With bodybuilding, you can progress in many areas and more specifically, to increase your strength and muscle mass. There are currently many bodybuilding programs running on the web or elsewhere, and that number is growing. It gets challenging for you to select a plan that works, and that can help you achieve your goals.

What is certain is that there are bodybuilding programs that have existed for several decades and have been verified by the best coaches and approved for their effectiveness. Below, we will discuss the 16 strength training programs, all different, and for specific purposes.

So, if you are struggling to find an effective bodybuilding program or want to change regularly to avoid monotony and continue to progress, you will find in this article your happiness.

Try all these programs before going elsewhere, because with them you are sure to get targeted results. There is not one better than the other, find the one that suits you and hang on to it several weeks or even months before changing.

RM means Maximum Repetition, for example, your 1RM is the weight that you can only move one time with a perfect technique, and your 10 RM is the weight that you can move ten times.

The percentages are related to your RM; for example, 80% of your 10RM is 80% of the weight that you can move ten times. In most programs, when I speak in percentages without specifying the RM, it’s a percentage of your 1RM. Most cases, you will need to determine your 1RM before starting the program.

1.    Ramp ascending to your 3WD (60-90% of your 1WD)

The principle of the ascending ramp is relatively easy to comprehend. You commence with a moderate load and gradually increase it to the heavier weight you can lift for the number of repetitions you choose. The ascending ramp works best with short series, and this technique focuses on managing and balancing two essential things.

First wake up / activate your nervous system during the first series, to increase your performance potential for the following sequence. The activation of the nervous system is produced mainly by moving heavy vehicles or accelerating the weight as quickly as possible. Second, create nervous and muscular fatigue, which will diminish your potential for performance. 

The key to the ascending ramp is to maximize your nervous system while generating the least amount of fatigue possible. Here are the guidelines of the ascending ramp:

•    Do the same number of repetitions on all of your even the lightest series

•    Make each series as if it were your maximum load. There is no warm-up series with the ascending ramp; each series is part of the ramp that leads you to your maximum capacity. Each sequence must be done with full concentration and trying to push/pull the bar with the most strength and speed possible.

•    Do not use too many sets before your set with the maximum weight to avoid excessive fatigue. 5 to 6 sets are enough to reach your RM without much fatigue and a well-activated nervous system.

•    When doing a 3WD ascending ramp, you should generally reach 90% of your 1WD.

•    With 10% weight jumps per set and a 1RM at 110Kg, it could look like this.

•    You need to rest long enough between sets to avoid fatigue, and it does not affect your performance, but not too long not to lose the activation effect of your nervous system.

•    Two minutes on average between sets is what works best for a vast majority of people.

•    This is the same principle as for the 3WD ramp except that you make a series of two repetitions.

•    This ramp is very restrictive for the nervous system and requires more recovery.

•    It is handy in developing your strength, but you should not use it too often or for too long.

2.    10 × 1 to 90% – 10 sets of 1 repeat at 90% of your 1RM

This plan will enable you to develop your strength and improve your abilities to use it. You can very well use weights less than 80% of your 1RM, but it is with loads of 90% and more than you will increase your maximum strength more effectively.

The 10 × 1 weight training program allows you to work with maximum intensity while decreasing the risk of doing your exercises with a bad technique. Take the time needed to do all your repetitions with the maximum weight and perfect method.

3.    5 × 2 at 90% – 5 sets of 2 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM

Two heavy repetitions on five sets is also a great way to develop your strength. Even if you use the same weight as for the 10 × 1, this weight training program may be more natural psychologically. It is difficult to maintain concentration and determination ten times in a row with a heavy load.

With the 5 × 2, you will also recruit more muscle fibers by doing two repetitions rather than one. You will create some fatigue with your first repetition and be forced to recruit other fibers to perform the second repetition.10 sets of 1 repetition is very useful for those who have vast experience in lifting heavy loads, as they can hire more tissues at the same time.

If you have an intermediate level or even beginner, you will get better results with the 5 × 2 because you cannot recruit as many muscle fibers during the first repetition and you need a second repetition to obtain a complete stimulation of your muscle fibers.

4.    3 × 3 at 90% – 3 sets of 3 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM

This program is similar to the 5 × 2, where you will gradually recruit all of your muscle fibers. The 3 × 3 is an excellent program to evolve in strength training if you have little experience. Beginners and intermediate bodybuilders will find their happiness, but if you are an advanced bodybuilding practitioner, this program will surely be too demanding. Because 90% of 250 Kg is more demanding for the body than 90% of 100 Kg, even when “relatively speaking” the intensity is the same.

5.    Waves in 3/2/1 (88-97 / 102%)

This is one of the greatest plans you can use to develop your strength. The principle is to perform “waves” of 3 series of an exercise. The weight is increased during each series of the same wave while the number of repetitions is decreased. Here’s what your program might look like:

  • 100Kg x 3
  • 110Kg x 2
  • 120Kg x 1

If you thoroughly complete a wave with the perfect technique, you can do a second wave. You can start this second wave with the weight of the second series of the previous wave:

  • 110 Kg x 3
  • 120Kg x 2
  • 130Kg x 1

If you manage to finish this wave, you go for a third:

  • 120Kg x 3
  • 130Kg x 2
  • 140Kg x 1

Stop the exercise when you are unable to finish a series. You must choose a weight that allows you to complete at least two waves, three is very good, and four will be a great workout. By cons, if you manage to 5 waves is that your weight is too light.

6.    Step loading 1/3 (80-90%)

This program is similar to the 3/2/1 wave system but with two-series stages. The difference is also that you use the same weight for both series of the same level and that the number of repetitions is increased. The first set is used to improve the potential of your nervous system so that it gets used to the new charge, and the second set represents the main effort.

You can use three levels per training, but if you are on a good day you can go up to 4. This program is an excellent way to develop your strength and has the advantage of being less aggressive than the 3/2/1 on your nervous system.

7.    Group of 5 repetitions at 88-92%

Its advanced bodybuilding program is very effective at increasing your muscle mass while becoming much stronger. The principle is to do five repetitions with a load that you usually use for three repetitions (88-92%). You must perform the five reps taking a short break between each. The duration of your breaks can vary between 5 seconds and 20 seconds. The goal is to succeed in doing the five reps, so you can start your series with short breaks and then lengthen them when fatigue increases.

The short pause between repetitions is enough to replenish some of your ATP reserves and recharge your nervous system while evacuating some of the metabolic waste, but not long enough for you to be fully rested. You will move more weight than a normal series of 5 repetitions while activating a maximum of muscle fibers due to the accumulation of fatigue.

8.    5 × 5 to 75-85% – 5 sets of 5 repetitions

The 5 × 5 weight training program is one of the most popular strength athletes. This program is certainly the best to develop your muscle mass and strength at the same time.

There are several ways to perform this program such as doing the five sets with the same weight or gradually increasing the weight as an ascending ramp, or even doing two repetitions in ascending ramp and 3 with the same weight. You can also alternate between a lightweight (75%) and heavier (80-85%). All these variants work to keep your weight between 75 and 85% of your 1RM.

9.    5/4/3/2/1 (80-95%)

The principle of this bodybuilding program is to reduce the number of repetitions while increasing the weight on your bar. This program has an advantage over the psychological aspect, because when you reduce the number of repetitions, you have the impression of reducing the difficulty of the series, while the weight on your bar will increase.

The principle of this bodybuilding program is the opposite of 5/4/3/2/1. You start with shorter series and heavier weights, and you increase your number of repetitions while decreasing the load.

The advantage is that you activate your nervous system first before making your series with the most repeats. You will, therefore, recruit more muscle fibers to rapid contraction during your longer runs to stimulate muscle growth.

The series of 3 and five repetitions are discarded so as not to overload your nervous system and for you to arrive at the series of 6 repetitions without having accumulated too much fatigue.

10.    Wave 6/4/2 (75-90%)

The principle of this bodybuilding program is the same as for the wave 3/2/1 but with more repetitions. It is a better compromise between the development of strength and muscle mass.

11.    Step loading 3/5 (75-85%)

This is the force/hypertrophy method of step loading. It is the same principle as for the force but using loads and several different repetitions. In this case, you only make three waves because of the high volume.

12.    4 × 8 to 70%

This program is boring but useful. If you have some experience with bodybuilding, you surely know this program. It has long been the core program of many bodybuilders.

And if this program has managed to pass the years is good because it is useful. Doing four sets of 8 repetitions at the limit of muscle failure is an excellent method for stimulating muscle growth and primarily for beginners. This program is not spectacular, but one thing is confident; it will allow you to develop your muscle mass.

13.    10/8/6/20 (50-75%)

With this strength training program, you make the first three sets with heavy weights to end with a series with lower pressure and lots of repetitions to activate muscle congestion. During your first series, you must gradually decrease the number of repetitions and increase the load.

This program is useful because it can tackle all the mechanisms of hypertrophy, such as mechanical tension and metabolic stress.

14.    6 × 6 to 70% of your 10WD

This program was created by Vince Gironda; he called himself “the Mr. Olympia program” probably because it was used by Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia. This program is based on density and not on the load.

You must perform six sets of 6 repetitions with a moderate weight (about 70% of the weight that you can do ten repetitions), and you must complete the six sets of 6 repetitions as quickly as possible. You must take periods of 20 to 30 seconds of rest between sets.

Remember that with this program, the key is the density and not the load. If you cannot do the six sets of 6 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest, you have to reduce the load to adapt to the short periods of rest.

15.    8 × 8 to 60% of your 10 RM

This is another popular bodybuilding program from Vince Gironda. This is the same principle as for the 6 × 6, but with more series and repetitions. This program is more demanding, and the goal is to create the most significant muscle congestion in the shortest possible time.

16.    3 in 1 at 75-80%

This technique is beneficial for the development of muscle mass. The principle is to do more repetitions than you can do with a given weight. The idea is to include a short rest period at the very heart of the series, much like with the cluster system.

The version that works best for muscle hypertrophy is to use a weight with which you can do eight repetitions on the verge of failure. So, you do eight repetitions, then you rest for 15 to 20 seconds, then you continue to do another series until you fail, for example, 5, then you take another 15 to 20 seconds of rest, then you do one last repetition until failure.

With this technique, you will need to make only a series of three (sets) per exercise. This is a great weight training program to gain muscle mass without spending hours training.


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