Blog

The jacked athlete 31 plan Part 3 – The template

Articles Muscle gain / 08 September, 2020 /

By Christian Thibaudeau

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: THE TEMPLATE

 

I will provide you with a recommended periodized plan. However, I want you to keep something in mind: it is for illustration purposes. While you can certainly use the exercises and loading schemes mentioned, you can also use other approaches and movements that you found worked well for you in the past. This is to help you understand the concept behind the system.

Block 1 – Weeks 1 – 3 (performance weeks)

 

Monday

Exercises:

A. Front squat (squat pattern)
B. Incline bench press (press pattern)
C. Romanian deadlift (hip hinge pattern)
D. Chin-up, close supinated grip (pull pattern)

On this day you perform the eccentric phase of the movements slowly (5 to 7 seconds).

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 4 sets of 5 with a 7 seconds eccentric
Week 2: 5 sets of 4 with a 6 seconds eccentric
Week 3: 6 sets of 3 with a 5 seconds eccentric

Wednesday

Exercises:

A. Zercher squat (squat pattern)
B. Military press (press pattern)
C. Romanian deadlift with a band around the waist to add resistance (pulling you back)
D. Seated row, neutral grip (pull pattern)

On this day you include an isometric hold (3 to 5 seconds) on each repetition.

On the squat and press exercises the hold is performed at the mid-range of movement, during the eccentric phase. On the pull movement it is done at the peak contraction position. In this case, we also do it at the peak contraction on the hip hinge (because of the band resistance). However with a traditional hip hinge movement, we would do it at the mid-range point instead.

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 4 sets of 5 with a 5 seconds hold
Week 2: 5 sets of 4 with a 4 seconds hold
Week 3: 6 sets of 3 with a 3 seconds hold

Friday

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Pendlay row

These are performed with a normal repetition style. You control the eccentric without slowing down on purpose (2-3 seconds) and try to accelerate during the concentric phase.

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 6-6-4-4
Week 2: 5-4-3-2-1
Week 3: 3-2-1-3-2-1

Saturday

This is the gap workout. The exercise selection should be more individualized, to work on your perceived weaknesses or lagging muscle groups. But here is a recommendation based on what is not hit as hard on the other three workout days:

A1. Face pull
A2. DB lateral raise
B1. Cable curl
B2. Decline DB triceps extension
C1. Leg curl
C2. Standing calves raise (hold the peak contraction and the stretch 2 seconds each)

On this day we use more traditional “bodybuilding” loading schemes. I suggest using the same as on the hypertrophy week of the same block. In this case it means 3 work sets of 8 to 12 reps, with the last one being taken to failure.

I normally do no periodize the sets and reps on this day like I do on the main workouts. For the three weeks, we stick to 3 work sets of anywhere between 8 and 12 reps, with the last one being taken to failure.

Block 1 – Week 4 (hypertrophy week)

As we saw earlier, this week uses a more traditional “body part” split. To be precise, it uses an antagonist split, where two opposite muscles are trained on the same day. I recommend alternating one set of each (e.g. one set of bench press/rest/one set of curls/rest/one set of bench press/etc.) but you can do the exercises by themselves if you prefer that.

The weekly set-up looks like this:

Monday – Chest & Biceps

Tuesday – Lower body

Thursday – Back & Triceps

Saturday – Delts & Rear delts/Traps

Note that this is slightly different than a traditional antagonist split which normally pairs chest and back, then put biceps and triceps together. I personally prefer to use the split above which pairs one major muscle group with a smaller one.

In this block all exercises should be performed for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Out of those 3 sets, the last one should be taken to failure. Note that on squat and deadlift variations, “failure” means as many reps as you can with no form breakdown.

Work set 1 = 1-2 rep(s) short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = 1 rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps)

Here are some exercise recommendations. As mentioned earlier, feel free to use different but equivalent exercises if you want.

Monday – Chest & Biceps

A1. Incline DB press
A2. Standing barbell curl
B1. Machine chest press
B2. Rope hammer curl
C1. Pec deck machine
C2. Cable reverse curl

Tuesday – Lower body

A1. Back squat
A2. Lying leg curl
B1. Romanian deadlift
B2. Hack squat machine
C1. Glute-ham raise or back extension
C2. Standing calves raise

Thursday – Back & Triceps

A1. Chin-up close supinated grip
A2. Close-grip bench press
B1. Seated row, neutral grip
B2. Decline DB triceps extension
C1. Straight-arms pulldown
C2. Rope triceps pressdown

Saturday – Delts & Rear delts/traps

A1. Seated DB shoulder press
A2. Rope face pull
B1. DB lateral raise
B2. Rear delts machine (reverse pec deck)
C1. Plate or rope overhead raises (https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-do-high-rep-plate-raises-for-traps)
C2. Prone trap raises (https://www.t-nation.com/videos/tip-prone-trap-raise)

Block 3 – Weeks 9 – 11 (performance weeks)

 

We now switch to a “physical qualities” split instead of a “contraction types” split. We still use a whole-body approach three times per week, plus one gap workout, but now each workout focuses on a different physical capacity.

Monday – Whole-body Maximal strength

Wednesday – Whole-body speed-strength

Friday – Whole-body strength-speed

Saturday – Gap workout

Monday – Whole-body Maximal strength

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Chin-up, close supinated grip

Sets and reps:

Week 5: 2 sets of Poliquin clusters (5-6 reps per set with around 87%, or your 3RM, with 20 seconds between reps)
Week 6: 3 sets of Miller extensive clusters (5-7 reps per set with up to 90-92% of your max, with 30-45 seconds between reps)
Week 7: 4 sets of Miller intensive clusters (2-3 reps per set with 92-95% of your max, with 45-60 seconds between reps)

For more information about cluster sets, visit my article on that topic here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-best-strength-training-method-of-all-time

You don’t use a special tempo and the rest between work sets can be 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday – Speed-strength

Speed-strength refers to overcoming a light to moderate resistance with a very high movement speed (1 to 1.3 meters per second).

We are talking about jumps, loaded jumps, throws, sprints, hill sprints and lighter sets on the Olympic lift variations. We can also include striking a tire with a sledgehammer, battle ropes for max speed and regular lifting with 30-40% of your max, done with maximum acceleration.

As you can see there are many different options depending on your skill level. I will simply give you four exercise categories list, pic one exercise per category.

Category 1 – Lower body/anterior chain dominant (or balanced)
Box jump
Vertical jump
Vertical jump with knee tuck
Loaded jump squat (20% of your max squat)
Backward sled drag sprint (30-50% of your body weight)
Bulgarian split squat jump (10-20% of your body weight)
Speed squat with 30-40% of your maximum
Stationary bike sprint with high resistance (but you can still “sprint”)

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The sled drag is 20-30 meters. The stationary bike sprints are 10-12 seconds long.

Category 2 – Pressing
Plyo push-ups (depending on your level, either from a bench or the floor)
Medicine ball throw from chest
Medicine ball throw – overhead press
Medicine ball throw – push press
Medicine ball throw – overhead, backward, scooping motion
Push press with around 60-70% of your maximum
Power or split jerk with around 60-70% of your maximum
Speed bench press with 30-40% of your maximum
Speed military press with 30-40% of your maximum

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions.

Category 3 – Lower body posterior chain dominant
Broad jump
Broad jump from static start
Depth jump for distance
Jump split squat
Jump split squat with added weight (10-20% body weight)
Power snatch from the hang or blocks (60-70%)
Power clean from the hang, blocks or floor (60-70%)
Prowler sprint (50-75% body weight)

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The prowler sprints are 20-30 meters.

Category 4 – Pulling
Medicine ball slam
Kipping or butterfly pull ups
Bar or ring muscle up (kipping)
Speed Pendlay row (40-50%)
Explosive 1-arm DB row (40-50%)
Seated DB clean
Battle ropes, both arms at the same time
Sledgehammer striking

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The battle ropes are done super fast for 10-12 seconds.

Once you have selected your 4 exercises (that stay the same for the three weeks), you progress weekly by adding sets, not weight (because speed, not load, is the key variable).

Week 5: 4 work sets
Week 6: 5 work sets
Week 7: 6 work sets

Friday – Strength-Speed

Strength-speed is the second type of “power” and it refers to accelerating fairly heavy loads. The speed is a bit slower than with its speed-strength partner, 0.75 to 1 meter per second, but uses heavier loads.

The two best approaches here are:

1. Traditional strength exercises (bench, squat, deadlift, military press, rows, etc.) with around 60-70% of your maximum, for 3-5 reps lifted with maximal acceleration.

2. Power variations of the Olympic lifts (if you are competent with them). On these you can go up to 70-90% because of the nature of these exercises (you can’t do them without enough speed to get into the proper zone, even with max efforts), for 1-5 reps.

Your exercise schedule could look like this:

Option 1 – Competent with the Olympic lifts

A. Power snatch or power clean from the hang or blocks
B. Back squat
C. Push press
D. Pendlay row

The weekly progression would look like this:

Week 5: 4 x 5 (60% for traditional lifts and 70% for the Olympic lifts)
Week 6: 5 x 4 (65% for traditional lifts and 80% for the Olympic lifts)
Week 7: 6 x 3 (70% for traditional lifts and 85-90% for the Olympic lifts)

Option 2 – No Olympic lift

A. Back squat
B. Deadlift
C. Bench press
D. Pendlay row

Week 5: 4 x 5 (60%)
Week 6: 5 x 4 (65%)
Week 7: 6 x 3 (70%)

*VERY IMPORTANT: the concentric phase should always be done with maximal acceleration.

Saturday – Gap workout

I will not give you another gap workout exercise list, you can use the same as during block 1 or make the changes you want/need based on your own perceived weaknesses.

The main difference with block 1 is that you introduce an intensification method (like for the upcoming hypertrophy week).

Your sets now become:

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause

Block 2 – Week 8 (hypertrophy week)

 

IMPORTANT : I suggest keeping the same exercise for all the blocks when it comes to that hypertrophy week.

Since you only do them every four weeks there is no need to change the exercises, in fact it might even be more effective to stick to the same movements as there is a progression in the intensity of the sessions from block to block.

The only thing that changes versus the first block is the intensity of the work sets. We still have three sets per exercise. The first set is taken 1 rep short of failure, the second one is taken to failure (or technical failure on more dangerous lifts) and the third set is a rest/pause set.

In the rest/pause set you go to failure (or technical failure), you then rest for 15-20 seconds and perform as many extra reps as possible.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause

Between sets 2 and 3 you can rest up to 3 or even 4 minutes so that you can turn in a good performance.

Block 3 – Weeks 9 – 11 (performance weeks)

 

For this block we still use a whole-body approach focused on physical capacities, but we now introduce strength-endurance (resistance) and conditioning work.

Your weekly set-up becomes:

Monday – Maximal strength

Wednesday – Resistance

Friday – Power

Saturday – Conditioning

Monday – Maximal strength

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Chin-up, close-supinated

Week 9: Ramp to a 3RM
Week 10: Ramp to a 2RM
Week 11: Ramp to a 1RM

Wednesday – Resistance

Here I recommend using a circuit of four exercises, using fairly high reps. That way you train both systemic and local resistance.

Here is my recommendation (you can use equivalent exercises if you want):

A1. Front squat
A2. DB shoulder press
A3. Pin pull from below the knees
A4. Bent over DB row

You progress through the weeks by reducing rest intervals. Reps stay the same and you don’t have to increase the weight (but you can).

Week 1: 4 x 12 with 1 minute between stations
Week 2: 4 x 12 with 45 seconds between stations
Week 3: 4 x 12 with 30 seconds between stations

Friday – Power

On this day we will use a form of complex training which pairs two exercises for the same movement pattern (or part of the body). Each of these two exercises work a different physical capacity, here speed-strength and strength-speed. It is not a superset, you have a rest period between both movements (90-120 seconds between both, 3 minutes between sets).

We only use 3 patterns (squat, press, hinge) because each pair has 2 exercises.

Exercises:

*Note, I will put the weekly progression after each pair to make it easier to understand.

A1. Loaded jump squat
A2. Speed back squat

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 20% of max squat for the loaded jump and 4 x 5 @ 60% for the back squat
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 25% of max squat for the loaded jump, 5 x 4 @ 65% for the back squat
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 30% of max squat for the loaded jump, 6 x 3 @ 70% for the back squat

B1. Medicine ball throw overhead (push press)
B2. Push press

Week 1: 4 x 5 with lighter ball (10-15lbs) and 4 x 5 @ 75% for the push press
Week 2: 5 x 4 with medium ball (15-20lbs) and 5 x 4 @ 80% for the push press
Week 3: 6 x 3 with heavier ball (more than 20lbs) and 6 x 3 @ 85% for the push press

PAIRING C. OPTION 1 – with the Olympic lifts
C1. Loaded split squat jump
C2. Power snatch or power clean from hang or blocks

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 10% of bodyweight for the jumps 4 x 5 @ 75% for the Olympic lift
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 15% of bodyweight for the jumps, 5 x 4 @ 80% for the Olympic lift
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 20% of bodyweight for the jumps, 6 x 3 @ 85% for the Olympic lift

PAIRING C. OPTION 2 – without the Olympic lifts
C1. Loaded split squat jump
C2. Speed deadlift

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 10% of bodyweight for the jumps 4 x 5 @ 60% for the deadlift
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 15% of bodyweight for the jumps, 5 x 4 @ 65% for the deadlift
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 20% of bodyweight for the jumps, 6 x 3 @ 70% for the deadlift

Saturday – conditioning

On this day you work on your conditioning. It can be prowler pushing, hill sprints, KB swings, assault bike, rowing ergometer, etc. There are too many options to give you a specific recommendation, but try to keep the individual effort bouts around 2-3 minutes at a moderate intensity. Use a 1:1 work to rest ratio (if you can) and shoot for a total workout time of around 45 minutes.

Block 3 – Week 12 (hypertrophy week)

 

This third block should use the same exercises as the first two ones. The one thing that changes is that the intensiveness of the work is stepped up one more notch.

The first work set is taken 1 rep short of failure.

The second one is taken to failure or technical failure.

On the last set you go to failure, rest for 15-20 seconds and perform as many extra reps as possible with the same weight. Then you lower the weight by around 50% and get as many extra reps as you can.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause + drop 50%

Once again, take all the time you need between the second and third work set to ensure optimal performance.

Q & A

 

1. Can I add extra work for abs or forearms?

Yes, you can, within reason. You can add one of the following to the workouts: abs, calves, forearms/grip, neck or rotator cuff work. But I would recommend only adding one per session for a total of 3-5 work sets. While training each of these muscles will not add much stress to your session, if you go overboard, it can have a detrimental effect on recovery and progression.

2. Can I add steady-state cardio? And if so, when?

Absolutely, in fact, having a good cardiovascular base can actually improve your success rate on this program. Just don’t turn into a marathon runner. Adding 20-30 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio or 45-90 minutes walks a few times a week is perfectly fine. However, training for endurance performance at the same time as you are doing this program might hurt your progression. I like taking walks on the off days, as they actually help with recovery. You can definitely add a steady-state cardio session to your gap workout too.

3. Can I add high-intensity intervals?

I honestly would not recommend it. These have a much higher recovery burden than steady-state cardio, they lead to more adrenaline production which, when compounded with the adrenaline from the workouts, can lead to a burn-out (via beta-adrenergic desensitization). They can also suck the life out of your legs, which can be problematic with this program since you are squatting three days a week: if you do intervals on your rest days, it can impair the recovery from the previous day and decrease performance for the next workout. If you do them on the workout days, if can pile up to too much to recover from.

If you are dead set on using intervals, only do them once a week, at the end of the Wednesday workout.

4. Is it a good program to use when trying to lose fat?

First, understand that any program designed to make you stronger and more muscular will be less effective if you are on a caloric deficit while doing it.

That having been said, I used this approach with people dieting down (some even dieting down fairly aggressively) and they still progressed. However, what I noticed is that they started feeling bad fairly quickly even though they were still progressing. What I would recommend if you want to use this approach on a caloric deficit is to use a caloric deficit on the 3 performance weeks and go to maintenance or even a slight surplus on the hypertrophy week of each block. This will allow you to stay sane and likely get better long-term results too (if you can avoid going crazy on the maintenance/surplus week).

-CT

Christian Thibaudeau

Written by Christian Thibaudeau

Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 16 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Performance (of…