Review of the Savage Strength Training System by Mike Gillette

by admin on January 31, 2012

SWAT teams are elite tactical units within the law enforcement community. They are called up on to defuse high risk, volatile and dangerous situations such as hostage rescues or terrorist incidents. Not just anybody can be a member of a SWAT team–it requires a high degree of skill and demands physical prowess. SWAT team members need to be strong, quick and agile with endurance too. Developing all of these skills calls for a specialized approach to training–just ‘going to the gym’ isn’t going to cut it. Building a body capable of fulfilling the tough physical requirements of the SWAT team requires an extreme level of knowledge, commitment and dedication.

When it comes to knowledge of ‘SWAT-worthy’ workouts, Mike Gillete is among the best of the best. He overcame terrific odds, bouncing back from a broken back and severely damaged ankles to become a Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame inductee and among the most highly respected strength and conditioning minds in the industry. Military and law enforcement personnel, executive bodyguards and competitive fighters regularly enlist Mike to help them train to elite levels of fitness. His latest work, The Savage Strength Training System, chronicles Mike’s unique integrated training strategy to not just ‘pump iron’ but ‘become iron.’

Mike opens Manifesto with an excellent and thought-provoking discussion about the various aspects of strength and what it means to be ‘strong.’ You might be tempted to skip over this part and dive right into the training stuff but if you do, you’ll be selling yourself short and you will miss out on the most fundamental elements of the program.

The Savage Strength program is built on a functional training foundation. If you’re not familiar with this term, it refers to complex movements that incorporate multiple muscle groups and essentially mimic real-world activities. In other words, no machine-based, isolation exercises. One of the advantages of this approach is that it doesn’t chain your training routine to the gym. In fact, Mike says that he does most of his training in his garage or backyard with a very limited selection of equipment.

In Section 2, Mike presents an overview of his Savage Strength Secrets: Toughness; Understanding Movement Patterns; Repetition Speed; Goal-Specific Rest Intervals; Load Manipulation; Fatigue Movement; Overcoming Fear; and the Technique of Tension. He provides a nice explanation for each of these concepts, providing useful information in an easy-to-understand format. I like the fact that understanding his concepts doesn’t require a degree in kinesiology.

Mike discusses the science behind Savage Strength in Section 3. The training concepts he uses in the program emerged in the 1970s and are credited with spawning a new breed of stronger, bigger and faster college football players. In this section he also provides specifics about the Savage Strength training approach.

The program is comprised of groupings of five sets of a particular exercise, performed for five repetitions. Because you’re only doing five reps, you will use a heavy weight. If you can’t perform at least 14 total reps during a combined set of five, then you know the weight was too heavy. Your goal of course is to work up to 25 total reps and then increase the weight.  He provides a few variations of the 5 x 5 approach that enable you to mix things up a bit. They are all equally challenging so don’t think one is ‘easier’ than the others.

The Savage Strength program also incorporates what Mike refers to as ‘System-Shocker’ Century Sets. A Century Set is 100 total reps of a single movement, such as pull-ups. To perform a Century Set you first perform as many reps as you can. For the next set, you perform one-half the number of reps as you did in the first round. So if you did ten reps in the first round, you would do five in the second. You stick to this number of reps, repeating until you reach 100. So if you do 10 reps for the first set and five reps in the second, you would perform 17 more sets of five reps.

The base program is five sets of five reps per movement. Rest periods between sets are limited to 30 seconds.  You train on alternate days, three days a week. Mike provides a suggested 16-week training routine. The program includes the Savage Exercise Library, which lays out the various movements that comprise Savage Strength.  He provides clear descriptions of the movements and includes photos, which makes it easy to understand what you need to do.

One of the things I like about this program is that it works whether for guys of any age. A word of caution though—if you’re a casual, ‘weekend warrior’ type of guy, Savage Strength probably isn’t for you. But, if you are serious about ramping up and taking your strength and conditioning to an entirely different level—and are up to the challenge—then you should definitely take a look at Mike’s Savage Strength program. This is one tough program but if you follow the directions and stick with it, the results will be amazing and well worth the effort.


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