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Programming for strength training

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So I'm sat here at 22:00 starting this article with just the title on the Word document daydreaming about training and thinking “how the hell do I even begin this article?”. Programming and periodization is such a broad topic it's hard to know where to begin. Well, I advise you to begin as I did a few years ago – by reading Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe, Lon Kilgore and Glenn Pendlay. Honestly it's a fantastic book with programming and periodization advice for the novice, intermediate and advanced level athlete. What I will go over in this article is in some parts a summary of what's written in the book, an expansion and some other things that are not in the book at all that I feel are necessary to fully understand the basics of programming for strength training.


Exercise Selection

Before we start periodizing a routine, before we even have a routine layout or even pick the volume of the routine (volume = sets*reps*weight) we need to pick what exercises we are going to use. For the novice, this is simple, the intermediate athlete will need a little more specialisation and the advanced to elite athletes training will be 50% training for the sport and 50% correcting any muscle or strength imbalances that have occurred from training in their sport. So lets cover the basics of exercise selection. EVERY routine should contain the following:

  • A vertical press (Any overhead press or press-under)
  • A vertical pull (Chin-ups and it's varieties)
  • A horizontal press (Bench press)
  • A horizontal pull (Anything with scapular retraction)
  • A deep knee bend (Squats, snatch, cleans)
  • A pull from the floor (Deadlift)
  • A weighted carry (Backpacking)

The above are the 7 main movements that every human can perform. Every routine should contain these 7 basic movements. Yes that even goes for cyclists, if you want to perform at the best in your sport you need to treat your body as a whole. Now that doesn't mean you can't specialise in a few movements but you need to have a fair amount of development in the other movements as well. As a cyclist I can use the following example, I get the best carry over from deadlifts but my deadlift often stalls because my squat isn't high enough. So I get my squat up but thoratic stability becomes an issue. So I get my barbell row up, but then progress on that is hindered as the antagonist muscles have not been trained. I ended up in a position where I need to get my bench press up to increase my barbell row so I can increase my squat to get a carry over to my deadlift. The body works as a whole, remember this! (There are a few good pictures of Lance Armstrong online going for a jog shirtless, he has great core, back and chest development for his size, equal of that to his legs)

Now to select exercises for these movements. We want to pick multi-joint, compound exercises for this, preferably free-weight exercises. The key is to pick the exercise that you can not only use the most weight on but INCREASE THE TOTAL VOLUME BY THE MOST AMOUNT OVER A PERIOD OF TIME. An example of this would be the barbell glute bridge. A lot of people can use 1.2-1.5x their max squat on this exercise but what do you think will yield the most progress over time, you can increase the weight on you 5RM squat much more over 12 weeks than you could with your 5RM glute bridge therefore the squat has the superior training effect and should be picked over the glute bridge. Of course in many cases you will be able to increase the weight on machine exercises like leg press incredibly fast compared to squats but these should be avoided due to lack of squat involvement. Oh, and getting your squat up 40kg will increase your leg press more than getting your leg press up by 50kg or more! The take-home message here is training economy, getting the most bang for your buck. These exercises are the press, chin-up, bench press, bent over row, squat, deadlift and farmers walk. Other good exercises are the power clean, high pulls and dips which may each replace an exercise if you want.

Program layout

Program layout is fairly easy once you know the theory behind it. I am a big fan of the Bill Starr, Glenn Pendlay and Mark Rippetoe style programming and I feel that it's a good base to start from for the novice and intermediate athlete (95% of people on this site). The routine is 3 days, with a deep knee bend starting every session, followed by a press and then a pull. Below is the layout of the Starting Strength routine for the novice athlete:

Monday: Squat – 3 sets of 5 reps Bench Press – 3 sets of 5 reps Chin-ups – 3 sets to failure

Wednesday: Squat – 3 sets of 5 reps Press – 3 sets of 5 reps Deadlift – 1 set of 5 reps

Friday: Squat – 3 sets of 5 reps Bench Press – 3 sets of 5 reps Wide Grip Pull-ups – 3 sets to failure

The above routine contains everything mentioned above (except the weighted carry, but we can get into that later). Below is a table of each major movement and the exercises inside of them to help you program your own routine:

Presses: Vertical Presses: Press, push-press, jerk, snatch balance, dumbbell press Horizontal Presses: Bench press, dumbbell bench press, push-up, dips

Pulls: Vertical Pulls: Chin-up, wide grip pull-up, cable lat pulldown Horizontal Pulls: Bent over row, wide grip pull-up, power clean Floor Pulls: Deadlift, power clean, high pull

Knee Bends: Squat, front squat, clean

So, using the above we can make up a simple novice routine for olympic lifting. Monday: Clean + Jerk – 5x3 Squat – 3x5 Push-press – 3x5

Wednesday: Front squat – 3x5 Press – 3x5 High Pull / Power clean – 5x3

Friday: Snatch – 5x2 Squat – 3x5 Push-press – 3x5 Chin-ups – 3 sets to failure


As a novice, the primary goal will be to keep the linear gains going as long as possible. The first thing we can do to prolong the adding of weight every session is to add a light day. The light day will still be using the maximum effort method but the exercises used will be changed for ones which a heavier weight cannot be used, making it easier for the CNS to recover from the training session. On Wednesday, back squats will be replaced with front squats and deadlifts will be alternated with cleans. The program will now look like this: Monday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat Front Squat Squat Bench Press Press Bench Press Chin-up Deadlift/Power Clean Pull-up

The front squat and power clean use a lighter weight but are not easier at max effort and will provide a break in intensity due to the unloading so progress in the back squat and deadlift should continue. Recycling the training intensity like this will work once or twice before you need to further periodize the routine.


By the time the trainee needs to change the schedule to weekly training plans they will be at the intermediate level. Squats should be done every session unless you're training 4 times a week or more. The front squat can be used on light days. Presses should be alternated for shoulder balance either with bench press on Monday & Friday, press on Monday & Friday or a two week schedule where the two presses are alternated each workout. The deadlift & clean can be alternated each week or if you need more recovery a three week schedule can be made alternating the deadlift, clean and RDL.


Intensity is varied across the week with a light, medium and heavy day. The light day is for active recovery so you're fully rested between the medium and heavy days. The medium day is often a higher volume of training than the heavy day with the weight lower to compensate. The heavy day is treated as a record day, for breaking new ground with heavier weights and has a lower overall volume. Weight is increased each week instead of each workout and can be increased by moving up in weight on either the medium or heavy training days, or both. This can be simply laid out using the following two week schedule:

Week 1

Monday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 Front Squat: 2x5 Squat: 1x5 Bench Press: 5x5 Press: 3x5 Bench Press: 1x5 Deadlift: 1x5 Chin-up: 3xF Clean: 5x3

Week 2 Monday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 Front Squat: 2x5 Squat: 1x5 Press: 5x5 Bench Press: 3x5 Press: 1x5 Deadlift: 1x5 Pull-up: 3xF Clean: 5x3

Monday is the high volume and medium intensity day. Squats, press and bench are all done for a 5x5RM (about 90% of 5RM) with deadlifts done for a 5RM. For the light day on Wednesday, front squat is done for about 80% of the weight used for the 5x5 back squats on Monday, the bench press and overhead press are done for 90% of the 5x5 weight done the previous Monday. On Friday, either a 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1RM is set depending on how you feel for the day.

Dynamic Effort Method

The dynamic effort method is another popular way to increase the amount of weight you can lift. By increasing the speed that you lift a weight you're learning to apply more force to the bar without having to increase the weight used. This is a lot easier on the CNS than using the maximum effort method and will also increase the number of fast twitch fibres you use during a lift. The DE method normally uses between 50-70% of 1RM, depending on the size of the muscles used in the lift and neuromuscular efficiency. At Westside Barbell they often use 45-50% for the box squat while an intermediate trainee will get better use out of 65-70%. The key to finding out how much weight to use is to film yourself or get someone else to watch you do singles. Start with 50% of your 1RM and increase the weight on the bar gradually until you notice the bar speed drop. When it drops, this is the weight you should start using. Concentrate on applying maximum force to the bar and when bar speed has increased to that of previous weights, increase the weight of the bar. Changing the weight every 4 weeks or so is normal. Timed sets is the proven method of doing this doing 10 sets of 2 or 3 reps with 30-60 seconds between sets. Normally the box squat is done for 2 reps and the bench press for 3 reps, this is because when you do this number of reps it takes about the same time for you to complete a competition lift. Put simply, you're lifting a weight explosively for the same amount of time as it takes for you to complete a competition lift conditioning you to contract fully throughout the entire lift. This method can be done with most multi-joint exercises, weighted chin-ups work well with 10 sets of 3 and deadlifts work well with 6-15 singles done 30 seconds apart. For the intermediate, the DE method is best done to replace the low volume / high intensity day. This is because the primary stressor is the high volume day and the job of the high intensity day is to ensure continued progress on this day. So here is the template we have been using so far with the DE method programmed in:

Week 1 Monday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 Front Squat: 2x5 Box Squat: 10x2 Bench Press: 5x5 Press: 3x5 Bench Press: 10x3 Deadlift: 1x5 Chin-up: 3xF Clean: 5x3

Week 2 Monday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 Front Squat: 2x5 Box Squat: 10x2 Press: 5x5 Bench Press: 3x5 Bench Press: 10x3 Deadlift: 1x5 Pull-up: 3xF Clean: 5x3


Now, I know that you're going to want to keep your curls so I'll show you how to program them in correctly. If you're including a lot of heavy rowing or weighted chin-ups, 3 sets of curls a week will be fine. The training stimulus from weighted chins should be plenty to get stellar biceps stimulation so if you feel that you're not getting great growth from that then feel free to add extra biceps work in. The advantage of adding curls is that your elbow tendons will strengthen and be protected during deadlifts. At the intermediate level you won't need too much assistance at all but extra core, lower back and ab work can't go amiss. It's good not to do too much volume on these at this level as the template is already high volume. For example on Monday, after you have done 25 working reps of squats, 25 of bench and 5 of deadlifts, do you really want to do 50 reps of back extensions and a load of curls? Hell, I don't even have the time to do that let alone the will! Abdominal work goes well on Monday, 2x10-15 of weighted sit-ups is plenty. Lower back and hamstring work will go well on the light day, 5x10-20 reps on the 45 degree back extension would be good, just with your body weight as remember, it's a light day and the purpose of assistance is to strengthen weak areas of the body, compliment the 4 basic lifts, provide balance and symmetry to your body and to build muscle mass. On Friday you can add a pressing movement and some arm work. 3x8 of dips, curls and tricep extensions is plenty. If you have a weak point in your body, it's best at the intermediate level to address them with body weight movements. Body weight exercises are great because they won't take away from your training at all (unless you grossly overuse them) and there is no spinal loading, meaning that your CNS won't be stressed a great deal at all. Body weight exercises can be performed before each training session as part of the warm-up with little to no negative effect on your main sets.

Weak hamstrings – A few sets of GHR Weak abs – A few sets of hanging leg raises Weak triceps – Close grip barbell push-ups Weak lats – Inverted rows Weak quads – Pistol squats Weak delts – Band pull-aparts

Adding Days

This is the final thing you can do at the intermediate level is to start adding days. This is adding another full day of training by the way, not a 4 day split (which is actually 2 workouts split into 4 pieces). It is best when you add a training day to make it a medium day as when progress increases on this medium day it will then become a heavy day. By this point, the dynamic workout on Friday would have become classed as heavy, so at the moment we have a medium workout (5x5 on Monday), a light workout (Wednesday) and a heavy DE workout on Friday. When we add another day, we will have a medium day, two heavy days and a light day. 5 sets of 5 across is fine as the medium stressor so we have room for another heavy workout. The medium workout on Monday will have progressed to such that it will now be a heavy workout. On Tuesday a heavier set of 5 will be the medium day, the DE day will be on Thursday and the light day on Friday.

Monday: Tuesday: Thursday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 F. Squat: 1x5 Box Squat: 10x2 F. Squat: 3x5 Bench: 5x5 Press: 1x5 Bench Press: 10x3 Press: 3x5 Deadlift: 1x5 Row: 1x5 Clean: 5x3 Chin-up: 3xF

With this template, assistance exercises are best done on Tuesday & Friday, as to not affect the other training sessions. When you get proficient at the front squat, press and barbell row and progress starts to slow again on Monday's 5x5 weight, the set of 5 on Tuesday can become a heavy triple making 3 heavy training sessions in the week and a light workout. A little side-note, you may have noticed I keep mentioning to make changes only when progress stalls, there is a very good reason for this! Training volume and intensity should be very gradually increased, if a new intermediate trainee just finished the Starting Strength routine and hopped onto the above routine of 5x5 on Monday, 1x5 on Tuesday, DE on Thursday and a light Friday workout, they would over train VERY quickly. Please take note of this and take all the necessary jumps and don't go “oh yeah I'm going to hop on Cyclefag's full-body 4x a week template for the Texas Method with a dynamic day”. If you're unsure, ask. I am more than happy to apply these methods to your own routine if you're having difficulties. A 5th day can also be added but is not recommended unless you're training the Olympic lifts. The power lifter would over train with this sort of work load but the Olympic lifts offer a different kind of stress that is easier to recover from. As stated above, a medium day will be added to training at first and when proficiency increases this can become another heavy training session.

Monday: Tuesday: Wednesday: Friday: Squat: 5x5 Snatch: 8x2 Sn. Balance: 5x1 Clean: 5x3 Press: 5x5 Jerk: 1x5 F. Squat: 1x3 Squat: 1x5 High-Pull: 1x5 Row: 1x5 Push-Press: 1x3 Bench: 1x5

Saturday: F. Squat: 3x5 Press: 3x5 Chin-up: 3xF

Monday, Wednesday & Friday are all heavy days, Tuesday is the medium day and Saturday the light. Snatch volume can be dropped down to 5x2 as the weight increases to levels where 8 straight sets of 2 can't be maintained. This decrease in volume and increase in intensity will make it a heavy day. I'd be REALLY careful with assistance on this template, unilateral work after each session would work great. Walking lunges, lateral raises, body weight, pick one exercise for each day.

Advanced Level Programming

Ok, when you're at the point where you're training the full body 4x a week with 3 heavy days, a light day and you've stopped making progress on your 5x5 squats you will be bordering the line between the intermediate and the advanced trainee. I didn't mention above, but progress can be stimulated further often by dropping the 5x5 sets down to 3x5 with a slightly higher weight. I did quite a bit of research on Advanced programming, PPFST doesn't really go into it that much and the Internet was filled with people asking questions such as “what do I do after Texas Method?” to which the only answers I could find was “5/3/1” or “Sheiko”. Really Internet? Two routines? Is that the most information you have on the subject? Well I hope to clear this up a bit. At this level, there are two main types of programming. Block periodization and conjugated loading. Both are good approaches and which one you pick depends on what you like best! You can even alternate between both methods if you like. Now when I say block periodization, I do mean “Western” periodization (even though it was invented by a Russian) although I want you to get that crap you saw in Muscle & Fitness out your head. There will be no hypertrophy phase, strength phase, power phase and peaking phase. This is not a very efficient way to train!

Block Periodization

There are 3 main phases of block periodization. These are accumulation where volume is high and intensity is low, intensification where volume drops and intensity increases and finally realisation in which you get to test out your new-found strength. Sound similar? Yes it's just like having a medium day and two heavy days, but split up into weeks and months. The light day is now called a deload period and is either put in between the accumulation and intensification periods or after the realisation period. So, we start off again back with the Starr model of training the full body 3x a week. This is a 9 week cycle with weeks 1-4 as the accumulation period. In Monday's session squats are done for 5x5x65% in week 1, 5x5x75% in week 2, 5x5x82.5% in week 3 and 5x5x87.5% in week 4. Bench press and rows are ramped up to a top set of 5 at 72.5% in week 1, 82.5% in week 2, 90% in week 3 and 95% in week 4. On Wednesday, squats are again done for 5x5, this time lighter than on Monday. Week one is at 57.5%, 65% in week 2, 70% in week 3 and 75% in week 4. These are light enough to do front squats at the same weight if you want. Press is done the same as Monday's squats, and so are deadlifts, but for 3 sets of 5 instead of 5. On Friday, squats are done with the same method as Monday's bench press, ramping up to a top set of 5. Bench press and rows are done for 5 sets of 5, exactly the same way as squats are on Monday. Week 5 is a deload week. On Monday squats are done for 3x3x87.5%, bench press and rows are done for 3x75%, 3x85% and 3x95%. On Wednesday, squats are not done. Deadlift is done for 3x3x87.5%, same with the press. On Friday, the same thing as week 1-4 happens. Squats are done for 3x3 ramping up to 95% like bench and rows were on Monday, bench and rows are done for 3 straight sets of 3 at 87.5%. Next is the intensification phase. On Monday, squats are done for 3x3 straight sets again. Week 6 is at 90%, 95% in week 7, 97.5% in week 8 and 100% in week 9. Bench and rows are ramped to a top set of 3, 3x97.5% in week 6, 100% in week 7, 102.5% in week 8 and 105% in week 9. On Wednesday there is no squatting. Deadlift is done the same as squats on Monday and so is the press. On Friday, squats are done the same as the bench press was done on Monday and the bench press and rows are done the same way squats were done on Monday. So as you can see, in 9 weeks you're turning your 1RM in each lift into your 3x3RM adding approximately 10% onto your 1RM. As far as adding days goes, I wouldn't know how to do this. I would suggest adding a DE day if you feel the need to increase volume in this program. Either the Olympic lifts or speed reps with squats and bench. This would be laid out as follows in weeks 1-4 (weeks 6-9 would use 3x3):

Monday: Tuesday: Thursday: Friday: (Light) Squat: 5x5 Squat: 1x5 Box Squat: 10x2 Squat: 5x5 Bench: 1x5 Bench: 5x5 Bench Press: 10x3 Press: 5x5 Row: 1x5 Row: 5x5 Deadlift: 3x5 Chin-up: 3x5

Only thing I changed here was removing deadlifts from the light day and putting them on the new medium day. Weighted chin-ups were then put on the light day which used to be Wednesday's workout. Again, I have no idea how well this would work but if anyone ever tries it feel free to fiddle around with it a bit and try to make it work and get back to me with how it went. If you could manage the 4 day Texas Method then you SHOULD be able to manage the work load in this. One thing you could try is swapping around the volume to that 5x5 bench and rows are on Monday and 1x5 bench and rows are on Tuesday. Eventually you will outgrow the ability to recover from a program such as this. If you like the full body system, Sheiko is definitely something you should look into. The periodization used in Sheiko's routines are too complicated to cover in this article but maybe I'll write something up about it in future. Smolov for squats is also a great routine but with that you need to think of your priorities. What will increase your total more? Increasing your squat 30kg or increasing all your lifts at once? Smolov is also a short-term routine, I wouldn't recommend running it back to back. The best solution for when you have out grown the above routines is the split routine model.

The Split Routine Model

Before I start rambling on, I would just like to remind people that this is for the upper intermediate and advanced trainee only. The Starr model will always be better for the novice and intermediate trainee. The split routine that I shall go into is the upper / lower body split. I see this as a superior split to push / pull, 5 day body part splits and all the other nonsense you see in Muscle & Fitness these days. This is because you have the ability to dedicate each session to a core lift and train the antagonist muscles in the same session making an efficient use of time. The most common upper / lower split you see, without a doubt is 5/3/1. It's an absolutely fantastic routine with it's core principles straight out of Practical Programming. However, it was designed to be a simple, bare-bones routine. There is a lot that can be done with it, Wendler states that he doesn't give advice for adjusting the routine as he doesn't want people over complicating the routine then saying it doesn't work. He does however give some great advice on programming the Olympic lifts, assistance and conditioning and using Practical Programming and what we know on block periodization we can fill in the blanks. http://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/hardcore-look-at-jim-wendlers-5-3-1-powerlifting-system.html . First, we have the basic 5/3/1 template:

Monday: Tuesday: Thursday: Friday: Press: 5/3/1 Squat: 5/3/1 Bench: 5/3/1 Deadlift: 5/3/1 Press: 5x10 Squat: 5x10 Bench: 5x10 Deadlift: 5x10 Chin-up: 5x10 GM: 5x10 Row: 5x10 Front Squat: 5x10

First, the main exercise for the day is done, then repeated for 5 sets of 10. The antagonist muscle group is then trained for 5 sets of 10. Pretty basic and a great base to start from. Maximum effort is easily programmed in on the 3 and 531 weeks. After the final set, instead of going for maximum reps you do the minimum reps then go for a 1, 2 or 3RM. This doesn't always need to be a record, just what you can do on the day. This is particularly good for people that use gear, they can do the training raw and work up to a max triple, put on their gear then work up again to a geared max. If you program in ME it is best to slightly change the layout of the routine so week one is 1x3, week 2 is 1x5 and week 3 is 1x531. This gives a light week in between the two max effort weeks. Dynamic effort is harder to program in. Wendler directly says that the DE method can't be used with 5/3/1 but I beg to differ, instead thinking that he is trying to prevent 5/3/1 from becoming too complicated. He does however give advice on programming the Olympic lifts, so DE lifts can be programmed in a similar manner. He states that you can do the Olympic lifts before your main exercise for the day, in the case of the snatch and clean, they are done prior to squatting and deadlifting. We can follow the same principles for DE bench and squats. At Westside Barbell, DE bench press is done for 8x3 then a heavy pressing movement is done for 3-5x3-5. DE box squats are done for 10x2 and then a heavy hamstring exercise is done for 2-3x3-8. Sound similar? Yup, it's pretty much exactly what Wendler suggests for programming in the Olympic lifts, funny that! So we can have max effort bench day on Thursday and ME squat on Tuesday with Monday becoming DE bench and Friday DE squat. 5/3/1 will then be used as assistance. The template will now look like this:

Monday: Tuesday: Thursday: Friday: Bench: 8x3 Squat: 5/3/1 Bench: 5/3/1 Box Squat: 10x2 Press: 5/3/1 Squat: 5x10 Bench: 5x10 Deadlift: 5/3/1 Press: 5x10 F. Squat: 5x10 Row: 5x10 Deadlift: 5x10 Chin-up: 5x10

On the ME days, the 5/3/1 exercise is done for maximum reps or going up to a max single, double or triple. However on the DE days where the 5/3/1 exercise is done as assistance I recommend that you only go for the prescribed reps for that exercise. It would also be sensible if you used a training max that was based on what you can do AFTER a DE session but starting with an 85% training max instead of 90% will probably take care of this.

Adding Block Periodization

Now this is where things start getting complicated. This may seem daunting but once you understand it you can get your head around it easily enough. The 4 weeks of 5/3/1 will now be split up into a accumulation, intensification, realisation and deload phase. Furthermore, you start with a high volume / low intensity month and with each month volume drops with intensity increasing. We can call each month a 'wave' to make this easier to understand with each wave containing the 4 phases. After this is explained, a table with all this written down in it will be given for easy reference.

10's Wave

For the 10's wave, accumulation and intensification will use sets of 10 to provide the training stimulus while the realisation phase will use the 531 week to demonstrate the strength gained in the previous weeks. Week 1 is accumulation. 5X10x60% will be done. Week 2 is intensification, the working sets being 5x55%, 5x62.5% and 3x10x67.5%. For realisation in week 3 the working sets are 5x50%, 3x60%, 1x70% then 75% for as many as possible. This should be at least 10 reps and the number of reps you do over that determines how much the weight is increased for the next wave. We can use the following equation to determine the increase in weight. [(Reps Performed – Standard) x 1.25] + Working Max = New Working Max So lets say we do 12 reps, 10 reps is the standard and we get a 1.25kg increase in weight for every rep over that. For examples sake, the working max can be 100kg. [(12 – 10) x 1.25] + 100 = 102.5kg so the new working max for next month will be 102.5kg.

8's Wave

Just like the 10's wave, this wave revolves around sets of 8 and 8 will be the new standard for the realisation phase. Week 1's sets are 5x8x65%. Week 2 is 3x60%, 3x67.5%, 3x8x72.5%. Week 3 is 5x50%, 3x60%, 2x70%, 1x75% then 80% for as many reps as possible aiming for more than 8. The equation for calculating next waves max is: [(Reps Performed – 8) x 1.25] + Working Max = New Working Max

5's Wave

This time sets of 5 will be used with a drop in volume and an increase in intensity. Like before, 5 reps is the standard to try and break in the realisation phase. Week 1's sets are 6x5x70%. Week 2 is 2x65%, 2x72.5%, 4x5x77.5%. Week 3 is 5x50%, 3x60%, 2x70%, 1x75%, 1x80% and 85% for as many reps as possible. The equation for calculating next waves max is: [(Reps Performed – 5) x 1.25] + Working Max = New Working Max

3's Wave

You guessed it, sets of 3 this month aiming to beat 3 reps in the realisation phase. Week 1's sets are 7x3x75%. Week 2 is 1x70%, 1x77.5%, 5x3x82.5%. Week 3 is 5x50%, 3x60%, 2x70%, 1x75%, 1x80%, 1x85% and 90% for as many reps as possible. The equation for calculating next waves max is: [(Reps Performed – 3) x 1.25] + Working Max = New Working Max For week 4 in each wave, 5x40%, 5x50% and 5x60% is done as a deload week. After you finish the 3's wave, you can start again at the 10's wave. Block.png

Changing the Number of Training Days

An upper & lower body part split is very easy to switch around your personal life. You can easily adjust it to train 4, 3 or 2 days a week depending on your recovery ability and your personal schedule.

Training 3 days a week

This is a good template to use if you really struggle with recovery. There are a number of ways you can arrange this. You can combine the press and the deadlift day together or you can use a 9 day week rotating the exercises done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday making each wave last 4 weeks instead of 3. Another way is to train every other day.

Training 2 days a week

When training 2 days a week, you will dedicate each day to a upper and a lower body movement each day. In week one you will do one exercise as the primary exercise and the other one as assistance with 5/3/1 just getting the prescribed reps for the day. The following week you will swap around the primary and assistance exercises. If you train 2 days a week, you will not need the deload week.


Now we get to the part which everyone always ask questions about and fill 90% of their logbook with! As discussed earlier, the purpose of assistance is to build muscle, add symmetry and strengthen weak areas of the body. Below I will cover a few different assistance templates. Just pick one you like the sound of, or rotate templates every few months.

Westside for Skinny Bastards

This is a really popular routine, it shows great results in athletes having gained a lot of muscle mass and a lot of people hop in this routine wanting those results. Unfortunately I have yet to see a trainee get good results from this program. Why? Because they don't have the first clue what they are doing! Well you can apply the WS4SB template to 5/3/1 or the block periodization approach easily enough and make fantastic progress without having to worry about what Westside is or what exercises to do. Do your main exercise for the day then use the following as assistance. Bench Day 1a) Vertical Pulling for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps 1b) Upper Back for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps 2) Medial Delts for 4 sets of 8-12 reps 3a) Arms (Bicep or Tricep) for 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Squat Day 1) Unilateral Exercise for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps 2) Hip Extension Exercise for 3 sets of 8-15 reps 3) Weighted Abdominals for 4 sets of 10-15 reps

Military Day 1) Supplemental Pressing for 2 sets of maximum reps, using a weight you can perform 15-20 reps with on the first set 2a) Horizontal Pulling for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps 2b) Rear Delts for 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps 3) Traps for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps 4) Elbow Flexor exercise for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Deadlift Day 1) Unilateral Movement for 3 sets of 6-12 reps 2) Hamstring Posterior Chain Movement for 3 sets of 8-12 reps 3) Bodyweight Abdominal Circuit NOTE: If you're using this with the DE method, with the press day as DE bench, disregard the supplemental pressing and instead do the press with the 5/3/1 loading pattern for the prescribed reps. For DE squat, add the 5/3/1 prescribed reps for deadlift and take out the unilateral exercise.

Dave Tate's periodization Bible

This is similar to what is done at Westside Barbell. This comes from a great article by Dave Tate. Bench Day 1) Shoulders or Chest-5 sets of 10-20 reps (DB Bench, DB Incline, DB Military, Incline press, Dips, Push-ups) 2) Lats or Upper Back-5 sets of 10-20 reps (DB Rows, Bent Over Rows, T-bar Rows, Lat Pulldowns, Face Pulls, Shrugs) 3) Triceps-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Triceps Pushdowns or Triceps Extensions)

Squat Day 1) Low Back-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Reverse Hyper, Back Raise, Good Morning) 2) Quads-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Leg Press, Lunges, Hack Squats) 3) Abs-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Sit Ups, Hanging Leg Raises, Ab Wheel, DB Side Bend)

Military Day 1) Shoulders or Chest-5 sets of 10-20 reps (DB Bench, DB Incline, DB Military, Incline press, Dips, Push-ups) 2) Lats or Upper Back-5 sets of 10-20 reps (DB Rows, Bent Over Rows, T-bar Rows, Lat Pulldowns, Face Pulls, Shrugs) 3) Triceps-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Triceps Pushdowns or Triceps Extensions)

Deadlift Day 1) Hamstrings-5 sets of 10-20 reps (Leg Curls, GHRs) 2) Quads-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Leg Press, Lunges, Hack Squats) 3) Abs-5 Sets of 10-20 reps (Sit Ups, Hanging Leg Raises, Ab Wheel, DB Side Bend)

5/3/1 as Assistance

Yup, 5/3/1 can be used as assistance using other compound movements to assist your work sets. Bench Day Weighted Chin-ups-5/3/1 taking last set to failure Dips-3-5x5-20

Squat Day Snatch Grip Deadlift-5/3/1 prescribed reps Unilateral Movement for 3 sets of 6-15 reps Weighted Ab Work.

Military Day Dips-5/3/1 taking last set to failure Chin-ups-5x5-20

Deadlift Day Front Squat-5/3/1 prescribed reps Weighted Ab Work

Conjugated Loading

That's block periodization covered, now we have the other kind of periodization to discuss which was discovered by another Russian at the same time as “Western” periodization. This is considered by many to be a superior form of periodization but both work very well. Try both and pick what you like best. I will cover what (as far as I know) is going on at Westside Barbell but unless you train there you don't really know exactly what they are doing. Westside Barbell is also full of lifters that use lifting equipment to aid there lifts. I will apply these principles to raw lifters so everyone can reap the full benefits. The template again is a 4 day week with a ME squat and bench session and a DE squat and bench session.

ME Day

On ME days, the competition lift is rarely performed. However as athletes and not competitive powerlifters you should have no problem performing the competition lifts on ME days. Max effort is defined as training at or above 90% of your 1RM. Max effort lifts will be rotated every 2 weeks to avoid adapting to the movement with at least 3 reps being at or above 90%. This basically means you will be working up to a 3, 2 or 1RM each week.

Bench Press ME Exercises: Bench Press Floor Press 1 Board Press 2 Board Press Incline Press

Squat & Deadlift ME Exercises: Squat Deadlift Box Squats Rack Pulls Front Squat

DE Day

We covered the concept of DE days earlier so I will keep this brief. Different level trainees will require different DE cycles with the more advanced trainee using more accommodating resistance to overload the top portion of the lift so they can apply 100% force all the way to the top of the lift. For bench press, use 8 sets of 3. Do the first 3 sets with a close grip, the next three with a medium grip and the last 2 with a competition grip. On the DE squat, you will do 10 sets of 2 off a parallel box.

Olympic Lifts

These principles can easily be applied to the olympic lifts. You have an ME & DE day for the snatch, and one for the clean + jerk. Just like with the power lifts you're working up to a max on a variant of the movement but then you lower the weight and do 3x3 afterwards. This is the Chinese weightlifting method. On DE days you perform the competition lift at about 80%. There is also often a ME day for the squat and it's variants.

Assistance Template

For this method, you can use the same sample templates as listed above. There is also another template that was and may still be used at Westside Barbell today. This is as follows:

DE Bench Press: 8x3 Triceps: 3-5x3-5 Shoulders/Chest: 5x10 Lats: 5x10-15 Biceps: 2-3x6-10

ME Squat/Deadlift: MEx1-5 Unilateral: 2-3x3-8 Hamstrings/Lower Back: 3-5x8-15 Abdominals: 5x5-20

ME Bench Press: MEx1-5 Triceps: 5x10-15 Lats: 5x10-15 Upper Back: 5x10-15 Biceps: 2-3x8-12

DE Squat: 10x2 Hamstrings: 2-3x3-8 Lower Back: 3-5x8-15 Obliques: 5x5-20

Deload Weeks

Occasionally you will need to take a deload week. Due to the nature of the conjugated template this won't be too often but everyone is different. There are a few options that you can do in this situation.

You can take a complete week off, doing 5x40,50,60% in each lift. Keep DE/ME the same but no assistance exercises. No ME, just DE and assistance No ME/DE just assistance Everything at reduced volume

List of Assistance Exercises

That's about it for this article, if I forgot to cover anything or didn't explain it well don't hesitate to ask questions in this thread. I will leave you with a list of popular assistance exercises that work well and will assist you in your goals.

Triceps: Tricep extensions (dumbbell or barbell) Pushdowns Push-ups Close grip bench press Rack lockouts JM press

Shoulders: Seated DB clean Bradford press Side press Rear delt flies Press Push-press DB presses

Lats/Upper Back: Bent over rows (DB, Barbell, KB) Chest supported row Chin-ups, pull-ups Band pull-aparts Face-pulls Shrugs

Biceps: Barbell, EZ bar, reverse curls Hammer curls Zottman curls Dumbbell curls

Abs: Russian twists Side bends Straight-leg sit-ups Hanging leg raises Weighted sit-ups

Hamstrings & Lower Back: Glute/Ham raises RDL Good mornings Leg curls Reverse Hypers Pull-throughs Sled dragging Kettlebell swings Back raises

Unilateral: Pistol squats Step-ups Lunges Speed skater squats

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