Program Design Part 1

The RX Barbell Program is not a cookie-cutter program where every person does the same workout. In fact, it is highly unlikely that anyone will have the same workout as someone else on this program. With that said, there will be a little leg work to be done on your part to build your custom weightlifting program. Over the course of part 1, part 2, and part 3 of Program Design we’ll go through step-by-step on how to do this.

Step 1 – Test Day

The first step to building your program is to have a test day at the gym. On this test day, you’ll determine your 5 RM’s for the Back Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Overhead Press. You can either do all the movements in one day or spread them out over two workouts. If you decide to do it over two workouts do Squat/Press on one day and Deadlift/Bench on the second day with preferably at least 2 days between workouts.

Training Session to establish 5RM on Test DayTask
1Perform a general body warm-up for 5 minutes. Choose between running – rowing – or jump rope.
2Up to this point you should have a general idea about where your 5RM is. For example – likely you know that your 5RM DL is around 200 lb and not 300 lb. Before warming up have an idea of what your ‘ball park’ number is for each of the squat / deadlift / press / bench press. If you have a current 3RM/4RM/5RM/6RM you can use that instead of finding a new 5RM on test day.
3For each movement the warm-up percentages will look like this based on your ‘ball park’ 5RM estimate: 10 Reps with bar – 5 Reps at 40% – 4 reps at 60% – and 2 reps at 80%. The warm-up can vary tremendously based on the movement and how far along you are in your strength development for the movement. For example – if your 5RM press is ~50 lb then you’ll only need 1 warm-up set. Or if your DL is 400 lb you’ll have 4 or 5 warm-up sets.
4Once you’re warmed up it’s time to attempt a 5RM. The goal of a 5RM is to do all 5 reps within the bounds of good biomechanics. If after a set you feel like you could have done a few more reps then you weren’t a true 5RM and you’ll need to add some weight and see if you can go higher.
5The order in which you’ll perform the movements in the training session are as follows: Squat / Bench Press / Deadlift / Press.

Step 2 – Determine your movement levels

This is where it gets fun. Please download your respective spreadsheet and open it in Excel:


Enter your body weight and your 5RM’s for the squat, deadlift, press, and bench press. You’ll end up with something like this below. Take note of your current movement levels, mark this lesson as complete, and head over to section 2 of Program Design.

Sample Test Week Outcome