Tip: Start Every Workout With a Strength Move

Focus on a big basic lift, then throw in some assistance work. Here's how to set it up and what lifts to emphasize.

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Focus on the Lift, Not the Muscle Group

Base each workout on one basic strength lift, not on a muscle group. And depending on how your performance is on that lift, use assistance work to correct your weaknesses. You don't need to spend a lot of time working on your natural strengths because these will be hit sufficiently with the main movement. It's the weak links that need extra work.

If you have dominant quads and weak glutes and hams, you won't need a lot (if any) extra work for the quads because they'll receive plenty of stimulus from squatting. If they're a personal strength, your body will tend to want to use them more when squatting.

So your assistance exercises for a session should be selected to strengthen weak links for your main lift. The main lift then doubles as a diagnostic tool to tell you what needs fixing, and an evaluation tool to see if your assistance exercises are getting the job done.

Start with the main lift, pick one strength movement emphasizing your weak link, then one to three smaller, more targeted exercises to strengthen individual muscles. Don't waste volume on muscles that are already dominant. Your body has a limited capacity to adapt.


Divide the week into these four training sessions:

  1. Deadlift and assistance
  2. Bench press and assistance
  3. Squat and assistance
  4. Overhead press and assistance

You don't have to use these exact lifts, but a close variation of them should be the centerpiece of your workouts.

Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.