Greyskull LP: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 23, 2023

The Greyskull LP (GSLP) is a 3-day-a-week program that works exceptionally well in terms of building strength and muscle. The program aims to help people new to lifting gain strength safely and effectively. By combining the ideas of progressive overload and linear periodization, the GSLP lets lifters gradually add more weight to barbell exercises while giving their muscles time to recover between workouts.

The Greyskull LP is a set of principles to help design a workout routine, rather than a fixed program that one should strictly adhere to in their weekly schedule. The GSLP principles allow one to develop their own program that is best suited for their desired outcome based on their daily activities and biophysical condition. The goal of the GSLP is to ensure that lifters can see tangible gains in their power and muscularity without putting too much strain on their bodies.

A common misconception about the GSLP is that it was designed for beginners. However, Sheaffer initially developed the GSLP to replace the conventional reset method when hitting plateaus. Even though it is common for new lifters to use the GSLP, powerlifters also benefit from this system, as it allows them to break through plateaus in their training and lift heavier weights than before.

What is Greyskull LP?

The Greyskull LP was designed by John Sheaffer, also known as Johnny Pain, to ensure the longevity of progress and optimize the recovery process. The LP in the name stands for linear periodization.

The Greyskull LP allows the lifter to progress safely and efficiently over a long period, reducing the risk of injury due to overtraining. 

The GSLP consists of a base program and plugins tailored to the needs of the individual. The base program consists of only four exercises: the bench press, overhead press, deadlift, and squat. Despite having only four main movements, the Greyskull LP allows for a wide variety of customization through the use of "plugins."

These plugins enable users to modify the program based on their needs, preferences, and goals.

Week One (Monday)Bench Press: 2x5, as many reps as possible (AMRAP)Plugins: TBDSquat: 2×5, AMRAP Week Two (Monday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPPlugins: TBDSquat: 2×5, AMRAP
Week One (Wednesday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPPlugins: TBDDeadlift: AMRAP Week Two (Wednesday)Bench Press: 2×5,  AMRAPPlugins: TBDDeadlift: AMRAP
Week One (Friday)Bench Press: 2×5,  AMRAPPlugins: TBDSquat: 2×5, AMRAP Week Two (Friday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPPlugins: TBDSquat: 2×5, AMRAP

The chart above becomes the basis of an individual’s workout program. The number of plugins depends on the individual’s desired outcome for his training. Some more advanced lifters may squeeze in several plugins, but beginners are advised to have only one or two and may add a few as desired after several weeks of training. By utilizing these plugins, an individual can customize the program to best achieve their desired results.

Five Principles of the Greyskull LP

Lift Frequency 

The Greyskull LP is a 3-day-a-week routine with upper-body workouts executed in an alternating fashion. The squats are performed twice a week, and the deadlift once a week. Each day of the Greyskull LP follows a similar structure, with upper-body exercises performed first and lower-body movements at the end of the session. 

This structure allows for ample rest and recovery between workouts, with movements from the same body area not repeated in the next session. This program design is ideal for muscle growth and strength gains since it allows the body to get ample rest before the next workout.

Exercise Order

Sheaffer designed the program with the upper body lifts taking priority over the lower body exercises. The order of the movements means that the bench press and overhead press can be done with more intensity than if they were done after other lifts. The lower body component of the base program comes last in the order, right after the plugins. This allows the lifter to move through the other lifts with more efficiency and intensity before transitioning to lower-body exercises.

Sets and Reps

The workouts in the core program are executed as 2 sets of 5 repetitions, and then a third set is done for as many reps as possible (AMRAP), except for the deadlift, which is done with only 1 set of AMRAP.

Small Incremental Increases in Bar Weight

The Greyskull LP focuses on small incremental increases in bar weight. The recommended increase for the upper body exercises is 2.5 pounds per session and 5 pounds for the lower body exercises. 

More significant weight increases might lead to overtraining and hitting a plateau earlier than expected. The idea behind the Greyskull LP is to progress over a long period and keep the resets to a minimum. This slow, steady approach allows the body to build strength gradually and avoid injury.

The Greyskull Reset

Resets are inevitable and should always be a part of any training program when you hit a plateau. The Greyskull LP’s reset is quite simple. One just deducts 10% off the bar weight and round down any number to the next nearest 5 lb. 

So for example, if a lifter got stuck with his overhead press at 150 lbs then taking off 10% would be 135 lbs. This will be his bar weight for his first session to begin his reset, and as always 2 sets of 5 reps then as many reps as possible on the third set. The small incremental increases of 2.5 lbs on bar weight still applies for his next overhead press session.

Greyskull LP Plugins

Greyskull LP is truly flexible when it comes to plugins or accessory movements. One can design a program depending on their goals for strength training. Some lifters who have limited time usually only have chin-ups or barbell rows as a plugin. Adding the chin-ups or barbell rows would complement the other two core exercises for the day and provide a full-body workout. 

Others, who may have more time to devote to training, can add isolation movements for individual muscles or muscle groups, such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, calf raises, or lateral raises. Listed below are the most common exercises utilized as plugins by people doing Greyskull LP and Sheaffer’s recommendations for sets and reps.

Chinups/Pullups Two sets: 6-8 repetitions (if weighted)
Row Variants Two sets: 6-8 repetitions
Curl Variants Two sets: 10-12 repetitions
Neck Extensions Four sets: 25+ reps
Olympic Lifts 5-6 singes per session
Abdominal exercises Two sets: 10-12 reps
Calf Exercises One set: 15-20 slow, painful repetitions
Forearm Exercises Two sets: 12-20 repetitions
Cable Arm Exercises Generally in the 10-12 repetition range
Pull-overs Two sets: 8-10 repetitions
Dips 6-8 repetitions (if weighted)

Benefits of Greyskull LP

Time-Efficient

The Greyskull LP program is incredibly simple and flexible; it can be tailored to anyone's needs regardless of time constraints or experience level. One can reduce the number of training days down to two by taking away the third training day and still enjoy gains in strength and mass. This is one of the major advantages of the GSLP; its simplicity makes it easy to modify according to one's own needs.

It is an ideal program for those who are just starting their strength journey or do not have much time to dedicate to their training. Despite its simplicity, GSLP is incredibly effective and can help you make impressive gains in strength. By following the program. and making simple modifications to fit individual goals, anyone can make consistent and significant progress in their strength training.

Auto-regulation

Even though the GSLP is not an RPE-based training program, the AMRAP in the final set provides some autoregulation. However, unlike RPE sessions, this autoregulation does not leave the participant with a burnt-out feeling. Instead, the autoregulation of the AMRAP allows for some level of control over the intensity. The program provides a more precise measure for the participant to know when to stop.

This makes the GSLP a valuable tool for anyone who wants to get stronger but wants to be more precise about how hard they train. The advantage of using this type of autoregulation over the RPE system is that the participant can fine-tune their intensity and ensure they are not going too hard or too light. The participant can also change the volume based on how they feel that day and adjust the final set to match.

Prevents Overtraining

The strict linear progression due to the small incremental increases in bar weight helps restrict an individual from going too heavy, as it often happens in other weight training programs. This program design is helpful because it lets muscles and strength grow slowly but steadily over time and keeps progress going for a long time before a reset.

By slowly increasing the weight as an individual's strength increases, it is possible to create a sustainable and successful program of resistance training that yields results over a longer period of time.

Phrak’s Greyskull LP

The Phrak's GSLP is a variation that includes pulling exercises like chin-ups and barbell rows. The main benefit of Phrak's method is that it gives the person a more balanced and complete workout, which helps them build a more proportionate and well-rounded body. The pulling movements are done in the same alternating fashion as the pushing exercises. The increase in resistance is also in 2.5-pound increments for both exercises.

Week One (Monday)Bench Press: 2x5, AMRAPBarbell Rows: 2x5, AMRAPSquat: 2×5, AMRAP Week Two (Monday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPChinups: 2x5, AMRAPSquat: 2×5, AMRAP
Week One (Wednesday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPChinups: 2x5, AMRAPDeadlift: AMRAP Week Two (Wednesday)Bench Press: 2×5,  AMRAPBarbell Rows: 2x5, AMRAPDeadlift: AMRAP
Week One (Friday)Bench Press: 2×5,  AMRAPBarbell Rows: 2x5, AMRAPSquat: 2×5, AMRAP Week Two (Friday)Overhead Press: 2×5, AMRAPChinups: 2x5, AMRAPSquat: 2×5, AMRAP

Final Thoughts

One can design their own program with the GSLP that keeps up with their progress and makes it more effective. Whether they want to remain with the original GSLP program or tweak it for their specific strength training needs, they have a lot of options to do so.

Given its simple approach to overloading and linear progression, the GSLP is one of the most effective beginner programs available. With such versatility and potential to be customized, the GSLP is an excellent choice for newcomers looking for an easy-to-follow and effective program for strength training.

References

1. Sheaffer J. The Greyskull LP. Villain Publishing, Lavergne, Tenn; 2012.

Paoli A, Gentil P, Moro T, Marcolin G, Bianco A. Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength. Front Physiol. 2017;8:1105. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.01105

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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