The following program was written in 2015 for an online coaching client of mine, prepping for the Starting Strength Classic. This is a contest of strength that focuses on the Squat, Standing Overhead Press, and Deadlift.
In addition to building strength for the meet, my client also wanted to focus on some specific hypertrophy training to build more muscle mass and improve his physique.
In his words, he wanted to "instill some fear into his daughter's boyfriends."
This program worked well for him and will work well for you.
*Note: If you would rather focus on the Bench Press than the Press, that is a very easy solution. Simply plug in the bench press anywhere in the template where it calls for the press, and relegate the press as an assistance exercise.
I have designed this program in a fashion that can be put into long term use. Ideally, you will be able to use this program for the next 6-8 months without serious modification.
This is a classic 4-day Heavy/Light template. It will give you twice weekly exposure to the lifts without beating up your body, like a Texas Method style program is likely to do. I have you working on alternating rep ranges on a weekly basis to keep you from stagnating and hitting sticking points. The template is also arranged in a way that will allow you to add in a moderate-high volume of accessory work. The accessory work will be necessary to build mass and develop a better physique. I have designed the template for you to be able to add necessary work in for the triceps, biceps, chest, traps, and lats. After a few months you should appear menacing to your daughter's potential suitors.
Monday -- Heavy Press / Light Bench
Tuesday -- Heavy Squat / Back & Biceps
Thursday -- Light Press / Heavy Bench
Friday -- Light Squat / Heavy Deadlift
3-Week Rep Rotation
Week 1: 3 x 5 reps
Week 2: 3 x 3 reps
Week 3: 3 x 1 rep
Same weight for all three work sets.
Below is a sample of 12 weeks on this program (4 continuous 3 week cycles):
Week 1: 3 x 5 x 300
Week 2: 3 x 3 x 330
Week 3: 3 x 1 x 360
Week 4: 3 x 5 x 305
Week 5: 3 x 3 x 335
Week 6: 3 x 1 x 365
Week 7: 3 x 5,4,4 x 310 (bad workout, missed reps)
Week 8: 3 x 3 x 340 (still added weight despite missed reps from last week.
Week 9: 3 x 1 x 370
Week 10: 3 x 5 x 310 (repeat weight from week 7)
Week 11: 3 x 3 x 345
Week 12: 3 x 1 x 375
If you miss reps, then you will repeat the weight THE FOLLOWING CYCLE (not the following week). So, each rep range (5, 3, or 1) progresses independently of the other two rep ranges. If you get stuck on a certain rep range, then keep repeating that until you achieve your coal. You might get stuck on a certain rep range for 2 or 3 cycles, but progression on the other two rep ranges is what will get you unstuck.
I like about a 5-10% gap between each rep range to start with. Although you can tweak this a little bit if the numbers don't square. The stronger you are, the more you will hedge toward that 10% offset. The lower your lifts, the closer it might be to a 5% gap.
The main thing is to not start too heavy and start missing reps on the first 1 or 2 cycles. It might take you a cycle to get through all the rep ranges and then you can go and tweak everything for cycle 2 if anything was eight way too easy or way too hard.
Each time through the cycle you would add anywhere from 1-10 lbs per lift based on the lift (press vs deadlift, for example) and how easy or difficult each week was.
This pattern is used for HEAVY lifts only. Light day lifts and accessory movements will use different set and rep schemes.
Monday -- Heavy Press / Light Bench / Triceps
- Heavy Press, week 1: 3 x 5 / week 2: 3 x 3 / week 3: 3 x 1
- Close Grip Bench Press, 3 x 5-8. CGB should be done in a range between 5-8 reps. Progress in weight when at least ONE set hits 8 reps, and no set drops below 5 reps. Rest 5 minutes between work sets.
- Lying Triceps Extension, 2-3 x 8-10, or Cable Pressdown.
Tuesday -- Heavy Squat / Upper Back
- Heavy Squat, 3 x 5 / 3 x 3 / 3 x 1
- Pullup, Chinup, or Pulldown, 3-5 x 8-12, or 3-5 sets of max rep chins/pullups.
- Barbell Row or One Arm DB Row, 2-3 x 10-12. Rows should be done with straps.
- Barbell Curl or DB Curl, 3-4 x 8-12
Thursday -- Light Press / Heavy Bench plus Chest supplemental (hypertrophy)
- Light Press, 5 x 3. Light Press is done for 5 sets of 3 reps. Weight is 5-10% less than last heavy 3x5 press workout. Rest time is kept to 1 or 2 minutes and the focus is on BAR SPEED. So if you completed 3x5x185 last cycle, then your light press will be about 5x3x165 with 2 min rest and an EXPLOSIVE bar speed. Keep the same weight for the whole cycle and work on increasing speed each week. Bump the weight up every time you complete a new 3x5 heavy workout.
- Bench Press 3x5 / 3x3 / 3x1
- Incline DB Press, 2-3 x 8-10
- Decline DB Press, 2-3 x 8-10 (only a very slight decline; prop end of bench up on about a 3 inch platform for decline angle)
Friday -- Light Squat / Heavy Deadlift
- Light Squat, 5 x 3 (same protocol as light press. Use 10-20% reduction from heavy squat day.
- Deadlift, 3x5 / 3x3 / 3x1 (5-10 minute rest between sets)
- Stiff Leg Deadlift, 1-2 x 6-8 (5-8 minute rest between sets)
- Barbell Shrug, 3 x 15-20.
Deadlifts should use straps on the 5s and 3s week to save the CNS. Pull all your singles without straps. I grip is weak, then do your first set of deadlifts each week without straps, then use straps for sets 2 and 3. Volume deadlifts should always use straps or you will burn out your CNS. Stiff leg deads and shrugs should also use straps. Stiff led deadlifts should be done STRICT with an emphasis on working the hamstrings. Go up in weight when at least 1 set hits 8 reps and the second set does not drop below 6 reps. Shrugs are not "power shrugs" - these are just regular strict barbell shrugs to generate a good pump in the traps.
Every 2-4 cycles you probably want to schedule a deload week. The main thing on deloads is to drop volume and keep intensity high. Something like this:
Monday -- Heavy Press
Press, 3 x 5 (5-10 lbs less than last cycle 3x5)
Tuesday -- Heavy Squat
Squat, 3 x 5 (10 - 20 lbs less than last cycle 3x5)
Thursday -- Heavy Bench
Bench, 3 x 5 (5-10 lbs less than last cycle 3x5)
Friday -- Heavy Deadlift
Light Squat, 3 x 3 (not speed sets, just a few light triples for warm up)
Deadlift, 1 x 5 (10 - 20 lbs less than last cycle 3x5).
After you deload, you should feel good enough to jump right back into a new cycle starting with new 3x5 weight.
Enjoy Your Lifting!