Another Josh Hillis Gem

My library of books and magazines sweeps over a century of writings in several languages and dozens of different goals. I can pull out dozens of methods of getting bigger, stronger, faster and better, but rarely does something make me stop and laugh and wonder:


“Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?”


It’s so simple you might miss it. We know from the research of Delorme and Watkins that somewhere between 20 and 30 total quality reps per lift each workout is “all you need.” Of course, the sets and the load can make this sound either really easy or impossible.


Josh Hillis recently spoke in Chicago and he made a point so simple that I wonder how we all missed it. Let me summarize his approach to getting variation into your reps and sets that will keep you coming back month after month after month to the weightroom.


His point was this:


Week One you do ONE set of exercises per bodypart.

Week Two you do Two.

Week Three you do Three.

Week Four you do Four.

And, you simply repeat that.


Add the end of the four weeks, you can either repeat the exercises you have been using or switch them around to another variation.


The research for the past sixty years seems to support Delorme and Watkins point about total quality reps. So, lets try something simple:


Week One: One set of twenty. Now, in some movements, like the squat, this is going to be exhausting. Load will have to be light and I would recommend erring on even lighter than you think the first month. This week is also the deload week so enjoy the change up in load, reps and sets.


Week Two: Think about two sets of 15. This will still be in the higher rep range, but you will certainly feel the bodybuilder’s pump here.


Week Three: The classic three sets of eight workout will be fine. This workout has been tested, tried and triumphed by a lot of lifters. Always assess the load on the LAST set here.


Week Four: the traditional power, bulk and bodybuilding workout of four sets of five. Use more weight on the bar. Use spotters and train heavy and hard. Next week, we deload!

At the start of Week Five, slide back to one set and assess. The weights will “feel light” and the workout will go very quickly.


Pick basic movements for this workout.

Push: Bench and Military Press

Pull: Rows and either Pull Ups (loaded) or Pulldowns)

Squats: Back Squats will be the only option for some, but the other variations are worth learning (overhead, front and Zercher)

Hinge: Deadlift and DL variations (Trap Bar, Rack DL, Snatch DLs)


If you want to do more, do more exercises like arm work and all the rest during the first two weeks of the month. For the two heavy weeks, cut back all of the extra and focus on the big lifts.


We all know that we need to cycle load, reps and movements. Josh’s idea is a simple way to make it work.

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