No Bullsh*t: Three-Week Hypertrophy Wave

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching hypertrophy, you have probably come across the three mechanisms by which hypertrophy occurs: mechanical tension, muscular damage, and metabolic stress. This three-week hypertrophy wave is one of my methods of trying to capitalize on these three different mechanisms.

The reason I use a three-week wave of exercises is because of two reasons. First, and most important, if I use the same lifts and same set/rep schemes across the board for more than three weeks in a row, it tends to wear me out. I can continue training at higher efforts for a longer period of time if I regularly make changes to different aspects of the routine. Any less than three weeks and I don’t feel as if I’m maximizing the stimuli and therefore I am limiting my adaptation. Secondly, it keeps training entertaining and after training for 14 years, it’s nice to add some variety into the mix. It gives a chance to hit “new” numbers and push different lifts/variations that you haven’t done in a while or ever.

The general outline of the three-week wave is as follows:

The daily workout breakdown is as follows:

Exercise 1: Explosive exercise, 5-10×5 (examples: drop bench, squat jumps w/barbell)

*This is utilized as an extended warm up. The purpose is to continue nervous system excitement and the recruitment of higher threshold motor units.

Exercise 2: Main compound movement, 3×5 (incline swiss bar bench, safety bar squats)

Exercise 3: Secondary compound movement, 3×15 (DB bench, close stance hack squats)

Exercise 4: First isolation movements, 3×10-12 (grenade ball single arm cable cross body fly, single leg knee extension)

Exercise 5: Secondary isolation movement, as many sets as necessary to hit rep goal, 50-100 or distance goal, (pushups, backwards prowler walk)

*The prescribed sets are working sets and do not include warm ups. For example: DB Bench warm up sets: 50×10, 70×8-10, 90×8-10 Working sets: 110 3×15

This daily template tries to stimulate and maximize all three mechanisms of hypertrophy. How you set up your weekly microcycle is up to you.


The first week is designed to be a base week. You will use it to determine what weights are good for you on each of the exercises. As noted above, use however many warm up sets you need to determine what a good working set weight is.

The second week you will use these same weights and add accommodating resistance to them. I prefer to use chains on the main compound movements and bands on the secondary compound movements. The reason for this is that the over-loaded eccentric pull of the bands can really wear out your nervous system and I don’t like having to go into another compound movement with that effect. Also, because of the greater eccentric load, the amount of muscular damage is going to be higher, therefore I like to utilize that effect in the secondary compound movements. You may also use accommodating resistance on the fourth and fifth exercise if it is possible to set up. Some of the movements may not be ones you can set up accommodating resistance on.

The third week, you will use the same weights as the second week except on your last set you will go for max reps and then do a drop set or two. Try to drop weight the first set and if you do a second, drop the accommodating resistance. This is done on both the compound movements and possibly the first isolation movement. This week is extremely brutal, which is why we switch it up the following week and do a base set again. This wave allows us to continue to train in this matter for several cycles before having to take any de-loads.

There you have it, the NBS Fitness Three Week Hypertrophy Wave. Give it a shot and monitor your progress. Everyone is different and will require little tweaks to make it work for them. Let me know what you think in the comments section.



Related Articles:

Throw Out the Rep Ranges: A Different Perspective

No Bullsh*t: The Four Types of Extra Workouts

Linear, Undulating and Nonlinear Programming: Which to Choose?


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About the Author

David Allen is the owner of NBS Fitness is Memphis, Tennessee, where he trains clients of all different backgrounds. NBS Fitness is also home to some of the best powerlifters, Strongmen, and fit individuals in the entire mid-south. David is also a former college football player and collegiate strength and conditioning coach and competes in powerlifting, bodybuilding, and Strongman. You can check out all things NBS Fitness at his website www.nbsfitness.net.