Three Day Split RPT Routine

Martin Berkhan RPT Reverse Pyramid TrainingSquats, Deadlifts, Bench press, Chins – Think you can’t get big with just these four? Tell that to Martin Berkhan.

This article tells you how to train when the time comes to split your training into a three-day split. The primary focus is reverse pyramid training, but I have also included advice for other set-rep patterns (5×5 for example) to be used with a three-day split, as this is what I find myself using more and more often with clients rather than RPT nowadays.

The Common Ways Athletes Split Their Training

There will come a point in your training career where you will need to split up the compound training movements in order to be able to recover in time for the next workout and keep progressing. (We talked about why this in more detail in the article on appropriate training program choice so we won’t dig into that here.)

Common training split examples:

  • Push/pull – Splitting your training by categorizing the movements broadly as pull or push movements. (Example: chest, shoulders and squatting done on day 1, rows, deadlift variations and any hip hinge exercises on day 2.)
  • Upper/lower – Splitting your training by categorizing movements based on whether they target the upper or lower body. (Most commonly done four days a week, as with the push/pull example.)
  • Bodypart – Splitting your training by the main body part that is worked. (Example: chest on a Monday, back Tuesday, shoulders Wednesday, etc.)
  • Compound movement – Separating your training days by the compound movement that you do. (Example: Monday as your squat day, Wednesday as your bench day, Friday as your Squat day.)

The three day split I introduce in this article is an example of the latter type of training. It can be used with any set-rep pattern, but the one I mainly talk about in this article is Reverse Pyramid Training.

Reverse Pyramid Training Explained

What is it?

RPT is a style of set-rep pattern where the trainee puts their heaviest set first, then ‘pyramids down’ to a lighter weight, usually with more reps for the latter sets. It is best suited to the main compound movements (the squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.).

It’s a very time-efficient training style, but it requires very high intensity. It was made popular by Martin Berkhan of who you can see picture above.

Who is it for?

Very high intensity is required to get the desired training effect from the, usually, abbreviated routines. It is not suited to novices who are at greater risk of their form breaking down when pushing close to failure. A straight-set routine (where the weight is kept consistent across all sets) like 5×5 will me much more suitable and effective for these people. If this is you, my suggested routine is The Big 3 Routine or one of it’s variants.

When can it be used?

It can be effective in either a cut or a bulk. The low volume makes it more suited to a cut. Under calorie deficit circumstances recovery capacity is lower, so training volume is best reduced to match the reduction in recovery capacity. This helps avoid the negative systemic stress effects of too high a workload, which prevents you from experiencing undue soreness and regressing in your training. (I’m talking about getting weaker and potentially losing muscle.)

In this routine accessory work is therefore not used/removed.

RPT How-To Guide

RPT in a Nutshell

  1. Do warm-up sets, gradually working up to around 80% of your ‘top set’ load.
  2. Put the heaviest working set (aka. the top set) first.
  3. Drop the weight, rest and do the second working set.
  4. Drop the weight, rest and do the third working set.
  5. Rest and move onto the next exercise.
  6. Push HARD. Do as many reps as you can without reaching failure.

‘Failure’ is defined as the point at which a rep can no longer be completed with good form. You never want to go to form failure with the compound movements because that is where injuries happen, though occasionally it may happen without your planning. – That is what the safety pins (or a spotter if you have one) are for when squatting and benching, or the bumper plates and padding on the floor for, when deadlifting.

What Does it Look Like?

RPT is a set-rep pattern, not any specific workout. However, RPT does have popular routine incarnations. One such incarnation is this three-day split.

Example 3-day RPT Split


1. Deadlift

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 4-6reps – 3mins rest
  • Set 2 (-~10-15%) 6-8reps – 2mins rest
  • Set 3 (-~10-15%) 8-10reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Weighted Chin-ups

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-~10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-~10-15%) 10-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.


1. Bench

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-~10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-~10-15%) 10-12reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Push-ups

  • 2 sets, 3 mins rest. Raise feet off floor when too easy, add two second cadence. 8-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.


1. Squat

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-~10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-~10-15%) 10-12reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Overhead Press

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-~10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest /Set 3 (-~10-15%) 10-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.


How To Progress With RPT

RPT uses a double progression system. So that means the target is to increase either the weight or reps, if you can, at each session. There are rules for doing so.

  • For the first workout you likely need to guess at how heavy you should load the bar so that your maximum effort is within the target rep range.
  • Let’s say that this week you get 7 reps with 100kg and your target rep range was 6-8 reps. The next week you’re going to stay with 100kg and try to hit 8 reps. If you do that then increase the weight slightly (102.5kg) and try to get 6 reps or more the following workout.
  • If you fail to get the minimum required number or reps at any point in time, reduce the weight.
  • For your second and third sets, your target rep rage will be a couple of reps higher. Because of this, and the cumulative fatigue of the previous set(s) you will need to reduce the weight on the bar. 10-15% is a ballpark figure for this.

Example RPT Progression

Target rep ranges 6-8, 8-10, 10-12:

  • Week 1: 150 x 6, 135 x 9, 120 x 12 – increase weight of 3rd set next session
  • Week 2: 150 x 8, 135 x 10, 125 x 10 – increase weight of 1st and 2nd sets next session
  • Week 3: 155 x 6, 140 x 8, 125 x 11
  • Week 4: 155 x 6, 140 x 10, 125 x 11 – increase weight of 2nd set next session
  • Week 5: 155 x 8, 145 x 8, 125 x 12 – increase weight of 1st and 2nd sets next session
  • Week 6: 160 x 6, 145 x 9, 130 x 10

Note that some weeks the weight went up for the back-off sets but not in the “top-set” and vice versa. This is normal.


Adjust all sets independently of each other. The ~10-15% reduction that I’ve suggested is just a guide for your first workout. (If you need to reduce it more or less that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong!) From that point onward you want to adjust your subsequent sets independently as you would for that top set.

Keep the other training circumstances the same, particularly time, and keep rest intervals strict.

For the chin-ups, always keep a full range, keep it slow and smooth. Chin-ups may be very tough at first, that’s fine. Band-assisted chin-ups are a good option until you have built up the strength to do full reps, as is jumping up and holding yourself in the top position and fighting gravity until it takes you down for as long as you can. – This way you will train both ends of the rep range. Eventually you’ll want to add weight. See my Full Guide To Progressing Your Chin-ups.

The Pros and Cons of RPT Training

What I Like About RPT

  • Quick & effective.
  • Satisfies the need for intensity without allowing certain personality types from hammering themselves too hard.
  • Cuts through the crap & focuses on the exercises that will give the trainee the most bang for their buck.

The Drawbacks of RPT

  • It is not sustainable and will eventually cease to provide enough training stress to drive progression. Training close to failure at very high intensity is bad for recovery. This means that the workouts can only be performed with a low frequency. Volume is also low, as it’s not possible to train to failure for a high amount of volume. As volume is one of the key drivers of progress, eventually RPT will cease being effective.
  • Not suited to the beginner. Training too close to failure is bad for proper motor learning. Form needs to be very good to avoid injury when pushing close to technical failure for rep maxes.
  • Your ‘maximum‘ is highly influenced your gym atmosphere/surroundings. One of my best squat workouts ever was with six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates sitting on the leg press machine six feet behind me, staring at me, waiting for his rack to become available. ‘Maximum’ is relative and variable, and it’s too easy for people to pussy out before they truly can’t do any more reps. Think about it this way – if I put a gun to your loved one’s head, you could probably do a couple more, right?
  • Mentally the workouts are very tough, and knowing you need to push to a max for every set, especially on squat day for example, can lead to people dreading their workouts. This extra mental drain can lead to unnecessary stress and sub-optimal performance. Fixed set-rep patterns (5 sets of 5 for example) without the requirement for failure can work better. And I find myself recommending these more and more, regardless of the level of trainee.

A Better Way To Do A 3-Day Split?

Due to the drawbacks mentioned above, I most often find myself using a fixed set-rep pattern without the use of failure instead of RPT with clients. As the cumulative fatigue will be lower, additional exercises can be added to each day and have been in the example below.

Example 3-day Split Using 5×5 and 3×8 Set-rep patterns


1. Deadlift

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Weighted Chin-ups

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • 5 sets of 5 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

3. Additional compound movement (Example: Front squats 3×8)

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • 3 sets of 8 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.


1. Bench

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Push-ups

  • 2 sets, 3 mins rest. 8-12reps (When too easy: raise feet off the floor, add band resistance, add a two-second cadence.)
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

3. Additional compound movement (Example: Seated Cable Rows 3×8)

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • 3 sets of 8 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.


1. Squat

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Overhead Press

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

3. Additional compound movement (Example: Romanian Deadlifts 3×8)

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • 3 sets of 8 reps – 2mins rest between sets
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

See here for a progression example for 5×5


RPT-Specific FAQ

Do I have to stick to those exercises above?

No, that is just an example. Front Squats, Rack Pulls, Pull-ups, Row variations. Basically, multi-joint/compound exercises that lend themselves well to incremental loading are all fine.

Can I add in more exercises?

If it helps you progress quicker. If you’ve come to this page from a google search or forum recommendation, I’d highly recommend that you read my article, The Core Principles of Effective Training, so that you have the background knowledge to know when adjustments are appropriate.

What is a good warm-up?

You want to do the minimum that you can to get warm and ready for the top set, without tiring yourself for your main work sets. I’ve covered this in detail in the FAQ in the section, WARM-UP: What should I do?

Can I do pull-downs instead of chin-ups?

You can, but they are not as effective. Do not use them if you have a chin-up bar available. In my experience people work a lot harder when then have to do chin-ups rather than pull-downs, probably because their efforts (or lack of) are more public.

Is the omission of dips from Martin Berkhan’s original template purposeful?

Yes. Dips are a great chest and triceps developer, and it feels awesome to have a couple of plates clanging between your legs as you knock out a few sets of 8, but the risk-reward ratio is skewed in the wrong direction I feel. What I mean is, it’s very easy to cause yourself an injury with this exercise, especially as you start adding a lot of weight. (It puts the humeral head in a position far past neutral).

When there are safer alternatives that are equally effective (pushups, the close-grip bench press), I see no point in taking the risk with dips. I no longer do them myself, and I no longer recommend them to clients.

Got any lifting videos/resources?

Yes, recommendations are covered made in my article, The Core Principles of Effective Training.

Why does this conflict with the advice of [coach X]?

You will find conflicting advice all over the internet because there are many different ways to reach the same end with training. Every routine has its pros and cons, suitability depends on context. RPT and the routine above is just one way of doing things. It’s not suitable for all people, at all times. Though different coaches have their own preferences and reasoning, the principles of effective training routines remain the same.

How do I know when I should use a full split routine like the one in the example above?

 Great question, this is covered in the article, Which Routine Is For Me?

Got it, now how do I put together a nutrition plan to go with this?

That’s what I specialize in and do professionally, and you’ll find everything you need to do this on this site. This includes, How to Calculate Your Calories, Macros, Optimal Meal Timing, Calorie & Carb Cycling, Supplements (which I’m not a fan of), and How to Track your Progress.  The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet 


Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. – Andy.

Next: What To Do When You’re Done With Your Linear Progression Strength Training Program →


943 Comments on “Three Day Split RPT Routine”

  1. Kyle says:

    Thank you. Very much appreciated.

  2. Kyle says:

    Hi Andy,

    I just turned 23 years old and have been lifting regularly since mid-univeristy. (6′ & 190-200lbs)

    I’ve been following to the best ability the intermittent fasting diet and have been performing the “Big -3” workout as suggested for the past 15 weeks.

    I’ve made solid progression, but seem to be at a plateau. My lifts are getting quite heavy and I’m afraid I can’t go much heavier without risking injury.

    Jan 3, 2015 (last working set weight):
    Squat – 225lbs
    Deadlift – 225lbs
    Bench Press – 185lbs

    March 22 2015 (last working set weight)
    Squat – 335lbs
    Deadlift – 315lbs
    Bench Press – 245lbs

    Do you have any suggestions? Am I ready to give Reverse Pyramid Training a shot?

    Best regards,


  3. Dennis says:

    Hey Andy, I am in a cut and will use this routine next week.

    Two short questions:

    I have no problems with dips, can I use them instead of pushups? (2 sets 5-8 reps)

    Can I add a row exercice at the bench day? (Like DB Rows 4×5-8)
    Or pullups 3 sets with amrap?

    Thanks Dennis, from Germany!

    1. Hi Dennis, thanks for the questions:
      1. Covered in the FAQ.
      2. If you wish.
      3. You could, but it is not optimal in the same way that squatting with weight X, 3 sets to failure (amrap) and never changing the weight we squat with isn’t. The way we need to adjust the load with chin-ups is different from the other lifts, but the muscles do not know the difference. Here is a guide:
      A Full Guide To Progressing With Chin-ups

  4. Josh says:

    Great article! I have been lifting for many years now. I am used to working out 4-5 days, Mondays through fridays (my gym is closed on weekends). However, due to a new job, I am forced to be out of town Tuesdays and wednesdays, so I have to use a 3 day split. I’ve not been going as frequently and it is starting to get frustrating. I’m very advanced in lifting/weight training, and I must admit I’m not always natural. Would you still suggest a split much like you have proposed here for lifting monday,thursday, and friday? Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Josh. In order to keep progressing you’ll likely need to keep the volume the same, or similar. If you only have three days to do it, split things as best you can for recovery across those three days. If you’re looking to cut though, training volume can be reduced greatly. This new article will help explain why:
      Stress: In The Gym, Out of The Gym, and How it Affects Your Program and Progress

  5. Alexis N. says:

    Hi Andy,
    I bought a set of 3 bands to assist me on my chin ups while I’m doing my workouts but I’ve noticed that I can only do chin ups with the strongest band. Also I cannot reach the targeted reps for all 3 sets which made me come to you for advice on whether I should continue the way I’m going right now until I can reach the targeted reps with the band or should I look into buying an even stronger band? I’m asking you this right away because I don’t want to be doing my workouts wrong when I could’ve gotten the answer before. Thank you.

    1. Hi Alexis. This will be covered in a new post I’m putting together. For now though just do as many as you can in those three sets.

  6. Ark says:

    Hi Andy,

    Hope you wouldn’t mind answering question on RPT progression for long time cut routines.
    Can overall progression be compromised for a person who is doing several cycles of 12weeks cut for a year or so?

    I am in the middle of my 2nd 12 week cut cycle. I had great results with the 1st cycle. I made some progress with DL, bench was stagnant and my squat went down a little. Good weight loss was achieved. I took 2 weeks diet/training break, and started new cycle with 70-75% weight load. The weight loss is still good, but the training progression is not what I expected. My DL is OK, bench is slightly down which I am OK with. But i can’t pass 85% of my previous load for Squat.

    I know that it is common to see some strength decrease for cut period by ~5- 10%. Let’s say that person wants to stay on cut for a year (12weeks diet->2weeks break->12weeks diet etc). Is there a chance for the strength loss by ~ 20-25% of the initial training numbers over the year period? Off course, it all depends on the personal differences, but I am still confused a little of what should I expect.

    I know that you had some long term clients in the past. What is your thought on that from the experience?


    1. “Can overall progression be compromised for a person who is doing several cycles of 12weeks cut for a year or so?”

      Absolutely. Strength acquisition and muscle gain will be compromised in a calorie deficit. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

      You may just have to work to maintain your strength whole you finish cutting. This series will help you decide whether cutting is right for you currently:
      Physique Goal Setting – The 9 Categories of Trainee: Their Mistakes, How to Avoid Them, and What You Can Achieve When You Get Things Right

      1. Ark says:

        Thank you Andy!

        Looking forward to your new post!


  7. Joel F. says:

    Thanks so much for this site! Quick question in regards to squats, my gym only has a Smith Machine. No cages for natural squats.

    In this case, what should I do? Is there an alternative? Thanks!

    1. It’s a shit gym then and it’s worth changing if at all possible as being in a crappy training environment will hold you back. That’s not to say you can’t work around it by some goblet squats, leg machine work, and some single leg work with dumbbells (reverse slide lunges / one foot elevated split squats), but that misses the point.

      Great video by Greg Nuckols on this here: “Mental Barriers“. I’ve also talked about this in my post on goal setting, identifying it as a key reason why I ended up going nowhere for years.

  8. Sam says:

    Hey Andy,

    I trialed this routine but messed around with it too much (switched bench to dumbbell incline, didn’t do squats and added an additional exercise to each day, whilst pressing from a clean).

    One day I decided to look up my strength on strstd and was shocked to see most were below novice! So I went away and read Starting Strength – followed that routine and since have got all my lifts slightly above Intermediate.

    Although my strength increased, my physique hasn’t changed as much as I’d like. At an intermediate level of strength would you recommend I’m good to go back to the RPD or should I keep going till my strength levels fall into Advanced?


    P.S. I’m 26 and weigh 80kg at around 13% BF

  9. Martin says:

    Are resistance bands necessary for chin-ups if I can’t do more than 8 reps or can it be done without the bands by simply going all out during all three sets?

    1. A useful tool but I wouldn’t class them as necessary. You can just do less reps as you get stronger (and lighter).

      1. Martin says:

        Thank you. So, would you recommend switching from 6-8, 8-10 and 10-12 reps to, say, 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 if I don’t have resistance bands?

        1. For the chins, for now, erase the mindset of “RPT” from your mind, and replace it with the idea of “practice”. If you do that you won’t go far wrong.
          Example: Set one: You get 6 perfect reps. Set two, you get 4 perfect reps. Set three, you get two perfect reps. Stop.
          Next session, see if you can get more in total. – Make sense?

          1. Martin says:

            Absolutely, it makes a lot of sense. Thank you, Andy. I appreciate your help a lot. Your articles (and replies to comments) are always incredibly useful. Keep up the good work.

  10. Rob says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been doing the 3 day split RPT, but have noticed that I’m not recovered after Friday’s workout for Deads on Monday. I could add extra rest days I suppose, but I like being in gym 3x a week….. I saw an old blog of Martin’s where he has a template like this:
    A1: Squat/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/quads assistance
    B1: Upper – Pushing and triceps assistance
    A2: Deadlift/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/hamstring assistance
    B2: Upper – Pushing and triceps assistance

    This would give me more days in between squats/deads and let me get in the gym 3x a week. What do you think of an approach like this?

    Thanks, Ron

    1. Hi Ron. What do I think? If it gets the job done give your specific goals and recovery circumstances then I am all for it.

  11. KJ says:

    Hey Andy, so after a couple of months experimenting with IF/IIFYM, I decided to commit to a cut. I’ve been doing RPT, with 3-4 accessory exercises. Do I just drop the accessory work while on my cut? And in regards to taking a diet break, when should I make that happen? I am a woman, ~15% bf, and plan on doing a 12 week cut, and was hoping for a little clarification. Thanks!

    1. Hi KJ.
      1. See the FAQ.
      2. Refer to the article, ‘Diet Break Guidelines’.

  12. Kathleen says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for you prompt reply 😀

  13. Kathleen says:

    Reckon I can get away with:

    (RPT protocol) (my work week is Sun-Thurs)

    Sunday off (Yoga)
    Monday ON
    Tuesday off (Yoga)
    Wednesday ON
    Thursday ON
    Friday OFF (completely)
    Saturday OFF (completely)

    if I keep the squat day and deadlift days split. As in to say Deadlifts, chin ups (or similar) on Monday, Chest etc Wed, and Squats etc Thursday.

    Reason: I do realize this is not an optimal set up, but I do value my Yoga as well and those two days are the best option. The alternative is TUES and WED Yoga in a row (leaving SUN and MON for lifting in a row) but I judge that to be a worse set up. With the schedule outlined above, at least I have plenty of recoup days after the 2 days in a row at the end of my week…?

    AND I am one of those already pretty lean (15-18%) types with stubborn thigh cling-on fat… Where would u fit a bit of cardio -if any-(I don’t do any currently barring the ‘occasional’ hiit session done correctly)? IF so would it be in the form of HIIT only then? PS I work hard on Yoga days; it is not an easy laying around stretching thing.

    Current goal: Maintain but lean out (actually I wouldn’t mind a bit more quad mass, but a problem I have is quick development on my upper and slow development on my lower. I typically stick to the big 3 and never do any isolation work.

    1. Hi Kathleeen, thanks for the question. Quite a common one, which I’ll summarise for others reading:
      “Can I have training days two and three back to back?”
      – Not optimal, but you’ll likely be ok with that for a time. (The yoga mentioned is irrelevant from a recovery standpoint.)

  14. Stijn says:

    Hey Andy,

    You’ve got Blogs that are inspired by you on this site like On this site your RPT double progression system is called a common mistake and also using three sets per exercise is a mistake. Whats your take on this? Is it all to taxing?

    1. Hi Stijn.
      My opinions are covered in the article above, within the context of everything above, and in the wider context of the full scope of the training guides and principles covered. One routine is not appropriate for all, and one routine is not appropriate for one person forever.
      Check out these articles:
      Which Routine Is For Me?
      The Principle Of Progressive Overload
      How to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines
      The principles are all covered there.

      1. Stijn says:

        Will do Andy! Tnx and keep up the good work.

  15. EricB says:

    Hello again Andy,

    I started recently doing RPT in the wight room after stalling on 5x5s, then doing “volume training” as per the Nuckols article. Thus far I am doing exactly what he said, blowing by my previous stall points. Comparing my relative lifting stats to something like Rippetoe’s strength charts, my squats and deads are well over the Cat III threshold (220×10 squat and 280×8 @ 175lbs were my last top sets). This feels awesome to achieve, but bench is barely at Cat II for my bodyweight (last top set was 125×8).

    I am an ex chronic runner and cyclist so I’m not surprised about the strength imbalance, but would very much like more upper muscle mass and strength relative to my existing lower body strength.

    Would it be advisable to move squats to just the top set of RPT to save recovery capacity for upper body workouts? Then work bench, press, and chins more often to make up the “deficit”? Are there other common strategies here? For reference, I am basically at a IF “recomp” level of calorie intake, sloooowly getting leaner while progressing on my lifts.

    Thanks for all your help,

    1. Hi Eric.
      “Would it be advisable to move squats to just the top set of RPT to save recovery capacity for upper body workouts?”
      No I wouldn’t do that. It won’t aid with anything for your upper body and will just hamper leg development.
      “Are there other common strategies here?”
      You can put more volume and frequency in the upper body work.

      1. EricB says:

        Regarding adding more volume and frequency in the upper body work:

        Is there any advantage in trying to work in overhead pressing as well as bench pressing, for the general purpose of getting big and strong? (I do not have any injuries or mobility issues hampering the bench.)

        1. The OHP uses the shoulders in a more obvious and conceptually simple fashion, but you can get big without the OHP just using the Big 3. However, the movement patterns are different and the muscle groups worked are slightly different, so the stressors and recovery overlaps slightly different. Thus, there may be times where you can induce more stress through a greater workload on similar muscle groups by having the two in your program than by just having the one.

          Ha, reading that back through it sounds a little complicated, but does it make sense to you Eric?

          1. EricB says:

            I think so, let me make sure I’m picking up what you’re putting down:

            For the shoulders (deltoid group?) in particular, you can effectively introduce more training stress through both OHP and bench, rather than the same overall volume on just bench alone. Close?

            Also, when you say, ” there may be times where…”, what are those times dictated by? Recovery ability? A particular spot in the training cycle?

            1. 1. Yes.
              2. Recovery ability and progression – these factors determine how you plan your training.
              The principles covered in these three articles will help:
              How to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines
              Which Routine Is For Me?
              The Principle Of Progressive Overload

  16. Marcus says:

    Hi Andy! I’ll appreciate a quick opinion.

    Would doing deadlift on Day 1 affect the bench press on Day 2? Say I do deads on Sat then on Sun I hit the bench. I find that as the weight got heavier its harder to hit my bench press as I couldn’t stabilise the weight and keep tight when my back is sore from the back day on Day 1.

    In the past I have progressed on Bench only when I was feeling great even when doing the same routine. I was thinking of switching bench to day 1 and deadlift to day 2. But that would mean 1 day of rest between deadlift and squats. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Marcus. Both the bench and the deadlift involve the lats, so the one could have negative carryover to the other yes. Ideally you’ll have another day of rest in there but I’m assuming from the question that that’s not possible. I wouldn’t swap the days around as the opposite will happen, and I’d put more then one day of rest between the squatting and deadlifting if possible as it’s usually the lower back that needs more recovery time.

      1. Thanks for your quick reply Andy! Yes I understand what you’re trying to say. Seems like I’d have to plan my schedule again.

        Thank you!

  17. Ark says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I am loving it. Just a question on the choice of the exercises.
    Is it good idea to substitute conventional DL with the trap bar DL?


    1. Well, this really depends on the context of the question. I need you to be more specific so I’m not left guessing, or writing paragraphs unnecessarily.

      1. Ark says:

        Hi Andy,

        Sorry for not being specific. I want to start RPT as you listed the schedule. I’m 44, and I weight lifted for years on and off. My last program is Brawn type 2 days a week slow progression.
        My back is not my best friend lately and giving the age I am thinking to use trap bar for DL on Mondays.

        Please share your thought. I’d appreciate that.

        Thank you,

        1. Ark, thanks. If that is the right thing to do for your back, the exercises are similar enough so that you could consider it a one for one swap. If. Don’t guess it, get an expert opinion from a sports doctor.

          1. Ark says:

            Thank you Andy!

  18. Kody says:

    Hey Andy,

    I am anticipating being ready to switch from cutting to slow bulking in 2-4 weeks or so. I am wondering about switching from a 3 day split to a 4 day split. I want to do this so that I wouldn’t have to do squats and overhead press on the same day. My legs need the most work (in terms of aesthetics) so I would like to add a little volume to that day but not be too tired to do any shoulder work.

    To clarify, I know that I can do this if I want to. I understand your concepts enough to be able to adjust my calorie and macro cycling to have 4 work days and 3 rest days and still hit the right averages. My question is really just; In your opinion, would this actually be as beneficial as it seems in my head?

    1. Hi Kody.
      I have no way of seeing into your head, so I cannot answer whether that will be better or worse then how it seems in your head. All I can do is point you to the guides on the site and with the context of the principles there, you’ll be fine with any changes you make.
      To set up with 4 days training a week in terms of macros, see this post.

      1. Kody says:

        Ha ha… Man, I didn’t want to be one of those people that asked a stupid question that can’t be answered. Anyway, thank you! Your site is super helpful. I’ll just give it a shot and decide if it’s worth it to spend an extra day in the gym or if I’m wasting time.

  19. T4Sc says:

    Hi Andy,

    First off; Big fan of your site – I recommend it to anyone who asks about my diet and training. Quick question:

    Friday is back day, so deadlifts, weighted chins, and shrugs. Thinking of replacing shrugs with face pulls as I’m not feeling them. Am I in danger of contracting “f**karounditis” or…?


    1. Hi Tristan, good article talking about face pulls by Dean Somerset here.

      1. Tristan says:

        Awesome, thanks. Will add it on instead of replacing Shrugs. Cheers, T.

  20. Jamie C says:

    Why is there no exercise included for the upper back part? (Sorry for my bad english)

    1. Both the deadlift and chin-ups work the upper back.

  21. josh says:

    Hey Andy, would you recommend the three set RPT over the two set RPT ( as described by 31minutes ama on reddit) where you do more movements but for two sets instead of three? Thanks ahead of time man.

    1. Hi Josh. If volume needs to be reduced to increase recovery capacity, then you can go down to two sets. That’s not a blank recommendation for everyone. The mistake of the 31minutes thread is the idea that recommendations for one person at one point in time, can and should be applied to all.

      1. josh says:

        OK that makes sense. Thank you, I really appreciated ate your reply (:

  22. Kierran Clarke says:

    Hi Andy,

    If you are having a “bad day” in the gym, and are struggling to hit your standard rep and weight range, would you recommend to do as much as you can at your top set, or drop the weight and make sure you hit the desired rep range?

    1. Listen to your body in this case and go by intuition.

  23. Jaime says:

    Why are you using 4-6 reps for deadlifts on monday, and 6-8 reps for all of the other big lifts on the other days’ top set?

    1. Deadlifts are more suited to lower rep ranges.

  24. Alex says:

    Hi Andy!

    I’m sticking to this updated RPT routine since you published it. I’ve also added some steady state cardio(~50 min walk) on the rest days, so now it looks like: Su – Back, Mo – Cardio, Tu – Chest, We – Cardio, Th – Legs, Fr+Sa – Rest.

    I use recomp macros and train fasted first thing in the morning. After reading Starting Strength and since I don’t have a big caloric deficiency I consider to add a Power Clean exercise to this routine.

    And here are the questions I have:
    1. Should I add the Power Clean at all? Is it a sound idea?
    2. If it is, on which day should I add the PC? I think about Tu(chest day) as a least loaded, but wouldn’t it affect my recovery from DL and impair my squat performance?
    3. If I add it, how many sets/reps? Should it also be done in the RPT fashion?

    Thanks a lot,

    1. Hi Alex.
      1. If you have someone to coach you, sure. If not, it poses an unnecessary injury risk to the physique focussed trainee.
      2/3. Save me reaching for my copy, see Rippetoe’s advice in his book bud.

  25. steven says:

    Hi Andy,

    Is there any easy way to tilt RPT towards one particular muscle group? I’d like to prioritize legs over the upper body. Is it as simple as just only doing the bench work out every other cycle of three?


    1. Hi Steven.
      RPT is a set-rep pattern system, not a split. You can split things how you wish and still use it as long as your program allows for The Principle Of Progressive Overload.

  26. crr1114 says:

    not sure if this is a macro adjustments question or a training question, so i’ll fire away here first.

    as i transition from cut to bulk, i feel like i’d love to lift an extra day, so basically 4 days in 10 (every other day times four, then two days off). on the other hand, i’d be willing to be that i probably don’t really need to increase frequency, and that three days are just fine. i just enjoy lifting so much i’d rather do the extra day.

    any recommendations about adding another day? i only ask because i also recognize this represents another 300-500 kcal per week on intake and i’d like to stay as lean as possible during the bulk. should i:

    (a) not worry about it and just add the extra day
    (b) not worry about it and lift three days per week
    (c) increase frequency to 4 days per week without adjusting macros, then adjust macros after a week or two of doing this frequency
    (d) take the 4th derivative of the natural log of the number of training days, times pi, divided by the degree to which i’m over-analyzing this (nth), plus sine 67 degrees…and increase macros by that amount
    (e) none of the above

    1. Hi Chris.
      “i feel like i’d love to lift an extra day”
      Don’t program based on feeling, program based on how you progress. Be systematic. Try one thing, then the other if you prefer. As you’ve noted, the overall difference in calories throughout the week with an extra training day will be small relatively, so you can make that change without worrying about it.

  27. Anubis Lockward says:

    Hi Andy, I don’t know if this has been answered anywhere else, but I got this question:

    I’m currently doing RPT, I’m 5′ 9″, 157 lbs, 32 years old male, and my routine looks like this:

    [The next 2800 characters deleted. Reason below. – Andy]

    1. Anubis, thank you for the comment. Clearly you’ve put a lot of time into it, but it was 2957 characters long.

      If you have a question please know you’re welcome to ask, but if it takes such a lengthy post then I think it’s beyond fair use of the comments – which is to clarify points that are unclear in the articles.

      I’ve deleted the majority of it so that the page is kept tidy, load times are lower, and smartphone users don’t have to endlessly scroll.

      1. Anubis Lockward says:

        Sorry! Didn’t feel that long tho, it’s just that I had so many questions, lets try again.

        I’ve been doing RPT for the last 4 months, and although I feel I’m making progress with it, I was just wondering if I should change to the Big 3 routine until I reach a decent weight, and then continue with RPT.

        Currently my max are: 185 lbs for the Deadlift, 120 lbs on Squats (had to reset, that’s why is so low) and 170 lbs for the Bench.

        The other question was related to the weighted Chin-ups, but I’ll wait until you answer this one to ask again.

        Thanks in advance, and sorry for the long post.

        1. Anubis, thanks.
          The squats need more frequency and volume so that you can work on form, which was the purpose of the reset (I assume). RPT for this exercise is not suitable at this time – mentioned this above.¥
          You’re asking whether you should do ‘a’ or ‘b’, which ignores any middle ground tailoring things to yourself. Every exercise doesn’t have to be either RPT or straight sets, some exercises can be performed more frequently than others.

          1. Anubis Lockward says:

            well, right now, I’m not doing RPT style for the Squats, but still I’m only doing them once a week on Fridays, I do 5 x 5 with the Squats to practice form, should I do the Squats two or three times a week until I nail the form? right now I can do 5 sets of 5 reps with 120 lbs and it feels easy, that’s why I’m upping the weight to 135 lbs for the next session. But I guess that you’re telling me that I can do them more frequently until I reach a decent weight.

            The other question was related to the Chin-Ups, I increase the weight everytime I can get 8 reps for the top set, with 20 lbs hanging from the belt I can do them, but since I got to 25 lbs, I’ve been stuck there for 5 weeks straight, I can do 7 reps since the first time I used that weight, but I can’t get past that, what should I do?

            thanks for your reply, hope that I’m not bothering you.

            1. 1. Right, exactly.
              2. Stay as you are bud.
              Not bothering me at all. 🙂

  28. Zlatko Knudsen says:

    Hi Andy. I have read like almost every articel on this site – thank you for all the insight!

    But one question i gotta ask, even though i feel very dumb asking it:
    If i go on a slow bulk using leangains and reverse pyramide, should i eat over maintenance every day?

    1. Zlatko Knudsen says:

      I said “almost every articel”. Of course a copule of minutes later i found the answer in an article i havent read before 😉

      1. Ha, well god then. 🙂 Feel free to ask anything else that comes to mind Zlatko.

  29. Michael arrieta says:

    Andy, keeping in mind the necessary recovery times when training with RPT, you keep it to training 3 days a week. You also mentioned at most days in the gym train 4 days a week for a lean bulk. How would you design an effective RPT program for a 4 day a week training on a lean bulk?

    1. Hi Michael. Article coming. Upper/lower split most likely.

  30. sam132 says:

    Hey Andy,

    In Deadlifts I find on my first rep I get wobbly legs, rep 2-4 they seem fine.

    Today I ended up taking a step forward to settle them down (once the weight had been pulled to the top).

    What can I do to stop this?

    – I do 3 mins on incline at 6.5 on the treadmill, followed by two warm up deadlift sets.

    – Due to running twice a week, at the moment I’m not squatting and my squat would be around the same weight as my deadlift.

    – The wobble seems to becoming from my quads.

    – I use sumo lift as I find I have a much better form.

    Many thanks,


    1. Hi Sam. Sounds like you either aren’t warmed up enough, or have an issue with your form or stance.

      1. sam132 says:

        Thanks Andy, I will try a new warm up routine:

        – x 8
        2 min rest
        – x 5
        2 min rest
        – x 3
        2 min rest
        – x 1 (80%)
        Rest at least 3 mins
        – max effort

        If no luck, I’ll get a personal trainer to take a look at my form.

        Thanks again,


        1. Sam, I think you’re going about this the wrong way. A warm-up should be what you feel you need on that specific day, to perform your best. This doesn’t lend itself to a fixed pattern. Fine to go with the above, but listen to your body and adjust on a per session basis. More notes in the FAQ

  31. roman says:

    hey Andy. What would be a good 4 day split. I have been doing 3 day split for a cut. Want to try to add another day and give a bulk a try. Would alternating push/pull days work? Thanks
    BTW. Could not be happier with the results of my online coaching program. Thanks again

    1. Hi Roman, see this comment.

      1. Roman says:

        Andy. I think the link is broken

        1. Sorry, let’s try that again.

  32. Mehul says:

    Hi Andy

    Just wondering whether there is a massive difference in standing overhead press and sitting overhead press.



    1. Hi Mehul.
      Massive difference” in what sense?
      Based on that answer, please try both and tell me what you notice.

  33. Pike says:

    Hi Andy,

    Have you ever experienced deadlift kicking your ass? My 1rpm is 170kg, I generally work out in an RPT from 150kg-ish, but, sometimes I can barely handle 100kg, it’s like I just don’t have it in me… Is this CNS fatigue?

    1. Hi Pike. Heavy deadlifts will kick everyone in the ass.
      If on some days you can’t handle “even 100kg”, and this happens frequently, then you have a recovery issue and need to make adjustments to either energy intake, frequency, total work (sets, reps)… .

      1. Pike says:

        Thanks Andy,
        I’ve been in a serious cut, so maybe that’s been affecting my lift. I’ve only just recently started deadlift, and then started dieting, so it’s hard to establish a baseline. Today I was back up to 160 in my top set, and 110 with fat gripz.

        The “off” days, my rational mind says I can lift it, but my body says otherwise :/


  34. steven says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been using the RPT split for a few months now, and along with taking your advice on diet and where the biggest marginal gains are to be made I’m making decent progress. Or at least progress I’m very happy with.

    I train for BJJ and so some element of speed and endurance is necessary for the sport. I used to do a body weight workout one or twice a week to supplement my training, but I left this when I started on your RPT example workout to concentrate on strength.

    The body weight workout consisted of 5 rounds of 10 single leg squats, 12 ring dips, 15 chins and 10 body blasters. For time. I’m aware of what Martin thinks about crossfitters, but I know you’ve worked with several of them in the past so I wanted to put a question to you.

    I tried this workout for the first time a few months because my gym was closed for a few days. I thought perhaps my time would have slipped, but I was much much slower than I used to be.

    I’ve put on a few kilos since I started the RPT but I don’t think any of it is body fat. So my question is whether there are definite sacrifices to be made in terms of you ability to complete this type of body weight endurance tests when you concentrate on RPT for bulk?

    I know it could easily be that I was tired, coming down with something, stiff from a leg day workout three days earlier (my last workout). But I thought it would also be good to know just what to expect to happen to my performance in these other areas.

    Thanks loads for the great site and all the free advice you pass on.

    1. Steven, thanks for the comment. On this one, unfortunately I simply don’t know.
      My guess would be that you’d improve your endurance, as each bodyweight rep represents less of a one-rep max the stronger we get. Clearly some of those exercises have a skill element that needs to be practiced (pistol squats, no idea what body blasters are).

  35. Dany says:

    Is it possible to get good results without the squat? (the reason is an injury that allows only deadlift, bench and chins).

    Thank you.

    1. Sure. You’ll need to rearrange things in a frequency, volume and intensity that allows you to progress while rehabbing* (*if that’s possible).

      1. Dany says:

        Can you give an example to what you mean?

        Adding more sets/reps/dead lift days? What to do with the “squat day” in order to keep it intensive enough?

        Thank you.

        1. “Can you give an example to what you mean?”
          Covered in the article I linked to Dany. There are many ways to go about it which I why I linked to an article on the principles so that you can make decisions. I appreciate you wish for a single answer, but such personal programming questions are kind of beyond the scope of the comments.

  36. Lewis Reche says:

    Hi Andy.

    Isnt this a very low frequency routine? Or do you find it is okay because you work close to failure in the first sets. I really think beginners and intermediate lifters can progress better with upper-lower routines 4 days a week. And Im talking about natural lifters, people on roids is another term.

    Am I wrong?

    1. Hi Lewis.
      What is ‘better’? This depends on the individual, not least how you define better. I’ve covered this question in the opening of this article. Let me know what you think.
      A beginner has no place with the above routine – I’ve covered this above.
      Whether it can be used with bulking or cutting is also covered above bud.

  37. John says:

    Hi Andy,

    I have been following the above program for some time on a cut which decent results.

    I recently discovered by accident that having more days rest in between each session has resulted in signifigant strength gains. Average of 10 – 12 days training each lift. Strength has gone up the past 5 training sessions where previously I was just maintaining or even loosing ground on some lifts.

    My recovery is less than optimal, I’m almost 50 and I don’t sleep well and have life stresses, jobs, kids, etc., I like a static schedule but am considering making this a permenant schedule given that it’s working so well. I would have never believed in the past that training a lift on such a infreqent basis would merit such results and maybe it’s because I was over reaching in the past. Do you have any thoughts/experience with others on this?

    Thanks! -John

    1. Not sure what I can say here John. Sounds like you’ve found a good recovery balance and are doing well, which is great. Everyone is different in this regard though.

    2. Tom says:

      Your comment interests me as I’m 58 and don’t seem to be getting much stronger. I can’t tell what you mean by 10 -12 days training each lift. Do you mean you have that many rest days between squats for instance?

      1. John says:

        Correct, following the 3 day split above, 10-12 days in between each session instead of the 8 days above or once per week.
        Monday: deads, chins
        Thursday: Bench, Incline DB
        Sunday or Monday: Squats
        Wednesday or Thursday: deads chins
        I thought detraining would be an issue with that many days between, but turned out to be the opposite for me.

  38. Dean Shah says:


    Are forearm and calf sizes genetically pre-determined and that is why they are hard to develop or am I wrong and they can become as big as we train them to be as long as we do it right?

    Thank you, sir!

    1. Train any muscle and it will grow.

  39. edward says:

    my current routine is similar,
    day 1
    dumbbell bench 3 sets
    chinups 3 sets
    t bar rows 3 sets
    tricep rope 3 sets and then 1 or 2 sets of hack squats or front squats about 3 reps from failure
    2 sets for abs
    day 2 rest
    day 3
    front squats 3 sets
    romanian deadlifts 3 sets
    leg curls 3 sets
    calve raises 3 sets and 1 or 2 supersets of bench and chins about 3 reps from failure
    2 sets for abs
    day 4 rest then repeat, i do the same rest periods and rep goals would you suggest any changes?

    1. I appreciate the comment Edward but critiquing routines is not a game I can play in the comments – depends entirely on the individual. Check out the training principles posts.

  40. DarrenA says:

    Hi Andy

    Question on coming back after a break, after 2 months of continuous training.

    Generally the recommendation is to drop the weight after a break and build up the weight say from 70/80/90 then 100%

    What about instead dropping the reps and building up. So 100kg at 10 reps, and starting at 7 reps, working back to 10 reps over a few weeks.

    1. Not sure. My gut says that dropping the weight, not reps is the best move, as the same weight at lower reps would still be more taxing on an unprepared CNS.

  41. Jimmy says:

    Hey man ! lets say im using this for aesthetics and im on a bulk, do you think this program would best fit me even if i am on a cut? and also is using only 2 exercises per workout session really enough? how long does it usually think to complete these workouts because it seems as if this could be done in less than 30 mins. if beneficial should i add maybe one or two exercise into these?

    1. Hi Jimmy. If you are advanced enough to be considering the above routine (see the notes at the top) then this will be enough. See the site FAQ for answers to your question on additional exercises.

  42. Sam says:

    Hey Andy,

    I’m currently basing my workout on a Reddit post from a former client of Martins. The routine is slightly modified as follows:

    A: Back day
    Deadlift 2×3-4
    Overhead Press 3×6-12
    Pull ups 3×6-12
    BO Rows 3×6-12
    C.G. Chins 3×6-12

    B: Chest Day
    Incline Bench press 3×6-12
    Dips 3×6-12
    Push ups 2 sets

    C: Leg day
    Squat 3×4-8
    Calves 1×12-16
    Ab work 2 sets
    Barbell curls 3×6-12

    Have I strayed too far from the basics? Or will I burn out doing the above?

    What do you think? I’ve been working out on/off for the past six years.



    1. Have a read of the article, The Principle Of Progressive Overload Sam. I had this guest post written to help with questions like this.

      1. Sam says:

        Thanks Andy, was that guest post written especially for me!? Haha! Great read. Did you use only six exercises during your before and after photos you published?

        I’m just a little shocked here as it appears to go against everything I’ve ever been told! It’s just going from six exercises per workout (including directly working out with isolations) to say two big compound exercises is a big psychological shift to what I thought was the principles of an effective workout..

        I do now see the significance of this is that it allows one to focus on just a few pillar exercises, progressively increasing loads to achieve set goals. As this would of been lost during my previous workouts.



  43. steven says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been using this routine for a while and quite happy with the progress. Sorry if I’ve missed this question elsewhere on the site, but why does the rest time decrease from 3min to 2min. For strength gains guys like Martin seem to say 3min – 5min. Again, apologies if this has been answered before but I couldn’t find it.


    1. I don’t think it makes a huge difference, as long as the interval is fixed to retain the workout variables. It was Martin’s recommendation originally so you’re best off asking him bud.

  44. John says:

    Andy, me old bean…

    What do you think to Hypertrophy specific training? Load of old tosh or a valid scientific basis for building muscle that looks badass? Unsure if I’m allowed to post links to other sites here…but it’s pretty easy to find some articles with a bit of Google work.


    1. Have a good read of this article John, look at the program you’re considering through that lens (The Principle Of Progressive Overload), and you’ll be able to answer it yourself.

  45. Ryan says:

    I just found this site – I have to say its fantastic! I have spent over three hours pouring over the pages and this week I have switched to a 3 day split with RPT. I have always trained with RPT in some form or the other for the last 10 years. I’m currently looking to bulk. I have the ability to follow a great diet so the macros are not the problem. My question is which routine works best for bulking on the intermediate to advanced lifter. I am 6ft tall and at the moment weigh 180lbs with around 10-11% body fat (its been winter here for a long time 😉 anyway my deadlift is 315lbs. My bench is 225lbs and my squat is 315lbs. These are my 5 rep numbers. I have not tried to max on dl’s or squats. I have done one rep 300lb bench in the past just to see. Anyway if you could point me in the right direction that would be nice as the vast majority of the articles I see here are for begginers or for cutting specifically. What does an intermdiate lifter who is already pushing limits for strength and due to age (30) doesn’t really want to push the weight that much higher or risk injury as I have had a few due to the heavy amount of sports I play. So I guess what I’m asking is if I want to clean/slow bulk to 190lb – 195lb but don’t really want to add much more weight to my lifts what program will work best. the big 3 or a modified version of 3 day split RPT? Sorry if the above is a bit rambling.

    1. Hi Ryan. To cut through your self identified ramble I’ll quote the key question:
      My question is which routine works best for bulking on the intermediate to advanced lifter?
      There is no single best routine, it depends on individual circumstances and experimentation. Kawamori’s article on, “The Principle Of Progressive Overload” should help bud.

      1. Ryan says:

        Yes what an awesome article and actually one I did read prior to posting my question above albeit not thoroughly enough. I now understand the concept better and over the years I have introduced progressive overload if not as scientifically laid out in the article by Kawamori. This is how I went from a scrawny borderline ectomorph at 150lbs at 17 to 180lbs with intermediate – advanced lift numbers. That being said my one question after pondering the suggested article is this: What would be the most effective way to introduce overload if I don’t want to increase weight? For example in the article he mentioned how ineffective it would be to do 17 reps at a certain weight even though that would essentially meet the ‘principle’ of overload. Is it adding sets? That would seem to be the only option but yet in your training guides you mention 3 – 5 sets is plenty and what the body can recover from. Any more is unnecessary. I already go as deep as I can on squats and touch my chest with the bar on every press and rest only 60-90 seconds between sets. Again I’m probably rambling and have answered my own question as you will most likely say its a combination of them all and trial and error for what works for me. I get that but the frustrating part is i’ve been stuck at my weight for quite awhile now with no gains. In the past i’ve been 190 but it was fatty. Trying to do it the ‘lean bulk’ way just doesn’t seem to work. If you can add anything it would be much appreciated otherwise I think I’ll add a set and a small amount of weight and eat more and be patient. Thanks again for a fantastic site.

        1. Hi Ryan, glad you find the site helpful.

          “What would be the most effective way to introduce overload if I don’t want to increase weight? For example in the article he mentioned how ineffective it would be to do 17 reps at a certain weight even though that would essentially meet the ‘principle’ of overload. Is it adding sets? That would seem to be the only option but yet in your training guides you mention 3 – 5 sets is plenty and what the body can recover from. Any more is unnecessary.”
          Increasing the workload, which can be through any of the methods Naoki has listed above. Sets with reps past 12 have diminishing returns.
          The comment regarding sets of 3-5 being plenty a general guide. It is not set in stone.

  46. Jack says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’m a fairly experienced lifter (5+ years). Due to sporting commitments I am only able to go to the gym Sunday, Monday, Wednesday. I have used Martin’s RPT principles in my training in the past and achieved great results.

    My question is: would it be possible to do a 3 day RPT split training Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday? I generally recover quite well, but it is imperative that I have 2 days rest before playing football on Saturday. I have football training on Tuesday and Thursday evening. So I avoid weight training these days because it makes it to difficult to adhere to an IF eating schedule.

    Thanks in advance,


    BTW just wanted to let you know that you’ve done a fantastic job with the blog and I’m a huge fan!

    1. Hi Jack, nor ideal but yes.

  47. Khuyen says:

    Hi Andy, I’m not sure if you have seen my previous post, but can I ask you again about increasing the weight?

    What is the rationale for prioritizing meeting the rep goal first before increasing the weight, even if the 1RM increment for the latter is smaller?

    Example 1 Weighted Chin up for 4-6 reps.
    Day 1: (150 bw + 30) x 5 => 1RM = 203
    Should I increase the weight by 2.5, so 1RM of 182.5 = 205 (+2 lbs) instead of trying for 180×6 whose 1RM = 209. (+6lbs). Adding 2.5lbs with same 5 reps feels easier than going to 6 reps.

    Example 2: Squat 6-8
    Day 1 180×6 => 1RM = 203
    Should I aim for more reps or add weights if
    180×7 => 1RM = 217 vs 185×6 => 1RM = 215 ?

    Is the whole point of having the range to make sure we can have small increments?


    1. Louis XIV says:

      Hi, Khuyen: speaking for myself, the 3 rep ranges offer more opportunities for *progression* (this is more satisfying on days that maybe the top set does not increase but you can add weight or reps on the other sets) than just having say, a micro-loaded approach in one rep set range.

      I also like prioritizing the rep goal first because it shows you “own” the weight and that can also help safety.

    2. Is the whole point of having the range to make sure we can have small increments?
      Yes that’s right. If an increase in weight comes easier than an increase in rep number then do that.

      The lower the rep number for any given set, the harder each extra rep will be.

  48. John says:


    Apologies if this has been answered in the q’s above.

    In our last communication, you advised to change over to a split, including dips. I’ve always had issues with dips in that it causes pain in my right shoulder. Have you any other exercises to replace it? Is it mainly for tricep work? (I realise it hits chest a bit as well) If so, I’m strong on skull crushers and just about any other tricep exercise other than bench dips.



    1. Sure John. Tricep cable press-downs. 3 sets of 10-12.

  49. Greg says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am on the fence about whether or not to use the ‘Big 3’ of ‘RPT’ for my cut. I have used ‘RPT’ during my cut with you before with very good success but I have since threaded water”, so to speak, and taken some time off (been back at it for a couple of weeks now). I am now weaker than I was at the end of that cut. Saying that, I know strength wise, I would most likely be consider an experienced (advanced) beginner at best but my recovery times are not the greatest. Based solely on recover, I may be considered an early intermediate.

    Here are some stats that may help in giving me some advice. I am ~178lbs and ~18-20% Bf with the following lift stats, currently using RPT 3 days/week. Squat 240lb x 5 reps, DL 295lb x 5 reps, Bench 155lb x 5 reps, OHP 105 x 5 reps.

    Any help would be great!!


    1. Hi Greg. You’ve had time off, go straight sets of 5 and work your way into it. Consider an A/B split. Rather then a full split or the same each day. Change it up as per recovery needs.

      1. Greg says:

        Thanks for the response Andy. I was leaning towards something of that nature. I will do an A/B type split.

        Another question though, since I am on a cut, should I go straight to 3 sets per exercise or go with 5 sets and reduce per recover needs?

        1. Try 5, reduce if necessary.

  50. louisXiV says:

    Andy (others):


    Deadlifts are my best lift but an all-out set of 5 leaves me depleted enough such that I need to remove about 30% of the weight to manage a second set with more reps (say 8-10 reps). A third set would be with the same weight as the second set but then fewer reps than the second set. Thus, I am doing just 2 sets–a set of 4-6 and then another set of 8+ after removing 30%. (My overall routine is pretty much as per the basic 3-day template and I’ve been lifting for many years.)

    Perhaps I can benefit from a third set of deads and would like to know but the very idea of it seems daunting to me unless the top set had lower intensity.

    Perhaps I’m answering my own question and simply doing 2 sets of deads is enough. But
    would love to know how you Andy and you others are managing the recommended 3 reasonably hard sets of deads assuming the first set is truly demanding. Thanks.

    1. Sure, two sets may be enough.
      Perhaps I can benefit from a third set of deads and would like to know but the very idea of it seems daunting to me unless the top set had lower intensity.
      Lower the weight till you can hit the rep range with good form for all reps. It will be very hard, yes. But this is big boys training now. A minimalistic routine needs to be balls to the wall to work effectively.

      1. Louis XIV says:

        OK. So you are saying THREE sets of deads mean more than one very hard one and perhaps a backoff? You yourself did/still do the 3 sets?

        If YES, I will drop the top weight a tad on the initial set and after that top set drop as needed to get into the two higher rep ranges for the two subsequent sets.

        Does that sound about right?

        1. A ‘back-off’ set refers to a set that has been dropped in weight, this is not a description of effort. Every set in RPT needs to be pushed very hard. This is a benefit and disadvantage which I listed above.

          1. louis XIV says:

            I think I understand what you are saying. To clarify, I push all sets “hard”–the top set til I cannot get one more rep in good form.

            For me a back-off set is a second set with lighter weight than the first (to me, the 2nd and 3rd sets of RPT are “back-off—even if pushed til close to failure).

            I’ll just go with one set in the 4-6 range done hard as possible (so another rep cannot be done properly), followed by two sets (stopping, say, one rep shy of failure) with lightening the loads (considerably if need be) so I can get 6-8 and maybe 8-10 reps on the deadlifts.

            This is what I do on all other moves. But on deadlifts this must entail a reduction of much more than 15% of the load in my case– and more like 30% from the top set–in order to get the requisite reps.

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