T Nation

Getting Brutally Strong


Hey coach,

This question is going to be kinda quirky. Maybe even downright silly, but Im going to ask it anyway.

How do one need to train to become brutally strong?

Off course, T nation is populated with plenty of beasts, but this might be different, Im not sure.
I mean brutally strong like "real life strong". As a fighter: strong to throw around opponents like little brothers. Too scramble them with strikes. Becoming overpowered for ones weight class...
you get what Im saying;)

However, getting too bulky is a major drawback (muscle affects the gas tank in a bad way). So hypertrophy needs to be kept in check.

I was thinking about your Russian strength-skill program. However, is getting efficient at certain lifts the best way too gain all-round inhumane strenght?

To be honest, I feel triples are the way. But Im quite crossed.

I hope for some feedback. Be it a concrete program, be it a bunch of tips.

Thanks in advance!


I'm certainly not the coach, but have done several martial arts, from boxing to BJJ to MMA and recognize the energy systems required in addition to the physical demands for such a sport.

First, I agree that singles, doubles or triples are the way to go, but to answer this question intelligently and helpfully it would require finding out what your training for your sport looks like before designing a program. Anyone who has trained for a fight or sport knows that technique is king, and I have been rag-dolled by college level wrestlers on the mat who couldn't hold a candle to me on any strength lift.

I think your best bet is to buy Joel Jamieson's Ultimate MMA Conditioning. It doesn't have a collection of workouts, but teaches you about energy system demands and discusses in depth about block training. I believe it is one of the most intelligent books written for a question such as yours and would highly recommend it.


Thanks for the input.
I read some about Joel and use his methodology on energy systems indeed (found out about him via eric wong).
technique is crucial, but I wanna do everything I can in the weigt room to give me the edge in strength. Like raw potential.
Thanks again


Sure, if you are training hard in the gym on drills, rolling, sparring and so forth, the volume of weight training would need to be curtailed. However, if your goal is to be strong in the weight room as you say, drop back the intensity and volume of your sport training and work on compound movements. If you have his book he has excellent methodologies on nervous system response and how to develop training programs around your needs. If you just look on his website, it will probably not help you as much. This book will answer your questions. If you have it, go back and read his strength training section and how to block program format it with training.


Sorry for the confusion!

I do not have the book of Jamieson in person. I read some articles of him over the net, and heard via Eric Wong of him. Maybe I should buy tho.

Well, I meant "I am willing to do everything I can (in the weight room) to gain a edge in strength". Sure, a 800 squat would kick ass, but if I could gain an edge by squatting less (don't know how, but this is just an example), I am willing to leave some weight on the table there.

My main question is: How does one gain this edge in strength?
Just getting your lifts up like RSS? Doing this with triples (I heard CT advocating triples over single for building strength)?
Building strength-skill or using another kind of volume/intensity?

Hope to hear from you guys


I think that strength skill day would be way too taxing, and your time would be better spent on the sport. Maybe take two days a week and work on pulling from the ground(power pull, deadlift), a pressing movement, and a squatting movement(I prefer front squats). 3-4 sets of 3 should be adequate, don't train to failure.


Also, remember, striking is a speed-strength skill, which is a different type of training. As I said, buy the book.


To be honest, while strength training certainly can help be "harder" in the ring. Being "fighting strong" isn't necessarily correlated with being "gym strong" at all. Same goes for any contact sport.

Some of the hardest hitting people, or those who play "hard" (in that when you contacted them they felts hard like a brick wall)in other contact sport like football or rugby were not "gym strong" at all.. in fact many never trained.

I see being "fighting strong/hard" much like I see world class sprinting. A world class sprinter is born, not trained. Every body can get faster, but if you aren't born to be a world class sprinter no amount of training can get you there.

I've trained a boxer who could punch through a brick wall (ok slight exaggeration :wink: ) but who could hardly bench press 175lbs and a powerlifter who could bench press 500 raw who could hurt my little sister while punching.

Same with baseball pitching. Throwing hard (throwing a ball isn't that different than throwing a punch) has very little to do with being "strong". A good friend of mine is a pro baseball pitcher. He is also a crossfit gym owner. And he told me that he throws his hardest at the end of the season, when he is also his weakest.

I'm not saying that becoming super strong in the gym will not help. Provided that you do not lose your skill, mobility and agility, getting stronger and more powerful will always improve your performance. But if you want to "fight hard" you actually have to become a fighting machine by fighting all the time.

Also all those who seem to look like brick walls when they fight are those who are the most neurally efficient ... they look like their muscles will jump out of their skins even at rest... they are always fidgety, always moving, talking fast and are very short tempered. They also all started to fight at a very young age and practice often.

I believe that "fighting hard" is more neurologicaly/psychological than it is physical.

I find that being very strong in movements like the deadlift, clean, snatch, zercher squat/deadlift, rows, pull-ups help more with wrestling and movements where you need slow strength than violent actions.


Is that why you always get that stereotype of the lumbering bodybuilder who can't fight (or loses to some wiry smaller guy)?

It got me wondering too, if you're always fidgety and have high neural efficency (muscle tone), is that actually BAD for muscle size or is this unrelated? I remember T-Nation had articles about how you need to be calm and not worry/fidget all the time due to the catecholomaines impact on muscle recovery/growth at rest (some truth to this as I've observed on my own body). But, you also have the heavy explosive train for performance style you like which gets you bodybuilderish jacked + also have lots of that violent explosiveness.


Thanks all!

I was planning to train more in the style of Max Shank/ Alpha (he is has logs). High frequency with lots of room to progress, so don't ever go near failure. Hope this is a good idea.

CT, I can partially agree with you: high-strung wiry guys are usually the hardest to fight because they rather die than lose. But some of the most laidback guys I know can "turn it on" and make life hell for me.
I try to gain the agression needed (maybe I can find a way to train it.
legendary coach Raphael Cordeiro seems to get his guys hell beast after a few months of training. Im figuring out. Maybe Alpha style training can toughen me up;)


And getting strong at big movements also makes you pretty explosive I feel. They seem to link you together and buldozer through opponents:)


overall this is my goal as well. ive found focuing on a few important lifts(for me incline, front squat deadlift standing overhead and pullup) for low reps helps alot. high sets of low reps(1-3) done frequently(2xs a week at this point) seems to help im adding in more kb work as well as going back to grappling. id suggest doing pavels simple and sinister routine 2-3x a week to help with the "toughen up" process


ralex wrote: 
Hey Thib! 

What do you think about doing (only) manual labor workouts (3 basic exercises covering the whole body, about 70% of max, sets of 1 rep) with: 
- Squats 
- (weighted) Dips 
- (weighted) Chins 

-is it possible to develop a aestethic, complete physique with "only" these exercises? 

Current training weights: 
- Squats 80kg x 5 
- Dips (80kg bodyweight + 50kg added load) x 2 
- Chins (80kg bodyweight + 20kg added Load) x 1 (start from dead hang, 2sec squeeze at top position) 

-As you can see, i never trained the squat (or lower body at all). Now i want to target this weakness and need to know the optimal squats:dips:chins ratio to get a starting point for this routine. 

Regarding the progression: 
-Week 1: 20 singles 
-Week 2: 25 singles 
-Week 3: 30 singles 
-Week 4: Add 5kg on squats & 2,5kg on dips/chins. start at 20 Singles. (?) 

-How many times a week do you think someone can handle a session like this? since it should be only about 70% of my max for sets of 1 rep, is it possible to do them 4-5 days a week? 

thanks in advance :slightly_smiling:

========== thibs response=============================

This type of training is to build strength-skill. By nature it will not build a lot of muscle by itself. It really is to become super efficient at utilizing your muscles. As part of a broader system it can help build more muscle, but by itself it's not the way to develop a highly muscular physique. 

If anything, what you describe could be a great way to train for strength WITHOUT gaining weight/size (for fighters in weight classes for example).


Found this at CT's log. Makes me gravitate towards strength-skill training quite a bit.

It feels right to do something like RSS or something with the same principles: learning the skill of using strength. These ideas I read over a few great programs: Easy strength, 40 day, most forms of DUP, RSS.

I almost feel training a movement 3 times a week is the lower end of skill building. Starting light and building up slowly also is a thing my joints would like :slight_smile:

CT would you feel like giving a raw concept of a program you would give an fighter (say mma fighter)? Something like RSS?


looks very similar to steve justa's single routine that people report great results from. pavel and dan john describe it as a park bench routine, something you can do for a long time and make great gains with without burning out