You want to be strong, but you're not into the whole knee wrap, smelling salts, arched back powerlifting thing. You want to be big, but you're not into the whole protein powder, hulking out, fake tan bodybuilding thing. You want to be fit, but you're not into the whole kipping, Reebok Nano, 150 wall balls for time CrossFit thing. You want a little bit of everything – minus the fanfare. And you can have it. Simply by adopting the best aspects of each of the aforementioned methodologies (and ditching the superfluous shenanigans), you can create a custom training plan for increased strength, size, and stamina all your own. Here's how:
For strength, look to powerlifting. Make the basic barbell lifts (or variations thereof) the foundation of your training program. After a thorough dynamic warm-up, begin each workout with some type of squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, pull-up, or row.
Over the course of the training week, perform each of these major lifts at least once. Go heavy (4-6 reps), focusing on lifting the weight as explosively as possible while maintaining perfect form, and take plenty of rest between sets. Utilize progressive overload by adding weight, reps, or sets each and every week.
After you've done your strength work, shift your attention to muscle building. For this, borrow from bodybuilding. Incorporate both multi- and single-joint movements, sticking to the 8-12 rep range (though higher rep sets can certainly be employed, as well). Count "one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand" during the lowering, or eccentric, phase of every rep. Rest incompletely between sets.
For extra time under tension, work similar movements back-to-back with the following templates:
- Compound set: multi-joint to multi-joint or single-joint to single-joint (ex: push-ups to dips)
- Pre-exhaust set: single-joint to multi-joint (ex: bicep curls to lat pull-downs)
- Post-exhaust set: multi-joint to single-joint (ex: walking lunges to physioball leg curls)
Once you've gotten a solid pump, conclude each workout with some high-intensity circuit training. Race the clock and attempt to beat your own previous best performance, but never substitute speed for movement quality.
Here are a few of my favorite bodyweight circuits:
For time: 25 reps each of inverted rows, push-ups, bodyweight squats, and straight leg sit-ups (all 25 reps, broken up as needed, must be completed before transitioning to the next exercise)
For 10 minutes: As many rounds as possible of 10 inverted rows, 10 push-ups, and 10 bodyweight squats
21-15-9: burpees and inverted rows (21 burpees, 21 inverted rows, 15 burpees, etc.)
There you have it. No need to get caught up in the frivolity of any one style of training in particular when you can have the best of all of them at once. With an intelligent fusion of powerlifting, bodybuilding, and circuit training, incredible gains in strength, size, and stamina are all yours for the taking.
And if, for whatever reason, your gains or enthusiasm ever begin to wane, there are always elements of gymnastics, Olympic lifting, and strongman to add to the mix. But those are topics for another day.
about the author
Travis Pollen is an NPTI certified personal trainer and American record-holding Paralympic swimmer. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science at the University of Delaware. He maintains a fitness blog and posts videos of his “feats of strength” on his website, www.fitnesspollenator.com. Be sure to like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fitnesspollenator.