Traditionally, training cycles have followed the seasons: bulk through the fall and winter, then cut through the spring to be shredded for the summer months. Once Memorial Day hits, it’s maintenance mode until Labor Day. The hope is always that you can maintain some semblance of abs through the barbecues and parties that are seemingly every weekend with extra cardio and being uber strict with your diet Monday through Friday.
It’s time to flip this outdated periodization cycle on it’s head though, because there’s a better, more efficient way to train during the summer to maximize your results while allowing flexibility in your schedule to actually get outside and take advantage of the weather.
There are a number of factors unique to the summer that lend this time of year to be the best block of the year to make serious strength gains and build muscle.
- Less Stress: Many industries calm down a bit over the summer, leading to a few more long weekends and fewer hard work deadlines. Couple this with more time outdoors, getting Vitamin D levels up, and more down time with family and friends and you have probably the lowest stress levels of the year (unless your family and friends suck, of course, in which case you should find new ones.)
- A Surplus of Calories: It’s grilling season, which means you’re going to eat like a king.
- Lower Training Frequency: Summer weather means you should be taking advantage of being outside as often as possible, because, for most people, there’s a finite amount of time to enjoy it. Even though you love to train, there are sure to be family vacations and get togethers, so you probably won’t be in the gym quite as often as you are during the winter months.
On the surface, 2 of these 3 factors appear to be all gloom and doom for your training, but, with the right program, they actually lend themselves to being huge opportunities:
- Lower stress and higher vitamin D levels will help your hormonal profile, which puts you in a better position to build muscle and strength.
- Extra calories means you have the building blocks to build more muscle.
- With a lower training frequency, you’ll be able to train with a higher intensity.
This training program is designed to take advantage of all 3 of these factors with 3 full body sessions/week. Full body workouts are going to accomplish a few things:
- You will be making sure that you never miss training any muscles through the course of the training week if you do happen to miss a training day for some reason, and
- The systemic stress on the body will remain high even as the daily volume for any particular muscle groups will be on the lower end, because the relative intensity will be up.
The first exercise of each day is going to be focused on building pure strength. You’ll build up to a single heavy set for a predetermined number of reps, then do a back off set with 90% of the heaviest weight you built up to. You can stick with the same exercise for 3-5 weeks while trying to set different rep maxes, or you can change the lift weekly. The most important thing is that you are going to try to set a rep PR for whatever exercise you choose to do that day.
Between your ramp up sets, you’ll be doing an explosive exercise. This will not only be efficient time wise, but the loaded exercise will improve your power output on the jumps and throws, and vice versa. Training for strength and power is going to optimize your ability to build muscle.
The 2nd block is going to be a tri set of a heavy upper body exercise, a heavy lower body one and a core exercise. These are meant to be loaded heavy, with rest times between :60-:90 between exercises. These are paired exercises, not supersets, so don’t get so carried away with how fast you go that you limit the loading. You can pyramid the weight up on these, go straight sets, or build up then back down, depending on how you feel that day.
Lastly, you’ll have another tri set that that pairs some pump work with an accessory lower body exercise. This will give you an added lower body stimulus without heavy spinal loading, which will ensure that while you’re getting a serious training effect, your wheels will be fresh to train again within 48 hours.
1A. Deadlift Variation (Conventional, Sumo, Trap Bar): build up to 3-5 RM, then 1 back off set @ 90% of the top end weight for same # of reps
1B. Broad Jump 3×5 (done between ramp up sets)
2A. DB Bench Press 3-4×6-10
2B. Safety Bar Squat 3-4×8-12
2C. Medicine Ball Rollout x30 reps
3A. Skater Squat 2×6
3B. Band Resisted Pushups 2xAMRAP
3C. Chest Supported Row 3×12-15
1A. Bench Variation (Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Close Grip Bench Press, Neutral Bar Bench Press): build up to 5-8 RM, then 1 back off set @ 90% of the top end weight for max reps
1B. Medicine Ball Chest Pass 3×8 (done between ramp up sets)
2A. Heavy Chin Up 3-5×3-6
2B. 2 Arm Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat 3-4×6-10
2C. Bench Side Holds 2-3x:10-:15
3A. Standing 1 Arm Landmine Press 3×8-10
3B. Slider Leg Curl 2-3×6-10
3C. DB Hammer Curl 2-3×8-12
1A. Squat Variation: (Back Squat, Front Squat, Safety Bar Squat, Box Squat): build up to 3-10 RM, then 1 back off set @ 90% of the top end weight for max reps
1B. Box Jump 3×3 (done between ramp up sets)
2A. 1 Arm Dead Stop Dumbbell Row 4×6-10
2B. Trap Bar RDL 4×6-10
2C. Half Kneeling Pallof Press 2×8
3A. 1 Leg Squat 2-3×6
3B. 4 Way Band Pull Aparts x100 reps (25/ea way)
3C. DB Skullcrushers 3×10-15
Finish each day with 5-10 minutes of hard intervals or hill sprints, and you’re good to go.
The most important thing to focus on with this program is your effort. You aren’t doing a ton of exercises and the volume is relatively low each day, so attacking each rep of every single set is going to be paramount. Focus in on your warm up, take as many ramp up sets as you need, and when it’s go time, fire on all cylinders.