Superhuman Strength: A 2 Stage Plan To Get Strong Fast

Feeling weak? Feel weak no longer! Muscle & Strength has put together the ultimate plan to get you strong as quickly as possible.

Muscle & Strength Presents: Superhuman Strength

Right now you feel hopeless. You feel weak and pathetic. You've tried and tried and tried, but you can't seem to get any stronger. Well don't give up quite yet, because I have a plan just for you. This plan involves 2 stages:

Before we get started you have to understand a few things. Strength training isn't for the weak. Sure, you might be physically weak right now, but that's now what I'm talking about. To make great strength gains you have to be mentally tough. It was my goal to make this program as easy as possible, while still being explosively effective. Easy is a relative term.

During the 2 stages of this plan, you will not be beaten down with volume training, or forced to do anything ridiculous like squatting on a bosu ball. This is not a gimmicky strength building approach. This approach focuses on basic, core, tried and true strength building lifts and practices. But despite the relative simplicity of the Superhuman Strength Plan, it will be mentally challenging.

You may want to quit. You may want to skip workouts. You way want to give less than 100% on some sets. You may want to ignore the diet advice. You may want to insert in some of your favorite lifts. You may want to insert in complicated strength building principles and advice from another trainer. My advice - don't. Simply don't.

Don't quit. Don't skip workouts. Don't skip meals. Don't give anything less than 110% on every set. Don't change the program. And last but not least, don't lie to yourself and pretend that you are following the program as designed if you are not. I want you to get strong. Physical strength does not stand along - it walks side by side with mental toughness.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

Don't give anything less than 110% on every set.

Foundations Of The Superhuman Strength Plan

There is nothing new under the sun. I did not invent the tools and principles used in this plan, I merely pieced them together in my own way. I recommend that you broaden your horizons and read everything you can from John Christy, Mark Rippetoe and Doug Hepburn. Each of these men shaped my love for the iron immensely, and they will impact you as well.

The foundations of this plan are as follows:

  • Simplicity. Strength training is about getting stronger in an efficient manner. This means that in many ways, you will not be training like a bodybuilder. Resist the urge to bodybuildify strength training. If you eat correctly, you will gain muscle as well as strength - and you will not need 7 exercises for every small body part to do so.
  • 4 Primary Lifts. You will be training 4 times per week, focusing on one of the following lifts each day: squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press (military press or seated BTN press). Other important lifts include barbell rows, pullups, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, front squats, barbell curls and the close grip bench press.
  • Rest. Rest 2 to 5 minutes between heavy, taxing sets. There is no need to jump from set to set. Regain your composure before lifting again. For supplementary exercises that are performed in bodybuilding-style ranges of 6 to 10 reps, rest 90 to 120 seconds between sets.
  • Diet. To maximize strength gains you need to eat properly. I have provided 2 diet options - A GOMAD option (gallon of milk a day), and a non-GOMAD option for those of you that dislike drinking milk. Keep in mind that I am neither trying to keep you lean nor make you immensely overweight. You will gain some bodyfat on this plan, as well as plenty of muscle. If you want to know how to get strong while keeping your 6-pack - well, let's just say it's hard enough for the average Joe to get a six pack. If staying lean is a primary goal, I suggest sticking with more of a bodybuilding style training and diet approach.
  • Form. Good form is essential when focusing on strength. Never stop learning! It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into proper exercise form. Suffice it to say that if you do now know what good exercise form is for the major lifts, you should spend several weeks learning that exercise before starting this program. No lifter ever masters form. As the weight gets heavier and heavier, new form challenges arise. I will say it again - never stop working on your form.

One last note before we begin. I am sorry to say that this is not a program that can easily be performed at home, unless you have a nice home gym setup and a squat rack. Therefore, unless you can perform all of the listed exercises in the program, I wouldn't recommend trying this program. Once you start swapping out exercises, you lose the heart and soul of this program. Simply stated, if you change the program, I can't guarantee it's effectiveness.

Stage 1: Fast Start - Linear Progression

Squat for overall strength.Linear progression is a straight forward means of adding weight to lifts. Each week you will add a specified amount of weight for each exercise performed. During Stage 1 you will be performing 3 sets of 8 reps on all 4 major lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press and bench press).

At some point during this progression, you will be unable to complete 8 reps for all 3 sets. At this time you will continue to use the same linear progressional scheme, but will switch to 3 sets of 5 reps. Continue to progress in weight, and when you can no longer complete 3 sets of 5 reps, switch to 4 sets of 3 reps. Continue to use linear progression.

Once you are unable to perform 4 sets of 3 reps, you are at the end of Stage 1 for that particular lift. At this time, you will begin to use the Stage 2 progression approach for that lift, and that lift only. Here is a summary of the 8/5/3 method:

  • 3 sets of 8 reps. Continue using linear progression until you can no longer perform 3 sets of 8 reps. Do NOT perform more than 8 reps on any set. When you can no longer complete 3 sets of 8 reps, move to 3 sets of 5 reps.
  • 3 sets of 5 reps. Continue using linear progression until you can no longer perform 3 sets of 5 reps. Do NOT perform more than 5 reps on any set. When you can no longer complete 3 sets of 5 reps, move to 4 sets of 3 reps.
  • 4 sets of 3 reps. Continue using linear progression until you can no longer perform 4 sets of 3 reps. Do NOT perform more than 3 reps on any set. When you can no longer complete 4 sets of 3 reps for a lift, begin Stage 2 for that lift.

Linear Progression Scheme

Lifts are placed into 3 categories: major lifts, accessory lifts and minor lifts. Each of these categories follows a seperate progressional scheme, with the primary - and most important - focus of this stage being major lifts. Adhere to the following linear progression approaches during Stage 1:

  • Major Lift - Squats and Deadlift. Add 10 pounds per week.
  • Major Lift - Bench Press and Overhead Press. Add 5 pounds per week.
  • Accessory Lift - Rep ranges are 6 to 10. When you can perform 10 reps for ALL 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the lift.
  • Minor Lift - Minor lifts are performed in the 10 to 15 rep range. When you can perform 15 reps for ALL 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the lift.

What weight do I start with?

For the major lifts, start with a weight that allows you to perform one set of approximately 15 reps. This might seem like a "low" level to start at, but for beginners it will work just fine. Remember that you will be aggressively adding weight week by week, so if the first several weeks seem too light, consider it a break in period.

For accessory lifts, chose a weight that allows you to perform approximately 10 reps. Because accessory lifts focus on performance based progression, there is no reason to start lighter than this.

For minor lifts, begin with a weight that allows you to perform approximately 15 reps. Minor lifts are also performance based, so don't try to start too heavy or light.

How long will I stay on Stage 1?

In general, Stage 1 will last no longer than 4-5 months per lift, unless you are a beast and/or a genetically gifted athlete. If you start with a 135 pound squat and stall at 275 x 4 sets x 3 reps, you will have been on the program for about 4 months. Many of you will stall sooner than this.

Do not be concerned with the length of time you are on Stage 1. The goal isn't to remain on it as long as possible. The goal is to get as strong as possible. Work as hard as you can, and let the chips fall where they may. Stage 1 is merely a primer to get your strength up to speed as fast as possible. Stage 2 is where the real work begins - beginners gains are gone, and it will be time to get to work!

Do not be concerned with the length of time you are on Stage 1.

The Stage 1 Workout

I can't stress this enough...do not change or tweak this workout. It works if you work it. There will be plenty of time to add in your favorite lifts at a later date. You do NOT need to add in 9 sets for biceps twice a week. Use this program, eat correctly, and trust in the process.

Monday
Deadlift Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift (Major) 3 8
Barbell Rows (Accessory) 3 6-10
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down (Accessory) 3 6-10
Barbell Curls (Accessory) 3 6-10
Tuesday
Bench Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press (Major) 3 8
Close Grip Bench Press (Accessory) 3 6-10
Dips or Dumbbell Bench Press (Accessory) 3 6-10
Dumbbell Side Bends (Minor) 3 6-10
Thursday
Squat Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat (Major) 3 8
Romanian Deadlift (Accessory) 3 6-10
Standing Barbell Calf Raise (Minor) 3 10-15
Weighted Sit Up (Minor) 3 10-15
Friday
Overhead Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press (Major) 3 8
Upright Row (Accessory) 3 6-10
Bent Over Reverse Fly (Minor) 3 10-15
Hanging Leg Raise (Minor) 3 10-15

Notes:

Overhead Press - You may any popular variations of the overhead press: military press, seated military press, or seated behind the neck press.

Dips - Perform dips if possible. If you can't perform dips, use dumbbell bench presses instead.

Pull Ups - Perform pull ups if possible. If you can't perform pull ups, use lat pull downs instead.

Stage 2: Consistent Progress - Single Rep Progression

Never waste a set.During Stage 2 you will following a simple progressional pattern for each of the major 4 lifts. This approach will allow you to add over 80 pounds to your squat and deadlift each year, and at least 40 pounds to your bench press and overhead press each year.

Stage 2 Starting Weight

To determine the weight to start at for Stage 2 Major Lifts, take the weight you ended Stage 1 with, and subtract 20 pounds. You will be starting slightly lighter but performing more sets.

By the time you have completed Stage 1, you should have very respectable lift totals. Even if your totals are no where near where you had hoped them to be, don't worry. You have put in the time and effort, and are now ready to move from intermediate to advanced lifter.

Stage 2 can be run as long as you'd like, and as long as it's working. During Stage 2 you will learn much about your body, and over time you will be able to make workout tweaks and changes that are needed. I do not advocate rushing out to make changes when they are not yet needed or required. Once again, adding in too much bicep work before you can squat 350 and bench 250 isn't the wisest of moves.

Stage 2 Single Rep Progression

During Stage 2, each major lift will follow a 6 week cycle. This cycle is detailed below. Rest 2 to 3 minutes between sets for major lifts. After you finish a 6 week cycle for squat or deadlift, add 10 pounds to the bar and begin the cycle again. After you complete a 6 week cycle for bench press or overhead press, add at least 5 pounds to the bar and begin the cycle again.

  • Week 1 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,2,2,2,2,2
  • Week 2 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,3,2,2,2,2
  • Week 3 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,3,3,2,2,2
  • Week 4 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,3,3,3,2,2
  • Week 5 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,3,3,3,3,2
  • Week 6 Major Lift Rep Scheme - 3,3,3,3,3,3

Continue using this progressional scheme until you fail on a rep. At that time you may need to explore micro-loading, or a more advanced strength training workout. With that said, it may be several years before you reach failure using this system of progression. Do NOT quite immediately upon failing on a single set. Make several more attempts on subsequent workouts to continue this program.

For minor and accessory lifts, continue to use the same progression strategy used in Stage 1. If stalls occur, don't be concerned. Keep pushing, but don't give up on an exercise.

Strains and Pains

This can be a very intense style of training. It is OK to take a few days off from training here or there is your body is feeling beat up. If you feel like you need a lighter week, I recommend dropping the weight by 30% and simply taking a deload week using the same rep schemes.

Good Mornings

During Stage 2 the good morning is introduced. Good mornings are an amazing strength building exercise that assist both the squat and deadlift. Understand that powerlifting/strength style good mornings are not the same as bodybuilding-style good mornings. Begin with a stance slightly wider than your squat stance. With a tight back, move your hips slowly backwards while lowering the barbell forward and down. Make sure your knees are slightly bent at the beginning of this movement. It is OK to sink your hips a bit while lowering the weight. Don't try to bring your body parallel to the ground. It's better to lower the weight to approximately 45 degrees.

I strongly advice doing some research on powerlifting style good mornings during Stage 1 training. It's also a good idea to practice this exercise with a very light weight during Stage 1. If you are uncomfortable with good mornings, don't rush to add weight. Practice your form until you feel comfortable with the movement and then start pushing yourself.

The Stage 2 Workout

As mentioned previously, when you come to the end of Stage 1, you will simply swap in the Stage 2 workout for that lift. You do NOT move all 4 lifts to Stage 2.

Monday
Deadlift Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift (Major) 6 *2-3*
Front Squat (Accessory) 3 6-10
Barbell Rows (Accessory) 3 6-10
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down (Accessory) 3 6-10
Barbell Curls (Accessory) 3 6-10
Tuesday
Bench Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press (Major) 6 *2-3*
Close Grip Bench Press (Accessory) 3 6-10
Dips or Dumbbell Bench Press (Accessory) 3 6-10
Skullcrushers (Accessory) 3 6-10
Dumbbell Side Bends (Minor) 3 6-10
Thursday
Squat Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat (Major) 6 *2-3*
Good Mornings (Accessory) 3 6-10
Romanian Deadlift (Accessory) 3 6-10
Standing Barbell Calf Raise (Minor) 3 10-15
Weighted Sit Up (Minor) 3 10-15
Friday
Overhead Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press (Major) 6 *2-3*
Seated Dumbbell Press (Accessory) 3 6-10
Barbell Shrugs (Accessory) 3 6-10
Bent Over Reverse Fly (Minor) 3 10-15
Hanging Leg Raise (Minor) 3 10-15

Strength Building Diet

There are many ways to approach healthy eating. It is not my intention to turn this section into an in-depth analysis of popular diet plans. Suffice it to say that if you don't eat enough, you make it harder to gain strength. I strongly urge you to try to GOMAD approach, at least during Stage 1. GOMAD stands for "gallon of milk a day." Stated better, it means you drink one gallon of whole milk per day. Not skim milk or 2%. WHOLE milk.

GOMAD Diet

The GOMAD diet plan is simple. You eat three square meals per day, and one gallon of whole milk. One gallon is 16 cups. So if you are thinking in terms of a bodybuilding style diet, this is about 2-3 cups every 2.5 to 3 hours.

Your whole food meals should be nutritious and healthy. A sample breakfast could be oatmeal, some fruit and a big cheese omelet. Make sure that your largest whole foods meal is the meal that follows training. I also highly suggest that you try to make every meal a balanced meal, and eat some form of healthy carbs and protein. And don't forget your fruits and veggies. Finally, don't avoid beef. Beef is the king of protein foods. There is no need to live on chicken breasts and broccoli.

What if you feel hungry? Snack! Munch on some almonds or dark chocolate. Have a sandwich made with natural peanut butter. Or if you have a real hard time gaining weight, eat some ice cream before bed. I would also tell hardgainers that they should not shy away from buffets. Eat, eat and eat.

if you undereat, you will make is very difficult to gain strength.

Not-GOMAD Diet

For those of you that can't - or won't - drink a gallon of milk per day, you need to do your homework. By this I mean you must watch the scale, and make sure you are eating enough to gain weight. I strongly recommend eating 500 calories above maintenance levels (or more). If you have no clue what daily calorie level allows you to maintain your current weight, here is my suggestion:

  • Required Daily Calories - Eat 3500 calories per day for 2 weeks. If you don't gain any weight, add 500 more to this total for the next 2 weeks. In a perfect world you would like to gain at least a pound or two per month.

As I have stated previously, I'm not trying to make you overweight. But if you undereat, you will make is very difficult to gain strength or muscle. Our goal is to eat enough so you make great strength gains. If you are gaining weight too rapidly, make dietary adjustments. If you are eating mostly healthy, it will be hard to gain too much fat unless you have an incredibly slow metabolism.

Non-GOMADians may also want to consider the option of drinking only a half gallon of whole milk per day.