Putting it all together:
Now that you understand the basics of program design, you can start applying it to your own routine, periodizing your progress. Let's assume you've been following a three-day-per-week, full-body routine that contains two separate workouts alternated back and forth. (For example, you do Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday, Workout A again on Friday, then pick up with Workout B on the following Monday, and so on.) Exercises are paired and performed as alternating sets with one-minute rests between sets. So far, you've been doing three sets of 10 reps and using a 201 tempo. Your goal is muscle size. As a template, we'll use this:
2A Romanian deadlift
1b Incline dumbbell press
2A Dumbbell stepup
2b Bentover row
After six weeks, switch up the sets and reps. First, take an "unloading" week. This means drop the reps, weights, and volume so that the workouts are almost easy-the idea is to keep working out but allow your system to recover before you impose any tougher demands on it. Afterward, vary your volume so that you stay in the range that builds maximum muscle but also takes advantage of contributing qualities like more heavy strength work and lighter, higher-rep sets. So the next four weeks might look like this for both workouts:
Week 7: One set of 10 reps, 201 tempo, 60 seconds rest.
Week 8: Five sets of six reps, 201 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
Week 9: Eight sets of three reps, 201 tempo, three minutes rest.
Week 10: Four sets of 12 reps, 201 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
At this point, you have a good base of size, strength, and conditioning, and now you can alter the sets, reps, and tempo every workout for even faster gains. Try starting the week (say it's Workout A again) with a "heavy day" in which you perform a few low-rep sets. In your next session, Workout B, go lighter and do sets of higher reps. Finish the week with a moderately heavy Workout A for a moderate number of sets. The next week would begin with a heavy Workout B. For example:
Workout A: Eight sets of three reps, 201 tempo, three minutes rest.
Workout b: Four sets of 12 reps, 311 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
Workout A: Five sets of six reps, 301 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
Workout b: Eight sets of three reps, 201 tempo, three minutes rest.
Workout A: Four sets of 12 reps, 311 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
Workout b: Five sets of six reps, 301 tempo, 90 seconds rest.
From here, anything goes. Take another unloading week and then re-evaluate your goals. If you've been eating enough, you should be plenty big by now, and you may want to switch to a fat-loss protocol. In that case, you could drop your rest periods to 30 seconds, or perform the exercises as a circuit. If you're bored with the exercises, you could replace a few at a time. For instance, put a shoulder press in place of the dip and a seated cable row in place of the bentover row. Another option is to prioritize certain exercises-probably the toughest, most muscle-involving lifts like the squat and deadlift - by giving them more sets and using fewer sets for the easier exercises (such as the stepup).
After a few more weeks, you'll probably find that you've milked your workouts dry and your body is ready for something new. (So keep buying MF!) But you'll have accomplished months' worth of training with "one" deceptively simple program.