Universal Hypertrophy is a simple routine based around compound barbell exercises mixed with unilateral work. It’s main goals are:
- Physical conditioning and muscular growth(hypertrophy) for beginner weight lifter.
- Proficiency in squat, bench press and deadlift. Pretty much every more advanced routine out there will require ability to perform those lifts and their variations.
- And finally, to lead you into an intermediate program.
- two workouts A and B three times per week. This means one week you’re doing A B A and next week B A B. Mon/Wed/Fri is a common weekly setup.
- 8 repetitions per set, 1-4 sets per exercise depending on age, recovery capabilities, goals etc.
- six fundamental types of movement covered: squat, deadlift, horizontal and vertical press, horizontal and vertical pull
- direct arm work because everyone likes it and there is no reason to exclude it
- upper body unilateral training largely erases issue of muscular imbalances which sometimes occur in beginners using bilateral training exclusively (barbell-centric programs with low exercise variety)
- lower intensity than 5×5 programs allows for better focus on form in all exercises and lower risk of injury/strain while still providing decent strength increase as well as improved work capacity
- simplified weight progression
Program allows anywhere from 1 to 4 sets of 8 repetitions per exercise with the exception of first three weeks.
Week 1: Sets per exercise – 1 Repetitions per set – 15
Week 2: Sets per exercise – 2 Repetitions per set – 10
Week 3: Sets per exercise – 3 Repetitions per set – 8 (Deadlift stays at 2 x 8)
Week 4: Start following the program as it is laid out on the spreadsheet
Of course if you feel like you want to take it easy for whatever reason(previous injury, age, not sleeping very well, strenuous manual labour etc.) you can run the program at 2 or 3 sets instead of 4 in majority of exercises. Or you want to improve your upper body and put less focus on squatting by reducing sets to 2 because your quads are already massive. Why not? It’s totally flexible and neither repetitions nor sets are – uh – set in stone.
However if your goal is optimal and quick progression – stick to the routine as it is.
You managed to perform all reps in your last set in given exercise? Great, for your next workout add between 2.5-5kg(5-10lbs) depending on how hard it felt to perform (this is known as RPE – rate of perceived effort, although it’s not directly used in this program). Don’t worry if you increased the weight too much – you can simply reduce it for your next workout.
It is important to remember that repetitions need to be performed in a controlled manner with attention to form – the first one, last one and every single one inbetween, in each set – this is how your nervous system will learn the motion patterns associated with each exercise and how you can keep from injuring or straining yourself. Don’t worry if initially the weights feel light – just focus on practicing the exercises correctly. They will soon enough start getting heavier and the routine – harder to perform. You should be in no rush to get there. If you can’t complete the necessary repetitions it means the weight you are using is too heavy and you should make adjustments for your next workout. This however should not happen for a while if you don’t overestimate your capabilities early on. In regards to rest periods between sets, it’s 2-5 minutes or “when you’re ready”.
Please ensure that your warm up has the following: moderate intensity(50-60%) cardio 10-15 minutes, joint rotations, dynamic stretching(especially the posterior chain), and low intensity plyometrics followed by 1-2 warm-up sets with lowered weight. Never, ever begin your workout without proper warm up.
When you can’t complete all repetitions in an exercise
Eventually you will arrive at a point where adding the smallest amount of weight means not being able to complete all your repetitions in one or more exercises. It’s commonly called “stalling” and is perfectly normal. But don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Here is what you need to do:
- I will make an assumption – one that puts your diet in caloric surplus and recovery on a decent level. If those things aren’t spot on, fix them first. And if by chance you are thinking about running this program in deficit … You might want to reconsider. This is a moderate volume(for a beginner of course) high frequency routine and it’s not designed to be run in caloric deficit. It’s doable, you just won’t be making as much progress as you could and stall much quicker on everything.
- If you fail on completing your repetitions on the same exercise two workouts in a row, deload(reduce the weight) that exercise by 10% and continue with the program as usual.
- Eventually most exercises will go through this process (some twice or even three times) leading to a situation where you’re hardly making any progress. At this point you most likely have been going to the gym non stop for at least 3-4 months with little time off and possibly last few weeks of that time were spent training close to the limit of your current physical capabilities. Take a week off training and embrace free afternoons (or mornings) to enjoy life and get some rest. Allow your connective tissue and central nervous system to catch up and recover.
- You can now switch to an intermediate routine, any popular Push/Pull/Legs or Upper/Lower split with 2x week muscle training frequency would be fine.
Good luck and sweet gains!