Pushing Your Limit

How can I train to lift more? Progressive overload is the key when it comes to increasing strength in any particular movement. This 14-week program is applicable to any major movement you wish to boost your fast twitch muscle fibre.

The first step is to determine your 1RM for the seven essential movements you plan on training for the next 14 weeks. From there you can calculate your weights on your 1RM continuum. For example, your biachromial press may sit at 225 pounds (two plates on each side of a standard 45 pound Olympic bar). For the first 6 weeks you will need to know your six rep max. Your 6-rep max is generally 86 per cent of your 1RM, within one per cent margin of error. So for our 225-pound biachromial press example, his six rep max will be 194 pounds.

Phase A

For the first six weeks you will be performing your working sets on the low end of your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy system. This refers to short term powerful bursts of energy generally below 6 reps when it comes to weight training.


Week Sets Reps Tempo Rest Period (seconds) Load
1 6 1 set x 7 –5 sets x 6 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
2 6 2 sets x 7 –4 sets x 6 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
3 6 3 sets x 7 –3 sets x 6 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
4 6 4 sets x 7 –2 sets x 6 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
5 6 5 sets x 7 –1 set x 6 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
6 6 7 40X0 150 – 180 86% of 1RM
7 3 10-12 3020 90 75% of 1RM


Sets and Rest periods

Each workout will consist of 6 working sets for each movement. Ideally you are not super setting but if you do, add another 60 seconds to your rest period between sets.


Strength is best developed during the eccentric component of the movement. Make sure you adhere to the four-second tempo. Tempo refers to the rhythm you lift each repetition. In the case of this regiment your eccentric will last four seconds, zero second pause at the stretched position, X = explosive or as fast as you can concentric contraction, and 0 second pause in the fully contracted position.


The concept applied here is that you are operating with a load that you are only capable to lift six times. Each week you will perform one more set with a rep count of seven, progressively overloading your fast twitch muscle fibre demanding more than you were previously capable of lifting. This pushes your 1RM continuum beyond where it currently sits.


The seventh week is your opportunity to deload. This means that you drop the weight down to a 10-12 rep max level and control the concentric contraction to 2 seconds. The muscle groups you have been overloading require one week of recovery after prolonged overloads.

Phase B

This is where we intensify. The closer you work to your 1RM the more effective your efforts will be. The structure will remain the same however the loads and rep counts will be different. At the end of the six weeks, you will need yet another deload week before you test your gains. The older your training age (ie the more experienced the lifter) the smaller the gains will be. The average gain on a 1 RM will be between 2.5 per cent and 5 percent.


Week Sets Reps Tempo Rest Period (seconds) Load
8 6 1 set x 4 –5 sets x 3 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
9 6 2 sets x 4 –4 sets x 3 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
10 6 3 sets x 4 –3 sets x 3 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
11 6 4 sets x 4 –2 sets x 3 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
12 6 5 sets x 4 –1 set x 3 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
13 6 4 40X0 150 – 180 94% of 1RM
14 3 10-12 3020 90 75% of 1RM


Be sure to switch up your regiment to keep your body guessing to avoid plateaus as your strength training is subject to the law of diminishing returns. The 15th week is test week. Good Luck!

Iain Bain grew up in the fitness industry with a father who was a competitive bodybuilder. After high school, he studied journalism at Ryerson University. Now he’s applying both of those passions in one as a certified strength coach. You can find him on Twitter @thebainbuild, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions as you have them!

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