2021 Summer DB Physique Cycle

Say hello to our newest DB Physique cycle! 

Program Details:

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

Equipment Required: 

  • Dumbbells, bench

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

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


How This Program Works

Hey Paragon fam! Programming expert and Paragon Cofounder Bryan Boorstein here!

Research has clearly confirmed that sets of 6-30 Reps can stimulate muscle growth, set for set, as long as working sets are taken within a few reps of technical failure. 

In less technical language, this means that even with a small variety of dumbbells or weights, you can still optimally train and enhance your strength/physique (:

For example: 10-12 Reps with a pair of 10 lb dumbbells might be perfect for Bicep Curls or Lateral Raises, but much too light for movements like Bent-over Rows or Shoulder Press. But by increasing reps up the ~20-30 Rep range, we can create an effective stimulus similar to what we could achieve for less reps at a heavier weight.

Lower body might initially seem challenging or more difficult to overload if we only have light/moderate weights. For this reason, we modified the base movements in the DB Physique program to be “single leg” variations. As an example, Backsquats and Deadlifts might be replaced by Rear-Foot Elevated Squats and Single Leg RDL’s.

If you’ve ever done a set of 30 reps on each leg for Split Squats, you know you don’t need much weight to create a gnarly stimulus (;


How To Properly Implement This Programming

1. Begin each 5-week period with approximately 2-3 “reps in reserve” (RIR). This is a representation of the # of reps shy of “technical” failure. 

RIR = RIR = Reps in Reserve / what you have “left in the tank” after your set. If you were building to a set of 10-12 with 2 RIR, it would = a weight you hit for 12-12 reps, but COULD hit 13-15 reps at

In general with DB Physique, if you have heavier weights available, you’ll likely go less reps. If you only have lighter weights available, you’ll likely go more reps to achieve the correct level of fatigue and reps in reserve/reps from failure.

Remember that movements should be done with a 2-3 second tempo: one-one-thousand. two-one-thousand…

Choose your starting weight wisely, as each week, the goal would be to increase weight/difficulty on the repeating movements (parts A & B) from the previous week. More on this here soon, but this might include increasing weight, increasing reps, increasing tempo, adding pauses, etc. Progressive Overload = gradual increase of stress and difficulty on the body over time (:


2. Each Repeating Movement has a LARGE rep range prescribed as everyone will have different access to different weights. This program can be done by individuals with only 2-3 pairs of dumbbells, but obviously the more weights, the better.

In DB Physique programming, you might see: 6-20 Reps, 8-25 Reps, 12-30 Reps, etc…

– If you have tons of dumbbells to play with, go heavy and aim for the lower end of the rep ranges.

– Happen to have a barbell? You’ll see on parts A & B, we sometimes give the option for a barbell. Lift heavy + get ittttt!

– If you are limited on weight selection, lean towards the higher end of the Rep scheme (20-30 Reps) and try to push close to failure.


3. The goal is to keep the SAME number of “reps in reserve” on each of your sets that day. 

So if you achieved 11-12 reps on the first set, and also achieved 11-12 reps on the third set, you could be assured that the third set would be way harder than the first set. This is why we want to see some reps decrease set to set (such as 11-9-8). This will ensure equality of effort across all sets.


4. Rest periods between sets should be 90 seconds to 3 minutes if unlisted. 

You will want to rest toward the longer end of the range if weights are heavier or movements are more fatiguing. Make sure that your breathing is not a limiting factor in your performance of the movement or ability to focus and execute optimally! It is important to truly push these sets and really make a strong mind/muscle connection. Get the most out of each rep and each set and avoid rushing your movements or “going through the motions”. This isn’t CrossFit, look to improve execution and efficiency of your movement with each rep.


5. Add weight and/or reps gradually each week so that you will be approaching “technical” failure by week’s four and five

*** Ultimately, the examples below demonstrate that we need to make training harder week to week. There are a number of different ways in which you can increase your training effort each week. Adding weight or adding reps are the simplest ways, but you can use any of the below options to increase perceived effort throughout the cycle. 

How to Implement Progression Each Week: 

  1. Increasing weight
  2. Increasing Reps
  3. Increasing QUALITY of movement (improving mind-muscle connection)
  4. Increasing Time under Tension (increase tempo)
  5. Add pauses at bottom/top of reps


Example: Has Variety of Weights to Choose From***

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat 6-25 Reps (Goal = lower end of rep range)

Week 1 – 25 lbs each hand for moderately difficult sets

Week 2 – 25 lbs each hand for 1-2 more reps than week 1

Week 3 – 30 lbs each hand for a slightly more difficult set than week 2

Week 4 – 35 lbs each hand for a slightly more difficult set than week 3

Week 5  – 40 lbs each hand for 0-1 reps shy of technical failure


Week 7 – Start over SLIGHTLY heavier (more challenging) than Week 1


Example: If You Have Access Only to Lighter Dumbbells (15/10#)***

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat 6-25 Reps (Goal = higher end of rep range)

Week 1 – 15# per hand for moderately difficult sets

Week 2 – 15# per hand for 1-2 reps more than week 1

Week 3 – 15# per hand for 1-2 reps more than week 2

Week 4 – 15# per hand for 1-2 reps more than week 3

Week 5  – 15# per hand for 1-2 reps more than week 4


Week 7 – Start over SLIGHTLY heavier (more challenging) than Week 1


6. You will notice that on the A/B parts some days, there’s a barbell suggestion as well.

YOU ARE NOT DOING THE PRESCRIBED DB REPS + THE BARBELL REPS.You can go heavier with a barbell than DB’s, so if you have access to a bar, please use it IN PLACE OF the prescribed DB movement (:


Sample Day from DB Physique:
Sample Day #1: Lower Body + Core 

Part A and B repeat week to week. Track metrics


A. Foam Roller / Slider Hack Squats

(anything that rolls will work, balls, skateboards, etc…)

Complete 3 sets of 8-15 Reps


B. DB RDL (if you have heavy enough weights) OR Single Leg RDL variation

One TOP SET (heaviest) for 8-15 Reps

Then 2 sets approx. 20% lighter for 10-20 Reps

Remember to rest equally (1-2 min) between legs if relevant


Single Leg RDL Options:

Single Leg DB RDL (one or two DB’s)

B-stance DB RDL

Hand-Supported DB RDL (for balance)


C. Hand-Supported DB Reverse Lunge

Build up to challenging top set of 8-15 Reps

Then complete one additional; challenging set of 10-20 Reps @ approx. 80% of top set

Rest equally (at least 1-2 min) between legs


D. Weighted Plank

One TOP SET for 1-2 Minutes unbroken, close to failure


E. Superset x 2 Sets Each:

Weighted Sit-ups x 10-15 Reps

Lying Leg Raise x 10-20 Reps

Rest 2-3 min


Sample Day #2: Upper Body

Part A and B repeat week to week. Track metrics

A. Flat DB Bench Press

3 x 8-20 Reps


B. Head Supported DB Row

3 x 8-20 Reps


C. Alternating One-Arm DB Overhead Press

Build to a tough set of 8-16 Reps (4-8 per arm, alternating)

Then complete 1 x 16-24 Reps (8-12/arm) at reduced weight

+ Superset this final set with:

Seated DB Lateral Raise x 8-15 Reps


D. Narrow-Grip “Tricep” Push-ups on DB handles

2 work sets of 6-15 Reps


E. One Arm DB Row (lat focus; pause contraction)

Use a weight where you COULD complete 15 Reps unbroken

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


F. Alternate Movements x 2 Sets Each:

Face-Down Rear Delt Sweeps x 15-30 Reps

Rest 1 min

Incline DB Curls x 8-20 Reps

Rest 1 min


Proximity to Failure (How Hard Should I Be Working?)

First let’s define failure: We should assume that taking a set to failure means that you can no longer perform a rep with the same technique.

This does NOT mean that you contort your body to achieve another rep. That is beyond failure, because the intended musculature is no longer the one moving the weight. Your first rep should look the exact same as your last rep, just a slower grind through the concentric portion of the rep.

We like to begin each 5-week progressive building phase (mesocycle) with approximately 2-3 reps “in reserve” (shy of failure). This allows you to confidently progress reps or load week to week with the intention that you will reach 0-1 reps from failure by the final week before deload.

The cool thing about this model, is that you get a sense of assessment at the end of each 5-week period and you can know accurately whether the training, nutrition and lifestyle you are living is “working.”