Gain Muscle Strength and Power Training

Strength Training 101 – Guest Article by a 355kg Squatter

Alistair is a member on the PropaneFitness forum who has squatted 355kg (785lb) at 18 years old while training – an unofficial world record. No messing about. When he spoke, we listened. Here is what he has to say about strength-training. If you want to ask Alistair a question, the full discussion can be found here.

Alistair in action – Not for the faint of heart:


I am writing this because I feel it would be beneficial to post here, I am going to talk about how to plan strength programmes and what they need to involve etc. I am not going to post exactly what you should do as training is a learning process: the more you learn the better you get. People will improve more with guidance to the correct way of training rather than being told what to do. Hopefully you enjoy this and I will answer any questions about this or some of my methods of training etc if asked. I will add to it if I forgot anything and need to add something.

Strength Training 101

Planning If you fail to plan you plan to fail, To gain strength fast you must set goals for yourself.

How to set goals for yourself and actually be able to achieve them?
– Plan your training programmes out before going to the gym, you should plan your training out in 6,8 or 12 week blocks (I prefer a 6 week block training programme as it is more than enough time to make good strength gains should you plan it correctly). It is also a very good motivator seeing what you have to achieve for your session, I guarantee you will work 1000x harder.

Don’t worry too much about the length of your sessions just try to keep them between 1-2 hours (you can do longer if you are more advanced, you WILL know if you can do this) just get your crap done.

Content What should a strength programme contain? Compound exercises (exercises that use more than once muscle at a time) get you strong these are the corner stone of strength if you don’t do compound exercises and only isolation exercises you will never get strong (or big for that matter). Here is a list of exercises that should be in EVERY strength training programme-

• Squats (only leg exercise you need, if you are leg pressing, curling or extending you are wasting your time). (front squats are good too but should be used with a 1/3 ratio if you are squatting 3x a week, if you are not squatting this much you should front squat after back squats)
• Deadlifts
• Bench/ Overhead Press/ Push press (front or back)
• Bent over Rows (overhand/ underhand)
• Pull-ups / pull down (not quite on the same importance level as the above but still a very effective strength builder)
• Dips (same as above)

Now that’s not to say isolation exercises don’t have their place, An exception to the rule that only compound exercises get you strong is triceps. The triceps should be killed with heavy weight on a regular basis with compound or isolation exercises, this can be done with compound exercises such as board presses, partial overhead press, dips etc or can be done with isolation exercises such as tricep pull downs, skull crushers etc.

Now I’m not saying don’t do isolation exercises but the compound exercises should take up 90% of your workout with the last 10% being just to finish off this is where crap very unimportant exercises like curls go, do a few sets only don’t go crazy here.

ALL compound exercises should be done with free weights and no machines at all, they are not better in the slightest.
Machines are just to finish of your session. As a general rule only use machines that use a pulling motion (pull downs etc) any machine that uses a pressing / pushing/twisting motion is crap and a waste of time.

You should also be using a barbell EVERY session for your main compound exercises, dumbbells are supplementary and should only be used after your bar work.

Layout of Programme-

Muscle splits (aka legs day, chest day etc) are not the most ideal for strength training, Exercise splits are best for strength training(squat day, press day, deadlift day etc).

Here are some good splits depending how many times you work out a week-

1 or 2 Day Split
Don’t bother with the gym, you clearly aren’t dedicated enough for it and are wasting everybody’s time. If you still want to come in and do exercise, just do a body pump class or something because you aren’t going to achieve anything anyway.

3 Day Split (good for beginners)
Squat day – squat then go home
Press Day -concentrating on bench/overhead press (1 or the other or both depending on how you set the programme up) after this kill the triceps and finish with a few sets of biceps/ chest work if you want to.
Deadlift day-Do Deadlifts, rows, pull downs and finish off with other stuff if you like

4 Day Split
Squat Day (same as above)
Press day
Deadlift day(same as above except you can do squats after Deadlifts for a few sets if you want as well)
Press Day (with another press day do bench one day and OH press the other)

5 Day Split (can mix and match the squat and deadlift days depending what you are concentrating on)
Squat day
Press day
Squat or deadlift day
Press day
Deadlift day

6 day split (can mix and match the squat and deadlift days depending what you are concentrating on)
Squat day
Press day
Squat or deadlift day
Press day
Deadlift day
Press day

Now obviously there are more splits you can do but I am just trying to keep this simple, Training splits can change depending on how you write your programme but don’t think that more days are always best I regularly change between 5 and 6 day splits depending on my programme.

FFS put progression in your programmes or just quit the gym; I don’t care how you do it just do it. This can be done by adding extra reps or weight to your previous bests (rest time is irrelevant in strength training, take what you need but don’t be lazy) To improve strength you want to make these improvements in the 75%+ of your 1 RM range But that doesn’t mean never go lower than 75%, if you have to lift at 65% or something for a few weeks to improve your 75% rep PB’s that will help increase strength.

It helps to work with percentages when writing your programme (there are other ways though) but there should be clear visible improvements from week 1 to week 6/8/12. Also keep your goals for your programme realistic, don’t be a dumbass and ego write your programme so your end goal is something beyond what you can realistically achieve in the programme time frame.

Some other stuff-

Train hard and get your head in the zone, you only get out what you put in.- Nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Don’t make excuses- accept where you are and don’t lie to yourself (this helps you improve)

Be dedicated- go to every gym session and don’t take time off/ plan your workouts etc, to get truly strong you must train hard for YEARS. If you are not dedicated you don’t want to get stronger, you merely like the idea of it.

– Don’t rely on supplements or new secret programmes, they are a load of shit and aimed at lazy people who are looking for the easy route, sold as a way of making money.
– It takes years of hard work and dedication to achieve anything of worth.
– There are NO secrets. Train smart, train hard, be dedicated and you will make constant improvements and eventually achieve your dreams over time.
– Don’t over complicate your programmes, simple is best just train hard, use proper exercises and implement proper progression and you will improve.

Any questions for Alistair can be asked here. He won’t bite… probably.

Forum member Harrison made this spreadsheet based on the guidelines given in this article. Input your max into the top box and his magical spreadsheet will calculate the rest for you!

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