Strength Training Card For Advanced Athletes | How to Increase Strength to Build Muscles

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Robert Maurer
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By the healthiergang writer , fitness instructor and Powerlifting expert.


Strength Training Card For Advanced Athletes

In the first part of this series of articles, I dealt with the issue of the correlation between an increase in absolute strength and a consequent increase in lean muscle mass in beginners and intermediate subjects. In this second part I will cover programming for the advanced athlete.

First of all I would like to specify that by advanced athlete, I mean a subject who has reached adequate levels of strength, through the use of the protocols I described in the previous article.


To be more precise, the parameters to be respected are the loads achieved in the following exercises: back squat, front squat, deadlift, bench press, push press and pull-up.

  • back squat (5 repetitions with 150% of body weight);
  • front squat (5 repetitions with 125% of body weight);
  • deadlift (5 repetitions with 200% of body weight);
  • bench press (5 reps with 100% of body weight);
  • push-press (5 repetitions with 100% of body weight);
  • pull-up (5 repetitions overcoming the bar with the chin with 20 kg of weight).

Series and Reps Patterns for the Advanced Athlete

The main scheme used in the fundamental exercises, in the previous programming, was the 5 × 5 with fixed load (beginner), and the 5 × 5 with pyramidal or ramping load (intermediate). The advanced athlete, as such, needs more elaborate patterns in the core exercises, while maintaining patterns such as the 5 × 5 or its first cousins ​​4 × 6 and 6 × 4 in the complementary exercises.


The schemes in question are pyramids that allow you to reach loads higher than 85% of 1rm (load with which you can perform a single maximum lift), including series characterized by a lower number of repetitions. An excellent scheme for this goal is the 5-4-3-2-3-4-5 with 3'-4 'steals.


With this scheme a total volume of 26 repetitions is reached, reaching a slightly higher tonnage (one repetition) than a classic 5 × 5.

As for the optional exercises, in this type of programs they become more useful and for this reason, from now on I will call them support exercises.

These exercises must be performed with higher and less serious repetition ranges, in order to recruit even the motor units with the lowest activation threshold, with relative hypertrophy of these groups of fibers, ensuring greater balance between absolute strength and resistant strength.

Resistant strength is the ability to express strength for longer periods of time than it takes to complete sets of 2-5 reps. This method offers two important advantages; firstly, the ability to perform 2-3 sets of more than 10 repetitions with fairly high loads, for example a subject who can perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions of flat bench presses with 50 kg dumbbells as a support exercise, generates a very high systemic fatigue, improving heart function, increasing the metabolic rate at rest and improving the ability to carry out heavy and long-lasting physical work, drawing a clear advantage in daily life.

Secondly, good levels of resistant strength allow those who train for strength to better resist the fatigue generated by the high number of sets of fundamental and complementary exercises.


Functional Hypertrophy and Time Under Tension

Strength training with loads from 80% 1rm onwards, if characterized by an adequate volume like the scheme I described above, favor the maximum increase in muscle mass in type 2b muscle fibers, through the thickening of the myofibrils. (contractile components of muscle fibers).


If, on the other hand, loads that are around 70% of 1rm are used, while maintaining a working volume of 30 total repetitions, the maximum increase in muscle volume in type 2b fibers is favored, through the increase of the sarcoplasm (structural component fluid of the muscle fibers that surrounds the myofibrils).

In order for this to happen, the recovery interval (which must be around one minute-minute and a half) and the effective duration of muscle tension (TUT) must be modulated accordingly. When working with loads greater than 80% of 1rm, the time under voltage (TUT) will be less than 30 seconds (if you can work for longer with such loads, it means that the percentage has been miscalculated).

Working with loads around 70% of 1rm, on the other hand, the time under tension will range from 40 to 60 seconds (if you are unable to work for such a time it means that there is still room to increase the TUT, or that the percentage was miscalculated).

Bodybuilders e Sarcoplasma

From biopsies on professional bodybuilders, it is found that they possess greater hypertrophy of type 2a muscle fibers. This happens because many of them train with multiple sets of about 8-12 repetitions with loads that are around 70% of 1rm and short recoveries (maximum 90 ”).


In this way, motor units with a lower activation threshold are stimulated. At this point one wonders how it is possible that they reach such levels of muscle volumes. Many would argue that this happens thanks to "drugs" for muscle growth.

In fact, many strength athletes also use "drugs" for performance enhancement, but have lower muscle volumes than bodybuilders. This difference is directly attributable to training, because by training as I described above, in addition to the hypertrophy of type 2a fibers, a significant increase in sarcoplasm is generated, and this also occurs in those who do not take muscle growth drugs.


The focal point of the question is another; is it really necessary to increase the volume of fluids within the muscles so much for those who do not participate in bodybuilding competitions? The answer is no. The classic "pump", that is training with series that require a time under tension of 40-60 seconds with loads around 65-75% of 1rm, facilitates the inflow and relative permanence of water in the muscles, even in relatively short times (usually a few weeks, necessary for the adaptation of muscle cells that are "forced" to increase the quantity of enzymes responsible for glycogen synthesis), but over time the excess water leaves the cells with same speed with which it was accumulated.

If, on the other hand, you orient your training towards maximum strength development, with relative hypertrophic adaptive response of type 2b muscle fibers, to accumulate lean muscle mass, the time required is much longer (to reach the ability to train with loads greater than those I indicated at the beginning of the article take years), but the result is different, as the thickening of the myofibrils, once obtained, lasts for years (even if the training frequency is reduced).

An excellent example of this is the physique of sprinters (100 and 200 meters), who train to increase relative strength (strength in relation to body weight), using classic series and repetition patterns for strength. The muscles of these athletes appear both dense and compact, but also large and bulky (there are sprinters who could win regional bodybuilding competitions in the medium-heavy categories) and are capable of expressing considerable strength; in fact, it is not uncommon for a professional sprinter to bench press with 150 kg and squat with more than 200 kg.

The muscle mass of those who train for strength, expresses what the athlete is able to lift, without frills, without excessive body volumes that make you clumsy, but at the same time attracts everyone's attention, as a subject of 180 cm well trained and strong, even if he does not take anabolic steroids, he can usually also reach 95 kg of body weight with a body fat percentage quite below 10%.

Advanced Athlete Program

An advanced athlete can start training in multi-frequency; this means that the fundamental exercises can be repeated several times during the week or micro-cycle. In addition, if you have enough time, the base of three weekly workouts can be increased. For this reason I will write two example programs:

  • 4 weekly multi-frequency workouts
  • 3 weekly single-frequency workouts

(*) it is possible to perform the two exercises in super-series

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