Training for Strength and Muscle Development

The thing that all great athletes have in common isn’t great genes or sports endorsements; it’s that they have a Plan. Training needs to be smart, varied, and targeted towards meeting the goals you want to meet. The routine we’re going to talk about today has two general targets: get stronger and look better. For most of us, this is basically our goal anyway, but this same plan can be scaled up for figure competitors and body builders. It goes to illustrate that the difference in training between high level athletes and average folk (me included) isn’t a matter of kind, it’s a matter of degree.

Summary

The intent of this workout is to both build muscle mass (i.e. add lean, awesome muscle) as well as increase overall muscle strength/endurance. The workout is split into a cycle of two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off every week. You’ll be targeting for targeting for power on the first two days, and hypertrophy (growth) on the second two days. On off days, you’ll have cardio options for some additional fat burning.

This workout is what we term a Split: you are doing movements which target areas of the body using different movements. We’ll be splitting days into Upper and Lower, working on pulling and pushing movements in each area for maximum development.

For this plan, you’ll need access to some weights and equipment, and I’ve tried to give multiple options for choices where possible. In some cases, there is no substitute for a movement that I feel is necessary to the progression.

We’ll be hitting each targeted muscle group twice per week, to maximize our effectiveness. The main focus of this program is Compound lifts that hit large, multi-muscle systems all at once, but we’ve also added in some Isolation exercises to help with those smaller, harder to shape muscles like biceps. The goal is to put on muscle tissue and increase performance on the lifts. Don’t worry ladies, you won’t pack on pounds of pure pumping power unless you really want to. Even with this routine, you can expect to sculpt more than bulk up as long as you’re eating right.

Power and Hypertrophy

When we train for Power we are focusing on developing brute strength. This part of the training will allow you to add more weight on your Hypertrophy days, so that we can better develop muscular size and definition.

Our two days spent on Hypertrophy are intended to physically add muscle mass, which helps maintain your caloric burn day by day. Adding this mass will have different effects for men and women, because men have the tendency to build large mass while women tend towards smaller mass. You can expect your overall figure to take on a more toned, athletic appearance if you stick with this style of training over several months, as long as you are also maintaining good eating habits.

Some Notes and Definitions

Sets and Reps

Each day will have certain moves prescribed, along with a number of Sets and Reps. A Set is a group of Reps; a Rep is one repetition of a movement. You will rest between Sets but not between Reps.

So, if the workout says to do Bench Press for 3 Sets of 5 Reps, you would do: 5 Bench Presses > rest > 5 Bench Presses > rest > 5 Bench Presses > Done.

I’ve split the workout Volume (i.e. how many Sets and Reps you’re doing) into Beginner and Intermediate levels, with the Beginners doing lesser Volume to help you become acclimated to the workout.

Exercises

For the most part, following the plan below is the way to go. I’ve provided alternative exercises in cases where it makes sense, but the main compound lifts should be kept the same. These are the most functional for what we want to achieve, and will be labeled as such.

Abs and Cardio

I’ve included some Optional work to hit the abdominal muscles and work on general cardiovascular endurance on lifting days or off days. You don’t need to do this extra work, especially at the beginning, but if you know you enjoy working these areas I want to help you do it intelligently.

Failure

Many programs take you to Failure, the point at which you literally cannot do another rep at all. In this plan, we don’t go that far. You should be able to complete every repetition with good form AND at the end of each set you should still have enough energy to complete 1-2 more reps if you needed to. If you are doing the prescribed sets and reps for a movement, but you are failing on the last rep, then your weight is too heavy for that movement at that point. Stopping prior to failing lets you put out more work overall, by capping yourself on individual sets.

Schedule

You will work on the following seven day split schedule:

  • Monday – Lower Power
  • Tuesday – Upper Power
  • Wednesday – Rest or Cardio
  • Thursday – Lower Hypertrophy
  • Friday – Upper Hypertrophy
  • Saturday – Rest or Cardio
  • Sunday – Rest only

This split is based on a Monday to Sunday schedule, but as long as you follow the basic plan (two days of split power, rest/cardio day, two days of split hypertrophy, rest/cardio day, rest day) you can start this routine on any day and then maintain the schedule.

Day 1 – Lower Power

Beginner Intermediate
Exercise Sets Reps Sets Reps
Back Squat 3 3-4 4 4-5
Deadlift 3 3-4 4 4-5
Leg Press or Barbell Lunges 3 3-4 4 4-5
Leg Curl or Barbell Good Morning 3 3-4 4 4-5
Standing Calf Raises 3 3-4 4 4-5

Day 2 – Upper Power

Beginner Intermediate
Exercise Sets Reps Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press 3 3-4 4 4-5
Incline Dumbbell OR Kettlebell Bench Press 3 6-8 4 8-10
Bent Over Row 3 3-4 4 4-5
Lat Pull Down OR Pull-ups 3 6-7 4 8-10
Overhead Press 2 5-6 3 7-8
Barbell Curl 2 6-7 3 8-10
Skullcrusher OR Seated Tricep Extension 2 6-7 3 8-10

Day 3 – Rest or Cardio

3 sets of 20 Sit-ups and Run 1 Mile

OR

Rest

Day 4 – Lower Hypertrophy

Beginner Intermediate
Exercise Sets Reps Sets Reps
Front Squat 3 8-10 4 11-12
Barbell Lunge 3 8-10 4 11-12
Leg Extension OR Barbell Lateral Step-ups 3 10-13 4 13-15
Leg Curl OR Straight Leg Deadlift 3 10-13 4 13-15
Seated Barbell Calf Raise 3 8-10 4 11-12
Calf Press OR Standing Calf Raise 3 8-10 4 11-12

Day 5 – Upper Hypertrophy

Beginner Intermediate
Exercise Sets Reps Sets Reps
Incline Barbell Bench Press 3 8-10 4 11-12
Flat Bench Dumbbell OR Kettlebell Flye 3 8-10 4 11-12
Seated Cable Row OR Bent Over Rows 3 8-10 4 11-12
One Arm Dumbbell OR Kettlebell Row 3 8-10 4 11-12
Dumbbell OR Kettlebell Lateral Raise 3 8-10 4 11-12
Seated Incline Dumbbell OR Kettlebell Curl 3 8-10 4 11-12
Cable Tricep Extension OR Seated Tricep Extension 3 8-10 4 11-12

Day 6 – Rest or Cardio

3 sets of 20 Sit-ups and Run 1 Mile

OR

Rest

Day 7 – Rest Only

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