2021 Summer Physique Cycle


Program Details:

  • 60-75 minute sessions. Training cycle = 12 weeks long
  • 4x/week Strength 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 (one day has part C repeat)
  • Focus on compound exercises mostly for repeating movements

Equipment Required: 

  • Dumbbells, barbell, squat rack, bench, way to do pull-ups

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)


Samples Day from Physique:

*In our app, movements will have links to movement videos

Sample Lower Body Day-

Parts A and B repeat week-to-week. Track Metrics

A. Back Squat
(Low Bar or High Bar; stay consistent week to week)
Build to a Heavy Top Set of 4-6 Reps
+ TWO BACKOFF SETS of 4-6 Reps (reduce squat weight by ~15%)
***In upcoming weeks, increase weight on TOP SET when it achieves 6 Reps

B. Deadlift
(select variation and stay consistent week to week)
Conventional Deadlift
Sumo Deadlift
Trap Bar Deadlift

Build to a Heavy Top Set of 4-6 Reps
+ One BACKOFF SET of 4-6 Reps (reduce Deadlift weight by ~15%)
***In upcoming weeks, increase weight on TOP SET when it achieves 6 Reps

C. Hand-Supported DB Reverse Lunge OR Single-Leg Leg Press
Build up to challenging top set of 8-10 Reps
Then complete one additional; challenging set of 10-12 Reps @ approx. 80% of top set
Rest equally (at least 1-2 min) between legs

D. Weighted Plank
Build to one TOP SET of 30-45 seconds 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

F. Weighted Calf Raises
Complete 2 “easy/moderate” sets of 8-15 Reps


Sample Upper Body Day-
Part A and B repeat week to week. Track metrics

A. Flat Barbell Bench Press
Reps at 21X0 tempo, meaning 2-sec descent, 1-sec pause bottom, EXPLODE UP, no pause at top of rep

Ramp-up sets as needed
Then complete 3 working sets of 4-6 Reps
***In subsequent weeks, increase weight on any set that achieves 6 Reps
I.e. if you make reps 6-5-4 with 120 lbs, you would add weight on just the first set next week

B. Head Supported Barbell Row OR Chest Supported Machine Row
(select movement and stay consistent week to week)

Ramp-up sets as needed
Then complete 3 working sets of 8-12 Reps
***In subsequent weeks, increase weight on any set that achieves 12 Reps
I.e. if you make reps 12-10-9 with 100 lbs, you would add weight on just the first set next week

C. Alternating One-Arm DB Overhead Press

Build to a tough set of 8-12 Reps (4-6 per arm, alternating)
Then complete 1 x 12-16 (6-8/arm) at reduced weight
+ Superset this final set with:
Seated DB Lateral Raise x 8-15 Reps

D. Dips OR Assisted Dip Machine) OR Narrow-Grip Push-ups (elevate hands to scale movement)
Build quickly to challenging set of 5-8 Reps
Rest a few min
Then complete 8-10 Reps at a reduced weight/difficulty

E. Single Arm Pulldowns (Cable machine OR Banded)
Use a resistance level 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 15-20 Reps
Rest 1 min
Incline DB Curls x 10-15 Reps
Rest 1 min


Detailed Program Deets:

Hey Paragon fam, programming expert and Paragon Cofounder Bryan Boorstein here!

The new “Summer Strength Cycle” will approach strength progressions slightly differently than we’ve done in prior strength cycles. The first mesocycle (5-week progressive build period) will utilize a static rep range for the repeating movements. Most of them will fall in the 4-6 rep range. After the mid-cycle deload week, the second (and final) mesocycle, will progress by decreasing one rep each week. Here’s how it all looks:

First Mesocycle (5 weeks) = All sets of 4-6 Reps
One week Deload
Second Mesocycle (5 weeks)
Week 1 = 5 Reps
Week 2 = 4 Reps
Week 3 = 3 Reps
Week 4 = 2 Rep
Week 5 = 1 Rep (max testing)

Another change from prior cycles is the implementation of Back Squats appearing as a repeating movement TWICE each week. The first session consists of the heavy and challenging working sets of 4-6 Reps. The second session will be lighter “technical and speed” sets with reduced weight/reps. This second session is meant to enhance execution and refine movement patterns with intention that this will carry over to the heavy sets the following week (also see note at bottom of next section about proximity to failure in relation to strength goals).


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.”

For those of you that have read this far, you get rewarded with this little nugget: Many studies are now showing that STRENGTH is increased faster staying further from failure. The rationale is based around 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); increasing the force applied.

In the below study, 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 slightly better strength gains, but slightly less hypertrophy gains.


Right now this is mostly just an “FYI” for you to ingest and play around with. If this research continues to be replicated, our next strength cycles may look a bit different 😉

How to Progress During This Cycle:

The progression is pretty simple this cycle. In this strength cycle, we are utilizing a TOP SET + Backoff Set approach for many the REPEATING MOVEMENTS.

This means that you will first BUILD to the TOP SET, then reduce the weight and complete a slightly lighter set (that is still challenging, because the reps are usually higher, or the fatigue is high from the prior set). When your top set reaches the top of the rep range (i.e. when you can make 6 reps in the 4-6 target rep range), then you add weight the following week. The backoff sets are a percentage of the top set, so as the top set increases in weight, the backoff sets will, too.

HOW TO BUILD TO TOP SET of 4-6 Reps + Info Rest Periods
(assume your “Top Set” goal = 200 lbs)
#1 objective = Keep fatigue low by increasing effort as reps decrease (optimize performance on TOP SET)

Empty bar x 10-15 Reps
85 x 5-7 Reps
125 x 4-5 Reps
155 x 2-3 Reps
175 x 1 Rep
200 x 4-6 Reps “TOP SET”

These ramp-up sets assume the first movement of the day, as a large compound movement. We definitely don’t need to be doing this for every exercise. If you are doing a movement with less weight, you will need fewer ramp-up sets. If you are doing a movement with more weight, you may need an additional ramp-up set or two, but the principles all still apply regardless of movement and rep range!

For something like a Bentover Row for 8-12 Reps, you can prob get away with 2-3 progressive sets (empty bar, light weight, moderate weight, then work set). 

For the backoff sets, you don’t need to do any additional ramp-up sets. Just decrease the weight and go! You also will not need nearly as many ramp-up sets for smaller muscle groups. For curls, shoulders, triceps and the such, I usually just implement one “feel it out” set, then jump into work sets. This means I may use 25# DB’s for 8-10 Reps before my work set with 40# DB’s for 10-15 Reps.

Rest periods are ALWAYS important. Below are the GENERAL GUIDELINES
(Ramp-up / 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