An Intensity Progression

This program was an experiment. As I've mentioned before, these last few years have seen me struggling with any appreciable amount of volume (something I'm currently experimenting with addressing). In large part, I attribute this to extra work and personal life stressors, but, whatever the reason, it requires me to adapt my training accordingly. My answer has been to focus on intensity and efficiency in my workouts - keeping them under 45 minutes long (from start to finish, warm up to cool down). This experiment took this to a bit of a logical extreme.

The Program

Day 1: Pull

  1. One Arm pull up - double progression method: 5x1-2
  2. Pull up: 3x Max
  3. Bent Over Row: 3x Max
  4. Shrugs: 3x Max
  5. Rear delt fly: 3x Max
  6. BB Curl: 3x Max

Day 2: Legs

  1. Nordic Curls: 3x Max
  2. Sissy Squat: 3x Max
  3. Front Squat: 3x Max
  4. RDL: 3x Max
  5. Walking Lunges: 3x Max

Day 3: Push

  1. OHP: 3x Max
  2. Lateral raise: 3x Max
  3. Deficit weighted Push up: 3x Max
  4. Dips: 3x Max
  5. DB Fly: 3x Max
  6. OH Tricep Extensions: 3x Max

Optional Day 4: Power

  1. Power Clean + Push Press: Ramp to heavy double
  2. Muscle Ups: 8x2
  3. Jump variations

The Progression

For each Exercise (apart from the One Arm Pull Up - which got it's own rep scheme for reasons given later), I started the program with 3 sets of max reps, with 90s of rest between each set. Each week, I replaced one set with a double rest pause set.


Week 1: 3 regular Max rep sets

Week 2: 2 regular Max rep sets, 1 double rest pause set.

Week 3: 1 regular Max rep sets, 2 double rest pause set.

Week 4: 3 double rest pause sets

For weeks 5-8, I started the progression again with slightly heavier weights.

The idea was to start with conservative weights which would allow me to hit 12-18 reps total on the first rest pause sets for each exercise. Then, on the second cycle, increase the weights and aim for 8-12 reps total on the first rest pause set for each exercise.

The Theory

This program didn't have a strong focus on volume or even weight progression. The focus, instead, was on the idea of Stimulating or Effective Reps, and taking this concept to it's extreme.

If i select my weights appropriately (i did), then i should be able to get more than 5 reps on each exercise, ideally 8+. This would mean 5 effective reps per set per exercise, or, 15 effective reps per exercise. As i added rest pause sets, that number (in theory) increases by 5 effective reps per exercise per week. By week 4 i should be hitting 30 effective reps - so a doubling of effective volume, without adding much time to the workouts (5-10 minutes on average). In fact, my workouts went from 25 minutes to 35 minutes over the course of the program.

The one exercise which was an exception to this structure was the one arm pull up - which is a goal i've had for a while, and decided to actually take seriously in november. I'm very close at the moment, but that's a different write up!

The Results / Conclusions

Due to my main goal of wanting to achieve a one arm pull up - i was in a massive calorie deficit for the duration of this program (I lose 6kgs over the course of it). I still successfully progressed the weights and reps over the duration of it.

Feed back from Lady was that i appeared more muscular (could have been from leaning out), but feed back from clothing, was that my shoulders, arms, and legs all grew, despite losing weight. So that counts as a win.

However, by week 8, I was completely burnt out. With no room for any extra physical effort without completely crashing for the rest of the day (on week 6-8 i played football on fridays, and those days were basically a write off, with intense lethargy and fatigue). Contrast this to my notes from week 4, where i was feeling extremely energetic and going through life with an extra spring in my step (a highly subjective metric for "things seem to be going well").

This was the first time in a long time that i only worked out 3-4 days a week - my usual preference being 5-6 days (high frequency with low volume and medium intensity), which was a bit of a mental hurdle to get over (can one even get any results only working out 3 days a week!?!?! Yup!)

Would i run this program again? Probably not - those last 3 weeks were not pleasant, and there's just no good reason for me to subject myself to that sort of fatigue right now. Was this program effective (as measured by results), yup! I'd bet that if I did run it again, and this time wasn't in a calorific deficit, I'd be very happy with the hypertrophy from this program!

I'd recommend anyone reading this, to run it at a point in their life where they can safely say that during weeks 6-8 they do not need to commit to anything emotionally or physically demanding.