Getting stronger as an advanced lifter is tricky. There’s a lot more complexity than when you were a beginner or intermediate, so today we’re going to talk about…

This article is also available in video form here if you prefer…

Who is this guide for? Who is an ‘advanced lifter’?

You might be a weightlifter, a powerlifter, a strongman or just someone that really enjoys the process of strength training.

You’ve trained for a long time, you’ve done your beginner linear progressions (maybe starting strength or stronglifts) plus you’ve done your intermediate progressions (typically something like the texas method or a heavy light medium type of approach)

And you’ve reached a point where you can no longer make weekly or fortnightly progress. You’ve wrung it every which way, but for all intents and purposes you’ve milked those intermediate gains dry, progress is halting, and further attempts to use intermediate approaches just grind you into the ground.

How to Get Stronger As An Advanced Lifter: Rule 1 – Get More Involved With Your Training Data

The advanced level is where as a coach I start to introduce a lot more nuance and a lot more variety into the way that I program for my athletes. This is the stage at which it becomes a lot more important to start tracking your training and collecting data.

And look, I get it; if you’re someone who is naturally strong or you’re someone who has gained strength without too much thought up until this point just by working hard and attacking your gym sessions, then all this data and science stuff might seem really boring and geeky to you.

But I’m telling you as a professional strength & conditioning coach, as someone who literally makes his living getting athletes at the highest levels stronger…

“Tracking data is what’s going to take you from good to great, and from great to world-class.”

For my athletes I’ll be tracking things like…

  • Their total amount of sets and reps per week
  • Total weekly volume and volume-load
  • How many hard sets vs medium vs light sets they’re doing
  • How many competition lifts are they doing
  • How many close variations
  • How much bodybuilding work are they doing
  • Plus how much as a percentage do all those things make up of their overall weekly training

And then I’ll be comparing all that against objective measures like exercise performance, as well as subjective measures like fatigue, exertion ratings and athlete diaries.

Yes, it’s more complicated, and yes it’s time-consuming – that’s why I charge teams and individuals good money for these kinds of services.

However, I also realise that some of us also have to work on limited budgets, so, if you are

going to do this yourself, start by setting it up in excel or some kind of spreadsheet and

just aim to build it up over time. Start with a few metrics to track, and add others as you become more competent. There’s no point collecting loads of data if you have no idea how you’re going to actually use it to make programming decisions.

I promise you though, if you want to keep getting stronger as an advanced lifter, there’s no real way around doing this. You need this data now, and there’s no way that you can just YOLO-throw a bunch of random stuff into a program and hope it works. This is why the best weight lifting and sports teams in the world employ sports scientists.

How to Get Stronger As An Advanced Lifter: Rule 2 – Think Deeply About Your Individual Responses to Training

Okay so now you’ve got your training data you need to be thinking about how you individually respond to…

  • specific exercises
  • specific set schemes
  • specific rep schemes
  • specific frequencies

At this point in your lifting career (this is why this article isn’t for beginners) you’ve got years upon years of information to work from, so you’ve got all this data in your head based on past experience.

For example, perhaps you know that in the bench press you can do heavy singles for

two to three weeks at the end of a peak and be fine but if you go for a fourth

week your shoulder starts to niggle and your form starts to break down. So you

know that that’s something you can bear in mind when designing strength training programmes

And of course, that’s just one example of information you’ve got stored up in your brain. In reality, you’ll have dozens of these little things, so what you’re really doing at this stage is writing them down, formally acknowledging them and thinking about how they might impact training decisions.

Then you can start to craft these individualized programs for yourself based on the data that you’ve collected, analysed and compared against your individual responses.

How to Get Stronger As An Advanced Lifter: Rule 3 – Utilise Much Longer Phasic Structures

The third thing that I start to do with all my advanced lifters is to draw their program out so that it allows WAY more time for progress.

  • Session by session progress is gone
  • Weekly progress is out
  • Fortnightly progress is gone
  • And even monthly progress is sacked off at this point

Instead, you need to start utilizing longer phasic structures. What I mean by that

is hypertrophy blocks that might be a lot longer than you’re used to. Maybe in the past you’ve run a hypertrophy block for a few weeks, well now it might be a solid couple of months just hammering hypertrophy, working with higher reps with a wide variety of exercises and building a huge block of general physical preparedness.

From there you might move into a strength block, and with my athletes I often have a strength block A and a strength block B, one of them that focuses on strength that’s

sort of like your fives and your sixes, those kind of reps, and then the other that moves

into your threes or your twos and puts in a few like heavy singles at the end of those sessions.

Lastly, after your strength blocks you’re gonna have a peaking block in which you move

on to heavy singles and you get your nervous system fired up ready for maximal lifts.

All these blocks are gonna need to take longer than you might be used to. You can’t

just jump from one style of training right into another. It’s sort of like momentum. You’re now a physically bigger and stronger object than you were as a beginner, you have more momentum and so it takes more time to slow down and change direction before you can speed up again.

Think about someone that deadlifts 800lb. What’s the likelihood that they’re going

to be able to go from doing sets of 10 in the deadlift one week, and then successfully hit heavy singles the next? Basically zero. It’s just not happening. They’re going to need multiple weeks of peaking to transition their body and their nervous system in a way that a

beginner or an intermediate just really wouldn’t need.

Want a Strength Programme Custom Built For Your Needs?

custom strength programme

Learning all about advanced training concepts is great, but if putting it all together into a programme yourself seems like a bit of a hassle, then I’ve got you covered.

I’ve put together a custom programme writing option, where you can ask me to build you a training programme from scratch, specifically for your needs.

I’ll also combine this with a monthly check-in so that you can review progress, ask questions and provide feedback. You can learn more about custom programming here.

Frequently Asked Advanced Strength Training Questions

Can advanced lifters do full body workouts?

The answer is both yes and no, and it very much depends on the training block the lifter is in. For example, if the lifter is in a peaking block, they might use a full-body workout to hit a heavy or moderate single in the squat, bench and deadlift all in the same session.

However, if the lifter is in a hypertrophy block, full-body workouts likely won’t provide enough direct stimulus to encourage growth, so they might need to use upper/lower splits or structures that place emphasis on certain lifts per day.

How do advanced lifters build muscle?

With frequent, hard hypertrophy workouts, high in volume, that create at least some degree of muscle soreness for 1-2 days afterwards. It might take 8+ weeks of these workouts to see any noticeable difference.

Is there a beginner, intermediate, advanced lifter chart?

Whilst there are websites that give you strength standards and let you see how you stack up against others, I think this information is pretty useless from a programming and training perspective. Think about it for a minute…

If you’re making progress every single session like a beginner, are you suddenly going to swap to only making progress every sixteen weeks just because a website told you the weights you lift were ‘advanced’?

Similarly, if you’ve already milked your beginner and intermediate programs for all their worth and are now on an advanced programme, are you suddenly going to jump back to a beginner program and risk massively burning yourself out just because a website told you the weights you lift are ‘beginner’ level?

Beginner, intermediate and advanced refers to your rate of adaptation, not weights lifted.

Advanced Strength Training Summary

Alright, that’s it for today, to summarise, if you want to get stronger as an advanced lifter you need to…

1) Collect more data

2) Rigorously compare data against individual personal training experience

3) Use your findings to create longer phasic structure programmes that address your specific needs as a lifter.

Next Steps

1) Hopefully you’ve found the article useful, if you did, maybe take a moment to consider joining my mailing list for weekly programmes, workouts and strength training tips.

2) Feel free to share the article with anyone you think would benefit

3) If you want to find out more about my strength coaching options, or pre-written weightlifting programmes, you can check out the links there.

‘Til Next Time


strength coach

Alex Parry, MSc

Alex’s experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.