Paragon Training Methods 5 Day Physique

20-Week Specialty Cycle: Upper Body PULL Focus Starting April 8th!

We have something special in store for you guys this cycle! Starting January 8th, we will have a 20-week Hypertrophy Cycle, with rotating specializations!

That means new repeating movements and new focus areas after each 6-7 week block of training.

In this cycle, members can choose from a 3-day split, 4-day split, or 5-day split.

Starting Jan 1st, the next 20 weeks will look like this:

One Transition Week (bridge from Strength to Hypertrophy)
7-week Lower Body focus (Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes)
6-week Upper Body Push focus (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
7-week Upper Body Pull focus (Back, Lats, Rear Delts, Biceps) ** Starting April 8th

The transition week is a fun and different training week. Not really a deload week; rather a drastic change in stimulus from the strength cycle. This will also be an opportunity for those behind on the calendar to wrap up the max out a week and “catch up.”

The week will consist of numerous alternating EMOM sequences (“every minute on the minute”) as well as supersets and other fun ways of getting a stimulus without a bunch of straight sets with 2-3 minutes of rest between.

This will be a nice metabolic stimulus to prime the body for success in the 20-week hypertrophy cycle that follows!

General Details

  • Full Gym Programs: 60-75 min workouts
  • Home Gym Programs: 60 min workouts
  • DB Only Programs: 60 min workouts

Workout Splits

  • 3-Day: lower, upper, full body
  • 4-Day: lower, upper, lower, upper
  • 5-Day: lower, push, pull, lower, upper

Full Gym Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Squat rack
  • Bench
  • Machines
  • Cable Machines

Home Gym Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Squat rack
  • Bench
  • Resistance bands

DB Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (preferably one that inclines)
  • Resistance bands

Optional Cardio

  • option to complete up to 3 programmed cardio sessions per week
  • you can run, bike, swim, row, ruck, etc
  • choose between zone 2 or zone 5

Specialty Cycles: The Basics

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

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.

It’s important to note that in this cycle specifically, the “specialization” periods are very subtle shifts in volume, proximity to failure, and intensity techniques utilized.

In prior specialization cycles, we’ve noted how “maintenance” volume for a muscle group is about 33-50% of what you used to build it. Meaning if you built your legs on 10 sets of quads per week, you could maintain it on 3-5 sets.

In this rotating cycle structure, we will not reduce volume even to those levels. Thus, you should expect to be able to build muscle across the entire body in each period, despite a slight shift in focus to one region or another.

Full Gym & Home Gym Difference

***See the “repeating movements” section at the bottom for a discussion around the SPECIFIC movements that may be different between the commercial gym and home gym programs.

Probably the most advantageous aspect of training in a commercial gym (with machines and cables) is the ability to utilize very targeted exercises without the setup hassle.

Cables provide an extremely even resistance curve (meaning there is tension on the muscle through the entire range of motion). These positions can be emulated with bands, but the bands have a poor resistance curve (range-of-motion gets harder as the band gets more stretched) and also are difficult to progress from week to week.

Leg machines are one of the unique gems of the commercial gym.

This is not to say there is anything wrong with free-weight squat-style movements, but one thing that cannot be argued is that free-weight squats will always fatigue the midline (low back) and often cause that to be the limiting factor in progression (before the legs truly reach fatigue).

By using leg press or hack squat-style machines, we can easily work the quads and/or glutes to deeper levels of fatigue without limitation.

With the menu of program offerings at Paragon, the primary movement listed will always be the “most optimal” one for the situation.

However, we will continue to list some free weight/home gym alternatives (“swaps”) for those who may be traveling or find themselves in a crowded gym and unable to get the machine they want.

It’s important to understand that there is not going to be a drastic or significant difference in using the free weight or machine-based movements, and you should feel confident that your “gains” are in good hands, regardless of which option you choose!

As always, the ability to work hard and be consistent over time will move the needle more than anything related to equipment!

Progression Through the Cycle

At Paragon, we program with an “increasing effort” approach, purposefully working closer to failure each week. This will continue to be the protocol for the current cycle, as well.

There are a few great elements that this approach provides:

1. It makes progression an expectation each week. You need to add weight or do more reps to ensure that you get closer to failure than the prior week. It also has the side benefit of creating “mini wins” each week, in which you leave the gym feeling accomplished; that you did something productive!

2. It ensures you have a self-test each cycle. As you add weight or reps each week, you will inevitably butt up against failure in the final week. If you far exceeded your prior weeks’ performance in this final testing week, then you know you were sandbagging (and you adjust by increasing loads the next cycle).

A large part of this philosophy revolves around there being a different progression model for the demanding lengthened compound movements (squat, RDL, etc…), and the less demanding short overload movements (often isolation movements, but not always).

Another series of tactics we will use quite regularly throughout the training cycles are intensity techniques utilizing short rest.

There is an entire section of this blog below about how important it is to rest between sets, but these “short rest” sequences are in direct contrast to that, and with good reason…

A recent study by Coleman and colleagues “Muscular adaptations in drop set vs. traditional training: a meta-analysis” (link here) found that using intensity techniques such as Drop sets and Rest/Pause sets are nearly as effective as straight sets when sets are taken to a similar proximity to failure.

The big asterisk here is “when sets are taken to a similar proximity to failure.” Studies also seem to demonstrate that trainees struggle to meet the effort demands on sets that are performed under short rest (which may be why lengthy rest periods are the general default advice). The responsibility falls on the individual to achieve the desired proximity to failure on all programmed sets.

In application, these short rest sequences will likely be implemented in the following manner:

Example #1 – Rest/Pause set:

Complete a full set to the prescribed rep range (i.e. 8-12 Reps)
Then rest 20-30 sec and go to the same “reps from failure” again (with the same weight)
You will likely achieve 30-50% of the reps from the initial set
(so if you achieved 10 Reps on the initial set, you may achieve 3-5 reps on the rest/pause set)

Example #2 – Drop Sets:

Complete a full set to the prescribed rep range (i.e. 8-12 Reps)
Then do not rest….
Quickly reduce the weight by 20-40% and continue to the same “reps from failure” again
The number of reps you achieve will be dependent on the size of the drop (in the 20-40% range)

Both of these techniques will allow you to achieve several “effective reps” (close to failure) without having to take a complete rest. The one major drawback to the full rest is that you have to do several “ineffective” reps to get to the final reps that move the needle on building muscle.

Thus, by using these short-rest sequences, we can circumvent the ineffective reps and begin accruing effective reps immediately. We will also save a significant amount of time across the training session, without losing the impact of the training volume!

Overall, this cycle as an entirety will present new movement variations and intensity techniques for you to implement and master throughout each training cycle focus!

Short & Lengthened Overload

Regardless of which program you choose, this cycle brings additional focus on the “lengthened” range of the motion through the use of “60% bottom ROM” reps and “1 and 1/2 reps”.

These techniques bias more of the “time spent” during each rep to the most productive portions of the range-of-motion and will produce better gains in hypertrophy (according to 9 out of 10 studies on the topic from 2020 to present).

For a more detailed explanation of the “short” and “lengthened” ranges of motion, please review these additional blogs (:

The Importance of Shortened or Lengthened Overload
Short Vs Lengthened Movements

Due to how fatiguing (and complex) the “lengthened” movements are, we will often begin cycles at around 4-5 reps from failure.

The lengthened movements will often progress like this:

Week 1 – ~5 reps from failure
Week 2 – ~4 reps from failure
Week 3 – ~3 reps from failure
Week 4 – ~2-3 reps from failure
Week 5 – ~1-2 reps from failure
Week 6 – ~0-1 rep from failure

We do not need to always hit failure on these big movements to see maximal gains.

For the “short” movements, the fatigue cost is so low that we can often begin a cycle at ~2 reps from failure.

The short movements will often progress like this:

Week 1 – 2-3 reps from failure
Week 2 – 1-2 reps from failure
Week 3 – 1 rep from failure
Week 4 – 0-1 reps from failure
Week 5 – Failure + intensity techniques
Week 6 – Failure + intensity techniques

The specific intensity techniques are meant to help us “get more” from these less fatiguing movements, and the specific details of each will be explained within the body of the programming in the latter weeks of each training cycle!

How Far Am I From Failure?

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 same as your last rep, just a slower grind through the concentric (lifting) portion of the rep.

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

The model described above (increasing effort week to week; adding load or reps) is very effective at ensuring we ultimately get to “failure” at the end of each training cycle.

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), even the demanding “lengthened” movements will be taken up 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.

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.

*Note – while we want to lift as quickly as possible in a controlled manner, we recommend doing a controlled 2-3 second descent. For Example, in a Back Squat, you would take 2-3 sec to get to the bottom range of motion and then QUICKLY stand back up.

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 exert 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 several different common movements. You can see how the rep speed slows despite the hardest effort to move the weight.

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 prob do just 1-2 warm-up sets then get into work sets

Warm-up sets:
OPTIONAL 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
OPTIONAL 85-90% of working weight x 1-2 Reps

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 (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 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 warm-up sets for smaller muscle groups. For curls, shoulders, and triceps, I will 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 Between Sets

Rest periods are always important for straight sets (in an earlier section, we discussed the benefits of using intentional “short rest” sequences that fall outside of the scope of this section).

Science is overwhelmingly in agreement that more rest is better than less rest. Every study in the last half decade has shown better hypertrophy resting 2-3 min between sets when compared to 60-90 second rest.

Most importantly, we just need to make sure that neither the cardiovascular system (breathing) nor local muscle fatigue will be limiters in our ability to do the best possible set each time.

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.

Working to Failure & Cycle Testing

Throughout the first 5-6 weeks of a training cycle, we increase weight and/or reps weekly to meet the demand of “getting closer to failure.”

We don’t always want to actually go to the point of failing something like a squat or an RDL.

When you look at the failure spectrum, it can be ambiguous for a large compound movement like a squat.

First, you might fail to maintain the exact same position as a prior rep (regarding torso/knees/hips). Second, you might sacrifice position by leaning forward more at the hips. Third, you might let your knees shoot back, letting the butt/hips rise too fast. Fourth, you might actually fail a rep (or round your back and let the bar roll forward over your head).

I would encourage you to look at failure as the first example.

When positioning is compromised in any way… when a rep looks different than the prior reps, that is failure. Taking this approach to big compound movements will keep the stimulus where we want it and reduce injury risk.

If you compromise position, you ask other muscles to help! You’re saying, “My quads can’t do this anymore.” So if you then bring the hips/glutes in to help, you are working beyond failure for the muscles you are attempting to target. Increased fatigue cost and increased risk of injury for almost no return.

One other related concern is regarding rest at the top of the rep. Much like execution, which needs to be standardized from rep to rep, we need to do the same for resting at the top of reps. If you can increase your squat reps because you stood there at the top, with your joints stacked, for an extra few seconds, that is not an identical performance to the prior week. For this reason, we encourage a “one breath” rule on any of these movements where there is a resting place.

Hopefully, this can help cement the way you should be thinking about failure as it relates to these big, demanding compound movements.

Repeating Movements – First 7 Weeks

The first 7-week specialty cycle is going to be focused on lower body movements.

***The 3-Day programs have all the same repeating movements (minus 1-2 throughout the week)

Monday – Lower Body

A. Hamstrings/Glutes

  • Seated OR Lying Leg Curls (full gym)
  • Weighted Hip Extensions (home gym)
  • DB RDL (bottom 60% ROM) (DB programs)

B. Quads/Glutes

  • Single Leg Leg Press (full gym)
  • Front Foot Elevated DB Split Squat – Quad Dominant (home and DB programs)

The Part A movements all train the hamstrings, but beyond that, they are not all that similar.

This was chosen because I didn’t want to make the Part A “repeating movement” a banded leg curl for the home and DB programs.

As a result of this programming decision, there are a few downstream impacts. The main impact is that the selected movement for the Home and DB programs will train the glutes along with the hamstrings (Hip Ext and RDL), whereas the full gym program isolates the hamstring more.

Thus, the part B movement is different. The home and DB programs will perform a quad dominant split squat, while the full gym program will take on a more glute-dominant setup for the leg press (with plenty of quads, as well).

This also means that we will likely see more direct quad work in the subsequent sections of Monday’s training than we might see in the home and DB programs.

The final implication is that the “bottom 60% RDL” is being performed on the first lower body day for the DB program while it is being completed on the second lower body day for the home and full gym programs (the DB program will use a B-stance RDL instead).

This was decided as a way to avoid using the “Reverse Hyperextension (on incline bench)” as the repeating movement for the DB programs. I believe that performing two different RDL variations across the week will provide a better result for the DB programs.

Tuesday – Upper Body PUSH

A. Incline DB Bench Press (1 and 1/2 Reps)

B. Lateral Delts

  • One Arm Cable Lateral Raise (behind back) (full gym)
  • Sideways Incline DB Lateral Raise (home and DB programs)

The Part A Incline press with the “1 and 1/2 Rep” is a first-time repeating movement. It is also ubiquitous across all programs, which is nice!

The 1 and 1/2 is meant to emphasize more tension to the lengthened range, meaning that we are performing the half rep at the bottom each time. You will need to reduce the loads used by at least 20-30% as compared to your standard DB press for the same rep targets.

You can also emulate the same 1 and 1/2 rep style execution on a machine chest press or cable machine.

Part B also brings us a new repeating movement for the home and DB programs.

While the behind the back Cable Lateral has been a staple movement in prior cycles for its ability to provide significant tension at the lengthened position, we’ve never quite had a suitable swap for the home and DB programs. 

Now we introduce the sideways lateral raise, which uses the torso position to manipulate the point at which the DB crosses gravity (i.e. the point of maximum resistance). We can get some tension in the very lengthened range and the most tension at the mid-range (which is much better than a standard lateral raise, which has all the tension at the short position).

We will also be filming another suitable swap which is a leaning lateral raise, where we lean into the pole as opposed to away from the pole (this will also create a similar overload profile as with the sideways lateral raise).

Wednesday – Upper Body PULL

A. Back/Lats

  • One Arm Cable Lat Row (braced behind the bench) (full gym)
  • One Arm DB Row (lat focus) (home and DB programs)

B. Back/Lats

  • Wide Grip Cable Pulldown (full gym)
  • Rack Pull-ups (home gym)
  • Wide Grip Banded Pulldowns (DB programs)

The Part A Row is performed with a “lat focused” execution, meaning we want to use a neutral grip and keep the elbow traveling in tight to the torso during each rep. This is the same for the DB Row, as well.

As usual with single-limb movements, we want to ensure we split the rest. So instead of doing the right arm and left arm, then resting for 2-3 minutes, it would be prudent to take 1-2 min of rest between each arm. This ensures that neither arm is being short-changed.

Because the row (and all back movements, basically) are “short overloaded,” we will start the cycle much closer to failure, and quickly progress beyond failure with partial reps, and other intensity techniques to enhance the stimulus!

The reason we are braced behind the bench for the cable row is to provide significantly more stability than you would be able to get by sitting on the bench. Ensure you see the “points of performance” in the app, as it will help you get the most out of this awesome exercise!

The Part B movement provides another series of options depending on your equipment.

Regardless of the differences, all three movements are meant to be performed with similar characteristics:

– Overhand “pronated” grip
– Hands “wide” outside shoulder width
– Elbows travel 45-70 degrees outside torso as you pulldown

The purpose of each movement here is to bias more of the tension to the upper back, which is best accomplished with that overhand grip position.

Due to the use of bands in the DB program, we will see much higher rep ranges than we will with the cable pulldown or rack pull-up variations.

Friday – Lower Body

A. Hamstrings/Glutes

  • Barbell or Trap Bar RDL (bottom 60% ROM) (full and home gym)
  • B-Stance DB RDL (DB programs)

B. Quads/Glutes

  • Machine Hack Squat (2-3 sec pause bottom) (full gym)
  • Heels Elevated Back Squat w/ Pause (home gym)
  • Foam Roller Hack Squats (DB programs)

In part A, remember that we used the bottom 60% ROM DB RDL on the first lower body day for the DB programs. So the B-stance RDL will provide the DB programs with another productive option to train the hamstrings and glutes.

For the full and home gym programs, this bottom 60% ROM execution is a brand new pattern of movement for us to have in a program.

I’ve been using this in my program (and with clients) for 3-4+ months now, and it has been insanely productive.

Think about what happens at the top of the RDL. Nothing except some strain on your grip and traps to stand there with the weight (but no tension on the hamstrings or glutes). This new bottom-focused execution style will force us to spend the entire set “under significant tension” for the target muscles.

Most people will assume that they can do more weight because the ROM is shorter. However, this would be an incorrect assumption. On movements that are already lengthened overloaded (like an RDL), the inability to rest at the top will force you to use less weight (likely in the range of ~20% less).

The hardest part of this is to re-train your breathing patterns (because you have likely been taking in a deep breath to brace at the top of the rep).

In this new variation, you will want to have a proper brace in place for the “up” portion and breathe in during the “down” portion (because the way down is the point of least resistance on the body).

It may take a few practice sets, but I’m confident you and your posterior chain love this new style!

Part B quad slaying will represent the second time we’ve had this exact variation as a repeating movement.

Pick your tool, whether it’s a hack squat, leg press, back squat, or foam roller hack squat. We will set it up in the most quad-dominant fashion possible. This means we want to drive the knees over the toes as we descend and mash the hamstrings into the calves at the bottom of each rep. If you can use a heel wedge (especially for the home and DB programs) this would be very beneficial to the cause!

We will be pausing for 2-3 seconds at the bottom of every rep!

Be careful to ensure you don’t pause with the machine “bottomed out.” We want to ensure you are pausing at the bottom but with all the tension still on the quads. If you’re doing it right, you should feel a massive stretch through your quads during each pause.

Due to the implementation of the 3-second pause at the bottom, we will work exclusively in the 5-8 rep range, as these sets will still take around a full minute when you control the lowering phase and pause as prescribed.

Saturday – Full Upper Body

A. Back/Lats

  • Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown (full gym)
  • Neutral Grip Pull-ups (home gym)
  • Neutral Grip Banded Pulldowns (DB programs)

B. Shoulders

  • Seated Machine Overhead Press (full gym)
  • DB Overhead Press – Seated (home and DB programs)

The Part A Pulldowns (or Pull-ups for home gym) are performed with a shoulder-width neutral grip, to facilitate elbows driving straight down. The neutral grip seems to be much more joint-friendly while also allowing for slightly more weight to be used, increasing tension on the muscle!

The neutral grip will also slightly bias the lats, which is perfect in combination with the Shoulder Press in Part B (which will hit a decent amount of the upper back region). 

The pulldown (and all back movements, basically) are “short overloaded,” so we will start the cycle much closer to failure, and quickly progress beyond failure with partial reps, and other intensity techniques to enhance the stimulus!

The Part B Overhead Press is a complete shoulder movement. Dumbbells are a really solid option, regardless of which program you are following. If you have access to an overhead press machine that fits you well, then feel free to use that for the full gym programs. However, I would fully expect many of the full gym members to still opt for the DB press!

When executing the overhead press, we want a slight “wide to narrow” line of press. Start with the DBs (or machine) all the way down, touching the front delts providing a stretch there, and then ascend up, pressing slightly together as you ascend.

Repeating Movements – Middle 6 Weeks

The middle 6-week specialty cycle is going to be focused on upper body PUSH movements.

***The 3 and 4 Day programs have all the same repeating movements (minus 1-2 throughout the week).

Monday – Lower Body

A. Quads

  • Leg Press – Quad Dominant (1 and 1/4 Reps)
  • Heels Elevated Back Squat (1 and 1/4 Reps)
  • Foam Roller DB Hack Squat (1 and 1/4 Reps)

B. Hamstrings/Glutes

  • Rear Foot Elevated DB RDL

The Part A Quad movement is a new addition to the Paragon Library of movements. With all the research on LENGTHENED bias training, these 1&1/4 reps allow us to have more exposure to the hardest portion of the lift (but also allow that brief reset at the top between reps to gather breath and composure).

Descend to the bottom, then up only 1/4 of the rep (essentially just a pulse to get it going again), then immediately descend back to the bottom, followed by a rep to the top.

Regardless of which movement you choose, based on your equipment options, all will provide the stimulus we want!

In Part B, the Rear Foot Elevated (RFE) RDL is making a comeback after a few years of focusing more on the B-stance. For those who struggle with balance, the B-stance is still a SWAP option, but the RFE version will put more tension into the working leg, which means higher force production and more gains over time!

Remember that an RDL is all about sending the butt/hips backward, while keeping the knee barely bent (~10-15 degrees) which will provide the most stimulus for the hamstrings (you can use a little bit more knee bend, ~20-30 degrees, if you’re looking to target more glutes).

Both movements as highly demanding compound movements will progress slowly across the cycle, likely with only one week “to failure” at the very end of the cycle.

Tuesday – Upper Body PUSH

A. Shoulders/Upper Chest

  • Steep Incline DB Anterior Delt Press

B. Chest

Superset Movements:

  • Flat DB Fly (Bottom 60% ROM)
  • Push-ups (multiple variations)

This Upper Push day starts with a volume-escalating protocol for the Part A Shoulder press. Weekly volume increases are not the typical approach we employ in programming, however, in this cycle, it’s the perfect strategy to target specific muscle groups with higher priority.

Instead of pulling on the “proximity to failure” lever, as we do with many movements, we will decrease proximity to failure much more gradually as we increase the number of sets performed across the cycle

Part A will work up to 7-8 total sets by the end of the cycle. Keeping rest periods at 60-90 seconds will become a little bit metabolic, and have a high level of “muscle burn,” thus requiring us to keep a close eye on the amount of weight used. I think you guys will really enjoy this protocol as a way to drive some extra stimulus into the front delts/shoulders with this movement.

The Part B superset is truly one of my all-time favorite ways to target the chest. It takes us from an isolation movement into a compound. The DB Fly will isolate the chest, without incurring fatigue in the triceps. Then we will move immediately to the Push-ups, where the triceps can help out, since the chest will already be highly fatigued after the flies.

The DB Fly is a “Bottom ROM” fly, meaning we want to avoid the resting place at the top of the rep. Check out the video demo to get a visual of the ROM used.

We will offer plenty of swaps for the push-ups, as the varying strength levels of the members will dictate the need to use different push-up variations.

When I do this superset, I use a “deep deficit Parallete Push-up” and can manage about 9 reps. Many of you will need to use a hands-elevated push-up option and decrease the elevation as you get stronger. Others may be just fine with the standard floor push-up, or even a slight deficit!

Remember that if you increase load/reps on the DB Fly, this will have downstream effects on the push-up… so even maintaining performance on the push-up may actually progress.

Wednesday – Upper Body PULL

A. Back/Lats

  • One Arm Cable Lat Pulldowns (Full Gym)
  • One Arm Foot-Assisted Rack Pull-ups (Home Gym)
  • One Arm Banded Lat Pulldowns (DB/Band programs)

B. Back/Lats

  • Seated Cable Row (Full Gym)
  • Bentover Barbell Rows (Home Gym)
  • Bentover DB Rows (DB/Band programs)

After the Upper Push day, we need to get a solid dose of pulling in, and there’s no better way than starting with a Lat-focus movement followed by an upper back focus movement.

In part A, we look to bias the lats by keeping a neutral grip, and driving the elbow down, keeping it tight into our torso. The Full Gym and DB/Bands programs are essentially doing the same exercise, just one with cables and one with bands. We’ve done this exercise before, so many of you should be familiar with it.

The demo video shows this kneeling on the ground, but if you can find better stability bracing against a bench, or sitting on a bench, that’s all great, too! The main component is to ensure the cable is coming from high to low (so you can adjust your torso or the cable to facilitate the proper angle of pull!).

For the home gym program, I decided to get creative this cycle and implement a brand-new movement. The One-Arm Rack Pull-up is going to preserve the intended angle of pull super well. Of course one-arm pull-ups are extremely challenging, and thus, almost everyone will be doing this as a “foot-assisted” variation, as the video demo shows. If you are quite strong, you can definitely do a proper rack pull-up, where your feet are further out in front (or even elevated on a bench).

One thing to remember is that we want a neutral grip. So you can just turn your body sideways so that the barbell itself becomes a neutral grip pull-up for you!

In part B, we focus on the upper back and rear delts by pulling with the arms at ~45-degree angle to the torso (elbows travel further out away from the torso). The best way to facilitate this is with a “semi-pronated” grip (between neutral and pronated). However, a pronated grip also works totally fine for the stimulus we want (pronated = palms facing away from you, like in a barbell row).

Whether using cable, barbell, or DB, the movement pattern is mostly the same. Maintain a relatively rigid torso, and row into the abdomen area. Make sure not to use momentum just because you’re tired at the end of the set.

Friday – Lower Body

A. Glutes

  • Kas Glute Bridge (Full Gym and Home Gym)
  • Single Leg DB Hip Thrust (DB/Band programs)

B. Quads

Superset Movements (Full Gym):

  • Machine Leg Extensions
  • DB Walking Lunges (Quad focus)

Superset Movements (Home Gym and DB/Band programs):

  • DB Walking Lunges (Quad focus)
  • Heels Elevated Goblet Squats

The Part A movement focuses exclusively on the glutes! While the glutes get plenty of work on quad and hamstring exercises, it’s nice to put a full movement towards the glutes now and then.

If training in the full gym, you can use the barbell (same as the home gym) or you can find a glute machine you like in your commercial gym. Remember to emulate the same points of performance where the range of motion is small; much less than a thrust.

If we were to thrust, we would fatigue the quads a bit, too, which would hurt the part B sequence. So using the “bridge” instead will keep the tension directly on the glutes.

For the DB programs, you can use the bridge or the thrust, because single-leg work inherently provides more stimulus to the glutes. This is a result of pelvic instability (basically the body has to create balance, which calls in more glutes to the party).

We will be using a descending rep scheme, with a higher rep set, then a moderate rep set, followed by a low rep set (increasing weight each set).

In Part B, we have a killer quad superset. It will differ between the Full Gym and Home/DB programs. This is simply to keep you from having to do one of the “at home” leg extension variations. Plus, going from lunges directly to goblet squat is a classic sequence, where the simplicity is inherent in the ability to just drop one of the two DBs from the lunges and start squatting.

The Full Gym version literally is one of the most painful and nauseating sequences I’ve done for the quads. Going from “short overload” to “lengthened” is a classic orientation for the same muscle group supersets.

After the Leg Extensions, the quads are already smashed, and executing the lunge with “quad focus” means we need to drop the weight substantially. I often find myself using like 35-50# DBs for 8-12 reps (4-6 per leg).

Saturday – Full Upper Body

A. Chest

  • Machine Chest Press (Full Gym)
  • Flat Barbell Bench Press (Home Gym)
  • Flat DB Bench Press (DB/Band programs)

B. Shoulders

Superset Movements (Full Gym):

  • Cable Y-Raise
  • Dual Cable Lateral Raise

Superset Movements (Home Gym and DB/Band programs):

  • Face Down DB Y-Raise
  • Incline DB Lateral Raise (Behind back)

This full upper body day starts with a volume-escalating protocol for the Part A Chest press. Weekly volume increases are not the typical approach we employ in programming, however, in this cycle, it’s the perfect strategy to target specific muscle groups with higher priority.

Instead of pulling on the “proximity to failure” lever, as we do with many movements, we will decrease proximity to failure much more gradually as we increase the number of sets performed across the cycle.

Part A will work up to 7-8 total sets by the end of the cycle. Keeping rest periods at 60-90 seconds will become a little bit metabolic, and have a high level of “muscle burn,” thus requiring us to keep a close eye on the amount of weight used.

As we discussed in the meat of the blog, this cycle is only a specialization in the sense that we will be placing the focus on muscle groups first on training days. So while this is an upper body day overall, the first two sections will focus on the priority muscle groups of the chest and shoulders.

The Part B superset sequence is another of my all-time favorites and also pulls on the “short overload to lengthened overload” sequencing of movements.

Both the Full gym and the Home/DB programs start with a Y-Raise. The home gym Y-Raise is a bit more short-overloaded (hardest at the top) and thus needs to be trained with higher reps. So while the commercial gym Y-Raise uses more standard hypertrophy rep ranges (6-10 reps), the home/DB programs will use 12-20 reps for the Y-Raise.

The second movement for the FULL gym is the dual cable lateral raise. With cables, we can adjust the resistance profile, based on how high we set the cables. To accentuate the lengthened position, we want to set the cable at “wrist height” (when the arm is hanging comfortably by your side).

For the Home/DB programs, we accentuate the lengthened position by performing the lateral raises on an incline bench, laid back. This provides an additional stretch on the delt at the bottom of the rep, much like we see with the Incline DB Bicep curl movement.

When we move directly from the Y-raise into the lengthened lateral raise, you’ll feel a burn in the delt like no other, and you’ll see the gains, as well!

Repeating Movements – Last 7 Weeks

The last 7-week specialty cycle is going to be focused on upper body PULL movements.

***The 3 and 4 Day programs have all the same repeating movements (minus 1-2 throughout the week).

Monday – Lower Body

A. Quads

  • Front Foot Elevated DB Split Squat (Quad Dominant)
    *same movement for Full, Home, and DB programs

B. Hamstrings/Glutes

  • Weighted Hip Extensions (Full and Home Gym)
  • Hip Banded DB RDL (DB programs)

Part A is a consistent movement across all programs, targeting the quads with a single leg movement.

The full gym program has the option to swap in single-leg presses or single-leg hack squats. Remember the key is to get as much “knee over toe” as possible to emphasize the quads.

Part B has a different movement for the DB programs. Instead of programming the Reverse Hyperextension variation, which we use a lot, and is often difficult to load and execute week over week, I opted for the Hip Banded DB RDL. The Hip band adds a bit of resistance at the short position (where the glute contracts) and thus makes the RDL a slightly more similar movement to a hip extension.

For the Full gym and Home programs, the Hip Extension will be a fun movement to progress over the weeks, as we can take it into partials, and eventually into “lengthened sets” where we load it super heavy and do a bunch of bottom ROM partial reps!

Tuesday – Upper Body Push

A. Chest

  • Flat DB Fly/Press (1 and 1/4 Reps)
    *same movement for Full, Home, and DB programs

B. Shoulders

  • Dual Cable Lateral Raise (Full Gym)
  • DB X Lateral Raise (Bottom 60% ROM)
    (Home Gym and DB programs)

Part A is a consistent movement across all programs, targeting the chest with the fly/press.

This exercise is so incredibly effective, as it overloads the lengthened position (the bottom of the rep where the chest is stretched), while also having an Abduction component (meaning the arms come from wide to narrow, working in line with the natural arc of the chest muscles).

The 1 and ¼ reps further exaggerate the stimulus to the hypertrophic lengthened range of that motion, where one full rep consists of a partial at the bottom, followed by a full rep, all the way up.

Part B uses a lateral raise variation that also focuses slightly more on the lengthened range for the side delts. This movement is not part of the 3D or 4D programs.

The cable lateral behind the back (set at wrist height) is my favorite way to target the lateral delts, while the DB X Lateral Raise is a great “home hack” variation.

The X lateral allows you to use a weight that is ~40-50% heavier than you would use for a normal lateral raise. This is because the X lateral only uses the bottom 60% of the ROM, and a standard DB lateral raise is EXTREMELY challenging at the top of the rep (thus limiting the total weight you can use for the FULL ROM variation).

With both variations, we are set to use some DROP SETS as we venture into the later weeks of the cycle!

Wednesday – Upper Body Pull

A. Upper Back Focus

  • Wide Grip Cable Pulldowns (Full Gym)
  • Strict Pull-ups (Home Gym)
  • Assisted Towel Pull-ups (DB programs)

B. Lat Focus

  • Chest Supported T-Bar Row (Full Gym)
  • Chest Supported DB Row (Home Gym and DB programs)

Part A targets more of the upper back, using a pronated and relatively wide grip position. Whether doing the Cable Pulldown or the Strict Pull-up / Rack Pull-up, you should definitely be focusing on the stretch and contraction of the upper back muscles (though the lats will come along for the ride, too).

Part B targets more of the lats by using a NEUTRAL grip, and pulling with the elbows coming in tight to the midline (driving the elbows toward the waist as you pull).

The ”home” variation of the chest-supported DB row follows all the same cues and execution standards. We have a new video demo for this movement since the original video demo shows a more “upper back execution style, so make sure to check out that new video in the app.

Both the Part A and Part B movements are perfect for partial reps and lengthened sets as we get into the later weeks of the cycle.

Friday – Lower Body

A. Quads

  • Machine Hack Squat (Full Gym)
  • Foam Roller Hack Squats (Home Gym and DB programs)

B. Hamstrings Superset

  • Lying Leg Curls (Full Gym; Banded for Home/DB)
  • DB RDL

Part A has a pretty standard quad slay movement on the agenda. Nothing special this time (i.e. no extended pause at the bottom, or 1 and ¼ reps); just hack squat (or leg press) yourself to an early grave of quad pain.

The rep scheme is ascending in reps, going from lower reps (5-8), all the way to 12-15 reps by the third set. This will provide a unique and effective approach to quad training that we haven’t used recently.

Part B is one of my favorite short/lengthened supersets for the hamstrings. This sequence is not part of the 3D and 4D programs.

Starting with a leg curl, this fatigues the short position of the hamstrings (where the heels get close to the butt). Once this fatigue sets in, we still have plenty of juice left in the lengthened range.

So we can move into an RDL and get some super effective stimulus in the portion of the ROM where the hamstrings are stretched.

You shouldn’t need super heavy weight since the RDL is second, but you can def swap to a Barbell or Trap bar if you prefer!

Saturday – Upper Body (Pull Focus)

A. Lats

  • Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown (Full Gym)
  • Neutral Grip Banded Pulldowns (Home Gym and DB programs)

B. Upper Back

  • Cable Kelso Shrugs (Full Gym)
  • Chest Supported DB Kelso Shrugs (Home Gym and DB programs)

C. Biceps

  • Machine Preacher Curls (Full Gym)
  • Preacher Curls (EZ or BB) (Home Gym)
  • Squat Sit DB Curl (DB programs)

This full upper body day has 3 repeating movements, all for the pulling structure of the body, since this is a pull specialization cycle!

Part A puts lats on priority with the neutral grip pulldown. Use approx. a shoulder-width grip, driving the elbows down towards the waist as you pull. Also, work to avoid arching the back (as this can take some stimulus off the lats and onto the upper back).

This part A movement is perfect for partial reps and lengthened sets as we get into the later weeks of the cycle.

Part B is the highly requested Kelso Shrug (after it made its first appearance in programming in the first of the three hypertrophy cycles).

The Kelso shrug is essentially a shrug that is done horizontally. So instead of targeting the upper traps (like a standard shrug done vertically), the horizontal nature of the setup will have you “shrug” your rhomboids together (this essentially just means that you wanna think about pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades as you retract the scapula). This movement will target the entire upper back region, made up of the mid and lower traps, as well as the other muscle tissue between the shoulder blades.

Make sure you watch the video and read the cues, because the movement has only a very slight bend of the elbows and is mostly performed simply by rounding (stretching) and contracting (squeezing together) the scapula / upper back.

Part C is a repeating movement for the Biceps (not part of the 3D programs).

Whichever variation you do for your given equipment option, they are all mostly the same.

They all present with the elbows in front of the torso, and with a support for the triceps, thus providing some additional tension at that bottom lengthened range of the rep.

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