Getting serious about gaining size and strength means you’ll probably need a program to follow.
There are so many lifting programs out there, it can be a real chore trying to pick the “perfect” one. Truth is, there really isn’t a perfect program for anything. But, there are some really good ones out there that I bet you’ve never heard of.
Since I’ve been in the game a long time, and have used myself as a guinea pig for more than my fair share of programs, I thought I’d reflect on the 3 best workout programs I’ve ever done. Specifically, the ones that gave me the biggest gains in size and strength.
*Side note: I am not affiliated with any of these programs, so I have no personal interest in you clicking on any link in this article.
Before You Start…
Before you even think about getting serious about a new program, answer these 3 questions.
- Do you have a general idea of how you’re going to eat along with the program to reach your goals?
- Do you have actual goals? If you don’t, please fix that by setting one now. Visual goals are ok. Visualize exactly what you want to look like.
- Are you OK with having to buy bigger clothes, and having small children and animals stop to gaze at you?
If you answered yes to all 3, then you’re ready to find and start a new program. Your welcome.
Eat Eat Eat
I won’t spend a lot of time on this right now, because I’ve been down this road with so many people and I’ve found that no matter what I say, some people just don’t get it. You have to EAT like an animal to get huge. You have to eat meals between meals. It’s a law of nature. I didn’t make the law, but I have submitted to it in the past and have literally gained 20 pounds in a 2-3 month period.
Your metabolism isn’t “just too high to gain weight.” You just aren’t eating enough. I’m not being negative, just had to add this because without the right amount of calories, you literally can’t put on size.
Supplements for size and strength
Using the right supplements can make a big difference when you’re trying to put on size and strength. It shouldn’t be complicated. There are only a few that you really need and that have proven benefits. These are my top 3 recommendations that should accompany any program geared towards putting on size and getting stronger:
- Creatine: For increases in strength and power, faster muscle gains and enhanced recovery. Don’t spend too much. Basic creatine monohydrate is fine.
- Whey protein: If you aren’t getting enough protein from food to ensure maximum gains and recovery from your training, you have to use a protein supplement.
- Citrulline: L-Citrulline increases nitric oxide in the body, improving blood flow and giving you a bigger “pump.” If you take a pre-workout, it probably contains Citrulline. Just make sure you’re getting at least 6 grams per serving (the clinically relevant dose).
The Best 3 Workout Programs I Ever Tried
Without Further Ado, here are 3 programs (in no particular order) that gave me really great gains in size and strength, with a link to each if you want to check it out further. I’ve personally done all of these over the years, and have used concepts from them in my personal training as well.
HCT-12 is short for “Hypertrophy Cluster Training – 12” The 12 refers to the total amount of reps you complete on the final set of each exercise, but not in the traditional way.
In this Program, you choose a compound movement like the bench press, overhead press, or any other movement you want to choose. You then:
- Start with a light, warm up amount of weight and perform 6 reps.
- Add a little weight, and do another set of 6 reps.
- Continue this process, adding weight and hitting 6 reps, resting up to 2 minutes between each set.
- Reach a final set where you can get 6, but not more than 6. A 6 rep-max for the lift you’re using.
- After hitting that final set of 6 reps, rest 30 seconds, then perform 2 reps with the same weight. Repeat this 3 total times
The final 3 sets of 2 reps are called a Cluster. The 6 rep max plus the 6 reps in the cluster = 12 reps. Hence the name, Hypertrophy Cluster Training
Your goal is to constantly be trying to reach a higher weight for the final set of 12 with each workout.
Program Specifics and Details:
Exercise selection in HCT 12 is broken down in a specific way, and if you’re interested I highly suggest clicking the link the to full details of the program.
Basically, you choose one exercise from each category to focus on
|Vertical Pressing||Overhead Press|
|Horizontal Pressing||Bench Press|
|Abs||Sit ups/Ab wheel|
You wouldn’t do all of these in one workout. You’d split it up depending on how many days per week you’re going to train.
Why it works:
HCT-12 is great because at the 6 rep range, you get both strength and size gains. The cluster sets on short rest really force the muscle to put out a lot of force, and you get more time under tension at a relatively heavy weight.
I gained about 12 pounds on this program and got stronger on every lift.
Here’s the link if you want to see more:
#2 Jacked Street
Jacked Street is one of my favorite programs of all time. It’s an ongoing program that you can follow on the TrainHeroic App. The program is designed by John Wellbourne, a former NFL player and the creator of Crossfit Football (no longer a thing, but it was awesome).
Here’s a quote from the program description:
“So, you want to put on muscle. You want to have the kind of body that makes men, women, children, and domestic animals stop and stare in awe. You’re in luck, because there is a place where the hypertrophy flows like wine and everyone is a resident of Gainzzville. Pack up your skinny jeans – you’ve been relocated to Jacked Street.“
This program is designed for people looking to put on muscle and size. The workouts often use BFR Bands as well, which is also awesome. BFR bands have been used by bodybuilders for a long time (known as “Occlusion Training,”) They work, and I highly recommend checking them out if you’re trying to get bigger. I have a full article on these Here if you want to know more.
Jacked Street is fully periodized, intelligent programming designed for the sole purpose of making you bigger, stronger and more athletic, in that order.
Since it’s not a static program, there is no way to give much detail about the specifics of it, but you can read the full description Here to get a feel for the program. Just know that it’s one you can follow indefinitely and John does an amazing job of changing it up and making it fun and interesting. And, the results are REAL!
#3 Strength Circuits – Christian Thibaudeau
This program comes as close as you’re going to get to maximizing both strength and size gains in a single program.
It was also one of the most fun training programs I’ve ever done, and it really is different than anything else I’ve ever tried. It’s a unique and very intelligent program.
Strength Circuits work like this:
- Choose 5 exercises, preferably big lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and power clean.
- Perform a set of 5 reps of each movement.
- Start back with the first movement and now perform 4 reps of each
- Continue this process, doing a set of 3, then 2, then 1 rep of each movement.
- Do the same workout 5 days/week.
This lifting program probably immediately raises some eyebrows. You’re doing the same lifts day after day. But the program is deceivingly brilliant. In his own words, Thibaudeau states:
“Performing strength circuits using a 5/4/3/2/1 rep scheme — each round decreasing the reps and increasing the weights on all exercises — provide the perfect mix of load, density, and volume for maximizing strength and hypertrophy, as well as shredding up.”-Christian Thibaudeau
Why it Works:
This program is really intelligently designed and it really shows how amazing of a strength coach Thibaudeau is.
The program uses the same big lifts every day, but the volume is not high enough to induce overtraining in the recommended 6 week time frame. The constant repetition of low rep lifting will improve neuromuscular efficiency (you’ll get better at those lifts.) The daily volume adding up will also force some serious growth of your fast twitch muscle fibers, and you should expect to get a hell of a lot stronger on all the lifts.
The only drawback to using this program is that it can be difficult to perform in a normal gym setting. Trying to go back and forth between 5 different exercises can be a serious challenge.
I was able to circumvent this in 2 ways. One, I have a home gym so that helps. And 2, before I had the home gym, I would go to the gym very early when not many people were there. My training is one of my highest priorities, and if you feel the same way you can always find a way to get it done.
Here’s a link to the full article for Strength Circuits. Highly recommend checking it out.
These 3 programs gave me some amazing gains and taught me a lot about working out and training. Part of the fun in choosing a training program is getting into the details of how it works, and then testing it out on yourself.
I’m confident that any of these 3 programs will be worth your time. They all have a few things in common:
- Designed by great coaches
- Intelligently designed
- Made specifically for gains in strength and size
I hope you found this article useful. And as always, I hope you find something here that can help you to get a little closer to that best version of you.
If you liked this article, here’s a couple others I think you’ll really enjoy: