The Crawford 7 Routine: The best way to build strength and size for beginners

Building Strength

I like to think of myself as a bit of a BS detective.

I sift through so many articles every single day covering fitness and one thing in particular always stands out – the absolute tidal wave of nonsense that so called ‘experts’ are feeding people.

Not only is this a blatant sham but these people are giving potentially dangerous advice! A lot of fitness writers out there just spout any old crap in an attempt to reinvent the wheel, which means there’s so much conflicting evidence out there. This can be so confusing for beginners who are bombarded with these different workouts, supplements, superfoods and god knows what else.

With that in mind, I have devised my very own beginner program for anyone starting out lifting. There’s no need for muscle confusion here (that’s another lie fed to newbies), just alternate between these two workouts every week for the next 18 months, get stronger on all 9 exercises and perfect your diet. If you haven’t completely transformed your body in that time then you have my permission to tweet insults at me.

I have affectionately named this plan the Crawford 7 Routine. This is predominantly because the majority of the exercises are for 7 reps. It also sounds cool and means you’ll think of me when you’re making those sweet, sweet gains.

The basic premise of the workout is that you’ll do 3 full body workouts using mostly compound movements (only face pulls don’t fall into this category). You will alternate between workout A and workout B, meaning you will do A on Monday, B Wednesday, A Friday, B Monday… and so on.

Training the full body three times a week has consistently been proven to be the best way for natural lifters who have less than 2 years training experience. This is the best way to increase size, strength and testosterone - don’t let muscle mags tell you any differently – most likely they’re trying to sell you some juiced up moron’s workout plan or supplement range.

The reason for 7 reps is that it sits perfectly between the strength rep range of 1-6 and the hypertrophy range of 8-12. Of course, it is still possible to build both muscle and strength in either of these rep ranges but by hitting that sweet spot right in the middle, you are optimising both areas straight out of the blocks, meaning not a single second is wasted in the gym. Trust me, if I had my time again in the beginner phase, I’d be hopping right on this program.

All exercises are super simple – all you need is a barbell, a squat rack, a dipping belt and some weights. No need to overcomplicate things here, you want to go into the gym, do the most time-tested, effective moves and get out. This routine enhances your life, it doesn’t detract from it.

Now let’s get into the workouts.


Squats – 3 x 7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – The squat will build strength, mass and athleticism in your legs and through your core. It will teach you how to brace your body properly and to keep tight and solid under heavy resistance.

Bench press – 3 x 7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – The bench has to be the single best chest builder out there. If you bench correctly (outlined above) then you will build a huge chest, no doubt about it. Keep those elbows tucked in, that scapula retracted and you’ll be just fine.

Pull ups – 3 x7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – One of the most taxing exercises but definitely one which offers one of the biggest returns. This is a lot of back volume and is guaranteed to put some mass on that frame of yours.

Overhead Press – 3 x 7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – Adding weight to your OHP will build big, round shoulders that only the OHP could build. It builds width and density whilst also adding some mass to the top portion of the chest. Old school bodybuilders would use the OHP to ‘fill in’ the upper portion of the chest that neither the flat or incline bench press could reach.

Sprints – 5 x 100m

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – These are a real bugger. These will burn whatever strength you had left and will leave you sore the next day. The HIIT nature of the exercise will keep you fighting fit however, which will give you peace of mind when you’re rolling round in your wheelchair the next day.  


Deadlifts – 1 x 7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it - The deadlift is the king of the gym. You should really be building your deadlift up from the off if you’re looking to maximise gains. It builds the legs, lower back, upper back, traps, core – pretty much anything you can think of. Do deadlifts. 

Barbell Row – 3 x 7

How to do it -

Why you’re doing it – Heavy rows are your best weapon for building a full, muscular back. Rows work every single inch of the back and are definitely the best direct builder of mass here.

Dips – 3 x 7

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – Dips are the upper body squat. They work the chest, shoulder and triceps massively. They are also quite easy to load with weight so once you start adding weight to this movement, your upper body is going to blow up.

Much like the pull ups, if you can’t do dips – jump up to the top of the movement and lower yourself slowly. Once you can do 10 reps for all sets, start adding weight.

Face pulls – 3 x 15

How to do it

Why you’re doing it – Face pulls can correct years of bad posture. They teach your scapula to retract and help you to become conscious of posture constantly. They also work the rear delts exceptionally well and help to create that 3-D shoulder look.


*See above*

Here’s a table that illustrates the program better:

Workout A

Workout B

Squat – 3 sets of 7 reps

Deadlift – 3 sets of 7 reps

Bench Press – 3 x 7

Barbell Row – 3 x 7

Pull ups – 3 x 7

Dips – 3 x 7

Overhead Press – 3 x7

Face Pulls – 3 x 15

Sprints – 5 x 100m

Sprints – 5 x 100m


There you have it. The perfect workout for those looking to simplify their life. By using this template, you will get into the best shape you’ve ever been in, feel fantastic and still be living your life to the fullest extent.

Make sure you’re eating for your goals - be that to lose fat (calorie deficit) or build mass (calorie surplus), ensure you’re getting 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight and you’ll see fantastic gains.

I would also advise tracking your lifts. Track the weight and reps achieved for each move. You should be aiming to safely add weight to every move each week. If you can’t, then try to squeeze an extra rep or two in there and attempt to up the weight the week after.

Good luck!

Massive thanks to Sam Crawford AKA The Man BluePrint for the above article.

Sam is also a qualified personal trainer & sports psychologist who offers personalised coaching plans - you can find out more here

The Man BluePrint




Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published