Christian Thibaudeau

Co-founder of Thibarmy, Trainer

Articles, Strength and performance, Training, Uncategorized

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If you are a beginner then lifting life is good. Week to week you are able to add an appreciable amount of weight to the bar.

Progress is fast and seems to come easy.

Because it does!

The stimulus is so new and you are so far away from what your strength potential is that adaptation and progress comes quick, even from the most basic plan.

But the more advanced you become the harder it is to keep adding weight to the bar.

There then comes a point where “do better or lift more than last time” simply doesn’t work.

After all, if it were possible to keep adding a “mere” 5lbs to the bar every week, we would all be bench pressing 1000lbs within 3-4 years of starting training. How many 1000lbs bench pressers do you know?

The fact is that the more advanced you are, the better adapted your body becomes to training and simply trying to add more weight to the bar won’t work.

You need a strategy to trick the body into allowing you to lift heavier weights. Ok, it’s not really so much tricking as it is finding a way to force more adaptations when you have reached a point where it is harder and harder to do so.

But don’t worry, all hope is not lost.

Below I am going to outline my five favourite strategies that you can use to spark new progress to a stagnated lift.


Doublé”, in French, means “to do it twice”. It was a method developed by former Canadian National team weightlifting coach, Pierre Roy and it simply consists of doing a specific lift (your weak one) twice in one workout.

For example, you would start your workout with squats for two 5/4/3 waves (1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3, 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3), or another “strength scheme”. Then continue to do the rest of your workout and finish your session by doing squats AGAIN. But this time using either a hypertrophy scheme (if your limiting factor is the size of the squatting muscles) or a strength-skill scheme (if your limiting factor is neurological).

Before I explain why and how this method works, let’s examine the loading schemes that you can use.

Strength loading schemes

5/4/3 waves: doing two waves of 1 x 5, 1 x 4, 1 x 3 (with normal rest between sets). Each set within a wave is heavier as the reps decrease. The second wave is then slightly heavier than the first one.

5/3/1 waves: same as above but with two waves of 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 1.

3/2/1 waves: in a 3/2/1 wave you typically perform three waves instead of two. The first wave, which can almost be seen as the last part of the warm-up would have an RPE of 7.5 – 8, the second wave would be an RPE 8.5-9 and the last wave should be an RPE 9-9.5 or even 10. In fact, if you complete the third wave, you can attempt a 4th (heavier) one and stop only when you cannot complete a set.

5/4/3/2/1: This is a very basic strength pyramid, but it is one of the most effective strength schemes. Do five sets, taking out 1 rep on every set while also adding some weight. Take a normal rest period between sets. Start at around 78-80% and finish at around 92-95%.

Ramp up: This is the simplest strength scheme. Pick a rep number from 1 to 5. Gradually ramp the weight up until you reach the maximum weight you can lift for the selected number of reps. Except for the very early sets, only perform the number of reps selected. Typically start with 60% of your maximum.

Poliquin clusters: Using a weight that is your 3 or 4RM, perform 5 repetitions with 20 seconds of rest between each rep: 1 rep / rest 20 sec / 1 rep / rest 20 sec / 1 rep / rest 20 sec / 1 rep /  rest 20 sec / 1 rep / end of set. Poliquin recommended 5 such sets, but 3 is the limit that should be done my most. Note that the short rest period makes it a better method for: weaker individuals, those with more experience with higher reps or those with a higher ratio of slow twitch fibers.

Miller accumulation clusters: This is the original cluster method. Using a weight you could lift for 3 reps, perform 4 to 6 reps with 30-45 seconds of rest between reps. 2-3 sets are what I recommend.

Miller intensification clusters: using a weight that you could lift for 2 reps, perform 3-4 reps with 45-60 seconds of rest. 3-4 sets can be done.

Heavy rest/pause: Start with a weight you can complete 3-5 reps with. Do your 3-5 reps then rest 30-45 seconds and perform as many extra reps as you can. 2-3 sets should be performed.

“Normal” sets of 2-5 reps: Doing 3 to 6 sets, normally keeping 1-2 reps in reserve.


Hypertrophy loading schemes

Note that the number of hypertrophy loading schemes here is more limited because they are performed at the end of the workout. At that point doing something like 8/6/4 waves would be too much work.

“Normal” sets of 6-10 reps: YES, you can use higher reps for hypertrophy. But since we are talking about big lifts, done at the end of the workout, I find that anything higher than 10 reps (and often even higher than 8) doesn’t work as well and leads to poor technique and performance. 2-4 sets are recommended, depending on fatigue level.

Rest/Pause: Start with 6-8 reps. Then rest for 20-30 seconds and perform as many additional reps with the same weight as possible. Perform 2-3 such sets.

Range drop set: Start by doing 6-8 full range repetitions (with 1-2 reps in reserve) and finish by doing as many top half reps as possible. Perform 2-3 sets like that.

Drop sets: Start by doing 6-8 reps, with around 1 rep in reserve. Drop the weight by 25-50% and perform as many extra reps as possible. Perform 1-2 such sets.


Strength-Skill loading schemes

There is no special scheme or method here, rather it is a methodology.

You will perform a fairly high number of submaximal sets with low repetitions.

All the reps should be “easy” as you will keep 3-4 reps in reserve. BUT they are done with as much acceleration as possible during the concentric, compensating for the less challenging load (compensatory acceleration training).

You can use anywhere between 60 and 80% of your maximum. The number of repetitions per set should be between 3 and 5 (5 would be if you are using 60-65%, 3 if you use 75-80%).

You should not allow yourself to do ANY poor (technique or speed-wise) repetitions.

Since the sets are submaximal and not anywhere close to failure , you can do between 4 and 6 sets.


Why does it work?

What is so special about doublés? Well, the most obvious reason why it works is that you are doing more work for a specific lift. Which means more practice, better intra and intermuscular coordination and, hopefully, more efficient technique.

But why not simply do more sets at first?

Good question.

The main reason is that when you do all your sets in a row you kinda get on autopilot. The first few sets are used to program the movement pattern and then you simply “run the program”. Whereas, when you do a few exercises and then come back to the original exercise, you are forced to “reprogram” the pattern. So, from a motor-learning perspective, it is more effective to segment the sets into two “units” within your workout.

The drawback is that you will be more tired by the second time you do the exercise. Which is why you should not go with all-out heavy lifting again. However, this fatigue can be beneficial too because it will force you to recruit and stimulate more motor units.

Give doublé a try, it is a very powerful method for sure!


Specialization is my favorite approach to fix a weak lift in an advanced lifter.

An advanced lifter whose performance is stagnant is in a complex situation because his body is so well adapted to the training stress that it requires a huge stimulus to keep progressing. But imposing that huge of a stimulus on top of his regular training will be too much for his body to handle and will lead to systemic fatigue. Hurting his progression more than it helps it.

That’s where specialization blocks come into play.

By devoting around 75% of your training volume to bringing up a single lift (that 75% includes the volume for the main lift itself and its accessory work) you get that super strong stimulus you need to give that lift a boost, without leading to systemic fatigue.

But the important part is understanding the need to lower the amount of work for the non-specialized muscles/exercises. Every advanced trainee who is passionate about lifting will have no problem accepting doing more work for a lift.

But lowering the amount of work for everything else is a huge mental block.

However, that is the only way to make a specialization block work.

Essentially you must keep the same overall amount of training as you would normally do, but invest most of that volume (75%) on your specialization.

The simplest way to do that is to devote three training days to your specialization lift and its accessory/assistance work (Monday/Wednesday/Friday for example) and do the rest of the body either in one workout or two small ones.

Another way to do it is to train your target lift and its accessory/assistance work in all of your workouts (4-5 days a week for example) and each session includes:

* Target lift

* 2-3 accessory/assistance exercises for the main lift

* 1-2 exercises for another muscle

In that set-up the work for your target lift should represent 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 6 exercises.

The specialization block should last 3-5 weeks. Normally I like 4 hard weeks then a deload/peak weak where you reduce volume by 60% and “test” yourself at the end of the week.


This approach contrasts with the other ones in that it is a moderate term strategy (12-16 weeks) rather than a short-term tactic. It can also be used as a general approach to increase several big lifts at a time (in that case you would use a lift-specific split with one main lift per workout).

It consists of starting your training cycle with the main lift (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, for example) of the day performed last in your workout.

With each training block (3-4 weeks) the “big lift” moves up until it is performed first in the last training block.

For example:

Block I

1st: Upper back exercise or loaded carry

2nd: Core/abdominals exercise

3rd: Accessory exercise for main lift

4th: Accessory exercise for main lift

5th: Assistance exercise for main lift

6th: Main lift

*Note: accessory refers more to a single-joint or machine exercise whereas assistance tends to be more multi-joint movements.

Block II

1st: Assistance exercise for main lift

2nd: Accessory exercise for main lift

3rd: Main lift

4th: Accessory exercise for main lift

5th: Upper back exercise or loaded carry

6th: Core/abdominals exercise

Block III

1st: Assistance exercise for main lift

2nd: Main lift

3rd: Accessory exercise for main lift

4th: Accessory exercise for main lift

5th: Upper back exercise or loaded carry

6th: Core/abdominals exercise

Block IV

1st: Main lift

2nd: Assistance exercise for main lift

3rd: Accessory exercise for main lift

4th: Accessory exercise for main lift

5th: Upper back exercise or loaded carry

6th: Core/abdominals exercise

Now, you should use low reps for the main lift (1 to 6) in every block. But I like to use methods that allow you to focus on technique in the earlier blocks. For example, slow eccentrics or stato-dynamic lifting.



This approach is very interesting for individuals who have a lot of experience with heavy lifting as well as traditional hypertrophy work. The reason it will work so well is that it will represent a completely novel stimulus for them. It should be done for 6-10 weeks.

It can be used as a general program, as a strategy to bring up one lift, or as part of a specialization phase.

It combines two approaches for the main lift, both being done in the same workout. Ideally it would be done twice per week (or three times during a specialization phase).

Method 1: Neurological Carryover Training / Progressive range of motion

Method 2: Strength-Skill/Speed work for an exaggerated range of motion

Neurological Carryover Training

Developed by old-school strongman Paul Anderson it consists of starting with a partial lift (around mid-range or a bit above) and using the weight you are shooting for at the end of the cycle (around 5-10% above your current max). You perform 2 sets of as many reps as you can with that weight (it’s a top partial so you should get 10-20 depending on the lift).

Every week you lower the starting position by ½ to 1” (the smaller the increase in the range of motion, the more effective it is, but the longer the cycle will be). You keep using the exact same weight and still attempt to get as many reps as possible over 2 sets.

At the end of the cycle you will start from the normal start position (i.e. the floor on deadlift) and should be able to handle that weight for a single or double (unless you were way too aggressive with your initial weight selection).

This method works by getting your body neurologically used to handling that exact load and simply learning to produce the force necessary to lift it over a progressively longer range of motion.

This works especially well if you are someone with enough muscle mass to be stronger but who has an inefficient nervous system.

Strength-Skill for an exaggerate range of motion

The drawback of the neurological carryover training is that it can undertrain your capacity to produce tension from the bottom position. We still need to train that part of the movement to perform well on the full lift.

We do this by making it tougher in the initial part of the range while training for acceleration (acceleration being the best way to overcome a sticking point: if you arrive to it with enough speed, you will be able to go through it without slowing down so much that the bar stops).

The lifts you should pick are:

For the deadlift: deficit deadlift (from a 1 – 1.5” podium) or floating deadlifts

For the bench press: Buffalo/Duffalo/Bow bar bench press. If you don’t have any of these, use DB bench presses with an exaggerate range of motion

For the squat: Here you have two options. If you already squat high-bar and ass to grass, I suggest using a front squat or Zercher squat. If you do parallel or legal powerlifting depth squats you could use a high-bar ass-to-grass squat (with heels elevated if necessary).

For the military press: Assuming that you are starting the bar from your shoulders, you cannot increase the range of motion. So instead position yourself to make the bottom position harder: use a grip that is 1” (on each side) wider than your normal military press.

For this method, use a weight that you can still accelerate and perform 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps.


This is a counterintuitive approach. I will tell you NOT to add any weight to the bar during a 4-6 week block. Then, at the conclusion of the block you can either:

  1. Test your max to see if it has improved (it should have)
  2. Do another fixed weight progression block, but with 10lbs more than in the preceding block

The more blocks you do, the more solid the gains will be.

The way this approach works is that you keep using the same weight from week to week (hitting a lift 1-3 times per week, ideally at least 2) but making the lifting/repetition style harder each week.

4-week option

Week 1: Normal reps

Week 2: 5-second eccentric

Week 3: 3-second pause at mid-range during the eccentric

Week 4: 3-second pause at mid-range during the concentric

5-week option

Week 1: Normal reps

Week 2: 5-second eccentric

Week 3: 3-second pause at mid-range during the eccentric

Week 4: Two 3-second pause during the eccentric (top 1/3rd, mid-range)

Week 5: 3-second pause at mid-range during the concentric

6-week option

Week 1: Normal reps

Week 2: 5-second eccentric

Week 3: 3-second pause at mid-range during the eccentric

Week 4: Two 3-second pauses during the eccentric (top 1/3rd, mid-range)

Week 5: 3-second pause at mid-range during the concentric

Week 6: 2-second pause at mid-range during both the eccentric and concentric

The number of reps per set would depend on your level:

Beginner: 6-8 reps per set

Intermediate: 4-6 reps per set

Advanced: 2-4 reps per set

This approach is very effective for people who traditionally used progressive overload, trying to add weight at every workout.

It is also great for less advanced lifters as it allows them to develop better control over the barbell.

Finally, I like it for those who are anxious at the thought of adding weight to the bar. This gives them a way to keep challenging the body and nervous system week to week (thus improving), without having the stress of constantly having to add weight to the bar.

Once the block is over and you either work up to a new max or start a new block with a bit more weight, the normal reps will feel super easy and a lot more solid. Reducing the anxiety that would normally come from the higher load.


As Einstein said, stupidity is doing the same thing that you’ve always done and expecting different results.

There comes a point where just “pushing hard” using the same approach will be akin to banging your head against the wall… just, harder than before. It still gets you nothing more than a headache!

One of these 5 strategies is bound to allow you to reach a new level of strength and performance.