Jim Stoppani's Shortcut To Strength: Training Overview
Don't let strength be your weakness. Follow Jim Stoppani's systematic guide to your best lifts ever—and earn the muscle to match!
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I've been relentlessly experimenting in the field of human performance for over 20 years. I've helped you add size. I've helped you shred. Now I'm going to help you build what is for many people the most elusive training quality: strength. Welcome to Shortcut to Strength.
At this point, you probably associate me more with muscle than with one-rep-max strength. But really, both are part of the same project. This six-week program is about building that strength that's then going to allow you to build more muscle, lose more fat, increase your athleticism, be more explosive, and have a better quality of life.
If you've been lifting in the traditional muscle-growth rep ranges for years and have never committed to a pure strength phase, this is your chance. If you're looking for something to cycle alongside my previous programs—Shortcut to Size and Shortcut to Shred—look no further. The three fit together perfectly.
You can come to this program with any kind of background or goals, but you'll leave it with one result: strength.
Workout Program & Training Jim Stoppani's Shortcut to Strength
Watch the video - 10:45
Shortcut to Strength The Program
Shortcut to Strength is a four-day-a-week program built around the three timeless big lifts of the bench press, squat, and deadlift. These are proven markers for strength, and you'll get the biggest bang for your buck by pushing hard on them.
You'll focus on each of the lifts for one workout a week, along with a select number of assistance exercises. Here's how a week on the program looks:
- Day 1: Squat, legs & calves
- Day 2: Bench and push: Chest, shoulders, triceps
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Deadlift and pull: Back, biceps, abs
- Day 5: Rest
- Day 6: Power and dynamic movements
- Day 7: Rest
The power day deserves a little further explanation. On that day, you'll be doing explosive movements like jump squats and explosive push-ups. Some of the movements will be unweighted, while others will be lightly weighted, like 50 percent of your one-rep max or less.
It may seem counterintuitive to train so light when your goal is strength, but trust me: This works. You'll be doing relatively low reps, but very quickly and explosively. This will build power and the ability to recruit muscle quickly and effectively. In turn, this will help you build more strength.
And don't worry—you'll be getting all the heavy, grinding strength work you could ever want over the course of Shortcut to Strength.
Shortcut to Strength The Progression
Even though this program is only six weeks long, you'll perform three phases, each lasting two weeks. Each will also be based on a certain percentage in your one-rep max of the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Here's how it will progress:
- Phase 1: 80% 1RM, or a weight you can lift for 8 reps
- Phase 2: 85% 1RM, or 5-6 reps
- Phase 3: 95% 1RM, or 2-3 reps
The accessory movements will vary a bit in their rep ranges, but for the most part, they'll match up with these rep ranges. If you've never rowed or curled heavy before, get ready to try it.
The programming will often mention a rep max for accessory movements, but you don't need to test your one-rep max in, say, the Romanian deadlift or lateral dumbbell raise. Just use the listed rep max as your guide to when you should hit failure. An 8-rep max in the curl means you should be able to handle 8 reps, but ideally no more.
How to test your one-rep max
If you don't know your one-rep max on the big three lifts, that's OK. I recommend you take a week at the start of the program, and another at the end, to test the three lifts on three separate days, ideally like this:
- Monday: Bench test
- Wednesday: Squat test
- Friday: Deadlift test
Yes, that will make Shortcut to Strength an 8-week program rather than six weeks, but you'll more than make up for the lost time with your ability to dial in your weights for maximum results.
There are many popular protocols for testing your one-rep max, and if you have one you're really comfortable with and have used in the past, by all means stick with it. If you've never tested before, I recommend a simple ramping protocol after a good dynamic warm-up that gets you good and warm.
To determine what weight to aim for as your initial test, use this tried-and-true coefficient:
(10-rep max) x 1.33 = approx. one-rep max
For instance, if you know you can bench 225 for 10, multiply that by 1.33, which gives you 300 pounds. That's not your max; it's just the starting point that will help direct your testing. Simply let the plates guide you up in the warm-up, with the single rule being don't fatigue yourself or go anywhere near failure. For example, you could proceed like this:
- 135 pounds: 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps
- 185 pounds: 3-5 reps
- 225 pounds: 3-5 reps
- 275: 1-2 reps
- Test 1: 285-300 pounds (depending on how 275 felt)
- Test 2: Test 1 plus 10-20 pounds (if you hit Test 1)
- Test 3: Test 2 plus 10-20 pounds (if you hit Test 2)
I want you to keep going until you find a weight you can't lift, so an attentive and experienced spotter is a must! Don't get stapled or injured before the program even starts.
When you find the weight that makes you fail, you know your one-rep max is the previous weight that you could handle for a rep. Use that weight to build out the program.
What Comes Next?
Don't be that guy who gets soft while he gets strong. Nutrition is 50 percent of this program—in fact, it's 50 percent of every program I put out there. So watch the nutrition and supplementation overview next, because you know very well how seriously I take those parts of the lifestyle.
Then watch the weekly "gym hack" videos that give you my hard-earned insight into the best techniques to get stronger, look the part, and feel good doing it.
Effective biomechanics can help you increase your bench press, deadlift, and squat. Learn how to use hand grip, bar position, and foot width to maximize your big three lifts.
Being even slightly dehydrated can impact your strength and endurance. Jim Stoppani explains how to schedule your fluid intake before, during, and after your Shortcut to Strength workouts.
Did you know you may not be resting long enough between sets? Jim Stoppani is here to tell you why rest periods are crucial to your strength gains and how long you need to set the iron down.
Did you know stress can actually affect your strength? Learn how to avoid letting cortisol negatively impact your performance in the gym.
Did you know that lifting with an audience or focusing on the weight you're lifting can increase your strength immediately? Try these strength hacks during your next workout.
Eggs are one of the most important foods in any bodybuilding diet. Learn why they're so critical for strength and what scientific research says about this popular protein.
You've got your marching orders. Now go do the work and come back stronger!