Workouts: Greyskull Linear Progression

greyskul-lp-workoutThe Greyskull Linear Progression (LP) workout is a full body, 3-day a week linear progressive resistance program. It was created by John Sheaffer, an experienced lifter who who wanted a training program to help people get stringer while at the same time develop a muscle mass without putting on too much fat.

The Greyskull LP program is an equitable mix of hypertrophy and maximal strength.

There are “plug-ins” that can be added to the base program based on an individual’s specific goal, be that muscle mass over strength, improving their conditioning, fat loss, or power lifting.

Let’s take a look at the base Greyskull LP program

Workout A
Bench 2 x 5, 1 x 5+
Squat 2 x 5, 1 x 5+

Workout B
Overhead Press (alternate) 2 x 5, 1 x 5+
Dead lift 1 x 5+

Workouts are done three times a week, on an A, B, A schedule.

  • Monday: A
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: B
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: A
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

The upper body is trained first. This helps avoid the depletion that comes from doing big body exercises like squats or dead lifts first. Doing upper body first leaves plenty of gas in the tank for squats or dead lifts.

And, unlike some other linear progression novice programs, you don’t do squats and dead lifts on the same day. Talk to anyone who’s ever run Starting Strength and one of the complaints you get is back issues as the individual progresses through the program and weight goes up.

Let’s take a look at how the reps work

2 x 5, 1 x 5+ means two sets of five and then as many reps as possible (AMRAP) with good form. Taking a set to failure means taking the set to the point where you can no longer perform reps with good form, not to the point where you can’t move the weight at all no matter how much you contort yourself. Training past the point of good form leads to bad technique and will likely result in injuries sooner of later.

When you stall (fail to get the minimum 5 reps in each set) remove 10% of the weight and work your way back up. After a stall and a 10% reset you’ll be able to hit higher reps on your third set than before the stall. The additional volume you get from these sets, as well as the fact that you’re likely going to be working in the ~10 rep range, puts reset periods more towards hypertrophy. This is called periodization (mixing high weight/lower reps with low weight/higher reps).

Increasing Weight

Increase the weight from workout to workout.

+5 pounds for squat and dead lift
+2.5 pounds for bench press and overhead press

In order to increase 2.5 pound (1.25 each side) you’ll probably need to get (or encourage your gym to get) some microplates.


As I mentioned above, there are “plug-ins” you can ad for customizing the workout.

Arms “Plug-in”

Let’s say for example you wanted to put more focus on arms. You could do that by adding alternating chins and dips after the initial pressing exercise:

Workout A
Bench 2 x 5, 1 x 5+
Chins: 2 x 6 – 8
Squat 2 x 5, 1x 5+

Workout B
Overhead Press (alternate) 2 x 5, 1 x 5+
Dips: 2 x 6 – 8
Deadlift 1 x 5+

If needed, add weight to the chins and dips to keep the reps within the prescribed range. Once you can reach the top number of reps on the rep range, add weight.

Powerlifting “Plug-in”

If your focus is to develop strength for participating in powerlifting meets, you can keep this same format but use a rep goal of 3 instead of 5. The weights will be heavier and will help in developing maximal strength:

Workout A
Bench 2 x 3, 1 x 3+
Squat 2 x 3, 1 x 3+

Workout B
Military Press (alternate) 2 x 3, 1 x 3+
Deadlift 1 x 3+

A special word about neck

John is a big proponent of working the neck. He recommends a neck harness, with the neck exercises at the end of every workout.

Start light with 1 set of 25, working up to 4 sets of 25. Once 4 sets of 25 is achieved, increase the weight each workout up to a maximum of 55 pounds.


The Greyskull program is a fantastic  program for novices that will carry you well into advanced strength categories. You can easily adapt it to your personal strength and hypertrophy goals.

This quick summary should be enough to get you started. If you want to learn more, you can go to John’s website at JohnnyPainLive and you can buy his Greyskull eBook (and other great ebooks) in his store.


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