Candito 6 Week Program Review
My training has concentrated primarily on hypertrophy methods for an extended period of time and as a result it’s been difficult to make substantial progress in any of the compound lifts. I’ve been researching a number of strength training and powerlifting programs, and I plan to give three of the most popular methods a trial while documenting my results.
The first program I’ll run for six weeks is Jonnie Candito’s 6 Week Strength program. Candito is a 21 year powerlifter who’s attracted a loyal following due to his intelligent approach to programming and articulate and informative YouTube channel. What I like about Candito, apart from being one hell of a strong lifter and all round sharp guy, is his very humble and helpful demeanor.
Candito outlines the program very explicitly and includes a spreadsheet that calculates all your weights for the entire 6 weeks. Best of all, he provides this information for free. (Donations are accepted if you derive some value from the program)
As I’m not a power-lifter and will probably never compete in power-lifting, I’m simply using the program to get stronger in the lifts that I feel will benefit my musculature once I switch back to a hypertrophy focus. I’ve made some slight changes in that I’m using a decline instead of flat bench, simply because I feel that the decline hits the chest more effectively than the regular flat. I also haven’t back squatted in over 6 years. I think the front squat is far superior for hitting the quads and over time I’ve worked up to 170kg (382lb) for a triple. I’m nowhere near that level of strength in the back squat, although I’m looking to boost that figure very quickly given some more experience in the lift.
1RM’s beginning the program.
Decline Bench – 145kg (326lb)
Squat – 135kg (303lb)
Deadlift – 230kg (517lb)
Not exactly earth shattering lifts I know, but I’ve been spending the majority of my time in the 8-12 rep range neglecting the strength component for some time (to my detriment). I also don’t have a spotter or a safety rack which in past experience can slightly undermine confidence when it comes to really pushing the upper limits of my strength training…. And now I’m sounding like an excuse making pussy….
After establishing my 1RM”s, I took 5 days off to recover fully before starting this program. I always feel somewhat detrained when I take cumulative days off, so my first workout felt a bit heavy, even though I was used to the prescribed weights. The first two weeks are aimed at muscular conditioning and hypertrophy, using medium weights and mid rep range intensities. It felt good to be doing the heavy lifts few times per week as opposed to just once. In the past when I’ve benched, squatted and deadlifted multiple times a week, I’ve noticed significant progress in strength.
Second week went well again. I hit the max reps on all of my lifts. In fact, some of the weights felt a little too easy. Watching Candito’s videos are always inspiring and break a lot of mental barriers seeing a guy of my size who can put up some enormous poundages. As such, I had to resist the urge to fiddle the numbers this week and go a bit heavier, even though I did bump some of the lifts up 5-10 pounds here or there some days. One of the reasons for my pathetically low squat RM is due to injuring my IT bands over the last few months. I really need to find a foam roller or some solution for my tight IT bands as they are screaming during my squat sets. Also I’m glad to finally know how to perform a stiff legged deadlift properly in order to hit the hamstrings more effectively. I was holding the bar too close to the body as opposed to keeping it at a distance. Much more soreness in the hams the next day.
This week’s phase is named Linear Max OT and prescribes only 4 lifting days as opposed to the previous 5 day hypertrophy weeks. Despite the reduced volume and frequency this week, my body was experiencing horrible amounts of inflammation and joint pain. My IT bands which have been causing me considerable discomfort during the last 6 months leg training were again screaming this week during every single leg rep. My shoulders and elbows required some serious ice packs by the end of the week and my strength dropped off considerably in the bench due to the pain. I’ve been trying to minimise supplement use the last few months, but I think I’m going to be forced to start taking fish oil and curcumin again in the hope that I can reduce some of this pain. In an effort to bulk and add calories, I’ve really upped my carb intake with copious amounts of chocolate, McDonalds, banana and syrup pancakes which I think has added to my overall levels of inflammation, particularly since I haven’t had the usually high amounts of quality vegetables that I would regularly eat back home.
This week began the Heavy Weight Acclimation phase which sees the main lifts move into the 90-95% intensity range and the reintroduction of the optional lifts and assistance work moving back into the higher, bodybuilding rep ranges. The first two days I made all the lifts for the required reps but not without some considerable discomfort to all my joints, especially my IT bands which are now seizing up in bed at night. I had to take a week off mid-week to travel to Hong Kong and wasn’t able to train. Talking to Izzy from Powerlifting to Win he said that as this is a periodised program, I basically “fucked it up” with the week off and he recommended to start from scratch, but on returning after the break I felt somewhat more refreshed with less overall fatigue and joint soreness. I was able to get a double for 315 on my bench and shift the weight up slightly on my squat DESPITE incurring an injury in my upper glutes/lower back on my first warmup set of the day. I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the heat, less than optional nutrition and supplementation here or what, but I find I’m very prone to niggles and strains. I don’t see a whole lot of guys training heavy here at all to be honest. I added an extra light, circuit training day to help with some fatigue management and pump some blood to the joints. It helped immensely with the joint pain as well as shake off the accumulated CNS fatigue
This is the week where I’m going to test how much strength I’ve gained and hopefully nail some big totals. This week is called High Intensity Strength with the frequency reduced to 3 days and volume likewise reduced so that the focus can be placed squarely on nailing the main lifts in their 97% range for reps. My goal here was to hit 4 reps on each lift indicating that I’ve gotten much stronger on the big 3 over the 5 weeks. Week 6 of the program gives you the option to officially retest your 1RMs, deload or restart the program. But I plan to take my new maxes and move into a higher frequency hypertrophy based program in an aim to add some more muscle using the heavier poundages.
In order to prepare for each day I’ve been very careful with my diet, avoiding eating any carbs before my training and fueling up on some espressos and nicotine gum in addition to my daily 1 preworkout scoop. (I think cat’s piss has more stimulants than this C4 rubbish) In my off days this week I’m having one cheat meal usually in the form of 2-3 triple cheeseburgers from McDonalds to get in extra calories and sodium which I’ve found the help the next day’s lifting. The cheats were also necessary because I was experiencing a massive drop in appetite the last two weeks indicating that exhaustion was creeping in. (Which I feel baffled by because the program is so low volume and I’ve had a lot of time off recently???)
The first workout tested the squats at 97% of my 1RM at 1-4 reps. I easily nailed this set for 4 reps, so I kept adding weight until I ended the session with 151kg (340lbs) on the bar.
The second workout of the week aimed at hitting a new PR on the bench. I was able to get 4 reps at 142.5kg and a single at 151kg (340lbs) – an overall increase of 5kg (10lb) in 5 weeks.
The third workout was the dreaded deadlift – by now I had been feeling severe fatigue after the first two workouts, similar to what some would refer to ask CNS exhaustion (although I’ve recently learned the term is a misnomer to describe the deep ceded fatigue associated with chronic overtraining/over- reaching), but I hit the 4 reps at 225kg (506lb) regardless. I didn’t go for any singles. I dropped all the assistance work after hitting the prescribed rep max and went home.
I was destroyed for the next 3 days….haha
The program yielded some nice results for me overall. I classify myself an intermediate when it comes to powerlifting, so I expected some good “beginner gains”. I would like to see how a second run of the program back to back would have worked, but as a bodybuilder I feel it would be more beneficial to take my gains and run so-to-speak, applying them to workouts in the higher rep ranges for hypertrophy.
Squat – 151kg (340lb) x 1 = 21kg gain
Bench – 151kg (340lb) x 1 = 6kg gain
Deadlift – projected next cycle max 245kg (550lb) x 1 = 15kg gain
I took my weight the day after and I was exactly the same as I was before the program 83kg (186lb) so no weight gain or loss happened despite my appetite crash the past two weeks. I personally didn’t feel as “full” or “pumped” as normal, but the weight held steady.
What Would I Do Different?
Firstly, I wouldn’t fuck with those maxes, no matter if they felt light or not. Like Paul Carter states, it’s better to underprogram and smash each week’s weights with confidence then to go that little bit heavier and struggle mid cycle.
I also wouldn’t do a strength program again without some recuperation support like a foam roller, regular massage, fish oil and some kind of joint support. I know I sound like a whiny bitch, but I’m hitting 40 very soon and these joints and tendons are starting to feel the accumulated wear and tear.
All in all, I loved this program. Jonnie has set out a very comprehensive, no bullshit routine that is helping people from all walks of life and backgrounds smash their previous strength limits out of the park. I will be definitely running the program again in the future and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone of intermediate level (Jonnie also has a linear program for novices on his site that’s also free).
And with that, I’m off to donate some “thank-you-gratitude” dollars to Jonnie’s site.