The most important number you need to know, and how it relates to building size and strength!
The nuts and bolts of what you need to know. . .
The number 3, and its connection to building strength and size, simply cannot be ignored.
For optimal development, the general recommendation is to perform three separate exercises that stress a muscle at different lengths, with three different loads to fully recruit and exhaust the muscle and stimulate maximal growth. To increase the rate of development, the general recommendation is to train the muscle, or movement, three times per week.
The amount of sets we think about performing generally starts (and ends) with three. The number 3 is everywhere!
Intensifiers like drop sets, and rest-pause sets seem to generally be performed in threes. Specialization programs generally involve training the same lift, or musculature, three times per week. As it relates to “bodybuilding” oriented workouts, a muscle is generally hit from three different angles.
There’s no denying the fact that the number “3” is extremely prevalent as it relates to most training programs these days. Below are some ways in which I incorporate the number three.
Power of 3 Intensifiers
By now, nearly everyone is aware of the correlation between time under tension and its effect on stimulating growth, which is why intensifiers like drop sets and rest-pause sets are as rampant as they are in the routines of bodybuilders (who generally possess the greatest amounts of muscle mass).
I know for myself, I’ve included these intensifiers into my own workouts for years, and they’ve undoubtedly contributed in taking my physique to the next level.
Because the goal with highly demanding techniques like these is to exhaust as many muscle fibers as possible, I find that performing drop sets, and/or rest-pause sets, with three separate efforts tends to accomplish the goal of maximizing recruitment and fatigue to be best.
Why? Because through trial and error, I’ve found that both myself and those I work with have enough in the tank to perform more than one drop, or rest more than one time, and still put forth a valiant enough effort to make another drop, or rest, worthwhile.
I’ve also found that if you can perform more than three drops, or rests, then it’s more than likely that enough effort was not put forth during the initial stages of the set.
Power of 3 Drop Sets
Pick a weight with which you can safely perform 4-6 reps. Upon reaching failure, reduce the weight enough to allow for another 6-8 reps to be performed. Upon reaching failure once more, further reduce the weight to allow to allow for another 8-10 reps to be performed.
Power of 3 Rest-Pause Sets
Pick a weight with which you can safely perform 4-6 reps. Upon reaching failure, discontinue the set by racking the weight (or putting it down), and rest for 15 seconds before continuing and aim to perform another 2-3 reps. Upon reaching failure, discontinue the set once more, and rest for 20 seconds this time before aiming to perform another 2-3 reps.
Power of 3 Angle of Stimulation
Because muscles are the strongest in their mid-range, and weakest at their end ranges, for optimal stimulation I perform separate exercises that stress a muscle in its longest, shortest, and mid-range positions.
Here are some examples of the exercises I use to target muscles in each of these 3 positions:
Power of 3 Chest Exercises
Lengthened – dumbbell flyes
Mid-range – barbell or dumbbell presses
Shortened – cable flyes, machine flyes (pec deck)
Power of 3 Shoulder Exercises
Lengthened – front/lateral raises performed lying on an incline
Mid-range – barbell or dumbbell presses
Shortened – full range (dumbbells travelling above the head) front/lateral raises
Power of 3 Back Exercises
Lengthened – dumbbell pullover
Mid-range – pull-ups, lat pulldowns, all row variations (barbell, dumbbell, cable, t-bar)
Shortened – straight-arm pulldown
Power of 3 Biceps Exercises
Lengthened – incline curls
Mid-range – barbell or dumbbell curls with elbows near mid-line of body
Shortened – preacher curls, high pulley curls
Power of 3 Triceps Exercises
Lengthened – overhead extension (barbell, dumbbell, or cable)
Mid-range – dips, close-grip bench presses
Shortened – rope pushdowns with elbows behind mid-line of body
Power of 3 Quads Exercises
Lengthened – sissy squats
Mid-range – back squats, front squats
Shortened – leg extensions
Power of 3 Hamstrings Exercises
Lengthened – seated leg curls
Mid-range – stiff-leg deadlifts
Shortened – lying leg curls
Power of 3 Recruitment and Fatigue Strategy
I’ve noticed that most programs follow a gradual progression in terms of loading, in that workouts are almost always “front loaded,” and the reason for this is to fully ensure that as many muscle fibers are recruited and fatigued as possible. This is why exercises performed at the beginning of the workout are done so with greater loads than those performed afterwards.
To maximize recruitment, pick a weight that you can safely perform 4-6 reps for, for the first exercise performed. For the second exercise, select a weight that you can safely perform 6-8 reps for, and for the third exercise choose a weight that allows for 8-10 reps to be safely performed.
Power of 3 Specialization
To speed up the development of a specific muscle, or even increase my strength on a certain lift, one of the best strategies I’ve ever come across consists of training the desired lift, or body part, three times per week.
I like to structure my training split in much the same way I like to structure my workouts (as seen above). For building muscle, each day is devoted to training one specific plane of motion – some examples of what I mean can be seen below:
Power of 3 Chest Specialization
Devote one day to developing thickness by performing exercises that challenge the pecs in their shortest position, another day to developing width by performing exercises that challenge the pecs in their longest position, and one finale day to developing the upper chest since it’s generally underdeveloped in relation to the rest of the chest.
Power of 3 Shoulder Specialization
Devote one day to stressing the front delt, another day to stressing the side delt, and one final day to stressing the rear delt.
Power of 3 Back Specialization
Devote one day to targeting the lats with pulldown* variations, another day to targeting the mid-back with row variations, and one final day to targeting the erectors and traps with shrugs and deadlift variations. Perform three different variations of a movement best suited to training the plane of motion – for example, on the pulldown day do one overhand pulldown, one underhand pulldown, and one neutral grip pulldown.
*Pull-/chin-ups can be substituted with pulldowns.
Power of 3 Biceps Specialization
Devote one day to stressing the long head of the bicep, another day to stressing the short head of the bicep, and one final day to stressing the brachialis.
Power of 3 Triceps Specialization
Devote one day to stressing the long head of the triceps, another day to stressing the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, and one final day to stressing the triceps as a whole with compound movements.
Power of 3 Quads Specialization
Devote one day to utilizing a very narrow stance, another day to utilizing a very wide stance, and one final day to using a shoulder width stance.
Power of 3 Hamstrings Specialization
Devote one day to stressing the medial hamstrings, another day to stressing the lateral hamstrings, and one final day to stressing the hamstrings as a whole with compound movements using various foot positions.
Power of 3 For Improved Performance
As it relates to improving the performance of a lift, each of the three days should be geared towards the development of one specific strength quality.
An example would be to perform the targeted lift with overload methods on one day, with light loads to facilitate the development of speed and power on another day, and one day solely devoted to the practice of lifting heavy weights (to integrate the improvements made on the other two days).
For those with the luxury of working out multiple times a day, it’s worth noting that performing three separate smaller workouts on the heavy day may be beneficial for most, since strength gains are more about frequency of practice than reaching exhaustion.
In fact, excessive fatigue may not only limit performance acutely, but it can also inhibit your ability to recover from the work performed, and thus prevent you from performing more frequent workouts (which is what you want to do to improve performance in the first place).
Is It Really As Easy As 1, 2, 3?
The number 3 runs rampant in the strength and conditioning world, and it just can’t be ignored. It was never intentional on my part, and happened below conscious awareness, but nearly every strategy I’ve come across in regards to building muscle, or maximizing performance, has an eerie correlation with the number 3.
The number 3 just can’t be ignored…
See the Power of 3 in action in the video below where we use three techniques that will help you put on SIZE & STRENGTH like nothing else:
What I’d like to hear from you is, have you noticed a correlation between what you do, and any specific number?
Have you noticed that the majority of what you do is done for three times as well, or is there no specific sequence that pops up at you when you take a step back and monitor your own training?
Leave your comments below!
Like this article? Please rate and share below!
If you liked this article, you'll LOVE our No Nonsense Newsletter!
Sign up Now and
- Learn how to eat to get Lean and Ripped…
- Learn how to lift to get Bigger and Stronger…
- Learn how to stay motivated to Build Your Dream Body…
- PLUS… 3 exclusive free gifts as a surprise!
Your Information is 100% Secure With Us And Will NEVER Be Shared With Anyone.