LCK doing a lateral pull down.

Physique Hypertrophy Cycles – Fall 2022

18-Week Hypertrophy Specialization Cycles

Hypertrophy = “muscle building.”  It’s how you want to be mostly training if your goal is to maximize your physique and look your best (:

We are very excited about this hypertrophy cycle for 3-Day, 4-Day, and DB Physique as it will encompass 3 different 6-week specialization cycles.

  • 6 weeks: Glutes/Back focus (Sept 12 – Oct 23)
  • 6 weeks: Quads/Shoulders focus (Oct 24 – Dec 4)
  • 6 weeks: Hamstrings/Arms focus (Dec 5 – Jan 15)


New Cycles Begin Every 6 Weeks:


Physique Programs

Our Physique programs are our most popular programs at Paragon. Workouts are designed to help you look and feel your best. You’ll see all the bodybuilding, lifting, and strength training!


The Quick & Dirty Program Deets:

  • 60-min or 90-min workouts

  • 3 days or 4 days per week

  • Full gym and at-home options

 

3 Program Options:

  • 3-Day Physique: 3 x 90-min workouts

  • 4-Day Physique: 4 x 60-75 min workouts

  • At-Home // Dumbbell Physique: 4 x 60-75 min workouts

 

Equipment Needed:

  • 3-Day & 4-Day Physique: barbell, DB’s, squat rack, bench. Option to use machines/cables (but you don’t have to)

  • At-Home // Dumbbell Physique: at least 2-3 pairs of DB’s. Pairs of light, medium, and heavy for you would be great! Ex: pairs of 10’s/20’s/35’s

 

Workouts =

  • Progressive Overload

  • Strength training and lifting

  • Bodybuilding accessory work

  • Programming is perfectly periodized and cycles between Hypertrophy, Strength, and Metabolic Conditioning throughout the year

 

Physique Workouts Are Right For You If:

  • you want to maximize physique / body comp

  • you want to gain muscle, increase your strength, and see lift PR’s

  • you are working to improve your health / hormones

  • currently pregnant or postpartum (our mommas love DB Physique)

  • currently dieting and chasing fat loss*

  • currently eating in a surplus to gain muscle *

* Hypertrophy cycles = best time to diet or be in a surplus to gain muscle


Hypertrophy Specialization Cycle Deets:

What’s up team! Paragon Founder & Programming Expert, Bryan Boorstein here…

Welcome to the most unique Hypertrophy cycle we’ve done yet!

In prior cycles, we’ve committed 12 weeks to one type of hypertrophy-specific progression, where the repeating movements stay the same throughout the 12 weeks.

This will be an 18-week hypertrophy cycle split into three different 6-week SPECIALTY cycles, the first starting on September 12, 2022.


Program Setup:

There will be new repeating movements every 6 weeks.

  • Weeks 1-6 = Glutes/Back

  • Weeks 7-12 = Shoulders/Quads

  • Weeks 13-18 = Hamstrings/Arms

Each of the six-week cycles will have a one-week deload “introduction” week to start. Due to the change in focus, the deload/intro week won’t be completely “recovery” based.

We must remember that as we finish the glutes/back cycle, the volume for those muscle groups will be reduced to a maintenance level (to maintain all the gains you made the prior six weeks), while we begin to ramp up the volume on the next priority muscle group (quads/shoulders).


Key Elements:

There are a few key elements that are ubiquitous across specialty cycles:

  1. Priority muscle groups are trained FIRST in the session

  2. Priority muscle groups will receive more volume

  3. Priority muscle groups MAY work closer to failure (exercise dependent)

  4. Priority muscle groups MAY use unique exercises or unique execution of common exercises to target SPECIFIC regions of the muscle


What’s So Special About Specialty Cycles?

When looking at the general spectrum of training volume, and creating the OPTIMAL DOSE, we can think of it like a glass of water. The capacity of the glass is our total recovery available.

The water is the volume of training we’re doing. If the glass overflows with water, we have exceeded our recovery capacity, and now we are starting to overtrain (meaning working harder, with less motivation, for minimal or no results).

The nature of specialization is such that certain muscle groups will receive additional training volume, while volume is decreased in other areas.

The good news is that we now have a few studies demonstrating that MAINTENANCE volume for a muscle group, is about 1/3 of the dose that it took to build it.

This means that if you were doing 15 sets a week for shoulders, you could maintain the muscle you built by doing only 5 sets per week.

The design of a specialty cycle will use this knowledge as leverage when constructing the program. Some muscle groups may reduce close to a maintenance volume temporarily so that others can be prioritized without exceeding recovery capacity.

Once those gains are cemented, and volume is increased to prioritize a different area, we can be confident that we will MAINTAIN what we just built during the subsequent phases!


How Far To Train from Failure? How Can I Know?

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 (lifting) portion of the rep. I understand the sentiments of those that don’t necessarily feel comfortable with projecting their “reps from failure” very accurately and worry that you might short-change yourself.

At Paragon, we use a very effective model where we increase effort (adding load or reps) week to week.

This approach is 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.

In the final week of each mesocycle (before deload week), we always take our sets to the point of technical failure. This then provides you the tools to re-assess your effort and weight selection as you head into the subsequent mesocycle.


Maximal Concentric Intent:

To provide a little general context around “failure,” I want to introduce the term “Maximal Concentric Intent.” This means you are trying to lift every rep as fast as possible (control the descent… explode the ascent).

This is performed without LAUNCHING from the bottom, but to assertively try to move the weight quickly. Think about the difference between flooring the gas pedal on your car versus pressing it confidently to pick up speed quickly.

If you lift every rep by confidently pressing the gas pedal, 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.

You can see how the rep speed slows despite the hardest effort to move the weight.


Exercise Selection/Execution For Building Muscle:

When training with the goal to build muscle, it’s important to consider exercise selection and execution.

As an easy example, a conventional or sumo deadlift is probably not the BEST movement for you to use in a hypertrophy phase.

It extends at three joints, which makes it extremely fatiguing, and also difficult to determine what muscles are actually receiving the primary stimulus.

Instead, an RDL is a significantly better choice to target the musculature. The same idea can be extrapolated across all movements.

These specialty cycles take into account:
1. Stimulus provided by that exercise
2. Overall fatigue cost associated with that movement

As a general example (not necessarily applicable to this cycle), if our objective was to target the quads, we would select a Heels Elevated Back Squat or a Quad Dominant machine, such as Hack squat or Leg Press) instead of a heavily loaded back squat.

This heel elevation (or more acute stimulus from the machine variation) will INCREASE the range of motion at the knee and ankle while decreasing the movement at the hip (more quads, less systemic fatigue per unit of stimulus).

For specific execution tips that apply to the movements in the CURRENT cycle, see the bottom section of this blog.


How To Build To Working Sets:

The reps may differ, but this is a common way we will conduct our repeating movements: RDL or Back Squat (or any large compound movement) you may want to do the OPTIONAL sets.

For a less demanding movement, you can probably do just 1-2 warm-up sets then get into work sets.

 

Warm-up Sets:

  • 30-50% of working weight x 10-15 Reps

  • 50% of working weight x 8-12 Reps

  • 75% of working weight x 4-6 Reps

  • 85-90% of working weight x 1-2 Reps

 

It’s important to understand that the “warm-up” sets are low-fatiguing and shouldn’t really be tiring.

The 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 warm-up sets are for lower reps than the work sets (and with less weight).

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 warm-up 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 warm-up sets for smaller muscle groups. For curls, shoulders, triceps, and the like, I usually just implement one “feel it out” set, then jump into work sets. This means I may use 25-30# DBs for 6-8 Reps before my work set with 40# DBs for 10-12 Reps.


Rest Periods:

Rest periods are important. Below are the general guidelines.

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.


Glute/Back Training Cycle:

With the GLUTES and BACK being the target regions for this cycle, we have a few important elements to discuss.

Most importantly, I want you to remember that the muscle that is STRETCHING at the end range of a movement, is the muscle that is receiving the majority of the stimulus in most cases.

We can bias the muscles we want by manipulating the way we execute certain movements. Subtle shifts in hip or knee position can be a game-changer for the glutes.

For training the back, the path of the elbow (dictated by the grip position of the hands) will determine what region of the back is the primary target:

 

  • Lats focused = Elbow in tight to the body w/ neutral grip (palms face each other)

  • Upper Back = Elbows 60-90° from torso w/ pronated grip (palms away)

  • Rear Delts, Lats, Upper Back = Elbow ~30-45° from torso w/ semi-pronated grip

 

Check out the repeating movements below, and I’ll add some discussion with execution tips, where relevant.


Day 1: Lower Body (Glutes + Hamstrings)

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Bent Knee RDL (Floating Deadlifts)

  • Hip Thrusts (barbell or Machine)

  • Glute Med Kickback (Cable or Banded)

This day is a GLUTE focus by utilizing movements that also have a large contribution from the Hamstrings.

The training consists of one super demanding “Lengthened” movement (the RDL), with two “short overload” movements. These short movements will be less fatiguing, systemically.

The RDL is a movement that can be performed with a Hamstring bias or a Glute bias. This all depends on how much the knees bend.

The objective is to stretch the glute at the bottom (not the hamstring), and a moderate amount of knee bend will facilitate a deeper glute stretch at the bottom.

The amount of knee bend will be individually dependent. If you use too much, you’ll feel the quads working more, and if you don’t use enough, you’ll feel the hamstrings working more (note: you should feel some hamstring, even with the proper amount of knee bend).

The Glute Medius Kickback is quite effective with bands or cables because both will be short overloaded. Just make sure that if you use a band, you set it up so that there is SOME tension at the stretch position.

When you kick back, the ideal path of motion is to come SLIGHTLY across your body at the front (to facilitate the stretch of the glute), and then abduct (away) at about 30 degrees from directly back (if you were to kick directly back, it would be the Glute Max as the primary mover; and the glute max is the target of the first two movements).

But we also don’t want to go directly to the side, or that would be more Glute Minimus.


Day 2: Upper Body (Back Focus)

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • One Arm Lat Pulldown (cable OR banded)

  • Pronated (Overhand) Row (pull line to chest; elbows T)

  • Y-Raise (cable OR DB)

 

The BACK work today consists of two of the three grip/elbow positions mentioned above. The first movement is a single-arm movement for the lats that can be quite effective with bands or cables. As stated with the kickback, just make sure there is SOME tension on the band at the stretch position.

The lat pulldown should have resistance coming from high to low, and the hand position is neutral with the elbow driving down towards the waistline.

The second back movement is overhand, with elbows driving out, targeting the upper back. We usually advise doing bent-over row movements by pulling to the abs, where this is pulling to the chest line (to help facilitate the elbows driving out). A barbell, DBs, or machine row would be effective for this variation.

The Y-Raise is a bit of a mid trap and rear delt hybrid movement that is significantly less fatiguing than the prior movements. You won’t be able to use a ton of weight, and that’s ok! Try to make a “Y” at the top, like Y-MCA!


Day 3: Lower Body (Glutes + Quads)

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Leg Press OR Low Bar Back Squat

  • Split Squat (glute dominant)

  • Leg Extensions (at at-home version)

 

This day is a GLUTE focus by utilizing movements that also have a large contribution from the Quads. The first two movements are EXTREMELY demanding lengthened overload movements.

With the knowledge that we want to STRETCH the glutes at the bottom of the reps, the execution will be a bit different than when we want to prioritize quads.

We want to AVOID any ankle flexion (i.e. keep the shins as vertical as possible). If the knees begin to shift forward at all, this will begin to involve the quads more. To achieve this, you will place the legs high and narrow on the leg press.

For the Back Squat, we want the barbell placed across the shoulder blades (not on top of the Traps) in a low bar position.

Rather than being more upright like we might be in a high bar back squat, we want to squat at more of an angle with chest forward. This change in positioning will shift which muscles we’re targeting!

The Split Squat has all the same points of performance as above. Initiate with hip flexion, shins stay vertical the entire time, etc. Most people will find the Rear Foot Elevated option to be the most effective for glutes, as it sort of deloads the back leg and puts more of the load into the glute of the front leg.


Day 4: Upper Body (Back Focus)

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Pulldown / Pull-up (neutral grip)

  • Supported Row (semi-pronated)

 

The BACK work today consists of two of the three grip/elbow positions mentioned above.

The first movement is for the lats, utilizing the neutral grip (palms facing each other), and the intent is to keep the torso rigid while driving the elbows down to the waistline.

If opting for a Pullup or Rack Pull-up variation, the same holds true. You better be REALLY strong if you can do lat-specific pull-ups without adjusting torso position throughout the rep. So I tend to advise Rack Pull-ups if you don’t have the pulldown option.

Setup some Rings, TRX, or D-handles, prop your feet on a bench or just on the ground in front of you, and you will find that the torso position can be maintained much more effectively for most people than with a standard pull-up.

The second movement utilizes the “semi-pronated” grip to target the rear delts, which are a large part of what makes the back “pop” from behind. Semi-pronated is halfway between neutral and overhand.

Due to the unique hand position, Dumbbells are prob the best tool for most of you (unless you have a super rad machine row that has D-handles or semi-pronated handle sets, which many do these days).


Sample Physique Workouts:


New Training Cycles Begin Every 6 Weeks:

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