What 10/20/Life IS and what it is NOT

By now, you have heard about the philosophy and training approach that is 10/20/life. New styles & programs will always roll out; some are good. In other articles, I have explained and laid out (some, not too much) as to what 10/20/life is, but for the sake of this article, I will reiterate some of that information. 10/20/life is a set of parameters and principles for you to use as a GUIDE to navigate and customize your way to programming that works for you. There are principles put into place to keep you honest with yourself, stay healthy, and, most of all – get you resilient for a lifetime. 10/20/life is a philosophy for ALL levels of lifters from just starting to full-on veterans chasing world records. Don’t believe me – look around powerrackstrength.com and see the people who have used and still use the approach.

If you know me, you know that I genuinely believe in what I’m doing. Even to a fault, I’m not a fraud, and I stand by my beliefs 100%.

I will also cover what 10/20/life is NOT, as there are a few misconceptions about this.

Here are the five points that make up the basis of 10/20/life is and what we believe in:

Five basic principles of 10/20/life

  1. We have phases in our training – this is a MUST. Think of these phases as walks (offseason) and sprints (pre-contest). We have Offseason and pre-contest phases – two very different stages in your training. Having downtime (even time off from loading your spine), where you are available mentally and physically to your family, where you are attacking weak points, and finally, a time where you are locked in 100% and focused on your goals. Yep, you guessed it – that would be your pre-contest time where you are much more locked in, focused, more selfish, and hopefully traveling less and home more (not always my case). This is not the time for drama in your life or trying to peak at two different sports. It’s been done, sure. But it’s far from optimal, and don’t compare yourself to the exception of outliers.
  2. A comprehensive and proper warm-up – a complete guide to help you get your body ready both mentally and physically for your day. There are four parts, and all four elements are specialized and custom for your needs for your body on a given day – whether squat, bench, or deadlift day – even a bodybuilding fluff and buff day to prep you not just physically BUT mentally. Both are equally important. The four parts are: break a sweat, stiffen the core, work specialized priming for the day i.e. squat day – goblet squats, than merely getting under an empty bar and greasing the groove.
  3. Form, form, form. More than once, I’ve seen a lifter change form on a movement and get an immediate 10% gain in weight lifted just by using their leverages better, getting into a better starting position, and being tighter overall. In the book 10/20/life, we have five main form cues that we practice AND preach to our clients, and in our seminars, books, videos, and articles. We are HUGE form advocates and know the importance of performance, longevity, and safety. Every squat, bench, deadlift, etc. should pretty much look the same day-to-day, week-to-week, and set-to-set.
  4. Philosophy and mindset. First, we are athletes 24/7 and are good for our bodies outside of the gym. We don’t miss lifts in training very often. We err on the side of caution, and we always leave something in the tank. You have to decide in training if you are being a pussy or just being afraid. Never back down from a weight due to fear, but you MUST listen to your body. Know the difference between being a pussy and being smart. HUGE difference. At the meet, you’re more likely to go for it. On the contrary, in training, always err on the side of caution and save it for another day.
  5. Designing CUSTOM assistance movements that cater to your weak points according to the weak point index that I designed for YOU to be your very own coach. With 10/20/life, we don’t do anything EVER just because lifter X does it. That’s as foolish as eating like a 700lb fat person does but not taking into account their goals, which most likely will not align with yours. Think about that.

What 10/20/life is not:

  1. An equipped lifting program. Due to the stigma that I’ve developed over the last 20 years as an equipped lifter, many people assume that 10/20 is a guide for equipped powerlifting. That is NOT the case. 10/20 is a strength-training guide that can be used for equipped lifting but needs modifications to fit an equipped lifter’s needs. I have written a few articles on how to use it for equipped lifting, but if you read the actual manual, you’d notice that I make no mention of lifting gear except shoes and wraps. I plan on writing a whole separate book for equipped lifting shortly. It is a strength guide, period, no matter the goal.
  2. A template. I do have templates in the book, but it’s just a guide or a starting point for you to establish then deviate when needed. It’s a blueprint, not the set have-to-follow standard for your training. The biggest thing is to keep in mind that this is what has worked for many, many lifters, clients, athletes, and such. I created templates in the book to show examples, but they are very far from what has to be done. Some like less volume and higher intensity (heavier weights and fewer sets and reps) and some prefer less intensity and more volume (more sets and reps). Some love the example as is and don’t change much at all. Some love more reverse band work to overload the top end. This is all still 10/20/life, but it’s modified just as I would hope you’d customize it for you.
  3. Not an RPE program. I’ve had many people apply for columnist spots recently on PRS, as I put the word out that I wanted some new contributors. Many claimed to know the philosophy but assumed that 10/20 is an RPE program. WRONG. It’s not a program for one, and two – it’s just one of the many, many tools in the toolbox to utilize in your training. We mainly just use RPE in the offseason, but RPE Is NOT a main principle in the book – it’s one of MANY.
  4. Not a set of rules to follow and stick by. Many people take what they feel applies to their current training philosophy and make some tweaks to it since it makes sense to them. 10/20/life – it’s a set of TOOLS to help you create your program. I give you the tools, suggest certain movements to use, some to avoid, how to attack your weak points, warm-up, train your offseason and pre-contest, and how to avoid burning the candle at both ends for too long like I have many times.
  5. It’s not a book that just tells you how I train myself and what works me. I’ve heard and read about many books and seminars where the gist of the seminar is simply just telling people what they did for their WR day or program or what happened to work for them and tell people this is how they should train. STUPID won’t help anyone but your ego. This is NOT what 10/20/life is. This is a way of life, a way to approach training for a lifetime of positive momentum in training and in LIFE. This is a philosophy that has worked for COUNTLESS people; man or woman, raw or equipped, recreational, or world beater– no matter their goal, as long as it involves getting stronger. What I don’t want you to think is that I just lay out a few workouts about how I trained for a few WR appearances and good meets, threw in some music that I love to listen to, a few pictures of me holding some trophies and titles, and then tell you to do as I do. This could not be further from the truth!

Get started on the 10/20/life second edition philosophy now – on sale for only $17.50!

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian Carroll is committed to helping people overcome back pain and optimizing lifts and movement. After years of suffering, he met back specialist Prof. McGill in 2013, which led to a life-changing transformation. In 2017, they co-authored the best-selling book "Gift of Injury." On October 3, 2020, Carroll made history in powerlifting by squatting 1306 lbs, becoming the first person to break this record. He retired with a secure legacy and a life free from back pain.
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