T Nation

New to Strength Work


Hey --

I've been lifting on and off for a few years now but have just recently decided to start really focusing on pure strength work. I find it much more fun an exciting than the typical "bodybulding" type of lifting.

I have a few questions as to how to structure my workouts. Bear in mind that at the moment I am not really concerned with competing and thus would like a fairly well rounded approach but with strength being the main goal and focus.

I am 6'0'' and weigh around 190 lbs. My current maxes are around the following:

Oly Sqaut (ass to calves): 300
Deadlift: 400
Bench: 250

I really love to train almost every day -- is this something I can realistically do while focusing on building strength?

For the past few weeks I have been going by the following general template:

Chest / Tris: Focus on Bench, weighted dips
Back / Bis: Focus on weighted pullups / heavy rows
Shoulders: Focus on heavy military press
Legs: Focus on back squats / box squats / deads

Any helpful insight would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance for your time


First off, you are in the right place. T-Nation has some of the best articles and authors you can find on increasing strength. The members that post on these forums also know their stuff. Although i have not posted much on this site, i have been reading it and using it as a reference for years.

So the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with what people may recommend (5x3x1, westside, thibs), that way if someone says something, you can at least have an idea of where to go to if you don't fully understand what they are recommending.

Onto the physical part of your post...


Read this article as a jumping off point if you are serious about increasing your strength. As someone new to strength training, you will be able to get away with a lot early in your process. Bad technique, poor programming, and bad dieting can still lead you to positive strength results early in your routine. But once you plateau, you will have to strip down everything you have "earned" and figure out why you can't get any stronger. You may be able to bench 315 in 6 months, but then get stuck at that weight for the next two years because you have no idea that you need to increase your upper back strength to get your bench growing again, or whatever the hindrance may be. You need to know as much as possible about each lift and each routine so you can set goals and make progress.

Find a program that fits your lifestyle; what you like to do. And work it hard. Practice your technique now and begin learning how to spot flaws. And most of all, enjoy the process, because once you start see results, it is hard to get out.

...oh yeah, start eating.


Everything this guy said x a zillionplex.

Make form a priority. It'll help you target the correct muscles better. It will help prevent injury (a biggy). It'll help you become stronger.

Good programs are Joe DeFranco's Westside for skinny bastards. Ripptoe's Starting Strength. Wendler's 5/3/1. That's what I can think of at this moment. Learn your body and your lifts a bit before diving into Westside BB Conjugate Method style training. And don't do it until you read the book of methods.

The book of methods won't make any sense at first. but do the template and the pieces start to fall into place.


I'm not necessarily recommending you do 5/3/1 right away but its bodypart split might be better than your current one. Having 3 upper body days like that looks more like a BB split. Here is an example.

Upper: Bench / Rows
Lower: Squat
Upper: Military press / Pullups or pulldowns
Lower: Deadlift
All that done over 1 week with days off inbetween, never 3-4 days in a row

If you really insist on less days off this one is okay too.
Push: Bench
Legs: Squat
Pull: Rows
Push: Military
Legs: Deadlift
Pull: Pullups or pulldowns
Off / Repeat

The main thing you want to do is start each workout with a main lift using a powerlifting type set/rep scheme with planned progression, the rest of the lifts on that workout aren't as important.


Extra days can be used for the less targeted things as well, such as core\abs, grip\forearms, calves, biceps, conditioning, etc. I would recommend picking one of the programs that are proven, and stick with it. Feel free to use extra days on this kind of thing, but don't interfere with your recovery on your main lifts.

Basically, treat extra days like an assistance exercise, and use common sense. Don't slaughter your calves the day before squats, Don't fry your forearms\grip the day before deadlifting. And absolutely do not skip deloads.


Thanks for the comments and advice, guys.

I've actually done a few rounds of 5/3/1 which really helped my embarrassingly low bench.

I have never really trained the bench HEAVY, as I used to play baseball and only benched sparingly and lightly. Would you guys recommend continuing using a method like 5/3/1 that has me using lighter loads or perhaps dabble with a bit of heavier training and see how fast I am able to progress that way? I like the concept of 5/3/1 but I have been wondering if perhaps because my bench is low as is, if I can get some faster linear progression before I hit a plateau at which point I would dive back into 5/3/1.


I also realize what you guys are saying about not interfering with recovery, but I seem to recall reading about the increased training frequency in strength athletes (eg. each lift 2x / week, more sets of few reps and fewer total exercises) in comparison to bodybuilders (eg. each body part 1x / week, lots of reps, fewer sets, more exercises per muscle).


@BigRed2013 you need to understand your bench is not low. you cannot compare your bench to someone else's. You cannot say my bench is weak because this guy at my gym can hit 200 lbs. more than me. You need to change that mentality if you ever expect to get true gains over a long period of time. You need to look at PR's first before you can think about WR's. Get confident that your bench will be stronger than it was last week.

Measure progress against yourself. I am not saying that you shouldn't compete and strive to be the strongest, or get pissed that you arent hitting weights you want. I am saying take pride in your work. Take pride in your foundation, that way you can look back and smile at where you started.

i see you are talking a lot about bench. I actually got to lift with the author of this article for two years (he owned a gym in my hometown). This system works. But it is extremely challenging and you need to be extremely strict. It is very time consuming ( you need long rest periods, and there is a of very high intensity work), but it does work.

It is a great 8 week program to just kick your ass and get your bench jump started. You may be interested in it to run before you jump back into a different method. Stick to the percentages and fill in the holes. It will show where you need to focus a lot of your assitance work.


Thanks -- I'm definitely not saying that my bench is low, and I definitely don't want to just primarily focus on bench, I guess I was just using it as an example to ask about programming.

I think I will dive back into 5/3/1 because that seemed to be what gave me the most consistent progress on all 4 lifts.


i dont think that link posted where i was referring to lifting with the author.


I started training for powerlifting recently and have been doing 531 for about 6 months. I've been able to train 6 days a week. I've been able to do this by leaving two days between squat and deads, and two days between bench and press. I keep my workouts short and focused. will I still be able to do this when I'm lifting much heavier weights? I let you know when I get there. Lord willing.


Yeah, back when I first did 5/3/1 I was able to make good progress doing the same thing -- I will try this again and see how it goes.