Candice Keene - Strength Building Program

Article and routine by Joe Arko, Strength and Conditioning Coach
Photography by Paul Buceta

Summer has come to an end—time to get back in the gym. This three-day program will equip you with the techniques you need to return to fighting shape, but with more strength and power than ever before.

THE PROGRAM

Each day will start off with a single heavy lift, while the rest of the workout will combine supersets to help speed up the workout while focusing on increased muscle tension and cardiovascular response.

Day One will focus on pushing movements and working your core; Day Two, you’ll be attacking your monster muscle groups, legs and glutes; and Day Three will focus on pulling movements.

To really make this workout effective, other trigger techniques such as drop sets and partial reps will be utilized to help get you major results in the time you have. These techniques are effectively increase your time under tension, otherwise known as how long your muscles have to work for each set, and is an effective way of pushing past your limits for maximal gains.

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Keep a training journal for the next six weeks to track your strength gains.

THE WORKOUTS

How to: Follow the routine on each day, paying close attention to specific instructions such as supersets, drop sets or partial reps. You can do the days consecutively or leave a day of rest in between.

Push yourself. Make sure you are lifting heavy enough so that each set is difficult.

BENCH PRESS

Setup: Lie back on a flat bench under a racked barbell and grasp the bar with a medium-width overhand grip. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it straight above you with locked arms.
Action: Bend your arms and lower the bar to meet your upper chest, keeping your elbows pointing down. Exhale and contract your pectoral muscles as you press the bar up to the starting position.

Superset 1

SUSPENDED PUSH-UP KNEE TUCK

Setup: Kneel in front of a suspension system and place your feet in the handles. Lift your knees off the ground and extend your legs and arms so you are in a push-up position.

Action: Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the ground. Press your body back up while bending your knees, tucking them in towards your torso. Extend your legs back out and repeat.

STABILITY BALL PLATE CRUNCH

Setup: Holding a weight plate, recline with a stability ball positioned under the middle of your back. Extend your arms so the plate is above your chest.

Action: Contract your midsection, lifting your upper back off the ball and press the plate towards the ceiling. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Superset 2

STANDING MILITARY PRESS

Setup: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip wider than shoulder-width apart, and stand holding it in front of your upper chest near your collarbone.

Action: Extend your arms and press the bar straight overhead, keeping your core tight to support you. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

SEATED LATERAL RAISE

Setup: Sit on the end of a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand down at your sides with arms extended.

Action: Keeping your arms straight, raise the weights straight up until your arms are parallel to the ground. Slowly lower back to the starting position.

Superset 3

SUSPENDED TRICEPS EXTENSION

Setup: Adjust the suspension straps so the handles are waist-height. Hold the handles with an overhand grip. Lean forward so your weight is on your toes and extend your arms in front of you.

Action: Lower your upper body towards the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Press into the handles and extend your arms to return to the starting position.

BENCH DIPS

Setup: Place your hands on the edge of the bench behind you, about shoulder-width apart, so your palms are facing away from you. Extend your legs out in front of you.

Action: Bend your elbows and lower your butt towards the ground, but do not make contact with it. Contract your triceps and extend your arms to raise back up to the starting position.

BARBELL SQUAT

Setup: Position the barbell across the back of your shoulders, dismount the bar, and stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core to support your lower back.

Action: Push your hips back and down, keeping your chest lifted and a natural arch in your spine. Your knees should point in the same direction as your toes. Lower until thighs are parallel to the floor (or slightly lower for more glute activation), then press through your heels to return to standing.

Superset 1

SUSPENDED HAMSTRING CURL

Setup: Place your heels in the handles of the suspension straps and lie back. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips so you form a straight line with your body.

Action: Pull your heels in towards your body while contracting your glutes to press your hips towards the ceiling. Slowly lower back to the starting position.

STIFF-LEG DEADLIFT

Setup: Stand tall holding a loaded barbell with an overhand grip. Place your feet hip-width apart and straighten your knees, but do not lock them out.

Action: Keeping your legs straight, push your hips back to lower the barbell towards the ground. Go only as low as you can while maintaining a straight spine. Hold briefly at the bottom then squeeze your glutes and extend through the hips to return to the starting position.

Superset 2

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

Setup: Stand facing away from a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells down at your sides. Place one foot on the bench behind you, laces down.

Action: Bend your front knee and squat down until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee is over your toes. Extend your front leg and press up to the starting position.

BARBELL HIP THRUST

Setup: Lean back against a flat bench with a weighted barbell across your hips. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor.

Action: Holding the bar in place with your hands, drive through your heels and extend your hips toward the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Pause at the top of the movement, then lower back down.

Superset 3

SUSPENDED LUNGE

Setup: Extend one leg behind you and place your foot in the handle of a suspension strap, laces down.

Action: Bend your front knee and lower into a lunge. Extend your leg to return to the starting position.

SIDE LUNGE

Setup: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells down at your sides with arms extended, palms facing in.

Action: Take a large step to one side and lunge, bending your knee until your thigh is parallel with the ground and the weights are on either side of your foot. Drive through your heel to bring your foot back to meet the other. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides for all reps.

PULL-UP

Set Up: If you cannot perform unassisted pull-ups, use a resistance band or assisted machine. Otherwise jump or step up to a pull-up bar, using an overhand grip (you will vary your grip with each set). Hang with your arms extended and knees bent.

Action: Draw your shoulders and elbows back and down as you pull your body up until your chin is just above the bar. Use control as you lower back down.

At the end of each set of pull-ups: Jump and hold the top of the movement as long as you can.

Superset 1

DUMBBELL PULLOVER

Setup: Lie on a flat bench holding a weighted barbell above your chest with arms slightly bent, using an overhand grip.

Action: Lower the bar in an arc motion behind your head until your upper arms are parallel with the ground. Hold, then slowly return to the starting position.

SUSPENDED INVERTED ROW

Setup: Grasp the handles of the suspension straps with palms facing each other. Extend your arms and lean back as far as you can (the longer the straps, the more difficult the move).

Action: Bend at the elbows and pull your arms apart, squeezing your shoulder blades together to bring your chest up between your hands. Hold at the top of the movement then extend your arms to slowly lower back to the start position.

Superset 2

BENT-OVER BARBELL ROW

Setup: Holding a weighted barbell with an overhand grip, hinge forward from your hips, bringing your torso forward until it is almost parallel to the floor, while slightly bending your knees. Extend your arms so they are perpendicular to the floor.

Action: Brace your abs and initiate the movement by retracting your shoulder blades. Focus on using your back muscles to pull the barbell towards your chest, keeping your arms tight to your sides.

UPRIGHT BARBELL ROW

Setup: Stand holding a barbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Extend your arms down so the bar is in front of your thighs.

Action: Bend your arms and raise the bar up to your chin, elbows pointing out to the sides. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Superset 3

BARBELL BICEP CURL

Setup: Stand holding a barbell with a shoulder-width, underhand grip and extend your arms down so the bar is in front of your thighs.

Action: Contract your biceps and bend your arms, raising the bar up to shoulder height. Slowly lower back to the starting position.

SUSPENDED BICEP CURL

Setup: Facing the suspension straps, grab the handles with an underhand grip and extend your arms, leaning back as far as you can.

Action: Bend your arms and squeeze your biceps to raise your body until your hands are in front of your shoulders. Slowly lower down to the starting position.