The 4 Best Programs for Size AND Strength

4 size and strength programs

Looking for the best lifting programs for size and strength? You’ve come to the right place.

These 4 lifting programs are tried and true for packing on mass and adding weight to the bar.

If you like this article, check out my high-level training programs where hundreds of people, men and women, are killing it every day.

Oh, and there are affiliate links in this article. I never link anything that I don’t use and know is a good product.

What Makes a Great Size and Strength Program?

When you’re looking for a solid program, there are some important variables to consider before hopping in.

In particular, you should never do a program just because someone else says it’s what they do.

Social Media influencers today are selling a ton of BS.

They’re heavily geared up (on steroids), and promote stuff that looks good, but is NOT optimal.

A good program should be flexible. It should allow you to modify it to your own needs where necessary.

It should absolutely focus on big, compound lifts and on getting stronger on those lifts.

The Principle of Progressive Overload

Good size and strength programs should have progressive overload built in.

This is VERY important. The only way to consistent gains is to gradually increase the training stimulus.

Progressive overload means adding weight to the bar or adding reps or ideally, both, over a period of time.

There is no substitute for this, period. It is a fundamental and absolute principle of training.

You can get away with ignoring this in the short term as a beginner. But, in the long-run, you will plateau and miss out on a ton of potential gains in both size and strength by ignoring this principle.

A LOT of programs out there are simply a random collection of exercises, or are just cut-and-paste programs with no rhyme or reason behind what they’re doing.

4 Programs That Maximize Size and Strength

Without further ado, here are 4 programs I’ve done over the past couple of decades that were particularly effective and met all the criteria of a great program for size and strength.

I’ll do my best to link to each one for a deeper description, and will try to give you the meat and potatoes of each.

1.) HCT-12

programs for size and strength hct12

This is an old gem that few have heard about.

Clusters are an incredibly powerful training tool when performed properly.

I first came across this program around 2012, and used it to great effect to put on a solid 15lbs or so over a 12 week training cycle.

My numbers on every lift also increased, so the gains were very balanced.

HCT-12 is short for “Hypertrophy Cluster Training-12.

“12” refers to the number of reps you hit on the last set of each exercise. A 6-rep max, followed by 3 sets of 2 cluster reps, 20-30 seconds apart.

The original link to this training program doesn’t work anymore, so I’ll do my best to describe the program in enough detail to perform it, should you choose to.

How to perform the hct-12 program

how to size and strength

In HCT-12, you will use mostly big, compound movements (i.e., bench press, row, squat, etc.).

This is a common theme among effective programs.. there is very little “fluff.”

You start light and work your way up to the heaviest set of 6 reps you can get for the day.

After you hit that last set of 6, you rest 20-30 seconds, and hit 2 more reps.

You repeat this 3 times, resting 20-30 seconds and hitting 2 additional reps.

This will mean you hit a heavy 6, plus 6 additional “cluster” reps, hence the name “HCT-12.”

Exercise selection and split

Movements are broken down this way: You pick one movement for each movement type.

Movement Type:Examples:
Vertical PressingOverhead Press,
Seated DB Press
Horizontal PressingBench Press
Incline Press
Vertical PullingPulldown
Horizontal PullingRows
Quad DominantSquat
Leg Press
Hack Squat
Hip DominantDeadlift
RDL, Power Clean
CalfsCalf raises
AbsSit ups/Ab wheel

Training Split

You have some freedom in how to split things up.

This depends on your desired workout frequency (how many days/week you’ll train).

I highly recommend 3-4 days, so that you can push very hard and fully recover (i.e., grow).

This is a high intensity training style, so recovery is of the highest importance.

See my article on How Many Sets and Reps to Maximize Hypertrophy for more on this topic.

Vertical PushQuad DomVertical Push
Horizontal PullHorizontal pushHoriz. Pull
Hip DominantVertical PullHip Dom

The following week, you would hit B-A-B. Then the week after back to A-B-A.

You can modify this to a 4 day split as well, simply doing A-B-A-B.

This could be done Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.

On each of these, you would choose your poison.

If you chose Bench Press for horizontal push, you’d work to a heavy 6, rest 20-30 seconds, and hit 2 reps.

Repeated 3 times, that’s 12 total reps at that 6-rep max weight.

If you successfully get all 12 reps at that weight, you will add 5lbs next time. THAT’S IT.

This program is both simple and measurable. It ensures progressive overload, and ensures high-quality reps using clusters.

This is a powerful program that should be used by intermediate level lifters or above.

2.) Dante Trudel’s DoggCrapp Training.

One of my favorite training programs of all time is Dante Trudel’s DoggCrapp Training.

This program has shaped how I program for many people and how I train myself as well.

This is a High Intensity Training program (HIT).

That means that it’s relatively low volume, but very high intensity.

Almost everything is taken to failure, and you MUST have fortitude to perform this properly.

How to make your split with doggcrapp training

DoggCrapp training is typically performed on a 3-day split.

For those who don’t believe 3 days is enough, I urge you to reconsider.

Many people train 5-6 days/week, not because it is optimal, but because they are obsessive about training and want to be in the gym.

They sacrifice quality for frequency.

If you’re truly pushing yourself to failure and beyond, most cannot train 5-6 days per week consistently with that level of intensity, and actually recover and grow..

For Doggcrapp, you will have an A and a B day with 2 different workouts for each.

Here’s an example of how I’ve broken this down in the past: (Read on to see how to properly perform each set).


Incline Press
3 x max reps
Hamstring Curls:
3 x max
DB Bench Press
3 x max
Upright Row
3 x max reps
Back Squat:
4 x 8-8-8-20
Seated DB Press
3 x max
Overhead Cable
Triceps: 3 x max
Incline Db Curls
3 x max
DB Triceps Ext.
3 x max
Neutral Grip
Pulldowns: 3 x max
Hammer Curl
2-3 x 12
Pull up
3 x max
T-Bar Row: 3 x max
Or, Deadlift 2 x 8
AbsCable Rows
3 x max


3 x 12
Leg Press
3 x max
Barbell Curls
3 x max
Incline DB Hammers
2 x max

This pattern repeats:

Week 3 would be A2-B2-A1, etc.

In between lifting days, you should perform 30-60 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio.

how to perform doggcrapp training

For each exercise, you perform your sets to absolute failure.

*This does NOT include squats and deadlifts, as that would be dangerous and counterproductive.

You then take 15 deep breaths, and repeat.

This is basically like doing one long extended rest/pause set for each exercise.

After all 3 sets to failure are done, add up the total reps across 3 sets.

Your goal next time is to either hit more reps, or add weight.

Generally, you should have a rep goal.

If you beat that goal, you EARN the right to add weight to that movement next time.

Trudel uses a rep goal of 11-16 reps, but I tend to go a little higher, 16-24 total reps before I add weight.

After 6-8 weeks, I will drop that rep target down to his 11-16, allowing me to continue adding weight to the bar.

There are other elements to DoggCrapp that I won’t get into, such as loaded stretching. These are advanced methods not appropriate or necessary for beginner or usually even intermediate lifters.

why i love this size and strength program so much

The reason I like DoggCrapp training so much, is because it is focused around intensity and progression.

There is a constant emphasis on progressive overload.. every time a session comes up you know exactly what you have to beat.

I also really like measuring rest periods in breaths. This creates a very focused training session.

There is no “fluff” in this training style. Everything you do is meaningful, big work.

This is a great long term program for size and strength.

If you want to read more on DoggCrapp, here’s a good link.

3.) Swole Town – Hybrid Bodybuilding

best program for size and strength

I’m partial to Swole Town because I created it years ago.

My goal was to build a team of people who were serious about training and looking to improve themselves.

We’ve accomplished that, and I urge you to check out a free week through the TrainHeroic App.

What is Swole Town?

Swole Town is a program built around size, strength and performance.

It is periodized, meaning we cycle through training blocks with different themes and goals throughout the year.

The reason I love this programming is because it uses a mix of bodybuilding, strongman and powerlifting into one comprehensive, badass training program.

Movements like Zercher Squats, Farmer Carries and deadlifts are no stranger to the town.

In essence, if you want to look huge AND be able to back it up, this is where you want to be.

Here’s a sample week for reference: (within the app, you would see videos and further detail, a message board, leaderboard, etc.).

4.) Strength Circuits by Christian Thibadeau

size and strength circuits

I’ve followed Coach Thib for a long time, and highly recommend you do the same.

Strength circuits are one of the most original, unique styles of training that I’ve come across.

The idea is simple:

  • Choose 5 big movements covering all major body parts.
  • Perform them in a circuit, starting with 5 reps of each one
  • Start over and perform 4 reps of each. Then 3, then 2, then a final set of 1.
  • Perform the SAME workout each day, 4-5 days/week.

This set-up will immediately raise some eyebrows, I’m sure.

But, it is deceptively brilliant. In his own words:

Performing strength circuits using a 5/4/3/2/1 rep scheme — each round decreasing the reps and increasing the weights on all exercises — provides the perfect mix of load, density, and volume for maximizing strength and hypertrophy, as well as shredding up.” -Christian Thibaudeau

why it works so well for size and strength

Strength circuits work well for a few reasons.:

One, the consistent repetition of big movements improves neuromuscular efficiency.… meaning you get better at those movements.

This, of course, means you get stronger on those movements.

Two, you’re hitting enough high-quality volume each day to stimulate growth, without crushing yourself beyond recoverability.

Three, you have the flexibility to scale back a bit where necessary on some days.

This is definitely not a beginner program and can be difficult to set up in a commercial gym, as you’re bouncing between 5 different movements.

To see the full program in detail, check it out here.

Final Thoughts on Size and Strength Programs

There are many good options for solid size and strength programs out there.

You’ve got to decide which would be best for you and commit fully to it for a training cycle or two.

We didn’t even talk about nutrition in this article, but obviously, if you’re trying to get bigger and stronger, you need to have your diet in order..

While I’m partial to Swole Town, since I created it after years of trial and error, these other programs are also tried and true and can pay off bigtime.

Whatever you choose, do it with all your might.

I wish you the best on your training journey, and hope this article helped you somehow reach your best-self.

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