Whether you’re looking to power lift, strength train, or if you’re just getting into the world of weight lifting, Jon Candito is a name you should become familiar with. Jonnie Candito is the creator and CEO of Candito Training, and he is “one of the strongest pound for pound collegiate athletes in the nation,” taken from his website. Jonnie Candito is an internet presence that I respect more than most, not only for his amazing achievements in the world of power lifting, but also because he promotes a “no nonsense” approach towards spreading knowledge of strength training by offering very informative and helpful videos (on his website and Youtube channel), as well as free strength programs on his website. Jonnie Candito helped me with my squat form via his “How To Squat With Perfect Form” video, and his “Candito 6 Week Strength Program” helped me push past plateaus I was experiencing in my squat and bench. This post will focus primarily on the 6 Week Strength Program, because this is what I have firsthand experience in (I recently completed this program), but I suggest checking out his website for other options and video tutorials.
A quick note: the 6 Week Strength Program is ideal for intermediate lifters. If you are more of a beginner lifter, Jonnie Candito recommends his Linear Program, which is “ideal for beginners” but “can be very useful for more experienced lifters as well.” (Taken from Jonnie Candito’s website.)
First and foremost, you can find Jonnie Candito’s free strength programs here. Download the PDF and the Excel spreadsheet for the 6 Week Strength Program (or the PDF for the Linear Program if you prefer that one.) Jonnie himself offers in this PDF a clear and thorough understanding of this program, so in addition to providing a brief summary here, I also advise you to read through the PDF before you begin the program. I will also offer you my own amateur review of the 6 Week Strength Program, a couple of tips to think about when you’re getting started, and a link to another review of this program by Izzy T. Narvaez of Powerlifting to Win.
Candito 6 Week Strength Program: The program is split into 6 weeks (with an optional 7th, see the PDF for details), with each week having a focus. This is called periodization, which is beneficial because it helps to prevent plateaus before they even have a chance to develop. Each week also builds on the prior week, keeping the “bigger picture” in mind with regard to balancing both strength and muscle mass, and helping to prevent injury. The program also uses an upper/lower split within each week emphasizing compound movements (as opposed to isolation exercises) which are more stimulating. This helps prevent injuries because “you will use better form having shorter, more goal oriented workouts.” The exercises you will do in the upper/lower split are effective and superior to other filler exercises. For example, if you can effectively squat deep on lower body day, there should be no need to do a leg press accessory exercise that same day. Accessory or optional exercises should offer something that a main compound move doesn’t.
Candito tailored this program to each individual user by creating a formula, based on your own personal one rep max, to determine the weight you should be lifting each week.
The Exercise: The main upper body compound move is the bench press, so each upper body day you will be benching. In addition to the bench press, on upper body days you have to choose 3 additional required accessory movements. Therefore, in total, you will be doing at a minimum 4 exercises on upper body days. With regard to the three additional required accessory movements, Candito explains which muscle group you should target (back, shoulders, and biceps), and he gives examples of moves that would be considered accessory moves for each muscle group. These 4 exercises are the only requirements on upper body days, but you have the option to throw in two extra optional exercises if you’re feeling up to it. Something to remember here is that since you are consistently doing the 4 required exercises, these are intended to be improved over time. Optional exercises, however, can act as a cool down, or as a bonus for areas which need emphasis. Candito also lists examples of optional exercises in his PDF.
There are two lower body compound moves in this program which will be done each lower body day: squat and deadlift. These two exercises together hit the entire lower body, and are a great workout in itself. These two are the only required exercises for lower body day, and follow the Excel spreadsheet and PDF for guidance on how many optional lower body exercises you have each week, and for examples of both explosive accessories for lower body, or hypertrophy movements.
Candito allows for customization to the program with the optional exercises, but you can effectively complete the program just doing the 4 required upper body lifts, and the two lower. Only do additional optional exercises if you feel up to it, and if you feel as though you can complete them safely with good form. Time also plays a factor here. It is not a good idea to rush through the compound moves just to have time to throw in additional optional moves.
Thus completes the very brief overview of the program. Candito’s PDF offers much more useful information regarding the program, including substitution exercises and helpful tips, and I wouldn’t recommend starting the program without reading it for yourself.
Why do I recommend this program? The short answer to this question would be that it worked for me – numbers don’t lie, and I certainly surprised myself throughout the program, pushing past plateaus in a way I didn’t think I could. Candito mentions in his PDF the psychological factors involved in the success of this program. It is designed in such a way that presents you your progress as early as two weeks into it. The exercises are also designed to be difficult and challenging, but certainly not impossible. There are consistent confidence boosts throughout the program, and weight doesn’t increase each workout. I find that when I try to increase the weight a little bit each workout, every day becomes a demotivating struggle/competition between the current workout and workouts of the past. I found that the methodology of increasing the weight and ultimately hitting a PR (personal record) at the end of it was very effective.
In addition, I love the fact that Candito offers not only a complete workout, but also an Excel spreadsheet to aid in planning and documenting the program. The Excel doc really helps because I was never unsure of what weight to use or how many reps/sets to do. I wasn’t constantly at odds with myself to meet my own personal weight and rep goals. In addition, the program adjusted my goals based on my progress and capabilities. I felt pushed to succeed, but never pushed in a way that made me feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or injury prone.
Lastly, the structure of the program (upper/body split and focus on compound movements) was really helpful to me in achieving my fitness goals. I consider myself a busy girl – I work, go to school, and still consistently make it to the gym. On most days, I don’t have time to spend over an hour at the gym. The compound movements are more stimulating to the body, hit larger amounts of muscles than isolation exercises, and lead to a shorter but more effective workout. Candito mentions in the PDF that the exercises in this program run between 45-60 minutes, and this is perfect for anyone who feels as though time is often running short.
Some tips for those seriously interested in starting this program: For one, use the Excel doc! It is impossible to complete this program without documenting progress and using the provided spreadsheet to figure out how much weight to use each week. Second, and Candito also mentions this in his PDF, don’t modify the main compound moves (unless modification is necessary due to a bodily limitation or injury, of course). The program is centered around these main compound moves for a reason, and though Candito allows a lot of modification with regard to accessory moves and optional exercises, the main compound moves should not be messed around with. Candito does offer in the PDF alternatives for those who really do not want to bench or deadlift in the standard form. Lastly, this program is doable but challenging. Like I already said, it definitely works for someone who is busy, but consistency is key. Start this program when you know you will have 6 weeks of access to the gym, and start when you are fairly certain you can be consistent for the full 6 weeks.
Lastly, I would like to stress that I am not a professional, and the advice offered in this post is simply my opinion and testimony of my experience with this program.
Want more information? Take a look at Candito’s website and Youtube channel, both linked above, and also take a look at this review of Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program, written by power lifter Izzy T. Narvaez of Powerlifting to Win.
I hope this article helps all of my fit and fab readers! Have a suggestion or comment about Jonnie Candito or Candito Training HQ? Share them below!