Charles Poliquin’s 15 Favorite Training Programs!


charles poliquin training program

Charles Poliquin was the greatest strength coach of all time. He trained Olympic medalists in 24 different sports and countless professional athletes including American hockey and football players. Charles was so successful at building bigger, stronger athletes because he used the best training programs in the world. 

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you 15 of Charles Poliquin’s all-time favorite training programs.

Some of Charles Poliquin’s favorite training programs include cluster sets, the 6-12-25 method, wave loading and the 4+2 method. All of these programs are fantastic for building strength and functional muscle mass to improve your athletic performance.

Charles also loves to use advanced training methods like antagonist supersets, isometric training and supra-maximal eccentric training to break through training plateaus and achieve new levels of size and strength.

In reality Charles used everything from higher-rep hypertrophy routines to lower-rep strength routines in his quest to deliver superior results for his athletes.

Whether you are a bodybuilder interested in maximum muscle mass or a strength athlete looking to get as strong as humanly possible I am confident that these routines will serve you well for many years to come.

Here is an outline for the rest of this comprehensive guide:

  • Program #1: Cluster Sets
  • Program #2: German Volume Training
  • Program #3: Advanced German Volume Training
  • Program #4: The Modified Hepburn Method
  • Program #5: The 6/12/25 Method
  • Program #6: The 5 To 8 Method
  • Program #7: 1-6 Contrast Sets
  • Program #8: Giant Sets
  • Program #9: Yielding Isometrics
  • Program #10: Wave Loading
  • Program #11: The 4+2 Method
  • Program #12: Post-Exhaustion Supersets
  • Program #13: Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets
  • Program #14: Isometronics
  • Program #15: The 3 Then 1 Method

As you can see Charles Poliquin used many different training programs with his athletes. Some of his athletes got better results training with higher reps and lots of volume while others got better results training with low reps and extremely heavy weights.

Charles used something called neurotransmitter based program design to figure out which programs his athletes would respond best to.

Charles mostly used two different training splits with his clients:

  • The 4 days per week Poliquin split
  • The 4 days per week upper / lower split

Out of respect for Charles the vast majority of the training programs featured in this article will feature one of these two training splits. 

Here is what the 4 days per week Poliquin split looks like:

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms / Rotator Cuff
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

Charles absolutely LOVED this training split. He says that he used it with about 70% of his world-class athletes. Charles likes this Poliquin training split because it allows you to train antagonistic body parts together like chest and back, quadriceps and hamstrings or biceps and triceps.

Charles believes that antagonistic muscle group supersets are more effective than straight sets because they help you recruit more muscle fibers, they improve your muscular endurance and they let you perform twice as much work in the same amount of time.

Charles also likes the Poliquin split because it lets you train muscle groups once every 5 days. This is an awesome training frequency that works well for many trainees.

The other training split that Charles really likes is the 4 day upper body / lower body split. Here is what the 4 day upper / lower split looks like:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

Charles likes the 4 day upper / lower split because it lets you perform antagonistic supersets. It also lets you train muscle groups twice per week which is the perfect training frequency for many trainees.

Please note: all of the routines in this article use the training notation that Charles Poliquin popularized. You will see things like “A1” or “B2” in front of the exercises for each routine. You will also see tempo descriptions like “4/0/x/0” or “2/0/1/2” after each exercise. If you have any trouble reading these routines then I strongly recommend you read this article on how to read a training program.

I hope you found this introduction to Charles Poliquin’s favorite training programs helpful! Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Cluster Sets

Charles Poliquin believed that cluster sets was the most effective training program for improving relative strength, or how strong you are relative to your body weight.

Charles famously used cluster sets with the most of his Olympic medalists and professional athletes including Adam Nelson, Dwight Phillips and Helen Maroulis. It was one of his “secret weapons” throughout his career.

Charles Poliquin’s favorite cluster set program has you perform 5 sets of 5 reps with your 3-rep max. The secret to this routine is you rest for 10-20 seconds in between each rep. For example:

  • Perform your 1st rep, rest 10-20 seconds
  • Perform your 2nd rep, rest 10-20 seconds
  • Perform your 3rd rep, rest 10-20 seconds
  • Perform your 4th rep, rest 10-20 seconds
  • Perform your 5th rep, rest 2-5 minutes, repeat!

Here is a perfect demonstration of Poliquin style cluster sets on the bench press and preacher curls:

Cluster sets are so effective because they let you perform a large number of reps with a heavier than normal weight. The short intra-set rest intervals give your muscles and your central nervous system just enough time to recover so you can produce maximum force on the next rep.

Here are 5 reasons why Charles used cluster sets with all of his athletes who needed to get stronger:

  • Clusters maximize the amount of force you produce on every rep during a set
  • Clusters let you train at a higher percentage of your 1-rep max for a given number of reps
  • Clusters improve your exercise technique by letting you focus on perfect single reps
  • Clusters speed up your recovery by preventing excessive fatigue build-up in your muscles
  • Clusters increase your training density and let you perform more quality work in less time

In other words cluster sets make you stronger, more explosive, improve your technique, improve your recovery time and improve your workout density so you get more work done in less time. Talk about a powerful way to train!

There is no other training method in the world that can match the power of cluster sets.

A Charles Poliquin cluster sets workout has you perform 3-5 total cluster sets on 1-2 major exercises followed by some lighter accessory work. Here are three cluster set workouts that you may want to try for your chest back, quads / hamstrings and biceps / triceps. Check it out:

Poliquin Chest / Back Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: 60 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Subscapularis pull ups, 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 15 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**Performed as a cluster set as described above. Take a 10-20 second rest break in between each of the five repetitions per set.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Poliquin Lower Body Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral lying leg curl (foot plantarflexed / pointing in), 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Back squat (narrow stance / heels elevated), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (foot plantarflexed / pointing out), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**Performed as a cluster set as described above. Take a 10-20 second rest break in between each of the five repetitions per set.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Poliquin Bicep / Tricep Cluster Sets Routine

  • A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3-5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extension with chains (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls (supinated grip), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated DB external rotations (elbow on knee), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a cluster set as described above. Take a 10-15 second rest break in between each of the five repetitions per set.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

You may have noticed that you can perform anywhere from 3-5 total cluster sets per exercise on each training day. This was done on purpose!

Cluster sets can be extremely demanding on your central nervous system. Charles recommends you perform 3-5 cluster sets per exercise depending on how you are feeling that day.

If you are new to cluster sets then I highly recommend you start off with 3 total cluster sets per exercise. If you have trained with cluster sets before then you may want to perform as many as 4-5 total cluster sets per exercise.

Whichever option you choose it is important to select the correct weight for your sets. You want to pick a weight that lets you complete all 3-5 cluster sets per exercise with the same weight.

For example, if you used 300 pounds for your first cluster set on an exercise then you want to make sure that you can use this same weight for your follow-up sets.

If you cannot do this then the weight was too heavy and you should either reduce the load or keep it the same at your next workout.

Once you can complete all 3-5 sets with the same load then you should make a small weight jump at the following workout. Remember, it is the high volume of high quality work that makes cluster sets so effective!

Part 2: German Volume Training

Charles Poliquin is widely regarded as the man who popularized German Volume Training in the strength training world.

The German Volume Training program is named after German Olympic Weightlifters who first began experimenting with this set / rep scheme in the mid-1900s. Charles believes it is one of the fastest and easiest ways for an athlete to build muscle mass.

German Volume Training is often called the “ten sets of ten” program. You are going to perform ten sets of ten reps on 2 key exercises using your 20-rep max. The basic idea behind German Volume Training is to complete ten sets of ten reps for an exercise.

If you are a bodybuilder or if your primary goal is to build muscle then you will LOVE this training program!

Of course there is far more to German Volume Training than simply performing 10 sets of 10 reps on any given exercise. One of the unique twists that Charles uses to make this routine more effective is he has his athletes superset antagonistic body parts together.

Antagonistic body parts are simply body parts that are on opposite sides of the body and have opposing functions. For example the biceps and triceps are one example of antagonistic body parts.

On this training program Charles recommends you perform a set for the triceps, rest 90 seconds, perform a set for the biceps, rest 90 seconds, and then perform another set for the triceps etc.

Alternating back-and-forth between antagonistic exercises has many advantages:

  • You can recruit more muscle fibers in the target muscle groups
  • You have better muscular endurance over the course of the workout
  • You can perform twice as much work in a given period of time

Charles believed so strongly in antagonistic body part supersets that he designed the vast majority of his hypertrophy and strength routines to include them. 

On German Volume Training it is EXTREMELY important that you try to perform all 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight on each set.

If you use 100 pounds for 10 reps on your first set of an exercise then your goal is to use the same 100 pounds for 10 reps on your last set. Here is what your first German Volume Training workout might look like:

  • Set #1: 10 reps
  • Set #2: 10 reps
  • Set #3: 10 reps
  • Set #4: 10 reps
  • Set #5: 10 reps
  • Set #6: 10 reps
  • Set #7: 10 reps
  • Set #8: 9 reps
  • Set #9: 9 reps
  • Set #10: 8 reps

This is an acceptable outcome. At the next workout you could either stick with the same weight and try to perform all 10 sets for 10 reps or you could take a small weight jump.

If for example you are losing reps starting on the 4th set then the weight you chose was simply too heavy!

In order to do this you want to select a weight that represents your estimated 20-rep max for each of the main exercises. You can select a more normal load for the accessory work for each body part.

Charles Poliquin recommends you the Poliquin training split with German Volume Training:

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

One of the benefits of this split is that it lets you specialize on your upper body whilst still training body parts once every 5 days. This is in contrast to most “bro-splits” where you are only hitting body parts once every 7 days.

In Charles’ experience most advanced trainees get their best results training body parts on a once every 5 days schedule.OK, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here is the full German Volume Training program:

Chest / Back German Volume Training Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline dumbbell press, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide overhand grip pulldowns, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat Poliquin fly, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Lower Body German Volume Training Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated leg curl (Poliquin method** / feet pointed straight), 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: DB drop lunge (alternating), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Bicep / Tricep German Volume Training Workout

  • A1: Decline DB triceps extension, 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Ez-bar french press, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: DB spider curl (supinated grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

On this routine it is extremely important to use the correct tempos and rest periods. I HIGHLY recommend you perform the routine as written.

This routine was specifically designed by Charles Poliquin himself to be as effective as possible.

Of course if you may want to make minor changes to the exercise selection if you know for a fact that one of the above exercises does not work for your specific body type.

Part 3: Advanced German Volume Training

Charles Poliquin is a big fan of the original German Volume Training program. He believes that performing 10 sets per exercise is a great way to train for size and strength. He calls this the “repeated bouts” method.

Unfortunately the original German Volume Training program does not work for everyone. Charles invented the Advanced German Volume Training program to help his more advanced or fast-twitch athletes blast through training plateaus.

On the Advanced German Volume Training program you perform 10 sets of 3-5 reps on 2 key exercises per workout. The number of reps decreases from one workout to the next so you are training with heavier and heavier loads throughout the training program.

Here is what an intermediate level bodybuilder’s leg day might look like on the Advanced German Volume Training program:

  • Set #1: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #2: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #3: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #4: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #5: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #6: 300 x 5 reps
  • Set #7: 300 x 4 reps
  • Set #8: 300 x 4 reps
  • Set #9: 300 x 4 reps
  • Set #10: 300 x 3 reps

Most people have a hard time performing 10 sets of 5 reps on their first workout. Don’t worry, that is perfectly normal. Your muscular endurance will improve over the course of the program. By the end of the program performing 10 sets on the same exercise will be a piece of cake!

Advanced German Volume Training is a very difficult program to recover from. Charles recommends that you alternate back and forth between an “A” workout and a “B” workout for each body part. This will help you recover from your workouts.

Here is how Charles wants you to alternate between your “A” and “B” workouts:

  • Workout #1: “A” exercises
  • Workout #2: “B” exercises
  • Workout #3: “A” exercises
  • Workout #4: “B” exercises

And so on. The “A” and “B” workouts would look very similar to each other. The main difference is you are going to use slightly different exercises like front squats vs back squats.

On Advanced German Volume Training the number of reps you perform will vary from one workout to the next in a zig-zag pattern. Here is your sets and reps look like throughout the entire program:

  • Workout #1: “A” exercises, 10 x 5
  • Workout #2: “B” exercises, 10 x 5
  • Workout #3: “A” exercises, 10 x 4
  • Workout #4: “B” exercises, 10 x 4
  • Workout #5: “A” exercises, 10 x 3
  • Workout #6: “B” exercises, 10 x 3
  • Workout #7: “A” exercises, 10 x 5
  • Workout #8: “B” exercises, 10 x 5
  • Workout #9: “A” exercises, 10 x 4
  • Workout #10: “B” exercises, 10 x 4
  • Workout #11: “A” exercises, 10 x 3
  • Workout #12: “B” exercises, 10 x 3

As you can see the entire Advanced German Volume Training program consists of 12 workouts per body part. Charles wants you train each body part once every 5 days so this entire program will take 60 days or about 2 months to complete.

Every time you decrease the number of reps your training weights should increase. Here are some conservative estimates for which percentages you should use on each training day:

  • Workouts 1-2: 10 x 5 @ 75%
  • Workouts 3-4: 10 x 4 @ 82%
  • Workouts 5-6: 10 x 3 @ 89%
  • Workouts 7-8: 10 x 5 @ 82%
  • Workouts 9-10: 10 x 4 @ 89%
  • Workouts 10-12: 10 x 3 @ 96%

Of course these are all percentages of your 1-rep max. After the 60 days Charles believes you will complete 10 sets of 3 reps with 96% of your original 1-rep max! Talk about incredible!

Here is one possible Poliquin-style training split that you could use for the Advanced German Volume Training program:

  • Day 1: Shoulders / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Elbow Flexors / Triceps
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

OK, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here are the sample workout routines:

Advanced German Volume Training – Shoulders / Back “A” Workout

  • A1: Standing military press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow pronated grip pull ups, 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Advanced German Volume Training – Lower Body “A” Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (Poliquin method** / feet pointing in), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Walking alternating DB lunge, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (holding barbell with snatch grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Advanced German Volume Training – Chest / Elbow Flexors / Triceps “A” Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher zottman curl (offset grip**), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat ez-bar extensions to nose, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls (supinated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**pinkey touching inside of DB

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

And here are the “B” workouts:

Advanced German Volume Training – Shoulders / Back “B” Workout

  • A1: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Shoulder-width pronated grip pull ups, 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Klokov muscle snatch, 3 x 6-8, X/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Advanced German Volume Training – Lower Body “B” Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method** / feet straight), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Alternating reverse DB lunge, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Advanced German Volume Training – Chest / Elbow Flexors / Triceps “B” Workout

  • A1: 45 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinating grip), 10 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

This is definitely one of the more challenging routines listed in this routine. Some of you may be bored just thinking about performing the same training routine for 2 months straight.

The varying rep ranges and significant weight jumps from workout to workout definitely help to keep the training interesting.

However, if your heart just isn’t in it then you may want to pick another one of the routines from this article to try out. After all, not everyone finds building strength and muscle at an extremely rapid pace to be an exciting endeavor!

Part 4: The Modified Hepburn Method

The Modified Hepburn Method is named after the Canadian strongman Doug Hepburn. Charles believes this program is one of the ultimate ways to train for relative and absolute strength. But first let’s talk a little bit about Doug Hepburn himself.

Doug Hepburn was widely regarded as the strongest man alive during the mid-1900s. Doug was born with a club foot and severe learning disabilities. His doctors and teachers never thought he would amount to anything in life.

Doug ignored all the naysayers around him and developed a great Vision for his life. Doug wanted to be one of the strongest men in history and nothing was going to stop him! Doug eventually won the Olympic Gold in Weightlifting and became the first man to bench press 500 pounds.

Doug Hepburn’s workouts were divided into two phases. First he performed lots of singles or doubles on 1 or 2 major exercises. Then he took some weight off the bar and performed multiple sets of 3-5 reps on the same exercises.

Doug’s basic idea was to perform relative strength work early in the workout and to follow this up with functional hypertrophy work when the nervous system is primed and firing on all cylinders.

Many years later Charles Poliquin further refined Doug’s program by standardizing and optimizing the order of exercises, sets, reps, tempos, and rest intervals.

The name of Charles’ refined program was “The Modified Hepburn Method.”

For this program you will perform 8 sets of singles followed by 5 sets of 5 reps. For the sets of 5 you are going to slightly change the nature of the exercise. For example, you may want to change the width of your grip on bench presses and chin ups or the elevation of your heels on squats.

This slight variation in the exercises will allow you to tap into a similar but slightly different motor unit pool for the functional hypertrophy work. The important thing to know is that this slight variation will dramatically increase the effectiveness of the routine.

Here are some sample Doug Hepburn training routines. Check it out:

Modified Hepburn Method Arm Workout

  • A1: Shoulder-width bench press against chains, 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Shoulder-width bench press, 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Modified Hepburn Method Leg Workout

  • A1: Safety squat bar squat (medium stance / heels flat), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated leg curl (heels plantarflexed / pointing out), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Safety squat bar squat (medium stance / heels elevated), 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated leg curl (heels plantarflexed / pointing in), 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Modified Hepburn Method Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press against bands (shoulder-width grip), 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 8 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B2: Shoulder-width overhand grip pull ups, 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The Modified Hepburn Method can be an extremely demanding method. One of the keys to making this program work is to select the correct weights for each set.

As a general rule of thumb I recommend you perform your 1st single at around 90% of your 1-rep max. From there you can slowly work the weight up over the course of the 8 singles.

For example, let’s say your 1-rep max on an exercise is 200 pounds:

  • Set #1: 180 lbs (easy)
  • Set #2: 185 lbs (easy)
  • Set #3: 185 lbs (easy)
  • Set #4: 187 lbs (starting to get pretty hard)
  • Set #5: 189 lbs (very challenging)
  • Set #6: 189 lbs (not as bad as set #5)
  • Set #7: 191 lbs (very hard)
  • Set #8: 192 lbs (very very hard – an absolute grinder!)

All of these sets would be recorded in your training logbook (you do have a logbook, right!?). At the next workout your goal would be to start the same progression a little higher and end a little higher.

For example, you may start at 185 lbs and aim to finish around 193-198 lbs. As long as you are at least 2% stronger from workout to workout then you are doing great.

On the 5 sets of 5 reps I recommend you stick with the same weight for all five sets. You may want to select a weight that is 80% of your best single for that day. For example, 80% of 192 is 154 lbs so we will use that weight for our sets:

  • Set #9: 154 lbs x 5 (easy)
  • Set #10: 154 lbs x 5 (easy)
  • Set #11: 154 lbs x 5 (hard)
  • Set #12: 154 lbs x 4 (extremely hard!)
  • Set #13: 154 lbs x 3 reps (crushing!)

Because you did not complete all five sets of five reps you will keep the weight the same at 154 lbs at the next workout.

You are only allowed to increase the weight on the 5 sets of 5 reps once you have completed 5 reps on all 5 sets.

Of course you may have noticed that 1-2 pound weight jumps were used in our sample scenario. Making these small weight jumps is extremely useful for getting the most out of every set.

If you want to incorporate “micro-loading” into your training then I recommend you get yourself a set of “micro-plates” on Amazon.

They usually cost around $30-40 and last a lifetime. They are easily one of the best training investments I have personally made.

Part 5: The 6/12/25 Method

The 6/12/25 training method was one of Charles Poliquin’s favorite training programs for losing body fat and building muscle mass. If Charles had an athlete who ate too many doughnuts in the off season then he immediately put them on a 6/12/25 training routine!

The 6/12/25 method is a special type of tri-set where you perform three exercises in a row for the same body part with 10 seconds rest in between each exercise. For example:

  • Perform exercise “A”, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise “B”, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise “C”, done!

All three of these exercises performed in a row constitute one tri-set. On most tri-set routines you will perform between 3-5 total tri-sets per body part.

Of course the 6-12-25 training method is a special type of tri-set. You are going to perform 6 reps on the first exercise, 12 reps on the second exercise, and 25 reps on the third exercise. For example:

  • Perform exercise “A” for 6 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise “B” for 12 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise “C” for 25 reps, done!

This is an absolutely BRUTAL training method!

The 6-rep set does a fantastic job of recruiting the higher-threshold motor units while the 12- and 25-rep sets further damage the lower-threshold motor units and cause an overwhelming amount of metabolic fatigue.

As you may know the scientific literature has identified three main biological “triggers” for muscular hypertrophy:

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Muscular damage
  3. Metabolic fatigue

The awesome thing about the 6-12-25 training method is that it does a great job of maximizing all three of these factors!

The extremely high amount of metabolic fatigue is also quite useful for increasing the rate at which you lose body fat. It is no wonder that the 6-12-25 method was such a go-to training program for Charles!

I should warn you that the 6-12-25 training method is not for everyone. If you have a dopamine-dominant neurotransmitter profile or have a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers then the 6-12-25 training method is definitely not for you! The reps are too high for you to make progress.

However, for most trainees this program works like magic for burning body fat and building muscle mass.

Here are some sample 6/12/25 workouts that you may want to try. Check it out:

6/12/25 Arm Workout

  • A1: Decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Dead stop skull crushers, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Overhead rope cable extensions, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline zottman curl, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

6/12/25 Lower Body Workout

  • 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: Seated bilateral leg extensions, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Romanian deadlift, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

6/12/25 Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: Flat 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: Flat Poliquin DB fly, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Subscapularis pull ups, 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar row, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Seated cable rope low row, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

These routines are extremely difficult to complete at first. You may find yourself ready to vomit at the end of your first workout due to the enormous lactic acid production!

Don’t worry, this feeling is only temporary. By your second or third workout per body part your muscular endurance should have increased dramatically and you should have less difficulty making it through the entire workout.

I recommend you complete only 3 total rounds of the tri-sets for each body part on your first couple of workouts. By your 3rd workout for a given body part you should easily be able to handle the full 4 tri-sets per body part.

This is a very difficult but rewarding training system. If you have the guts to complete it then you will be rewarded with a leaner physique and slabs of new muscle tissue all over your body!

Part 6: The 5 To 8 Method

It is not easy to impress Charles Poliquin. The man was a walking talking encyclopedia of strength training information.

However, every once in a while there is a new training idea or technique that pops up and forces Charles to take notice. This was definitely the case with Dante Trudel’s rest-pause training style.

Dante Trudel is the creator of DC training. Dante first published his ideas for DC training and “rest-pause” sets in the early 2000s and it immediately took the internet by storm.

Dante’s version of rest-pause training looks something like this:

  1. Perform a set in the 7-10 rep range to technical failure. Rest 20-30 seconds.
  2. Perform a second set to failure on the same exercise. You may get 2-4 reps before failing. Rest 20-30 seconds
  3. Perform a third set to failure on the third exercise. You may get 1-3 reps before failing. DONE!

These three attempts constitute one rest-pause set. This failure-based training method works unbelievably well for increasing muscular size and strength.

In fact, the world-renowned strength coach Christian Thibadeau has called it his single favourite accumulation or hypertrophy training method!

Charles took Dante’s idea for rest-pause sets and tweaked it to suit the unique needs of his athletes.

Whereas a bodybuilder is primarily concerned with building muscle an athlete is more concerned with building strength and functional hypertrophy. 

Charles modified the original rest-pause training method and made something that builds strength and functional hypertrophy at a screaming fast rate. The name of this training protocol is the 5 to 8 method.

One set of the 5 to 8 method looks like this:

  • Perform a set of 5 reps just shy of technical failure. Rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform a 6th rep with the same weight. Rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform a 7th rep with the same weight. Rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform an 8th rep with the same weight. Done!

The tweaks that Charles made for his 5 to 8 method include decreasing the rep ranges, NOT training to failure, resting only 15 seconds between each attempt, and performing 4 total attempts with the same weight. 

If you are more of an auditory learner then you may find this “under the bar” podcast helpful. Charles starts talking about the 5 to 8 method at the 35:55 time mark.

Of course just because you are not training all the way to failure it does not mean you are taking it easy. The 5th rep of each set should be an absolute grinder that you barely make. Or as Charles liked to say, “your spleen should come out through your left eye on the 5th rep. Your left eye, not the right! This is very important.”

For this training routine I recommend you use a 4 days per week upper body / lower body routine. For example:

  • Monday: Upper #1
  • Wednesday: Lower #1
  • Friday: Upper #2
  • Saturday: Lower #2

Here are the sample Poliquin-style workouts that you may want to try:

5 To 8 Method Upper Body Workout #1

  • A1: Seated behind the neck press, 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

5 To 8 Method Lower Body Workout #1

  • A1: Back squat (heels narrow / elevated), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method** / feet pointing in), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 3/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis w/ DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

5 To 8 Method Upper Body Workout#2

  • A1: Seated behind the neck press, 3-5 x 5, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 3-5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

5 To 8 Method Lower Body Workout #2

  • A1: Back squat (heels narrow / elevated), 3-5 x 5, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method** / feet pointing in), 3-5 x 5, 3/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis w/ DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

If you pay close attention to the routine you will notice that you are only performing the “5 to 8” sets every other workout for your upper and lower body.

Basically the first upper body workout in the week involves the 5 to 8 method while the second upper body workout features straight sets of 5 reps. This is on purpose!

The 5 to 8 method is an extremely demanding training system, and I do mean extremely. The extra single repetitions performed with this training method create deep inroads into your recovery ability.

The 7 days of rest between each “5 to 8” method workout will make it much easier to recover and progress on this routine.

Many of my online coaching clients have mentioned how much this extra rest makes in terms of their ability to progress workout to workout.

If you are looking for a great blend of strength and functional hypertrophy gains then I highly recommend you give the 5 to 8 method a shot. There is a reason this routine is Charles’ all-time #2 functional hypertrophy routine: it works!

Part 7: 1-6 Contrast Sets

 

The 1-6 contrast set method is a very powerful training program. I personally have many fond memories of this routine as I hit my fist 355 pound deep front squat using this exact training protocol!

This lift was performed in my mid-20s and I have sense far surpassed it. However, I can still remember the exact workout where I hit this lift like it was yesterday…

The 1-6 contrast set method is another awesome way to train for absolute strength and functional hypertrophy.

For the 1/6 method you are going to alternate between 1-rep maxes and 6-rep maxes on an exercise. The 1-rep max sets potentiate your central nervous system so you can lift more weight on your 6-rep max sets.

Here is what the 1/6 method looks like in the real world:

  • Set #1: Perform a near 1-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Set #2: Perform a near 6-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Set #3: Perform a near 1-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Set #4: Perform a near 6-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Set #5: Perform a near 1-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Set #6: Perform a near 6-rep max, rest 2-4 minutes

The 1-6 contrast set method is a lot like wave loading. You are trying to increase the amount of weight that you use on each of these “waves.”

For example, you may want to add 1-2% to the bar on each subsequent set of singles. You would do the same thing on each subsequent set of six reps.

Don’t worry, this is actually a very realistic goal.

The routine takes advantage of a training principle called post-tetanic facilitation. This is a fancy way of saying that contrast sets “excite” your central nervous system and allow you to recruit more motor units on sets 3-6.

Once again you may want to invest in some “micro plates” or “plate mates” so that you can make small 1-2% jumps on every exercise.

For this routine I recommend you use the following training split:

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

Here are the sample training routines:

1/6 Method Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: 75 degree incline bench press w/ chains (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 3/2/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Chest supported DB row (30 degree incline), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/2, 75 seconds rest

**Performed as the 1/6 method as described above.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

1/6 Method Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet neutral), 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Snatch grip deadlift, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest

**Performed as the 1/6 method as described above.

****To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1.

1/6 Method Arm Workout

  • A1: 15 degree incline bench press against chains (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curls (wide / pronated grip), 6 x 1/6/1/6/1/6**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Unilateral DB french press, 3 x 6-8, 3/2/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/2, 75 seconds rest

**Performed as the 1/6 method as described above.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

This is an extraordinarily effective training protocol if you are mostly interested in all-out strength gains. For example, a powerlifter or strongman competitor would stand to benefit immensely from the 1-6 contrast set method.

Charles Poliquin began to use this training protocol to prepare his athletes for the 1992 Olympic games and was overwhelmed with how effective it was.

Charles liked the program so much that he made it a regular tool in his vast training toolbox.

Not every individual will do well on this Charles Poliquin training program. However, the ones that do respond favorably to it make screaming fast strength gains!

Part 8: Giant Sets

And now for something completely different!

Giant sets are a high-intensity bodybuilding training technique popularized by IFBB pro Milos Sarcev. For a giant set workout you are going to perform at least 4 exercises in a row for a body part with no rest between sets. For example:

  • Perform exercise #1, no rest
  • Perform exercise #2, no rest
  • Perform exercise #3, no rest
  • Perform exercise #4, rest 2-5 minutes, repeat!

Here is the mad genius Milos Sarcev answering the question, “why giant sets?”

Giant sets are one of Charles Poliquin’s favorite hypertrophy training programs. Charles used giant sets with anyone who needed to pack on as much muscle mass as possible in a very short period of time.

A giant set is actually a lot like a tri-set as detailed in the section on the 6-12-25 training method. The main difference between a giant set and a tri-set is the number of exercises that you perform in a row.

A tri-set involves performing three exercises back-to-back for the same body part with only 10 seconds rest in between sets. Giant sets take this a step further by having you perform at least 4 exercises in a row with 10 seconds rest between sets!

I should emphasize that you are to perform AT LEAST 4 exercises in a row. Milos Sarcev often had his clients perform 10+ exercises in a row for legs and back!

The main benefit of giant sets is that they prolong the time under tension of a given set and force your muscles to work longer. They also allow you to knock off a huge number of different motor units thanks to the large number of exercises performed.

All in all giant sets are one of the best ways to train when your goal is all-out muscular hypertrophy.

One of the keys to making giant sets work is to select a variety of exercises that overload different points in the strength curve.

For example, you want to do your best to select exercises that overload the stretched, mid-range, and shortened positions of the strength curve. This will improve the quality of the training stimulus. Of course the following workouts take care of this for you!

For this routine I recommend you use Dorian Yates’ training split:

  • Day 1: Chest / Elbow Flexors
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 5: Back
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Repeat

Giant sets are one of those training protocols where there is limited benefit to performing antagonistic supersets. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to forego a Poliquin-style split or an upper-lower split in favor of this bodybuilding-style training split.

One of the nice things about the Dorian Yates training split is that you are still hitting body parts once every 6 days. In my experience most people make faster hypertrophy gains when they are training muscle groups more often than every 7 days.

Here are the workouts:

Chest / Elbow Flexors Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Flat DB press, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Flat DB Poliquin fly, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: 30 degree incline DB press, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: 30 degree incline DB Poliquin fly, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated zottman curl, 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: 45 degree incline DB curls (supinated grip), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: Bilateral preacher DB curls (supinated grip), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise B4.

Lower Body Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Leg extension, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Leg press, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Machine hack squat, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Walking DB lunge (alternating legs), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (with band tension), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift, 3-4 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 90 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3-4 x 15-20, 2/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise B4.

Shoulders / Triceps Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Bent-over DB rear delt raise (elbows bent), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Seated Poliquin DB lateral raise, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated band pull-apart, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Flat DB extension, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Cable overhead rope extension, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: Standing cable rope pushdown, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise B4.

Upper Back Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Bilateral hammer strength pulldown (supinated grip), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: T-bar row, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Seated cable row (rope handle), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Wide neutral grip cable pulldowns, 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

As you can see each one of these workouts uses a wide variety of exercises that challenge your muscles in different ways. Of course no training routine is perfect.

There are a couple of downsides to giant sets that Charles would be quick to warn you about.

The first downside of giant sets is that they are difficult to perform in a commercial gym. After all, you have to hog several different pieces of equipment at one time to make giant sets work!

The other major downside is that they can be difficult to recover from. If you are someone who has a hard time recovering from higher-volume training protocols then giant sets are not for you!

Overall I highly recommend you give these giant set workouts a shot.

I can’t guarantee you that you’ll blow up like Milos Sarcev but you can take comfort knowing that these were one of Charles’ favorite ways to train for all-out hypertrophy gains!

Part 9: Yielding Isometrics

cluster sets

 

There are three different types of muscular contractions:

Concentric muscular contractions occur when a muscle contracts while shortening. When you curl a weight up you are performing a concentric muscular contraction for the elbow flexors.

An eccentric muscular contraction is just the opposite: the muscle contracts while lengthening. When you slowly lower a weight down after curling it up you are performing an eccentric muscular contraction for the elbow flexors.

Finally isometric muscular contractions occur when your muscles are contracting but not moving at all! Isometric training is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and underutilized training protocols in the world. Christian Thibadeau has been saying this for years. For example:

Charles Poliquin used two types of isometric training methods with his athletes: overcoming isometrics and yielding isometrics.

Overcoming isometrics involve applying force against a fixed object. For example, if you try to push against a brick wall then you are performing an overcoming isometric contraction.

On the other hand yielding isometrics involve preventing another force from moving you. For example the “crucifix hold” in strongman is a perfect example of a yielding isometric contraction.

Charles Poliquin had a very unique way of working yielding isometric contractions into his athlete’s training programs.

The technique Charles used is simple: he had his athletes perform isometric holds during the eccentric portion of their final repetitions.

On your final rep you would perform 3 8-second isometric pauses at three different points in the movement. You can click right here to see one of Christian Thibadeau’s athletes demonstrating yielding isometrics on dips.

These yielding isometric holds allow you to further exhaust eccentric strength levels after first reaching concentric muscular failure. They are very effective for boosting functional hypertrophy and absolute strength.

Here is a chest / back workout featuring yielding isometrics that you may want to try:

Chest / Back Yielding Isometrics Routine

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x 6-8**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Shoulder-width supinated chin ups, 3-5 x 6-8**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Standing behind the neck press, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated unilateral cable row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

As a very general rule of thumb I find that yielding isometrics (or post-fatigue isometrics as Christian Thibadeau likes to call them) work best when training the upper body.

They can work reasonably well for various deadlift exercises but I think you are better off avoiding them altogether in the squat.

First of all you don’t want to be performing post-failure yielding isometrics in the squat as that is an extremely risky idea. Even if you were able to perform them safely they would be extremely tough on your knees.

Take it from Stan Efferding: chronic patellar tendinosis is something you want to avoid if at all possible!

Part 10: Wave Loading

Charles Poliquin was first introduced to wave loading through the legendary Olympic weightlifting coach Pierre Roy.

Wave loading is by far one of the best intensification routines that you can use. Intensification routines are geared towards strength gains and making your nervous system more efficient.

Charles continued to use wave loading programs throughout his coaching career as they produced superior results for his athletes time and time again.

A strength training “wave” is a series of three sets performed with decreasing rep ranges. For a 7/5/3 wave you would perform 7 reps on the first set, 5 reps on the second set, 3 reps on the third set.

For most wave loading workouts you are going to perform 2-4 “waves” in a row. Here is what a 7/5/3 wave loading protocol looks like in practice:

  • Set #1: 7 reps
  • Set #2: 5 reps
  • Set #3: 3 reps
  • Set #4: 7 reps
  • Set #5: 5 reps
  • Set #2: 3 reps

As a general rule of thumb most waves are repeated a total of 2-3 times per exercise. If you are doing a lower-rep wave loading protocol such as 3/2/1 waves then you can perform up to 4 total waves per exercise.

Wave loading is a lot like the 1/6 contrast method because it takes advantage of the principle of post-tetanic facilitation. As you complete your first wave you are “exciting” your nervous system.

In other words, you are teaching your nervous system to fire more efficiently and to recruit additional motor units.

As you progress to your second or third wave you should find that you can use slightly more weight for a given number of reps. For example, here is what your weights might look like on a 7/5/3 wave loading program:

  • Set #1: 200 pounds x 7 reps
  • Set #2: 210 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #3: 220 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set #4: 202 pounds x 7 reps
  • Set #5: 212 pounds x 5 reps
  • Set #6: 222 pounds x 3 reps

Once again you may want to invest in a set of “micro-plates” so that you can make these small 1-3 pound weight jumps from one set to the next. 

There are of course many different wave loading protocols that Charles used throughout his career. However, one of his favorites was the 7/5/3 wave loading protocol as described above.

Here are some sample 7/5/3 wave loading workouts that you may want to try. Check it out:

Chest / Back 7/5/3 Wave Loading Routine

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press (medium grip), 6 x 7/5/3**, 2/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 6 x 7/5/3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Unilateral barbell row, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 7/5/3 wave loading protocol as described above.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Lower Body 7/5/3 Wave Loading Routine

  • A1: Deficit snatch grip deadlift, 6 x 7/5/3**, 2/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: DB split squat, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Bilateral seated leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet pointed out), 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: 90 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis w/ DBs), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

****To perform the Poliquin method you dorsiflex your toes (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your toes (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1.

Bicep / Tricep 7/5/3 Wave Loading Routine

  • A1: Seated half press in power rack, 6 x 7/5/3**, 2/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 6 x 7/5/3**, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extension (to nose), 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline zottman curl, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 7/5/3 wave loading protocol as described above.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Overall 7/5/3 wave loading is a fantastic training program that works well for a wide variety of lifters. Bodybuilders will get their best results using this routine during an intensification phase.

Strength athletes, on the other hand, can use this during either an accumulation or intensification phase.

If you want to learn more about wave loading then I highly recommend you check out the following wave loading guides available right here on Revolutionary Program Design:

Many thanks to Charles Poliquin for introducing me to wave loading so many years ago…

Part 11: The 4+2 Method

The 4+2 method was easily one of Charles Poliquin’s all-time favorite training programs. To the best of my knowledge Charles invented this training protocol himself.

The 4+2 method involves performing a maximal set of 4 reps followed by 2 additional eccentric-only repetitions with additional loads. For example, here is what the 4+2 method might look like on the bench press:

  • Perform 4 reps with your 4-rep max.
  • Without racking the weight your training partners will place eccentric hooks on either end of the barbell. Each eccentric hook will represent an additional 5-40% of your 1-rep max.
  • Lower the weight over 10 seconds. Once the weight releasers hit the ground your partners will provide generous assistance to lift the weight back to lockout
  • Your partners will once again add the eccentric hooks onto either side of the barbell. 
  • You will complete one more eccentric-only repetition over 10 seconds. Once the weight releasers hit the floor your training partners will lift the weight to lockout and help you rack the weight.

To summarize the procedure is to perform 4 reps, then perform 2 additional eccentric-only reps with additional loads.

Here is Charles Poliquin himself talking to Marc Bell about how he would use the 4+2 method to help Marc destroy his previous best bench press of 578 pounds:

The 4+2 method is an incredibly powerful training method. In fact, Charles considers it to be his #1 training method for boosting functional hypertrophy. Coming from Charles this says a lot!

If you do not have access to weight releasers then there are many other ways to perform this method. For example, you could perform the 4+2 method on dips and unilateral dumbbell preacher curls for a powerful arm hypertrophy workout.

You would simply add additional loads to your dipping belt for triceps or swap out for a heavier dumbbell for biceps prior to performing the eccentric-only reps.

For the purposes of this routine I am going to have you perform the 4+2 method on the bench press with weight releasers as described above. 

I recommend you use the following training split:

  • Monday: Upper Body (eccentric work)
  • Wednesday: Lower Body (eccentric work)
  • Friday: Upper Body (regular lifting)
  • Saturday: Lower Body (regular lifting)

The eccentric-only reps are only going to be performed on Monday and Wednesday. On Friday and Saturday you would only perform regular sets.

As a general rule of thumb Charles recommends performing heavy eccentric work no more than once every 7-10 days. Performing eccentric work too often is one of the easiest ways in the world to overtrain. Here is the actual routine:

Upper Body 4+2 Workout

  • A1: Flat bench press (medium grip), 3-5 x 4**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Lean-away chin ups on rings, 3-5 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest

**Perform 4 reps with your 4-rep max. After completing the 4th rep your training partner pushes down on the barbell while you perform an accentuated eccentric rep.

You want to lower yourself down over 8 seconds on this rep. After reaching the bottom position your partner gives you generous assistance to complete the rep. Perform one more accentuated eccentric rep and then you are done!

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Flat bench press (medium grip), 4-6 x 4, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Chin ups on rings, 4-6 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Performing the 4+2 method for the lower body is somewhat more difficult but it can be done if you are creative enough and have 2 extremely well-trained spotters.

If you want more information on the 4+2 method then I highly recommend you check out this article. I talk about the 4+2 method in great detail as well as 2 of Charles’ other favourite routines for packing on functional hypertrophy.

Part 12: Post-Exhaustion Supersets

Post-exhaustion supersets are a very simple but effective training method. The idea is quite simple: you are going to superset a compound exercise with an isolation exercise for the same body part.

In my experience post-exhaustion supersets work best for training the arms although they can be used for all of your major body parts if you are creative enough. For example, a very effective post-exhaustion superset for the biceps may feature close-grip supinated chin ups and incline dumbbell curls.

Chin ups are a reasonable biceps exercise but when you combine them with an isolation exercise for the biceps with only 10 seconds rest between sets they become a biceps-building superstar!

Post-exhaustion supersets for the triceps generally include a compound exercise such as dips or close grip bench presses and an isolation exercise such as overhead rope cable extensions. 

Here are a couple of post-exhaustion routines that Charles Poliquin loved to use to beef up the size of his athletes’ arms.

You can use any split you want but I highly recommend you give the following Poliquin-style split a shot:

  • Day 1: Arms
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Back
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

Charles believed that the arms generally grew best on a once-every-five-days training frequency. My experience in working with hundreds of clients is very similar to that of Charles.

Here are the routines:

Post-Exhaustion Superset Arm Routine #1

  • A1: Reverse grip bench press, 3-5 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Ez-bar french press, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Narrow pronated grip chin ups, 3-5 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated zottman curl, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

The superset for the elbow flexors in this routine is actually geared towards developing the brachialis muscle. In Charles’ experience most trainees have an extremely underdeveloped brachialis muscle.

This has severe implications for the structural integrity of his athletes’ shoulders and their long-term potential for upper body strength gains.

If you have been neglecting to train your brachialis for too long then I highly recommend you give the above routine a shot.

The second arm routine is much more demanding and should be reserved for more advanced trainees.

You are going to perform a couple of highly effective arm exercises for the elbow flexors and triceps before moving on to your post-exhaustion supersets.

If you are someone who grows like a weed on higher-volume training protocols then you will LOVE this routine! Check it out:

Post-Exhaustion Superset Arm Routine #2

  • A1: PJR pullover**, 5 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher unilateral DB curl (supinated grip), 5 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 4 x 8-10, 2/2/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Decline DB triceps extension, 4 x 10-12, 2/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B3: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 4 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

**Make sure you watch the video below to learn the correct technique for this exercise. Charles was of the opinion that the PJR pullover is actually the single best exercise you can do for developing the long head of the triceps.

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise B4.

Once again this second routine is very demanding and should be reserved for more advanced trainees with a high tolerance for training volume.

Attempting this routine before you are ready for it would be a complete waste of time!

Part 13: Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets

Mechanical advantage drop sets are an absolutely WONDERFUL training method that you should absolutely be using in your long-term programming!

Mechanical advantage drop sets are very similar to supersets, tri-sets, and giant sets. You are going to perform multiple exercises in a row for the same body part with minimal rest between sets.

The unique wrinkle with mechanical advantage drop sets is that each of these exercises will be a variation of the first exercise and you will use the same load from one exercise to the next!

For example, you could perform a mechanical advantage drop set with 3-4 different types of pullups, 3 different types of incline dumbbell presses, 3 different types of incline curls etc.

The key is that you change your grip, stance, or some other variable from one variation to the next.

You also want to sequence the exercises so that you are starting with your weakest mechanical position and ending with your strongest mechanical position. 

One of the biggest advantages of mechanical advantage drop sets is that you can perform them in a busy commerical gym! Even though you are performing 2-4 exercises in a row you only need to hog one exercise station at a time.

If you want to build slabs of muscle mass in record time then mechanical advantage drop sets are easily one of the best ways to do it. Here are the workouts:

Chest / Back Mechanical Advantage Drop Set Workout

  • A1: 75 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: 45 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: 15 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Wide overhand grip pullup, 3-5 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Medium supinated grip chin up, 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Narrow neutral grip pull up, 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated cable low rope row, 4 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 120 seconds rest

**AMRAP = perform as many reps as possible.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise C1.

Lower Body Mechanical Advantage Drop Set Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Side step up (holding DBs), 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest 
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (holding barbell w/ snatch grip), 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**AMRAP = perform as many reps as possible

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Bicep / Tricep Mechanical Advantage Drop Set Workout

  • A1: Close grip bench press, 3-5 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated overhead french press (close grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree incline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Flat ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x AMRAP, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

Each of these workouts is formatted slightly differently from each other. This is one of the more difficult aspects of programming mechanical advantage drop sets – you have to be very creative when designing your workouts!

If you apply yourself on these workouts then I am confident you will be on your way to some of the best hypertrophy gains of your entire life!

Part 14: Isometronics

One of my favorite quotes from Charles Poliquin is the following:

“Strength training is like learning a foreign language.”

When you first learn a new language you start off with some very simple phrases:

  • My name is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Me greatest bodybuilder of all times!
  • I knocked up my housemaid!

However, as you become more comfortable with the language you have to continue to challenge yourself with new words and new sentence structures. For example:

  • “I like the color red because it’s a fire. And I see myself as always being on fire.”
  • “If you want to turn a Vision into Reality, you have to give 100% and never stop believing in your dream.”
  • “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

Ultimately you know you have mastered a language when you are funny in it. Don’t worry, I have a point for bringing all this up. Isometronics are roughly the equivalent of learning poetry in a foreign language.

It should be reserved for highly advanced trainees who need to bust out the big guns to continue making progress. If this describes you then listen up!

Charles Poliquin first learned about isometronics through the writings of Anthony Ditillo. Isometronics are really a combination of partial range of motion repetitions and full-bore overcoming isometric contractions.

The basic idea is to perform 4-6 partial range of motion repetitions between two sets of safety pins. After completing the last rep you press as hard as you possibly can against the top set of pins for 6-8 seconds.

After the 6-8 second overcoming isometric rep you lower the weight back down to the bottom set of pins and attempt one final repetition.

This is an absolutely brutal sequence of events. Here is American shotput gold-medalist Adam Nelson giving a picture-perfect demonstration of isometronics on the incline bench press:

Again the sequence goes like this:

  1. Perform 4-6 partial range of motion reps in between 2 sets of safety pins
  2. On the last rep perform an 8-second overcoming isometric against the top pins
  3. Lower the weight and attempt one final partial range-of-motion rep

All this together constitutes one set of isometronics. A full workout features 9 total sets of isometronics!

You are to perform 3 sets in the bottom third of the range of motion, 3 sets in the middle third of the range of motion, and 3 sets in the top third of the range of motion. 

Isometronics can be used on any barbell exercises such as bench presses, incline presses, overhead presses, squats, deadlifts, and even barbell curls.

In my experience they tend to work best for upper body pressing movements but you can easily design isometronics workouts around any of these exercises.

I would like to share with you an upper body isometronics workout featuring the bench press. I recommend you use the following training split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Wednesday: Lower
  • Friday: Upper
  • Saturday: Lower

Isometronics will be performed on Monday’s workout while more traditional lifting will be performed on Friday’s workout. If you attempt to perform isometronics every single workout you may find yourself quickly overtraining. Here are the workouts:

Upper Body Isometronics Workout

  • A1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press bottom position isometronics (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 3 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 1 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Decline ez-bar extension with chains, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Complete 4-6 partial range of motion reps. On the last rep press into the top set of safety pins for 6-8 total seconds. You are trying to break the pins in half on this isometric contraction! After 6-8 seconds lower the weight back down and attempt one more partial rep.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2, exercise D1, exercise D2, exercise E1, exercise E2.

Upper Body 5 x 5 Workout

  • A1: Bench press, 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 5 x 5, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extension with chains, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

I highly recommend you watch the videos for these routines. The workout itself makes a lot more sense once you view them.

Basically you are performing 3 sets of isometronics in the bottom, mid-range, and top position of the bench press. After all 9 sets you perform 1 full range-of-motion set.

This full range of motion set is critical for your body to “learn” how to perform the full lift. After the 10 sets of bench presses and chin ups you can perform a little bit of accessory work at the end.

Isometronics were a favourite of Charles Poliquin and the played a key role in helping Adam Nelson to realize his goal of becoming an Olympic champion.

If you are stuck at a bench press plateau then isometronics is one of the best tools you can use to break new PRs.

If you want to learn more about how to use overcoming isometrics to bust through bench press plateaus then I highly recommend the following article:

3 Isometric Bench Press Routines!

Whether you are a powerlifter peaking for your next competition or a bodybuilder looking to beef up your triceps you will find a routine that works awesome for you in the above article!

Part 15: The 3 Then 1 Method

The 3 then 1 method is another one of Charles Poliquin’s favourite intensification methods. Just like isometronics this could be considered the equivalent of “learning poetry in a foreign language.”

It should be reserved for highly experienced trainees who have extensive experience with various eccentric training protocols.

If you have been training for less than 2 years then this program is NOT for you. No exceptions!

The 3 then 1 method is really a form of contrast sets. It looks like this in practice:

  • Perform 3 reps, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Perform 1 supra-maximal eccentric rep, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Perform 3 reps, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Perform 1 supra-maximal eccentric rep, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Perform 3 reps, rest 2-4 minutes
  • Perform 1 supra-maximal eccentric rep, rest 2-4 minutes

You are performing 6 total sets before moving on to accessory work. Ideally you should be able to increase the weight you use during the 2nd and 3rd “waves.”

Here is Charles Poliquin talking to Marc Bell about how to use this routine to boost his bench press strength:

If you perform this training method correctly then you may find that you are able to take some large weight jumps during each wave.

The eccentric-only rep really excites the nervous system and prepares your body to handle much greater loads during your 3-rep set.

For this routine I recommend you use a 4 days per week upper / lower split. For example:

  • Monday: Upper Body #1
  • Wednesday: Lower Body #1
  • Friday: Upper Body #2
  • Saturday: Lower Body #2

Here are the routines:

Upper Body 3 Then 1 Method Workou

  • A1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Close supinated grip chin ups, 6 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Eccentric-only v-bar dips (forward leaning torso)**, 3 x 1, 10/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Eccentric-only close supinated grip chin ups***, 3 x 1, 10/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated v-bar cable row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Use 100-140% of your 1-rep max depending on your eccentric strength levels. Start in the top position and lower yourself down over 8 seconds. In the bottom position you use your legs to “skip” the concentric range and stand up at the top of the movement. Perform 2 more eccentric-only reps in this fashion.

***Use 100-140% of your 1-rep max depending on your eccentric strength evels. Stand on a bench or other platform to skip the concentric range of the eccentric range, then lower yourself down over 8 seconds. Repeat for 2 more reps.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Lower Body 3 Then 1 Method Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Back squat with weight releasers (medium stance / heels flat)**, 3 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated leg curl 2/1 method (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 3 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis with DBs), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

**Load the barbell with 80% of your 1-rep max strength and the weight releasers with another 20-60% combined load.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Upper Body Regular Workout

  • A1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Close supinated grip chin ups, 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 1, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Close supinated grip chin ups, 3 x 1, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated v-bar cable row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Lower Body Regular Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 1, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A4: Unilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 3 x 1, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis with DBs), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1.

Don’t let the relatively lower number of sets fool you. There are more than enough sets to make AWESOME progress if you put in the work on this routine!

This was Charles Poliquin’s 3rd favorite functional hypertrophy routine and one of his all-time favorite intensification protocols.

If you have the guts to attempt this training protocol then you will be rewarded with some of the best gains of your life.

Conclusion

charles poliquin training program

Charles Poliquin was a true genius in the field of strength training. He either invented or popularized more training programs than anyone else in history.

I hope these routines serve as inspiration for you to step out of your comfort zone and begin to truly learn the art and science of strength training program design.

I will never get my chance to thank Charles for having such a profoundly positive impact on the direction of my life. I can only hope that this article highlights the genius and generosity of the greatest strength coach that has ever lived.

On behalf of the entire strength training universe, thank you for everything Charles! I will leave you with one more Charles Poliquin quote to help you understand his way of thinking:

“Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

 

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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