Strength Training

The 54321 Workout

March 8, 2012

We believe much of our success come from our Hybrid Strength Training approach Put simply, Hybrid strength training recognizes the benefits (and similarities) of the various strength and bodybuilding methods (e.g. bodybuilding training, strength training, powerlifting, machine-based training, free weight training) and seamlessly integrates them into one comprehensive program. We’ve found that Hybrid Strength Training provides superior results than exclusively using only one method since certain forms of training benefit specific fitness components that other methods miss. The BIG key is: The way we design and teach our Hybrid Training concepts does not interfere with the effectiveness of the various methods we use! In fact, it enhances them and makes our workouts more interesting, more balanced and much more effective at getting you bigger and stronger! In this article I’m going to share with you our 54321 method, which is one of the simple, super-effective methods we us for designing a fully-comprehensive, Hybrid Strength Training workout that’s sure to give you Full Spectrum Strength!

What is the 54321 Workout?

The numbers “5,4,3,2,1” represent the amount of sets we perform, and the order of which we perform them in the workout. Basically, the exercises that we perform the largest number of sets are the most intense and most complex exercises. Therefore they’re prioritized early on in the workout. These are also the exercises that are done for the least amount of reps. As the workout progresses, we perform the less intense and less complex exercises, for less sets which are placed latter in the workout. These exercises are done for a larger amount of reps since the weight load used is less. The workout is ordered this way to accommodate for neural and physical fatigue as the workout progresses. Putting complex/compound lifts at the end of your workout when you’re mentally and physically drained is an elevated injury risk we’re not willing to take.

The 54321Workout and Full Spectrum Strength

It’s no secret that different rep ranges elicit different muscular responses. In short and simple terms, the science on sets and reps has shown us that: Sets using loads you can only perform for 5-6 reps or less are great for increasing “Strength.” Whereas using loads you can perform for 6 reps or more are great for increasing “Size.” If you think of your body as a computer, lifting heavy loads under 6 reps is helping to upgrade your software (your CNS). It basically teaches you how to recruit more motor units, which bring more muscle into the game! Lifting medium loads over 6 reps is like upgrading your hardware (your body). It creates physiological changes in your body to increase the cross-sectional are of your muscle while also increasing bone density and connective tissue strength. Now, just as you wouldn’t want to buy a computer with the latest software running on outdated hardware, or vice versa - The two training qualities (Size & strength) are certainly NOT mutually exclusive! That’s why we use BOTH forms of training to create what I call “Full Spectrum Strength.”

The 54321 Workout Templates

Here’s the basic set and rep range, along with the description of our favorite strength training modalities we use on our 54321 workouts:

FIVE

5 sets of 3-6 reps using a compound lift or an explosive exercise.

FOUR

4 sets of 6-8 reps using another compound lift (not used already).

THREE

3 sets of 8-12 reps using a compound exercise, an isolation exercise, or machine exercise.

TWO

2 sets of 12-20 reps using an isolation exercise or machine based exercise.

ONE

1 set (of a different exercise) to failure as a “finisher” or “Burnout.” Reps can vary from 10-100 depending on the exercise chosen.

Adjusting the 54321 to YOUR Goals!

The beauty of the 54321-workout concept is not only that it’s fully comprehensive, plug and play system. It can also easily be adjusted to emphasize the set and rep ranges, which most closely fit with your training goal! If your main goal is to get STRONG, we recommend spending more of your training time on the exercises in the 5 set and 4 set range. Since these are the set and rep ranges, which have been shown to help you improve motor unit recruitment and improve force production most effectively. We recommend performing multiple exercises in each: 5 set and 4 set category. And, one exercise in the other 3,2 and 1 set category. If your main goal is to get HUGE, we recommend spending more of your training time on the exercises in the 4,3 ad 2 set range. Since these are the set and rep ranges, which have been shown to create cell swelling (the Pump) and help you improve muscle hypertrophy. We recommend performing one exercise in the 5 set category and multiple exercises in the 4,3 and 2 set range. Keep in mind that the 54321 concept is a Hybrid Workout System designed to help you get both, Bigger and stronger, regardless of how you spin it. But, manipulating the variables in the way I provided above above simply helps you to target your efforts to emphasize one goal or the other, and accelerate faster toward achieving that goal.

Training Movements vs. Muscles!

As you can clearly see by the two workout splits above: there’s more similarities than differences between the exercises used in strength program and the Size program. Aside from some emphasis differences in set and reps used, the biggest difference between the Strength and Size workout is the way I’ve classified each training day. On the 3-Day workout split for size, you can see I’ve labeled the workouts by the muscles trained that day. This is a great way to ensure each major (and minor) muscle group is trained and allowed optimal recovery between workouts. On the 3-Day workout split for Strength gains, I’ve classified each workout by the movement pattern emphasized that particular training day. Since strength is more about performance, this classification system ensures each of the three main movements is trained and allowed to recover.

Tempo

On the lifts in the 5 set and 4set range, we recommend lifting the weight as fast possible. The weight loads in these rep ranges will be the heaviest. So the movement will not appear fast. But, to ensure maximal intensity: we cue our athletes to “explode into the weight” on each rep. On the set 3,2 set range exercises, we recommend to use a normal tempo, which involves a natural concentric and a controlled (2-3 second) eccentric. On the 1-set burn out finisher exercise, we simply tell our athletes to “just get it done” in good form. In other words, we throw tempo cues out the window for the finishers.

Rest

On the lifts in the 5 set and 4set range, we recommend resting 2-3min between sets. On the set 3,2 set range exercises, we recommend resting 60-90 sec between exercises. On the 1-set burn out finisher exercise, we simply tell our athletes to “finish in as little time as possible.”

Our Favorite “Plug & Play” Exercises

To close out this article I’ve provided you with a (non-exhaustive) list of our favorite exercises to use within each given rep range of our 54321 workouts. Since there’s so much crossover between strength training and bodybuilding modalities, as I mentioned in the beginning, you’ll see that we often use different exercise concepts can be applied to several sections of the workout:

For the 5-4 set Range:

- Powerlifts like: Squat, Deadlift and Bench press variations - Compound Strength lifts like: Presses, Row, Chin up/ Pull-ups, etc. - Explosive exercises like: Olympic Lifts and variations, Box Jumps, Long Jumps medicine ball throws, etc.

For the 4-3 set Range:

- Powerlifts like: Squat, Deadlift and Bench press variations - Compound Strength lifts like: Presses, Row, Chin up/ Pull-ups, etc. - Machine Exercises - Bodyweight Exercises

For the 3-2 set Range:

- Compound Strength lifts like: Presses, Row, Chin up/ Pull-ups, etc. - Isolation exercises - Machine Exercises - Bodyweight Exercises

For the 1-set Finisher (Burn Out)

- A timed set of basics exercises performed for high reps (50-100) for time, like: push-ups, bodyweight squats, Band pull aparts, etc. - Complexes using multiple barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight or Band exercises strung together (back-to-back) with no rest between exercises. - Farmer Walks

Final Thoughts

As you can see, at Performance U we don’t to limit ourselves to using any particular strength training method or pledge our allegiance to any school of thought. We’re dedicated to designing the best hybrid programs that using the best means available. And, we feel the 54321 workouts is one of those programs.