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.

Strength
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

Muscle
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.

Power
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

Strength
Deadlift
Push press

Muscle
Pull-up
Dip
Bulgarian split squat

Power
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,
CW

23 thoughts on “Build More Muscle, Strength and Power…at the same time!

  1. Chad

    Some great ideas here. I fully agree with you about the direction training will head. I assume some type of deloading week would be required from time to time?

    Regards
    Colin
    Brisbane Austrlaia

  2. Chad,

    If combining all 3 elements in one session, should the order always (or almost always) follow power first, then strength, then muscle for best results?

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  4. Made some excellent points. I have always favored a hybrid style of training that involves olympic lifting, bodybuilding,powerlifter, track, etc… I find the strategy of finding what is useful for who you work with to be the best way to get results. There is something for everyone that can prvent injury as well.

  5. Great article! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    What do you think of boulder work instead of a medicine ball? How long?
    What about car pushing instead of a sled? Also how long?

  6. Lifting boulders, or any other odd shaped object, is a superb way to train.

    I’ll give more specifics in future posts with regard to training parameters.

    @CB

  7. this workout looks great but i have a few question :
    how long should we rest between the exercises ?
    how many times a week should we do the hybrid workout ?
    and what do you think about plyometrics and clean and jerk exercises for the power training ?

  8. Chad,
    How do you feel about splitting this into a two-a-day plan, 3x per week? Strength in the AM and muscle/power in the PM, keeping the 15 rep and 25 rep loading parameters for the strength and muscle and using 1 or 2 power movements following a 3 movement total body in the PM.

  9. Thanks for the posts Chad. I was wondering if you use this type of format for mma/bjj athletes and/or mil/fire/leo personnel. It’s great that you incorporate oly lifting for the strength work. I’m assuming xfit programming would work for the power days (while avoiding overtraining other muscle groups worked in previous days)? Thanks in advance for any feedback!

  10. As always, another great, thought-provoking article. I think you’re dead right about the direction of training. MMA and combat sport has really reached the tipping point and a lot of gym rats who were just into weights have migrated to the wrestling mats – or in some cases started performing power exercises that will help achieve a similar look. I’m with PW: any suggestion on the role plyometrics can play in this new direction the sport is taking? And if so, what sort of exercises (e.g. box jumps etc). Cheers again Chad.
    Dirk

  11. Hey Chad, What do you think of this program?

    Workout A:
    Strength: Pistol Squats
    Muscle/Assistence: EZ Bar Curl, Overhead Triceps Extension
    Power (EDT format: 15 minutes): Kettlebell Swings, Kettlebell Renegade Rows

    Workout: B:
    Strength: Single Leg Deadlift
    Muscle/Assistence: Incline Cable Bench Press, Seated Cable Rows
    Power (EDT format: 15 minutes): Medicine Ball Slams, Medicine Ball Squat and Overhead Throws

    Workout C:
    Strength: Pull Ups and Push Ups
    Muscle/Assistence: Kettlebell Front Squat, Straight Arm Pulldown
    Power (EDT format: 15 minutes): Pullthroughs, Medicine Ball Chest Pass

    Workout D:
    Strength: Glute Hamraise, Ab Wheel Rollout
    Muscle/Assistence: Compound Face Pull/ Standing Cable Press
    Power (EDT format: 15 minutes): Deck Squats/ Burpees plus grounded clap push ups

  12. Chad, a question:

    When figuring out when to stop a set (you recommend 3 in strength, 6 in size) should we stop at failure or to slow down, like you’ve mentioned in other articles?

    I ask because I don’t have gym access and am currently unemployed and can’t buy any more equipment. I’ve got a nice power rack and bench setup, along with an olympic bar and weights (totaling 145 lbs w/bar – lost my job before I could buy more) so the load I’d be using for some lifts might be a tad low. It may be easier for me to stop when my speed slows and I want to be sure that’s still OK with what you’ve described.

    I do, also, have several kettlebells that I can throw into the mix: 2 24kgs and 2 16kgs.

    I’m actually an information technology guy, but haven’t been able to find a job in this sector so I’ve branched out and applied for local law enforcement. I have several months (or more) before I could likely get called in to an academy and I want to go in stronger and able to wipe the floor with people (if they call me that is – in any case, I wanna improve, 2009 wasn’t a great year for me).

    Appreciate all the articles and your time!

    Regards,
    Richard

  13. Great article,
    My current routine is every other day, 32-38 sets plus ten sets core.
    Deads or squat variation 5-8 sets x 3-8reps
    rest 60 sec
    BB bench variations or mil press variation 5-8 x 3-8
    repeat cycle

    compound back- 5-6sets x 5-8reps
    rest 60 sec
    compound shoulder- 5-6 x5-8

    arm movement (bi or tri exercise)
    rest 60 sec
    Dead variation or push press ect… 3-5 x 5-12

    back variation or shoulder variation 3 x 8-12

    core 5 sets decline sit ups with 5 sets leg raise x ten reps

    total time 70-80 mins

    then on days in between I do 30 mins bike to work then 30 mins-one hour home.
    or i will do ten mins running then 10 sets of 30sec sprint intervals with 30 sec rest between sets. then 5 min running 25 total then ten mins of heavy bag work with mountain climbers etc…

    I am currently 6’2″ and 140 lbs and 5% bf, 27 and have been lifting non stop for about 9 years. I come from an endurance background alot more cardio. I have just stopped doing so much cardio (ie two hour rides or 30 min running plus a bike later or a 50 min swim plus an hour bike etc… and i just stoped doing pylos on no lifting days.

    My goals- gain muscle, 140 is underweight, and keep bf% low, with cardio not going to waste.

    Can you recomend an schedule for me to follow I have read your articles for years and help would be appreciated.

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  16. Chad,
    Doesn’t this follow Crossfit layout? Can you give us more examples of each type of exercise?

    John

  17. Chad,
    I love your stuff.
    HIAH is an awesome system!

    I’m agree with your future of training. For me it’s the perfect training for the perfect body!
    What do you think of my program?

    Strength: 15 reps with load progression
    Muscle: 25 reps on week 1, 30 on week 2, 35 on week 3 (total rep progression)
    Conditioning: Finishers

    Week 4: Deloading

    (Sorry for my English, I’am french)

    Seb

    CW: Yes, that plan looks good.

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