40 Days of Lifting

40 Days of Lifting

Early this spring I woke up with a slight discomfort in my low back. I didn’t pay it much attention and continued with life as usual. “Usual” consisting of working, lifting, sprinting up hills, running through the woods, and driving a lot. It was just an occasional ache that gradually got worse until one day I woke up in severe pain and had trouble getting out of bed.

I took a few weeks off from lifting and set a routine of movement and traditional therapeutic exercises. After a few weeks it felt some better but definitely didn’t feel that I was moving like I should and was still hesitant to pick up a lot. So I decided to try something unconventional that I had read from great strength coach Dan John.

I have watched Dan John’s videos, read his books along with a lot of his articles and blog post and had the pleasure of meeting him this summer. Dan is a proponent of keeping things simple and I decided to try my own version of his 40 day workout. He recommends that you choose 5 movements and do these 5 movements for the next 40 times that you lift. Dan’s recommendations are to use:

- Posterior chain movement

- Upper body push

- Upper body pull

- Full body explosive

- Anterior chain (Abdominal)

He also recommends doing a squat movement as part of the warm-up.

Sounds almost too simple but sometimes, simple works best. After 2 weeks of not lifting and minimal relief for my back pain I decided to go for it!

The beauty of this program is you pick what you do and just stick with it for 40 training sessions. Very little mental effort is required. You just have to show up and do it!

This worked great for me because I was on the road a lot this summer and didn’t always have access to a gym. To suit my nomadic life, I chose exercises that required minimal equipment that I could carry with me wherever I may roam. A kettlebell seemed like the perfect object.

I put a 24 kilogram kettlebell in my truck, which allowed me to train anywhere I wanted and whenever I wanted. This meant truck stops, friends back yards, lunch time at work, and hotel parking lots became my personal gym.

My warm-up consisted of dynamic total body movement. The entire warm-up and lifting session could be completed in less than 15 minutes. I used the same kettlebell with each exercise.


- Mobility and warm up

- Supine single arm press

- Bent over single arm row

- Standing bicep curl

- Swings

- Overhead carry

The supine single arm press, bent over single arm row, and standing bicep curl were performed for 2 sets of 5 reps each. (Haven’t performed direct arm work in years so I decided to throw in some curls for the girls. Sadly it hasn’t worked.) When I first started, I completed 20 swings but worked my way up to 50 swings. To finish the day I would carry the kettlebell overhead a minimal of 20 feet. As I progressed, I increased my carries from one rep of 20 feet to 3 times at 60 feet.

After 10 sessions, my back was not hurting but definitely knew it wasn’t completely better. By the 30th day of the program, I had no pain and actually went to the weight room and was able to deadlift and squat with not pain.

When I completed the 40 day program, I was pain free and actually moved better. Now I am able to lift with no pain or compensation. I am also stronger than I was before my back began hurting.

That’s it. Simple but not easy.

Feel like you need to change up your lifting program?
Feel like you don’t have time to lift?
Want to get better at a particular lift?

Try the 40 day program and you will BE BETTER!