For all of those who have not been familiar with some of my earlier writings in former forums I'm republishing and updating my variation of a popular strength training program - High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program. 

This has been a program that I have used many times myself and with clients. All have found this to be a valuable addition to any training objective from strength to bodybuilding.The High Tension 3x3 Strength Training program uses high tension basic lifts to achieve maximum results. I also use combination lifting programs which each have element of 3x3 Strength Training at the core.

Now presented here is a basic overview of how I use the 3x3 Strength Training Program with clients and athletes, If you want to read more detail about 3x3 training then you can find more details in the up coming book focusing on the High Tension 3x3 program.

Why use the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program?

First I want you consider this statement from another strength expert and legendary power lifting Coach Louie Simmons:

“If you ever see a body builder reverse to power lifting you will see that he lifts significantly under the amount of weight that he looks like he should be able to lift. Why? It’s because from the start most body builders train only the muscle and not the central nervous system.”

You may be thinking well how many power lifters have became top class body builders? We can list names like Schwarzenegger, Columbo and many more. It is precisely because of the nervous system training they performed that they were able to build high quality powerful physiques. It is also how gymnastics competitors stay stronger than they look like they should be. Take a look at a top class male gymnast’s physique and I’m sure you agree there are some very powerful looking guys there. So if you compete in a sport where you need strength but have to watch your bulk or you just want to train your nervous system to the advantage of your body building training then I have for you the 3x3 Russian Strength System. I have put this together based on top class Russian strength research and testing. Withe the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program you will still gain a solid physique but in the pure strength arena you will serious push up your lifts.

High Tension Lifting with the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program 

For the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program you will be performing “High Tension Lifting” this has a few very simple rules:

1. Slow Lift Tempo
This is a must to increase tension on a muscle. Many studies into tension have shown that with increased speed of a lift comes decreased tension.

2. Contract and Tense Muscles Even as You Lift
To maximise tension you will contract and tense muscles as though you are trying for a one rep max. This will increase the tension further on the muscle. This dynamic tension further adds to strength gains.

3. Use 85%-95% of 1 RM
First this conditions your supporting connective and skeletal structure for heavy lifting. Second your muscles can only contract in relation to the loads they have been placed under. If you want stronger contractions in a muscle then increase the load. Thirdly the greater the load each lift the greater the muscle recruitment for each movement. You can’t get around lifting heavy it is the only way.

4. Minimise Fatigue
The focus of this program is quality lifting. We will use low reps, few sets and longer rest periods. This will increase the quality and make sure you don’t underestimate the fact that with this you will be fatigued enough.

5. Use the Nervous System to Your Advantage
In this plan you will using this system to maximise the ability of the body to “groove” in the ability to heavy lift. We do this by redefining intensity and not lifting to failure.

Lifting to “Tension” Failure

We can all remember at some point doing a work out or reading about one that stated the muscles must be worked to failure or muscular fatigue. WRONG. Your muscles may be able to complete a lift again but the key point is maintaining tension. With the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training System lifts will be trained to the point where they can longer work with the correct tension. Push to your limits of tension not fatigue. One pro power lifter named Kirk Karwoski used this method and stopped short one lift from fatigue on each set. He was soon lifting sets of 1003 pounds and over. This resulted in massive strength gains and an explosive jump in lower leg musculature.


Another reason not to go to failure is that the nervous system will produce the habit of that failure just like it will do with a successful lift. It will “Groove” in the failure. Meaning next time you bench your nervous system will be making it easier for you to fail thus making your next bench harder. By focusing on tension and lifting only when you can perform to success you will be “grooving” in successful lift each time. This means once you have produced a good lift your nervous system becomes better at producing good lifts meaning you gain strength faster. This is core element of the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program and it’s one I use in all my lifting to improve constantly and consistently in all lifts.

The High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program

  • You will focus on 6 lifts and you will squat every session.
  • Dead lift, Squat, Bench Press, Shoulder press, Bent over Barbell row.
  • Alternate work out A and B.
                                            Workout A                     Workout B
                                              -Squat                              -Squat
                                          -Bench Press            -Bent over Barbell row
                                         -Shoulder Press                   -Dead lift

3 sets of 3 with the first set being a very minimum if you really have to 75 % 1 RM but go for 80-85% 1RM on the warm up whenever possible. You second set should be 95-95% 1RM. So you can go set 1 80% 1RM, set 2 85% 1RM and then set 3 90% 1RM. Your second and third set must be within 85-95% 1RM and your third set must heavier than the second. When you can do the second 2 sets of an exercise with good tension at the load you are on then increase the second set load up a weight increment on your next work out. You must be able to perform all 3 reps of the last set with good tension and form to move up a weight increment. Remember the basis of the 3x3 Strength Training Program is lifting to tension failure.

Take 5 minutes rest in between each set. No more than one day of rest between workouts as studies have shown that any more then one day of rest when training for strength begins to deplete from the strength training results. Remember to follow the above guidelines on lifting tension. You can either follow this as a full long term plan or you can use it for 6 to 12 weeks to improve strength before returning to volume. I suggest you do a minimum of 12 weeks on the High Tension 3x3 Strength Training Program to see best results before returning to your normal strength training program.

For more on strength training read this post on minimal strength training programs.

If you decide to use this program then please feel free to comment here with any results or feedback.


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