When training for muscle and strength novice trainees will always make the same mistakes over and over again;
1) They don’t train heavy
2) They use too many exercises
3) They vary their exercises too frequently
Your body needs to learn how to get stronger by lifting a small number of exercises for low reps and as heavy as you can go. Don’t worry about percentages, for the majority of beginners, working on improving 5RMs (5 rep max, AKA the most you can lift for 5 reps) will bring great results.
Using too many exercises will simply tire you out without making you stronger.
You must keep your main exercises the same for at least 4 weeks, the best option is to have a lighter week every 4th week and use the same exercises for 8-12 weeks (Light weeks would fall on weeks 4, 8 and 12, for example). Set out a program and stick to it! You won’t make gains if you jump from program to program. Set it and forget it.
For assistance exercises (inverted rows, shrugs etc.), you should change these every 4 weeks as the ‘room’ for gains is much smaller due to less muscle groups being involved.
When you do vary your exercises, follow the principle of ‘same but different’. This is a concept I learned from Pavel Tsatsouline in his book ‘The Naked Warrior’. After 4-12 weeks of using the same exercises pick a variation of what you are already doing. Some examples are:
Bench press > close-grip bench press
Front squat > overhead squat
Pull-ups > towel grip pull-ups
Snatch grip deadlift > sumo deadlift
Barbell curls > thick bar curls
So to progress your workouts for muscle and strength, use the following rules:
1) Train HEAVY
2) Use a small number of exercises
3) Vary exercises every 4-12 weeks using ‘same but different’ principle
There you have it, a couple of rules that you can plug into your existing program and that will make you a BEAST! Now go train!