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The Best Training Programs For “Size, Durability, Endurance, And Strength” During The Bulky Phase

In college, I avoided the “bro zone” of the gym like it was a frat house after a rager. I was intimidated by the grunting, the weird machines, and the almost entirely male population outside of the cardio section and free weights. I didn’t want anything to do with their protein shakes and bro tanks. Instead, I used the cardio machines and would do the same one to two exercises with 8-pound weights every time I went to the gym.

But I really wanted to lift.

A taste of CrossFit and powerlifting was all it took to get me addicted to lifting heavy. After a couple of months, I was lifting more weight than I thought possible. Five years later, I regularly squat more than I weigh, and 25-pound dumbbells are my go-to. Today, I feel at home under the bar.

While there are great weight loss and calorie-blasting benefits of lifting heavy, it’s not why I do it. Weightlifting makes me care more about the weight on the bar than on my body. I work hard at the gym to push my body and mind. It’s about what my body is capable of, not what it looks like”.

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Lifting heavy, for example using a weight that you can only do 1 to 6 reps with, has made me battle the voice in my head — it’s far more crushing than any weight could ever be. “With heavy plates on the bar, there isn’t room for self-doubt or negative thoughts. It takes all of my focus to step up, to stay in control, and to crush the lift”.

Weightlifting makes me feel powerful. Confident. My lifting shoes are my “power heels.” When I hit a big lift, I’m unstoppable. I’m capable of moving the weight and handling the other challenges in my life. I walk down the street knowing the physical and mental strength inside of me.

The lessons I have learned in the gym bleed out into the rest of my life. They have made me a faster runner, a more independent person, and a confident man. Before you get to the heavy lifting, here are a few reasons why you should take this on.

I am not a physique enhancement specialist. I am more interested in building size and strength without addressing the aesthetics. I want performance to be the end goal.

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To this end, my philosophies are based on past strongmen and bodybuilders. To quote Reg Park or Bill Pearl (I can’t remember who said this since both were from the golden era of the power bodybuilder), “If you can shoulder press 300 pounds for reps, you will never need to do a lateral raise in your life.”

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The program I outline below considers the methods to optimize hormonal manipulation using large compound movements for reps of six or fewer with longer rest periods (testosterone optimization) and compound movements using higher reps with shorter rest periods (growth hormone optimization).

I favor what I refer to as the Big Four since there are only push- and pull-related movements for both the upper and lower body segmentation. For this program, I will stick to these four movements.

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I program a big and a small exercise for each of the movements. “The first movement is for strength and size, and the second movement is for more size and strength”. The primary movements will always be carried out as a straight set, but the secondary movements will be super-setted to optimize the training effect further.

It’s simple and basic that follows a standard four-day-a-week training split of the upper and lower body. Each session will be about 60–75 minutes maximum, comprising of four exercises. More is less in this program. So, if you feel like doing more, then I would say that you have not emptied the tank on the basic program. If you want a specific core movement, then this could be the fifth movement.

Consider the exercises in the gym you have access to that’ll provide the best stimulus. Think heavy and basic. You will not go wrong. Here is a list of my personal favorites:

Lower Body Push Lower Body Pull Upper Body Push Upper Body Pull Core
Squat variations Deadlift variations Bench Press Pendlay Row ½ Turkish Get Up
Sprinter’s Squat Reverse Hyper® Incline Press Seated Row Windmill
Lunge Option Olympic Movement Military Press Yates Row Suitcase Deadlift
Step-Ups Option Good Morning Landmine Press Weighted Chins Rollout
Prowler® Push Hip Thrust Javelin Press Shrugs Full Body Twist

Now your list may be somewhat similar or quite different, but you must choose wisely as the ancient crusader knight advises Indiana Jones in the Holy Grail. Your success depends on the degree of muscle mass you can stimulate with each exercise to have a systemic anabolic effect.

Here’s how I’d apply the methods to increase size and strength (the first two sessions for the week). Remember, one big and one smaller movement. I recommend selecting different exercises for the second two sessions of the week plan.

Monday – Lower Body Push & Pull

Tuesday – Upper Body Push & Pull

Here are the details of the selected methods using a more strength-based protocol for the primary movements and a more size-based protocol for the secondary movements. The setup provides time efficiency and increased intensity.

Method/ Weeks 1 2 3 4
Strength Wave 2 x (6/5/4) @ (75%/80%/85%) 2 x (5/4/3) @ (80%/85%/90%) 2 x (4/3/2) @ (85%/90%/ 95%) 3 x (3/2/1) @ 90%/95%/97.5%+)
Size Wave 2 x (15/12/10) 2 x (12/10/8) 2 x (10/8/6) 2 x (8/6/4)
RM loading 50 reps @ 10RM 30 reps @ 6RM 60 reps @ 12RM 40 reps @ 8RM
Maximal Strength (1) 6 x 6 @ 75%% 6 x 4 @ 85% 5 x 5 @ 80% 6 x 3 @ 90%

There are many methods to consider to achieve the results you want. The sample above shows you how to organize your training plan to gain size and strength.

Remember to stimulate and not annihilate.

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