Backed by immense popular demand, we’re finally going to sit down and review the revised and updated addition of Jonnie Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program. I was impressed by both the quality and overall philosophy that went into Candito’s Linear Program. As such, I was pretty stoked to take a deeper look into Jonnie’s Six Week Periodization Plan. Candito didn’t disappoint! While I don’t think I’m ever going to rate any program as perfect, even my own programs, this is, in my opinion, one of the better programs we’ve looked at thus far for the natural trainee.
If you’re interested in snagging a copy of the Candito Six Week Strength Program, you can do so at CanditoTrainingHQ.com. Guys, if you use this program, and you see good results, please consider making a donation to Jonnie. Having put out my own program for free as well, I know the enormous amount of time, thought, and emotional energy that goes into such a release. Your generosity and appreciation make this kind of work possible for guys like Jonnie and I. So, again, I implore you to give back to Jonnie if you find yourself making all kinds of gains on his program.
Without further ado, let’s begin our official review of the Candito Six Week Strength Program.
If you’d rather watch than read:
Candito Background and Context
For those who don’t know, this is the actual program that Candito uses to prepare for his powerlifting meets. In his own words, more or less, all he had to do to create this program was sit down and formalize his own training so that others could use the template. In other words, this isn’t some typical, theory-spouting guru who has never even had someone try the program he is espousing, this is the actual program Jonnie has used to become one of the strongest drug-tested, USAPL junior lifters in the country; this is the actual program Jonnie used to qualify for IPF World’s.
Jonnie Raw Squats 475×8 at 181lbs:
In other words, for you natural trainees, this program was designed by a natural, for naturals, and it has been field tested and approved by Jonnie Candito himself. In other words, this program has a solid pedigree as a legit powerlifting option for the natural trainee.
Candito 6 Week Strength Program
The actual program is relatively complex. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of the spreadsheet so you can see the specifics for yourself.
Here is my general extrapolation of the plan from the spreadsheet itself.
As you can see, the first two weeks, which Jonnie calls the “Muscular Conditioning” phase are, of course, higher rep in nature. This, of course, means the intensity is a bit on the low side. However, unlike so many other typical American powerlifting programs which confuse hypertrophy phases with “bodybuilding phases”, Candito still has you doing your “muscular conditioning” with weights near 80%. He retains specificity. In this phase, you’ll lift five times per week with three upperbody workouts and two lowerbody workouts.
In Weeks three and four, the program shifts over into a major emphasis on strength. This phase of the program is fairly low in overall volume, but the intensity is quite high. You’ll regularly be working at 85-90% plus. In fact, you’ll notice that the percentages go up by about 5% or so per week. This phase of the program calls for training four times per week with a more traditional upper/lower split featuring twice weekly frequency for each part of the body.
The program culminates in either Week 5 or Week 6. It is up to you. As you can see, Week 5 is an extremely high intensity, extremely low volume week where you essentially get to see where you’re at. There are only three workouts and each is dedicated to testing where you’re at on one of the lifts. If you can get at least a double at 97.5%, you know that you’ve gotten stronger. Typically, most people can only double 95% or so. If you get four reps, you know you’ve gotten much stronger.
In Week 6, you have the option of deloading, skipping the week entirely and starting over at Week 1, or you can find real maxes.
This program is designed to peak you at the end of the five weeks. If you wanted to do a meet on this program, you’d simply time it so that Week 6 landed on meet week. Being a program designed for a powerlifter by a powerlifter, you can easily peak for a contest using Candito’s Six Week Strength Program.
Here’s some of Jonnie’s recent meet footage:
As I touched upon earlier, this program is roughly broken up into two periods. The first period emphasizes “muscular conditioning” whereas the last three weeks are called things such as “Max Linear OT Phase” and “Heavy Weight Acclimation”. In other words, you spend the first two weeks focused primarily on hypertrophy, improving work capacity, and building a base while in the last three weeks you focus on converting those hypertrophic gains and improvements in work capacity into actual strength PRs.
The program uses what I’d call “Pendulum” periodization. In other words, unlike some more advanced periodization schemes, you’re never working explicitly on one physical quality. During the muscular conditioning weeks, you’re still doing tons of work at 80% which will also improve strength. During the heavy weight acclimation weeks, you’re doing plenty of sets above six reps which, again, is still going to help build hypertrophy.
Rather than an explicit emphasis on one quality during any given period, what you actually have is a “pendulum” that swings in focus from the beginning of the program towards the end. In the beginning you focus on hypertrophy and conditioning with a healthy side of strength, but by the end you’re focusing on strength with a healthy side of hypertrophy and conditioning.
In my opinion, this is the single most effective type of periodization for the intermediate trainee. While early intermediates may not need anything this complex, and may make progress faster on simpler routines, this will still certainly work for them. Advanced intermediates are going to need periodization like this in order to make gains. In fact, even “early” advanced athletes can use this type of programming possible. If you’re beyond noob gains, it is likely this type of “pendulum” periodization is appropriate for you.
All programs beyond the novice phase must introduce variety in intensity and volume. Novices can fully recover between workouts, but no other population of trainee can manage this. Typically, early intermediate trainees only need variation from workout to workout within a given training week. They don’t necessarily need variation from week to week. However, even if you don’t need variation from week to week, you’ll still make progress. It will just be a bit slower.
Candito’s Six Week Strength program features highly intelligent variation in volume and intensity from week to week. Mirroring the pendulum periodization emphasis, the program starts off with higher volumes in weeks one and two and slowly tapers down until you’re really grinding the heavy weights in Weeks 5 and 6.
To use the squat as an example, look at the max number of lifts you might perform each week:
Week 1: 56
Week 2: 65
Week 3: 24
Week 4: 14
Week 5: 4
Essentially, what is going on here, is a “mini-block” programming scheme. The first two weeks serve as an “accumulation” period. The second week is even harder than the first. This beats you up a bit going into the third week. As such, the volume is drastically reduced while the intensity is moved from around 80% to 85%. This begins the “transmutation” phase. You let some of that fatigue dissipate while getting more acclimated to heavy weights. In Weeks 4 and 5, you go full blown into the “intensification” phase as you’re handling multiple reps above 90% throughout both weeks. Volume is reduced even further to ensure a peak at the end of the program.
This is a highly effective, highly intelligent program organization. This is exactly how I would organize programming for the intermediate trainee. This is beautifully done. For most natural powerlifters, pendulum periodization plus block programming is the best combination there is in my opinion.
Now, it is worth noting that highly advanced lifters probably need “blocks” to last a bit longer. Typically, advanced lifters will accumulate for 4-6 weeks rather than two. However, realistically, advanced lifters already have a highly personalized plan. They’re advanced lifters for a reason. Nonetheless, if you’re a highly advanced lifter this probably isn’t a sustainable rate of progress for you. You’ll need more time than five to six weeks for each cycle.
One thing that I really love about Jonnie’s programs is that, because he’s a natural lifter, he understands the importance of specificity for training economy. Unlike so many other American programs, he doesn’t inundate the lifter with mass amounts of distracting, mostly unproductive bodybuilding style assistance. In fact, he doesn’t encourage much lowerbody assistance at all. With the exception of some ab work, I couldn’t agree more with this approach.
Now, Jonnie does include quite a bit of upperbody assistance, but a lot of it is optional and he doesn’t list specific percentages and weights for these movements. This is because you’re not supposed to treat them as if they as important as the main lifts. This is because, as a natural trainee, they simply aren’t. If your main movements aren’t going up, you’re not making progress. Overdoing the assistance is one of the most common reasons for novices and intermediates to “stall”.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the way that Candito has laid out the assistance on this program. One of the criticisms I frequently receive is that my programming doesn’t include ENOUGH assistance. I obviously disagree, but the way that Jonnie has de-emphasized assistance, yet still provided an option for those of you who need to exercise your inner-bodybuilding fantasies, has given me ideas on how to improve my own programming to appeal to broader demographics.
Most of the volume on this program comes from the main movements. This is as it should be. A lot of you guys need to get rid of this brain-washing where assistance is key to driving gains. It isn’t. Consider that Mike Tuchscherer, owner of a 2100lbs+ drug-tested raw total, one of the 20 highest totals of all-time in his weight class, drug users or not, does NO traditional bodybuilding assistance. NONE. He only does the competition movements and competition movement variations. He does not perform tricep extensions, pushdowns, curls, etc. A lot of you need to learn this lesson for yourself.
Tuchscherer totals 2110:
I’m not necessarily a big fan of the ten rep sets that appear throughout Jonnie’s program, but this is a minor quibble on a program that rates well in terms of specificity.
In an approach I’m highly fond of, Jonnie’s program combines basic progressive overload with rep ranges. The progressive overload, i.e. handling heavier and heavier percentages each week, serves as the stimulus that forces the lifter to adapt and make progress. However, by including rep ranges, Jonnie allows lifters to make progress at their own rate. If you can add weight AND reps, that’s excellent.
If you’re prescribed a fixed amount of reps, you can’t take advantage of good days and the bad days bury you. When you combine progressive overload with rep ranges, you get the best of both worlds.
Overall, Candito’s programming is excellent in terms of fatigue management. You have intelligent variation in intensity and volume from workout to workout and week to week. The “block” programming structure allows intermediates to recover from the harsh workload in the beginning of the cycle.
You’re also getting an adequate amount of frequency on the main lifts. On many weeks, you only do real deadlifts once per week. I’m not necessarily a fan of that approach, but at least you’re still doing heavy variations.
The one serious criticism that I have of this program, in terms of fatigue management, is that I personally don’t know that it is enough volume. Now, this comes down to personal preference and experience, but I think the program could stand to lower the average intensity and increase the overall workload just a bit. While you’re certainly doing an adequate amount of work in the first two weeks, the volume tapers pretty hard towards the end primarily because of the work above 90%.
For a given five week period on this program, you’re averaging about 30-35 working set lifts on the squat. Consider that an early intermediate program like the Texas Method has you doing 40 reps per week. Consider that Madcow’s has you doing 70 working reps per week.
Now, Candito’s program features higher average intensities than these programs I’ve just mentioned, but I’d prefer to see more overall work. That said, I’m confident that this is still enough work for most naturals to make progress if they push themselves. I’m just not sure it is optimal.
This leads us right into individual differences. While Candito makes extensive use of rep ranges, which are a way to autoregulate intensity of sorts, the program does not include much in the way of volume autoregulation. A few AMRAP sets here and there aren’t going to cut it.
There are going to be some people out there, in my opinion, who just need more volume than this program offers. With individual differences addressed, through volume autoregulation, this wouldn’t be a problem.
As I’ve said over and over again in this series, without addressing volume autoregulation, I don’t believe a program can be truly optimal. We all need different amounts of volume when different life conditions arrive and mess with our training. We can tell someone to do 5×5@75%, and if they finish it, we know how much volume they’ve done, but we still have no idea what that volume did to them. For some, that is a deload. For others, that is a workload that cripples them for ten days. Volume autoregulation is a critical component of programming.
Criticisms aside, Jonnie does have some autoregulation in the program present. We’ve already mentioned the AMRAPs, but Candito does give lifters “optional” exercises depending on how they’re feeling. On good days, they’ll be able to profitably add some extra bodybuilding work without damaging anything. On bad days, they won’t feel compelled to add anything extra. Additionally, he encourages lifters to follow a “listen to your body” approach on the main assistance movements in terms of weight selection. This is a form of autoregulation to be sure.
As was the case with Jonnie’s Linear Program, the biggest and, really, the only serious weakness of the program is that it doesn’t do anything to autoregulate volume.
As I said at the beginning, this program is rock solid. This is one of the best programs I’ve seen out there for the intermediate drug-free, raw lifter. You’ve got a fantastic, intelligent mix of periodization and programming that will allow an intermediate lifter to run this method for a long period of time. I’m always a big fan of programmatic methods that are capable of producing results in the long run. Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program, despite the name, is one such program that offers the opportunity for long term results.
The frequency is adequate, the bodybuilding nonsense is kept to a minimum, specificity is excellent, the program is designed to lead into a meet peak, you have the incorporation of rep ranges, the overload is in check, fatigue management is good, and, in general, you have a solid program made by a natural powerlifter for natural powerlifters.
As I said, I think the one missing ingredient here is volume autoregulation. I think the program might be a bit light on the overall volume for many trainees. Without volume autoregulation, you just have to hope you’re not one of those people who responds better to higher volumes.
In conclusion, I would have to say that I do recommend this program to intermediate trainees. If you’ve exhausted your linear gains, and even programs like the Texas Method and Madcow’s don’t really work consistently for you anymore, this is a truly solid option for you. And if you’re smart, you can even study RTS principles and figure out how to autoregulate the volume for yourself.
You can get a copy of the program and the spreadsheet on Jonnie’s Website: CanditoTrainingHQ.com. If you use this program, and you experience good results, please consider donating to show your support to Jonnie. Help support the lifters who are spreading the word about raw, drug-free powerlifting!
We’re really getting close to wrapping up the programming series now guys. If you have final requests, please be sure to make them. At this point, I am quite anxious to move on, but if I get a dozen people all asking for the same thing, well, you know I have to deliver for my subscribers and readers. This is your last chance for program requests. That doesn’t mean I’ll never do another one again, but I am going to move on for quite a while.
Next up, we’ll be taking a general look at the ultrahigh frequency programs such as the Bulgarian Method and “Squatting Everyday”. This should be really informative for us all and I’m looking forward to it.
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Table of Contents
Powerlifting Programs I: Scientific Principles of Powerlifting Programming
Powerlifting Programs II: Critical Training Variables
Powerlifting Programs III: Training Organization
Powerlifting Programs IV: Starting Strength
Powerlifting Programs V: StrongLifts 5×5
Powerlifting Programs VI: Jason Blaha’s 5×5 Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs VII: Jonnie Candito’s Linear Program
Powerlifting Programs VIII: Sheiko’s Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs IX: GreySkull Linear Progression
Powerlifting Programs X: The PowerliftingToWin Novice Program
Powerlifting Programs XI: Madcow’s 5×5
Powerlifting Programs XII: The Texas Method
Powerlifting Programs XIII: 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1
Powerlifting Programs XIV: The Cube Method
Powerlifting Programs XV: The Juggernaut Method
Powerlifting Programs XVI: Westside Barbell Method
Powerlifting Programs XVII: Sheiko Routines
Powerlifting Programs XVIII: Smolov and Smolov Junior
Powerlifting Programs XIX: Paul Carter’s Base Building
Powerlifting Programs XX: The Lilliebridge Method
Powerlifting Programs XXI: Jonnie Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program
Powerlifting Programs XXII: The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
Powerlifting Programs XXIII: Brian Carroll’s 10/20/Life
Powerlifting Programs XXIV: Destroy the Opposition by Jamie Lewis
Powerlifting Programs XXV: The Coan/Philippi Deadlift Routine
Powerlifting Programs XXVI: Korte’s 3×3
Powerlifting Programs XXVII: RTS Generalized Intermediate Program