by Terry Webster (2013)
Indulge us for a minute, if you will, while we play amateur psychic and glance inside your mind at some of your deepest thoughts and desires. You're a guy who's interested in getting . . . bigger, yes, that's it! You also want to get . . . stronger! Wait a minute, further to just wanting to get bigger and stronger, you also want results in the shortest possible time. Yeah . . . that's it.
Okay, so you're not impressed. Maybe we're not clairvoyant. But it doesn't take David Blaine to figure out that if you're reading this you want to get big and strong -- now! What you need is a straightforward, no nonsense program that's guaranteed to jack you up.
It's a pretty well-established truism that if you want power-packed size, you'd better get yourself closely acquainted with "The Big Three" -- the squat, deadlift, and bench press (as if we had to tell you). Each of these lifts, which happen to comprise the sport of powerlifting, is considered the ultimate test of strength for the areas and actions of the body they cover. These three moves also share the ability, when done correctly, to pack pounds of muscle onto your body faster than you can say Kazmaier.
Squats will increase mass on your lower half (as well as your entire body), deadlifts will thicken your backside from ankles to traps, and bench presses will add bulk to your upper body. These three moves cover almost every major bodypart and can fortify the corpus in a way other exercises simply can't. Bigger . . . Stronger . . . Simple!
This is a six-week program that, at its core, emphasizes the squat, deadlift and bench press on separate training days. Of course, they aren't the only exercises in your routine -- we'll also add complementary exercises so you can make even faster gains. With a focus on building strength in each of these three lifts, you'll strengthen your basic foundation, creating a solid base upon which all bodybuilding exercises can later build. Forming a strong foundation is why utilizing programs of this type is so important, to strength athletes and bodybuilders alike.
The game plan is simple. We've broken your training week into three main work days and added another day for small touch-up muscle groups -- namely the calves, abs and forearms.
Monday's workout will revolve around the squat. On this day you'll do a number of other thigh and calf exercises too.
Wednesday's routine will be bench press-centric, which is a good way to ground your chest, shoulder and triceps training.
On Friday you'll be doing deadlifts and ancillary exercises for your back and biceps.
Saturday's workout focuses on those smaller muscle groups.
In total this program involves only four days in the gym per week, leaving plenty of time to recuperate. Recovery is going to be just as important as your workouts if you want to see results with this program. Make sure to get ample amounts of rest -- this isn't your typical high-volume bodybuilding program. Remember, the growth stimulation takes place in the gym, but the actual process of rebuilding occurs long after the workout is over, and only if the proper conditions are present.
You'll perform seven sets of the focal exercise in each of your workouts (squat, bench, dead). There are three two-week segments in this plan and the rep scheme will vary over the course of each. The first set of Weeks 1-2 is done with a weight which you can do 15 reps. From there, you'll pyramid up the weight as the reps drop -- 15,12,8,6,6,6 and 6 (last set only to positive muscle failure). The rep scheme for Weeks 3-4 is 12,10,6,4,4,4 and 4 (last set only to positive failure). For Weeks 5-6 you'll do 12,8,6,4,2,2 and 2 (last set only to positive failure). By decreasing the overall number of reps performed during the six week cycle, you're giving your body the opportunity to build strength over each two-week cycle.
For the seventh set you'll stick with the weight you used for your sixth set, or you can go up a few pounds. You'll need to do at least 2 reps (during weeks 5-6) as you work toward positive muscular failure. You shouldn't be using a heavier weight than what you can handle for at least 2 reps. Using very heavy weights and having poor form on these big movements will increase your risk for injury, so pay close attention to keeping textbook exercise execution.
On your heaviest set of these power moves, take an extra bit of rest best sets. This workout isn't a race! You'll be better recovered to lift very heavy weights if you use a slightly longer rest interval. Remember, if you rush on these very heavy sets, you won't be able to push with the maximum amount of strength.
By now, you're probably pretty familiar with the term "muscle failure" and even incorporate the approach into your own training regimen occasionally. Despite being such a common term in bodybuilding vernacular, muscle failure represents a strong point for debate among physiology-minded theorists and top bodybuilders. One camp asserts that you elicit maximum muscle growth only by pushing target muscles to failure, and even beyond that, for every set of every workout. Others recommend stopping sets just short of failure because the last reps put you most at risk for injury and can actually limit strength gains. We prefer to take a middle-of-the-road approach.
Scientific literature shows that pushing every set to failure can be counterproductive. Always taking your sets to failure burns out the working muscles and the nervous system. Stressing the nervous and adrenal system to the max even three days a week can lead to illness, lethargy and injury. The overtrained lifter simply does not grow bigger and stronger.
There is merit to pushing to positive failure on a limited basis, however. When your muscles reach positive failure (when you can't lift the weight even one more time on your own with good form), muscle fibers that hadn't been called into play during prior sets are recruited into the movement pattern. These reserve fibers are the ones you want to call upon, and the final set of each exercise that you take to muscle failure is the set that's going to target these dormant fibers. Again, only one set is done to muscular failure. You're not going to get faster or better results with this training system by doing more sets to failure; so, thinking that more is better will prove counterproductive in this case.
Because you're using heavy weights, take extra care when training to failure. Tweaks and dings are definitely not part of The Big Three plan,and we assume you agree with us on this. Hence, it's a smart idea to squat or bench in a power rack.
This program is meant to be followed for six weeks, then cycled with your regular bodybuilding routine for another six weeks. You can return to this program, or another similar strength program, after that and continue going back and forth between the two types of training. This kind of training shouldn't be followed indefinitely because of the degree of stress that very heavy weights put on your body. Furthermore, even the best training protocols start to lose their effectiveness after about six weeks. By periodizing your training (that's what science guys call basically cycling heavy and light training), your gains in muscle strength and size will be more steady, thus allowing you to avoid the kinds of plateaus that plague most bodybuilders who 'train hard all the time'.
Squat - 15,12,8,6,6,6 + 6 (to positive failure)
Increase the weight on each set as you do fewer reps over the course of the first six sets.
Leg Press - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Use the same weight on all sets.
Leg Extension - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Standing Calf Raise - 12,12,12,12 + 12 (failure)
Weighted Decline Crunch - 15,15,15
Bench Press - 15,12,8,6,6,6 + 6 (failure)
Incline DB Press - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Standing Barbell Press - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Close Grip Bench Press - 10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Weighted Floor Crunch - 20,20 20
Deadlift - 15,12,8,6,6,6 + 6 (failure)
Lying Leg Curl - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Bentover Barbell Row - 10,10 + 10 (failure)
Standing Barbell Curl - 10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Weighted Hyperextension - 15,15 + 15 (failure)
Seated Calf Raise - 15,15,15,15 + 15 (failure)
Hanging Leg Raise - 12,12,12,12 + 12 (failure)
Cable Crunch - 15,15,15 + 15 (failure)
Reverse Curl - 10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Barbell Wrist Curl - 12,12,12 + 12 (failure)
Squat - 12,10,6,4,4,4 + 4 (failure)
Leg Press - 8.8 + 8 (failure)
Leg Extension - 8,8 + 8 (failure)
Standing Calf Raise - 10,10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Weighted Decline Crunch - 12,12,12
Bench Press - 12,10,6,4,4,4 +4 (failure)
Incline DB Press - 8,8 + 8 (failure)
Standing Barbell Press - 8,8 + 8 (failure)
Close Grip Bench Press - 8,8,8 +8 (failure)
Weighted Floor Crunch - 15,15,15
Deadlift - 12,10,6,4,4,4 +4 (failure)
Lying Leg Curl - 8,8 + 8 (failure)
Bentover Barbell Row - 8,8 + 8 (failure)
Standing Barbell Curl - 8,8 8+ 8 (failure)
Weighted Hyperextension - 12,12 + 15 (failure)
Seated Calf Raise - 12,12, 12, 12 + 12 (failure)
Hanging Leg Raise - 12,12,12,12 + 12 (failure)
Cable Crunch - 12,12,12 + 12 (failure)
Reverse Curl - 8,8,8 + 8 (failure)
Barbell Wrist Curl - 10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Squat - 12,8,6,4,2,2 + 2 (failure)
Leg Press - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Leg Extension - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Standing Calf Raise - 8,8,8,8 + 8 (failure)
Weighted Decline Crunch - 10,10,10
Bench Press - 12,8,6,4,2,2 + 2 (failure)
Incline DB Press - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Standing Barbell Press - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Close Grip Bench Press - 6,6,6 + 6 (failure)
Weighted Floor Crunch - 10,10,10
Deadlift - 12,8,6,4,2,2 + 2 (failure)
Lying Leg Curl - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Bentover Barbell Row - 6,6 + 6 (failure)
Standing Barbell Curl - 6,6,6 + 6 (failure)
Weighted Hyperextension - 12,12 + 10 (failure)
Seated Calf Raise - 10,10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Hanging Leg Raise - 10,10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Cable Crunch - 10,10,10,10 + 10 (failure)
Reverse Curl - 6,6,6 + 6 (failure)
Barbell Wrist Curl - 8,8,8 + 8 (failure)
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