This page is meant to be a “cheat sheet”, of sorts, for our Advanced Nemesis Program Variations, which we are calling The Nemesis WODS for short.
NOTE: The 21 day squat challenge, or any other serious variation of the Squat Nemesis Program REQUIRES that you are PAST the White Belt Rank for Mobility and Movement! AT A MINIMUM, you should also have completed our White Belt Squat Program. If you aren’t at this level, then the risk is all on you.
Nemesis is not just for squats, contrary to popular perception. It forms the basis of all of our programming here (and in the gym at Asheville Strength).
Specifically in these areas: the focus on high workloads and volume in the right intensity zones; and a massively intuitive approach to every workout.
In short, Nemesis style training is most closely related to the way you would train a Samurai or other old-school martial artist. It is Taoism/Zen incarnate.
- 1 THE NEMESIS PROGRAM ADVANCED VARIATIONS
- 2 STEP 1 – RAMPS
- 3 STEP 2 – INTENSIFIERS
- 3.1 Classical Nemesis
- 3.2 Mini-Neme
- 3.3 Hawaiian Holiday
- 3.4 T-Rex
- 3.5 Velocity Raptor
- 3.6 Never Ending Story
- 3.7 The Angry Sloth
- 3.8 The Happy Kangaroo
- 3.9 Event Horizon
- 3.10 Black Hole
- 3.11 Super Nova
- 3.12 Comrade
- 3.13 Reg Park
- 3.14 The Terminator
- 3.15 Tidal Wave
- 3.16 Tsunami
- 3.17 Chinese Dragon
- 3.18 Lazy Tiger
- 3.19 Snatch WOD
- 3.20 Yin Yang Bang
- 4 Combo Platters
- 5 CHALLENGES (optional)
The Squat Nemesis Program has become rather famous (or infamous, depending upon how your legs feel that day) as one of the hardest, and most effective squat programs anyone has ever tried.
It is particularly effective for intermediate lifters, interestingly enough – the biggest gains (40, 60+ pounds in less than a month) being clocked by guys who ALREADY squatted double bodyweight, for instance.
Your coach, and my girl, Tamara (aka The Ninja Manatee) was already a national-level Olympic weightlifter with a squat of over 200 lbs by the time she tried it. She added about 40 pounds in 6 weeks! She has now added almost 70 lbs in less than 3 months using the advanced Nemesis protocol below, and she recently hit a 308 lb squat!
And yet… for all of this success… I was never satisfied with it “as is”. The Classical version of the program always worked like magic for about the first few months. Then it would wane a bit…
Well, that’s not entirely true. It waned for those who were too strict. For lifters who act like every workout is a performance of a classical orchestra (follow the notes on the page exactly), the classical nemesis program has limits.
For those lifters who treated the workouts as the performance of a 4 piece jazz band, the results just kept on coming.
In other words, the key to discovering the secret to endless improvement was to embrace the inherent Taoist nature of the Nemesis Program: “Water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend,” said Bruce Lee. No words could more accurately express the underlying keys to progress that Nemesis embodies.
Intensity in all forms relevant to strength training is essential in every workout. No light days. That’s the crashing part.
The flowing part is that you are meant to listen to your body with open ears, go with it, don’t fight it. If you don’t have a heavy single in you today, who cares? Switch to something else.
The “plan” you had coming into the gym may need to change based upon how you feel – this will happen often. Maybe you wanted to start with one WOD, but that just wasn’t working. Don’t be upset. (That would make you a fool.) It is simply a fact. Instead, find a new WOD that you can destroy that day.
If the waves are high, a relaxing swim isn’t in the cards. But then, that’s why God invented surfing!
Don’t just go with the flow, BE the flow.
PRELIMINARY WARNINGS (Mandatory)
“Flowing” is not an invitation to embrace your inner pansy ass. Self responsibility is at a premium. You are expected to work harder than you ever imagined possible. Every. Single. Day. You get out what you put in. Period.
The point of flowing is to shift away from banging your head against a wall so that you can figure out how to scale it, go around it, or grab a giant jack hammer to help you bust through it.
Doggedly “sticking to the plan” is a recipe for stagnation, injury, and idiocy.
Flow so that you can do MORE work, not less.
Keep your emotions in check. This is part of your training.
When you come into the gym EXPECTING a certain thing that you end up not getting, you get pissed. That is YOUR fault. Accept this. Change this. Your expectations were foolish. There is no such thing as predicting the future. What happens is what happens.
You can’t make it rain tomorrow. But you CAN be prepared for the rain.
A 1 rep max is an EFFECT, it is NOT a cause. The training is the cause. Get back to training and stop feeling sorry for yourself.
This is meant to be a program for “intermediate” lifters, which is basically every single one of us.
Here at Weightlifting Academy, we define beginners to be people in that ultra-super-new phase that only lasts about 12 weeks if you do it right.
We define people as advanced only when they are butting up against their genetic maximums. You know what we mean, those poor souls who are happy to add a single kilo to the bar every year.
All of the rest of us are intermediates. And this phase will likely last you a decade or longer.
Don’t despair. Being an intermediate is awesome. You get to make massive gains.
If you are advanced, then you are one of the few people on earth who are, and you can do whatever you want.
If you are a true rank beginner (never seriously squatted before), don’t worry. We have a new White Belt Squat Program just for you!
I’m serious. There are no light days. Every day is a heavy day.
There will be many who will cry foul and flip out in fear of over-training, injuries, and the like. Let them.
Americans have a strange and obsessive fear of over-training syndrome. And yet, in all of my years of coaching, and as hard as I have tried to over-train my athletes – on purpose – I have failed to do so, miserably.
Every year, I have upped the amount of work I expect from my lifters. And every year the results come faster.
If you think hard about this for a second, it makes sense why this has happened.
- Do you think Navy Seals take light days?
- Do you think the Samurai did?
- Do you think wolves in the wild avoid sprinting after their prey because they did HIIT yesterday?
Of course not. Our species, like most, is built to do work – a lot of it.
All throughout history, we have be forced by necessity to work our tails off every single day. But now, because our new modern default is to sit around for 17 hours a day and sleep 7, we can’t imagine working out hard in the gym more than 3 times a week.
Nemesis will do many things for you. Among them will be a return to your true nature.
THE NEMESIS PROGRAM ADVANCED VARIATIONS
I know, I just told you that you are an intermediate. So why am I using the term “advanced”? Because we’re discussing the variations of nemesis that are an advancement over the old way. That’s all.
Nemesis can be used successfully with a host of exercises, but the flagship has always been squats. If you are new to any of this, we suggest you begin by trying this out with back squats or front squats.
We can sum your daily workouts as follows:
- Pick one Ramp
- Pick one Intensifier (WOD)
- Work your tail off
- Repeat daily (or as close as you can get)
The Ramps are simply different ways to start with the empty bar and end up with heavy weights. In the “Classical” version of Nemesis, you would work up to a 1rm for instance. But the problem was that people kept asking us HOW to work up to a 1rm.
Well… we now have that outlined for you.
The Intensifiers are the “real” workout of the day (WOD). We call them intensifiers on purpose, by the way, because they are supposed to be done with maximum intensity!
Remember that there are NO light days, where “light” means easy. The weight may be lighter today than yesterday, but maybe you are doing more reps, or you are doing speed sets, or pause squats, or whatever… the point is that you are ALWAYS working at maximum intensity, no matter what.
Lastly, if you want you can add in a Challenge, or two. But keep in mind that the challenges are just that. They are like little contests, they are not the program. Competition is not the same as training. It is almost the OPPOSITE of training. Focus the shear work itself that comes from doing the Ramp + Intensifier every workout.
STEP 1 – RAMPS
Start with the bar, go up!
Working up in weight isn’t as easy or as simple as it sounds. Do you make 10 pound jumps? 30? Do you use sets of 3, 5, 10, 1?
We have tried just about everything at this point, and we’ve found the following ways of ramping up (Ramps) to be the most useful. We use them daily.
3rm, 2rm, 1rm
Do sets of 3 reps every set, working up slowly, until you get to a weight where doing the 3rd rep seems impossible. Then add weight and do the same with sets of 2 until finishing the 2nd rep seems impossible. Then keep going in singles (sets of 1) until you miss.
Once you get to something that feels heavy for a set of 3, do not go up by more than 5% at a time. Why? Because part of the point is to get your volume in on the way up, not just afterwards for your “back off sets” AKA Intensifiers.
This is by far the most commonly used rep scheme in the gym as a Ramp. It’s shockingly effective.
Workout: 5rm, 4rm, 3rm, 2rm, 1rm
Same as Volcano, just bigger! Work up in sets of 5 reps until you can only do 4, add weight, continue.
NOTES: The point is not to truly fail and drop the bar on the ground on any of these “RM’s”. Not even the single at the end. The POINT is to get up into Zone 1 and do a little work there. (See the original article – top – on why and what this is.)
STEP 2 – INTENSIFIERS
This is where the fun begins! Now that you are warmed up, have done a little work in Zone 1, it’s time to pump up the volume.
You have a lot of options:
Workout: Drop to 70% of your 1rm and work back up to a 3rm. Then drop to 50% and do 2×5.
Don’t make jumps larger than 5% of your 1rm. Go until you fail the 3rd rep. Re-rack the bar and bring it to 50%, and do two sets of 5 reps as speed sets = slow on the way down, massively explosive on the way up.
Workout: 3×3 at 80%
We never do this anymore for squats. It’s simply not enough. But it’s great as back off work for Snatches, Clean & Jerks, Jerks off the rack, heavy pulls, etc.
Workout: Drop back down to 50% and do Montezuma all over again, repeat until death.
This is one of those brutal, but near perfect examples of what we’re after.
Workout: Drop to 80%. Work up in 3’s taking only 2% jumps.
Named after our lifter Emily “T-Rex” Cid.
Workout: Drop to 70%, work up in 2’s with 2% jumps on the minute every minute.
You’ll need a timer for this one.
Never Ending Story
Workout: Put 90% of todays 1rm on the bar and do a single. Rest. Do another. Keep doing this until you fail or get 10 total.
Once you can get 10 singles with a certain weight, it’s time to go up in weight.
The Angry Sloth
Workout: Sets of 2 rep Pause Squats at 75% or more until failure. Use the same weight for the entire workout.
Squat deep into the hole, pause for a count of 3, then come up as fast as you can.
The Happy Kangaroo
Workout: Sets of 2 rep Jump Squats at 75% or more until failure. Use the same weight for the entire workout.
Squat down slowly and under control. Explode out of the bottom and keep increasing speed as you come up. You should be going so fast that your heels come up off of the ground on every rep. JUMP!
Workout: At about 85% of todays max, try to get 10 total reps doing as few sets as possible.
Once you can get 10 reps in 3 sets or less, you need to add weight the next time. 4, 3, 3 would do it.
Workout: Start at about 75% and see if you can get 21 total reps in just 3 sets. 3 x 7 would do it.
Once you can do that, add weight next time.
Workout: Start with about 65%. See if you can get in 35 total reps in just 3 sets. 3 x 12 would do it.
Once you can do that, add weight next time.
Workout: Start at 90% and do 3 reps. Drop 5% and do 3 reps. Repeat until you get to 70%.
This is reverse Classical Nemesis, thus the name… get it?
Invented and utilized often by our lifter Zach Bijesse.
Workout: 5×5 at 80% or more
Named after the bodybuilder of the “old school” era, the man who influenced Arnold.
Workout: 5 x 10 at 60% or more
Once you can get 5 sets of 10 reps at a certain weight, go up next time.
Workout: 10 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with 80%
You can rest if you need to, doesn’t matter. You have 10 minutes to accumulate as many reps as you can with this weight.
Workout: 20 minute AMRAP with 80%
Just like Tidal Wave, only bigger and deadlier.
Workout: Drop to 50% and ramp up to a 7rm
Yes, do 7’s all the way up. Great for bodybuilding purposes.
Workout: Start at 70%+ and do sets of 7 reps, dropping by 5% each time till you get to about 50%.
Hint: Combine them into a Yin/Yang spiritual experience that will lead you toward reaching Squatori (see “Combo Platters” below).
(Only use for snatches)
Workout: Take 10 attempts at 85%, make or miss. Just reset the bar and go on every rep. NOTE: This is meant to be 10 singles not a set of 10. This is a mental workout not a cardio workout.
If you make 8 of them, raise the weight next time.
Yin Yang Bang
(Only use for snatches and cleans)
Workout: Start at 70% and work up to a 3rm, 2rm, 1rm with the Yin/Yang snatch drill
This workout is DEEPLY important for many lifters when working their Olympic lifts. When in doubt, do this.
Sometimes, one meal just isn’t enough. Time to channel your inner Sumo Wrestler (Rikishi) and find your nearest all you can eat buffet!
These WODS are combos of the above, or all-out maniacal twists on a theme.
Workout: This is double Volcano – a Ramp and Intensifier in one. Instead of doing one set at each weight, you do TWO. For example: 3×70 kg, 3×70 kg, 3×80 kg, 3×80 kg, 3×90 kg, 3×90 kg, 2×100 kg, 2×100 kg, 2×110 kg, 2×110 kg, 1×120 kg, 1×120 kg… If you miss a rep on the second set of a weight – say you do 3×90 kg and then 2×90 kg – continue with the lesser number of reps on the next set.
Workout: 100 total reps. Make sure 50% of them are above 70% of your 1RM.
It makes sense to just pick 2 of the above and work them hard.
Workout: Chinese Dragon on the way up, Lazy Tiger on the way down…
Both yin and yang in the same workout, implying the Zen circle, implying enlightenment = Satori in Japanese. Get it???
FYI, in Chinese, the word “wu” means the same thing. RZA was onto something.
Workout: Pick any Intensifier, then do 5 x 10 @ 50% at the end. (This will likely result in a Wu Tang situation).
Workout: Choose any THREE of the above and do all of them.
In case you have nothing better to do, you may as well do more work.
These are just for fun, and should never be confused with the workouts themselves. However, if you are looking to show off and/or add in some extra work on top of what you already did, you have my blessing.
Anything from a 1rm to a 10rm.
Note that you already have a bunch of these build into your Ramps for the day. But you can always go back and try again!
The Bulky Manatee
AMRAP at 60% or more. Once you can get 20 reps, it’s time to increase the weight.
The Dan John
50 reps with your own body weight on the bar. We’ll call this some kind of insanity… and that’s coming from me.
The Richard Marx
Turn on some 80’s music, pick any Intensifier, and sing in between each rep (not during!!!)… loudly. Requires massive core stability and strength. Not recommended for anyone… but some of you are crazy, and that just has to be accepted.
FUN EXAMPLE of The Bulky Manatee:
Here’s our lifter Sara. She thought she was going for the Bulky Manatee… but she nearly ended up doing the Dan John. She did 60 kg x 44 reps… she only weighs 63!
Ready to Get Big Results? CLICK HERE to Join our 21-day Squat Challenge.
NOTE: We make EVERY SINGLE lifter in our gym go through the 21-Day Squat Challenge as part of a comprehensive Foundation Training. Now it’s your turn!