5-10-20 Protocol For Hypertrophy

As the Iron Game has progressed it has generally become accepted that in hypertrophy focused trainee's you generally benefit from exposure to multiple different rep ranges. Sets of heavy singles, doubles, triples, fives, tens, twenties... Hell I've done and seen crazy stuff like 100 rep sets even.

As I've mentioned before, hard training is good training. If you are busting your ass your work will be rewarded. Bigger muscles, leaner physique, and most importantly we are tempering our minds to be able to withstand any hardships that come our way. These kinds of sets teach us that we CAN push through when it feels like we can't go on and when our brain is telling us how easy it would be to "just stop already!"

I have come up with a "brainless" way of making sure you get exposed to varying rep ranges, which will help you build not only a great physique, but stay healthy as hitting higher reps helps to build up the smaller, stabilizing muscles and helps to bring more blood flow through the joints you train. This isn't a "Program" as it doesn't lay out specific lifts and progression, but it is a good way to layout an individual workout should you find you just wanting to go in a smash it.

5-10-20 Protocol

This really is a protocol you could take into nearly any Body Part workout. It has guidelines but in reality is quite flexible. The guidelines are as follows:

  • You will do sets consisting of 5 reps, 10 reps, and 20 reps
  • 5 sets in each rep range
  • Start With a Heavy Compound Movement, Progress to a medium weight Assistance movement, and finish with a Single Limb or DB movement

5 Rep Sets

Sets of 5 are generally regarded as being that good blend of size and strength training. Heavy enough to force you get stronger, but still getting enough reps in to tear some muscle down and get some growth benefits out of it. Because you are going to be lifting heavy here, you want to use a stable, compound movement that distributes the load across as many muscles as possible.

Some Good Exercises For Sets of Five:

  • Bench Press
  • Shoulder Press
  • Dead Lifts
  • Squats
  • Pull Ups
  • Rows

As you can see, this is where most of the heavy, basic, bread and butter lifts are put, and for good reason. They hit the most muscles and set the stage for the rest of the workout. After you hit the main work with enough weight and volume, you can focus on a bit more "detail" with the 10 rep sets

10 Rep Sets

With the 10 rep sets we are still going to stick with big, compound lifts, but this is where we get to use a little bit of variety to help up bring up our weak points and work on building targeted mass a bit more effectively that with the 5 rep sets. In many programs this is what would be called "assistance lifts," or lifts that help build the lifts we use in the sets of 5.

Some good examples:

  • Incline / Decline Bench
  • Seated Shoulder Press / Behind The Neck Presses
  • Front Squat
  • Leg Press
  • Romanian Dead Lift
  • Shoulder / Chest Machine Press
  • T Bar Rows / Hammer Strength Rows / Lat Pull Downs

So as you can see its generally another big lift, but not something you would want to go super heavy on. Pick lifts that help to build the lifts you are trying to get stronger in the sets of 5.

20 Rep Sets

These are the higher rep sets we are going to be using the really finish off the chosen muscle group. As alluded to earlier these are more than just about building big muscles, these are the sets that will challenge your mind.

These aren't the brutal sets of 20 rep squats or Fatality Sets that we do sometimes at the end of the main work, but rather a way to target the smaller muscles safely and effectively, while sparing the joints and small ligaments/tendons that are also important to train up.

I like to keep the isolation and unilateral exercises in this group, as they generally benefit from a higher rep range due to their nature as being single joint, "small muscle" exercises. There are tons of exercises to use in this category, and you can mix and match as you see fit on weekly basis if you want.

Some Good Choices For 20 Rep Sets:

  • Front / Side / Rear Delt Raises
  • DB Bench or Shoulder Press ( even unilateral )
  • Walking / Side / Reverse Lunges
  • One Arm Row or Lat Pull Down
  • Single Leg DB Dead Lift
  • DB Curls / Tricep Extensions

Of course nothing is set in stone, and if you want to do more than 20 go right ahead. Here is a short clip of Mike Rashid doing "Dirty Thirty" side laterals to finish up a brutal Shoulder workout.

Feel free to take this 20 rep recommendation and increase it to 30, 50, or even 100 every once in a while. Its not the number that's important, its the training and mental effects that we are after.

Putting It All Together

Doing this Protocol will expose your body to 15 hard sets, 175 productive reps (not including warm ups), hit a variety of rep ranges, and even challenge your mind there towards the end.

As I mentioned in the beginning this isn't a hard and fast template to follow for the rest of your days, but rather a "brainless" way of what to do in the gym that day should you find yourself asking that question.

So the next time you want to hit the gym and don't know exactly what to do for the day, try this layout and you will hit everything you need to hit.

For those looking for a bit more guidance, and want to know exactly what it takes to train like Mike Rashid and the Alpha Crew, check out the eBooks section of the website. A single session with a personal trainer can run 100 bucks, and these books give you months of instruction and less than half of that.

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