3 X 3 X 3 Excerpt
The first "3" = Frequency. Three times a week.
The second "3" = Exercises. Compounds:
Hang Snatch Pull
Power Clean/Hang Clean
The third "3" = Programming.
The 3 P's of Programming -
1) Pick 3 exercises
Pick a leg dominant exercise.
Pick an upper body push.
Pick an upper body pull.
Do this for each workout.
So, Day 1 is:
B) Bench Press
From there you need to make sure you . . .
2) Prioritize and Rotate Your Exercises
What does that mean? It means don't start with the same emphasis or focus each workout (unless you're trying to bring up a weakness). For example, you may start with lower body one day, an upper body pull he next, and an upper body push the third. By rotating your exercises you ensure you pay equal attention to the major areas of your body.
Here's how you would set this up:
Day 1 is -
A) Deadlift (lower body)
B) Bench Press (upper body push)
C) Chinup (upper body pull)
Day 2 may look like this -
A) Dip (upper body push)
B) Barbell Row (upper body pull)
C) Squat (lower body)
And do the same for Day 3 -
A) Chinup (upper body pull)
B) Hang Clean (lower body)
C) Push Press (upper body push)
3) Sets & Reps
On sets: When I was a young strength coach, I used to spend Saturdays with my weightlifting coach. He was trained by the Soviets when he lived in Cuba. One day I asked him what the absolute best method for strength and muscle gains was. (I can't believe I'm just giving this away -- it works so well it's crazy! It's so simple, so ho-hum and run of the mill most people will overlook its simplicity in favor of something more complicated, so I guess I'm fine.)
He ripped off the bottom of the gym sign-in log and wrote down the following equation:
x/5, x+5/5, x+10/5
- x is the weight
- /5 is the number or reps (just a sample)
- +5 means add 5 pounds to your original weight
- +10 means add 10 pounds to your original weight
For the next workout, you'd do the following:
x+5/5, x+10/5, x+15/5
And you'd keep adding 5 pounds to the top set for each and every workout. Simple. Elegant. And it works. And I've kept that burned in my memory for almost 15 years.
So that means. ALL YOU NEED TO DO is 3 work sets of each exercise.
Yup just three. No need to do more. Sure, you can and should do warmup sets, but no need to get carried away. Two or three sets should be fine, especially on the upper body exercises. You may need to do more for things like squats and deadlifts that require your technique to be dialed in.
Your first set is lighter, the second is medium, and your third set is the "top" set of the day, where you attempt to better your previous performance.
1) Psychological: It's really hard to focus on more than one strong, heavy set. And doing so can lead to a diminished desire to train, which is the first onset sight of overtraining.
2) Physiological: To put on muscle, you've got to assimilate protein turnover. This is done by making the muscle contract against resistance -- or lifting weights. Too many muscle contractions and you reach a point of diminishing returns -- a point where you deplete your body of the necessary anabolic hormones -- namely testosterone, and it has to work harder to repair itself. Training in this state can and will lead to injury and overtraining.
On Reps: How many reps should you do? Well, I've always grown like a week off of heavy weights and low reps -- 3 sets of 3-6 reps. But that's just me. Some guys get really strong but don't grow muscle with such low volume.
So what should you do? Conveniently, you have three primary muscle types -- fast twitch, fast twitch oxidative, and slow twitch. Each of these corresponds to the different parts of your body's metabolism -- or how it uses energy. All the science behind this is saying if that because you have different fiber types, and you want to maximize all of your muscle growth, you should train in different rep ranges to stimulate the growth mechanisms in each muscle fiber type.
Here's how that looks:
Type 2b: 1-6 reps (although for muscle building it's best to stay in the 4-6 rep range.
Type 2z: 6-15 reps.
Type 1: 15-20+ reps.
Pretty simple. Here's how you'd plug that into your workouts. Take a look at Day 1:
Deadlift, 3 x 6
Bench Press, 3 x 8-10
Pull Up, 3 x 15
On rests: How long do you rest between sets to achieve maximum muscle growth? The real answer is as little as you have to while still being able to lift the load. But according to our science, we can actually enforce come pretty strict rest periods to maximize our growth. Here's what routinely works for my athletes, and me:
Type 2b: 2-3 minutes (the heavier the load, the more rest)
Type 2a: 2 minutes
Type 1: 30-60 seconds
And here's how you might integrate that into your program:
Deadlift, 3 x 6, 3 minutes rest
Bench Press, 3 x 8-10, 90 seconds rest
Pullups, 3 x 12-15, 60 seconds rest
Now, you don't HAVE to do these reps and rest periods. I personally prefer heavier weights and longer rests. That's where I've always made the majority of my growth. However, sometimes I'll mix and match, but I've always found that lifting heavy, 3 x 6 with 2 minutes of rest is phenomenal way to pack on muscle. Now, that's because I'm what's called a fast twitch dominant individual. I tend to grow off heavy weight and lower reps.
You may not be. I suggest you play around with several different cycles and see what works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I do exercises not listed in your Top Ten?
Sure. Do any variation of the exercises listed. For example:
Incline press instead of bench press.
RDL instead of deadlift.
Towel chins instead of pullups. You can also do some unilateral exercises like lunges too.
Are you suggesting that I should do exercises like Hang Cleans and Hand Snatch Pulls for high reps?
No. And yes. Let me explain. Using a bar, this would be a real stupid idea for most people. Your form would disintegrate and you'd most likely get hurt. (Although Peary Rader, founder of IronMan magazine swore by them for mass building). However, if you have a strong background in the Olympic lifts you could get away with it. However, you can use other implements like kettlebells and sandbags for the higher reps and you will pack on a fair amount of muscle.
3) Can I just use the lower reps and longer rests like you do?
Sure can. Just make sure you're seeing the results you're truly looking for and not just being lazy.
4) What about dumbbells? You don't mention anything about dumbbells. Should I use them?
Many bodybuilders swear that dumbbells are the best for growth. While it is true that dumbbells force your body to work "harder" because they move more freely in all three dimensions, opposed to a barbell that works in just two, I still prefer the barbell.
And that's because you can move more total weight -- and do more mechanical work than you can with just about any other tool.
5) What should I eat?
The bottom line is this: if you want to grow a lot, you've got to eat a lot. Make sure you include the following: meat, eggs, potatoes, rice -- all good mass-gaining foods. Add fruits and veggies and again, it's just that simple.
6) Do you recommend any supplements?
Yeah, sleep. Seriously. Supplement your growth with an added 20-30 minute nap a day. It's free and it works.
Enjoy Your Lifting!