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How many gym rats do you know who never seem to progress? Physique improvements flatline, and strength and size gains stall. It’s like once they reach a certain level, that’s where they stay—forever. Maybe you’re one of them? Many lifters forget that they need to be progressing intelligently—there’s more to it than upping the weight and going to failure. The solution: Alternate between heavy lifting one week and high-rep sets the next. Follow our plan for five to 10 weeks and you’ll be shopping for a larger shirt in no time.
Lifting lighter loads with more volume (sets x reps x load) provides a hard workout for your muscles, while your central nervous system (CNS) recovers after weeks of intense training (low-rep sets with heavy weights). You’re getting the best of both worlds in this program—skin- tearing pumps one week and heavy weight the next. On volume weeks the weights will feel easy since you’re coming off a week of heavy training. On intensity weeks, you’ll feel strong and focused because you’ll have to work up to only one or two hard sets. This undulation keeps your body guessing, prevents overtraining, and pro- vides a mental break, which makes training less monotonous.
Frequency: Perform each workout (Days 1, 2, and 3) once per week.
Time Needed: 45 minutes.
How to Do it: Perform the exercise pairs (marked “A” and “B”) as alternating sets. Complete one set of “A”, rest, then one set of “B”, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete. Do the remaining exercises as straight sets.
Week 1: 4 sets, 8 reps, 85% of your 8-rep max
Week 2: 5 sets, 50% of your 1RM for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5 reps, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps
Week 3: 4 sets, 8 reps 90% of your 8-rep max
Week 4: 6 sets, 50% of your 1RM for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5 reps, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps, 95% for 1 rep
Week 5: 4 sets, 8 reps, 95% of your 8-rep max
Week 6: Rest
Week 7: Repeat the cycle, adding 5–10 pounds to each set.
The bench press and deadlift are the two lifts you’re working to get stronger on during this program. For you to follow the set- and-rep scheme, you need to calculate the loads you’ll use for both lifts. First, find or estimate your one-rep max (1RM)—the most weight you can lift for one rep. From here, you can figure out how much weight you can use for any number of reps. For example, during the volume weeks (Weeks 1 and 3), you’ll do sets of eight reps. You need to find a) the load that gives you eight reps based on your one-rep max and b) the load that’s the correct percent- age of that eight-rep max. (You’ll use a different percentage each week.) See “Find Your Number” to figure out approximately how many reps a certain percentage yields. The intensity weeks are simpler since you’ll use percentages of your one-rep max.
Let’s say a lifter’s one-rep max (1RM) on the bench press is 235 pounds. Based on the chart, his eight-rep max would be 190 pounds (80% of 235). In Week 1 (volume week) he’d use 85% of 190 pounds (160 pounds) for all sets. In Week 2 (intensity week) he’d use percentages of his 1RM (235 pounds).