Blaine Sumner benched a world record 885 pounds. The heaviest squat in history is Brian Carroll’s 1,306 pounds. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson owns a Guinness-best 1,104.5-pound deadlift.
These modern-day heroes prove that the quest for maximizing the human body isn’t completely dead. (Sure, 19-inch biceps are cool, but are they 400-pound squat impressive? Eh.)
Serious Strength in 8 Weeks is a BodyFit program for the pure strength crowd ready to — get this — build serious strength and add plates to their lifts in just 54-some-odd days.
Check out our review for Serious Strength in 8 Weeks below!
About the Creator – Christopher Smith
Chris Smith is a certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS), personal trainer, and the founder of Train Better Fitness — a digital graveyard of blog posts last updated in 2015.
Smith is an advocate for max-strength training, which inspired his venture into the powerlifting world. He even claims to hold state, national, and world records as a competitive powerlifter.
What Is Serious Strength in 8 Weeks?
The name says it all.
Serious Strength in 8 Weeks — or, as NSCA and ACSM trainer Chris Smith calls it, “Strong in 8 Weeks” — is a strength program for beginners with the goal of building full-body strength.
This four-day-a-week, 45-minute-per-day program relies heavily on the science, structured around the fundamentals of noob-friendly training.
Not like the insanity, you’ll find in Mike O’Hearn’s Power Bodybuilding program.
Smith chose the linear periodization approach when designing Serious Strength. Or increasing the resistance while decreasing the volume from one week to the next.
The trainer hand-selected exercises and rep ranges proven to build muscular strength and size (in phase one) before evolving into a pure-strength phase to close out this 8-week program.
But is this anti-traditional program any different from other routines out there?
Serious Strength Details & Features
In an odd yet “thank god we’re not stuffing this program with copy-pasted nutrition and supplement guides ripped from other BodyFit routines” twist… Serious Strength is light.
Really, there are only two pages in the entire program — the “Main Page” and the workouts.
The Main Page settles those unanswered “why” questions quite well. (Why are we starting with that exercise? What’s the point of 1–5 reps per set? How often should I train? Yadda, yadda.)
Here, Smith explains the logic behind his Serious Strength program:
Types of Exercises
Exercise choice won’t fix an otherwise garbage routine, but it sure as hell can ruin a potentially good one! The guide starts with a mini-lesson in exercise science, discussing the types of lifts:
- Primary: Multi-joint, compound lifts that activate more muscle fibers and groups with heavy lifts (i.e., barbell-based exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses)
- Assistance: Functional, compound lifts using lighter dumbbells or bodyweight resistance (i.e., dips, leg presses, and dumbbell overhead presses)
- Auxiliary: Isolation lifts to prevent or fix stubborn, lagging muscles (i.e., biceps curls, flies, and lateral raises)
Compound lifts are a staple in novice programs and the foundation for routines like StrongLifts 5×5. Yet, adding isolation exercises (like curls) into the mix can deliver a few extra benefits.
One study shows that combining multi-joint and single-joint exercises can boost 10RMs slightly more than the compound group in untrained men (+40.1% vs. +38.5% for the bench press).
Additional research backs up that claim and then some. Here, single-joint exercises were somewhat more effective at increasing peak torque than compound lifts (+11.87% vs. +10.40%).
Are these negligible differences from a data standpoint? Yep. But does that make Serious Strength’s primary, assistance, assistance, auxiliary pattern any less beneficial? Nope.
Rep Ranges & Volume
Although he doesn’t cite any particular studies or sources (… Jeff Nippard would), Smith’s rundown of rep ranges and training volume is also spot-on and newbie-friendly.
These are the key takeaways from this section:
- Clean, controlled, non-forced reps are best for building strength.
- Maximum strength relies on lower rep ranges (1–5 reps per set).
- There are two types of hypertrophy: 1) myofibrillar or functional hypertrophy that encourages new muscle fibers to grow (6–8 reps per set) and 2) sarcoplasmic hypertrophy that swells the muscles with fluid to create size (8–15 reps per set).
- Size and strength gains depend on progressive overload and higher training volume — increase sets and decrease reps or vice versa.
- Volume depends on your goals: maximum strength (10–20 reps), functional hypertrophy (24–30 reps), and regular hypertrophy (24–40 reps).
Next up, we have the workouts themselves!
In today’s episode of “we didn’t appreciate it when we had it, but now that it’s gone, something feels missing” (or WDAIWWHIBNTIGSFM), we have the unusually bare Workouts Schedule.
By that, we mean most BodyFit programs include additional resources. For example, workout videos, audio clips, GIF demonstrations, or even a super-brief “you got this, bro” introduction.
Serious Strength in 8 Weeks has none of that.
OK, clicking an exercise will redirect you to another Bodybuilding.com page that includes an exercise walkthrough. But for a newbie program, this information mattered now more than ever!
Anyway … here’s a closer look at the Serious Strength workouts:
What Equipment Do You Need?*
Serious Strength requires a full gym with both free weights and resistance machines. But before you quit your current program, verify that your gym has a(n):
* = If you’d rather train at home, check out the BodyFit exercise database for alternative exercises to replace the machine-based moves.
Serious Strength follows a 2-on-1-off schedule throughout all eight weeks:
- Lower Body
- Upper Body
- Lower Body
- Upper Body
Keep reading to learn more about each Serious Strength workout!
Training Progression & Principles
The entire “linear periodization” concept requires slight changes from week to week. By slight, we really mean slight, sometimes as little as a single set or 1–2-rep difference.
We clicked on all 32 Serious Strength workouts to bring you this nifty little chart:
* = None of these are set in stone and will vary day-to-day. For example, some workouts include train-to-failure sets, longer and shorter rest periods, or warm-up sets before primary exercises.
Which Exercises Are In the Program?
The Lower Body workouts target the lower half (including the core) with four exercises per session, such as:
- Romanian Deadlift
- Barbell Squat
- Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat
- Ab Roller
- Barbell Deadlift
- Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
- Seated Leg Curl
- Barbell Step-Up
- Glute-Ham Raise
- Barbell Side Bend
- Leg Extension
- Elbow Plank
The Upper Body sessions cover whichever muscle groups are leftover — including the back, chest, and shoulders — with exercises like:
- Barbell Bench Press – Medium Grip
- Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
- Snatch-Grip Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press
- Single-Arm Standing Shoulder Press
- Reverse-Grip Lat Pull-Down
- Military Press
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
- Flat Dumbbell Press
- Seated Row
No, you didn’t read either of these lists incorrectly. While Smith hunkers down on the whole “auxiliary lift” bit, he didn’t include a single triceps, biceps, or calves isolation exercise.
Serious Strength’s rest day recommendations are disappointing … but only because we’ve seen them before (literally, word-for-word, in several BodyFit programs).
On your three rest days per week, Smith — and basically every other trainer on the BodyFit platform — recommends:
- Doing nothing
- Prepping meals for the next few days
- Taking a bath — either hot or cold
- Reading Bodybuilding.com articles (shameless self-plug)
- Getting a massage
- Foam rolling
- Playing sports
- Participating in low-impact cardio (i.e., cycling or swimming)
(If we had to recommend one, it’d be the good ‘ol foam roller. A 2019 meta-analysis found that foam-rolling can improve strength performance by 3.9% when used as a recovery method.)
9 Benefits of Bodybuilding.com’s Serious Strength
- The 2RM testing in week eight is a less-ego-fueled version of the classic 1RM. It’s also less likely to result in wild back arches or full-body swinging to complete each rep if your calculations aren’t 100% accurate.
- The rep, set, rest, and exercise adjustments are gradual enough to help newbies master proper form and monitor progress but still significant enough to prevent burn-out.
- A twice-per-week upper/lower split will feel light for anyone with prior training experience, but it matches this program well. Studies show that splitting weekly volume between workouts is more effective for novices building strength than a once-per-week frequency (+65.2% vs. +43.5% strength boost after 11 weeks).
- The chosen exercises are as traditional as they come, making Serious Strength a solid first taste of resistance training (in general).
- Intermediates will find Serious Strength slow and a little light, at least during week one. However, the minimal time commitment (four sessions per week), classic exercise focus, and slow ease into heavier weights is an ideal combination for newbies.
- Even if you decide against Serious Strength, the Main Page will likely teach you a training principle or two. This knowledge comes in handy when you’re sizing up other programs or DIYing your own routine!
- This isn’t a program perk as much as it’s a BodyFit bonus, but … click on an exercise to learn more about it. Some will open another Bodybuilding.com page with a video, step-by-step guide, and images explaining how to do the exercise (plus alternatives). Others open a how-to video demonstrating the exercise.
- If you can master the BodyFit exercise database or have prior training experience, you can convert this program into an at-home routine. All you have to do is swap out the machine-based exercises for similar exercises (i.e., replacing seated leg curls for dumbbell hamstring curls).
- Though there’s no telling who created the rest day guidelines, who doesn’t like options? When you’re feeling sore, hop into a warm bath or foam roll. Or go for a relaxing bike ride if you can’t stand to sit around three days per week.
5 Negatives of Serious Strength
- There’s not a single calf, biceps, or triceps isolation exercise in the entire program.
- It’s tied with Your Transformation Starts Here (Volume 1) for the title of “least detailed BodyFit routine” (an unofficial Noob Gains award, of course). For a beginner’s program, the lack of exercise walkthroughs and diet or supplement guides is … odd.
- Smith included a ton of background knowledge and training facts on the Main Page. But it has the vibe of “here’s how to make your own routine” when Serious Strength already lays out the exercises, sets, reps, and volume for you.
- Similar to Buff Dudes’ Goblet of Gains, it’s missing a good deal of must-know details for beginners (i.e., when to add an extra 5-pound plate to the bar, proper form tips, a pre-planned dynamic warm-up, etc.)
- The program begins alarmingly slow. Really, workout #1 calls for barbell squats (3 x 8), Romanian deadlifts (3 x 10), barbell Bulgarian split squats (3 x 15), and ab rollers (3 x 10) — that’s it. Don’t be afraid to add a few sets of exercises of choice to the end of each workout if you still have juice left in the tank.
Wrapping Up This Serious Strength in 8 Weeks Review
Serious Strength in 8 Weeks is one of the better true-strength programs for beginners ready to bite the bullet and begin their first real routine.
It’s easy to follow, introduces slight changes with each workout, doesn’t require insane schedule commitments, and is a decent learning tool for beginners.
But we’d be lying if we said some parts didn’t make us say “meh.”
There’s no diet or supplement guidance whatsoever, the first week could feel a bit anticlimactic, and Smith leaves a few questions unanswered.
If this is your first venture into the strength-building world, Serious Strength in 8 Weeks is worth trying. Just don’t be afraid to add single-joint exercises to the end of each workout.