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A Time for Strength

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Knowing how to build power and strength training into your existing split can make a big difference.

By Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro; Photography: Kris Gethin; Model: Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro

[Q] Johnnie, I’m looking to go into a strength phase but I don’t know exactly how to work out my training split. Will I need more days of rest?

[A] Well, rest is essential to the entire strength-gaining process. What I recommend is a two-on/one-off setup. I do one bodypart on those two days, then rest on the third. I do chest on Monday, legs on Tuesday, then rest on Wednesday. Thursday I train shoulders since they’re a smaller bodypart. Then Friday I have plenty of energy to do back. Saturday I train bi’s and tri’s by themselves in a circuit and finish my back work if I need to. If you’re training for power or strength, you want to keep bodyparts strong but you don’t want to wear them out. This approach will maximize rest for each bodypart.

[Q] I train three days a week – size and shape stuff mostly – but I’d like to dedicate one full day to just training for strength. How should I fit it into my schedule and what lifts should I be training on that day?

[A] Instead of the usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday split I’d go Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then I’d make Saturday my power day. You want two days’ rest to maximize strength for heavy, explosive work. Deadlifts and power cleans would be the two major exercises I’d do, along with box squats. Those three exercises work your entire body and help build strength very quickly. You just have to make sure you don’t fatigue yourself excessively on the other days you train. Maybe eliminate an exercise or do one fewer set for all exercises. With too much volume your body will be resistant to gaining strength and building muscle.

[Q] A lot of people I know are fans of push-pull splits, but I feel my tri’s and bi’s get exhausted too early to really push or pull good weight in those workouts. What do you think about push-pull splits for strength?

[A] I don’t think much of push-pull when you’re training for strength. If strength is your main goal, you don’t want to wear out your biceps and triceps by training them too. Try doing rows with 315 after you’ve done pullups or deadlifts. (Good luck!) If you do biceps after all that, you’ll have nothing left, so your biceps will never grow. Push-pull just doesn’t seem to work for me at my present level.

[Q] I like to wreck one bodypart per workout, and that approach seems to have worked well for me in the size department. Can I reach my full strength potential by training that way?

[A] That’s a good question. The answer always depends on the person. Different workouts work for different people. If yours are working, then great – stick to them. I try to go heavy each workout and I set goals for myself with every session. If you’re focusing on just one bodypart per workout with heavy volume and heavy weight, I don’t know how effective that’ll be for strength. Your best movements are compound exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups, not isolation ones.

[Q] After reading your column for a while, I’m finally sold on my need to deadlift, but I don’t want all my heavy rows to suffer. Should I schedule my deads into a separate workout?

[A] You can do that, and a number of bodybuilders do. When I’m training for power, Friday is my deadlift day and I don’t do anything else for back. I can come back on Saturday for the rest of my back exercises. A separate workout is great if you have time to do it. Just make sure you give it all you have with each session, every time, no excuses.

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