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Aggressive Strength Q and A

Last week I sent out an email to my newsletter asking YOU, my reader what you would like to know more about.  I asked YOU what type of questions you had about training in general and I got a ton of responses back..  Below I took some of the most frequently asked questions and answered them for you.

If you got any more, just post them up in the comments! 

Oh and before you read any further I should let you now that tomorrow I’ll be unleashing a NEW training program called, The Aggressive Strength Method.  If you’re a SERIOUS lifter or athlete looking to build up more lean muscle, strength, power, and conditioning all at once, you’ll NOT want to miss out on this…

Be on the look out!

For now, enjoy the following Q and A!

How do your phases change within your training programs?  What do you change with your reps, sets?  How about your movements? 

-Eric M

Most of my programs I design around The Aggressive Strength Method run on a 4 week cycle.  I do 3 weeks of progressive strength utilizing reps anywhere from 8 down to 1 in that time.

The amount of sets I use all depends on how many reps I’m using for that movement.  The lower the reps, the more sets I use.

A typical set up may look like this:

Week 1 – 1 x 8, 4 x 5, Week 2 – 1 x 8, 3 x 5, 2 x 3, Week 3 – 1 x 8, 1 x 5, 3 x 3, 3 x 1-2

As for movements, I like to always have a squat, a deadlift, and a press variation within the weekly set up.  These main movements will change every 3-4 weeks as will the assistance exercises.

A sample set up may look like this:

Day 1 – Front Squats, Day 2 – Sumo Deadlifts, Day 3 – Push Press.

For the assistance exercises I vary it up quite a bit by using bodyweight, suspension training, sandbags, and kettlebells.

Then for conditioning, I just do pretty much what ever I want to: Sleds, Hardcore Finishers, Strongman Circuits, sprints, ect.

What would you do for football players that wanted to train 4x’s a week and a guy that wants to train only 3 or wants to do full body workouts?  Also, can you do 4 full body workouts a week?  Thanks! 

-Brian B

If you wanted to train 4x’s a week, it would all depend on your current training level and your goal.  If you were a lot more experienced and well conditioned, you could get away with training 4x’s a week utilizing a full body training approach each session.

The set up I would use for this would be to focus in on a different main strength movement each session then mix up assistance movements just making sure you have a good balance of movements over the course of the 4 days.

Day 1 – Deadlift Focus, Day 2 – Press Focus, Day 3 – Squat Focus, Day 4 – Heavy Upper Body Pull Focus

Now, if you were a football player wanting to train 4 x’s a week, I would set your program up a bit differently.  For this,  I would stick to a upper/ lower split.  I would also have this same set up for guys who are less advanced and not as conditioned because 4 full body workouts a week can get to be very taxing.

For football athletes, this is a better set up to focus on more strength and power building.

The set up I would use for this would look like:

Day 1 – Upper STRENGTH/ Power, Day 2 – Lower POWER, Day 3 – Upper Volume / Hypertrophy, Day 4 – Lower STRENGTH / Volume

Finally, for a 3 day set up using a full body approach, you can be a bit more crazy.

I always keep the main strength movements in each workout with either a squat, deadlift, or press variation and then from there mix up the assistance exercises.

One of the main things to remember is to always mix up your movements.  For example, you don’t want to be doing a vertical pull in every workout.  Instead have a vertical pull on day 1 (Pull Ups), horizontal pull on day 2 (Recline Rows), then on day three either have a vertical or horizontal pull variation depending on what you need work on or what you want to improve.

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I’d like to know if it’s possible to have some more tips on how many days we should workout, how long, the number of reps we should do, the rest time between sets, how heavy we have to push to build strength and muscle. 

I appreciate your reply and look forward to it!

-Babur E

First off, when it comes to designing your workouts it all depends on what YOUR goal is and then it comes down to YOUR level of fitness.  This will determine the amount of days you train as well as the reps and sets.

Generally, if you’re more advanced and your goal is to build up more strength and lean mass, I would recommend you do a 4 day upper / lower split so you can add a little more focus and volume on each group.  I wouldn’t recommend your general bodybuilding workouts, but rather split up your training into athletic focused workouts instead.

With any program you use, it’s my belief that you always train for performance.

For length of workouts, I’m always looking to push the pace as I don’t like to train over an hour.  I like to get in and get out and to be honest, if you’re training for longer then a hour at a time, you may not be training hard enough.   I can remember when I used to train for a few hours at a time at least, but I can also remember that when I trained for this long, there was a ton of time I was wasting from walking around and resting too much.

When you train, you need to ATTACK!  Your goal should be to get in and get out as fast as possible.

Next, when it comes to REST, I generally never track my rest time.  It’s just go-go-go!   The only exception I use is when I’m training for maximal strength or power.  When I train for these, I rest a bit longer as you want to be somewhat fresh in order to perform near 100%, but typically I just try and go when I feel I’m ready.  You should always be pushing the pace and as I said earlier, ATTACK!

To answer your last part on how hard do you have to push to build muscle and strength, the real answer to this is it depends.  It depends on YOU. It isn’t about a special number because this number is going to be different for everyone.  It’s more about what’s challenging to YOU?  If you’re only able to squat 200lbs, then getting to 225lbs is going to be a goal for you VS. someone that has a 400 lbs squat, that weight will be light for them.

Bottom Line – YOU need to be breaking records all the time.  In order to get stronger, obviously you need to be consistently increasing the amount of weight your lifting and to get bigger, you need to be increasing the amount of volume you’re doing overtime.  Building muscle and strength go hand in hand.

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When should I use a belt for deadlifts?

-Timonthy S

I generally say NOT to use a belt when deadlifting because you already have a “built-in” belt with your core.  However, if you have lower back issues and your less advanced as far as your core strength and general fitness goes, I would recommend using a belt.

However, wearing a belt can be different for everyone, but when you do heavier reps of 3 or below, I would then recommend using a belt.

Wearing a belt will help support your back, but at the same time, if you use it too much, you can actually get weaker overtime because your core won’t be forced to work as hard with the added support.  You don’t want to become dependent on the support of a belt.  Instead you should focus on building up your core strength so you don’t have to rely on the support of a belt.

I try not to ever wear a belt for most of my sets of deadlifts unless I’m training with a super heavy load.  Doing so has helped me build up a stronger core overtime.

Bottom Line – It depends on YOU.

Thanks for your info – question, I’ve ran a few 5k adventure runs and haven’t been that challenged.  I’ve got a 12- mile adventure run in October, how would you suggest I incorporate that into training and what would be best to do, work up to running a couple of hours or what?  Appreciate any info.

-Brian M.

I made a video response to this one a while back…

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Hello Travis,

How are you doing? I follow your workout tips and videos from Turkey, Istanbul.  I learned much from you and helped me . I have no access to gym right now but I have some stuff at home.

I am glad you are supporting bodyweight exercises along with weight training.

I just have one question that is should I push my body to failure or use some weights during bodyweight exercises like ; weighted pull up or weighted dips.

Take care ,

-Edwards

Good question.  For this, I highly recommend you DO NOT push yourself to failure on all of your lifts.  I recommend always leaving just a few reps in the tank to keep yourself fresh.

If all you do is continuously go to failure within all of your sets, especially when training just bodyweight or even weighted bodyweight movements, you will overtime burn yourself out which will put a halt to your overall progress and even take you back a few steps with your overall results.

I write about this in further detail within the latest issue of My Mad Methods, but the important thing about training with bodyweight and getting stronger is QUALITY reps.

You should focus on training with FAST and CRISP movements.

Most people continue to bang out sloppy reps when they train with bodyweight.  A general rule of thumb for me is that when you start to slow down within your lift or really start to struggle and grind your reps out, that’s when your set is done.

If you stop short of failure, you’ll keep yourself fresh and in return keep yourself from burning out in the long run.

Now, to answer the other part of your question in regards to adding weight to your bodyweight movements, I say YES.   You must do this overtime in order to get stronger.  Going to failure all the time as i mentioned above will do little to help you gain strength.  Adding external weight will help build up strength faster.

Generally if you hitting over 20+ reps consistently with your different bodyweight movements, it’s time you start adding weight vioa a weighted vest, chains, or even bands.
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When you talk about sprinting what’s a “Build Up”?  Also, how Often should I sprint a week?  What’s TOO much?

-Jackson

When it comes to sprinting, just like lifting heavy weights, you don’t want to go in “cold” and just go. You need to properly warm up and “grease the groove” a bit so when you lift heavy weights, you always should be doing some lighter warm up sets first to build up to your heavier weights.

The same goes for sprinting, especially when you’re going to be sprinting near full speed.   One of the best ways to warm up for sprints besides hitting a solid dynamic warm up first, is to utilize “build ups” which are a way to ease yourself into a full on sprint.

Basically what a “Build Up” is is when you start off in a slow jog first then every 5-10 yards or so you pick up speed until finally you’re running at max speed just for a 10-15 yards.  Generally a build up will cover about 50-60 yards total.

I like to use build ups within my dynamic warm ups before I do sprints and when I use them, I’ll usually hit 3-4 total reps of about 50 yards or so.

Now when it comes to sprinting, you must understand that sprinting can be taxing on the body just as much as heavier lifting can be.  If you were to go out and run 10-15 ALL out 40 yard sprints, you’ll feel it the next day for sure.

My general rule of thumb is to sprint a least once per week minimum with no more the 3 total sprinting session per week.

This all depends on your goal.  Obviously if you’re a football player or track runner, you’ll be sprinting a whole bunch more, but if you’re just looking to get stronger and leaner, 1-2 times a week should be more then enough.  I would never go over 3 times a week.

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Travis, I don’t have a power rack – does this mean I only get strong doing deadlifts?

-Murphy T

Short answer is – HELL NO!

Actually, not having a squat rack gives you a good excuse to get much STRONGER!

When I first got my gym, we didn’t have a squat rack so any time I had to do a type of squat or overhead press, I would have to power clean it up from the floor.

Doing this is good and bad.

It’s good because it makes you get in a solid rep of a power clean to start out each set and this will only help you build up some more power and efficiency in this lift overtime.

The bad news is that you’ll be limited on the amount of weight you can use depending on what your max power clean is.  If you can’t get the bar up from off the floor to your back, you’ll obviously not be able use that amount of weight.  You’ll have to go a bit lighter.

Bottom Line – By no means is not having a rack an excuse for you to not get any stronger.

If all you had was a barbell, you could easily get stronger.

You’re not limited to just deadlifts either.  You can still do any barbell movement that’s out there and reap the benefits!

Just remember – NO EXCUSES!  Find a way to make it happen.

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So there you have it.  I hope I covered enough questions there to clear some things up.

If  YOU have any more strength training questions, go ahead and post them up in the comments!

Keep Living Aggressive and Get Strong! 

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  • Eddie

    Travis,

    I typically do full body workouts every other day. I love the feeling of using my entire body in a workout, but I’ve found drawbacks that I’m not sure how to handle. For example, yesterday I did some calisthenics, core, and a conditioning barbell complex. Today is a rest day, but I hate not being active. My lower body needs a rest I know that, but if my upper body isn’t beat does that give me the green light to workout my upper body?

    In a nut shell, I hate not being active and after 8 hours sitting in a cube I need to move. I’m fed up with not being active on rest days, is there any way I can tear shit up on a rest day after a full body workout?

    • Admin

      Eddie,

      Learn how to LISTEN to your body. Just because it says in a book that you need a “rest” day doesn’t mean you have to follow it 😉 Break the rules every now and then.

      You can never go wrong with getting in some sort of HIIT cardio like sprints, ect…

      Bottom Line, listen to your body and if you feel good, go for it. If you feel beat up, relax.

  • https://www.facebook.com/benoit.moget Benoit Moget

    Hey Travis,

    it’s not related to strength so, up to you to answer it or not, it’s not really important. That being said, I had two quick questions:
    1) Is your Elite coaching program feasible in a conventional gym, or do you automatically request to train outside with unconventional items such as bags and stuff?
    2) Have you ever watched the Hodge Twins on youtube? if so, what’s your general opinion on their advice?

    You are great inspiration for many. Keep doing what you do.

    Take care.

    Benoit

    • Admin

      Hey Benoit,

      Thanks for writing in bro.

      With my Elite Coaching, everything I program for you is specific to YOU. This means I design everything based off of what you have access to, your goal, schedule. It’s fully customized.

      Have never seen the Hodge Twins…

  • Michelle

    Hi!! What about women?? Will you have anything for us? I follow some of your workouts. I like to train hard, but some of it is a no go.
    Thanks!!
    Michelle

    • Admin

      Michelle,

      First off, thanks for sending in your question.

      DON’T use the ol’ “I’m a girl” excuse. That’s all it is 😉 Did you happen to watch the Crossfit Games this last weekend? There’s PROOF that girls can kick ass in the gym and go just as H.A.M. as us men. In fact, I have a lot of girls that train and kickass in my gym and they do the SAME stuff my males athletes and clients do.

      Everything I have now can be used for a girl, but obviously you’ll just want to cut back on the intensity and scale it down to your level. It’s all about YOU in the end. How much can YOU do? Work at YOUR level.

      If you’re asking when I’m going to come out with the next pink kettlebell or sandbag workout is going to be, NOT gonna happen! LOL!

      I hope this makes sense. Women can go 110% H.A.M. too!

  • http://aggressivestrength kevin

    Hi Travis
    Every time i squat i get a pain in my glutes, i started a 5×5
    program 10 weeks ago, now i am on heavier weights on the
    squats i am getting these pains. I just wondered have you got
    any suggestions, could it be a imbalance, waiting for your reply
    kevin keep up the good work bro

    • Admin

      What’s Up Kevin

      I honestly have no clue other then you’re sore from training with heavier weights.

      Could be an imbalance could be something else. I haven’t seen you squat.

      I would suggest definitely foam rolling and using a lacrosse ball on your glutes to help break up scar tissue and improve blood flow to this area. This will help speed recovery and possibly help with the pain.

      Also, if all you are doing is squatting, switch up the type of squat your doing or make sure your doing other exercises that hit the glutes in a different way. And yes, you need to make sure to balance out your movements so RDL’s, Deadlifts, glute ham raises will help do this.

  • Horst Kevin

    Hey travis, i like the idea of this routine you suggest here: Day 1 – Deadlift Focus, Day 2 – Press Focus, Day 3 – Squat Focus, Day 4 – Heavy Upper Body Pull Focus.

    Would you mind going a little Bit more in to detail, how this would look like?