Choosing Exercises For Aggressive Progression

Posted on 23 Feb 2013 13:21

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By Ashiem Matthn

One of the biggest taboos in mainstream fitness and strength training is when a trainee wants to specialize on just one or two lifts. This is a huge deal on online forums and anyone who questions this is usually bullied and made to follow whatever program the forum elite are endorsing at the time. The good news is that strength specialization through prioritizing lifts is totally possible and should be advocated for. The bad news is that all the famous e-gurus and e-strength coaches that are pumping out routines and cookie cutters are being hypocritical about this topic. The bottom line is that it is crucial to prioritize the lifts in order to aggressively train them.

Generally, the biggest response to any query on strength specialization of prioritizing a certain lift or lifts, is t hat, as exemplified by all the latest fad routines launched by established powerlifters, that it is normal to train all the three lifts in the same exact manner and therefore to be a great all-around athlete you must train this way. This is mostly incorrect because all the big boys of the powerlifting world are strength specialists themselves. You won’t see Konstantinovs banking on his bench press to win a meet, now will you? Yet, a lot of these powerlifters push these one-size-fits-all type cookie cutter routines.

My point is not to harp on about these routines but to state that prioritizing lifts enables the trainee to focus on one lift and get good at it. It doesn’t mean the other lifts will suffer; it just means that they will not be trained with the same aggressiveness.

One key to maximum strength training train is to work within a specific weight range on a main lift, make it a very strong foundation, and then move beyond that weight range. Working with 90% and more of our your relative one rep max a lot more of the time than most people think is possible is actually what aggressive training means: devoting enough workload and volume to very high intensity (as a percentage of your absolute one rep maximum) weight ranges. You can’t do this on all your lifts and expect to not run into a wall. That is why you prioritize certain lifts.

For more information on exercise selection, refer to Eric’s articles out here:

Do Not Have a Huge List of Absolutely Essential Exercises

Five Tips for a Better Strength Training Workout

Additionally, once you have narrowed down your main lifts, you have to program them into your training week, preferably right at the beginning. This way you attack them when you’re fresh and capable of handling the high intensity and workload. Your training week must also start off with low volume and then as the week rolls by you can bump up the volume. Once the main stuff is done the rest is up for grabs. So for example, with a simple upper/lower type layout, the first two workouts will be minimum volume in terms of exercise selection and overall reps as well: you want to focus on your main lifts. But, once this is done the remaining two workouts of the week can have a much higher volume.


In conclusion I would like to reiterate that even pure beginner strength trainees can and should devote themselves to lifts they are passionate for and would like to see themselves doing for many years to come. It’s okay to start with something and then shift over. There is nothing set in stone here. If someone wants to become a strength specialist, the ground reality is that he or she will most likely not be stronger than the professional but anybody can be a strength specialist and find pleasure and satisfaction in doing something they are passionate about


This page created 23 Feb 2013 13:21
Last updated 25 Feb 2015 21:55

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