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Fitness, Resistance Training, Powerlifting

The Best Way to Increase Your Strength in the Gym

By Joe Talarico on Apr 15, 2021 9:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all the different workout programs out there. Some claim to make you more “cut”, other’s promise to add size, and the list goes on. If your focus is purely strength and size then keep reading.

If you haven’t already listened to the guys podcast episode titled How To Become The Strongest Guy (Or Gal) In Your Local Gym I highly recommend checking that out first to coincide with this article. What I wanted to add on here was a little more guidance on how putting their advice to practice by giving a sample layout.

The Foundation

If your goal is strength and size, the first thing you need is a good base. You need the work capacity, and stamina to be able to hit your eventual max lifts. I NEVER recommend any lifter just JUMP right into super intense work of 1-3 reps. In fact, if you don’t have at least a couple years lifting experience, I highly recommend checking out the MAPS Anabolic program first.

The best way to build a good foundation is through two potential methods:

Higher Volume - By starting with higher rep work (as opposed to higher intensity, lower rep), you are structuring a workout that allows you to build your work capacity. You should find during this phase of training, that you might be more out of breath at first, or struggling to do as many reps with higher weight and that’s okay. That’s how it will be at first. As you continue to adapt to doing multiple sets at higher reps, it’ll make your eventual peaking phase feel a LOT easier. After all, would you rather do a heavy squat set for 2-4 reps or 15-20 reps?

Example -

Front Squat for 3x10-20 reps

Deadlift for 3x10-20

Conditioning Work - This is kind of a bonus that you don’t necessarily HAVE to do, but it will only help strengthen your core, and your heart to transfer over to your recovery in between sets during your main lifts. Ideally, this would be a separate session and day where you do a series of exercises in circuit fashion to progressively overload that heart while also still stimulating the muscles, but not as much as you would during your normal lifting routine.

Example -

Farmers Walk - 3x50 feet

Rear Fly - 3x15

DB Shoulder Press - 2xAMRAP with a drop set

Take as much time as you need to recover, then repeat the circuit again.

Building The Strength

Now that the work capacity is established, you’ll want to switch to a more moderate volume that allows you to focus on maximizing muscle size as opposed to more stamina and work capacity. This will continue your road to your eventual peaking phase for optimal strength and size.

Example -

Zercher Squat - 4x8-10

Z Press - 4x8-10

Pendlay Row - 4x8-10

Peak Strength

By this phase, you are now entering the final form. You have spent the last 8 weeks or so building this foundation of hypertrophy and stamina, that will now prepare you for lower reps and much higher intensity. This phase may look easy on paper, but believe me, it will challenge your mind and muscles harder than any of the previous phases.

Example -

Deadlift - 5x2-4

Circus Press - 6x2-4

Pendlay Row - 6x2-4

The Layout

Ideally you should be shooting for 3 workouts a week, with some of the conditioning thrown in once or twice a week on your off days. Each phase should last 4 weeks, totaling at 12 weeks per mesocycle. I even recommend maybe adding a deload week after every 4 weeks just to give your body a chance to recover from all the work built up over those weeks.

Make sure to choose the best bang for your buck exercises. You don’t want to be spending too much time on smaller muscle group stuff. When it comes to strength and size, direct arm or shoulder work is really only needed if you find it is a lagging body part on your main lifts.

If you like to build your own programs, this article should give you everything you need to get started. If you are someone who prefers having even more guidance, check out the podcast episode I mentioned above - How To Become The Strongest Guy (Or Gal) In Your Local Gym.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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