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8-Week Rock Hard Challenge

My classic eight-week program will transform your body with more muscle, less body fat, and big strength gains.

8-Week Rock Hard Challenge

Rock Hard Challenge Program Snapshot

  • Length: 8 weeks
  • Workouts per Week: 4-6
  • Training Split: 3-day split
  • Equipment: Commercial gym or well-equipped home gym.
  • Featured Techniques: Explosive reps, unilateral training
  • Rep Ranges: In Month 1, sets range from 3 reps per set up to 26-30 reps, and everything in between utilizing linear and reverse linear periodization; in Month 2, reps are similar, but with the periodization schemes flip-flopped.
  • Rest Periods: 1-2 minutes between all sets.
  • Cardio: cardioacceleration between working sets.
  • Meal Plan: Muscle-Building Rules to maximize mass-gaining; Dieting 101 or Intermittent Fasting to maximize fat loss.
  • Summary: The Rock Hard Challenge is an intense 8-week program that works up to six weekly workouts. It features light, moderate, and heavy resistances to boost muscle strength and size, plus cardioacceleration between all sets to maximize fat loss.
  • Note: If you’re a beginner or just getting back to the gym after an extended time away (months or years), this program will likely be too intense/advanced for you. If you’re a beginner, consider my Beginner to Advanced Program before doing this program.

Welcome to one of my most widely used workout programs ever!

The Rock Hard Challenge started as a hugely successful transformation program in Muscle & Fitness magazine in the early 2000s, back when print publishing still dominated the landscape and I was on the editorial staff at the magazine.

Every year I’d design a new Rock Hard Challenge (RHC) program that ran over two or three newsstand issues. Millions of people followed the plan and experienced great before-and-after results in terms of dropping body fat, building muscle, and getting stronger across all major lifts.

Fitness magazines are mostly extinct now, thanks to the internet, but the Rock Hard Challenge will never die! Here, you’ll find one of my most successful and popular RHC iterations — a two-month program featuring advanced-level periodization, exercise selection, rep schemes, and intensity-boosting techniques.

Follow the RHC plan to a T, and within weeks you’ll be strong as a rock!

Rock Hard Challenge Month 1

Month 1 of the Rock Hard Challenge uses a variety of techniques to help you build muscle, and even strength while shedding body fat.

The first technique you'll use is explosive-rep training. Each exercise will start with a power move that you'll perform with quick, explosive reps, which target the fast-twitch muscle fibers — the ones that grow the biggest, strongest, and fastest. Explosive reps can also aid in fat-burning because (1) they involve multijoint exercises that hit more muscle mass, and (2) fast-twitch muscle fibers happen to be very inefficient and burn the most calories. These reps will entail very low reps and are not intended to be taken to failure. Choose a light weight (roughly 50% of your estimated one-rep max, or 1RM) and stop at the prescribed rep count, even though you'll feel like you can do more.

The first four weeks will include not one, but two, distinct forms of periodization for each exercise: linear, where each week the weight gets heavier and rep counts decrease, and reverse linear, where the weight lightens as reps get higher. Both periodization schemes individually are effective for building size and strength as well as enhancing endurance and fat-burning. Combining the two will further enhance fat loss. Research shows that when you train with heavy weight, your metabolic rate stays elevated for longer after the workout is over, meaning you'll be burning that much more fat at rest. The lighter sets, on the other hand, will maximize calorie burning during the workout.

You'll finish off most major muscle groups with a unilateral exercise (two per arm/leg) performed consecutively without rest. This way, one side gets just enough rest while the other is working, yet your metabolism doesn't get a break, which further ramps up fat-burning.

RHC Rep Ranges

Following the general periodization scheme mentioned above, specific rep ranges will change from week to week. All exercises will be subjected to "heavy" sets with relatively low rep counts and "light" sets with relatively high rep counts. However, the higher and lower rep counts will change each week, moving in opposite directions: heavy sets getting lower in rep count, and light sets getting higher in reps.

Because of these rep changes, you'll want to go a little heavier each week on

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