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The goal of the Muscle & Strength strength building guide is to provide you with all the tools you need to build strength as quickly as possible. You will learn about popular strength building workout structures and exercises, how to improve your bench press, squat and deadlift form, and how to maximize your nutrition and supplementation to reach your goals.

If you need help or clarifications, please feel free to post a question or comment at the end of this guide. 

Strength Training vs. Muscle Building for the Beginning Lifter:
During the initial stages of training, there is very little difference between working out to build strength and working out to build muscle. Both goals will require a substantial addition of strength for key compound exercises such as the bench press, squats, overhead presses and rows, as well as the addition of muscle.

While experienced lifters will need to place much of their focus on lower rep training (1-5 reps per set), trainees who are just beginning their journey and looking to build strength should focus on the use of 5-10 rep sets for most compound exercises.


Definitions and Common Terms:
The following is a list of common terms found in most strength building articles and workouts, along with definitions.


Intensity – Intensity is often viewed in the context of “high intensity training.” For strength training intensity mean the percentage of your one rep max (1RM) that you are working with for a given exercise.

Volume – Volume can constitute the number of sets per workout, the number of reps for a specific exercise at a given weight, or the total reps multiplied by the weight used.

Periodization – Periodization involves the cycling of intensity and/or training volume through specific cycles to allow for improved recovery and continual gains.

Overtraining – Overtraining can involve taxing a muscle, the central nervous system or joints and ligaments beyond their ability to effectively recover.

Deload – A planned period of rest or lighter training to allow the symptoms of fatigue or overtraining to rescind while maintaining your current strength levels.

Max Effort (ME) – Max effort refers to heavy (intense) training days in which a trainee works up to a 5, 3 or one rep max for a specific movement. ME days can be considered maximal load training days.

Dynamic Effort (DE) – Dynamic effort training days place the focus on speed work, or performing an exercise with an approximate 50-60% of 1RM for fast/powerful repetitions. Dynamic effort sets are often single reps for the deadlift, 3 reps for bench press, and 2 for squats. DE days can be considered maximal speed training days.

Repeitition Effort (RE) – Repetition effort training days focus on the use of higher rep sets, generally in the 6 to 12 rep range. Each set is push near, or to failure. RE days can be considered maximal force training days.
Assistance Exercises – The function of assistance exercises is to target weaknesses and build up/strengthen key muscle groups so that the body as a unit is as strong as possible.

The Primary Strength Building Exercises
Most strength building workouts are very similar and nature, and comprised of a core group of several lifts. These lifts are all variations of the 7 primary natural movements.

Squat and front squat.
Bench press and close grip bench press.
Military press and push press.
Deadlift and Romanian deadlift.
Barbell and dumbbell rows.
Power cleans and Olympic lift variations.

There are also several other exercises that can be very beneficial to the novice trainee looking to rapidly build strength:


Pull ups (palms away from body, wider grip)
Chin ups (palms facing the body, narrow grip)
Weighted abdominal exercises such weighted sit ups and cable crossovers
Glute/ham raise
Good mornings
Side bends
Farmer’s walk

It should be noted that this is not a comprehensive list. For a complete list of quality exercises, please check out the “assistance exercise listing” that appears later in this article.

The Fastest Way for a Novice to Build Strength
It’s not uncommon for novice (beginning) lifters to fall into the trap of looking for a magic strength building workout or training system. Here’s what you need to remember: there is no magic system. The key to making rapid, consistent progress comes from following these essential rules:

Stay Persistent – Stop making excuses and missing workouts. If you want to improve your strength you need to make it to the gym week in and week out.

Stay Basic – Stay with a basic program. Simplicity works well. Training evolution, or complexity, is something you will need in the future – but not now. Get strong on the basics. Most popular strength building systems feature a minimalistic structure using the same effective strength building movements.

Don’t Undereat – To maximize your efforts in the gym you must also make sure you are eating properly. Undereating, or eating too much junk food, can greater inhibit progress.

Make a Plan – You can’t enter the gym without a goal. Plan and know when and how you will add weight to the bar. A strength building training system requires a progression plan. No workout should be random, or without a specific goal.