2021 Fall Physique Volume Cycle

Say hello to our newest Physique cycle! Week 1 of training will begin Monday October 18th

Program Details:

  • 60-75 minute sessions. Training cycle = 12 weeks long
  • 4x/week Training with 1 Optional Conditioning Day (Saturday)
  • Lower Body/Upper Body/Lower Body/Upper Body/Optional Conditioning Day
  • Parts A and B repeat week-to-week on each day 

Equipment Required: 

  • Barbell, Dumbbells, Squat Rack, Bench, way to do Pull-ups

This will be a 12-week cycle, designed as:

  • Pre-cycle Intro/Deload Recovery Week
  • 5-week progressive building phase (Mesocycle 1)
  • Mid-cycle Deload Recovery Week
  • 5-week progressive building phase (Mesocycle 2)

How This Program Works

Paragon Co-founder Bryan Boorstein here to discuss the Fall Physique Cycle…

On the heels of the prior Summer Strength Cycle, the body is primed for hypertrophy (muscle building) adaptations. After completing a strength cycle, there are two stimuli that the body has not been exposed to:

  1. Higher rep ranges
  2. More targeted movement selection

Especially looking at the last 5 weeks, all of the main lifts were trained with 1-5 reps. This means that the body has been “re-sensitized” to the higher rep ranges and will respond very quickly! The movement selection is also a key component. In a strength phase, all of the movements are huge compound movements, with many of them involving three joints (like a squat and deadlift which both extend at the ankles, knees and hips).

When training a movement with triple joint extension like this, you can’t really use “mind muscle connection, because so many muscles are working in unison to accomplish the job.” Instead, you must just focus on doing the movement properly. It should now be apparent the new physique cycle will utilize both higher rep ranges, and a more targeted exercise selection.

The other consideration is total volume. Volume is also correlated with hypertrophy, especially when performed in rep ranges above 6 each set. The body has also been re-sensitized to volume, as a by-product of rep ranges (3 sets of 10-15 is a lot more volume than 3 sets of 2 reps; regardless of load used).

This is a 12-week workout program, consisting of:

Pre-cycle Intro/Deload week

5-week progressive building phase (mesocycle 1)

Mid-cycle Deload week

5-week progressive building phase (mesocycle 2)

In the FIRST MESOCYCLE (aka the first 5 weeks), we will use higher reps than in the second Mesocycle. You can expect the compound movements to be in the 10-15 rep range, and the isolations in the 15-20+ rep ranges. This will allow us to take advantage of the massive delta in rep range targets from the strength phase. The second mesocycle (the final 5 weeks of the cycle), we will drop the rep ranges slightly (~8-12 Reps for Compound Lifts and ~12-15+ Reps for Isolation Movements).

Training Volume and Proximity to Failure

Total work performed and how hard that work is are two of the variables that we must constantly account for and continually balance. The saying is “you can work hard or you can work long, but you can’t do both.” This is never more applicable than in pursuits of the Iron Game. We must carefully monitor these inputs.

First let’s define failure: We should assume that taking a set to failure means that you can no longer perform a rep with the same technique. This does NOT mean that you contort your body to achieve another rep. That is beyond failure, because the intended musculature is no longer the one moving the weight.

Your first rep should look the exact same as your last rep, just a slower grind through the concentric portion of the rep.

Remember that progression is the result of what happened in PRIOR SESSIONS, not what you do in this session. It takes time for the body to “catch up” and adapt sometimes. So it’s important to avoid getting discouraged if progress doesn’t occur weekly. I constantly work for “execution” PR’s for a few weeks before I even worry about whether weights/reps are increasing.

So let’s talk about Proximity to Failure as it relates to this cycle, specifically.

As referenced above, 3 sets of 2 reps is significantly lower volume than 3 sets of 10-15 Reps; even if the loads are significantly lighter in the latter. In this cycle, we are going to use a lot of volume. Definitely more than the strength cycle, but also more than the prior HYPERTROPHY cycle from Spring 2021.

Because the volume will be higher, we must train further from failure. Usually, the progression for Physique involves starting a mesocycle with 2-3 reps from failure, and then adding load or reps week to week, such that we reach failure the week prior to DELOAD.

In this cycle, I encourage you to begin at 4 reps from failure, progress to 3, then 2, and probably maintain 1-2 reps from failure for the final 2 weeks of the cycle.

The one time in this cycle where we can and SHOULD push to failure would be the FINAL WEEK of the SECOND Mesocycle (i.e. the end of the entire 12-week program). On this week, the volume will drop, and the intensity will increase.

But What If I Don’t Know How Far I Am From Failure?

I understand the sentiments for those that don’t necessarily feel comfortable with projecting their “reps from failure” very accurately, especially if newer to lifting or those unsure of their 1-Rep maxes, etc. The good news is that is actually doesn’t matter what your maxes are your lifts!

This model of increasing effort (adding load or reps) week to week allows you a “fail-safe” of sorts. As you add weight or reps, you will get closer and closer to failure, and ultimately you will feel what “tough reps” feel like towards the end of the mesocycle. Then you can re-assess your starting weights as you head into the subsequent mesocycle. To provide a little general context around “failure,” I want to introduce a term Maximal Concentric Intent.

Maximal Concentric Intent = you are trying to lift every rep as fast as possible (control the descent… explode the ascent). If you lift every rep in this manner, you will eventually feel the concentric speed slow, even though you are exerting maximum effort. This first “slower” rep is usually 3-4 reps from failure (a great place to begin week 1 of the cycle).

This video by Jeff Nippard is extremely well done, and he demonstrates what failure looks like on a number of different common movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deDlhPmT2SY

Additional Comment on Exercise Selection for Volume Phase (Fatigue cost)

As discussed earlier in the post, this volume hypertrophy cycle has specific exercise selection concerns. I mentioned the idea of the three joints extending in a deadlift, and how that makes it counter-productive to try and focus on one muscle group. The same idea can be extrapolated across all movements. For this cycle, the selection of exercises will take into account the overall fatigue cost of that movement.

Instead of a heavily loaded back squat, we will use a Heels-Elevated Squat, or a Quad-Dominant Machine Option (leg press, hack squat, pendulum squat etc…). This heel elevation is meant to INCREASE the range of motion at the knee and ankle, while decreasing the movement at the hip (more quads, less systemic fatigue).

Instead of a conventional/sumo DL, we will use a “stiff legged deadlift,” which extends MOSTLY at the hips, with a small amount of knee extension (but has zero movement at the ankle; providing more bias to the glutes and hamstrings).

We will see similar swaps across all muscle groups.


Hip Thrust vs. Kas Glute Bridge

For all the reasons discussed prior, this cycle will use a Kas Glute Bridge instead of a Hip Thrust as a repeating movement (we may still see a small smattering of Hip Thrusts as accessory along the way). In many ways, the Hip Thrusts is NOT the most optimal movement to train the glutes, due to the THRUSTING nature of the movement. In a Hip Thrust, the shins change angle, and the upward force is produced by a combination of glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors etc…  

Due to the contribution from all these large muscle groups, the Hip Thrust requires an exorbitant amount of weight, and therefore has a relatively poor “stimulus to fatigue” ratio. To use an analogy here, the Hip Thrust is sort of like the Low Bar Back Squat; it recruits a lot of musculature, lots of weight is required to be moved, and the stimulus and fatigue is super high on the body/ 

 In this analogy, the “Kas Glute Bridge” would be like the Heels-Elevated High Bar Squat with a pause at the bottom. Much less weight required, and more direct/targeted stimulus to the intended area.

This post from Jordan Lips is one of the better ones I’ve seen, comparing and contrasting the Kas Glute Bridge vs Hip Thrust: https://www.instagram.com/p/CRj3tvNr3gZ/

 In a Kas Glute Bridge, the top position is the same as the Hip Thrust (vertical shins, table-top hip position). The main difference in execution, is that the Kas Glute Bridge has a MUCH smaller range of motion. The shins remain vertical the ENTIRE REP and the barbell does not touch the floor, so there is no THRUSTING motion; only a “squeeze” of the glutes to create hip extension at the top.

 This execution style accomplishes two objectives:

  1. Overloads the SHORTENED position (i.e. the TOP of the rep). Movements that overload the SHORT position have significantly less fatigue cost per unit of training
  2. More acute stimulus to the glutes (without contribution from other lower body musculature).

How to Build Up to Your Working Sets  + Rest Periods

The reps may differ, but this is a common way we will conduct our repeating movements:

Movement Example: Stiff Legged Deadlift or Back Squat (this applies to any compound movement, IE deadlift, bench, row, etc)

GOAL: Build to working weight for sets of 10-12 Reps with 165 lbs


Ramp-up Warm-up Sets:

Empty Bar x 10-12 Reps

85 lbs x 8-10 Reps

115 lbs x 4-5 Reps

145 lbs x 2-3 Reps


Work sets:

165 lbs for 10-12 Reps

It’s important to understand that the “ramp-up” // warm-up sets are low-fatiguing and should not be tiring. That earlier sets of higher reps are meant to be a super easy effort in which you are just beginning to prepare the muscles for the work ahead (Less than 50% of the weight you’ll use for your first working set).

 As the weight increases, we continue to PREPARE (but not fatigue) by lowering the reps. Even the FINAL ramp-up set of 145 lbs is only 2-3 reps. This will allow the body to FEEL the heavier load, such that there is a psychological and physiological adaptation that occurs, ensuring that the “work sets” don’t feel overwhelmingly heavy.

If you are stronger, you may need 1-2 additional preparatory sets. If you are not as strong, you may need fewer prep sets; but the principles all still apply!

You also will not need nearly as many ramp-up sets for smaller muscle groups. For Bicep Curls, Shoulders, Triceps, etc, I usually just implement one “feel it out” set, then jump into work sets. This means I may use 25# DB’s for 8-10 Reps before my working set with 40# DB’s for 10-15 Reps.

How Long Should I Be Resting Between Lifts?

Rest periods are ALWAYS important. Rest will typically always be indicated in programming, so follow whatever is written. Below are the General Guidelines for Rest Guidelines between work being completed (ramp-up // warm-up sets don’t need as much rest, but work sets definitely do!)

Compound Lower Body Movements = 2-3+ minutes

Compound Upper Body Movements = 2+ minutes

Isolation Work (arms, lateral raises etc..) = 60-90 seconds

There is no rule here. It’s just important to match the intended effort level and let that dictate how much weight and/or reps you achieve. This is the best way to manage the accumulation of fatigue and provide yourself with the best opportunity to exceed performance in the assessment weeks

Sample Day from Physique:
Sample Day #1: Lower Body + Core (Quad Dominant Leg Day)
Part A and B repeat week to week. Record your weights lifted within the Paragon app

A. Choose Quad Dominant Squat-Pattern Movement:

Pause High Bar Back Squat (quad dominant)

Pause “Heels Elevated” Squat (Barbell or Safety Bar)

Pause Leg Press, Hack Squat, Pendulum Squat, or other Quad dominant machine of choice


After warm-up sets as needed, complete:

4 Sets of 6-8 Reps with the weight established during Deload Week (something you *could* complete for a failure set of 10-12 Reps)


B. Leg Extensions OR “At Home” Leg Extension variation of choice (options below)

After warm-up sets as needed, complete:

4 Sets of 10-12 Reps with the weight that was established during Deload Week (something you *could* complete for a failure set of 15 Reps)


At Home Leg Extension Variations:

Sissy Squat (weighted as needed)

Scaled Sissy Squat

Bodyweight Leg Extension / Reverse Nordics

DB Leg Extensions

Banded Leg Extensions

Inverted Leg Extensions (banded as needed)


C. 1 and 1/2 DB RDL

4 Sets of 8-12 Reps

2 progressively heavier sets, then 2 top sets at the same challenging weight

+ Superset the FINAL SET ONLY with:

Weighted Hip Extensions x 8-15 Reps


D. Four-Part Crunch Dropset Sequence x 2 Rounds:

Note the tempo of movement and deliberate nature of the reps – watch video here

The Rep scheme is in the caption. The second half of the video demo sequence is on the second swipe

Rest 2-3 min between Rounds


E. Hanging Oblique Knee Raise

2 x 10-20 Reps (5-10/side)


F. Standing Calf Raise (Dip Belt OR machine)

All reps with 2-3 sec pause at DEEP STRETCH (bottom) and 1 sec pause at top (contraction)

2 x 8-12 (heavy/challenging)

1 x 10-15 (lighter, but still challenging!)

Sample Day #2:Upper Body (Horizontal Push/Pull focus)

Part A and B repeat week to week. Record your weights lifted within the Paragon app


A. Pause Incline DB Bench Press  

The pause is at BOTTOM of each rep, to ensure proper engagement of the chest muscles on the ascent

After warm-up sets as needed, complete:

4 sets of 10-12 Reps with weight established during Deload Week (something you *could* complete for a failure set of 15 Reps)


B. One Arm DB Row OR One Arm Machine Row Of Choice

After warm-up sets as needed, complete:

4 Sets of 10-12 Reps per arm with the weight established on DELOAD WEEK (something you *could* complete for a failure set of 15 Reps)

Rest 1-2 minutes between arms


C. Seated DB Lateral Raise

Complete 1-2 warm-up sets, then work up to One TOP SET of 10-15 Reps

Rest a few minutes

Then using the SAME weight as the above top set, complete 35 Reps in as few sets as possible

Rest only 10-20s whenever you need to break (expect sets of 4-6 reps after the initial large chunk)


+ Superset the ONLY FINAL “chunk” SET with:

Band Pull-Aparts OR Cable Reverse Flies (rear delts) x 15-25 Reps


D. Single Arm Pulldowns (Cable machine OR Banded)

Over the course of 2-3 warm-up sets, complete a TOUGH set of 15 Reps per arm

Rest a few minutes

Then complete 4 sets of 8-10 Reps per arm, where you rest only while the opposite arm is working


E. For Both Movements Below:

Quickly warm-up and build to a TOP SET of 12 Reps

Incline EZ or Barbell Tricep Extensions

Standing Barbell Curls

Rest a few minutes



Complete 3 sets of 6-8 Reps per exercise

Rest only while the opposing muscle works. The final set of each should be quite challenging!