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Variable Training Method

This 12-week program manipulates all major training variables for gains in size, strength and leanness.

Variable Training Method

When it comes to lifting weights, change is good. It’s just that simple. Altering the exercises you do, when you do them and how many sets and reps you perform will keep your body progressing. On the other hand, doing the same exercises with the same number of sets and reps, over and over, week after week, month after month... not so good.

Well, get ready for some change – my 12-week Variable Training program is designed to take you through a lot of it. In a very systematic fashion, the plan will constantly alter training variables like exercise selection, exercise order, rep ranges, and amount weight used. This strategy will keep your body changing by preventing stagnation. And hopefully, it will change your mind as well – at least in terms of how you think about training. After all, most of my programs are designed to not only deliver you the best results possible, but also to teach you something new about lifting weights.

Variable Training Phases

There are six variables that cover all the major bases when it comes to changing up your workout routine: 1) exercise selection; 2) exercise order; 3) resistance (the amount of weight used); 4) volume (the total number of sets performed); 5) rest periods between sets; and 6) rep speed (how fast you push the weight up).

In the Variable Training program, you'll be changing variables one at a time. The program is broken down into six 2-week phases. Generally, when one variable is being manipulated, the other five will remain constant. This way you’ll know exactly which ones are working and which aren’t. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the variables will be altered, phase by phase, week by week:

Phase 1 (Weeks 1 and 2): In the first phase, exercise selection is the focus. During the first week, you’ll do nothing but compound (multijoint) exercises for large muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, quads, even triceps) and major mass-building moves for the smaller groups (biceps, hamstrings and forearms). The second week will consist primarily of isolation exercises (the one exception being back, as there aren’t as many single-joint moves to choose from). On smaller bodyparts, machines, cables and other exercises will be incorporated.

Phase 2 (Weeks 3 and 4): Exercise order will be altered in this phase. You’ll be doing basically the same exercises as in Phase 1, only you’ll be mixing them together — that is, doing compound and isolation moves in the same workout. The first week, compound and mass-building exercises will be done first in the workout; in the second week, isolation moves will be moved to the front, also known as pre-exhaust training.

Phase 3 (Weeks 5 and 6): Here is where the amount of resistance you use will change significantly. During the first week of this phase, you’ll increase the weight and do sets in the 3-6-rep range, whereas in the previous month you did 8–10 reps on most exercises. The next week, resistance will drop dramatically to where reps will fall in the 12-20 range. Your muscles will surely notice the difference.

Phase 4 (Weeks 7 and 8): The number of sets performed (volume) will be altered here. Again, the exercises you do will remain the same, and you’ll be returning to 8-10 reps. The exception is during the first week when you’ll do only 1-2 sets for each exercise, which works out to 4-6 sets per bodypart. However, you’ll make up for this lack of volume by adding intensity — doing negative reps, forced reps and drop sets for particular exercises. The second week, you’ll do 5-6 sets per exercise (16-20 sets per bodypart), all of which will be straight sets.

Phase 5 (Weeks 9 and 10): Here I change rest periods. Up to this point in the program, you'll have been resting 1-2 minutes between all sets. Not anymore. The first week in this phase,...

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