That means you’ll need around 10 minutes to complete all reps while using a heavier weight, thus accomplishing more in less time. And not only that, but you’ll also enhance the production of anabolic hormones, increase the buildup of lactic acid and stimulate blood flow into the working muscles, all of which are precursors of growth. And that’s the basic philosophy of RP-21: reaping bigger muscle-building benefits by getting more done in less time.
Enter the Rp-21 Program
Frequency and Exercises
This program includes four training days (two lower-body and two upper-body days) and three days of rest, which are optimally split like this:
- DAY 1: Lower-body training
- DAY 2: Upper-body training
- DAY 3: Off
- DAY 4: Lower-body training
- DAY 5: Upper-body training
- DAY 6: Off/conditioning day
- DAY 7: Off
This is the list of recommended exercises:
- Squat variations: barbell hack squat, full squat and front squat
- Deadlift variations: conventional, sumo and Romanian
- Bench press variations: flat, incline, dumbbell and close-grip
- Overhead press variations: standing, seated and push
- Pull-up variations: pull-ups and chin-ups
- Hip thrusts
The first and most important exercise on each training day always includes 7 sets of 3 reps with 60 seconds of rest, while the following ones are designed as 6×5 with 30 seconds of rest between sets – these are performed with moderate loads that will effectively destroy your muscle fibers after a few rounds.
Note that you can be flexible with your choice of exercises, and it’s best to rotate moves so that you can hit your target muscles with a wide variety of training stimuli. However, you need to consider the practical limitations of the conditions you’re working out in, i.e. equipment accessibility, proximity between machines, etc.
You’ll start with 70% of your 1RM on the first week of the program, then progress to 80% of 1RM during the next couple of weeks. Still, if 70% of 1RM feels like too much at the beginning, go lighter. As each week passes, you’ll gradually increase the weight and the rest period will feel like it’s getting shorter, so be prepared for that. At some point you’ll inevitably fail to complete all required reps on the RP-21 set – when that happens, just continue with the program and try to improve next week’s numbers.
However, if you fail to reach 21 reps within 3 consecutive workouts, replace the exercise with a different one that targets the same muscles, but don’t reduce the load.
If you don’t have an idea what your max is on the exercises you’ve chosen, try maxing out a few weeks before you start the RP-21 program to get your starting point.
Train with the following cycle for 3-6 weeks before introducing a de-load week.
DAY 1: LOWER BODY
- Barbell Squat: 7 sets x 3 reps, rest: 60 seconds
- Romanian Deadlift: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Barbell Hip Thrust: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Dumbbell Walking Lunge: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Seated Calf Raise: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
DAY 2: UPPER BODY
- Dip: 7 sets x 3 reps, rest: 60 seconds
- Chin-up: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Overhead Press: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Barbell curl: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Skullcrusher: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
DAY 3: OFF
DAY 4: LOWER BODY
- Barbell Hack Squat: 7 sets x 3 reps, rest: 60 seconds
- Dumbbell Lunge: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Glute Ham Raise: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Weighted Burpee: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Standing Calf Raise: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
DAY 5: UPPER BODY
- Pull-up: 7 sets x 3 reps, rest: 60 seconds
- Gironda Neck Press: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Seated Dumbbell Press: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Preacher Curl: 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
- Dumbbell Flat Tight Press (elbows tucked in): 6 sets x 5 reps, rest: 30 seconds
DAY 6: CONDITIONING
Hill sprints, bodyweight complexes, jump rope, farmer’s walks, etc.
DAY 7: OFF
You can replace any of the exercises included in the sample workouts with other tough moves that target the same muscles, preferably from the list we’ve mentioned earlier. But once you choose your exercises, stick with them for 3 weeks before switching to new movements.
In terms of weight progression, you should aim for a 2.5-10 pound increase (2.5-5 pound increase is typical for upper body movements, while a 5-10 pound increase is better suited for lower body movements) on the weight used for the main 7×3 lift each week, assuming you were able to complete the prescribed 21 reps with the previous load. For the rest of the exercises, use light-to-moderate weight, depending on your strength progress.
Finally, don’t even think about doing this kind of high-intensity heavy training every single week, or you’ll end up with complicated joint and tendon injuries and a nasty burn out. After 3-6 weeks of following the RP-21 protocol, take a de-load week with a high-volume, low-load training scheme.