Heavy Waves - Strength Building Workout for the Experienced Lifter

Heavy Waves - Strength Building Workout for the Experienced Lifter

I love heavy singles, doubles, and triples. But I wasn't always like this.

Back in 1986 I started my lifting journey. Dorm room walls filled with Tom Platz pictures. Cheap muscle building meals comprised of mac and cheese and canned tuna. Bodybuilding magazines stacked in every corner.

Related: The Huge Gainer Full Body Workout Routine

For 21 years I was in love with the bodybuilding lifestyle. I lived it. I breathed it. But eventually, I grew tired of making minimal progress. You can only gain so much muscle after your first 5 years. After 15 years you're simply training because you love it.

Such is the life on an experienced lifter.

In 2007 I was introduced to the world of powerlifting. A work buddy (I was a machinist back then) told me about this magical, mystical strength sport. I was introduced to new concepts, exercises, and training systems.

Westside barbell. Box squats. Good mornings. Sumo stance deadlifts. Wide stance squats. proper bench press set up. Pizza and beer post-workout?

Oh, heck yes! I was all in.

Beginning in 2007 I started to attack my heavy lits with low reps sets. It worked. My once stagnating bench press and squat skyrocketed. I started deadlifting for the first time, and fell in love with this movement.

At my peak, I had a squat close to 700, deadlift approaching 800, and a bench around 440. All built on heavy singles, doubles and triples.

Heavy Waves - An Advanced Strength Building Protocol

Heavy waves is an advanced strength building protocol. Once you're benching 225 for reps, squatting 315 for reps, and deadlifting 365 for reps, you're ready.

For the main lifts only (squats, bench, deadlifts) you will start with four singles using 85% of your one rep max. If you don't know your max, guestimate or use the following calculator to give you a solid ballpark. Even though it's a bench press calculator, it will work well for the other big compound movements.

Click here to calculate your one rep max.

Again, your first workout will be 85% of your one rep max for four singles. From here you will add weight in an auto-regulated manner. When those 4 singles feel manageable, add 5 pounds to the bar. When those four singles feel extremely challenging, keep the same weight and perform four singles the next time you're in the gym.

What does "manageable" mean? If the last single didn't feel like a max effort, or near-max effort attempt, it was manageable. If you are confident, based on this last rep, that you could add five pounds to the bar and still knock out the same number of reps... Then it was a manageable weight.

Moving From 4 Singles to 5 (And More)

Continue this pattern of auto-regulated progression using four singles until you can't advance in weight for two weeks. At that point back off the weight by 7.5% and start performing 5 singles.

Keep auto-regulation in play, advancing when you can. When you can't advance for 3 weeks, back off by 7.5% and start performing 6 singles. Continue this pattern until you can advance no further while using 8 singles. At this point take a week off and test your one rep max.

Bench Press Example

Here is an example using the bench press. Let's say that your bench is at 225 for six reps. using the calculator that works out to an approximate 261 pounds.

261 pounds multiplied by 85% works out to about 220 pounds (rounded slightly down). This is our starting weight.
  • Week 1 - Bench Press, 220 pounds x 4 singles
So this weight felt manageable. You move on to week two, adding five pounds to the bar. Here's how the complete sequence goes from here on out.
  • Week 2 - Bench Press, 225 pounds x 4 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 3 - Bench Press, 230 pounds x 4 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 4 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 4 singles (Tough)
  • Week 5 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 4 singles (Tough - Couldn't advance for 2 weeks. Time to drop weight 7.5% and move on to 5 singles)
  • Week 6 - Bench Press, 220 pounds x 5 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 7 - Bench Press, 225 pounds x 5 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 8 - Bench Press, 230 pounds x 5 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 9 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 5 singles (Tough)
  • Week 10 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 5 singles (Tough - Couldn't advance for 2 weeks. Time to drop weight 7.5% and move on to 6 singles)
  • Week 11 - Bench Press, 220 pounds x 6 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 12 - Bench Press, 225 pounds x 6 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 13 - Bench Press, 230 pounds x 6 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 14 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 6 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 15 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 6 singles (Tough)
  • Week 16 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 6 singles (Tough - Couldn't advance for 2 weeks. Time to drop weight 7.5% and move on to 7 singles)
  • Week 17 - Bench Press, 220 pounds x 7 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 18 - Bench Press, 225 pounds x 7 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 19 - Bench Press, 230 pounds x 7 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 20 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 7 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 21 - Bench Press, 240 pounds x 7 singles (Tough)
  • Week 22 - Bench Press, 245 pounds x 7 singles (Tough - Couldn't advance for 2 weeks. Time to drop weight 7.5% and move on to 8 singles)
  • Week 23 - Bench Press, 225 pounds x 8 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 24 - Bench Press, 230 pounds x 8 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 25 - Bench Press, 235 pounds x 8 singles (Manageable)
  • Week 26 - Bench Press, 240 pounds x 8 singles (Tough)
  • Week 27 - Bench Press, 240 pounds x 8 singles (Tough - Time to test your one rep max)
This is a long cycle. Obviously. If you prefer a shorter cycle you can either:
  1. Drop the weight by 5% instead of 7.5% when adding a single.
  2. Move from 4 reps to only 6 or 7.
So over the course of a 27 weeks our lifter added about 25 pounds to his bench press. This is excellent progress for an intermediate lifter.

Heavy Waves Powerlifting Program

Following this program you may want to take 8-16 weeks away from heavy singles and perform more of a powerbuilding program.

Also note that when performing heavy waves on each of the big lifts at the same time, the time to complete each cycle will vary. If you finish a bench press cycle before squats or deadlifts, move to rep work and give your bench press a break from the demands of heavy singles.

This is a complete 4 day per week program. Let me know your results in the comments section below.
  • Monday - Heavy Squats + Legs
  • Tuesday - Heavy Bench + Chest
  • Thursday - Heavy Deadlifts + Back
  • Friday - Shoulders + Arms
Heavy Squats and Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats - Heavy Waves  Singles  4-8 reps
Paused Squats  2  8
Leg Press or Hack Squats  3  10-15
Leg Extensions  3-4  10
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts  3  8-10
Leg Curls  3-4  10
Bodyweight Lunges  1  25
Ab Wheel Roll Outs  3  10-20

Heavy Bench and Chest
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press - Heavy Waves  Singles  4-8 reps
Paused Bench Press  2  8
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press  3  10-15
Push Ups  3  MAX
Low Cable Crossovers  4-5  10
Close Grip Bench Press  4-5  10-15

Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts - Heavy Waves  Singles  4-8 reps
Dumbbell Rows  2  15-20
T-Bar Rows  3  10-12
Lat Pull Downs  3-4  10-12
Seated Cable Rows  3-4  10-12
Power Shrugs  3  6-10
Reverse Grip Lat Pull Down  3  10-15

Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press  3  6-10
Seated Alternating Overhead Dumbbell Press  3  8-12
Power Upright Rows  3  10-12
Face Pulls  3  10-12
Rope Cable Triceps Extensions  3-4  10-15
Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions  3-4  10-15
EZ Bar Curls  3-4  10-15
Alternating Dumbbell Curls  3-4  10-15
Previous article 10 Bicep Exercises You Have to Try


Guillermo Ruiz - January 11, 2019

Hey Steve, can this program be run as a 4 days on 1 day off repeat schedule?

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