With the internet now a days being as busy as it is, there’s about a million different training programs out there you can download for free and start putting to use today. This is good because it makes it that much easier to get into weight training/working out and more people will open that door because of it. The real problem we run into is the fact that most people don’t know what they’re looking at when they download that program from bodybuilding.com or they don’t know what it will do for them. As complex as some programs out there may be, the base of most of them are somewhat similar. Even the strongest men in the world who train at Westside Barbell with the infamous Louie Simmons follow a training program with a lot of these same characteristics we’ll be going over. The only difference is that they know what exercises they need to do in order to get stronger in a certain area and increase the amount of weight on the bar for their squat, bench or deadlift. Stop wandering around the gym aimlessly from machine to machine, exercise to exercise, and figure out what it is you want to do and form a plan to do it. Here’s a few simple steps you can follow when structuring your own strength program in order to keep making progress and target those weaker areas so your bigger lifts can skyrocket.

1. Don’t Neglect Your Mobility.
I know this isn’t technically a part of the “training program” but it’s overlooked by so many people (mostly dudes) and is one of the top reasons why progress comes to a screeching halt. If you lack the mobility to hit the correct depth on your back squat, it makes it near impossible to continue to add weight to the bar when you don’t have full range of motion. Same goes for the shoulder press, deadlift, etc. etc. So do more mobilizing if you want to be stronger. Go now.

2. Pick Your Lift of the Day
Ideally each day you’re in the gym you will be dedicating your time to one major lift to start off with. This can include a squat, press, deadlift – a main lift with a barbell. Depending on your goal and what you’re trying to do, your sets and reps may vary with the lift. If you were trying to increase overall strength I would start with 3-5 sets of 5 reps on the main exercise and try to increase the weight by 5lbs per week. Not 5lbs on each side, 5lbs total. Try to stick at the same weight for every set and keep every rep as perfect as you can. The first rep on each set should look damn near close to the last one, just because it’s heavy doesn’t mean our form falls apart. I would also suggest staggering the days in which you train a lift, so if you’re doing squats on Monday, try for a press on Tuesday, then maybe a deadlift on Wednesday, a different press on Thursday, and then another squat on Friday. Record the weights you do each day so you can up the weights the following week and monitor your progress.

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3. Accessorize
No we’re not going shopping. After your main lift it’s time to put some work in and pick some exercises that are going to compliment the main lift you just completed. Don’t just hit chest and shoulders because that’s what everyone else is doing. Is it helping you put more weight on the bench, or just getting you incredibly sore? Once the main lift is complete we need to target our weaker areas that are holding us back in that main lift in order to keep progressing. So if we just finished up our squats for the day, and we knew that our hamstrings were weak, it would be in our best interest to do some hamstring strengthening exercises afterwards. Movements like good mornings, RDL’s, hamstring curls, and so on. After that we might follow it up with some glute accessory work to include exercises such as Bulgarian split squats, lunges, goblet squats etc etc. And then usually to finish off we’ll hit some abs as well not because we want that shiny 6 pack – but because we depend on our midline strength to help us hold the weight on our shoulders when we’re pushing heavy weight. Ever poke a powerlifters belly? Rock hard. The same thing goes for any other main lift, we’ll take the press for example. Once you’re done all your sets of the shoulder press you might follow it up with some targeted pec or delt work by doing some form of dumbbell presses either seated or laying down. After that you might work on your upper back and do some bent over rows, lat pulldowns, seated rows etc etc, and then of course hit some abs.

When it boils down to it, the skeleton of the program is very simple: start with a main lift of desired sets/reps depending on your goal, then follow it up with accessory exercises that target the areas of your body that need the most work in order to help compliment that main lift. You can do anywhere from 3-6 accessory exercises after the main lift depending on how many sets/reps there are and how much time you have, but I would limit time in the gym to 60 – 90 minutes at best. Set some goals, make a plan based off those goals and stick to it. If you’re lost on where to start, you can click the link below for a sample weekly layout of a strength program.