Plan Focus: Big 24 Strength Training Plan

Veteran MTI Lab Rat, Cody, fights through heavy back squats during Big 24.

By Rob Shaul

The closest I’ve ever come to puking in the gym was during a Big 24 Strength Training Session – specifically, round 7 of heavy hang squat cleans. Many of my athletes have lost their cookies during a hard work capacity effort, but for me, panic breathing didn’t reach the intensity of Big 24 that day.

It was the final progression of the plan, and the other lab rats and myself wouldn’t even bother with the stretch between heavy sets. We’d just collapse on the floor next to the barbell between sets.

Earlier in the cycle, we could easily finish these sessions in 50 or 60 minutes, but now, at the end, more rest was needed between efforts and the sessions were stretching to 70 and 75 minutes.

The power of Big 24 is its simplicity, deployment of proven, classic strength exercises, and aggressive progression.

“24” comes from the total volume of the upper and lower body strength exercises in the plan. Specifically, you’ll do 8 rounds of 3 reps for a total of 24 total reps.

The first progression is to work up in loading over the 8 rounds to find your 3RM – or 3 Repetition Maximum load.

You’ll complete 8 rounds of 3 reps for the second progression also, but for rounds 4-8, complete a load which is 10 pounds less than your 3RM.


For the 3rd progression, you’ll complete rounds 4-8 at a load 5 pounds less than your 3RM.

Finally, for the 4th progression, you’ll complete rounds 4-8 at your original 3RM load.





  • Back Squat – One of the key lifts to build strength. High bar or low bar doesn’t matter, pick one and be consistent.
  • Kettlebell/Dumbbell Walking Lunge – Unilateral total leg smoker. Keep your midsection tight to prevent tipping toward one side.
  • Hang Squat Clean – Simple Olympic movement.
  • Push Press – Builds power transfer between the lower and upper body and overloads the shoulders to build strength.
  • Bench Press – Builds upper body pressing strength.
  • Weighted Pull Ups – Builds upper body pulling strength.



  • Monday – Back Squat, Walking Lunge, Hang Squat Clean
  • Tuesday – Bench Press, Weighted Pull Up, Push Press
  • Wednesday – Shuttle Sprints, Chassis Integrity (short session)
  • Thursday – Back Squat, Walking Lunge, Hang Squat Clean
  • Friday – Bench Press, Weighted Pull Up, Push Press

As you work through the program, it’s important not to push the loading progression. While the first progression may seem “easy”, by the end of the second week, you’ll find working through the Total Body Big 24 is like going to battle with the barbell. It is very intense.



Over the years I’ve updated and improved our Big 24 Strength Training Plan four times (we’re currently on version 4 – Updated November 2016) and have come to see it as one of our most efficient and effective plans to build total body relative strength for mountain, tactical and other athletes we work with.

The current version is 7 weeks long and you’ll train 5 days/week. The plan includes initial 3RM assessments on Week 1, and re-assessments Week 4 and 7. After the Week 4 re-assessment you’ll re-set the progressions and deploy the programming for a couple more weeks until the final, Week 7 assessment.



This plan can be completed in any commercial gym with barbells, a rack, and dumbbells. In addition, you will need a stop watch with an interval timer for the 40-foot and 300m Shuttles (Ironman Timex is best). You’ll also need a backpack you can add plates to for weighted pull ups.



How long should the training sessions take?
40-75 minutes.

What if I can’t keep up the Monday to Friday Training Schedule?
If for any reason you cannot keep this Monday-Thursday training schedule, do not skip a training session. Rather, complete all the training sessions in succession. Whatever the schedule, always take two days a week, ideally together, as total rest.

What if I’m not an expert with the Olympic Lifts?
You need some familiarity with the Hang Squat Clean to work through this program, but you don’t need to be an expert or accomplished Olympic weightlifter. You’ll be fine.

What about unfamiliar exercises?
Learn them or brush up here:

What about my diet?
Eating well does not take rocket science. It takes discipline. Here are our recommended diet guidelines:

6 days/week – eat as much meat, vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts as you want – no restriction. Drink only water, coffee or tea. Do not eat bread, pasta, or grain of any kind, no potatoes, corn or other starchy vegetables. No sugar, candy, soda or alcohol.

1 day/week – cheat like a mother. Eat/drink anything you want.

What about supplements?
We don’t take them. If you, we’d recommend only drinking a 20-30 gram whey protein shake 15 minutes before and/or 15 minutes after training.

What if I have more questions?

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