It doesn’t matter where you look, everyone has “the perfect strength training program” and gives you some out-of-this-world claim about how well it really works.
If you are reading this, it’s obvious you aren’t one of those people who see “add 500 pounds to your total” and automatically think how you are going to be the next world record holder.
Strength training boasts many different tried and true methods from 5/3/1 to Starting Strength, or simply different set and rep schemes.
What’s so special about this strength training program?
I’m not a world record holder and I do not have a track record of getting some of the biggest and strongest people on the platform, but I do know what works and what doesn’t.
Everyone’s body is a little different and responds to weight training differently, but the tools I’m going to give you in this program will get you on the right path to total powerlifting domination. (or at least stronger than you were)
Table of Contents
I am going to start writing more detailed training programs and I don’t want you to have to endlessly scroll through chunks of text just to find what you are looking for… so here is a table of contents.
- What to Expect
- Cardio and Conditioning
- Progression Scheme
- Warming Up and Injury Prevention
- Sample Program Schedule
- 4 Day Strength Training Program
- Exercise Substitutions
- Strength Training Program Tips
This 4 day strength training program is designed for beginners to early intermediates. Once standard progression and peaking doesn’t work, you are going to have to take a completely different approach to training.
This is a straight-forward approach that works with some time, effort, and eating. There’s no special hidden ninja secrets in this routine, if you are looking for that instead of results… I’m sorry.
What to Expect
This strength training program uses big compound lifts for the meat of the exercises. Assistance work will be done with dumbbells and machines and I will provide a list of exercise substitutions in case you have a limited equipment home gym or if the exercise is not as effective for you as another.
For those of you who are going to use their home gym, here’s the basics of what you will need.
- Adjustable multi-use cable machine
- Bonus: Dip Bar
- Bonus: Pull Up Bar
I’m a firm believer that you need to dial in your diet and your sleep schedule before you start using supplements so you can get the most out of them.
I am going to break down the different supplements that I use or have used into 2 groups, “great to have” and “would be nice to have.” So if you have a limited budget on what to get, this will help you decide what to purchase.
Great to Have Supplements
These are supplements I prefer to use and when I am low on funds I buy these.
Whey protein is something that’s been around for a long time. There are so many brands that are out there, you need to be careful to buy a reputable brand or you might get screwed out of your protein.
I have been a long time fan of Optimum Nutrition and still would buy their products. I currently prefer MTS Nutrition because they taste amazing, mix well, and their transparency with their process is great.
Pre-workout is a great way to get amped up for some heavy lifting, increase endurance and stamina, and help you get your pump on. There are a lot of pre-workouts around and I’ve tried quite a few.
I will have to say that I enjoy MTS Nutrition Clash because it doesn’t taste like ass and doesn’t make my stomach hurt if I take it. If you were around when Jack3d was made with DMAA, you know that there aren’t many pre-workouts that can hold a candle to that. I also like Cellucor’s C4 pre-workout, it’s not as pleasing of a taste but if you slam it you’ll be ready to tear up some weights.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about MTS Vasky which is a non-stim pre that you could also stack with a regular pre for an even bigger result.
This is the most studied supplement in the industry and makes a huge difference on endurance and recovery. I highly recommend this supplement.
Pick a brand you like and buy theirs; I currently use Optimum Nutrition’s. I forget how long ago I bought this and I don’t know if I’ll ever use it all.
I almost put these into the nice to have supplements category but these serve more of a purpose to me than simply an intra-workout drink. I enjoy drinking these on some ice on a nice hot day or while I’m sitting at work, etc. Most of them taste good and it’s something I recommend. Again, MTS Nutrition’s Machine Fuel tastes the best and it is what I use.
Would Be Nice to Have Supplements
Multi-vitamins are never bad to take (unless you take too many) and these are a nice to have supplement. While I personally believe if you have a well-rounded diet and you eat fresh foods you don’t need to have a multi… it sure doesn’t help to get a boost in something you may be deficient in.
- Optimum Nutrition’s Opti-Men
- MTS Machine Greens + Multi
I was fortunate enough to use a probiotic for a short time and I will say that they are nice to use. If you don’t know what a probiotic does, they are bacteria and enzymes your body needs to keep your gut healthy.
I tried MTS Machine Uptake and it was a chewable chocolate wafer. It was eerily tasty and it was hard to eat only one.
If you’re trying to operate on a calorie deficit, you know how hard it is to stay going throughout the day and train. If you’re looking for some extra punch to get through the day while getting rid of some fat, a fat burner may help. *This supplement relies heavily on having your diet and exercise on point.
- MTS Drop Factor – I’ve also used this and combined it with some yohimbine and it was great as well. I ran a little hot but that’s the name of thermogenics.
There are a couple of ways I recommend taking care of your recovery; supplements to shuttle nutrients to muscles, and sleep.
Personally I feel that sleep is the number 1 piece of the puzzle you need to make progress in the gym.
This can easily be done with a post-workout shake or a big healthy meal, but if you are short on time then these supplements will help.
- Muscle Pharm Recon – I’ve had this, the taste is okay.. A long time ago I reviewed Muscle Pharm’s Recon.
Get Better Sleep:
ZMA is something I’ve used a lot and helps you get more REM sleep. A unique benefit to ZMA is vivid life-like dreams.
Casein protein digests slower and is nice to take just before you sleep. I’ve never invested in any, I generally just used regular whey.
Optimum Nutrition Casein would be my choice if I were to get a casein protein.
Cardio and Conditioning
Cardio, conditioning, GPP, or whatever you want to call it… aerobic exercise is important for your health and to build strength.
There are so many different things you can do to increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacities, I can’t go over everything in this article but here’s what I recommend.
- Box Jumps
- HIIT Cardio on Machines
- Jump Ropes
Some low intensity cardio before you train is recommended for warming up your nervous system and muscles.
A sample conditioning program would look like this:
- 5 minutes pre-workout warm up
- 20 minutes HIIT post-workout
- 5 minutes pre-workout warm up
- 10 minutes sprinting
The progression scheme for this is easy; add more weight, take a deload week every 3rd week, and strive to improve form every session.
If you’re a complete beginner, I recommend starting light and working your way up. It is much easier to add 5 pounds a session with good form than it is muscling up the weight and hitting a plateau from poor form habits.
If you know what your personal records are for the big compound lifts, start with 75% and then add 5 pounds per week. For example if you bench 205, start with 150-155 and move up from there.
Since training for strength taxes your nervous system the hardest, picking a weight that is near or at your maximum weight will limit you on how far you can go with this routine… remember, we are building strength, not testing it.
Warming Up and Injury Prevention
Warming up seems to be something many people don’t understand… hell even I didn’t for a long time.
Warming up is important because it helps prime your body to perform exercises at its peak ability and helps prevent injuries. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t get injured if you warm up properly, but you are reducing the chances by doing so.
If you do not know how to warm up properly or if you are questioning how you warm up, listen up.
A lot of warming up goes by feel which means you have to start listening to your body and writing down in your log how the weight feels and learn to make adjustments.
My general rule of thumb for someone who is just beginning training or is not familiar how to properly warm up is to start with the bar and work your way up to about 80% of your working weight.
Example for warming up:
It is bench day and you will be doing 205 for 3 sets of 8. Here’s generally what I would have a client do.
- Bar x 20
- 95 x 10
- 135 x 8
- 155-160 x 8
Some people will argue there is science to warm ups and I will tell you that these book readers would rather critique your training and citing science studies than getting under the bar and training. Simply put, learn your body. I personally like a little more volume for warming up chest and shoulders.
Sample Program Schedule
Everyone has different schedules and that’s okay. If you can follow a schedule similar to what I’m going to show you, I feel it is optimal… but not necessary.
- Sunday: Off
- Monday: Bench, Triceps, Calves
- Tuesday: Deadlifts, Back, Biceps
- Wednesday: Off
- Thursday: Military Press, Shoulders, Traps
- Friday: Squats, Legs, Abs
- Saturday: Off
Of course it doesn’t matter what days you do the program on but if you can do 2 days on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off that would be ideal. Try to get a break in between 2 or 3 days of training so you don’t beat yourself up too much.
4 Day Strength Training Program
|Bench, Triceps, Calves|
|Barbell Bench Press||3||8|
|Machine Incline Bench||3||12|
|Dumbbell Incline Flies||2||15|
|1 Arm Tricep Extensions||3||10|
|Standing Calf Raise||3||12|
|Deadlifts, Back, Biceps|
|Trap Bar Deadlifts||3||8|
|Bent Over Barbell Rows||3||6|
|Cross Body Hammer Curls||4||12|
|Military Press, Shoulders, Traps|
|Barbell Upright Rows||2||15|
|Overhead Press Machine||4||12|
|Bent Over Laterals||3||15|
|Squats, Legs, Abs|
|Weighted Decline Situps||3||20|
While I’ve chosen the exercises above carefully to create a balanced workout, some exercises we can’t do because of equipment or physical ability. Instead of guessing what exercises you could do instead, I wanted to make a list of exercises that I would suggest substituting.
- Machine incline bench: Dumbbell incline bench
- Dumbbell incline flies: Pec deck, flat dumbbell flies, cable cross machine
- Dips: Dip machine, overhead dumbbell tricep extension
- 1 arm tricep extensions: Tricep extensions with other attachments, tricep kickback
- Standing calf raise: Seated calf raise, standing 1 leg calf raise
- Trap bar deadlifts: Dumbbell deadlifts
- Pull ups: Pull up machine, wide grip seated rows
- 1 arm dumbbell rows: T-bar rows, barbell rows
- Cross body hammer curls: Hammer curls, regular curls, preacher curls
- Military press: Dumbbell overhead press, Arnold press
- Barbell Upright Rows: Side dumbbell laterals, side lateral machine
- Overhead press machine: Dumbbell overhead press, Arnold press
- Face pulls: Reverse Pec Deck
- Dumbbell shrugs: Barbell shrugs
- Leg press: Hack squat, dumbbell deadlifts, goblet squats
- Leg extensions: hack squats, pistol squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges
- Leg curls: Stiff leg deadlift, Romanian deadlift, lunges, stiff leg dumbbell deadlift
- Ab work: Whatever works for you; planks, sit ups, crunches, ab wheel, etc
Strength Training Program Tips
- ALAP – As long as possible. The goal here is to increase your time you hold your planks.
- Dont get in a rush – Training is a life-long thing and you should embrace the grind. Results come when you consistently train, eat right, and strive to get a little better every day. Ask any elite lifter and they will tell you how it doesn’t just come over night.
- Learn to cook – This isn’t necessarily related to grabbing a bar and doing an exercise, but learning to cook will be the best thing you do for yourself. Cooking is fun and doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to do; learn it and watch how much better you feel.
- Record your lifts – Being able to go over your lifts and seeing what you may be doing wrong will help you dial in form. Don’t let a training partner cheat you out of progression when he says how “flawless and smooth” your squat is when you are squatting high and folding in the hole.
- Keep a log – Whether it is on paper or your phone, keeping a log of your lifts, how they felt, and a general log of everything will help you learn what works for your body and what doesn’t. Hell I even recommend you keeping a log of your food whether you are looking to lose weight or not; you may find that you need more carbs before squat day or maybe cut down on calories before you deadlift to maintain optimal performance.
- Don’t program hop – I invite you to try this program out for 12 weeks and see how far you can progress. If you program hop all of the time, you are never going to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
- Have fun – This sounds cliché but being able to go into the gym and have some fun with the program is important if you want to succeed. Getting burned out and dreading going to the gym is not a good sign.