Simple Periodization for Big Gains

Posted: September 14, 2012 in General Health
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I have to give complete credit for this article to Bob Alejo, director of strength and conditioning at NC State. We had a discussion one day this summer about hypertrophy and general strength gains and this is the method he suggested. I am on my last week now and have seen significant gains, especially for my chest. So here it is:

4 weeks of sets of 12-10-8-6

1 week of active rest

4 weeks of 3 sets of 8

Before you scoff at the simplicity, think about it. For the first 4 weeks you are in a hypertrophy rep range, but still hitting somewhat of a strength aspect with the set of 6. You also have 22 reps before you get to your set of 8, so you should be pretty fatigued by that time. When you switch to the 3 sets of 8, there should be a significant jump in the weight you are using because you are now doing the set completely fresh. This jump should be large enough to provide a different stimulus to your muscles.

So for my upper body workouts (I did something different for lower body), I would use this rep scheme on a DB Bench, vertical and horizontal pull, and 1 set of biceps and triceps. I would also add in a push-up (1 and a half push-ups or pause push-ups) of  higher set/rep scheme (3×12 or 4×10) for an auxiliary exercise before my single joint movements (bis and tris).

When doing the sets of 12-10-8-6, make sure each weight is challenging, but there is no chance of failure. If you fail a set, it’s really hard to go up in weight and complete all of the reps. Try to pick a weight where the last two reps are tough, but doable.

Also, the active rest week is imperative. It so happened my active rest week fell on the week I was at the beach so I was able to a few workouts on the beach that were completely different from what I was used to. I felt great when I got back in the gym and was ready to get after it. I will go into more detail another time about active rest. To keep it simple, do something like you are used to, just much lighter weight and much less volume.

I am now using dumbbells for sets of 8 on bench press that I might have used for sets of 2-4 previously. I am thrilled with the results because I have always had a pretty weak chest and have tried many different periodization methods to help improve it. I have seen improvements in other methods, but this has by far given me the best results in the shortest amount of time. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Cody Brinkmkan says:

    Sounds great. Should I do my other chest exercises in addition to benching in the same fashion as well (ex. cable flys)? Also, how concrete is the 3 sets of 8? Would 5 sets of 5 be a sufficient substitute , or should I strictly follow 3 sets of 8?

    • Yes you can do that with your additional chest exercises. I didn’t because I wanted to stick with bodyweight for push-ups. I would stick to the 3×8. That way you are still in the hypertrophy range and give yourself and good stepping stone into a strength phase (like sets of 4 reps) next if that’s where you wanted to go

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