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5 Rules Of Strength Training



Aug 11, 2010
Dos Remedios--whose name, incidentally, means "of the remedy" in Portuguese--bases his program on five bedrock strength-training principles.

1. Strive for strength, not size

Like most men, you want a mighty chest, big biceps, and washboard abs. But instead of training like a bodybuilder and relying on single-joint exercises designed to isolate specific muscles, start training like an athlete. You'll finally build the body you want as you also improve your performance, minimize injury, burn fat, and feel more motivated.

"Look at the body on that guy," says Dos Remedios, pointing to a shirtless specimen walking off the field after an evening workout. "Look how cut he is. But he's not doing hundreds of crunches, curls, and seated calf raises. His body is a product of athletic conditioning."

Swap this for that If you're doing any of the single-joint exercises listed below, try replacing them with the corresponding compound exercises. For example, if you're doing 25-pound biceps curls, you'll probably be able to handle 50s for bent-over rows. You'll build strength and burn more calories, and the extra weight will create added muscle stress and trigger more testosterone production. The result: Your biceps will grow faster than they would with simple curls.

Single-joint Compound

Biceps curl Bent-over row
Calf raise Clean pull
Leg extension Lunge or stepup
Crunch Cable woodchopper

2. Embrace progressive overload

"Progressive overload" means spending more time in your discomfort zone. "It's the most basic of all strength-training principles," Dos Remedios says, "but it's the one people understand least. The human body is amazing. The more work you do, the more you will be capable of doing over time." He's talking about manipulating loads and volumes during strength and cardio workouts for continuous progress.

More time in your discomfort zone equals less time in the gym. This is why Dos Remedios usually trains for just 35 to 45 minutes a day, and why his athletes are in the gym for only 30 to 40 minutes two or three times a week.

Cycle your workouts You won't make much progress doing 3 sets of 10 for the rest of your life. To build strength, it's smarter to alternate 3-week cycles within 12-week training periods, an approach called periodization. Say, for example, you're accustomed to bench-pressing 150 pounds for 3 sets of 10 in every chest workout. Your period-ized plan might look something like this.

Weeks 1-3

Three sets of 10 with 150 lb for a total volume of 4,500 lb (3x10x150)

Weeks 4-6

Four sets of 5 with 175 lb, for 3,500 lb

Weeks 7-9

Three sets of 8 with 160 lb, for 3,840 lb

Weeks 10-12

Five sets of 4 with 185 lb, for 3,700 lb

Notice how the weight you're lifting and your total volume cycle and progress over time while ensuring that your muscles have plenty of time to adapt. This produces more strength and size as the load on your muscles keeps increasing.

3. Balance your movements

Strength requires balance. But on our visit to that SoCal athletic club, Dos Remedios counted three times as many push-based strength machines as he did pull-based ones. "If you're bench-pressing 3 sets of 10, you also need to be doing some exercise, such as horizontal pullups or standing cable rows, where you're pulling for 3 sets of 10," he says. "If you're not, structural problems develop."

Yin-yang your gym time Dos Remedios has identified eight key movements that are fundamental to strength, sports, and everyday living. They are listed next to their counterparts below. Perform the exercises with their complements. You don't have to do all of these movements every time you step into the gym, but they should be equally represented across your entire training plan.

Horizontal Push Horizontal Pull
Bench press Bent-over row
Pushup Horizontal pullup

Vertical Push Vertical Pull
Shoulder press Chinup/pullup
Push press
Lat pulldown
Knee-Dominant Hip Dominant
Squat Good morning
Back extension
Rotational Core Stabilized Core
Russian twist Plank
Windshield wiper Side bridge
Cable woodchopper Barbell rollout

4. Become unstable

In life, we usually reach or step with one arm or one leg at a time. Then we hit the gym, and we immediately plant both feet or grab a bar with both hands. This "bilateral bias," as Dos Remedios calls it, often results in a dominant limb negotiating more of the weight than its weaker counterpart. This can lead to physical imbalances, performance flaws, and eventual injury.

"Say you can bench-press 400 pounds," says Dos Remedios, who was once an offensive lineman at the University of California at Berkeley. "You probably think you're pretty strong. But I guarantee you won't be able to lift two 200-pound dumbbells the same way. That's because each arm is now required to work independently."

Training with one arm or leg at a time creates instability. Muscles, especially those in the core, compensate by firing. So you're not only working to move the weight, you're also working to stay balanced.

Do more unilateral exercises When Dos Remedios devises programs for his athletes, he works from an extensive menu of exercises. For example, he may have them bench-press on Monday but then do different horizontal-pushing exercises (say, a single-arm dumbbell incline press, or pushups) for the next two workouts. "When we finally get around to bench-pressing again, everybody's stronger because of the carryover," he says. To apply the same principle to your workout, use this chart for occasional substitutions.

Bilateral Unilateral
Barbell squat Forward lunge
Bench press Dumbbell alternating bench press
Pushup Side-to-side pushup
Lat pulldown One-arm lat pulldown
Good morning Single-leg Romanian deadlift
Back extension Single-leg back extension
Shoulder press Dumbbell one-arm push press

5. Do it all explosively

To Dos Remedios, it's not enough to just lift a weight. He wants you to explode with it--that is, raise it as fast as you can while still retaining control. This is also known as speed-strength conditioning, and it has great influence on power, endurance, and metabolism. Be forewarned: This training style will gas you like never before.

Light the fuse Olympic barbell and powerlifting exercises, such as squats, clean and jerks, and snatches, are the best moves for explosiveness. Here are some alternatives.

Body-weight squat jumps Stand with your hands behind your head, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and jump as high as possible. Rest 3 to 5 seconds and repeat 10 to 12 times.

Dumbbell squat press Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at your shoulders. In one continuous movement, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Stand while driving the weights overhead. Lower back to the squat position and repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

The 7-minute Warmup

Before starting a workout as intense as Dos Remedios's, muscles and tendons need to be warm and pliable. He knows you're a busy guy, so here's how to start them cooking in just 7 minutes.

Aerobics (2 to 5 minutes) Light jogging, jumping rope, or doing jumping jacks

Mobility circuit (2 to 3 minutes) Mobility movements are dynamic flexibility patterns. This means they help improve range of motion by elongating muscles. Set a barbell in the squat rack and follow the patterns outlined in the accompanying photos.

Bar warmup (1 to 2 minutes) Using only an unweighted Olympic bar, perform 5 reps of each of the following movements: body-weight squat jump, push press, front squat, and bent-over row.


Jan 26, 2011
Where are the deadlifts? This article is a bit greek to me.For strength I always thought it was better to stick with your basic three lifts then add some accesories in to help with your weaknesses.