The 17 Best Training Programs For Strength Gains!


Training programs for strength

“What is the most effective training program for strength?” I get this question all the time. In reality there is no training program that will work for everyone. We are all built differently and respond best to different training programs.

That being said here are 17 of the greatest training programs for strength of all time!

Introduction

  • Program #1: The Westside Barbell Training Program
  • Program #2: Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training
  • Program #3: Maximal Effort Drop Sets
  • Program #4: Cluster Sets
  • Program #5: The Lilliebridge Method
  • Program #6: Functional Isometrics
  • Program #7: Wave Loading
  • Program #8: Modified Hepburn Method
  • Program #9: Rest-Pause Training
  • Program #10: The Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program  
  • Program #11: Contrast Sets
  • Program #12: Patient lifter’s Method
  • Program #13: The 10 x 3 Method
  • Program #14: The 5 x 5 Method
  • Program #15: The 4% Solution
  • Program #16: Supra-Maximal Partial Reps
  • Program #17: Forced Reps

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you 17 of the most effective training programs and training methods of all time. 

The best training programs for strength include cluster sets, wave loading, isometronics, accentuated eccentrics, and various powerlifting programs such as the Westside Barbell training program and The Lilliebridge Method

All of these training programs may look radically different from each other. In fact you could make the argument that some of these programs such as the Dorian Yates Training Program and the Westside Barbell training have nothing in common.

In my opinion this is simply not true. All of the best training programs for strength have the following things in common:

  • Compound exercises
  • Heavy ass weight
  • Progressive overload

Regardless of which strength training program you use the principles are always the same: lift heavy weights in the big compound exercises and train with progressively heavier weights over the long run.

Of course “heavy” is relative. A set of 8 reps to failure may be “heavy” for a bodybuilder such as Dante Trudel while a true 1-rep max may be “heavy” for a powerlifter such as Louie Simmons. However, the bottom line is all of these training programs are built on the same foundational principles of strength training.

If your goal is to get as strong as humanly possible them I am extremely confident that many of these programs will work AWESOME for you!

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Now let’s get down to business…

Program #1: The Westside Barbell Training Program

The Westside Barbell training program is easily one of the most popular powerlifting programs in the entire world. Of course powerlifters are interested in one thing and one thing only: lifting massive weights in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

The training system was named after the Westside Barbell Training Club that was founded in the 1970s by the powerlifting guru Louie Simmons.

Louie was an incredible powerlifter in his own right. Louie Simmons put up the following lifts in his 50s:

  • 920 pound squat
  • 600 pound bench press
  • 722 pound deadlift

Talk about incredible! 

Most powerlifters during the 1970s trained with linear periodization. They would start out their training cycles with higher reps, higher training volumes and lower training intensities.

As their meets approached they would do the opposite: they would train with lower reps, lower training volumes and higher training intensities. In other words their training weights in the squat, bench press and deadlift would increase every week and their repetition ranges would decrease every week.

Some of the best powerlifters of all time such as Ed Coan trained exclusively with linear periodization. 

Louie Simmons believed linear periodization was suboptimal at best. Louie believed a much better approach was to train to build maximal strength, explosive strength, and muscular hypertrophy simultaneously!

Conjugate periodization utilizes three distinct training methods to build strength:

  • The max effort method
  • The dynamic effort method
  • The repetition effort method

All three of these training methods are critical to the success of his athletes. Here is how they are utilized during a typical training week:

Sunday: bench press

  • Dynamic effort method
  • Repetition effort method

Monday: squat / deadlift

  • Max effort method
  • Repetition effort method

Wednesday: bench press

  • Max effort method
  • Repetition effort method

Friday: squat / deadlift

  • Dynamic effort method
  • Max effort method

Let’s take a closer look at each of these training methods before discussing the Westside Barbell weekly training schedule in more depth.

Method #1: The Max Effort Method

The max effort method is easily one of the most important aspects of the Westside Barbell Training Program

The idea is simple: you are going to work up to a 1-rep max on a special exercise for the squat, bench press or deadlift. It is very important that you attempt a weight that is right at or just below your estimated 1-rep max.

As a general rule of thumb Louie recommends you perform 2-3 lifts at or above 90% of your estimated 1-rep max for that day. For example you could perform a single at 90%, a single at or around 100% and perhaps one more single if you were successful on your second attempt. 

Of course if you are familiar with the Westside Barbell training system then you know that Louie almost never has his athletes max out on the competition lifts themselves.

Instead he has his athletes max out every week on some type of special exercise for the squat, bench press or deadlift.

Special exercises are simply exercises that are similar to but slightly different from the competition lifts. Examples of special exercises include box squats, reverse band bench presses and rack deadlifts. These exercises are rotated every week so you never max out on the same exercise 2 weeks in a row.

Here are some of the most common Westside Barbell max effort exercises for the bench press:

  • Floor press
  • Board press
  • Pin press
  • Incline bench press
  • Bench press with chains
  • Bench press with bands
  • Bench press with reverse bands

Every week you simply max out on a different bench press special exercise on your designated max effort bench press day.

It is very important to select exercises that emphasize your weak points. For example if you were weak a couple of inches off your chest then a paused floor press would be a great option.

On the other hand if you are weak at lockout then a reverse band bench press would be an appropriate choice.

Max effort training for the squat and deadlift is a little more complicated because both of these exercises are trained on the same day. Here are some of the most common max effort lower body exercises:

  • Low box squats
  • Parallel box squats
  • Specialty bar squats
  • Deficit deadlifts
  • Floor deadlifts
  • Rack / block deadlifts
  • Good mornings
  • Chain suspended good mornings
  • All of the above with chains, bands or reverse bands

Just like with the bench press you would max out on a different special exercise each week. Louie likes for his athletes to max out on the deadlift about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time you would max out on some type of squat or good morning.

For example:

  • Week #1: Deadlift special exercise
  • Week #2: Squat special exercise
  • Week #3: Deadlift special exercise
  • Week #4: Good morning special exercise

Method #2: The Dynamic Effort Method

The dynamic effort method plays a critical role in the Westside Barbell training program. The basic idea is to lift submaximal weights as explosively as possible. This is very similar to the idea of compensatory acceleration training as espoused by Josh Bryant.

The scientific literature has shown that the dynamic effort method helps to increase your rate of force development. In other words it helps you to display your maximal force output on a lift more quickly. This is the equivalent of a car going from 0-60 miles per hour more quickly.

The dynamic effort method is trained on its own training day about 72 hours after your max effort workouts. For example here is the standard Westside Barbell training split:

  • Sunday: Dynamic effort bench press
  • Monday: Max effort squat / deadlift
  • Wednesday: Max effort bench press
  • Friday: Dynamic effort squat / deadlift

As you can see the dynamic effort squat and deadlift are both trained on the same training day. You perform your dynamic effort squats first in the workout, followed by the dynamic effort deadlifts.

Unlike the max effort method you are going to perform a large number of sets when using the dynamic effort method. Here are Louie Simmons’ guidelines for each lift:

  • Dynamic effort bench press: 10 sets of 3 reps at 50-70% of your 1-rep max
  • Dynamic effort squat: 6-10 sets of 2 reps at 50-70% of your 1-rep max
  • Dynamic effort deadlift: 4-8 sets of 1 rep at 50-70% of your 1-rep max

These percentages include the weight of the barbell plus the weight of any accommodating resistance at lockout. For example you could perform bench presses with bands where the bar weight was 40% of your 1-rep max and the band resistance at lockout was 20% of your 1-rep max. Together this would equal about 60% in total resistance on the bar.

The dynamic effort method is always trained in 3-week waves. This is in contrast to the max effort method where you perform a different special exercise every single week. Here are some examples of what a 3-week dynamic effort wave might look like:

3-week bench press wave with chains

  • Week #1: 10 sets of 3 @ 55%
  • Week #2: 10 sets of 3 @ 60%
  • Week #3: 10 sets of 3 @ 65%

3-week squat wave with bands

  • Week #1: 8 sets of 2 @ 60%
  • Week #2: 8 sets of 2 @ 65%
  • Week #3: 8 sets of 2 @ 70%

3-week deadlift wave with straight weight

  • Week #1: 6 sets of 1 @ 50%
  • Week #2: 6 sets of 1 @ 55%
  • Week #3: 6 sets of 1 @ 60%

After 3 weeks you would start over with a new wave at a slightly lower training percentage while working back up in weight over the 3 weeks. Waving the percentages in this manner is critical for avoiding training plateaus and fostering long-term strength gains with the dynamic effort method.

Method #3: The Repetition Effort Method

The repetition effort method may not be as “sexy” as the max effort or dynamic effort methods. However, it still plays a critical role in your overall success with the Westside Barbell training program.

The repetition effort method is often called the “bodybuilding method” because it resembles the way that bodybuilders train. Basically you are going to perform multiple reps per set on some type of supplementary or accessory exercise for the squat, bench press or deadlift.

There are two main types of repetition effort exercises: 

  • Supplementary exercises
  • Accessory exercises

Supplementary exercises are really just variations of the competition lifts themselves. Almost all max effort exercises could be performed as supplementary exercises.

Supplementary exercises are almost always performed for 1-3 sets of 4-6 reps. In other words these lifts are performed with heavy weights and are used to directly drive up your poundages in the competition squat, bench press, and deadlift.

On the other hand accessory exercises are designed to increase strength in individual muscle groups.

Accessory exercises are often performed for sets of 8-15 reps. Examples of good accessory exercises include triceps extensions, lat pulldowns, reverse hyperextensions and glute ham raises.

The Westside Barbell Training Split

Louie Simmons has most of his athletes train 4 days per week using an upper body / lower body split. Here is an exercise template that you can use for each of these workouts:

Dynamic effort bench press workout

  • A1: Speed bench press
  • B1: Supplementary bench exercise
  • C1: Accessory triceps exercise
  • D1: Accessory upper back exercise
  • E1: Accessory delts exercise

Max effort squat / deadlift workout

  • A1: Max effort deadlift / squat / good morning
  • B1: Supplementary lower
  • C1: Accessory posterior chain exercise
  • D1: Accessory posterior chain exercise

Max effort bench press workout

  • A1: Max effort bench
  • B1: Supplementary bench
  • C1: Accessory triceps exercise
  • D1: Accessory upper back exercise
  • E1: Accessory delts exercise

Dynamic effort lower body workout

  • A1: Dynamic effort squat
  • B1: Dynamic effort deadlift
  • C1: Accessory posterior chain exercise
  • D1: Accessory posterior chain exercise

The Westside Barbell training program is a reasonably complicated way to train. One of the most difficult aspects of this program is that you have to pick the correct special exercises to address your individual weaknesses.

Of course I cannot pretend to know what your individual weaknesses are without working with you directly. That being said here is a sample training schedule that you may want to try out.

Check it out:

Dynamic effort upper body

  • A1: Dynamic effort bench press with bands**, 9 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 15-20****, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Rolling DB extension, 6 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 30 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell row, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Bilateral front DB raises, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 40% bar weight and an additional 20% band tension in the top position. Perform 3 sets with a shoulder-width grip, 3 sets with a medium grip, and 3 sets with a wide grip in that order.

****Both sets performed to failure. You must fail on the last rep!

You can click right here for a great video demonstration of the dynamic effort bench press:

Max effort lower body

  • A1: Conventional rack deadlift (plates elevated 4 inches), 3 x 1**, X/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Low box squat w/ safety squat bar (narrow stance / heels flat), 3 x 5, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Sets performed at 90%, 97%, and 100% of your estimated 1-rep max for that day.

You can click right here for a great video demonstration of the conventional rack deadlift:

Max upper day

  • A1: Floor press with chains (wide grip), 3 x 1**, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 15-20****, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press (wide grip), 1 x 15-20****, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell dead stop skull crusher, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Cable rope push downs, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Sets performed at 90%, 97%, and 100% of your estimated 1-rep max for that day.

****Set performed to failure. You must fail on the last rep!

You can click right here for a great video demonstration of the floor press with chains:

Dynamic effort lower day

  • A1: Back squat to parallel box with bands (wide stance / heels flat), 8 x 2**, 1/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift against bands, 4 x 1**, X/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Sumo deadlift against bands, 4 x 1**, X/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Belt squat, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 12-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 50% bar weight and 25% band tension at lockout.

You can click right here for a great video demonstration of the dynamic effort box squat with bands:

Of course this is just a sample training schedule for 1 week of training. If you are looking for a more complete Westside Barbell peaking cycle I strongly recommend you read the following article available right here on Revolutionary Program Design:

The Westside Barbell Training Program!

In the above article I provide a sample 16-week Westside Barbell training cycle. I cover everything from max effort exercise selection to dynamic effort waves and even the infamous “circa-max phase” in extreme detail. 

The Westside Barbell training program is easily one of the most popular and effective strength training programs of all time. Powerlifters all over the world have successfully used this program to build superhuman strength.

Many athletes from other sports including American football, sprinting and strongman have also used conjugate style periodization with success.

If you are looking to get stronger and you thrive on workouts featuring single-rep maxes then I highly recommend you give the Westside Barbell training program a shot. You won’t be disappointed!

Program #2: Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training

There are three types of muscular contractions:

  • Concentric muscular contractions
  • Isometric muscular contractions
  • Eccentric muscular contractions

Eccentric muscular contractions occur when your muscles are contracting while lengthening. In other words they occur any time you are lowering a weight down under control.

The scientific literature has shown time and time again that the eccentric phase of an exercise builds more strength than the concentric phase! In other words it is actually more important to lower weights under control than it is to lift them! 

Over the years many strength athletes and strength coaches began experimenting with accentuated eccentric training protocols. In other words they invented ways to eccentrically overload an exercise above and beyond just lowering a weight down under control.

I covered all of the best accentuated eccentric training protocols in great depth in the following article:

All eccentric training methods work awesome for building relative and absolute strength. However, some of these methods are more effective than others.

The most effective form of eccentric training for building maximal strength is actually supra-maximal eccentric training. The idea is simple: you are going to lower down under control a weight that is more than 100% of your 1-rep max!

There are many ways to accomplish this.

One is to perform exercises where you can safely “skip” the concentric range. For example it is very easy to perform supra-maximal eccentric reps on dips. You simply lower yourself down under control and then let your feet hit the ground in the bottom position.

Another option that works really well for building raw strength is to use weight releasers. Weight releasers are nothing more than giant metal hooks that hang on either side of a barbell. You perform the eccentric phase of a lift with the weight releasers on the barbell.

However, in the bottom position of the lift they weight releasers hit the ground and fall off. Then during the concentric range you are lifting nothing but the barbell.

Here is a video of weight releasers being used on the bench press:

There are many different ways that you could structure a supra-maximal eccentrics workout. In this article I am going to teach you three of the most effective ways:

  • The 1+2 method
  • Eccentric Clusters
  • Eccentric Singles

Please note that these routines are extremely demanding on both your nervous system and your musculo-skeletal system. They should only be attempted if yo have at least 2 years of serious weight lifting experience under your belt.

In an ideal world you would also have at least some experience with accentuated eccentric training. You may be setting yourself up for injury if you attempt these routines before you are ready for them.

Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training Method #1: The 1+2 Method

The 1+2 method is pretty straightforward: you are going to perform 3 reps on a compound barbell exercise. The first rep will be performed with the weight releasers on the bar. You lower the bar down until the weight releasers fall off and then lift the weight back up to lockout.

The second and third reps will be performed immediately afterwards without the weight releasers on the bar. In other words you are performing 1 rep with the weight releasers on the bar and 2 without them.

This is an excellent way to accumulate a little more volume during a set without burning out your nervous system. Here is a squat routine featuring the 1+2 method that you may want to try. Check it out:

1+2 Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat with weight releasers**, 5-6 x 3, 10/0/X/0***, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Walking DB lunge (alternating legs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Bilateral seated leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet pointed in), 3 x 4-6, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis)*****, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 80% bar weight and an extra 20-60% total weight from the weight releasers. The total weight on the barbell will be 100-140% during the eccentric phase of the first rep. As long as you can control the weight over the 10-second eccentric phase then it is an appropriate weight.

***Use a 10-second lowering phase for the first rep only. On the 2nd and 3rd rep use a 3-second lowering phase. All three reps are performed back-to-back. See the video below for a perfect demonstration.

****Dorsiflex your ankles (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantar flex your ankles (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

*****Hold the dumbbells at your chest on the concentric range and fully extend your arms straight out in front of you on the eccentric range. See the video below for more details.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1.

It is *extremely* important that you use the correct tempos for this routine. I recommend that you use a 10-second lowering phase for your 1st rep in each set and a 3-second lowering phase for your 2nd and 3rd reps in each set.

It is actually very common to use a 10-second lowering phase during supra-maximal eccentric reps. These slow lowering phases increase the effectiveness of the exercise and decrease your risk of injury.

Trust me, you do NOT want to risk losing control of the bar when weight releasers are on there. This is a recipe for disaster!

If you are having a hard time lowering the weight over 10 seconds then you may want to reduce the weight on the bar. There is nothing wrong with swallowing your pride and using the correct weight if it means increasing your overall rate of progress.

Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training Method #2: Eccentric Clusters

I first learned about eccentric cluster sets from the writings of Christian Thibadeau many years ago. They are a hybrid of two of the most effective strength training methods of all time:

Cluster sets are basically multi-rep sets where you take short rest breaks in between every rep. Cluster sets work perfectly when you are using weight releasers because they give you enough time to re-rack the weight releasers in between each rep!

Christian Thibadeau often has his athletes perform sets of 5 reps with weight releasers. He simply has his athletes rest for 30 seconds in between each rep. During this time his athletes rack the weight and then put the weight releasers back on the barbell.

Here is a perfect example of one of Thibadeau’s athletes performing an eccentric cluster set on the bench press:

Here is a full eccentric cluster sets routine for the bench press that you might want to try. Check it out:

Eccentric Clusters Bench Press Routine

  • A1: Bench press with weight releasers**, 5 x 5****, 10/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

**Performed with 80% of your 1-rep max on the barbell and an additional 10-40% of your 1-rep max on the weight releasers. The total weight during the eccentric range should be 90-120% of your 1-rep max.

****Rest 20 seconds in between each rep. While you are resting you will re-rack the weight releasers on the bar in preparation for your next rep. See the video below for more details.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Eccentric clusters are an unbelievably powerful training method. If you are stuck at a strength plateau then eccentric clusters will help you blast right through it as well as anything else. 

Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training Method #3: Eccentric Singles

There is one last supra-maximal eccentric training protocol that I want to cover: eccentric singles.

This method is exactly as it sounds. You are going to perform one single repetition with a weight that is well over your 1-rep max. This is an extraordinarily demanding training method and should be reserved for trainees with extensive experience with eccentric training.

One of the best ways to perform this training method is with weight releasers. You simply perform 1 rep at a time and rest several minutes between each set.

Of course it is also possible to perform this training method without weight releasers if you are careful with your exercise selection. Exercises such as v-bar dips and barbell preacher curls work just fine with this training method.

Here is an eccentric singles arm routine that you may want to try. Check it out:

Eccentric Singles Arm Routine

  • A1: Eccentric-only v-bar dips**, 7-8 x 1, 10/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Eccentric-only unilateral barbell preacher curl****, 7-8 x 1, 10/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Unilateral DB french press, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curl, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Perform the eccentric portion of the exercise only. Start in the top position and lower yourself down under 10 seconds. When you reach the bottom position of the exercise your feet hit the ground and you are done. Aim to use 100-140% of your 1-rep max here.

****Perform the eccentric portion of the exercise only. Start in the bottom position and use your non-working arm to help lift the weight up to the top. Then you lower the weight down using just one arm over 10 seconds. Aim to use 100-140% of your 1-rep max here.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Once again it is very important to be careful with your weight selection. I recommend that you perform your first working set with a weight that is at or slightly above your concentric 1-rep max. You can then slowly increase the weight over your 7-8 sets. For example:

  • Set #1: 105% x 1 – Easy
  • Set #2: 105% x 1 – Easy
  • Set #3: 107.5% x 1 – Somewhat hard
  • Set #4: 110% x 1 – Very hard
  • Set #5: 110% x 1 – Very hard
  • Set #6: 110% x 1 – Hard
  • Set #7: 112.5% x 1 – Very very hard, almost impossible!

After the 7th set the lifter correctly decides to shut it down for the day. He then moves on to his B1 and B2 exercises.

The most important thing when picking your weights is to make sure that you can lower the weight down under control over 10 seconds. As long as you can properly lower the weight over 10 seconds then you can keep going up in weight.

If for example you bump the weight up and you can only lower it under 8 seconds then you should decrease the weight on your next set.

Make no mistake: supra-maximal eccentric training is one of the most challenging but rewarding ways to train. In fact I know of no better training method for blasting through a strength plateau than supra-maximal eccentric training. 

Program #3: Maximal Effort Drop Sets

Maximal effort drop sets have a long and celebrated history in the iron game. The legendary bodybuilder Mike Mentzer used his version maximal effort drop sets almost exclusively to build his best-ever physique for the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest.

Mike Mentzer was easily one of the strongest bodybuilders of his time and had one of the “densest” physiques on stage.

The procedure for performing a maximal effort drop set is pretty straightforward. You first perform a 1-3 rep max on an exercise of your choice.After performing your first 1-3 reps you drop the weight by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds and perform another single.

This process is usually repeated about 3 times after your first set of 1-3 reps.

This method works best for compound movements but it can also be used on isolation exercises such as leg curls and preacher curls.

For example:

  • Perform a 1-3 rep max, drop the weight by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, drop the weight by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, drop the weight by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, done!

Maximal effort drop sets are so effective because they maximally recruit AND fatigue the fast-twitch muscle fibers. The extra single repetitions create very deep inroads into your recovery system and pave the way for rapid strength gains.

Here is a sample maximal effort drop set workout for your legs that you may want to try. Check it out:

Lower Body Maximal Effort Drop Set Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 4 x 2/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / neutral), 4 x 2/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated DB split squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension w/ DBs (eccentric emphasis)****, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 2/1/1/1 drop set as described above.

****Hold the dumbbells close to your chest during the concentric range and fully straighten your arms during the eccentric range. See the video below for more details.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

One of the reasons that this workout works so well is the incredible training density that you can achieve. You are performing 4 total drop sets on front squats. However, each of these drop sets is really 4 separate sets blended together into one extended set.

This means that you are technically performing (4 x 4) = 16 total sets! This is an absolutely staggering amount of work. If you can recover from it then you will see some screaming fast strength gains. 

Relative Strength Drop Set Protocol

There is another type of maximal effort drop set that I would like to introduce you to. This drop set protocol was developed by Charles Poliquin and it does not have a formal name.

It is somewhat similar to The Modified Hepburn Method as talked about in part 8 of this article. However, there are some key differences that make it a stand-alone training method. Out of respect for Charles I am going to call this the Poliquin relative strength drop set.

For this method you are going to break up your workout into two separate parts:

For the relative strength portion of the workout you are going to perform one very long, very demanding drop set. Essentially you are going to perform 7 singles with 60 seconds rest between each single.

The first single is going to be a true 1-rep max or very close to it. Each of the subsequent singles will be performed with slightly less weight. For example:

  • Attempt #1: 97% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #2: 95% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #3: 93% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #4: 91% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #5: 89% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #6: 87% x 1 rep
  • Attempt #7: 85% x 1 rep

If you perform your first attempt with 300 pounds then this may be as simple as dropping the weight by 5 or perhaps 10 pounds on each subsequent single. This big drop set is a very powerful way to stimulate strength gains. It is almost like a hybrid between a cluster set and a maximal effort drop set.

The second part of the workout emphasizes functional hypertrophy and utilizes the 5 x 5 set and rep scheme. You are simply going to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with the same exercise that you performed the drop set on. I recommend that you use a weight that is about 70% of your 1-rep max. For example:

  • Attempt #1: 70% x 5 reps
  • Attempt #2: 70% x 5 reps
  • Attempt #3: 70% x 5 reps
  • Attempt #4: 70% x 5 reps
  • Attempt #5: 70% x 5 reps

If you complete all 5 sets of 5 reps then you bump the weight up at your next workout. If you fail to complete 5 reps on all 5 sets then you stick with the same weight at your next workout.

All in all the Poliquin relative strength drop set protocol features 12 sets of absolutely grueling work. Here is a sample training routine that you may want to try for rapidly boosting your overhead pressing strength. Check it out:

Poliquin Relative Strength Drop Set Routine

  • A1: Standing behind the neck press, 7 x 1**, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Standing behind the neck press, 5 x 5****, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Subscapularis pull ups, 5 x 5, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: T-bar row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds  rest
  • C2: Standing unilateral cable external rotation (arm abducted), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a maximal effort drop set as described above. Use 95% of your 1-rep max on the first single. Then reduce the load by 2% for each subsequent single.

****I recommend using 75% of your estimated 1-rep max. This is significantly less than you would normally use for a 5 x 5 set / rep scheme. In this case you will be fatigued from the drop set so 75% is most appropriate.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

If you are looking to rapidly boost your strength without packing on too much muscular size then the Poliquin relative strength drop set protocol is a great option. In fact I have used this exact training method with many of my online coaching clients with great success.

I cannot recommend it strongly enough!

Program #4: Cluster Sets

Cluster sets are probably the single greatest training method in the world for building strength. But this isn’t just my opinion: many of the world’s most successful strength coaches such as Charles Poliquin, Christian Thibadeau and Wolfgang Unsoeld would agree with this statement.

There are many different cluster set protocols out there but they all have one thing in common: you perform multi-rep sets with intra-set rest intervals. In other words you take relatively short rest breaks in between each of the reps of your sets.

For example one of the most common cluster set protocols involves performing sets of 5 reps with 10-20 seconds rest in between each rep. Cluster sets are so effective because they allow you to stimulate AND fatigue the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

In other words they create strength-related adaptations within both the central nervous system and the muscular system. They also allow you to reinforce perfect lifting technique because you are only performing one rep at a time.

There are many different types of cluster set training protocols. In this article I am going to teach you two of the most effective cluster protocols for all-out strength gains.

Cluster protocol #1: the Poliquin cluster

This first cluster set protocol is named after the Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. Charles was famous for personally training some of the strongest athletes in the world.

The idea behind this cluster set protocol is pretty simple: you are going to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with your 3-rep max.

I said simple, not easy! The key to making this work is you are going to rest for 15-20 seconds in between each of your 5 reps on each set. In other words each of your 5 sets would look like this:

  • Perform rep #1, rest 15-20 seconds
  • Perform rep #2, rest 15-20 seconds
  • Perform rep #3, rest 15-20 seconds
  • Perform rep #4, rest 15-20 seconds
  • Perform rep #5, done!

In an ideal world you would perform all 5 sets with the same load. Most trainees will be able to pull this off with their 3-rep max. However, if you have an unusually high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers then you may want to use a slightly lighter weight.

On the other hand if you are a slow-twitch machine then you may be able to use a slightly heavier weight. 

Here is a sample arm training cluster set routine you may want to try. Check it out:

Arms workout

  • A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 5 x 5**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinating grip), 5 x 5**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extension with chains (to forehead), 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline zottman curl, 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style cluster set as described above. Use roughly 90% of your 1-rep max and take a 20-second rest break in between each of the five reps for each set.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The Poliquin style cluster set protocol is just a fantastic all-around training method. It builds strength at a very rapid pace but without burning out your central nervous system. After all you are only training with weights that are about 90% of your 1-rep max.

Many trainees also find that this method works reasonably well for building muscle mass. Of course there are ways to make clusters work even better for strength gains. This brings me to the next training protocol:

Cluster Protocol #2: Carl Miller Clusters

Carl Miller was a world-famous Olympic Weightlifting coach. He was also one of the first men to use cluster sets as a core training method with his athletes.

Carl had his athletes perform sets of 3 reps with their 2 rep max. In order to pull this off his athletes would rest for 45 seconds between each set.

For example:

  • Perform rep #1, rest 45 seconds
  • Perform rep #2, rest 45 seconds
  • Perform rep #3, done!

After completing the third rep you rest for several minutes before performing your next set.

An even better option would be to rest for a couple minutes and then perform a Carl Miller cluster set for the antagonistic body part. After all, training antagonistic body parts together in a workout has been shown to increase the rate and magnitude of strength gains.

Here is a sample upper body workout featuring Carl Miller cluster sets. Check it out:

Carl Miller Cluster Sets Arm Routine

  • A1: 60 degree incline barbell press (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 3**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 6 x 3**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 15 degree incline DB press, 4 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Rest 45 seconds in between each of the three repetitions. You should be able to use your estimated 2-rep max for these sets.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The Carl Miller cluster sets are definitely more taxing from a neurological standpoint than the Poliquin style cluster sets. This does not automatically mean that they are more effective.

If you are someone who thrives on singles and doubles then you may get awesome results with the Carl Miller style cluster sets. On the other hand if you quickly burn out on singles and doubles then the Poliquin style cluster sets may work better for you.

Program #5: The Lilliebridge Method

The Lilliebridge Method is a powerlifting training program that was developed and refined by Eric Lilliebridge.

Eric is easily one of the most successful powerlifters in the world today. He holds the all-time raw powerlifting world record total in the 308 pound weight class. He has also squatted a mind-bending 1,045 pounds in competition!

If you are looking for a perfect powerlifting role model then look no further than Eric Lilliebridge.

The Lilliebridge Method is first and foremost a peaking program designed to peak your strength for your next powerlifting meet. The program itself lasts about 10-12 weeks in duration.

Eric recommends that you train slightly lighter in the offseason or when you are far away from your next meet so as to avoid burning yourself out.

The Lilliebridge Method is an ultra-low-frequency powerlifting program. Eric trains only two days per week. One training day focuses on the bench press while the second training day focuses on the squat and deadlift.

Here is Eric’s go-to training schedule:

  • Wednesday: Bench press
  • Saturday: Squat / deadlift

That’s it! 

Eric found through trial and error that he just could not recover properly when he trained more than two days per week. Many other world-class powerlifters have come to similar conclusions.

For example Stan Efferding put up his best lifts training only two days per week using something very similar to The Lilliebridge Method.

Of course The Lilliebridge Method isn’t just a low frequency program in terms of how many days per week you train. It is also low-frequency in terms of how often you train the competition lifts with heavy weights. Eric prefers to train each lift heavy only every other week!

For example:

Week 1:

  • Wednesday: Heavy bench press
  • Saturday: Heavy squat

Week 2:

  • Wednesday: Light bench press
  • Saturday: Heavy deadlift

You read that right: Eric only trains the squat or deadlift once every 2 weeks! Most powerlifters need to train the competition lifts more frequently than this to make optimal progress.

However, there is a smaller percentage of trainees who make SCREAMING FAST progress training this way. If you thrive on a lower-frequency approach then the Lilliebridge Method might work awesome for you!

Each training day you are going to work up to a top set on the squat, bench press or deadlift. This top set is based on specific predetermined training percentages.

Here are Eric’s recommended weekly training percentages for the squat and deadlift:

  • Week 1: Squat = 85% x 5 reps
  • Week 2: Deadlift = 85% x 5 reps
  • Week 3: Squat = 90% x 3 reps
  • Week 4: Deadlift = 90% x 3 reps
  • Week 5: Squat = 92% x 2 reps
  • Week 6: Deadlift = 92% x 2 reps
  • Week 7: Squat = 95% x 1 rep
  • Week 8: Deadlift = 95% x 1 rep
  • Week 9 Squat = deload at 50% of max x 3-5 reps
  • Week 10: Competition day!

And here are Eric’s recommend weekly training percentages for the deadlift:

  • Week 1: 87% x 1 rep
  • Week 2: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 3: 90% x 1 rep
  • Week 4: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 5: 93% x 1 rep
  • Week 6: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 7: 96% x 1 rep
  • Week 8: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 9: Work up to planned opener x 1
  • Week 10: Competition day!

 As you can see the Lilliebridge Method features a very simple form of linear periodization. The weights get heavier and heavier as you get closer to the meet. This is an excellent way to train as it fully prepares your body for handling heavy singles on your competition day and it allows you to hone in your technique week after week.

Now that you understand how Eric Lilliebridge sets up his powerlifting peaking cycles let’s take a look at some sample workouts.

For the bench press we are going to look at Stan Efferding’s powerlifting workouts. Stan trained using the Lilliebridge Method or something very close to it when he broke the all-time powerlifting world record total in the 275 pound weight class.

Check it out:

Stan Efferding Heavy Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press, 1 x 1-5, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 2 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

On his heavy bench press days Stan prefers to work up to a heavy weight in the bench press followed by 1-2 heavy assistance exercises. Stan believes that isolation exercises are pretty much a waste of time during a powerlifting meet prep cycle.

Instead of wasting time on triceps extensions and cable pushdowns he prefers to perform dips with hundreds of pounds around his waist.

Of course there is no right or wrong way to organize your own assistance work on The Lilliebridge Method. Eric has seen many athletes get fantastic results performing their assistance work more like a bodybuilder.

Stan Efferding’s Light Bench Press Day

  • A1: 30 degree Incline bench press, 1 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Behind the neck press, 2 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Flat dumbbell bench press, 2 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Once again Stan’s philosophy here is “go heavy or go home.” Rather than performing an AMRAP set on the bench press (as Eric recommends) Stan just throws around heavy weight on some big compound assistance exercises. Now let’s take a look at some lower body workouts. We are going to use Eric Lilliebridge himself as our model powerlifter here.

Eric Lilliebridge Heavy Deadlift Day

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 1, X/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Lat pull down (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Leg press, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

As a general rule of thumb Eric likes to throw the leg press in on his deadlift day. This helps him to get some additional quadriceps work in without necessarily having to squat.

You are more than welcome to perform additional accessory work if you want to. However, many trainees who respond well to this low-frequency approach will find that just a few exercises is more than enough.

Eric Lilliebridge Heavy Squat Day

  • A1: Back squat (competition stance), 3 x 1, 1/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Once again Eric keeps his workout short and sweet. Some of you may be looking at Stan’s or Eric’s workouts and thinking “there’s no way that’s enough work.” Keep in mind both of these athletes have broken multiple all-time powerlifting world records.

I believe that most trainees will get better results with more overall training frequency and more days spent in the gym. However, if you are an extremely strong athlete or have an unusually high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers then you may find the Lilliebridge Method is just what you need to take your training to the next level.

If you want to learn more about the Lilliebridge Method then I strongly recommend you check out the following article available right here on Revolutionary Program Design:

The Lilliebridge Method For Powerlifting!

Of course you may also want to check out the Lilliebridge Method e-book.

Program #6: Functional Isometrics

Functional isometrics are easily one of the weirdest training methods ever invented. Isometronics are basically a combination of partial range of motion reps and overcoming isometric contractions.

As I talked about earlier in this article there are three main types of muscular contractions:

  • Concentric muscular contractions
  • Eccentric muscular contractions
  • Isometric muscular contractions

Most trainees are at least a little bit familiar with concentric and eccentric contractions. These contractions types occur when you are lifting or lowering a weight. Isometric contractions are very different: they occur when your muscles are contracting without moving! 

In reality there are two types of isometric contractions:

  • Overcoming isometrics
  • Yielding isometrics

For our purposes we are only interested in overcoming isometrics. Overcoming isometrics occur when your muscles are applying force to an immovable object.

For example if you load up a barbell with 1000 pounds and try to deadlift it you will be performing an overcoming isometric contraction. Your muscles will be working very hard but the barbell won’t move an inch!

Of course if your name is Eddie Hall then the weight will move faster than a Cheetah on PCP. Eddie, what are you doing on RPD? You should be training to knock out The Mountain!

Overcoming isometric contractions have some very strange effects on the body. They don’t actually break down any muscle tissue. However, they allow you to recruit an enormous number of muscle fibers.

In fact the scientific literature has shown that overcoming isometric contractions allow you to recruit up to 15% more muscle fibers than either concentric or eccentric muscular contractions! As you may already know recruiting more motor units is one of the most important parts of increasing your strength. 

This all brings us to functional isometrics. Functional isometrics, or isometronics as they are often called, involve performing partial range of motion reps in between 2 sets of safety pins followed by an all-out overcoming isometric contraction.

Here is Olympic gold medalist Adam Nelson giving an isometronics demonstration in the incline press:

The actual procedure goes like this:

  • Step #1: Perform 4-6 partial range of motion reps in between 2 sets of safety pins.
  • Step #2: After your last rep press as hard as you can into the top pins for 6-8 seconds.
  • Step #3: Lower the weight back down to the starting position and attempt one final partial range of motion rep.

Essentially you are pre-fatiguing your muscle fibers with some very heavy partial range of motion work followed by fully exhausting your muscles with an overcoming isometric contraction. This is one potent training stimulus! 

A true functional isometrics workout features 10 total sets of the main barbell lift. Here is what the workout itself looks like:

  • Perform 3 functional isometrics sets in the bottom position
  • Perform 3 functional isometrics sets in the middle position
  • Perform 3 functional isometrics sets in the top position
  • Perform 1 full range of motion set without the safety pins

It is very important that you follow your 9 sets of partial range of motion sets with one set using a full range of motion. This final set teaches your body how to use the newly activated motor units through a full range of motion.

You can perform functional isometrics for any major compound exercise such as the squat, bench press or deadlift. They can even be used for smaller exercises such as bicep curls.

Here is an upper body functional isometrics workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

  • A1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • C2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • D1: Bench press (medium grip), 1 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • D2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
  • E2: Flat ez-bar extensions (to nose), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

You can click right here the for the isometronics bench press videos.

This is the classic way of performing a functional isometrics workout. That does not mean it is the only way. Josh Bryant developed a system for performing functional isometrics that I really like.

Rather than using two sets of safety pins and performing several partial range of motion reps you use one set of safety pins set just below lockout. You then perform several near full range of motion reps followed by an overcoming isometric contraction against the top pins.

Here is Josh Bryant taking his clients through a functional isometrics set:

This training method works very well for increasing triceps strength and size. Here is an upper body workout that you may want to try. It features Josh Bryant’s unique take on functional isometrics and is a great way to strengthen your triceps.

Check it out:

Josh Bryant functional isometrics routine

  • A1: Bench press functional isometrics**, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 x 8-10, 3/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Flat DB extension, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 30 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 30 seconds rest

**Set a single pair of safety pins 1 inch below lockout. Perform 6-8 full range of motion reps where you touch the top safety pins in the lockout position. After your 6th-8th rep press into the top pins as hard as you can for 6 seconds. 

**After this isometric rep the set is done. See the video below for more details.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

Functional isometrics have been around sense the 1950s but they aren’t used nearly as often as they should be. If you are looking to blast through a training plateau and haven’t utilized isometric contractions much in the past then I highly recommend you give functional isometrics a shot.

You won’t be disappointed with the results!

Program #7: Wave Loading

Wave Loading is easily one of the most effective and versatile strength training methods.

A strength training wave is really nothing more than a series of three sets performed with decreasing rep ranges. For example:

  • Set #1: High reps
  • Set #2: Medium reps
  • Set #3: Low reps

Altogether this counts as one single wave.

A typical wave loading workout will feature 2-4 total waves per exercise. Wave loading is what you might call a neurological training system. It teaches your nervous system to become more efficient at recruiting and firing the fast twitch motor units.

In fact wave loading is one of the best systems for taking advantage of the principle of post-tetanic potentiation. The decreasing rep ranges from one set to the next helps to “excite” your central nervous system.

As you progress from one strength training wave to the next you may find that your strength actually increases by 1-2%. This may sound impossible but I can assure you that it is the case.

One of the things that I really like about wave loading is that it is an incredibly versatile training method. You can perform wave loading workouts with an enormous variety of set and rep schemes.

For the purposes of this article I will focus on three of the best wave loading protocols for building pure strength:

Let’s examine each of these training methods in more depth

7/5/3 Wave Loading

This wave loading scheme is awesome for building both strength and size simultaneously. Actually it is one of the better functional hypertrophy loading schemes that you can use. As a general rule of thumb I recommend you only perform 2 of these 7/5/3 waves per workout.

For example:

Wave #1

  • Set #1: 7 reps
  • Set #2: 5 reps
  • Set #3: 3 reps

Wave #2

  • Set #4: 7 reps
  • Set #5: 5 reps
  • Set #3: 3 reps

The 7/5/3 wave loading scheme has the advantage of exposing your body to some lower-rep sets but without risking burning out your central nervous system. A large percentage of the training population will be able to make strength gains using this loading scheme.

Here is a sample 7/5/3 lower body workout you may want to try. Check it out:

7/5/3 wave loading routine

  • A1: Safety squat bar squat (wide stance / heels flat), 6 x 7/5/3**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing out), 6 x 7/5/3**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Snatch grip deadlift, 4 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest

**Performed as a 7/5/3 wave loading protocol as described above.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1.

If you are someone who thrives on low-rep sets then you may actually want to use the 7/5/3 wave loading scheme during your accumulation phases. It will help you increase your functional hypertrophy which will increase your potential for strength gains in your next intensification phase.

On the other hand if you quickly burn out on lots of low-rep sets then you may actually want to use this as an intensification phase. The choice is up to you.

5/3/1 Wave Loading

This is probably one of my favorite all-around wave loading schemes. It is very effective for building maximal strength but it still has some effect in terms of building or maintaining muscle mass. I recommend you perform anywhere from 2-3 total 5/3/1 waves in a single workout.

For example:

Wave #1

  • Set #1: 5 reps
  • Set #2: 3 reps
  • Set #3: 1 reps

Wave #2

  • Set #4: 5 reps
  • Set #5: 3 reps
  • Set #3: 1 reps

Many strength coaches such as Wolfgang Unsoeld have used this type of wave loading scheme with a lot of success. Here is a sample upper body workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

5/3/1 Wave Loading Upper Body Routine

  • A1: 30 degree incline barbell press (medium grip), 6 x 5/3/1**, 2/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 6 x 5/3/1**, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated unilateral cable row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Lying ez-bar extensions (to nose), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 5/3/1 wave loading protocol as described above.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

I can’t recommend the 5/3/1 wave loading scheme highly enough. It builds maximal strength at a very fast pace but also does a reasonable job of building and maintaining muscle mass.

Of course if you are interested in all-out strength gains then there is one more wave loading protocol that may interest you:

3/2/1 Wave Loading

This is by far the most extreme of the wave loading protocols. It is also the most effective one for building limit strength. If you are interested in peaking your 1-rep max strength on a particular lift then 3/2/1 wave loading will do it better than almost anything else.

You can perform anywhere from 2-4 total waves using the 3/2/1 wave loading scheme. I recommend you start fairly conservatively and slowly ramp up your weights with each successive wave.

For example:

Wave #1

  • Set #1: 85% x 3
  • Set #2: 87.5% x 2
  • Set #3: 90% x 1

Wave #2

  • Set #4: 87.5% x 3
  • Set #5: 90% x 2
  • Set #6: 92.5% x 1

Wave #3

  • Set #7: 90% x 3
  • Set #8: 92.5% x 2
  • Set #9: 95% x 1

Of course you could go for a 4th wave if you are feeling particularly good that day. Here is a sample lower body 3/2/1 wave loading workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

3/2/1 wave loading lower body routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6-12 x 3/2/1**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 6-12 x 3/2/1**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a 3/2/1 wave loading protocol as described above

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1.

As you can see wave loading workouts are highly customizable. They can be manipulated to build a blend of strength and size gains or for all-out strength. I highly recommend you give any of these wave loading protocols a shot. If you want to learn even more about wave loading then you may want to check out the following article: 

Wave Loading: The Ultimate Guide!

That comprehensive guide on wave loading contains tons of information that extends beyond the scope of this article.

Program #8: Modified Hepburn Method

The Modified Hepburn Method is named after Doug Hepburn, one of the strongest human beings to ever grace this Earth. He was a multi-time Olympic weightlifting world champion in the 1950s and the first man to officially bench press 500 pounds.

Doug invented his own training style that he used to build his superhuman strength. Charles Poliquin later refined and optimized Doug’s workout program. The new refined program was given the title “The Modified Hepburn Method.” 

With this method you are going to break your workouts down into two parts:

  • Part 1 (Relative Strength): 8 sets of 1-2 reps
  • Part 2 (Functional Hypertrophy): 5 sets of 3-5 reps

The first part of the workout involves performing 8 sets of 1-2 reps. I recommend you focus on big, compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses and chin ups.

These singles and doubles should be heavy but not necessarily all-out. For example you may want to perform your singles in the 90-95% range. These will be heavy enough to maximally recruit the high threshold motor units but not so heavy that you risk burning out your central nervous system.

The second part of the workout involves performing 5 sets of 3-5 reps. You are going to use an exercise that is very similar to but slightly different from the exercise used in the relative strength phase.

Here are a few ways you might vary your exercise for the second part of The Modified Hepburn Method:

  • Changing your stance / elevating your heels on squats
  • Moving your hands in or out on chin ups / pull ups
  • Using a higher or lower incline bench on incline bench presses
  • Etc.

Varying the exercise in this manner allows you to tap into a slightly different motor unit pool. This enhances the overall training effect and increases your rate of progress.

There are a few different ways that you could structure a Modified Hepburn Method workout. The first is to perform 8 sets of singles followed by 5 sets of 3-5 reps. Here is a lower body workout featuring this set / rep scheme. Check it out:

Lower Body Modified Hepburn Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated unilateral leg curls (Poliquin method** / feet pointed straight), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front squat (medium stance / heels slightly elevated), 5 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated unilateral leg curls (Poliquin method** / feet pointed in), 5 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

** Dorsiflex your ankles (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your ankles (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

For this routine I recommend that you stay conservative with your weight selection. You may want to perform your first single at 90% of your estimated 1-rep max. If that weight is fairly easy you can slowly bump up the weight with each successive set.

Remember, it is the high volume of work that makes this training method so effective. If you go too heavy too quickly you may find that you “shit the bed” and cannot perform the required number of sets.

Another great way to structure a Modified Hepburn Method workout is to use doubles instead of singles for the relative strength work. The doubles are slightly less effective at increasing maximal strength.

However, many trainees find that they make better overall progress using doubles than they do singles. If you are someone who quickly burns out on single repetitions then this may be a great set / rep scheme for you to try. Check it out:

Upper Body Modified Hepburn Routine

  • A1: 70 degree incline barbell press (shoulder-width grip), 8 x 2, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Shoulder width supinated grip pull ups, 8 x 2, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline barbell press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip pull ups, 5 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest  

If you are going to use doubles then I recommend you perform your first working set at 85% of your 1-rep max and slowly work up from there. Trust me, it is far better to start your workouts conservatively than to use too much weight and struggle to get your sets in. 

There is one last Modified Hepburn program that I want to show you. This last version involves performing 10 sets of singles and only 3 sets of 3-5 reps. This is a rather extreme way to train. After all, who in their right mind would want to perform 10 sets of singles in a single workout?

I admit that this loading scheme will not work for everyone. In fact it is probably best reserved for those trainees with a dopamine-dominant neurotransmitter profile.

That being said I have personally trained many athletes who experienced some of the best gains of their life using this exact set / rep scheme. Here is an arm workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Modified Hepburn Arm Routine

  • A1: Flat bench press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curls (wide / supinated grip), 10 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 10 degree decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curls (narrow / supinated grip), 3 x 3-5, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest  

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Once again it is absolutely critical that you stay conservative with your weights selection. I recommend you perform your first single with about 90% of your estimated 1-rep max and work up from there.

If you are feeling good then you could easily perform your last single at 95-100% of your estimated 1-rep max.

Just remember, it is the overall volume of heavy singles that is most important here. It is absolutely imperative that you complete all of your singles in good technical form. If you miss even one attempted single then it will negatively impact your progress on subsequent workouts.

Program #9: Rest-Pause Training

Rest-pause sets are easily one of the most effective training methods for building strength. No, they are not necessarily the best option for a powerlifter looking to maximize his 1-rep max strength. However, if you are just a meathead looking to get as strong as humanly possible then rest-pause sets are an incredible training method. 

Rest-pause sets were originally invented and popularized by Dante Trudel as part of his famous “DC Training” bodybuilding program. The procedure for performing a rest-pause set is very simple:

  • Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, then rack the weight and rest for 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a second time with the same weight, then rack the weight and rest for 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a third time. Done!

Basically you are training to failure and then resting just long enough for you to be able to squeeze out additional repetitions. These post-failure repetitions place an enormous strain on the central nervous system and the high-threshold motor units. 

Here is IFBB pro Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set on the incline bench press:

There are 2 rest-pause training styles that I want to introduce you to. The first is the famous “DC Training” system as popularized by Dante Trudel. The second is the “5 to 8” system as developed and popularized by Charles Poliquin.

DC Training

DC Training is probably the most controversial bodybuilding training program of all time. It was invented by Dante Trudel in the early 2000s as a way to help bodybuilders build muscle as quickly as humanly possible.

Dante believed that training progressively heavier in the higher rep ranges was the fastest way to build muscle. In order to do this he had his bodybuilding trainees train almost exclusively with rest-pause sets.

I will be covering the following aspects of DC Training here:

  • The 2-way split
  • Beat the logbook!
  • DC-approved exercises
  • DC-approved rep ranges
  • Extreme stretches
  • Blasting and cruising

Of course there is far more to DC Training than just the training side of things. Dante also has some unique recommendations in terms of nutrition, supplementation, and cardio. For a more complete overview of DC Training I highly recommend the following article available right here on Revolutionary Program Design:

The above article is the world’s most complete analysis of DC Training. I dare you to read it and tell me otherwise!

The 2-Way Split

The DC Training system utilizes a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split

Dante has his clients rotate between three different upper body and lower body workouts. Each workout features a different set of exercises. For example someone might rotate between squats, hack squats and leg presses for their three quadricep exercises.

Here is how the rotation looks over the course of a month:

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body Workout #1
  • Wednesday: Lower Body Workout #1
  • Friday: Upper Body Workout #2

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body Workout #2
  • Wednesday: Upper Body Workout #3
  • Friday: Lower Body Workout #3

Week 3

  • Monday: Upper Body Workout #1
  • Wednesday: Lower Body Workout #1
  • Friday: Upper Body Workout #2

Week 4

  • Monday: Lower Body Workout #2
  • Wednesday: Upper Body Workout #3
  • Friday: Lower Body Workout #3

And so on. 

Here is how Dante organizes the individual workouts:

Upper Body

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Shoulders
  • Exercise #3: Triceps
  • Exercise #4: Back Width
  • Exercise #5: Back Thickness

Lower Body

  • Exercise #1: Biceps
  • Exercise #2: Forearms
  • Exercise #3: Calves
  • Exercise #4: Hamstrings
  • Exercise #5: Quadriceps

Beat The Logbook!

Every time you go to the gym you write down your performance in a training logbook. On week 3 you will start repeating workouts that you have previously performed.

Your job is to look back at the logbook and absolutely annihilate your previous workout performance. This can be as simple as adding 5 lbs to the bar or adding a rep or 2. Every time you repeat a workout or exercise you have to beat the logbook! 

For inspiration here is the former DC trainee Justin Harris hack squatting a mind-boggling 8 plates per side:

Of course it is not possible to progress on any 1 exercise forever. Eventually you will stall on any given exercise. At this point you swap out the exercise for another one.

For example here is what Joe Average’s progress might look like on the incline bench press for chest:

  • Workout #1: 225 pounds x 7/3/1 = 11 RP
  • Workout #2: 225 pounds x 9/4/2 = 15 RP
  • Workout #3: 235 pounds x 9/4/2 = 15 RP
  • Workout #4: 245 pounds x 8/3/2 = 13 RP
  • Workout #5: 255 pounds x 7/2/1 = 10 RP
  • Workout #6: 255 pounds x 8/2/2 = 12 RP
  • Workout #7: 265 pounds x 7/2/1 = 10 RP
  • Workout #8: 265 pounds x 6/1/1 = 8 RP 

Joe Average had a good run but he stalled out on the 8th workout. That’s perfectly fine because he managed to increase his incline bench press by 40 pounds in the first 7 workouts! At this point he swaps out the incline bench press in favor of flat dumbbell presses.

For example:

  • Workout #1: 120’s x 10/3/1 = 14 RP
  • Workout #2: 120’s x 12/5/3 = 20 RP
  • Workout #3: 125’s x 10/4/2 = 16 RP
  • Etc.

And so on. You just go bombs away up the strength ladder and switch anytime you stall on an exercise. You might stall after 2 weeks or 2 years depending on the exercise. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the larger plan.

DC Approved Exercises

Here are some of Dante’s favorite exercises for every body part:

Chest

  • All types of incline and decline barbell presses
  • All types of incline / flat / decline dumbbell presses
  • All types of incline and decline smith machine presses
  • All types of machine chest presses (hammer strength etc.)

Shoulders

  • All types of barbell overhead presses
  • All types of dumbbell overhead presses
  • All types of smith machine overhead presses
  • All types of machine overhead presses (hammer strength etc.)

Triceps

  • All types of dips (free weight, machine etc.)
  • All types of decline / flat / incline close grip bench presses
  • Reverse grip bench presses
  • Smith machine close grip and reverse grip bench presses
  • All types of decline / flat / incline / overhead triceps extensions

Back Width

  • All types of pull ups and chin ups (especially wide / pronated grip)
  • All types of rack pull ups and rack chins
  • All types of pull downs (especially wide / pronated grip)
  • All types of machine pulldowns (hammer strength etc)
  • All types of machine pullovers

Back Thickness

  • All types of deadlifts and rack deadlifts
  • All types of barbell rows (bent over rows, dead stop rows, t-bar rows etc.)
  • All types of cable rows
  • All types of machine rows
  • All types of unilateral rows (barbell, dumbbell, cable, machine etc.)

Biceps

  • All types of incline dumbbell curls
  • All types of preacher curls
  • All types of standing dumbbell and barbell curls
  • All types of cable curls
  • All types of machine curls

Forearms

  • Hammer curls
  • Pinwheel curls
  • Reverse grip cable curls
  • Reverse grip ez-bar curls

Calves

  • Leg press calf raises
  • Standing machine calf raises
  • Seated machine calf raises

Hamstrings

  • All types of leg curl machines (kneeling, lying, seated)
  • Stiff legged / Romanian deadlifts
  • Sumo leg presses

Quadriceps

  • All types of back squats and front squats
  • All types of machine hack squats
  • All types of leg presses
  • All types of smith machine back squats and front squats
  • Any other machine squatting exercise

DC-Approved Rep Ranges

You are going to perform one and only one exercise per bodypart. Most exercises are trained with one rest-pause set as described above. These body parts include your chest, shoulders, triceps, back width, biceps, and hamstrings.

Here are the general rep ranges that Dante recommends for each body part. Please note that “RP” stands for “rest-paused” and SS stands for “straight set.”

  • Chest = 11-20 RP
  • Shoulders = 11-20 RP
  • Triceps = 11-20 RP
  • Back Width = 11-20 RP
  • Back Thickness = 1-2 SS (for example 6-8, 10-12)
  • Biceps = 11-20 RP
  • Forearms = 8-12 SS
  • Calves = 7-10 SS
  • Hamstrings = 11-20 RP or 1-2 SS
  • Quadriceps = 2 SS (4-8, 20)

As you can see not every body part is rest-paused. Back thickness is performed for 1-2 straight sets for safety purposes. Rest-pausing a set of deadlifts is a great way to injure yourself!

Forearms are not rest-paused as Dante found through trial and error that most trainees overtrained their arms this way.

Calves are performed for 1 straight set of 7-10 reps. You are to pause in the bottom position of each rep for 8-10 seconds. This is how Dante gets his clients’ calves growing into cows.

For hamstrings Dante recommends you rest-pause all leg curls but perform 1-2 straight sets for compound exercises such as Romanian deadlifts and sumo leg presses.

Quadriceps are performed for 2 straight sets. The first set is a heavy set of 4-8 reps. The second set is a 20-rep “breathing squat.” You load the bar with your 10-rep max and perform 20 reps with it. After the 10th rep you pause with the barbell on your back, take in several deep breaths and then bust out 1-3 more reps. This process is repeated until you perform all 20 reps. 

Extreme Stretches

After you perform your 1 rest-pause set or your 1-2 straight sets you are to perform an “extreme stretch” for each body part. These are stretches performed with additional loads. They have a reputation for being very painful but they are a powerful stimulus for both strength and size gains.

Here are some sample videos of the extreme stretches for each body part:

Blasting And Cruising

DC Training uses a very simple form of periodization. Dante Trudel calls it “blasting and cruising.” The idea is simple: you are going to alternate “blasting” phases and “cruising” phases.

The Blasting phases are your normal periods of training where you go all-out and try to beat the logbook. After about 6-12 weeks of blasting your body is going to be worn out and you will feel like you need a break from the gym. At this point you will hit the breaks and perform a 1-2 week “cruise.”

During the cruise you have a choice: you can go to the gym and perform very light workouts just to get the blood flowing or you can stay out of the gym entirely. When you return to the gym after your 1-2 week cruise you will feel rejuvenated and ready to continue the never-ending war on the logbook.

You may find your strength is slightly down immediately following the cruise period. Don’t worry, this is only temporary. Within a couple of weeks your strength should be back to 100% and you will start beating the logbook again.

Blasting and cruising is a very simple form of periodization. However, within the context of DC Training it works unbelievably well.

DC Training Summary

Let’s review some of the key ideas behind DC Training:

  • You use the “2-way split” performed 3 days per week (for example Monday / Wednesday / Friday)
  • You rotate through 3 different upper body and lower body workouts.
  • You perform either 1 rest-pause set or 1-2 straight sets per body part.
  • Every time you perform an exercise you record your performance in a logbook and try to beat your previous performance.
  • When you stall on an exercise you swap it out for another one and go bombs away up the strength ladder on that one too.
  • Immediately after your 1-2 working sets you perform an extreme stretch (if indicated).
  • For every 6-12 weeks of hard training you perform a 1-2 week cruise.

Sample DC Training Program

Setting up your own DC Training program can be a rather daunting task. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Here is a complete DC Training program that you can start using today to get screaming fast strength gains.

I went to great lengths to pick and sequence the exercises to maximize your results. For example the squats and deadlifts are separated by one week to make sure you do not overtrain your lower back.

DC Training Upper Body Workout #1

  • A1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength overhead press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: T-bar row, 2 x (6-8, 10-12), 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

DC Training Lower Body Workout #1

  • A1: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinating grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 1/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / neutral), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 2 x (4-8, 20****), 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

****Performed as a 20-rep breathing squat as described above. Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max, then lock out your knees while taking several deep breaths. When ready go ahead and attempt 1-3 additional reps. Repeat until you have performed 20 total reps without racking the weight.

DC Training Upper Body Workout #2

  • A1: Hammer strength flat press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 20-30 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Dead stop skull crushers, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Rack chins, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 4/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Barbell dead stop row, 2 x (8-10, 12-15), 2/1/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

DC Training Lower Body Workout #2

  • A1: 60 degree incline cable curl, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 4/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Unilateral preacher zottman curl, 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Seated machine calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 1/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing in), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Leg press, 2 x (6-10, 20****), 3/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

****Performed as a 20-rep breathing squat as described above. Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max, then lock out your knees while taking several deep breaths. When ready go ahead and attempt 1-3 additional reps. Repeat until you have performed 20 total reps without racking the weight.

DC Training Upper Body Workout #3

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated military press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Close grip bench press, 1 x 11-20 RP, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral hammer strength pulldown (pronated grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Conventional deadlift, 2 x (6-8, 10-12), 1/1/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

DC Training Lower Body Workout #3

  • A1: DB concentration curl, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Unilateral cable reverse curl, 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing machine calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 8/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Sumo leg press, 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Machine hack squat, 2 x (4-8, 20****), 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

****Performed as a 20-rep breathing squat as described above. Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max, then lock out your knees while taking several deep breaths. When ready go ahead and attempt 1-3 additional reps. Repeat until you have performed 20 total reps without racking the weight.

Due to the large number of workouts I will not be providing you with any training videos for these workouts.

Rest-Pause Style Workouts

Rest-pause sets are simply one of the most effective strength training methods ever invented. They work unbelievably well as part of the overall DC Training program. However, that does not mean that you have to perform the DC Training program in its entirety to take advantage of the power of rest-pause sets.

Here is a rest-pause style chest / shoulders / triceps workout that you may want to try for some fast strength gains.

Check it out:

Rest-Pause Chest / Shoulders / Triceps Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Flat DB fly, 1 x 15-25 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Seated Poliquin lateral raise, 1 x 15-25 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Seated bilateral cable rope overhead extension, 1 x 15-25 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Aim for 11-20 total reps between your three attempts. For example you might get (9+4+2) = 15 reps rest-paused.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1.

Trust me, this type of low-volume rest-pause workout works incredibly well for many trainees. The key is putting everything you have into the actual rest-pause sets. You need to literally train all the way to concentric muscular failure!

The truth of the matter is not many trainees have the balls to do this on a consistent basis. If you are one of the rare individuals who has the balls to push themselves that hard in the gym then you can expect some screaming-fast strength gains.

The 5 To 8 Method

There is one last rest-pause style training protocol that I want to introduce you to: the 5 to 8 method. The 5 to 8 method was invented by the ever-creative Charles Poliquin.

It is essentially a lower-rep version of Dante Trudel’s rest-pause method that is designed to build absolute strength and functional hypertrophy at an incredibly fast rate.

The procedure for performing a 5 to 8 set is as follows:

  • Perform 5 reps with your 5-rep max, rack the weight and rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform 1 more rep with the same load, rack the weight and rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 more rep with the same load, rack the weight and rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 more rep with the same weight, done!

Perhaps the biggest difference with Charles Poliquin’s 5 to 8 method is that you DO NOT train to failure on your sets! Instead your 5th rep and each of the subsequent singles should be performed just shy of failure. They should be very, very difficult to complete but you will not actually fail.

The 5 to 8 method gives you slightly better neurological adaptations relative to Dante Trudel’s rest-pause method. The downside is that it is slightly less effective for building muscular hypertrophy.

If you are interested in all-out strength gains then I am sure you will be OK with this trade-off. Here is a 5 to 8 method back and triceps workout that you might want to try. Check it out: 

5 To 8 Method Back / Triceps Workout

  • A1: Chin ups on rings, 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bench press against bands (shoulder-width grip), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style “5 to 8” set. Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, done!

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

One of the really nice things about the 5 to 8 method is that you can build tons of strength without necessarily having to train in the 1-3 rep range. This is obviously relevant for bodybuilders and other physique athletes.

However, even strength athletes such as powerlifters and strongman stand to benefit from the 5 to 8 method. It can be a great way to build maximal strength and functional hypertrophy while giving your body a break from maximal weights.

The strength training community owes Dante Trudel a huge “thank you” for inventing and popularizing rest-pause sets. They are truly one of the best ways to train regardless of whether you are primarily interested in strength or size gains.

I am confident that other strength coaches besides Charles Poliquin will find ways to modify rest-pause sets to meet the unique needs of their athletes. Just remember: rest-pause sets are very psychologically demanding. They don’t work unless you do!

Program #10: Isometrics For Powerlifting  

Josh Bryant is probably one of the most successful powerlifting coaches in the world today. He has trained countless world record holders including the strongest raw bench presser of all time Julius Maddox.

Josh Bryant has many tricks up his sleeve for helping his powerlifters put up big totals on the powerlifting platform. One of these tricks is all-out overcoming isometrics.

Earlier in this article I discussed the benefits of functional isometric contractions. Functional isometrics are fantastic for building absolute strength but they are not necessarily the best choice for a powerlifter peaking for competition. After all, in a powerlifting meet all that matters is how much you can lift for 1 rep.

Fortunately for us Josh Bryant found a way to integrate overcoming isometric contractions into a powerlifting peaking routine. 

Josh Bryant normally organizes his clients’ squat, bench press and deadlift workouts into four separate parts:

  • Part 1: Work up to a heavy but slightly submaximal single, double, or triple
  • Part 2: Perform multiple speed sets in the 2-4 rep range
  • Part 3: Perform 1-2 supplementary exercises
  • Part 4: Perform 1-4 accessory exercises

This is an extremely effective way to organize a powerlifting peaking workout. As you can see everything is working together to drive up the main competition lift.

Josh found through trial and error that one of the best ways to incorporate overcoming isometric contractions is to alternate speed sets with isometric sets. In other words you would perform a speed set, rest 2 minutes, perform an isometric set, rest 2 minutes, and perform another speed set etc.

The isometric sets allow you to achieve maximal motor unit recruitment and potentiate your nervous system. Then on the speed sets your body learns how to recruit these newly activated motor units during a regular set.

You will find that your speed sets are far more explosive and powerful than usual thanks to the prior isometric set. Perhaps the main advantage of using isometrics in this manner is they allow you to obliterate sticking points in the lift.

For example if you are uber weak just below the knees in the deadlift then you could perform your overcoming isometric contraction there. Josh likes to use isometrics for the bench press and the deadlift.

Here is a sample 5-week deadlift peaking program featuring overcoming isometric contractions. Check it out:

Week 1 (Triples Week)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 3*, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches off the ground)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 4, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (just above knees)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 4, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Barbell bent-over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: DB shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest

*Performed with 85% of your current 1-rep max

**Load the barbell with 135 total pounds. During the overcoming isometric you pull into the pins as hard as you can for 6 total seconds. Then lower the weight back down to the ground.

***Performed with 70% of your current 1-rep max. Pull the weight as explosively as possible all the way to lockout on every rep.

Week 2 (Doubles Week)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 2*, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches off the ground)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (just above knees)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Barbell bent-over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: DB shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest

*Performed with 90% of your current 1-rep max

**Load the barbell with 135 total pounds. During the overcoming isometric you pull into the pins as hard as you can for 6 total seconds. Then lower the weight back down to the ground.

***Performed with 75% of your current 1-rep max. Pull the weight as explosively as possible all the way to lockout on every rep.

Week 1 (Singles Week)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 2*, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches off the ground)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (just above knees)**, 2 x 1, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift***, 2 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Barbell bent-over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: DB shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest

*Performed with 97% of your current 1-rep max

**Load the barbell with 135 total pounds. During the overcoming isometric you pull into the pins as hard as you can for 6 total seconds. Then lower the weight back down to the ground.

***Performed with 80% of your current 1-rep max. Pull the weight as explosively as possible all the way to lockout on every rep.

Week 4 (Deload Week)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 2**, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Barbell bent-over row, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: DB shrugs, 2 x 8-12****, 1/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 65% of your 1-rep max

****Performed with 65% of your working weights from weeks 1-3

Week 5 (Testing Week)

Work up to a new 1-rep max in the deadlift! I recommend performing one single at 90-93% of your estimated 1-rep max on that day followed by one single at 100% of your estimated 1-rep max.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1.

Josh Bryant certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to powerlifting program design. If you are stuck at a training plateau in the deadlift then I strongly recommend you give this exact deadlift routine a shot. Just make sure you have your head on straight before you walk into the gym.

Josh Bryant’s workouts feature a TON of training volume. If you are not used to training hard then you will have a very tough time surviving this 5-week peaking cycle!

Program #11: Contrast Sets

Contrast sets are an awesome way to train for both maximal strength and functional hypertrophy. Contrast sets are actually very similar to wave loading. You are going to alternate back and forth between a set of relatively higher reps and a set of relatively lower reps.

For example:

  • Set #1: High reps
  • Set #2: Low reps
  • Set #3: High reps
  • Set #4: Low reps
  • Etc.

Of course “high” and “low” are extremely relative terms. If you are using contrast sets to build strength then all of your sets are going to fall in the 1-6 rep range!

Contrast sets are so effective for building strength because they operate on the principle of post-tetanic potentiation. The low rep sets “excite” your central nervous system and teach it to recruit more motor units. Then when you go to perform your higher rep sets you will be able to lift more weight than normal. 

I also really like contrast sets because they are mentally stimulating. After all, there is nothing worse than being bored in the gym. If you are mentally excited to perform your workout then you will always put more effort into your working sets.

There is no way around it, if you are bored with your training then you will absolutely get sub-par results for your efforts.

There are many ways to structure contrast sets to build maximal strength. In this article I would like to share with you three of the most effective contrast set loading schemes:

  • The 1-6 method
  • The triple with chains, single with straight weight method
  • The 3 then 1 method

I learned all three of these training methods from the legendary Charles Poliquin. He may be a creative genius when it comes to developing new loading schemes but he is very unimaginative when it comes to naming his new routines. Sorry Charles!

The 1-6 Method

The 1-6 method is a very powerful loading scheme for developing both maximal strength and functional hypertrophy. I must admit that I have a soft spot for the 1-6 method.

I hit my first double-bodyweight front squat using this exact training method. My front squat shot up by 30 pounds in 30 days!

I can’t promise you that you will be able to add 30 pounds onto your big compound lifts in just 30 days using this method. However, I can show you the best ways to use it for screaming fast strength gains!

The idea behind the 1-6 method is very straightforward: you are going to alternate back and forth between singles and sets of 6 on a big compound exercise. For example:

  • Set #1: 1 rep
  • Set #2: 6 reps
  • Set #3: 1 rep
  • Set #4: 6 reps
  • Set #5: 1 rep
  • Set #6: 6 reps

Normally the 1-6 method is performed for 6 total sets. After your 6th set you would move onto some accessory work for whatever body parts you are training. 

Once again the singles potentiate your nervous system so that you can lift more weight than normal on your 6-rep sets. This is a powerful way to train your central nervous system to better recruit and coordinate the high-threshold motor units. 

Here is a front squat routine featuring the 1-6 method that you may want to try. It is very similar to the routine I used so many years ago to hit my fist double-bodyweight front squat. May it work as well for you as it did for me!

1-6 Method Lower Body Routine:

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6  x 1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (poliquin method / foot pointed straight)****, 6 x 1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Split squat (holding DBs), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest

Performed as a 1/6 contrast set as described above

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The 1-6 contrast method is just an unbelievably effective way to train. Of course we are just getting started with our discussion of contrast methods. In my opinion the next two methods are perhaps even more exciting than the 1-6 method…

The Triple With Chains, Single With Straight Weight Method

This is a very fun training method. You are going to perform a triple with chains on the bar. Then you will rest for 2-4 minutes and perform a single with straight weight. For example:

  • Set #1: 3 reps with chains
  • Set #2: 1 rep with straight weight
  • Set #3: 3 reps with chains
  • Set #4: 1 rep with straight weight
  • Set #5: 3 reps with chains
  • Set #6: 1 rep with straight weight

This method can be performed for anywhere from 6-10 total sets. Of course you need to have a higher-than-average work capacity to handle 10 sets of this method.

Chains and bands are some of the most popular strength training tools in the world. They were first introduced to the strength training universe by the ever-creative Louie Simmons.

Chains and bands get “heavier” as you approach lockout on your lifts. These tools teach you to be more explosive because if you don’t fire your muscles as hard as possible right from the start of the movement you run the risk of failing half-way up.

This contrast method works so well because it teaches your body to be more explosive with straight weight.

First you perform the triple with chains. The chains of course teach your body to accelerate the bar as much as humanly possible. Then when you go to perform your straight weight single your brain still “thinks” the chains are on there.

You are essentially tricking your brain into lifting more explosively! Each time you alternate back and forth between the sets with and without the chains you should find yourself becoming more explosive. You may even find that you can increase your training weights as the workout progresses! 

Here is a great video of the 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw talking about the triple with chains, single with straight weight method:

Brian Shaw actually learned this training method from Charles Poliquin himself. It just goes to show you that even the strongest people on the planet are constantly seeking out advice from coaches on how to improve their performance.

Food for thought!

Here is an upper body contrast set method that you may want to try. Check it out:

Upper Body Triple With Chains, Single With Straight Weight Workout

  • A1: Seated behind the neck press with chains (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Sternum pull up, 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A3: Seated behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 1, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A4: Sternum pull up, 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Reverse grip bench press, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 5-7, 2/1/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • C1: Bilateral preacher zottman curl, 3 x 7-9, 4/0/1/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated DB external rotations, 3 x 7-9, 4/0/2/0, 45 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

I think you will find that the triple with chains, single with straight weight method is one of the more interesting ways to incorporate chains into your training. 

The 3 Then 1 Method

It’s time to bust out the big guns! The 3 then 1 method is by far one of the most powerful training methods you can use to boost your maximal strength. Seriously, if you are stuck at a training plateau then this will help you blast through it faster than Ronnie Coleman can say “light weight!” 

The idea is simple: you are going to perform a contrast set consisting of triples and singles. So far, so good. The triples are performed like normal with straight weight. However, the singles are performed as supra-maximal eccentric singles!

For example:

  • Set #1: Triples
  • Set #2: Supra-maximal eccentric singles
  • Set #3: Triples
  • Set #4: Supra-maximal eccentric singles
  • Set #5: Triples
  • Set #6: Supra-maximal eccentric singles

You can click right here to listen to Charles Poliquin giving Marc Bell an overview of the 3 then 1 method. Charles is of course the inventor of the 3 then 1 method and should be taken very seriously.

As Charles says in the above video the supra-maximal eccentric rep will actually help you recruit your “survival fibers.” In other words your body will recruit as many fibers as necessary to prevent the weight from absolutely crushing you and ending your life!

When you go back to performing your regular sets of 3 reps your body will still be able to recruit these otherwise dormant survival fibers. If you perform this method correctly you should be able to add at least 1-2% to the bar each time you repeat your set of triples or singles.

Here is a sample arm routine featuring the 3 then 1 method that you may want to try. Check it out:

3 Then 1 Method Arm Routine:

  • A1: Bench press (shoulder width grip), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral barbell preacher curl, 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Bench press with weight releasers (shoulder width grip)**, 3 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Unilateral barbell preacher curl (eccentric only)****, 3 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying ez-bar extension to forehead, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curl, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 70% of your 1-rep max on the bar and an additional 30-70% of your 1-rep max on the weight releasers. The total weight on the bar (barbell + weight releasers) should be 100-140% of your 1-rep max. As long as you can lower the weight under control over 10 seconds it is an appropriate weight for you.

****Use 100-140% of your 1-rep max. Use two arms to lift the weight into the starting position and lower with only one arm. As long as you can lower the weight under control over 10 seconds it is an appropriate weight for you.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

I should warn you that the 3 then 1 method is an extremely advanced training method that should be reserved for very experienced, very mature lifters. Don’t even think about attempting the 3 then 1 method unless you at least 2 years of hardcore training experience under your belt!

For those of you who are mature enough to perform this routine you can expect some un-freaking-believable strength gains. 

Program #12: Patient Lifter’s Method

The patient lifter’s method isn’t as sexy as many of the other training programs covered in this article. It doesn’t use any fancy loading schemes such as wave loading, cluster sets or contrast sets. It also doesn’t take advantage of isometric or eccentric muscular contractions.

No, the patient lifter’s method isn’t some flashy new program. It relies on good old fashioned hard work to get the job done. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it works so well for building maximal strength.

The idea is simple: you are going to perform 6 sets of 2 on an exercise. You are then going to stick with the same weight until you can perform 6 sets of 4 reps.

When you complete all 6 sets of 4 reps you will make a reasonably large weight jump and repeat the entire process over again.

For example:

Workout #1

  • Set #1: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #2: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #3: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #4: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #5: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #6: 300 pounds x 2 reps

Workout #2

  • Set #1: 300 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #2: 300 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #3: 300 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #4: 300 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #5: 300 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set #6: 300 pounds x 2 reps

Etc. 

Using the same weight from workout to the next can be rather boring. The only way to escape the boredom on this routine is to perform 4 reps on all 6 sets so that you can bump the weight up! This may seem like a rather simple way to train but sometimes the simplest routines really are the best.

Here is a sample lower body routine that you may want to try. Check it out:

Lower Body Patient Lifter’s Method Workout

  • A1: Safety squat bar squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6 x 2-4, 3/2/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (Poliquin method** / foot neutral), 6 x 2-4, 3/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Leg press, 3 x 7-10, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3 x 7-10, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

There isn’t much else to add about this routine. It is just a solid, straightforward way to train. There are enough total sets on the main movement to foster strength gains but not so many that you risk overtraining.

If you are looking for a more simple strength training program then the patient lifter’s method would make an excellent choice.

Program #13: 10 x 3

The 10 sets of 3 loading scheme is a favorite of many strength coaches around the world. Chad Waterbury has even gone on record calling the 10 x 3 loading scheme his single favorite set / rep scheme for building stronger athletes.

The routine is just as it sounds: you are to perform 10 sets of 3 reps on an exercise.

In my experience this loading scheme works much better if you train antagonistic body parts together such as chest and back. The antagonistic supersets decrease the overall rate at which you fatigue so you can lift more weight for longer during the workout.

The 10 sets of 3 loading scheme is an excellent choice for trainees who have a relatively high work capacity but quickly burn out when performing singles and doubles.

Here is a sample upper body 10 x 3 workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

10 x 3 Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Standing behind the neck press, 10 x 3, 3/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Medium pronated grip chin ups, 10 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 second rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the 10 x 3 method is that it is easy to get bored during your workout. Some trainees would rather jump off a bridge than perform 10 sets of triples in a workout!

If this describes you then there are plenty of other loading schemes that will keep you psychologically engaged. For example any of the wave loading or contrast method programs will work awesome for you.

Program #14: 5 x 5

The 5 x 5 set / rep scheme is one of the classic ways to train for strength. It has been the focus of many powerlifting programs over the years including “Madcow’s 5 x 5 Method,” “Bill Starr’s 5 x 5 Method” and “The Texas Method.”

There is a reason so many strength training programs have relied on the 5 x 5 loading scheme over the years: it works! 

The reps are low enough to stimulate neurological adaptations. However, they are not so low as to risk burning out your central nervous system entirely. The sets of 5 reps also work extremely well for building functional hypertrophy. It is just a fantastic all-around way to train for strength.

In my experience one of the best ways to design a 5 x 5 workout is to perform 2 exercises per body part using the set / rep scheme. Here is a sample arm training workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

5 x 5 Routine

  • A1: Decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 5 x 5, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB extension, 5 x 5, 3/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 5 x 5, 3/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

I am sure some of you are curious why I do not have the assistance work performed with higher repetition ranges. In my experience one of the primary reasons trainees fail to reach their strength goals is they perform too broad a range of repetitions in a single workout.

If you perform lower-rep strength work and higher-rep assistance work all in the same workout, you run the risk of confusing your body. It simply doesn’t know what it is supposed to adapt to!

Stan Efferding is also a big believer in this concept. He breaks his workouts down into hypertrophy phases and strength phases. When he is training for strength gains he focuses almost exclusively on sets in the 1-5 rep range. He believes higher rep sets send the wrong signal and interfere with the desired neurological adaptations.

Of course performing assistance work does not make you a bad person. However, it is very important to understand what your training goal is and to plan your workouts accordingly. As they say, fail to plan = plan to fail!

Program #15: The 4% Solution

The 4% solution is easily one of my favorite ways to train for strength. It is a very versatile loading scheme that can be tailored to work for a wide range of trainees. 

Most of the time when you are training for strength your goal is to add weight to the bar while keeping your target rep ranges the same. For example on a Poliquin-style cluster sets routine your goal is to add weight to the bar from one workout to the next while keeping the target rep ranges the same.

This is often called a single-progression model because you are progressing in terms of the weight on the bar while keeping the other training variables the same.

Another example of the single-progression model occurs when you are trying to increase your total number of reps while keeping your training load the same. The patient lifter’s method is an excellent example of this. 

The 4% solution seeks to manipulate BOTH the load AND the number of reps from one workout to the next! In other words the 4% solution utilizes a double progression model rather than a single progression model like most routines. 

The Big Idea

With the 4% solution you are going to take a big jump in weight from one workout to the next. Specifically you will increase the training load by 4% on your primary exercises. This is a rather large jump so you can expect to lose a rep from one workout to the next. This process is performed in a wave-like fashion over 6 total workouts.

Here is what a 6-workout progression might look like with the 4% solution:

  • Week 1: 4 x 8 @ 100 lbs
  • Week 2: 4 x 7 @ 104 lbs
  • Week 3: 4 x 6 @ 108 lbs
  • Week 4: 4 x 8 @ 104 lbs
  • Week 5: 4 x 7 @ 108 lbs
  • Week 6: 4 x 6 @ 112 lbs

As you can see the training load is increased significantly during workouts 1-3. On workout 4 the training load is reduced by 4% and the process repeated itself. By the end of the 6-workout phase you will have improved your strength by a phenomenal 8% on your chosen exercise!

The 4% solution works best with reps in the 3-8 rep range. For example you could perform reps in the following ranges:

  • 3-5 reps per set
  • 4-6 reps per set
  • 5-7 reps per set
  • 6-8 reps per set

The choice is up to you. The fact that you are making big weight jumps from one workout to the next makes the workout very exciting. If you are someone who tends to quickly stall out when the rep ranges are identical from one workout to the next then you are going to LOVE the 4% solution!

Here is a sample back workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

4% Solution Lower Body Routine

  • A1: Back squat (heels narrow / elevated), 4 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/1, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed out), 4 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Alternating walking DB lunges, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Romanian deadlift, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**The target reps vary each week as detailed above. Perform sets of 8 reps in workouts 1 and 4, sets of 7 reps in workouts 2 and 5, and sets of 6 reps in workouts 3 and 6.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Of course there are many other ways to design a 4% solution workout. One of my favourite applications of this training method was the Advanced German Volume Training program as promoted by Charles Poliquin.

The Advanced German Volume Training program is an adaptation of the original German Volume Training program. The original German Volume Training has you perform 10 sets of 10 reps. This is a great way to train for fast hypertrophy gains but it is a poor way to train if you want to get stronger.

The Advanced German Volume Training program is much better suited for strength gains because you perform 10 sets of 3-5 reps. The goal is to use the same weight for all of your sets during the workout.

For example here is what Joe Average’s first 10 sets of 5 workout might look like:

  • Set #1: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #2: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #3: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #4: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #5: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #6: 300 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #7: 300 pounds x 4 reps
  • Set #8: 300 pounds x 4 reps
  • Set #9: 300 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #10: 300 pounds x 3 reps

The goal was to perform all ten sets for 5 reps but Joe didn’t quite make it. This is perfectly normal. As Joe Average progresses through the program his strength endurance will improve significantly.

One of the things that makes the Advanced German Volume Training program different from the original 4% solution protocol is that you will alternate back and forth between two different workouts for each body part. For example:

  • Workout #1: “A”
  • Workout #2: “B”
  • Workout #3: “A”
  • Workout #4: “B”
  • Workout #5: “A”
  • Workout #6: “B”

The A and B workouts are usually similar to each other but feature slightly different exercises. For example an advanced lifter might perform front squats in their “A” workout and back squats in their “B” workout.

Alternating back and forth between two similar but slightly different workouts is a great strategy for highly advanced or very strong trainees. Other successful strength programs such as Westside Barbell and DC Training also have you rotate exercises from one workout to the next.

The Advanced German Volume Training program combines the “A” / “B” workout system with the 4% solution. Here is how you might plan your weights progression over the course of 12 total workouts: 

Advanced German Volume Training Sample Workouts Progression

  • Workout “A1”: 10 x 5 @ 100 lbs
  • Workout “B1”: 10 x 5 @ 100 lbs
  • Workout “A2”: 10 x 4 @ 107 lbs
  • Workout “B2”: 10 x 4 @ 107 lbs
  • Workout “A3”: 10 x 3 @ 114 lbs
  • Workout “B3”: 10 x 3 @ 114 lbs
  • Workout “A4”: 10 x 5 @ 107 lbs
  • Workout “B4”: 10 x 5 @ 107 lbs
  • Workout “A5”: 10 x 4 @ 114 lbs
  • Workout “B5”: 10 x 4 @ 114 lbs
  • Workout “A6”: 10 x 3 @ 121 lbs
  • Workout “B6”: 10 x 3 @ 121 lbs

The Advanced German Volume Training program doesn’t rely on any fancy training techniques such as drop sets, forced reps, isometric training or eccentric training. Instead the program relies on a large volume of high-quality sets to stimulate gains in strength.

This program definitely reminds me of The Modified Hepburn Method in that regard. Here is a sample Advanced German Volume Training program that you may want to try. I recommend you perform these workouts on either a 4 days per week or a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split.

Check it out: 

Upper Body “A” Routine:

  • A1: 45 degree incline barbell press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Shoulder-width supinated grip chin ups, 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope row, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest 

Lower Body “A” Routine:

  • A1: Front squat (narrow stance / heels elevated), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (foot plantarflexed / pointing in), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Snatch grip rack pull (above knees), 3 x 8-12, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Alternating DB reverse lunge, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Upper Body “B” Routine:

  • A1: 60 degree incline barbell press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Chest supported DB row (30 degree incline), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest 

Lower Body “B” Routine:

  • A1: Back squat (heels narrow / elevated), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (foot plantarflexed / pointing out), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Leg press, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: DB Romanian deadlift, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest 

The 4% solution is just a fantastic way to train. This is true regardless of whether you run it in its original form or as part of the Advanced German Volume Training program. The fluctuating rep ranges and big weight jumps make the workouts psychologically and physiologically stimulating.

Of course it is even possible to apply the 4% solution to your accessory work towards the end of your workouts on many other programs. This makes the 4% solution one of the most flexible and versatile loading schemes in the iron game.

Program #16: Supra-Maximal Partial Reps

Partial repetitions are easily one of the fastest ways to blast through a strength plateau. There are of course many different ways to perform partial repetitions. For the purposes of this article I am talking about partial repetitions performed in the shortened or lockout position of an exercise.

Here is a perfect demonstration of partial reps on the bench press:

One of the big benefits of performing partial reps in the shortened position of an exercise is that you can actually use a weight that is greater than your 1-rep max through a full range of motion!

In other words if your 1-rep max in the bench press is 300 pounds then you may be able to rep out more than 300 pounds through an abbreviated range of motion.

These supra-maximal partial reps have many advantages:

  • They increase your confidence with near-maximal weights
  • They strengthen your connective tissues such as your tendons and ligaments
  • They disinhibit the golgi-tendon organ which allows you to produce more overall force

The importance of dis-inhibiting the golgi tendon organ cannot be overstated. The golgi tendon is a receptor organ located in all of the muscles of your body. It’s job is to figure out how much force your muscles can apply from various angles before you are risking injury.

If the golgi tendon senses that you might get injured if you apply maximum force during a movement then it will limit your force production.

This is obviously a good thing. After all, you don’t want to injure yourself in the gym! The problem is that the golgi tendon tends to be overactive. In other words it tends to shut down force production long before it is actually necessary from an injury-prevention standpoint.

If you are interested in getting stronger then it is very useful to periodically use training techniques that desensitize the golgi tendon organ so that your muscles can apply maximum force. Supra-maximal partial reps are one such technique that you can use for this purpose.

One of the best ways to use partial reps to boost strength is with the Chuck Sypes method. Chuck Sypes was a competitive bodybuilder during the 1970s. Chuck had a phenomenal physique for his time but he was actually better known for his Hercules-like strength.

In his prime Chuck could bench press 580 pounds without any supportive equipment!

One of Chuck’s favourite training techniques was to alternate sets of rack lockouts with sets of full range of motion bench presses. During the rack lockouts he would press a barbell up 1-2 inches and hold the weight for a full 10 seconds.

This extended pause allows you to lift significantly more weight than normal during your regular sets. Actually the Chuck Sypes method is another form of contrast sets!

Here is a sample bench press workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Chuck Sypes Bench Press Routine

  • A1: Bench press, 3 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • A2: Bench Press Rack Lockout**, 3 x 1, 1/0/X/10, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 2 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 2 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Of course it is also possible to perform a Chuck Sypes style workout to boost your squatting strength. Many powerlifters use rack lockouts in the squat to acclimate their bodies to heavier weights so their central nervous system accepts it as the new normal.

Here is a partial reps squat routine that you may want to try. Check it out:

Squat Partials Routine

  • A1: Back squat, 3 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Back squat rack lockout**, 3 x 1, 1/0/X/10, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet pointed in), 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Alternating DB drop lunge (2 inch platform), 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Before moving on I want to share with you a very powerful deadlift routine that you may want to try. As you may have guessed this routine features partial reps as well.

There are many powerlifters who feel that rack pulls are next to worthless as an exercise. They feel that partial range of motion deadlifts never really carry over to the full range of motion lift so they are not worth performing.

I can’t say that I 100% agree with this statement. After all, if they were worthless why would some of the world’s best powerlifting coaches such as Louie Simmons continue to use them on a weekly basis?

The key is to include some full range of motion lifts to make sure that the rack pulls actually carry over to the full lift. Here is an extremely effective deadlift workout featuring both partial reps and full range of motion reps. Check it out: 

Deadlift Partial Reps Routine

  • A1: Snatch grip rack deadlift (just above knees), 3 x 6-8, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Snatch grip rack deadlift (3 inches below knees), 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Snatch grip deadlift, 3 x 4-6, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: DB split squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise A2-C2, exercise D1.

Please be warned that this is an extremely demanding deadlift routine. It should not be attempted by trainees who “shit the bed” after one heavy set of deadlifts. You need to have AT LEAST average to above-average recovery ability to handle a workout like this.

If you can recover from this workout then you will be rewarded with some explosive gains in the deadlift and in your hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors.

Program #17: Forced Reps

There are to bodybuilding training programs that are just as effective for building strength as they are for building muscle. The first program that comes to mind is DC Training.

Countless trainees have attained super-human strength levels using nothing but rest-pause sets and extreme stretches. But before Dante Trudel’s training program spread like wildfire over the internet there was another low-volume, high-intensity bodybuilding training program that promised screaming fast strength gains.

Of course I am talking about Dorian Yates’ Blood And Guts training program.

Dorian Yates was a 6 x Mr. Olympia champion and the dominant bodybuilder of the 1990s. Dorian relied on a high-intensity training technique called “forced reps” to build his legendary physique and to become one of the strongest bodybuilders of all time.

In his prime Dorian could overhead press the 160 pound dumbbells and incline bench press 425 pounds for reps.

The procedure for performing a forced rep is as follows:

  • First you train to concentric muscular failure
  • Immediately after you fail your partner assists you through the concentric range of another repetition. After you complete the concentric range you have to lower the weight back down without any help. This is one forced rep.
  • Repeat the above process for a total of 1-3 forced reps.

Here is a classic video of Dorian performing a set of forced reps on the Nautilus pullover machine:

By my count Dorian performs 5 reps on his own and 3 forced reps after reaching failure!

Forced reps are so effective for strength gains because they allow you to overload the eccentric phase of a lift. In other words forced reps are another form of accentuated eccentric training!

Just think about it: when you reach failure you have exhausted your concentric strength but you have not fully exhausted your eccentric strength. If you had to you could probably lower the same weight a few more times under control. This is where forced reps come into play!

With the help of a spotter you can lower the weight on your own a few more times after first reaching failure. These post-failure eccentric reps are brutally effective for stimulating both strength and size gains.

In my opinion they are a big part of the reason why Dorian became one of the strongest bodybuilders of all time. Many other bodybuilders such as Marc Lobliner and Ron Partlow have also used forced reps throughout their careers to become freaky strong. 

One of the downsides to using forced reps is that it is very difficult to perform more than 1 working set per exercise. However, this can be made up for by using a relatively larger number of exercises per body part in a workout.

Here is Dorian’s full Blood And Guts training program that he used in his prime. You may want to slightly reduce the number of exercises if you do not share Dorian’s above average recovery ability. Check it out:

Day 1: Chest / Biceps

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Flat machine press, 1 x 6 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: 30 degree incline fly, 1 x 6 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Standing cable crossover, 1 x 6 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: 60 degree incline curl (supinating grip), 1 x 6 (+1 forced rep), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Standing ez-bar curl, wide supinated grip, 1 x 4 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • G1: 1-arm preacher machine curl, supinated grip, 1 x 5 (+3 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

You can click right here to see the training video for this workout.

Day 2: Legs

  • A1: Machine bilateral leg extension, 1 x 8 (+3 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: 45 Degree Leg Press, 1 x 11, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Machine hack squat, feet narrow, 1 x 6 (+1 forced rep), 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • D1: Lying bilateral hamstring curl (feet neutral / dorsiflexed) 1 x 5 (+3 forced reps), 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Romanian deadlift to mid-shin, 1 x 8, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Standing unilateral leg curl (feet neutral / dorsiflexed) 1 x 5 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/1, rest as needed

You can click right here to see the training video for this workout.

Day 3: Shoulders / Triceps

  • A1: Seated smith overhead press, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated DB lateral raise, 1 x 10 (+3 partial reps), 1/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing cable lateral raise, 1 x 5 (+4 forced reps), 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Standing DB shrugs, 1 x 13, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Standing bilateral straight-bar cable push down, 1 x 8 (+3 forced reps), 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • F1: Ez-bar skull crusher, bar to forehead, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • G1: Standing 1-arm cable push down, 1 x 6 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/1, rest as needed

You can click right here to see the training video for this workout.

Day 4: Back / Rear Delts

  • A1: Nautilus pullover machine, 1 x 6 (+3 forced reps), 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Bilateral hammer strength pulldown (supinated grip), 1 x 6 (+2 forced reps), 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing barbell row, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Seated 1-arm machine row, 1 x 5 (+2 forced reps), 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Bent-over rear delt machine, 1 x 11, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Bent over rear-delt DB flyes, 1 x 8, 1/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • G1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 1 x 10, 2/0/1/1, rest as needed
  • H1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

You can click right here to see the training video for this workout.

It takes a very extreme type of person to want to train with forced reps on a year-round basis. I guess the same could be said for rest-pause sets as with DC Training.

If this type of training suits your neurotransmitter profile and your goals (becoming freaky big and strong!) then I highly recommend you give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed!

Conclusion

Training programs for strength

You are now fully equipped with 17 of the most training programs for strength gains ever invented! I cannot promise you that all of these routines will work perfectly for you. After all, we are all respond differently to different training programs.

However, I am confident that many of these programs will give you some of the best gains of your entire life. Of course I cannot take credit for these programs. I am just the messenger.

The creators of these programs include some of the greatest strength and physique coaches of all time including Charles Poliquin, Christian Thibadeau, Josh Bryant, Dante Trudel, Dorian Yates and many, many others.

“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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