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The Development of Physical Strength

Those who asked Charles Poliquin who most influenced him in forming his opinions about program design, his answer was, hands down, Anthony Ditillo. And if you had him pin down his favorite book by Ditillo, he would say The Development of Physical Strength (1982). “I’m often asked which book I’d rescue from my burning house—that’s the one!” said Coach Poliquin.

Anthony Charles Ditillo was a powerful man who carried a lot of muscle mass. At a height of 5’6” and weighing as much as 300 pounds, he reportedly did a standing press with 405 pounds and a standing press to eye level with 500 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps. Coach Poliquin first learned about Ditillo from articles he wrote in Iron Man magazine, where he was a regular contributor.

Written in a conversational manner, here is the table of contents of The Development of Physical Strength:

Chapter 1
The Single and Double Progression Method
Power Rack Training
Isometric and Isometronic Training
Various Sets and Repetitions Schedules
The Single Repetition Principle

Chapter 2
The Intensity Factor
The Importance of Training Volume
The Coupling of Intensity and Volume Loads
The Cheating Principle in Strength Training
The Adaption Principle in Strength Training

Chapter 3
Training for Powerlifting Proficiency
Bench Press Specialization
Squat Specialization for Increased Strength
Deadlift and Back Specialization Programs

Chapter 4
The Development of Muscular Bulk and Power
Power Rack Training for Bodyweight Gains
Various Weight Gaining Routines
Dietary Consideration for Gaining Weight

Chapter 5
Olympic Assistance Movements for Size and Strength
Heavy Dumbbell Training for Size and Strength
Various Strength Specialization Routines
One Lift Specialization Programs

Ditillo’s workouts didn’t require much in the way of equipment: a power rack (of which Ditillo was a big fan of), a bench, a chinning bar, barbells, and dumbbells. The reason was that his workouts focused on multi-joint exercises that gave you the most bang for your buck such as presses, rows, squats, and deadlifts.

Coach Poliquin loved Ditillo’s workouts. They were often quite simple but always brutally hard. Here is an example of such a training session:

Full Squat – One set of 10 reps, as a warmup, followed by five sets of five reps using
all the weight possible for each set.
Deadlift – Same as Squat
Bench Press – Same as Squat
Bentover Row – Same as Squat

For those who wanted to focus on strength, Ditillo believed in the value of using near- maximal loads for repeated efforts. Thus, you will find workouts that offer exercise prescriptions such as the following:

Bench Press: 10 sets of 3 reps
Bent Row: 10 sets of 3 reps
Full Squat: 10 sets of 3 reps

As with Doug Hepburn, Ditillo would often combine low and high reps in the same training session for the same exercises. Here is an example of one of his workouts to develop both size muscle mass and power:

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday:
Bench Press: 5 sets of 2-4 reps
Bench Press: 2 sets of 10 reps
Full Squat: 5 sets of 2-4 reps
Full Squat: 2 sets of 10 reps
Deadlift: 5 sets of 2-4 reps
Deadlift: 2 sets of 10 reps

Anthony Charles Ditillo passed on February 28, 2002, at the age of 54. His legacy is carried on in his writings, especially in this classic, The Development Physical Strength. Order your copy today!

[Note: You can purchase Anthony Ditillo’s book The Development of Physical Strength by going to]

Lead photo of Serge Reding by Bruce Klemens

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