One Exercise Per Day™

July 5, 2014 — 10 Comments

I've been asked this question more than once, in one way or another:

You're making crazy gainz...What's your programming like brah?!??

So, I'm going to write a blog post and tell whoever in the future to read this instead of typing the same thing over and over again.


For those who don't want to reverse engineer my training log that I painstakingly put together day after day for the past few years, my current training split generally looks like this:

  • Monday: Squat Variation (usually high bar squat)
  • Tuesday: Press Variation (usually bench press or reverse grip bench press)
  • Wednesday: Squat Variation (usually front squat)
  • Thursday: Press Variation (sometimes overhead press, but now it's either bench press or reverse grip)
  • Friday: Squat Variation (usually high bar squat)
  • Saturday: Press Variation (usually bench press or reverse grip bench press)
  • Sunday: Buffet (usually sushi buffet, but sometimes McDonalds, Vietnamese food, pizza, or something else)

As you probably noticed, I'm not naming each day to be based off of a certain body part (ie. Squat instead of “Leg Day”). The reason why I do this is because I typical only perform one lift per day!

Why I Only Perform 1 Exercise Per Day

hack-away-the-unessentialsNow, for the handful of you folks that have visited my blog more than once, you may remember that I used to do the Texas Method.

It's a solid, simple, effective program, but due to circumstances at work, I couldn't continue training multiple body parts per day. It simply took too long and I would be exhausted afterwards, especially during “Volume Day”.

So, I kinda-sorta stumbled across this One-Exercise-Per-Day thing out of necessity. I still wanted to make progress, but couldn't spend all day training. I had to "hack away at the unessential", and focus on the core, fundamental lifts.

I ended up training 5 days per week from Monday to Friday, hitting only 1 exercise per day. I found it to be time and energy efficient, and it also made my day predictable and consistent. The most important part is that I made progress.

What I Do During Each Training Session

As far as what I do each day, it generally follows this template:

  • Paused Reps => Heavy Single(s) => PR Attempt(s)  => Work Sets/Back Off Sets

My "warm up" consists of paused reps, working my way up to a heavy single that's paused, and without a belt.

Then, I'll slap on a belt and pause some more, add on more weight and then do a heavy single without a pause.

Sometimes, the “heavy single” will be replaced or followed by a PR attempt.

Usually, I'll do some work sets after (these days it’s 2-3 sets of 3-5 or something like that), but if I'm satisfied with my PR, or I'm lazy, I won't do any sets after.

And that's basically it.

The volume that I'm doing is considerably less than before, (used to perform 5 sets of 5, and sometimes 10 sets of 3) but I'm still making progress now with the lower amount of work and getting still stronger. I think this has to do with the frequency that I do sets at high intensity, and finding a balance between volume and my ability to recover from training.

Progress has been steady and I don't feel completely exhausted after a high volume workout.


The progression from week to week is pretty simple. It's usually one or more of the following:

  • Add more weight to the bar each week for the work sets
  • Add more sets each week until hit desired sets x reps
  • Add more weight and try to break a PR

As long as you're adding more weight to the bar, you're getting stronger. By the same token, as long as I'm adding more weight to the bar, I'm getting stronger.

What About Lats, Biceps & Other Accessory Work?

"Biceps are like ornaments on a Christmas tree." - Ed Coan

These days, I'll randomly bust out a set of chin ups or pull ups. Usually before I bench, I'll do some bicep curls with an empty bar to get my elbows warmed up and pain free.

My back, including my lats have been built primarily with the squat. In the future, I may add in more consistent back exercises in the form of pull ups, chin ups and deadlifts. Might even throw in some jump rope for cardio and calves, and neck training again. But then, it wouldn't be "One Exercise Per Day" really, and I would have to change the name of what I'm doing. Ahh..we'll see what happens.

The Dreaded Deadlift

This was done on July 2, 2014. The last time I did deadlifts was in APRIL.

This was done on July 2, 2014. The last time I did deadlifts was in APRIL.

I've personally found that if my squat increases, my deadlift will increase too. There's a lot of overlap between the two exercises, but I've found that I can squat with much more frequency and recovery a lot faster between squat workouts compared to deadlifting.

It may be the case that because I don't train the deadlift frequently, it takes me longer to recover from any sort of deadlift training.

As long as my squat is good, and as long as my thumbs can endure the pain and pressure from utilizing the hook grip, my deadlift will be OK.

However, if I want to become a better deadlifter, I'll have to deadlift more often. Here are some possible changes to incorporate more deadlifting:

1. Deadlifting Once A Week

  • Monday: Squat Variation
  • Tuesday: Bench Press
  • Wednesday: Deadlift
  • Thursday: Bench Press
  • Friday: Squat Variation
  • Saturday: Bench Press
  • Sunday: Buffet

This arrangement replaces a squat session with a deadlift session in the middle of the week (when I normally perform front squats).

I've experienced that the more frequent you do something, the better you get at it (within reason), and deadlifting once per week is probably better than nothing.

Squats and deadlifts aren't performed back to back, so my back will always get at least a day of rest before being summoned to lift something relatively heavy again.

Overhead presses can be done on Thursdays, but now I'm focused on pushing my regular grip bench press along with my reverse grip bench press, so I'll probably alternate between the two for every “push” session. Also, I want to see what the effects of not performing OHP on a regular basis are, and see if they're really crucial for “healthy shoulders”. I'll definitely add them into the mix in the future though, because I would like to press LMAO3PLATES overhead one day.

2. Deadlifting Twice A Week

  • Monday: Bench Press
  • Tuesday: Squat Variation
  • Wednesday: Deadlift
  • Thursday: Bench Press
  • Friday: Squat Variation
  • Saturday: Deadlift
  • Sunday: Buffet

This arrangement strikes a balance between all 3 core lifts. Squat, bench press and deadlift are done twice per week per exercise.

Squats and deadlifts are done back to back, followed by a day or 2 days “rest” after the deadlift. And by rest, I mean not performing any exercises that involves the squatting or deadlifting. Now, the reason why I set squats first, followed by deadlifts the next day is because I'm more comfortable lifting something heavy after a heavy squat workout rather than the other way around.

Because there are two bench press days during the week, I would likely perform a regular grip bench press on one day, and then reverse grip bench presses on the other.

Now, there are many ways to arrange a One Exercise Per Day, 6 Days A Week training split, but these are the two that I'm looking to branch towards.

Is Training 1 Exercise Per Day Right For Me?

Maybe. Consider this - There are many ways to skin a cat:


There are also many breeds of cats, along with many different types of big cats along with domestic cats. And I'm sure there's many different knives and tools used to skin animals.

But the point is, there are many ways to get stronger, and hitting 1 exercise per day and training 6 days a week is just one of them.

There are a lot of templates, training splits and programs out there, and I think different programs will be suitable to trainees depending on their goals and level of progress (for example, novice, intermediate, or advance lifter). Not only that, different personalities, preferences and lifestyles will be a factor in determining whether a program will be “right” for you or not.

For example, a program with a lot of accessory work relative to the big 3 movements might be to the liking of someone with a lot of time on their hands and likes to do a variety of exercises. This 1 exercise-per-day deal might be too boring for them, no matter how effect it may or may not be. On the other hand, someone with a minimalist approach to life, and/or someone who does not want to spend anymore time than necessary to make progress, hitting 1 core lift per day might be more suitable.

Personally, I like my days to be consistent and somewhat predictable. If I allot 1 hour per day to train, and do it 6 days per week, then I know that my day will be more or less the same 6 days per week. I used to love volume days while I was running the Texas Method, but this left me exhausted and non-functional for the rest of the afternoons and evenings. Hitting an exercise hard, followed by a few work sets or back off sets is enough to stimulate progress at this point of my training, and doesn't turn me into a zombie for the rest of the day.

Also, I want to add that I don't have any plans to compete anytime soon, but if I was preparing for a meet, I would probably change my programming up so I have the conditioning to perform all 3 lifts in the same day.

Are 6 Days Per Week Necessary?

Probably not. There were times when I skipped a training session and only trained 4-5 days per week. I'm sure someone can do 1 lift per day and train 3 times per week and still make gains. It might not be optimal (in other words, not enough frequency or overall volume), but they may not have the luxury to train any more days per week, or may not have the time to cram in multiple exercises per day, or both.

I would suspect that someone who is hitting the squat, bench press and deadlift once per week are probably using loads and volume that require 1 week of recovery.

One reason why I like training 6 days per week is because I don't like rest days. A lot of times I find myself being restless on "rest" days (ironic right?!) and itching to train. By training one lift each day, and training 6 days per week (with Sundays allotted for buffets), this allows me to avoid the frustration of not training when I want to.


Aint Nobody got time fo that2

This is a very simple, no BS, bare minimum (I've seen some “minimalist” training logs out there with more than 1 exercise...ain't nobody got time for that!), “Occam's Razor” approach to training that works for me. I'm sure there's other people out there (past and present) who have trained in a similar fashion that I do who have gotten brutally strong. If this sounds appealing to you, give it a shot for a few months and see what kind of gains (or losses!) you'll make.

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011