A 2021 study found that Testosterone levels in young men are falling rapidly.
We know that strength and resistance training could be a solution to this and could minimize your risk of cardiovascular disease. Is it really possible for only three days per week?
Tony from bodybuilding.com sure thinks so…
About the Author – Tony Gentilcore
Contrary to what you may believe, strength training is actually a bit more complicated than more weight – and dinner plates. This is actually where Tony Gentilcore spends most of his time, training others to get stronger.
Tony is a strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA, which means he has spent a remarkable amount of time learning how to help you get stronger. He also has a BSc in Health Education – which can be extremely helpful when you need to teach others strength techniques.
He is also the co-founder of Cressey Performance, a sports performance center located in Massachusetts. Overall, he has more than 10 years of experience in the fitness world, and has been published on various sites:
- Men’s Health
- Women’s Health
He also has his own site www.tonygentilcore.com where he provides quality content not only on strength but the other fundamentals of fitness like nutrition and recovery. He still does in-person coaching and is also a crowd favorite at Strength Workshops.
So, Tony is a highly successful coach and has built a pretty big business around his sport – but what about his programs? It’s one thing to work hand in hand with a coach, but how does his 3 Days week program stack up?
Get Strong in 3 Days a Week Overview
Strength training used to be quite simple in the old days – in fact, some of the Strongman events are still just “Pick up this rock and see how far you can carry it”. Strength training has progressed a lot since, but apparently, it can still only be done in three workouts per week via the Get Strong in 3 Days a Week program.
- Fitness level: Intermediate
- Duration: 4 Weeks
- Workouts per week: 3 Workouts per week
- Average workout duration: 45 – 60 minutes
- Equipment needed: Minimal equipment
- Goal: Gain strength
When you mention strength, you’re most likely speaking of the big three – Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. Those three are the usual measurements of strength and are the only lifts done in the popular strength sport of Powerlifting.
Since this is a program focusing on strength and not hypertrophy (just sheer size), and you only have three days per week, workouts will be focused on one of three lifts respectively. Tony does, however, mention that exercise substitutions are going to be useful.
|Back Squat||Flat Bench||Conventional Deadlift|
|Front Squat||Incline Bench||Sumo Deadlift|
|High Bar Squat||Decline Bench||Trap Bar Deadlift|
|Low Bar Squat||Close Grip Bench||Rack Pull|
As always, you will be doing a few selected accessory movements – which are crucial to strength training. For instance, the adductors are one of the main muscles being worked when squatting – hence why you should have pretty robust adductors if you want a big squat.
Training will be set up with a rest day between training days, which will allow you to recover the most before getting under the bar again. This plan does not include nutrition or supplementation advice.
Get Strong in 3 Days a Week Details
As the name suggests, the plan is only focused on increasing strength and has no room for hypertrophy or fat loss. There are some interesting techniques that are being used…
The Strength Template
As mentioned before, training days will be focused on one of the big three. However, as most strength athletes will be more than eager to tell you, there’s more to strength than pure… strength.
Thus, the training days will also be focussed on other lifts as well – but in a different way.
- Day 1: Squat heavy, deadlift for speed, bench for volume
- Day 2: Bench heavy, squat for speed, deadlift for volume
- Day 3: Deadlift heavy, bench for speed, squat for volume
This means you will cover most of the neural and muscular adaptations in a week for every single lift. This, of course, means that training sessions can be long and that you will need to be fueled to the brim to keep up.
While the schedule will call for heavy lifts, they certainly won’t all be one-rep maxes. In fact, always doing such high-intensity work will only lead to burnout, and you need to spend time in most rep ranges to train optimally.
The program calls for you to work on your 3RM (three rep max) and 5RM (five rep max) for the day and to spend some time there. This is perhaps a drawback of this being an online plan, but most strength athletes work on absoluteles.
This means they don’t really care how they “feel on the day”. If your max is 1000 pounds, but you only feel like doing 50, you ain’t never gonna get better. There needs to be a bit of grit when it comes to strength training, which I am not sure this program calls for.
Set and Rep Schemes
As mentioned before, strength training is a lot more than just one-rep max training. This is why you should (to be optimal) spend time training at all different reps and sets schemes.
With this program there are only three different schemes used – I use the term “only” loosely. In bodybuilding, there is only perhaps one or two ever used, but strength athletes train vastly differently from physique-driven individuals.
In this program, the three different reps and set schemes used are:
- Single Reps at 3RM weight: You will warm up to what you feel is your 3RM for the day (or 3-Rep EDM as it is called in the program), and do several singles at this weight. This is pretty high threshold training and falls within that <5 rep range that is solely focused on strength.
- Triples: Triples (as the name suggests) are when you only do two reps on a lift – just kidding you do three reps. Triples are incredibly common in strength training and are usually insanely heavy, or lighter with a tonne of sets. In this case, you’ll be doing a lot of volumes.
- Standard: This is your typical 3x 12 reps set scheme that is incredibly common in beginner and bodybuilding programs. These are exclusive for assistance training, however.
By covering so many different schemes, you will have the ability to build the neural pathways for strength, as well as the actual muscle needed. They each actually have their own benefit from a strength perspective.
Heavy loads combined with low reps will teach you (neurologically) how it actually feels to carry that much weight, and there are certain adaptations that take place when you train like this. The motor neurons learn to manage loads like these – which is essential to strength athletes.
Further than that, you’re definitely going to learn how to brace. This is the action of activating the core to actually keep you stable and safe during a high load rep.
Higher rep training will not only aid you cardiovascularly, but it might help you train the tendons and ligaments to also keep up with the strength training. It is known in the strength world that this type of soft tissue takes longer to grow strong than contractile tissue.
Thus having the combination of both low – and high reps is perfect for strength training. That being said, the assistance work is… questionable in this program.
There is virtually zero adductores focussed training, and a lot of adductors get hurt at a regular powerlifting meet.
There are also very few overhead press movements, and when you look at the strongest men and women on the planet, they all do quite a lot of overhead work – even if they don’t compete in overhead movements.
Overall the training is like a new car. Off the face, it looks amazing, only when you get up close do you start seeing panel gaps…
Cardio is almost always forgotten by strength athletes – and it really shouldn’t be. Stereotypically, strength athletes are known for having diets that are not the healthiest, which can lead to some cardiovascular complications of course.
On rest days, Tony recommends that you actually take the necessary time to recover. Other than this, he advises that maybe a massage or an ice bath might be beneficial as well.
Logic would dictate that even a tiny amount of cardio would be beneficial. This way you can make weight for competition easier, you won’t get gassed during a set, and you have the added benefit of cardio being super healthy.
Not only this, but doing a bit of cardio could actually help with digestion, and increase appetite, and is a staple in professional strength athletes like Stan Efferding.
2 Get Strong in 3 Days a Week Pros
- It is as advertised, focused on strength: Often plans will say “build muscle and lose fat!” when in reality, those two are (most of the time) mutually exclusive. It is pretty refreshing to see a plan that only delivers on what is advertised and doesn’t make bold claims
- Simple and Short: Strength training can take ages in the gym, and it is extremely pleasing to see a plan that is focused on making strength training accessible yet effective to the general public
4 Get Strong in 3 Days a Week Cons
- No progression: There is zero mention of actually progressing your lifts or using more weight. Zero. I’m no World’s Strongest Man, but if you aren’t getting stronger or progressing week to week… What are you doing?
- No nutrition guides: Strength athletes are known to just eat everything and a Mars bar on top of that – but zero nutrition information? No mention of nutrition timing, supplementation, or even just recommendations on what type of foods? Disappointing
- Not enough accessories: Due to the nature of strength training, you need to spend a good amount of energy making sure all those smaller muscles can keep up. While this program does give some it does not nearly give enough
- No one gets strong in 4 weeks: Not stronger, but actually strong. This may sound a bit mean, but most strong people will tell you that getting strong takes months and months. Not only that, but strength training is usually split into entire phases where you spend on volume, hypertrophy, or strength. Each can last up to 12 weeks
Get Strong in 3 Days a Week – Final Thoughts
This is a decent plan. Nothing that you would write home about, but it is something that you can use if you are a complete beginner in the sport. If you have already spent a good amount of time getting stronger in the three lifts, there are a few problems:
- No progressions of load, volume, or intensity
- No nutrition advice
- Lackluster accessories
- It was made for beginners
I have no doubt that you could get stronger on this plan, and there are elements of a good plan within this, like the fact that you will be doing different rep and set schemes. That being said, it simply is not enough.
It is a brilliant stepping stone into the strength world and does a remarkable job at making strength training accessible to most people. Where it fails, is where it claims to be a strength program for someone that is advanced.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5