If you want to get big and strong in minimal time, you really only need to focus on three moves: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. That's what powerlifters do.
In powerlifting, competitors vie to lift the heaviest weight possible for one rep. They don't specifically train to get huge muscles, but they still end up being massive. The guys in the lighter weight classes are often pretty lean, too, since the muscle they've built through heavy training helps them burn more fat. No matter your fitness goal, training like a powerlifter is a great start.
How It Works
Getting stronger on the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift has a trickle-down effect to every other exercise you can do. In this workout, you'll start each training session with one of the three lifts, paired with an exercise that helps better activate the muscles used for it (such as the band thigh abduction in Workout I).
This combination will make your sets on the main lift that much more effective—and safer as well. Then you'll go on to do assistance exercises that bolster the muscles you've trained on the main lift. You should notice your ability to go heavier on the assistance lifts steadily improving as the workout goes on.
After eight weeks, test your one-rep maximum (the heaviest load you can lift for one rep) on the three big lifts so you can gauge your progress. We're betting you'll have made significant strength gains there as well.
Frequency: Perform each workout once per week, resting at least a day between each session.
Time Needed: 45 - 60 minutes
How To Do It:
Perform exercise pairs (marked a and b) in alternating fashion. So you'll do one set of a, rest, then one set of b, and repeat for the prescribed sets. The set and rep prescriptions for Week 1 and Week 5 are described in full.
Each week, the sets and reps will change slightly. The exercises change too after Week 5. Simply follow the sets and reps for the corresponding exercise (1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc). All three workouts are organized the same. Except where otherwise noted, choose a weight that allows you two or three more reps on your first set than the number that's prescribed, but do only the prescribed reps. For example, a set calling for 10 reps should be done with a weight that you can really do for 12 or 13 reps with good form, but perform only 10. On subsequent sets as you fatigue, you'll find that just doing the prescribed reps is more challenging.
In Weeks 4 and 8, you will deload, performing the workouts with much less intensity. None of these sets should feel very difficult. Just do the workout with lighter weights.
For week 9, after a few days of rest, you can re-test your 1RM on the big three exercises in one session. Once you've found these numbers, you can repeat the program with the goal of beating them.
Note: Weeks 1 and 5 are described in full. Just follow the links below. For Weeks 2-4 and 6-9 follow the links to their 'Variations'.