Programming for strength training

This article would be a great follow-on to my last one on the theory of strength. So please read the last one if you haven’t done so already here


I am not a veteran of powerlifting by any means, however after having trained consistently for nearly 5 years now, you would hope you would pick up some knowledge along the way..

So, with my personal experience and having founded, captained and coached the Aberdeen University Weightlifting Club for 2 years now, I feel I can draw inferences and conclusions on factors that are pertinent to progress for the average person (check the AUWC out on Facebook here

I would have to say that throughout these years, the biggest deciding factor in my strength progress outwith actual ‘survival staples’ of eating (nutrition), sleeping (restoration) and of course staying as injury free as possible, has been programming. This refers to the routine or structure of your training and the training principles which allow progress – what you do to get better at your sport.

In my opinion, I feel it is something that the development of yourself as a lifter or athlete depends upon more than you may ever think. You cannot just go and train with no direction week after week! Well, of course you can, but it will never be optimal.

Once you are confident and efficient with the technique of the lifts (this timescale will vary from person to person), then you are ready to focus on your programming. At any level of training, but more so when you are a beginner to intermediate; there is good potential to make rapid increases in strength.

This is especially true when the specific stimulus of training is foreign to the body. But it is just that – potential – if this potential is not actualised with the right programming, progress will not be apparent.

Before I go any further, I have to admit that in the past, I myself have made the mistake of providing my body with a poor repetitive stimulus due to second-rate programming. When I first started training for powerlifting, instead of utilising a useful beginner’s program like Rippetoe’s ‘Starting Strength’, I would do 1 rep maxes week-in and week-out on the bench press.

Not only was this naïve and farcical, but there were many more effective ways to develop my bench press that may have prolonged my gains. Due to my poor history with the development of the lift, maybe this is why my bench press is still floundering in the shallows of weakness.

Importantly, you have the choice not to have to make this type of mistake! So, let’s move on to how not to take the alluring bait of trying to personal best (PB) every session, but instead how to set yourself up for more substantial and prolonged PB’s over time.


The Programming Scoop

Taking into account my last article, you should now be aware of the vital training variables that form the backbone of a successful program. If so, you stand yourself in great stead to the path of strength and technical mastery.

There are hundreds of programs out there and as usual in the fitness industry, it breeds confusion. If you do not have the know-how to create a program from scratch yourself (which takes experience), or if you are simply wanting a change of training scenery, I have included a comprehensive list of programs below that are in my opinion, the cream of the crop for strength training.

Most are well known and all are tried and tested. This list may look far too numerous as I’ve included a vast selection to choose from. However, I believe once you pass the beginner stage you should be able to choose from a wide range of program choice. Moreover, you’ll make a good informed decision if you’ve had some training experience. I highly recommend you read up about the chosen program before starting it!!

For beginners I recommend –

  • Starting Strength –
  • Madcow 5×5 –×5-training-programs/ &

For intermediates and advanced lifters I would recommend –

Main Routines –

  • Texas Method –
  • Madcow 5×5 –×5-training-programs/ &
  • Juggernaut Method –
  • Westside Method –
  • ExRx Linear Periodisation Programs –
  • Jim Wendler 5/3/1 –
  • Coan 10 week Training Program – &
  • Mike Tuscherer RTS Intermediate Routine –
  • Kirk Karwoski Training Routine –

Secondary Routines:

  • Smolov Routine – &
  • Smolov Jr Routine –
  • Russian Squat Routine –
  • Full Russian Powerlifting Program –
  • Sheiko Routines –
  • Russian Squat Masters –
  • Coan/Phillipi Deadlift Routine –
  • Coan Bench Press Routine –
  • Ted Arcidi’s 12 week Bench Routine –
  • Brad Gillingham Bench Routine –
  • Magnusson/Ortmayer Deadlift Program…/magnusson_ortmayer_dl_program.xls‎
  • Brad Gillingham Squat and Deadlift program –


The programs listed above are ideal as they take most of the guesswork out of getting strong – you will generally make progress on these routines because they are proven to work. What works for someone, will generally work for someone else (but of course like everything there are individual exceptions). Generally though, if you don’t follow the program accurately, you won’t see the results (duh).

Traditional programs are best in my opinion – where the routine is kept simple (i.e linear or even undulating periodization) and where someone works hard and keeps consistent, while prioritising the nuts and bolts of programming outlined in my last article. It’s also always better to start too light than too heavy (this will allow for more potential for progress and will ensure your body adapts better session to session).

I will also say that once you become accustomed to a number of programs it is important to start formulating your own ideas for programming yourself.

That’s all there is to it really… It doesn’t have to be complex. If you want to get stronger, I hope this article will help you on your quest.


Michael Ferguson – Deluxe Sponsored Powerlifter

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