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December 29, 2020 10 min read
We all want to get bigger, faster, stronger, and more powerful. That much is obvious—but how we actually become all of these things becomes less obvious the more your progress.
Enter the Juggernaut Method Training Program. And with a name like that, you know it means business.
Created by Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems, and updated in “The Juggernaut Method 2.0”, this 16-week training program is less a program and more of a template. This allows any top-level athletes to accommodate the program to their specific needs.
And we do mean top-level. The Juggernaut Method (JM) is suited for lifters who are either top-level intermediate or experts already. The intensity of this method is definitely not for those that have just begun weightlifting.
Part of its uniqueness lies in the fact that its progressive overload is based on AMRAP sets (as many reps as possible), rather than set percentages of one’s 1RM like other training programs. This allows for training that is very well tailored for your needs and your individual progression.
But before we dive further into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a look at the mind(s) behind this system.
As we mentioned above, the brain behind the operation is Chad Wesley Smith—who is just as much brawn as brains. Having set records for shot put, he moved onto powerlifting where he then set a squat record of 905 pounds. While it’s been broken since then, Smith’s legacy has continued—due in no small part to his Juggernaut Method.
While Smith penned the method itself, he found inspiration from strength coach Jim Wendler and famous powerlifter, Doug Young.
Wendler’s 5/3/1 method cycles through reps based on the week and number (5, 3, or 1), while also placing all of the emphasis on squats, the bench press, overhead press, and deadlifts—very similarly to Smith’s system.
On the other hand, Young’s inspiration can be seen in how progressive overload is calculated. Percentages are slightly adjusted from workout to workout, and this allows for guaranteed and incremental gains throughout the 16 weeks. But Young specifically focused on utilizing AMRAP sets in order to calculate and adjust the weights for the subsequent weeks.
The key here is that progressive overload is based on performance, rather than the usual static number of your 1RM.
That provides a good intro to the Juggernaut Method’s behind-the-scenes, but let’s take a closer look at who it’s targeted at.
What sets the Juggernaut Method apart is the fact that while it might stem from a powerlifting way of thinking, it also places a major focus on conditioning work. Paired with the fact that it’s more of a template than a set-in-stone program means that athletes from every sport can benefit.
The point is that this program is geared towards elite athletes and powerlifters that are looking to get stronger, faster, and bigger. At the same time, Smith acknowledges that different athletes will have to train in different ways. For example, the difference between a football player’s training and a sprinter’s will be significantly different.
Four unifying aspects that are found in all elite sports are therefore highlighted: sprinting, jumping, throwing, and lifting.
All of these can be incorporated into the training template, but it’s lifting that powerlifters should place the majority of their focus on.
The program has been criticized for not pushing powerlifters far enough to work within their 90%+ 1RM range, rather sticking to lower ranges, but it’s important to remember that this builds significant work capacity. This is also something we’ll touch on later with powerlifting peaking.
The big point here is that this is not a program suited for beginners.
In order to gain muscle mass and strength at the same time, this method utilizes a concept called block periodization—this is part of the reason that this program isn’t well suited for beginners.
The general organization of the Juggernaut Method is 4 weekly training blocks of four workouts each. The months are called “waves” and they coincide with specific rep schemes. The first month is 10 reps, followed by 8 in the second, 5 in the third, and 3 in the last—this is all while the weight is increasing based on your AMRAP sets.
The months are further broken down into four phases.
The first phase is called the accumulation phase. It’s the high-volume phase where one builds up fatigue, and therefore, work capacity. This is also the point where you build up the necessary skill for the lift that you’re doing.
The next week is the intensity phase. As the name suggests, this is when intensity is ramped up and the lifter begins optimizing for strength and power. The volume is also decreased by over half in this period in order to prepare the lifter.
Then there’s the realization week, where you reap the seeds you’ve sowed in the intensity phase and go balls to the wall. This is the maximum intensity-low volume period for optimal strength training. This is also when the AMRAP happens, which sets up your weights for the next training block.
The final week is a deload period before diving into the next block (or “wave”) of training.
The Juggernaut Method revolves around the three big bread-and-butter lifts everyone is familiar with. The squat, bench press, and the deadlift. There is also the addition of the overhead press.
All of these are big, compound movements, so you know you’re going to get your bang for your buck whenever you do them. They’re the best for building muscle and strength, and it makes sense that they’d be in a program like this. It makes even more sense that the squat, bench, and deadlift are included as well since they’re all powerlifting moves. But what about the overhead press?
While not technically a powerlifting move, the overhead press is a juggernaut of a movement when trying to develop upper body strength and size.
These four exercises are the foundation of the Juggernaut Method, so it’s best to be well-accustomed to them. But where do they fit into the grand scheme of things?
So, we talked about the four training blocks (months) above that all relate to a specific rep count; counting down from 10, 8, 5, to 3 in the last block. These are the waves that correspond to the number of repetitions.
The 10-wave will have you doing sets of 10 reps or more, the 8th will have you doing 8 reps or more, the 5th will have you doing 5 or more, and the 3rd will have you doing 3 or more (per set). This portion of the method took inspiration from the aforementioned Jim Wendler.
While powerlifters tend to lift at very high intensities and lower volumes, there is a reason that the Juggernaut Method works as well as it does with its higher rep counts.
The key lies within recovery resources: the larger your muscles, the more resources they’ll need in order to recover. The bigger and stronger you get and the more you gas out your muscles, the more you need to worry about not pushing too hard from workout to workout.
One of the best ways to avoid overtraining while still progressing is to use rep maxes rather than high intensities in order to keep the gains coming. With all of the moderate to high-intensity sets done with the Juggernaut Method, your body still adapts it’s neuromuscular system as it would for optimal strength.
If you’re confused with all the talk of phases, waves, and blocks, we’ll try to break it down and put it all together again.
The four phases within the 16 weeks correspond to specific rep counts. The 10-rep wave, for example, places an emphasis on hypertrophy and building work capacity. The switch to the 8-rep wave will still have hypertrophy as a focus, but it’s slowly getting you used to lift heavier weights and lower volumes. The 5-rep wave is the next step in this template, as it places you firmly in between the repetitions necessary for hypertrophy and the repetitions necessary for strength gains. The final month is the 3-rep wave, and that’s when all emphasis is placed on maximal strength gains.
Then, within this major cycle is the microcycle of the individual phases.
So, week 1 of your accumulation phase will have you using light weights at high volumes while leaving somewhere from 2 to 3 sets before you completely gas out with your AMRAP set.
Week 2 will then intensify the process by ramping up the weight and lowering the volume. When doing your AMRAP set, make sure to leave somewhere between 1 and 2 sets in the tank.
In the realization (3rd) week, the volume is minimized while the weight is ramped up. This is when you go hard with your AMRAP—leave nothing behind in terms of energy in your body. This is the AMRAP set that’s going to tell you how much you’ll be increasing the weight for the next phase/month. So, the harder you go the better for your gains.
And finally, there’s the “smallest” part of the Juggernaut Method—the day to day grind.
You’ll be going through squats, bench press, overhead press, to deadlifts, in that order. It doesn’t really matter what days you do these lifts, as long as you’re giving yourself enough time to rest in between them. These are, of course, just the main lifts. Accessory work isn’t included in this powerlifting program, so it’s necessary to program that depending on your goals.
We’ve already highlighted the key importance of AMRAP sets when calculating how much you should be lifting, but it’s worth going into exactly how this works.
Let’s say that you’re in the first wave, so you’re doing a minimum of 10 reps per set. So, for that week’s last set (the AMRAP set) you would count how much higher you can go than 10 reps. Let’s say, for example, that you complete 13 reps in your AMRAP. That means that you take the 3 reps and multiply it by either 2.5 or 5 pounds in order to give yourself your new weight.
The 2.5-pound increments coincide with the upper-body lifts (the overhead press and bench), while the 5-pound increments coincide with the lower body lifts (the squat and deadlift).
This allows you to effectively regulate your weight from week to week and month to month. The malleability of this workout template is one of its greatest strengths and one you should use to your advantage.
Below is the standard Juggernaut Method, outlined for you from week to week and month to month. While this looks like a conventional program in many ways, it’s important to remember that you have full control over the template.
You can add whatever accessory lifts you want, workout on whatever days you want, and progress as fast or slow as you’re able to.
Week 1 (Accumulation):
Week 2 (Intensification):
Week 3 (Realization):
Week 4 (Deload):
Week 5 (Accumulation):
Week 6 (Intensification):
Week 7 (Realization):
Week 8 (Deload):
Week 9 (Accumulation):
Week 10 (Intensification):
Week 11 (Realization):
Week 12 (Deload):
Week 13 (Accumulation):
Week 14 (Intensification):
Week 15 (Realization):
Week 16 (Deload):
The latest iteration of this program has seen a few additions that are worth mentioning.
First is the addition of an “inverse” version of the conventional Juggernaut Method. While the Inverted Juggernaut Method uses the same percentage schemes as the 10 and 8-waves of the standard method and keeps the same rest periods, it switches things up by inverting the sets and reps.
This allows for the quality of the reps to maintain a very high level while also keeping the speed of movement maximal. Even for slightly more seasoned lifters, technique can sometimes start breaking down by 10 reps, and so the inverted method can be useful for some—especially for those who may be on the less-experienced end of lifters trying the Juggernaut Method.
The other notable addition to Juggernaut Method 2.0 is that of a powerlifting peaking template to get powerlifters ready for meets. The lifts below should be done right before your AMRAP set during the “realization” week of the program:
But this is just the cherry on top of a fantastic strength training program. The Juggernaut methodology is for the juggernauts of their respective sports—whatever they may be.