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4-Day Physique Hypertrophy Cycle – Winter 2023

Regardless of your goal in 2023, Paragon Training Methods has your back. We’re kicking off the New Year with the freedom to “Choose Your Own Adventure” based on YOUR specific goals.

Whether you’ll be dieting, chasing muscle gain, OR on a mission to get damn strong and hit new lift PR’s, we’ve gotcha covered on amazing workouts and training cycles that will help you get there.

4-Day Physique Will Have 2 Options:

  • Jan 2 = 8 Week Hypertrophy Cycle
    • for those dieting to lose body fat, bulking / in a calorie surplus, for those looking to gain muscle and improve their body comp
  • Jan 16 = 6 Week Strength Cycle
    • for those who want to lift really heavy, gain strength, test for new 1-Rep Maxes, & smash alllllll the heavy barbells (helloo heavy squats + deadlifts)


Hypertrophy + How to Achieve Your Goals

Hypertrophy = “muscle building.”

If your goal is to maximize your body composition and look your best, Hypertrophy is how you should likely be training majority of the time each year!

Hypertrophy training typically encompasses moderate weights for high reps, sets, and volume. We’re often lifting ~6-15 reps and rep schemes often look like 10-12 reps, 12-15 reps, etc.

Hypertrophy cycles are super versatile and a perfect compliment to a variety of goals – you just need to adjust your nutrition accordingly!

  • Goal = fat loss (be in a calorie deficit below maintenance needs)
  • Goal = muscle gain (be in a calorie surplus beyond maintenance needs)
  • Goal = maximize health and look/feel your best (eat at maintenance)

Want to Follow 4-Day Physique Hypertrophy?

  • Existing Paragon member? You’ll need to manually add this program to your calendar. Peep your email or the Paragon FB Group for the Train Heroic Access Codes. You can either follow this as an 8-week program starting 1/2, or as a 6-week program starting 1/16 (both keep you inline with calendar)

4-Day Physique Overview

General:

  • 60-75 min workouts
  • 4 days per week
  • Optional 5th conditioning day
  • Full gym and at-home options

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Squat rack
  • Bench
  • Resistance bands
  • Option to use machines and cable machines (if you want to)

Workouts =

  • Progressive Overload
  • Bodybuilding + strength training
  • Training cycles alternate between Hypertrophy, Strength, Metabolic

Physique Workouts Are For You If:

  • you want to improve your physique and body composition
  • you want to gain muscle, increase your strength, and see lift PR’s
  • you are working to improve your health and hormones
  • currently pregnant or PP (we’d suggest our DB Physique program)
  • currently dieting and chasing fat loss or eating in a surplus to gain muscle*

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


8-Week Winter Hypertrophy Cycle

Hey team! Paragon Co-Founder and Programming Expert Bryan Boorstein here to discuss the Hypertrophy Physique Cycle that will begin January 2nd, 2023.

This is an 8-week program that includes a short deload period in the middle.

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

This mid-cycle deload will not be a typical deload week. The training will still be 1-3 reps from failure for most movements, but we will avoid many of the intensity techniques that were utilized in the prior week.

After the mid-cycle deload, the intensity will quickly ramp back up.

Note:
This is a standalone program that can be started at any point in time, and is not tied to the calendar.

If you’re a current member, you can either follow this program as an 8-week cycle beginning 1/2, or as a condensed 6-week program beginning 1/16.

You’ll need to manually add this program to your Train heroic calendar using an Access Code. You can find it in your email and the FB Group!


Repeating Movements

First, we’ll cover the repeating movements in this cycle, and then cover how we intend to progress through these movements over the next 8 weeks.

Day 1: Lower Body

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Barbell or Trap Bar RDL
  • Quad Dominant DB Split Squat

Alternate Movements for Split Squats:

  • Quad Dominant Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
  • Quad Dominant Front Foot Elevated Split Squats

In Part A, we start with the king of all hamstring exercises. There are essentially two ways you can properly execute an RDL (and they will look quite different).

1. Hamstring-Bias RDL:

Keep the knees as straight as possible. Because you won’t be bending the knees much, the depth of the rep will be quite a bit less. Remember to initiate the rep by sending the hips back, and complete the range of motion when the hips stop moving back.

When you have to start lowering the torso by itself, you’ve gone too deep. Think about this as a horizontal movement of the hips, instead of a vertical movement of the torso.

2. Glute-Bias Bent Knee RDL:

Still initiate the movement by sending the hips back, but then let the knees flex forward as the bar descends. 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; if you don’t use enough, you’ll feel the hamstrings working more.

Also important to note that both variations will work both the glutes and hamstrings. If you post a form check, just make sure you state which variation you’re using!

Quad Dominant Split Squat

The primary movement is a “flat ground” split squat, but you can be creative with a slight front and/or back foot elevation, as well as the use of a heel wedge/riser to facilitate as much “knee flexion” as possible.

To create knee flexion, we want to send the knee over the toe as much as possible. To obtain as much knee flexion as possible, you will want to execute the movement by thinking about riding the escalator down (instead of taking the elevator straight up and down).

This analogy is to illustrate that the exercise is moving forward and backward, not up and down.

Check out Bryan’s IG post, where you can see the “escalator” in action.


Day 2: Upper Body

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Flat DB Bench Press
  • Pull-ups
  • DB Lateral Raises

Alternate Movements for DB Bench:

  • Machine Chest Press
  • Barbell Bench Press

Alternate Movements for Pull-ups:

  • Weighted Pull-up
  • Rack Pull-up
  • Assisted Machine Pull-up
  • Foot-Assisted Rack Pull-up

Flat DB Bench Press:

This movement is meant to be an overall chest developer, but we’ll get plenty of front delts and triceps, too. The key to executing any upper body pressing movement is the path that the elbows and upper arms travel.

We want to keep them at a 45-degree angle to the torso. If the arms splay out like a “T” at the bottom, we will put unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint, and ineffectively target the chest.

Pull-up:

We really like neutral grip pull-ups at Paragon, as it provides a slight bias towards the lats, compared to the more typical overhand pronated pull-up, which biases more upper back.

It also lines up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders in a much more natural manner. This decreases the burden on those joints. Regardless of which variation you choose, the rep range will be 5-8 Reps, meaning many of you will be able to do these as standard pull-ups.

However, for those that need, you can setup the Rack Pull-up option. You can also make the Rack Pull-up a NEUTRAL GRIP by using Rings, TRX, or by sliding some D-handles onto a barbell!

DB Lateral Raises

The DB Lateral Raise is a SHORT movement (hardest at the top), and therefore, will start close to failure, and progress rather quickly into some heavier “bottom accentuated” reps. It’s very important that you stay STRICT with these.

As we progress into “max effort partial reps” you will try as hard as possible to get it all the way up, but won’t be able to, due to fatigue. You must avoid the tendency to use momentum.

Also important to do these in what’s called the “scapular” plane; which exists about 30 degrees forward of being directly to the side. Performing lateral raises in this plane will feel much more natural and smoother on the joints!


Day 3: Lower Body

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • Heels Elevated Back Squat
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts

Alternate Movements for Squats:

  • Leg Press
  • Hack Squat
  • Pendulum Squat
  • Foam Roller DB Hack Squat  

Alternate Movements for Hip Thrusts:

  • Machine Hip Thrust
  • Smith Machine Hip Thrust

Heels Elevated Squats:

Elevating your heels on a back squat helps make it more quad dominant. Using heel wedges or 2.5 – 5 lb change plates, you’ll want to drive knees as far forward as possible during you squat.

Note: “quad-dominant” squat patterns require less weight than a glute/hip dominant squat.

This is true even more so for “heels-elevated” since it accentuates the quad stimulus. You might start by using around 50-60% of the load you would use for a “standard” squat. Keep in mind that stimulus > load.

Also, note that even a quad-dominant back squat may be a worse choice for you than a Leg Press or Hack Squat. If you have access to one of these machines, it’s probably worth your time to at least experiment to see what provides you with the best stimulus.

Hip Thrusts:

Hip Thrusts are an example of another short overload movement (hardest at the top).

We will be using some of the same intensity techniques as with the lateral raises discussed prior. Remember to set up with shins vertical and torso parallel to the ground at the top of the rep. You may need to experiment with various heights for your backrest as well.


Day 4: Upper Body

Weekly Repeating Movements:

  • One Arm Cable Lat Row
  • Steep Incline DB Anterior Delt Press
  • Barbell / EZ Bar Curls

Alternate Movements for Row:

  • One Arm DB Row (Lat focus)
  • One Arm Cable Lat Row
  • One Arm Lat Row (Banded)

Cable Row:

The braced-bench row in Part A is going to be a treat for your lats! As discussed in the meat of the blog post above, creating external stability is key to getting the most out of back training.

This row specifically is extremely stable, with the thigh pressed into the immovable pad of the bench. Make sure you check out the ”points of performance” listed in the daily programming, as there are some specific execution concerns to make this as lat-biased as possible!

Steep Incline Press:

The alternating sequence begins with Steep Incline Press. This is meant to be a “front delt” movement, but we should expect some upper chest and triceps in there, too.

You’ll want to find a level of incline such that the DBs are touching the front delts at the bottom, and finish above the face (hence the “line of the press” is the proper path to bias the front delts over the chest).

The key to executing any upper body pressing movement is in the path that the elbows and upper arms travel.

We want to keep them at a 45-degree angle to the torso. If the arms splay out like a “T” at the bottom, we will be putting unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and ineffectively targeting the musculature.

Barbell Curls:

The Barbell Curls are about as basic of a bicep movement as there is. Keep the elbows static, such that you don’t allow them to come forward as the reps get tough.

If you let the elbows come forward, you’re taking tension off the biceps by asking the shoulders for help. You do not need to actively press the elbows into your sides, but instead, just let them hang comfortably.

Make sure to avoid momentum!


Training To Failure

In each block of training, we want to increase effort (proximity to technical failure) week to week. The program will specifically discuss the intended “reps from failure” for each movement in each week.

The more demanding movements will usually start between 3-5 reps from failure. Less demanding isolation movements will be closer to 1-3 reps from failure.

Throughout the training block, the movements will progress, with the intention to be at or beyond failure on most movements in the week prior to the deload. 

Before we go any further, 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 would demonstrate a rep beyond failure because the intended musculature is no longer the one moving the weight.

Bottom line: your first rep should look exactly the same as your last rep. It might just be a slower grind through the concentric (lifting) portion of the rep.

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. Ultimately, you will feel what “tough reps” feel like towards the end of the mesocycle.

In the final week of each mesocycle (before the deload week), we always take our sets to the point of technical failure. This provides the ability 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,” we’re going to introduce the term “Maximal Concentric Intent.”

This concept means you are trying to lift every rep as fast as possible, aka control the descent and explode the ascent. This is performed without launching from the bottom, but rather assertively trying 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, which is a great place to begin week 1 of the cycle.

This video by Jeff Nippard 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.

Learn more about training to failure here! (:


Exercise Selection/Execution

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

As an easy example, a Conventional Deadlift or Sumo Deadlift is probably not the best movement to use in a Hypertrophy phase. It extends at three joints, which makes it extremely fatiguing. It’s also difficult to determine what muscles are actually receiving the primary stimulus.

Instead, an RDL is a significantly better choice to target the musculature of the hamstrings and glutes.

Another opportunity to analyze this paradigm is in regards to the quads, where we would select a Heels-Elevated Back Squat or a quad-dominant machine, such as a Hack Squat or Leg Press, instead of a heavily loaded back squat.

This heel elevation will increase the range of motion at the knee and ankle while decreasing the movement at the hip. This means more quads, and less systemic fatigue per unit of stimulus.

One more important example is the use of “chest support” or other ways to use external bracing to create stability in upper-body pulling movements.

Whenever we perform a rowing movement, the low back and core must stabilize. Unfortunately, the midline and low back are inherently weaker than the back muscles, and the low back will fail to stabilize before you can effectively work the back muscles to fatigue.

By using a bracing or support mechanism, we can ensure that it is in fact the back muscles that reach failure, and not be limited by midline fatigue.

A good analogy would be trying to do a deadlift-type movement without straps, where inevitably the grip would fatigue first, and not allow the hamstrings and glutes to actually reach fatigue.

The same idea can be extrapolated across all movements. The selection of exercises will take into account the stimulus provided by that exercise, as well as the overall fatigue cost associated with that movement.

By using more biomechanically accurate movements, we can do more effective volume and limit the fatigue accrued by that volume.

Learn more about exercise selection and deciding how much weight to use!


Building To Work Sets

Learning how to warm up before your working set can make all the difference.

The reps may differ, but this is a common way we conduct our repeating movements for our programs at Paragon Training Methods.

We’ll use RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts) in our example here.

For all of our movements, we typically program optional warm-up sets. In a large compound movement like the RDL, we highly suggest that you do all of the optional sets to prime your body for what’s to come.

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

Warm-Up Sets:

  • Optional 10-15 reps at 30-50% of working weight
  • 8-12 reps at 50% of working weight
  • 4-6 reps at 75% of working weight
  • Optional 1-2 reps at 85-90% of working weight

It’s important to understand that the “warm-up” sets are low-fatiguing. 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.

This means you’ll use 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 lower reps than the work sets (and with less weight). This will allow the body to feel the heavier load.

This means 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 can also get by with fewer warm-up sets for smaller muscle groups.

For curls, shoulders, and triceps, we can usually just implement one “feel it out” set, then jump into work sets. This means you may use 25-30# DBs for 6-8 Reps before a work set with 40# DBs for 10-12 Reps.

Get all the details about how to warm up effectively!


Rest Periods

Rest periods are important. We always program intended rest times in our workouts, but below are some general guidelines.

As a basic standard, when warming up, you shouldn’t need as much rest as the working sets.

  • Compound Lower Body Movements = 2-3+ minutes
  • Compound Upper Body Movements = 2+ minutes
  • Isolation work (arms, lateral raises, etc..) = 60-90 seconds

There are no “real rules” 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.


Short vs Lengthened

Below is an abridged TLDR of a 3-part blog series we wrote on the topic of short vs lengthened movements.

If you’d like to understand this topic to the full extent, please read the following:

One important thing that must be discussed is the distinction between lengthened and short movements.

The difference between these movements impacts the way in which we progress them, and how close we work to failure, or beyond failure in the case of short movements.

What Are Lengthened Movements?

These are often highly demanding compound movements (RDL, Squat variations, Upper Body Pressing).

Essentially, lengthened movements are most difficult at the bottom of the rep, or where the muscle is stretched. You can think about this practically by looking at the bottom of the RDL or the bottom of the squat.

You can also think about how “easy” these movements are at the to, as there is literally no resistance on the muscles at the top of the rep.

What Are Short Movements?

These are often lower-demanding isolation movements (Lateral Raises, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls, as well as Upper Body pulling, such as Rows and Pulldowns).

Essentially, short movements are most difficult where the contraction occurs. You can think about this practically by looking at how hard it is at the top of the lateral raise, the top of the leg extension, and the part of the row/pulldown where the hands get to the torso.

Think about how “easy” each of these movements are at the opposite portion of the movement (the bottom position of each).

There are *SOME* isolation movements that are LENGTHENED…

These include Lying or Overhead Tricep Extensions, as well as any curl where your elbows are behind your torso such as Incline DB Curls (and a few others).

There are also *SOME* compound movements that are SHORT…

These include 45-degree or GHD Hip Extensions, as well as all upper-body pulling variations like Rows and Pulldowns.

Ultimately, this is important to understand because we’ll be using some unique intensity techniques to take advantage of the amount of tension we can achieve in short movements due to their lack of sufficient stimulus at the lengthened portion of the movement.

After all, science has now confidently shown that more muscle growth and strength are built at the lengthened position of movements, so it is justified to utilize techniques that allow us to get the most out of these positions!


Sample Workouts

Workouts are always super detailed within our app. Each movement or lift will be accompanied by a video, movement tips so you know exactly how to perform the movement, and options for scaling and modification.

Click here to read more about our new app.

4 day physique 8-week hypertrophy program.
Paragon Training Methods 4 day physique 8-week hypertrophy program.

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Choose Your Own Adventure: choice between Hypertrophy OR Strength when new cycles begin January 16th!