The 6/12/25 training program is designed for one thing: to help you build muscle mass and lose body fat as fast as possible. The 6/12/25 method is actually a special type of tri-set.
Tri-sets are a high-intensity bodybuilding training method that let you train beyond muscular failure during a set. The idea is simple: you are going to perform 3 exercises in a row for the same body part with only 10 seconds rest between exercises. For example:
Tri-Set Training Protocol
- Perform exercise #1, 10 seconds rest
- Perform exercise #2, 10 seconds rest
- Perform exercise #3, 2-4 minutes rest, repeat!
Tri-sets were a favourite of many old-school bodybuilders like Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia champion.
Tri-sets are so effective for building muscle and losing body fat because they prolong the time under tension of the set. Your muscles have to work about 3 times longer during a tri-set than they do during a regular set.
This creates an enormous amount of muscle fiber damage and metabolic fatigue within the target muscle. In other words tri-sets help you maximize two of the biggest triggers of muscle hypertrophy!
The 6/12/25 method is a special type of tri-set. It was popularized by the legendary strength coach Charles Poliquin. For this program you are going to perform a tri-set with 6 reps on the first exercise, 12 reps on the second exercise and 25 reps on the third exercise. For example:
6/12/25 Tri-Set Training Protocol
- Perform exercise #1 for 6 reps, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #2 for 12 reps, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #3 for 25 reps, rest 2-4 minutes, repeat!
Charles Poliquin recommends that you perform 3-4 of these tri-sets per workout so you would repeat this entire circuit 2-3 more times after your first round.
In case you are more of a visual learner here is a perfect demonstration of the 6/12/25 method on leg day:
The 6/12/25 method is so effective because you get to perform 3 completely different rep ranges within one tri-set. Performing low, medium and high reps let’s you maximize the three different biological triggers for muscular hypertrophy:
- Mechanical tension
- Muscle damage
- Metabolic fatigue
Let’s take a closer look at these different pathways for triggering muscle growth.
Biological Trigger #1: Mechanical Tension
Mechanical tension is a fancy way of describing how much force your muscles have to produce during a set.
When you are lifting a really heavy weight the mechanical tension on your muscles is extremely high. The first part of the 6/12/25 tri-set is just heavy enough to maximize mechanical tension on your muscles.
Biological Trigger #2: Muscle Damage
When you lift weights you actually get micro-tears in your muscles when they fatigue. These micro-tears are a form of muscle damage and they act as a powerful stimulus for muscle growth.
The 6/12/25 method creates an enormous amount of muscle damage in your target muscles. First of all you are performing three completely different exercises in a row. Each of these three different muscles targets different muscle fibers within the target muscle. This means that you are damaging almost all of the available muscle fibers!
The 6/12/25 method also places your m at least 3 times longer than regular sets. This prolonged time under tension forces your muscles to work much harder than normal and creates even more muscle damage which stimulates even more muscle growth.
Biological Trigger #3: Metabolic Fatigue
Metabolic fatigue is just a fancy way of saying that your muscles are “burning” from the accumulation of lactic acid. As a general rule of thumb higher reps and shorter rest periods are ideal for maximizing metabolic fatigue.
And guess what training program has both short rest periods and high rep ranges? That’s right – the 6/12/25 program! The pump you get after your 25-rep set is simply out of this world!
Metabolic fatigue plays a huge role in building muscle mass AND losing body fat which makes the 6/12/25 program a clear winner when you want to improve your body composition.
Charles Poliquin recommends that you use the following training split with the 6/12/25 method:
- Day 1: Chest / Back
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Arms / Shoulders
- Day 5: Off
- Day 6: Repeat!
If you do not like this Poliquin-style training split then you can use any other training split you want. Some good choices include an upper / lower split, a push / pull / legs split or a Dorian Yates style split.
Here are some sample workout routines that you may want to try. Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program.
Check it out:
6/12/25 Method Chest / Back Day
- A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: 30 degree incline bench press, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Standing cable crossover, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Pull ups (wide / pronated grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: T-bar rows, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: Seated cable rows (rope handle), 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
6/12/25 Method Leg Day
- A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Machine hack squat, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Leg press, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Seated leg curl (Poliquin method / feet pointed in)**, 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Stiff-legged deadlift, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**To perform the Poliquin method on leg curls you dorsiflex your feet (point your toes towards your shins) on the lifting phase and plantar flex your feet (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range. Check out this video for a demonstration.
6/12/25 Method Arm Day
- A1: Decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Lying ez-bar extensions (to nose), 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Standing cable rope pushdowns, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Preacher ez-bar curls (wide / pronated grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Preacher ez-bar curls (wide / supinated grip), 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: 60 degree incline DB curls (supinated grip), 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
If you want to design your own 6/12/25 method workouts then there are two things you have to keep in mind:
- You must use the right exercise tempos
- You must pick the right exercises
Let’s start with the exercise tempos. Charles Poliquin recommends that you use a 4/0/X/0 tempo for your first exercise, a 3/0/X/0 tempo for your second exercise and a 2/0/X/0 tempo for your third exercise.
In other words you would use a 4-second negative phase for your first exercise, a 3-second negative phase for your second exercise and a 2-second negative phase for your third exercise.
Charles uses these slow negative phases so you accumulate enough time under tension per set to maximize muscle growth and fat loss. If you do not follow these tempo guidelines then your results will be sub-optimal.
You also need to be careful with your exercise selection with the 6/12/25 routine. For your first exercise I recommend you pick a “most bang-for-your-buck” exercise like squats, incline dumbbell presses, chin ups etc. Your second exercise can be almost anything you want.
Finally your third exercise should be some sort of machine or isolation exercise where you can easily perform 25 reps. For example leg extensions are a great choice for your 3rd quad exercise whereas back squats are a poor choice.
The 6/12/25 program is easily one of the best training methods you can use to build muscle mass and lose body fat. It works for almost everyone if they are willing to push themselves in the gym. If you have the guts to fight through the lactic acid pain on the 25-rep sets then yo will be rewarded with some of the fastest gains of your life!
I hope this Arnold Schwarzenegger quote will motivate you during your next 6/12/25 workout:
The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
Chad Wesley Smith is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry today. Chad has competed at the absolute highest levels in three different sports: shot put, powerlifting and strongman....
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