Built For Battle
Look Powerful. Be Powerful.
I want to make you jacked while also turning you into a high performance machine. And that's what this plan is all about – getting you bigger, stronger, more powerful, and better conditioned than you've been in a long time.
I'm all about high-performance muscle: Any increase in size must come with at least as much improvement in performance. Even if your goal is just to build an awesome looking body, you should maintain this high performance mentality.
Grow in every way possible so that you can actually BE as powerful as you look. This program will help you get there, but first let's revisit its predecessor, Built For Bad.
Built For Bad Recap
In 2013 I came out with a program which led to my best physique ever: Built for Bad. The core concepts were:
- Lift heavy
- Lift often
- Focus on 5 lifts
Do them 5 days a week
It's simple yet effective. It can transform your physique at a frightening pace. The only problem? Not everybody could handle the maximal lifting five days a week. Those who could handle the loading made astounding progress. Those who couldn't crashed after 3-4 weeks (but still made gains beforehand).
Also, Built for Bad didn't include any work to fix weaknesses. If you were balanced that wasn't an issue. But not everybody has perfect structural muscle balance.
These are the two issues that I fixed with the Built for Battle program. I also included more exercise choices so that you can better tailor the program to your needs.
Built for Battle – Overview
Because this program works for lifters at different levels of experience with different primary goals, you'll need to customize it. So here's what you'll do, step by step:
Choose your conditioning level. This will determine how long you rest between exercises in the circuits.
Choose your main goal: getting the power look, building explosiveness and performance, or size gains. This will determine which group of exercises you choose.
You'll train 5 days per week with Thursday and Sunday off. On two of those training days, you'll add in an assistance exercise circuit.
One of those training days will be simple. You'll just ramp up to your 3RM (3-rep max) for each exercise. You'll then use that 3RM to choose the weights for the other workouts in the week, which will use the proven 5-4-3-2-1 scheme.
Lastly, you'll review the options and periodization info at the end.
This takes a little work and thought on your part. That's good. It means this isn't some cookie-cutter plan!
Step 1: Choose Your Conditioning Level
There are three levels to choose from depending on your level of conditioning and how fast you normally train. The goal is to eventually build up to the first level. But your progression should be fairly slow, maybe trying to move up a level every third week.
Use this if your conditioning is poor or you're used to a very slow workout pace. You'll take 2:00 to 2:30 minutes between exercises.
Use this if your conditioning is about average. Take about 1:30 to 2:00 minutes between exercises.
Use this if your conditioning is good or you're used to a fast training pace. Take about 1:00 to 1:30 minutes between exercises.
Don't go up a level if it makes your performance suffer. Keep in mind, it's not a superset. The main goal is NOT to go as fast as possible, although you do want a fairly rapid pace to get some conditioning effects.
Step 2: Choose Your Goal and Group of Exercises
Each workout includes five exercises covering the whole body. You'll repeat these on the five training days, but the intensity will vary. Do the movements as a circuit: Do one set of the first drill, one set of the second, one set of the third, etc. You'll go through the circuit five times total.
There are three main groups of exercises to choose from. Pick the group that best fits your goal or technical capacity.
Group One – For Developing the Power Look
The power look is characterized by thick traps, upper back, and shoulders. The exercise selections reflect this and will really jack your "yoke" up. If you like big powerful traps, this is the group for you!
- Continuous Clean & Press or Muscle Snatch (From Blocks, Hang, or Floor)
- Zercher Squat
- Snatch-Grip High Pull From Blocks
- Bench Press or Incline Bench Press
- Seated Row or Pendlay Row
Group Two – For Developing Explosiveness and Performance
This is mostly for athletes wanting to improve explosiveness while getting stronger and building muscle. Now, even though the plan will build some muscle, it's the least effective of the three groups to get you looking jacked. But the trade-off is that you'll gain a lot of explosiveness and improve your capacity to absorb force.
- Power Clean (From Blocks, Hang, or Floor)
- Push Press
- Back Squat
- Neutral Grip Pull-Up
- Bench Press
Group Three – For Developing Size and Strength
This is your big basic plan. It'll build the most overall strength.
- Military Press
- Front Squat
- Seated Row
- Bench Press
Note: I selected the front squat instead of the back squat because the front squat is less taxing on the lower back when you also have a deadlift in the plan.
And yes, you can swap some comparable exercises. Let's say you pick the Group 1 lifts, but you really want to do a power clean which is in Group 2. You can swap the snatch-grip high pull for the power clean. But don't swap exercises that target different patterns (like swapping the Zercher squat for a military press).
Step 3: Know the Loading Schemes (Sets & Reps)
Day 1 is where you ramp up to your 3RM and use that 3RM to calibrate the loads for the other workouts. On top of being a powerful growth and strength gain stimulus, this day allows us to properly select the weights for the rest of the week and also give us an idea of progression.
Work up to a 3RM in every lift. These are performed in a circuit format. Yes, it's quite possible that you reach your 3RM on one lift before the others, especially the first week. When that happens, drop that lift from the circuit while you're reaching your 3RM on the other ones. But after one Monday workout it'll be pretty easy to hit your 3RM at the same time on all lifts because you'll have a good idea of what you can lift.
Important: Shoot for a technically solid 3RM. A 3RM where that last rep takes 5 seconds – with form breaking down and using compensatory mechanisms – won't work because it will overestimate how much weight you need to use during the week. The goal is to perform all perfect reps, so the weights need to be based on a near perfect performance.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
The main scheme will be a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, meaning your first set will be 5 reps, your second set 4 reps, your third set 3 reps, and so on.
There are several reasons why I love the 5-4-3-2-1 scheme:
Every set feels easier, even though it's harder. You think, "So what if I'm adding weight, I have fewer reps to do." That perception allows you to push harder, which is really important on the heavy days.
By gradually working toward the heavier sets, you prepare your body and nervous system for the all-out effort. This makes it easier psychologically, neurologically, and physically.
While it's a strength-building scheme, it'll also build muscle mass with the sets of 4 and 5 reps, especially in intermediate and advanced lifters, and especially considering that you'll hit everything five times a week. So even if the amount of protein synthesis triggered in a workout may be lower than it would in a more traditional workout, at the end of the week it's likely greater.