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A 6-Step Guide to Building Training Programs

Everyone starts their journey by taking a pre-built training program and trying it out.

I made my first program choice after a three-minute perusal of my local supermarket’s magazine rack. That month’s copy of Men’s Health advertised a program promising 10 pounds of gains in 6 weeks, which was exactly what my 6’2, 149 lb, 16-year-old self needed. I took £35 of my £90 per month salary from the shelf filling work I did at the same Tesco supermarket and signed myself up for a gym membership around the corner.

I gained 9 lbs reasonably quickly as my appetite increased and then stalled. From that point, I program hopped from one thing to the next. This continued for years. I ‘knew’ that my problem was just that I had to find the right program because there were jacked bros at my gym who didn’t seem to be training any smarter than I. It took a long time to occur to me that their years of effort (and genetics) might be a factor and that my answers lay elsewhere.

I went down the rabbit hole of internet fitness industry BS, quickly finding the kings of it, and dutifully buying all the supplements bodybuilding.com told me to.

Every time I found a program which I was convinced was ‘the one’ I would hang out in online communities that fed my own confirmation bias and this somehow overpowered the reality of my stagnation which stared back at me in the mirror each day.

Perhaps this story has a familiar tone for you that echoes your own frustration. It’s a pattern that is repeated all too often.

At the time, reading up on training theory was not something that occurred to me to do in any serious way. Even if it had, I’m not sure I would have known where to look because most of the resources I have learned from and now recommend didn’t yet exist.

What is now clear to me that wasn’t back then is that there comes a time for everyone when in order to continue to progress, you need to learn how to build your own training program (or get a coach to manage that for you). The point at which this is necessary will differ from person to person — genetics, environment, circumstance, grit, luck with injuries, and the quality of the program and guidelines they initially stumble across all factor into this.

I don’t think I’d recommend that a rank novice read this article though.

If you are completely new to training, the motivational boost from getting some quick initial gains will help you build the training habit. This is arguably more important than the theory covered here because you won’t understand the value of it yet. My advice is to choose a training program (here’s my guide on how to do that), modify the exercise selection if you need to (here’s our guide on how to do that), and then run it, using these progression guidelines and this plateau troubleshooting guide, until you get stuck. With any luck, that will be well over a year.

For the rest of us, the need for an article on how to build your own program is abundantly clear. (When I put it to a vote on my Instagram account this was the winner by a long shot.) If you can learn how to do it right, you become the master of your strength and muscular potential.

I hope you enjoy this guide taken from The Muscle and Training Pyramid book I co-authored with Eric Helms and Andrea Valdez.

– Andy


How to Build Training Programs

This is a sample chapter from our Muscle and Strength Pyramid Training book. It links the main points from each chapter, a six-part step by step guide to teach you how to build a training plan. We’ll take you through each level of The Pyramid, highlighting the main points and the subsequent decisions you’ll have to make from each as they relate to building a program.

Remember, this is a quick start guide, so it won’t include the full breadth or depth of knowledge or its explanation from the book’s previous chapters. Rather, it is designed to create an actionable plan to build from. As you gain more understanding of the principles, you can use the program you will build as the foundation to lay other concepts on top of.

Step 1: Adherence

While there is a lot to learn from Level 1, one of the best biggest practical applications of the information relates to how many days per week you train. Specifically, choose a realistic number of training days that would not put stress on your life or schedule. Truly, this value can be anywhere from 2–6 days per week.

Determine whether fewer, longer sessions fit better with your life, or more frequent, shorter sessions. Also, your training age interacts with this decision, as at a certain point it is next to impossible for most people to make progress without training at least three times per week. So, if you are a novice, you can make a two day per week program work, but after that, the decision boils down to whether you want to train 3–6 days per week as two days per week becomes infeasible with the often-requisite volumes (sessions become far too long, practically, and training quality will tend to degrade towards the latter half of the sessions).

Once you’ve come up with a number, this results in a number of possible microcycle-level setups (AKA ‘splits’) that could fulfill the frequency requirements of Level 2—training each movement/muscle group a minimum of twice per week), a maximum of every day.

In the chart below you will see sample options for hypertrophy or strength (setup for powerlifting). Find the number of days you can train in the left column and then you will see your training split options in the row to the right:

*S = Squat, B = Bench, D = Deadlift, “/” indicates performed in the same session, commas separate days.

Remember, your choice will dictate the volume per movement/muscle group per session, and subsequently the time it takes to complete each session.

If you were to choose six ‘full body’ days, for example, you’d end up with fewer exercises per muscle group, sets per exercise, and time spent in the gym per session. Likewise, if you were to choose two ‘full body’ days, you’d end up with more exercises per muscle group, sets per exercise, and time spent in the gym per session.

On the strength side, it is organized around how often you train the bench press, and how often you train squats and deadlifts combined (as there is significant overlap between the two in terms of stimulus and stress). If you choose a very high frequency, again, you end up doing very few working sets per exercise per session, and vice versa.

Either very-high or very-low frequencies can be problematic depending on the individual. Most obviously, you don’t want a session to be too overloaded for a given movement or muscle group or training quality degrades as the marathon session drones on. However, for some people, certain movements cause connective tissue stress somewhat independently of the total volume and/or load. Thus, high frequencies of any significant volume or load become problematic. Simply put, for 90% of people I’d recommend training 3-5 days per week with a muscle or movement frequency of 2-4 times per week, as this typically strikes the best balance between stimulus and recovery.

So, pencil in the split you’ve chosen for now, because in step two we’ll discuss some other potential considerations that might impact your decision.

Step 2: Volume, Intensity, Frequency

As a reminder, these are the broad starting guidelines appropriate for most people:

Volume: 10–20 sets per muscle group/movement pattern per week

Intensity:

  • Strength: ⅔–¾ of volume in the 1–6 rep range, remaining volume in the 6–15 rep range at a 5–10 RPE
  • Hypertrophy: ⅔–¾ of volume in the 6–12 rep range, remaining volume in the 1–6 and 12–20 rep range at a 5–10 RPE

Frequency: 2+/week per muscle group or movement pattern.

These variables are how you ensure overload occurs, and how you organize it.

Frequency is already penciled in. Next, let’s choose an appropriate volume. In an ideal world, you’d have meticulous training records showing rates of progress and volume levels at each point of your career and you could make an educated start to what would be appropriate given the large individual variance in optimal volume. However, if you’re reading a quick start guide to program design, there is a strong possibility that’s not the case.

The appropriate volume might depend on a lot of factors, which could logically include: training history, training age, genetics, habitual sleep quantity and quality, biological age, total body mass, nutritional status, psychological resilience to stress, personality, and perhaps sex. Unfortunately, we don’t have the relationships of all these variables teased out, but there is good anecdotal evidence, a theoretical basis, and limited scientific evidence to suggest that on average, more experienced lifters need more volume to continue progressing. Thus, with all else being equal, here are some decent guidelines for establishing volume within the 10–20 set recommendation.

Note, the higher your volume, the more it makes sense to spread it over more sessions to prevent individual sessions from becoming too long and stressful. This maintains session quality. As you can see in the column on the right, there is a generally recommended weekly frequency at each volume step to better spread stress. If this doesn’t match up with your split choice from Step 1, consider a different amount of volume, or a different split.

With your volume level and frequency chosen, whether your goal is hypertrophy or strength, you will spread that volume for each muscle group, or each movement (bench, and split between squats and deadlift patterns), across the week. Once again, just pencil this in to get an idea of how your week is shaping up. For example, let’s say you are an intermediate doing 13–15 sets with a 4-day, two times per week muscle group frequency doing a 1: Legs, 2: Push, 3: Pull, 4: Full Body split. Spreading things out, you’d probably do 4–6 sets per muscle group on your Full Body day, leaving 9–11 sets per muscle group for your Legs, Push, and Pull days.

Lastly, you’d assign intensity; both the load and the effort. See the two charts below that show appropriate repetition ranges and RPE values for strength and hypertrophy based on exercise and microcycle organization.

As you can see, for hypertrophy, the higher the fatigue generated by the movement, and the greater the technical demand, it makes more sense to curtail the RPE and rep range. This avoids fatigue bleeding into the rest of a session, may reduce the risk of injury, and also ensures that the volume you perform is effective because as discussed in previous chapters, it’s harder to accurately rate RPE on high-rep, fatiguing movements. Therefore, compound movements are generally a better vehicle for doing the portion of your volume that is lower rep and thus heavier. Likewise, isolation exercises and machines are better vehicles for the higher-rep, lower-load portion of your volume.

For strength, rep and RPE ranges are largely dictated based on whether you are performing a main lift or accessory, and your goal with the movement. For main lifts and variants whether you are building specific strength in the lifts (or strength that easily transfers to them), specific hypertrophy and workload capacity with those lifts, or whether you are performing technique work which is heavy enough to be useful, but light enough to allow recovery, different RPE and rep ranges are appropriate. Likewise, rep range and RPE will change depending on whether you are performing compound accessory movements intended to build general strength (which are more taxing and technically demanding), or machine and isolation accessories (which are less taxing and technically demanding) for hypertrophy purposes.

When you combine this information with Step 3, you can really start to see how your program unfolds.

Step 3: Progression

At this stage, the program really starts to take form, and we get to start assigning reps and sets across the week and the mesocycle. How this shapes up is dictated by the type of exercise (isolation or compound) and the rate of progress you can reasonably expect (training age).

As a quick recap, linear progression (linear load increases) is simply adding more weight to the exercise while keeping reps and sets the same each time you repeat a session.

Linear periodized progression is keeping sets the same, reducing reps each session, while increasing load.

Block periodized mesocycles are a sequential approach where you do an accumulation mesocycle of higher volume at a moderate RPE and higher rep ranges (but specific to your goal), followed by an intensification mesocycle of lower volume at a high RPE and lower rep ranges (but still specific to your goal), and then taper and test—or simply rinse and repeat after a deload if you can gauge your estimated strength in training (e.g. starting some days with a single at a 6–9 RPE).

For a novice, you would simply spread your 10–12 sets per muscle/movement across your days of training, and each week when you repeat a day’s session, try to increase load (typically the smallest increment available to extend progression longer).

For an intermediate, you’d spread 13-15 sets over your days, and follow a linear (load up reps down) approach week to week, and double progression for your isolation movements.

Finally, an advanced lifter could set up an accumulation cycle of building number of sets, followed by an intensification mesocycle similar to how an intermediate would progress, and then taper and test, or rinse and repeat.

To continue our example, sticking with our 4 days per week, 2/week muscle group training frequency setup as an intermediate with hypertrophy goals doing 13–15 sets per week, things start to take shape:

Showing how this plays out in a strength program is a little easier once we discuss exercise selection and break things into categories.

Step 4: Exercise Selection

For a bodybuilder or hypertrophy-focused trainee, you can slot in various exercises to fill the weekly muscle group volume goals. If you view the table below you can see which muscle groups a given exercise “counts” for.

As it currently stands, we know an exercise that trains a muscle group indirectly (secondary) probably doesn’t provide quite as much stimulus to the muscle as something that trains it directly (primary), but the scientific data up to this point has counted secondary and primary muscle group volume the same. So, count everything on a one to one basis for each muscle group, just be aware that you don’t want all your volume for a given muscle group coming from indirect work.

For a powerlifter, however, things are little easier to categorize. As almost the entire body is trained and utilized in the performance of the big 3, but we aren’t necessarily looking for complete muscular development everywhere. Thus, you can view things as seen below:

Understanding the above, here’s how the same intermediate choosing a 4-day per week, 2/week movement pattern training frequency might set up a powerlifting program with the S, B, D, B split (see the training split matrix for strength) doing 13–15 sets per week:

This example meets the guideline of having 13–15 sets for Upper Body Push, Upper Body Pull, and Lower body from a muscle group perspective, as there are 9 sets of bench, and 6 sets of non-bench upper body pushing (for a total of 15), 10 sets combined between squat and deadlift, and 3 sets of lower body accessories (for a total of 13), and 5 sets of deadlift and 8 sets of upper body pulling (for a total of 13).

Globally, we also meet the guideline of having 50–75% of volume from the main lifts, as out of a total of 36 sets, more than half (19 sets) come from the big three. As a reminder, here are the guidelines for how to distribute volume over exercises for strength and hypertrophy.

Step 5 and 6: Rest Periods and Tempo

At this stage, you don’t have much left to do. If you’d like, you can set up your upper body push and pull exercises with antagonist paired sets (APS). Likewise, if your goal is hypertrophy you can set up APS for leg extension and leg curl, and biceps and triceps as well.

Also if you are time-pressed and your current setup is pushing the limits of what you think you can reasonably accomplish, you can perform some of your accessories or single-joint movements for hypertrophy as drop sets or rest pause sets.

Beyond this, just make sure you rest appropriately, control the eccentric to some degree, and perform forceful concentric contractions and you’ve made your way through The Pyramid. All that remains is making it more flexible and a bit more specific to your needs.

Customizing Your Program with Autoregulation

Now that you’ve got the basic structure, there are some things you can do to better match this program to your specific needs.

Autoregulating Days Off or Training Days

If you recall from the Adherence chapter, training hard when you are most recovered, and matching easier sessions with days you are less recovered has been shown to benefit strength and adherence. So, you can apply this by not having fixed training days (e.g. Monday, Wed, Fri) within the week, or by having floating off days when you feel you need them the most. This helps with not only your life schedule but may aid performance.

The former strategy, flexible training days, works best when training 2–3 time per week, as you have more off days than training days. The latter strategy, flexible off days, works best when training 4 or more days as you have fewer off days than training days.

Autoregulating Load

I’d advise programming with both percentage 1RM and RPE on exercises you test or determine an actual or estimated 1RM on. You can program with percentage 1RM, say 3x8x70% but also provide an RPE range, like 6–8, and then if the first set at 70% wasn’t in that range, increase or decrease load to something that you think will be.

For exercises you don’t estimate or test your 1RM on, you can just use RPE. For novices who don’t yet have the training experience to accurately gauge RPE, just track it for now without using it to set or modify load. Give it a few months at least to develop competency with RPE before doing so.

Autoregulating Deloads

After each mesocycle of training (for intermediates when you’ve completed a progression cycle, for advanced when you’ve completed a block), use the chart from Level 3 to assess whether a deload (or a high-rep week maybe with BFR) might be beneficial:

Make sure to do this just in case every third mesocycle no matter what if you haven’t run one yet. See Level 3 for specifics on how to implement a deload.

Autoregulating Exercise Selection

Giving yourself more choice in exercise selection may allow you to enhance your enjoyment, pay heed to any current aches and pains, and subsequently improve performance as discussed earlier in the book.

For those interested in hypertrophy, you can change to a different ‘horizontal pull’ or ‘vertical push’ or ‘hip hinge’ (etc.) mesocycle to mesocycle (so long as you come back to it every few mesocycles) instead of sticking with one all the time. Likewise, for isolation movements, you can even give yourself the choice to change session to session. If you do so, just make sure to record your training loads. This allows you to know where you left off so you can pick back up with the appropriate load upon returning to it.

Similarly, those who want to gain strength can choose a different variant on the main lift when they are far from a competition (closer to the competition you should choose the competition lift). Additionally, strength focused trainees can switch between variations of accessory movements session to session (so long as it trains the same movement pattern or muscle group) like a hypertrophy focused trainee does on isolation movements.

How to Adjust Training When Cutting

A final consideration for your training plan is how to modify it if you are cutting. If it is a brief or non-aggressive cut to sustainable levels of leanness, you probably don’t need to modify training at all. However, if you are going on a longer-term or more aggressive cut, as is typical when dropping a weight class, or certainly if you are dieting for a show, changes should probably occur.

Some very general guidelines are (you can modify the sample programs from the next chapter using this information as well):

  1. Step down one category of volume (e.g. from intermediate to novice, or advanced to intermediate) to accommodate reduced recovery. You probably don’t need to do this immediately, but maybe at some point into the first third of a diet, it’s a good adjustment to make to ensure a better balance between stimulus and recovery (again, only if you’re dieting to unsustainable levels of leanness, or with a sizeable deficit).
  2. Switch from doing deloads based on how you score on the checklist, but to doing them automatically after every mesocycle to facilitate better recovery.
  3. Using the autoregulation strategies preceding this section so that you can account for your performance being more variable.

The Muscle and Strength Pyramid: Training v2.0

If you have found this helpful, you might be pleased to know it is just a small section taken from our Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid book. The second edition, along with the Nutrition companion book, was released this January 2019.

Join 17,000+ other readers, get your copies here.

Thank you for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments.

– Eric, Andy, and Andrea

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Julian
Julian

Hey Andy,

Just had a question on how to incorporate RPE regulation with wave loading. Would placing an RPE cap on weight increases work?
For example
3x8x100 kg @ 8 for Week 1
Then increase the weight 5-10% from last weeks weight as long as it stays within a certain RPE range like 7-8?

Thanks

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Julian, yes. You’ll see in our sample programs that we recommend fixing the first set RPE to control fatigue.

Sascha
Sascha

Hi,

I have a question regarding volume.

If I understand, volume goes up with training age, meaning that an advanced lifter would have many muscle group frequency to be able to spread out that weekly volume.

I’ve read the contrary a lot. Meaning that beginner lifters can hit muscle groups often as they don’t manage to “damage” the muscles due to lack of recruitment.

Pro bodybuilders often use a once per week per muscle group split to allow a recovery due to “deep” muscle recruitment and tiredness.

I’m intermediate and getting confused on if I should train more frequently or less. Seems like I had better results doing back/bis ; chest/tri ; legs 1/week rather than all 2/week.

Thanks!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Sascha,

For natural trainees, the current state of the scientific literature is fairly clear that hitting each muscle group more than once per week will likely lead to better results. I stand by the recommendations in this guide.

John
John

Hi Andy – first just wanted to say thank you for all of the great information you have here on your site and taking the time to answer questions people may have. It is really appreciated!

I was curious if you had an opinion on “resensitization” phases. Basically a month or so off from high volume hypertrophy training in an attempt to resensitize your body to the effects of high volume training. This is recommended by the folks over at RP. They have deloads in between each high volume Mesocycle and then run the resensitization afterwards.

Would you apply those as well if you chose to build a program following your guide here or is that kind of what the deloads are hoping to solve?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi John, thanks for the comment.

It’s not a strategy I typically use with clients, so I’m not familiar enough to add anything meaningful to what Mike will have already said about it.

Serdar
Serdar

Hi I just read your 6 step guide to building training programs. First of all, thank you! Most programs are designed in a symmetrical manner, either full body or push-pull-legs with appropriate rest days in between. I would like to build my program on a Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule (weird, I know). I was thinking a full body Tuesday and push-pull-legs on consecutive days (th-fr-sa). Do you think that’s an appropriate program for hypertrophy? Do you have a better suggestion? Thanks again!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Sedar, please refer to the four day split recommendations.

Alejandro Vásquez Morales
Alejandro Vásquez Morales

Hi Andy, if I’m following your intermediate bodybuilding program is it a good idea to repeat the same exercise for each movement pattern? Let’s say for horizontal push I do barbell bench press two times a week, and for vertical pull I choose the lat pull down machine, again, two times a week. Or should I choose two different exercises? I couldn’t find the answer on the article or the training book, thank you in advance.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Alejandro. Stick to one movement for any lifts you need to build technique proficiency on.

So, if you’re well-versed in bench, feel free to use another horizontal push like DB presses on your other day(s). But if your squat could use work, don’t use another variation, just work on that.

Robert Przybyłowicz
Robert Przybyłowicz

I have a question about minimal volume for hypertrophy when we only have 3 days per week. If we would like to do FBW 3 times a week and then we would take one exercise for movement pattern from your hypertrophy exercise and muscle group trained table we would have 8 exercises plus isolation.
But let’s skip isolation and fly movement pattern and we stay with 7 exercises. Now to reach a minimum of 10 sets per muscle group/movement per week we would need to do 3 sets of each exercises per training (that would give 9 in total). If we have 7 exercises with 3 sets with some of them compound and with high RPE we are looking at at least 1,5h in gym. How can we increase volume without adding day?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Robert, thanks for the question.

You have to train longer.

The problem with this is that training quality typically degrades as the training session gets longer. This is where what you can do — train only three days — dissects with what you should do — add a day.

Michel Brok
Michel Brok

Hi Andy, for already a long time I’m using your website and articles to setup my own trainingsprogram.

What I’m struggling with, are the 4 and the 5 days program, especially because I want to move from novice to intermediate. It is very difficult for me to add another day, I tried but a busy job, family etc, it’s not really easy to add another day, and when I did it was quite stressfull. Could I still do a 5 day program and spread them for instance over 2 weeks? So just continuing the program in the new weak where you left? Or should I really focus on a 3 day program and try to increase working volume in the days I train

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Michel!

Better to put the volume you need into the time you have, which is four days. Just put the compound exercises of the last two days we have in our Intermediate Bodybuilding Sample Program together into one.

Rob
Rob

If I choose neutral grip dumbbell incline press in the novice bodybuilding routine instead of an overhand grip, will my side delts still get enough work as a novice?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Rob,

You’re forcing me into a few assumptions here. The short answer is yes.

If you’re substituting this for a vertical press, you can expect the overall shoulder activation (all three heads of the delts) to be slightly lower: the further you angle it toward horizontal; the lower it will be. Note though, there is still activation, even with horizontal pressing, and this is not the only exercise that will train your shoulders (yes, all three heads), because there is also activation with your pulling exercises.

Thus, whether this will make a meaningful difference to development at this stage is questionable.

Further, I assume you’ve substituted this exercise because it feels better, right? I do something similar. My shoulders just don’t like to go vertically anymore, so I press with an angle. So, the decision is made and it’s not worth worrying about anyway.

Julian
Julian

Hi, if on a routine some movement is being progressed with the novice progression, when deloading other movements is it wise to keep progressing first movement if the target reps are being completed week to week or deloding all the routine regardless of the progression scheme of particular exercises

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Julian,

If you feel run down, deload everything (as this will dump fatigue globally). Otherwise, deload just what the progression calls for.

Jay
Jay

Hi,

With regards to flexible training days; if I’m training 5 days a week. Is it detrimental for these to be Mon-Fri and have weekends off? Or should I do 3 training day, rest and then the remaining two?

I understand this would be down to recovery but I’m always tempted to head to the gym on non training days to try and get ahead on my program. This would be just in case I’m not able to fit a session in the following week; so in theory’ I won’t be behind.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

It likely be a little better for recovery to split things up, but if that’s not an option I wouldn’t worry about it.

Matheus
Matheus

Any reason why the recommended frequency for intermediates are 3-4x/week and the sample routine is 2x week?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Matheus, thanks for asking.

2+/week is the training frequency recommendation per muscle group or movement pattern. The training frequency we’re referring to in this table (which I think is where your confusion comes from) is the total training sessions per week.

Training frequency clarification.

Michael
Michael

Hi Andy this also confused me. The Intermediate sample is 5 days because of the volume but according to this diagram is should be between 3-4 days

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Ahh, I see why you’re confused. In The Intermediate Bodybuilding Program example we give an example of a 5-day split. If you look at “The Hypertrophy Matrix for Choosing Splits” you’ll see options for splitting your workouts and you’ll see it comes from there.

This summary table is more with the powerlifting programs in mind. I’ll have a talk with Eric about how we might reword it. Thank you.

Jay
Jay

Hey Andy
Long time lurker and a big fan here.
Question: how should I approach my goal of explosive lower body for sports and male model physique for upper body? Somehow mix your bodybuilding and powerlifting programs for UB and LB accordingly ?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Jay,

This isn’t really my area of expertise, but…

To become ‘explosive’ you need to practice explosive techniques. Contrary to the name, power lifts don’t train power but strength. (You can see from looking at them, they’re not explosive, right?)

So, while becoming bigger and stronger will allow you to become more powerful (and that is what I would suggest novices focus on first, regardless), there still need to be practice to optimize it.

Think of it as like modifying your car to jack up the horsepower and corner well, you still need to practice the skill of driving to be fast.

So then there comes a question of what might be a suitable power technique for your sport.

A power clean and box jumps apply to most, but there are many more sport-specific ones. Back in my Aikido days, the first 5 minutes of every session was spent leaping explosively forward and taking people down with the web of the hand to the chin/throat.

Circling back, you can mix the two, yes, but consider adding in some sport-specific power work and know that this may require you to cut volume a little for the lower leg power lifts and possibly the deadlift if you add power cleans.

Jay
Jay

Just as I thought. 😀
And yes, fortunately I’m very familiar with plyometrics and Olympic lifts. I’ll try to mix your programs a bit.
Good stuff, thanks mate.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome, Jay.

Alberto
Alberto

Hi, with deloads at the end of progression cicles on exercises, that would be every 4 weeks for compounds and isolation, using the intermediate progressions, can these vary, for example week 4 deloading compunds but not isolations or is it better to deload both when one is deloaded?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Alberto,

Yes, it can vary, but the advantage of doing all at once is that fatigue is dumped globally, which can help with everything.

Dario Zarba
Dario Zarba

Hi Andy,

what do you mean by “(typically the smallest increment available to extend progression longer)” as you spoke about progression as a novice? Should I start to use microplates for squats or do you mean that if I can’t progress anymore with 5lbs increments THEN I should try to use the smallest increment possible like microplates?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Dario,
I have 5 lbs in mind as the smallest increment, as the majority of people won’t have access to them (plates lighter than 2.5 lbs / 1.25 kg). So, while I don’t feel there is a need for the average person to go out and purchase microplates, if you have them you could certainly use them.

Dario Zarba
Dario Zarba

Thanks Andy!

Are there any benefits of using only microplates since the beginning instead of the bigger increments if an increment of 5lbs or even 10lbs is possible? I’m thinking about deadlifts and squats… It would take a lot longer that’s for sure.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

I can only think of disadvantages, forcing unnecessarily slow progress.

Ali Abdulredha
Ali Abdulredha

for a novice U recommended 10-12 sets for each muscle. Should i just count the primary muscles in an exercise for the 10-12 set or both the secondry and primary counted in the same manner?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Ali, thanks for the question. From above:

“As it currently stands, we know an exercise that trains a muscle group indirectly (secondary) probably doesn’t provide quite as much stimulus to the muscle as something that trains it directly (primary), but the scientific data up to this point has counted secondary and primary muscle group volume the same. So, count everything on a one to one basis for each muscle group, just be aware that you don’t want all your volume for a given muscle group coming from indirect work.”

Ali Abdulredha
Ali Abdulredha

for a novice U recommended 10-12 sets for each muscle. Should i just count the primary muscles in an exercise for the 10-12 set or both the secondry and primary counted in the same manner?

George
George

Hi Andy, quick question. (It may be silly Idk). I’m finding back difficult to program due to the two planes you can train it through. Could you split both the vertical and horizontal pulls across two workouts? So Upper 1 with a row and upper 2 with the pull/chin? Say I have 10 total sets per week for back can I split that across the 2 days? Or because of the musculature of the back does it actually need both a vert and horizontal total volume? Or does the movement not matter so much so long as the total volume is hit?

Cheers.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Yes, absolutely.

Varun
Varun

Hi Andy,
I used your Training book from Muscle & Strength Pyramid and achieved amazing gains on Strength and Muscle hypertrophy, but something terrible happened on April 18 last year and I had to undergo surgery for repairing of Flexor tendons of my four fingers on right hand along with Ulnar nerve and artery and a large part of my fds muscle was exposed out.

Although all of it was repaired and after rigorous physiotherapy of 6 months, I joined Gym on November 23rd. and I’ve been training consistently since then.

The thing is that I’ve regained all of my strength but only on left hand which was unaffected, and my right hand is still very weak compared to left hand.

For ex. when incline dumbbell pressing now I can hit 15 KG with right hand and with left I can easily do 30 KG. It has created a huge difference in my upper body workouts. I can work with more intensity but I’m limited because of strength levels of my affected hand.

One side of my body always feels like underworked and I don’t even feel muscle contractions unless I’m doing very slow tempo.

How should I program my workouts now? as of now I’m following the intermediate workout you have given but all of the exercises I’m performing in 10-20 rep ranges.

and how much frequency do you think would be apt to achieve the volume&intensity I can’t make up for right now? also if possible anyway to work biceps without hand involvement?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Thank you for getting the books. Glad you have found them so helpful. If you could leave us a review on their Amazon pages that would be most appreciated.

Given that the limitation is your grip strength, you can use straps to aid your grip for pulling exercises and use machines that don’t really require you to grip, just push with your palm, for the pushing exercises. The volume and frequency recommendations don’t change.

Your grip should get stronger over time if worked. If that has not been happening, speak to your physical therapist about how to go about that.

Rob
Rob

Thank you for sharing this info. You mentioned the Middle Delt being a secondary muscle group for horizontal rows. Was that a typo or do all variations of horizontal row, regardless of line of pull, and grip, work the middle delt?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Not a typo, yes.

Rob
Rob

Can forearm volume be counted separately? Or is it unwise to add forearm work since they are constantly being used in almost all intelligently designed programs?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

It’s not something I’ve ever considered counting, basically because they get trained sufficiently, indirectly anyway and I haven’t needed to.

The opposite is usually true. — At some point, the majority of people will find that their forearms can’t handle the volume that the rest of the body can and I suggest straps for pulling exercises when this becomes the case.

To be clear — all advanced lifters use straps. It’s not that they are weak, just that they are a small muscle that will end up limiting the stimulus you can deliver to the back otherwise.

Austin
Austin

Andy, thank you for making this part of your book available online. Such a valuable resource for lifters to have at their disposal. You have Rep Range 10-20 listed for compounds for advanced lifters during the 6 week accumulation phase. Do you recommend sticking towards the lesser part of that rep range with deads, squats, ohp, and bench? Thanks again mate.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Austin,

The comments here are for questions about the article, but we take questions relating to specific parts of the books on the support page here. Eric and I take turns and answer twice a week between us. Please put this there for us.

Austin
Austin

My apologies, I should have clarified what I was referring to. At step 3 (progression) of this article, you have table listing Rep Range 10-20 on compounds for advanced lifters during the 6 week accumulation phase. Do you recommend sticking towards the lesser part of that rep range with deads, squats, ohp, and bench? Thanks Andy

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Austin, thank you for pointing this out. Here’s how we’ll adjust this:

“Rep range 10–20, load increases when possible, RPE 6-8.” > “Rep range 10–20 (6-12 for free weight lower body compounds), load increases when possible, RPE 6-8.”

“Wave loading from 12 reps in W7 to 6 reps (2 rep increments) in W10. RPE 8–10.” > “Wave loading from 12 reps in W7 to 6 reps in W10 (from 10 to 4 reps for free weight lower body compounds, 2 rep increments). RPE 8–10.”

Austin
Austin

Excellent. Thank you for your quick reply Andy.

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