Sunday, June 4, 2017

Weightlifting: Tweaks to My Hypertrophy Program

The Rock was always awesome, even when he looked like (quote) "A buff lesbian," (end quote).

Now that I've finished my second cycle of the muscle-building program I posted last month (link), I'd like to list the changes I made between the initial and current versions of the program. First, let's post the new version of the program followed by explanations regarding the changes.

Note: Percentages are set to starting value--I lifted heavier than 60 percent during this last cycle. Add an extra set to the following exercises starting on the second week: Close grip bench presses, high bar squat, deadlift, all assistance work. Deload to starting weight on fourth week, utilizing 3 sets of 5-6 reps.

Sunday: Dumbbell bench press 5 sets of 12. Dumbbell rows 4 sets of 10. Dumbbell shoulder presses 4 sets of 8.

Monday: Off.

Tuesday: Deadlift 3 sets of 8. (60 percent of 1 rep max).

Wednesday: Belted low bar squats for 4 sets of 10 (60 percent of 1 rep max). Close grip bench presses (70 percent of 1 rep max) for 4 sets of 8. Curls and pressdowns for 4 sets of 8.

Thursday: Off.

Friday: High incline press 4 sets of 8 (60 percent of 1 rep max). Superset of pulldowns, side laterals, curls, and pressdowns 4 sets of 8.

Saturday: High bar squat 4 sets of 8 (60 percent of 1 rep max).

Change number one: Ditch the heavy bench presses in favor of dumbbell pressing. My program initially had you doing a heavy bench press day with 4 sets of 6 reps using 77 percent of your max. That sort of volume with that high intensity would be fine for a strength program, but during the hypertrophy phase we want to focus on building muscle. I replaced those bench presses with 5 sets 12 reps in the dumbbell bench press. Using dumbbells allows you more freedom in your movements than a barbell, and the lighter weights let you crank up the volume without the corresponding soreness. During my last cycle, I reduced the reps from 12 to 10 to 8 each week, adding ten lbs before deloading.

Change number two: Get rid of lower body assistance work. In the original program, I had you doing pistol squats, dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts, and weighted step ups as assistance work on lower body days. I cut that fluff on my second cycle, mostly because of time constraints, and I continued to progress just fine. The lower body doesn't need the variation that the upper body does. Two squat variations and deadlifts are plenty. If you work out in a nice gym, you could add some sets of leg pressing or hamstring curls. I work out in my dirty basement, so that's not an option.

Change number three: Switch out wide grip bench pressing for the high incline. I hadn't messed around with the incline press since I was a kid, and now I think that was a mistake. The high incline has the benefits of the military press while working the pectorals and being entirely an upper body exercise. I don't bring the bar all the way down to my chest because doing so results in shoulder pain.

In less than two months, my weight has went from 195 to 200 lbs, with most of that being muscle. I think I'll run at least one more hypertrophy microcycle before switching to a strength program, and of course I'll share the results.

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