The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger


4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger


It's probably not a stretch to assume you want to get bigger, stronger, leaner.

However, you've always been told to focus on just one goal at a time. The hunter who tries to snare three rabbits at once usually goes home empty-handed to a disappointed wife and a cold bowl of corn flakes, or so the saying goes.

But what if you didn't have to choose? What if you could snag all three rascally rabbits at once?

I have your answer, Elmer Fudd. The program outlined in this article has helped my athletes and clients accomplish the physique Holy Trinity.

Furthermore, for extra assurance, I recently put this program to the ultimate test in that I had the opportunity to participate in a special SEALFit Kokoro challenge alongside some of the leaders in the fitness industry.

I was given 4 weeks' notice to prepare for this challenge. I was warned to up my cardio and conditioning work and to drop heavy lifting altogether.

Now I love my heavy lifting just as much as the next T Nation reader, so that wasn't an option! I still wanted to continue getting bigger and stronger, although I knew I had to get leaner and improve my conditioning.


Bigger, Stronger, & Leaner

Developing these three attributes requires training specificity. In other words, to get stronger, you must train appropriately, i.e., lift heavy. Likewise for hypertrophy and leanness.

This template involves lifting four days a week and consists of four 1-week phases. Each training session combines everything required to get stronger, bigger, and leaner – at the same time!


Stronger

4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger


Building strength requires high-tension and high force production. As such, we'll start each training session with an activation or explosive movement. This helps prime your CNS and prepares your body to perform optimally.

These movements range from box jumps and medicine ball throws to Olympic lifts and their variations. They'll always be performed explosively and for low reps.

Next, we'll move on to high-tension lifts. Each day revolves around one of the four main moves: bench press, squat, overhead press, or deadlift.

Any variation of a main lift will work, whether it be board presses, Zercher squats, front squats, pin presses, push presses, rack pulls, whatever. You're only limited by your creativity.

Here's a partial list of options. Pick one from each category and stick with it for the entire 4-week phase.

Bench Press Overhead Press Squat Deadlift
Flat Barbell Barbell Back Squat Conventional
Board Press Push Press Box Squat Sumo
Floor Press Log Press Front Squat Reverse Band
Incline Barbell Viking Press Zercher Squat Rack Pull
Reverse Band Pin Press Pin Squats Snatch Grip

As noted, the development of strength is dependent upon the ability to produce force. This comes from creating tension inside the body and expressing it outwardly.

As Christian Thibaudeau says, strength is a skill. You must practice this skill to become better at it. But remember, we train to build strength, not test it. That means using weights that you can control and lift with good form while accelerating the bar. If you need a refresher, check out Thibs' Perfect Rep series.


Bigger

Once the strength work is completed, we move to the assistance work where the focus is on getting bigger. Hypertrophy is induced by tension, specifically, load, and time under tension. We've already covered the heavy loads with our primary movement, so now let's focus on time-under tension, or TUT.

We know that 30-70 seconds of continuous tension leads to muscular growth. The classic bodybuilding set/rep scheme of 3 x 8-12 offers the perfect TUT to induce muscular hypertrophy.

Sure, you can build muscle with lower rep ranges, but it's wise to acknowledge that if sets of 1-5 reps were optimal for hypertrophy, successful bodybuilders would use them almost exclusively. And they don't.

Choose from the list of accessory movements below and perform them as supersets, tri-sets, or circuits. Our focus now and continuing through the "finisher" of each training session will be keeping your heart rate elevated. This helps burn fat while building work capacity.

Upper Body Assistance Lower Body Assistance
Pulldown Glute Ham
Pull-Up Reverse Hyper
Rowing Romanian Deadlift
Floor Press Kettlebell Swing
Dumbbell Bench Press One-Leg Squat
Dumbbell Incline Lunge
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Prowler/Plate Push
Overhead Sandbag Press Sled Work
Triceps Pressdown  


Leaner

4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger


Again, let's acknowledge some truths. Heavy loads build strength. Increased TUT helps induce hypertrophy. Short rest periods, increased heart rates, and high intensity activity performed for short durations help induce favorable hormonal profiles and strip body fat (provided your diet doesn't suck).

Every session will end with a finisher. These will be short bouts of very high intensity training lasting 4-10 minutes.

For simplicity sake, your finisher will remain constant for each 4-week phase, just like your main lift and assistance movement for each day.

To help force continued adaptations, there will be progression built into these as well. Your goal is to go all out and save nothing.


Weekly Splits

4 days per week Upper/Lower

Option 1

Monday: Tuesday:Wednesday:Thursday:Friday:Saturday:Sunday:

Option 2

Monday: Tuesday:Wednesday:Thursday:Friday:Saturday:Sunday:


Sample Sessions

4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger

Upper Day 1

  Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A Plyo Push-Up 4 x 4 4 x 4 4 x 4 4 x 4
Plyo push-ups can be done with hands on a bench if needed.
B1 Fat Bar Incline Press Work up to 3RM
3-5 x 1 @ 3RM
Work up to 5RM
1/6 Contrast*
Work up to 5RM
3 x 5/4/3 Wave**
Work up to 3RM
Done
The 1/6 Contrast and 5/4/3 Wave are described in detail by Christian Thibaudeau here.
B2 Cable Face Pull 8-10 8-10 8-10 8-10
C1 Swiss Bar Floor Press 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
C2 T-Bar Row 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
D1 Ring Dip*** 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1
D2 Pull-Up 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1
D3 Band Pull-Apart 10 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 10 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1

Lower Day 1

4 Weeks to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger
  Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A Hang Snatch 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3
B Back Squat Work up to 3RM
3-5 x 1 @ 3RM
Work up to 5RM
1/6 Contrast
Work up to 5RM
3 x 5/4/3 Wave
Work up to 3RM
Done
C1 Glute Ham Raise 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
C2 Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
D1 Kettlebell Clean* 6 reps/arm 10, 9, 8...1 6 reps/arm 10, 9, 8...1
D2 Kettlebell Reverse Lunge 6 reps/leg 10, 9, 8...1 6 reps/leg 10, 9, 8...1
D3 Ab Rollout 10 reps 10, 9, 8...1 10 reps 10, 9, 8...1

Upper Day 2

  Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A Medicene Ball Push Press 4 x 3 4 x 3 4 x 3 4 x 3
B1 Push Press Work up to 3RM
3-5 x 1 @ 3RM
Work up to 5RM
1/6 Contrast
Work up to 5RM
3 x 5/4/3 Wave
Work up to 3RM
Done
B2 Band Pull-Apart 8-10 8-10 8-10 8-10
C1 Pull-Up 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
C2 Triceps Pressdown 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
D1 Ring Row* 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps
(EMOTM)
D2 Push-Up 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps
(EMOTM)
D3 Sandbag Press 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps (EMOTM) 10, 9, 8...1 5 reps
(EMOTM)

Lower Day 2

  Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A Hang Clean 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3 5-6 x 2-3
B Deadlift Work up to 3RM
3-5 x 1 @ 3RM
Work up to 5RM
1/6 Contrast
Work up to 5RM
3 x 5/4/3 Wave
Work up to 3RM
Done
C1 Reverse Hyper 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
C2 Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 8-10 4 x 8-10 5 x 8-10 3 x 8
D Tabata Set* Kettlebell Swings Kettlebell Cleans Kettlebell Swings Kettlebell Cleans
    Stone Loading Sprint Stone Loading Sprint

Note on de-loading:


Your Turn

This program wasn't the most enjoyable 4 weeks of my life, but I'm happy to report my performance at SEALfit justified the suffering. I kicked ass. And now it's time for you to do the same.

Specialization routines are great, and focusing on just one goal at a time is some of the best advice a trainee can follow.

But for just 4 weeks, let's see what you can accomplish chasing all the big goals at once. You may just return home from your quest with three juicy rabbits and one happy wife.



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