A friend from Italy asks:

“Coach, It’s hard for one to get bigger when their strength is the limiting factor. Eric Cressey once used an analogy of a cup with water in it. The water inside is your size, speed, endurance etc. But eventually the cup gets full and the only thing you can do to really progress is to increase the size of the glass- maximal strength.

However, I don’t think it would be a good idea (would it?) for a bodybuilder to start doing a powerlifter’s routine which focuses on just moving a weight from point A to point B. So, my question is, how do you reccomend a bodybuilder get stronger? Thanx!”

First I agree with Eric Cressey’s assertion (I’ve been promoting the same idea for over a decade now). Maximum strength is quite often the achille’s heel of hypertrophy attainment. Guys, if you weigh 200 pounds or more, and if you’re not benching at least 300 pounds and squatting at least 400 pounds…
…focus mostly on maximal strength development until you can.

Second, you don’t have to do a powerlifter’s routine to get stronger (although you could: look at Dave Tate’s physique after he dropped the excess bodyfat recently!) What you do need to do is a program that focuses on parameters that prioritize the development of maximal strength on a handful of key compound lifts- presses, squats, pulls, etc.

Loading paremeters should promote high tensions. That means either very heavy weights, or moderately heavy weights moves as explosively as possible. In either case, reps per set must stay low (typically between 2-3) and rests between sets must be adequate to sustain performance over the duration of the training session.

Remember that your training need not be entirely devoted to maximal strength development should you decide to buy into my thesis here! Training sessions can consist of a “core” lift (squat, bench press, pull-ups, etc) trained according to maximal strength parameters, followed by 2-3 “assistance” lifts, trained with more conventional bodybuilding parameters (or even better, though Escalating Density Training parameters! – http://www.staleytrainingprograms.com). This approach has proven itself for many decades now, and many very big, very strong men have used it with great success.



“One of the signs of a great teacher is the ability to make the subject matter seem simple. Charles Staley is one of these rare teachers. After listening and talking to him, you suddenly achieve a new awareness of training. You go to the gym and, suddenly, everything makes sense, and you wonder why you haven’t been doing it his way since day one.” – Muscle Media 2000 magazine August, 1999


Prominent both the United States and across the globe, Charles is recognized as an insightful coach and innovator in the field of human performance. His knowledge, skills and reputation have lead to appearances on NBC's The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show, along with numerous radio appearances.


He has authored more than a thousand articles for leading fitness publications and websites, and has lectured to eager audiences around the World.


Charles is not only a thinker, but also a doer: At age 54, he competes in the sport of raw powerlifting, and is a 2-time World Champion (220 and 198-pound weight classes). Find Charles online at www.TargetFocusFitness.com.