Quality a Mile Deep: A Strength Program Based on Skillful Practice

Becoming strong doesn’t happen overnight. Strength is a skill, and with any skill, you must put in the time to become better. No matter what skill you choose to take part in, it takes a commitment to work diligently to improve it, prioritizing the importance of a high-quality product.

We have all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” I believe it should be stated, “Practice makes permanent.” If you practice a skill with bad habits, they will show up negatively when it matters most. Same goes with the opposite. If you practice with the mindset to become better and work toward honing your skill set, you will reap the rewards.

Strength training should be considered practice—more importantly, a skillful practice. By prioritizing key fundamentals of lifting in your training session, you will achieve a high-quality product. You will get both the results you are looking for and minimize the risk of injury. You will become strong.

Quality a Mile Deep: A Strength Program Based on Skillful Practice
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2 Key Principles as Taught by Pavel

1. Quality Over Quantity

At my first Kettlebell Certification, Pavel talked about focusing on the quality of every rep. And he advised that we should put the bell down when we still had a couple left in the tank. The emphasis was on achieving the quality of repetitions over the quantity of them.

So, instead of doing one set of fifteen, do fifteen sets of one. By spreading the load through more sets, the quality of every rep can be pursued more easily. Keeping the reps minimal and building up your sets also allows you to lift heavier weights frequently at a higher percentage of quality.

2. Inch Wide, Mile Deep

Pavel also mentioned the phrase, “Inch wide, mile deep.” Instead of doing many different exercises in your program, focus on just a couple. Spend your time working on perfecting those lifts by digging deeper to refine them. Calibrate every rep in search of the perfect one.

The use of these principles has been the foundation of my strength practices, which influenced me to come up with the following strength program.

Quality a Mile Deep: A Strength Program Based on Skillful Practice

The “Quality a Mile Deep” Strength Program

I have put together a strength program based on the above two principles. You will focus on building quality, then quantity. The result is building some solid strength a mile deep.

You will focus on one lift a day with only a couple accessory lifts to finish the training session. At the end of the program, you should be able to lift more sets in a higher percentage of your one-rep maximum by making sure there are always one to two repetitions left in the tank. You will build strength without compromising any technical breakdowns due to fatigue.

Here is how it works:

  • You select four barbell or kettlebell lifts to base the program around and do them for twelve weeks. Any four barbell or kettlebell lifts you want to improve your skill on can be used.
  • For each lift, you will pick a rep scheme of 5, 3, or 2 to use in four-week blocks. There is no prescription as to which rep scheme you use first for each lift. You will stick with the same rep scheme for the lift, but add one set per week. After those four weeks, you will switch to a rep scheme you have not done before for that lift—still choosing from either 5, 3, or 2.
  • Follow the progression of sets as you did in month one. After twelve weeks, you will have done the rep scheme of 5, 3, and 2 for every lift.
  • Split the week into two parts, both part having an upper- and lower-body lift. Since you only have the reps 5, 3, and 2 to work off, you need to pair one upper and lower lift together with the same reps and sets for the full twelve weeks. (I paired the military press and the deadlift together, but I could have also used the squat and bench. In that sense, this is more of a template than a program because you can plug in different lifts and rep schemes around what you would like to work on.)

Here is an example of the lifts, sets, and reps with the total amount of reps done for the month.

Quality a Mile Deep: A Strength Program

How to Choose Your Loads

The beauty of this strength program lies in how you design the sets. You have the freedom in what weights to choose and how to scale your load. Since the reps are low, it’s up to you to be honest with yourself and make sure you can complete each set. Don’t try to lift a weight that becomes so hard that your form breaks down. Just remember, you always need to make sure there are one to two reps left in the tank.

In each of the three possible rep schemes, you need to stay between a certain percentage of your 1RM. Here’s how it works:

  • Reps of 5: 60-80% of 1RM
  • Reps of 3: 70- 80% of 1RM
  • Reps of 2: 75-90% of 1RM

How to Plan Your Accessory Work

Each training session is dedicated to practicing your lift for the day and making it better. After you have completed your main lift for the day, you will add in some accessory lifts.

These lifts are intended to assist your lift of the day, not to replace it. They are meant to help with any issues in the movement or to help with a sticking point. You can choose among kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises to help with the main lift. Since there are many variables to each lift, I’ll leave the choice up to your imagination. If you are not sure which exercises to add in, a heavy dose of swings and get-ups usually works just fine.

The number of your accessory lifts will depend on your main lift rep schemes for that month. Here’s what I recommend.

  • 5 reps: 2-3 accessory lifts
  • 3 reps: 2-3 accessory lifts
  • 2 reps: 1-2 accessory lifts

The number of sets and reps you do for accessory work depend on which rep scheme you do for the month. Here is what I recommend:

Quality a Mile Deep: A Strength Program


Following this plan will get you strong without compromising form. You will be able to lift heavier loads, push your limits safely, and also build some toughness. By the end of the twelve weeks, you will become more efficient lifting heavier loads and become a dominating force for the world to endure.

You will build quality a mile deep. You will become STRONG!

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Mike Sousa
StrongFirst Team Leader
Mike Sousa is a StrongFirst Team Leader and has been a personal trainer for nine years. He is the owner of BrickHouse Strength & Conditioning in Modesto, California, where he eliminates weakness in his students and turns them into a dominant force no one can handle.

Mike continues to work on his skill of strength both as an instructor and as a student. One of his best records is ten consecutive reps with the Beast. In his off time, he can be found enjoying time with his girlfriend, Makayla, and his cat, Nala. You can also typically find him in the middle of some of the most brutal heavy metal pits on Earth.