The Candito Six-Week Strength Training Program, Explained

From humble beginnings as one of social media’s earliest online strength training content creators, powerlifter and YouTube personality Jonnie Candito has spent the last decade or so growing his reputation and presence in the space as a coach whose in-the-gym bite matches his on-camera bark.  

Since as far back as 2012 — Candito’s first YouTube video, entitled “Squatting to Failure – Showing How to Safely Miss a Rep” was uploaded on May 19 of that year and has since garnered over 200,000 views — Candito’s YouTube channel served as a resource for internet-savvy gymgoers who wanted a relatable creator that also happened to be strong as an ox.

Candito fits that bill and then some. Not only is he an accomplished powerlifter in his own right, his online successes led to him developing several different strength training programs.

His six-week strength template is a fantastic option for anyone looking to put a few (dozen) pounds on their Total and add some muscle in the process. Here’s how it works, and why it’s one of the better strength routines out there. 

The Candito Six-Week Powerlifting Program

Candito Six-Week Strength Program Overview

If you’re deciding on whether or not to bite the bullet and run Candito’s six-week routine, you should be pleased to find out that he’s written extensively on the plan to help guide your training and explain the principles behind how the program is set up.

Candito’s six-week strength program is available as an interactive Excel spreadsheet on his website that allows you to plug in your current bests in the squat, bench press, and deadlift, your preferred start date, as well as which accessory movements you enjoy the most.

The gist of the program is a six-week, moderate-frequency upper/lower program that begins by developing your tolerance to resistance training before moving towards high-intensity strength work. You’re also given the option of testing your maxes at the conclusion of week six, or ease off the gas and go for a deload.

While this program is centered around improving the bench, squat, and deadlift, the template is not exclusively made for powerlifters. As Candito explains, the basic weekly setup of his six-week program focuses on developing the following qualities: 

  • Week 1: Muscular Conditioning
  • Week 2: Hypertrophy
  • Week 3: Linear Progression
  • Week 4: Heavy Acclimation & Power
  • Week 5: Maximal Strength
  • Week 6: Deload or Max Test

Note: Candito recommends adding a seventh week to the program for deloading if you opt to test your strength in the big lifts during week six.

The program is designed to bring up multiple different dimensions of your fitness via tweaking and tailoring your workouts on a week-to-week basis. As such, you should refer to the Excel spreadsheet for a specific overview of the notation as it relates to your unique strength levels and preferred accessory work. 

Why It Works

In Candito’s own words, the beauty of his six-week program lies in removing as many extraneous variables as possible and streamlining the process of strength training. He believes that following the program will put you “on the long-term path for consistent gains” if you can stick to it.

A Periodized Approach

Candito remarks that periodization — the organizational principles behind setting up a resistance training program — aren’t just for strength athletes. He notes that by implementing periodization early on into your lifting career, you can prevent weaknesses in your performance before they begin.

Periodization also takes a large amount of the guesswork out of your exercise habits. Instead of wondering how many reps or sets you should do in the gym, or what order you should perform your lifts in, a periodized program (especially one that is designed around your current strength levels), provides a focused approach to training. 

Brevity

In Candito’s mind, there is merit to a workout that won’t take up your entire afternoon (or morning). He notes that short, intense sessions will help keep you focused and prevent the possibility of unwanted psychological burnout that sometimes accompanies extended workouts.

If you run his six-week plan, Candito emphasizes that you should come to the gym on a mission. Get in, train hard, and get out. Most workouts should take between 45 minutes and an hour at most. 

Tapered Workloads

As Candito notes, the “trade-off between frequency and intensity” is an element of training that you constantly have to monitor and balance. In simple terms, the more often you’re in the gym, the lower your intensity will likely have to be during each session. After all, something wouldn’t add up if you could train just as hard on a six-day plan as you would on a three-day plan.

The program accounts for this by gradually tapering your frequency while stacking up the weights you use. While you begin by working out five days per week for two weeks, you’ll ultimately taper down to three hard and heavy sessions asking only that you give your all on a few select exercises.

Focuses on Compound Lifting

As a strength-centric program it goes without saying, but for non-powerlifters it does bear mentioning; Candito’s six-week plan is based around improving your squat, bench press, and deadlift. The proverbial “Big Three” of powerlifting, these compound movements not only activate just about every muscle in your body, but also improve your neuromuscular coordination and top-to-bottom stability as well. 

Customizability

While the Excel sheet is strict about requiring you to perform the squat, pull, and bench press, Candito offers a lot of flexibility with your auxiliary training. He writes that you’re free to pick your accessory movements of choice during both the upper and lower-body workouts.

Credit: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

More control over which exercises you prefer, find more enjoyable, or that align with your body type should help with adherence long-term. There’s no sense in running a routine packed to the brim with movements you hate doing. 

What You’ll Need

For a strength-focused program, you’ll need strength training equipment. While you may not need to seek out a powerlifting or strongman’s gym to run the Candito plan, this routine may not be appropriate for you if you exercise at home.

Barbell

Put simply, you won’t be able to run the Candito six-week program as-written if you don’t have reliable access to a barbell. However, note that Candito does say you may make substitutions to the Big Three if you really want to, such as replacing deadlifts with the snatch-grip version. 

Dumbbells

They aren’t mandatory, but many of Candito’s suggested accessory exercises for the upper body are performed with dumbbells. You can certainly run Candito’s routine without having a wide array of dumbbells, but they do also provide a welcome reprieve from all the heavy barbell work you’ll ultimately do in the latter half of the plan. 

Gym Access

Technically speaking, Candito’s routine can be performed at home provided you have a barbell, bench, squat rack, and various other free weights. Many of Candito’s prescriptions don’t actually require gym-specific equipment such as cable trees or a Smith machine.

That said, commercial gyms earn points for having all the items you need in one place. You’ll probably have the smoothest time if you run this routine in a well-furnished facility. Furthermore, if you perform the workouts in a gym rather than alone at home, you can locate a good spotter if you need one. 

Who Should Do the Candito Six-Week Strength Program

Candito’s six-week routine isn’t for everyone, but it almost is. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to give it a shot, consider first if you fall into one of these categories.

Beginners

Despite not being labeled a beginner-friendly routine, Candito’s six-week program is suitable for those who are just getting their feet wet with resistance training. As long as you have some barometer of your one-rep max in the squat, bench, and deadlift, you should be able to run the program just fine.

Little girl sets up to back squat at powerlifting competition
Credit: Jordan Jovkov / Shutterstock

Candito also provides a clear distinction between mandatory and optional — if you find that a third or fourth accessory exercise makes the program too difficult, you can simply omit it. 

Program-Hoppers

Candito isn’t shy about discussing the mental factors that influence training. As such, he designed his six-week template to be compatible with “the psychology of the lifter.” In particular, his six-week template provides plenty of variability and novel stimuli that should satiate chronic program-hoppers.

As you regularly change your frequency, work in different rep ranges, and swap out your accessory exercises, you shouldn’t really be bored at any point during the six weeks.

Intermediate Powerlifters

The target audience for Candito’s six-week plan isn’t solely powerlifters, but it is probably best suited for strength athletes that work with the barbell.

If you’ve got a couple of years of strength-focused training under your belt already and are looking for a brief but well-designed plan to run for a month and a half, Candito’s program is right up your alley. 

Who Shouldn’t Do the Candito Six-Week Strength Program

If you have five weeks left in your gym career, Candito’s six-week program might not align with your timeline. Barring any other absurd limitations, you should consider first if the program is appropriate for your needs before you dive in. 

Advanced Powerlifters

While Candito’s routine is soundly-designed and would probably work well enough for an advanced powerlifter, if you fall into that cohort you might want to consider passing it up.

The deeper you get into your strength career, the more personalized and unique your needs become as an athlete. As such, advanced athletes lean hard on the expertise of a qualified coach to oversee their training. You may want to seek out a personalized plan instead if you’re trying to add weight to your Total. 

Bodybuilders

Candito doesn’t believe, at least when he developed this six-week plan, that a five-day workout routine is optimal for natural bodybuilders. While physique athletes can certainly make gains on any kind of workout, Candito does hit the mark about the relevance of his program for muscle growth.

If you’re strictly interested in putting on as much size as possible, devoting a large portion of your training “economy” to building up strength in three movements might not be a wise use of your time.

Bodybuilders should consider a routine that provides more direct attention to weak points and greater use of the right isolation exercises. 

Recreational Gymgoers

Those who view the gym as more of a stress-reliever, or a tool for improving general health, may want to pass up on Candito’s program. You can certainly run it just fine, but it may not have a practical use case for you if you aren’t concerned about your strength. 

Further, for a program to work well, you have to run it in its entirety. As such, there’s a degree of buy-in that might dissuade recreational fitness enthusiasts. Your time in the gym should be productive no matter what, which means once you start a pre-written plan, you should probably see it through. 

Cross-Training Athletes

Candito dedicates a portion of his six-week routine toward developing muscular power and explosiveness. While these are relevant qualities for CrossFit practitioners or those who train for real-world situations, the program may not be right for you if those qualities are what you’re looking for from an exercise routine.

Agility drills, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics exercises are all highly skill-intensive and require hours of dedicated practice. This may make them incompatible with Candito’s prescription that your workouts be short and brutal.

Who Is Jonnie Candito?

There was something of a gold rush online around the turn of the 2010s as YouTube evolved into one of the go-to resources for fitness content on the internet. CanditoTraining HQ was one of the first on the scene in that regard, making a name for himself in the space by mixing catchy videos with sound, straightforward advice. It also helped that he was, and is, quite strong.

Some of his many gym exploits involve lifts like this 315-pound extended pause squat from 2012, where Candito sits in the very bottom of his range of motion (without wearing knee sleeves or a lifting belt) for an absurd 22 seconds:

According to OpenPowerlifting, Candito has competed in 24 sanctioned powerlifting competitions since 2011. His best all-time Total — 1,675.5 pounds — came in 2020 at the USAPL Arnold A7 Pro Raw Challenge. Candito squatted 600.7 pounds, benched 374.8 pounds, and deadlifted 699.9 pounds at 181 pounds of body weight. 

Moreover, Candito’s consistent progression illustrates his competence both as an athlete and a coach who knows their stuff. Candito added roughly 500 pounds to his competitive Total over the course of a decade in powerlifting.

Can ‘Dito Help You?

All pre-written programs sell themselves as being the routine on the market that can help you reach your goals. With everyone claiming their routine is the best, it can be difficult to sniff out legitimate claims from lofty promises. 

Luckily, Candito’s six-week approach to strength training deftly marries accessibility with expertise. While it may not be as robust or lengthy as more advanced or specialized plans, six weeks is more than enough time for you to make headway on your big lifts and add a bit of muscle as well.

If you’re looking to get stronger or just want to dabble in a new routine for a short period of time, Candito’s six-week strength plan is worth a shot. 

Featured Image: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

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