Martin Berkhan RPT

Squats, Deadlifts, Bench press, Chins – Think you can’t get big with just these four? Tell that to Martin Berkhan.

Reverse Pyramid Training Explained

What is it?

RPT is a style of set-rep pattern where the trainee puts their heaviest set first, then ‘pyramids down’ to a lighter weight, usually with more reps, for the latter sets. It is best suited to the main compound movements.

RPT is a very time-efficient training style, but requires very high intensity. It was made popular by Martin Berkhan of Leangains.com (picture above).

Who is it for?

Due to the very high intensity necessary to get the desired training effect from the abbreviated routine, considerable lifting experience is required to pull it off effectively and thus it not suited to beginners (more thorough explanation and suggested routine here).

When can it be used?

RPT can be used in a cut or a bulk and can be very effective in either case. The low volume makes it particularly suited to a cut. Theory:

The goal of the experienced trainee when cutting is merely to maintain muscle mass while burning the fat off. -> Under calorie deficit circumstances recovery capacity from workouts is lower. -> Training volume is best reduced to match the reduction in recovery capacity to avoid the negative systemic stress effects of too high a workload, which can have negative repercussions diet progress (strength & muscle maintenance, mood, soreness and body composition).

Unnecessary accessory work is therefore not used/removed.


Reverse Pyramid Training – How to Guide

Reverse Pyramid Training In A Nutshell:

  1. Do warm-up sets gradually working up to around 80% of your ‘top set’ load.
  2. Put the heaviest working set (aka. the top set) first, go to failure.
  3. Drop the weight, rest and do the second working set. Go to one rep short of failure but still push yourself REALLY HARD.
  4. Drop the weight, rest and do the third working set. Again, go to one rep short of failure.
  5. Rest and move onto the next exercise.

What does it look like?

RPT is a set-rep pattern, not any specific workout. However, RPT does have popular routine incarnations.

Example using a 3-day split:

Monday

1. Deadlift

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 4-6reps – 3mins rest
  • Set 2 (-10-15%) 6-8reps – 2mins rest
  • Set 3 (-10-15%) 8-10reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Weighted Chin-ups

  • Warm-up set(s)
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-10-15%) 10-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

Wednesday

1. Bench

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-10-15%) 10-12reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Push-ups

  • 2 sets, 3 mins rest. Raise feet off floor when too easy, add two second cadence. 8-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

Friday

1. Squat

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest / Set 3 (-10-15%) 10-12reps
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Overhead Press

  • Warm-up sets
  • Top Set 6-8reps – 3mins rest / Set 2 (-10-15%) 8-10reps – 2mins rest /Set 3 (-10-15%) 10-12reps
  • Cool-down: 5-10mins cardio, foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

How To Progress

RPT uses a double progression system. The target is to increase either the weight or reps, but there are strict rules for doing so.

  • For the first workout, choose the weight here you think you will ‘fail’ in the target rep range.
  • Let’s say that this week you get 7 reps with 100kg and your target rep range was 6-8. The next week you’re going to stay with 100kg and try to hit 8 reps. If you do that then increase the weight slightly (102.5kg) and try to get 6 reps or more the following workout.
  • If you fail to get the minimum required number or reps, reduce the weight.

 

Example squat progression, target rep ranges 6-8, 8-10, 10-12:

  • Week 1: 150 x 6, 135 x 9, 120 x 12
  • Week 2: 150 x 8, 135 x 10, 125 x 10
  • Week 3: 155 x 6, 140 x 8, 125 x 11
  • Week 4: 155 x 6, 140 x 10, 125 x 11
  • Week 5: 155 x 8, 145 x 8, 125 x 12
  • Week 6: 160 x 6, 145 x 9, 130 x 10

Note that some weeks the weight went up for the back-off sets but not in the “top-set” and vice versa. This is normal.

Adjust all sets independently of each other. The “-10-15% reduction” is just a guide for your first workout. From that point onward you want to adjust your subsequent sets independently as you would for that top set.

‘Failure’ is where you can no longer get another rep with perfect form, not where you can no longer lift the weight. For chin-ups, it’s where you can no longer get a full rep out.

Keep the other training circumstances the same, particularly, time and keep rest intervals strict.

Chin-up progression (weighted/band-assisted). Always keep a full range, keep it slow and smooth. Chin-ups may be very tough at first, that’s fine. Band-assisted chin-ups are a good option until you have built up the strength to do full-reps. Eventually you’ll want to add weight. Full example progressions here.


Pros, Cons and FAQs

What I like about RPT

  • Quick & effective.
  • Satisfies the need for intensity without allowing certain personality types from hammer themselves too hard due to the lower volume.
  • Cuts through the crap & focuses on the exercises that will give the trainee the most bang for your buck.

Drawbacks of RPT

  • Not suited for the beginner, but every beginner wants to do it because they feel it’s advanced therefore cool. Form needs to be very good to avoid injury when pushing to rep-maxes or near.
  • A persons ‘maximum‘ and thus failure point is highly influenced by gym atmosphere/surroundings. One of my best squat workouts ever was with Dorian Yates sitting on the leg press machine, staring at me, waiting for his rack to become available. Maximum is therefore relative and variable, and it’s too easy for people to pussy out before they truly can’t do any more reps.
  • Mentally the workouts are very tough, and knowing you need to push to a max for every set, especially on squat day for example, can lead to people dreading their workouts. This extra mental drain can lead to unnecessary stress and sub-optimal performance. Fixed set-rep patterns (5 sets of 5 for example) without the requirement for failure can be better here.

RPT-Specific FAQ

Do I have to stick to those exercises above?

No, that is just an example. Front Squats, Rack Pulls, Dips (weighted/assisted), Pull-ups, Row variations. Basically, multi-joint/compound exercises that lend themselves well to incremental loading.

What is a good warm-up?

Regardless of the routine, you’ll want to do the minimum that you can to get warm and ready for the top set, without tiring yourself for your main work sets. I’ve covered this in detail in the FAQ, WARM-UP: What should I do?

Please feel free to confirm your thoughts on a warm-up above. However if you have no idea at all about this it’s likely you don’t have a enough lifting experience for RPT to be suited to you.

Can I do pull-downs instead of chin-ups?

You can, but they are not as effective. Do not use them if you have a chinning-bar available. In my experience people work a lot harder when then have to do chin-ups rather than pull-downs, probably because they don’t want to be seen to fail.

Got any lifting videos/resources?

Best Book:Starting Strength 3rd Edition’ by Mark Rippetoe. It will teach you about form. 

Best Videos: Rippetoe’s are here: Main Barbell Movements Other Lifts & Tips.

Other videos: Type any exercise you’re looking for into Youtube along with any of the following names and you can be sure it’ll be good: Mark Rippetoe / Eric Cressey / Tony Gentilcore / Bret Contreras / Jordan Syatt

Martin Berkhan wrote an excellent article on RPT. It can be found here.

Why does this conflict with the advice of [coach X]?

You will find conflicting advice all over the internet because there are many different ways to reach the same end with training. Every routine has its pros and cons, suitability depends on context. RPT and the routine above is just one way of doing things. The principles of effective training routines remain the same however. (See article, The Principle Of Progressive Overload.)

How do I know when I should use a full split routine like the one in the example above?

 Covered in the article, How to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines


Got it, now how do I put together a nutrition plan to go with this?

RippedBody Results CollageThat’s what I specialise in, some people hire me to do it, but you can find everything you need to do this on this site.

I’ve put all the diet guides in one place. This includes, How to Calculate Your Calories, How to Calculate Your Macros, Optimal Meal Timing, Calorie & Carb Cycling, Supplements, How to Track your Progress, basically everything you need.

Continue to -> Diet Guides


Principles | Programs | CardioFAQ

778 Comments on “‘Three Day Split RPT’ Routine”

  1. Marcus

    Hi Andy! I’ll appreciate a quick opinion.

    Would doing deadlift on Day 1 affect the bench press on Day 2? Say I do deads on Sat then on Sun I hit the bench. I find that as the weight got heavier its harder to hit my bench press as I couldn’t stabilise the weight and keep tight when my back is sore from the back day on Day 1.

    In the past I have progressed on Bench only when I was feeling great even when doing the same routine. I was thinking of switching bench to day 1 and deadlift to day 2. But that would mean 1 day of rest between deadlift and squats. Thoughts?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Marcus. Both the bench and the deadlift involve the lats, so the one could have negative carryover to the other yes. Ideally you’ll have another day of rest in there but I’m assuming from the question that that’s not possible. I wouldn’t swap the days around as the opposite will happen, and I’d put more then one day of rest between the squatting and deadlifting if possible as it’s usually the lower back that needs more recovery time.

  2. Ark

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I am loving it. Just a question on the choice of the exercises.
    Is it good idea to substitute conventional DL with the trap bar DL?

    Thanks,
    Ark.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Well, this really depends on the context of the question. I need you to be more specific so I’m not left guessing, or writing paragraphs unnecessarily.

      1. Ark

        Hi Andy,

        Sorry for not being specific. I want to start RPT as you listed the schedule. I’m 44, and I weight lifted for years on and off. My last program is Brawn type 2 days a week slow progression.
        My back is not my best friend lately and giving the age I am thinking to use trap bar for DL on Mondays.

        Please share your thought. I’d appreciate that.

        Thank you,
        Ark

        1. Andy Morgan

          Ark, thanks. If that is the right thing to do for your back, the exercises are similar enough so that you could consider it a one for one swap. If. Don’t guess it, get an expert opinion from a sports doctor.

  3. Kody

    Hey Andy,

    I am anticipating being ready to switch from cutting to slow bulking in 2-4 weeks or so. I am wondering about switching from a 3 day split to a 4 day split. I want to do this so that I wouldn’t have to do squats and overhead press on the same day. My legs need the most work (in terms of aesthetics) so I would like to add a little volume to that day but not be too tired to do any shoulder work.

    To clarify, I know that I can do this if I want to. I understand your concepts enough to be able to adjust my calorie and macro cycling to have 4 work days and 3 rest days and still hit the right averages. My question is really just; In your opinion, would this actually be as beneficial as it seems in my head?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Kody.
      I have no way of seeing into your head, so I cannot answer whether that will be better or worse then how it seems in your head. All I can do is point you to the guides on the site and with the context of the principles there, you’ll be fine with any changes you make.
      To set up with 4 days training a week in terms of macros, see this post.

      1. Kody

        Ha ha… Man, I didn’t want to be one of those people that asked a stupid question that can’t be answered. Anyway, thank you! Your site is super helpful. I’ll just give it a shot and decide if it’s worth it to spend an extra day in the gym or if I’m wasting time.

  4. T4Sc

    Hi Andy,

    First off; Big fan of your site – I recommend it to anyone who asks about my diet and training. Quick question:

    Friday is back day, so deadlifts, weighted chins, and shrugs. Thinking of replacing shrugs with face pulls as I’m not feeling them. Am I in danger of contracting “f**karounditis” or…?

    Cheers
    Tristan

  5. josh

    Hey Andy, would you recommend the three set RPT over the two set RPT ( as described by 31minutes ama on reddit) where you do more movements but for two sets instead of three? Thanks ahead of time man.

  6. Kierran Clarke

    Hi Andy,

    If you are having a “bad day” in the gym, and are struggling to hit your standard rep and weight range, would you recommend to do as much as you can at your top set, or drop the weight and make sure you hit the desired rep range?

  7. Jaime

    Why are you using 4-6 reps for deadlifts on monday, and 6-8 reps for all of the other big lifts on the other days’ top set?

  8. Alex

    Hi Andy!

    I’m sticking to this updated RPT routine since you published it. I’ve also added some steady state cardio(~50 min walk) on the rest days, so now it looks like: Su – Back, Mo – Cardio, Tu – Chest, We – Cardio, Th – Legs, Fr+Sa – Rest.

    I use recomp macros and train fasted first thing in the morning. After reading Starting Strength and since I don’t have a big caloric deficiency I consider to add a Power Clean exercise to this routine.

    And here are the questions I have:
    1. Should I add the Power Clean at all? Is it a sound idea?
    2. If it is, on which day should I add the PC? I think about Tu(chest day) as a least loaded, but wouldn’t it affect my recovery from DL and impair my squat performance?
    3. If I add it, how many sets/reps? Should it also be done in the RPT fashion?

    Thanks a lot,
    Alex.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alex.
      1. If you have someone to coach you, sure. If not, it poses an unnecessary injury risk to the physique focussed trainee.
      2/3. Save me reaching for my copy, see Rippetoe’s advice in his book bud.

  9. steven

    Hi Andy,

    Is there any easy way to tilt RPT towards one particular muscle group? I’d like to prioritize legs over the upper body. Is it as simple as just only doing the bench work out every other cycle of three?

    Cheers.

  10. crr1114

    not sure if this is a macro adjustments question or a training question, so i’ll fire away here first.

    as i transition from cut to bulk, i feel like i’d love to lift an extra day, so basically 4 days in 10 (every other day times four, then two days off). on the other hand, i’d be willing to be that i probably don’t really need to increase frequency, and that three days are just fine. i just enjoy lifting so much i’d rather do the extra day.

    any recommendations about adding another day? i only ask because i also recognize this represents another 300-500 kcal per week on intake and i’d like to stay as lean as possible during the bulk. should i:

    (a) not worry about it and just add the extra day
    (b) not worry about it and lift three days per week
    (c) increase frequency to 4 days per week without adjusting macros, then adjust macros after a week or two of doing this frequency
    (d) take the 4th derivative of the natural log of the number of training days, times pi, divided by the degree to which i’m over-analyzing this (nth), plus sine 67 degrees…and increase macros by that amount
    (e) none of the above

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Chris.
      “i feel like i’d love to lift an extra day”
      Don’t program based on feeling, program based on how you progress. Be systematic. Try one thing, then the other if you prefer. As you’ve noted, the overall difference in calories throughout the week with an extra training day will be small relatively, so you can make that change without worrying about it.

  11. Anubis Lockward

    Hi Andy, I don’t know if this has been answered anywhere else, but I got this question:

    I’m currently doing RPT, I’m 5′ 9″, 157 lbs, 32 years old male, and my routine looks like this:

    [The next 2800 characters deleted. Reason below. - Andy]

    1. Andy Morgan

      Anubis, thank you for the comment. Clearly you’ve put a lot of time into it, but it was 2957 characters long.

      If you have a question please know you’re welcome to ask, but if it takes such a lengthy post then I think it’s beyond fair use of the comments – which is to clarify points that are unclear in the articles.

      I’ve deleted the majority of it so that the page is kept tidy, load times are lower, and smartphone users don’t have to endlessly scroll.

      1. Anubis Lockward

        Sorry! Didn’t feel that long tho, it’s just that I had so many questions, lets try again.

        I’ve been doing RPT for the last 4 months, and although I feel I’m making progress with it, I was just wondering if I should change to the Big 3 routine until I reach a decent weight, and then continue with RPT.

        Currently my max are: 185 lbs for the Deadlift, 120 lbs on Squats (had to reset, that’s why is so low) and 170 lbs for the Bench.

        The other question was related to the weighted Chin-ups, but I’ll wait until you answer this one to ask again.

        Thanks in advance, and sorry for the long post.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Anubis, thanks.
          The squats need more frequency and volume so that you can work on form, which was the purpose of the reset (I assume). RPT for this exercise is not suitable at this time – mentioned this above.¥
          You’re asking whether you should do ‘a’ or ‘b’, which ignores any middle ground tailoring things to yourself. Every exercise doesn’t have to be either RPT or straight sets, some exercises can be performed more frequently than others.

          1. Anubis Lockward

            well, right now, I’m not doing RPT style for the Squats, but still I’m only doing them once a week on Fridays, I do 5 x 5 with the Squats to practice form, should I do the Squats two or three times a week until I nail the form? right now I can do 5 sets of 5 reps with 120 lbs and it feels easy, that’s why I’m upping the weight to 135 lbs for the next session. But I guess that you’re telling me that I can do them more frequently until I reach a decent weight.

            The other question was related to the Chin-Ups, I increase the weight everytime I can get 8 reps for the top set, with 20 lbs hanging from the belt I can do them, but since I got to 25 lbs, I’ve been stuck there for 5 weeks straight, I can do 7 reps since the first time I used that weight, but I can’t get past that, what should I do?

            thanks for your reply, hope that I’m not bothering you.

  12. Zlatko Knudsen

    Hi Andy. I have read like almost every articel on this site – thank you for all the insight!

    But one question i gotta ask, even though i feel very dumb asking it:
    If i go on a slow bulk using leangains and reverse pyramide, should i eat over maintenance every day?

  13. Michael arrieta

    Andy, keeping in mind the necessary recovery times when training with RPT, you keep it to training 3 days a week. You also mentioned at most days in the gym train 4 days a week for a lean bulk. How would you design an effective RPT program for a 4 day a week training on a lean bulk?

  14. sam132

    Hey Andy,

    In Deadlifts I find on my first rep I get wobbly legs, rep 2-4 they seem fine.

    Today I ended up taking a step forward to settle them down (once the weight had been pulled to the top).

    What can I do to stop this?

    FYI:
    – I do 3 mins on incline at 6.5 on the treadmill, followed by two warm up deadlift sets.

    – Due to running twice a week, at the moment I’m not squatting and my squat would be around the same weight as my deadlift.

    – The wobble seems to becoming from my quads.

    – I use sumo lift as I find I have a much better form.

    Many thanks,

    Sam

      1. sam132

        Thanks Andy, I will try a new warm up routine:

        – x 8
        2 min rest
        – x 5
        2 min rest
        – x 3
        2 min rest
        – x 1 (80%)
        Rest at least 3 mins
        – max effort

        If no luck, I’ll get a personal trainer to take a look at my form.

        Thanks again,

        Sam

        1. Andy Morgan

          Sam, I think you’re going about this the wrong way. A warm-up should be what you feel you need on that specific day, to perform your best. This doesn’t lend itself to a fixed pattern. Fine to go with the above, but listen to your body and adjust on a per session basis. More notes in the FAQ

  15. roman

    hey Andy. What would be a good 4 day split. I have been doing 3 day split for a cut. Want to try to add another day and give a bulk a try. Would alternating push/pull days work? Thanks
    BTW. Could not be happier with the results of my online coaching program. Thanks again

  16. Mehul

    Hi Andy

    Just wondering whether there is a massive difference in standing overhead press and sitting overhead press.

    Thanks

    Mehul

  17. Pike

    Hi Andy,

    Have you ever experienced deadlift kicking your ass? My 1rpm is 170kg, I generally work out in an RPT from 150kg-ish, but, sometimes I can barely handle 100kg, it’s like I just don’t have it in me… Is this CNS fatigue?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Pike. Heavy deadlifts will kick everyone in the ass.
      If on some days you can’t handle “even 100kg”, and this happens frequently, then you have a recovery issue and need to make adjustments to either energy intake, frequency, total work (sets, reps)… .

      1. Pike

        Thanks Andy,
        I’ve been in a serious cut, so maybe that’s been affecting my lift. I’ve only just recently started deadlift, and then started dieting, so it’s hard to establish a baseline. Today I was back up to 160 in my top set, and 110 with fat gripz.

        The “off” days, my rational mind says I can lift it, but my body says otherwise :/

        Cheers

  18. steven

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been using the RPT split for a few months now, and along with taking your advice on diet and where the biggest marginal gains are to be made I’m making decent progress. Or at least progress I’m very happy with.

    I train for BJJ and so some element of speed and endurance is necessary for the sport. I used to do a body weight workout one or twice a week to supplement my training, but I left this when I started on your RPT example workout to concentrate on strength.

    The body weight workout consisted of 5 rounds of 10 single leg squats, 12 ring dips, 15 chins and 10 body blasters. For time. I’m aware of what Martin thinks about crossfitters, but I know you’ve worked with several of them in the past so I wanted to put a question to you.

    I tried this workout for the first time a few months because my gym was closed for a few days. I thought perhaps my time would have slipped, but I was much much slower than I used to be.

    I’ve put on a few kilos since I started the RPT but I don’t think any of it is body fat. So my question is whether there are definite sacrifices to be made in terms of you ability to complete this type of body weight endurance tests when you concentrate on RPT for bulk?

    I know it could easily be that I was tired, coming down with something, stiff from a leg day workout three days earlier (my last workout). But I thought it would also be good to know just what to expect to happen to my performance in these other areas.

    Thanks loads for the great site and all the free advice you pass on.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Steven, thanks for the comment. On this one, unfortunately I simply don’t know.
      My guess would be that you’d improve your endurance, as each bodyweight rep represents less of a one-rep max the stronger we get. Clearly some of those exercises have a skill element that needs to be practiced (pistol squats, no idea what body blasters are).

  19. Dany

    Hi
    Is it possible to get good results without the squat? (the reason is an injury that allows only deadlift, bench and chins).

    Thank you.

      1. Dany

        Can you give an example to what you mean?

        Adding more sets/reps/dead lift days? What to do with the “squat day” in order to keep it intensive enough?

        Thank you.

        1. Andy Morgan

          “Can you give an example to what you mean?”
          Covered in the article I linked to Dany. There are many ways to go about it which I why I linked to an article on the principles so that you can make decisions. I appreciate you wish for a single answer, but such personal programming questions are kind of beyond the scope of the comments.

  20. Lewis Reche

    Hi Andy.

    Isnt this a very low frequency routine? Or do you find it is okay because you work close to failure in the first sets. I really think beginners and intermediate lifters can progress better with upper-lower routines 4 days a week. And Im talking about natural lifters, people on roids is another term.

    Am I wrong?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Lewis.
      What is ‘better’? This depends on the individual, not least how you define better. I’ve covered this question in the opening of this article. Let me know what you think.
      A beginner has no place with the above routine – I’ve covered this above.
      Whether it can be used with bulking or cutting is also covered above bud.

  21. John

    Hi Andy,

    I have been following the above program for some time on a cut which decent results.

    I recently discovered by accident that having more days rest in between each session has resulted in signifigant strength gains. Average of 10 – 12 days training each lift. Strength has gone up the past 5 training sessions where previously I was just maintaining or even loosing ground on some lifts.

    My recovery is less than optimal, I’m almost 50 and I don’t sleep well and have life stresses, jobs, kids, etc., I like a static schedule but am considering making this a permenant schedule given that it’s working so well. I would have never believed in the past that training a lift on such a infreqent basis would merit such results and maybe it’s because I was over reaching in the past. Do you have any thoughts/experience with others on this?

    Thanks! -John

    1. Andy Morgan

      Not sure what I can say here John. Sounds like you’ve found a good recovery balance and are doing well, which is great. Everyone is different in this regard though.

    2. Tom

      Your comment interests me as I’m 58 and don’t seem to be getting much stronger. I can’t tell what you mean by 10 -12 days training each lift. Do you mean you have that many rest days between squats for instance?

      1. John

        Correct, following the 3 day split above, 10-12 days in between each session instead of the 8 days above or once per week.
        Example:
        Monday: deads, chins
        Thursday: Bench, Incline DB
        Sunday or Monday: Squats
        Wednesday or Thursday: deads chins
        Etc.,
        I thought detraining would be an issue with that many days between, but turned out to be the opposite for me.

  22. Dean Shah

    Andy,

    Are forearm and calf sizes genetically pre-determined and that is why they are hard to develop or am I wrong and they can become as big as we train them to be as long as we do it right?

    Thank you, sir!

  23. edward

    my current routine is similar,
    day 1
    dumbbell bench 3 sets
    chinups 3 sets
    t bar rows 3 sets
    tricep rope 3 sets and then 1 or 2 sets of hack squats or front squats about 3 reps from failure
    2 sets for abs
    day 2 rest
    day 3
    front squats 3 sets
    romanian deadlifts 3 sets
    leg curls 3 sets
    calve raises 3 sets and 1 or 2 supersets of bench and chins about 3 reps from failure
    2 sets for abs
    day 4 rest then repeat, i do the same rest periods and rep goals would you suggest any changes?

  24. DarrenA

    Hi Andy

    Question on coming back after a break, after 2 months of continuous training.

    Generally the recommendation is to drop the weight after a break and build up the weight say from 70/80/90 then 100%

    What about instead dropping the reps and building up. So 100kg at 10 reps, and starting at 7 reps, working back to 10 reps over a few weeks.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Not sure. My gut says that dropping the weight, not reps is the best move, as the same weight at lower reps would still be more taxing on an unprepared CNS.

  25. Jimmy

    Hey man ! lets say im using this for aesthetics and im on a bulk, do you think this program would best fit me even if i am on a cut? and also is using only 2 exercises per workout session really enough? how long does it usually think to complete these workouts because it seems as if this could be done in less than 30 mins. if beneficial should i add maybe one or two exercise into these?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jimmy. If you are advanced enough to be considering the above routine (see the notes at the top) then this will be enough. See the site FAQ for answers to your question on additional exercises.

  26. Sam

    Hey Andy,

    I’m currently basing my workout on a Reddit post from a former client of Martins. The routine is slightly modified as follows:

    A: Back day
    Deadlift 2×3-4
    Overhead Press 3×6-12
    Pull ups 3×6-12
    BO Rows 3×6-12
    C.G. Chins 3×6-12

    B: Chest Day
    Incline Bench press 3×6-12
    Dips 3×6-12
    Push ups 2 sets

    C: Leg day
    Squat 3×4-8
    Calves 1×12-16
    Ab work 2 sets
    Barbell curls 3×6-12

    Have I strayed too far from the basics? Or will I burn out doing the above?

    What do you think? I’ve been working out on/off for the past six years.

    Thanks,

    Sam

      1. Sam

        Thanks Andy, was that guest post written especially for me!? Haha! Great read. Did you use only six exercises during your before and after photos you published?

        I’m just a little shocked here as it appears to go against everything I’ve ever been told! It’s just going from six exercises per workout (including directly working out with isolations) to say two big compound exercises is a big psychological shift to what I thought was the principles of an effective workout..

        I do now see the significance of this is that it allows one to focus on just a few pillar exercises, progressively increasing loads to achieve set goals. As this would of been lost during my previous workouts.

        Thanks,

        Sam

  27. steven

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been using this routine for a while and quite happy with the progress. Sorry if I’ve missed this question elsewhere on the site, but why does the rest time decrease from 3min to 2min. For strength gains guys like Martin seem to say 3min – 5min. Again, apologies if this has been answered before but I couldn’t find it.

    Cheers!

    1. Andy Morgan

      I don’t think it makes a huge difference, as long as the interval is fixed to retain the workout variables. It was Martin’s recommendation originally so you’re best off asking him bud.

  28. John

    Andy, me old bean…

    What do you think to Hypertrophy specific training? Load of old tosh or a valid scientific basis for building muscle that looks badass? Unsure if I’m allowed to post links to other sites here…but it’s pretty easy to find some articles with a bit of Google work.

    John

  29. Ryan

    I just found this site – I have to say its fantastic! I have spent over three hours pouring over the pages and this week I have switched to a 3 day split with RPT. I have always trained with RPT in some form or the other for the last 10 years. I’m currently looking to bulk. I have the ability to follow a great diet so the macros are not the problem. My question is which routine works best for bulking on the intermediate to advanced lifter. I am 6ft tall and at the moment weigh 180lbs with around 10-11% body fat (its been winter here for a long time ;) anyway my deadlift is 315lbs. My bench is 225lbs and my squat is 315lbs. These are my 5 rep numbers. I have not tried to max on dl’s or squats. I have done one rep 300lb bench in the past just to see. Anyway if you could point me in the right direction that would be nice as the vast majority of the articles I see here are for begginers or for cutting specifically. What does an intermdiate lifter who is already pushing limits for strength and due to age (30) doesn’t really want to push the weight that much higher or risk injury as I have had a few due to the heavy amount of sports I play. So I guess what I’m asking is if I want to clean/slow bulk to 190lb – 195lb but don’t really want to add much more weight to my lifts what program will work best. the big 3 or a modified version of 3 day split RPT? Sorry if the above is a bit rambling.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Ryan. To cut through your self identified ramble I’ll quote the key question:
      My question is which routine works best for bulking on the intermediate to advanced lifter?
      There is no single best routine, it depends on individual circumstances and experimentation. Kawamori’s article on, “The Principle Of Progressive Overload” should help bud.

      1. Ryan

        Yes what an awesome article and actually one I did read prior to posting my question above albeit not thoroughly enough. I now understand the concept better and over the years I have introduced progressive overload if not as scientifically laid out in the article by Kawamori. This is how I went from a scrawny borderline ectomorph at 150lbs at 17 to 180lbs with intermediate – advanced lift numbers. That being said my one question after pondering the suggested article is this: What would be the most effective way to introduce overload if I don’t want to increase weight? For example in the article he mentioned how ineffective it would be to do 17 reps at a certain weight even though that would essentially meet the ‘principle’ of overload. Is it adding sets? That would seem to be the only option but yet in your training guides you mention 3 – 5 sets is plenty and what the body can recover from. Any more is unnecessary. I already go as deep as I can on squats and touch my chest with the bar on every press and rest only 60-90 seconds between sets. Again I’m probably rambling and have answered my own question as you will most likely say its a combination of them all and trial and error for what works for me. I get that but the frustrating part is i’ve been stuck at my weight for quite awhile now with no gains. In the past i’ve been 190 but it was fatty. Trying to do it the ‘lean bulk’ way just doesn’t seem to work. If you can add anything it would be much appreciated otherwise I think I’ll add a set and a small amount of weight and eat more and be patient. Thanks again for a fantastic site.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Hi Ryan, glad you find the site helpful.

          “What would be the most effective way to introduce overload if I don’t want to increase weight? For example in the article he mentioned how ineffective it would be to do 17 reps at a certain weight even though that would essentially meet the ‘principle’ of overload. Is it adding sets? That would seem to be the only option but yet in your training guides you mention 3 – 5 sets is plenty and what the body can recover from. Any more is unnecessary.”
          Increasing the workload, which can be through any of the methods Naoki has listed above. Sets with reps past 12 have diminishing returns.
          The comment regarding sets of 3-5 being plenty a general guide. It is not set in stone.

  30. Jack

    Hi Andy,

    I’m a fairly experienced lifter (5+ years). Due to sporting commitments I am only able to go to the gym Sunday, Monday, Wednesday. I have used Martin’s RPT principles in my training in the past and achieved great results.

    My question is: would it be possible to do a 3 day RPT split training Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday? I generally recover quite well, but it is imperative that I have 2 days rest before playing football on Saturday. I have football training on Tuesday and Thursday evening. So I avoid weight training these days because it makes it to difficult to adhere to an IF eating schedule.

    Thanks in advance,

    Jack

    BTW just wanted to let you know that you’ve done a fantastic job with the blog and I’m a huge fan!

  31. Khuyen

    Hi Andy, I’m not sure if you have seen my previous post, but can I ask you again about increasing the weight?

    What is the rationale for prioritizing meeting the rep goal first before increasing the weight, even if the 1RM increment for the latter is smaller?

    Example 1 Weighted Chin up for 4-6 reps.
    Day 1: (150 bw + 30) x 5 => 1RM = 203
    Should I increase the weight by 2.5, so 1RM of 182.5 = 205 (+2 lbs) instead of trying for 180×6 whose 1RM = 209. (+6lbs). Adding 2.5lbs with same 5 reps feels easier than going to 6 reps.

    Example 2: Squat 6-8
    Day 1 180×6 => 1RM = 203
    Should I aim for more reps or add weights if
    180×7 => 1RM = 217 vs 185×6 => 1RM = 215 ?

    Is the whole point of having the range to make sure we can have small increments?

    Thanks,
    Khuyen

    1. Louis XIV

      Hi, Khuyen: speaking for myself, the 3 rep ranges offer more opportunities for *progression* (this is more satisfying on days that maybe the top set does not increase but you can add weight or reps on the other sets) than just having say, a micro-loaded approach in one rep set range.

      I also like prioritizing the rep goal first because it shows you “own” the weight and that can also help safety.

    2. Andy Morgan

      Is the whole point of having the range to make sure we can have small increments?
      Yes that’s right. If an increase in weight comes easier than an increase in rep number then do that.

      The lower the rep number for any given set, the harder each extra rep will be.

  32. John

    Andy

    Apologies if this has been answered in the q’s above.

    In our last communication, you advised to change over to a split, including dips. I’ve always had issues with dips in that it causes pain in my right shoulder. Have you any other exercises to replace it? Is it mainly for tricep work? (I realise it hits chest a bit as well) If so, I’m strong on skull crushers and just about any other tricep exercise other than bench dips.

    Thanks!

    John

  33. Greg

    Hi Andy,

    I am on the fence about whether or not to use the ‘Big 3’ of ‘RPT’ for my cut. I have used ‘RPT’ during my cut with you before with very good success but I have since threaded water”, so to speak, and taken some time off (been back at it for a couple of weeks now). I am now weaker than I was at the end of that cut. Saying that, I know strength wise, I would most likely be consider an experienced (advanced) beginner at best but my recovery times are not the greatest. Based solely on recover, I may be considered an early intermediate.

    Here are some stats that may help in giving me some advice. I am ~178lbs and ~18-20% Bf with the following lift stats, currently using RPT 3 days/week. Squat 240lb x 5 reps, DL 295lb x 5 reps, Bench 155lb x 5 reps, OHP 105 x 5 reps.

    Any help would be great!!

    Thanks

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Greg. You’ve had time off, go straight sets of 5 and work your way into it. Consider an A/B split. Rather then a full split or the same each day. Change it up as per recovery needs.

      1. Greg

        Thanks for the response Andy. I was leaning towards something of that nature. I will do an A/B type split.

        Another question though, since I am on a cut, should I go straight to 3 sets per exercise or go with 5 sets and reduce per recover needs?

  34. louisXiV

    Andy (others):

    Deadlifts

    Deadlifts are my best lift but an all-out set of 5 leaves me depleted enough such that I need to remove about 30% of the weight to manage a second set with more reps (say 8-10 reps). A third set would be with the same weight as the second set but then fewer reps than the second set. Thus, I am doing just 2 sets–a set of 4-6 and then another set of 8+ after removing 30%. (My overall routine is pretty much as per the basic 3-day template and I’ve been lifting for many years.)

    Perhaps I can benefit from a third set of deads and would like to know but the very idea of it seems daunting to me unless the top set had lower intensity.

    Perhaps I’m answering my own question and simply doing 2 sets of deads is enough. But
    would love to know how you Andy and you others are managing the recommended 3 reasonably hard sets of deads assuming the first set is truly demanding. Thanks.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Sure, two sets may be enough.
      Perhaps I can benefit from a third set of deads and would like to know but the very idea of it seems daunting to me unless the top set had lower intensity.
      Lower the weight till you can hit the rep range with good form for all reps. It will be very hard, yes. But this is big boys training now. A minimalistic routine needs to be balls to the wall to work effectively.

      1. Louis XIV

        OK. So you are saying THREE sets of deads mean more than one very hard one and perhaps a backoff? You yourself did/still do the 3 sets?

        If YES, I will drop the top weight a tad on the initial set and after that top set drop as needed to get into the two higher rep ranges for the two subsequent sets.

        Does that sound about right?

        1. Andy Morgan

          A ‘back-off’ set refers to a set that has been dropped in weight, this is not a description of effort. Every set in RPT needs to be pushed very hard. This is a benefit and disadvantage which I listed above.

          1. louis XIV

            I think I understand what you are saying. To clarify, I push all sets “hard”–the top set til I cannot get one more rep in good form.

            For me a back-off set is a second set with lighter weight than the first (to me, the 2nd and 3rd sets of RPT are “back-off—even if pushed til close to failure).

            I’ll just go with one set in the 4-6 range done hard as possible (so another rep cannot be done properly), followed by two sets (stopping, say, one rep shy of failure) with lightening the loads (considerably if need be) so I can get 6-8 and maybe 8-10 reps on the deadlifts.

            This is what I do on all other moves. But on deadlifts this must entail a reduction of much more than 15% of the load in my case– and more like 30% from the top set–in order to get the requisite reps.

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