The 4-Week STRONG & FAST Workout Program With Ryan Hall

STRONG & FAST is a 4-week functional training program and video series led by Olympic athlete Ryan Hall. Tune in all month long for exclusive training, nutrition, and lifestyle content courtesy of Ryan Hall to help make you unbreakable.

Olympian and former long-distance runner Ryan Hall built an entire career off of getting outside and logging long run after long run. Day in and day out, he led a fully-committed lifestyle to becoming as fast as he humanly could while covering long distances. His dedication paid off: He's the fastest American to ever run a marathon at 2:04:58, and holds the official American record for the fastest half-marathon at 59:43. 

After retiring from professional running in 2016, Ryan defied his marathon-crushing genetics and took up strength training. He piled on 50 pounds (most of it muscle) and can now deadlift over 500 pounds. He has clearly mastered everything it takes to go the distance and get it done quickly — plus cracked the code to getting bigger and stronger too. How Spartan is that?

The only way I learned about all of this was experimenting with myself and trying out different stuff,” he says.

Related: Q&A: Ryan Hall Will Train You to Be a Force of Nature

From those experiments, Ryan found that progressive overload (increasing the difficulty of the program over time), high volume training (think: lots of sets and reps), partial reps (think: ¼ squats with extra heavy weight), and drop sets (completing a set, reducing the weight, then continuing) are some of the specific techniques that worked very well for him. You can learn more about those here.

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

As far as keeping cardio up, Ryan says that it has its place, but when the goal is strength there’s got to be more emphasis on resistance training.

“We are going to touch on cardio by doing outdoor farmer carries and fitness walks, so we are going to keep cardio in there, but it's not the focus,” he says.

After four, six, or eight weeks of progressive strength training, the programming can shift back towards being more run-heavy.

“You can’t do both at the same time, so build up with the weights, then switch it up,” he explains.

Prime yourself for competition — or to crush your own personal record — by following our STRONG & FAST training program in collaboration with Ryan Hall before your next Spartan race or DEKA event. Find a race or event near you. 

Get Strong: The Strength Training Phase 

When Ryan is in a strength phase of his training, he uses weights that he finds to be very heavy. This program has been modified with the help of Ryan to be bodyweight, dumbbell, and/or kettlebell-only to accommodate any equipment limitations you may have. 

How It Works

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

During Ryan’s strength phases, four days are spent with weights and two days are dedicated to outdoor fitness walks. The workouts are very high-volume and are broken into splits for squatting, pulling, pushing, and “fitness walking,” the basic functional strength requirements for a Spartan race or DEKA event. 

Directions:

  • Week One: Follow the schedule as is. 
  • Week Two: Slightly increase the amount of resistance you use. If more resistance isn’t available, increase the number of repetitions you perform.
  • Week Three: Modify the tempo or add in pauses in the hardest part of the lift, during which you perform the exercises much slower. This will strengthen your body by forcing it to adapt to longer periods of time under tension. For example, if you typically lower into a squat in two seconds, increase that time to three or four seconds along with a one- to two-second pause at the bottom.
  • Week Four: Attempt to increase the amount of resistance you use again or increase the amount of repetitions you perform.  

Throughout the entire program, the prescribed number of repetitions is 10 unless otherwise noted. If you have heavy weights, attempt those 10 reps on all exercises. If you only have access to light weights, perform the movements to failure while maintaining good form.

Throughout the entire program, the total amount of sets per exercise is 10. (Remember, Ryan loves very high-volume training, which he derived from the German High-Volume Training methodology.) If the total amount of sets is too high for beginners, start with five sets and then progressively increase week over week.

Related: 4 Rules for Getting as Strong and Fast as Possible

The Training Schedule

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

Day 1: BIG LOWER

Day 2: BIG PULL

Day 3: Fitness Walk I

Day 4: BIG PUSH 

Day 5: EXTRA PUSH

Day 6: Fitness Walk II

Day 7: Rest

The Pre-Workout Routine

When it comes to warming up, Ryan is all about simplicity. He likes to perform a few reps and sets of the basics like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges (or perform bodyweight movements of the workout that is about to unfold). 

Related: 5 Ways to Put On 10 Pounds of Lean Muscle FAST

Prior to the warm-up routine, Ryan makes sure to eat a meal or snack that is rich in carbohydrates and protein about an hour before training. He also consumes an A_SHOC energy drink, which includes 300 milligrams of plant-powered caffeine, electrolytes from ocean minerals, and branched-chain amino acids. He also takes in simple carbs during the workout to get the maximum output during the workout, and as small rewards along the way.

The Workouts 

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

Day 1: BIG LOWER

This lower body-focused workout is designed to strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves — everything you need to barrel over hills, trudge through mud, and grind through lower body-taxing obstacles. You’ll finish with an AMRAP of jump rope for a dose of conditioning.

Perform exercise 1A for 10 reps (or to failure), and then immediately move on to exercise 1B for the prescribed amount of time. Rest for 45 seconds. Complete 10 total sets.

1A: Goblet squat

1B: Wall sits or squat holds (as long as possible)

Perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of the following exercise with good form for 3 rounds with 45 seconds rest in between.

2: Kettlebell swings 

Perform the following exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Complete 10 total sets.

3: Lunges

Perform the following exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Complete 10 total sets.

4: Step-ups 

Perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of the following exercise for five minutes.

5: Jump rope

Day 2: PULL

This is an upper body-focused workout designed to strengthen all of the muscles in your back, biceps, and forearms — everything you need to climb over any obstacle or heave, hoist, and drag any heavy objects in your way.

Perform 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Complete 10 total sets.

1: Pull-up or weighted pull-up

Perform 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Complete 10 total sets.

2: Traditional curls 

Perform each exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Alternate between 3A and 3B for 20 total sets (10 each). 

3A: Single-arm dumbbell row

3B: Isometric alternating hammer curl

Day 3: Fitness Walk I

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

This first fitness walk is a total-body strength and conditioning workout combo. You’ll not only strengthen your legs, back, shoulders, and arms, but you'll improve your muscular endurance too. These farmer carries will also be a surprising cardiovascular workout. This is an essential Spartan exercise: The plank variations at the end will build core strength and stability.

  1. Perform farmer carries for 20 minutes with as little rest as possible. 
  2. Transition from different plank variations for five to 10 minutes with rest as needed. 

Day 4: PUSH (Chest Emphasis)

This is an upper-body, push-focused workout designed to strengthen all of the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and triceps — everything you need to literally push through or push anything out of your way.

The single-arm movements in particular will help equalize any muscular imbalances you have, which will make your body more resilient against upper-body injuries, specifically involving the shoulder joint. Always remember to start with your weak side first for single-arm movements. 

Perform each exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Alternate between 1A and 1B for 10 total sets (Five each).

1A: Single-arm dumbbell bench press

1B: Dumbbell bench press

Perform each exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Alternate between 2A and 2B for 10 total sets (Five each).

2A: Single-arm dumbbell fly

2B: Dumbbell fly

Perform each exercise for 10 reps (or to failure). Rest for 45 seconds. Alternate between 3A and 3B for 10 total sets (Five each).

3A: Push-ups

3B: Dips

Day 5: EXTRA PUSH (Shoulder and Tricep Emphasis) 

This is a supplemental upper-body push workout. The first upper-body workout placed a slight emphasis on the chest, while this second routine hones in a bit more on the shoulders and triceps — slightly smaller muscle groups that could benefit from more targeted strength work.  

Perform each exercise for 10 reps. Rest for 45 seconds. Alternate between 1A and 1B for 10 total sets (Five each).

1A: Half-kneeling single-arm dumbbell overhead press

1B: Dumbbell overhead press

Perform each exercise for 10 reps. Rest for 45 seconds. 

2A: Dumbbell skull crusher

2B: Close-grip dumbbell chest press 

Perform each exercise for 10 reps. Rest for 45 seconds. 

3A: Lateral dumbbell raise

3B: Dumbbell front raise

Perform the following exercise for 10 reps. Rest for 45 seconds. Repeat for 10 sets. 

4: Tricep extension and kickback

Day 6: Fitness Walk II

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

This second fitness walk of the week is very similar to the first: It will build both muscular strength and endurance throughout the lower body while also helping to maintain your cardiovascular endurance. However, the inclusion of the double leg bounds build explosive power — another critical need when facing challenges like hills or obstacles that require you to jump. The plank variations are for more core strength and stability. 

  1. Alternate between walking lunges and double leg bounds for 20 minutes with as little rest as possible. Mark how far you get. Each time you perform a fitness walk, try to get further than you did the last time. Push yourself hard on these and you will get a significant cardio hit.
  2. Transition from different plank variations for five to 10 minutes with rest as needed.  

Day 7: REST

Get Fast: Reintroducing More Runs 

Ryan Hall's Workout Program

After a four-, six-, or eight-week commitment to getting as big and strong as possible with Ryan’s strength program, this is the point where you can begin to start carefully ramping up the runs again.

“In my opinion, the biggest mistake people make is they add too many new stimuli at one time,” Ryan says.

He recommends adding two to three 30-minute easy runs on the first week back, then gradually add more running depending on your running goals. When it comes to where to work those runs in, Ryan says to do all hard runs before strength training, and only on the lower-body days. (Note: This defies conventional advice.)

Related: 4 Ways to Sleep Deep and Grow Stronger

Easy runs can be done any time, but ideally three to four hours after strength training.

“We want all of the heavy leg stressors to be on the same day, so they can really hit those legs hard and then give them the full break they need in order to recover before their next leg day,” he explains. 

Ready to put yourself to the test? Commit to a Spartan race or DEKA event!

App Logo