Three Day Split RPT Routine

963 Comments

  1. Andy quick question. I’m running the male physique template from Renaissance Periodization for a cut. It basically ramps up the volume week to week and eventually gets me to overreach before a deload. Problem is the workouts are too long. Some days I’m going ~30ish sets and I just feel it’s a little pointless. I’m sort of lucky because I’m not working at the moment so I have time, but I will soon be and I cannot spend 2 hours in the gym.

    So my question is, if I switch to a similar RPT routine like the one you have here am I possibly putting myself in a position to lose muscle mass as I cut?

    1. It’s possible, probable even, that the level of volume you’re using isn’t appropriate or your level of training experience.

      If you built up to that level of training volume over time, because that is what has been required of you to progress, then fair enough. But if not, you’ll more than likely be fine on a lower volume level. (I am confident Mike would agree with this also.)

      However, this doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to go from extremely high volume to extremely low volume (like with this program above) just because the intensity will be high. You’re missing the middle. Consider our sample Intermediate Bodybuilding Program template.

  2. Hi Andy

    I’m really starting to appreciate your point regarding RPT.

    But I’m a bit confused about your recommendations regarding routine selection: how do I pick between the 3 day, non-RPT, routine and the intermediate bodybuilding program?

    (I’m about to cut)

    Many thanks for your great work.

    1. Thanks Andy.

      So, if one can handle the volume of the 5 day intermediate bodybuilding split, would that routine be preferable to the three day split mentioned on this page?

  3. For muscle mass retention is the routine we do going to matter as long as strength is maintained? I don’t see the point of maintaining higher training volumes when my goal is drop a good chunk of body fat (20-25% down to 10-12%). I’m leaning towards starting RPT not just because of the recovery aspect, but because fasting works easily with it too and I can easily add cardio on rest days to burn additional calories. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Andre, thank you for the question.

      There are quite a few different points I need to unpack here so I’ve done so and will do my best to answer to each fully:

      1. “Is the routine we do going to matter as long as strength is maintained?”
      If you compare under the same circumstances, then strength maintenance is a good sign of muscle mass maintenance. (Which is what I assume you mean by this.) But when you drop total training volume your strength will go up. So you can’t compare your lifting numbers in a low volume program with a higher volume program and say anything about your relative muscle mass at each point.

      What I mean is, if you are currently squatting twice per week, 5*5*280 lbs and 3*8*240 lbs for example, that’s 8 sets.

      If you were to change to an RPT routine where you are doing just three sets of squats per week with one of those being in the 4–6 rep range, you can expect the load on the bar to shoot up for that first set. However, this is not an indication that you have suddenly gained muscle. Like needs to be compared for like.

      2. Will this RPT routine maintain my muscle mass? (This wasn’t asked but implied.)
      If it’s not a vast departure from your current training volume level, then yes. However, you probably have a good opportunity to gain some muscle mass as you lean out given that you have such a large amount of fat to lose. So it’s worth setting your sights higher…

      3. …because fasting works easily with it too…”
      It’s promoted as such, but fasting doesn’t have anything to do with routine choice in my experience working with 1000+ clients over the last 8 years. Choose the most appropriate routine for your goals and situation. Here’s my guide on that.

      (*RPT + morning fasts are the combination popularized by Martin Berkhan’s Leangains method. This was then promoted/rebranded by others as a good combo, but this is everything to do with keeping things simple for branding reasons and nothing to do with the increased efficacy of one routine when fasting vs another.)

      4. “…I can easily add cardio on rest days to burn additional calories.”
      I wouldn’t recommend that. None of the guys you see on my client results page got shredded lean due to cardio.

    2. Thanks for the reply, Andy. I see what you’re saying and it makes sense. My training has been all over the place…

      Regarding the cardio are you a fan of LISS cardio by any chance? Something like 45-60 min walking? That’s what I plan to do on rest days and maybe some core work and call it a day.

      Also, I appreciate the reply and taking the time to write that out. Thank you.

      Andre

    3. If you sit on your arse all day, then sure. But as I said, cardio is not something I have found the need to get clients to do. A more detailed look at cardio in my article here.

      Don’t bother with the additional “core” work. It won’t do anything of benefit.

  4. Hi Andy,
    Im not strong enough yet to do weighted chin ups 5×5, and I think not quite strong enough to do bodyweight 5×5 either.

    Can i have your advice here please on how best to incorporate 5×5 Chin ups?

    1. Lovely, thanks Andy.

      I did 5×5 chin ups after 5×5 100kg Deadlifts yesterday, and I managed 4 sets of 5 full reps, and the 5th set I only managed 4 reps, failing halfway through the 5th rep.

      After reading through your article, I think my next action should be too see if I can get 8 or more full reps. If I can, then I’ll move onto RPT system.

      That sound about right to you?

  5. THanks for all the Info. I was wondering I do HIT training several days per week In the morning and lift a few days a week in the afternoon. Do you think doing intermittent fasting and HIt training like sprints or insanity will eat any muscle in trying to gain lifting?

    1. Yes. “The mechanisms furthering adaptations in one trait – AMPK for mitochondrial biogenesis for endurance, suppress those that would have allowed optimal adaptation in the latter case, mTOR for muscle protein synthesis – all things being equal – looking at concurrent endurance/strength training vs strength training sans endurance training.”

  6. Apologies if I’ve missed it but what is the recommended rest period between sets using the RPT method?
    Thanks
    Alan

  7. Hi Andy,
    I’m an intermediate lifter. For a cut, would you recommend I adhere to RPT, or the 5×5 ‘better way’ method you mention in the article?

    Thanks for the all the great material you produce!

    1. Cheers, Andy.

      Just to clarify: you recommend your intermediate bodybuilding program for an intermediate (like myself) who is cutting?

      That seems like a huge jump in volume from the RPT variants on this page. However, I trust your advice — been following your output for a while (and purchased the excellent ‘last shred’).

      -Alex

    2. In general, yes. However, if you have been doing a very low volume like this up until now, then you wouldn’t want to jump it up so far, but you can probably handle more, as long as you keep stay shy of failure to manage the fatigue.

  8. Hi Andy,

    What is your recommendation for when you progress significantly faster on your 1st set, relative the 2nd and 3rd?

    Specifically, for my shoulder press, my 2nd set is -25% relative my top set, and my 3rd set is another -25%.

    This is because whenever I hit 8 reps for my 1st set, and consequently increase the weight, I end up with less strength available for my 2nd and 3rd set — increasing the discrepancies.

    Is this fine, or should I slow down my 1st set progression in favor of letting my 2nd/3rd sets “catch up”?

    1. Hi Emanual, thank you for your patience with my response. (Been doing website edits on a staging site which prevented me from doing so earlier.) I could argue this is not a bad thing in the short term.

      However, if you dial back the intensity so that you have one more rep left in the tank for that first set unperformed, you’ll be less fatigued for the subsequent sets, which will allow you to do more and progress faster in those.

      Now, considering that overall volume is the key driver of hypertrophy and this would enable you to do more volume, this could be more optimal. That’s kind of what I was referring to in the drawbacks of RPT section, but this is a way to partially hack it. 😉

  9. How is RPT for bodybuilding? I know you have an intermediate bodybuilding and intermediate powerlifting program; I am not sure where RPT fits on the spectrum (e.g. 60% bb, 40% pl).

    1. Hi Danny, thank you for the comment and sorry for the delay in replying. (I had been unable to do so while the website went through a big update over August.)

      Well, you’ll see at the end I have pointed out the limitations of the routine. This applies to both strength and size goals. Assuming you’ve read that, don’t worry about it. If you’re training, you’re enjoying it, and you are progressing then the job is being done.

    1. Hi Carlos, thanks for the question.

      With different muscle groups, yes. But with the inevitable overlap, you’ll probably find that training to failure as with RPT will cause too much soreness for you to be able to train effectively and you’d be better not using it with a 5-day routine. I have some very detailed progression guidelines in this article: A Detailed Guide To Training Progression.

  10. Sorry, Andy. I should have define “Big”. I meant something like these:

    https://forum.bodybuilding.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=8394323&d=1470097329

    https://yt3.ggpht.com/-27Al9z3xip8/AAAAAAAAAAI/AAAAAAAAAAA/uJ-iLqEpR3g/s900-c-k-no-mo-rj-c0xffffff/photo.jpg

    That’s Greg O’Gallagher and the Aesthetic Professional, fitness Youtubers. Both say that you can achieve their bodies with very minimalistic training, about 3-6 sets per muscle per week, as long as you apply progressive overload each week. I’ve always thought that you needed an insane amount of volume just to get these guys’ bodies, but they say, “no, no, no, you don’t need mush volume and you dont need to be at the gym for more than 30 minutes and 3 days per week”.

    So, Andy, can you get big as these guys as they say?

    1. “No, no, no, you don’t need mush volume and you don’t need to be at the gym for more than 30 minutes and 3 days per week.”

      Everyone has their own genetic differences and responses to training. Some people will make half the gains from the same amount of work; some people will do double the work and never achieve the same physique.

      This is just ‘The law of tough shit™’.

      You can only work to be the best you. At some point, more will be needed to get more results. The only question is whether you are happy with your physique at that point in time. Clearly the gentlemen you follow on Youtube are happy with theirs, but to say that nobody needs to ever do more than that, to achieve the same results, is complete nonsense.

  11. Andy, I hear that you can get big with low volume training. So can you get a big chest, say, with only 5 sets of bench press once per week? Or can you get big arms with, say, only 3 sets of bicep curl and tricep extension twice per week?

  12. Hello Andy,
    Hi Andy, great article! Your pieces of advice are so simple and effective.
    I’d had one question that niggels me for ages.
    I love Leangains and I love Aikido too.
    I’d like to excercise the both sports. I worry about that I would have too much muscle mass or I would be too stiff for aikido.

    You have mentioned you have trained also aikido.

    I think the mass, that I gain thanks to that workout schouldn’t be too big for aikido.
    How does it look like with the compilation of other sports and leangains? I think they are not mutually exclusive as far as mobility and nimbleness is concerned.

    I’d like to train twice a week aikido and three times a week leangains.

    Mein Workout:

    Day 1

    1. Deadlift – 3 sets
    2. Weighted Chin-ups – 3 sets

    Day 2

    1. Squat- 3 sets
    2. Overhead Press- 3 sets

    Day 3
    1. Bench – 3 sets
    2. Dips – 2 sets

    Thank you in advance for the answer!

    1. Hi Robert, thanks for the question.

      I worry about that I would have too much muscle mass or I would be too stiff for aikido.
      – It is a myth that muscle gain causes stiffness. It comes from the 70s and 80s but still lingers in Japan, especially in traditional dojos.

      Now, you don’t want to set your training up so that you are so sore from workouts that you get stiff, but this is just a case of avoiding excessive volume and training to failure, generally speaking, There is no need to modify the training plans you see on the site in my opinion.

      If you’re new to training you’ll feel sore as shit for a week or two as your body gets used to it, as with any new training stimulus. Just suck it up.

      Just so you know, this isn’t a random unqualified opinion: I’m writing this as a man that trained 6-7 sessions a week of aikido concurrently with strength training for a couple of years (Shodokan, at the headquarters in Tennouji, south Osaka, Japan).

  13. Hi Andy,
    “2 sets, 3 mins rest. Raise feet off floor when too easy, add two second cadence. 8-12reps”
    That’s just looks like nothing. Is that BW push-ups? Am I missing smth? Total 24 reps in 2 sets? That’s it? Why do I need 2min rest if I’m performing only 12 reps?

    1. Hi Karolis, thanks for the question. Raise your feet off the ground and do band resisted versions. Will add that to the article for clarity.

    2. Thanks for your answer, looking forward for updated article.
      Is there any difference between push-ups with resistance band and putting a plate on your back?

    3. Most welcome, Karolis.

      A plate on the back will provide a constant resistance but is hard to place and balance. The bands will work the lock out portion of the push up more, with more of a focus on the triceps.

  14. Hey Andy,

    I don’t totally understand why RPT is worse for recoverability. Couldn’t you do RPT without pushing yourself to failure on each set? In other words, just use it as an efficient way to get more reps in?

    I figure the top set would help you train more for strength and the next set or two would be for accumulating more volume in a time efficient manner — but the sets could be done with pretty much the same RPE that you’d use when doing 5×5.

    Is the point that your RPE is inherently going to be less for the first few sets when doing 5×5? Or is it that 5×5 is simply easier for beginners to manage fatigue?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Rocky, thanks for the questions.

      Couldn’t you do RPT without pushing yourself to failure on each set?
      – Certainly.

      Is the point that your RPE is inherently going to be less for the first few sets when doing 5×5? Or is it that 5×5 is simply easier for beginners to manage fatigue?
      – The point is that volume is the key driver of adaptations long term. Training to failure will compromise the total recoverable volume that can be performed, so as a trainee advances they may find better results by using failure sparingly, instead of every workout and exercise. A beginner trainee shouldn’t be training to failure, they want to work on their form.

      Two articles you may find useful, the first for the former and the latter for the latter.
      The Core Principles of Effective Training
      A Guide to Exercise Selection When You Don’t Have Access to a Coach

  15. Hi Andy, trust you’re well. Could I please bother you for feedback on my training routine which is as follows. Objective: strength, and significant reduction in body fat% ( 12-13%) – Current BF (18-20%)
    Training routine: 4 days, 7 days IF (16-8). Weight: 77.6 Kgs / Deadlift 1 RM: 167.5kg (x2.15)/Bench 1RM: 117.5kg (x1.5)/ Squat 1RM: 131.5kg (x1.7)
    Day 1
    Bench, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 6-8), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    Deadlift, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 5-6), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    OH shoulder press 3 reps RPT
    Day 2
    Bench, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 6-8), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    Squat, 3 reps RPT, (4,5,6), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    Day 3
    Bench, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 6-8), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    Deadlift, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 5-6), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    OH shoulder press 3 reps RPT
    Day 4
    Bench, 3 reps RPT, (3-4, 4-5, 6-8), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%
    Squat, 3 reps RPT, (4,5,6), starting at roughly 93%, reducing 10%

    Each training day, I also do 3 sets of pull/chin-ups, 3 sets of chest/triceps dips, 3 sets of push-ups
    Some days I am able to manage 5-7 minutes of HIIT
    Using this program have noted gains in lifting, and size, increase in weight, unable to cut body fat (have not been disciplined in always eating clean in the 8 hour window)

    1. Sorry Zaheer, this is specifically what I said I can’t offer in the comments. See the third bullet point of the comment rules. If you have a specific question, please feel free, but, “This is what I am doing, what do you think?” type questions require context and are beyond the scope of the comments function.


Questions welcomed. (Over 16,000 answered)


For the sake of other readers, please:
  • Keep questions on topic
  • Write clearly, concisely, and click reply when responding
  • Don't post diet calculations or training plans asking me to critique them.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please read about our privacy policy here.