The Triple Threat
To build a body that's just as athletic as it is aesthetic, you must train using three specific factors:
- Explosive movement
- Pure strength exercises
- Spot-specific muscle building methods
The problem is, programming multiple training variables is like trying to whip up a complicated recipe. Here are the three components you need to perfect it, along with a sample program that puts it all together.
Explosive movement improves the quality of your workouts, which means it also improves your body composition and ultimately your results.
In sciency terms, it primes your central nervous system (CNS), activating high threshold motor units, and improving neuromuscular efficiency through optimizing intramuscular (on a cellular level) coordination and intermuscular coordination within a specific movement.
Adding an explosive exercise before heavy lifting may improve workout efficiency to help you improve performance faster, while directly building explosive power.
The thing is, most lifters already get a steady dose of maximal and sub-maximal exercise. The missing component is often speed-strength movements like those you used to do in competitive sports.
High-velocity movements like explosive push-up variations, jump squats, sprints, and medicine ball throws can get explosive training back into your regimen. But you don't want to just jump around willy-nilly without a specific reason for it. You want the explosive movements to actually improve your lifts. That's why you match the explosive exercise with the primary movement pattern of the day.
Take a look at what kind of explosive moves you'd do...
If the primary movement in your workout is the squat
You could do explosive movements such as: squat jump, box jump, or hurdle hop.
If the primary movement in your workout is the deadlift
You could do explosive movements like broad jumps, squat jumps, or medicine ball back tosses.
If the primary movement in your workout is the bench press
You could do explosive movements such as: clap push-ups or inclined plyo push-ups.
If the primary movement in your workout is the overhead press
You could do explosive movements such as: overhead medicine ball slams or medicine ball push presses.
To maximize the benefits of intramuscular coordination, exercises of similar mechanical demands (like squats and jump squats) should be practiced with various loads to improve the efficiency of the nervous system.
In time, matching the corresponding explosive movement to the primary movement of the workout teaches the nervous system to recruit fewer motor units for the same relative intensity, improving your explosive power.
How you do them and how much you do matters. So dozens of shitty throws and jumps won't work here. Do 3x5 reps and focus on explosive intent with pristine technique. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
Remember, your goal is explosive power, not turning high-performance training into a bastardized HIIT training class.
The stronger you are, the more effectively you can train for any goal, whether it's performance, fat loss, or building muscle. For this program, focus on two types of strength: absolute and relative.
Absolute strength refers to the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of size or muscle mass. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher body weight and activities where you're moving large objects, like Atlas stones, an opponent, or peeling your buddy off the floor after a night of partying.
Relative strength is your level of strength as it relates to body size. The higher your relative strength, the easier it is to move your body through space, whether you're doing chin-ups, running down the field, or walking to work.
For building muscle, higher levels of strength can lead to higher levels of muscle fiber recruitment, mechanical tension, and improved work capacity. Training with an emphasis on heavy strength work helps you train a greater amount of muscle, create more muscle-building tension, and allows you to lift heavier weight for more reps for a greater muscle-building stimulus.
Each workout will have one primary strength focus: a hip hinge or deadlift movement, a squat movement, an overhead press movement, and a horizontal press movement.
Each strength movement will have 5 work sets of 3-5 reps. Why the range of reps? Because it allows for a little self-regulation. On days when you feel like going a bit heavier, hit triples. On days you want a little more volume, aim for the fives. Either way, increase the weight on each set and work to make your last set the heaviest while avoiding failure. (You'll see how all this looks in the sample plan below.)
The third component brings in classic bodybuilding methods to increase total training volume, metabolic stress, and as a byproduct, create some muscular damage.
For each workout, focus on taxing the same muscles you trained with your explosive and heavy strength movements to accumulate stress. Your muscle tissues should be fully primed and ready to roll.
Adding plenty of posterior chain work is essential to combat the "push heavy" exercise selection for your strength movements. An emphasis on horizontal pulling two or more times per week will help ensure more balanced training to help you prevent injuries and optimize your physique.
You'll be using classic muscle-building rep schemes like 3x8, 3x10, 4x12, and 5x10 to blend both mechanical tension and metabolic stress.
This works best with an upper/lower split and no more than two workouts performed within 72 hours. A Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday training split works best because it allows ample recovery.
This program is best for the athletic generalist who wants to look good and gain strength at the same time. Should you want to build more muscle, dial back the volume on heavy strength work and add in more muscle-building volume. If you want to develop more athleticism and power, increase your explosive movements and dial back strength work and hypertrophy work.
The options are endless as long as you adjust volume and intensity accordingly: if the volume in one area increases, adjustments in other areas must be altered to allow adequate recovery.
The beauty in this approach is you can stick to the parameters and specialize within them (to an extent) given your training goal at any particular time.
Here's a baseline program to get you started. Repeat this for four weeks, increasing the weight on your core lift weekly. After four weeks, dial back your training loads by 10-15% for a deload, then repeat the process with slightly more weight for another training block.
Monday – Deadlift/Hinge Focus
|Pure Strength Exercise|
|C1||Barbell Romanian Deadlift (3-4 second eccentric or negative on each rep)||3||6-8|
|C2||Pigeon Stretch||3||30 sec./side|
|D1||TRX or Chain Inverted Row||4||10||30 sec.|
|D2||Stability Ball Lockout||4||1 min.||30 sec.|
Tuesday – Overhead Press Focus
|A||Medicine Ball Overhead Slam||3||5|
|Pure Strength Exercise|
|B||Overhead Press (Any Barbell Variation)||5||3-5|
|D1||One-Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press||3||8/side||30 sec.|
|D2||Dumbbell Lean-Away Lateral Raise||3||10/side||30 sec.|
|D3||Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3||12||30 sec.|
|E1||Dumbbell Chest-Supported Row||3||10-12||30 sec.|
|E2||Dumbbell Shrug With 3-Second Pause||3||10-12||1 min.|
Thursday – Squat Focus
|A||Dumbbell Squat Jump||3||5|
|Pure Strength Exercise|
|B||High-Bar Back Squat||5||3-5|
|C||Dumbbell Walking Lunge||5||10/leg|
|D1||Stability Ball Hamstring Curl|
|In Smith machine, squat machine, or leg press. Five second eccentric, three-second pause at peak contraction of each rep.|
|E3||Arm Tap Plank||2||5||30 sec.|
Saturday – Bench Focus
|A||Incline Plyo Push-Up||3||5|
|Pure Strength Exercise|
|B||Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press||5||3-5|
|C1||Supinating Cable Chest Press||4||12|
|C2||Half Kneeling One-Arm Cable Row||4||12/arm|
|D1||Close-Grip Lat Pulldown||3||10|
|D2||Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl||3||10||1 min.|
|E1||Pinwheel Curl||3||8/side||30 sec.|
|E2||Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension||3||15||30 sec.|