Getting Stronger: Keep it Simple

This is a piece I wrote for the Box Basics blog, "Second Pull":

——

A quick internet search brings up a plethora of strength programs, all promising BIG GAINZ and the endless love of scantily clad ladies.

Wendler, Smolov, Texas Method… the list goes on and on, with a new one coming out nearly every month as another strength coach puts his or her twist on a program and publishes it on every social media line out there. And for the advanced athlete, you might need something more intricate to get your body to adapt past your intermediate strength gains. For most of us, myself included, and almost anyone else who works for a living, it doesn't need to be that hard.

Strength is about patience and consistency. And any of the above programs will require that as well, but why confuse the matter?

I'm a big proponent of something called a linear progression. When I spout those words out to people, I can tell by the dim of their eyes that they see images graphs and calculus lessons long forgotten. But this is what I mean:

Step 1) Pick up something heavy for a chosen number of sets and reps.
Step 2) Next week, do it again, only go a little heavier.
Step 3) And again, a little heavier.


There is really only one decision you have to make: what rep volume (sets x reps) do you want to work at? The most popular is 25 reps (seen in 5x5), and 30 reps. Go too high and you risk not recovering for the next training day. Go too low and you risk not creating enough stimulus for adaptation (read: GAINZ).

From there you can play around with all the sets and reps that equal the volume you want to hit. If you chose 30 reps you're looking at 5x6, 3x10, and 2x15. Depending on what your goals are (strength vs size) and how your body recovers and responds, that choice can be different from person to person, or even for the same person from one month to the next.

Here is my favorite starting program I use with women, since typically we have a harder time putting on upper body strength (target reps = 25, 8x3 is close enough):

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Week 1Squat 5x5Press 8x3RestDeadlift 5x5Press 5x5 (same weight as Tuesday)
Week 2Squat 5x5 (+5 lbs)Press 8x3 (+5 lbs)
Deadlift 5x5 (+5 lbs)Press 5x5 (same weight as Tuesday)
Week 3Squat 5x5 (+10 lbs)Press 8x3 (+10 lbs)Deadlift 5x5 (+10 lbs)Press 5x5 (same weight as Tuesday)


And each week you up the challenge by 5-10lbs.

The ease and malleability of this program lends itself to being applied to pretty much any lift you could train, and can easily be adjusted to fit around any training you're already doing, such as CrossFit or a triathlon.

Happy lifting!