3 Day Physique Strength

3-Day Physique Strength 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 cycle to get you there.

3-Day Physique begins a 6-Week Strength Cycle on January 16th.

  • get ready to lift heavy, gain strength, test for new 1-Rep Maxes, & smash alllllll the heavy barbells (helloo heavy squats + deadlifts)

Not in a good place for strength right now?

  • No worries! Our 4-Day Physique program begins an 8-Week Hypertrophy Cycle on January 12th. This would be a better program to follow if you’re currently dieting and chasing fat loss (:

Strength Cycles

Get stronger, gain muscle, and improve your ability to lift heavy and move heavy weight! These cycles typically encompass super heavy weight for lower reps (~1-6 Reps).

  • Feel like a badass
  • Pick up heavy things and celebrate what your body can do
  • Smash all the heavy lifts you love (Back Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Strict Press, Barbell Rows, etc)
  • Enjoy bodybuilding accessory work (alongside the compound lifts) so you can maximize looking great while you get strong
  • Assess your progress by maxing out and establishing new 1-Rep Maxes

Want to Follow the 3-Day Physique Strength Cycle?

  • Existing members: select “3-Day Physique” in our app

3-Day Physique Overview

General:

  • 3 days per week
  • 90 min workouts

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 = the best time to diet or be in a surplus to gain muscle


6-Week Physique Strength Cycle

Hey fam! Paragon Co-founder and Programming Expert, Bryan Boorstein here to discuss the Strength Cycle for Winter 2023!

This 6-week cycle strength cycle is part of the larger periodization model we follow at Paragon, where strength cycles precede 18 weeks of Hypertrophy training.

The main focus of the training periodization is to optimize strength and muscle gain across the year, without having to sacrifice conditioning levels.  

You can think of these phases on a spectrum, with hypertrophy being in the middle (the most well-rounded stimulus).

The strength cycle is just slightly lower reps and longer rest periods. The metabolic phase will include slightly lighter weights with shorter rest periods.

Program structure for the next 12 weeks:

  • Strength Pre-cycle Intro/Deload week
  • 5-week Strength Phase
  • Metabolic Pre-cycle Intro/Deload week
  • 5-week Metabolic Hypertrophy phase

4 Reasons for Strength Phases

1) Strength phases provide you an opportunity to assess your progress at a much more tangible level.

Yes, you will get stronger and will hit new PRs while lifting in higher rep ranges during Hypertrophy cycles.

But being able to max out at the end of a strength cycle and say “6 months ago, my 1-Rep Max for Back Squat was 150 lbs and today I hit 175 lbs” is something we can hold with us as an emblem of our hard work and dedication.

Not to mention, lifting heavy has a certain grit and determination associated with it that isn’t quite the same with higher rep ranges (:

2) Re-sensitization to “hypertrophy” stimulus.

The research behind this idea is building momentum, though I wouldn’t say it’s fact at this point.

The idea is that our bodies are extremely resilient, and can adapt if we’re always training the same way all the time. This makes it more difficult to continue to make progress over time without altering the stimulus temporarily.

A good analogy here would be what happens with continuous exposure to the sun. When the stimulus is new, we adapt quickly, and we can see skin changing to a darker color. As we do this more and more, we have to stay out in the sun longer to elicit an adaptation the next time we go into the sun.

Sun exposure is much like training volume during a hypertrophy phase. Instead of having to do more and more, we can change stimulus temporarily and allow the body to “de-train” that stimulus slightly (avoid sun exposure), and then come back with a renewed ability to manifest these adaptations (be “more sensitive” to the sun).

3) Potential hypertrophy benefit of preceding hypertrophy with strength.

There is a 2020 study by Carvalho and colleagues which demonstrated this idea exactly.

One group did an 8-week hypertrophy phase while the other group did a 3-week strength phase, followed by a 5-week hypertrophy phase.

The group that did the strength phase first ended up with more hypertrophy.

The reasoning for this is still ambiguous, in my opinion, and I may still argue that this is a result of “re-sensitization” more than “priming,” but it was proven effective either way!

4) Avoid Boredom With Training

Workouts and gym time can get boring if we do the same thing over and over and over.

Especially when you consider that hypertrophy training mostly trains close to failure in higher rep ranges, it’s a lot of counting, and many of these sets can be quite painful (as the lactic acid and other metabolites flood the body during hard sets).

Hypertrophy training also tends to use movements or lifts that are a little more friendly on the CNS, meaning we do more RDLs (instead of Conventional or Sumo Deadlifts), Heels Elevated Squats (instead of High or Low Bar Back Squats), and so on.

Strength Cycles are fun. You get to pick up super heavy weights and feel like a badass. Rep ranges tend to be much lower. And you’re hitting a lot of the main compound lifts (Back Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Strict Press, Barbell Rows, etc).

If you’re feeling burnt out in the gym or just finding yourself not excited to train, it can be helpful to switch up your training style occasionally to help keep you excited to work out and train.


What to Expect

The rep scheme approach for this strength cycle will be a typical Linear Periodization approach.

This is the simplest form of progression to implement and is also “backed by science” as the most effective way to increase strength over a training block.

A 2009 study by Prestes and colleagues found that Linear Periodization provided significantly more strength improvements in women on Bench Presses, Pulldowns, Curls, and Leg Extensions when compared to the alternative method.

This makes intuitive sense, based on everything we know about the development of strength compared to hypertrophy.

Specifically, strength responds to lower volumes. Guess what happens when you decrease reps each week? You are in effect, decreasing the total volume load.

This means that as weights and effort are increasing week to week, the decrease in total reps is helping to facilitate recovery (via a reduction in volume) and allowing you to properly manifest your strength potential.

Essentially, this just means that each week, the reps will decrease, and the weights will increase accordingly.

  • Week 1 (intro/deload) = 6 Reps
  • Week 2 = 5 Reps
  • Week 3 = 4 Reps
  • Week 4 = 3 Reps
  • Week 5 = 2 Reps
  • Week 6 = 1 Rep (max testing)

It’s also important to note that there are repeating movements that are not conducive to that same 6-5-4-3-2-1 rep scheme. 

For example: rowing variations are not going to be doing a one-rep max. The approach will be to stick to sets of 4-6 reps (still decreasing reps and increasing load progressively across the cycle).


Get Ready to Squat

In the summer of 2021, we ran a strength cycle in which we implemented Back Squats as a repeating movement twice each week.

We will be doing the same this cycle!

With back squats as a primary movement (up there with deadlifts as the “main” focus of the cycle), and with the knowledge that strength is a skill (meaning the more often we practice it, the faster the adaptation will take place), there is a great rationale for including back squats twice across the week.

The first session utilizes the same approach outlined above (linear periodization, decreasing reps each week).

The second session will be lighter with a focus on “technical execution and speed” sets, using reduced weight and reps. These sets will be a percentage of the weights used in the first session.

This second session is meant to enhance execution and refine movement patterns with the intention that this will carry over to the heavy sets the following week.

Also, we want to capitalize on the potential benefits of staying further from failure for strength goals, as described below.

The objective on the lighter day is to accelerate each rep as fast as possible on the “up” portion, even though the weight is light.

This “up” portion is called the concentric, and we have plenty of data to support the idea of “maximal concentric intent” being vital to the development of the neurological side of building strength.

“To increase strength, faster resistance training is thought to provide a better stimulus for neural adaptations, which could lead to greater strength gains” (Wilk, 2021).


Strength Work & Proximity to Failure

Many studies are now showing that strength is increased faster staying further from failure. The rationale is based on the idea that strength development is a result of total force production.

Force = Mass x Acceleration, so we want to keep the concentric speed faster (avoiding the grinding reps that slow) and increase the force applied.

The other negative ramification of “grinding” reps is the inevitable compensation mechanism that occurs. Our bodies are professional compensators, meaning we will always find the easiest solution to the problem.

If we are competing for tough reps where mini compensations occur, we are not allowing neural (skill) adaptations to take place. Essentially, we are teaching our bodies how to be better at compensating, as opposed to training the specific skill adaptation that we are after.

Said another way – we are creating bad habits that become permanent and inhibit our strength adaptations. 

In a 2021 study by Karsten and colleagues, one group trained 4 sets of 10 reps to failure, while the other group used the same weight (approx. 10-rep max), but completed 8 sets of 5 reps (leaving 5 reps from failure each set).

The group that left 5 reps from failure had better strength gains! This has been confirmed in practice, among a wealth of top-level coaches, too!

Notably, the group that did 4 sets of 10 to failure achieved better hypertrophy results. This is also in line with the research (that we need be closer to failure to maximize muscle building).

Ultimately, this cycle is about building Neural Efficiency across the musculature, while re-sensitizing to some of the hypertrophy stimulus.


Repeating Movements

Day 1 Repeating Movements:

We’re starting each week with some big barbell movements. Should be fun to move some big weights!

  • Low Bar Back Squat
    • Alternative Movement:
      • High Bar Back Squat

  • Barbell Hip Thrust
    • Alternative Movements:
      • Machine Hip Thrust
      • Smith Machine Hip Thrust
      • 45-Degree Machine Hip Extensions
      • Hip Extensions on GHD
      • Box + Barbell Hip Extensions
      • Bar on Rack Hip Extensions

Back Squats:

I encourage you to use the low bar position. This will make the movement more glute dominant, and allow you to brace through the midline more effectively with heavier weights.

Descend down under control, in 2-3 seconds. I am a huge fan of a pause at the bottom for standardization purposes, but the most important part of the squat is executing the movement consistently from rep to rep.

Make sure you avoid standing with the weight on your back. Hit the top, take one breath, and immediately descend back down.

If you rest longer than that, the weight is too heavy for the target reps.

For Hip Thrusts, we have a number of subs listed. This is because many people have stated difficulties setting up and loading that movement in a crowded gym.

Hip Thrusts:

This is a “short overload” movement (meaning it’s hardest at the top contraction position).

The Hip Extension variations listed have the same resistance curve as the hip thrust, so they would be a suitable swap.

Remember that a Hip Thrust is a “Hip Hinge” movement. This means that as you descend, your whole torso should move with you.

We want to avoid just dropping the hips. This will force the back into an arched position, much less productive at producing force (and can cause injury more easily).


Day 2 Repeating Movements:

  • Flat Barbell Bench Press 

  • Strict Barbell Pendlay Row
    • Alternative Movements:
      • Chest Supported Barbell Row
      • Head Supported Barbell Row

Flat Barbell Bench Press:

We will be working to a 1-rep max at the end of the cycle, so it would be inappropriate to try and do this with DB Bench (unless shoulder issues, etc)

You could probably follow the same programmed sets/reps with a Machine Chest Press if you were extremely opposed to the barbell bench for whatever reason.

Remember that the path of the barbell is what’s called an S-curve. So the bar starts at the top with the arms perfectly vertical at the support position.

As the bar descends, it will contact the lower chest (below the nipple line), then press back up to support (pressing towards the head slightly).

Pendlay Row:

The best advice here is to find the bottom of your RDL, and then maintain that position as you row.

It is super important to have tension through the hamstrings/glutes and lower back, which keep the body rigid and help to avoid using momentum.

This is an extremely short overloaded movement, meaning the last 2-3 inches of the rep are the most difficult (as the hands approach the torso).

Make sure you select loading where you don’t cheat by “humping” or adjusting the torso position as it gets difficult from rep to rep.


Day 3 Repeating Movements:

  • Low Bar Back Squat
    • Alternate Movement:
      • High Bar Back Squat

  • Conventional Deadlifts
    • Alternate Movements:
      • Sumo Deadlifts
      • Trap Bar Deadlifts

Back Squats:

This second day of squats was discussed in detail in the bulk of the blog above.

The other nice part about these “lighter” sets is that they will act as a really good warm-up for the deadlifts.

When I had a brief stint with powerlifting, we would always warm up with lighter explosive squats prior to heavy deadlifts, and it helped tremendously!

Deadlifts:

You have a choice of Conventional, Sumo, or Trap Bar Deadlifts.

Given that this is not a hypertrophy cycle, I won’t go into detail about which biases which musculature. They’re all good and effective.

The big key with the deadlifts is to make sure you are remaining in control. Don’t be turning your spine into a question mark.

I find it very helpful to remember two specific cues:

  1. Push the floor away (instead of lifting the bar up)
  2. Everything rises together (when the weight is too heavy, the hips rise first)

The deadlift variations are the most fatiguing movement in this entire cycle, which makes it even more important to maintain the “reps from failure” recommendations.

Also remember that the “reps from failure” are assuming technical failure (meaning if the back rounds or form deviates, that is already “past failure” so to speak).


Day 4 Repeating Movements:

  • Weighted Pull-Ups
    • Alternative Movements:
      • Strict Pull-ups
      • Pull-up Negatives
      • Rack Pull-ups
      • Foot-Assisted Pull-ups

  • Strict Barbell Overhead Press

Pull-Ups:

There are many ways to load a pull-up here.

The dip belt is the most loadable.

It’s important to note that only the weighted pull-ups, negatives, and bodyweight pull-ups will progress into singles. There is a different rep scheme and approach if doing any of the rack pull-ups or assisted variations.

As with any pull-up in our programs, we expect you to remain strict. Avoid using the hips to “get the last few inches” and avoid rounding the upper back.

We want to remain in “thoracic extension” (slightly arched) the entire time. It helps to think about “leading with the chest” to facilitate this execution.

Overhead Press:

We want to set up with glutes and midline squeezed, bracing. The elbows should be directly under or just barely in front of the bar.

As you press, we don’t want to go around the face, so we must move the face slightly back and out of the way.

As soon as the bar clears the head, we can move the head forward, under the bar, to press out and complete the rep from the strongest position.


Ready to Get Strong?

To follow the 3-Day Physique Strength Cycle, you’ll need a Paragon Bodybuilding Bundle or All-Access Membership – Click Here to Join the Paragon Fam!

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