The main reason that we begin to train is that we are interested in making changes to our physique.
When I began to take an interest in training during my teens, my goal was to look like a superhero.
Strength and performance became the main goal as I began to compete in track at the collegiate level.
What I learned at this time in my young athletic career was that the better I performed in the gym, the better my body looked.
There are many great training protocols that focus on strength, performance, or aesthetics.
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.
But what if there was a way to blend strength, performance, and physique changes into one program?
Enter my RP-21 training system. RP-21 blends strength, performance, and aesthetics. The design of the program is simple but the results you gain are extraordinary.
What Is Your Goal?
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.
This is admirable, but sadly mistaken.
What I want to make crystal clear before moving forward is this. No single program can maximize you in every attribute (strength, speed, power, athletic performance, etc) at the same time.
If I was training a pure powerlifter, RP-21 would not be his main training scheme throughout the year. His or her goals are different. They would need to feel heavier loads with longer rest periods, which are not a part of RP-21.
RP-21 is a hybrid training system. You will get very strong, you will look phenomenal, and you will be much more athletic. RP-21 is a total body reconstruction plan.
When training for strength, performance, and muscle mass you need a scheme that allows for progressive overload. Without a challenge (heavier loads, more reps, shorter rest, etc.) you are wasting your time in the gym.
Muscles need new challenges to grow. 3×10 every week with 135lbs on the bench is for the fake hustlers.
What if there was a way to keep the weight moderately heavy to heavy (70-80% of your maximum) while performing more reps with that heavy load in a shorter time frame?
If you squat 225×5 for 4 sets resting 3 minutes in between rounds, that is 12 minutes of rest.
A good estimate would be that each set would take 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 1 minute in between rounds? That is 7 minutes of rest plus an estimated 15-20 seconds of work per set. This puts us at 9-11 minutes to complete those 21 reps while using a heavier load.
Don’t you think your legs will respond differently?
When you combine relatively heavy weights and a brisk training pace you create a brutal, but winning combination for muscle growth.
The Iron Guru
Let’s look back to the 1950’s and examine the famous training methodology of the legendary Iron Guru, Vince Gironda as an example.
Gironda was known to get bodybuilders into stage condition using advanced dieting methods and his 8x8 training program.
When you break down 8×8 to its base, you can clearly see that it is the earliest form of Rest-Pause.
This scheme involves 8 sets of 8 reps with a very short (15-30 seconds) rest between sets. With a rest interval this short, the load cannot be heavy or you would have zero chance to complete it.
Ok, It Sounds Great Fitman, But What is RP-21?
Traditional rest-pause training uses shorter rest periods but RP-21 allows you more time to recover in order to move heavier weights.
RP-21 focuses on 7 rest-paused sets of 3 reps each with 70-80% of your max. The wildcard is that the rest periods are only 1 minute in between sets.
For example, 300lbs is your max full squat. Using 70% of your max would leave you at 225lbs.
During your first week of the program, you would use 225lbs for each set of 3 until you reached 21.
I would recommend you starting at 70 percent or even a bit lower if you are uncomfortable. The big picture matters more than one training session.
You do not want to set yourself up to NOT be able to progress in the following weeks. There will be plenty of time to get comfortable with uncomfortable.
The opening sets and weight may not feel supremely tough but as the program progresses, 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 Clubber Lang did against Rocky in their first fight.
Run this program as written to maximize it. Stick to the 1-minute rest periods to maintain the intensity.
I would suggest a 2.5-10lb increase on a major lower body movement (squat/deadlift/hip thrust) and a 2.5-5lb increase on a major upper body movement (bench press/overhead press/pull-chin up/dip) each week during the mesocycle.
(Note: If you are not comfortable performing a 1-rep maximum lift, you can find out your starting number by using your 3-rep maximum and starting with 70 percent of that number. Both ways work well for establishing starting numbers.)
The RP-21 set is the most important set of your day, so prepare your mind for it.
Sometimes even with your best efforts, you may not make it to 21 reps.
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 or a variation that targets the same muscles.
We are not lifting to feed your ego. Let the pain of defeat soak in and then attack that move with a fury when it comes around again.
RP-21 is centered around big compound movements so that you can make proper gains in strength and performance. Fake hustle movements like triceps kickbacks, bosu ball one-legged squats, and jogging are not included at all.
RP-21 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 movement.
For your RP-21 movements I recommend:
- Squat: Traditional, Front, or Barbell Hack. Make sure you are maximizing your squat depth with every rep. Half squats get half results.
- Deadlift: Conventional, Sumo, or Trap Bar
- Bench Press: Flat, Incline, Decline, Close Grip or Dumbbell
- Overhead Press: Standing, Seated, or Dumbbell
- Pull Ups: Pulls, Chins, or Hammer
- Glute-Ham Raises
- Hip Thrusts
Note: In time you will need a weight belt for chins/dips if you are not already there at the moment.
The accessory moves will be slightly modified rest-pause sets using 6 sets by 5 reps with a 30-second rest between sets.
Accessory moves should start with a much lower weight than your 7×3 sets since you will have incurred fatigue.
The 6×5 sets are absolute muscle incinerators and they are tougher than the 7x3 sets. The moderate load feels stunningly HEAVY after a few short rounds.
The 6x5 sets are important because these are the sets where you earn your conditioning, toughness, and character.
(Note: All of the main movements can be used for 6x5 too. I will only list moves not already listed)
For your 6x5 movements I recommend:
- Bulgarian Split Squats (6 total sets, 3 sets per leg)
- Barbell Lunges (Walking or Reverse)
- Dumbbell Lunges (Walking or Reverse)
- Barbell RDL’s, 45/90 Degree Hip Extensions (Barbell or Dumbbell)
- Standing or Seated Calf Raises
- Gironda Neck Press
- Barbell Bent Over Row (Pronated/Supinated/T-Bar)
- Dumbbell Bent Over Row (One Arm or Two Arm)
- Lateral Raises
- Bent-Over Rear Delt Raises
- Bicep Curls (Barbell or Dumbbell)
- Tricep Extensions (EZ Curl Bar or Dumbbell)
RP-21 Training Scheme Overview
Perform as 2 days on/1 day off/2 day on/2 days off. Rotating your squats, deadlifts, and presses is a great idea. Worrying about where to add in your cable crossovers or your machine bicep curls is a bad plan for success.
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 save 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.
Day 1: Lower Body
|1. Barbell Squat||7||3|
|2. Barbell Hip Thrust||6||5|
|3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge||6||5 (10 lunges total)|
|4. Seated Calf Raise||6||5|
Day 2: Upper Body
|2. Chin Ups||6||5|
|3. Incline Bench Press||6||5|
|4. Barbell Bent Over Row||6||5|
|5. Decline Dumbbell Tight Press||6||5|
Day 3: Lower Body
|2. Walking Dumbbell Lunges||6||5 (10 steps total)|
|3. Glute Ham Raises||6||5|
|4. Standing Calf Machine Raises||6||5|
Day 4: Upper Body
|1. Pull Ups||7||3|
|2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||6||5|
|3. One Arm Rows||6||5 (per side)|
|4. Close Grip Bench Press||6||5|
|5. Barbell Curl||6||5|
RP-21 works the best when you train for 3 weeks hard followed by a 1 week deloading period. This allows your CNS to recover from the high-intensity lifting.
If you would like more variation, you could offset RP-21 with a higher volume training program like 8x8. Train hard for 3 weeks, deload for 1 week, and then begin 8x8.
If you try to train at high-intensity with heavy loads every single week, your joints will erode like the economy did in 2007.
To deload, you can perform a simple legs/push/pull split using 2-3 moves per day with reduced total volume. 3 sets of 8-12 reps will work.
People complicate nutrition more than Facebook relationship statuses. Your nutrition simply needs to match your goal.
If you are looking 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 you need to decrease your caloric intake and lower your carbohydrate consumption. Your fats and carbohydrates will always be inverse of each other and vary based whether it is a training day or a rest day.
If you want to gain muscle without excessive fat gain you will want to have a lower fat content on your high carb days and higher fat content on your low carbs days.
The combination of high calories, high carbs and high fat at the same time will have you looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man.
Conditioning gets you into phenomenal shape and it keeps body fat off your physique.
Lifting alone will not allow you to truly increase your athleticism and get into fantastic shape. You do not want to be strong and muscular but lack conditioning. Your goal is not to be Marvin Meathead.
Adding in 1-2 days of conditioning with RP-21 is a great idea. Check out some of the insanely effective options below:
- Sprinting (On the track, a field, or up hills. Treadmills do not and will never count as true sprints.)
- Pushing the Prowler (walks or sprints)
- Bodyweight Training Complexes
- The Punisher Workout
- Barbell 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 iron game rules and structure.
If you are skipping days or putting in half effort then you will not progress on any program. You will however look and feel like the average Conrad Casual who hasn’t seen any progress since Myspace was relevant.
Do not be a casual lifter. Use RP-21 as the main part of your yearly training split to reach new levels of strength and performance.
Unleash your inner greatness today.