Build More Muscle, Strength and Power…at the same time!

A colleague of mine recently asked me what I think the future of training will be. Of course, that’s a loaded question. It depends on who the target market is. I knew, however, that he was talking about the 18-40 year old male population that wants to get bigger, leaner, stronger and more powerful, without the use of steroids.

Given the popularity of combat sports, I think it makes sense that guys will try to emulate what they see on TV. In mixed martial arts (MMA) or football, it’s not enough for a guy to be strong – he must also be big and powerful. Sure, a guy doesn’t need to look like an extra in Gladiator to excel at his sport, but every athlete wants to. Not only is a big, strong, lean body typically more powerful (ie, better at sports), but it’s also more lucrative for landing a big endorsement deal.

In other words, a bigger, leaner, more powerful body = more money. And there’s no better motivation than the almighty dollar.

So, the future of training will consist of programs that build muscle, strength, and power – at the same time. A training trifecta that will metamorphose an average Joe into a muscular warrior. This type of training will help athletes perform better at their sport, and it’ll help non-athletes look like they’re, well, a combat athlete!

The question, of course, is: How can you pull off that trifecta without overtraining?

First, let’s start with the training component. I’ll break up the training parameters into three categories: strength, muscle, and power. The exercises you use are vastly important for getting results in record time. To build strength, you need total body exercises that work your upper body, lower body, and core at the same time. For muscle, compound exercises such as dips, pull-ups, and single leg squats are awesome. And for power, nothing beats pushing a sled, carrying a sandbag, and tossing a medicine ball.

Here’s how it all breaks down.

Exercises: power clean, power snatch, deadlift, push press, etc.
Total reps: 15 per exercise
Load: a weight you can lift a maximum of 3 times for the first set

Exercises: dip, cable chest press or push-up with a weighted vest, chin-up/pull-up, row, Bulgarian split squat, single leg deadlift with dumbbells, single leg hop, etc.
Total reps: 25 per exercise
Load: a weight you can lift a maximum of 6 times for the first set

When training for total body strength or size, I don’t use a typical set/rep sequence such as 5 sets of 5 reps (5×5). Instead, my clients start with a specific load (say, a weight they can lift no more than 6 times for the first set) and they continue using that load for all sets until they reach a target number of reps (eg, 25). That way, they never miss a rep, the load is always right, and they’ll only do as many reps in a set as their body is capable of at that moment. This is the system I devised for my book, Huge in a Hurry.

For power training, however, I use a different approach. Since power exercises consist of complex exercises that force you to work in different planes of movement, it’s difficult to find a true repetition maximum like you could for a deadlift or squat. Furthermore, this type of training depends on explosive, total body movements in order to build speed, increase mobility, and burn fat. The load for power training should be moderately heavy – a weight that challenges you, but still allows you to move explosively.

So instead of focusing on a target number of reps, I have my clients train with all-out effort for a specific timeframe (say, 20 seconds) before they take a quick breather and move to another exercise.

Exercises: sled dragging/pushing, sandbag or heavy medicine ball carry/toss/slam, burpee with a weighted vest, etc.
Duration of each set: 10-30 seconds

There are two ways you can arrange this type of warrior training. First, is to perform a workout for each category. I like to use a 3 on/1 off cycle like this:

Monday: strength
Tuesday: power
Wednesday: muscle
Thursday: off
Friday: repeat the 4-day cycle

The other way is to combine all three categories into one workout. This, of course, is very demanding and only recommended for advanced athletes. However, if you can pull it off, the results can be mind-blowing:

Sample Hybrid Workout

Push press

Bulgarian split squat

Sled pushing
Overhead medicine ball toss

When you combine strength, muscle and power training into one workout, you must limit the number of exercises you do for each category. When you separate the workouts into different days (first example), you can, and should perform more exercises in each session.

Getting plenty of high quality calories, especially in the hour or two after training, is paramount to your success. This type of training is tough, and you’ll get overtrained in no time, unless you constantly feed your body.

Give this type of training a shot, and let me know what you think.

Stay focused,