In the past 6 months, I have really tried to be much more methodical and organized in my approach to get stronger and lift more weight.
Before then, all I really tried to do was lift heavy with no particular approach, and was haphazardly moving from one programming style, like 5×5 or 5-3-1, to the next, and hoping to hit a goal in any one of the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press). It had some good results for awhile, but I noticed that I was hitting plateaus like crazy, and finding it hard to get stronger, despite battling injuries for the past few years.
As a result, I figured there had to be a better way, so I really sat down and started to program things, and developed my own basic approach after trying different ways of lifting, and actually sticking with it.
Following my own program, I hit new PRs in the back squat, strict overhead press, sumo deadlift (I do sumo the majority of the time because of my back), and incline bench press totaling over 130 pounds in six months. I added 40 pounds to my back squat, 30 pounds for my strict overhead press, 40 pounds to my sumo deadlift, and 20 pounds to my incline bench press (I typically like to do incline more than flat, based on preference and passed injuries).
These are the before and after numbers:
Progress on Lean Muscle Building Programming
|1. Squat (beltless)||
|2. Sumo Deadlift (beltless)||
|3. Incline Bench Press (beltless)||
|4. Strict Overhead Press (beltless)||
|Weight (in pounds)||182||188|
|Body Fat %||14.00||13.50|
|Time Frame: August 2016 to January 2017|
In addition, I added about 6 to 8 pounds of muscle to my frame (started at ~182lbs an now I’m ~188lbs), and dropped one-half percent of body fat, from 14.0% to 13.5%.
I know these results sound absurd — to a degree they are — but let me provide you context about me, regarding my lifting career, and past injuries to evaluate this progress, from August 2016 to present:
- I first lifted a barbell when my Dad bought me a bench and weight set at 14 years old.
- I started doing all of the “Big 3” lifts (back squat, deadlift, and bench press) when I was 17 because I wanted to play football my senior year of high school (and I did — I played offensive guard, despite my shortness, lol).
- I dislocated my right knee at 14 years old, and then subluxed (partial dislocation) the same knee at 15, dislocated it again at 17, and then one more time at 18. Finally, at age 22, I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee to take out loose bodies, and clean out damaged cartilage and tissue. (Glad I did because it feels so much better! Shout out to Great Basin Orthopaedics in Reno, NV for my surgery.).
- I experienced a grade 2 sprain on my right shoulder labrum when I was 17, during football practice (ended my season…booo).
- I suffered a grade 2 sprain on my left pectoralis minor when I was 18, while trying to bench press.
- In December of 2013, at age 21, I severely strained my lower back, possibly herniating a disc in my lumbar spine, most likely between L2 down to L4 (one of those). (Click HERE to learn more about my back and my rehab process here).
- After my back injury, I did not try heavy lifting for 4 months, then a total of 9 more months after re-aggravating the injury, and participated in mostly body-weight exercises, light weights, circuits, and running, during that time (roughly July 2014 to March 2015).
- I begin lifting again at 23 (around late March/early April 2015), testing myself slowly and paying big attention to relearning and locking in technique.
- After my whole experience, obsessive self study, becoming a certified personal trainer, and having clients of my own, I started my own program during August/September 2016, after planning it in late May through July 2016.
That is the basic time-line for me and my lifting career, so I really only consider myself a serious lifter for the last 6 months, despite lifting consistently for almost the last 2 years (after my back injury). In my own opinion, it may be 10 years since I started lifting, but I am only in the beginning intermediate stage at best as a lifter (I measure lifter based on strength in the lifts, and by knowledge and technique practiced).
That said, I used myself as a guinea pig for this program I put together, and wanted to offer this program to everyone starting to lift, or at the beginning stages of their intermediate stage, in their lifting career.
My program I’m sharing with you is completely free, and a guide to get you started to making more strength and muscle gains.
DOWNLOAD MY FREE STRENGTH and MUSCLE BUILDING PROGRAM BY CLICKING this link: Lean Muscle Building.
What’s in the Program?
In the program, you’ll find basic principles about building muscle and strength, along with how to warm-up, recover, maintain your body, and what to generally eat to get stronger. I also give you freedom in the program to incorporate varying levels of weights used, and variations to the main lifts, like front or pause squats, stiff-legged or Romanian deadlifts, and pendlay barbell rows.
I wanted my program to be flexible, as to factor in for individual concerns, levels of strength and technique, and add excitement to your training, in which you can build the most muscle and strength while using it.
Again, my program is free because I want it to be that way, since I care about helping everyone out there avoid my mistakes, and understand basic knowledge that will help you in the early to mid early stages of your lifting career.
Extra: Strength Outline Progression
In addition to the free strength and muscle program giveaway, I want to share what I saw strongman athlete BRIAN ALSRUHE explain on YouTube in his most recent video.
(Click HERE to watch his programming method, and please subscribe to his channel because he has some of the best content out there for strength, conditioning, programming, and building strength).
In his video, Brian explains how to structure your basic programming progress for the year.
If you do not have time to watch the video (almost 25 minutes, but worth the watch), I encourage you to watch it later, but for the time being I’ve broken it down using MY PERSONAL NUMBERS, and added a few extra elements in the table below.
|2017 Program Progression|
|Lift||Current/Goal Max (in lbs.)||Avg. Q max ↑ in weight||Q1
|3. Bench Press||275/315||10||285||295||305||315|
|4. Overhead Press||185/225||10||195||205||215||225|
|Big 3 Total (current/goal): 1075/1220|
|Big 4 Total (current/goal): 1260/1445|
|Current body weight/body fat %: 188lbs/13.5%|
|Goal body weight/body fat %: 190-195lbs/12.0-12.5%|
The table you see above is my current strength goal outline for 2017. Everything you see in there is what I’m lifting right now, and what I plan to hit throughout the year broken up by quarter (each quarter is 3 months and that is why there are 4).
With these goals, I also have other goals, like achieving a specific body weight and body fat percentage. For me, that is important, so that is why I have it there (I encourage you to do so also). I value conditioning and athletic movements, in addition to lifting heavy like a powerlifter, so that may impact my strength and goal numbers, but I think if I do it right, I will be fine.
The Lean Muscle Building program I put together has these athletic and conditioning elements integrated into the program, so it is not like it is something entirely new (although I do plan on adding some extra conditioning elements to most workouts, and I encourage you to add any extra work that you need the most help with, and what is most valuable to you).
I must also note from Brian’s video, he explains depending on the stage of your development, as in beginner to advanced lifter stages, you will have different strength goals and rates of progress. For instance, if you are a beginner you will typically have a faster rate of increase. In contrast, if you’re an intermediate to advanced lifter then you’re rate of progress will be in smaller increments and less overall, since you most likely have bigger numbers.
Lastly, I will note that all the things you do outside of training, such as getting good nutrition, rest, having proper recovery, and all that good stuff is essential to your rate of progress.
If you fail outside the gym you will fail in the gym. Period.
Ultimately, the level of consistent work and dedication you put into it will be the deciding factor on your rate of progress.
What will help you is a program to guide you, and that is why I made this program for you: to serve as a guide to get stronger and build lean muscle.
I encourage you to EMAIL me any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions about the Lean Muscle Building program, or any question you may have about getting stronger, adding muscle, losing weight, or anything else of that nature.
AGAIN, IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY, PLEASE CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD THE PROGRAM.
As always, thanks again for stopping by and reading, and if not a subscriber, please subscribe.
Until next time, be strong and be you!