Reverse Periodization- Modern Way of Growing Muscles

If you’ve been lifting weights for a while & noticed that the gains have come to a halt, this article is going to be your savior.

I’m quite sure if you go to a gym, the usual way for you (or anyone) to train is likely similar to this:

  • Set 1 15 reps
  • Set 2 12 reps
  • Set 3 10 reps

The rep range might vary but most trainers advise to start with light weights and gradually move up.

There is nothing wrong with this. The body needs a stimulus to grow muscles and if done with proper form and technique this method allows for that to happen. But over time this method leaves us on a strength and muscle gain plateau. This is a phase of all work and no gain where no lifter wants to be stranded.

Let me explain how. Let’s move to the bench and perform the classic bench press. Suppose you start set 1 with 50 Kg, move to set 2 with 60 Kg and at last channel all your energy to lift your heaviest set i.e set 3 with 70 Kg.

So here’s the catch; This Set 3 which you thought was your heaviest set and your maximum lift for the Bench Press isn’t actually so.

How & Why you ask? The answer is because you pre-fatigued your muscles doing the lighter sets. It’s very much a possibility that you could’ve even lifted 72.5 or 75 Kg had your muscles not been tired.

What Reverse Periodization all about? Reverse Periodization is the modern science of strength and muscle building. Though not very popular it’s proven to work. And you’re obviously concerned with the results, not the popularity. Reverse periodization is a training protocol where you make the heaviest lifts during the starting sets and reduce the weights very slightly or allow it to remain the same in the successive sets.

What is the benefit of doing this?

1. You’ll be able to make maximum lifts in accordance with your true potential.

2. Faster muscle growth
Science has proven that heavy lifts are superior muscle stimuli and put you in a greater muscle building mode. With Reverse Periodization your overall lifting weight will be heavier, making your body a muscle building machine.

3. Faster strength gains
The heavier you lift, the stronger you get. With reverse periodization, you’ll be surprised how quickly your weight numbers go up especially on the compound moves.

Let us go back to the bench and see what happens when you incorporate reverse periodization in your training. Previously you were starting your workout with

  • Set 1 at 60 Kg
  • Set 2 at 65 Kg
  • Set 3 with 70 Kg

If you use reverse periodization in your training you’ll begin your Set 1 with 70 or probably 72.5 Kg. In your next set, you’ll reduce the minimum weight you can lift. And on your third set, you’ll again do the same. You’ll notice that within 2 weeks you’ll be starting your set 1 with 75 Kg. Because by then your body will have adapted to the 70 Kg load more efficiently, which was not happening previously.

Previously the total load you lifted were, 60+65+70= 195 Kg

Now with reverse periodization, you’ll be able to lift 70+67.5+65= 202.5Kg
The numbers may differ a little but it’ll surely be more than your previous protocol.

Note: It is very important to do proper warm up before you jump on to Reverse Periodization because your CNS is not prepared to make such heavy lifts during the start of your workouts.

Warm up routine:
Set 1: 50% of your working set 5 reps. (so if you aim to start your first set with 70 Kg your warm up will be at 35 Kg )
Set 2: 70% of your working sets 3 reps.

David Obrien

I expertise in personal training, natural bodybuilding contest preparation, fat loss, sports nutrition, general well - being and body transformation. I believe in overall fitness i.e. how good you feel, how well you function and how good you look, which is a by function of the first two.

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