• Alex Parry

A Real Strength Programme: How to Add 20kg to your Squat and Deadlift, plus 10-15kg to your Bench

Updated: Jan 26

Adding strength can be tough, there’s a tonne of programmes out there that may or may not work, as well as a tonne of coaches claiming to do ‘strength and conditioning’ without knowing the first thing about how to actually get people strong. Well, this article is here to change that for you by providing a real strength programme.

If you’re willing to spend about five minutes reading (and listen to a little bit of science and experience) then I’m going to give you a tried, tested and proven method for adding serious strength in a small amount of time. On the other hand if you’re too lazy to read for five minutes, then chances are you ain’t the kind of person that’s gonna get strong anyway.

squats and deadlifts
Some pics of me lifting, so you know I'm not just talking theory


PRO TIP: I'm working on the assumption that you've already followed a linear progression based programme like starting strength or stronglifts. This programme is designed for people who have already done at least a few months of decent strength training.


The Basics of Strength:

  • Your body gets stronger by adapting to specific stress, which in this case, is the stress of lifting weights.


  • To adapt to this stress your body needs to adequately recover between each training session


  • Adequate recovery means attention to SLEEP and NUTRITION.

Put simply...


"If you want to get strong then you need to train, sleep and eat. If you mess up your sleeping and/or eating then NOTHING is going to really make you stronger."

I’ll repeat that for clarity. Without the correct amount of sleep and plenty of calories, you WILL NOT get stronger (or at least not in any way even close to optimal)

Tracking Your Weights on a Strength Program

To get stronger you need to do more this week than you did last week. Now, unless you’ve got some rain-man-like memory, chances are you need to write down or record the weights you lifted in order to do this. Personally, I like to use an excel spreadsheet (Yep I’m a geek) which I save to my phone and update during and after my workouts.

Please don’t be one of those people who never tracks their workouts and then wonders in six months why they haven’t gotten anywhere.

The 'Real Strength' Programme

Alright, we’ve gone over the basics and you understand that you need to track weights, eat right and sleep right in order to make progress. Now let’s look at the programme itself.

Format: 4 Phases, 10-5-3-Peak, based off the work of Dr Kyle Pierce.

Days: 3 days per week. Ideally 48 hours between sessions. So acceptable days might be Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Or perhaps Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

Phase 1: Hypertrophy (10’s)

Bigger muscles are stronger muscles, simple as.

Day 1

Back Squat 10rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Hack Squat 3x10

Lunges 3x10

Plank, 3 x Max

Day 2

Chest Press 10rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Overhead Press 3x10

Dips 3x10

Side Plank, 2 x Max Each Side

Day 3

Deadlift 10rm, then 2 back off sets at 90% of that

Glute Bridge 3x10

Hamstring Curl 3x10

Plank, 3 x Max

Follow this rep scheme for 3-4 weeks, trying to hit new PR’s every single week in every single exercise. 2.5kg increases are the average each week. 5Kg is exceptional but can sometimes happen.

Phase 2: Classic Strength (5’s)

Everyone loves (and hates) 5’s, they’re the bread and butter of strength building.

Day 1

Back Squat 5rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Hack Squat 3x5

Lunges 3x8

Plank, 3 x Max

Day 2

Chest Press 5rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Overhead Press 3x5

Dips 3x8

Side Plank, 2 x Max Each Side

Day 3

Deadlift 5rm, then 2 back off sets at 90% of that

Glute Bridge 3x8

Hamstring Curl 3x8

Plank, 3 x Max

Follow this rep scheme for 3-4 weeks, trying to hit new PR’s every single week in every single exercise. 2.5kg increases are the average each week. 5Kg is exceptional but can sometimes happen.

Phase 3: Top End Strength (3’s)

Things are getting heavier now. Much lower reps but higher weights. Basically you’re preparing your body to handle maximal loads in a few weeks.

Day 1

Back Squat 3rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Hack Squat 5x3

Lunges 3x6

Plank, 3 x Max

Day 2

Chest Press 3rm, then 2-3 back off sets at 90% of that.

Overhead Press 5x3

Dips 3x6

Side Plank, 2 x Max Each Side

Day 3

Deadlift 3rm, then 2 back off sets at 90% of that

Glute Bridge 5x6

Hamstring Curl 3x6

Plank, 3 x Max

Follow this rep scheme for 3-4 weeks, trying to hit new PR’s every single week in every single exercise. 2.5kg increases are the average each week. 5Kg is exceptional but can sometimes happen.

Phase 4: Testing Maxes

The week you’ve been waiting for. Time to test your max in all three lifts.


Day 1 Back Squat 1rm

Day 2 Chest Press 1rm

Day 3 Deadlift 1rm


Deloads Between Training Phases


Between each training phase, I strongly recommend taking a deload (light) week in which you do about half the number of sets, and take between 20-30% weight off the bar. Your body needs time to recover, and there's no point starting a new training phase still tired from the last one.


Form and Technique Should Be Good


Last but not least, do your best to keep your form in check, especially on heavy squats and deadlifts. Keeping yourself free from injury is an important part of long term strength progress



Real Strength Programme FAQ's


What is true strength training?


Strength is defined as the maximum amount of force that you can express. This means that strength, in its truest sense, requires you to lift maximal amounts of weight.



What are the 4 principles of strength training?


People always think there are 4, yet there are actually 6 principles of strength training. Specificity, overload, recovery, variation, individualization and reversibility. For more detail, I've written full guides on each.



Can I use this as a strength training program template?


Absolutely, I would say that once you've ran this programme as written at least once, it's perfectly acceptable to make changes to best suit your training needs. This might mean using a few different exercises, or perhaps a few more or less sets.



Conclusion & Next Steps:

This programme works, it has been used by hundreds of lifters around the world to great success. I have used it myself and had great success. I have used it with clients and had great success. I’ve written it out here for you so that you too can start making serious strength gains over the next few months.

Alright, that's enough reading for today, time for action...


1) Get in the gym and start working through the strength programme. Get stronger and add 20kg to your squat and deadlift, plus 10-15kg to your bench press.


2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.


3) And if you're looking for 1:1 strength and conditioning coaching you can find more information about my services here.

'Til Next Time


Alex



strength and conditioning coach

Alex Parry, MSc, BA


Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.


His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.



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