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It's all been building to this: the hybrid conditioning phase. You've invested six weeks of your time in really tough workouts, and now it's time to really test yourself—and reap the benefits.
Why test yourself now? Because it's one thing to be strong. It's one thing to be powerful, and it's one thing to look good. But can you give it to me in the fourth quarter? Or are you somebody who's going to be sitting on the bench during the second half because you can't hang?
You may think I'm talking about sports, but I'm not. I'm talking about hard training—the type that will truly get you and your physique where you want to be. After surviving this phase, you'll have a new appreciation for the term "work capacity." Whatever comes next in your training life, you'll be better prepared to face it—and ace it.
True Muscle Phase 3 Overview
Watch the video - 8:47
Don't worry, I won't make you do anything that looks bizarre in the gym. You won't be hogging equipment or getting weird looks. You'll just work hard, enjoy the hell out of it, and leave the gym every day drained and confident that you're building your best body.
Just because this phase has the word conditioning in the title doesn't mean you're going to be training like an endurance athlete. Far from it! While your heart and lungs will definitely be tested during these workouts, this is not a cardiovascular training program.
You'll still be lifting heavy loads in this phase. You'll still be doing explosive exercises. The only real difference is that you're going to combine exercises together, building off of the previous phases, and fitting more work into the same amount of time.
To continue the computer metaphor from the previous phases, you've already increased your hardware (muscle), and your software (strength and force production). Now it's time to boost your battery life.
Thinking in terms of physique, this is when we're really going to start increasing the metabolic demand. You also have all this muscle you've been working to put on, not just to look good, but to be strong. We're going to make sure that you continue to be strong throughout an entire workout. That's called power endurance, or strength endurance, or work capacity.
Phase 3 The Plan
Just like in Phase 2, you're going to perform three full-body workouts a week for the next three weeks. Once again, I recommend that you don't train on consecutive days. Why? These are total-body workouts, they're terribly intense, and you're going to need that recovery in order to come back strong and achieve the intensity I've demanded in the workouts.
If you've been utilizing the active recovery I've talked about in the previous phases, you can still do that. But I want to make sure you get at least one day, and maybe two, of full recovery. Give yourself time to find the sweet spot, and don't be afraid to err on the side of recovery until you do.
Rope face pull
Workouts A and B have a similar structure. Both start with three quad-sets, four exercises apiece, all performed back to back before you rest. The first quad-set will focus on heavy weights and explosive exercises, while the second and third will feature some more familiar bodybuilding movements and rep ranges.
This workout may sound really long and complicated—"Oh man, quad-sets?" But if you do it right, you're still going to get through this workout in roughly an hour. Workouts 1 and 2 are set up with the sets in descending order: 4 sets, then 3, then 2. So the time you lose at the start, you'll make up at the end.
Medicine ball roll-out
For Workout C, you'll perform two complexes, rather than quad-sets. The difference is that in a complex, you use the same equipment for all movements. One is a medicine-ball complex, and the other will use a single pair of dumbbells. I wrote a lot about complexes in my book, "Strength Training for Fat Loss," for the simple reason that they work. Because you're using the same equipment for each movement, you have less room for rest. It's going to demand plenty of effort.
At the end of each workout, you'll finish with some brief but very intense conditioning work. So get ready to suck some air! Workout C is particularly special, because you'll finish with an old-school favorite: shuttle runs. Those will punish anybody—even the fittest athlete.
The final three weeks of True Muscle add an element of conditioning to the program, but they also include a lot of explosive lifting. See if you can hang with Nick and Steve!
Phase 3 Nutrition and Supplementation
Just like in Phase 2, your nutrition plan doesn't change here. That being said, now that we're six weeks in and entering the final stretch of Weeks 7, 8, and 9, you've probably added some muscle, some strength, and yes, some appetite. I don't want you to ignore that!
These workouts will also increase the metabolic demand beyond what you were experiencing in Phase 2, so I want to make sure you increase your serving size a little bit, relative to what you were eating before. I really want you to make sure you're getting adequate calories to sustain your activity.
The supplementation plan is as important here as ever, because sustaining your intensity through the workout is as crucial as ever—if not more. The big three—protein, creatine, and caffeine— are still essential allies for what you do in the gym. But I'd really like you to consider adding a supplement containing beta-alanine into the mix as well, if you haven't already. The research shows fairly conclusively that beta-alanine can help you to get one more rep. If there's a phase when that becomes more important, it's this one.
My approach is as easy as it sounds. If what you've been taking and eating up to this point has been working, by all means don't stop now. On the other hand, if you've been struggling to keep up and eat right for the last six weeks, revisit the nutrition plan on the program overview page and make whatever changes are going to allow you to finish strong.
Phase 3 Watch and Learn
What's going to help you kick off Phase 3, and end this the True Muscle program with a bang, is watching the video of Steve Weatherford and me going through the first workout of this phase. Pay attention to how I coach the exercises and the intensity that Steve brings. You're going to see him really get tested and challenged, so whatever you can learn will help you immensely.
This phase is how you test how tough you are. It's a confidence-builder. Embrace the challenge and see what you're really made of!