This program made applying principles of hypertrophy straightforward and easy. I felt much leaner, more muscular, and like I had gotten back everything I lost during the first Covid shutdowns despite how little physical change showed in progress pictures. I easily avoided pain or injury, a big priority for me. I would recommend this program - absolutely during a bulk and with some tweaks during a cut.
Strength was not a focus, so I have no strength progress to report. Program Goals
Training History (condensed)
- Undo any atrophy from Covid gym closures
- Look more casually jacked while still fitting in clothes off the rack
- Try a hypertrophy-specific program for pain management
- Ages 12-20: workout VHS tapes
- Ages 20-25: love/hate relationship with cardio
- Ages 25-27: the bro split years
- Ages 27-30: the crossfit years
- Ages 30-32: the pretend powerlifter years
- Ages 32-35: the constantly injured years
- Ages 35-pre-covid: intuitive injury-avoidant heavy lifting
My lower back cannot handle or adequately recover from heavy squats and deadlifts despite how much my brain loves doing them. I have seen a variety of orthopedic specialists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and wise oracle-like trainers over the years. It is what it is. Because of my back, any lifting or attempts at following a program would have me either A. Override progressions and get all off course, or B. Follow progressions because I feel fine only to be sidelined with sciatica or nerve pain for days to weeks. I had been looking for a program that was not based around heavy compound lifts, and this caught my interest. The Program
I did the 4x per week template. Here is a view of exercise layout and selection, my mesocycle 1/week 3 program, and my mesocycle 3/week 3 program
. RP’s Female Physique program is broken into 4 distinct mesocycles: Basic Hypertrophy, Elevated Volume, Metabolite, and Resensitization. The program is designed so you can run it back to back …. forever? I used an older version of the template which has you increase volume over 4 weeks, do 1 week of deload, and move to the next mesocycle. I’m told these templates have since been updated to 6 weeks on, 1 week deload.
Each day is full-body but rotates primary focus via exercise order. You are given a body part, menu of exercise options, and spot to fill in your estimated 10RM to generate the program. You rate the movements after each workout - too easy/too hard/just right - to adjust the volume of the same body part in subsequent workouts. The program adds sets and reduces your reps-in-reserve target as you move through each mesocycle to give you more volume and push closer to failure. Rep ranges for mesos 1 and 2 were 6-20, meso 3 were 10-30, and meso 4 were <12. Beginning and End Stats
| ||Start ||End |
|Date ||July 23, 2020 ||Nov 14, 2020 |
|Age ||37 ||38 |
|Height ||5'7" ||5'7" |
|Weight ||157.5 ||155.9 |
|Pain ||Minimal ||Minimal |
Minimal visual progress, but goals achieved:
- Undo any atrophy from Covid gym closures - Done (top is before program, bottom is after). I have shape again, and depending on the lighting the difference can be striking. I often wake up with ab definition.
- Look more casually jacked while still fitting into my normal clothes - Done.
- Try a hypertrophy-specific program for pain management - Done and successful!
I decided to go all-in on RP and use their diet app at the same time. You are given macro targets for the day that are split between meals
, but the way you enter food does not count calories or all macros. I’m happy to expand on this but don’t want to turn this into a diet review. The RP diet app encourages you to build meals using whole foods and a protein, fat, and carb component at each meal. It also spaces your macro targets for more carbs pre- and post-workout and adjusts your daily carb level up depending on how you rate the intensity of your workouts.
I was actively tracking my intake with the app for two months prior to starting, and I got a really good idea of my maintenance level. (I also tracked a few days using the LoseIt app to see what a typical RP day added up to
.) Pre-training I averaged 2700 calories per day. During the program I had a daily calorie target around 2100 per day plus 2-3 untracked takeout meals per week. I expected this to be around maintenance or a very slight deficit. My Experience Note that due to Covid restrictions all gym sessions were maximum 75 minutes. My weights were very very light because I had done zero training for 4 months prior. Due to a second round of shutdowns I fell three weeks shy of completing the full program.
Takeaways and Future Plans
- I liked that the structure clearly added volume over time. I found it stopped me from wanting to add accessories or junk volume at the end of workouts, time permitting.
- I found the menu of exercises as-written to be limited and with minimal guidance on how best to select them.For example, “Quads” showed up four times in Meso 1 with the options of High Bar Squat, Sumo Squat, Leg Press, Barbell Walking Lunge, Dumbbell Walking Lunge, Front Squat, Low Bar Squat, Close Stance Feet Forward Squat. Should I have chosen a different movement for each instance? Should I have chosen two? It sounds minor writing it up, but this overthinking movement selection was a pain when setting each mesocycle.
- The lower body focused days could be brutal. Deadlifts followed by squats followed by walking lunges? Dead. Reserved for weekends so I could lay on the couch the rest of the day. I had never trained legs in this way before, and I started to see quad definition for the first time probably ever.
- Sets increased over the weeks, but my time in the gym could not. That made rest times get shorter, and I found the reps I could hit suffered without sufficient rest. If I could have bumped my typical 90-second rest up to 2-3 minutes for big movements, I think I could have worked significantly harder.
- I relied on machines where I could in the interest of time. I liked having a balance between barbell work and hammer strength type machines, especially as I was focused more on stretch/contract and maximizing range of motion as a priority. Machines were a big help during the metabolite meso since failure came so quick.
- I felt fatigue on this program like I don’t ever remember. I was laying on the floor between sets trying to recover and walking home from the gym at a snail's pace. My NEAT was tanking if I didn’t watch it. I didn’t want to walk the dog any longer than necessary, I found zero time for easy cardio, and household chores were ignored. My body was tired all the time. Which brings me to…
- I was hungry ALL THE TIME. Especially during the elevated volume mesocycle. I was waking up hungry, I was always thinking about food, I was craving chicken and potatoes, not pizza. Because I was actively trying not to gain weight, this was mentally very draining.
- For the first time in years I did not have to take any time off for lower back or sciatica pain. With as bad as the systemic fatigue was, I never once felt like I had overworked my back or put myself in a position that needed more recovery. This is huge for me.
- I think this program would be fantastic on a bulk. I felt like my body wanted more food, wanted to grow, and you would be doing enough volume to put it to good use. But I have no plans to bulk any time soon so not for me.
- I would run this program on cut with some changes. To counteract the incredible increase in appetite and decrease in other movement, I would make the program easier. I think reducing working weights, conservatively rating workouts, and trying a little bit less would still provide plenty of stimulus for muscle retention during a diet.
- I would not run this program again at maintenance without making the same adjustments above. There was too little visual progress for the amount of effort in and out of the gym. Making the program easier would make walks, cardio, or other daily activity come naturally, keeping my TDEE about the same.
- I have no idea if I actually look different or if it’s my own perception. I think look a lot more muscular in casual before/after pictures than I do in my official ones. I am an almost 40 year old woman with a long training history. I'm all out of newb gains. I was not looking for dramatic results, so I'm not disappointed here.
- I think this program is good for beginners and more experienced lifters. It would be very easy to choose your lifts, plug your numbers, and go. Given my experience, I feel confident making adjustments to different parts of the program to meet my needs. Whether that’s making it easier to fit diet goals or choosing a different variation of “quads” to keep myself interested, the template is a great tool. Mike Israetel is on so many podcasts and puts out so much content than anytime I had a question on his methodology, he was somewhere answering it.