Monday, August 15, 2022

North America’s Highest Gym

             This blog is a decade old. The name, Swole at Every Height, was not created to foreshadow the eventual opening of my new gym located in Alma, Colorado. However, that is how things fell into place – and I couldn’t be happier.

Grand opening. Friends. Family. Fitness.

Located at 10,361 feet elevation, Alma’s Gym is two hours outside of Denver, high in the Rocky Mountains. The town of Alma is the highest elevation town in North America. I’ve called it home for the last six years. Though the winters can be harsh, there is an undeniable kind of beauty that comes with a hundred and fifty inches of snow every year. The summers, well, they are incredible. The mountain air is fresh and crisp in the morning. It smells of pine and sweet aspens. Whether skiing, hiking, or mountain biking, the Rockies provide exhilaration and near asphyxiation – especially in Alma.

That is where you will find my gym. A place where locals can get stronger and develop their bodies for whatever activity they live here for. I’ve not met one neighbor who doesn’t have an outdoor hobby. It is why we live up here. Why I like living up here too, I think. People are active here. It is necessary to live. If, at the very least just chopping wood and shoveling snow, then to get out and fish, hunt, hike, camp, ski, bike, run, climb… and now lift.

Strong locals making a strong community.

North America’s Highest Gym is now a month old and doing better than I imagined. Not only are locals signing up and getting fit, but so too are many of the tourists who come here for any number of outdoors activities. They see the sign “North America’s Highest Gym” and recognize the inherent challenge of it. Do I have what it takes?

They do. And so do you.

We have an oxygen lounge for those who need it…

I am excited for the future. Both my own and for my neighbors too. We are all in this together, so why not build strength, endurance, and our bodies together, so that we may thrive for longer and achieve more in this intense yet wonderful place we call home. Then, as word spreads, more from around the world will come for the experience of training in such a place. As time has seen fit, we may all become swole at every height.

God willing, Alma’s Gym will become the greatest gym you can lift at.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Minimal is not Optimal.

"By my calculations, you're not lifting optimally."

            I encounter with increasing frequency the attitude that “less is more” when it comes to physical training. This sentiment about physicality seems to originate from two sources: time management and risk mitigation. Those with this conception of training figure backwards from their goal, but in doing so are unable to observe the process that will carry them forward to realization. Often, once the minimum is determined the optimal is defined. These “optimalists” are usually new to weight training.

            Optimalists prioritize managing time and risk. Then other factors are accounted for down to minutiae, with the most pathological concerned with the more inconsequential, or things not fully knowable (like genetic potential). Once sufficient factors at play are known, or believed to be known, then the optimal course to the finish line is planned backwards – the path of least resistance, of least energy expenditure, of least effort, of least trying.

            Why is this so?

Because, for the sake of efficiency, the optimalist does not set out to achieve until sufficient information is collected; a hoard is amassed, much of it as useless as stacks of People magazine. Optimalists act as if all factors can be accounted for in conceiving the path towards their goal. They want physical development fast with the least exertion necessary, believing that foreknowledge of the journey – before the first step is taken – guarantees the least sweat while earning the greatest reward.

This disregards the possibility of learning new information that benefits the process while in the process. It also fails to recognize that of the many factors at play in physical development, not all have known upper and lower limits, or are even accurately approximated, and of those factors, many cannot be reasonably determined until the training process is already underway. Some may never be known but exist merely as faithful estimates (such as genetic potential).

"What's optimal?"

Optimalists want to master their bodies as if it were a detached instrument from their minds. Like they were a disassociated omnipotent musician, and once total knowledge of their instrument is had, only then will they play, for the very first try guarantees the most beautiful song. If mastery was not achieved before trying, they risk failure. Something to be avoided at all costs, even if it means not trying at all, so thinks the optimalist. This is absurd because it is the process of learning the instrument and combining a variety of melodies, with some better than others, that develops a musician one day capable of composing a masterpiece.

Sometimes, optimalists imagine their whole story arc at the character creation screen of a role-playing game. After selecting a class, perhaps an archer, or knight, or mage, a certain number of points are given to distribute among attributes to tune their character and optimize their play style. This is silly because it combines biological determinism (character class and attribution points) within a predestined fantasy world of which the player already knows more about than the world they will experience in real life: the gym. Their live action role play of physical development is make-believe (often without the make).

The optimalist acts as if they possess (or can possess) total knowledge of the class and abilities of their real-life bodies while living in an equally known world that can be optimized through their character’s intrinsic qualities – all without playing a single minute of the game. Playing the game then becomes mere button pushing, with any experience in the process being frivolous. The entire act grows tedious, and when so, effort wanes (no wonder why such people never achieve much in the gym).

Any seasoned lifter knows of such people. Those who cannot figure out that it is not the lack of a perfect plan that is keeping them from making progress, it is their constant seeking of the optimal that risks keeping them at the minimal.

So, the optimalist quits or changes their program continuously, hoping that with a better class and strategy, a reset will prove more fruitful and efficient. Self-defeating and inefficiency incarnate. The antithesis to, and a surefire means out of, the pitfall of optimalism. Exactly the self that needs defeating. (Yes, that is an argument for program hopping.)

            Optimalists have never ending questions about trivial aspects because getting an answer from someone else is easier than figuring it out for themselves. While learning from others is beneficial, some things are unknowable unless one experiences it themselves. Optimal is unknowable until limits are discovered, and a litany of other factors, each of which more individual until their impact on development becomes trivial.

By mastering physical training trivia, the optimalist prioritizes collecting information that typically orbits achievement. They collect satellites without having a body to gravitate them. In finding their way out of optimalism, how much of those supposed facts about lifting, biology, and nutrition, becomes space junk? (Most of it.) That is the crux of the problem. Their knowledge is not anchored by experience, and it becomes the very thing that inhibits them until they try and learn what is genuinely best for them.

Someone should tell him that wide stance conventional is not optimal.

Physicality is the trying. Physical development requires doing until finding the answer that cannot be had secondhand. Such processes befuddle the optimalist because what they do not know cannot become known until they discovered it. Once they do, the answer is theirs alone; their optimal.

            The new gym goer asks, “I’m going to run XYZ-program. Is it optimal for me?”

            “Do it and see.” Replies the veteran lifter.

            There is little reason for the veteran lifter to ponder such minutiae for someone else. Perhaps they were once an optimalist too. Or, like me, they were the new guy in the gym trying hard to keep up with more experienced lifters, and therefore unconcerned with optimal. Instead, their day-to-day performance is what mattered.

            Was I very sore the next day? Sometimes.

            Did it regress my physicality? Never.

Once I was on my own, the justification for lifting this way or that became to see if I can. It has been that way for years. It is all that is required. It is my optimal.

            The optimalist, seeking knowledge over experience, hopes to prioritize efficiency over discovery. But they fail to recognize that in whatever source their energy is vested in, the optimal remains a mystery covered by faith until their own acts produce the desired outcome. Once achieved, that course is deemed optimal ex post facto.

            But was it?

            Could it have been done faster with less effort? Is that even answerable without trying something else and comparing results? Should that comparison be attempted, to truly discover optimal, doesn’t the overall process become less so (or at the very least risk it) by doing more than what may be necessary? Optimalists suffer in the purgatory between certainty and discovery because once they physically try what was thought optimal and it is found not to be, their endeavor slows to avoid risking further inefficiency. In doing so, they risk their goal, for the goal was what is optimal – not physical development.

            Preventing wasted time and undue risk is the heart of the optimalist desire. Second to that is attaining sufficient knowledge to justify their actions and results. Last comes the trying. Why not let hard work, consistency, and patience produce results that justify themselves?

            To the optimalist: Do more because less is just as risky and inefficient, and if you want to gain size and strength optimally, try trying.

Peak optimalist.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

General Gainz Body Building

Intro

            For nearly three years I have trained every day without a rest day. During this period, I used General Gainz to construct and guide my progression. At various points in the previous 1,000+ days I have had different goals. At one point that was improving my heavier T1 rep maxes on chosen lifts, like the press and squat. For 2021 I focused on gaining size, or in two words: body building. (Separated terms because I do not mean the sport specifically, but the goal of gaining muscularity.)

Now, why should you use General Gainz Body Building (GGBB)?

End of bulk. 5'5" and 196 lbs. of densly packed manlet.

Because it worked for me, and these concepts have worked for my clients. I focused on arms and shoulders heavily, as those have been lagging body parts of mine for years. Only now do I feel that they have grown to the point that they are not totally dwarfed by my traps. My arms went from 16.5” in late 2019, grew to 17” by February 2021 (about a month into GGBB) and by August 2021 were nearly 18 inches (both measurements taken with a great pump). I gained 21 pounds in 2021, only increasing bodyfat by about 3%, going from 175 lbs. at the start of 2021 to 196 at the end.

The post that follows first provides a quick familiarization with General Gainz as a training framework. This will improve your understanding of the framework, allowing for you to work within it flexibly and progress intuitively. It is important to read that section so that you understand how to tailor General Gainz Body Building (GGBB) to your needs, goals, and achieve progress.

My client Ben, who ran a program using elements of GGBB.
Read his post here.

After the familiarization with General Gainz is the GGBB plan, detailed as I roughly followed it, including several variations of the workouts.

What is GGBB?

A form of Volume Dependent Intensity Progression.

·       You use the same weight across several workouts until you hit the volume goal you set, then you add weight and start the process over again.

Uses supersets for each workout.

·       If you cannot do supersets in your gym, then I am uncertain of how effective GGBB will be for you.

Has no T1 (heavy weight) Rep Maxes.

·       GGBB uses the T2 (mid weight) and T3 (light weight) rep ranges. It is not a powerlifting training plan.

Will I get stronger?”

 ·       Yes – with your higher rep maxes, but likely not your 1RM.

Keep in mind as you are reading is that this is a flexible program developed within a flexible training framework. It is not so rigorous as Jacked & Tan 2.0 for example. Because of this high degree of flexibility, I have gone to great lengths to detail progression concepts and examples so that you can tailor them to suit your goals and abilities.

Recap of Concepts and Terms

            If you are already familiar with the General Gainz framework, then the following section is a refresher. I suggest you do not skip this section, as it may shed light on things that were unclear or previously misunderstood.

Movement Tiers, Rep Maxes (RM), and Follow-up Sets

            In General Gainz, movements are categorized by type and weight. The weight corresponds to the Rep Max (RM) you can do with it, rather than a percentage (as is the case with “classic” GZCL). The first, second, and third tiers are delineated by how many reps you can do at a weight.

Compound movements, like squats and press for example, are typically associated with the Tier 1 and Tier 2. They can, however, be trained into the T3 range (which becomes the case in GGBB). Tier 3 lifts are trained in the higher reps per set range and can be either compound or isolations. Typically, the T3 are isolation exercises.

Tier 1 (T1) – Heavy Rep Maxes (Not used in GGBB).

1RM through 6RM. (Typically starting at 3RM.)

*5 and 6RM are “bridge weights”; allowable in both T1 and T2.

After the RM set, determine its effort, then perform additional follow-up sets of singles only, using the same weight as the RM.

Follow-Up Set Volume: Matching RM is goal. E.g., 3 singles after a 3RM.

Example: 3RM@405 lbs. followed by three singles at the same weight.

Logged as: 3RM@405 lbs. (M (Effort Rating) + 1 (Singles) x 3 (The number of follow-up sets of one rep each, done after the RM, each at the same weight.)

Extension Limit: +3 additional singles beyond the RM.

For example, doing six singles after a 3RM.

Logged as: 3RM@405(M)+1x6

Tier 2 (T2) – Light Rep Maxes (Used for main lifts in GGBB).

5RM through 10RM. (GGBB extends the upper range well beyond 10RM.)

After the RM set, determine its effort, then perform additional follow-up sets of “Half-Sets” using the same weight at the RM. These can be pushed to “Three-Quarter Sets.”

Follow-Up Set Volume: Doubling RM is goal. E.g., 4 sets.

Example: 10RM + 5 reps x 4 sets (20 reps in follow-up volume).

Logged as: 10RM@225 lbs. (E)+5x4

Extension Limit: +2 additional sets (6 Max). This can increase the volume of the RM by 3 to 4x.

Example 1: 10RM + 5 reps x 6 sets (30 reps in follow-up volume).

Logged as: 10RM@225(E)+5x6

Example 2: 10RM + 7 reps x 4 sets (28 reps in follow-up volume).

This example uses “pushed” follow-up sets. Making them ¾ of the RM value rather than ½. When choosing this option, start with fewer follow-up sets, as the fully extended amount of six sets may not be necessary. 

Logged as: 10RM@225(E)+7x4

When ¾ sets are fully extended: 10RM@225(E)+7x6 (42 reps follow-up volume).

            The T2 can be pushed into the T3 range, thereby performing T2 RM sets beyond 10. This is the case with GGBB. Likewise, the follow-up sets can be pushed from half-sets to three-quarter sets to max rep sets. By doing so, the volume limits of General Gainz increases, allowing for volume ranges that are commonly associated with body building training.

            Performing ¾ sets instead of ½ sets is going to reduce the “effort gap” (described below) and is a good option for when your RM’s go beyond 10. The higher the RM, the wider the effort gap will be when doing ½ sets. Therefore, ¾ sets can be used to keep volume high and the effort gap small.

As the RM’s reach the T3 range, the teens and perhaps 20’s, then making the follow-up sets performed for max reps becomes a good option.

Tier 3 (T3) – Very Light Rep Maxes and Max Rep Sets (MRS)

11RM and higher.

            Follow-up sets are often completed as MRS (or each set an “AMRAP” – As Many Reps As Possible). These MRS are given a target rep range and effort. Effort rating is applied to each T3 set to ensure these are not pushed to failure in every workout. Typically the T3’s are capped at an easy to moderate effort, as in GGBB they are used within supersets to fill the effort gap.

Example: 25 lbs. 12 to 15 @ (M, effort) x (desired rep range per set) x 4 (total number of T3 sets completed).

Logged as: 25xMRS(M)x15/15/13/12 (The actual reps per MRS.)

Effort Rating

Rate the effort of a T1 or T2 lift based on the RM set.

For T3 movements, each set should be done at the same effort since these are done as MRS within a given rep range.

Examples show effort in parentheses after the RM weight: (E), (M), or (H).

(E)asy (2 or more reps in reserve at similar quality; technique, tempo, etc.)

(M)oderate (1 rep in reserve at similar quality.)

(H)ard (0 reps remaining at similar quality.)

The accuracy of these ratings improves as you use the Find, Hold, Extend, Push (next section) actions to progress weight and volume. Last week’s “hard” rated set may be pushed this week for an additional three reps, giving clarity that last week wasn’t as hard as you thought.

Accurately determining effort is an advanced skill, it takes practice, and like any well-developed athlete, practice sometimes requires actual failure because doing so highlights the limitations of capacity and skill. Once the knowledge of those limits is had, then pushing those limits can be achieved. This should be done as safely as possible, of course, but without knowing what failure is – you cannot accurately determine how close you are to failure.

The reason why effort is associated with the T1 or T2 RM set and not their follow-up sets is because after an RM the follow-ups will be relatively easy. This is called the “Effort Gap.”

Effort Gap: The difference in reps from the RM to the reps per set in its follow-ups.

            For example: A 5RM followed up by singles has an effort gap of four reps, and a 10RM followed by half-sets of five reps each has an effort gap of five reps.

The effort gap reduces the relative intensity and proximity to failure of most of the volume in a workout. This in turn reduces the felt fatigue during a workout, allowing for higher rep quality and more focused intent when executing the lift. For example, the reps in a hard 5RM slow as the set continues. But when following up that RM with doubles at the same weight, those sets of two reps remain fast. By not approaching failure on most of the sets, recovery debt stays low, while training volume can steadily increase.

In the effort gap, apply a specific lift quality to the follow-up sets. For example, making the half-set a slow tempo, or paused, or applying compensatory acceleration. Likewise, because the effort gap reduces the relative intensity, your technique should be at its very best. Additionally, the effort gap can be filled by doing supersets, as is the case with GGBB, described in detail below.

The number of follow-up sets may be limited by the effort of the RM set. For example, if your 10RM was hard (H) you might only complete four follow-up sets before those too, due to fatigue, approach the same level of effort. Stop performing follow-up sets before they match (or exceed) the effort you determined the RM to be.

Too few follow-up sets can be mitigated by extending rest between those follow-up sets, thus allowing for additional follow-up set volume. Considering this option, be hesitant to increase rest, as that decreases training density, thus reducing the effectiveness of follow-up set volume developing RM set capacity. By keeping rest limited, you can maintain or increase training density, developing the ability to push a weight from a low RM to a higher RM, e.g., making your 6RM eventually be your 20RM.

Rest Guide

            Rest should be limited after the RM set and the subsequent follow-up sets, either singles (T1) or half- and three-quarter sets (T2). If at first the rest is greater than given here, consider using lighter (and therefore easier) weights relative to your RM ability; then allowing for you to perform more follow-up sets with shorter rest periods, thus developing your work capacity with a weight.

            T1: 3 minutes or less between sets.

            T2: 2 minutes or less between sets.

            T3: 90 seconds or less between sets.

            When performing supersets, as is the case with GGBB, limit the rest between exercises in a superset as little as possible. Then follow the above guide for rest between supersets. This should allow you to return to your T1 or T2 lift’s follow-up sets with a fair amount of rest. Remember, the effort gap widens as the RM increases, therefore, you are provided an opportunity to work on developing your conditioning by focusing on limited rest; a means to close the effort gap.

Find, Hold, Extend, Push (F/H/E/P)

            These are the four actions that are used to progress through the General Gainz training framework. By using these you can increase weight, reps, sets, increase or decrease the effort of the RM, improve training density (time/volume), and ability (technical quality or a skill with a weight, such as pauses or tempo).

            Find: Finding a weight for a given RM. This may fluctuate depending on fatigue, hydration and nutrition, stress, etc.

Example A: After warming up over several sets, increasing weight in each, you find your 10RM to be 315 pounds. You rate it an easy set and log it as: 10RM@315(E).

Example B: You push the RM and far exceed your expectations, finding the weight at a much higher RM. To limit the volume of the workout and use an intensity that was planned for/expected, you add weight after the RM and perform the half-sets that are associated with the original RM target (that you exceeded). Here you are holding the follow-up volume while finding a weight more appropriate for it.

This was a rarity for me. But it looks like this:

Push RM target: 10RM@195 lbs. with easy effort. Actual RM achieved: 14RM with easy effort. Rather than perform half-sets of 7 reps each, I would add weight and stick with half-sets of 5 reps, perhaps using 205 or 215 lbs.

            Hold: Holding a weight, an RM, effort, or the follow-up volume from the previous workout. Multiple actions may be held from one workout to the next but progressing one to two actions should be attempted while holding some other metric.

Example A: You hold the 315 pounds from the previous workout, and because it was then rated easy, you intend to push the weight to a higher RM.

Example B: Holding the 315 pounds from the previous workout, you extend the number of follow-up sets from four to six sets, then meeting the standard limit of follow-up set volume. Remember, these are sets done after the RM using the same weight.

Example C: Because the last workout had an easy RM, you decide to hold the volume (keeping both the target RM and number of follow-up sets the same) while finding a heavier weight for the RM. Here, you may also intend to hold the effort the same as the last workout or push that effort to a more difficult rating, thereby increasing the chances of a successful new RM at a heavier weight.

            Extend: Extending the number of follow-up sets done after the RM set. To do more sets, perhaps you might need to extend the rest between those sets to limit fatigue and maintain rep quality.

Example: Holding the same RM and weight from the previous workout, you extend the number of T2 follow-up sets from the usual four to the max of six follow-up sets.

            Push: Pushing the reps in a set to a higher amount. This can be applied to the RM set and the follow-up sets. Similarly, effort can be pushed from easy to moderate to hard, thereby increasing the chances of an RM to increase in weight. You can also push the rest lower, thus increasing workout density; a means to improve your work capacity.

Example A: Holding the weight from the previous workout, you push 315 pounds from an easy 10RM to a likewise easy 12RM. This is holding the weight and effort while pushing that weight to a higher target RM.

Example B: Holding the 10RM@315(E) and four follow-up sets from the previous workout, you push the follow-up sets from five reps each to seven reps each. This is pushing the follow-up set volume without extending the number of sets by making the half-sets increase to three-quarter sets.

Logged as: 10RM@315(E)+7x4

Once weights get into the teen RM range, each set can be performed as a RM. This makes each set a Max Rep Set (or multiple “AMRAPs”) at the same weight. This format was previously discussed in my program Volume Dependent Intensity Progression (VDIP), from which General Gainz evolved.

Example Volume Progression

Quick reminder: GGBB has no T1 lifts (1 to 6 RM + singles at the same weight).

T2

            The T2 progression for GGBB extends the RM range. At the low end, the heaviest weight used for GGBB, the T2 should be trained with a 6RM followed by half-sets of three reps each. But, as the weeks progress, this 6RM should be pushed to a higher RM, and the follow-up sets accordingly. That ability is developed through the four actions of: Find, Hold, Extend, Push.

In GGBB, the T2 lifts can start at a 6RM and be pushed to a 12RM, and if desired then be pushed towards a 15 and even a 20RM. Over several weeks, this makes the rep ranges T3’s, but the lifts, being more compound in nature (versus isolation exercises), are better identified as T2’s throughout the program.

            Below is an example T2 progression that follows the Find, Hold, Extend, Push (F/H/E/P) model of progression. Later in this post, specific progression examples for GGBB are detailed. This is just an example for one T2 lift across six weeks progressing by F/H/E/P.

Week 1: Find 6RM at Moderate Effort, Follow up with four half-sets.

            Example: 6RM@225 lbs.(M)+3x4

Week 2: Hold weight, Hold 6RM, Find effort (now easier, ideally), Extend to six half-sets.

Example: 6RM@225 lbs.(E)+3x6

Week 3: Hold weight, Push 6RM, Finding it as a new 8RM, Find effort, follow up with four half-sets.

Example: 8RM@225 lbs.(M)+4x4

Week 4: Hold weight, Hold 8RM, Find effort (easier now, ideally), Extend to six half-sets.

Example: 8RM@225 lbs.(E)+4x6

Week 5: Hold weight, Push 8RM, finding it as a new 9RM, Find effort, follow up with four half-sets.

Example: 9RM@225 lbs.(M)+5x4

In this example, since the RM is an odd number, the half-sets can be rounded up or down. If the RM was easy or moderate, round up for the follow-up sets. In the case that the RM was found at a hard effort, round down the follow-up sets, as it would allow for a wider effort gap, making room for more follow-up sets (extend) and/or a greater focus on rep quality, such as pauses, tempo, etc.

Week 6: Hold weight, Push 9RM to 10RM, Find effort, follow up with four half-sets.

Example: 10RM@225(H)+5x4

Here, you have pushed the RM in back-to-back weeks. Not a problem. Perhaps last week’s goal was a narrowly missed 10RM. But because you rounded up those half-sets after a moderate RM last week, and are handling the same weight again this week, you had the confidence and ability to hit that 10RM target.

The above six weeks of training added four reps to your RM ability with 225 pounds and improved your capacity at that weight from 18 reps (6RM+3x4) to 30 reps (10RM+5x4).

            The above progression is simply an example to demonstrate how the Find, Hold, Extend, Push, actions can be implemented from workout to workout. While that example shows biweekly pushes towards higher RM targets, you can choose to push as you feel able, perhaps weekly. What is outlined above is but a more conservative progression, as it alternates between the four actions. This can allow for longer, more consistent progression of a weight to a higher target RM.

Maxing out effort and volume in the same workout each week should be avoided, as that will likely reduce the rate of progression by increasing your recovery debt.

            While the above six weeks can guide your GGBB progression, it is not the only means to do so. Keep in mind that it is just an example of the progression concept. To progress, it is best to determine what is feasible in an individual workout. Not every lift will be able to be pushed to a higher RM each week. You may find that while pushing the squat RM, bench press may need to hold the RM target and instead extend the number of follow-up sets, or push those sets from half- to three-quarter sets.

            Later in this post is a similar weekly progression for GGBB which I found helpful as an outline to roughly follow. But again, some deviations were made in workouts based on the individual lift; how it was feeling that workout, my performance in the previous workout, and what seem to be the most achievable action (F/H/E/P) to both execute and recover from.

T3 Progression

            T3 progression is similar in nature to the T2 progression described in the previous section. The main difference is that the T3 is performed as Max Rep Sets (MRS; each set an AMRAP) rather than having an RM followed by half- or three-quarter sets. This is because, as mentioned above, the effort gap grows wider as the reps increase in the RM set. Therefore, it is better to identify a target rep range and target effort, then to find a weight to use for the sets. All sets for a movement should use the same weight.

For the T3, each set should be in the 10 to 20 reps per range. (Sometimes this can go heavier, but not for GGBB.) A good way to progress the T3 is to push a weight within a rep range, from the low end to the high, trying to make all MRS the limit of the range. Not every set may be 20 reps at the start. For example, the first set might be 20 reps, but subsequent sets reduce in reps as fatigue increases.

Example:  Example: 20 reps (set 1)/18 reps (set 2)/17 reps (set 3)/15 reps (set 4).

    Logged as: 20/18/17/15.

Over several workouts all sets increase to 20 reps (using the same weight for each set). Then the weight increases.

            Week 1: 25 lbs. x20/18/17/15

            Week 2: 25 lbs. x20/19/18/15

            Week 3: 25 lbs. x20/20/18/17

            Week 4: 25 lbs. x20/20/20/20

            Across those four weeks, perhaps only the last week called for hard effort in the T3. So, maybe the first or second week could have been all 20’s, but then effort would have been exceeded, impacting recovery more than desired. But, by the fourth week, hard effort was the goal, so the limit of the MRS range was achieved (and perhaps easier than expected – thus improving your ability to accurately gauge effort in future workouts).

Consider reducing the target rep range also, as that allows for a much larger weight increase. Maybe in the first cycle the T3 rep range for an exercises is 15 to 20, but in the second cycle that is reduce to 12 to 15. Such allows for greater intensity progression from cycle to cycle by reducing the volume rather than holding it for the repeated cycle.

As for the number of T3 sets to complete, this can vary depending on the volume of the previous exercises. For example, if you had extended the number of follow-up sets for a main lift, then you may find that the T3’s towards the end of a workout may be harder, as fatigue is therefore higher. In such case you would complete fewer T3 sets, perhaps limiting the total number of T3 exercises you do. (I do this often when fully extending the T2 volume.)

Simply put, initial T3 sets may be more reps while the latter are fewer reps per set. Reps per sets do not have to be equally distributed. Find a weight within a given range in the first set, and work to maximize the volume within that range in the following sets using that same weight.

Typically, a T3 movement has three to four sets, but if the T2 was extended, try matching the number of T3 sets, thus maintaining supersets. (In practice, I have done much, much more – likely not the best choice at the time.)

When executing a GGBB plan, remember, do not push each T3 set to failure. These supersets fill the effort gap of the T2 follow-up sets, increasing the overall effort of the two lifts when combined. Likewise, when rest is limited, training density increases (as does the intensity of the pump). Keep one to two reps in the tank on each T3 set, thus making most of your T3’s sets in that easy to moderate range.

With a ridiculous arm pump and supreme angles.

General Gainz Body Building – The Plan

Progression Summary

            The below examples do not have to be where you start and end with your Rep Maxes. This is simply to provide an initial understanding of how your lifts are to progress in GGBB. More details and options are described in the following sections.

T2 Example: Starting the first week with an easy 6RM, hold that weight across several workouts while trying to push it to a 10RM. Once that goal RM has been achieved, add weight, restarting the find/hold/extend/push progression for that lift.

            T3 Example: Starting the first week with a weight you can perform 20 reps with in the first set, try to make all follow up sets fall within the 15 to 20 rep range. Hold that weight across several workouts until all sets are 20 reps, then add weight.

Schedule – Day 1 (A, B, or C), Day 2 (A, B, or C), Day 3 (A, B, or C), Day 4 (A, B, or C).

            GGBB is a body part split. In that regard, GGBB is no different from many popular splits. It trains one or two muscle groups per workout – sometimes three, if I included ab work in place of something else (detailed more below). GGBB is a four-day training schedule with each day focusing on a set of muscles, such as an “Arms” workout. Could there be a 5th or 6th day built around chest alone, or abs? Sure. But that’s not what I did. Additionally, having too many dedicated days lessens training frequency. Because I was not taking rest days, I found that a four-day split was plenty enough for both recovery and frequency.

Each day has a few options. The listed exercises are also options. I’ve found these pairings helpful for myself and my clients, but they are not mandatory. These workouts and movements would rotate as I felt necessary, based on recovery. This allowed me to put more work into those muscles that were recovered, while limiting the work performed on those muscles that I felt needed a bit more time. Keep in mind that I am writing from the context of training daily. You may not have to or want to rotate these options as I did.

            For example: If my abs were well recovered, I may be able to train them twice in a four-day period. Likewise for arms, legs, back, or shoulders. Since my goal was to add size to my shoulders and arms, I tended to focus on those muscles more than my chest or legs.

What matters is not the exact schedule adhered to, but instead how much you can train a well-recovered muscle group. If your legs are not recovered, then don’t destroy them. Do a different workout (even if that means interrupting the regularity of the schedule). All A workouts do not have to be done in the same week, nor B or C. The training week can comprise of Day 1A, Day 2C, Day 3B, Day 4A (the letters denote options). What matters is that you put in the most work possible while maintaining good recovery between workouts. The options below (A, B, C) are laid out to show and explain how and why some workouts would be adjusted to account for maximizing both work and recovery in each four-day training week.

For example, if my legs were not recovered, then I would split that session into legs/back/abs or do an arm day instead (as those seemed to always recover within 48 hours). After an arm workout, my legs would usually feel recovered by the next day, so I would train them. But if not, I would do a back workout, as that was never hindered by an ad hoc arm workout that was performed ahead of schedule, therefore giving my legs two extra days of recovery. But rarely did it take more than two days to recover from any workout.

Different pairing options are listed because I went through a few iterations of GGBB in 2021. Why I changed things, and when, mostly depended on whether a muscle had recovered or not. If not, for example, should my abs be sore and weak, then I would skip abs and instead do more back work alongside training leg isolation exercises such as leg press and hamstring curls. Alternative exercises can be substituted to your liking and ability. Just match the muscle group to the associated exercise. Don’t like dips? That’s fine, you can do decline bench instead. Abs sore from weighted crunches? Try a different ab exercise instead. Same for any other muscle group.

            Each workout has four supersets, but as written above, should in-session fatigue be limiting your ability to perform the final superset, then it would be okay to reduce the number of sets for those exercises – or skip that fourth superset altogether. What matters is putting in the most work you can recover from and trying to do more work each week. Some workouts I would group the last four exercises into a circuit and try to get them done as fast as possible. Fun, but nauseating (especially on leg days).

Remember that not every exercise must find a new weight for an RM each week, or push to a higher RM weekly, or increase effort, or extend the number of sets every week. There are other means to progress, like density (limiting rest), and ability (doing the exercise better). In the context of ability, developing the “mind-muscle connection” is a fine goal when executing a GGBB workout. I know that in 2021 I found myself better able to achieve a stronger, tighter, and longer muscle contraction. My pumps got better and because of that, I got bigger #broscience.

Intelligently use the four actions (FHPE) to progress each week, whether by intensity, volume, or density (by limiting rest), or ability (by focusing on a specific lift quality, such as pauses or tempo, thereby increasing skill). Those last two, density and ability, are two fantastic aspects of progression that are often overlooked. But thankfully, the T2 follow-up sets provide an effort gap that needs to be filled. With GGBB, I encourage doing so with density and ability progression while performing supersets. Then every 2nd or 3rd week you can likely add weight (Find) or reps (Push and/or Extend) to either the T2 or T3 without any excess recovery debt.      

Day 1A – Legs & Abs [Example workout.]

This option has more leg volume. I like training abs with legs, but with the volume biased towards legs. Sometimes Day 1 was all legs and no abs because my abs had not recovered yet. That meant I would do ab work a few days later. That most often was with my Day 3. This example has five leg and three ab exercises.

Superset 1: T2a: Safety Bar Squat / T3a: Ab Wheel

Superset 2: T2b: Romanian Deadlift / T3b: Standing Cable Crunch

Superset 3: T2c: Leg Press / T3c: Hamstring Curl

Superset 4: T3d: Standing Calf Raise / T3e: Straight Arm Cable Twist

Day 1B – Legs & Back [Example workout.]

If my legs and abs were not well recovered, then I would perform a workout like this. It trains back with fewer leg exercises than the A option detailed above. In this example, there are four leg exercises paired with four back exercises. In a workout like this I would limit the sets for leg exercises and do more sets of back exercises instead. Perhaps just three or four follow-up sets for leg exercises and six for back.

Superset 1: T2a: Squat / T3a: Pull Ups

Superset 2: T2b: Romanian Deadlift / T3b: Chin Ups

Superset 3: T2c: Leg Press / T3c: Lat Pull Down

Superset 4: T3d: Hamstring Curl / T3e: Horizontal Infinite Rope

Day 1C – Legs, Back, & Abs

Three major muscle groups were the most I would train in a single workout. This was not the most common option I chose for Day 1 for that reason. But when I felt that my legs needed a bit more time, and back as well, I would divide the workout in such a manner to limit how much training stress this workout produced for any of the three muscle groups. This example has two leg, three back, and three ab exercises.

Superset 1: T2a: Squat / T3a: Pull Ups

Superset 2: T2b: Safety Squat Bar Step Up / T3b: Chin Ups

Superset 3: T2c: Lat Pull Down / T3c: Standing Cable Crunch

Superset 4: T3d: Ab Wheel / T3e: Ab Straps Knee Tuck

Day 2A – Shoulders [Example workout.]

Since one of my two goals in 2021 was to grow the size of my shoulders, this was a dedicated shoulder workout. It uses a variety of vertical pressing and deltoid isolations. As with the above Day 1 options, it would be adjusted per my recovery. The complimentary supersets (pairing two exercises that train the same muscle) that make up this workout produce an awesome pump. More on complimentary and antagonistic supersets in the following section. This example has four vertical pressing exercises (counting the incline angle T2b and T3d), and four deltoid isolation exercises.

Superset 1: T2a: Behind the Neck Press / T3a: Cable Rear Delt Fly

Superset 2: T2b: Incline Bench Press / T3b: Cable Lateral Raise

Superset 3: T2c: Dips / T3c: Cable Front Delt Raise

Superset 4: T3d: Feet Elevated Push Up / T3e: Lateral Delt Isometric Hold

Day 2B – Shoulders & Chest

If my shoulders were not recovered, which I could usually determine by how fast the warmups were moving, or if I had some lingering soreness, then this would be the option I chose. Chest was not a focus of mine, so I did not do much flat benching – but you could if so desired. This workout and the next one are suitable examples. It has two vertical pressing exercises, two horizontal pressing, three delt isolation, and one pec isolation exercise.

Superset 1: T2a: Press / T3a: DB Lateral Raise

Superset 2: T2b: Incline Bench Press / T3b: DB Front Delt Raise

Superset 3: T2c: TRX Push Up / T3c: DB Rear Delt Fly

Superset 4: T3d: Cable Chest Press / T3e: DB Pec Fly

Day 2C – Shoulders, Chest, & Abs

Like with Day 1C, this workout splits the work into three muscle groups. Again, because growing my delts was a major focus, I was trying to train them as frequently as possible. But if I could not perform that much work, because I had not recovered entirely, then a workout like this was suitable. It has three pressing exercises (two vertical, one horizontal), one pec isolation exercise, and four ab exercises.

Superset 1: T2a: Press / T3a: Standing Cable Crunch

Superset 2: T2b: Incline Bench Press / T3b: Ab Plank (Front & Sides)

Superset 3: T2c: Cable Chest Press / T3c: Decline Sit Up

Superset 4: T3d: Cable Pec Fly / T3e: Copenhagen Plank

Day 3A – Back [Example workout.]

This workout is all back exercises, though the muscle clean does have the legs involved. For the most part, the weights were not challenging for my legs when doing muscle cleans, but it was for my back. That movement is a cheat code for upper back development. This workout produced an incredible back pump. Something I credit to the complimentary supersets that make up the entirety of this workout.

Superset 1: T2a: Muscle Clean / T3a: Pull Ups

Superset 2: T2b: Barbell Row / T3b: Lat Pull Down

Superset 3: T2c: Cable V-Grip Row / T3c: Infinite Rope

Superset 4: T3d: Chest Supported DB Row / T3e: DB Shrug

Day 3B – Back & Legs

Some argue that deadlifts belong on leg days. I prefer it on back day, as I feel it trains my back a bit more than legs, but admittedly my hamstrings do get lit up when deadlifting. I could see a sumo deadlifter doing more of that variation on their “leg days” as it does hit the quads a bit more than pulling conventional (as I do, and at least from my experience). This workout splits the volume between back and legs, with the heavier movements (T2) being dedicated to the back, and the T3’s being biased to the legs. I found that this was a nice compliment to nearly any Day 1 choice, as it rounded out the leg volume, while also getting in a solid amount of work for the back. This example has four back exercises and four leg exercises.

Superset 1: T2a: Deadlift / T3a: Pull Ups

Superset 2: T2b: Barbell Row / T3b: Leg Press

Superset 3: T2c: Lat Pull Down / T3c: Bulgarian Split Squat

Superset 4: T3d: Hamstring Curl / T3e: Quadriceps Extension

Day 3C – Back, Legs, & Abs

Like with the previous C options, this workout splits the volume into three major muscle groups. Again, this was chosen if I was behind on recovery, particularly for my back. It has three back, three leg, and two ab exercises. As with other C examples, because the training volume is divided three ways, recovery for any muscle group after this was not be an issue. Keep these C options in mind when training, as they are still good workouts and help maintain a higher training frequency for the muscles while limiting the total stress on any one muscle group. If I knew I wanted to have a high-volume arms workout the next day, and a high-volume leg workout the day after, then this would be my choice because those two muscle groups have a more limited role in this Day 3 option.

Superset 1: T2a: Pull Ups / T3a: Leg Press

Superset 2: T2b: Barbell Row / T3b: Standing Cable Crunch

Superset 3: T2c: Lat Pull Down / T3c: Ab Wheel

Superset 4: T3d: Hamstring Curl / T3e: Straight Arm Cable Twist

Day 4A – Arms (Antagonistic movements)

Because one of my main goals was to grow my arms (along with shoulders) in 2021, I tried to keep Day 4 as strictly as possible dedicated to arms. Now, of course, my Day 2 (shoulders) and Day 3 (back) workouts had arm work already. But my arms would typically recover from those in time for the pump-fest that was always Day 4.

Notice that there are still T2a and T2b movements here, but no T2c. This is because the T2a and T2b lifts are heavier, but a third (or fourth) T2 in the arms workout was just too fatiguing for me. So, the Day 4 Arms workouts have more T3’s than the previous Day 2 and Day 3 workouts. Also, those previous days have a third T2, which tended to be enough of the heavier weights anyways.

With the T2’s on this day, I liked going heavy by using some cheat. Examples would be an EZ bar cheat curl or doing overhead triceps extensions with some leg drive.

What I tended to alter about this day was trying out different kinds of supersets. These would sometimes pair free weights with bands, or bands with cables, or bodyweight with any other implement. I also experimented with pairing complimentary and antagonistic movements in a superset (shown in B and C examples). The Day 4A workout has four supersets of antagonistic movements, meaning the exercises in a superset train the opposing muscle group – biceps and triceps in each superset, for example.  

Superset 1: T2a: EZ Bar Curl / T3a: Cable Triceps Push Down

Superset 2: T2b: EZ Bar Overhead Triceps Extension / T3b: Cable Curl

Superset 3: T3c: Band Curl / T3d: Band Triceps Push Down

Superset 4: T3e: DB Hammer Cheat Curl / T3f: DB Skull Crusher

Day 4B – Arms (Alternating complimentary movements) [Example Workout.]

            These supersets are composed of two exercises that train the same muscle group. The biceps and triceps alternate each superset; superset 1 and 3 (biceps), superset 2 and 4 (triceps). When doing these, I would pair two different implements together, like bands and dumbbells, and isometric exercises, like flexed arm hang, with movements like bands or cables. Pairings like these produced a fantastic pump. I would say even better than the antagonistic format from Day 4A, which I find more common in “bodybuilding” training.

On the downside, this format would also result in faster muscular failure than in Day 4A because the time under tension for a muscle throughout a superset is much greater. Even with alternating supersets between biceps and triceps, I found the last few sets for each muscle group to rapidly drop in reps and rep quality.

I highly recommend trying to include a workout like this in your GGBB schedule as much as possible, at least for arms (but it is also very effective for legs, shoulders, and back).

Superset 1: T2a: Cable Curl / T3d: Flexed Arm Hang

Superset 2: T2b: EZ Bar Overhead Triceps Extension / T3b: Band Triceps Push Down

Superset 3: T3c: EZ Bar Curl / T3a: Band Curl

Superset 4: T3e: Cable Triceps Push Down / T3f: Infinite Rope Pull Down

Day 4C – Arms (Antagonistic & complimentary movements)

            This workout blends the best of the previous two. Like the two above, I got a great pump, but I could usually also get in more total reps before my arms were too fatigued to even get to 90-degrees. The first two supersets are antagonistic, like Day 4A, and the last two are complimentary, like Day 4B. Those last two supersets rapidly produced a great pump after it had been primed by the first two. This format was used later in 2021, as I had not thought to combine the two kinds of supersets into one workout.

Superset 1: T2a: Barbell Cheat Curl / T3a: Band Triceps Push Down

Superset 2: T2b: Barbell Cheat Overhead Triceps Extension / T3b: Band Curl

Superset 3: T3c: Cable Curl / T3d: Football Bar Curl

Superset 4: T3e: Cable Triceps Push Down / T3f: Football Bar Skullcrusher

Schedule recap

            Remember that not all A workouts have to be done, then all B, then C. These are merely example options that you can adjust yourself and perform in the order that best suits your schedule and recovery. If your leg workouts take longer, and you only have that kind of time on the weekends, then you can change that do be your Day 4, which may be done on Saturday or Sunday. It does not matter what the day or order is so long as you can put in the work consistently and recover just as well.

Maybe you prefer to train arms more directly than legs, that’s fine – it is your goal (as it was mine). To do so, limit your leg training (perhaps by always running a Day 1C inspired layout) while increasing the frequency of your arms workouts. Perhaps by doing a Day 4 workout more often, for example: Day 1C, Day 4A, Day 2A, Day 3A, Day 4B, Day 1C, Day 4C… so on and so forth – that’s three arm workouts in seven).

Complimentary and Antagonist Supersets

Note the use of antagonistic and complimentary supersets in the above examples. Not every superset has to be one or the other. Not every workout needs to have either. For example, I do not consider doing pull ups with squats as either complimentary or antagonistic. That is more of a metabolic superset, meaning you are training two different muscle groups (typically large ones, like legs and back), nearly without hindrance to each other, thereby maximizing the workload of the workout. A squat and pull up superset can get tough in terms of conditioning, but the movements themselves are not really inhibiting the performance of the lift they are coupled with, as the muscles being trained in the superset are not fatiguing the other.

As for complimentary and antagonistic supersets, I have I found each beneficial in generating a skin tearing pump and for improving the capacity of the muscles being trained. Try these for your legs, shoulders, and back, in addition to arms workouts. Experiment with what gets you the best pump and do that. After a few months that may change, so try a different pairing and method of execution (such as tempo, isometrics, bands instead of straight weight, etc.) After a few weeks of consistently doing the new pairings observe whether the change benefits you.

Complimentary Supersets: Are two movements in a superset that train the same muscle, but through different means. That could be a different kind of resistance, like bands and weight, and/or two different variations of a movement, such as football bar hammer curls and band hammer curls. The benefit of this, besides the pump, is that it increases the training capacity of that specific muscle group by lengthening the time under tension.

Antagonist Supersets: Are two opposing muscle groups trained in the same superset. Such as doing biceps curls and triceps push downs. These can use the same kind of resistance, such as bands, or two different kinds, like cables and bodyweight. I find these especially beneficial for legs, as I squat high bar, which is quad dominant, so I would pair squats with hamstring curls.

Progression

            Using the General Gainz framework, and the Find/Hold/Extend/Push actions, progress the movements by volume until you hit a target Rep Max for T2 lifts, and complete a desired total rep volume for T3 lifts.

Early in the training period, the T2 RM targets and the T3 rep totals should be low, near the base volume; 6RM for T2 and 30 reps total for T3. As the weeks progress, the T2 RM’s and T3 rep totals should be pushed higher. But you may choose to start at a 10RM for T2’s and 40 reps total for the T3 based on your current work capacity. That’s fine, just don’t start beyond your existing work capacity and recovery ability – why I suggest starting low and gradually pushing reps higher each week.

As you increase volume weekly, the weight should be held (staying the same) until you hit your volume goals. Getting more volume in can be done by pushing the T2 and T3 reps per set higher. Additionally, there is the option to extend the number of sets by doing one to two more sets with the weight from previous workouts.

Below is an example progression using the GGBB volume ranges (which calls for no T1 range lifts) but extends the T2 and T3 ranges well beyond the standard ranges given in the original GG post (and typical for other GG inspired training plans).

Example Four Week GGBB Progression

[Movement, Target RM, Weight, Effort, Follow Up Reps, # of Follow Up Sets]

Week 1, Day 1:  

Superset 1:

T2a: Safety Bar Squat, 6RM@225(E)+3x4

T3a: Ab Wheel, Bodyweight x15-20 (average reps per set) x4 sets

        *Actual reps per set may start at 20/16/15/15, for example.

Superset 2:

T2b: Romanian Deadlift, 8RM@275(E)+4x4

T3b: Standing Cable Crunch, 100 lbs. x 15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set may start at 20/20/18/17, for example.

Superset 3:

T2c: Leg Press, 10RM@365(E)+5x4

T3c: Hamstring Curl, 65 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set may start at 20/18/15/15, for example.

Superset 4:

T3d: Standing Calf Raise, 15-20@315x4

T3e: Cable Twist, 45 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set may start at 20/20/20/20, for example. If so, add weight next week.

Note that the T2 lifts above have ascending RM targets. This I found helpful because the weights get lighter relative to my max with an exercise as the workout progresses. This allowed me to hit those weights with good focus and quality, despite fatigue from the previous sets.

However, this does not mean you must use that example. All T2’s could have the same target RM the first week, and that target RM does not have to start at a 6RM (the lowest RM in GGBB). Each T2 can start at a 10RM, for example, or those can ascend from a 10RM for T2a, a 12RM for T2b, and a 14RM for T2c. After the first week, GGBB becomes very much a “choose your own adventure” kind of progression (within a well-defined environment – the GG framework).

Keep in mind, the following is but an example. Your actual training plan may differ, and its actual execution will differ because of your individual recovery and adaptation. For example, maybe in the 2nd week you cannot push the T2c RM to the higher rep target. In such case, do more reps in the follow up sets, either by pushing those from half-sets to three-quarter sets, or by extending the number of half-sets from four to six. This example is laid out below.

Week 2, Day 1:

Superset 1:

T2a: Safety Bar Squat, 8RM@225(E)+4x4 (+2 RM Push)

T3a: Ab Wheel, Bodyweight x15-20 x4 sets

        *Actual progression might look like 20/18/16/15, for example.

Superset 2:

T2b: Romanian Deadlift, 10RM@275(M)+5x4 (+2 RM Push)

T3b: Standing Cable Crunch, 100 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set might look like 20/20/20/20, for example. If so, add weight next week.

Superset 3:

T2c: Leg Press, 10RM@365(H)+5x6 (RM held, thus extending number of sets by +2.)

        Alternatively: 10RM@365(H)+7x4 (*pushing from ½ to ¾ sets instead of extending the number of follow-up sets.)

T3c: Hamstring Curl, 65 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set might look like 20/20/18/18, for example.

Superset 4:

T3d: Standing Calf Raise, 325 lbs. x15-20 x4

T3e: Cable Twist, 55 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set might look like 20/20/20/20, for example. If so, add weight next week.

Note that the T2’s above increased by reps, but not by weight, for the target RM’s that signal adding weight have not yet been hit – maybe you’ve determined that to be a 15 or 20RM.

Those T3 exercises that completed the maximum number of reps in a set range during Week 1 increased in weight for Week 2. On bodyweight exercises, like ab wheel, rather than adding weight try slowing the rep tempo once you hit those rep targets.

For the T3, once all sets have reached the limit within the given range (20 in this example), increase the weight. These may not increase in weight each week. That’s fine. Hold the weight and gradually push the volume weekly until you hit the limit of the given range. Your chosen range may be lower than 15 to 20 reps, and that may depend on the exercise itself. But keep the T3 reps per set above 10. I have gone higher than 20 reps per set for T3’s but that is not necessary, and I don’t think it is best for a prolonged period.

Week 3, Day 1:

Superset 1:

T2a: Safety Bar Squat, 10RM@225(M)+5x4 (+2 RM Push)

T3a: Ab Wheel, @Bodyweight x15-20 x4 sets

        *Actual progression might look like 20/20/17/16, for example.

Superset 2:

T2b: Romanian Deadlift, 12RM@275(M)+6x4 (+2 RM Push)

T3b: Standing Cable Crunch, 110 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *After adding weight, the actual reps per set might reduce back to 20/20/18/18, for example.

Superset 3:

T2c: Leg Press, 10RM@365(E)+7x6 (RM held again, so ¾ sets were completed while also extending the number of sets by +2.)

Note that the effort of the leg press has gone down this week, despite holding the same target RM and weight for the three weeks. This might be experienced because the volume progression on the first two exercises and your work capacity improving.

Do not push every RM to a hard effort just to get extra reps. Hitting a hard effort on all lifts weekly is going to be very tough (but not impossible) to recover from. As your strength endurance improves with the first two, it is likely that your third T2 will lag slightly behind. Do not fret. Just hold the weight and try to progress the follow-up volume (push or extend) until you can push the RM to a higher rep target.

T3c: Hamstring Curl, 65 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual reps per set might look like 20/20/20/20, for example. If so, add weight next week.

Superset 4:

T3d: Standing Calf Raise, 335 lbs. x15-20 x4

T3e: Cable Twist, 65 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *After adding weight, the actual reps per set might reduce back to 18/18/16/15, for example.

Week 4, Day 1:

Superset 1:

T2a: Safety Bar Squat, 12RM@225(M)+6x4 (+2 RM Push)

T3a: Ab Wheel, Bodyweight x15-20 x4 sets

        *Actual progression might look like 20/20/20/18, for example.

Superset 2:

T2b: Romanian Deadlift, 13RM@275(M)+7x4 (+1 RM Push)

T3b: Standing Cable Crunch, 110 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual progression might look like 20/20/20/20, for example. If so, add weight next week.

Superset 3:

T2c: Leg Press, 12RM@365(M)+6x4 (+2 RM Push)

Note that here in the 4th week the leg press RM has increased. When it does, the follow up volume reduce to the original four half-sets.

T3c: Hamstring Curl, 75 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *After adding weight, the actual reps per set might reduce back to 20/17/15/15, for example.

Superset 4:

T3d: Standing Calf Raise, 325 lbs. x15-20 x4

T3e: Cable Twist, 65 lbs. x15-20 x4

        *Actual progression might look like 20/18/18/15, for example.

            The above four-week example is just that. It should not dictate exactly how you should progress. Your actual performance will determine how many reps you achieve on a pushed RM, or how many reps you get on each T3 set. What matters is that you have a starting RM target for the T2 and T3 weights, and a goal RM target for each. Then each week you should try to progress that volume until you’ve hit the goal RM target that you have determined will signal a weight increase.

            For example: Your Week 1 may start at a 10RM target for each T2. Then over the course of several weeks you try to push your training volume towards a goal 15RM target. Once that RM goal is achieved, add weight, then resulting in a lower RM that you again try to improve by pushing that new weight to a higher RM.

I have pushed towards 20RM’s for my T2’s. It was fun but very challenging. Maybe your goal would be to push a 6RM weight all the way to a 20RM before you add more weight to the bar. Maybe it is just to take a 6RM to a 10RM. In any case, the weekly progression is not fixed, and you may find it taking two or three weeks to push that RM just one rep more. To do that you would have used extended follow-up set volume, and/or pushing those half-sets up to three-quarter sets, reduced rest between sets, and ability driving focuses like tempo, pauses, etc., including trying complimentary supersets in the T3 – great for improving muscular endurance.  

            When it comes to adding weight, once you’ve hit a target RM, consider making a relatively large increase. This is truer if you are working in a wider RM range, like a 6RM being pushed to a 20RM goal. If you have taken 135 pounds from a 6RM, and over the course of several weeks pushed it to a 20RM, then you can likely add 20 pounds (a large percentage relative to 135) and find yourself back to a 10 or 12RM – where then you might push 155 pounds to a new 20RM. Once that is achieved, you once more add weight, then again reducing the initial RM, and proceed to push that up to a new 20RM. This process holds the weight across an RM range, resulting in personal records along the way.

            Remember, not every RM should be pushed to a hard effort. And hard effort sets should not be on every lift, nor every week. (Hard effort meaning the next rep is failure.) Try holding the effort while pushing the weight to a higher RM. Do this by extending or pushing the follow-up sets, therefore developing your work capacity. Doing so will keep your recovery debt low, as hard effort sets are tougher to recover from.

Additionally, work on using limited rest and focusing on the quality of the lifts themselves, perhaps by emphasizing a slower rep tempo on the eccentric phase of the lift, paired with a concentric phase where you push as hard as you can (compensatory acceleration). Such practices will aid your ability to progress your RM targets.

Example 12-Week Progression

            Maybe you want to see how far you can push a weight up the RM ladder in a fixed period. Say 12 weeks. You start at the low end of the T2 RM range with the goal of reaching a 20RM. What follows is an example. Your actual performance will differ. Use this as a rough outline to guide your training.

Here’s what Find/Hold/Extend/Push might result in over the course of 12-weeks for a T2 lift. Not all T2’s may progress at the same rate, and that’s fine. And each T2 can have their individual target RM’s that signal when to add weight. Your RM might not go up by the same number each week, that’s fine. Some weeks you’ll feel strong, others not as much. When feeling strong, maybe you can push for three or four reps more on that RM set. What matters is that you understand how you can progress, whether by volume, density, quality, or ability; these things resulting in an eventual intensity (weight on the bar) increase.

Week 1: Find 6RM @ easy effort.

            Follow-up with four ½ sets of 3 reps each.

Week 2: Hold 6RM at same weight.

Effort should hold or decrease. Extend ½ sets by +1 or +2, thus 5 or 6 sets after the RM. Doing this because the RM and weight was repeated, thereby progressing volume.

Week 3: Using the same weight, push the 6RM to 8RM.

            Effort might increase or hold. Perform four ½ sets, thus reducing the follow-up volume because the RM set was progressed via the push action.

Week 4: Hold 8RM at same weight.

Effort should hold or decrease. Extend ½ sets by +1 or +2, thus 5 or 6 sets after the RM, just as in week 2.

Week 5: Using the same weight, push the 8RM to 11RM.

            +3 on the RM push, so maybe a hard effort. Perform four ½ sets of 5 reps each, rounding down because the RM effort was hard.

Week 6: Hold 11RM at same weight.

Effort should hold or decrease. Round up the ½ sets to 6 reps each. Extend follow-up sets by +1 or +2, thus 5 or 6 sets after the RM.

Week 7: Using the same weight, push the 11RM to 12RM.

Effort should hold or slightly increase. Round up the follow-up sets to 7 or 8 reps each, making them ¾ sets. Perform four follow-up sets. Maybe the first two are 8 reps, and the second are 7 reps each. This is pushing the follow-up reps per set.

Week 8: Hold 12RM at same weight.

Effort should hold or decrease. Use ¾ sets of 8 reps each for all follow-up volume. You may also extend follow-up sets by +1 or +2, thus completing 5 or 6 sets after the RM.

Week 9: Using the same weight, push the 12RM to 14RM.

Effort might hold or increase. Perform four to six ½ sets of 7 reps each.

Week 10: Using the same weight, push the 14RM to 16RM.

Effort might increase or hold. Perhaps last week’s RM was rated easy, maybe too easy, so you choose to push the RM on back-to-back weeks. Perhaps this week’s push turned resulted in a hard effort RM. Totally fine. Perform four to six ½ sets of 8 reps each.

Week 11: Using the same weight, push the 16RM to 19RM.

            Nearing the end of the planned training cycle of 12 weeks, you focus more on pushing the RM, allowing for more frequent hard effort sets, because the target RM goal (20RM) to signal a weight addition is in sight.

RM effort probably rated hard. Perform four to six ¾ sets of 14 reps each.

Week 12: Using the same weight, push the 19RM to 20RM.

            The effort was hard. You perform just two ½ sets of 10 reps each, allowing for a big volume decrease ahead of restarting the block, thus reducing the recovery debt incurred and ensuring your ability to start next week at a much heavier 6RM than eleven weeks ago.

The end of the training period has come, and you have pushed the 6RM to a 20RM by holding/extending/pushing the weight you found to be your 6RM in the first week.

            You achieved your goal 20RM after twelve weeks of pushing a weight up the RM ladder. You decide to add weight and find the initial target RM (6RM), then resume pushing that now heavier weight up in volume, perhaps aiming to make that your new 20RM PR. This starts Wave B.

Wave B, Week 1: Find 6RM @ easy effort. (Now heavier than Week 1 of Wave A.)

            Follow-up with four ½ sets of 3 reps each.

Wave B, Week 2: Push 6RM to 8RM @ moderate effort.

            Follow-up with four to six ½ sets of 4 reps each.

... Continue progressing the volume, then weight, as able and desired. Watch yourself grow bigger and stronger, as I did, and know you will.