1) Leave Your Ego at the Door
For some people, the gym is a proving ground and each workout is a performance. A trainer loads the a bar with weights he would like to lift that day rather than the measured resistance his body needs to stimulate growth. If you want consistent muscle gains, you have to look at your workouts as a process of building muscle and strength, and only use weights that you can control with good form. Remember: Training partners and spotters are there for safety reasons - not to do half of your workout for you.
2) Heavy is Relative
To some athletes, lifting heavy means loading a bar with far more weight than they can possibly use with good form. Then, by any means available, they make the weight go up and down as many times as they can. Often it's hard to figure out who is getting the workout, the trainer or his spotter. In reality, training heavy means if you plan to do an exercise for low reps with a specific weight, then you should not be able to perform any more than that number or reps with good form and control.
3) Make Basic Compound Movements the Foundation
Since Noah built the first gym on his ark, the belief that compound movements (which recruit a number of muscle groups to complete an exercise) are superior for building solid strong muscle has been undisputed among strength athletes. In powerlifting, the three basic compound exercises are barbell squats, barbell bench presses, and barbell deadlifts. Since compound movements involve a number of muscle groups, greater loads can be lifted and more muscle growth results. Isolation exercises primarily involve the use of one muscle group. They are used to strengthen some of the smaller muscle groups that assist in performing the three basic movements.
4) Vary Your Workload
Your body is an adaptive organism and will adjust over time to workloads you place upon it, until the load becomes too great and you risk damaging your muscles. That is why you must vary the workload by starting with lower poundages and higher reps. As your body adapts to the workload over a period of weeks, begin to increase the resistance and lower the number or reps per set.
5) Break the Year Into Training Phases
You cannot always lift maximum loads or your progress will stall and you will run the risk of getting injured. Instead, break you year into blocks, or training phases, so each workout is part of a long term plan to make measured gains over a set period of time. Each phase prepares you for the next, so each workout becomes a steppingstone to reaching your bigger goals.
6) Rest Builds Muscle
When you train, you damage muscle tissue, so you need to recover from the hard work. Plenty of rest is required to repair damage and, in turn, build bigger muscles. Resting will also ensure you w ill have the energy you need to put 100% into every workout. Your time away from the gym, resting and eating, is just as important as your time in the gym. We recommend that you get eight hours of sleep a night and nap during the day if possible.
7) Eat Like a King to Grow Like a King
Plenty of good healthy food is absolutely vital to building muscle tissue. Protein is needed to repair tissue. Carbohydrates give you fuel to train your hardest and also to help transport nutrients to your cells. Dietary fats are vital to keep your body healthy and functioning at an optimum level.
Now that you know the seven basic concepts behind the program, you are ready to say goodbye to that thin man in the mirror. We've laid out a 12-week power program that will have you lifting heavier and seeing results over time.
The layout is build around the three current powerlifting movements: Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. With these exercises as the core, the workload intensity increases as the 12-week span progresses. This escalating approach to poundages is the seat of powerlifting philosophy that leads to greater strength and muscle.
The program is broken down into Four Phases. Note: Phases one, two and three should be performed four days a week. Phase four should be performed three days a week.
Phase One - This is a four-week conditioning phase, the core of which is the powerlifting movements and other compound exercises.
Phase Two - During this three-week strength building phase, the weights are increased and the reps decreased in order to prepare you for the escalating workloads in subsequent phases.
Phase Three - In this three-week power phase, speed up the velocity of your reps as a precursor to the maximum weights you will handle in the final phase.
Phase Four - The last phase comprises a two-week maximum resistance interval. Concentrate solely on the three powerlifting movements and handle three-rep maximums.
Phase One: Weeks One to Four
This is a four-week conditioning phase, in which you train with a lower weight that you can easily handle for 10-12 reps with good form. Rest periods between sets are 30-60 seconds. The goal is to develop endurance and, most important, muscle control, so you can teach your body to fully contract the muscle group you are working on during each rep. Your entire body gets trained in one week over four sessions, with three days of rest.
Day 1: Legs
Leg Extension, 1 x 20
- this light set will flush blood into the quad muscles and aid as a warmup for squats.
Squat, 6 x 10-12 reps
- use a light weight for the first set and perform 12 reps. Add weight to the bar for each of the following sets, until you reach a maximum weight for 10 reps on your last (6th) set.
Leg Extension, 5 x 10-12
Standing Leg Curl, 5 x 10-12
Seated Leg Curl, 5 x 10-12
Day 2: Chest and Calves
Bench Press, 6 x 10-12 (same as Squat)
Incline Dumbbell Press, 5 x 10-12
Seated Calf Raise, 5 x 10-12
Standing Calf Raise, 5 x 10-12
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Traps
Deadlift, 6 x 10-12 (same as Squat)
Front Pulldown, 5 x 10-12
Hyperextension, 5 x 10-12
Shrug, 6 x 10-12
Day 5: Delts and Arms
Seated Front Barbell Press, 5 x 10-12
Bent Lateral Raise, 5 x 10-12
Upright Row, 5 x 10-12
Barbell Curl, 5 x 10-12
Triceps Pushdown, 5 x 10-12
Wrist Curl, 5 x 10-12
Phase Two: Weeks Five to Seven
This is a strength building phase. For three weeks, use the same exercise routines and training frequency as in Phase One, with the following exceptions:
- Instead of sets of 10-12 reps, increase the poundage so you are maxing out with good form at 8 reps per set.
- To allow you to handle the extra poundages, increase your rest between sets to 2 to 3 minutes.
Phase Three: Weeks Eight to Ten
This is the power phase, lasting three weeks. Power is the combination of force and speed. Follow these guidelines:
- Use the same routines and training frequency, but reduce the number of reps to 6 for most of the main compound exercises, while accelerating the weight, under control, during the contraction portion of the movement.
- Control is key during the power phase - use good form during the contraction part of the movement while accelerating the weight maximally.
- The main compound exercises in the routine that lend themselves to increasing speed of execution are squats, bench presses, incline dumbbell presses, front pulldowns and seated barbell presses. Use an even tempo for all other exercises apart from the ones just listed. Don't increase the speed of execution for deadlifts.
- Complete recovery between sets is a must and may require 4 to 5 minutes of rest.
Note: Choosing a weight for power exercises may be tricky, because when you accelerate the weight during the contraction part of an exercise, you have to exert more power - you are actually moving more weight/pressure than is on the bar. For instance, imagine a 10-pound weight sitting on the ground. To raise that weight off the floor, you must exert more than 10 pounds of pressure on it to counteract gravity. The faster you want the weight to rise, the more pressure you must place on it. Therefore, when you start the power phase, you may have to use less weight for fast reps than is the case for moderate-paced reps.
Phase Four: Weeks Eleven to Twelve
This is the maximum resistance phase, lasting only two weeks. Since you're placing maximum loads on your body, training days are reduced to three per week on nonconsecutive days. During this phase, concentrate solely on the three powerlifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. Assistance work is eliminated to allow for sufficient recovery.
At this point, reduce the number of reps in your maximum set to 3, and use the maximum weight you can handle with good form for each exercise. During Week Eleven, choose a weight you feel confident you can handle for 3 reps. During Week Twelve, increase the weight to the maximum you believe you can lift with good form. Make sure to completely recover between sets without getting cold. Four to five minutes rest should do it.
Day 1: Squat
Warm up for five minutes, then lightly stretch your leg and back muscles for five minutes. At the conclusion of the workout, stretch your legs and back for about 10 minutes.
Squat, 6 x 8, 6, 6, 3, 3, 6.
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Bench Press
Warm up for five minutes then lightly stretch your chest, delt and triceps muscles for five minutes. At the conclusion of your workout, stretch your chest, delts and triceps for about five minutes.
Bench Press, 6 x 8, 6, 6, 3, 3, 6.
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Deadlift
Warm up for five minutes, then lightly stretch your back and leg muscles for five minutes. At the conclusion of the workout, stretch your legs, back and shoulders for ten minutes.
Deadlift, 6 x 8, 6, 6, 3, 3, 6.
Day 6 and 7: Rest.
Set-by-Set Guide for All Three Lifts
First: Warm up with a weight light enough to enable you to easily perform 8 reps.
Second: Increase the weight slightly so you can easily perform 6 reps.
Third: Increase the weight to the same amount you used in the final week of Phase Four and perform 6 reps.
Fourth: Increase the weight to an amount you believe will allow you to easily perform 3 reps using good control and form.
Fifth: Load the bar to a weight you believe is near to the maximum you can handle for 3 reps with good control and form.
Sixth: Reduce the weight to the same amount you used in the second set and do 6 reps.
At the completion of the 12-week program you should take a week off from training to fully recover from all your efforts. Remember that you grow when you eat and rest. After you are rested fully, you can start this same 12-week program all over again, with new goals in mind and hopefully even higher poundages.