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Article: Strength Training Made Simple

One of the reasons many people can’t get stronger in the gym, is due to inconsistency, and lack of a general training structure to maximise their time and efficiency when training. At Dabbs Fitness, we have developed a simple and very effective training structure, and we want to share this with you. Our training blueprint will allow you to become stronger and more powerful, and most importantly, will give you a solid training structure to follow in your gym sessions.

 

Through years of research and experience, we have come to the conclusion that despite the amount of complex training programs that can be found online, the key to all training programs, no matter the end goal, is simplicity. The beauty of this particular structure is that you can program yourself for simply a day, a week, or even training phases of months and years, using a similar structure and only making slight tweaks to your program. 

Using this training structure, you can create many variations for your training, which can be specific to your goals and targets. This structure is designed to make you stronger, however, it can also be adapted to emphasise hypertrophy and muscle gain. 

 

We like to break each training session down into training blocks, each of which is focused on a specific physiological outcome such as power, strength, or hypertrophy. This specificity helps lead the exercise selection as well as the set and rep ranges.

 

The typical daily training session structure is shown below:

 

  1. Power: ~10-15 mins
  2. Strength: ~15-25 mins
  3. Hypertrophy: ~15-20 mins
  4. Muscular endurance (pump or conditioning methods): ~10-15 mins

 

Power Block:

 

For the power block, in this case we typically prefer olympic lifting variations (snatches and cleans), however, kettlebells can also be utilised, as can sprints, jumps and medicine balls. We like to alternate between session 1 as a snatch, then session 2 a clean, then session 3 a snatch again… etc. We often prefer hang power variations of the movement as this emphasises the triple extension and power and is more simple to learn and perform than lifting from the floor, especially if you are performing this without a coach in your local gym. We recommend a 3×3 rep range, which serves to potentiate and prepare the mind as well as body for the heavy session ahead. You have the option of going light and focusing on speed or going a little heavier if you want to push these movements. If you want to improve your lifting or emphasise your power in your training, you can of course spend longer on this block and go heavier, then to perhaps later reduce the time spent on one of the other blocks. There are many options here, we have simply outlined a basis to start with for beginners.

 

Strength Block:

 

Choose one exercise from the following big compound movements: back squat, front squat, deadlift, or trap bar deadlift. Rep ranges can go from 5×2, 3×3, 5×5, or even 3×8/10. This depends on you and your training. We usually work with around 5 reps and like to go to near maximal intensity. This is usually the main portion of your training session and if you could only have time to fit one block in, this would be the most important block to emphasise when training for maximal strength.

 

Hypertrophy Block:

 

We often like to use an upper body push/pull superset here. You can choose between pushing exercises such as bench press, overhead press, incline bench press, preferably with the barbell. Pulling exercises include pull up variations, sometimes with added weight, or rowing variations such as dumbell/barbell rows. Again, we emphasise big compound movements that hit multiple muscle groups and don’t include isolation movements. If a lower body session is being performed, or in some cases when a female client may be training for glute hypertrophy, lower body supersets can also be used. Split squats supersetted with barbell hip thrusts are a staple superset for this target. We like to use rep ranges of 10-15 reps here, to ensure higher volume and a bit more ‘pump’. This provides the hypertrophy stimulus, and is good for building, or at least maintaining muscle mass in the upper body – a goal many people have for their training.

 

Muscular Endurance – Pump or Conditioning methods:

 

This block is where the beauty and flexibility of this training structure really shows. Each individual has the freedom in this block to choose their exercises depending on their targets and how they feel on the day. This can also make your training less monotonous and more fun.

 

The rep ranges are much higher here: 12 reps and over. Individuals can target specific weaknesses to improve their lifting, such as hamstrings or core stability. They can also work on their targets, such as some glute or arm pump. and perform targeted supersets such as a bicep curl with a tricep extension, or some hip thrusts combined with banded glute work. Alternatively, this is a good opportunity to work on some explosive metabolic conditioning. Rowing machine intervals of 500m, or equivalent efforts on the assault bike, can work well here. Sprints on the curve treadmill are also great. Provided the efforts are explosive and not too many are performed, this won’t affect your ‘gains’ and strength levels from the heavy lifting previously. Alternative variations for conditioning can include strongman style training, such as heavy farmers walks or weighted carry variations. Sled work is also amazing for this block. You can also get a bit more dynamic and include some tyre flips or rope climbs, depending on the equipment and space you have available. What you choose to do here has to be relevant to you and your holistic training process. If you don’t perform enough conditioning during the week, then conditioning is a great method here, however if you run often, but don’t do weights that often, some arm or glute pump may benefit you more as your conditioning is already taken care of. 

 

What we love about this structure and blueprint is the flexibility of it. There is no fixed rep or set range, which allows for daily fluctuations in strength and energy levels. The last block also allows for individual choice making and lets you put your own spin on your training day.

 

Below we outline some example training weeks.

 

Training week: 2x training  Target: general strength training
Block Exercise Sets Reps
Day 1
Power Hang Power Snatch 3 3
Strength Back Squat 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset) Bench Press 4 10
(Weighted) pull up 4 10
Accessory Romanian Deadlift 3 12
Ab Wheel 3 12
Day 2
Power Hang Power Clean 3 3
Strength Deadlift 5 2
Hypertrophy (superset) Overhead Press 3 12
Barbell Row 3 12
Pump Bicep Curls 3 15
Tricep Extension 3 15
Conditioning Rowing Machine 3 500m

 

Training week: 3x training Target: general strength training:
Block Exercise Sets Reps
Day 1
Power Hang Power Clean 3 3
Strength Back Squat 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset) Bench Press 4 10
(Weighted) pull up 4 10
Accessory Romanian Deadlift 3 12
Ab Wheel 3 12
Day 2
Power Hang Power Snatch 3 3
Strength Deadlift 5 2
Hypertrophy (superset) Overhead Press 3 12
Barbell Row 3 12
Pump Bicep Curls 3 15
Tricep Extension 3 15
Conditioning Rowing Machine 3 500m
Day 3
Power Hang Power Clean 3 3
Strength Front Squat 3 8
Hypertrophy (superset) Incline Bench Press 3 12-15
DB Row 3 12-15
Pump Hamstring Curl 4 15-20
Tricep Dip 4 15
Conditioning Farmers Walk 3 100m

 

Training week, 3x training, example 2 – The difference here is that you have an A and a B day, and you alternate between A, B, A, B etc. so days 1 and 3 are the same, as are days 2 and 4. However, you can play around with rep ranges, as shown in day 3, which is the same as day 1, but rep ranges are adapted. This is a great way to show variety, without needing to change the exercises:

 

Block Exercise Sets Reps
Day 1
Power Hang Power Snatch 3 3
Strength Back Squat 4 6
Hypertrophy (superset) Incline Bench Press 3 15
(Weighted) pull up 3 12-15
Accessory Romanian Deadlift 3 12
Ab Wheel 3 12
Day 2
Power Hang Power Clean 3 3
Strength Deadlift 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset) Overhead Press 3 12
Barbell Row 3 12
Pump Bicep Curls 3 15
Tricep Extension 3 15
Conditioning Rowing Machine 3 500m
Day 3 (same as Day 1)
Power Hang Power Snatch 8 1
Strength Back Squat 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset) Bench Press 4 10
(Weighted) pull up 4 10
Accessory Romanian Deadlift 3 12
Ab Wheel 3 12

 

Hypertrophy as a target

 

The above examples are all perfect both for improving your strength levels, and for growing muscle as well. However if hypertrophy is the main training target, some ideas for this target would be to minimise the power block, and to have a higher rep range for the initial primary strength exercise (you can also create a superset here). You would also increase the focus on the hypertrophy, and muscular endurance blocks, shown below are two hypertrophy blocks to emphasise this. Note that for conditioning, you may want to utilise more dynamic strongman techniques such as sled work, or weighted walks.

 

Example Training template with a Hypertrophy goal – higher volume:

 

Hypertrophy, full body
Block Exercise Sets Reps
Day 1
Power  Box jumps 1 5
Strength Back Squat 5 10
Hypertrophy (superset A) Bench Press 3 15
(Weighted) pull up 3 12-15
Hypertrophy (superset B) Romanian Deadlift 3 15
Bent Over Row 3 12-15
Accessory Cable Crossover 3 25
Ab Wheel 3 12
Finisher Crunches As many as needed 100

 

So far, the templates have all been full body based. There is a reason for this, and unless you are strength training more than three times per week, we encourage you to train full body. A Monday/Wednesday/Friday full body strength training split is a very good starting point, with conditioning, or sports training on your days off from the gym. However, if you are training four times per week in the gym, an upper/lower/upper/lower split can work very well. For example Monday/Tuesday, Wednesday rest, Thursday/Friday. Here is an example of an upper body day 1, followed by a lower body day 2. 

Options for variation include changing the exercises on days 3 and 4, or you can simply change the rep ranges and keep the exercises as they are. One particular method that is popular and works very well, is performing heavier weights, with a strength emphasis on days 1 and 2 when you are fresher at the start of the training week, and then working lighter, but far higher volumes on days 3 and 4. (However, as we have seen in our gym with many clients – if you have had a heavy weekend, then Monday and Tuesday may not be your freshest days!)

 

Again, the beauty of this template is the flexibility of it. You can perform the same main exercises every week, and then choose the variation and desired training effect in the accessory exercises at the end of each session, choosing between different body parts to pump, or the large variety of conditioning methods available to you. You can also slightly adapt the main exercises, alternating between front and back squats, or changing your grip session to session with different chin up variations for example. This will provide enough variation for a long time without stagnating, especially if you are consistently playing around with your set and rep ranges.

 

Example Training template with an upper/lower split:

 

Upper/lower split
Block Exercise Sets Reps
Day 1 – Upper
Power  Push Jerk 3 3
Strength Bench Press 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset A) Incline DB Press 4 15
DB Row 1 arm 4 15
Accessory Tricep Dips 3 20
Bicep Curl 3 12
Pump Push ups As many as needed 100
Day 2 – Lower
Power  Hang Power Clean 3 3
Strength Back Squat 5 5
Hypertrophy (superset A) Romanian Deadlift 3 15
Split Squat 3 8 each
Accessory Hamstring Curl 3 15
Ab Wheel 3 12
Conditioning Sled push/pull 5-10 mins 200m

 

Our rules of thumb:

 

Fatigue 

On days when you feel more tired, we recommend doing more reps, with lower weight, not less reps with more weight. 

 

Accessories 

Work on your weaknesses in the muscular endurance block at the end. Core stability and hamstrings are typical areas we work on with clients. 

 

Rep Ranges 

If in doubt – keep it simple with rep ranges: 3×3 for power. 5×5 for strength. 3×10-15 for hypertrophy. 3×15+ for the high rep work at the end, or isometric work where you hold positions for ~20-30s. Around 1-4 minute intervals are great (and painful!) for conditioning at the end.

 

Rest periods 

This is important, however it can often be over complicated. As a general rule: Strength sets 3-5 minutes rest between sets

Hypertrophy: 60-90s between sets 

Pump: 60s and under. 

For conditioning: a 1:1 work:rest ratio is a good starting point – for example work for 2 minutes, rest for 2 minutes (provided you work hard). In our experience, rest intervals take care of themselves provided you are working hard in the gym. 

Generally we suggest that you rest as long as you need between sets to achieve the required number of reps.

 

Warm ups 

Do what you need to do to be warm and ready for the session. Mobility, Rolling, and activation are all key.

 

It depends 

Everyone is different. We all have different bodies, fitness levels, training targets…There is no rule or training method that is set in stone. There will be times when you will probably break each of these rules and this is fine. 

 

Summing up

 

There are many different ways to train, and with this template, we hope that you can start utilising different methods of training, and start seeing some great progress. Obviously exercise programming, and periodisation is a very broad topic, and this is a very simplified approach where we haven’t discussed concepts such as linear periodisation, progressive overload, etc. However, having this structure of training in place, alongside an element of self regulation for sets and reps, is a very good place to start, especially for a beginner or even many intermediates who often train in a random way.

 

If you have more specific questions then please feel free to message us. We program athletes all over the world, and would be happy to discuss your training needs with you.

 

Until next time.

 

Dabbs Fitness

 

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