Question: Jim, I wanted to reach out for a couple reasons. First, to let you know that your 5/3/1 program is awesome. I used it with my training partners once I read about it after college. I was also a walk on at the FCS level which made me more interested in reading up on your programs. I enjoy reading your blog posts and writings. In the past couple of years I have battled some low back injuries and fortunately was able to find a way to get through them without any injections or surgeries. Mobilizing daily is key for me now. With that being said, I have shifted my training. I have recently been doing some research on your WaLRUS training. I was listening to a podcast where you mentioned you may be coming out with some more in depth writings on this style of training. I figured if I followed your other programs with success, I’m going to start with the WaLRUS style as well. As with most people that come from the structured training protocol, I enjoy detailed and thought out training methods So, I guess I’m just checking in to see if you have any more coming out on this training. Thanks for the great programming and messages!
Answer: Thank you for the question and congratulations on making it as a walk-on in college. It will serve you well.
As for WALRUS training, I do not have a set program or training protocol for how to progress. It becomes very difficult due to the fact that there are so many variables. And one of the biggest variables is the ability to load a vest; very few people have a heavy weighted vest AND can do multiple sets of chin-ups/pull-ups with the vest. However, I've experimented quite a bit with the WALRUS training. I've learned, at least for me, that I don't need to load the vest to achieve a high training effect. Here are some general rules that I follow when doing WALRUS-style training.
1. I use one weight for my weight vest. Normally, this is around 10% of my bodyweight. However, you can choose whatever weight you feel most comfortable using. I almost always use a 25lbs vest with the majority of my WALRUS training. You don't need a 4000lbs vest for this work!
2. I have seven different WALRUS workouts I choose from each time I train. My main workout is squats, push-ups and chin-ups/pull-ups. This is the base workout; so when I don't know what to do or if I just need to do something, this is the workout that I do.
The remaining six workouts are:
- KB/DB Rows
- KB Snatch
- KB Snatch
- KB Snatch
- KB Snatch
- KB/DB Rows
This is what works best in my garage weight room with space and what I have access to. Your variations may vary.
3. The total amount of reps for each movement is going to be decided by you and what you can do. For example, some people can easily do multiple sets of weighted chin-ups; others cannot. So one person may be able to do 50 or 100 total reps. Others may only be able to do a total of 15 reps in a workout.
4. The majority of my squats are done without a KB/DB - these are just normal "bodyweight" squats (albeit done with a weight vest on). Because of this, the total amount of reps in each workout for the squat are generally over 200. You can choose to do both; with and without a KB/DB. (This is referring to a goblet squat while holding a dumbbell or a kettlebell). You will most likely have to adjust the total amount of reps when doing this.
5. Most of the training is done in a circuit style fashion. For example, if I'm aiming to do 200 squats, 100 push-ups and 50 chin-ups - I will do 10 total sets of each, the reps divided appropriately.
6. I keep a running timer during each WALRUS session and only push the time when I'm feeling good. Other times, I'll just enjoy the training and make sure everything is feeling good. Not everyday has to be a testing day. The goal should never be to finish a training day in X amount of minutes. It should happen naturally. The only time this isn't the case is when you are testing.
7. I test a couple times a year - I will pick one of the variations and choose weights and reps for each of the movements. I will then choose a time to finish the workout. All bets are off; it's all about making the time and doing what you have to do. When you train (not test) consistently and choose challenging (but doable) weights/reps - the testing is usually very easy. However, if every training session is a testing session you will burn yourself out. This is no different than barbell training. How many times have you seen someone prior to a powerlifting meet, do a "mock meet" a half-dozen times before the real meet? I still haven't figured out why this happens. Training is training. Testing is testing. Football teams don't regularly play games Monday-Saturday and expect to play well on Sunday.
8. This isn't going to make you massively huge and turn you into a bodybuilder. I jokingly call this WALRUS training because it is the fat, gross cousin of the Navy SEAL. This is for the Suburban Commando; able to mow any lawn, shovel any driveway or clean out any amount of gutters. Obviously, this is very tongue in cheek. If you can rip off 200 squats, 100 push-ups and 50 chin-up/pull-ups with an 80lbs vest in 30 minutes, you are going to be in pretty good shape (and strong) for just about anything. But don't think you are going to look like a professional bodybuilder or squat 1000lbs from this type of training.
9. Most people with a long, consistent training background will find this fun, challenging and doable provided they WANT to train like this. If you still want to do the main barbell lifts, you can perform any of the WALRUS variations after the main lift. This would be your assistance work.
10. After the WALRUS training is done, I perform 3 exercises for 2-3 sets of isolation movements. These include curls, pushdowns, upper back, neck, hamstring work and core work (lower back and abdominal training). These just give some balance into the training.
11. You can train WALRUS style as many days a week as you can handle. This is very much dependent on your background, age and goals. I generally train 3-4 days a week and do some conditioning/mobility on the off days. Don't think that more is better when doing this; better is better. So don't be so quick to burn the candle at both ends.
12. If you are looking to start this sort of training, follow the principles; start light, progress slow. Remember that being a Suburban Commando is one of the greatest honors a man can achieve. Be patient and enjoy the process.
13. If you don't have access to a weight vest, everyone of these variations can be done with your bodyweight. Again, all you have to do is choose the movements and the total amount of reps. Earlier in the year, I herniated a disc doing something stupid and had trained sans vest for a few months. I highly recommend this for people that are still under lock-n-key from the governments and have limited equipment. It's not perfect but it's better than being a pawn in your governor's fight to make you weak.
14. Be creative. One thing that I've done is bring my push-up handles with me to the stairs I train on. I perform 10 push-ups at the bottom of the stairs, run up and then do 20 squats. Repeat until you reach your goal. Don't be limited! Years ago, I added in 50 jump ropes into every round of the circuit.
15. Finally, if you a using a weight vest for push-ups, I recommend using push-up handles. The sag of the weight vest can limit the range of motion during this movement. The handles will lift you slightly off the ground, giving you the ability to do a full repetition.