muscle and strength building workout 5-4-3

by Jason Stallworth

July 23, 2020

There are two simple and fundamental reasons why most people start working out…

  1. To build muscle
  2. To get strong

Being consistent with good ole fashion weightlifting will get you both…in the beginning.

The problem is as you become more experienced in the gym you start to realize that there’s a difference in training for muscle mass versus training for strength.

The good news is I have a specific muscle and strength building method I would like for you to try. And I’m going to give you the entire program below.

It’s far from the typical bodybuilding workout but it’s also nowhere near a powerlifting workout.

NOTE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM: This is not a program you have the pay for. I’m giving you the full workouts below in this blog post.

This is one of my personal workout methods and has made a ‘huge’ difference in my strength, conditioning, and physique, and I just want to share this because I know that it will help others.

Seriously, this is a kick-ass program! Feel free to share this post!

Who this Program is For

dumbbell rows back exercise

If you’re a high-ranking competitive powerlifter or bodybuilder, this program is probably not the best for you. You’re better off sticking to a program that caters to your specific goal of bodybuilding or powerlifting.

However, if you’re like me, who doesn’t compete but is extremely passionate about the gym and lifting, this program may be perfect for you.

And this seems to be the majority of weightlifters. It’s in our blood and it’s part of who we are, even if we don’t compete. We challenge ourselves every time we step foot into the gym to be better today than we were yesterday.

5-4-3 Opposing Muscles Method Explained

This is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the program. There are basically 2 parts…

  • 5-4-3: The number of sets you will do for each body part, for each phase
  • Opposing Muscles: You will be supersetting opposing muscles throughout the workouts

How 5-4-3 Sets Work

You will essentially be doing 3 exercises for 2 body parts for each workout. You’ll start by doing 5 sets each for your first 2 exercises. 4 sets for the next 2, and 3 for the final 2.

Here’s an example:

  • Barbell Rows: 5 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Bench Press: 5 sets 6-8 reps
  • Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 4 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Seated Rows: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Pec-Dec Flyes: 3 sets x 10-12 reps

So, now you see how it works: 5-4-3 sets. And we’ll get to the full program shortly!

5-4-3 SETS: The reason for this is to put the majority of your energy into those first round of compound exercises, as you’ll see in your workouts.

Supersetting Opposing Muscles

Supersetting opposing muscles is exactly what it sounds like. And you can see in the example above with back and chest.

Back is a pulling motion whereas chest is pushing. These are also referred to as agonist and antagonist muscles.

In the example above, you’ll do this…

  • Perform a set of rows
  • Walk over to the bench press (it’s okay to take 20-30 seconds)
  • Perform a set of bench press
  • Rest about 1 minute and repeat

There’s some magic that happens when you superset opposing muscles. And you may think that you won’t have as much strength for the exercise you’re supersetting with – you may be thinking…

‘Jason, how am I expected to be as strong on bench press after doing a set of barbell rows?

Trust me when I tell you that you will surprise yourself!

NOTE ON SUPERSETS: You don’t necessarily have to rush to the next exercise you’re supersetting. You can take 20-30 seconds between the supersets.

You will still get the conditioning effects along with strength and muscle gains. I’ll get into more of that at the end of this post.

Muscle and Strength Building Workouts

Stiff Leg Deadlifts back and hamstrings workout

Now it’s time to build some muscle and get strong! I’ll go over the training split below as well as each individual workout.

After you go through the workouts, I’ll give you some nutrition tips and recommended supplements for this type of training.

Training Split

  • Monday: Workout 1 – Back and Chest
  • Tuesday: Workout 2 – Quads, Hams, and Abs
  • Wednesday: Workout 3 – Triceps and Biceps
  • Thursday: Workout 4 – Back and Shoulders
  • Friday: Workout 5 – Quads, Hams, and Abs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

YOUR SCHEDULE: You can arrange this training split to fit your schedule. For example, you may want to start your training on Saturday. Or you may want to throw in a rest day during the week.

Also, if for some reason you can only train 4 days a week, just skip the arm day and hit a little biceps at the end of your first upper body day and triceps at the end of your 2nd one.

Workout 1 – Back and Chest

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows
superset with
Bench Press
5 x 8

5 x 8
Dumbbell Rows
superset with
Incline Dumbbell Press
4 x 10

4 x 10
Seated Rows
superset with
Cable Flyes
3 x 12

3 x 12

WORKOUT NOTES:

  • On the final sets of your final exercises, feel free to do a drop set or rest-pause set. This will give you that extra pump to finish out with.
  • You can apply to all of the workouts in this program if you wish.

Workout 2 – Quads, Hamstrings, and Abs

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats
superset with
Knee Raises
5 x 8

5 x 20
Leg Press
superset with
Decline Sit-ups
4 x 10

4 x 10
Leg Extensions
superset with
Leg Curls
3 x 12

3 x 12

WORKOUT NOTES:

  • Your leg workouts will be slightly different from your upper body workouts…
  • You’ll start out by supersetting a compound lower body exercise with an ab exercise. I don’t recommend supersetting any other leg exercise with squats or deadlifts (you’ll be doing deads in your 2nd leg workout below).
  • Working your core in between these sets makes more sense and can actually help you have more stability during squats and deadlifts.

What about calves? Although not listed, I DO recommend doing some direct training for your calves. You can do 4-5 sets of any exercise (or do that for 2 calf exercises).

You can also do a technique that I call 75’s for calves. This is like a giant rest-pause set. You can read more about that in this post (scroll down to the first technique ‘rest-pause sets’ and you’ll see the example I give you for calves): 7 Weight Training Techniques that Increase Intensity

Workout 3 – Triceps and Biceps

ExerciseSets x Reps
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
superset with
EZ Bar Curls
3 x 10

3 x 10
Rope or Cable Pressdowns
superset with
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
3 x 12

3 x 12

WORKOUT NOTES:

  • You’ll notice that this arm workout does follow the opposing muscle supersets but does not follow the 5-4-3 set guidelines.
  • Your arms are much smaller than your other muscles (no, I’m NOT saying you have small arms! Lol)
  • There’s no reason to train them with as much volume. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, you could get away with skipped this day and just throwing in little arms at the end of your other upper body workouts.
  • I have another post that actually talks about why you shouldn’t train ‘just arms’ in a workout here: 3 Reasons Why Training Arms Only is a Waste of Time

Workout 4 – Back and Shoulders

ExerciseSets x Reps
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows
superset with
Standing Barbell Press
5 x 8

5 x 8
Lat Pulldowns
superset with
Seated Dumbbell Press
4 x 10

4 x 10
Hammer Strength High Rows*
superset with
Lateral Raises
3 x 12

3 x 12

WORKOUT NOTES:

  • Hammer Strength High Rows can be substituted with pull-ups or reverse grip lat pulldowns. This goal of this workout, specifically for back, is to work different parts of your back muscles that you did with your back and chest workout earlier.
  • Back is a complex muscle and it’s your largest upper body muscle. So it’s important to train it from multiple angles.
  • You can read more about different back exercises and how to do them in my post: 7 Exercises for a Shredded Back

Workout 5 – Quads, Hamstrings, and Abs

ExerciseSets x Reps
Deadlifts
superset with
Rope Crunches
5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 2

5 x 20
Front or Hack Squats
superset with
Leg Raises
4 x 10

4 x 10
Leg Extensions
superset with
Leg Curls
3 x 12

3 x 12

WORKOUT NOTES:

  • The reps are a bit different for deadlifts. Of course, you can stick to 8 reps for all 5 sets if you wish. But this exercise is more of a ‘power’ exercise and you’re going to expend a bit of energy with the lower reps and heavier weight.
  • The workout notes from your 1st leg workout also apply to this one.

Nutrition Tips for Muscle and Strength Gains

Food - free range eggs oatmeal blueberries

You already know that nutrition is key to building muscle and strength. But it’s especially crucial for this particular program.

These types of workouts are going to take a lot out of you. So you’re going to need to pay close attention to make sure you have:

  1. Adequate nutrition to fuel these workouts and make them effective
  2. The appropriate nutrition to recover from your workouts so that you can build size and get stronger

I’m not going to get into the ‘best diet’ crap here. What I will tell is this…

You need plenty of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. And be sensible. That’s the bottom line.

Also, your pre and post-workout meals are extremely important. So I’m going to give you examples of what has worked for me:

Pre-Workout Meal

  • 3-4 whole eggs (free-range)
  • 3-4 turkey sausage links
  • 1-2 serving of oatmeal (throw in some blueberries)
  • Cup of coffee or pre-workout drink 30 minutes later

*My personal pre-workout meal is a homemade protein bar which contains whey protein powder, oats, and peanut butter mixed with a little almond milk – I train in the early morning so I prepare this ahead of time.

Post-Workout Meal

  • 2-3 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 8 oz of almond or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup of frozen mixed berries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 serving of peanut butter
  • I also add 10 grams of creatine monohydrate to this shake, which we’ll cover more in the supplements section below

For a full meal plan that caters to building mass and strength and that talks about macros, check out my post: 5,000 Calorie Meal Plan for Mass Gains

Recommended Supplements for Building Muscle and Strength

bodybuilding protein

Let me start out by saying that bodybuilding supplements aren’t necessary to get results.

However, they can indeed help you get to that next level, assuming that you’re putting in the effort and doing everything else right.

That said, I’m going to share some of the supplements that I personally take, and especially when doing this style of training. It’s important to understand that each has its own purpose.

  • Whey protein: I actually include protein powder in my grocery budget, not my supplement budget, because it’s the main ingredient in my post-workout meal.
    Recommended whey protein: Bodybuilding.com Whey Protein
  • Creatine Monohydrate: This is the least expensive yet most effective supplement you can take for mass and strength gains.
    Recommended creatine: Optimum Nutrition Creatine
  • Multivitamin: When you’re training hard you’re depleting your body of vitamins and micronutrients so it’s important to ensure you’re getting these on a daily basis.
    Recommended multivitamin: Universal Nutrition Animal Pak
  • ZMA: This is a specific blend of zinc, magnesium, and B6. It’s designed to help you sleep deeper and increase your growth hormone and testosterone levels, naturally.
    Recommended ZMA: The original Snac ZMA
  • Testosterone Booster: This is completely optional but it doesn’t hurt to take a supplement, especially if you’re older (I do not recommend this for guys under 30).
    Recommended test booster (this goes to my review): TestoFierce

*The links provided go to Amazon where you can get each supplement, which I am partnered with, and do get rewarded if you purchase through me.

Why This May Be The Best Muscle And Strength Building Program, Ever

This program is designed for both mass and strength gains. However, one element we didn’t touch on much is conditioning.

Supersetting your opposing muscles keeps you moving more throughout your workout. And because you’re training these muscles together, you’re pushing your body to another level.

The cool thing is, as I mentioned earlier, you’re not sacrificing strength on the exercise you’re supersetting (that next exercise). Even though it seems like you would.

Think back when we talked about doing a set of bench press after a set of barbell rows. Now, if you were to do another chest exercise before bench press, you would be weaker on bench press. But barbell rows are using the opposing muscles, so you will have your strength for bench press.

Now, in the beginning, you may indeed be a little weaker on some lifts. That’s because you’re not used to this type of workout. And mainly it’s because your level of conditioning isn’t up to speed with this type of workout.

But as you progress, your conditioning will improve and you’ll be pounding out these supersets with opposing muscles, making gains, and getting stronger.

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,

Jason

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