The main reason that we start training is because we are interested in making changes to our physique. When I began to take interest in training my teens, my goal was to look like a superhero.
Strength and performance became more important as I began to compete in track. But aesthetics will always be the most popular reason for the average person.
There are many great training protocols that focus on one of the above three. For example the great 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler is designed mainly for increases in strength. Vince Gironda’s timeless 8×8 is designed mainly for changes in the aesthetic quality of your physique.
Schemes can be adapted to reach different goals, but all schemes are designed for a specific purpose. Yes you will gain more than only strength with 5/3/1. And yes you will gain more than just physique changes with 8×8. But what if there was a way to blend strength, performance, and physique changes into one program?
My goal today is to present you with my RP-21 training scheme which utilizes the underrated and underused rest pause technique. This scheme blends strength, performance, and aesthetics. And the great part about it is that it is as simple as logging into to your email.
What is Rest Pause Training?
RP-21 is based on the rest pause technique of training. Rest Pause is a high value, high intensity training style that is not new at all. As we know most people do not truly commit to a goal when training. The common theme is that a person wants to achieve max levels of all attributes simultaneously. Admirable, but sadly mistaken.
You cannot chase every goal at once. What I want to make crystal clear before moving forward is this. If your goal is specific (strength, performance, etc) no single program can cover every base perfectly.
If was I was training a pure powerlifter, RP-21 would not be his main training scheme throughout the year. His goals are different. He would need to feel heavier loads with longer rests which are not a part of RP-21. Remember this is a blended program, not a specific one. You will get very strong, but this is not a strength specialization plan. This is a total body reconstruction plan.
When training for strength, performance, and lean mass you need a scheme that allows for progressive overload. Without a challenge (load, reps, shorter rest, etc) you are wasting time in the gym. Muscles need new challenges to grow.
3×10 every week with 135lbs on the bench is for casual jabronis. And you are better than that. What if there was a were a way to keep the weight moderately heavy to heavy (70-85% of maximum) while performing more reps with that heavy load in a shorter time frame?
For example if you squat 225×5 for 4 sets resting 3 minutes in between rounds, that is 12 minutes of rest plus let us estimate up to 30 seconds per set. You are probably up near 14-17 total minutes to complete that series of 20 reps. But what if you did 235×3 for 7 sets resting one minute in between rounds. That is 7 minutes of rest plus the estimated 15-20 seconds per set. This puts us at 9-11 minutes to complete those 21 reps while using a heavier load.
Rest pause allows you to use a heavier weight broken down in smaller increments to reach a higher volume of work in less time. Don’t you think your legs will respond differently? Could the ultimate blend of using higher weight for higher reps be created?
As I stated earlier, the concept of rest pause is not new. If we look back to the 1950′s we can use the legendary Iron Guru, Vince Gironda as an example. His famed protocol is 8×8. When you break down 8×8 to its base, you can clearly see that it is Rest Pause. This scheme involves 8 sets of 8 reps with a very short (15-30 seconds) rest between sets.
Obviously with a rest interval this short, the load could not be but so heavy or you would have zero chance to complete it. Gironda’s famed 8×8 protocol is supreme for conditioning. It is not designed to build maximum strength. But with RP-21 we are getting a blend of strength and conditioning.
Ok it sounds great, but what is RP-21?
With RP-21 the goal is muscular strength, better performance and increased lean mass gains. In layman’s terms, you will be strong, athletic, muscular, and walking around with new confidence. RP-21 focuses on 7 rest-paused sets of 3 reps each with 70-85% of your max. The wildcard is that the rest periods are only one minute in between sets.
For example 300lbs is your max full squat. Using 70% of your max would leave you at 225lbs. You would use 225lbs for each set of 3 until you reached 21. I would recommend you starting on the low end of the percentage at 70. You do not want to set yourself up to NOT be able to progress in the following weeks.
The opening sets and weight may not feel supremely tough. As each week progresses in the program, the weight gets heavier and the rest feels like it is getting shorter. You are guaranteed to run into a wall of pain and doubt very soon. RP-21 will sneak up on you like Tebow against the Steelers.
Now with training all variables are changeable. Rest periods could be altered to make the set more intense, but that will limit the load you can use. Run this program as written to maximize it. So stick to the one minute rest to maintain heavy loads. Trust me on the big compound movements it gets real!
Initially, I would use 70% of your max for the first week to get a feel for the protocol. I would suggest a 5-10lb increase on squat or deadlift each week and a 2.5-5lb increase on bench press or overhead press or chin up/dip. Progress slowly because the goal is not to hit the wall and burn out. The 21 reps should not be a leisurely walk in the park with your lover.
The RP-21 set is the most important set of your day, so prepare your mind for it. As you progress through the program, doubt should creep into your brain as you get closer to 21. And sometimes, you may not make it to 21. If you fail and say the total rep number is 15 for that day in your squat, you will try to improve on that the next week. If you cannot reach 21 at a certain weight within 3 workouts, you will sub out that move for a different one that targets the same muscles.
The programming protocol is centered around big compound movements so that you can make proper gains. Fake hustle movements like triceps kickbacks, bosu ball one-legged squats, and jogging are not included at all.
When I initially designed RP-21 there were two different frequency schemes. Not that either one is bad, but I have evolved it a bit. This is a 4 day lifting split. There will be two lower body days and two upper body days. Your big movement of the day will be the RP-21 scheme. 7 sets x 3 reps with a 1 minute rest period. For your RP-21 moves I recommend:
- Squat-Back, Front, or Barbell Hack just make sure you are deep in the bucket for Front and Back. Half squats get half results.
- Deadlift-Conventional, Sumo, or Romanian
- Bench Press-Flat, Incline, Decline or Close Grip
- Overhead Press-Standing, Seated, or Push
- Pull Ups-Pulls, Chins, or Hammer
- Cleans-Hang or Power
- Hip Thrusts
In time you will need a weight belt for chins/dips if you are not already there at the moment. Using the right moves will have you on the path to success…
The main moves can be used as the accessory moves too if you choose. The accessory moves will be slightly modified rest pause sets using a 6 sets by 5 reps method with a 30 second rest between sets. The 6×5 sets are muscle incinerators as they are also performed with a moderate load that feels HEAVY after a few short rounds.
The 6×5 sets are tougher than the 7×3 sets. But these are the sets where you earn your conditioning and toughness. Accessory moves should start much lower than your 7×3 sets. 50-55% of your max is a good starting point.
Perform as 2 day on/1 day off/2 day on/2 days off scheme. This is a sample scheme focusing on the basic moves that build the best physique. The good part about RP-21 is that we are flexible with movements. As I stated earlier, rotating your squats, deadlifts, presses etc is a great idea. Worrying about trying to find out where to add in your cable crossovers or your machine bicep curls is a bad plan for success.
There is a term for this and it is called majoring in the minors. The moves that you need to do will be responsible for the vast majority of your results. The moves that look flashy in the magazines will not help you. Focus on the basic moves to build a complete physique. Follow the same moves for 3 weeks before thinking about making slight changes to movements.
|Glute Ham Raise||6||5|
|Seated Calf Raise||6||5|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||6||5|
|Dumbbell Stretch Lunge||6||5|
|Standing Calf Raise||6||5|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||6||5|
|One Arm Rows||6||5|
It really does not get any simpler than that. No gimmicks or complicated scheme to follow. RP-21 allows for a lot of flexibility as far the moves are concerned. Every single move above could be replaced with another tough move that will target the muscles in a challenging fashion. As I stated, stick with the same segment of moves for 3 weeks before changing them slightly.
Because RP-21 is a high intensity protocol, off setting it every 3 weeks with a high volume scheme (Gironda 8×8, German Volume Training etc) is a great idea. You cannot go high intensity with heavy loads every single week. At that rate your joints will erode like the economy did in 2007.
Deloads are very individual. I personally have experimented with numerous deload schemes. What works best for me is a 3 weeks on and 1 week deload. I escalate my training so that the third week is brutal leading into the deload. This gives me plenty of time to recover.
You can deload however when you feel it is necessary for your body. To deload, you can perform a simple legs/push/pull split using 2-3 moves per day with reduced total volume. 3 sets of 6-8 reps will work.
People complicate nutrition more than Facebook relationship statuses. Your nutrition simply needs to match your goal. For starters your macros must match up according to your goal. Protein will typically be 1-1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight. Your fat and carbohydrates are going to vary based on what you are planning to do. For example to gain great strength and size with RP-21 you will need to increase your total caloric intake and increase your carbohydrate consumption.
To lose fat with RP-21 your need to decrease your caloric intake and lower your carbohydrate consumption. If you are carb sensitive, than that will be the most important macro to monitor. And if you want to gain without excessive fat gain, you will want to have low fat on your high carb days and higher fat on your low carbs days. Typically the combination of high carbs and high fat at the same time will make you fat.
You could add in 1-2 days of cardio with this scheme if it is in line with your current goals. The options are very basic but insanely effective. You can either perform sprints for 5-10 sets with distances typically between 30-100 meters. Or you can perform bodyweight training complexes. Whichever one you choose, just make sure it is short and to the point. Leave the 2 hour treadmill sessions to the bozos in the “cardio” section.
Training schemes give the game rules and structure. It allows you to reach new goals, and keeps you highly accountable for your progress. If you are skipping days or putting in half effort, than you will not progress on any program.
You will however look and feel like the average Casual Conrad who hasn’t seen any progress since Myspace was relevant. Do not be a casual lifter. Make RP-21 part of your yearly training split to reach new levels of strength and performance.