#273 – M.E.D. Masterclass #5: Spicing Up the 3-Week Cycle with Supplemental Lifts
Pressing on with installment #5 of the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) Masterclass, Matt explains how volume and intensity work in the 3-Week mesocycle introduced in the previous class. While most lifters can continue to PR both their intensity sets (using backoff sets) and their volume sets (by increasing tonnage), eventually they run into a practical dilemma. When is enough volume… enough?
Logically, a lifter could continue to make progress in the 3-week model by adding more volume. But at some point doing 6×5, 7×5, 8×5, etc. becomes both daunting and logistically impractical for the vast majority of people. So instead of driving volume up ad nasuem, Matt prefers to merge volume and intensity days. Now the lifter is performing a single “intensity” top set, followed by typical volume work — 4×5 or 5×5. This keeps the total amount of work in a single workout manageable, while providing enough stress to continue to drive strength adaptations.
This is also the point where Matt starts to look at supplemental lifts. Supplemental lifts are lifts that look similar to the main lifts — rack pulls, pin squats, press starts, etc. These can be used on the secondary movement of the workout as a lower-intensity but still high-stress lift. Supplemental lifts also provide some much-needed novelty, which serves as a mental break and also tends to drive additional gains via a sort of “novice” effect. Lastly, they can be used to shore up the lifter’s weak spots, such as breaking through a particular sticking point in the deadlift or squat.
In next week’s masterclass, Matt will discuss supplemental lifts in more detail, how to choose them, how to cycle through them in the 3-week program, and how to judge their effectiveness.