Tuesday, December 29, 2009

C.S. Sloan - The 3 to 5 "Plus" Program

C.S. Sloan knows his stuff. When I first got serious about lifting many years ago, his articles in Ironman Magazine were instrumental in my strength and fitness improvements. Better yet, which I did not know back than, he is a student of integral theory with a serious spiritual practice. Mindful muscle, indeed.

Here is a basic program for strength and muscle - I have had great success using this style of training both for myself and my clients. Most of my best gains as a young lifter (first three years) were made with a full-body, three-days-a-week program similar to this one (without the 100 reps portion). Adding the last set will do two things: (1) add volume to your workout, which is good, and (2) exhaust the endurance oriented muscle fibers that are hard to work on traditional strength programs, and which can be converted to strength fibers rather than endurance fibers.

Give it a shot in the new year.

The 3 to 5 "Plus" Program

Here's a simple program that really works well when it comes to gaining strength and plenty of muscle to go along with it. In fact, it may be more conducive to muscle growth than to pure strength.

Okay, first things first. Go back and read my post on "The 3 to 5 Method for Strength and Power." Here's a quick link.

Read it? Good. Now, the one thing I want you to do different with the training program here is I want you to limit your training to just 3 days each week (as opposed to 4 or 5). This way you have enough energy to perform the "plus" part of the training program—don't worry, we'll get around to just what the "plus" part is in a moment—and enough recovery time between workouts.

So the 3 to 5 part of the workout might look like this:

Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 5 sets of 3 reps
Bench Presses: 4 sets of 5 reps
Close-Grip Chins: 4 sets of 5 reps

When you are finished with that portion of the workout, you will now perform the "plus" portion. For this, pick a bodypart that is lagging behind the others and needs a little "specialization" work. Then, pick a good "bang-for-your-buck" exercise to train the muscle group. If your chest is sub-par in development, for instance, you could choose the dumbbell bench press.

On this exercise, perform 100 reps. Pick a weight, however, where you would typically reach failure between 25 and 30 reps. Don't count sets. Just count reps. Do however many sets it takes until you reach 100.

If you have a bodypart that is really lagging behind the others, then you could work it at each training session. If you have several that need attention, then rotate exercises at each training session for a different muscle group.

A week of training might look like this:

Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 5 sets of 3 reps
Bench Presses: 4 sets of 5 reps
Close-Grip Chins: 4 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 100 reps

Front Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans: 5 sets of 3 reps
Incline Bench Presses: 5 sets of 3 reps
Bent-Over Rows: 4 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Squats: 100 reps

Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 5 sets of 3 reps
Bench Presses: 4 sets of 5 reps
Close-Grip Chins: 4 sets of 5 reps
Pullovers: 100 reps

This is another one of those workouts that looks simple on paper—and it is. But that doesn't mean that it's not highly effective. It's that too.


Anonymous said...

As a former personal trainer and professional wrestler myself I find articles like this interesting. There is so much information out there on how to get stronger, and how to get more muscle. Is this necessary though or does it just lead to body dysmorphia? Especially for men.

Strength and muscle are good goals indeed but other questions should be asked alongside these posts. Why should you follow this path? What is in it for you? Who is the type of person who might like this type of thing?

I found that the deeper psychological questions with my clients led to better results with them. I could train to what was really important to them. We could measure success in a way that dealt directly with their personal pains. Suprisingly only one of them ever wanted big muscles and ungodly strength. Training someone to walk normally again after knee surgery was probably the most fulfilling for both of us.

Full disclosure though, I wasn't the go to trainer for strength and power. I think I liked it better that way :)

william harryman said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comments - I think you make some great points. I think any good trainer (and those are few and far between, honestly) looks for the reason the client is there, the hidden motivations, and then works toward that goal. The majority of my clients (overall) are 40-70 year old women wanting to lose weight. Not be model thin, but healthy and reasonably strong (I train a lot of nurses).

Certainly, as a personal trainer, my greatest joy comes from helping someone get their blood sugar in check so they don't need insulin injections, or getting cholesterol down so they can quit taking statins, or rehabbing someone who was injured or had a joint replacement. No doubt these are the most rewarding clients.

And yet I love training young guys trying to make the football team, or the 60+ year old cyclists who are riding better now (after working with me for a little over a year) than they ever have, or the 45 yr old former marathoner who is trying to build muscle and strength after decades of working on endurance only. These are fun clients, too.

I don't know where my readers are on the path of strength and spirituality, but I suspect that many are sort-of fit, but not so much, and would like to be more fit and strong - even a Buddhist like me wants to look good naked.

I post articles on fitness and weight training here as ONE PART of an integral life practice, that includes taking care of the body, the psyche, our relationships, and our environment.

I hope my readers are reading the other articles as well, and are doing some personal growth so that they understand their motivations for lifting weights. I hope . . .