You’ve heard it your whole life. To get in shape, burn fat, and build muscle, you have to “feel the burn.” This means doing lots of reps and cutting your rest between sets very short so you feel your muscles ache. This approach has its value, but it’s lacking in one key area—it will never get you strong. Instead, follow this program for the next six weeks: You’ll break all your records on lifts and add slabs of muscle, and you’ll do it, mostly, with sets of only one rep.

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HOW IT WORKS

Getting bull strong isn’t just good for the ego. Stronger muscles are generally bigger muscles with a greater capacity for work. Maximum strength training also thickens your bones and connective tissues, making them less susceptible to common injuries, especially as you get older. The best and quickest way to get superstrong is to lift the heaviest weights possible—loads that you can only manage about one rep with. It may not sound like much work, but heavy training is exhausting, just in a different way from the higher-volume pump training you’re probably accustomed to. Doing sets of one rep won’t cause the burning you feel doing 8–12 reps on curls, but it will take your full concentration. Still, because the sets are short and you need to rest fully between them to recover, it’s a relatively comfortable and fun way to train, and the satisfaction you’ll get from seeing your lifts improve dramatically over time will be a powerful motivator to keep going.

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DIRECTIONS

Perform each workout (Day I, II, III, and IV) once per week. For the paired exercises (marked “A” and “B”), complete one set of A, rest as prescribed, then do a set of B, rest again, and repeat for all sets. For the first exercise on Days I and II, work up to the heaviest weight you can handle for one rep with perfect form. This should take at least seven sets. Begin with an empty bar and complete 10 reps. Then add weight gradually, performing sets of 3–5 reps until the load feels heavy. Then perform sets of one rep until you reach a weight that’s very near your max. Be sure to use a spotter or perform your sets in a power rack with spotter bars in place. Change the main lift you perform each week to something similar. For example, you can switch the bench press to an incline bench press or floor press; you can substitute a squat or box squat for the deadlift. Skip the main lift in Week 4. Repeat the bench press and deadlift after five weeks and note the improvement. The remaining exercises are performed for higher reps to build muscle and conditioning and support the main lifts. You can experiment with the number of sets and reps you perform (hence the ranges) as well as the weight you use.

BEGIN WORKOUT [PAGE 2]

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DAY I

1. Bench Press
Sets and Reps: See directions Rest: As needed 
Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and arch your back. Squeeze the bar hard and pull it out of the rack and lower it to your sternum, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides. When the bar touches your body, drive your feet into the floor and press the bar back up.

2A. Overhead Press
Sets: See below Reps:Rest: 60 sec.
Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and hold it at shoulder level with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Brace your abs and glutes. Press the bar overhead, pushing your head through once the bar clears it. Do sets of 5 until you reach the heaviest load you can use for 5 strict reps.

2B. Chinup
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Grasp a chinup bar underhand at shoulder width. Hang from the bar, then pull yourself up. If you can’t perform the reps, do lat pulldowns instead.

3. Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Set an adjustable bench  to a 30- to 45-degree incline and lie on it chest down. Grasp a light dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms out 90 degrees.

4. EZ-bar Curl
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Hold an EZ-bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your upper arms still and curl.

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DAY II

1. Deadlift
Sets and Reps: See directions Rest: As needed
Stand with feet about hip-width apart. Bend your hips back and bend your knees to reach down and grasp the bar so your hands are just outside your knees. Keeping your lower back arched, drive your heels into the floor and pull the bar up along your shins until you’re standing with hips extended and the bar in front of your thighs.

2Barbell Hip Thrust
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 5–8 Rest: 60–90 sec.
Rest your upper back on a bench and sit on the floor with your legs extended. Roll a loaded barbell up your thighs until the bar sits on your lap. Bend your knees, brace your abs, and drive your heels into the floor to extend your hips and raise them until your back and butt are parallel with the floor.

3. Single-leg RDL
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 (each side) Rest: 60 sec.
Stand on your right leg and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Push your hips back as far as you can and let your left leg drift behind you. Keep your lower back arched and let your knee bend as needed while you allow your torso to move toward the floor. Go as low as you can and hold for one second.

4. One-arm Dumbbell Row
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 (each side) Rest: 60 sec.
Rest your left knee and hand on a bench and grasp a dumbbell with your right hand. Let the weight hang straight down. Retract your shoulder and row the dumbbell to your side. On the second set, choose a heavy weight and “cheat” it up using body English.

5.Ab Rollout
Sets: 3 Reps: As many as possible Rest: 60 sec.
Use an ab wheel or load a barbell with 10-pound plates and kneel on the floor behind it. Your shoulders should be over the bar. Brace your abs and roll the bar forward, reaching in front of you until you feel your hips are about to sag. Roll yourself back.

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DAY III


 

1A. Incline Dumbbell Press
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Press the weights directly over your chest.

1B. Incline Dumbbell Row
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Set an adjustable bench to a 30- to 45-degree angle and lie on it chest down. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and draw your shoulder blades back and together as you row the weights to your sides.

2. Leaning Lateral Raise
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Hold onto a sturdy object for support with your left hand. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and lean away from your anchor point. Raise the weight until your arm is parallel with the floor.

3A. Cross-body Hammer Curl
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 0 sec.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing your sides. Curl one arm in front of your body and toward the opposite shoulder so that your palm ends up facing your chest at the top of the movement.

3B. Triceps Pushdown
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and grasp an end in each hand. Keeping your elbows tight against your sides, extend your arms  downward.

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DAY IV


1. Box Jump
Sets: 3 Reps: Rest: 90 sec.
Set up a box or other platform that’s challenging to jump onto. Stand behind the box with feet hip-width apart and swing your arms back as you bend your hips to gather momentum. Jump up onto the box and land as softly as possible. Step down from the box and begin the next rep.

2. Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15
Stand lunge length in front of a bench and hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is horizontal.

3. Leg Curl 
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15
Lie chest down on a leg curl machine and line your knees up with the axis of rotation. Bend your knees and curl the pad until your hamstrings are fully contracted.

4. Inverted Row
Sets: 3–5 Reps: 8–15
Set a barbell in a power rack (or use a Smith machine) at about hip height. Lie underneath it and grab it with hands about shoulder-width apart. Hang from the bar so your body forms a straight line. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up until your back is fully contracted.

5. Pallof Press Iso Hold
Sets: 3 Reps: Hold for 30 sec.
Attach a single-grip handle to a shoulder-height cable pulley. Grasp the handle with both hands and stand sideways with feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you. The cable will try to twist your body toward it. Resist.

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