What is the most successful strength gain program?
Starting Strength? Wendler 5-3-1? Stronglifts? Madcow? Texas Method? Smolov? OPT? Catalyst? A hybrid system? [Insert other serious sounding name here]?
The most successful strength building program is:
The one that you stick with!
I know, I know – you really want to know which program will give you the best “bang for your buck” to get you lean/jacked/cut/shredded/toned/pumped/(flayed?) the fastest, ideally with the least effort.
Sorry to burst the bubble. Real, lasting progress takes time and effort. If it was easy – everyone would be doing it. It takes determination to show up week-in week-out, when you don’t feel like it, when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when you’re tired, when you’re [insert excuse here]…
Just show up.
The world’s best strength coaches do have differences in their philosophy, approach and programing. They may differ on small stuff like “a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads”, but I challenge you to find a decent (reputable and respectable) strength coach, be it Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Jason Ferruggia, Greg Everett*, Charles Poliquin or anyone else who would say that for consistent gains you can or should do anything other than “show up consistently”. Anyone who would say that you should do anything other than low reps and high load on Back Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Press and Power Cleans. The auxiliary exercises may differ, but the main lifts are the main lifts for a reason.
*Greg Everett has an Olympic Lifting focus, so would put more emphasis on development of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch – two AWESOME strength and power development movements, but I’m sure if you asked him about the utility of ‘the Big 3’ and presses and power cleans for strength development he would agree they do get the job done well.
Yes, your exact sets and reps are open to debate. Do I do 3 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 5 for maximal strength gains with some size development? Answer: it depends. Are you a beginner who needs volume? Are you an intermediate lifter who is closer to your genetic potential where doing 5 heavy sets would be too much volume and stress on your central nervous system? How old are you? How did you sleep? Are you eating properly? How much recovery do you get?
What ever program you do – to get progress you need to train consistently and train hard. Almost all strength programs call for at least 80% of your 1 rep max for the work set(s). The idea of progressive overload is shared universally. The way to get stronger is to lift more than you did last time. Expand your comfort zone by working outside your comfort zone. You only know what you can do when you try to do more than you can.
That’s not to say you should always train all out. If you’ve had 3 hours sleep, are stressed to the eyeballs or are sick. If you’re contagious stay home – but otherwise, show up “oil the groove”, de-load if you need to but show up and lift.
You might even do what Mike did last night. Really not feel like it, show up anyway, eventually get into it and hit a clean and jerk PR!
So show up – even when you don’t feel like it.