Published September 16, 2018.
MASS & MIGHT:
The Complete Guide to Developing Brutal Size, Power and Strength
by C. S. Sloan
Bodybuilders want many different things from their training. Some want to be as big as a house. Others just want to be cut, while still others are after the total package of size, shape and symmetry. Unfortunately, it doesn't seen as if there are a hell of a lot of bodybuilders around who want to be big, strong and powerful. In my opinion it's a waste of effort to be big if you're not at least as strong as you look.
During the first part of the century everyone who lifted weights seriously had one goal: building power and strength. They didn't have any fancy machines or supplements and didn't know much about nutrition, but everyone who started lifting barbells and dumbbells packed on strength.
The reason a lot of lifters don't focus on strength nowadays is that bodybuilding publications have gotten away from emphasizing training for mass, power and strength, focusing instead more on pumping, toning and shaping. If you're looking for strength and power, however, don't be discouraged. The techniques for developing them are still around.
The Keys to Raw Strength
Here are five important guidelines that apply to every power program.
1) Use Basic Multi-joint Exercises.
This is the one principle with which absolutely no one can disagree. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an outright fool. In the history of strength training and bodybuilding - from Saxon, Goerner and Sandow to Grimek, Park and Pearl to Scott, Columbu and Schwarzenegger to Kazmaier, Haney and Arcidi to Coan, Magnusson, Kovaks and Yates - there hasn't been one champion who built his or her muscle with anything but basic compound movements. That means squats, bench presses, deadlifts, bentover rows, push presses, barbell curls and close-grip benches. Those are the exercises that target the most muscle groups at once. You can also use the heaviest weights on them. That's what stimulates real muscle growth and strength.
The basic multi-joint exercises are also the hardest to do. That's what makes them so good. If you get absolutely nothing else out of this article, get this: You can't make it without the basics. If I had to outline a program for someone in 30 seconds, I'd say exactly this: Go to the gym twice a week, no more, and perform a basic program of squats, benches, bentover rows, push presses and curls.
2) Do Only a Limited Number of Sets
Doing too much work is the scourge of modern training. Lifters spend too much time at each session, and they go to the gym too frequently. Every day I see rank beginners performing 20-set blitzes for their chest that include cable crossovers, pec deck flyes, dumbbell flyes and multiple high rep movements to "shape" their pectorals. Get friggin' real! If you're a novice, you have absolutely no reason to do anything other than the basic program outlined above.
I'm sure that there are plenty of people reading this who are still determined to go to the gym tonight and finish the third day of their three-on/one-off program and can't wait to carve horseshoes into their triceps with pushdowns, kickbacks and nose-crushers. If that's you, then ponder this: Who's the greatest bodybuilder of the '90s? The greatest powerlifter? Dorian Yates and Ed Coan, two guys who do a very limited number of sets. Yates does about three work sets of basic exercises per bodypart, and Coan does about six sets each of bench presses, close-grip benches and inclines - nothing else. They also train no more than four days a week, max. That sure as hell ain't much.
3) Use Heavy Weights Almost Exclusively
If strength and power are your primary goals, high reps won't cut it, period. You must use weights that are extremely heavy for you. No great strength athlete ever did otherwise. Of course, there are times when you need to vary your poundages in order to work on explosive power (see item 4, below). Most of the time, though, stick with very heavy weights.
What's the best way to do that? Try using such techniques as the 5 sets of 5 system (two warmup sets of 5 and then 3 sets of as heavy a weight as you can do for 5 reps); the triple-triple format (3 sets of 3); the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 system; progressively heavier singles and, when your body needs something a little different, the 8 sets of 8 format.
4) Incorporate Explosive Reps
If you plan on building your power and pushing up increasingly more weight on your key lifts, it's essential to include explosive training. You do that by using explosive reps. Powerlifting supertrainer Louie Sis of the Westside Barbell Club; Tom Platz, the owner of the greatest quads in the history of bodybuilding; "Dr. Squat" Hatfield; and Bill Kazmaier, who was at one time the world's strongest man, are among the countless mega-strong lifters who are big proponents of incorporating explosive repetitions into a strength training program. Kazmaier, when asked about the most important aspect of a bench press program, responded, "Focus on explosion and rapid execution of each rep."
When implementing explosive reps, use a weight that's between 60 and 80 percent of your one-rep max and do multiple sets of one to three reps. Why so few reps? Any more and your body lacks the ability to move the weight fast enough to develop a truly explosive pattern. At each workout concentrate on increasing the speed at which the bar travels. not the reps or the weight.
5) Allow Your Muscles to Recuperate Between Workouts
You must give yourself enough rest between workouts to prevent overtraining. Let yourself become overtrained, and you'll never reach your goals of brutal power and awesome strength. Give your body sufficient time after a workout, though, and you'll grow stronger.
Generally, the large muscle groups will recover in about 72 hours, while the smaller groups take about 48 hours. However - and this is a big however - your entire body must recover from a workout, not just your muscles. In other words, it makes no difference to your nervous system that yesterday was leg day, today is back day and tomorrow is chest day.
Routines for Raw Strength
Now that we've established the primary elements of strength and power workouts, let's look at some sample programs. Since you use heavy weights in all the workouts, it's important to do a proper warmup. Five to 10 minutes on the stationary bike, treadmill or stair machine should get the job done. Don't neglect this important part of the session. If you injure yourself, it may take weeks or even months before you can train hard again.
Just the Basics
this program is good for beginners or anyone who hasn't established a solid base of power. It's just a good basic strength training program that will pack loads of power on anyone who's willing to give it an honest try.
You train two days a week, say, on Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday, or Sunday and Wednesday.
Deadlift - 5 x 5,4,3,2,1
Bench Press - 5 x 5
Explosive Bench Press Lockouts - 5 x 2 reps
Push Press - 5 x 5
Explosive Rep Squats - 5 x 2 reps
Squat - 3 x 5
Barbell Curl - 5 x 5,4,3,2,1
Alternate DB Curl - 2 x 5
Leg Raise - 3 x 10-15
Hyperextensions - 3 x 10-15
Don't neglect your lower back and abdominal work, which are included in the second workout. They'll really help to increase your power on squats and deadlifts.
Some of the best workouts around call for sessions that include only one or two exercises for each bodypart. This one includes only one exercise per bodypart and only two exercises per session, performed in power-superset fashion. You train four times a week, say, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
It's easy to get into the groove with these routines. Don't move too quickly between sets. For example, on the last workout, after you finish your first set of presses, rest about two minutes and perform your first set of curls. Then take about three minutes rest and begin your second set of presses. Move back and forth in this slow-superset manner until you finish the workout.
Squats - 8 x 5,4,3,2,1,1,1,1
Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 8 x 5,4,3,2,1,1,1,1
Explosive-rep Incline Bench - 6 x 3 reps
Bentover Row - 6 x 6
Top Position Deadlift - 5 x 2
Explosive-rep Box Squat (80% of 1-rep max) - 5 x 1
Bottom Position Bench Press - 8 x 5,4,3,2,1,1,1,1
Barbell Curl - 8 x 3.
After you've been training for a while and have added some serious muscle and strength, you may decide that you need to bring up your strength or development in a lagging area. the following is a specialization program for the upper legs, since that's probably where most people need to specialize - even if they don't admit it. You can adapt the program for any bodypart, whether you're looking for bigger arms or bigger numbers on your bench press.
It's a three day a week program, and you train on nonconsecutive days. For example, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I've made some pretty good gains with it; however, I know that a lot of natural lifters say they can't gain well on a program that calls for so much leg work in the course of a week. If that's your situation, try using the workouts on a one-on/two-off split instead, so you'll have more rest days than training days per week.
Workout 1 (Use 65% of 1-rep max on exercises with an *)
Squat - 5 x 5
Bench Press - 5 x 5
Deadlift - 5 x 5
Pause Squat* - 5-6 x 1 rep
Stiff-legged Deadlift* - 5-6 x 1 rep
Standing Calf Raise - 5 x 5
Choose one of the following:
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
Incline Barbell Press
Bottom Position Bench Press - 5, 5,4,3,2,1
T-Bar Row - 5 . 5
Squat and Presses - 5 x 5
Explosive-rep Box Squat* - 8 x 3 reps
Set up a box that's shorter than the point at which your legs are parallel to the floor. Squat until you're fully seated on the box. Squat until you're fully seated on the box. Relax your hip flexor muscles and then flex them as you begin your return to the top. The releasing and flexing builds great power.
Begin as you would for a standing press, except you start the lift by generating momentum with your knees. It's a great power builder.
Bottom-position Bench Presses.
Set the pins in a power rack so that you begin the bench press with the bar on your chest. That makes the lift harder, since you must start with the concentric, or positive, portion of the lift. It also makes it completely safe to train as heavy as you like.
You perform these just as you would regular squats, except you descend as deeply as possible and pause at the bottom for a count of two seconds before coming back up.
Set the pins in the power rack at around knee height and begin the movement there. It's a great exercise for thickening and strengthening your lower back.
Squat and Presses.
using a weight that's slightly heavier than you use on push presses, perform a regular squat and come back up. As you reach lockout, continue the lift by going into a behind the neck press.
Fuel for Strength and Growth
If you plan to reach the land of the super-strong, you'd better be ready to pack in the food. Gaining that extra muscle or adding that 50 pounds to your bench will be all but impossible if you don't give your body the fuel it needs. First and foremost it needs protein. If you don't have enough protein in your system at all times, your body will start cannibalizing muscle. That's hell on your strength and mass, so try to eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day.
the second most important aspect is carbohydrates. If you don't have enough carbs to keep your glycogen stores fully loaded, you can count on having a bad workout. Make sure that 50-60% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates.
As to how many calories you should take in, anyone who's truly serious about gaining muscle mass and strength who doesn't have a lot of adipose tissue around the midsection should eat about 15 times his bodyweight in calories every day. If you need to lose fat, drop that number to 12 and make sure you eat the right stuff to keep the fat from accumulating.
If you're serious about gaining size and strength and not just someone who dreams about it, these programs are guaranteed to give you lots of it. Try one or more of these routines for at least six weeks, along with appropriate eating and sleep. It'll be hard work, but it will pay off. After that, you can design your own program; just make sure it incorporates the five key elements that make up a truly successful strength-building regimen.