Are you curious about the Stan Efferding training program?
Stan is an IFBB professional bodybuilder, a world-record holding powerlifter, and the inventor of The Vertical Diet. In 2010 Stan Efferding won the title of The World’s Strongest Bodybuilder – making him one of the biggest fitness sensations the world had ever seen!
So how did Stan do it?
How did he become The World’s Strongest Bodybuilder, and compete at the highest levels in both bodybuilding AND powerlifting?
Stan Efferding likes to alternate between high-volume bodybuilding routines and low-volume powerlifting routines to build size and strength. At the peak of his career, Stan would train like a bodybuilder for 3 months, and then train like a powerlifter for 3 months.
Stan believes alternating back and forth between bodybuilding and powerlifting routines is the fastest way to get jacked and freaky strong, all while preventing injuries and avoiding burnout.
Here is Stan Efferding himself discussing this topic with his powerlifting mentor Marc Bell:
When Stan was training for a bodybuilding contest, he was 100% focused on building muscle and losing body fat.
He didn’t care what his 1-rep max was in the squat, bench press or deadlift because it wasn’t relevant to his goal. In fact, Stan never performed these exercises during his bodybuilding training cycles!
His coach Flex Wheeler wouldn’t allow it!
Instead, he trained 6 days per week using a high-volume bodybuilding bro split. He trained each body part twice per week with tons of volume and intensity.
He even performed twice-per-day workouts leading up to his bodybuilding competitions!
After 3 months of training like a bodybuilder, Stan would start his next powerlifting training cycle. He would pick a powerlifting meet about 12 weeks in the future, and he would plan out all the weights he wanted to hit leading up to the meet.
Stan Efferding’s powerlifting programs focused on heavy sets of 1-3 reps on the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Actually, Stan used a modified version of The Lilliebridge Method to get ready for his powerlifting meets. I’ll talk more about this in part 2 of this article.
Even in his 50s, Stan continues to alternate between 8-12 week bodybuilding programs and 8-12 week powerlifting programs. He believes this is the ultimate way to get bigger and stronger at the same time.
Many world-class strength coaches like Charles Poliquin would agree with him!
The truth is, Stan Efferding believes that bodybuilding and powerlifting are complementary sports. Getting stronger will help you be a better bodybuilder, and building muscle mass will help you be a better powerlifter.
There are many excellent reasons for a powerlifter to train more like a bodybuilder in the offseason:
- Reason #1: Increased muscle mass
- Reason #2: Increased cardiovascular conditioning
- Reason #3: Gives your central nervous system a break
- Reason #4: Decreased odds of suffering a major injury
Stan correctly points out that one of the biggest weaknesses of most powerlifters is a lack of cardiovascular fitness. Check it out:
Many powerlifters are afraid of cardiovascular exercise. They believe getting in shape and improving your endurance will have a negative impact on their total.
In Stan’s opinion, this is absolute insanity!
Stan Efferding once spent 6 months preparing for a bodybuilding competition. During this time, he didn’t perform a single squat! Instead, he used leg extensions, leg presses, and other machine exercises with ultra-high reps to build his legs.
After his bodybuilding competition, Stan signed up for another powerlifting contest. Within 12 weeks, he squatted an unbelievable 905 pounds in training! Check it out:
Stan believes that his increased muscle mass in his quads, as well as his improved cardiovascular endurance set him up for an amazing powerlifting training cycle.
Of course, Stan Efferding also believes that getting stronger (like a powerlifter) will make yo a better bodybuilder.
It’s no secret that the biggest bodybuilders are also usually the strongest.
Just take a look at the following list of incredible bodybuilders:
- Bodybuilder #1: Ronnie Coleman
- Bodybuilder #2: Dorian Yates
- Bodybuilder #3: Arnold Schwarzenegger
What do these 3 bodybuilders have in common? They all had completely different training styles. However, they were all INSANELY strong for reps!
For some reason, many bodybuilders are afraid of getting strong. But not Stan Efferding! After all, he was THE World’s Strongest Bodybuilder!
Stan Efferding threw around some unbelievably heavy weights in his bodybuilding training.
Want a big chest? Incline pressing the 210 lb dumbbells for 9 reps sure doesn’t hurt…
Here’s a quote from Stan Efferding himself that you may find interesting:
“At the end of the day, you have to train extremely heavy and hard for many years if you want to be freakishly big and strong.”
The bottom line is Stan Efferding became The World’s Strongest Bodybuilder by alternating bodybuilding and powerlifting phases of training.
He believes that bodybuilding and powerlifting are complementary sports, and to become the ultimate athlete, you need to train for size AND strength!
Now let’s take a closer look at the exact workouts that Stan Efferding used to become a world champion!
Stan Efferding Trains Like A Bodybuilder
Now we’re getting to the good stuff!
Stan trained as a bodybuilder on his own for many years. However, he knew he would need to hire a coach to take his physique to the next level.
Stan hired the legendary Flex Wheeler as his bodybuilding coach and the rest is history.
Flex had Stan training twice per day, six days per week on a brutal high-volume training split. Check it out:
The Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Split
- AM: Chest
- PM: Shoulders
- AM: Back
- PM: Biceps / Triceps
- AM: Quads
- PM: Hamstrings
- AM: Chest
- PM: Shoulders
- AM: Back
- PM: Biceps / Triceps
- AM: Quads
- PM: Hamstrings
- Off Day
Talk about an intense bodybuilding split!
Actually, this is a variation of the training split that such legendary bodybuilders including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman used.
This six days per week push / pull / legs split would absolutely destroy the average trainee. Stan got his best bodybuilding results from this split so perhaps he is just from another planet!
Stan’s Bodybuilding Training Philosophy
When Stan Efferding was prepping for a bodybuilding contest, he trained in a typical high-volume style. His workouts were characterized by multiple exercises per body part, relatively higher reps (especially for quads), and short rest periods.
He used what he called a “pounds per hour” approach to training.
That is, he was more concerned with the total amount of sets, reps, and exercises he could squeeze in during a 30-60 minute workout than he was the raw numbers that he was lifting. This is very similar to the concept of escalating density training.
Things like the mind-muscle connection and really stretching out the muscle were bigger priorities than just moving a lot of weight for the sake of moving a lot of weight.
Flex Wheeler had Stan perform his exercises for every body part in a very specific sequence.
It was actually very similar to the exercise sequencing that John Meadows uses in his Mountain Dog style training programs. Check it out:
- Step #1: Use an isolation exercise to pre-fatigue the target muscle
- Step #2: Use a big compound exercise to really train the target muscle
- Step #3: Use an exercise to maximally stretch the target muscle
Let’s take a closer look at each step:
Step #1: Use An Isolation Exercise To Pre-Fatigue The Target Muscle
The first exercise is more of an isolation movement designed to establish a strong mind-muscle connection with the working muscle.
The priorities with this exercise were really feeling the target muscle working and pumping the muscle full of blood.
Exercises like single-leg leg extensions and various machine presses work perfect here.
Step #2: Use A Big Compound Exercise To Really Train The Target Muscle
The second exercise is designed to be a big, compound, most-bang-for-your-buck exercise.
The idea is to take that muscle that is now engorged with a lot of blood and further increase the muscular damage and metabolic fatigue.
Stan really emphasizes the importance of training close to or even all the way to muscular failure here as this is necessary to fully activate the type IIX fast-twitch fibers on higher rep sets.
These are the muscle fibers with the greatest potential for growth, after all, so it doesn’t make any sense to neglect them.
Stan would sometimes perform 2-3 of these big “money” exercises in a row. For example, Stan might perform leg presses and hack squats for his big quadriceps exercises.
Step #3: Use An Exercise To Maximally Stretch The Target Muscle
Stan’s final bodybuilding exercise is always an exercise that places the muscle in a deep stretch. The idea is to perform a loaded stretch when the muscle is already engorged with blood.
Bodybuilding coaches John Meadows and Dante Trudel are also huge proponents of performing loaded stretches for building muscle mass.
Stan often uses walking DB lunges and high step-ups to stretch his quadriceps or isolation exercises such as cable flies or the pec-dec machine for his chest.
Now let’s take a look at a couple of specific bodybuilding routines that Stan liked to use.
Stan Efferding’s Quadriceps Hypertrophy Routine
Here is an example of the exact type of workout that Stan used to bring up his quadriceps while working with flex wheeler. Check it out:
Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Quadriceps Workout
- Exercise #1: Unilateral leg extension, 3-4 sets of 12 reps, 90 sec rest
- Exercise #2: Leg Press, 3-4 sets of 20 reps**, 90 sec rest
- Exercise #3: Hack Squat, 3-4 sets of 20 reps**, 90 sec rest
- Exercise #4: Walking lunge w/ DBs, 3-4 sets of 20 reps, 90 sec rest
**In-between sets take 20-30 sec and sink down into a deep squatting position to achieve an occlusive stretch on the quads. This stretch will have a synergistic effect with the rest of the workout in stimulating quadriceps hypertrophy.
This is a perfect example of the type of workout Stan Efferding used to build his best-ever set of legs from a bodybuilding perspective.
Each exercise is performed in the correct order so that his quadriceps have to work as hard as possible.
Stan starts off with the unilateral leg extensions:
I’m normally not such a huge fan of leg extensions unless they are done as part of a post-exhaustion superset or post-exhaustion tri-set. However, they do make a lot of sense here in Stan’s routine.
The idea is to really isolate the quads and get a tremendous amount of blood flowing into the muscle.
Stan wants his quads “firing” as much as possible before moving onto the big meat-and-potatoes exercises that follow.
After the leg extensions Stan moves onto his big meat-and-potatoes exercises such as the leg press:
I don’t know about you, but I was absolutely shocked when I first heard Stan Efferding say that he didn’t do squats leading up to his bodybuilding competitions.
This is the same guy who has squatted over 900 pounds in the gym to legal powerlifting depth! I mean, this guy just lives for the heavy slag iron! How could he not squat to build muscle…?
As the saying goes, “there is a method to the madness.”
During his hypertrophy blocks Stan is primarily concerned with maximizing his pounds-per-hour. He wants to increase his training volume to sky-high levels while also minimizing the overall stress to his central nervous system so he can train legs progressively twice per week.
Considering all these factors the leg press makes perfect sense.
It doesn’t tax the lumbar spine or the central nervous system too hard so he can really jack up his overall training volume and frequency this way.
Finally, Stan liked to finish his workouts with a movement that really stretched the quads.
For example, Stan often finished his leg workouts off with walking DB lunges:
Another Stan-approved choice would be a front step-up on a high box, almost like a triple-jumper’s step up.
There is more and more research proving that guys like Dan Parillo and Dante Trudel were right all along: loaded stretches really do have a synergistic effect on muscle hypertrophy.
Stan’s quad routine capitalizes on this research perfectly. More importantly, his training ideas produced the real-world results he was after.
Now let’s look at some of Stan Efferding’s upper body bodybuilding workouts.
Here is an example of the exact type of chest hypertrophy workout that Stan used while training with Flex Wheeler:
Stan Efferding’s Bodybuilding Chest Workout
- Exercise #1: Flat machine press, 4 sets of 12 reps**, 90 seconds rest
- Exercise #2: 15 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 12 reps**, 90 seconds rest
- Exercise #3: Standing cable fly, 4 sets of 12 reps, 90 seconds rest
**Perform manual chest stretch with your arm extended on a fixed piece of equipment for 20-30 sec per arm in between sets
Stan’s bodybuilding chest workouts are based on the same principles as his bodybuilding quadriceps workouts:
- Principle #1: High volume
- Principle #2: Short rest periods
- Principle #3: “Pounds per hour” approach
Let’s take a closer look at each of Stan’s chest exercises exercises:
Stan often liked to start his chest hypertrophy routines with some type of machine press. For example:
Stan places a huge emphasis on keeping the sternum up high throughout the entire movement and really focusing on maximizing the stretch on the muscle.
As they say, the muscle that is stretched the most is recruited the most.
After he finished his sets of machine presses Stan often moved onto a low-incline DB press. For example:
This was Stan’s meat-and-potatoes movement for this workout. However, even here Stan never went all that heavy!
Yes, this is the same man that incline pressed the 210 pound dumbbells for 9 reps (a feat of strength not even Ronnie Coleman in his prime could match!).
However, Stan found he got his best results when he stuck to his guns and focused on accruing lots of sets, reps, and volume. By his own admission he never went over 90-100 pounds per dumbbell on this movement when he trained with flex.
Finally, Stan preferred to finish his chest hypertrophy workouts with a movement that really stretched the pecs.
The cable crossover and the pec-dec machine were two of Stan’s staples. For example:
Nothing fancy here – just a simple exercise that Stan can use to stretch out his fully pumped pecs.
Stan really emphases that the sets and reps don’t matter all that much.
He generally liked to shoot for 20 reps per set with quads and 8-12 reps per set with most other body parts, but he was chasing a high-quality hypertrophy stimulus more than any magical number of reps.
Stan’s achievements as a bodybuilder are insanely impressive, but his powerlifting records and his Herculean level strength played a bigger role in him becoming a household name in the fitness industry.
When I first heard of Stan I couldn’t wait to find out more about he trained for his powerlifting meets.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I was utterly shocked by what I learned…
Stan Trains Like A Powerlifter
Stan may have trained twice per day, six days per week to prepare for his bodybuilding meets, but his powerlifting training couldn’t have looked more different!
Stan eventually cut his training schedule down to 2 total workouts per week!
He had one day where he focused on the bench press and another where he focused on the squat and deadlift. For example:
The Stan Efferding Powerlifting Split
- Monday: Bench Press
- Saturday: Squat / Deadlift
Stan’s powerlifting split only gets weirder when you dive into the details.
Stan trained the bench press heavy one week and had a relatively “lighter” week the next. For his squat and deadlift training, Stan found he got his best results training the squat one week and the deadlift the other.
He only squatted or deadlift once every 2 weeks!! For example:
- Monday: Heavy Bench
- Saturday: Heavy Squat
- Monday: Light Bench
- Saturday: Heavy Deadlift
This 2 days per week upper body / lower body split is very, very similar to The Lilliebridge Method as used by Eric Lilliebridge and others.
Here’s Stan Efferding talking to Marc Bell about the benefits of this reduced-frequency approach for elite level powerlifters:
- Stan Efferding Low Frequency Training Video
On each training day, Stan would put 100% of his effort into the main lift for the day (bench, squat, deadlift). He would work up to a few singles, doubles, or triples, depending on how far out his next meet was.
After the main lift for the day, he would perform 1-2 supplementary movements at most before calling it a day. Talk about a total 180 from his bodybuilding training!
Stan would only perform 1-3 exercises per training session!
Part of the reason this powerlifting schedule worked so well for Stan is that he built this enormous foundation in terms of muscular balance, hypertrophy, and conditioning from his bodybuilding training.
Let’s take a look at a typical upper body and lower body training session.
Here is an example of one of Stan’s heavy bench press workouts. Check it out:
Stan Efferding Heavy Bench Press Day
- Exercise #1: Bench press competition grip, 3 sets of 1-3 reps, rest as needed
- Exercise #2: Incline dumbbell press, 2 sets of 6-12 reps, rest as needed
- Exercise #3: Dips, 2 sets of 6-12 reps, rest as needed
On this workout Stan did his two sets of triples with 495 lbs and his single with 545 lbs.
Here is a video of Stan’s triple on the bench press:
Of course, these work sets were done after a long warm-up.
Stan’s typical powerlifting bench press workout had about 3 exercises: the bench press itself and 2 heavy supplementary movements.
On Stan’s “lighter” bench press workouts, he would sometimes perform a 2-board press to give his shoulders a little bit of a break.
Other training cycles saw Stan treating his “lighter” bench day as just a heavy, high-intensity chest/shoulders/tricep workout. This may include incline benching 500 pounds for reps, behind the neck pressing 315 for reps, or banging out reps with the 200 lb dumbbells.
Here’s a video of Stan incline pressing 500 pounds for reps on one of his “lighter” powerlifting bench press workouts:
Again, nothing fancy. Just an emphasis on the big compound movements and then getting the hell out of the gym so he could rest and come back stronger!
Now let’s look at some of Stan Efferding’s typical squat / deadlift workouts.
Here is an example of what Stan’s heavy deadlift workouts might look like:
The Stan Efferding Deadlift Workout
- Exercise #1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 1-5, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- Exercise #2: Banded leg press, 2 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 3 minutes rest
- Exercise #3: Wide overhand grip lat pulldowns, 2 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 3 minutes rest
That’s it – just three exercises for the entire workout! Again Stan is putting 100% of his effort into the main powerlifting lift for the day.
For example, here is deadlifting at the end of a 10-week peaking cycle:
Everything else (if he even does anything else after deadlift!) is just some quick supplemental work to hit the deadlifting muscles with a little bit of volume.
Stan often used linear periodization to peak for his powerlifting meets.
If Stan wanted to hit an 800+ pound deadlift at a meet, then he would simply work backwards from there to figure out what numbers he wanted to / had to hit each week.
Stan Efferding Sample Deadlift Cycle
- Week #1: 700 pounds x 4 reps
- Week #3: 720 pounds x 3 reps
- Week #5: 740 pounds x 2 reps
- Week #7: 760 pounds x 2 reps
- Week #9: 780 pounds x 1 rep
- Week #12: 800 pounds x 1 rep
This is pretty similar to what former professional strongman Eddie Hall did to become the first man in the world to deadlift over 1,100 pounds!
Stan’s squat workouts were relatively similar – he pretty much worked up to 1-3 sets of 1-3 reps in the competition squat, followed perhaps by 1-2 supplementary movements.
I can’t emphasize enough how much Stan’s powerlifting training benefited from the 3+ months of bodybuilding training he did before the start of each meet pre cycle.
For example, Stan did not squat or deadlift for 6 months straight before he started a powerlifting meet prep cycle where he went on to squat over 900 pounds in the gym!
If you are an advanced powerlifter or strength athlete and find that most powerlifting routines just beat you into the ground then I highly recommend you try Stan’s version of the Lillibridge Method.
As they say, success leaves clues. If it worked for Stan then it just might work for you!
Verdict | The Stan Efferding Training Program!
If there’s one thing I have taken away from the Stan Efferding training program, it is this: bodybuilding and powerlifting are complementary endeavors!
Alternating strength phases and hypertrophy phases (his way of saying accumulation and intensification phases) really is one of the smartest and most productive ways that you can train.
This is true regardless of whether you are primarily training for strength or hypertrophy.
So what are you waiting for? Give the Stan Efferding training program a shot and take your training to the next level!
“I don’t know any other way to live but to wake up every day armed with my convictions, not yielding them to the threat of danger and to the power and force of people who might despise me.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!
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