For me, training purely for raw strength is the most enjoyable pursuit in the world. The beauty of this endeavor lies in its simplicity. There is no secret ingredient or special sauce in the recipe.
It all comes back to one common denominator: Your time spent under the bar.
Some are more genetically gifted than others, but what Pavel says is true: “Strength is a skill”
You have to learn to be strong and get good at lifting. Treat it like a sport and practice. You don’t always have to go hard but you’ve got to get in the gym and practice your skill. Practice pressing, practice squatting, practice dead lifting and practice whatever else you want to be strong at. The best lifters have practiced.
Don’t get fancy. Be “brilliant at the basics.” Learn Dan John’s essential movements: Squat, Hinge, Press, Row and Carry. Call me bias to Boyle, but I think you should get proficient at a single leg movement as well. All together that gives you 6 things to work on. 6 things. That’s not a lot to ask for. Practice the patterns DAILY and load them a few times a week. Do this for years and progress the pattern variation and intensity accordingly.
Slow, consistent progress is key. Don’t worry so much about Russian Periodization Models or the new Delt/Arm routine that Jimmy Gunz has in this months Muscle and Fitness.
I’ve been using Wendler’s 5/3/1 for my main lifts for years now and it hasn’t failed me yet. It goes like this. Find your max. Base your training numbers off 90% of that.
Week 1: 60% x 5/70% x 5/80% x 5+ (last set as many as possible, 5-9 rep range)
Week 2: 65% x 3/75% x 3/85% x 3+ (last set as many as possible, 3-7 rep range)
Week 3: 70% x 5/80% x 3/90% x 1+ (last set as many as possible, 1-5 rep range)
Week 4: Deload
Don’t miss reps. Learn to accept starting with lighter weights on the bar. Getting pinned because you wanted to impress the yoga pants on the elliptical is stupid and only impedes progress. Lift sub-maximally and set rep records weekly. If you did weight X for two more reps than you did last phase then you got stronger. At the end of each phase, if you are hitting your numbers then bump your max up 2.5 or 5 lbs. If you missed stay where you are. Adapt your numbers and repeat. Do this for years, consistently. I’m not kidding.
You need to stop over thinking accessory work. Ask yourself this: “What do I suck at?” Answer honestly and then go train that quality. Realize that Pareto’s Law applies here. You’ll get 80 percent of your results from 20% of what you do (i.e. your main lifts). The accessory work is exactly that, accessory. It’s there to supplement what you are already doing. Pick what needs work and train it. Wendler likes to prescribe 5 sets of 10 on assistance work. I do this and think it works great, but choose what works for you.
Here are my favorites…
Pulling: Chin-Up/Pull-Up Varitions, DB Row, TRX Row, Batwings, Sled Rope Pulling
Pressing: Close-Grip Bench, Floor Press, Board Press, OH KB Pressing, Push-Up Variations, Single Arm Pressing
Knee Dominant: Lunge Variations, Front Squat, Single Leg Squats, Heavy Sled Pushing/Dragging
Hip Dominant: SLDL, GHR, Hip Thrusts, RDL
Core: Anti-Rotations Press outs, Carrying Variations, Rollouts, Landmine, Cable Chops and Lifts.
Your soft-tissue quality will certainly take a beating if you’re training hard, so take care of it. Think about a race car that never take a pit stop. Your body is no different. You can’t get stronger if your knees and shoulders go to shit.
Know where your mobility and stability weaknesses are and have a consistent soft-tissue maintenance routine. Use the roller and lacrosse ball daily. Stretch everything, do your mobility drills and movement prep work. Go get massage treatments periodically. This stuff is easy to do and not very strenuous so if you skip it you’re just being stubborn and lazy.
Eat to support what you’re trying to achieve. You won’t get bigger and stronger if you’re eating like a little girl. Consistent protein, starchy carbs, a variety of fruits and vegetable and post-workout shakes everyday is the key. Don’t waste your money on the XXX Super Sizer Mass Gainer at GNC instead, learn to cook quality meats and vegetables and don’t be afraid of having seconds.
Finally, learn that there will be ups and downs. Realize, that strength gains won’t be linear.
Think about it like this:
Lifting is like baseball, you won’t hit home runs on every swing. Sometimes you’ll hit singles, sometimes you’ll walk and even strike out. Month to month, you will have a lot of workouts that are “pretty good”, some that were “awesome” and a few that “flat out sucked.” Realize it’s not about the grand slams, it’s about your on base percentage. Keep in mind, the best lifters, just like the best hitters don’t miss often. Great hitters consistently get on base, similarly the best lifters consistently put in their reps year round. This assures long-term progress and a pretty good
batting lifting average.
Thanks for reading,