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How to Use Reverse Pyramid Training to Supercharge Your Workouts

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How to Use Reverse Pyramid Training to Supercharge Your Workouts

Reverse pyramid training is an effective way to get more out of your weightlifting workouts. Here’s why and how.

 

After years of studying, training, and working with thousands of people, I’ve learned a simple lesson:

Building muscle and strength just isn’t that complicated. You follow a handful of rules and your body responds by getting bigger and stronger.

  • You don’t need to constantly change up your routine to “confuse” your muscles.
  • You don’t need to focus on “fancy” rep schemes like supersets, drop sets, giant sets, etc.
  • You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day crushing yourself with 20+ sets per workout.

What you do need to do is emphasize heavy, compound weightlifting, progressively overload your muscles, eat enough food (and enough protein in particular), and get enough rest.

If that’s all you knew and followed, you’d be better informed and get better results than 95% of gymgoers. Depending on your ultimate goals, it might be all you need.

That said, if your goal is reaching the peak of your genetic potential for size and strength, there’s a bit more you should know.

One of the things you’ll want to learn about is training periodization and the method of reverse pyramid training in particular.

In this article we’ll talk about both: what training periodization and reverse pyramid training are, how they work, who they’re for, and how to put them into use.

Let’s get to it.

What is Training Periodization?

“Periodization” is a a fancy word that refers to methodical variations in training, such as changes in workout volume (number of sets performed), intensity (percentage of one-rep max, or 1RM, lifted), exercises performed, rest times, etc.

There are three distinct periodization models:

  1. Linear periodization
  2. Nonlinear periodization
  3. Concurrent periodization

Linear periodization is probably the most common, and it’s very simple.

It starts a with period of high volume of low-intensity exercise and works gradually toward a low volume of high-intensity exercise, or vice versa.

Over the course of several months, a simple linear periodization program might have you move from training in the 12 to 15 rep range to 10 to 12 reps, to 8 to 10 reps, to 6 to 8 reps, and so on, all the way down to focusing on doubles and singles.

Another common linear periodization model found in bodybuilding is an 8-week cycle that begins with 2 weeks of submaximal effort, followed by 6 weeks of maximum-intensity training.

Now, the problem with many mainstream linear periodization programs is this: when you train in just one rep range for too long, you’re building up one biomechanical capacity (muscle endurance with higher reps, pure strength with lower reps, etc.) but detraining (losing performance) in others.

For example, if someone did pure strength training (1 to 3 reps) for 2 to 3 months, he would find his strength has increased but muscle endurance has decreased in that time. Then, after 2 to 3 months of 10 to 12 rep training, his muscle endurance would be much better, but he would find his strength has decreased.

Similarly, if someone did a power bodybuilding program like Bigger Leaner Stronger (built around the 4 to 6 rep range) for several months, it’s very likely that he would lose muscle size if he then did pure strength training for a few months.

One way to overcome this limitation is to use shorter periods (2 to 3 weeks, for instance) or to use nonlinear periodization.

Nonlinear periodization has training variables change less sequentially and over shorter periods of time.

For example, one type of nonlinear periodization entails 2 to 3 weeks of focusing on training in a certain rep range while training the others at a maintenance level:

  • 2 to 3 weeks of focusing on 10 to 12 reps, with maintenance work for 1 to 3 and 4 to 6 rep ranges
  • 2 to 3 weeks of focusing on 4 to 6 reps, with maintenance work for 1 to 3 and 10 to 12 rep ranges
  • 2 to 3 weeks of focusing on 1 to 3 reps, with maintenance work for 4 to 6 and 10 to 12 rep ranges

And so forth.

Concurrent (or conjugate) periodization is a type of nonlinear periodization that has you train each biomechanical capacity (rep range) in each workout.

This method was developed in Russia and is touted by many strength and bodybuilding experts (such as Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame) as the optimal way to periodize your training. Here’s how such a workout might look:

  • Sets 1 to 3: 1 to 3 rep range
  • Sets 4 to 7: 4 to 6 rep range
  • Sets 8 to 10: 10 to 12 rep range
  • Sets 11 and 12: 20 to 30 rep range

This concurrent model of periodization is also known as reverse pyramid training.

It’s called this because it’s the opposite of the traditional pyramid method that has you start your workout with lighter weights and more reps and gradually add weight as you progress.

Out of all the types of periodization I’ve tried, concurrent periodization is my favorite. It’s extremely effective for both building strength and muscle size, it’s relatively easy to program, and the workouts are challenging but enjoyable.

Now, before we get to how to use reverse pyramid training, let’s first talk about why training periodization works and who should be using it.

Why Periodize Your Workouts?

There are three primary factors involved in stimulating muscle growth:

  • Progressive tension overload
  • Muscle damage
  • Cellular fatigue

Progressive tension is, in my opinion (and the opinion of quite a few experts much smarter than me), the most important of the three.

It refers to progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle fibers over time. That is, lifting progressively heavier and heavier weights.

Muscle damage refers to just that—actual damage caused to the muscle fibers by high levels of tension. This damage necessitates repair, and if the body is provided with proper nutrition and rest, it will grow the fibers to better deal with future stimuli.

Cellular fatigue refers to pushing muscle fibers to their metabolic limits through the repetition of actions to muscular failure.

You can think of these three factors as separate growth “pathways.” That is, each can be targeted in training, with the resulting stimulation of varying degrees of hypertrophy.

It may have already occurred to you, but this is why natural weightlifters that focus on high-rep lifting, with little-to-no heavy lifting that gets progressively get heavier and heavier over time, fail to make any noticeable gains.

They are inducing a lot of cellular fatigue, especially if they do supersets, dropsets, and other fancy rep schemes, with some resulting muscle damage, but in the absence of progressive tension overload, muscle growth is very slow.

These “pump trainers” often also focus on isolation exercises, further reducing the effectiveness of their workouts (the sheer amount of muscle fibers you activate in a workout greatly affects overall growth).

Now, how does this relate back to training periodization?

Well, a proper periodization routine has you hitting all three pathways of hypertrophy:

  • Progressive tension (overload)
  • Muscle damage
  • Metabolic stress/fatigue

As you’ve probably guessed, this is accomplished by working in different rep ranges. For example, my Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger program utilizes periodization and has you performing sets in the 1 to 3, 4 to 6, and 8 to 10 rep ranges.

By emphasizing heavy lifting, you’re emphasizing progressive tension and muscle damage, and by including higher-rep work, you’re adding metabolic stress and fatigue. And the result is maximum stimulation for both strength and hypertrophy.

Now, as great as training periodization is, it’s not for everyone. Here’s why…

Who Should Periodize Their Training (and Who Shouldn’t)

There’s no question that intermediate and advanced weightlifters looking to maximize size, strength, and performance should be periodizing their training.

I don’t recommend periodization for beginners, though. (And I would define a beginner as someone with less than 1 to 1.5 years of consistent, proper weightlifting under their belt; or a guy that has gained less than 20 to 25 pounds of muscle since starting weightlifting or girl that has gained less than 10 to 12 pounds of muscle.)

One of the reasons why I don’t recommend it for beginners is it’s just an unnecessary layer of complexity.

If you’re a guy, you’re looking to gain about 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in your first year of weightlifting. (And if you’re a girl, about half of that.)

No matter what you do with your training and diet, you’re just not going to gain more than that without drugs or extraordinary genetics.

You can hit those numbers without any periodization whatsoever. People do it on my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger programs (which aren’t periodized) all the time. So why bother?

Another reason is it can increase the risk of injury.

A well-designed, periodized training program is going to have you moving some really heavy weights on exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench and military press. And as a newbie, this is just asking for injury.

You want to ensure you’re very comfortable with each exercise and can maintain proper form as loads increase before you start trying for singles, doubles, and triples. This means building a foundation of strength, which is best accomplished without periodization, and which just takes time.

Yet another reason is people new to weightlifting can’t make good use of  higher rep ranges.

As you know, as you decrease loads and increase reps, you begin to emphasize the metabolic stress “pathway” of muscle growth.

The problem here is this pathway is the weakest driver of hypertrophy. If you can’t also progressively overload and damage your muscles, high-rep training just isn’t going to do much for you.

And how do you overload and damage your muscles with high-rep work? Well, you have to be able to lift moderately heavy weights for higher amounts of reps. And when you begin weightlifting, you’re just too weak to be able to do this. Plain and simple.

As you get bigger and stronger, though, you find that your muscle endurance improves as well. Eventually you’re able to put up some respectable amounts of weight for higher reps. And that’s when it’s profitable to start doing it. Until then, you’re better off focusing on getting to that point through heavy weightlifting.

Alright, then, with all that laid out, let’s now look at how reverse pyramid training works and how to utilize it in our training.

How Reverse Pyramid Training Works

A reverse pyramid looks like this:

  1. You warm up to prepare your muscles for heavy loads.
  2. You start with your heaviest lifts.
  3. You progress to higher rep ranges.

For example, here’s a workout from my Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger program:

Warm up as discussed in book (several sets that prepare the muscle group for what’s to come without fatiguing it)

2 x Bench Press @ 2 to 3 rep range (about 90% of 1RM)

3 x Incline Bench Press @ 4 to 6 rep range (about 85% of 1RM)

3 x Incline Dumbbell Press @ 4 to 6 rep range

2 x Dips @ 8 to 10 rep range (weighted to about 75% of 1RM)

If that workout looks too short and simple to you, trust me, it’s a lot harder and more effective than you think.

Here’s an example of how I would periodize a lower body workout for a woman:

Warm-up sets

2 x Squat @ 4 to 6 rep range

3 x Front Squat @ 8 to 10 rep range

3 x Romanian Deadlift @ 8 to 10 rep range

2 x Bulgarian Split Squats @ 13 to 15 rep range

2 x Hip Thrust @ 13 to 15 rep range

In case you’re wondering why the woman’s sets are in higher rep ranges than men’s, it’s because (unsurprisingly) women don’t respond as well as men to regular bouts of very intense (heavy) weightlifting.

Simply put, us guys can punish our muscles harder and more frequently than girls can without falling behind in muscle recovery.

I would include some very heavy training in a periodized workout program for women, but it would be once every 4 to 6 weeks (I will be releasing a book for advanced female weightlifters later this year and will go into this further in the book.)

Now, after tinkering with quite a few different concurrent periodization models, I’ve settled on a few programming principles.

You should emphasize moderately heavy lifting and “bookend” it with very heavy and lighter work.

As you can see above, you start your workout with 2 sets of very heavy lifting, then move to 6 sets of moderately heavy, and finish with 2 sets of lighter weights.

This works well.

You don’t do so much very heavy work that you overtrain or run out of juice in the middle of your workout, and you do enough lighter work to give a hypertrophy “boost” without dwelling on it longer than necessary, chasing the pump.

Your heaviest lifting should always be done with compound lifts.

This is key.

With the exception of training your arms, you should always start your workouts, whether periodized or not, with your big, compound lifts. That is, your deadlift, squat, bench and military press. (There is no equivalent of these exercises for arms, really.)

You want to do these exercises first because they give you the most total-body development and they require the most energy. You also don’t want to be attempting dumbbell flyes or side lateral raises with 90% of your 1RM–your shoulders will likely explode.

As a general rule, once you start moving beyond 80% of 1RM, you should be limiting your exercise choices to compound movements.

Thus, your periodized workouts should always begin with heavy, compound weightlifting.

You should use higher rep ranges to perform “assistance” and isolation exercises.

Workout programs that focus on isolation exercises are becoming less and less popular these days, and on the whole, this is a good thing.

You can waste a lot of time more or less getting nowhere with such programs.

That said, like high-rep training, isolation exercises do have a place in a well-designed workout program.

Specifically, they’re great for aiding in the development of smaller, stubborn muscles like the shoulders, biceps and triceps, and calves.

The truth is it’s hard to balance the proportions of your physique with compound exercises alone. You’re unlikely to develop shoulders, arms, and calves that really pop, and this noticeably detracts from your body’s overall visual appeal.

You should deload every 4 to 6 weeks.

Deloading is an intentional reduction in training intensity to give your muscles and central nervous system a break from the heavy pounding.

It’s not necessary if your workouts consist mainly of lightweight isolation exercises, but it’s very necessary if you do a lot of heavy, compound lifting. If you neglect it, you will overtrain.

My preferred method of deloading is simple. Here’s an example:

Deload Push

3 x Military Press @ 8 to 10 reps with 50% of 1RM
3 x Incline Bench Press @ same
3 x Close-Grip Bench Press @ same
2 x Dips with bodyweight to failure

Deload Pull

3 x Deadlift @ 8 to 10 reps with 50% of 1RM
3 x Barbell Row @ same
3 x One-Arm Dumbbell Row @ same
2 x Pullups with bodyweight to failure

Deload Legs

3 x Squat @ 8 to 10 reps with 50% of 1RM
3 x Front Squat @ same
3 x Leg Press @ same
2 x Pistol Squat with bodyweight to failure

These workouts aren’t hard and they’re not supposed to be. You should leave the gym with a pump and feeling energized.

The Bottom Line on Reverse Pyramid Training

Unlike many workout gimmicks and schemes, reverse pyramid training is a time-proven training methodology that works extremely well with intermediate and advanced weightlifters.

If you have a couple of years of proper weightlifting under your belt and feel stuck or want to squeeze as much muscle and strength out of your genetics as possible, reverse pyramid training can help.

Follow the guidelines in this article and you’ll avoid the pitfalls of this style of weightlifting and have no trouble laying out enjoyable, effective workout routines.

And if you’d like a me to lay out the routine for you, check out my book for advanced weightlifters: Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger.

 

What’s your take on reverse pyramid training? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Ollie Bale

    Cant wait to start this! Just need to build a little bit more on my foundation of strength for some lifts first.
    Just thinking would you still train this way on a cut? and at what point do people usually move onto this in relation to the weight and reps they are lifting on each compound lift?
    Thanks Mike

    • Nice!

      Good question. I talk about this in BBLS. Yes I do but I have to dial back the workouts some when cutting. They’re just too much. I sometimes switch back to BLS workouts actually to prevent overtraining. Depends how my body is feeling…

      You want to be at the upper end of intermediate strength on your big lifts before switching over:

      http://www.strstd.com/

      • Andrew

        Mike-

        Have you revised your thinking?

        I have BBLS and was following your performance standards targets there because I’m getting close to switching over:- (1.75x body weight SQ & DL, 1.35x Bench, 1x Press)….. BUT then I saw your link for http://www.strstd.com

        In my case (160 pounds) @4-6reps, the Upper Intermediate range would be about 1.2X Bench, 1.6X SQ, 2X DL, 0.8X Press.

        BTW 1X Press is brutally high!!! I had thought my press was lagging badly, until I looked at strstd.com and saw that I’m already Upper Intermediate. Haha!

        • No nothing revised per se just getting feedback from people on the program and working with some people starting earlier and it’s going well. 🙂

          • Andrew

            Hmm. Might try periodization a little early myself if I can get a little closer to mid Intermediate (currently low Intermediate, and lifting with BLS for 18 months, though with macro nutrition planning only for 12 months).

            It has been going well but I got stuck for basically 2 months during a bulk…

            I got some good early results switching to your additional incline Bench 8-10 rep workout on Arms day recently – seemed to help my overall Bench a lot.

            Will plan to clean up my form during my current cut, and then see if I can get that next 10 pounds out of BLS first…

            Thanks for the helpful tips, as always, Mike!

          • Let me know how it goes.

            Weight and strength stuck or just strength or?

          • Andrew

            Strength got stuck (weight on the bar), especially Bench and Press. Deadlift and Squat kept making very slow progress.

            Body weight was still climbing (last 2 months: up 3 pounds, but 2 pd fat and only 1 pd lean). Travel/Vacation during that time obviously didn’t help, but the sticking problems on Bench & Press pre-date that.

            For the 7 months prior to that, I bulked and gained 17 pounds (4 fat, 13 lean), keeping at 10% BF (coming out of a cut at just under 9%). Everything was working beautifully…

            Is it just getting harder? I’m 5’10” so end-game is about 160pounds LBM, (and I’m 42yrs old, so that “natural limit” is probably a stretch for me). I’m currently around 143pounds LBM, and the cut is working, but it will probably just return me to where I was before the lost 2 months!!

          • Andrew

            BTW I was following BLS first edition workouts (no extra Upper Body) until just last few weeks. Also, I never switched my non-core supporting exercises: just kept repeating the same ones every cycle…

          • Ah okay. The extra upper body work will likely help and changing the supporting exercises can help as well.

          • Great on everything. Honestly it sounds like you’re just coming out of the newbie gain phase. Things slow down.

            That said, this may help you:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-increase-bench-press/

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-increase-squat/

  • D

    Great article! I’ve been following BLS for 9.5 months, and am sort of right at the point of “Intermediate” strength standards (http://strengthstandards.co/) on the 4 compound lifts. Since I was cutting for the first 6 months of BLS, I actually don’t know how much muscle I’ve gained in poundage over this time. Would you say that the 1-year 15-20, 20-25lbs of muscle is more at the Advanced strength standard, or is it typically Intermediate? I’m just wondering if I should continue BLS as is, or incorporate some reverse pyramid training, since you say it’s an effective technique for “Intermediate and advanced weightlifters.” I guess I’m still under your 1-1.5 year timeline benchmark regardless of my strength levels. Thanks!

    • Thanks!

      Great job on your gains so far. It’s hard to relate strength to size because some people get REALLY strong without adding as much muscle as you’d think. That said, once you’re solidly in the middle of intermediate (or slightly past it), you could benefit from periodization.

      I would continue BLS for at least 12 months total and then assess…

  • Conrad

    Thanks for the info. I’m curious of what the process is for your body to increase endurance. Do you have any more info relating to that? I’m in the military and am preparing for a fitness test of calisthenics so I need to focus on endurance as well as strength. I had planned to do a workout with 65% of 1rm, low reps and a short, slowly decreasing rest in between. Focusing on the compound exercises that simulate the calisthenics required. Any suggestions or information you can share on our bodies adaptation to increase endurance?

    • YW!

      I’ve worked with a lot of Army guys and what we usually settle on is 3 x heavy lifting per week (push pull legs) plus 3 x body weight sessions to focus on building muscle endurance on the relevant exercises. It works well.

  • Steven Scott

    That was very clear. I’ve seen periodization mentioned in many places before, but this is the first time I actually understood it as something other than “I’m bored with my workout so I’m going to change it.”

  • Derrek

    On my week off, how many days a week can I do HIIT? 4 days? Mike, what other forms of exercises do you do on your week off? I normally only do 3 days a week. What other exercises can I do? Yoga? I don’t wanna do too much cardio. I guess I could also work on mobility and stretching. Thanks!

    • Personally I do 2-3 25-minute sessions and it doesn’t get in the way. Yeah you could do some yoga too.

  • Mike

    Hey Mike,

    I am 170lbs at around 13%bf and I am trying to bulk up a bit, my first goal is to gradually build up to 180lbs. I have a question regarding my diet; calorie intake specifically. I found that when i consumed around 2300-2500 calories I stopped losing weight so I took this to be my maintenance. However every 4 days or so i have been increasing my calories by around 300 trying to find what calorie intake allows me to gain weight. I am now currently eating 3500 calories a day and my weight is still maintaining although my lifts have been increasing gradually over the past couple of weeks.

    I was curious to whether this was common theme. If I am eating enough to allow for strength gains in the muscle building range, then am I building muscle or should i continue to increase my calories every 4 days or so until my weight physically starts increasing? any advice would be awesome.

    Cheers

    • Coo I like the plan. Haha that’s great. Yeah some guys need to eat a LOT to steadily gain muscle/weight.

      That said, are you sure your intake is 3500 per day? You’re planning/tracking everything correctly?

      If so then yup just keep going up. Most guys max carb intake around 2.5 g/lb and then start raising fat.

    • Kenny Brogan

      I experienced exactly the same as you Mike. When I started BLS 14 weeks ago I was 160lbs @ roughly 12%. My starting calories were 2500 and I got stronger without gaining any weight (I actually lost 2lbs). I gradually built up my calories and started to gain weight at 4000. I am now 171lbs at 14%. It’s hard to eat that much so I added whole milk and 60g almonds and it’s worked a treat. You’ll feel full at bedtime but don’t let that put you off. Good luck.

  • Matt

    I’ve been incorporating these ideas for some time but one thing I’ve been wondering is what the pros/cons would be of mixing up the movements so that you’re hitting certain movement patterns twice instead of just once a week?

    For example, on the days I Overhead Press, instead of just doing only shoulder specific work, why not switch out an accessory movement with an accessory movement from my Bench day, and say do some incline db presses. Then I could also do some DB Overhead Presses on my Bench day, instead of the exercise I removed.

    Is there any real negative to mix and matching some of the accessory exercises like this? I kinda like the idea of hitting things multiple times a week.

  • Todd Blackard

    Hi Mike

    I just ordered your Bigger Leaner Stronger book. I’m anxious to apply the info. I’m a personal trainer in Dallas, have been for 28 yrs, college educated , and love your scientific knowledge. I enjoy your newsletter as well. I’m 53 yrs old, 200 ibs at 13% bf. I will let you know how it goes. Thank you for your real knowledge. I appreciate it. Todd

  • Brad

    Yes!!! RPT is legit. I started doing this style 1.5 years ago and all of my lifts have increased drastically. Incline bench= 115lbs-4 to 225lbs-5. Weighted pull ups= bw-5 to 70lbs-4. Weighted dips= 20lbs-5 to 90lbs-4. You’re the man Mike!

  • Bruce Wayne

    Hi Mike,
    I was wondering if you can give some advise on a strength-endurance workout. I started doing Judo in college. I have the strength to move my opponent but I always “gas-out” quickly. I did BLS but I think it lacks that endurance quality for mixed martial arts. Would Reverse Pyramid Training help? Any suggestions? I don’t want to lose the strength that I gained.

    • Possibly. All you’d need to do is swap a bit of heavy lifting in your workouts for lighter work.

      For instance 6 heavy sets and 3 sets in the 10-12 rep range might be enough, you know?

      • Bruce Wayne

        Thanks Mike. I’ll give it a shot.
        I read in another article that using 80-85% of 1rm for 2 reps 8 sets 30sec rest would help with strength and endurance but I like the periodization of the Reverse Pyramid routine.

  • laurence

    Hello Mike,
    Very good article.
    Do you agree that this kind of workout is very similar to 5/3/1 Wendler ?
    This was my conclusion after reading both articles written by you.
    Regards

    • Thanks! 531 uses this type of periodization but is laid out quite differently in terms of how you work up to heavy weights.

  • Guest

    yet another great article even though its not for me (just started lifting weights 5th of january this year). Keep those interresting articles comming!
    BTW – just wanted to thank you Mike for responding so quick on the e-mail regarding abs-training.

    • Zan

      sorry, the big picture wasnt intended!

    • Thanks brother! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Chris

    I do something similar now where it is 2 exercises at 3 sets for 4-6 reps and then 2 exercises at 4 sets for 8-10. This is two body parts so a total of 8 exercises. What are your thoughts on this type of program?

    • That’s totally fine. You might like adding some really heavy stuff.

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  • Steve

    Hi Mike – thanks again for the great article. I have been following the BBLS workout for about six weeks now and am really enjoying it. I am just about to go into my first deload phase and was wondering if you recommend changing/reducing your calorie intake on deload weeks. Thanks again. Steve

  • Lance Pants

    I have read and done your BLS program where you recommend 2-3 min between each set. If I wanted to try out the reverse pyramid scheme, would the time in between sets decrease as the number of reps in each set increase?

    • Cool! I go over this in BBLS but:

      1-3 rep range: 4-5 min
      8-10 or 10-12 rep range: 1 to 1.5 min

  • Luke Randolph

    Hey Mike – you mentioned deloading here; do you recommend deloading even in general, with the 4-6 heavy rep ranges which you recommend? that’s what i’ve been doing (those lower reps) with great results so far but i dont know know if i should back off and lower the weight every once in a while?

  • Jason Williams

    I almost immediately started in on the reverse pyramid and already I have noticed that the plateau I had in my gains has been blown away. Particularly on Bench where I’ve been static for weeks I’ve been able to add 10lbs a week by being able to knock out 3 reps at the high weight and then decrease weight for higher reps. Its really paying off!

  • KS

    Hey Mike! I’m a 43 yr old woman. I recently bought your ‘Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger’ book and was really excited to get started…..and then I saw this….’In case you’re wondering why the woman’s sets are in higher rep ranges than men’s, it’s because (unsurprisingly) women don’t respond as well as men to regular bouts of very intense (heavy) weightlifting.’ So…..as a woman how should I modify all the workouts in the book? Can you be specific about how I can do this? Do I just do the same workouts and just ‘add more reps’? Many thanks!!

    • Thanks! You may be able to do the BBLS program as is but I suspect it’s going to be VERY hard. I will be writing “Beyond Thinner Leaner Stronger” later this year and it will be modified for women…

  • Azouri

    hey mike great article for RPT best one so far I have seen on the internet, I was wondering would this be an okay RPT routine, Set 1: 4-6 reps, Set 2: 6-8 reps, Set 3: 8-10 reps and repeat for next exercises? I move up in weight once I hit the top of each rep range.

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  • Travis Redmon

    Mike, Would you recommend only during periodization during bulking bc of the strain on the body and CNS? Or am I good to do it while cutting as well?

    Thanks

    • Personally I don’t periodize like this while cutting because it does get to be a bit much with 4-5 x weightlifting workouts per week. You may be able to swing it on 3 x though…

  • Derrek

    I see the workout for deloading, does the 3x mean 3 sets? And at same means 50% of 1RPM?

  • Alex Wunder

    Mike,

    First and foremost I apologize for the long post.

    Just as some background info.. I need to start weighing myself and averaging it by the week like you recommend but I assume I am around 165-170, my body fat is somewhere between 10-12 percent and I have been lifting for years. Although, I believe I just recently started lifting extensively and correctly. I have also recently stopped doing lots of super-sets and drop sets because as your articles have described that just caused me to stay the same instead of increasing my strength.

    I have recently tried incorporating your reverse pyramid style of training. I have to say that the heavier lifting has made my muscles sore for at least a day (I usually do not get sore). Although, It is a bit demotivating that I feel like with the lifts that’s are only 1-3 reps I do not get as much of a pump. I sweat significantly less due to the increased rest times and it just feels like I am not getting as good of a lift while I am performing it. Would you say to just continue with the reverse pyramid and not let this deter me?

    I also am doing far longer workouts with more reps (in total) than you have recommended in your posts.

    Here is an example of my Bicep and Tricep workout yesterday:

    E-Z Curl Bar Seated (next time should I do it standing?) (going for 1-3 reps)

    1. (Warm-Up) Bar + 40 lbs x 10 reps
    2. Bar+60 x 3 reps
    3. Bar + 60 x 1 rep
    4. Bar +55 x 2 reps
    5. Bar + 55 x 3 reps

    Close-Grip Bench (going for 1-3 reps)

    1. (Warm-Up) 135 x 10 reps
    2. 165 x 3 reps
    3. 170 x 2 reps
    4. 170 x 3 reps
    5. 170 x 2 reps

    Bench Bar Bicep Curl Standing (going for 4-6 reps)

    1. 75 lb (including bar) x 5
    2. 75 lb x 5
    3. 75 lb x 5
    4. 75 x 5
    5. 75 x 4

    Overhead Tricep Press (going for 4-6 reps)

    1. 45 lb x 7
    2. 50 x 7
    3. 55 x 4
    4. 55 x 5

    Weighted Chin-Ups (5 lb ankle weights total) (going for 6-10)

    1. 10 reps
    2. 9 reps
    3. 8 reps
    4. 7 reps

    Skull Crushers (going for 6-8)

    1.EZ Bar + 40 x 10 reps
    2. Bar + 45 x 9 reps
    3. Bar +50 x 6 reps
    4. Bar + 50 x 5 reps (didn’t go up in weight to work on form)

    Dumbbell Curls (going for 8-10)

    1. 35’s x 4 reps (each arm) (too heavy)
    2. 25’s x 9 reps
    3. 25’s x 10 reps
    4. 25’s x 10 reps

    8. Tricep Pushdown (going for 8-10) (1 drop set incorporated)

    1. 144 lbs x 3, drop 132 x 5
    2. 120 x 11, drop 96 x 8
    3. 132 x 8, drop 108 x 6
    4. 132 x 7, drop 108 x 5

    Hammer Curls (going for 8-10)

    1. 20’s x 12
    2. 25’s x 8
    3. 25’s x 8
    4. 25’s x 8

    Tricep Dips (with ankle weights) (going to failure)

    1. 20 lb weight between legs x 8, 2 after I dropped weight
    2. (just ankle weights on no 20 this time) x 12

    -couldnt finish 3rd and 4th set because I was feeling too drained

    I was wondering what I could do to improve my routine. Am I doing too many different types of lifts? I really want to hit the muscles as effectively as possible and I really dont feel like doing the small amount of sets you recommend in your articles will be enough. I am used to trying to destroy myself to doing less than that just feels like a waste of the big bowl of oatmeal with protein I ate beforehand.

    For the record, I love your work. I read all of your articles, as of about 2 weeks ago and I think you really are doing all us less educated lifters a favor by saving us the research.

    Thank you for all you do. I hope the satisfaction we gain in muscles and lean mass equals the satisfaction you gain from being the one to inspire it.

    Best,

    Alex Wunder

    • Alex Wunder

      Also, one more thing…. How do I about getting to try Phoenix in exchange for an unbiased review? 🙂

      • Haha we do giveaways here and there. Do you follow us on social media?

        • Alex Wunder

          I only have Facebook I deleted everything else:( I figured it was self obsessive and I deleted them. That kill my chances? I really want to try Phoenix out. All your stuff you make looks great just wish I had a never ending supply of cash to pay for it all.

          • Haha good call. I hear you. The good thing about Phoenix is you just use it while cutting so it’s not a “forever” expense like whey or pre-workout.

    • Pump doesn’t really mean anything. It just feels and looks cool. 😉

      That’s the most ridiculous arms workout I’ve seen in a long time, haha. How do you actually make it through this??

      This is WAY WAY too much. Are yon drugs?

      • Alex Wunder

        I’m not on drugs! Just ON creatine haha I just finished my loading phase. I think I probably am a bit anal about trying to ensure that I really break down my muscles as much as possible. My workouts are usually two hours long honestly. I weighed myself the past two days and my average is about 151.5 so I guess I was off on my weight. I eat about 54 grams of carbs an hour before each workout and I am used to pushing myself really hard.

        Do you actually do like 12 sets a workout containing 70-80 reps? I understand that if they are heavy sets that the muscle gets broken down just fine. But I suppose I don’t feel like I used enough energy or broke down my muscles well enough with just that amount.

        Plus I feel like theres so many different variations and workouts for every muscle group I like hitting each muscle from all angles.

        What do you recommend? You think I should tone it down?

        • Okay cool.

          I used to train like this and trust me it’s FAR too much for a natural weightlifter.

          Yup my workouts are never more than 80 to 90 reps and I practice what I preach. I follow my BBLS program.

          All the success stories you see on this site are from BLS and BBLS. The programs work and you don’t have to spend hours in the gym beating the shit out of yourself.

          • Alex Wunder

            That’s amazing to hear actually. Maybe instead of beating the shit out of myself daily I could use the extra effort to work weak-points as long as the muscle has had enough time to recover first. What do you think?

            Also, if I am going to do fasted cardio would it beneficial for me to have a scoop of whey after to stop the muscle breakdown? I am not planning on buying to HMB to prevent the muscle breakdown just yet because I am not sure I absolutely need it and I am on a budget.

            Lastly, I purchased whey and casein proteins. I currently take a scoop of whey with oatmeal beforehand and 2 and 1/4 scoops of whey after. Do you think casein would be better before workout for its slow distribution throughout the workout to prevent muscle breakdown throughout? And should I add casein to my postworkout shake to make it 1 1/4 scoop whey and 1 scoop casein.

            Thanks a million. I’ll be buying your book just for all the help you’ve given me so far in advice.
            Not to mention that it will undoubtedly benefit me to read it.

          • You’ll want to spend less time in the gym regardless, but yeah you can address weak points. I talk about it in BBLS.

            Yeah have some food after the fasted cardio.

            Nah whey or casein same shit really in terms of practical results. Stick to whey in general IMO.

            My pleasure. Hope you like the book. 🙂

  • OKD

    is this workout something that you would use yourself ?

    • Absolutely, I’m doing it right now! And I started doing it before writing the book as part of my research and got great results. 🙂

  • Matt

    Hey Mike! Just came across your website and love your material! Just curious, as someone who is newer to weight lifting and lacks strength am I better off working in the 4-6 straight sets rep range for a longer time period and THEN moving on to reverse pyramid, or is RPT something I could do now?

  • Melike

    I wonder why all these articles were built around the people who always seek for overall growth, or overall fat loss 🙁

    I think people who has a tendency to gain mass or having trouble to shed fat for a particular area, f.e legs, should periodize their training, especially if they are untrained newbies. Because when you have do them lots of heavy squat, they end up with too muscular or too bulky legs, and for the newbies it happens very rapidly.

    For instance what type of training do you recommend for an untrained guy, in around % 20-22 body fat, most of them stored on upper body, but quite lean, very muscular legs with verrrrry small amount of fat that you can hardly pinch ( which gained by no leg training at all, just genetic factors) looking for to gain on upper body while keeping the legs as they are? Skipping them feels so wrong since he is going to be in a caloric deficit. Periodizing metabolic training with HIT seems to maximize hypertrophy as you stated above. 20-30+ rep work scares me because of the potential muscle loss even though it has a great metabolic response for fat loss. Also which volume and intensity?

    I asked you questions like that a thousand times, I know, but I always feel stuck when I have people who has special body part issues. I think you should write a detailed article for those people’s type of training.

    Loves!

    • I hear you but in my experience working with a LOT of people it’s not normal to gain too much muscle while also in a calorie deficit.

      These types of considerations are more applicable to experienced weightlifters looking to bring up weak points in their physiques.

      Remember you can’t spot reduce fat either. If someone holds a lot of fat in their legs, they just have to keep going until it’s gone…

  • Manila Caliber

    Hi mike. I got a simple question here. Can i do a traditional set and reversed pyramid training on an alternate week? Thank you in advance.

  • Karyn

    Hi Mike! Into week 36 of the 1 year Thinner Leaner Stronger challenge. Not gonna lie. Getting a little nervous about what to do when I’m finished. Will you be coming out with a Beyond Thinner Leaner Stronger like you have for the guys? You mentioned something in this article. I need a plan! 😉

    • Don’t worry! I’ll be working on BTLS next year. 🙂

      In the meantime, what you should do once you complete the 1YC depends on your goals. What are your current goals with your physique?

      • Karyn

        Up to now my goal has been to lose weight (two pounds from my goal now) and to gain some much needed muscle. My goal now is to continue to gain muscle and to tone/reduce my body fat % to a maintainable level. My husband and I have four kids between 10 & 16. I need to be realistic with my time, so I am currently doing the 3-day program (I was doing the 5 day for the first 3 or 4 months). I’m willing to do more if needed starting next month (after fall sports are over! :))

        • I like your plan. For building muscle and losing fat, check this out:

          https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

          If that’s not workable for you, I recommend cutting to 20% BF and then focusing on building muscle. Here’s why:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

          The 3-day BLS routine will still get you results for sure. Of course if you’re able to, the 5-day routine would be best.

          LMK what you think about those.

          • Karyn

            It’s definitely workable for me! In fact, I had been diligently tracking my macros at 40/40/20 (protein/carbs/fat). I need to get back on track with that and be diligent every day. I had set my calorie intake at 1450 (I’m currently at 139). Also, I do most of my training fasted (unless I can’t fit a workout in until later). In fact, I try to do intermittent fasting every day. Maybe this isn’t good?? I need to get my hands on that fat burner of yours as well as the Creatine! 🙂

          • Karyn

            Oh, and I do have coffee before my workouts with BCAA’s. That way I have energy for my workouts.

          • Yeah that’s cool. Keep this in mind tho:
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/bcaa-supplement/

          • Sounds like a plan! Let’s do it.

            Cool on the fasted training and IF when possible. IF is fine if you enjoy it. Check this out:

            https://legionathletics.com/intermittent-fasting/

            Phoenix and Recharge can definitely help! They aren’t required to reach your goals, but they will get you there faster for sure.

            Cool on the coffee and BCAAs.

          • Karyn

            Thank you so much for your help, Michael! Your time is much appreciated! Lastly, for my workouts, do I just do the 1 year challenge again with increased weights? I’d love it if I could hire you as my personal trainer! 😉😉 (I know you don’t do that). I’m moving more towards working in the 4-6 rep range now and increasing all of my weights. I know you say not to do that in your first year of weight training, but I feel like I have it down and would honestly like to see a bit faster results.

          • My pleasure!

            Yeah that’s the idea and somewhere along the way you start addressing weak points in your physique with additional training/techniques and such.

            I actually am currently piloting a coaching service that you might be interested in. Shoot me an email [email protected]

  • Bill

    Why you chose the 8-10 rep range to target cellular fatigue?

    • Because it’s high enough. You don’t need to go REALLY high rep.

  • John Doe

    I think your logic might be a off with this suggestion:

    “And how do you overload and damage your muscles with high-rep work?
    Well, you have to be able to lift moderately heavy weights for higher
    amounts of reps. And when you begin weightlifting, you’re just too weak
    to be able to do this. Plain and simple.”

    You are making it out that progressive tension, muscular damage and cellular fatigue are a product of absolute-numbers (literally poundage, e.g. 25lbs dumbbells do mostly cellular fatigue, while 60lbs dumbbells do mostly damage/tension overload). I think this is really flawed logic, as the “pathway” must surely be %1RM dependent. To clarify with an example using 2 trainees: “Behemoth” and “Matchstick.”

    Behemoth, a massive individual can do 60lbs dumbbell curls 4-6 reps.

    Matchstick, a very small framed individual, can do 20lbs dumbbell curls 4-6 reps.

    Arguing that Behemoth is getting mostly overload/damage while Matchstick is getting just cellular fatigue doesn’t make any sense. They are both working in the 85-90% 1RM range and getting mostly overload/damage. That makes more sense to me, at least.

    Similarly, with high-rep work (say 10-12 reps), you are generally going to be getting cellular fatigue more than overload/damage, regardless of the actual poundage being lifted.

    • I definitely agree but what I’m getting at is there’s a difference between training in the 10 to 12 rep range when you’re weak as shit versus when you’re strong and have good muscle endurance and can actually move decent amounts of weight.

      As in, the results are going to be different.

  • Roberto Eduardo Rojas

    Hello Mike, In this article you say that smaller muscle isolation exercises (biceps, triceps and shoulders basically) you should go on a higher rep range. I am currently doing BLS 1 year chalenge and the rep range sugested for those workouts is 4-6. It is worth noting that I am having better improvement if I do at least 6 reps on biceps and triceps (also doing biceps for 4 reps compromises proper form) Should I change the rep range or should I stick to the 4-6 for the isolation exercises?
    Thank you in advance,

    • I recommend you stick to the 4-6 rep range. That’s what I recommend for the first 1-2 years of training.

      Reverse pyramid training is what I have in BBLS, and I don’t recommend it until you’ve hit the following benchmarks:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

      Welcome! LMK what you think.

  • Tomek Baran

    Hi Mike, Very interesting article. I’ve been working out for over 1.5 years now but I’m not sure if I’m past the beginner stage. I’ve lost abut 45 lbs in that time but I don’t really know how much (if any) muscle I’ve gained. I also find it difficult to loose any more weight – it’s been almost steady for about 6 months now. I can’t say I’ve been sticking to my diet 100%, I also haven’t really adjusted it much since I’v started as far as calorie deficit. I feel like I’m not making progress strength-wise anymore – especially on the bench press. I wonder if I should try and focus more on changing my workout routine or diet? Which one would you think I could benefit more from? I also noticed that I’m not recovering as good as I used to.
    Regards

  • Marco

    Hi Mike,

    there is something about this that I don’t understand:

    -You propose training different exercises with different rep ranges. Let’s call this “inter-exercise pyramid”. E.g., Bench Press 2-3, Incline Bench Press 4-6, Dips 8-10.

    -These different exercises focus on different parts of muscles. E.g., Incline Bench Press emphasizes the upper chest as opposed to the bench press, while dips emphasize the lower chest.

    Hence, some muscles (or muscle parts) do not fully get trained in all rep ranges. E.g., the upper chest is not fully involved in low rep training, and it gets no high rep training at all.

    Theoretically, you could completely avoid this problem by training an “intra-exercise pyramid”, i.e., training one set of each rep range for every exercise. E.g., Bench Press 1x 2-3, 1x 4-6, 1x 8-10, Incline Bench Press 1x 2-3, 1x 4-6, 1x 8-10 etc.

    Why no “intra-exercise pyramid”?

    Regards,
    Marco

    • You’re overthinking it to be honest. Practically speaking, you don’t need to get that granular…but you can if you want. 🙂

  • Marion

    how long do you deload? 1 week? 2 weeks?

  • Becky Ramsay

    In Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger you mention strength benchmarks to reach before starting The program. Would these benchmarks be the same for women?

    • Yeah, and I’m probably going to reduce those numbers to 1RMs BTW based on a lot of feedback from people.

  • Aszek Assaf

    Hi Mike,

    I hope you’re well. I’ve recently read your books and a number of your articles – great reads! I do agree on most of your points and ways of training/nutrition. I do have a few queries though (apologies for the length):

    1) In the book, you mention white rice being a simple carb/high gi and brown rice being the opposite. My understanding is the gi depends on the size of the grain with long grain white (basmati etc.) = long grain brown? Also, I don’t believe brown is nutritionally superior to white due to the phytic acid and excess fibre which we don’t really need due to over-consumption of fibre as a society anyway.

    2) You mention your preference for fruits over malto/dextrose supps etc. Wouldn’t you say malto is superior to fruit in a post-workout/intra-workout/breakfast shake as this replenishes muscle glycogen preferentially & much quicker than fructose does?

    3) You mention 0.5-1lb loss per week when cutting. Would you say closer to 1lb down to around 10%bf and then closer to 0.5lbs as you drop into single digits? Obviously with the aim of negligible muscle loss

    4) What are your views on the below split? Would arms (triceps) need a full 4 days recovery before hitting chest again or is 3 days sufficient? I am just weary of certain articles mentioning “de-training” kicking in due to infrequent training (from advocates of hitting each muscle group 2x per week) but also the fact that my triceps sometimes need 4 days before all DOMS subsides. FYI – I train using the reverse pyramid method (compound & isolation) with workout sessions of around 60mins.

    Monday: Chest (serratus, rotator cuff, weighted abs)

    Tuesday: Upper Back

    Wednesday: Lower Back, Calfs (treadmill HIIT)

    Thursday: Shoulders (swiss ball abs)

    Friday: Arms (rotator cuff, bike HIIT)

    Saturday: Legs (body weight abs)

    Sunday: Rest

    5) My current macronutrient setup is: 1.5g protein per lb bw, 0.5g fat per lb bw and rest from carbs (as per jim stoppani’s recommendations). I thus manipulate my carb intake depending on cutting or bulking. What are your views? You seem to mention lower protein & fat quantities…

    Again, apologies for the length and thanks in advance.

    • Hey hey!

      Thanks for the support!

      1. Most white rices are high GI and thus are good for pre- and post-workout nutrition. That said, the main point is getting carbs regardless of GI.

      The “anti-nutrients” in brown rice are overplayed. Research clearly shows it’s more nutritious than more refined grains like white rice.

      Most people here in the West don’t get enough fiber and especially not enough soluble fiber.

      2. If you could only choose fruit or malto then I guess I would go malto but remember you should be eating 2 to 3 servings of fruit per day for general health.

      3. Yeah I like to see 0.5 to 0.75ish when sub-10%. Maaaybe 1 lb/week if you’re pushing it in terms of total exercise and supplementation.

      4. Detraining doesn’t occur until 3 to 4+ weeks of no training whatsoever. You can maintain your arm size and much of the strength with heavy compounds alone. You can also maintain whole-body muscle with just 2 sessions per week.

      That’s a sensible split. If your chest still needs quite a bit of work I might do it a little differently to have you pressing twice per week.

      5. That’s more protein and fat than you need. Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/how-much-protein-do-i-need/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-many-grams-of-fat-per-day/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      Hope this helps!

      M

      • Aszek Assaf

        Thanks for the reply – greatly appreciated!

        3. To clarify, to ensure negligible muscle mass loss, are you saying drop at 1lb per week (from around 15% bf to 10%) and then reduce the rate down to 0.5-0.7lbs per week when sub-10%? Obviously assuming diet and training are dialed in.

        (You just mentioned 1-2lbs on your site but 0.5-1 in the book. But obviously the general consensus is 1lb per week is quite safe).

        4. Sure, that’s what I thought. Just decided recently to research more into training frequency and was surprised by the amount of articles dictating training each muscle group 2x per week as 1x will lead to “detraining” haha. But the logic does seem relatively sound in terms of protein synthesis lasts 2 days max and the trained muscle group is recovered within 3/4 days and thus after that time you are “losing the adaptation” from the previous session.

        However, think I’ve personally concluded that 2x per week may well lead to quicker gains due to spiking protein synthesis twice per week but as you mention it’s quite dicey in terms of recovery (plus CNS fatigue) and would require a very delicate balance in terms of volume & intensity plus ridiculous long sessions and/or short-changing muscle groups if keeping to 60mins. Thus 1x per week is probably safer (especially when reverse pyramid training) and lead to more consistent gains without worrying about overtraining. And better to undertrain slightly than overtrain!

        R.E. The split – my triceps definitely need the 4days to fully recover it seems before chest again, so gone back to your standard simple setup (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Rest, Rest).

        I actually was on the following split (Chest, Upper Back, Lower Back, Shoulders, Arms, Rest, Legs, Rest). Thought this was best in terms of giving secondary muscle groups (e.g. anterior delt) time to recover and also the ability to go hard on deads on a separate day. But, it did mean leaving 8 days before training the same muscle group again and thought this was pushing it hence the switch back to a standard 5 day split/7 day recovery. Not sure. Thoughts? (I guess it probably doesn’t matter much).

        5. Cheers, will check them out.

        Thanks,

        Aszek

        • YW! 🙂

          1. Totally agree and high-GI isn’t really an issue when we’re talking rice. The high-GI foods we should “watch” our intake of are highly processed junk.

          2. Nice.

          3. Honestly results can vary from person to person but those a good rules of thumb.

          Check this out:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kar-86pA0-g

          4. 1 x per week most definitely won’t cause detraining. I talk some about frequency here:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

          And yup it’s recovery that’s the key, especially when you’re doing a lot of heavy compound lifts. I absolutely agree that erring on the side of slightly “overrecovering” is smart so long as you continue to progress in your training.

          Personally I would train all of my back together. I’ve never split it like that and have made tremendous strides in my back development. That’s me though.

          • Aszek Assaf

            Great stuff, cheers!

          • Thanks! NP!

          • Aszek Assaf

            Hi Mike,

            Just playing devil’s advocate again, what do you think of the following:

            1) In the following article, Layne talks about 0.8-1.0g protein per lb bw is for a bodybuilder with a slow metabolism and you should shoot for up to 1.5g if you have a higher metabolism/ectomorphic? He also states fat intake should be around 20-30% of total calories. This is backed up by Jim Stoppani as previously mentioned (see link below as well)

            http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/layne23.htm

            http://www.jimstoppani.com/home/articles/jims-updated-muscle-building-nutrition?preview

            I did crunch your numbers for fat and protein and the fat intake seems to be far too low especially when cutting at your value of 0.2g per lb bw.

            2) Based on the principles of protein synthesis lasting 1.5 days, and full muscle recovery taking 2-4 days, would you say a split (like the one below) that allows for 5 days recovery between each major muscle group is superior to the standard 5 days on/2 days off split you detailed in your books which allows for 7 days recovery? (Again, based on reverse pyramid training and sessions lasting around 60mins).

            Chest & Triceps
            Back & Biceps
            Legs
            Shoulders & Traps
            Rest

            Repeat

            From the basic principles, this should mean sufficient time for protein synthesis and full muscle recovery and thus also allows you to take advantage of increased frequency (i.e. spiking protein synthesis twice in a week/per 10 days) and negating any de-training/losing the adaptation (strength/muscle growth) you gained (as per the supercompensation theory). From my perspective (based on the principles), this seems to be a good balance between 2x a week training (like a push/pull/legs – where it would be hard to hit each muscle group with sufficient intensity) and 1x week training.

            Or, do you think the standard “training each major muscle group once every 7 days” is safer in terms of ensuring adequate recovery and thus superior?

            I know you believe frequency should only be treated as a way to arrange the appropriate volume & intensity but a lot of articles seem to take the opinion that blasting each muscle group 1x per week means a few days each week where the muscle is not doing anything and thus slowing losing its adaptation from the previous session. But as you said, a lot of programmes based on 1x per week involve high reps on every set and thus insufficient intensity & thus progressive overload over time.

            Would be good to hear your views.

            Cheers,
            Aszek

  • Leona

    Hi Mike.
    I have been weight lifting for about 2 half years I am trying to stay lean and lose small bit of body fat but grow my glutes as last year I was on a big deficit calories and training 7 days except I would have 1 day of free food ended up been a binge however in mean time I lost my glutes Completly and have been trying to grow them since. So I have upped my calories to 1500 now with a free day still on a Saturday as Ithe keeps me sane. I eat between 140 and 170g protein a day. I’m getn some.growth since an up in calories and more glute isolation exercises. I find when I go really heavy sometimes don’t feel the mind muscle connection as much or the full squeeze. I have been working out in the 12-15 rep past year maybe always tryn to go as heavy as body allows. Like 70 kg for 12 60 for 15. But today I tried your heavier mode and lifted 100kg deadlift for 8. However I squared 80kg for 6-8 but I wasn’t getn as low I don’t know if it would be better to be getn lower wirh lighter or keep the heavy tension on the leg.? Any advise would be great. Thank you and I love reading your articles. There brilliant and eashe reading

  • Angelo

    hey mike question whats the next step after completing beyong bigger leaner stronger? do you have any plans to come out with a book for after that?

  • Alex

    Mike,
    I bought BLS and have been on the program for about 12 weeks. I like the training method so far, definitely challenging. My question to you: when can I start incorporating different set/rep schemes into my workout like the RPT shown above? I’m considering doing so for 8 weeks just like you suggest with the BLS workouts. Also: Is there somewhere on the website we can download an RPT workout program? Thanks a lot.

    • Hey Alex, if you’ve been lifting in the BLS style for a couple years, then RPT would be helpful. With 12 weeks under your belt, BLS still has much more to offer you than RPT!

  • Hunter

    Most RPT protocols call for three days a weeek of traing. Unfortunately I’m a weekend warrior and only have access to barbells on the weekend. I was thinking either take two weeks to get through the rotation (saturday squat sunday bench next saturday deadlift etc)o or squat and bench saturday and deadlift sunday. Any thoughts?

  • Brandan Lopez

    hey mike what do you think about d.u.p training?

  • Muhammad Shaheen

    Hi Mike
    Can you improve by the routine which focusing on the chest muscles , your hurry response me will high appreciation .
    Thanks

  • Tony Santangelo

    Hey Mike,
    I read BBLS and really liked it. I am just finishing up a 7 week mesocycle of the BLS type program and plan to start a Periodization mesocycle after deload. I have a question on the deload week. I know your advise is doing your normal rep ranges at around 50% 1RM verse the 85% in the normal weeks. Some other trainers believe its more about reducing volume during deload and recommend doing the same load but only 1 set instead of the 3 or 4 sets during the deload week. The idea is to maintain your neural response to the weight while still reducing the stress on your system with the reduced volume. I just wanted to get your thoughts on this technique of deloading.

    Thanks

    Tony

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike I know you usually recommend keeping all sets in the 4-6 rep range for beginners and intermediates. I was wondering your thoughts on the advantage of doing that over something like the kinobody program teaches which is starting with 1 really heavy set and following with progressively lighter sets?

    • That does work as long you’re progressively overloading. I’ve just found the 4-6 rep range a great range for beginners where it’s heavy enough where you’ll reach muscle failure before you just reach fatigue or overwhelming burning sensations, but it also isn’t too heavy like in the 1-3 rep ranges where the amount of weight can be daunting and if you’re not keeping perfect form you can seriously hurt yourself.

      If you’d like you can focus on the 4-6 rep range for the most part but then work in the 8-10+ rep range for your last 3 sets of your workout. Thoughts?

  • sean_noonan

    hey quick question would you say it would be good if i did maybe 4 reps first set drop by 10% 6 reps second set drop another 10% and then 6-8 reps on my last set. and would you say training 3 days per week is more optimal for strength gains? Greg also reccomends calorie cycling but i dont know if i really care about that especially with a crazy metabolism. I really wanna get the most i can out of my first 2-3 years of lifting though. Im thinking about trying kino bodies greek god program but adding a legday since that isnt really done to much on that program. probably also gonna buy beyond bigger leaner stronger too.

  • Yash

    Hey Mike,I was wondering if deloading was also meant for beginners.

  • Tyson Jones

    Hey Mike I have a question! I’m a high performance athlete who is looking to lean out more but still maintain strength, power, and explosiveness. I do a lot of plyometrics to increase performance but I still love my weightlifting. Do you recommend I still keep my weights the same as described in beyond bigger leaner and stronger while doing other things such as sprints, agility ladders, sled pushes, etc.My goal is to ncrease performance while maintaining and defining muscle.

  • Phil Bierhals

    Correct me if im wrong but i thought the point of concurrent training is more emphasized on exercise variations and rotating them like in louie’s westside barbell. Using max effort/intensity days and dynamic effort/volume days to manage volume and intensity. Thats why linear and dup are inferior. So how is this concurrent if your routine suffers from body adaptaion to the exercises?

    • Great point Phil. Honestly I’m waiting to see what comes of some of the DUP research that’s underway as we speak. I may be revising my position…

      • Phil Bierhals

        DUP is something id like to see more reasearch as well as im currently running a greg nuckols DUP program. Hopefully when the reasearch does come out ill be able to read youre article input

  • Matt

    Hey Mike, when it comes to RPT, is it possible that by including both high (8-10) and low (2-3) repetitions for a given body part in the same session that the two might end up working against each other in terms of progression?

    I was rereading the cardio section in BLS today. In that chapter, you mentioned that a number of studies have concluded that training for endurance and strength simultaneously impairs gains on both fronts.

    While the repetition gap between pure strength training and cardio would be quite large, it did make me wonder whether the gap between the 2-3 rep sets and the 8-10 rep sets are far enough apart that the effect the researchers witnessed would still occur, and if it does, would it a make much of a difference to strength and muscle development over time.

    Apologies if this a dumb question. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it though!

  • Mark

    Love both BLS and BBLS and have made some serious progress in my 40’s with both programs. I will normally rotate between your programs and functions training for ice hockey; which I play recreationally now. Why does the BBLS program not including more explosive lifting portions or segments as in Westside methodology? Also, why no rep ranges into the 20-30 range as in Russian methods? Wondering if adding these would assist with sports specific athletic training.

    • Thanks Mark! Really glad to hear that.

      I actually want to revise the program a bit to include some high-rep work, but will probably leave out the Oly stuff because they’re very technical movements that get dangerous as the weights get heavy.

  • Jonathan

    If I’ve been able to get down to single digit BF% twice ( approx 1.5-2 years consistent training) using BLS but have NOT gained 20 to 25 pounds of muscle since starting, obviously I was in a calorie defecit most of the time. However, I was able to make some noticeable muscle gains. I am now RDing to maintenance cals. My question is: can I start implementing BBLS to make muscle gains and am I still primed to put on those 20-25 pounds or should I start bulking and continue using BLS to make muscle gains/recomp?

    • Start BBLS once you’ve made these targets:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

      Otherwise, you’ll do better with BLS.

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Hey Mike, your articles are informative as always. I’m trying to gain that hard look to my muscles. You know, the look where they’re hard like concrete.

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