If there's one fundamental constant in hypertrophy training, it's variety.
Those who vary their programs will often make consistent progress.
What's common in most programs, however, is a just lack of
Most bodybuilders do the same thing over and over, not only between
routines but also within them. They perform the same exercises and
set/rep schemes; rest for the same length of time; train the same
body part(s) on the same day; even use the same loads; train on the same
equipment; use the same workout gear, etc. They're basically doing
the same program for a stupid extended period of time. Such redundancy
will certainly lead to stagnation, no matter what.
The line "spinning your wheels but getting nowhere
fast" applies here 100% as does the famous Einstein quote:
"Insanity defined is doing the same thing over and over and
expecting different results." It just won't happen.
Another woeful trend involves super-long workouts. You know,
those 2,5 hrs plus marathon sessions people perform on a regular
basis. This is a wonderful way to deplete energy stores and hamper
recovery, as well as induce a catabolic state while playing havoc
on your immune system. Of course, you can get too much of a good thing.
"A program is only as good as the time it takes to
adapt to it!" This is absolutely true. It works until It doesn't anymore. At the same time, if you change your routine every week, you most likely not give enough time for your body to adapt to that set of stimuli. Some advanced trainees (a few, really) may benefit from this approach, but most won't.
Generally speaking, beginners will generally make
progress on a program for 6-8 weeks, intermediates 4-6 weeks, and
advanced 2-4 weeks. Now, let's take a closer look at how we'd
organize training parameters within this framework.
First, listen To Your Body. It Doesn't Lie!
So let's use my favorite subject here: myself 😝 I generally adapt to
a program in four workouts (it doesn't necessarily mean four weeks, mind you.)
Usually, after four workouts of the same program, I fail to make
progress and I also get bored. This is a definite sign that it's
time to change. Again listen to your body: if you're bored, it's akin to
your nervous system shouting, "Hey buddy, I'm ready for a
new challenge. Been there, done that. It's time to move
on!" So oblige. No question asked.
In general, the rate of adaptation determines the length of a
program, and it differs among individuals. To determine the duration of a program, one must make progress (either 1-2% increase in load or a 1-2 rep increase) each workout.
This varies among individuals where beginners will make progress
for a longer period of time versus advanced trainees who will
stagnate much earlier as mentioned above.
Next, how do we load to make continual progress? I can't
tell you how many clients I've had who've gone gung ho on
the first or second workout and then burnt out. They basically shot
their load (sorry, I just had to 😆) and had nothing left afterward. They were
a little premature in the loading department and hit a brick wall.
And this is also when injuries happen.
Let's use the four workout example again to demonstrate an
efficient approach. The first workout is used to find the
appropriate load and isn't taken to failure. For instance, if you
plan to perform the classic 5 x 5 set/rep scheme, then the first
four sets can be considered as warm-ups ramping up to your final
set, which is about 1-2 reps shy of failure. Use a weight that's
2-4% heavier for all five sets the following workout.
The object in the second workout is to achieve 25 total reps
(the last set or two may be tough).
The third session is where intensity comes into play. Start with
a load that's again 2-4% more than the previous workout, but this time at each
set increase the weight by about 2%. The reps will most likely drop to three by the last set (depending on your fiber makeup), but use forced reps when
necessary to complete five reps on all five sets.
In the fourth and last workout, you taper by dropping 40% of
the volume in terms of sets but not the load. The total workload
will actually remain similar to the previous workout because this
session will be performed at a faster tempo and thus more
repetitions can be achieved with the same weight.
The unloading effect coupled with the perception of achieving
more with the same weight (i.e. being successful) will improve recovery, allowing you to make continual progress where most people are burnt out at the end of a routine and have nothing left for the next one.
Here's an example of how this approach would
5 x 200
5 x 210
5 x 220
5 x 230
5 x 240
1-2 reps in the tank on last set
5-0-X-0 Tempo (5" eccentric, zero pause in full stretch nor full contraction, explosive yet under control concentric)
Total Number of Reps: 25
Average Load: 220
Total Workload: 5500
5 x 250
5 x 250
5 x 250
5 x 250
5 x 250 (still fairly easy)
1 rep in the tank left
Total Number of Reps: 25
Average Load: 250
Total Workload: 6250
5 x 260 (still relatively easy)
5 x 265 (shit starts getting interesting)
5 x 270 (tough)
5 x 275 (Mother of God)
5 x 280 (Mother, Grandmother, and any other relative of
Go to failure (1-2 forced reps may be necessary to complete all
Total Number of Reps: 25
Average Load: 270
Total Workload: 6750
8 x 280 (feel good)
8 x 280 (feel strong)
8 x 280 (ready for a new program!)
Speed up tempo (will increase number of reps completed) and
decrease number of sets by 40%
Total Number of Reps: 24
Average Load: 280
Total Workload: 6720
On the third workout, you can use forced reps if you have a decent
spotter. Do as many as you can on your own and then squeeze out an
additional rep or two until you reach five. Rest-pause (i.e. resting 10-15 seconds between reps) is an option if you're training alone.
Volume in terms of total number of sets remains
relatively constant throughout even though the number of sets is
reduced by 40% in the fourth workout. Although the workload drops very
slightly in the final workout, the average load (i.e. intensity) is
actually way up. In this routine, the parameters of reps, sets, load, and tempo
have all been manipulated in a gradual, systematic manner to ensure
Advice: keep in mind that you don't need to plan too far in advance because many things may change. An injury, for example, can make some serious alterations to your long term plan!
Lifting maximal loads chronically 365 days a year can cause
athletes to "burn out". CNS and muscle recovery do NOT go hand in hand. What characterizes the staleness syndrome includes the following:
• Decreased vigor
• Axiety and even depression
• Severe sensation of fatigue (even worse in the morning hours)
• Increased perception of effort while lifting a fixed weight
• High resting blood pressure
• Lack of motivation
• Deviation from normal personality
• Loss of sex drive
• Increased warm-up time required
• Accumulation of nagging injuries
• Prolonged recovery from injury
• Drop in body weight
• Diminished appetite
• Poor performance
• Erratic performance
• Poor sleep quality
In general, the potential for overtraining is reduced by
variation in volume and intensity. Therefore, it's important to periodize or vary intensities both within and among programs. Don't train at an absolutely maximum effort for too long.
So what's the "secret" to size and strength? Well, you don't
need fancy equipment, nor any silly, so-called "functional" exercises with insignificant weight, and an overly complicated set/rep/split/periodization scheme is also unnecessary. Just simple, big bang exercises and plenty of hard work is
all that's required.
Stick to a simple gym with basic exercises, use periodization, and VARY VARY VARY your routine right away once you adapt to make continuous progress.
Have fun fellas.
(Hey, Dr.Pepper is neither a doctor, nor a pepper and yet you're fine with that)