Got a message the other day from a gentleman that follows me requesting that I put together an article on what pre constructed, popular programs I deem worth running. I also saw some shit on the 'gram the other day that thrust the last nail into the coffin embezzled with "Rob's faith in the average South African fitness professional". So I decided to throw ya'll a bone. Run these programs instead of contacting that wanker selling coaching on Instagram. Unless of course it's @walkerstrength.
Now firstly it must be said that an individual knowledge of lifting is more advantageous in most cases when compared to blindly following a program because said lifter will have the capacity to judge their performance on any given day and adjust their training accordingly because let's face it, not everything goes to plan all the time. So regardless of your program, pay attention and learn, always.
Now time for the meat and potatoes. These four steps should be relevant to newbies, anyone up to the "intermediate" level and particularly relevant to the " I train six days a week, year round and never get any better but I know what I'm talking about, promise" crew. You know who you are.
* The three programs I've mentioned below have a wealth of information surrounding them. Google, read and then run.
1. Master a set of basic bodyweight movements, address any mobility issues/ injuries.
Right now this particular point, although not a program, is incredibly overlooked. The amount of times I see trainers making clients squat with load when it's fairly evident that the client is unable to perform a full range squat with their own bodyweight alone blows my mind. Moral of the story? Walk before you can run.
- If you can't sit comfortably with proper posture at the bottom of a full range bodyweight squat you probably shouldn't be squatting with load.
- If you can't perform a push up you probably shouldn't be bench pressing.
- If you can't perform a set of inverted rows to a bar then you probably shouldn't be barbell rowing.
- If you don't have the mobility to pick something off the floor without breaking neutral spine then you shouldn't be deadlifting.
Plenty of mobility drills and form videos on YouTube made by people far smarter than I am. Take your time and attempt to master your movement before you progress to using any load whatsoever.
2. The OG: StrongLifts 5x5
The amount of people I know who've been "lifting" for a few years, focusing on advanced hypertrophy techniques and slamming whey isolate post workout whom could have made more actual progress in a ten week run of StrongLifts would shock you. If you read this and think "shit, is he talking about me?" then yes, yes I am.
Again, take your time to become good at the movements. Work with an empty bar for as long as you need to. Remove your ego and focus on the process of acquiring a technique that will allow you progress consistently and without injury.
Follow the program. Lift three times weekly as per the program, don't add in any additional exercises. You don't need them. Don't add in extra work, you don't need it. Complete the 5x5 and add weight the next time you do that exercise, simple.
Squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press and pendlay row can get you pretty jacked for a long time. Curls are not necessary and no the lack of direct arm work won't make your nine inch arms shrink.
Due to the brutal and rapid progressions that this program uses I would encourage people trying this to get hold of some 1.25kg plates (especially the ladies). Smaller incremental increases each week will allow you to run the program for longer and with greater success. Run the program until you fail to progress on a specific exercises for more than two sessions in a row.
3. MADCOW 5x5
This program follows a very similar system to StrongLifts 5x5 - same lifts, same amount of days per week. The only difference is the way the progressions are set up for you. A de-load is given to you every Wednesday and Friday includes both an introduction to next week's new weight for a triple as well as a sub maximal set of eight to ensure volume is climbing week by week even if your maximal sets are not. Some great spreadsheets online - find them and input your five rep maxes from your StrongLifts block and boom, already less kak.
* First 2-3 weeks of this program will be easy as the standard programs sets you up to match your StrongLift bests on week three. This is to allow you to recover from the fact that you've just added 50-80kg onto your 5RM squat in a few months.
Follow the spreadsheet, even some of the trainers ya'll hire couldn't fuck that one up.
4. WENDLERS 5/3/1
I remember Jim Wendler saying that he came up with this program because he wanted to be a lifter that could do more than "waddle up to a bar and deadlift". What he came up with is possibly the best internet program I've ever run. Magnificent in it's simplicity, the routine is based around four week blocks - one week of 3x5, one of 3x3, one week of 5/3/1 followed by a de-load with the last set of each "working"
session being a "maximal" attempt (parenthesis there because I normally advise clients to keep one rep in the tank at all times). After the de-load the numbers go up for the next block. Easy peasy. Some great spreadsheets online to govern this program and all of it's variations. Find one you like the look of and run it.
At this stage some accessory work is acceptable in my eyes. Pick two movements and one isolation movement per muscle group and progress them in the "hypertrophy range", namely 6-12 reps. Do 3-4 sets, one of which can be until failure.
Sample plan (4 x week training):
- Bench press Wendlers followed by incline dumbbell press, dips and an incline dumbbell fly for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps a piece.
- Deadlift Wendlers followed by pull-ups, barbell rows and a bicep curl for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps a piece.
- Overhead press Wendlers followed by upright rows and rear delt flies for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps a piece.
- Squat Wendlers followed by hack squats and lying leg curls for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps a piece.
There, you've just gone from a beginner to an intermediate lifter in under a year. Fire your trainer now.