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Last Updated 11th August 2016
Step 1: Are you a Beginner or an Intermediate?
The first step to finding a great intermediate strength training program is actually deciding if you are an intermediate lifter. If you’ve been lifting for longer than 2 years (on a 3-5 day per week split) then chances are you are coming into the intermediate stage. There is no guideline on time or intensity to say when you are at that intermediate level, but generally 2 years is usually a generic transition stage where your beginner gains have stopped and you have to work a lot harder to see smaller results from training.
Step 2: The Differences in Programming
Before finding a programme you need to know the differences between beginner style programmes and intermediate ones. Beginner ones tend to focus on immediate gains. For example, build muscle in 6 weeks or add strength in 8 weeks. The reason they do this is because people just starting in the gym can make beginner gains. This is when the individual advances extremely quickly, building muscle and strength very quickly. The problem is this progress usually begins to plateau around the 8-12 month mark, and whilst it is frustrating, it does mean you can aim for longer term more sustainable goals.
Intermediate programmes will focus on a 6 month goal as well as a more specific training style. For example you may decide you want to focus on building muscle, this means you will need to get on a bodybuilding program, these vary from individual to individual but generally these programmes will have a higher rep range than pure strength training routines. So before deciding on a routine, you will need to decide on the training style and your overall aims. If this is to build muscle then you should look for a bodybuilding routine, if its to build strength through the 3 major lifts, then you should look for a powerlifting routine. This totally depends on the athlete, but make sure you decide before continuing, as the worse thing you can do through your intermediate stage of training is not being sure what your goals actually are.
Step 3: The Programmes
Generally there are 3 programmes I recommend to intermediate athletes. These are for athletes looking to improve their strength rather than building muscle (although that is obviously a side effect of strength training.)
A 4 day split programme for individuals looking to get in and out of the gym with the most efficient training schedule. If you don’t already know Wendler 5-3-1 was created by Jim Wendler to help powerlifters build their 3 primary lifts as well as keeping the volume high enough to promote overall strength and muscle growth.
Juggernaut Training Systems is a training method geared to lifters who are used to higher intensity training. The method in its outline is based on 3 phases all of which last 1 month. These are accumulation, intensification and realisation. You start with a higher volume, lower weight approach which slowly flips into a higher weight lower volume as you work through the training plan. There is a great write up here, or you can just purchase the JTS method from the site itself for 10 bucks.
A programme I’ve heard about multiple times but never got around to trying. Louie Simmons creator of the Westside barbell originally created the programme for equip lifters using suits, but since the programme has been tailored to more general strength training and is now seen to be one of the top programmes for powerlifters around the world. Again there is a great write up on strength essentials.
Any of the three programmes listed above will drastically improve your squat, deadlift and bench, as well as improving your overall strength. But remember there is nothing wrong with creating your own programme, just ensure you follow the overload and progression principles and make sure you don’t take it easy on yourself in terms of numbers. Intermediates can usually start RPE training too, although percentage of max reps training is still the norm. Thanks for reading.