Get Big& Strong

Michael Roussell

A Best-of-Both-Worlds Workout

The ideal is being big and strong. Many bodybuilders catch a lot of flak for having the muscles but not the strength to back them up. Times have changed from the golden age of bodybuilding. Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger were big and strong.

How could anyone forget the scene in “Pumping Iron” when Franco was in his hometown on Sardinia, off the coast of Italy? Not only did he look as if he could lift a car, he
did lift a car. While the big-and-strong routine won’t automatically enable you to lift a car, it will help you pack on some serious beef while making you strong as an ox—okay, enough with the bovine metaphors.

Big-and-Strong Principles

This routine has four cornerstones.

1) Constant variation of the set-and-rep schemes. By continually varying the set-and-rep scheme of your workout, you’ll prevent your muscles from adapting. By keeping them guessing, you’ll be providing the optimal environment for optimal growth. Variety in your sets and reps will also keep training fresh for you. Nothing is more boring than doing three sets of 10 week after week.

2) Movement selection. Step away from the leg extension machine. The big-and-strong program is designed to be both effective and efficient. I’m not looking to waste your time, so we leave out isolation movements.

You need high-yield exercises that maximize muscle stimulation and stress numerous muscle groups at once. What am I getting at? Compound, multijoint movements give you the biggest bang for your buck and should be the cornerstone of any routine when you’re looking to put on size and strength.

3) Training frequency. Many people get stuck in the pattern of training each bodypart once a week out of fear of overtraining. Fortunately, if you reduce your per-session bodypart training volume, you can increase your weekly bodypart volume without running the risk of overtraining. In fact, the increase in volume will stimulate more muscle growth.

4) Training through soreness. This is a great tip I learned from strength coach Chad Waterbury. Initially it seems like a bad idea and something that could again lead to overtraining; however, as long as you stimulate and don’t annihilate your muscles, training through soreness will lead to decreased soreness and increased fitness.

Training Program

Let’s put it all together with the big-and-strong training program. It consists of two types of workouts—strength and hypertrophy—with two workouts of each type. The training schedule alternates the four workouts as follows:


Monday: Hypertrophy A

Wednesday: Strength B

Friday: Strength A

Monday: Hypertrophy B

Wednesday: Strength A

Friday: Cycle begins again

Here are the workouts:

Hypertrophy A

Front squats 6 x 6

Seated dumbbell presses 5 x 10

Seated close-grip

cable rows 5 x 10

Hypertrophy B

Deadlifts 6 x 6

Close-grip bench presses 3 x 12

Chinups 3 x 12

Strength A

Narrow-stance squats    7 x 4

Push presses (overhead) 7 x 4

Dumbbell rows        7 x 4

Strength B

Stiff-legged deadlifts 7 x 4

Dumbbell bench presses 7 x 4

Upright rows 7 x 4

As you progress with the big-and-strong program, you can change the loading parameters by adding sets to the 3x12 and 7x4 exercises and reducing the rest periods between sets of the 6x6 and 5x10 exercises.

On paper the workouts may not seem that tough, but wait until you finish the first week—you’ll be singing a different tune.


Editor’s note: Michael Roussell has a B.S. in biochemistry and is currently pursuing an M.D. at the University of Vermont with the intent of specializing in rehabilitation medicine. For more of his articles, visit


Pumpin’ With Popeye

Daniel Curtis

Pumpin’ With Popeye

Kids who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s remember being told to eat their spinach so they could be strong like Popeye the sailor man. Whenever he ate his spinach, he’d turn the tables on his nemesis Bluto and whip the tar out of him.

While spinach might not work quite that fast for most of us, it can knock out a number of villains if it’s eaten regularly—one of the most dastardly being homocysteine, which can cause heart disease.

The Confidence to Connect

Peter C. Siegel

The Confidence to Connect

You’ve had your eye on that special someone. And from a distance she smiles back, indicating she’s interested. You really want to go over to her and break the ice, but the confidence you need to do that is eluding you.

Those scary questions start: What if her smiles are just her way of being nice? What if she’s really not interested at all and rejects my asking her out? What if, what if, what if....

A Dose of Innocuous Brainwashing

Dave Draper

A Dose of Innocuous Brainwashing

There is nothing new under the sun; you’ve heard it before. But we ought to repeat some things regularly despite the tedium of the process. They’re like reflecting lights that illuminate our way, and our way is one step from the shadow of darkness.

Seek contentment, abhor complacency, and don’t be anxious about anything. The most we can expect of our life is a grand virtue, living it with its hardships and joys, accumulating our time without regret and doing our best and accepting the rest. Be honest and true to ourselves and give no ear to our critics, who are less pleased with us than we are with ourselves. Try too hard, and we fall on our backside. Put a squeeze on time, and it slips through our hands. Expect too much, and our best is never enough. Steady as she goes, bombers, and she’ll go a long way, high and far.

Don’t Go Against the Grain

Daniel Curtis, R.D.

Don’t Go Against the Grain

According to a study reported in the December ’04 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, three servings of whole-grain foods a day reduce the risk of coronary disease—a 20 to 30 percent reduction, in fact.

Whole grains don’t include white bread, white flour, white rice or white pasta. Nor are they found in corn flakes, Rice Krispies, Special K or any sugar-coated cereals. Also avoid the deceptively white breads that are treated with caramel coloring, molasses or raisin syrup—like pumpernickel, cracked wheat, wheat nugget and rye.

Only the Strong Shall Survive

Bill Starr

Only the Strong Shall Survive

Throughout the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and train with some of the greatest bodybuilders in the history of the sport. Those I admired the most all had similar traits: They were symmetrical, took pride in their athleticism and were strong. They thought of themselves as strength athletes who chose to participate in physique competition rather than weightlifting. Quite a few were champions in both bodybuilding and Olympic lifting. Two such men were my first idols: Steve Stanko and John Grimek. After I saw their photos in Strength & Health, I was hooked.