Builders don’t build a house without a detailed plan, something that covers everything from the roof to the plumbing, just like getting very strong takes more than just turning up at the gym. So how do you do it?
With an eye to building the best body, let’s take a look at some of the key factors in successful planning.
Real strength takes a lifetime of dedication with the iron and toil. This is broken down into increments of 12-16 weeks. What is important about this timeframe? Well this is how long it takes to accrue enough stress to get stronger by progressing through rep ranges and exercise selections.
Every 12-16 week cycle is broken down into smaller cycles of 3-6 weeks, dependent on the person and the program. These 3-6 week phases are then further broken down into training weeks. Each week, training intensity and volume vary:
Sets and reps are details that stop people dead in their planning tracks and create major confusion, it isn’t that complicated however.
It is easiest to follow a simple strength set and rep rule, strength is built-in the 15-25 rep range. Not reps per set, total reps multiplied by sets should be within that range. This rep range is magic, it offers plenty of volume to alert the body and also allows for loads heavy enough to build strength without overdoing the nervous system.
There are plenty of ways to break this rep range down: 5 sets of 3, 3×8, 6×3, 5×4, 5×5. Use these set and rep examples and set them into the training week breakdown above:
Now if you were to ramp up the intensity such lifting heavier weights for the next four weeks, this looks like this:
So how do you know how heavy to make the loads?
Strength is built at between 75-85% of your one-rep max. This relates to a weight you can lift for 6-10 reps, this is your weight range. Work up and push the end of that intensity range, the loading range is sustainable over the long haul and keeps lift form and crisp. Going over 90% for a weight you might only be able to do for 3-4 reps is inviting trouble unless done on occasion.
Keep the loads between 75-85%, move the bar fast and leave a bit in reserve at the end of the exercise, your not looking to train like a bodybuilder here, so need to workout to failure.
Barbell lifts are the best strength building tool, not everyone should do them however just like not everyone should do conventional deadlifts from the floor.
A simple rule to follow is if you can’t perform an exercise with perfect form then don’t do it. Each of the major lifts has variations that can be more suitable for an individual based on lifting skill and body type. Any good strength coach can guide you through the best one to suit you but not everyone has access to these type of facilities. Do a quick assessment to see if an exercise is right for you:
Once you have decided what lifts to train, test them before starting your strength phase. Find your 2-3 rep max in each lift and spread the testing out over a full week, testing a couple of lifts every day.
As to whether you will get bigger lifts during the strength cycle, this all depends, newbies and inexperienced lifters can expect improvements on each strength cycle, as your lifting experience grows, it is harder to improve on lifts all at once. Your nervous system becomes more efficient so focus for improvement becomes narrowed, there is no secret to get strong but it just takes a set training plans and a good focus and motivation.
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