6 Weeks to Awesome Power

MB02140028

M&B’s strength program will deliver incredible gains for function and physique.

Let’s face it: Almost every serious athlete or workout enthusiast—someone who goes to the gym three, four or five times a week—is a high achiever with multiple goals. While this often applies to all facets of life, achieving goals from workouts may include any or all from this list:

• Increasing strength
• Boosting power
• Building more muscle mass
• Shedding more body fat
• Simply feeling better and looking more attractive

In the past, you’ve been told that you can’t have it all, but the M&B Power and Strength Performance (PSP) program helps you roll all these Sisyphean boulders up the hill at the same time. The PSP program includes two strength and one power workout each week.

The combination of strength and power training gives you a synergistic feedback loop: Strength training improves power, and power training improves strength. Together, they provide the beneficial side effects of greater muscle mass, more burned body fat, a more attractive appearance and a general feeling of wellbeing. Missions accomplished.

Knowledge is strength, so let’s explain how and why the PSP program works.

Power vs. Strength

It’s important to understand what’s truly unique about the PSP program. First, let’s define the terms.

Strength is simply the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to elicit maximal contractile force, lifting as much weight as possible through your 1-rep max (1RM). Typically, the best way to increase strength is to build your workouts by performing 3–5 sets of 2–6 reps at 85% or more of your 1RM.

• Let’s boil that down: Lifting very heavy weight a few times helps increase your strength. Adding in a rest period of three to five minutes between sets helps you achieve this safely and more effectively. That’s what you’ll do during your strength-training workouts.

Power is the ability to move a certain amount of weight over a specific distance within a specified amount of time. And, in this case, often doing it several times. Physics explains that this can be expressed as force multiplied by distance divided by time; or more simply, force multiplied by velocity or speed (the amount of distance covered over time).

• Let’s boil that down: You’re going to lift lighter weights as explosively as you can for several reps on power-training days. Improving your power production depends on your ATP cycle, and your rest intervals will depend on how long it takes your body to replenish creatine phosphate. That’s what you’ll do during your power-training workouts.

Rest Time Between Sets for the PSP Program

Much of the science of powerlifting suggests that you need four minutes to fully replenish between sets, but this workout generally calls for only 90 seconds of rest between sets. While it typically takes three to four minutes to fully replenish phosphocreatine stores from high-intensity exercise (that is, if you are actually resting that long), this is really only applicable to heavy strength-training exercises with high loads. The PSP program is not high-load powerlifting, but rather power training, where the goal is to increase work capacity in shorter time frames. Therefore, 90 seconds of rest between sets will suffice.

The Schedule: Three Workouts, Six Weeks

This is the training schedule you’ll follow during your six-week PSP program. M&B has laid out every workout you’ll perform in one grid to make it easy to follow. Note that you alternate between strength and hypertrophy (muscle-fatigue) training each week. Yet you include power training for your third weight-training workout each week on Fridays.

Training on Tuesdays and Thursdays is optional; these can be rest days. We’ve built in a cardio/core workout for those who want a higher training volume. Keep in mind, though, that the primary purpose of the program is to increase strength and power, and an important component of supporting both of these goals is recovery between heavy-weight and intense workouts.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Workout style Strength Hypertrophy Strength Hypertrophy Strength Hypertrophy
DAY
Monday Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 1 Workout 2
Tuesday Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core
Wednesday Workout 2 Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 1
Thursday Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core Cardio/core
Friday Power Up — Workout 3 Power Up — Workout 3 Power Up — Workout 3 Power Up — Workout 3 Power Up — Workout 3 Power Up — Workout 3
Saturday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Sunday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest

The Three PSP Workouts

In this section, we give you the specifics for each of your main workouts, performed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You’ll perform strength workouts on Monday and Wednesday, and a workout that emphasizes power training on Fridays.

Note, also, that you’ll alternate between strength and hypertrophy training each week. This means that during Weeks 1, 3 and 5 you’ll emphasize very heavy weights, allowing you to reach failure with very few reps for the last set of your most challenging moves. For Weeks 2, 4 and 6, you’ll use slightly lighter weights that allow you to complete more reps per set.

Then on Fridays you’ll perform a workout that emphasizes explosive moves performed with control—power, in other words.

 

Workout 1: Upper-Body Strength Overload

This workout is designed to improve upper-body strength as well as full-body strength. Three of the four major moves primarily target improving upper-body strength, while one (Romanian deadlifts) targets the lower body. You’ll perform these after a full warm-up (see “The Warm-Up”). Note that each strength move begins with a lighter weight that you can easily perform for 15 reps before you move to the much more challenging heavy-weight/low-rep scheme. You should come close to failure on the last rep of the last set of each of these strength moves. The last working set is kettlebell swings, performed for one minute with no rest to provide a metabolic boost at the end of your workout.

Objective Exercise Strength Sets Strength Reps Hypertrophy Sets Hypertrophy Reps
Warm-up Choose from exercises in “The Warm-Up” 1 As described 1 As described
Strength Romanian deadlift 4 15, 5, 5, 3 4 15
Strength Standing overhead barbell press 4 15, 6, 6, 4 4 15
Strength Bench press 4 15, 5, 5, 3 4 12, 8, 8, 8
Strength Cable face pull 4 15, 8, 6, 5 4 15, 8, 8, 8
Finisher Kettlebell swing 1 60 seconds 1 90 seconds
Regeneration Full-body foam roll 1 5 minutes 1 5 minutes

Workout 2: Lower-Body Strength Overload

Workout 2 emphasizes encouraging greater strength production in the lower body. It’s good to complement the upper- and lower-body training by having one workout each week that targets the other, while providing a secondary stimulus for the other. This workout provides two exercises that primarily target the legs and two that emphasize different upper-body groups (chest and back). You’ll perform a strength workout each week that primarily targets lower and upper body. Then, during each of these workouts, you’ll also hit the other group as a secondary focus. That will also allow a break between exercises targeting these groups to help you recover (a bit).

 

Objective Exercise Strength Sets Strength Reps Hypertrophy Sets Hypertrophy Reps
Warm-up Choose from exercises in “The Warm-Up” 1 As described 1 As described
Strength Squat 4 15, 5, 5, 5 4 15, 10, 10, 10
Strength DB incline bench press 4 15, 6, 6, 6 4 10
Strength Pull-up (weighted on strength days) 4 15, 5, 5, 5 4 15, max
Strength Deadlift 4 10, 4, 4, 4 4 12, 8, 7, 6
Finisher “The Complex” 1 4 1 4
Regeneration Full-body foam roll 1 5 minutes 1 5 minutes

Workout 3: Power Performance

When you want to increase strength, power or muscle mass, you need to understand the synergy between these different styles of training. This workout uses explosive moves that will help you generate more power, which leads to greater strength, which leads to greater muscle mass.

We’ve given you a sample workout to perform on Fridays, but you’ll get even greater benefits if you switch up the power moves from week to week. To help you with that, we’ve provided a list of additional moves in the “Power Options” section on page 48. Each week, you should swap out a couple of moves for those you didn’t perform during your power workout on the previous Friday.

 

Objective Exercise Power Sets Power Reps
Warm-up Choose from exercises in “The Warm-Up” 1 As described
Power Weighted walking lunge 3 6 per legs
Power Medicine-ball overhead throw 3 12
Power Goblet squat 3 10
Power Plyometric push-up 3 5–6
Finisher “The Complex” 1 4
Regeneration Full-body foam roll and stretch 1 5 minutes

Elements of the PSP Workouts

The Warm-Up

This should be a collection of moves that helps your body prepare for intense strength, hypertrophy or power training. An ideal warm-up for any workout is to begin with five to 10 minutes of moderate cardio, followed by range-of-motion stretching—but don’t go crazy with stretch moves before intense weight training. It’s a good idea to spend about 15 minutes warming up, especially if you’re about to train for strength or power with exercises you’re unaccustomed to performing.

Here are a few moves you can include in your warm up to help you get ready for the intense training to come.

• Cardio: any form, but consider a form such as an elliptical trainer or a rowing machine that also includes your upper body. Often, five to 10 minutes is enough to warm up your body.

• Foam roll for two to three minutes, emphasizing the muscle groups you’re about to train: upper back, hips, shoulders, quads

• Walking lunge with rotation (about 20 steps per leg)

• Jumping jack (about 20–25)

• Plyometric push-up (about 20–25)

• Core activation such as abs wheel or Roman chair leg lift

The Complex

This series of moves was designed to help you reach fatigue and build power to assist in strength and muscle gains. Using an empty bar or other weight that’s appropriate for you, here’s what you should do:

Complete your Romanian deadlifts, then go straight to a bar and perform one combo move of hang clean to front squat to overhead push-press. Lower the bar behind your head and perform 6 reps per leg of reverse lunges.

Perform “The Complex” three or four times, resting no more than 90 seconds between each round. You should be able to complete 4 rounds in about 10 minutes.

Exercise Reps
1) Romanian deadlift 12
2) Combo:
Hang clean
Front squat
Overhead push-press
1
1
1
3) Reverse lunge 6 reps per leg

Cardio/Core Techniques

(Tuesdays and Thursdays)
These days are optional when you’re on the PSP program. They’re designed for the guy who has to go to the gym five days a week, but who still wants to increase strength. On these days, you can perform 20–30 minutes of moderate-level cardio and up to 8 sets of moves for core.

On Tuesdays, you can also perform 3 or 4 rounds of “The Complex” with very light weights to get your heart rate up, resting only 60 seconds between sets. For core moves, you can perform any from this list or other favorites:

• Ball crunch
• Cable crunch
• Machine crunch
• Hanging leg raise
• Plank
• Abs wheel

Power Option

For the Power Performance workouts, do 4 sets of every power move. Each week, you should switch out at least two moves to encourage greater power production without allowing your body to accommodate to one particular workout. Also, consider shifting up the order of these moves. For each move, perform reps continuously for about 60 seconds, unless otherwise specified.

• Walking lunge with medicine-ball slam
• Mountain climber
• Explosive push-up (5 or 6 reps)
• Dumbbell squat jump
• Medicine-ball chest throw (with a partner or against wall)
• Weighted step-up
• Burpee
• Weighted jump rope
• Box jump

Regeneration

After a workout, perform a few minutes of regeneration activity on a foam roller or a tennis ball or two, then be sure to stretch for a few minutes. This will help to reduce soreness and risk of injury as the stress on your body accumulates over the six-week program.

The Exercises: How to Do Them Right

Romanian Deadlift 
Grasp a barbell that’s resting on the ground, making sure that your knees are only slightly bent. Keeping your arms and back extended, raise the weight using a controlled motion and by hinging your hips forward, maintaining a neutral position in your back. Lower the bar by pushing your hips back and keeping only a slight bend in your knees.
Check out the video: Romanian Deadlift 

Cable Face Pull 
Stand and face a high pulley adjusted so it’s level with your head. With a rope or dual handles attached, pull the weight directly toward your face, separating your hands near your ears as you do so. Keep your upper arms parallel to the ground throughout. Squeeze your upper lats and traps at the midpoint of the movement, and then return the weight to the starting position. You can also include kneeling, half-kneeling or split stance variations.
Check out the video: Cable Face Pull

Kettlebell Swing 
Stand straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lean forward at your waist slightly and bend your knees so as to go into a semi-squat. Keep your back arched/neutral and head facing forward. Let your arms hang loosely and raise the weight using your hips and hamstrings while keeping your back in neutral spine. Use your hips to power the kettlebell up with both hands to just over chest level, but NOT ABOVE YOUR HEAD. Then, swing the weight with both hands in between your legs while sitting back with your hips to return to the starting position. Move the kettlebell using a hip-thrust motion from the posterior chain to the finish position. Use a powerful hip snap on every rep.
Check out the video: Kettlebell Swing

Mountain Climber 
Start in a push-up position. Then, flexing your knee and hip, bring one leg toward your chest until your knee is approximately under the hip. This is essentially the starting position, or the initiation of the exercise. From here, you explosively reverse the positions of your legs, extending the bent leg until the leg is straight and supported by the toe, and bringing your other foot up with the hip and knee flexed. This can be repeated until completion of reps, or for time (i.e., 30 seconds).
Check out the video: Mountain Climber

Explosive Push-up 
These are performed the same way as regular push-ups, except you press so explosively from the lowered position that your hands raise off the ground (you can clap them in between reps, if you like). Catch your weight and lower with control and perform the next rep. Due to the plyometric nature of this move, you should only perform 5 or 6 reps or so until you’re well accustomed to the move.
Check out the video: Explosive Push-up

Goblet Squat 
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell against your chest. With the weight cradled, squat down, allowing your elbows, pointed downward, to slide between your thighs. You can allow your elbows to press your legs out. Go as deep as you comfortably can, then press through your heels until you’re standing.
Check out the video: Goblet Squat

Power and Strength Supplements

Try these supplements to support all of the goals of your workouts. Many of these nutrients are included in popular preworkout formulas. Also, see our article on betaine (page 66) for another supplement that studies say may increase muscle power and strength.

Caffeine: This supplement not only gives you more energy, but research shows that it also increases strength when you take it before workouts. It also helps pull body fat from storage for greater training fuel.
Suggested dose: For best results, take about 100–400 mg (depending on your tolerance) about 30–60 minutes before workouts.

Creatine: This nutrient not only helps build muscle mass, but it’s also extremely effective in helping you produce strength and power. That’s because creatine is a potent contributor to your ATP cycle, the short-term energy that helps you produce more power.
Suggested dose: Take 3–5 g before workouts, and follow up with the same dose afterward to support recovery.

Beta-alanine: This amino acid combines with histidine, another amino acid, to form carnosine. Production of this compound supports increases in both strength and power. Beta-alanine drives this process, boosting performance in single bouts of high-intensity exercise of 60 seconds in duration or longer (power); multiple bouts of high-intensity training (power and strength); and single sets of high-intensity training while fatigued (strength). Research also shows that it boosts the benefits of creatine.
Suggested dose: For best results, take 1–1.5 g of beta-alanine before workouts and immediately after.

HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl-butyrate): The supplement is a metabo-lite of the BCAA leucine, and adequate supplemental doses help prevent muscle breakdown. In other words, HMB helps you recover more quickly for the rigorous training of your next workout. Research shows that it’s particularly beneficial for those new to training or following a new program.
Suggested dose: For best results, take 3–6 g of HMB up to three times a day with meals.

Protein: Research shows that the most effective source of supplemental protein is a combo of whey, casein and soy protein. Each of these is rich in muscle-building amino acids. This supplemental combo helps protect muscle mass when taken before workouts and supports recovery when taken afterward.
Suggested dose: Get in a protein shake approximately 30 minutes before workouts (30–40 g), and another of the same dose immediately afterward.