training programs for strength and size

Four Glorious Training Programs For Strength And Size

In the continuing quest for size and strength, we’re always looking for new ways to make gains happen.
Now, the best way to get bigger and stronger will always be progressive overload. More volume = greater gains in size and strength; and continuously adding more volume to your sessions, either by increasing weight, number of reps, or sets, is the best way to do this.


However, at some point, just adding more weight stops being as effective as it did when we first started training. Therefore, we need to find new ways of manipulating volume in order to keep seeing progress in both size and strength.

Training For Size

If you’re looking for new and effective ways to pack on slabs of lean muscle, the two methods outlined below will do just that.

But heed this:

These programs are not for the weekend Joe Schmo Gym-Goer. These programs – while fun as hell, in a masochistic kind of way – require intensity, and focus, if “gains, you wish to see.” – Yoda, probably.

Proceed, at your own risk.

German Volume Training

If you want a fun, brutal, and effective way to pack on size, fast, German Volume Training (GVT) is the way to go.

GVT – also known as the ten sets method – is pretty simple: 10 sets of 10 reps per exercise. However, this method of training is so intense and effective, that you only need to hit each bodypart once per week.

Your goal for each exercise is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps, with the same weight. The general rule for GVT is to start with a weight you could hit for 20 reps, which for most people is around 60% of their 1-rep max.

You’re also going to be utilizing a 4-0-2-0 tempo for each rep; meaning you’re going to lower the weight over a period of 4 seconds, then immediately transition into lifting the weight over a period of 2 seconds, before immediately moving to the next rep.

For GVT, you want to keep rest periods between 90-120 seconds. When you first start, your sets are going to feel easy and this rest may seem long. However, as you get to around the 6th-7th set, you’re really going to start feeling it, and the temptation to lengthen your rest will set in.


Now, because you’re only hitting each bodypart once per week, you want to select the biggest bang-for-your-buck exercises. These are the exercises that work the most muscle groups at once, like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows.

Should you feel so inclined, you can also throw in an assistance exercise for each body part as well. But, don’t overdo it. Your focus here are your main 10×10 sets.

The goal for each session is to complete all 10 reps across all sets. Once you can do this, increase the weight for the next session by 5%, or 5 pounds.

Sample GVT Program

Day 1 – Arms

Day 2 – Chest & Back

Day 3 – Off

Day 4 – Legs & Shoulders

Day 5 – Off

Repeat, for 4-5 cycles

Day 1 – Arms

A1) Standing Barbell Curl 10×10

A2) Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press 10×10

B1) Dumbbell Cross-Body Hammer Curls 3×10-12

B2) Tricep Overhead Extension 3×10-12

Day 2 – Chest & Back

A1) Slight Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 10×10

A2) Pullups or Pulldowns 10×10

B1) Incline Dumbbell Flyes 3×10-12

B2) Seated Close-Grip Cable Row 3×10-12

Day 3 – Off

Day 4 – Legs & Shoulders

A1) Barbell Back Squat 10×10

A2) Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 10×10

B2) Lying Leg Curls 3×10-12

B2) Dumbbell Lateral RAise 3×10-12

Day 5 – Off

training programs for strength and size

Escalating Density Training (EDT)

EDT was popularized by Charles Staley in the early 2000s, and takes the concepts of load (weight) and volume (sets x reps) and combines them by looking at total workout density; or how much work you perform in a given workout.

Your goal then, is to perform more work in each subsequent training session – hence, the escalating part of EDT.

When structuring EDT, it’s best to break each workout into two 20-minute blocks, or three 15-minute blocks.

In each block, you’re going to be performing two exercises in back-to-back, in alternating fashioned. Exercises are typically are antagonistic pairings, or exercises that work opposing muscle groups; like chest/back, push/pull, upper/lower, etc.

For each exercise, select a weight that you can do for approximately 10-12 reps. The actual number of reps you do, however, is going to be about half of that.

Start with 5-6 reps of each exercise, with very minimal rest (15 seconds). As you continue through the block, and fatigue sets in, your reps are going to drop and your rest is going to increase; to the point where by the end of the block, you maybe will be able to crank out a few single reps of each exercise.

Progression is simple: Each time you perform the workout, your goal is to do more total reps than the session prior.

For upping the weight, follow the 20/5 rule: Where once you’re doing 20% more reps per exercise than when you started, up the weight 5%.

Sample EDT Workout (20 minute blocks):

Day 1 – Back & Triceps

Block A

A1) Chin-Ups

A2) Tricep Pressdowns

Block B

B1) Seated Cable Row

B2) Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Day 2 – Chest & Biceps

Block A

A1) Dumbbell Squeeze Press

A2) Cross-Body Hammer Curl

Block B

B1) Incline Dumbbell Fly

B2) Incline Dumbbell Curl

Day 3 – Off

Day 4 – Legs

Block A

A1) Goblet Squat

A2) Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Block B

B1) Front-to-Back Lunge/Left Leg

B2) Front-to-Back Lunge/Right Leg

Day 5 – Shoulders & Core

Block A

A1) Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press

A2 Stability Ball Crunch

Block B

B1) Seated Lateral Raise

B2) Back Extensions

Day 6 – Off

Repeat for 4-5 cycles.

Training for Strength

Training for strength is a bit different than training for size. Instead of trying to do as much work as possible in a given session, we want to structure our sessions so they allow us to do our heaviest work, with the greatest amount of motor unit recruitment, and central nervous system (CNS) activation, in the most optimal way.

training programs for strength and size

Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT)

In high school, we were “required” to lift weights for sports.

(We weren’t outright required, but if you didn’t, I’ll just say, you were not in favor with the coaches.)

For them, the big thing was bench press. Everyone had to bench press, and every thing was about increasing your bench press. It was nothing but a recipe for shoulder issues.

Our bench press program – picked out by someone who clearly didn’t have much knowledge about training athletes – was a pyramid-loading scheme.

Typical pyramid-style training is where you increase the weight each set, while reducing the number of reps being performed. For example:

Set 1 – 10 reps at 85 pounds

Set 2 – 8 reps at 100 pounds

Set 3 – 6 reps at 115 pounds

And so on.

For us, it was sets of 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 10.

Yes. Nine sets of bench press with near-maximal work, multiple times per week. Just writing that out makes me realize how utterly absurd and ridiculous it was.

And as you can imagine, mine – and a lot of other guys – bench numbers were nothing spectacular.

The biggest problem with this method is it can cause a lot of fatigue leading up to your heaviest sets. And, if strength is your goal, that much pre near-maximal work can greatly fatigue your CNS; leaving you very little left in the tank for when you need it most.

A better method of pyramid style training is reverse pyramid training, or RPT.

Reverse pyramid training is just like it sounds: Instead of starting light, and working down to your heaviest set, you’re starting with your heaviest set, and working up to your lightest.

Logically, this makes sense. Performing your heaviest set first (after a thorough warm-up) means you have more energy and less fatigue when you need it the most.

Not only that, but performing your heaviest set first activates more muscle fibers earlier in your workout. This means, that even as the weights get lighter, you’re still recruiting more muscle fibers than you normally would be at that weight; leading to more gains.

Reducing the weight as you go also makes fatigue much less of a factor in your later sets.

Many years after high school, when I got back into strength training, I utilized RPT for a great deal of my strength work, and was able to push my bench press, and other lifts, way past any previous PRs.

RPT training is also great for those in a calorie deficit, for this same reason: It allows you to perform your most important and demanding set first, when you have the most energy available.

Here’s a sample breakdown:

3-5 warm-up sets

Set 1: 4-6 reps

Set 2: 6-8 reps

Set 3: 8-10 reps

RPT is recommended for large, compound movements, like bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and rows.

Rest 3-4 minutes after your first set, and 2-3 minutes after sets 2 and 3. Drop the weight 10-15% after your first set, and another 10-15% after your second.

programs for strength and size

Wave Loading

Wave loading is a very effective tool, particularly where strength is concerned.

The main purpose of wave loading is to “ramp up,” the central nervous system, and recruit a higher threshold of motor units needed to achieve maximum strength.

A “wave” is a sequence of three sets that decrease in reps. So for example:

  • 8-6-3
  • 6-4-2
  • 3-2-1

And so on..

Wave-loading then, is a sequence of two or more waves done in succession; with the weight in each subsequent wave being increase 5-10 pounds over the previous wave. So, for example a 3-rep, 400 pound deadlift wave loading scheme would look like this:

Wave 1:

Set 1 – 8 reps @ 350

Rest 2-3 minutes

Set 2 – 6 reps @ 375

Rest 2-3 minutes

Set 3 – 3 reps @ 400

Rest 2-3 minutes

Wave 2:

Set 4 – 8 reps @ 355

Rest 2-3 minutes

Set 5 – 6 reps @ 380

Rest 2-3 minutes

Set 6 – 3 reps @ 405

If successful, rest 2-3 minutes, and perform another wave. For maximum strength, continue adding waves until form breaks or you can’t move the weight anymore.

The reason wave loading works so well is one wave feeds into another. Due to the CNS activation of the heaviest set of your first wave, first set of the following wave seem much lighter in comparison; even though you’re using a heavier weight than you did the first time.

Size and strength are some of the most coveted goals of any training program. When used correctly, and combine with good nutrition, the above methods can help you pack on mass, move literally tons of weight, and become an all-out beast in the gym.


About the Author

Jorden Pagel is an online fitness and nutrition coach, specializing in helping people shred fat, and get jacked. When he's not helping people transform their lives, he enjoys writing pieces like the one you just read, training legs in short-shorts, and optimizing his Bumble profile.