How many guys do you know go to the gym regularly but still make no progress? They get to a certain level and stay there. Forever. As hard as it is to admit it, maybe you’re one of them. The problem is usually because the same things that worked when you were a beginner don’t work anymore—you can’t just add weight to the bar every week or go to failure. The solution is to alternate heavy lifting with weeks when you use lighter loads for more reps. Follow our plan for five to 10 weeks and start breaking barriers again.

How It Works:

Lighter loads and more volume (sets x reps x load) provide a hard workout without being too stressful, and they help you recover after weeks of highly intense training (low-rep sets with heavy weights). So you’re getting the best of both worlds in this program—big pumps one week and big weights the next. On volume weeks, the weights will feel easy, since you’re coming off a week of heavy training. On intensity weeks, you’ll feel strong and focused because you’ll have to work up to only one or two hard sets. This back-and-forth undulation not only keeps your muscles guessing and prevents overtraining, it also provides a mental break and makes training more fun.

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Find Your Number:

A lifter conservatively assumes his bench press max is 235 pounds. Based on the chart, that gives him an eight-rep max of around 190 pounds (80% of 235). In Week 1, a volume week, he’ll use 85% of 190—which is 160 pounds—for all his sets. In Week 2, an intensity week, he’ll use percentages of his one-rep max (235 pounds).

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Frequency: Perform each workout (Day 1, 2, and 3) once per week. 

Time Needed: 45 minutes 

How to Do It:

Perform the exercise pairs (marked “a” and “b”) as alternating sets. Complete one set of a, rest, then one set of b, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete. Do the remaining exercises as straight sets.


Exercise 1

Bench Press

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Exercise 2a

Off-Set Split Squat

Sets: 3 Reps: 10 (each side)

Hold a dumbbell with your left hand at shoulder level, standing with your right foot in front of your left. Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

Exercise 2b

Dumbbell Push Press

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Dip your knees and then explosively straighten your legs and press the weights overhead using the momentum from your lower body.

Exercise 3a

Staggered Stance Bentover

Sets: 3 Reps: 15 (Each Side)

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your left leg in front of the right (your weight should be on your front leg). Bend forward at the hips and, with your back arched, row the dumbbell to your side.

Exercise 3b

Cable Woodchop

Sets: 3 Reps: 15 (Each Side)

Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and split your legs so that one foot is a few feet in front of the other. Rotate your torso diagonally downward until the handle ends up at the outside of your opposite leg.