“One Skill a Day” Training Program

Sergio Oliva PosingHave you ever had this feeling that your training is going nowhere? Are you still torturing your body with the same old program you were using for last 5 years of training? Are you sincerely amazed with the lack of results? Ok, enough questions. We’ve both definitely been in such situation. You are doing 3 full-body workouts per week for a really long time. Then they just stop working. You get an enlightenment and try some sort of Upper/Lower Split.  Your gains skyrocket to stratosphere and your reason to live seems to be restored. You think that you’ve found The Program. However, after decent amount of time the story repeats itself. You get frustrated (and maybe depressed) one more time. What to do? There are lots of ways out. I’d like to discuss one of them today. What if you could train every day (or almost every day), and get outstanding results? Seems too good to be true, but my solution fits the previous sentence perfectly. Enter “One Skill a Day” Training Program.

One Skill a Day?

Yep. In one sentence:

Pick 6 skills you want to improve, and train them 6 days per week, one skill per day.

So, basically, you take 6 skills and spread them throughout the week in such manner, that you will be concentrating only on one skill per day. In addition, I think that with high-frequency programs it is important to leave one day off. Your week can look like this:

Monday – Skill 1

Tuesday – Skill 2

Wednesday – Skill 3

Thursday – Skill 4

Friday – Skill 5

Saturday – Skill 6

Sunday – Off

How to pick up the skills? If you read this article, you know that we can divide all the human movement patterns very roughly into Upper Body Push, Upper Body Pull and Leg moves. So the number “six” fits magically here and you can pick 2 Upper Body Pushing exercises, 2 Upper Body Pulling exercises and 2 Leg exercises. Your week now may look like this:

Monday – Upper Body Push 1

Tuesday – Upper Body Pull 1

Wednesday – Legs 1

Thursday – Upper Body Push 2

Friday – Upper Body Pull 2

Saturday – Legs 2

Sunday – Off

There are some modifications you can make but more on this later.

Then you pick up the actual skills you want to improve and put them into appropriate category. Let’s assume that you want to improve Double Kettlebell Snatch, Planche, Sandbag Military Press, Weighted Pistol, One-Arm Chin-Up and Front Lever. In this particular case, your week should look something like this:

Monday – Planche

Tuesday – One-Arm Chin-Up

Wednesday – Double Kettlebell Snatch

Thursday – Sandbag Military Press

Friday – Front Lever

Saturday – Weighted Pistol

Sunday – Off

Of course, I took these exercises just for example. You need to pick your own or scale the intensity.

What’s next? Sets and reps. For this particular program I would recommend flexible set/rep scheme. I mean the one that has only total number of reps that should be performed, not set in stone 3 x 3 or 5 x 5. I feel that it is much more suitable for this program. So I wouldn’t go higher than 15-20 total reps in these skills. Let’s get back to our example. Let’s assume that you planned to perform 15 total reps in Weighted Pistol (per leg, of course). As this is strength work, I’d start with a weight you can lift for 5-6 reps maximum, and stick with it until I do all 15. Again, let’s assume that you can perform 6 repetitions with 32 kg kettlebell. So your session can look like this:

Set 1 – 5 reps (leave on in the tank)

Set 2 – 5 reps

Set 3 – 3 reps

Set 4 – 2 reps

Total: 15 reps

NOTE: If you are training static hold, then you obviously need time prescription. I would say that 15-20 reps total roughly equals 30-60 seconds total. Make all the adjustments.

Is it all? When you feel no energy, you can do just this and call it a day. But most of the time I’d add assistance work. By “assistance work” I mean 1-2 exercises that can help you improve the skill you are training. For example, after performing all the sets of Front Lever Hold you can add Front Lever Raises from the full hang and Ice-Cream Makers.

I would do assistance work for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. So scale the intensity accordingly.

Let’s finish our example program (I’ll use hypothetical strength levels, you owe me a beer if it’s perfect for you):

Monday

A) Advanced Tuck Planche Hold – 30 sec total

B) Tuck Planche Push-Ups – 3 sets of 8

Tuesday

A) One-Arm Chin-Up 90 Degree Holds – 30 sec total

B) Rope Climbs 3 sets of maximum

Wednesday

A) Double Kettlebell Snatch – 12 reps total

B) Double Kettlebell Swings – 3 sets of 12

Thursday

A) Sandbag Military Press – 15 reps total

B) Kettlebell Alternating Military Press – 3 sets of 8

Friday

A) One-Leg Front Lever Hold – 30 sec total

B) Advanced Tuck Front Lever Raises – 3 sets of 8

Saturday

A) Weighted Pistol – 15 reps total (per leg)

B) Sandbag Zercher Squat – 3 sets of 8

Sunday

Off

Again, it is just an example. I can’t possibly know what your strength levels are, so you need to do some homework. Hate homework? Check this out.

How I Came Up with This?

It is nothing new. Such programs existed long time before I was born. Like we say here in Ukraine: “Everything new is well-forgotten old”. But sometimes you need to be reminded about something to understand its value.

Lots of athletes used some sort of high-frequency training with success for decades. Arnold and Sergio Oliva (pictured above), the all-mighty Bulgarians, Pyotr Kryloff and Arthur Saxon, Eugene Sandow and plenty of others. The important thing was to make it work for average genetics, which I think I accomplished (by restricting volume).

Why So Often?

High-frequency programs always work awesome for me (and also for my clients). The problem usually is in time. I know that it is lame excuse. However, sometimes you just can’t commit to training every day because of some reasons that are out of your control. Anyway, if you are used to training 3 times per week and hit plateau, then high-frequency training can be your lucky way out. In my experience high-frequency training is good way to gain more strength through neural adaptation, build more muscle through increased training volume and lean out a bit through burning more calories (more often).

Why Only One Skill?

Because given the intensity is high this will be enough. Maybe you will be able to do more than one skill in future, but I really doubt it. Reread this article. If intensity and frequency are high, then volume should be low. It is law.

What Modification Can You Make?

I insist that you should use the program as it laid out earlier in this article.

I understand that this can be impossible for some people (due to some disability or different reason), but I don’t want this modification information be a way to escape leg work (or some other type of work you don’t enjoy, but should be doing).

So here is the way to modify the program. You can mix and match quantities of movement patterns, but use no more than 3 per type. For example, you can’t perform leg work. Then you pick 3 Upper Body Pushes and 3 Upper Body Pulls and just alternate them. You got the idea.

How to Go Absolutely Nuts with It?

You can take modification above and take it further. Just a quick warning: use this information only if you are completely sure that you will have steady income of food, lots of sleep and minimum stress in following weeks. Otherwise, stick to original plan.

Ok, so to go absolutely nuts we’ll need twice-a-day approach. We will pick 3 Upper Body Push exercises, 3 Upper Body Pulls and 3 Leg exercises. We can program it this way:

Monday

AM – Upper Body Push 1

PM – Legs 1

Tuesday

Upper Body Pull 1

Wednesday

AM – Legs 2

PM – Upper Body Push 2

Thursday

Upper Body Pull 2

Friday

AM – Upper Body Push 3

PM – Legs 3

Saturday

Upper Body Pull 3

Sunday

Off

It should be around 4-6 hours between AM and PM workouts. If possible, take a nap. And don’t forget to eat enough calories and protein.

My Actual Program

And to show you that this program is not some piece of junk I’ll share the actual routine I follow now. It was created using the principles I laid out above. Here it is:

Day 1

AM

A) One-Arm Chin-Up Progression (I vary exercises every week)

B) Rope Climbing

C) Back Lever Pull-Outs on Dip Bars

PM

A) Double Kettlebell Swing

Day 2

A) Free-Standing Handstand Push-Ups Progression (I use partial ROM now)

B) 2 Finger Sliding POAPU

C) Kettlebell Alternating Military Press (or some other kettlebell press)

Day 3

AM

A) Front Lever Hold

B) Front Lever Raises

C) Ice-Cream Makers

PM

A) Double Kettlebell Squat

Day 4

A) 5 Finger Assisted OAHSPU

B) Double Kettlebell Military Press (or Push Press, or Jerk)

C) Claw Fingertip Push-Ups

Day 5

AM

A) Controlled Bar Muscle-Up

B) False Grip Pull-Ups

C) Russian Dips

PM

A) One-Arm Kettlebell Snatch

Day 6

A) Planche

B) Straddle Planche Push-Up

C) Triceps Extensions

Some days when I feel absolutely no energy, I can do just the skill and screw everything else. But most of the time my current training looks exactly like this.

Closing Thoughts

So there you have it. If you struggle with your training or everything pisses you off, “One Skill a Day” Program can be perfect solution. You shouldn’t use this program if you don’t have at least 40 minutes to train 6 days per week (everybody has different conditions). But if you have, then crush it and acquire the gains you deserved. Thanks for reading.

Who’s your most fitness-obsessed friend? Give him a good read by sharing this article.

Do you have any thoughts? Do you think that sharing so awesome content is unethical and inappropriate? Do you hate me for making everything simple and clear? Let’s chat in comments.

Play rough!

Alex “One Skill a Day” Zinchenko

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35 thoughts on ““One Skill a Day” Training Program

  1. m6k3

    Yep that will help me a lot, i think this gonna be the way i will train for next 4-6 weeks becouse i stuck on my program and i got 3 weeks of completlly freestyle spliting it by the week. All my program was blow up because i start training my “team sport” 4-5 times a week. So i think 1 skill program will be good for me to keep my athletism. What do you think about that ?

    Reply
        1. m6k3

          hmmm i praktice skills like Muscle up, One arm push up, tuck planche, flag itd…i always do much more than 3 exercise a day so after today first workout (lower) I start to think its to less, but praboble its a way better to muscle grow that my high intensity long workout

          a) Muscle up 5×1
          b) High pulls from dead hang 3×4
          c) bar dips 3×8

          Reply
          1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

            At least you can try it, m6k3. This might be not very optimal program for maximum muscle growth as you need decent amount of training volume to grow. But, again, you never know until you try. If you were doing too much you’ll notice some nice hypertrophy.

            – Alex

  2. Gabri

    Alex!

    I like this program, and your ideas, but I have a few questions.

    1/ What about doing Upper/Lower for the six days, just doing 1 pulling and 1 pushing exercise on Upper days, and 1 main exercise on Lower day?

    2/ Would it be too much to add 1 assistance exercise to each exercise? That would be 2 main exercises and 2 assistance exercises on upper days and 1 main and 1 assitance on lower body days. Of course the assistance exercises would be isolation exercises, or done with a lower intensity.

    3/ I want to train with a high intensity on the main exercises, since my goal is primarily strength. And training 6 days a week I understand I have to keep the volume low. Using Total Reps to practice the “skill”, how should I progress? The approach you recommend for pistols might be great and work, but when training for example weighted chin ups or one arm chin ups, trying to make 15 reps in a set before progressing might be too much, don’t you think?

    Maybe it would be a good idea to use the progression scheme Chad recommends in Huge in a Hurry. This is selecting the total reps, 20 for example for this program, and a load, like 4RM-6RM. So I would start with a weigth I can lift 4 to 6 times in the first set, and keep using it week after week until I can do 7 reps with it, and then add a little bit of weight.

    I know you know all of this, just wanted to make sure you understood what I meant, and ask you if you think this scheme is right.

    Thank you very much Alex for your time!

    PD: Bonus question: do you think practicing the front and back lever separately in another time of the day, like every morning, 6 days a week would be possible or too much? (Just like you did with your client valentine with the handstands) I’m not able to practice them at the end of my workouts since I am tired, and do not want to do them just once a week.

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Gabri,

      Here are my answers:

      1. You can try. My goal with the program was to make it work for the guys with crappy genetics, like myself. If you feel that you can recover from that much work then go for it.

      2. Again, you can try. It might be too much.

      3. Depending on progression, 15 reps can be too much or enough. I wouldn’t go higher. As for progress, if you are doing 15 reps total then 7-8 reps in first set can be a sign to increase intensity. I’ll write an article on this.

      Bonus. Handstand and Front Lever/Back Lever are totally different kinds of beast. While you can practice Handstand often enough due to less muscular demand and more balancing effort, this will be quite hard to do with FL/BL. You can try but my advice would be: it is better to do 1 hard session per week and practice lighter version throughout the week. For example, you can do one hard session of One-Leg FL but practice Advanced Tuck or even Tuck version throughout the week.

      Hope this helps.

      – Alex

      Reply
      1. Gabri

        Alex, thank you for answering!

        I’ll try the program in a few months, starting with the simplest version, and adding as I see the assistance exercise if I can recover from it.

        Thank you, I’ll be waiting for your post about total reps and progression, I love your posts!!

        Reply
  3. Jonathan F.V.

    My program is kinda similar to this one. I have one pushing day, one pulling day and one leg day.

    Day 1:

    OAHSPU work
    Full planche press to HS singles
    Planche push-ups
    Perfect one arm push-ups work

    Day 2:
    One arm chin-ups or pull-ups
    One arm front lever raises
    Front lever pull-ups work
    One arm reverse meat hook pulls from l-sit (trying to even out my right with my left)
    Back lever curls work
    One set of as many pull-ups as possible, followed by 4 sets of 5 pull-ups with 20 seconds rest intervals
    One set of as many hanging leg raises as possible, followed by 4 sets of 5 like for the pull-ups

    Day 3:
    Weighted pistols
    Glute ham raises
    Some jumps
    Calve stuff

    I repeat this twice a week, and I also usually practice hand balancing every day. The hardest day is by far day 1. It doesn’t look like it’s a lot, but I do more volume on it than on the rest.

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      You are beast, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing this. I think, lots of people (including me, of course) find it useful.

      Your strength levels are pretty high if you can recover from that much work.

      – Alex

      Reply
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  5. Alexander

    Hi Alex!

    I like this approach a lot and I train much like it myself. I have found it to be great when wanting to specialize in a ceratin area. For instance I like to work a lot of grip and shoulders right now and so I train one movement a day like you do but as assistance, I use grip or extra shoulder work. This was, I get 3 workouts each for grip and shoulders and I can also focus hard on the movement of the day. Just my thoughts regarding different ways of using this!

    Thanks/ Alexander

    Reply
      1. Alexander

        Sure man, it’s quite basic: I’m using set/rep layouts like the ones you’ve listed and also for statics, I go for a total of 30-60 s.

        1. flat tuck planche. assistance: increased ROM flat tuck planche pushups, zottman curl

        2. Weighted pistol. Assistance: zercher squat, heavy partial laterals

        3. One arm chinup statics. assistance: weighted towel pulls, fat bar wrist curl

        4. One arm DB press, assistance: ring rollout/flyes combination

        5. sumo deadlifts. assistance: fat grip DB holds

        6. front levers on a climber’s board edge, assistance: iron cross pulls, bent over laterals

        As you see, my shoulder girlde and grip get worked multiple times but every movement only once per week. I keep the assistance volume quite low, 2-3 sets usually.

        Reply
  6. Pingback: The Most Flexible Set/Repetition Scheme - Rough Strength

  7. m6k3

    Hi alex i got one more question is this program is seems to be alright in your opinion?

    Push I
    a)OAPU 3/3/2/2
    b)Daimond push up
    c) Archer push up 3×8

    Pull I
    a) Muscle up (witch body kick) 2/1/1/1 i (want to do 5 in row)
    b) dead hang high pulls 3×3
    d) Bar dips 3×8

    Legs I
    a)Pistol 4/3/2/1 (i have weaker left leg after injury so i need to do little less deep squats on that
    leg i prefer to use object that has 30 cm form the ground to sit on them and than get up)
    b) suported pistols 3×8
    c) Close squats 3×10 (to improve flexybilty and stability)

    Push II
    a) Tuck planche 10s/10s/10s/5s/5s/5s
    b) Hand stand push up (wall assist) 3×8
    c) Pseud planche push up 3×10

    Pull II
    a) Flag progression exercise serias that equal 1 min
    b) dead hang pull up 3×8
    c) legst to the bar 3×8
    Legs II – is repeat of legs but i offen change asiste work exercise

    Reply
      1. m6k3

        Thanks, your opinion was important to me :) a use this plan nearly 3 weeks and im glad witch progression and results, but i think moust will come in 4-6 week and on that time i will can say it works or not :)

        Reply
  8. yaesuli

    is 3-4 days a week still good enough? 3-4 days of skill trainning is my personal preferance. and i really only have one primary skll that i strive for: human flag

    Reply
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  10. Matus

    Hi alex,

    what do u do if some Kettlebell-Exercise (for ex. Double snatch) become too easy and u dont have heavier Kettlebells?

    thx.

    matus

    Reply
  11. parry

    just wondering sth..is bodyweight exercise really needs such a long time recovery?
    isn’t train the skill more frequently better than just once per week only? (make our body adapt to the movement)

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Parry,

      There are lots of different approaches out there. This is just one of them. It worked well for me. If you crave more frequency, I would suggest to try this one.

      – Alex

      Reply

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