Most of us don’t particularly care how strong we are, but rather, how strong we look. Although our ultimate goals involve putting pounds on our body rather than putting pounds on the barbells we lift, increasing strength should also be a top priority, as being stronger can lead to bigger muscles.



The 5-3-2 Plan is a simple 10-week program guaranteed to make you stronger. At the end of this program, expect a 225% increase in strength. That’s a 25% strength gain over nine exercises for a 225% overall strength increase. The numbers 5-3-2 represent:

  • Number of sets performed
  • Number of reps completed on each set
  • Number of weeks trained with that set/rep scheme

So, the entire program looks like this:

  • 5 weeks of 5 sets of 5 reps
  • 3 weeks of 3 sets of 3 reps
  • 2 weeks of 2 sets of 2 reps
  • = Grand total of 10 weeks



Getting stronger now means that when you return to your normal workouts, you’ll use more weight than before, thus placing greater overload on the muscles for more growth. Just take a look the thickest and freakiest muscled bodies on IFBB Pro League stages — men such as Ronnie Coleman, Johnnie Jackson and Branch Warren, to name a few. The majority of the most massive physiques in bodybuilding have their roots in powerlifting and it’s no coincidence that these men sport muscles that really are as strong as they look.



To measure the gains made on the 5-3-2 Plan, test your two-rep max on each of the nine exercises one week before starting the program. Have a spotter handy for bench presses, squats and shoulder presses.

  • Begin each exercise with two or three warm-ups of lighter weight for 2-5 reps. Then, guesstimate the weight you can likely do for two reps on that exercise.
  • If you completed two reps easily, rest for three to four minutes and try again with five to 10 more pounds.
  • If you missed the two-rep mark, rest for four to five minutes and repeat with five to 10 pounds
  • less weight.
  • One week after completing the 5-3-2 Plan, retest your two-rep max.



CHEST: Bench Presses

SHOULDERS: Overhead Barbell Presses

BACK: Barbell Rows & Deadlifts*

LEGS: Squats

TRICEPS: Close-Grip Bench Presses

BICEPS: Barbell Curls

TRAPS: Barbell Shrugs

FOREARMS: Barbell Wrist Curls

*Deadlifts hit the back, legs, forearms and numerous other muscle groups.