Adding Strength and Build Muscle Fast

Adding Strength and Build Muscle Fast

Looking for an extra 10 lbs of lean muscle mass? This is the workout program for you. 

A lot of young guys ask me what program they should follow to add tons of size and strength. They’re generally sick of typical bodybuilding routines, which have yielded just moderate size and strength gains, and are searching for better answers. The most effective strength programs I’ve ever used are those similar to the Pendlay ones, which emphasize the big three lifts: squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Their operating premise is, if these three lifts recruit the most muscle fibers and thus lead to the best strength gains, why not make them the focus of your workout program?

Now most people who go and mess around at the gym 5-6 days a week are shocked when they hear that this is a three day a week strength program. What’s even more shocking though is how much progress they can make in such a short period of time when getting adequate rest and focusing on compound lifts. Every athlete is different and results vary, but I have frequently seen young athletes add 10-15lbs of body weight and 60-70lbs on their squat. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want to add another 10lbs of muscle to their frame? Right, exactly.

To give you a better sense, here’s an athlete of mine who began the program with a 200lb max squat and a bodyweight of 145lbs:

And here’s the same athlete after finishing the Pendlay program, with a 385lb back squat and bodyweight of 165lbs after a few training cycles:

The modified program below is designed for beginners, which assumes a 275lb squat, 225 bench press, and 315 deadlift. If your numbers are much better than this, you’re not as likely to have as much success, as you’re probably far enough along to need more ancillary lifts and different protocols added to your program. But if you’re in the ballpark, work through this workout program to see the best results of your life in only a few short months.

First 8 Weeks

Monday or Workout 1
Back Squat - 5x5 at 83% 1RM
Bench Press - 3x5 at 80% 1RM
Weighted Pullups - 3x5
Rows - 3x5

Wednesday or Workout 2
Back Squat - 5x5 at 85% of Monday's weight
Dumbell Bench - 2 x 10 at 70% 1RM
Pull ups - 2x5
Rows - 2x5

Friday or Workout 3
Back Squat - 1x5 at 85% 1RM
Bench Press - 1x5 at 80% 1RM
Trap Bar Deadlift - 1x5 at 80% 1RM
Pull Ups - 1x5
Rows - 1x5

Workout 1 / Monday
Each week you should be able to add 5lbs in the squat on Mondays and 2.5lbs on the bench press as well. The goal is to add 5lbs per week for 8 weeks in the squat and 2.5lbs in the bench. The strength program has pull ups on all 3 days but I suggest only performing weighted pull ups on workout 1 as the rest of the program will be stressful enough and you don’t need to load these super heavy to see solid results. Your lats and upper back will have plenty of activation from heavy squats and the bench. The pull ups and rows are only there to provide structural balance for your shoulders.

Workout 2 / Wednesday
In the squat the weight should be 85% of workout 1 and it’s worth noting that this should NOT be a stressful workout. If it is, drop the weight even more but continue to perform all sets and reps as these recovery workouts are important to peak on workout 3. Workout 2 substitutes dumbbell bench press for the barbell bench press to help provide recovery in between sessions. You can choose to perform incline dumbbell bench presses as well but they should be very low weight. If you go too heavy you will effect recovery in between sessions and not peak for workout 3. I suggest you perform the pull ups with just bodyweight and stick to very light dumbbell rows.

Workout 3 / Friday
On workout 3 you should work up to a weight that is 5-10lbs heavier in the squat than in workout 1. If you do chose to pick a weight 10lbs heavier in the squat than in workout 1 then I suggest still only increasing next Mondays workout by 5lbs. You should be able to add at least 5lbs per week in the squat and I have had some athletes who were completely untrained actually routinely add 10lbs per week on this. In the bench press I suggest only picking a weight that is 2.5-5lbs heavier than in workout 1. For trap bar deadlifts, add 5-10lbs per week. Friday is the only day you will deadlift because this allows 2 days to recover before your next hard workout. You should be able to consistently make progress for 8 weeks and by the time you get to the 8th week you’ll probably be doing sets of 5 with what used to be max weight in all 3 lifts.

Weeks 9-12

After you finish the 8th week you switch to sets of 2.

Workout 1 / Monday
Squat- 6x2 - Use 5lbs less than your best set of 5 on workout 3 in week 8
Bench - 4x2 - Use 5lbs less than your best set of 5 on workout 3 in week 8
Pull ups- 3x5 (weighted if you’d like)
Rows- 3x5

Workout 2 / Wednesday
Squat- 6x2 - 20% less than Workout 1 in week 8
Incline Dumbbell Press- 2x10 at 70% 1RM
Pull ups- 2x10 (not weighted)
Rows- 2x10 (light)

Workout 3 / Friday
Squat - Work up to a set of 2 that is 5lbs heavier than the weight in workout 1 (6-8 sets)
Bench Press- Work up to a set of 2 that is 2.5-5lbs heavier than workout 1 (6-8 sets)
Pull ups- 3x10 (not weighted)
Rows- 3x5

Workout 1:
You should be able to add 5lbs in the squat every week and 2.5 to 5lbs in the bench press as well. Keep the weighted pullups and rows moderate in terms of intensity over these final 4 weeks.

Workout 2:
This is another recovery day and everything should be kept very light throughout the end of the program.

Workout 3:
You can add 5-10lbs in the squat and 2.5-5lbs in the bench press. During these 4 weeks, the deadlift is eliminated. You will be using weights that are intense in the squat and you don’t need to overload the back.

This is one of the best programs I have ever seen used for beginners and those with a lower training age. I wish I had this routine when I first started lifting because the results are insane. There’s no fluff exercises and no nonsense in this program. Just straight getting after it and moving heavy weights. If you decide to take the challenge, please let me know how it works out and feel free to send any questions you may have to mdelaney1720@me.com. Until then keep working hard and let the results speak for themselves.

To maximize your gains using this approach 1R would recommend the following supplements:

  1. Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery - The carbs and protein will help you recover and build lean muscle faster after tough workouts
  2. Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after lifts
  3. Cytosport Joint Matrix – When you’re training hard, and/or training heavy, your joints inevitably take a beating. Joint matrix will ensure that you don’t feel that beating the next day
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About the Author

Matthew Delaney is a strength coach for Inner City Weightlifting. A non-profit organization, which aims at impacting Boston’s youth through fitness. Matt is also a competitive athlete who competes in Olympic Lifting and Track and Field. Matt has competed at the National level in Olympic lifts and has best lifts of 258lb snatch and 301lb clean and jerk weighing 169lbs.