Get Stronger with 4 Simple Workout Strategies, Plus: Complete 12-Week Program

STACK Expert John Cissik offers 4 strategies and 3 workouts to help you gain strength and improve your overall athleticism.

Strength helps with nearly every aspect of performance. You can't run, throw or jump without a strength base. Follow these four workout strategies to build strength and make athletic gains.

This one is extremely important. You need a foundation before you can start heavy training. This means getting your joints in shape so they don't get injured, and it also means developing the muscle mass you will need to increase your strength.

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Strength helps with nearly every aspect of performance. You can't run, throw or jump without a strength base. Follow these four workout strategies to build strength and make athletic gains.

1. Build Your Foundation

This one is extremely important. You need a foundation before you can start heavy training. This means getting your joints in shape so they don't get injured, and it also means developing the muscle mass you will need to increase your strength.

Developing a foundation typically means 8 to 12 weeks of training, focusing on multi-joint exercises (Squats, Pulls, Presses, Rows, etc.) Training should have a moderate volume (6-15 reps per set), with 3-5 sets per exercise. You should only allow around 60 seconds of rest between sets.

2. Stick With Basic Exercises

For strength, you don't need a whole lot of variety. You need to Squat, pick heavy things up off the floor, and perform Presses and Rows. More than that, you need to take the time to learn how to do all these exercises safely. Unless you are a world-class powerlifter, you don't need to worry about advanced programs and exercises. Check out the video player above to learn how to safely perform the Squat and Row from strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle.

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3. Develop Your Skill

Strength is about maximal force production. This is a skill; if you don't practice it, you will not improve at it. You need to spend a serious part of your training on strength. This means spending 8 to 12 weeks of training to ramp it up, then at least one day a week working on it afterward.

When you focus on training for strength, you're talking about performing fewer than eight repetitions per set with at least 80 percent of your maximum weight. You also have to recover fully, with around 120 seconds of rest between sets.

4. Use Your Strength Properly

You shouldn't be concerned with strength only for the sake of getting stronger. You must also learn how to use your strength. You need to continue sprinting, doing plyometrics and agility training, and performing Olympic lifts. Failure to do this might make you a really strong athlete who can't jump, throw or sprint.

Workout Programs

Here are three sample workout programs to help you develop your strength. The first is 8-12 weeks of developing your foundation. The second is 8-12 weeks of strength development. The final program shows you how to maintain your strength.

Foundation Program

Do all exercises with no more than 60 seconds rest between sets. Perform speed training, agility training and plyos on Days One and Four.

Day One:

  • Back Squats: 5x8-12@70-80%
  • Lunges: 3x12-15 each leg
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3x8-12
  • Good Mornings: 3x12-15
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x12-15

Day Two:

  • Bench Press: 3x8-12@70-80%
  • Superset: Dips and Pull-Ups: 3x12-15 each
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x8-12
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3x12-15
  • Superset: Biceps and Triceps: 3x12-15 each

Day Three:

  • Off

Day Four:

  • Front Squats: 3x6-10@70-80%
  • Split Squats: 3x12-15 each leg
  • Lunges: 3x12-15 each leg
  • Back Raises: 3x12-15
  • Stability Ball Leg Curls: 3x12-15

Day Five:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x12-15
  • Incline Presses: 3x8-12@70-80%
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3x8-12 each arm
  • Pull-Ups: 3x12-15
  • 3-in-1 Shoulder Raises: 3x10 each (front, side, rear delt)

Strength Development Program

Do all exercises with no more than 120 seconds rest between sets. Do speed training, agility training and plyos on Days One and Four.

Day One:

  • Back Squats: 5x4-8@75-85%
  • Split Squats: 3x6-10@30% of Back Squat, each leg
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 5x4-8
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x12-15

Day Two:

  • Bench Press: 5x4-8@75-85%
  • Dips: 3x12-15
  • Bent-Over Rows: 5x4-8
  • Pull-Ups: 3x12-15
  • Standing Military Press: 3x4-8

Day Three:

  • Off

Day Four:

  • Deadlifts: 3x3-6@75-85%
  • Front Squats: 3x3-6@75-85%
  • Good Mornings: 3x4-8
  • Back Raises: 3x12-15

Day Five:

  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3x4-8@40-60% of bench press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x6-10
  • Pull-Ups (with weight): 3x4-8
  • Dumbbell Rows: 3x6-10
  • Seated Military Press: 3x4-8

Strength Maintenance Program

This program assumes you have to spend time training other things besides strength. For example, you might be in-season with little time to fit everything in. With that in mind, this program runs two days a week and incorporates other types if training together with maximal strength training to make the best possible use of your time.

Day One:

  • Power Clean + Front Squat: 3x3-6+6-10@70-80% of Power Clean
  • Split Squats + Split-Stance Jumps: 3x6-10@40-60% of Back Squat +5 Jumps, each leg
  • Romanian Deadlift + Medicine Ball Behind Back Throw: 3x6-10+5 throws
  • Bench Press + Medicine Ball Chest Pass: 3x6-10@70-80% + 5 throws

Day Two:

  • Snatch Pull Deadlift + Power Snatch: 3x3-6+2-3@60-70% of Power Snatch
  • Back Squats + Squat Jumps: 3x6-10@70-80% + 5 Jumps
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x12-15
  • Bent-Over Rows + Medicine Ball Front Toss: 3x6-10 + 5 Throws

Strength development program notes:

All exercises should be done with no more than 120 seconds rest between sets.

Speed training, agility training and plyos should be performed on Day One and Day Two.

RELATED: Improve Performance With In-Season Maintenance Training


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BENCH PRESS | AGILITY TRAINING | SPEED TRAINING | WORKOUTS | POWER | EXERCISE | BENCH | PRESS | THROW | LIFTS | MEDICINE BALL | SNATCH | RAISES