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Best Intermediate Strength Training Programs

Intermediate trainees require slightly different programming than beginner trainees do. This is because of the increased intensity of their training. Because intermediates have been training for a longer time (at least 1-2 years of consistent, focused strength training) , they are typically much stronger. The increased weights they are training with create a larger stress on the body. They typically cannot cannot recover from squatting heavy 3+ times per week like a beginner can.

There are many different great intermediate strength training programs on the internet that have been proven to be effective. If you are repeatedly stalling on your current beginner program, then it is most likely time to switch over to an intermediate program.

My three favorite intermediate strength programs are as follows:

The Average F’n Program: Beginner Strength Training Program

The Average F’n Program is a very simple program, and doesn’t require much explanation. It is built around simplicity and efficiency. Each workout consists of only 3 exercises, so this program is great for those strapped for time.

Day 1

Squat 3×5

Overhead Press 3×5

Chinups 3 sets

Day 2 

Deadlift 3×3

Bench 3×5

Chinups 3 sets

Day 3 

Squat 3×5

Row 3×5

Pushups/Dips 3 sets

Beginning the Program

This program is designed for sustained linear progress.  Preferably, you should already know how to use proper form on all of the lifts before starting the program. If you have never done some of the exercise before, spend 1-2 weeks reading, watching, and learning about the form of each exercise. If you do not know how to perform any of the exercises, take a look at my post about the best videos for learning the form for each of the exercises here.

After you have learned proper form,  it is time to determine the starting weights for each of the lifts. This is very important, as it determines how you will progress over time. The process of determining starting weight takes place during the first two workouts and it is from there that progress begins.

During the very first workout the first set of squats begins at 45 lbs (an empty barbell) and a set of five is performed. If this is completed easily with your best form, ten pounds are added to the bar for the next set. If bar speed does not slow and form does not break down, ten more pounds are added to the bar and another set is performed. This process continues until either form begins to falter or the bar speed slows more than the preceding sets, whichever comes first. This is your starting weight. Once this occurs the trainee rests and performs two more sets at this weight, for a total of three sets of five reps (3×5) at the starting weight.

The bench press is the next lift to be performed. Follow the same process as you did for the squats. Again, once this weight has been found two additional sets are performed for five reps at the starting weight.

Starting weight for the deadlift is also found by the same process. However, you will not complete the two extra sets, because the program calls for only one set.
The second workout marks the first step of linear progression. A general warm-up is done and then you will warm-up specifically for the squat. The warmup for any of the lifts should consist of 4-5 sets, moving up in increments to your work set. So, if you were working up to your work sets at 225 lbs, your warm-up could look like:

Squat (weight x sets x reps)
Warm-up:45 x 5 x 2
Warm-up: 95 x 5 x 1
Warm-up: 135 x 3 x 1
Warm-up: 185 x 2 x 1
Work Sets: 225 x 5 x 3

After the warm-up the work sets are then done. Because the squat weight was established during the previous workout, 10 lbs are added to the previous day’s working weight.

The press weight is established next, beginning again with an empty bar and continuing until form becomes problematic or bar speed slows, and two more sets are done at that weight.

The power clean weight is determined last. It is important to learn the lifts properly in the beginning, so the power clean should be undertaken only after the deadlift can be performed well. If the trainee can perform the first portion of the deadlift properly — moving the bar from the ground to the middle of the thigh — he should establish his power clean form at the end of the second day. This is done, again, by beginning with an empty bar and performing sets until the weight alters form. The power clean is usually done for five sets of three reps, but it might be helpful for the trainee to begin with three sets of five reps (as with the squat, bench press, and press) to get uninterrupted practice while the weight is low. After two or three sessions of power cleans the 5×3 scheme should be employed. Don’t be concerned if you don’t progress beyond an empty barbell for the first few workouts while technique is still being articulated. It is much safer to have incorrect form with just 45 lbs., rather than incorrect form with more weight. Likewise it is much easier to correct technique with 45 lbs. than it is with a heavier weight.

Each workout you will attempt to add weight to the bar for each lift. Add 5 pounds each workout to your bench press, overhead press, and rows. Add 5-10 pounds each workout to your squat and deadlifts.

What if you get stuck?

When you get stuck, which will eventually happen, you can simply try the same weight again for your next workout. After you get stuck at a weight 2-3 times in a row, lower the weight by 10% and continue from that weight normally.