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3 Rules Of Strength: Maximize Your Gains

Don't overcomplicate strength training because a DVD said to. Harness the gains you seek with proven lifts and the principles of practice, efficiency, and intensity.

I coached high school football for a year after I graduated college. Working with teenage linebackers taught me to condense and convey information quickly because they could only handle so much at one time. Now, several years into my professional career, I find the same training rules apply to adults.

I give my clients one piece of information at a time, and only two or three coaching cues during a training session. The limited information keeps my trainees from overanalyzing, which subsequently improves their performance. The same is true for exercise selection. Rather than crowding a program
with excess miscellaneous, wonder exercises, I keep it simple and use 2-3 solid movements per session.

Cut what's meaningless and keep what's productive. That's my program mantra. I used to overcomplicate and overanalyze every program I wrote, which was dumb. Instead of spending limited time on a thousand lifts, it's better to build strength with the basics. That's what I'm here to help you do.

Strength Made Simple ///

Practice, efficiency, and intensity are elements that build a strong human. Whether you've been a competing powerlifter since the 1980s or a desk jockey looking for manly time with the iron, using 2-3 concentrated movements per session will hit all three elements. Oh, and it gets you strong. Strong like if Godzilla and Sasquatch had a baby named Thunder.

1 / Practice

Most people don't view gym time as practice, but that's exactly what it is. People who achieve excellence aren't born excellent. They achieve excellence because they do what they're excellent at often. A terrific housepainter most likely got that way through painting a lot of houses. If you want to be a great squatter, do lots of squats.

2 / Efficiency

Efficiency comes from time spent training quality movements. Concentrate your focus on a few solid exercises and you'll spend less time in the gym. To be strong you must put yourself in the best position possible to efficiently generate force. Finding the best position for your body requires countless reps.

3 / Intensity

Reps must be performed at varying intensities for the same exercise at different times within a training session for maximum results. You don't have to move on to a random exercise. You can continue to focus on a lift that requires practice.

Take these three elements and apply them consistently to get big and strong. Forget "muscle confusion." The body adapts with consistency, not randomness. Use the same lifts consistently and progress by building size and strength. Unless you're in the midst of a seven-year plateau, training at maximum intensity, you don't need a variety swing.

What Lifts Should You Perform? ///

It depends on what lifts you want to be good at and what lifts work well for your body. Luckily, there are movements faithfully devoted to the promotion of human strength. They should be familiar to you: squats, presses, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts.

When you determine what you want to master and what lifts don't leave your frame in shambles, all that's left is to combine the elements: practice, efficiency, intensity, and your chosen lifts. The result? A supernova of progressive strength and size gains!

(Note: If you've never had your movement assessed by a qualified strength coach, make it happen. It's the most efficient way to discover what exercises work for you.)

Let's get started with an example week.

Sample Training Week ///

Under the intensity column, you'll see @6 or @8. This nomenclature is based on rate of perceived exertion, not percentages. @6 means the bar moves fast without maximal force. You will still apply maximal force, but you'll choose weight that doesn't require it for speed. @8 means you could complete 2-3 more reps with the given weight until failure, but won't.

This is a snapshot of a program. It's a Polaroid, not a movie showing full progression into and out of the program. Progression depends on your current needs and goals. It's your job to determine those.

The program volume isn't remarkable. In fact, it's low because it doesn't take lots of volume to get strong; it takes focused and intense volume.

Days 1 & 3


Days 2 & 4


Day 5: Optional



Parting Words ///

Don't be bamboozled by the variety myth or caught up in the attachment to unnecessary exercises. If your goal is colossal strength, keep your training volume focused on a few solid movements. When you narrow your focus, attack with unbridled savagery!


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About The Author

Todd Bumgardner works as a strength and conditioning coach and manual therapist at Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden, Connecticut.

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lguzman

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lguzman

loved the article...keep them coming !

Aug 19, 2013 7:41pm | report
 
j00bus

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j00bus

This is my current workout for the most part. I'll throw clean & jerks, straight leg dead lifts, and cable rows into the rotation and pick a few each session.

Aug 19, 2013 10:51pm | report
 
Vee.Ey.Dala

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Vee.Ey.Dala

No full squats...?

Aug 20, 2013 1:00am | report
 
PaulieK

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PaulieK

I was a little surprised to see this too.

And the only 'pulling' type lift is the bent over row. And it's on the 'optional 5th' day. Seems a little odd. But if you do them intensely and consistently, I suppose you'll get stronger! 8 sets is quite a few.

Aug 22, 2013 11:28am | report
truebluenyg

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truebluenyg

Great article ! Rule number 1 is so true in any skill you want to excel at.

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Aug 20, 2013 3:16am | report
 
reftis

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reftis

do not see any set with 6 reps or more, what about all those fogotten muscle fibers?

To "practice" a movement, i would instead recommend a pyramid set, were the first and last sets are light and easy, to hone in on that perfect form for the heavy reps

Aug 20, 2013 5:51am | report
 
cgraham531

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cgraham531

he's talking about strength, not hypertrophy.

Aug 20, 2013 3:56pm | report
BerserkElite

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BerserkElite

I wonder if this can be incorporated while cutting... seems like a killer workout. I'm definitely adopting this.

Aug 20, 2013 5:58am | report
 
ameyp97

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ameyp97

nice tips!!!! Increased the importance of compound movements!

Aug 20, 2013 6:43am | report
 
carljohnsonrt

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carljohnsonrt

Reftis, good question. Pyramids and sets with 6 or more are not efficient for strength training. If you want to focus on learning the power moves you start small and add to the bar as your strength develops, staying within usually 5 reps max and concentrating on form. Even as you add weight to the bar it commonly takes practice to handle your form with heavier weight. For instance as your dead-lift increases to the point of being heavier than your body weight it will change how you pull the bar, or should I say how you CAN pull the bar.
This workout progression however is going to be really hard to recover from. You will usually see at least a full day recovery between strength workouts like this. I also agree that full depth squats(low back squats) would be a better option than front squats if your goal is overall strength as they incorporate the glutes and hamstrings much more. There are some better designed strength programs, Starting Strength, Strong-lifts, and Grey-skull are excellent power and strength production.

Aug 20, 2013 12:57pm | report
 
j00bus

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j00bus

I agree on the full day of rest inbetween, maybe even 2 days if the workout was hard enough. I know my strength workout plus my swimming really works my shoulders, and at least 1 day of rest is mandatory.

Aug 20, 2013 4:27pm | report
NathanSinghal

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NathanSinghal

In my own opinion, 6 consecutive days of legs may be worth trying for one or two weeks per year week but not as a primary training schedule.

Aug 20, 2013 10:31pm | report
 
YoshPower

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YoshPower

I use most of the same lifts and focus on bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and Olympic lifts. The basics are the "basics" because they work. Getting strong in those barbell lifts is getting strong. No gimmicks are needed.

Aug 21, 2013 4:55am | report
 
kenpty

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kenpty

Advice applies to workouts and life itself...

Aug 21, 2013 7:09am | report
 
ugly85chevy

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ugly85chevy

finally and article that doesn't profess the benefit of big weight and then list a sample workout with 10 different lifts and 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

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Aug 21, 2013 12:08pm | report
 
jayhead000

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jayhead000

cannot wait to give this a go! Gotta switch it up every now and then!

Aug 21, 2013 12:21pm | report
 
pdicorato

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pdicorato

His knees completely pass his toes and his heels are coming off the ground. Those are 2 huge squat rules that aren't to be broken. Terrible form

Aug 22, 2013 10:06am | report
 
Bacik

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Bacik

I think it's just the way it was photoshopped on, they put shading under his foot, but his knees are a bit forward.

Aug 28, 2013 8:09am | report
alex0987654321

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alex0987654321

love it. great article

Aug 23, 2013 11:14am | report
 
KVGJohn

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KVGJohn

My new favs article thats exactly what i am doing to increase strength just before i go back to liftiing for muscle building. Is very important because this helps you lift more weights than you could last time with high reps which means you will pack more muscle than ever!

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Aug 23, 2013 7:03pm | report
 
xcheapcityhalox

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xcheapcityhalox

"Oh, and it gets you strong. Strong like if Godzilla and Sasquatch had a baby named Thunder."

This in itself made this article worth reading.

Aug 24, 2013 1:47am | report
 
michaelr575

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michaelr575

You stole my thoughts... Now I can only post a reply to your comment!! That def made me crack a smile!

Aug 25, 2013 6:43pm | report
johnantoni

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johnantoni

good article, thanks for that

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Aug 24, 2013 6:33pm | report
 
Birch891

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Birch891

Great Article I am pretty new to the whole Power Lifting and Body Building Side of fitness. The Military had made me into a put weight on my back and walk forever and I have always been a good runner. But I have falling in love with weight training and this is a great article for Newbs like me.

Aug 25, 2013 8:26pm | report
 
solarphoenix

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solarphoenix

I have learned through years of hitting the gym hard, that going back to basics is what makes things work. Getting down 2-3 exercises really well gives really good results. I also believe that perfect practice makes perfect play.

Aug 26, 2013 1:28pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 28 Comments

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