A quick Google search will show you that the Internet is overrun with fitness programs. There is a program out for nearly every goal. Some are great, but some are total gimmicks drafted by self-proclaimed training experts, muddling the field and making finding the right program more than a chore. If you feel overwhelmed and confused about which program is for you, dont worry, here are six of the top muscle-building programs that get our stamp of approval:
No. 1: Starting Strength
Starting Strength is a program by Mark Rippetoe. Its a basic beginner program that teaches the lifter proper form on the "Big Three" movements. This program is straightforward and basic. The program utilizes mostly barbells so it makes it very versatile. Starting Strength involves three full body workouts that alternate. Each lift works with certain percentages of your one rep max, which makes it pretty easy to complete. This program is ideal for beginners because it teaches them the importance of progressive overload and proper planning. One big con for this workout is that it can get boring quickly. You will not be utilizing any isolation movements since your focusing on big compound movements.
No. 2: 5/3/1
531 is a program designed by Jim Wendler. Similar to Starting Strength, this program is based off your current one rep maxes. This program is focused around making progress on squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press. This program can be set up very simply, or you can add other variables to make it interesting. I love incorporating AMRAP sets and adding in high volume to this routine. This program is a lot more customizable, and the way its set up can keep you going for years without hitting a wall. This program has no cons because you can do anything to do it; if you want to train each lift twice a week you can; want to workout three or six days a week, it can be done; high volume, low volume, powerlifting or bodybuilding protocols can be done as well. I definitely recommend giving this program a try.
No. 3: PRRS
Power, Rep Range and Shock (PRRS) was built by "Natural Freak" Eric Broser. PRRS training is a great program for intermediates and advanced lifters. Each acronym stands for a different protocol for each workout. Power stands for a more compound movements done in a power rep range. Rep Range is more a typical bodybuilding type workout and Shock workouts are one in their own. Shock workouts utilize any type of shocking principle, primarily supersets for the same bodypart. Every week you will be utilizing a different acronym. In addition each acronym uses different workout tempos which can increase your time under tension. PRRS training was designed to keep your body guessing and keep the results coming. A positive thing about this program is that you never get bored, every workout is different. Shock workouts are something you should try; you really change yourself on those days. If cycled correctly, you will never plateau and can expect to buy bigger shirts. PRRS uses a lower volume, lower frequency approach that can be a problem for someone who requires more volume. You can customize your PRRS routine by increasing the volume or frequency.
No. 4: Max-OT
Max-OT was made famous by Skip La Cour, and is a strength based, low volume program. Max-OT utilizes nine working sets per bodypart in the four to six rep range. Each workout should take no more than 45 minutes. After 12 weeks of training, you will take one complete week off from training. With the program, you are only performing compound movements; the rational is that you do not need to perform isolation movements because compound movements will stimulate all the muscle fibers. Max-OT is a great program for someone who is under a time schedule. If your time is limited, look no farther than this program. The only drawback is that youll need a spotter for a lot of your sets. You will be working each set to failure -- it wouldnt be smart to do that without a spotter. A major con with this program is the lack of frequency and lack of volume.
No. 5: Smolov
These routines are great for bringing up weak or lagging bodyparts. Smolov can be done for legs while Smolov Jr. can work well for chest or back. These routines are brutal and not for the faint of heart. If you choose the basic Smolov protocol you will be squatting four times per week with a certain percentage of your one rep max for three to four weeks at a time. It’s not uncommon to add 20 to 50 pounds to your squat, bench or deadlift in that short time frame. I recommend performing this type of routine when you are in a mass building state. Your body will be primed to make solid lean gains if utilizing one of these brutal programs.
You should try each one of these routines and utilize them for an extended period of time. Use any one of these programs for as long as you can keep making results, then move to the next one. In order to build muscle you must be progressive with your training. No matter which program you attempt, always make sure you are adding more reps, sets, or weight to the bar.