Looking to the Past to Move Forward: Ditillo & Verkhoshansky

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

The dreaded strength plateau, is there anything more frustrating?  Depending on how long you’ve been strength training, you may have experience numerous plateaus, each increasingly irritating than the previous one.

Usually, strength plateaus primarily occur to trainees who train solo.  Those who train in groups, have the added benefit of training under their peer’s watchful eyes, providing additional motivation to keep from being the weakest in the group.  Training under the guidance of a coach, provides you not only with objective feedback, but with someone experienced at making minute changes to training programs, keeping plateaus at bay.

The following training protocols are ones I use when trainees experience strength plateaus.  The concepts are not mine, but have been influenced by the works of Anthony Ditillo and Yuri Verkhoshansky.  The protocols will utilize the bench press for demonstration purposes, but can be utilized for any compound exercise.


Set 1: bench press 90% max, 3 reps

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 2: bench press 95% max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 3: bench press 97%  max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 4: bench press 100% max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 5: bench press 100% max, plus 1-2 kg. (perform only if confident in completing the rep)

Rest 6-8 minutes and repeat three times.

According to Verkhoshansky, “The training effect of this method is directed mainly to the improvement of the central nervous system to generate a powerful flow of motor impulses to the muscles; include a greater number of muscle fibers in the work effort and increase the power of the energy acquisition mechanism for the muscle contraction.”

Additionally, I have found this protocol to help trainees get over their mental hurdle of handling heavy weight.


Anthony Ditillo was a huge advocate of using the power rack for partial range of motion lifts.  In my opinion, his methods of utililizing the power rack for overcoming strength plateaus are some of the most productive protocols available.

A1. Top 1/4 bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 2010 tempo

rest 120 seconds

A2. Pull ups 3 x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 120 seconds

B1. Top 1/2 bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 3010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

B2. Chin ups 3 sets x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

C1. Full range bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 4010 tempo

100 seconds

C2. Semi-supinated chin ups 3 x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

For this protocol, performing the partial range of motion bench presses allows you to utilize considerably heavier weight, and to focus on the most common sticking points .  This heavier weight also serves to recruit a higher number of muscle fibers and stimulate the nervous system for the full range bench press.

For a more thorough explanation of this protocol, read my article “Shattering Your Plateaus In 3 Easy Steps.”

 All Together Now

The following training split is recommended:

Day 1: Verkhoshansky protocol

Day 2: lower body

Day 3: off

Day 4: Ditillo protocol

Day 5: lower body

Day 6: off

Day 7: off


In order to break through your plateaus, you must overload the involved muscle groups in a manner foreign to your regular training program.  Remember, Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

By utilizing concepts from two of the best minds the strength and conditioning community has ever known, you will ensure your continual success.

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8 thoughts on “Looking to the Past to Move Forward: Ditillo & Verkhoshansky

  1. David says:

    Great article! What would you use to replace the pull-up variations if one were training the squat or deadlift in the “Ditillo” protocol?

  2. Akash Vaghela says:

    Excellent article! Two things. Firstly, when you say 4-6 or 5-7. Do you mean starting with 4 reps and working on it till you can do sets with 6 reps before increasing weight?
    Secondly, would you be able to apply this principle to say the bench press and the squat at the same time? Or would it work best applying to just one lift?

    • Due to the heavy loads taxing your CNS, only use it for one lift…otherwise you’ll fry your CNS. When I wrote “4-6,” it designates performing between 4-6 reps. Some days you’ll be feeling strong and will get 6 reps, while on other, you might only manage 4 or 5 eps, but as long as you stay between the designated rep bracket, you’ll get the desired results.

      • Akash Vaghela says:

        Ok so basically to shoot for 6 reps! If training twice a day, would this be a suitable AM workout, with a more higher rep range in the PM?

        Many thanks in advance!

      • Shoot between 4-6 reps, nothing more or less. Not sure of your rsining experience, but for most trainees, this would be too demanding on the CNS for 2x training. Lower reps in the AM and higher reps in the PM.

      • Akash Vaghela says:

        Ok great! Training experience only 2-3 years, so I guess it would be too taxing. Will try this when I am in need of a ‘plateau blaster’. Thanks!

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