The Truth About Strength Training Program

quick muscle growth

Everybody’s busy. You don’t have to tell me about how many hours you work per week, what time you have to get up in the morning, or the number of errands you have to run before you can relax. We’re all in the same boat these days. And since we are, we all need a workout program we can stick with and not have to think about and still see great results on. It needs to be simple, efficient, and not take too darn long.

That’s the logic behind The Truth About Strength Training program—a 12-week workout and diet plan I wrote for regular, busy people who want to get the most benefit from the least amount of effort. It requires four lifting sessions that shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete each and will have you setting new personal records on your squat, bench press, and deadlift in no time.

The first four weeks (Phase I) of this fast gains training plan appear here. You can get the rest of the program (along with the diet and two bonus books) at This is strength training for the ordinary guy who wants extraordinary results.

On the squat, bench press, and deadlift, you’ll need to “work up” to the heaviest load you can handle for the given number of reps. However, it shouldn’t be a load that pushes you to the limit. Start with the empty bar and do 10 reps just to get warm. Then add some weight and do a set of 7 or 8, depending on what your ultimate rep number is (do more if it’s going to be a low-rep set and less if it’s going to be a high-rep set). If you’re working up to a heavy 5, keep the reps at five each work-up set. If it’s 2, start with sets of five and then as you go heavier drop it to 3 and then 2.

For the main lifts, you can do the conventional squat, bench press, and deadlift every week throughout the plan or vary them. You can do the front squat one week in place of the back squat or the floor press in place of the bench press. But if making progress on the conventional lifts is important to you, you should stick with them more often than not. The reps stay the same. You’ll do 7 reps the first week, 5 the second, and 3 the third no matter what exercises you choose. The weight you use will vary depending on the lift.

Perform each workout (Day I, II, III, and IV) once per week. You can perform Days I and II back to back if you like, and III and IV back to back, or rest a day between each session. Allow at least two full days between lower-body workouts (Day I and Day III). For example: Perform Day I on Monday, Day II on Wednesday, Day III on Friday, and Day IV Sunday. Or, you could do Day I on Monday, Day II Tuesday, Day III Thursday, and Day IV Friday. You can schedule them other ways too, but never perform three workouts on back-to-back days.

Exercises that are paired (marked “A” and “B”) are done in alternating fashion. Perform a set of A, rest as prescribed, then a set of B, rest, and repeat until all the sets are completed. Note that exercises with “0 sec.” rest mean to go immediately to the next exercise. Exercises that don’t have a letter attached (are not paired) are done as straight sets. Complete one set, rest as prescribed, and repeat until all sets are complete. 


7 Best Exercises for Fast Results >>>

strength training program


1. Glute-Ham Raise, Sliding Hip Extension Leg Curl, or Leg Curl (Choose One)
Sets: 4 Reps: 8–12 Rest: 60 sec.

Glute-Ham Raise
Adjust pad distance so knees are behind the pad enough that you have leverage to push it against as you perform the raise. You don’t want your knees to be too high on the pad so that they hurt or grind when you perform reps. Set the back of your calves under the upper ankle hook and place your feet on the platform. Begin with your knees bent so your torso is perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze your hamstrings, glutes, and abs and lower your body until it’s parallel to the floor.

Push your toes into the footplate and pull your body up to vertical again. Make sure your back doesn’t hyperextend and your hips don’t bend. If either of these happens, you should use sliding leg curls or regular leg curls instead.

2. Squat To Box, Front Squat, or Squat (Choose One)
Reps: Work up to a heavy 7 (in Weeks 2 and 3, work up to a heavy 5, a heavy 3)
Squat To Box
Place a box behind you or stack some firm rubber mats. The box should be low enough that when you squat onto it you reach your deepest SAFE squatting depth (lower back in its natural arch; no pain). Angle the box so one of the corners points between your legs.

Set up in a squat rack or cage. Grasp the bar as far apart as is comfortable and step under it. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and nudge the bar out of the rack. The bar can sit on traps or rear delts. Step back and stand with your feet shoulder width and your toes turned slightly outward. Take a deep breath and bend hips back and then bend your knees to lower body onto the box. Push your knees apart as you descend.

Pause for a moment on the box, keeping your tight body position. Drive head back, keep chest up, and extend hips to come back up.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat, Goblet-Hold
Sets: 3 Reps: 8–12 (each side) Rest: 60 sec. between legs, 90 sec. after both
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Hold one dumbbell (or kettlebell, as shown) with both hands in front of your chest and rest the top of your right foot on the bench behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.

A good way to get in position for these is to place a towel on the floor and kneel on it with your back knee. Have somebody gently hand you the dumbbell and begin your set from the bottom up. This helps you gauge exactly how far to have your front foot out in front. If you start at the top, sometimes you need to jump your foot out as you go down because your leg is too close in to give you room to squat.

4. Meadows Row
Sets: 3 Reps: 8–12 (each side) Rest: 60–90 sec.
Use a landmine unit or wedge one end of a barbell into the corner of a room. Load the free end and grasp it with your left hand using an overhand grip. Stagger your stance so that your right leg is in front of your left. The bar should be perpendicular to your body. Row it up until your shoulder blade is fully retracted. You can brace your right arm against your right leg.

5. Swiss-Ball Rollout or Suspension Trainer Fallout
Sets: 4 Reps: 8–12 Rest: 60 sec.
Suspension Trainer Fallout
Set the handles of a suspension trainer at about mid-thigh level. Stand behind them with your body straight and leaning into the handles. Brace your core. Slowly reach your arms forward so your body begins to fall forward. Go as far as you can without losing tension in your abs, and then pull your arms back.

DAY II  >>> [PAGE 3]

VIDEO: The Arm Bomb Workout >>>

strength training program


1. Dumbbell Neutral-Grip Incline Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10–12 Rest: 60 sec.
Set an adjustable bench to a 30-degree incline and lie back on it with a dumbbell (or kettlebell, as shown) in each hand. (If your bench doesn’t incline that low, place the head of it on a mat or plates to elevate it slightly—just make sure it’s sturdy.) Turn your palms to face each other. Press the dumbbells from shoulder level to over your chest.

2. Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, or Floor Press (Choose One)
Reps: Work up to a heavy 7 (in Weeks 2 and 3, work up to a heavy 5, a heavy 3)
Bench Press
Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and arch your back so there’s space between your lower back and the bench. Pull the bar out of the rack and lower it to your sternum, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides. When the bar touches your body, drive your feet hard into the floor and press the bar back up.

3A. Overhead Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10–12, 8–10, 5–8 Rest: 60–90 sec.
Set the bar up in a squat rack or cage and grasp it just outside shoulder width. Take the bar off the rack and hold it at shoulder level with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze the bar and brace your abs. Press the bar overhead, pushing your head forward and shrugging your traps as the bar passes your face. Add weight each set so you can stay in the appropriate rep range.

3B. Pullup or Lat Pulldown
Sets: 3  Reps: As many as possible/10–15  Rest: 60 sec.
Hang from a pullup bar with hands outside shoulder width and palms facing away. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Perform as many reps as possible but stop one shy of failure.

4. Face Pull
Sets: 4 Reps: 15–20 Rest: 60 sec.
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station. Grasp an end in each hand with palms facing each other. Step back to place tension on the cable. Pull the handles to your forehead so your palms face your ears and your upper back is fully contracted. This can be done with one or two bands instead of a cable, or a suspension trainer, as shown.

5. Overhead Cable Triceps Extension
Sets: 4 Reps: 10–15 Rest: 60 sec.
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and grasp an end in each hand. Face away from the station and step forward and stagger your feet. Bend forward at the hips so the tension on cable pulls your arms over your head and bends your elbows. Extend your elbows and flex your triceps at the end. You can also use one or more bands for the movement.

DAY III >>> [PAGE 4] 

Why You Should Be Doing These 6 Exercises >>>

strength training program


1. Glute-Ham Raise, Sliding Leg Curl, or Leg Curl (Choose differently from Day I)
Sets: 4 Reps: 8–12 Rest: 60 sec

2. Deadlift
Reps: Work up to a heavy 7 (in Weeks 2 and 3, work up to a heavy 5, a heavy 3)
Stand with feet about hip width and bend your hips back to reach down and grasp the bar so your hands are just outside your knees. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, drive your heels into the floor and pull the bar up along your shins until you’re standing with hips fully extended and the bar in front of your thighs.

3. Shrug
Sets: 4 Reps: 10–15 Rest: 90 sec.
Hold the bar with hands shoulder width and shrug your shoulders as high as you can. Hold at the top for a second or two.

4. Back Extension
Sets: 4  Reps: 12–15  Rest: 60 sec.
Lock your legs into a back extension bench and allow your torso to bend forward so that your hips are bent almost 90 degrees. Extend your hips so that your body forms a straight line. Don’t round your lower back in the down position and squeeze your glutes on the way up. If you can handle extra weight, hold a plate behind your head.

5. Pallof Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10 (each side)  Rest: 60 sec.
Attach a band to a sturdy object at shoulder height. Grasp the free end with one hand over the other and step away from the anchor point. Stand with feet shoulder width and hold the band in front of your chest. Extend your arms in front of you. The band will try to twist your body toward it—resist. Bring your hands back to your chest and then press again. Each press is one rep. You can use a cable station instead of a band.

DAY IV >>> [PAGE 5] 

The One Hour a Week Workout >>>

strength training program

1A. One-Arm Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 60 sec.
Perform as you did the dumbbell neutral-grip incline press on Day II but work only one arm at a time. You can incline the bench slightly if you like.
Do all your reps on one side first and then pass the weight to the other hand. You can extend your free arm out to your side for balance. Squeeze that hand into a fist to add stability.

1B. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row
Sets: 3  Reps: 8–12 Rest: 60 sec.
Set an adjustable bench to an incline and lie down with your chest against it. Grasp a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand with palms facing each other. Draw your shoulder blades back and row the weights to your sides.

2. Partial Swing Lateral Raise
Sets: 4  Reps: 30 Rest: 90 sec.
The idea here is to use a shortened range of motion but really shock the delts. Usually, using momentum is bad, but in this case, your delts have to work to slow the weights down as they swing back toward your sides. Swing them out a few inches, till about a 45-degree angle, and control them as they swing back. Don’t shrug your shoulders as you do them.

3. Chest-Supported Rear Lateral Raise
Sets: 3  Reps: 15 Rest: 60–90 sec.
Set an adjustable bench to an incline and lie down with your chest against it and a dumbbell (or weight plate) in each hand. Let your arms hang with palms facing each other. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your arms out 90 degrees to your sides. Hold the top for a second.

4A. Cross-Body Hammer Curl
Sets: 3  Reps: 8–12 (each side) Rest: 30 sec.
Hold a dumbbell in your left hand. Curl the weight across your body toward your opposite shoulder. Squeeze at the top. Complete all your reps on that side and then switch sides.

4B. Cable Pressdown, Rope Handle (elbows facing out)
Sets: 3 Reps: 12–15, 10–12, 8–10  Rest: 30 sec.
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and grasp an end in each hand. Turn your elbows to point outward. Extend your elbows and hold the end position for a second. Increase the weight each set according to the rep ranges.

The Two-Move Workout >>>

Sean Hyson is the Training Director for Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness and the author of The Truth About Strength Training, available now at

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