[Video download or audio download]

In this lesson, I interview fitness expert JC Deen, an author and coach, on the basics of strength training.

We discussed:

A must-watch video with JC!

Check out more from JC Deen at his blog, and take a look at his books.

Beginner’s Strength Program

(created by JC Deen)

Workout A

1. Barbell Squat35-72 minutes
2. Hyperextension38-101 minute
3. Leg extensions210-121 minute
4. Barbell bench press35-72 minutes
5. Barbell rows35-72 minutes
6. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder press28-101 minute
7. Cable face pulls310-121 minute

Workout B

1. Romanian Deadlift | article | video35-72 minutes
2. Dumbbell Walking Lunges35-7/side1 minute
3. Body weight glute bridges310-121 minute
4. Lat pulldown35-72 minutes
5. Seated Arnold Press | video35-72 minutes
6. One-arm Dumbbell row28-10/side1 minute
7. Band upright rows | video310-121 minute

Training Frequency: 3 days per week

Sample Schedule:

Week 1:

Mon – Workout A

Wed – Workout B

Fri – Workout A

Week 2:

Mon – Workout B

Wed – Workout A

Fri – Workout B

Repeat this rotation every week, resting (meaning no weight training) on the days in between sessions.

How to Progress Properly // Sets/Reps/Weight

The goal of progressive overload is to consistently increase the resistance by adding more weight, doing more reps, or a combination of the two. Double Progression is what you’re using.

There’s a rep range for every movement to help facilitate this progress.

Double Progression:

With each movement, you want to aim to use the same weight for all sets.

For workout A, you’re starting with the squat. So after you’re done warming up, and ready to do your work sets, you want to pick a weight you can use for all 3 sets of 5-7 reps.

Let’s say you know you can do 6 reps with 100 pounds. That’s what you’d use for all 3 sets.

The main goal is to stay within the rep range for all sets, and eventually exceed it. So if you get 6 reps on your first set, 6 on your second, and only 6 on the last set, that’s perfect.

If you can only get 5 reps on your first set, and can’t get 5 or more on the second and third set, then you should stick with that weight over a few workouts until you can do 7 reps reps on all sets respectively (aka double progression, detailed below).

Let’s say you are able to get all three sets done with great form, and stay within the rep range (or pass it), then you know it’s time to add weight to the bar on your next workout for that movement.

On Monday, during workout A, you did 3 sets of 7 reps with 100 pounds. You’d make a note in your log book to add weight to the bar on your next squat workout, which just so happens to be at the end of the week on Friday when you do workout A again.

Now most gyms are going to have 5 (~2kg) pound plates, but not all are going to have 2.5 (~1kg) pound plates. It’s my recommendation that you aim to add the least amount of weight possible so you’re able to make progress over a long period of time without plateauing.

If you have the 2.5 pounds plates, perfect. If not, adding 10 total pounds each workout will be doable for a while, but not forever.

Adding 10 pounds to lower body movements like squats, and deadlifts usually doesn’t pose too much of a problem. Adding 10 pounds every workout to your upper body movements usually doesn’t last very long and will cause you to plateau.

Double Progression

Since we’re dealing with rep ranges, meaning I’ve given you a set of numbers (5-7, 8-10, or 10-12) to work within, double progression is perfect for all movements.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’re in the gym, and doing a set of bench press. Last week you did your 3 sets 5-7 reps and it went like this:

Set 1 // 80 x 7

Set 2 // 80 x 6

Set 3 // 80 x 5

If you go by my original guidelines of just adding 5 pound plates (10 pounds total), I can almost assure that you won’t be within the 5-7 rep range the next time you do bench press.

So instead of grinding sloppily through 3 sets and ending up with doing fewer than 5 reps per set, you should stick with the 80 pound bench press until you can get 7 reps on the first set, and to play it safe, probably the second and third.

Once you’ve hit the upper end of the rep range, aim to add weight on the next session.

Notes on body weight movements:

Push-up* progression: When you can do sets of 15 push-ups easily, elevate your feet on a bench behind you.

Hyperextension progression: When doing the prescribed reps with body weight becomes easy, pick up a plate or dumbbell for extra resistance. Follow the same progression guidelines, and add weight slowly.

*this is a good substitution if you’re not strong enough to bench press the bar

Exercise for Today

Review how your exercise habit has gone so far, and whether you need to make adjustments, in Slack.

Also consider whether you’d like to add strength training to your exercise routine during this course.