You don’t have to be crazy to do this program, but it does help.
There’s 5 days of lifting, 3 of them are legs, 2 of them upper body.
So you can already tell this is a phase that’s designed to bring up a lagging bodypart, but you might be wondering why I don’t just train legs heavier 2x per week?
The three pillars of muscle growth – Tension, Damage and Metabolites
The rep ranges you use in any workout or program will determine the intensity (% of your 1RM) of the sets.
The higher the amount of weight on the bar, the more demand there is for type 2 muscle fibres and therefore tension, but the less metabolite (lactic acid) build up there will be as the sets will typically be shorter. Tension based training can therefore be thought of as the HEAVY shit, done for less reps, which hits faster twitch muscle fibres and makes you stronger.
The more prolonged a set is, ie in a giant set or superset for the same muscle group, the higher the amount of damage and metabolites, but the less weight you can use. Then as the set is prolonged, more and more muscle fibres will be recruited in order to sustain your efforts and the more metabolites and waste build up in your muscles creates an acidic environment which causes that gnarly burning feeling. This is the MODERATE shit, done for more reps, which makes you BIGGER.
Metabolite and muscular damage oriented rep ranges and training strategies are predominantly sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which creates more muscle SIZE, whereas lower reps and higher intensities are tension based, myofibrilar hypertrophy which creates more muscle DENSITY.
This program uses both.
Leg Day 1 is done at a higher % of my 1RM and for less reps, with wave loading elements so that I can maintain strength and practice the skill of lifting heavy, contributing to myofibrillar hypertrophy.
Leg Days 2 and 3 are done at a moderate % of my 1RM (around 60%) for a prolonged period of time so that I can build up muscle damage, swelling, metabolite build up and therefore sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
The end result will be sustained or slightly improved strength, concurrent with targeted recomposition of my lower body.
I’m also increasing my squatting frequency to 3x per week in order to get better at squatting, a lift which has honestly, felt like warmed up dog shit for the past few years that I’m very, very motivated to turn around. Like anything, more practice = more skill aquisition.
This isn’t a new approach
You may have heard of the late John Meadows before. He was a big proponent of waving between heavier rep days and “pump” days. Especially as you get older, training as heavy as possible every day of the week can take a toll on the joints and tendons. Having dedicated heavier and lighter days also helps to mitigate overall central nervous system fatigue, something which proponents of Daily Undulating Periodisation seek to minimise. You may also be familiar with the concept that you don’t “have to” lift super heavy for muscle growth, you just need to sufficiently fatigue the muscle fibres and reach failure or very close to failure. You can lift 30% of your 1RM for 50 reps and get great growth, you’d just probably lose the will to live before you finished your workout so it’s not particularly enjoyable.
By using about 60% of my 1RM in a continuous set on the HICT days, I’m still getting sufficient stimlulus to grow, but not at risk of losing technique as I begin to fatigue on bigger, compound lifts. I’m also getting the craziest fucking pump ever, this was my quads before / after HICT Day 1.
How I have set it up
Monday: Wave Day 1 (Legs)
Tuesday: Wave Day 2 (Upper)
Wednesday: High intensity continuous training (HICT) Leg Day 1
Thursday: HICT Upper Body Day
Friday: Rest and beers
Saturday: HICT Leg Day 2
Nutrition as a complimentary tool
Heavy days I’m eating at maintenance level calories and boosting carb intake right up. HICT and rest days I’m taking out added starches and eating in a 500 calorie deficit.
Protein is set at 2.3g per kg of bodyweight each day minimum, to enhance recovery and muscle growth. This should allow for both muscle growth and fat loss.
Lyle McDonald uses a similar technique in UD2, so the HICT and rest days are essentially glycogen depletion / calorie deficit and lower carb days to enhance fat loss, particularly from the lower body.
A gig and/or drinks with friends one night a week is a mental health essential for me, so I’ll swap Fri or Sat as needed to make sure I’m not training on the same day as I’m having beers. If I need extra rest, I’ll do HICT Day 3 on Fri instead of Saturday so I get 2 days off training legs before I do the heavy day again.
Obviously my results would be far better if I wasn’t smashing pints and rums at the Bendy, but that’s not a life I want to live.
A word of warning
If you are not at least an intermediate lifter (2-3 years of lifting experience and competency with form) then DO NOT DO THIS.
Stick to the basics and maybe just do 2x leg days a week at a typical hypertrophy range / moderate intensity (ie 70-80% 1RM, or sets of 8-12).
If you are not eating well, or unwilling to eat a lot of protein, manage stress / sleep and undertake other recovery measures, I would not recommend this program.
Adapt the program
If you use this program as a basis for your training, please do not just copy and paste, doing exactly the program I’ve written. This was created by me for me, and is based on bringing up my weakest muscles. For example, you may notice there’s not a huge amount of chest and lat work in this program. That’s because both of these muscles are the most developed, and what’s the fucking point of a program to bring up your weakest points if you’re still dedicating a lot of volume to your strongest?
Change the exercises as you see fit, strategically looking to add size on your smallest, least developed areas.
Be careful to ensure that the heaviest / technically hardest and most demanding exercises occur first in the session and consider the cumulative fatigue on your joints.
Balance posterior and anterior aspects of the hip and shoulders, avoiding for example, doing only horizontal and overhead pressing in your upper body work and neglecting the external rotators, rear delts, rhomboids or middle/lower traps. Conversely, for the hips you should avoid just smashing the hip flexors and knees with squat variations and leg extensions, and neglecting your medial glutes or only working the hamstrings from a knee flexion position and not also hip extension. If you’re looking to bring up a lagging body part, then different angles of flexion / extension are essential not just for fatiguing all of the muscle fibres possible, but for preventing the kind of muscular imbalances which contribute to injuries.