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The best damn strength-building plan for natural trainers

Der verdammt beste Kraftaufbauplan für natural Trainierende

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I've already written 2 articles about the best damn training plan for natural exercisers and even though users of these programs consistently reported good strength gains, the focus of these programs was on building muscle mass.

But what about maximum strength? That's what this plan is all about. I'll get into the details in a moment, but first I want to review some basics.

What all steroid-free exercisers should know

If you're a steroid-free exerciser, then you've probably tried many advanced training programs and found that they didn't do much for you. Here are a few reasons why this has been the case:

1. the biggest enemy of a steroid-free exerciser is cortisol

This is especially true when cortisol levels are chronically elevated. Cortisol can significantly limit muscle growth by increasing protein/muscle breakdown and reducing protein synthesis. It can also slow growth by increasing myostatin activation.

Myostatin is the gene that limits the amount of muscle you can build. The more it is activated, the less muscle your body will be able to carry around. This means that excessive cortisol levels can limit your muscle growth potential.

2. training volume is what stimulates cortisol release the most

The main function of cortisol during physical activity is to mobilize energy for the training session. The more energy you need, the more cortisol is released. And of course you need more energy if the training volume is higher. The moral of the story? Steroid-free exercisers can't do as much volume as chemically assisted exercisers and expect to grow optimally.

3. steroid-free exercisers cannot artificially increase protein synthesis

They do not benefit from the advantages of anabolic drugs, so their bodies must rely almost exclusively on training sessions (and diet) to stimulate protein synthesis. Under normal circumstances, protein synthesis in a trained muscle is increased for 24 hours after training. After this it drops back to normal.

If a steroid-free exerciser trains a muscle only once a week, muscle growth will be quite slow because the period during which protein synthesis is increased in a muscle is relatively short. A steroid-free exerciser will achieve more muscle growth if he can train a muscle twice or even three times a week.

4. volume and frequency are inversely proportional to each other

The more often you train, the lower the volume per training session should be if you want to build muscle or strength. The basic principles for steroid-free exercisers are therefore the following:

  • Train each muscle group more frequently - ideally three times a week - to stimulate protein synthesis more often.
  • Keep the volume low to maintain a higher training frequency
  • As the number of work sets will be low, you should train harder
  • Use different training methods to induce growth through several different mechanisms.

With all this information in mind, it's time to look at the plan.

Weekly breakdown

This plan consists of 6 workouts per week. Each of these workouts includes one heavy exercise:

  • Squats
  • Bench press
  • deadlift
  • Barbell shoulder press
  • Rowing or pull-ups

Three of these workouts (the squat, bench press and shoulder press workouts) include a heavy assistance exercise, followed by three less strenuous exercises for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

The other three workouts (the deadlift, row or pull-up based workouts) do not include a heavy assistance exercise and instead include three or four less strenuous exercises.

The weekly plan is as follows:

Monday - Press/squats

  • Heavy squats
  • One squat assistance exercise (heavy)
  • One less strenuous exercise for the chest muscles (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the triceps (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the shoulder muscles (hypertrophy)

Tuesday - Pulling

  • Heavy rowing
  • A less strenuous exercise for the leg flexors (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the latissimus (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the middle back/trapezius (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the biceps (hypertrophy)

Wednesday - Press/bench press

  • Heavy bench press
  • A heavy support exercise for the bench press
  • A less strenuous exercise for the quadriceps (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the shoulder muscles (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the triceps (hypertrophy)

Thursday - Deadlift

  • Heavy deadlift
  • A less strenuous exercise for the latissimus (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the middle back/trapezius (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the biceps (hypertrophy)

Friday - Press/shoulder press

  • Heavy barbell shoulder press
  • A heavy support exercise for the shoulder press
  • A less strenuous exercise for the chest muscles (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the quadriceps (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the triceps (hypertrophy)

Saturday - Pull-ups

  • Heavy pull-ups
  • A less strenuous exercise for the hamstrings (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the latissimus (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the middle back/trapezius (hypertrophy)
  • A less strenuous exercise for the biceps (hypertrophy)

Sunday - no training

The exercise categories

This plan includes three exercise categories:

  1. Exercises focused on heavy weights: Squats, rows, bench presses, deadlifts, barbell shoulder presses, pull-ups. These exercises are trained with heavier training methods.
  2. The supporting exercises: Supporting exercises for squats, bench presses and shoulder presses. These exercises are trained using a fairly heavy method, but not as heavy as the exercises in the first category.
  3. Hypertrophy training: This requires lighter methods that focus on stimulating muscle growth.

Each of these categories uses several methods, which are described below.

Methods focused on heavy training

This method is based on Jim Wendler. You use a given percentage of your 1RM weight while performing the exercise technically correct. After warming up, you perform a set with as many repetitions as possible.

However, you do not go to muscle failure, but end the set when you know that you will probably not be able to complete the next repetition. The program uses a 3 week wave where you increase the weight by 2.5% each week. Then you lower the weight again and start the next 3 week wave.

  • Week 1: 85%
  • Week 2: 87.5%
  • Week 3: 90%
  • Week 4: 87.5%
  • Week 5: 90%
  • Week 6: 92.5%
  • Week 7: 90%
  • Week 8: 92.5%
  • Week 9: 95%
  • Week 10: 92.5%
  • Week 11: 95
  • Week 12: 97.5%

Note: If you decide to continue with this approach after 12 weeks, you should test your 1 RM weight again and start a new cycle with adjusted weights.

Strength technique training

With this training method, you perform a greater amount of non-maximal work. This is primarily to improve your neurological efficiency. The key here is to ensure that every repetition is perfect. You perform several sets of work with a fairly heavy weight (82.5 to 87.5% of your 1RM weight), finishing each set a few reps before reaching muscle failure. To make these sets effective you focus on technique and try to accelerate the weight as much as possible during the eccentric (lifting) phase of the repetition.

Again, we use a 3 week wave during which the weight is fixed but the volume is changed. After a wave you increase the weight and reduce the volume back to the starting value.

  • Week 1: 82.5% 5 x 2
  • Week 2: 82.5% 5 x 3
  • Week 3: 82.5% 5 x 4
  • Week 4: 85% 5 x 2
  • Week 5: 85% 5 x 3
  • Week 6: 85% 5 x 4
  • Week 7: 87.5% 5 x 2
  • Week 8: 87.5% 5 x 3
  • Week 9: 87.5% 5 x 4
  • Week 10: 90% 5 x 2
  • Week 11: 90% 5 x 3
  • Week 12: 90% 5 x 4

Note: If you decide to continue with this approach after 12 weeks, you should test your 1 RM weight again and start a new cycle with adjusted weights.

When calculating the weight for pull-ups, you must include your body weight in the calculation. If you weigh 90 kilos and your maximum additional weight is 20 kilos, then the weight moved is 110 kilos. If you should use 82.5% of your 1RM weight, then this is 90.75 kilos, which means that you should use a 1.25 kilo disc as additional weight.

If you did not calculate your body weight, then you would calculate 82.5% of 20 kilos, which is 16.5 kilos and would be far too heavy for the prescribed volume.

Supportive training using the rest/pause technique

You perform your work sets with a weight with which you can complete 4 to 6 repetitions. You perform as many technically correct repetitions as possible. Your goal is to perform twice as many repetitions with this weight. To achieve this, you use short rest intervals.

Let's say you do 5 reps on the first round. This means that you should perform 10 total repetitions in your set. After the first 5 reps, rest for 15 seconds. After that, you may be able to do 3 more repetitions. This means that you have to do 2 more repetitions. For this you pause for another 15 seconds, after which you should be able to complete the last two repetitions.

Hypertrophy methods

mTOR sets

The key here is how you perform each repetition. An emphasis on the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement and stretching under load are the types of contractions that will increase mTOR activation the most. In this method you will therefore proceed as follows:

  • Lower the weight over a 5 second period while keeping the target muscle contracted as hard as possible the entire time.
  • Hold the position of maximum extension/stretch for 2 seconds per repetition
  • Perform 6 to 8 repetitions in this way, holding the maximum stretch for as long as possible on the last repetition.
  • You will only perform one set using this technique.

Heavy myo repetitions

For maximum muscle fiber exhaustion, use the Myo reps method developed by Borge Fargerly. This is a form of rest/pause training. You perform a set to muscle failure (or almost to muscle failure), followed by as many 3-repetition microsets with 20 seconds rest between microsets as possible.

If you can only manage 2 repetitions in a microset, stop. You can perform between 6 and 20 repetitions in the initial set, but we will use a weight that allows you to perform 6 to 8 repetitions in this program.

Start by performing as many repetitions as you can with this weight, pause for 20 seconds and then perform 3 more repetitions. Continue in this way until you can only do 2 more repetitions. If you can do more than 5 microsets, then you probably didn't get close enough to the point of muscle failure on the initial set.

In the second part of this article we will look at the training split and the remaining aspects of this training program.


By Christian Thibaudeau

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