This article is part of a multipart series. Part 1 is here.
RMSR Strength Method Workout
Frequency is three non-consecutive days per week, alternating between the A and B workouts.
Back Squat 3×5+
Front Squat 2×10+
Bench Press 3×5+
Starting Weights: Your starting weight for any of the above exercises is the weight at which your barbell movement speed begins to slow. That’s it. It’ll still be light, but if you notice the barbell slow down, that’s your starting weight. Do not start at what you already know you can lift for five reps as you’ll just require a deload reset very quickly.
Bonus Reps: In the early weeks of the phase, the weight will be very light. This is primarily an opportunity to improve your exercise form, work out mobility kinks, and improve your visualization/mind-muscle connection. That said, you should still be doing work. The + in the workout means that on the last set of the exercise, continue past the prescribed reps and complete as many clean reps as you can. This principle is equally true on a deload reset, where you’ll likely perform more bonus reps at that weight than you had previously. Be careful here, as doing, say, 16 reps of something is a great opportunity to lose focus and get sloppy with the reps. Focus and make every single rep perfect. When it’s no longer perfect, stop.
E.g., Back Squat 3×5+ when at 135 lbs may, if 135 is light for you, end up being: 5×135, 5×135, then 12×135, for +7 bonus reps the last set.
Rest Between Sets: As the focus in this phase is on basic strength gaining, rest between sets can be as much as ten minutes. Since beginning weights will be quite low, you may require very little rest initially. This is fine, but do not shy from taking longer and longer rest periods as the weights become very heavy for you.
Linear Progression: Each time you perform a workout, the weight used on every exercise must be heavier than the previous time. How much heavier will depend on you, but it is recommended that you do +5 lbs on squats, +2.5 lbs on presses, +10 lbs on deadlifts, and +5 lbs of bench presses. As your bar speed begins to slows drastically, you may have to decrease this progression rates.
Recovery: Sleep! Your time in the gym is heaping abuse upon your body. You must sleep to allow your body to recover. It is not uncommon that as the weight lifted increases, you will need to sleep progressively more and more. Ten hours of sleep is not uncommon, once you’re a few months into Phase 1. If possible, go to sleep early and allow your body to wake without an alarm clock when it feels ready. (Set an alarm for an hour after you think you’ll awaken, as a last ditch to make sure you’re awake for work.)
The other core component of recovery is nutrition. If you eat garbage calories, your performance will suffer. If you don’t eat enough calories, your performance will suffer immensely. Now is not the time to eat at a deficit or to lean out to vascular abs. Eat adequately to support your workload; when your nutrition is no longer adequate, increase your intake slightly (eg, to the tune of +100 – 200 additional calories/day, including rest days). Do not wildly increase your calorie intake as this is not a time to go mad with GOMAD and pack on fat that will slow you down in later phases.
Deload/Reset: Eventually, even if you’re resting enough between sets, keeping your linear progression additions low enough, and recovering properly, you’ll hit a plateau where you’re unable to complete all of the prescribed base reps on all sets. When this happens, deload that exercise by 10% and resume your linear progression. When you deload, use this is an opportunity to both refocus on your form for the movement and to tune-up your recovery components.
Ancillary Exercises: There are exactly two ancillary exercises that may be added to the above program: grip work and walking. That’s it. Don’t add anything else. Early on, the work volume may feel too low and you may be tempted to add other exercises. Do not do this. Instead, focus that energy into having the absolute best, textbook-perfect version of each of the prescribed exercises. All movement clean-up that occurs early on will pay big dividends later when the weight becomes extremely heavy.
Eventually the deadlift itself will probably be all the grip work you need, but in order to avoid grip problems later and, the first weeks or months of the program, while deadlifts are still light, is an ideal opportunity to grow your grip. The most useful exercises here will be hanging from a bar for time, holding onto a barbell in the top of the deadlift position for time, using a wrist-roller, or farmer’s walks around the gym holding weight plates pinched together, kettlebells, or dumbbells. Do these exercises after everything else. Don’t let go until there are tears streaming down your face but don’t whimper out loud. Do not bother with isolated wrist flexor exercises or reverse curls, etc.
If you’re fatter than you want to be, walk daily, ideally while in a fasted state sometime after waking and before your first calories. An hour is plenty and shorter times may be perfectly adequate. Don’t jog or run; it’ll ruin your linear progression on squats. Take long, clean strides with your pelvis neutral and hips forward – if you’ve spent a decade sitting at a desk, even just walking this way may help stretch out chronically shortened hip flexors.
This phase ends when you’ve reached all of the strength standards. It may be the case that you’re well beyond a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift by the time you reach a 1.0x bodyweight overhead press. That’s fine. All being stronger means is that you’ll be harder to kill. Being bigger sometimes does hurt you though, so once you’re beyond the standards for squats and deadlifts, you should avoid adding more calories as additional bulk may impede how you put this strength into action later on.
Once you’ve reached all of the strength standards: congratulations! Call you mom and tell her you’re no longer a little boy. You’re well on your way to genuine physical prowess and stronger than the vast majority of people working out in the gym around you. More importantly, you’ve sharpened your mind and will through discipline. You’ve developed courage from continuing to step under a heavier and heavier bar for months on end, even while failure loomed at every turn. Take stock of your gains, both mental and physical, and reinforce your achievement through copious positive self-talk.