Modifying 10/20/Life For Your Specific Needs

By: Danny Vega

One thing we talk about often is that 10/20/Life is customizable. You have Brandon Crabill mixing powerlifting with endurance training, Scott Paltos doing bodybuilding style training while he heals up, and even my own wife has been following a more powerbuilding type program to prep for her knee surgery. That’s because when you buy the book, you’re not buying a cookie cutter program. It’s a training philosophy that’s been developed over several years through trial and error, and it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. The keys when modifying 10/20/Life are to start with your goals in mind and work backwards, and then have either a coach or a knowledgeable friend look over what you come up with to make sure your programming matches your goals.


This off-season I have been experimenting with a higher volume than I am used to working with, even by off-season standards. I wrote my programming and then passed it on to several of my teammates, who gave me great pointers on how I could improve it. By the time I was done, I had gone through 5 different versions. Let me explain how I customized 10/20/Life to fit this off season’s goals. First of all, I started with my goals in mind.

  1. Strengthen bench and bench form
  2. Alternate between sumo and conventional
  3. Increase squat work capacity
  4. Put on some muscle
  5. Get better at everything at the same time.

Just kidding on the last one—but these were my main goals. I also wanted to get more aggressive with my eating, to really max myself out at the 220 weight class. This is what drove my thought process. I figured the best way to reach these goals program-wise would be to increase my training volume and calories.

Here is my current training split:

Day One – Combo lower. Squats, deads, pause squats, glute/ham

Day Two – Bench. Touch and go, paused bench, closegrip, and a ton of lats and upper back

Day Three – Lower accessory. Front squats, sumo pulls, lower body bodybuilding and sled work

Day Four – Upper accessory/bench form reinforcement. Light bench, Incline, fluff and buff stuff

Quick thoughts on this: I only pulled sumo 2 out of every 3 weeks for the first half of this off-season. So in 6 weeks, I got 4 good sessions and have now decided that sumos will be cut and the second lower body day will be used more for recovery than anything else. On top of that, I played with some higher rep schemes.

Here are some examples of what I did for my main lifts:

Week 1: 5×8 except for pulls. Pulls were 4×3 followed by a top set of 8.

Week 2: 4×6, pulls were 3×2 followed by a top set of 6

Week 3: Deload. Rows instead of sumo pulls on lower accessory

Week 4: 3×5, pulls were 2×1 followed by a top set of 5

Week 5: 5×6, pulls were 4×3 followed by a top set of 6

Week 6: Same as week 3

I’m finishing up my second deload of the off-season and I’m on my way to accomplishing all of my goals. Moving forward, I will be transitioning to more of a typical off-season volume. The bottom line is that I have taken the principles of 10/20/Life and modified my programming to fit my goals. This can be easily done in a variety of different situations—bodybuilding, rehab, hybrid training, etc. Again, this is because 10/20/Life is not a program. If you make changes to a different program, you run the risk of changing the program entirely from what it was intended to do. The key is to make sure that your programming matches your goals.


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Danny Vega

Danny Vega is a 220lb raw powerlifter with meet bests of 640 squat in wraps (610 raw), 400 bench, and 700 deadlift. A native of Miami, Florida, Vega received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2004, where he was a member of the football team and a three-time Dean’s List recipient. Vega earned his masters of science in human performance from the University of Florida, where he worked with the national championship men’s basketball team along with women’s basketball, tennis, and golf programs. He then went on to become the Strength & Conditioning coordinator for VCU basketball. The Rams were 2007 conference champions and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
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Brian Carroll

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