Garage Gym

Lifting weights is arguably one of the greatest activities a human can engage in: it makes you stronger, healthier, and makes you feel better. It’s fun, it’s empowering, and it elicits a raw, primal feeling of power that cardio-type exercising just… doesn’t. For such an amazing activity, it seems that commercial gyms go out of their way to ruin it whenever possible, and do an amazingly good job at making lifting a horrible experience. They focus almost entirely on machines and creating a “cognitively sterile” (read: mindless) environment full of bad music and low expectations and seem to discourage exactly that powerful, raw feeling that makes lifting weights so immediately gratifying. Of course, they make money when people sign up but don’t come back for the remainder of their contract term, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone — but it is still frustrating.

These commercial gyms have entirely too many rules, too many distractions, and typically aren’t conducive to lifting heavy, lifting loud, and doing the sorts of occasionally unconventional lifting that I enjoy. I have been kicked out of several gyms for lifting in my Vibram five finger shoes, infuriating experiences made worse by the extremely illogical arguments that ensued on my way out the door. I’ve been told not to perform “rapid barbell movements” such as complexes or a power cleans and presses, despite not dropping the weights or making any noise at all. I’ve been bitched at for being loud when deadlifting ~500lbs or DB rowing 150lbs — as though there is a way to quietly way to lower that much weight or as though lifting weights is supposed to be a quiet activity. I find the noise complaints the most ironic as most gyms regular blast the world’s shittiest 80′s music and pop (a redundant description, I know), to the point that my earbuds blasting metal aren’t enough to drown it out — you almost need the sound of crashing plates to fully cover up the demotivational garbage they play. And science help you if you bring chalk into a typical commercial gym; they’ll practically try to have you put to death for that.

In 2009, to avoid all of this nonsense, I started putting together a gym in the garage of the house I was living in at the time. I put down some sheets of OSB and rubber mats for flooring, bought a cheap power rack, and bought used bars and weights off of craigslist. Over the next couple of years I would watch craigslist and some fitness websites for deals on equipment and ended up amassing a pretty sweet setup for relatively cheap (<$1,000 including flooring and all). Here's what my garage gym looked like at my old house:

The garage gym at my old house

Another shot of the garage gym at my old house

When Cavewoman and I moved in July, though, we had to break down all of this gym stuff and move it to our new house in St Pete. The house is old (built in the 30′s) but very, very awesome. A downside of a house 80 years old, however, is that the garage is a complete wreck. It was largely unfinished and the cement floor was badly poured and was extremely uneven, cracked, and pitted — I guess back then they were just happy to not have dirt floors. To make things worse, the previous owners used it as a long-term storage area for several years, so the garage was filthy and needed a bunch of large items removed from it. When we first moved in, the garage door didn’t even work because they hadn’t used it in so long. We had to basically break it open, scrub off a bunch of rust, and lube up the track to get it to work. Here’s what it looked like after we got most the garbage out of there and had already started cleaning (it was much, much worse when we first moved in:

This is what the garage and garage floor looked like when we moved in — basically a mess.

After scrubbing the walls down, putting on a fresh coat of paint, pressure cleaning the floors, and letting the place air out a bit, it was starting to come along. But one problem remained: the floor was incredibly uneven. We first thought that putting down the OSB we had at the previous house would be enough to smooth out unlevel and pitted areas, but we were wrong. Once we had the gym set up, it became rapidly apparently that this would not work. Barbells placed down on the ground would immediately roll around the floor, which is both annoying and dangerous. Worse, lifting on uneven surfaces presents problems of causing muscle imbalances and injuries at very heavy weights. We measured the peaks and valleys of the floor and there was a deviation of 1-3 inches across the garage, and at various points throughout. Note that it’s not as though one side was higher than the other – I’m talking about a garage that resembles a contour map with highs and lows scattered about randomly. We had several cement contractors come out to inspect the floor and offer us quotes on fixing the issue. All of them said the issue was a bad cement pour, but that the slab was very structurally sound and was just shitty. Most of them wanted to tear up the old slab and pour a new one, charging us anywhere between $3,000-$5,000, which was of course out of the question. One said he would be able to cap the existing slab, but that would still cost about $2,000.

We looked for alternatives and eventually stumbled across this article that talks about leveling an uneven floor using asphalt shingles. This was perfect for our situation as we didn’t care at all what the floor looked like (as it would be covered by OSB and mats) — we just needed a safe, level surface on which to lift. We went to Lowe’s and picked up several packs of asphalt shingles, a large level, and went to work. The goal was to level out the peaks and valleys in the garage floor, layering the asphalt shingles in the depressions of the garage floor and leaving the high points of the garage floor exposed. Once that was even, we placed one layer of OSB on top and then another layer of OSB on top of that and perpinduclar to the first layer. Finally, rubber and foam lifting mats went on top. Here’s what it looked like:

Our seriously unlevel, chipped, and pitted garage floor

Putting town the first round of tiles. There was about a 2″ valley on that side I had to fill in.

The garage leveling project coming along nicely. No more rolling barbells!

Another shot of the first area being level

Another massive valley in the middle of the garage that had to be filled in.

The final product — asphalt shingles leveling OSB stacked two sheets high

Once this was all done, we put down rubber mats and foam tiles, and setup our equipment. Here’s what it looks like today:

Conditioning equipment — Farmer’s walk handles and a sled

There is plenty of equipment and room here for a couple of people to lift, stretch, do mobility work, conditioning work, and almost anything else. The only other thing I think I’ll add will be a cable stack, a GHD, and some more Dumbbells and Kettlebells, which I can fit by getting a more space-efficient dumbbell rack.

Just outside the garage, we went for a little more construction and setup some dip bars:

The homemade dip stand. The cinder block is there to use as a step.

Doing all of this saved us several thousand dollars and the whole leveling project only took one weekend. Even building the dip stand saved a bunch of money, as solid dip stands suitable for weighted dips run $300 and up while we built this one for about $60 worth of materials. The next project will be to build a large chin/ring/gymnastic station by the dip stand that is of a similar design (4x4s and steel pipe) but much taller. In the meantime, we have 400 square feet of awesome lifting space and no arbitrary rules about how loud we can be or what clothing we can wear. Rock on.

Pyramid of Strength v1.0

What’s the most important factor necessary for getting strong? And what’s the order of importance? Is it diet or training? Is training 3x per week better than 5x or 10x per week? Squats or deadlifts? Here is your answer, subject to future revision because I — unlike the pope — do not claim to be infallible:

Pyramid of Strength

Keenan's pyramid of Strength v1.0 - Progressive Overload & Protein are key

Notice what is NOT on this list: 20 reps of bosu-ball curls, tricep kickbacks, or anything involving a shakeweight. Also not here is “whole grains”, soy protein, or the newest superberry from the amazon.

Progressive Overload

Heavy, progressive Overload is the most important factor in gaining strength. I don’t care what you’re eating, how often you’re training, or what training protocol you are following — if you aren’t lifting more weight, you will not get stronger. At least, not enough to matter. When I say Progressive Overload, I mean lifting more weight for less than 8 reps and continuing to increase your real or estimated 1 rep-max.

What about workout frequency? Irrelevant. Lift as often as you want and can physically handle — as long as your strength is going up, you are making progress. If you are lifting too often and your strength starts to plateau or backslide for a couple consecutive weeks, lift less. HOW you get to lift more weight is much less important than actually lifting more weight. If 5×5 works for you, great. If reverse pyramids are your thing, awesome. But progression is everything, and if you aren’t putting more weight on the bar as fast as you can without injuring yourself, you are just wasting your time.

Protein

You can get strong in the face of a crappy diet, provided you focus on progressive overload. It’s not recommended, but it can be done. For this reason, protein comes in 2nd in importance. Remember: this article is about strength, not fat loss or quality of life. I think you should eat a diet that facilitates maximum strength AND quality of life (read: A high-protein paleo diet) but just in terms of pure muscle development, you need to get yourself some protein.

Protein IS food. If you aren’t eating protein, you aren’t really eating and you will be hungry every couple of hours. Protein from plants doesn’t count and protein from grains/bread/beans make you bleed internally. Complete proteins — from animal sources — should be the focus of each and every meal AND snack. Protein should form the base of your food pyramid as well, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Try to shoot for 1g per 1lb of bodyweight each day at a minimum. It is almost impossible to overeat protein, so go to town, especially if you are getting it from lean sources. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that protein’s Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is higher than previously thought and it should only count for 3.2 calories per gram instead of 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrate, by comparison, counts for 4 calories per gram, alcohol counts for 7 calories per gram, and fat counts for 9. Because protein is also the most satiating macronutrient, it makes sense to start there. Protein powders are a good addition to your diet, particularly a good Micellar Casein or Egg protein. I have started to use less whey as I have read more research suggesting that Casein and Egg protein result in greater satiety and greater strength/muscle gains. My own experience in recent months provides further credence to these claims. Whey is still fine, but look at Casein and Egg protein to comprise the bulk of your protein supplementation and, of course, eat plenty of good quality meats.

Sex, Supplements, Sun

In this category belongs anything you can reasonably and naturally do to get your testosterone levels up. I don’t take — or advocate taking — steroids, but there are plenty of good ways to get your T levels sky-high without resorting to the juice:

  • Eat more meat, eggs, and butter: Cholesterol builds testosterone
  • Get more sun: Specifically, with the help of the sun, cholesterol builds testosterone
  • Get more vitamin D: 5,000 IUs a day is a good place to start, though you can get by with less if you get more sunlight. Vitamin D is a very safe supplement and you’re better off having too much than not enough. That being said, home tests are readily available to check your own and make sure you have enough. Vitamin D is a testosterone booster, fights cancer, and makes you feel better.
  • Sex: Boosts testosterone. Get some or take care of yourself.
  • Girls: Testosterone isn’t just for guys. The amount of testosterone in your body is minuscule compared to a guy’s levels. An average female level for girls in their late 20′s is about 60-70ng/dL. For guys the same age it is 10x as much: 600-700ng/dL. There is absolutely no comparison. Even if you boost your T-levels by 20%, you would still have 1/8th the testosterone of an average guy. You will not get masculine unless you start taking steroids — really. Because of that, you should aim to increase you testosterone levels, naturally, through sun, sex, and supplements just like a guy would. It will improve your athletic performance, even out your mood, and generally make you feel more awesome. There is absolutely zero chance that taking such measures would make you become masculine. You would have to take steroids for that.

    Guys: You can’t have too much Testosterone.

    Death Metal

    I think Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer are responsible for more max lifts than steroids. Why? Aggression & Focus. Music (or anything) that increases your aggression and lets you get in “the zone” will remarkably improve your lifting performance. People in the gym listening to pop and chatting on their cell phone while using the leg curl machine aren’t getting anywhere. Weightlifting requires intensity. If Death Metal provides you that intensity, use it. This block in the pyramid could also read “anything and everything you can do to get yourself amped up for a lift.” Find whatever that is for you and use it.

    Types of muscle growth and Final Thoughts

    “But, Keenan, I don’t want to get stronger, I want to get bigger!” I hear you guys saying. First, you have to understand that there is a difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy. These scary-looking terms define different types of hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the lean-looking, dense muscle that olympic lifters have, exemplified by Bulgarian lifter Ivan Stoitsov on the left. Note the stark comparison to Pro Bodybuilder Jay Cutler — showing extensive sarcoplasmic hypertrophy — on the right:

    Photo courtesy of Stronglifts.com

    Stoitsov shows Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

     
    Jay Cutler

    Cutler exemplifies Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

     


    Granted, Cutler’s physique is almost certainly enhanced by drugs, but he really just looks silly. Stoitsov, on the other hand, is lean, dense, powerful, and has a better look than most bodybuilders. He’s not “all show and no go”, either; all his mass has a purpose and isn’t just hanging around. Think about it this way: strength yields dense muscle, volume (and usually drugs) yields puffy muscle.

    While the guys complain about not getting big enough, I hear you girls complaining that you don’t want to get “too big.” Getting strong will not make you “big” unless you’re taking steroids. That being said, if your idea of “big” is anything larger than an anorexic skeleton, then there’s probably nothing I can do to help you and you should probably just go get a Curves membership and read Cosmo while running on the treadmill for 2 hours and then go home and eat some granola and yogurt. If you have more reasonable notions of what women are capable of doing, then work on getting strong first and foremost.

    Strong chicks

    The horrible bodies that await girls who get "too strong"

    Regardless of your long-term goals (sports, bodybuilding/figure competition, general health, etc) focus on getting strong before anything else. Incorporate this pyramid into your strength program and if your overall progress and development stall, address each of these things in order. You will not be disappointed.

1,000 lbs total on DL, squat, bench @ 180lbs

This weekend — without realizing it — I reached a weightlifting goal I’ve had for a long time: I brought my lifting “total” to 1,000 lbs, even. A powerlifting total is the sum of your deadlift, squat, and bench press. As of this weekend, my lifts are:

Deadlift: 430lb (1/15/10)
Squat: 325lb (12/27/10)
Bench: 245 (12/28/10)

Crossfit uses its own total, which substitutes overhead press for bench press. My overhead press is 165 lbs, giving me a crossfit total of 920 lbs. My current body weight is bouncing between 180 and 185 depending on my carb consumption as I have been in the progress of gaining some mass. By focusing on heavy, progressive overload, I have been able to get to this point quicker than I thought I could last year.

I am quickly narrowing in on my goal of a 300 pound bench, 400 pound squat, and 500lb deadlift — the infamous “3,4,5.” For an added twist, I would like to include a 200 pound overhead press to that. I’m hoping to achieve that series in time for my birthday in July and then finish the year at a lean 185 pounds.

On an unrelated note, I know I haven’t posted much besides workouts lately and I also know that my site looks horrible. My theme was broken completely and I hacked together some quick changes to just make it visible at all, but now it looks awful. I am in the process of changing web hosts and re-styling. I am also working on a few articles that I will release after that.

New lifts and Progress pics

In Round 3 of reverse pyramid workouts, I noted that I was deadlifting every 8 days or so, with a goal of deadlifting 405 lbs (8 “plates”) by the end of the year. A little over a week ago, I blew through that goal about 2 months ahead of schedule. During my strength workout, I pulled 4x385lbs and figured I could just go ahead and get 405. It was pretty tough, but I got it once and then again a few minutes later just to make sure I really had it. I’ve continued my progression this week, doing a double yesterday with plenty of eating and napping in between workouts:

Sunday workout 1:
Superset:
Deadlift: 5x135lbs, 3×225,4×315 (straight grip), 2x5x385, 6×345, 8×315
Dips:10x Bodyweight(BW), 5x BW+50, 3xBW+75, 2x6xBW+100lbs, 8xBW+75lbs

Superset:
Shrugs: 12×135, 8×225, 8×275, 3x5x325, 8×275,10×225
Arnold Press: 6×45′s 6×55′s, 3x5x60′s, 7×55′s, 5×55′s

Sunday workout 2:

Superset:
Floor Press: 5×135, 3×185, 4×315, 3×215, 4×205, 6×185, 10×135
Suicide Pushups: 7-10 reps after each set of floor press. Suicide Pushup pic.
Kroc Row:6×75,5x8x125lbs

Circuit:

Incline Fly: 8×45′s, 5×55′s, 2x4x55′s
Chin-up: 4x3xBW+25
Barbell Curl: 5×65,5×85,2x4x85
Ab Wheel Rollout:4×10 reps

It was a pretty brutal day. I was very happy with my 6 reps of dips with 100 pounds, as well as my 5 rep sets of 385 on deadlift. My one rep estimated max at 5×385 is now 430lbs, which is almost 100 pounds higher than the start of this year. The Kroc Rows at 125 for 8 rep sets were no small feat either. I’ll soon be Kroc rowing with one arm what I used to be Pendlay rowing with two arms. Unbelievable.

After Sunday’s (yesterday’s) two workouts, I did some olympic lifting today:

Superset:
Bulgarian Split Squat (DBs): 5×45′s, 6x5x55′s
Snatch: 5×95, 3×115, 3x3x120lbs, 2×125

Superset:
Cleans: 5×135, 3x3x185
Suicide Ring Pushups: 4×10

I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the snatch, but after doing those few sets I had no explosiveness left for my cleans. That, coupled with soreness from yesterday’s workouts and I called it a day after finishing a few sets of cleans.

At the end of the workout, I took a few pictures to answer a request from a commenter:

November 2010 Progress pic
Half-relaxed

November 2010 progress pic - back
The back.


My weight is up to about 176-178 right now — from 168-170 a few months ago. I’ve been taking creatine for the first time in years, so I gained about 5 lbs of water weight in a week, leading to some smoothness. My strength is increasing far more rapidly than that, however, so my strength/weight ratio is ultimately improving. I will likely continue this current higher volume routine until my strength gains plateau. As I mentioned in my last post, that may not happen for a while, if my muscle gains continue as they have been.

Genetic Muscular Potential

Genetic potential, when it comes to building muscle is an important thing to understand. Many gym goers, especially guys, have unrealistic expectations of what is possible for a natural (i.e. no steroids or growth hormone) lifter. While there is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals, adding some realism to those goals can help avoid getting caught up in marketing hype or unrealistic expectations that will ultimately discourage progress. Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit about predicted genetic potential for drug-free lifters for two key reasons:

1) Determining realistic lifetime training goals for building lean muscle
2) Determine where my current progress falls on the spectrum of lifetime achievement

Point 1 is merely interesting, but point 2 is actually quite important in the short-run, because lifters who have only just started making progress can gain muscle and strength far more quickly than experienced lifters. Lyle McDonald wrote about this in his article on Genetic Muscular Potential, stating that lifting newbies can expect to gain about 20-25 pounds of lean muscle in their first year of proper training, 10-12 pounds in their second year, half that in their third, and so on. Essentially, muscle building is a logarithmic function (i.e. diminishing returns over time), with an approximate limit equal to one’s maximum genetic potential.

They key phrase in all of this is “proper” training. If someone’s training for 10 years consists of running on a treadmill and 20 rep-sets of curls and tricep kickbacks, they will not come anywhere near their 20-25 lb muscle gain. If, after 10 years, they were to start on a proper training regimen with squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows while applying progressive overload they would still be able to gain 20-25 pounds in the 11th year because they would finally be training properly. Thus, to determine realistic rates of muscle gain, it makes sense to assess where you fall on the continuum of lifetime progress. Most people, after all, don’t start out doing things right!

First, let’s look at what is realistic lifetime goal for a natural lifter. Dr. Casey Butt has written at length about this in his obviously named book, Your Muscular Potential. On his website there is an article that does a good job summarizing the book, though really nerdy people like me will enjoy the science and math in his book. His position is simple: the human body has predictable limits to muscular growth that can be determined by the size of your frame, using ankle and wrist measurements. He includes a genetic potential calculator on his website for you to plug in these values, and it will provide you with a realistic maximum of what you can expect to achieve after 5+ years of good, dedicated weight training. My values are as follows:

Height: 69 in
Wrist: 7.1 in (My wrist is slightly larger than average for my height)
Ankle: 9.2 in (I have a significantly large ankle for my height)

Using these values, a realistic maximum for me would be a bodyweight of about 196 lbs (at 10% bodyfat), with a 48 inch chest and 17 inch biceps and calves. Considering that I currently weigh about 176 lbs, adding another TWENTY pounds of lean mass to my body (and 6″ to my chest and 2″ to my biceps and calves) would be a significant achievement. While some are discouraged by the genetic limits of natural lifters, any lifter or athlete approaching these values would stand out in a crowd. In fact, getting to about 95% of these values would put you in the realm of champion natural powerlifters and bodybuilders. Anyone that saw you would probably think that you may be using steroids or other drugs. Yet at the same time, you would not have that ridiculous bulk that many bodybuilder-types have.

Now that we’ve looked at the long run, what about the short run? I have been training for over a decade, but how much of that has been “proper training?” As I wrote in my Progressive Overload post, I have spent YEARS training without making any real progress other than improving my general athleticism and health. That is, I have not maximized my muscular growth. By combining Dr. Butt’s (sorry, I couldn’t resist) data on genetic potential with Lyle McDonald’s data on yearly growth potential, I put this together:

My estimated muscular potential over time

This is the nerdiest graph on my website. And considering that I even HAVE other graphs on my website, that is saying something.

As you can see, my bodyweight of 176 lbs (at my current body fat of about 10%) puts me square in the middle of year ONE of training. Despite 10+ years of training, I am likely still capable of gaining muscle at a rate of 1lb/month for another 6-12 months because my training has not maximized muscle growth. It would not be unreasonable for me to be a lean 185 lbs at the beginning of 2012 (14 months from now). This makes sense, as I only started deadlifting in 2007/2008 and getting aggressive with heavy lifting in 2009. I spent a lot of time “feeling the burn” and “increasing intensity” and have since learned my lesson and focused on getting stronger. Dr. Butt believes that an athlete can reach 90% or more of their genetic potential within 3 years of proper training, so my progress is right in line with his predictions.

Understanding genetic potential is important for realistic goal-setting. I think that many people overestimate what is possible without drugs, yet they underestimate what a drug-free athlete at his or her potential looks like and is capable of. A drug-free athlete who has approached the maximum of their genetic potential will be very physically imposing and tremendously strong, and would certainly stand out in a crowd. So, don’t be discouraged by these limitations, but use them to assess your progress and work towards your goals, whatever they may be.

Reverse Pyramid workouts and Progressive Overload

For all of you who are embarking on or continuing a weight-training regimen: Progressive overload is important. Progressive overload means continually doing MORE work than you previously did. I’ve been guilty myself of neglecting progressive overload — sometimes for months or even years — and find myself still lifting the same weights I was lifting a long time before. It’s too easy to get caught up in “feeling the burn” or focusing on making yourself sore, but if you aren’t increasing the amount of weights you are lifting you are not getting that much out of your workouts.

After this summer’s cut (I dropped about 4 lbs in a month, to finish just under 170) and another month off from any heavy lifting, I’m back on a strength cycle, looking to reach my goal of a 4-plate deadlift (405lbs) by the end of the year. My lifting structure is a reverse pyramid as Martin Berkhan has recommend in the past. I am doing a bit more volume since I seem to recover well. I am also focusing a lot on calf and hamstring strength and development, putting those lifts at the beginning of my workouts. Here are my past two workouts:

Workout 1:
Seated Leg Curl (uni-lateral): 3x10x60lbs
Seated calf raise: 6×135, 8×115, 10×90
Dips (weighted): 6xBW+75lbs, 8xBW+50lbs, 10xBW+25lbs (BW is body weight, which is about 170-175)
Full clean and press: 6×135, 7×115,8x95lbs.

For full clean and press, I started with the weight on the ground for each rep. I did a full clean into a deep front squat, then exploded out of the squat and finished with an overhead press.

Because I got 6 reps of weighted dips at +75lbs of added weight, I will increase to 80lbs next time I do this workout. I will likely get 4-5 reps using the 80lbs. Once I can do 6×80, I will increase weight to 85. Each workout I will add either sets or reps to each lift. This is progressive overload and it should be your goal.

Workout 2:
Calf jumps: 3x20x65lbs
Deadlift (warm-up): 8×135,5×225, 3x315lbs
Deadlift: 5×365, 6×335, 7x275lbs.
Russian Leg Curls: 2×10 (bodyweight)
Chins (warm-up): 5x BW
Chins (weighted): 4xBW+45lbs, 5xBW+25lbs, 6xBW+10lbs, 8xBW
Superset of Flyes and Reverse Flyes: 3x8x45′s (flyes) superset with 3x12x20′s (reverse flyes)

I can’t believe that I am pulling 5 reps of a weight I could barely max 3 months ago — I’m really excited about that. Because I’m working deadlifts in the 3-5 rep range and I got 5 reps on my first set, I will increase my weight to 370 for my next workout. Once I can do 5 reps of 370, I will increase the weight again. For my second set I reduce the weight by approximately 10% and try to do one more rep than my first set, as per Martin’s recommendations. Once I can pull 390 for a triple, I should have no problem pulling a 405 max. My current max is 385, and I’ve got 10 deadlift days between now and the new year, so increasing my deadlift an average of 2.5lbs per workout gets me to my goal with room to spare. This is the essence of progressive overload: slow, continual progress with increasingly heavy weights.

It’s important to realize that this type of linear progression should be possible for a very long time. I will likely be able to use linear progression well into the 400′s on my deadlift. If you are a guy deadlifting less than 2x-3x your body weight and benching less than 2x your body weight, you probably haven’t finished your “newbie gains” and you should continue doing a linear progression workout program such as Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, Cressey’s Maximum Strength, or Stronglifts 5×5. Keep it simple, and make sure you’re always getting stronger. That’s why you’re lifting, after all. Right?