started showing shape. Being skinny-fat, this was a bit weird. Arms were hard to come by. Yet they were the largest they'd ever been.

The shoulder growth was most surprising. They “anchored” my arm for the first time in my life.

My body just felt solid. Didn't look in the mirror often, so it’s hard to comment on a per-body part basis. But I just seemed to “fill out.”

(Picture on right from time period of running both programs.)

Third, I noticed favorable changes in body composition.

Pants fit differently. Abs showed signs of life.

Fourth, I started to appreciate progressive overload. (Which, by the way, is different than strength.)

Throughout the 60 days I never added weight to the bar. But things churned because of the high frequency. Too often we associate progressive overload with weight on the bar. Bad mindset.

Here was my “overload” across the 60 days:

  • Pull-ups, squats, push-ups: 2370 reps
  • Deadlifts: 550 reps
  • Curls: 1100 reps
  • Hip Thrusts: 2200 reps
  • Dumbbell Presses: 550 reps
  • Waiter's Walks: Who knows

I don’t care to calculate this against a traditional routine. But I know it’s “more.” Trust me. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder adaptation took place.

Fifth, my chin-up and pull-up ability skyrocketed.

Sixth, it reconceptualized my idea of stress and recovery.

I guess that’s normal any time you do 50+ chin ups for 20 consecutive days and feel great every step of the way.

Seventh, it made me focus on the bigger picture.

I made progress just by showing up. Showing up, not necessarily training with eye-popping intensity, became the priority. This has since stuck with me.

Eighth, it did some interesting things for my skinny-fatness. But I’ll save this for its own section. (After the Q&A.)

Common questions about doing both programs

Common question: So should I be bulking or cutting on this program?

Common answer: I have no idea.

In the Solutions for the Skinny-Fat Series, I mentioned capping training at four days per week to optimize carbohydrate cycling.

Training daily is a carbohydrate cycling hiccup. Can’t really happen unless you’re waiving intensity with carbohydrate intake.

This kind of program doesn't really waive intensity.

I don’t think you should have a “bulk” or “cut” goal when meshing these programs.

The mesh isn't ideal for maximizing muscle mass. It's ideal for people that are tired of overthinking things. Tired of obsessing. Tired of details. People that need a mental and physical break.

Training daily might not seem like a “physical break,” but somehow it is. Just don’t be an idiot and max daily.

Common question: I’m a beginner. Can I do this program?

Common answer: No.

The 40 Day Program is for an intermediate lifter. I was deadlifting 225 pounds emotionlessly. This really isn’t that much weight. But it’s certainly above beginner range. You have to build a base of strength first.

Something like a 315 pound deadlift and 10 consecutive chin-ups is a good place to start.

Common question: Can I change exercises?

Common answer: Do whatever you want.

I violated The 40 Day Program structure because I needed to. Because it worked for my specific situation.

Do whatever you need or want to do. Just don't go and substitute tricep kickbacks for deadlifts.

Common question: Am I going to get strong doing this?

Common answer: Die.

I’m going to be honest. I didn’t notice very much in the way of strength gains. But I don’t blame The 40 Day Program for this. I blame myself. Because I didn’t care. There were days I could have lifted more for my 2×5. But I didn’t. Just didn’t care to.

As I said: Don’t do this program if you have a specific, tangible goal. Do it out of apathy. Sounds nuts, but it’s just what I recommend.

And if you're looking for strength gains, I think this program is more applicable to bring up a “similar but different” lift. For instance: If you're a great bench presser, but haven't inclined. You'd tackle the 40 Day Program with the incline press. Not sure tackling it with the bench press would yield huge benefits. Or I should say I don't think it will deliver the same benefits. (Just my opinion though.)

Common question: How should I eat? Do I carb cycle with this?

Common answer: Dunno. And no.

80% of my diet was paleo. Eggs, meats, vegetables, fruits. The other 20% was whey protein and oats when I wanted to eat them. Was usually only once or twice per week.

Again…the apathy thing.

Common question: Will I lose muscle on this program?

Common answer: No. Unless you forego a movement responsible for your growth.

If you’re used to doing squats and you ditch squats, your legs will probably shrink a little. But I know of no one that trains consistently and loses their muscle. Nonsense if you ask me.

Common question: What lifts should I do on The 40 Day Program?

Common answer: Whatever you want.

Dan John gives you the guidelines. Just sack up and pick things you enjoy doing. Just don’t get all obsessive and pick twelve different pressing variations with the thought of  rotating them on a daily basis or something crazy.

Pick one press you love. Pick one posterior chain movement you love. Etc…

You do them often. Better enjoy whatever it is you pick.

Common question: How did you train that often? Didn't you spontaneously combust!?

Common answer: If you're asking this, you're overthinking it.

Common question: How did you spend so much time training like this?

Common answer: Simple. It's really not that much time.

PLP workouts took about ten minutes. The 40 Day Program workouts took about 30-45 minutes. That's about an hour every day.

Common question: Do you have any thoughts on incorporating hill sprints into this?

Common answer: Absolutely!

I actually did hill sprints during this. Just do them once or twice per week. Treat them more as speed training sessions. Less as HIIT. Spend 20-30 minutes getting quality runs in.

Did you do any warm up sets for the deadlift before the 2×5?

Common answer: Yeah, usually some reps at 135.

Common question: Technical question, based on what you said: you did BW squats in the PLP instead of lunges?

Common answer: Good observation.

I actually intermixed them at my preference. If you have severe knee pain, go with body weight squats. Otherwise, lunge. Your legs will grow more. (More volume.)

Common question: Why are you answering questions like an asshole?

Common answer: Because they don't matter.

For one time — just one time — stop over thinking things. I could lie about some magical things I did in combination with the program. Perhaps plug a certain diet or advertise a supplement — deceive you somehow.

I could say that “X” was the sole reason this “worked.” That “Y” might make it work better. And I'd probably make a lot of money from plugging some expensive things into those X's and Y's.

But I'm not here to do that. I'm never here to do that.

I'm here to tell you something. Something important. Something you don't want to hear. Something that someone needs to tell you.

Combining The 40 Day Program and the PLP Program works because it teaches you the most important concept in fitness: just show up.

As my inbox floods with questions (this is fine, I like when people say hello), I can't help but wonder how many people are going to “ask” themselves out of a training program like this.

“I'm sorry, I don't know how to calculate my carbohydrates given the daily aspect of this program. Therefore, I can't do it.”

“I”m sorry, I don't know how much weight to lift. Therefore, I can't do it.”

“I'm sorry, I can't pick one press. Therefore, I can't do it.”

“I'm sorry, I don't have Master Roshi to coach me. Therefore, I can't do it.”

To all of those people not willing to show up, I'm the one that's sorry. Sorry for you.

There’s something about committing yourself to daily training that’s stimulating. But you have to be ready for it. You have to know your body “just a little bit.”

But you can’t focus on progress. You have to numb yourself. Otherwise you’ll overtrain.

You have to do one thing to make this program mesh “work.” That's it.

Just one thing.

Show up.

Here's some icing.

  • Don’t look in mirrors.
  • Don’t obsess about bulking.
  • Don’t think about cutting.
  • Keep your diet mostly paleo.
  • Add some tolerable starchy carbs a few times per week; on the days you feel drained.

But none of that matter unless you're showing up day in, day out.

The skinny on what it did to my skinny-fatness

The program combination and daily stimulation does some wild things to your physiology. I consider the combination the catalyst that suppressed my skinny-fat shell.

But I'll be back Wednesday with the full details of that, and details of how to become a charter member for my skinny-fat program. (Get the reduced price, free coaching, and all that fun stuff.)

In the meantime, send me any question you have about combining The 40 Day Program and the PLP program. Drop them below. I'll give a serious (read: non-ass) answer and add them to this post.



Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nate November 6, 2012, 2:32 am

    Do you have any thoughts on incorporating hill sprints into this? I just started doing them again recently and I’m remembering how much I like them, but they seem like they might be trickier than loaded carries or swings to do with this much frequency.

    • Anthony November 6, 2012, 3:36 pm

      Common answer: Absolutely!

      I actually did hill sprints during this. Just do them once or twice per week. Treat them more as speed training sessions. Less as HIIT. Spend 20-30 minutes total.

  • Kyle Bohannon November 6, 2012, 2:33 am

    Great article. I especially agree with “Am I going to get stronger doing this”

    I followed the 40 day workout a few months back and was able to increase my snatch grip dead and ssb squat quite a bit.

    The program is certainly perfect for a “yellow light” phase as Dan John would say.

    Just go in, move some weight, and get out.

    • Anthony November 6, 2012, 3:36 pm

      Yeah. Like that — “yellow light” — description.

  • Randy November 6, 2012, 4:35 am

    Hi Anthony,
    Excellent program mesh and I am totally on board.

    Did you do any warm up sets for the deadlift before the 2×5?
    I have some prior back history that I want to keep from flaring up. I believe I will do a set of 135×8 before the 2×5.

    • Anthony November 6, 2012, 3:38 pm

      Common answer: Yeah, usually some reps at 135.

  • PP November 6, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Yay, I did this and it helped me! You da man Anthony! I used to be a neurotic programme switcher until I tried this shiz (from your initial 10 points for skinny fats post on T-Nation).

    • Anthony November 6, 2012, 3:39 pm

      Awesome stuff.

  • Jonathan November 6, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Man, you did a great thing decorticating two programs that I´ve looking for some time now. Majority of my questions answered.
    Thinking about the intermediate lifter thing. No discuss about the 10 chin-ups, certainly the PLP needs this – 10 in the tenth day with a max of 3 consecutives, don´t think can happen. (Current doing 3 consecutive chins when fresh. Seems like it will take forever to add more. I hope you recommends something about it in your program!) But Dan John apparently adresses the program ins his article to beginner trainers. You think less than 225 in deadlifts can´t yield benefits because of the low weight? Can´t understand well why it happens.
    Technical question, based on what you said: you did BW squats in the PLP instead of lunges?

    • Anthony November 6, 2012, 3:43 pm

      I’ve talked to Dan John about this before. Everything I’ve read and heard he recommends this program for intermediate lifters. Perhaps you misread.

      As to why it doesn’t work, it’s because you can’t stress the body enough. As a beginner if you’re deadlifting 135 daily, that’s s totally different stimulation than 225. Body has to mobilize and recruit more.

      Common answer: Good observation.

      I actually intermixed them at my preference. If you have severe knee pain, go with body weight squats. Otherwise, lunge. Your legs will grow more. (More volume.)

  • Rajat Desikan November 6, 2012, 10:11 pm

    Good pic Anthony…love the new writing style in this post…

    • Anthony November 7, 2012, 1:35 am

      Thanks Rajat!

  • Devin November 7, 2012, 2:47 pm

    I’m probably already overthinking and defeating the purpose… but I’d like to know if you think I’m “close enough” to intermediate to benefit from this program. It sounds great… I expect that everyday I could deadlift around 200 lb. and bench around 150 lb. Not sure on specifics for the other lifts but those two should give you an idea for overall strength. Pull ups are not a problem, can do around 15 consecutive.

    • Anthony November 7, 2012, 3:06 pm

      What’s your 1RM? DJ typically recommends using 50-60% 1RM most days, if I remember correctly. So if 200 lbs is 50-60% 1RM you’re good.

      • Devin November 7, 2012, 3:16 pm

        Only started doing barbell lifts a few months ago and haven’t gone after my 1RM. Following Stronglifts, so been doing that 200 lb. DL 5×5 and it’s moving up without a problem… I know I could stick with it, but I like what DJ says about fat loss/hypertrophy being achieved through something this simple, and I’d enjoy the everyday routine… Seeing as 200 lb. is probably more like 30-40% of my 1RM, maybe I need to build more of a base as you said.

  • Adam November 7, 2012, 3:52 pm


    This article could not have come at a better time for me, personally. I’ve been feeling really tired and run down lately, and that has translated into less than amazing workouts. The less than amazing workouts leave me feeling a little down in the dumps about lifting in general, which makes me want to lift less. Alas, I am stubborn and continue to trudge through workouts that do nothing for my physique or mood. It has become a never-ending cycle. Especially lately. The way you combined these two programs, and the “built in” apathy associated with the 40 day program, are just what the doctor ordered. I’m tired of rotating exercises, tracking percentages, cycling carbohydrate intake, bleh blah bleh blah. To be able to give myself a “check mark” for just showing up and lifting sounds amazing.

    • Anthony November 7, 2012, 8:43 pm

      Awesome, Adam.

  • Jonathan November 11, 2012, 1:11 am

    Something that occurred to me: do you think there would be any difference in results according to the style of deadlift trained? Some people say that sumo can be safer for lower back depending on the body anatomy, but I not sure about the effects in muscle activation compared to the conventional option. In other words: a sumo deadlift of 315 would be as good as a starting point?
    Side note: I just read an old post of you, “How I ruined my chances of contributing to Men´s Health…” and found it absolutely awesome, perhaps the best inspirational thing that I ever read. Just to let you know.

    • Anthony November 14, 2012, 1:11 am

      Thanks Jonathan. Appreciate the kind words.

      The type of deadlift matters a little bit. I mean the lifts are different. But I wouldn’t let that stop you from running it. A 315 sumo is fine.

  • David Webb November 14, 2012, 4:38 pm

    1. Thinking of doing the coaching program. Do you have any type of military discounts?
    2. With the above programs did you do IF?
    3. I have the problem with training more often and less days for carb cycling.. With IF, I just have my carbs (low-carb days) post workout/first meal. Other days ( higher carbs) I will add carbs at dinner? What do you think?
    4. With Palo diet most cut out all dairy… Non-fat cottage cheese and plane Greek yogurt okay? I do Jon fat cottage cheese because I have it with eggs and would rather have the fat from the eggs.
    5. Typical IF Paleo meal?
    6. Why chicken and carrots post-workout?
    7. So no protein powder on full Paleo days?

    • Anthony November 14, 2012, 7:15 pm

      1) My personal coaching program doesn’t have military discounts, but considering the fact I haven’t been drafted because of you crazy bastards, I should give back. E-mail me.
      2) Yea, I explained my diet in one of the posts.
      3) I don’t think many carbs should come before training.
      4) Most people can tolerate cottage cheese and yogurt. If you can, I don’t have a problem with it.
      5) Same as any other paleo meal.
      6) I’m not quite sure I said anything about chicken and carrots?
      7) Protein powder is fine on any day.

      • David Webb November 14, 2012, 10:02 pm

        On your 9 things you should know about intermittent fasting post:
        Anthony says:
        October 11, 2012 at 1:30 am
        Meals for me are either non-existant, small, or huge. No in between, really. I’ll post details later.

        My PWo meal as of late has been small. A carrot or two and some chicken. Dinner is then massive. Lunch is either 12-2PM. Dinner 5-6PM. That’s all.

        • Anthony November 16, 2012, 3:02 am

          Yeah, but I ran this program back in Spring 2011.

          • David Webb November 16, 2012, 3:35 am

            Oh gotcha, thanks for the reply!

  • Josh December 25, 2012, 4:29 pm

    Hey Anthony, thanks for your great articles. I have one question about this routine. Do you think substituting muscle-ups and hill sprints for PLP will be effective for size gains? I can currently do about 14 consecutive muscle-ups on a bar. I figure I’ll keep the intensity and volume very low on the hill sprints starting off so as not to overly fatigue the nervous system. I’m assuming the primary gains are in work capacity and strength-endurance , but I’m hoping the PLP routine plus the 40 day routine will help me bring up my weak spots (hams, glutes, upper chest) while possibly building size overall.

    • Anthony December 26, 2012, 1:54 pm

      I wouldn’t replace anything in PLP with sprints. I’d just do them once or twice per week.

      As for muscle-ups, go ahead. You honestly could just do muscle ups instead of chins AND push-ups since it’s a combo movement.

      If you’re in it for upper chest though, the dip volume (via muscle ups) won’t be very conducive to that. And if you want hams and glutes, I’d do the PLP with snatch grip deads.

      • Josh December 26, 2012, 7:23 pm

        Thanks for the reply Anthony.

        My plan was to do muscle-ups and hill sprints instead of PLP, and my 40 day program would be romanian deadlift, front squat, hip thrust, incline barbell benchpress, and barbell row.

        Maybe I’ll alternate sprints with a different leg exercise. Perhaps a bodyweight single-leg squat+deadlift movement.

        I figure the incline benchpress should help with the upper chest. Actually, I find dips and muscle ups to hit the clavicular head of my pecs somewhat as long as I lean over a bit.

        • Anthony December 28, 2012, 7:06 pm

          I wouldn’t do hill sprints with PLP, yeah. And I’d pick two lower body lift with 40 day program.

  • Tim May 22, 2013, 10:21 pm

    If you omitted deadlifts for a less exhaustive PC exercise do you think a beginner could do this after 2 months of bodyweight GPP?

    • Anthony May 23, 2013, 2:55 pm

      You could, but I don’t know if there’d be any benefit save for technical work.