How I Got A +90kg Dip & A +60kg Pull Up (Review of Micha Schulz’s ‘KOW’ Strength Program)
It was Januray 2019 when I achieved an 80 kg weighted dip courtesy of 4 kettlebells. What was most funny about that was I only tried my max for ‘shits and giggles’; I hadn’t been training specifically for a weighted dip max, I just wanted to see what I could manage.
I thought back to the days where I’d get excited that I could do 40 or 50kg for a 1 rep……….but 80kg at the time was just under my bodyweight!
Disclaimer: compared to guys like Micha Schulz himself, Solo Nero, Baki Hd and various others, my dip weights are mere warm ups. This post is in now way meant to be elitist or come across like I’m not aware of just how much dip strength is out there in the big wide world. This is simply a great chance for me to review the program I used and share some musings on heavy weighted calisthenics training.
It was late 2017 that I managed a +45 kg CHIN up and could barely manage 40 kg in an overhand/PULL up grip. Again though, to me, this was a big weight and one that those around me thought could almost be historical.
The irony again here was the fact I never trained weighted pulling or dipping very much. For most of 2017-the end/late 2018 was ring work, levers (front & back), uni-lateral pulling (one arm chin up work) – and if there was any weighted work it would be lightly weighted muscle ups or more specific ‘skills-like’ moves with extra weight, not the basic patterns.
So this further confirms the widely growing theory: you can build your weighted basic strength WITHOUT doing a shit load of weighted training, in the basic sense of the word.
2019 was the best year of my life. I visited 8 countries, made many new friends, enjoyed the company of some great women and in all honesty was probably at my best in terms of pure calisthenic based ability.
The fall of 2019 was a humbling one. I had a wrist injury and spent most of my time in an overtrained – or overreached – state.
Incidentally, I was using Micha Schulz’s KOW (‘King Of Weighted’) skills and hypertrophy program back then and my intention was to review it, but where I was a dumbass who paid no attention to the clear ‘reps in reserve’ guidelines and instead, kept trying to force the issue all the time, I figured I hadn’t given the program a fair trial.
This tough lesson was my inspiration for the video below.
Hitting fast forward – mid/late 2020!
I bought Micha’s programs as a package which meant I got the strength building program along with the skills & hypertrophy plan. Even as far back as 2019 I was looking ahead to eventually run the strength program but obviously after taking a sensible and strategic break/change of training routines and styles in between.
In late August of this year I got started! This time I was older, wiser and determined to not fall into the trap of pushing every session to the wall. This time I’d had a word with my ego and we’d agreed to treat this as a longer venture; as a training cycle.
The program is 10 weeks long with a deload week in the middle to break it up nicely. The program is essentially a peaking program where the volume starts high with the intensity moderate, and then the volume comes down as the intensity rises. This approach is time tested and has been used countless times by powerlifters and other strength athletes.
The premise of the plan is to increase your weighted bar muscle up, pull/chin up (your choice) and dip 1 rep max.
I (cheekily) trained the weighted ring muscle up alongside the bar muscle up as my ring muscle up had gotten a little sketchy over the summer, thanks to not training it as much. Sadly, I’ve not been able to truly test my ring and bar muscle up 1RMs up until now courtesy of ‘Covid 19’ and the asinine ruling that gyms have to shut in the UK. Although I can say my previous bests were 15kg on the bar and 28 kg on the rings.
Previous bests on the pull up and dip were 40 kg x 5 reps (had never gone near a true max) and 80 kg x 1 rep, respectively.
The program is a pull/push/mixed with 2 lower body days – the program actually is designed to boost your back squat and deadlift as well as the lifts I mentioned earlier, but I didn’t use the big barbell lifts for a few reasons:
- It was summer and we didn’t have access to a gym and preferred to be outside while we could
- I was in the middle of working towards a bigger weighted pistol squat, alongside improving my Nordic curl and various other lower body advanced mobility positions – namely the front & side splits
- I was very very wary of the CNS fatigue I could encounter. I’ve trained those lifts alongside intense calisthenics before and they tend to compete too much with each other for recovery. And where I’m not a competitive powerlifter, my squat & deadlift poundages aren’t my reason for living.
So on paper it’s 5 days. I did my lower body training every 5th day and always did at least one handstand/mobility/weakness specific session, too. And of course, I had one full rest day each week as well!
As I alluded to earlier, the fatigue was managed by a mid program deload and strict guidelines as to how many reps to leave in reserve on each set and each exercise.
Nevertheless, it was still a tough program and one which left me not wanting to do much outside of the routine itself. I kept up with leg training and mobility work but even the more high end handstand drills were tougher to want to do well – namely flagging and one arm handstand prep work. Having said that, you only have one ass and trying to ride 2 horses with one ass doesn’t end well for anyone and my ass isnt big enough to ride 2 horses at once.
If you stick to the reps in reserve guidelines like your life depends on it and keep the other goals/training to a minimum, you’ll be just fine.
User friendliness/target audience?
This program is not for a novice. By its very nature it calls upon at least an intermediate standard of bodyweight strength; you have to be able to do weighted pull/chin ups & dips – AND muscle ups! I suppose you could still use it if you had some muscle ups that needed cleaning up but even still, you would need upwards of 3 muscle ups as your total rep count.
Accordingly this program has a very specific target niche: the calisthenics athlete with a solid foundation looking to improve his/her overall strength and maybe even go as far as competing.
I would say you would need at least a year or two of proper calisthenics training under your belt before you use this routine – the same can be said of the hypertrophy/skills program as the moves in there are also intermediate, and not to mention the high volume.
(Micha does have a lower tier program – ‘Road To Weighted’ – that’s designed to condition you to a level that allows you to use the weighted and hypertrophy/skills programs I’ve mentioned here though).
What next? Was that it? Where were the muscle ups?!
Sadly I didn’t get to truly test the muscle ups as gyms in the UK closed AGAIN due to the ‘pandemic’ bullcrap, the week before my official test week. Hence me testing my dip and pull up slightly ahead of schedule. Did this mean I could have got bigger numbers on those lifts? I think so. I’m sure I would be good for 2.5-5kg on the pull up, providing I was on my A-game. And I would have loved to have had an all out crack at the iconic 3 digit dip; 100kg!
But I’ve been in this too long to get carried away lugging plates to parks in colder temperatures and trying to force big weights on bars I’m not as used to. So alas, the experiment couldn’t be fully concluded…………
Previous bests on muscle ups were 17.5 kg (bar with sloppy form) and 28 kg on rings with decent form. In the ramp up weeks I had hit 15 kg for a single on the bar with good form a few times, and managed 24 kg singles on the ring muscle up many times, too. With full recovery it’s not unfeasible to envisage 20 kg on the bar and 30kg+ on the rings *crosses fingers & toes*.
The routine has given me a great strength base to now go back to the ‘elements’; the front/back lever, planche, handstand push up, one arm pull/chin up and various other skills! This will also switch the stimulus up nicely too and give the ligaments, tendons and CNS a breather from all the weight.
A summary in a few words? (TLDR;)
Intense program for intermediates and upwards. Great for building raw strength and the program could easily be reused every so often, say once per year or maybe even every other year to keep layering on more strength as one’s athletic level grows and grows.
Links & resources:
For those who like videos, I did a YouTube review of the program as well. I’d love it if you could let me know what you think! Video below………..
JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.
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