The 'Long & Steady Gains' Workout

The ‘Long & Steady Gains’ Workout

I don’t know about you but I prefer the simple things in life.

I like my coffee black and, more importantly, my strength programmes to be about as thrilling as an episode of The Antiques Roadshow.

Lately I’ve been devouring the works of Greg Nuckols.

Greg runs a great website called Strengtheory which is packed to the rafters with training gems.

Greg Nuckols Deadlift

His post on making a novice strength training routine more effective is golden.

These principles really struck home with me.

I’ve stalled many a time over the last 14 years and my usual go-to method for trying to make more gains has never really been that effective.

However, Greg’s plateau-busting advice concerning the manipulation of sets, reps and overall volume was so stunning in its simplicity that I had to put it to use.

It’s also perfect for those long and steady (6-12 months) programmes which I love.

So without further ado, here’s a strength based, three-days-per-week workout programme, inspired by Greg, that will ensure slow and steady strength gains, particularly for beginners.

The routine

Exercise selection

The three days will be focused around four exercises.

  • A lower body movement.
  • An upper body push movement.
  • Two upper body pull movements.

Lower body movements

  • Squat (back, front, safety bar)
  • Deadlifts (Romanian, sumo, trap bar, rack pulls)

Upper body push movements

  • Presses (bench, dumbbell, incline)
  • Overhead presses ( bench, dumbbell, one arm dumbbell)
  • Dips (weighted)

Upper body pull movements

  • Rows (barbell, dumbbell, one arm dumbbell, t-bar, seated cable)
  • Chin ups (weighted, pull-ups, ring, neutral)
  • Lat pulldowns (close grip, neutral grip, straight arm)

Example workout

An example programme (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) would go along the lines of:


Back squat
Overhead press
Weighted chin ups
Dumbbell row


Front squat
Weighted dips
Inverted rows
Barbell row


Back squat
Overhead press
T-Bar row
Seated cable row


Now that you’ve selected your exercises, apply the following principles.

Log every workout

It is absolutely essential that you get yourself a log book and record every single workout.

NB: recording progress is pivotal not just for this routine, but for all workouts, so make it a habit!

As Henry points out in our 10 Old-School Commandments For Building Muscle, you should be jotting down everything – sets, reps, rest periods, calories, macros – as this will help you assess what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to change.

kermit typewriter gif

Progression, sets and reps

For all exercises, start off with a light weight which you can easily manage to lift for 3 sets of 10 reps (3 x 10).

Then, every session, add 2.5kg to all lifts.

Once you can’t manage 3 sets of 10 on a lift, bring it down to 3 sets of 8 (3 x 8).

Once you can’t manage 3 sets of 8, bring it down to 5 sets of 5 (3 x 5).

Once you can’t manage 5 sets of 5, bring it down to 5 sets of 3 (5 x 3).

At this point you will more than likely begin to start really struggling.

When that begins to happen, it’s time to decrease the weight and increase the sets and reps.

Consult your log book and look at when you changed from 3 sets of 10 to 3 sets of 8.

Now take 10% off that weight.

For example, if you started struggling at 100 kg (3 x 10) then you will start with 90kg

Now begin with 5 sets of 10 (5 x 10).

Once you can’t manage 5 sets of 10, bring it down to 5 sets of 8 (5 x 8)

Once you can’t manage 5 sets of 8, bring it down to 6 sets of 5 (6 x 5)

Once you can’t manage 6 sets of 5, bring it down to 7 sets of 3 (7 x 3)

Further points

Don’t worry about the sets and reps all falling in line with each other.

To quote Greg Nuckols:

You don’t have to switch all your lifts over to the new rep scheme all at once.

If you plateau on your bench or OHP before your squat or deadlift, go ahead to switch the stalled lift to the new rep scheme, and continue as you were with the others.

Stick with the same lifts until you completely stall on them.

Once that happens then change it up

Eat quality wholesome food and aim for 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Feel free to take a week off or reduce the weights every 8-12 weeks or so.

Signing off

Don’t forget to make your way over to Greg Nuckols’ website for some great training information.

Alternatively, you can check out the strengththeory YouTube channel.

Remember to keep it simple folks – and good luck!

Simple is Beautiful

If you have any comments or questions about this routine, I’d love to hear from you, just get in touch below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nice, though I see your logbook, and raise you

  2. The Antiques Roadshow can be quite thrilling actually…

  3. I like this program.

    Very simple and realistic.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Cool routine.

    Have to try this next week 🙂

    Thank you!

  5. Heavy workout, this will definitely change your body shape.

  6. Short, simple and informative article.

    If you are looking to gain muscle, you need to invest your time and money into it.

    With regular exercise, you also need a healthy diet and proper rest.

    Supplements like protein and creatine play an important role when it comes to bodybuilding.

    It can lead to a significant increase in lean muscle mass, increase in strength, and fat loss.

    1. Protein isn’t a supplement.

      It is a macronutrient and no you don’t need to buy supplements to get it.

      You can find protein in many common foods, meat, dairy and even in some vegetables.

      Also there are NO supplements that will “lead to a significant increase in leans muscle mass, increase in strength and fat loss.”

      A proper training routine and diet will do all that.

  7. Great job on the article Lee.

    Love it when workouts are laid out nice and clearly like this one!