Here's what you need to know...

  1. There are 6 trainable qualities you need to possess to win a fight: strength, power, mobility, conditioning, injury resistance, and toughness.
  2. Developing the kind of strength, athleticism, and work capacity to survive a savage brawl requires a multifaceted approach.
  3. Targeting your weaknesses is key.

In a worst case scenario, would you be physically and mentally ready to fight to save yourself or someone else? What qualities would you need to survive? Here's what you'd need:

  1. Strength There's no substitute for absolute strength. Strength is the quality that prepares the body for the development of all others: power, speed, conditioning, etc.
  2. Power Power is strength expressed quickly. Power's quick expression demonstrates strength when it counts, when we need to smash.
  3. Mobility Strength and power are the foundational qualities that make a monster, but they're potency is tied to movement. Move poorly and your strength and power are moot.
  4. Conditioning Displaying strength and power is pivotal, but if you're only able to do it once before you have to take a nap and an ice bath, you're not useful.
  5. Injury Resistance Strength is still king, but does a 400-pound bench press mean much if your biceps pops like a rotted rubber band when you throw a punch? You're not an effective human being if every activity performed without a barbell injures you.
  6. Toughness You've heard the phrase "mental toughness" a million times. But is there any kind of toughness other than mental toughness? Sure, there's body resilience, but it shares an intimate relationship with our conscious ability to deal with pain, discomfort, and other less than optimal circumstances.

Has your training successfully delivered on the above qualities? If not, you may need to drastically change your methods. You need a program designed for what I call barbell savagery.

The Methods

Barbell savagery is simple, and it begins with strength.

Pick two lifts that you want to be great at and train them every time you step in the weight room. The intensity of these lifts will be relatively low, around a 6 or 7 on the 1-10 rate of perceived exertion scale (RPE). With these lifts you'll learn tension, build skill, and improve proprioception.

Those lifts are followed with two more big barbell lifts that are loaded more intensely. On upper-body days you'll press and row. On lower-body days you'll squat and deadlift.

All of these lifts, main or assistance, are loaded at an intensity of 8 RPE. The volume is low as building devastating strength levels doesn't require outrageous volume. Instead, it requires focused and intense volume. Maximal force production requires loads at or above 80 percent, so we're loading these lifts up.

The key with these lifts is picking the ones that work for you. Squatting jacks me up so I don't do it, but I do two different deadlift variations per week. Find what works for you, do it hard, and do it often.

Smashing Power

Whether it's to train a stronger deadlift, punch a guy's neck sideways, or hit the tight-end so hard his dog dies, we develop power to smash. Like strength, power is simple. Choose the right tools, with the right loads, and then demonstrate violence.

The list of tools isn't expansive: Olympic lifts, jumps, sprints, throws. Pick the ones that work well for you and do them with speed and intent. Intent, though, is the master. Demonstrations of power begin with a conscious decision. In that instance you're the baddest man on the planet and nothing can stop you.

If you can't Olympic lift, do loaded jumps. If sprinting is out of the question, jump. I don't know of anyone who can't throw. My favorite combo is an Olympic lift from the hang and a med-ball throw. For nasty power, this is my go-to.

Mobility Through Statics and Movement

As humans there are certain movement competencies we should all meet. We should all be able to roll, skip, and crawl. The toughest competency of all, though, is holding still.

There are thousands of specific joint mobilizations and stretches you could learn, but instead we'll use iso-extreme holds to improve mobility and stability (more on this later). This way we'll build competency with basic human movements. Do each with consistency and you'll move and feel better than you ever have in your adult life.

Consistent Conditioning

Conditioning makes killers. I've talked at length with rugby players and mixed martial artists about conditioning – two groups of athletes that play sports that require sustained output and work through pain – and they all say the best way to win is to be in better shape than your opponent. If you're sucking wind and thinking about the burn in your legs you won't be inflicting damage.

It's helpful to think of conditioning as intensity built upon work capacity. Your aerobic capacity allows you to recover between bouts of intensity. Some bouts, of course, last longer than others. For sporting athletes, conditioning is specific to their task. The modern savage, however, needs general conditioning.

Strength and power training aid in developing intensity, but certain conditioning is necessary to bridge the gap between the energy systems. We'll build that bridge with high-intensity anaerobic finishers.

Recovery Priorities

Moving well with strength is an injury prevention protocol unto itself. Making recovery a priority, however, is paramount. Improve soft-tissue quality with good nutrition, self myofascial strategies, and plenty of water. Fill your bathtub with ice and cold water a few times per week and take a dip for ten minutes.

Injuries limit training potential. Doing the little things to prevent them is worth the extra time.

Toughness in Training

If you've never been exposed to iso-extreme holds you're about to be baptized by muscular fire. They burn, bad. Fifteen seconds into a set and you'll start questioning your whole world.

Barbell Savagery Template

I'm offering a template, not a complete prescription, because I have no idea what you need to display barbarity. What I'll offer is a comprisal of the qualities that develop a savage. It's up to you to determine what you need. Here are a few simple screens to help your decisions.

  • Can't deadlift two times your body weight? You need to get stronger.
  • Can't broad jump eight feet? You need more power.
  • Can't touch your toes? You need mobility.
  • Can't run a mile without stopping? You need better conditioning.
  • Can't hold an iso-lunge for a minute without taking a break? You need to get tougher.

It might be that you need to develop all these qualities or just a couple. If you're still confused about where to start, improve your mobility and get stronger. Development of all qualities remains in your program; the proportions change dependent on needs.

Note: I'm not saying you need to run miles at a time or improve your mile time, but every self-respecting man should be able to run a mile without having to take a breather.


Here's a warm-up you can do before every training session, regardless of what qualities you're developing. It's mobility and movement competency condensed into a hard 10 minutes.

Exercise Sets Reps
Iso-Lunge Hold 1 1 min./leg
Turkish Get Up 1 2/side
Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swing 1 10
Bear Crawl 1 20 yd.
Ankle Rocks (ankle mobility) 1 8/leg
Iso-Push-Up Hold 1 1 min.
Vertical Jump 1 6
Weighted Cossack Squat 1 5/leg
Power Skip 2 5/leg
Side Shuffle 2 10 yd./side
Wideouts 2 5 sec.

If you've never seen an iso-lunge or iso-push-up hold before, here's what they look like:




  Exercise Sets Reps RPE Rest
A Iso-Push-Up Hold 1 5 min.    
Hold up to 5 min. pausing for no more than three breaths. Rest until recovered.
B1 Hang Olympic Lift or Loaded Jump 3-5 3-5   1 min.
B2 Med-Ball Throw or Upper-Body Plyo 3-5 3-5   1 min.
C1 Deadlift or Squat 3-5 3-5 6-7 1 min.
C2 Bench Press or Overhead Press 3-5 3-5 6-7 1 min.
D1 Bench Press or Overhead Press 3-5 3-5 8  
D2 Bear Crawl variation 3-5 10-20 yd.   2-3 min.
E Row 3-5 5-8 7-8 1 min.
F Finisher (finisher options below)        


  Exercise Sets Reps RPE Rest
A Iso-Lunge Hold 1 5 min.    
Hold up to 5 min. pausing for no more than three breaths. Rest until recovered.
B1 Hang Olympic Lift or Loaded Jump 3-5 3-5   1 min.
B2 Med-Ball Throw or Upper-Body Plyo 3-5 3-5   1 min.
C1 Deadlift or Squat 3-5 3-5 6-7 1 min.
C2 Bench Press or Overhead Press 3-5 3-5 6-7 1 min.
D1 Squat or Deadlift 3-5 3-5 8  
D2 Bear Crawl variation 3-5 10-20 yd.   2-3 min.
E Squat or Deadlift 3-5 5-8 7-8 1 min.
F Finisher (finisher options below)        

Work Capacity

Choose activities that you like for this. You can push a Prowler or your car. You can do bodyweight exercise circuits or play with kettlebells. Ride your bike if you want to. All that matters is you keep your heart rate between sixty and seventy-five percent of max beats per minute for 30-45 minutes.

If your work capacity sucks – i.e., any seemingly low-intensity activity shoots your heart rate above 120 – then do a few sessions per week. Just need maintenance? Hit one or two sessions per week on off days. If you so choose, you can trade work capacity training in for a finisher.


Finishers are about intensity. Now is the time to imagine that you're in a fight to the death. With intensity in mind, the possibilities for constructing an effective finisher are vast.

Each set should have you working for 15 seconds up to 1 minute. Rest depends on your fitness level and goals, but you'll do well to rest for as long, or twice as long, as the time the set took you. Examples:

Barbell Complexes

These aren't new, but are you doing them? Think of them as the flurry of punches that finishes a fight in the second round. You can do them for time or reps. Here's a solid example:

  • A1. Deadlift x 10
  • A2. Hang Clean High Pull x 5
  • A3. Overhead Press x 5
  • A4. Front Squat x 10

For this complex, choose a weight that you can easily overhead press 10 times.

Dumbbell Complexes

Dumbbell complexes follow the same vein as barbell complexes, but because they're unilateral they require twice the volume. They don't require the same intensity as a barbell complex, but the volume increase adds a little nasty to the flavor. It also makes them great for sustaining output. Think to yourself, "My initial assault didn't go as planned, now I have to keep pounding." Keep the intensity up; don't slow down. Example:

  • A1. One-Arm Snatch x 5
  • A2. One-Arm Press x 5
  • A3. Offset Squat x 10
  • A4. One-Arm Row x 10
  • A5. Suitcase Deadlift x 10
    Switch hands and repeat

For this complex, choose a dumbbell that you can easily overhead press 10 times.

Movement Medleys

Use your bodyweight and move with speed and power. The key is intensity. Every movement is done as forcefully, and as quickly, as possible. Example:

  • A1. Push-up x 10
  • A2. Burpee x 5
  • A3. Squat x 10
  • A4. Squat Jump x 5
  • A5. Pull-up x 5

The key with movement medleys is to not let your movement go to hell just because you're going fast and you're tired. Go as fast as you can while moving well.

Return to the Isos

Here's the simplest finisher of all – the iso-lunge. Hold it for 5 minutes, with intermittent breaks, and you'll learn a lot about yourself and elicit a huge metabolic cost in the process.

Savagery is a Mindset

The best exercises and configurations in the world aren't worth squat if you do them half-assed. It's the intent that makes a savage.

That intent is focus – deciding that you want to be more than some dork that pushes pencils and keeps up with reality TV. That intent is a relentless assault on the mediocrity most men embrace. While the training is physical, what it produces is internal. Savagery is a mindset.