My Approach to Lifting


I’ve received a couple of inquiries over the past few days about why my lifting routine is so complicated and if it can be simplified. While I very honestly don’t think it’s complicated, one of this blog’s goals is to demonstrate just how easy getting ripped and staying ripped can be. To that, I do agree that it can be further simplified; truth be told, I generally do use the simpler version of the Ripped Forever Method during most sessions.

Two main principles

1. Lift very heavy barbells with great focus using basic compound motions and aim to improve (add reps or weight) each session.
2. Do not spend more than one hour in the gym.
Plus this:
3. Walk. A lot.

Lifting using the RF RPT Swing method

RPT is an acronym for reverse pyramid training. It’s not a new idea, and it’s not my idea, but I use it heavily (no pun) and tailor it to my own needs (which might be the only unique part). It’s simple: lift the heaviest load the smallest number of times on the first set and progress to lifting the lightest load the largest number of times on the last set.

I always perform three main lifts (Stronglifts style) followed by two to three “accessory” lifts. The accessories are also almost exclusively performed with a barbell or, less frequently, with dumbbells. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever machines.

Day A main lifts:
Barbell back squat
Push press
Deadlift

Day B main lifts:
Barbell front squat
Flat bench press
Pendlay row

Day A (this was my exact main lift session from Friday 7/25):

Barbell back squat:
Warmup (this goes quickly): naked bar x 10 | 95 x 7 | 135 x 5 | 185 x 3 | 205 x 1
Working sets: 235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 185 x 8

Push press:
Warmup: naked bar x 8 | 95 x 4 | 115 x 3
Working sets: 140 x 3 | 135 x 3 | 125 x 4 | 115 x 5 | 95 x 7

Deadlift:
Warmup: 135 x 4 | 185 x 3 | 225 x 2 | 250 x 1
Working sets: 270 x 2 | 250 x 4 | 225 x 6

Day A accessory lifts:
Dead dumbbell swing press (I think I invented this): 80 x 10 per side (that’s it)
Supine (palms up) T-bar row: 90 x 7 | 90 x 7 | 90 x 7
High cable row (literally the only exception to the machine rule): 120 x 8 | 120 x 8 | 120 x 8

More on the accessory lifts

After the main lifts, I perform 2-3 accessory lifts, usually for three sets performed using a “freestyle” modality. Here’s an example of some of the options:

  • I might do 3 sets of speed dips, pumping out as many reps as possible in 20 second sets.
  • I might do 3 sets of 5 reps each of heavy weighted dips
  • I might do 3 sets of 8 reps of moderately-weighted chinups
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a decline or incline bench press
  • I might do 3 sets of 6-8 reps of good mornings
  • I might do 1 set of 5 reps on each side of my body of a heavy dumbbell suitcase deadlift
  • I might do 1 set of 10 reps on each side of my body of a dead swing press with a dumbbell
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a T-bar row
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a high cable row (one of the only times I use a machine)
  • I might do three sets of 12-14 bodyweight pullups

This method has been extremely effective for me because it address both physical AND mental obstacles. The goal is dynamic. Regarding the RPT portion, set two is different than set one, set three is different than two, etc. After grinding out a seemingly insurmountable and endless set of three heavy squats, I am elated in knowing that I will not have to do that again today (or tomorrow or the next day for that matter). I particularly enjoy using this method because it hybridizes strength and hypertrophy lifting modalities. Very heavy weights and low reps stimulate brute strength development (think powerlifters and strongmen/ women), while lighter loads and higher reps stimulate sarcoplasmic development a.k.a. hypertrophy (think bodybuilder).  What’s particularly beautiful to me about the “swing” method is that the next time I perform these same exercises, I might shift the entire rep range up and load range down. So instead of:

235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 185 x 8

…I might opt for something like:

210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 175 x 10 | 155 x 12

Crazier still (it’s not really crazy) is going for something like:

235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 185 x 8 | 175 x 10

See what I did there? There’s a big load and rep gap between sets 2 and 3.

The goal is to always add more weight or an extra rep to the analogous set performed during the same exercise last time around. It’s so flexible and freaking wonderful. Please do let me know if you have any questions.

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