If you’ve enrolled in Unf*ck Your Program (including the new Offseason), you’ve certainly noticed that all of the individual plans are six weeks long, when most “cookie-cutter” programs are much longer. What’s the deal?
Well, hopefully you know that the whole goal of UYP is to get away from cookie-cutting and to develop a method of training that works for you (and if you didn’t know that, be sure to watch the video below)! In my opinion, six-week training blocks are the best way to get there, and I’ll explain why in just a minute. But longer training cycles absolutely have their own positives and negatives, and I think it’s worth exploring those, too — especially if you’re the type of person who enjoys planning for the long term.
Why Six Weeks?
The UYP plans are divided into six-week blocks because for most people, six weeks is the absolute minimum amount of time in which it’s possible to build strength. The sad reality is that strength is slow to develop, and consistency is the name of the game. If you’re switching plans every other week, you’re just going to end up spinning your wheels, no matter how hard you push yourself in the gym.
I prefer using the minimum block length here because of how much flexibility it provides. Remember, we’re designing the perfect training program by making small changes, and then sticking with those changes until we determine whether or not they’re useful. The faster you’re able to iterate through that process, the faster you’ll find your own ideal.
On top of that, smaller blocks can be more easily incorporated into the typical hectic schedule that most lifters have to deal with. In my experience, if you push yourself hard in the gym, you also push yourself hard outside of the gym, and that means you’re probably trying to balance a lot of different obligations, whether that’s family time, work travel, or something else. When these obligations interfere with a training cycle, it can be really frustrating, and you’re left wondering how to adjust. With a 12-or 16-week plan, it’s virtually inevitable that life circumstances will somehow requires you to alter your training schedule. Six-week programs are much easier to plan around.
The same goes for deloading: if you’re halfway through a hard training cycle and feel like you need a break, it can be difficult to decide if, when, and how to take one. With a six-week plan, you have the freedom to deload after you finish, or to roll right into the next one, depending on how your body is responding.
The Benefits of Longer Training Cycles
All that said, longer training cycles can be very effective for many people. Again, the name of the game is consistency, and that means the longer you can progressively overload (i.e., add a few pounds to the bar every time you train), the faster you’re going to get strong. Traditionally, longer training cycles begin using higher rep schemes — sets of 8-12, for example — and over time progress to sets of 5 or fewer. This is the same model you’ll find in my free beginner and intermediate templates, and it’s a very effective one.
Perhaps the most common “complaint” I receive about those plans is that the high-rep stages suck. And they do suck! I hate ‘em too. But I think it’s very important that if you’re a beginner or intermediate, or if hypertrophy is an important goal for you, that you stick it out and complete those weeks. They give you more time to practice your technique using light weights, they are generally considered the most effective way to build muscle, and they offer a smooth transition from any other program you might have been using previously.
So why aren’t they found in UYP? No, it’s not because they suck (but they do). It’s because UYP is all about learning to make small changes, and in all honesty, any small changes you make during a high-rep phase of training will make only a relatively small difference when it comes time to max out. And, even if they do make a big difference, by the time you’ve progressed from high reps to singles, so many things inside and outside the gym will have happened in the meantime that it’s pretty hard to determine what was responsible for your gains (or lack thereof).
In short, long training cycles and high-rep phases aren’t really the right fit for UYP. But that doesn’t mean they’re useless for lifters past the beginner and intermediate stages. In fact, I’d argue to the contrary! I’ve written about this pretty extensively, and if you’re interested in incorporating high reps or using longer training cycles, I strongly recommend you check out this article: How to Use High Reps to Get Strong(er)
So that's the story. I hope it helps you understand why UYP is designed the way it is – and I hope it helps you to develop a more effective training program for yourself! Have you used long training cycles with success? Share your secrets in the comments!