Two Day Split
The Big Six template is a balanced program based on the six fundamental body movements: horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull, quad dominant movements, and hip dominant movements.
|Workout A||Workout B|
|Big Six Template|
|Bench Press||Military Press|
|Row||Pull Ups (or Pulldowns)|
Is it for you?
Add up your current bench, squat, and deadlift one rep maxes (1RMs). If your total falls somewhere in Table 1, this training program is for you. It should put you into Table 2 within a year.
|Weight (lb.)||Below Average||Average||Above Average|
|Table 1: Untrained Male Totals|
On average, a man can expect to gain about 35 lbs of muscle over a lifting career with about half of that coming in the 1st year. So a 200 lb man at 30% body fat could become a 195 lb man at 10% body fat. A 150 lb man at 10% body fat could become a 190 lb man at 10% body fat. At the end of the year, you'll be a big step closer to accomplishing that transformation for yourself.
|Weight (lb.)||Lightly Trained||Moderately Trained||Highly Trained|
|Table 2: Trained Male Totals|
Sports scientists use the term "untrained" to describe the physical state of someone who has not lifted weights in the previous one or more years.
People that have been lifting may still rank as "untrained" however. While they have most likely gotten stronger than they were before and moved up the ranks, they haven't yet differentiated themselves from people who don't lift as a whole. On the other hand, people classified as "trained" are nearly guaranteed to lift.
You will get the best results by starting with three workouts per week.
- Monday: Workout
- Tuesday: off
- Wednesday: Workout
- Thursday: off
- Friday: Workout
- Saturday: off
- Sunday: off
After no less than 6 months of solid training, you may switch to four workouts per week.
- Sunday: Workout
- Monday: off
- Tuesday: Workout
- Wednesday: off
- Thursday: Workout
- Friday: off
- Saturday: Workout
Your gains will be proportional to the amount of effort you put in, up to a point.Number of Sets vs Expected Gains
- 1 Set
- 2 Sets: 50% > 1 set.
- 3 Sets: 67% > 1 set.
- 4 Sets: 97% > 1 set.
- 5 Sets: 16% > 1 set.
- 6 Sets: 28% < 1 set.
The best way to find out what's right for you is to take a couple weeks to ramp up the volume to a level you are comfortable with. The volume you settle on will largely be determined by your level of conditioning or General Physical Preparation (GPP).
After initializing the app with your current rep maxes for the main lifts, go into the routine customization section by selecting the gears icon in the upper right corner of the main screen. Browse to primaries and change the progession style to sets. This will keep the weight constant from workout to workout and increase only the number of sets. As soon as you reach a comfortable number of sets, go ahead and switch back to mass progression. See tip #2 in the Recovery section of Getting Started.
In the sample below, a lifter would do well with two sets. There is still room to add weight to the bar for a while. If the lifter went with three sets, just getting through the number of sets would be a challenge even before adding weight in each workout.
|Table 5: Sample Acclimation Phase|
There is no magical number of reps per set. So don't spend too much time thinking 8-12 reps is good for hypertrophy while 3-5 reps is good for strength. If you're not making progress in a rep range, it's good for nothing. That is why you need to cycle your rep ranges.
However, as you progress in strength, the mean intensity of your training will have to increase in order to drive further progress. Notice the reps getting lower in each cycle.
Rep Range Cycles (*Rep Progression)
This routine will use three basic rep cycles outlined below. For example, you start off the first cycle with 15 reps, progress on to 10 reps after stalling and finally to 5 reps. The weight on the bar should be increasing nearly constantly through the rep cycle.
- First Cycle: 15/10/5
- Second Cycle: 12/8/5*
- Third Cycle: 10/5*/3*
Reps less than or equal to 10 should all be done until plateauing (described below).
Types of Progression You Will Use
- Mass Progression: Aim to increase the weight on the bar in every workout. A 2.5% increase is a good long-term number but you will be able to add more in the beginning, less as time goes on. Just don't add more than 10lbs at a time for lower body lifts or 5lbs for upper body lifts.
- *Rep Progression: The number of reps increases each workout. Once you can do your initial rep target plus two additional reps (e.g. you can do 3x7 instead of 3x5), increase the weight on the bar 2-10% so that you drop back to your initial rep target.
There are six core lifts in this program. Each one will follow it's own schedule. For example, if your bench is stalling and your squat is progressing, move on in the bench and keep doing what you're doing in the squat.
Let's use the bench press to see how it works. Start with the first cycle and 15 reps. Do the acclimation phase to adjust the number of sets to your ability. Say you determine that 2 sets of everything felt okay but 3 sets was too much. You decide to go with 2 sets across the board. (Sets and reps can be changed by clicking on the gears icon next to the workout icon).
Your first workout you complete 2x15 on the bench. The next time you bench, increase the weight by 5lbs or so (the app will add 2.5% automatically). You keep going like this for a few weeks until you get to the point where you can't add more weight and still complete 2x15.
In that case, on your next bench day, add 5lbs to the bar and do 2x10 instead. Next time, add some more weight and so on. You should find this first 2x10 workout and the next few fairly easy because you were doing 15 reps with about the same weight. That will give you a little recovery time before it starts getting hard again.
Repeat the same process of adding weight until you max out on 2x10. But this time, before moving on to sets of 5, give sets of 10 a few more tries. If you can't get your 2x10 after three workouts, or your total reps start dropping, you've plateaued. Add another 5lbs and do 2x5. Again, you'll get a few easier workouts to recover.
When you plateau with 2x5 and you've given it several tries you have two choices what to do next:
- repeat the first cycle with 3 sets instead of 2 or
- move on to the second cycle.
For maximum gains, use option 1 until you reach 4 sets before moving on to the second cycle.
Restarting the Cycle
When you come to the end of sets of 5 reps and decide to repeat the cycle, take 68.5% of your 5 rep weight and do sets of 15 with that. So if you ended your bench with 2x5 at 200lbs, restart the cycle with 3x15 at 135lbs. Add 5lbs in the next workout, repeating the same process.
Do the same thing for the second cycle. Go as far as you can with sets of 12, then 8 giving that a few tries when you reach your limit, until you get to sets of 5. This time you'll try to do extra reps with the same weight instead of adding weight to the bar (switch progression to "Reps"). When you can complete sets of 7, the app will ask you if you want to reset the reps to 5 with a little extra weight. Agree and keep going until you can't squeeze out any extra reps.
After plateauing with 5 reps in the second cycle you can now increase the number of sets to 5 and repeat or move on to the third cycle.
The third cycle uses mass progression for sets of 10 and rep progression for sets of 5 and 3.
Use this system for each of your lifts. The upper body lifts are likely to plateau before the lower body lifts, so cycle your lifts through the rep ranges independently.
After a few months you might find yourself having repeated the first cycle three times with upper body lifts and moved on to 4 sets on the second cycle. Meanwhile, your lower body lifts are still on their second time through the first cycle with 3 sets. That's expected. The big six program becomes a personalized program through use.
Should I go to Failure?
Yes and no. It depends on what "failure" means.
- Technical Failure: Cheating your way through the set in any way.
- Concentric Failure: You are unable to lift the weight for another rep.
- Static Failure: You are unable to hold the weight at any point in the range of motion.
- Eccentric Failure: You are unable to lower the weight under control.
- Absolute Failure: a combination of all of the above types
Technical failure will always occur first. That is where you should stop the set. There is a time and place for other types of failure but not in this program.
Using the squat as an example, after a few reps you start feeling it and take short pauses between reps. That's failure. You won't use rest-pause sets at this stage. Or maybe the last two sets wore you down and you need an extended rest between sets before your third set. That's failure. And most commonly--partial range of motion and ignoring tempo. You are tired and you know if you squat all the way down so that your hamstrings touch your calves, you won't be able to get back up. So you do quarter or half squats instead. Fail. Or the set calls for four seconds down followed by three seconds up. The first few reps are good then you squeeze out the last reps at a quicker tempo. Fail.
Other than for reasons of injury prevention, stopping the sets at technical failure will allow for greater long term progress. Cheating your way through the workout looks and feels good initially because you handle more weight but it's more of a short term ego boost rather than smart training.
Of course, in order to recognize technical failure, you will need good technique to begin with. In addition to good form, don't neglect tempos or rest intervals. Doing so would introduce unplanned variations of stimulus.
More About Tempos
We take the position that the tempos are best thought of as concise summaries of a particular lifting style rather than specific requirements for elapsed time during each phase of the lift. In other words, the tempos are flexible as long as you get the underlying concept of the way the lift should be performed.
The first two tempos will be used to augment hypertrophy while the second two will facilitate functional improvements in strength.
This is the first tempo you will encounter. Instead of counting it out, just try to use a smooth, controlled descent and ascent without any pauses in between.
Here you want to place more emphasis on feeling the muscles working through the range of motion by slowing the reps down just a little bit. Again, there is no need to count it out. Just concentrate on the muscle contractions instead.
With this tempo you want a smooth, controlled descent followed by a tight pause before an explosive ascent. Using the squat as an example, lower yourself into the hole and pause there for a second without relaxing or bouncing, maintaining full tension. Then drive the bar upwards as hard as you can. No rest at the top between reps.
Lower the weight with control and lift it as hard as you can. This one is simply moving the weight back and forth between points A and B.
Modifications - Adding Secondary Exercises
While the big six exercises cover nearly every muscle in body, most people will find that some parts need a little extra attention. The most common muscle weaknesses are the vastus medialis, hamstrings, scapulae retractors, and external rotators.
Keep in mind that most of your effort should be directed into the primary exercises. Therefore, secondary exercises are usually performed at the end of a workout and only used if there is a clear and specific need. In fact, it is strongly recommended that you don't use any secondaries until you have been through a couple cycles on all your lifts.
That said, let's take a look at a few examples. A basic workout might look like this:
- Squat 3x12
- Bench 3x12
- Row 3x12
Suppose your bench is lagging. You decide to utilize secondary exercises that you think will address your weak points. Adding in a little extra core work is also a good idea.
Your new workout might look something like this:
- Squat 3x12
- Bench 3x12
- Row 3x12
- Incline Dumbell Press 3x15
- Decline Sit Ups 3x12
When progress on the secondary stalls, you should change the exercise variables (sets/reps/intensity/tempo) or just rotate in a new secondary exercise. For example:
- Squat 3x12
- Bench 3x12
- Row 3x12
- Seated Chest Fly 3x15
- Decline Sit Ups 3x12
Don't forget that the secondary exercises are used to facilitate progress on the primary exercises, not hinder progress!