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How to plan your strength program

If your focus is to construct a strength program, there are many elements to implement that will help you get the most out of your training. Types of exercises, sets, reps, rest and program splits are all going to influence how your body will respond exercise.

The first thing to think about is how many days you are planning to dedicate to your workouts. This will help you decide how you will split your program up. There are many different examples of how to you can decide to separate your workouts. Program splits can be designed around upper/lower body, back and biceps, chest and triceps or even full body for every session. When designing full body programs, there is a benefit to incorporating a push, pull, squat and hinge into all sessions. Whilst the exercise itself may be slightly different, the muscles are repeating similar motor patterns. This will encourage ongoing challenge to those muscle groups, boosting increases in muscles strength. Always remember to refer back to your goal/s and try to mimic those movements in some of your chosen exercises within the gym.

Once your program split is in place, you should plan to set your rep range at the lower end. If you’re inexperienced in training with higher loads (which is what is required for adequate strength gains) then we recommend starting with about 8 reps per set. As you get more experience and are comfortable with movements, you can further increase the load (weight lifted on each rep) and bring your reps down as low as 2-4. At this point though we must stress that you need to be not only confident, but COMPETENT in lifting technique to use very heavy loads.

If you feel you need coaching or would like someone to look over your technique, we can help!

The amount of sets you perform should be somewhere around 4-6. With higher rep ranges of 8, do 4 sets. With lower rep ranges of 4, do 6 sets. Because you’re working with high loads, you’ll need to allow at least 2 minutes to rest between sets and this can go all the way up to 5 minutes between sets if you’re feeling particularly zapped. While this might sound like a lot of time, heavy training like this doesn’t just fatigue muscles, it fatigues your nervous system as well. If you jump back in to another set without enough rest, you won’t hit your target reps and your strength gains may suffer.

Compound exercises are going to help build overall strength. Incorporating isolated exercises to assist with your main lifts will promote fatigue and stress to the targeted muscles. However, should be used a little more sparingly in a pure strength program. This is of course dependant on your goals and you as an individual.

Lastly, keep the strength program simple. Muscles thrive on repetitive movements done well. You will benefit from going back to basics and resisting fancy looking exercises. You just can’t go wrong with the classic compound movements as listed below.


Leg/hip dominant:



Hip Thrust

Press dominant:

Bench Press (Barbell or dumbbell)

Military Press (or dumbbell shoulder press)


Pull Dominant:

Barbell Row


Seated Row


An overview:

Tip 1 – Decide on how many days you can hit the gym

Tip 2 – Decide on how you would like to split your workout.

Tip 3 – Set your reps between 4-8 per set

Tip 4 – Your sets should range somewhere between 4-6

Tip 5 – Rest is important! Minimum 2 minutes and up to 5 is fine!

Tip 6 – Keep your exercises simple! Big compound lifts help to build big strength!