Whether you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, you might wonder if it’s possible to get bigger, faster, and stronger at the same time. As a 3x USA Decathlete, I can attest that it is possible, but it’s not easy.
The benefits of training to become bigger, faster and stronger are infinite. However, there are also plenty of risks involved in pursuing these goals simultaneously. Therefore, before embarking on this fitness pursuit, it’s important that you, as an athlete, define what it means to be these three things.
If you ask 10 coaches and athletes the same question, “What does it mean to be bigger, faster and stronger?” you will most likely get 10 different answers, stemming from different training philosophies, experiences and expectations. To clarify, let’s use 3 categories of athletes: 1. Powerlifters, 2. Sprinters, 3. and Contact Sports, like football or hockey.
Training Goals For Different Sports
The Powerlifter’s main concern is getting stronger. This athlete wouldn’t mind an increase in size (getting bigger) as long as they don’t enter a new weight-class division. “Strength” and “speed” according to the powerlifter is defined purely in terms of their ability to lift heavy weights (strength) quickly and efficiently (speed).
The Sprinter needs to be cautious of maintaining a certain level of leanness. Even if a sprinter achieves strength gains, if he gets too heavy, his weight will very likely affect his speed. While increased strength can be beneficial to sprinters, the sprinter-focused athlete needs to balance their power-to-weight ratio.
The Contact Sport Athlete
The Contact Sport Athlete whether recreational or professional, has specific concerns as well. This person has to manage all three – size, strength, and speed, since they not only want to be fast and strong, but also sturdy enough to endure the physical impact of their sport.
The Risk of Training for Strength, Speed, & Size at the Same Time
Before exploring the specifics on training to become bigger, faster and stronger, lets be clear about the risks.
The types of workouts and training required to gain size, strength and speed are often contradictory – you must constantly work with and against each different energy system (anaerobic, glycolytic and aerobic) in pursuit of these goals. This makes training complex, and even dangerous for some people. It’s imperative that you’re able to maintain perfect technique while training heavy enough and frequently enough to ensure safety and longevity.
Tips to Train Safely
The duration of the training phase should be a minimum 8-12 weeks. But if you want more accurate, safe, and lasting gains in size, strength and speed, you should more realistically dedicate 6-12 months to your training. This may seem like a long time, however, to truly improve in these three dichotomous areas of fitness – the more time you put in, the better your results will be.
Professional athletes dedicate their lives to becoming bigger, faster, and stronger. They’re paid millions of dollars, and have a tremendous amount of support from specialty strength and speed coaches, massage therapists, nutritionists, etc. You probably don’t have access to those same resources, so following a well-designed program that’s split into phases over several months while eating a whole-foods, nutrient-dense diet is a realistic means for the recreational athlete to increase their strength, speed, and size.
Workout Plan to Get Bigger, Faster, & Stronger
Why should you try to attempt this challenging goal? – Simply because life is short. If you enjoy the challenge of performing your best and setting a strategic plan to become a better athlete, and are willing to put in the work required to be bigger, stronger and faster than you are at this moment, then this program is for you!
Each training phase should last about 8-12 weeks, and is broken down into 4-week cycles.
Instructions: After a couple of warm-up sets, complete sets of 5, 3, and 1 rep. Take 3-5 minutes of rest between sets. Perform this workout 3x per week on non-consecutive days.
After one 4-week cycle, you can either continue with this format if you’re still improving in strength, otherwise you can transition to single-leg exercises such as Bulgarian Split Squats, Step Ups, Bent-Over Row, and Romanian Deadlift for cycle 2 (weeks 5-8).
|Barbell Deadlift||3, rest 3-5 min between sets||5, 3, 1|
|Barbell Back Squat||3, rest 3-5 min between sets||5, 3, 1|
|Barbell Bench Press||3, rest 3-5 min between sets||5, 3, 1|
Instructions: You’re going to complete about 120 reps/session, 2x per week for the first 4-week cycle. You can add a 3rd plyometric training session in cycle 2 (weeks 5-8).
|Box Jump||4-5||6-8 (24-40 total)|
|Lunge Jump||3-4||5-6 each leg (30-38 total)|
|Plyo Push-up||3||5-8 (15-24 total)|
|Tuck Jumps||3||10-15 (30-45 total)|
|Hurdle Hop/Jump Rope||3, jump rope x 2-3min||10-12 (30-36 total)|
Doing your sprinting on the same days as your plyometric training works well for the central nervous system, and makes it easier to organize your weekly training program.
Keep your sprinting volume to <100 meters each training session. Your focus here is on building acceleration and power (the first 10-15 meters of sprinting). Rest for at least 3 minutes between all-out efforts or short sprints.
Workout Plan FAQ
How often do I workout on this program?
Training to become bigger, faster and stronger requires a careful balance of
intense work and adequate rest. Lifting 3 days each week and performing plyometrics 2 days each week leaves room for 2 days of complete rest or active recovery. Active recovery is defined as low- to moderate-intensity training and recovery. Always listen to your body.
Are there considerations I should be aware of?
Do not attempt these workouts if you’re experiencing muscle or joint pain. See a doctor or specialist before starting any new fitness program, otherwise you risk prolonging your recovery or incurring a more serious injury.
You also want to be mindful of how your body reacts to this much training volume and load. If you are not used to training with weights, performing jumping exercises like plyometrics, or sprinting, then I do not suggest starting this training program. A better idea would be to build a solid base of fitness focusing 1-2 training methods (lifting, sprinting, or plyometrics) and really perfecting your technique in those movements.
How do I know if this workout is appropriate for me?
If you have some experience with all three type of training – lifting heavy weights, sprinting, and plyometrics then you are free to approach this training program.
If you consider yourself a beginner, are just returning from an injury, or have serious doubts about performing all this training in a safely, then it’s best that you refer back to some of BuiltLean’s previous articles that focus on less diversity and more specificity.
It is entirely possible to become bigger, faster and stronger in the same relative time period, however it is absolutely necessary to be aware that you are entering a training zone that requires a lot of recovery after the intense work is done.
If your schedule is crazy, your technique is lazy, and your mind isn’t focused, then you should probably focus on developing one area at a time. In order to be successful in this pursuit, your head must be in the game. You must be patient, diligent, and mindful of your limits. You must also be convinced that you are doing something amazing and safe for yourself. Please be patient enough to develop the proper technique for all of the recommended lifts and exercises before embarking on this journey so you can perform your best and stay injury-free.
Training and becoming your best isn’t an overnight process. I truly believe that the patient trainer/trainee will bring out the version of your self!