10 Reasons to Start the 3X3 Program

TAGS: 3x3, program, lower body, kettlebell, upper body, strength, training

I’m a big fan of programs that focus on doing a few things very well. Complicated programs are rarely built to last and few trainees benefit from them. One of my favorite programs is the 3X3 program. Why the 3X3? The 3X3 program allows you to focus on heavy weights and low reps. You do three sets of three reps at each session with varying intensities. The volume is fairly low so high frequency is a viable option. The 3X3 program is also great for size and strength goals or just sheer strength goals. It all depends on what exercises you pick and how the workout weeks are structured. The 3X3 protocol is also a great prelude to the 5X5 program. Why? The 3X3 program will get you very strong, and the stronger you are the more effective the 5X5 program will be.

10 benefits of the 3X3 protocol

1. It calls for heavy loads, which leads to serious increases in strength.

2. Low volume and low reps allow greater focus.

3. The CNS will be stimulated and you will feel strong and powerful after each workout.

4. It can be used for pure strength or strength and size.

5. It can be done frequently (3–5 times per week).

6. It doesn’t take long if you focus on compound exercises.

7. It is easier to execute perfect form on low rep and low set workouts.

8. It can be used to increase speed and explosive power as well.

9. It is safe because the more reps you do, the more likely you are to do one rep wrong.

10. It’s great for building dense hard muscles that are as strong as the look.

Let’s talk about how to use the 3X3 program for strength and size or just strength alone. If you want to pack on some size with the 3X3 program, jack up the calories and focus on exercises that provide the most return for your efforts. The usual suspects include deadlifts, squats, bent-over rows, military presses, bench presses, and weighed pull-ups. You should workout four times per week with two upper body days and two lower body days.

For a strength focus, apply a higher frequency and focus on deadlifts, military presses, and weighted pull-ups. Do three to five workouts per week. If you’re doing three workouts, do one heavy workout, one medium workout, and one light workout. If you’re doing five workouts per week, do one heavy workout, two medium workouts, and two light workouts. For example, do 90 percent of your three rep max on one day, 80 percent on two days, and 70 percent on two days.

Here are two sample 3X3 programs. The strength-focus workout will build hard dense muscles without adding bulk, and the strength and size workout will get you bigger and stronger rather than just bigger.

3X3 for strength only

Monday: heavy day (90% of three rep max)

Barbell clean and military press

Dumbbell renegade row left and right

Barbell deadlift

Wednesday: medium day (80% of three rep max)

One-arm dumbbell clean and military press (left and right)

Weighted pull-up

Barbell deadlift

Friday: light day (70% of three rep max)

Double dumbbell clean and press

Barbell bent-over row

Barbell deadift

Rotate the exercises every week. For example in week two, the barbell clean and press is moved to the medium day and the double dumbbell clean and press is moved to the heavy day. This way every exercise gets to have a day in the spotlight. Can you do the same exercises every time? You could but doing different but similar exercises will be more effective and decrease the likelihood of overuse injuries. Why is the heavy day on Monday? Generally you will be stronger at the beginning of the week and your strength will taper off as the weeks goes on. Thus, it makes sense for the workouts to become easier as the week progresses. Take three minute breaks in between each set.

3X3 for size and strength

Monday: upper body (90% of three rep max)

A-1: incline barbell press

A-2: weighted pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of A-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of A-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Tuesday: lower body (90% of three rep max)

B-1: barbell squat

B-2: stiff legged deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of B-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of B-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Thursday: upper body (80% of three rep max)

A-1: weighted dip

A-2: weighted pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of A-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of A-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Friday: lower body (80% of three rep max)

B-1: barbell front squat

B-2: glute ham raise or one-arm dumbbell swing (left and right)

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of B-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of B-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Again, rotate the exercises each week. When you can do five reps on the last set for each exercise on the heavy day, add five pounds. Adjust the lighter days as your strength increases.

What about cardio? On the strength-focus workouts, do some moderate cardio sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. For example, do five rounds of 25 push-ups, 35 body weight squats, 25 sit-ups, and 35 jumping jacks. Do each exercise in circuit fashion and take a one-minute break at the end of each round. Repeat 4–5 times per workout. For the size-focus workout, do 2–3 rounds on two off days. These muscular endurance workouts are also great for active recovery so get them in.

3X3 for kettlebells?

Can the 3X3 program be applied to kettlebell training? Sure, just focus on challenging exercises that make low reps difficult. Here are two sample programs using the example of a trainee who can do five side presses with an 88 lb bell and five double swings with 88 lb bells. Adjust the weights accordingly to your current strength levels.

Monday (heavy day):

Kettlebell side press, left and right (88 lb bell)

Double swing, chest level (88 lb bells)

Wednesday (medium day):

Double kettlebell clean and press (70 lb bells)

Weighted pull-up (70 lb bells)

Double snatch (70 lb bells)

Friday (light day):

One-arm seated mil press, left and right (53 lb bell)

Renegade row (53 lb bells)

Double hang snatch (53 lb bells)

Rotate the exercises every week. For example, in week two, the side press is moved to the medium day and the one-arm seated mil press is moved to the heavy day.

3X3 kettlebell program for size and strength

Here is a sample program using the example of a trainee who can clean and press two 88 lb bells five times and double front squat two 105 lb bells five times. Again, adjust the program to your strength levels.

Monday: upper body (heavy day)

A-1: double kettlebell clean and press (88 seconds)

A-2: weighted pull-up (88 lb bell)

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of A-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of A-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Tuesday: lower body (heavy day)

B-1: double front squat (105 seconds)

B-2: double swing (88 seconds)

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of B-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of B-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Thursday: upper body (heavy day)

A-1: double floor press (105 seconds)

A-2: renegade row (105 seconds) left and right

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of A-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of A-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Friday: lower body (heavy day)

B-1: double front squat (105 seconds)

B-2: one-arm snatch (105) left and right

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do a set of B-1 and rest for 90 seconds, and then do a set of B-2 and rest for 90 seconds. Continue until all three sets have been completed.

Again, rotate the exercises each week. For cardio with kettlebells, do 3–5 sets of one-arm swings (10–15 reps per arm) with a moderate kettlebell on two off days. What about using the 3X3 program for speed and explosive strength?

Vegetarian diet tips for size and strength

Contrary to what many vegans believe and pitch, protein is very important for well-being, especially for strength and size. Low protein diets mean high carbohydrate diets, which increase insulin levels which in turn lead to fat increases. Having a good supply of protein at every meal along with healthy fats ensures that insulin levels will be in check and that the growth hormone will most likely be at an optimal level. When insulin goes up, the growth hormone goes down. Optimal growth hormone levels are critical for recovery from workouts, well-being, and muscle gains. Good luck finding a strong and muscular vegan with optimal sex hormone levels who doesn’t eat a good amount of protein. That’s about as rare as winning the lottery.

Thus, unlike many other vegans, I recommend a diet that consists of 40 percent protein, 40 percent healthy fat, and 30 percent carbs. Personally, I respond even better on 50 percent protein, 30 percent healthy fat, and 20 percent low glycemic carbs. This ratio keeps my body fat low, my muscle and strength high, and my sex drive very high, which is a sign of good health. No sex equals poor health and that is a fact.

For protein, I have two big “pea protein isolate” shakes a day mixed with flaxseed oil, peanut butter, almond butter, or coconut oil. I have it in a base of eight ounces of soymilk and eight ounces of water. Each shake equals about 80 grams of protein. I sip on one throughout the day and have another one on workout days after each workout. Again, I don’t down it all in one shot but sip on it for several hours. I don’t recommend soy protein isolate powders. Rice protein or pea protein isolate are better choices. You can get both at www.veganessentials.com.

Regarding protein meals, some of my favorite choices are half a block of soft Japanese tofu (healthier than other forms of tofu) and one cup of black beans or lentils. I will add 1–2 cups of mixed veggies to the mix and put a tablespoon or two of olive oil on top. For snacks, I like trail mixes consisting of raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. I also like peanut butter or almond butter sandwiches with “hemp bread” or “Man’s bread,” both of which are high in protein.

I get most of my carbohydrates from acai, berries, apples, pears, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, squash, and other low glycemic fruits and veggies. I also eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates at every meal. Don’t ever have just a carbohydrate meal. Also mix in protein, fat, and carbohydrates for optimal well-being. Some experimentation is necessary to determine what will work best for you. However, don’t be afraid of protein and fat if you want to look and feel great. Most vegans do not get enough protein, which is all too evident. Don’t fall into that category. Think I’m wrong? I’m not, and I have the results to back it up.

 

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