The Krypteia program has been used by all the HS/College athletes I work with and members of the private forum. Here is a review of this program by forum member Josh. This was done in two parts and over time; I will publish both in this blog post.
If you don't have the time to read this here's the basic synopsis: Awesome program for anyone who is physically able to complete it. It's the closest I've come to a workout that actually balances conditioning and strength and doesn't leave you feeling wasted.
This review covers Part 1 of Krypteia. I've been using 5/3/1 since 2011. I've used it while gaining strength or size, while losing weight or improving conditioning, when I had as much time as needed to train and when I had about 30 minutes maximum. I've completed everything from the original plan to the Monolith; I've used BBB, FSL, SSL, Spinal Tap x 2, and others I can't remember. I'm the opposite of genetically gifted: I get fat easily, put on muscle slowly, gain strength slowly, run slowly, etc. About the only thing in my favor is I'm consistent. I have access to an athlete's weight room at a small university, and I'm usually alone when I lift, so it's like having a huge garage gym with all the racks and bars and dumbbells I need. I also used the campus gym a few times to see how it might work for people who have a commercial gym. This was typically a busy gym when I was there... I saw a lot of weird stuff. One lady was doing DB SLDLs on a stability ball with a flat bottom. No clue why. Another kid whose body looked like an upside down triangle on two straight lines was squatting twice my weight using a 7" range of motion. And that's a generous seven inches... the way your girlfriend might measure it when you ask.
Krypteia came into my life at the perfect time. I like to tell myself that Jim sensed my needs and Wendler Claus dropped this off for Christmas.
My goals for 2017 were pretty simple:
1. Return to a place of strong conditioning. I've never been the fastest or strongest, but it's rare that I met someone who was faster and stronger for longer than I could go.
2. Drop body fat. This wasn't a "beach body challenge" goal. This was a quality of life issue. At 5'10", I like to operate at around 200 pounds. I started 2017 at 227 after eight months of a crappy diet and a lot of work and personal stress. The fact that I managed to keep lifting during that time is the only positive I can claim. At least I stuck to a plan.
3. Find a way to do #1 and #2 so that I spent no more than 60 minutes in the gym, including changing into workout clothes. This wasn't about laziness, it was about not having time. I also needed a plan that would allow me to do my own programming for running. I know what I want and need from my hills and sleds and tracks, so I just needed a program that I could follow that wouldn't interfere with the running.
I don't know if the idea of supersetting a main lift with alternating accessory lifts was Jim's or if it's been around for a while and I missed it. Either way, it's a clever way to run a program that's built on shorter rest periods. In fact, I was a little nervous during the first week of the program as my conditioning was pretty bad by the end of 2016. It took a couple weeks, but I was able to adapt. The genius of the alternating supersets is that you get just enough rest to the rest of your body while you push with another muscle group. I was also worried about four days per week of leg work, but that turned out to not be big deal for me. In six weeks (two cycles with the same TM, per Jim's instructions), I've dropped six pounds. And that's not "I was six pounds lighter one morning after I'd starved the day before". This was the average weight after checking the scales three times a week. This was genuine weight loss. Not astounding, but what's also important is that I'm still kicking ass in the gym. If you've ever tried to lift seriously AND lose body fat, you know that it's difficult to not feel like crap about three weeks in.
This is a great program for anyone who needs a reality check about their conditioning or for someone who wants to kick ass in the weight room and doesn't have 60+ minutes to spend. It's focused and simple to follow. If I wasn't also dropping body fat, I suspect I could use this program to push to new PR weights while still not being in the weight room for more than 45 minutes.
If you're using a commercial gym, the BP/OHDP days are easy to follow: grab your bench/rack, grab your DBs, go. If you're moving quickly, you're done in about 30 minutes, so it shouldn't cause much of a problem. The Squat/DL days are another animal. If you can handle pullups without assistance, you can usually do them on your squat rack. I was lucky enough to either have the dip station open or someone using it would let me grab a quick set.
I followed Jim's instructions to the letter, with one exception (noted below). I also followed Jim's mantra about starting light, and maybe I started too light, but as one of my goals is to drop some body fat, I felt like it would be more conducive to start very low and then build back up. The idea (hope) was that I would be ready to push heavier weights again when I got down to a lower weight. So far, it's worked. For the main lifts, my strategy was simple:
1. Look over my training logs for each of the four lifts
2. Identify the maximum weight for each lift at which I had done five reps.
3. Set that weight as my max.
4. Take 85% of that weight.
Was this overkill? Maybe. But it was also humbling to be in a gym and be benching 150 pounds or deadlifting 225 pounds for five reps. It's especially humbling when you're in a public gym and you're a professor on campus with the reputation for being an athlete, and you have students seeing you LOOK like you can squat 500 while you squat 185 pounds. It's really bad when you have the 20-year old on steroids squat next to you and he's doubled up your weight and he's still going up. It's humbling, but I needed a big slice of humility in my life. It reminded me how easy it is to get caught up in LOOKING like you were strong versus actually being someone who wakes up in the morning thinking about how they're going to kick ass that day. The ONLY thing I had at that point, when I had 185 pounds on my shoulders, was to focus on the form and the explosion. I looked weak, but at least no one could criticize the effort.
As for the supersets, I did the following:
I started my DB work at 20 pounds for 15 reps. Each session, I went up five pounds. I'm up to 60 pounds this week. The point of this was two-fold:
1. I wanted to go with short rest periods.
2. Humble pie for one.
I'm pleased with the results. As soon as my main lift was done, I marked it off on my log and hit the timer. Then I did the accessory lift. I usually finished it at the 45 - 60 second mark. During the warm-up/main sets phase of the main lift, the remaining time was spent changing out weights. Otherwise, I had about 30 seconds to rest. Following this plan, I finished the upper body days in about 30 minutes and the lower body days in about 40 minutes. The main difference here was allowing myself a little extra time during main lifts on lower body days to catch my breath.
1. I'll just get this out of the way: I did have to make ONE change to the program. The weight room I use doesn't have a way to do dips and bench dips jack up my shoulders. Instead, I did close-grip pushups. I feel like I'm about to have ten people scream at me about following the program as written, but my take is that it's the program I needed to be doing and it didn't make a lot of sense to not do it because of ONE accessory exercise. I did manage to use the campus gym for legs a couple of days, so I did the dips then.
2. If I had time during days 1 - 3, I walked with a weight vest or did sled pulls. Nothing strenuous. On day 4, I did some bicep curls and heavy shrugs (I was going light with some of the DB work) but that wasn't mandatory. Again, I know these weren't part of the program, but I had the time and it didn't hurt my recovery, so I felt like I was within my license.
3. On two days I didn't lift, I did my conditioning. It's personal to me, so posting it would be useless. I did keep it reasonable, focused around improving overall cardio and helping with body fat loss (hills, sled pulls, mile runs for time).
4. My diet would be Jim-approved other than I can't eat red meat because of cholesterol issues. Lots of chicken, fish, veggies, black beans.
Setting Up the Program
1. As usual, I read the guide several times, laid out my plan on a spreadsheet, then went back over to make sure I had it right. No, it isn't complicated, but it's easy to read something, write out your reps/sets, and forget something else.
2. I kept my TM the same instead of raising it, so technically I'm on Cycle 1 of the 5/3 plan. Keeping the TM the same is probably a really good idea (see below) if you want to push conditioning.
3. I scheduled a time each day for recovery because I suspected that I was going to need it. I think this was important for me, because setting a specific time on my calendar (and making my kids do it with me) made it a priority.
4. I set my BBB weight to 40% of max, with the intention of adding five pounds each week.
5. I planned to continue adding five pounds to the DB weights as long as I could hit ten reps each set and not feel like I was compromising the main lifts.
Who Would Benefit from this Program
Personally, I think everyone who isn't following a program for rehabilitative, medical, or professional reasons should give this one a try at some point. If nothing else, it will give you a change of pace and make you really think about how much BS you (or I, anyway) tend to put into a program that isn't necessary. I haven't seen size loss, my arms haven't become toothpicks, etc. Jim already mentioned that this program isn't for powerlifters, and (as a former distance runner) I would add that Part 2 is not the program to use alongside your marathon training. You'd have to change so much (in my amateur, ignorant) opinion that it would be like ordering a cheeseburger at an Asian restaurant. That's not to say you cannot run with this program. I've been a runner (not a fast or particularly good one) most of my life, so maybe I was better prepared, but I still ran twice a week (see below).
Also, if you're at a point in your life at which spending an hour just lifting (so 90 minutes total) is not an option, but you want to stay strong, conditioned, and generally healthy, this is literally the perfect program for you (assuming you're physically able to handle it).
Monday- Squats with BBB supplemental and Krypteia assistance work.
Tuesday- 15 minutes stationary bike at the university gym, watching the students strut around and hump each other's legs. There is this one girl I have respect for, though. Besides reminding me of my wife, she comes in, does her barbell stuff, rides a bike, and leaves. She's there at the same time every Tuesday/Thursday. After the bike, I do three half-mile timed runs on the track. The goal is to beat the previous week's time by one second. These are not sprints, but hard runs.
Wednesday- BP with BBB supplemental and Krypteia DB assistance.
Thursday- 10 minute stationary bike at the university gym. More kids dicking around. I guess, to be fair, there are some doing real work. But they're young, so fuck giving them credit. Timed mile run, goal is to beat previous week by 1 second. 10 minute stationary bike.
Friday- Deadlifts with BBB supplemental and Krypteia assistance work.
The weekends are mine. I have plenty to do and I don't sit around all day. There's always a tree to be cut up, logs to be split, cars to wash/vacuum, and kids to run around with.
Fat LossI started part two at about the same time I started taking medicine for hypothyroidism. I had gained thirty pounds in sixty days from November 1 to January 1, so I was due for some weight loss. I'm ten pounds down in five weeks. I think that Krypteia, therefore, is a great program for someone who wants to get into or stick with 5/3/1 style lifting, but needs to improve their conditioning and lose weight. If you set the weight low, you will be able to hit your reps; you will still add weight to the bar each cycle; and you will improve your conditioning. You may not set a PR, but I think I'll eventually work my way back to where I was, only I'll be in much better condition.
Size and Strength This is a program you can get this with (just look at the volume). I've made size and strength gains on less volume. If you stick with this for a few cycles and take longer rests than I did, you'll have a 45-minute program that keeps pushing the PRs. I was thinking this would be an especially great program for a young lifter, someone returning from injury, or a lifter who needs to lose weight and improve their conditioning while not losing strength. It's so easy to program and it combines strength training with conditioning to whatever level you can handle.
This program is simply amazing. The praise I offered in my review of part one holds for part two. I'm sweating after a couple rounds and I leave feeling like I did some serious work. My longest workout is the deadlift, and it usually takes 35 minutes. Squat and BP go faster because it's easier to swap weights on first half of the workout and because the BBB portion of deadlift just requires an extra 20 seconds or so of rest.
If you haven't tried a program like this, you might try the 5/3/1 for Beginners (I think that's the right one), because it has the same emphasis on not taking long breaks, so it will prepare you for this program better than a traditional lifting routine.
Be serious about recovery. There's a lot of leg work here - in every workout - and you don't want to go into your deadlift with sore legs. Foam rollers, stationary bikes, stretching.