T Nation

Gaining Strength But How?


I'm a complete newbie to lifting. I've only been lifting for about a month and my main goal is strength. I've read stuff about 5x5 and wave loading and they all seem to make sense. But is there one that is better than others? I've been doing alot of compound lifts but my set/rep is 3x10. People tell me to mix it up but I don't even know what the hell I'm doing in the first place.

So if anyone could clarify anything for me. Pure strength is what I want. Thanks!!


What are your goals ? Most people don't want pure strength unless involved in some sport that needs it like Judo or if they are tryna roll up frying pans or tear phone books. If you want just maximal strength the loading protocol is different to that aimed at hypertrophy (and strength).


Make sure you focus on mostly heavy lifting. Do power lifts: bench press, squat, deadlift. Focus on heavy lifts and on increasing limit strength, and you aren't worrying about rate of force development, size, or reactive ability. After all, isn't that what you want? Train in the 80% - 100% of max. I don't think body building style (high reps, lighter loads) would help you much. Less reps = less lactic acid. Lactic acid dampens Fasr twitch muscle recruitment. So keep the reps low.

So that's what I think. Hope that helps. What do you guys think would be better/best?

Wu Gong Heng


If you are new, every lift will feel akward. Now is the time to really focus on form and learn the lifts CORRECTLY. As a newbie, you will grow like a weed from just pulling weights off the rack. You can probably stay at high reps for a few months, work on form, and still grow.


As a newbie, you just need to lift. Learn how to do everything correctly with reasonable weight.

While you are doing that, read up on this site and you'll see all kinds of talk about rep schemes and so on. You can apply this information once you've built up a base.


If you're new to lifting, just about any lifting will get you some strength-gains. But since that will dry-up soon, it's best to switch to a program more focused on your goals. If you're going for overall strength, i.e. plain-old functional "I'm stronger than you" kinda strength, you're probably going to need to be lifting more weight for fewer reps.

Since you say you're a complete newbie to lifting, allow me to elaborate: Your body will adapt to whatever you try to make it do. If you lift heavy weight, you will get stronger, if you lift light weights for many reps, you will gain endurance. In reality, it's not quite as cut-and-dried as I've described here, the human body is ridiculously complicated, but the basic rule-of-thumb that you need to remember is: 1-6 reps for strength, 6-12 reps for size, 12-20 reps for endurance.

The KEY principle with any program is you need to achieve muscle-overload. You need to push your muscles past their existing limits in order to gain. At the end of each set, whether its 200 lbs for 3 reps, or 10 lbs for 20 reps, you should be tired. This is sometimes called 'Training to Failure' i.e. lift the weight until you cannot physically lift it again. How you get to the overload point will determine how your muscles will adapt. Make sense?

If I was where you are now, knowing what I know now, I would do the following:

1.) Test what your strength-limits are for bench-pressing, deadlifting, squatting, and for muscle-balance purposes, I'd test your weighted pull-up as well. Just take a workout day for each and see just how much weight you can bench, squat, etc. Warm-up fully, and add weight slowly. Read-up on T-Nation on how to do these exercises safely and with good form. Once you "max-out" on each exercise, the max weight you lifted is your 1-rep Max, usually abbreviated around here as 1RM.

2.) Write your 1RM down in your exercise-log. If you don't have an exercise-log, start one. Just use a regular old notebook, or even Microsoft Excel, if you're technically inclined. Anything to keep track of when you work-out and how much of each exercise you've done.

3.) Determine and write-down what your goals are. These can be long-term, or short-term, but it's best if they're measurable, i.e. "Bench-press my girlfriend's body-weight" is a bit better than "Be Stronger". Define for yourself what "Pure Strength" means.

4.) Find or design an exercise program that drives you toward your goals, and that fits into your lifestyle, time restrictions, equipment availability etc. The greatest program in the world is no good to you if you don't have the time or the gear to do it.

5.) Lift Hard. Keep good form. Don't get injured.

6.) Re-test your 1RM every month or so. If you're increasing, great. If not, you should think about changing something in your program.

Finally, keep reading. You can find all kinds of good information online. There are plenty of people online who want to tell you how you should work-out. Just keep in mind what your goals are, and what the goals of the author are. In other words, don't throw-out your existing program just because you read about Arnold Swzartezeneger's leg workout in Muscle and Fitness. Be wary of anyone trying to sell you something.