Programs to Stimulate Size and Strength Gains

TAGS: Rugby Prop Forward, split program, exercise selection options, gain size, isolation movements, gain strength, compound movements, sports performance, Rugby, Ashley Jones

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One of the first tasks I undertake when developing a program for anyone is to assess what the exercise selection options are available to the person at the gym where they regularly train. Developing programs in isolation to this are bound to fail, as substitutions will take place and the integrity of the program will be lost.

For example, this is a chart of the major movements that I would program for from the weight room of the team I currently work with:

Screenshot 2017-09-18 14.53.50

As you can see, it is a very standard list of the most result-producing exercises. As Christian Woodford said in a LinkedIn post recently, there is about 80% commonality of most performance exercise selection in programs around the world of professional sport. Some programming exercise selection charts further divide the upper body into horizontal and vertical components, but for this example,  I have just divided upper body into push or pull. This selection chart works very well with a full body program performed three days per weeks, with a total of six exercises in each session. Of course, you could easily utilize a split program of upper and lower body movements with four exercises per session being equally as productive.

As I travel around and train at commercial gyms, I see so many trainees neglecting the basic result-producing exercises and opt for a more isolation and body part approach to training. As I once heard someone say, “It’s hard to carve a spatchcock,” You have to put some meat on the bones first before you can think about specific isolation movements. Following the above selection charts will allow you to develop considerable levels of size and strength. Some aspirational goals before you consider isolating would be:

 Aspirational Exercise Targets

  • Trap Bar Deadlift: 2.5 x Bodyweight
  • Box Squat: 2.5 x Bodyweight
  • Deadlift: 2 x Bodyweight
  • Back Squat: 2 x Bodyweight
  • Front Squat: 1.75 x Bodyweight
  • Bench Press: 1.5 x Bodyweight
  • Chin Up: 1.5 x Bodyweight
  • Incline Bench Press: 1.25 x Bodyweight
  • Power Clean: 1.25 x Bodyweight
  • Jerk/Push Press: 1.25 x Bodyweight
  • Power Snatch: Bodyweight
  • Military Press: Bodyweight

I would encourage you to spend at least 80% of your training time on these major compound movements and to get as close as possible to these aspirational targets before increasing the number of isolation exercises into your programs, especially if your goal is size and strength. Once you have achieved these goals there are numerous methods to experience along the training continuum. I have collated a few of my most result-producing programs for you to try, from both a sports performance perspective and also general training for size and strength for the non-sports person.

Upper Body Workouts

Workout 1

  • Cambered Bar Incline Bench Press superset with Band-Assisted Wide Grip Chins: 5 x 6-10
  • Trap Bar Shoulder Press superset with EZ Bar Upright Row: 5 x 6-10
  • Bench (Bar Position 2) Close Grip Bench Press superset with Bar Row: 5 x 6–10
  • EZ Bar Curls superset with EZ Bar Lying Triceps Extensions: 3 x 6-10

Workout 2

  • Triple Angle Drop Incline Dumbbell Bench Press (45, 30, 15 Degrees): 5 x 5/5/5 or 4 x 4/4/4 or 3 x 3/3/3
  • MMA Kettlebell Floor Press superset with Kettlebell Renegade Row: 4 x 6 each side
  • Kettlebell See-Saw Shoulder Press superset with Kettlebell Alternate Upright Row: 4 x 6 each side
  • Three-Way Shoulder Raise (Dumbbell Lateral, Plate Front, Bent-Over Cable Lateral): 3 x 12

Workout 3

  • Dumbbell Flat Bench superset with Dumbbell One-Arm Row: 5 x 6–10
  • Dumbbell Incline Bench Press superset with Dumbbell Upright Row: 5 x 6–10
  • Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press superset with Seated Dumbbell Snatch: 4 x 6 each side
  • Dumbbell Twist Curls superset with Seated Dumbbell Overhead Extensions: 3 x 6–10

Workout 4

  • Five-Angle Press superset with Five-Position Chin
  • Kettlebell Circuit: Floor Press/Renegade Row/See-Saw Shoulder Press/Alternating Snatch: 4 x 8
  • Dumbbell Push superset with Pull Ladder: Press x 10, rest 30 seconds, pull x 10, rest 30 seconds, continue for 9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1
  • Football Bar Close Grip Bench Press 5 x 10 superset with Matrix Chain 5 x 5/5/5/5 

Body Part Programs Options

Monday (Chest and Triceps)

Bench Press Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x (6, 5, 4)
  • Week 2 — 2 x (5, 4, 3)
  • Week 3 — 2 x (4, 3, 2)
  • Wave Style

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press (Triple Drop Style)

  • Week 1 — 3 x 5/5/5
  • Week 2 — 4 x 4/4/4
  • Week 3 — 5 x 3/3/3

Close Grip Bench Press

  • Week 1 — 4 x 6
  • Week 2 — 4 x 8
  • Week 3 — 5 x 10

Weighted Dips

  • Week 1 — 5 x 10
  • Week 2 — 4 x 8
  • Week 3 — 5 x 5

Lying Triceps Extension

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Tuesday (Back and Biceps)

Prone Row Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Weighted Chins Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Dumbbell One-Arm Row

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Barbell Curl

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Incline Dumbbell Curl

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Wednesday (Shoulders and Traps)

Bradford Press and Military Combo

  • Week 1 — 5’s
  • Week 2 — 4’s
  • Week 3 — 3’s

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5,4,3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Three-Way Shoulder Raise Complex (Lateral, Front, Bent-Over)

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Cuban Press and Overhead Shrugs

  • Week 1 — 3 x 5/10
  • Week 2 — 4 x 4/8
  • Week 3 — 5 x 3/6

Dumbbell Shrugs

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Thursday (Chest and Triceps)

Incline Bench Press Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Weighted Pushups

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Floor Press Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Triceps Pressdown

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Friday (Back and Biceps)

Seated Row Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

50 Chins

  • As few sets as possible
  • 30 seconds rest between each set to positive failure

Standing Dumbbell Twist Curls

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Saturday (Shoulders and Traps)

Cambered or Fat Bar Shoulder Press Three-Week Strength Progression

  • Week 1 — 2 x 6, 5, 4
  • Week 2 — 2 x 5, 4, 3
  • Week 3 — 2 x 4, 3, 2
  • Wave Style

Muscle Snatch from Hang Position

  • Week 1 — 4 x 6
  • Week 2 — 4 x 8
  • Week 3 — 4 x 10

Handstand Pushups

  • Week 1 — 3 x max
  • Week 2 — 4 x max
  • Week 3 — 5 x max

Seated Dumbbell One-Arm Snatch

  • Week 1 — 12, 10, 8, 8
  • Week 2 — 10, 8, 6, 6
  • Week 3 — 8, 6, 4, 4

Seated Dumbbell Clean

  • Week 1 — 3 x 12
  • Week 2 — 4 x 10
  • Week 3 — 5 x 8

Lower Body

Front Squat/Back Squat Combo — Select a weight that you can achieve three to six reps within the front squat (FS), then when you finish the set rack the bar and immediately reposition and perform the back squat (BS) double the reps you achieved in the front squat or to requiring a spot to complete the concentric rep.

  • Dead Stop Front Squats, 5 x 3 — From low receiving position setup in power rack with a five-second eccentric.
  • Three-Second Pauses, 3 x 3 x 3 — At quarter, half, and full squat on the eccentric phase and then an explosive concentric.
  • One-and-One Half, 5 x 3— Descend into a full squat then come up to half squat pause for three seconds then go down again and explode up in concentric phase.

 Complexes

  •  Set 1: 1 x  6
  •  Set 2: 3/3 with 20 seconds rest
  •  Set 3: 2/2/2 with 30 seconds rest
  •  Set 4: 1/1/1/1/1/1 with 30-45 seconds rest

Wave Loading

5/3/1 x 2

  • Rest two minutes between sets.
  • Starting set of 5 reps at around 80-85%, then 90-92.5% for 3 reps, then 95-100% for a single.
  • Repeat the wave increasing the weight by 2.5% for each set.

Squats/Step-Ups Variations

  • Sprinter's/Bulgarian Squat
  • Parisi Step-Up (Two-Phase Step-Up)
  • Bosch Squat/Step-Up
  • Single Kneeling Start Step-Up
  • Kneeling Squat
  • Box Squat
  • Power Snatch and Step-Up (Cosner Complex)

Deadlift/Good Morning Variations

  • Snatch/Clean Grip Deadlift
  • Split Stance
  • Good Morning Combo
  • Single-Leg (Other foot braced on wall)
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Hip Thrust on Bench
  • Zercher

Lower Body Power and Strength

  • 2 x Push
  • 2 x Pull
  • Push
  • Squat (Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Zercher Squat,  Box Variations)
  • Single-Leg (Split Squat, Sprinter’s Squat, Step-Ups, Bosch)
  • Pull
  • Olympic/Total Body (Power Snatch, Power Clean, Deadlift, Pulls)
  • Hamstring/Lower Back (RDL, Good Morning, Hip Thrusts)

Week 1: 4 x 6 with 75%
Week 2: 6/5/4/4 with 75%, 80%, 85%, 85%+
Week 3: 5/4/3/3 with 80%, 85%, 90%, 90%+
Week 4: 4/3/2/2 with 85%, 90%, 95%,95%+

Week Plan for a Rugby Prop Forward in Pre-Season

Monday

  • Warm-up with superset of Bosch Squat and Borzov Hops 3 x 5 and Single-Leg Hip Thrusts and Kettlebell Swings
  • Clean or Snatch or Pulls from Floor superset with Knees-to-Feet Jumps

OR

  • Band Box Squats superset with Box Jumps
  • Push Press or Split Jerk or Band Bench Press superset with Upper Body Plyometric

Week 1: 4 x 6 with 60%
Week 2: 5 x 3 with 80%
Week 3: 6 x 4 with 70%
Week 4: 4 x 2 with 90%

  • 1 x Upper Body Push and Pull 10/8/6

Tuesday

After training at night, too dangerous to do before any running.

  • Trap Bar Deficit Deadlift 5 x 10
  • Sprinters Squat 4 x 6
  • Split Stance RDL 4 x 6

Wednesday

3 x Push/Pull Superset Choice

Push

  • Incline (Bar, Dumbbell, Cambered)
  • Shoulder (Bar, Dumbbell, Cambered, Trap)
  • Flat Press (Close Grip, Reverse, Floor, Bench)

Pull

  • Row (Bent-Over, Pendlay, Trap Bar, Yates)
  • Chin (Bar, Towel, Rope)
  • Traps (Reverse Shrug, Dumbbell, Trap Bar, Upright Row, Seated Snatch, Seated Clean)

Week 1: 4 x 6 with 75%
Week 2: 6/5/4/4 with 75%, 80%, 85%, 85%+
Week 3: 5/4/3/3 with 80%, 85%, 90%, 90%+
Week 4: 4/3/2/2 with 85%, 90%, 95%,95%+

Thursday

  • Warm-up with superset of Bosch Squat and Borzov Hops 3 x 5 and Single-Leg Hip Thrusts and Kettlebell Swings
  • Clean or Snatch or Pulls from Floor superset with Knees-to-Feet Jumps

OR

  • Band Box Squats superset with Box Jumps
  • Push Press or Split Jerk or Band Bench Press superset with Upper Body Plyometric

Week 1: 4 x 6 with 60%
Week 2: 5 x 3 with 80%
Week 3: 6 x 4 with 70%
Week 4: 4 x 2 with 90%

Friday

  • Triple Drop Dumbbell Press (45/30/15 Degrees) 5 x 5/5/5 superset with One-Arm Dumbbell Row 5 x 10
  • Four-Way Shoulder Raise (Kettlebell Shoulder Press, Dumbbell Laterals, Plate Front, Cable Bent-Over Raise) — 2 x 12

Program Determination Using the Quadrant Approach: Individualization in a Team Sport Environment

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