Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming - Programming Variables - Part 1 Posted on 7 May 17:55

Justin Swinney – May 7, 2020


I introduced my theoretical framework of periodization and programming for hypertrophy training to provide individuals an outline of fundamentals to consider during the evaluation of their current and future programs. In the overview, I mentioned the essentiality of understanding the resistance training variables. The variables are inseparable, complex, and interrelated. Proper understanding of each variable and their interrelationships with other variables provides the cognitive capacity for organizing a progressive phase potentiated plan for optimal results. In hypertrophy periodization, the ten minimum variables to consider in the programming process.

(1.) Volume

(2.) Effort (Relative Intensity)

(3.) Load (Absolute Intensity)

(4.) Frequency

(5.) Exercise Choice

(6.) Exercise Order

(7.) Tempo

(8.) Rest Interval

(9.) Type of Muscle Action

(10.) Range of Motion

I will define and describe each variable through a series of articles dedicated to the foundational understanding of resistance training variables for skeletal muscle hypertrophy. 


What is Volume?


Volume is a term used to describe the total amount of work (Work = Force x Distance) performed during the specified time parameter. Volume can be prescribed and tracked using total sets, total reps, or sets multiplied by reps. Another method of prescribing and tracking volume used by some strength coaches and powerlifters is "Total Load Lifted" or "TLL" (sets x reps x external load). TLL can be a useful metric for an individual to track progress on exercises throughout specific training cycles, blocks, or career. (1.) However, TTL may be limited in its practical application for hypertrophy specific training. In programming for hypertrophy, the most straightforward way of using volume is as total sets per session and per microcycle (week). (2.), (3.)


If volume is the total amount of sets performed per session and per microcycle (week), then how are the sets assigned value for the volume equation?  Are all sets of equal value?  Do I count warm-up sets, work-up sets, and work sets?  Do I only count work sets?  


It is extremely important to have accurate and consistent methods for assigning value to each set for calculating current volume status, identifying adaptive range of volume thresholds, and applying progressive overload.  In order to evaluate and/or assign value to each set, an individual must possess an understanding of an appropriate rating scale or system. 


            How are the sets assigned value?


Sets are assigned a value through the next two variables on our list of hypertrophy programming variables, “effort” and “load”.  Effort and load are under the umbrella of intensity.  


What is intensity? 


The word intensity is typically used to communicate the measure of something.  But the lack of clarity provided when only using the word intensity caused confusion in the fitness industry.  It has been suggested to remove the singular use of “intensity” from the lexicon when discussing resistance training. (28.)


What is Effort (Relative Intensity) and Load (Absolute Intensity)?


The variable known as “intensity” has been converted into two separate variables relative intensity (effort) and absolute intensity (load).   Proper understanding of these variables is essential for applying an appropriate rating scale or system to accurately quantify volume per training session and per microcycle (week).  


The terms “relative intensity”, “effort”, and “intensity of effort” are used interchangeably and are typically used as a method for prescribing the relative effort and level of exertion required to complete the desired exercise for a specific number of sets, reps, or sets x reps. 


The terms “absolute intensity” and “load” are used interchangeably and are typically used as a method for prescribing loads based on a percentage of a one-repetition maximum of the desired exercise. 


Years ago, I deleted the singular use of “intensity” as a resistance training variable and adopted the words “effort” and “load” as my primary choices for precise communication.  But due to the amount of residual influence provided by the word “intensity”, I also use the terms “relative intensity” (effort) and “absolute intensity” (load) in hopes of preventing any misunderstandings.


If we apply basic thinking skills, it makes sense to use the term “load” to describe the amount of weight on the bar in relation to a one-repetition maximum and the term “effort” to describe the magnitude of exertion/effort applied in relation to performing the exercise. 


Using “Effort” and/or “Load” for Hypertrophy Specific Programming.


It would be extremely difficult and potentially harmful to obtain an accurate 1-Rep-Max (1RM) for all exercises used in hypertrophy training, it may be best to use “effort” as the rating scale or system for quantifying hypertrophic volume per session and per microcycle.  This does not mean that “load” does not have a place in programming.  It means that using a percentage of 1RM to program volumes (sets and reps) for hypertrophy specific training is difficult without an accurate 1RM on the specific exercises being performed.  The percent of 1RM can be used in periodizing and programming specific exercises, but it may be better used as a way to help guide your weight selection within specific barbell exercises and possibly serve as a motivational tool for progressive overload.  


Do I count warm-up sets, work-up sets, and work sets?  Do I count only work sets?


In the process of using rational judgment towards the sets of an exercise, it is sensible to view warm-up sets as being easier than work sets.  The amount of effort applied during a warm-up set is vastly different than the amount of effort applied during a work set. This does not mean that the warm-up sets are useless and shouldn't be tracked or taken seriously. Warm-up sets are essential in preparing and priming the human body for resistance training. But they most likely don't provide an appropriate amount of a stimulus to induce the desired adaptation. Tracking warm-up sets and taking notes can be an excellent way to monitor fatigue and recovery. Warm-up sets provide value, but they should not count towards the volume calculations (per session or per microcycle). Given that, to ensure maximum accuracy, it may be best to only consider work sets of a pre-determined effort level as adequate for hypertrophic volume calculations.  Work sets are typically to failure or near failure and should require a hard level of effort to complete. (4.)  



What level of effort is considered hard enough to count as a work set?


Unfortunately, in hypertrophy training, effort (relative intensity) is often misunderstood and not applied in the most effective manner. It is crucial to understand how to monitor the perceptual response to training. The variable known as "effort”, “relative intensity", or "intensity of effort" can be monitored with a numeric scale known as "RPE" (Rating of Perceived Exertion). (5.)  But the ability to accurately rate the perception of effort can potentially be affected by the interrelationship of discomfort and effort. (32.)  The afferent neural feedback of discomfort can indirectly affect the perception of the efferent neural feedback of effort. (33.)  Thus, the use of RPE alone may not be the best method to accurately gauge effort. (34.)  The addition of another scale “RIR” (Reps in Reserve) or “RTF” (Reps to Failure) can be used in combination with RPE to add an intuitive approach to rating effort based on the proximity of momentary muscular failure.  In my anecdotal experience, the application of RPE and RIR or RTF simultaneously in programming/training create a synergistic effect towards increasing the accuracy of rating and communicating effort.


When was I introduced to RPE?


I was originally made aware of the RPE scale in Dr. Joyce McIntosh's class of Exercise Prescription in 2006 at the University of North Alabama. She introduced me to the work of Gunnar Borg and the original RPE scale of 6 to 20 for use in the Exercise Science Lab's VO2 testing. 


Borg created the 6 to 20 scale (~50 years ago) to roughly match heart rate with perceived exertion during aerobic exercise. (6.) The original RPE scale of 6 to 20 was followed by Borg developing the CR10 scale (Category Ratio Scale) to provide a rating of 1 to 10. Then the CR10 scale was followed by the OMNI scale, which was the first visually aided RPE scale 1 to 10. (7.) I briefly mentioned my introduction to the RPE scale by Dr. McIntosh in 2006, because I want everyone who reads this to understand the importance of studying, learning, and applying education. I am grateful to the professors that participated in my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Alabama Exercise Science Department (2003 – 2008). I have used the RPE scale of 1 to 10 with my training clients since 2006. Everyone who has trained with me knows that I continuously ask questions during sessions in an attempt to better understand their fatigue and recovery per set, per exercise, per training session. It is imperative to understand the importance of properly using a method to measure or rate exertion.  


What is RIR or RTF and how does it create a synergy with RPE?


“Reps in Reserve” (RIR) scales were created to provide a better method of understanding the intensity of effort performed in close proximity to muscular failure and provide accurate methods for assessment, communication, and control of programming submaximal efforts. (28.), (29.), (30.), (31.)   The emerging patterns in clinical research seem to support effort as the primary determinant in providing value to training volume. (35.)  Research has displayed similar muscular adaptations between groups when effort is matched. For example, repetition duration effect on hypertrophy (36.), (37.), (38.), load effect on hypertrophy (39.), advanced intensification techniques effect on hypertrophy, such as pre-exhaustion, drop-sets, and blood flow restriction (40.), (41.), (42.), (43.) and they all produced similar physiological adaptations when effort was matched at momentary muscular failure.  This does not mean that the other variables or modalities are not important, and effort is all that matters.  It only provides context to better understand the foundation of resistance training for hypertrophy.  It also does not mean that an individual must train to momentary failure to produce a hypertrophic adaptation.  It means that an individual must produce a high enough effort to meet their minimal hypertrophic stimulus threshold per set, accumulate enough hypertrophic sets to meet their minimal hypertrophic stimulus threshold per session, and continuously apply sufficient effort through a progressive pattern until fatigue accumulates or progress stalls.  If an individual can learn how to use RPE and RIR or RTF as a means of rating training volume, then the individual can systematically track training sessions and create an opportunity to accurately calculate their hypertrophic stimulus thresholds.


The base understanding Effort and use of RPE and RIR or RTF.


RPE and RIR or RTF provide the ability to manage perceived exertion and measure the quality of volume. 


Proper use of RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) and RIR (Reps in Reserve) or RTF (Reps to Failure) ratings will provide the necessary information to determine if the set was hard enough to consider a work set and add it to the training volume. Assigning the minimum RPE of 8 or using the target RIR/RTF of 2 provides a potentially reliable method to help monitor effort and decide if the set was hard enough to elicit the desired stimulus.  


Volume seems relatively easy to understand, why has it been the subject of so many heated debates throughout the years?


The nuances and misconceptions surrounding volume debates are due to people not using the same language or definitions. The improper use of terminology and frivolous claims made with the inappropriate use of the terminology can lead to miscommunication and erroneous debates.  


The base understanding of Training Volume.


The number of sets performed at an appropriate effort (relative intensity) per session and per microcycle (week).


If you have made it this far, then you probably have a pretty good understanding of training volume and effort.  With that in mind, I am going to explain my views with a little more detail to add depth to the topic.


What is the C.H.A.M.P. approach to training volume?  


I, Justin Swinney, prescribe, and monitor volume using a strategic amount of sets executed at specific efforts within particular rep ranges per training session. Then, I judiciously use the interconnected variable, frequency, to tactically distribute efficient set volumes of precise rep ranges within effective efforts during the microcycle (week), progressing and potentially autoregulating throughout the mesocycle (4 to 8 weeks).


Why mention the variables "effort" and "frequency" in the description of "volume"?


I mentioned "effort" and "frequency" in my description of "volume" because it is paramount to understand how to rate, monitor, and distribute the required levels of exertion stimulus necessary to produce a hypertrophic adaptation. I use "effort" and "frequency" to consistently and frequently provide a sufficiently challenging "volume" stimulus within an individual's adaptive threshold to elicit robust anabolic adaptations, ensure adequate recovery, and maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy.


It is vital to understand that not all volume is created equal. In periodization and programming for hypertrophy, the dose-response relationship can vary significantly between inter-individual (differences observed between various people) and intra-individual (differences observed within the same person over different time periods or in different body parts). Genetics, training age (number of years performing consistent hard training), nutritional strategies, supplement protocols, sleep, and psychological/emotional stress can significantly affect the individual volume thresholds per session and per microcycle (week). The purpose of this article is to increase the depth of understanding for the resistance training variables within my theoretical framework of periodization and programming for maximizing hypertrophic adaptations, while simultaneously encouraging coaches/athletes to conceptualize the relationship of volume (within thresholds of minimum to maximum), effort (pre-programmed and potentially autoregulated), and frequency (as a tool for strategic organization) for optimizing and facilitating the appropriate individual progressively overloading stimulus to induce specific hypertrophic adaptations.


This is an example of how the improper use of training terminology can muddy the water of volume conversations.


Example: Person (A) is a proponent of high-volume training and claims to perform 30 to 40 sets per muscle group per week. But when Person (A) 's training program is analyzed, it only contains 1 work set [(RPE of 8+) or (RIR/RTF of 2 or less)] per exercise and 3 to 4 work sets per session. Person (A) 's training volume is 90% warm-up sets or work-up sets at a relative intensity of RPE 5 or 6.  


Person (A): Example Exercise = Bench Press:

Set 1 = 45lbs (bar) x 10 reps,         Set 2 = 95 lbsx 10 reps

Set 3 = 135 lbs. x 8 reps,                Set 4 = 185 lbs. x 6 reps

Set 5 = 225 lbs. x 6 reps,                Set 6 = 275 lbs. x 3reps

Set 7 = 315 lbs. x 10 reps.  


Person (A) claims to have performed 7 work sets bench press, but in my opinion, Person (A) only performed 1 work set of bench press. This example exercise is from Person (A) 's chest training session, where he claimed to have performed 30+ work sets during the training session. But when I review the data and apply the appropriate definitions to the terminology, my calculations result in Person (A) performing 3 to 4 work sets per training session. Unfortunately, Person (A) does not understand the terminology used in periodization and programming, which allowed misguidance by countless gym bro's throughout the years. The generic misguidance from a gym bro to Person (A), "If you want to get big, you have to do workouts like Pro X with 30 to 40 sets"… "constantly changing exercises to confuse the body" and "go hard and chase the pump"… this poor advice has led Person (A) to make very little progress.  


I have witnessed similar situations of bodybuilders "chasing the pump" or copying a pro's "high volume/short rest break" routine and performing ridiculous amounts of volume, smashing the body part of the day, every day for years, achieving zero or very little muscle growth. Performing exercises at low rates of exertion and leaving countless reps in the tank (in comparison to how they could have performed with proper rest and recovery between sets) results in a minimal amount of hypertrophic stimulus. If we add an inadequate application of frequency (typical bro-split) and the lack of phase potentiated periodization, then we have the formula responsible for stalling progress and creating plateaus of gym bros and bodybuilders alike. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many bodybuilders compete in the same weight class or within the same ~5 lbs. of stage weight, year after year. The dedication to detailed nutrition programs and extensive supplement protocols saturate the environment for extreme muscle growth, but the lack of periodization and programming knowledge prevents the strategic progression of stimuli/stress required to captivate the anabolic potential.  


In bodybuilding or hypertrophy training, there has to be attention to detail in nutrition, supplementation, recovery (sleep), and training. It is accepted and well known that coaches/athletes apply a considerable amount of detail to their nutrition plans with specific macronutrients per meal, particular times, specific food choices, and specific supplements per meal. It is also accepted for the same coach/athlete not to have a periodized or structured resistance training plan. The comments "all you have to do is train hard," or "train big, eat big, rest big and repeat to get big" are as uneducated as the comments "confuse the body" and "train by feel." I completely support the idea of implementing detailed and specific nutrition programs and supplement protocols, but I don't agree with the randomized training, "training by feel" or following along with someone else's random workout for the day. I don't understand the logic of tracking every macronutrient and supplement but not tracking the training session variables and results (sets, reps, load, effort, exercises, etc.). I can't fathom dedicating hours to grocery shopping, cooking, prepping and weighing meals at specified macronutrient calculations, while ignoring the importance of committing a few minutes to writing exercises in a logbook to track the performance of each session throughout training career. If the goal is to maximize skeletal muscle's hypertrophic adaptations, then resistance training must be intelligent and well informed.  


In the quest for maximum hypertrophy, an individual must be competent and proficient in the skills relating to the application and integration of a structured, progressive plan. 

In an effort to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy, it is necessary to meet the stimulus requirements with sufficient magnitude and duration of tension within each muscle fiber's impulse threshold, recruiting of as many muscle fibers as possible (8.) and imposing force at satisfactory velocities throughout a full range of motion.   


Wait, before we go any farther…
I need to take a step back and clarify a primary element of hypertrophy.
Muscle Protein Synthesis > Muscle Protein Breakdown


In terms of hypertrophy, the ultimate physiological goal is for muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to exceed muscle protein breakdown (MPB). (9.) The statement of MPS > MPB is so simple and basic that most coaches/athletes often neglect it. You may be thinking, "Yeah, I hear you, Justin, but everyone knows that." If everyone knows that, why do most bodybuilders compete year after year in the same weight class and at a similar weight (after they have lost the offseason fat and water)? If everyone knows that, why do so many people claim to be training to gain muscle tissue, but stay roughly the same size for multiple years? If you are telling me that everyone understands the importance of MPS > MPB, then why is their lean muscular bodyweight almost the same, after years of training, eating and supplementing.  I understand that once an athlete is at the advanced level or over a certain age, gaining muscle tissue is difficult. I also understand, if an NPC bodybuilder competes at a similar weight (within ~5 lbs.) and similar conditioning for more than two years, the MPS > MPB equation was ignored or not understood.  Unfortunately, many coaches/athletes lack the mechanistic understanding of the MPS and MPB relationship.  Consequently, this results in the creation of a walking talking logical fallacy with nutrition, training, and supplementation tactics rooted in anecdotes.  


It is crucial to understand the connection between resistance training elevation of MPS and the hypertrophic specific response to the training-induced MPS elevation (10.), (11.), (12.), (13.). The specific magnitude and duration of impulse that must be supplied in order to stimulate the cellular signaling cascade to promote an increase in MPS can vary significantly between individuals, especially as they progress in training age (14.). It is understood that as an individual advances in muscular development, progress slows, and it becomes more difficult to continually increase skeletal muscle mass. 


Research has consistently demonstrated an inverse correlation between training age and MPS response. Beginners and Novices are able to stimulate an increase in MPS for up to 72 hours (15.), but intermediate trainees seem only to increase MPS for 24 to 48 hours (16.), (17.), (18.). The compatibility between sustaining MPS > MPB (stimulated by sufficient resistance training volume at an appropriate effort) and potential skeletal muscle hypertrophy provides support for increasing training frequency to satisfy adaptive requirements necessary to enhance muscle hypertrophy (19.).


It is pivotal to understand the importance of operating within the individual volume thresholds per session and per microcycle. Dr. Mike Israetel and Dr. James Hoffman were able to provide distinct terminology for communicating basic training concepts in the eBook "How much should I train? An Introduction to the Volume Landmarks" (20.). The concepts, definitions, and terminology present a precise language to communicate intricacies of training theory and program design.  Many coaches, trainers, and athletes have used the terminology minimum, maintenance, and maximum to describe various aspects of their nutrition or training programs throughout the years.  The simple addition of the adjective "effective," "adaptive," and "recoverable" with whatever noun you are describing, in this case, "volume," provides the ability to paint a beautiful picture of successful information exchange. The terminology of maintenance dose, minimum dose, and maximum dose has been used for decades in training and possibly hundreds of years in other areas of medical and pharmacological study. But Dr. Israetel and Dr. Hoffman were the first to promote dedicated definitions to the terminology concerning training volume and provide a detailed understanding of the concept of training volume landmarks. In resistance training, using the volume landmark terminology to be specific in conversation provides a quick and accurate way to communicate.  


In examining, understanding, and explaining the magnitude of stimulus for hypertrophy specific training, this example use of similar terminology will help elucidate the spectrum of stimulus provided within hypertrophy focused periodization and programming.


(A.) Maintenance Stimulus (lowest stimulus to maintain current tissue), 


(B.) Minimal Effective Stimulus (minimal stimulus to cause adaptive response), 


(C.) Maximal Adaptive Stimulus (maximal stimulus to cause adaptive response), 


(D.) Maximal Recoverable Stimulus (maximal stimulus allowed to cause recovery response, any more stimulus will disrupt the system and inhibit the recovery response).  


In resistance training, the maintenance, minimal, and maximal amount of hypertrophic stimuli required varies per individual. Numerous factors (nutrition, supplementation, sleep, recovery, psychological health, emotional status, etc.) can have acute and chronic effects on the trainability and recoverability within the hypertrophic stimulus landmarks. If the purpose of training is to cause a robust hypertrophic stimulus and produce as many hypertrophic adaptations as possible, then an individual must put forth their best effort to create an anabolic environment and provide substrates for the imposed hypertrophic demands.


If an individual is trying to supply an anabolic environment for the hypertrophic stimuli to accumulate as much skeletal muscle tissue as possible, then a diligent application of the SFRA Model (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) and the Fitness-Fatigue Model will provide substantial benefits towards the pursuit of hypertrophy.


SFRA (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) as a Volume Concept


The SFRA (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) concept demonstrates how the magnitude (volume) of stimulus, causes a proportional accumulation of fatigue and reduction in performance capacity. The duration of time it takes for fatigue to dissipate and performance capacity to return is based on the magnitude (volume) of training stimulus and accumulated fatigue.  Once the recovery processes are complete, adaptation has occurred, and the performance capacity has returned; theoretically, the body should be ready for a progressive stimulus (21.), (22.), (23.).


Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation Theory graph. I sketched this version of the SFRA graph based on information and images from Verkhoshansky and Siff (24.) and Stone, Stone, and Sands (25.).


The Fitness-Fatigue Model as a Volume Concept


The Fitness-Fatigue Model may be better than the SFRA theory for conceptualizing the relationship between volume and hypertrophy. (26.) Fitness can be used to represent muscle hypertrophy. Fatigue is generated by the stimulus provided during training (and also increased by poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and negative life stressors). 

Performance is the result of fitness minus fatigue and all other stressors (psychological, environmental, etc.). 


This model can be used to demonstrate the effect of a training session, microcycle, and mesocycle. It is also useful for understanding how the accumulation of residual fatigue will eventually progress into a state of overreaching (functional or non-functional) and if ignored overtraining.


The SFRA and Fitness-Fatigue models can be used to visualize the stimulus and fatigue provided by the interactive relationship volume, intensity of effort, and frequency. The goal of hypertrophy specific training is to initiate a sufficient magnitude and duration of an impulse to create an anabolic stimulus, recover, adapt, and repeat.  


I created the Fitness-Fatigue-Performance model above to provide a basic visual representation of how each training session stimulus causes acute fatigue that requires sufficient recovery and adaptation to prepare for the next training stimulus to be applied. 


As Fitness/Hypertrophy increases and performance capabilities rise, there is a small amount of residual fatigue per session that is accumulating throughout the mesocycle. In this example, the fitness-fatigue paradigm is used to demonstrate and explain how each training stimulus causes two types of fatigue (acute and residual). Recovery from acute fatigue is essential for the athlete to display readiness and perform at their highest potential. In the case of hypertrophy, readiness associated with being able to complete the muscle actions at their highest potential, recruiting all of the muscle fibers, to provide a maximal hypertrophic stimulus to each fiber. In summary of the fitness-fatigue-performance paradigm, fitness represents the hypertrophic morphological adaptations and physical capabilities achieved as a result of training. Fatigue represents acute fatigue (per session), residual fatigue (throughout the microcycle and mesocycle), local/peripheral fatigue, axial/spinal fatigue, and central fatigue. Performance typically represents fitness minus fatigue, but we must consider external factors and stressors that could affect readiness for the application of progression/overload for maximal hypertrophic stimulus.


The logical interpretation of the hypertrophic process is as follows initiate stimulus, recover from fatigue, adapt to the stimulus, initiate progressive stimulus, and repeat.  Hypothetically, if an individual decided to initiate a set progression protocol of 1 set per week, at the end of a year, the individual would be performing 52 sets per week.  Does the weekly increase in volume provide equal hypertrophic results throughout the 1st year?  What about a 2nd year, progressing up to 104 sets per week?  I can’t say definitively, but I highly doubt the individual would have steadily produced a detectable hypertrophic progression throughout the two years.  What if the individual was able to provide a nutritional, supplemental, and recovery/sleep environment that allowed adherence to the SFRA Model and sufficiently recover before the next session without overlapping soreness?  I still can’t say definitively, if the individual would have steadily produced a detectable amount of skeletal muscle hypertrophy over the time-period.  Why do I say that, even when it seems the individual has checked all the boxes necessary for hypertrophy?  If the individual in applying a linear progression of sets to increase volume in hopes of increasing hypertrophy, then they need to consider the percentage of progression or the value of the progression.  For example, compare the percentage of volume increase from 4 sets to 5 sets (~ 25% increase) to 30 sets to 31 sets (~ 3% increase).  Logical thinking provides reason to believe the progression provided by ~25% is going to elicit a stronger hypertrophic stimulus than a ~3% progression.  But this is not to say that a 3% increase is useless.  There are some advanced level trainees who strive to provide a small percentage of progression and drive a hypertrophic stimulus.  In general, it is very difficult to achieve long-term hypertrophic adaptations and it may be beneficial to conceptualize the relationship between set volume and hypertrophy for the progressive development of microcycles, mesocycles, and macrocycles.


The Inverted U Hypothesis of the Relationship Between Volume and Hypertrophy


Research consistently demonstrates that volume is a potent stimulator of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  Currently, in the evidence-based fitness industry, the relationship between training volume and hypertrophy is referred to as an inverted U hypothesis. The inverted U hypothesis can be described as an increase in training volume will increase hypertrophy, until it reaches the top of the inverted U, then further increases in training volume will regress and reduce hypertrophy to the point where it returns to baseline.



But the inverted U may not be the best representation of the highest training volumes. It is hard to believe that increasing training volume would reduce muscle tissue, as long as there were adequate nutritional caloric intake and quality sleep (and sufficient supplementation). It sounds a bit ridiculous to consider an individual performing such an excessive amount of volume that it would result in muscle loss. 


Perhaps, if there were an individual executing such an incredible amount of volume that nutritional calories and sleep had to be sacrificed to accomplish the volume task, then it would seem possible to lose muscle tissue as training volumes increased continually. 


In a specific situation of sacrificing a significant amount of caloric intake and quality sleep, excessive training volume could reflect the appearance of an inverted U relationship to hypertrophy. The muscle loss would be most likely attributed to the substantial caloric deficiency and inadequate accumulation of sleep to recover (or insufficient supplementation).  Interestingly, the concept of training volume's inverted U hypothesis reducing hypertrophy appears to be faulty. 


I developed a model for explaining the relationship between training volume and hypertrophy. In an effort to form a consilience between multiple academic resources and over twenty years of anecdotal observation, I distilled complex theoretical concepts of training volume's relationship to hypertrophy into a simple graph for practical application.  


The base version of my graph is similar to the volume inverted U hypothesis graph. Hypertrophy is located on the y-axis (vertical), and training volume is positioned on the x-axis (horizontal). The graph has two lines with a positive gradient that converge into one line, at the individual's point of maximal adaptable stimulus or volume ceiling. Then the line separates into two lines, one line with zero slope (running parallel to the x-axis) and the other line with a slightly negative slope to represent the possible decrease in muscle tissue from ridiculous amounts of training volume interfering with nutrition, supplementation, and sleep.  



Please forgive my lack of graphic design skills. The graph above was quickly sketched on my iPad and placed in this article to provide a clear representation of my thoughts regarding the relationship between training volume and intra-individual variances in hypertrophy.


This concept of intra-individual variance in response to training volume was initially developed during a conversation with my Dad many years ago. We were discussing our client's current training plans, updating their programs for the next training progression, and I asked my Dad a few questions about how he progressed the training of his IFBB Pro bodybuilding clients from the early to mid-1990s. He started describing some of his most successful programs and progressions, then after I replied with a barrage of questions, he began to divulge numerous ideas and thoughts as to the why "x" amount of training volume resulted in "y" for IFBB Pro A vs. the same "x" amount of training volume resulted in "z" for IFBB Pro B. In an attempt to keep this article on task, I am going to save the other things we discussed about the genetic response to training, satellite cells, mitochondria, ribosomes, capillaries, fascial layers and structural matrix of each muscle for another article.  


During the discussion, I had the vision of using a cartoon type sketch of a DNA strand horizontally on a graph to represent the relationship of training volume and hypertrophy. I immediately grabbed a marker and outlined my hypothetical graph on the whiteboard. As soon as I had the rough design complete, I showed my Dad how each line represented the genetic differences between individual responses to training volume. He looked at the graph, squinted one eye and raised the opposite eyebrow (those who knew my Dad, know exactly his deep thought expression that I am referring to…), and said, "Yes, that makes sense. It can be used to represent a variety of responses in the general population. But you may be able to get more use from applying this type of graph to individuals for explaining intra-individual variances and factors that could affect their hypertrophic response, instead of using it for the inter-individual genetic variance in our population." Instantly, thoughts aligned, and multiple pages were filled with notes about intra-individual volume thresholds with the potential factors that modify those thresholds.  



Hopefully, the graph compliments my thoughts on the intra-individual variances in the relationship between volume and hypertrophy. For example, If an individual "X" typically performs 5 to 7 work sets per training session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle (week) to get result "A," then individual "X" begins a competition prep diet (caloric deficit and lower carbs) the typical 5 to 7 work sets per session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle will result in "B" (not "A").  The same 5 to 7 work sets per training session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle will produce less of a hypertrophic stimulus for muscle growth.  


In the example, the change in caloric intake was used to represent a factor that can potentially shift the intersection point on the curve of volume and hypertrophy. This example may be simple and obvious, but it is rarely discussed in conversations regarding periodization and programming for physique athletes.  To summarize this key point about intra-individual differences in hypertrophic response to training volume, many acute and chronic factors (nutritional intake, sleep, supplement protocols, psychological status, emotional stress, epigenetic factors, and more…) can affect the volume thresholds to varying degrees.  The ability to understand the effects of nutrition, supplementation, stress, sleep, etc. on hypertrophic MPS > MPB stimulus provides essential knowledge to properly manipulate the quantitative parameters of training routines, exercises choice, exercise order, and frequency to possibly increase the hypertrophic stimulus enough to counteract the negative factor that caused the decrease in hypertrophic response.  The addition of an autoregulatory component to your periodization and programming may be beneficial and potentially be able to address any relevant negative issues that arise.


Wrapping it up

In this article, I described my method of prescribing and monitoring volume as using a strategic amount of sets executed at specific efforts within particular rep ranges per training session. Using frequency to distribute efficient set volumes of precise rep ranges within effective efforts during the microcycle (week), progressing, and potentially autoregulating throughout the mesocycle (4 to 8 weeks). I have built my framework with a solid foundation of clinical evidence combined with the anecdotal and empirical information gleaned from my collegiate and professional career. In essence, the hypertrophy specific periodization and programming recommendations for training volume require proper use of frequency (to maximize MPS > MPB to time ratio) and effort (to evaluate the exertion threshold of each set = work set vs. warm-up set). In summary, I propose using the information provided in the practical application section as a guideline for hypertrophy specific periodization and programming. 


Training Variables - Practical Application for Hypertrophy:


  • Training Volume, Work Sets per Training Session = 6 sets to 8 sets


  • Training Volume, Work Sets per Training Microcycle (Week) = 12 to 24 sets


  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Rate of Perceived Exertion = 8 RPE


  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Reps in Reserve = 2 RIR


  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Reps to Failure = 2 RTF


  • Training Volume, Work Sets, Rest Between Sets = 2 to 3 minutes (3+ minutes, if needed)


    • Rest Between Sets = How do you know if you have rested long enough?


      • Have you recovered your cardiorespiratory system and breathing under control?  


      • Are you focused and mentally prepared to give 100% in your next work set?


      • Do you have fatigue in synergist or supporting muscles?

(for example: Back Exercises – Will your grip, forearm, or biceps limit or hinder performance on the upcoming set?)  


      • Are you recovered enough to perform the set within the prescribed rep range?


When do all of these questions not apply? 


        • Rest-Pause, Timed Sets, AMRAP, AFAP, Myo-Reps, Drop-Sets, and other intensification techniques.


  • Training Volume, Body Part Minimum Frequency = 2 sessions per week


  • Training Volume, Body Part Average Frequency = 2 to 4 sessions per week


  • Training Volume, Body Part Maximum Frequency = 4 to 6 sessions per week


  • Training Volume, Body Part Supramaximal Frequency = 10 to 20 sessions per week  (Typically only used in advanced rehab/injury techniques or skill training)


  • Training Volume, Microcycle Progression = ~ 20% total volume increase (add 1 set per session)


  • Training Volume, Mesocycle Progression = Increase volume 3 or 4 times over 4 to 8 weeks, then lower volume for one week, for “deload phase” or “re-sensitization phase” or “priming phase”.  


    • Example: 
    • Week 1 = 10 sets (Day 1 = 4 sets, Day 2 = 3 sets, Day 3 = 3 sets)
    • Week 2 = 12 sets (Day 1 = 4 sets, Day 2 = 4 sets, Day 3 = 4 sets)
    • Week 3 = 14 sets (Day 1 = 5 sets, Day 2 = 4 sets, Day 3 = 5 sets)
    • Week 4 = 16 sets (Day 1 = 6 sets, Day 2 = 5 sets, Day 3 = 5 sets)
    • Week 5 = 18 sets (Day 1 = 6 sets, Day 2 = 6 sets, Day 3 = 6 sets)
    • Week 6 = 9 sets (Day 1 = 3 sets, Day 2 = 3 sets, Day 3 = 3 sets)
    • Week 7 = 10 sets… Repeat the process of 10 sets, 12 sets, 14 sets, 16 sets, 18 sets, 9 sets.


  • Training Volume:

 Maintenance to Minimal to Maximal Thresholds: Can be affected by nutrition, sleep, supplementation, local fatigue, peripheral fatigue, systemic fatigue, accumulated fatigue, joint/connective tissue fatigue, recoverability, trainability, psychological stress, emotional stress, hormones, medical conditions, genetics, epigenetics, and more… 


  • Training Volume Parameters:

Specifically designed for specific situations and goals. Individualized and modified for particular circumstances and objectives. Monitored and autoregulated as needed by altering sets, reps, load, effort, frequency, tempo, range of motion, muscle action, intensification techniques, exercise selection, and exercise order.



(1.) Figueiredo VC, De Salles BF, Trajano GS.  Volume for muscle hypertrophy and health outcomes: The most effective variable in resistance training. Sports Med 48: 499-505, 218


(2.) Krieger JW. Single vs multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: A meta-analysis.  J Strength Cond Res 24: 1150-1159, 2010.


(3.) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci 35: 1073-1082, 2016.


(4.) Baz-Valle E, Fontes-Villalba M, Santos-Concerjero M. Total number of sets as a training volume quantification method for muscle hypertrophy:  A systematic review.  J Strength Cond Res 2018.


(5.) Hampson, DB, St Clair Gibson A, Lambert MI, and Noakes TD.  The influence of sensory cues on the perception of exertion during exercise and central regulation of exercise performance. Sports Med 31: 935-952, 2001.


(6.) Borg G. Perceived Exertion as an indicator of somatic stress. Scand J Rehabil Med 2: 92-98: 1970.


(7.) Faulkner J and Eston R. Perceived exertion research in the 21st century: Developments, reflections, and questions for the future. J Exerc Sci Fitness 6: 1 – 14, 2008.


(8.) Carpinelli, The Size Principle, and a Critical Analysis of the Unsubstantiated Heavier-Is-Better Recommendation for Resistance Training.  J Exerc Sci Fit. 2008. Vol 6. No 2. P. 67-86


(9.) Damas, F., Phillips, S. M., Libardi, C.A., Vechin, F.C., Lixandrao, M.E., Jannig, P.R., … Ugrinowitsch, C. (2016) Resistance training-induced changes in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis are related to hypertrophy only after attenuation of muscle damage. Journal of Physiology, 594 (18), 5209-5222.


(10.) West DW, Kujbida GW, Moore DR, et al. Resistance exercise-induced increases in putative anabolic hormones do not enhance muscle protein synthesis or intracellular signaling in young men. J Physiol. 2009;587(Pt 21):5239–47.


(11.) Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, et al. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1031–40.


(12.) West DW, Burd NA, Tang JE, et al. Elevations in ostensibly anabolic hormones with resistance exercise enhance neither training-induced muscle hypertrophy nor strength of the elbow flexors. J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(1):60–7.


(13.) Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB, et al. Consumption of fat- free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2): 373–81.


(14.) Ahtiainen JP, Pakarinen A, Kraemer WJ, et al. Acute hormonal and neuromuscular responses and recovery to forced vs maximum repetitions multiple resistance exercises. Int J Sports Med. 2003;24(6):410–8.


(15.) Miller, B.F., et al., Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise. J Physiol, 2005. 567 (Pt 3): p 1021-33.


(16.) Chesley, A., et al., Changes in human muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. J. Appl. Physiol., 1992. 73: p. 1383-1388


(17.) Phillips, S.M., et al., Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans.  The American Journal of physiology, 1997. 273 (1 Pt 1): p. E99-107.


(18.) Cuthbertson, D.J., et al., Anabolic signaling and protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle after dynamic shortening or lengthening exercise. Am J Physiolo Endocrinol Metab, 2006. 290(4): p.E731-8.


(19.) Chiu L and Barnes J. The fitness-fatigue model revisited: Implications for planning short- and long-term training. Strength Cond J 25: 42–51, 2003.


(20.) Israetel M and Hoffman J. How much should I train. E-Book. 2017.


(21.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Principles of planning speed/strength training program in track athletes. Legaya Athleticka 8: 8–10, 1979


(22.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press, 1986.


(23.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Programming and Organization of Training. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press, 1988.


(24.) Verkhoshansky, Siff, Supertraining, 6th Edition. Denver: Supertraining International. 


(25.) Stone MH, Stone ME, and Sands WA. Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007


(26.)  Chiu, L.Z.F. and J.L. Barnes, The Fitness-Fatigue Model Revisited: Implications for Planning Short- and Long-Term Training. Strength Cond J, 2003. 25(6): p. 42–51.


(27.) Steele J. Intensity; in-ten-si-ty; noun. 1. Often used ambiguously within resistance training. 2. Is it time to drop the term altogether?  British J Sports Med 2014; 48:1586-1588


(28.) Hackett, D.A., Johnson, N.A., Halaki, M. & Chow, C. (2012). A novel scale to assess resistance- exercise effort. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(13), 1405-1413. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2012.710757.


(29.) Hackett, D.A., Cobley, S., Favies, T., Michael, S. & Halaki, M. (2016). Accuracy in estimating repetitions to failure during resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(8), 2162-2168. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001683.


(30.) Helms, E.R., Cronin, J., Storey, A. & Zourdos, M. (2016). Application of the repetitions in reserve-based rating of perceived exertion scale for resistance training. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(4), 42-49. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000218.


(31.) Zourdos, M.C., Klemp, A., Dolan, C., Quiles, J.M., Schau, K.A., Jo, E., ... Garcia-Merino Blanco, R. (2016). Novel resistance training-specific rating of perceived exertion scale measuring repetitions in reserve. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(1), 267-275. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001049.


(32.) Steele, J., Endres, A., Fisher, J., Gentil, P. & Giessing, J. (2017). Ability to predict repetitions to momentary failure is not perfectly accurate, though improves with resistance training experience. PeerJ 5, e4105. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4105


(33.) Steele, J., & Fisher, J. (2018). Effort, discomfort, group III/IV afferents, bioenergetics, and motor unit recruitment. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 50(8), 1718. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001605


(34.) Steele, J., Fisher, J., Giessing, J. & Gentil, P. (2017). Clarity in reporting terminology and definitions of set endpoints in resistance training. Muscle Nerve, 56(3), 368-374.


(35.) Steele, J., Androulakis-Korakakis, P., Perrin, C., Fisher, J., Gentil, P., Scott, C., & Rosenberger, A. (2019). The role of modality of exercise as a countermeasure to microgravity induced physical deconditioning: New perspectives and lessons learned from terrestrial studies.


(36.) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn DI, Krieger JW. Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015;45(4):577- 585


(37.) Hackett DA, Davies TB, Orr R, Kuang K, Halaki M. Effect of movement velocity during resistance training on muscle-specific hypertrophy: A systematic review. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018;18(4):473-482


(38.) Carlson L, Jonker B, Westcott WL, Steele J, Fisher J. Neither repetition duration, nor number of muscle actions affect strength increases, body composition, muscle size or fasted blood glucose in trained males and females. Apply Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018


(39.) Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(12):3508-3523


(40.) Fisher JP, Carlson J, Steele J, Smith D. The effects of pre-exhaustion, exercise order, and rest intervals in a full-body resistance training intervention. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(11):1265-1270


(41.) Fisher JP, Carlson L, Steele J. The effects of breakdown set resistance training on muscular performance and body composition in young men and women. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(5):1425-1432


(42.) Barcelos LC, Nunes PR, de Souza LR, de Oliviera AA, Furlanetto R, Marocolo M, Orsatti FL. Low-load resistance training promotes muscular adaptation regardless of vascular occlusion, load, or volume. Eur J Apply Physiol. 2015;115(7):1559-1568


(43.) Farup J, de Paoli F, Bjerg K, Rijs S, Ringgard S, Vissing K. Blood flow restricted and traditional resistance training performed to fatigue produce equal muscle hypertrophy. Scand j Med Sci Sports. 2015;25(6):754-763



Theoretical Framework for Optimizing Training Periodization and Programming Posted on 19 Mar 16:19

 Justin Swinney - March 19, 2020

I receive a wide variety of questions pertaining to exercise selection and programming. A few of the questions provide a specific set of circumstances to evaluate and apply the appropriate principles of training needed to respond with an accurate, individualized answer. Unfortunately, a large majority of the questions demonstrate a complete lack of periodization, programming, and consistency, which makes it virtually impossible to provide an optimal answer. Lately, the questions have been about specific exercises or methods from various social media personalities.  For example:

Question:  “I watched a video of <insert name> doing this exercise <insert image/video of movement> for rear delts. He said <insert exercise name> is the best rear delts exercise, and it should be done every workout." 

This type of question leads me to believe that many individuals may be losing sight of the big picture by focusing on minute details in isolation and ignoring the proper fundamentals of resistance training. When considering the design of a training program, it is essential to have a theoretical framework to establish an epistemological base to determine the necessity and validity of the modification in question.  This article aims to provide a theoretical framework to effectively evaluate questions and communicate the fundamental principles and interrelated variables critical to developing an optimal periodized program.  

It is important to stress that the suggestion, idea, or question must be pertinent to the individual’s specific training program or session.  If the suggestion, idea, or question presents a potential opportunity worthy of consideration, then the individual can begin the process with step one of the theoretical framework. 

Q: What is step one? 

Step one is to perform a robust need’s analysis. 

Q: Is it necessary to perform a full needs analysis before each training decision? I want to get bigger and stronger. What else needs to be considered? All I want to know is if <insert exercise or program> would be beneficial.  

Is it necessary? Maybe not, but I prefer not to make biased, uninformed, or emotional decisions.  What else needs to be considered?  The complexity and profundity of thought to answer that question will require a separate article to properly address the considerations of a need’s analysis. Performing a comprehensive needs analysis is an essential component in programming to succeed through the advanced levels of muscular development. The fundamental methods of consistently tracking quantitative data and making purposeful observations complement the critical analysis of needs and programming. This information gives the individual the ability to evaluate their progress towards the desired physiological, psychological, or performance outcome and adequately consider the potential value of a modification to their current training program. Since this article only provides a basic description and structure for the theoretical framework, as mentioned above, a future article will provide a more detailed explanation of the need's analysis.  

Once a thorough needs analysis has been performed, step one is complete.  Unfortunately, the second step is often overlooked by trainers and coaches who are not well versed in exercise science, sport science, and training theory.   

Q: What is the second step? Why is it often overlooked?  

The second step is to identify and understand the resistance training principles, then properly apply those principles in coordination with the need’s analysis from step one.  Once an individual has identified the resistance training principles, the second step is primarily a cognitive function of acquiring knowledge from the needs analysis and establishing a foundational relationship with the resistance training principles. The goal of this step is to process collected information through intellectual thought and experience, then correctly apply the principles of training to help navigate a route through the short-term and towards the long-term destinations. The ignorance (the lack of knowledge, education, or information of the subject matter) of exercise science, sport science, and training theory cause a majority of errors in properly programming the training principles. That is not an insulting, harmful, or condescending statement. If a trainer or coach has not accumulated enough of formal collegiate education (human anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, physics, kinesiology, and biomechanics), then he or she will not be able to comprehend the intricacies of complex biological systems, integrated systems within systems, or the dynamic complexity of responses to variables by those systems.  But that does not mean that the trainer or coach will not get positive results and execute incredible transformations.  It only means that the trainer or coach doesn’t have the requisite capacity to be aware of the underlying mechanisms of human systems, interpret the complex interactivity between the systems, and perceive the significance of environmental and psychological stressors.   

Q: When you mention the "Training Principles," what are you referring to, sets and rep combinations or training splits?

Sets and reps are subcategories of the resistance training variables, and they are in the next step (step three).  The principles of resistance training vary from as little as three main principles (1.) or as many as eight principles plus related subprinciples (2.). The depth of principles referred to in exercises science textbooks and clinical research varies with the author's perspective of physiological adaptations, psychological adaptations, performance responses, and theoretical applications.

To provide structure, I will provide two lists of training principles.  The first list is the minimal training principles that I apply in my client's periodized programming.  The second list is the minimal training principles that an individual must consider when attempting to create any positive training effect. 

Training Principles List 1:

  1. Specificity 
  2. Overload 
  3. Fatigue Management 
  4. Stimulus Recovery Adaptation 
  5. Periodization
  • 5a. Phase Potentiation
  • 5b. Variation
  • 5c. Directed Adaptation
  • 5d. Reversibility
6. Individualization 

 Training Principles List 2:

  1. Specificity
  2. Overload

Once an individual has developed a conceptual construct of training principles with consideration of the needs analysis information, step two is complete. A future article will provide definitions and descriptions of the resistance training principles. 

The third step involves identifying the resistance training variables and interpreting the complex and sophisticated interrelationships between the variables. Understanding the impact between specific variable interactions is essential for the organization of periodization and programming.  

Q: I have read about volume and intensity. As the volume goes up, the intensity goes down and vice versa, correct? 

If an individual only considers two variables and completely ignores the interactions between other variables, then perhaps it is correct, assuming the inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous connectivity (providing connectivity to everyone and everything, everywhere, every time) provided by the internet and social platforms has created an information overload of arguments that overwhelm individuals with a rapid flow of differing perspectives involving volume, intensity, frequency, and more. There is an astonishing amount of myths and misconceptions surrounding the application of training variables for specific adaptations. However, there are also a few quality educators producing unbiased, data-driven, and critically analyze information that can be used by individuals as guidelines to develop structured programs. The ability to critically think and apply reasoning skills helps an individual identify if the suggested training variable modification is based on fallacious reasoning or supported by science. At times, our emotions can influence our thinking and reasoning skills, which completely devastates our cognitive capacity and sways our current opinion. 

**Note:  In times of frustration and lack of patience, I have poorly represented my intellect and character by using a wide range of logical fallacies to quickly end an argument or conversation. In a future article, I will discuss some of the most common logical fallacies used in the fitness industry to help individuals recognize if the premises used in conversation accurately support the conclusion. **

Q: It sounds like there is much more to consider than volume and intensity.  What are the resistance training variables that I should learn to apply and manipulate in my programming? 

In resistance training, it is common for a beginner to consider three variables in programming V.I.F. (volume, intensity, frequency).  In some textbooks, they use the ACSM (American College of Sports and Medicine) acronym F.I.T.T. (frequency, intensity, time, and type) to describe the basic resistance training variables.  The periodization and programming system that I created is structured to consider a minimum of ten resistance training variables (listed below).  The needs analysis and goals of the individual will dictate the order of importance for the resistance training variables.  

For example, If I am designing a hypertrophy program for an offseason bodybuilder, then I will have a different ranking for the application of variables compared to if I was designing a pre-season program for a baseball player. There is more to programming than implementing a specific set and rep scheme to satisfy the weekly volume requirements. I will list variables that I use in my client's programs, plus a few terms that individuals get confused concerning periodization and programming 

Training Variables:

1. Volume

(Total amount of work performed. Sets x Reps per Session, Sets x Reps per Week, Sets x Reps within a Specific Range, Sets x Reps x Load on Specific Exercises with Replicated Form, etc.)

2. Effort or Relative Intensity

(Subjective Rating of Intensity of Effort.  RPE – Rate of Perceived Exertion, RIR – Reps in Reserve, RTF – Reps to Failure)

3. Intensity or Absolute Intensity

(Calculated using an actual single or multiple repetition max or calculated using a formula to estimate 1RM.)

4. Frequency

(Number of Training Sessions [Specific Muscle Group, Specific Muscle Action, Specific Movement Pattern, Specific Exercise, Specific Rep Range or Scheme, Specific Set Number, Specific Training Modality or Advanced Training Technique]  per Unit of Time. 

5. Exercise Choice

(Compound vs. Isolation) (Machine vs. Free Weight) (BB vs. DB vs. KB) (Bilateral vs. Unilateral)

6. Exercise Order

(Loading Shortened, Mid-Range, or Lengthened Stretch) (Activation Isolation Exercises First or Heavy Compound First) (Machine vs. Free Weight) (Power, Plyo, High-Velocity considerations)

7. Tempo

(Tempo has four parts. [Eccentric : Iso-Hold : Concentric : Iso-Hold]  Tempo is written as a series of four numbers.  [2:1:2:0] )

8. Rest Interval

(Rest Time Between Sets, Rest Time Between Exercises, and when using advanced training modalities such as “Rest-Pause”, “Myo-Reps”, “Drop Sets”, Rest Time Between Reps)

9. Type of Muscle Action

(Concentric and Eccentric <or> Concentric Only <or> Eccentric Only <or> Isometrics <or> Quasi-Isometrics <or> Various Combination of Concentric and/or Eccentric with Isometrics and/or Quasi-Isometrics)

10. Range of Motion

(Full Range of Motion, Partial Range of Motion, Modified Range of Motion) 

Periodization and Programming Terminology: 

(Listed Largest to Smallest)

Quadrennial Plan > Annual Plan > Macrocycle > Block > Mesocycle > Microcycle > Session > Exercise > Set > Rep

  • Quadrennial Plan = 4 Years
  • Annual Plan = 1 Year
  • Macrocycle = 1 to 4 Blocks
  • Block = 1 to 4 Mesocycles
  • Mesocycle = 3 to 12 Weeks
  • Microcycle = 1 Week of Training
  • Session = 1 Day (Can have multiple sessions per day)
  • Exercise = 2 to 10 Exercises per Session
  • Set = 1 to 10 Sets per Exercise
  • Rep = 3 to 30 Reps, up to 100 Reps per Set. (Specific Rep Ranges for Specific Adaptations)

The final step of this theoretical framework concerns the employment of systems thinking, feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, and conceptual strategies to manipulate variables for minimal stimulus threshold, maximal threshold capacity, accumulation, adaptation, sustainability, and resilience.  

Q: What do you mean by systems thinking, feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, and conceptual strategies?  

The human body is an extremely complex system with a hierarchical organization of systems and subsystems that are resilient, evolutionary, and self-organizing within a homeostatic continuum for survival. It is vital to identify and understand the elements within each system, the interconnections between the elements, and the function or purpose of each system. Once an individual has a modest understanding of systems thinking, they will begin to notice the numerous levels of systems embedded within systems. Becoming aware of the processes directed towards the coordination of enhanced function and sustainability reveals how various feedback loops (negative, balancing, positive) manage stability, productivity and resilience through various stressors, oscillations, and perturbations. If an individual dedicates the time to learning the language of systems thinking and becoming aware of the foundational concepts within systems theory, then they will be able to understand relationships, interactions, and processes for developing the systems thinking perspective to apply in a theoretical framework.

After reading numerous books about thinking in systems, systems thinking, complex systems, dynamic systems, critical thinking, logic, philosophy, theory, etc., I have identified books in each category that serve as great introductions to the thinking process.  One of my favorite books in the category of systems thinking is titled “Thinking in Systems, A Primer” by Donella H Meadows.  It is an easy read that provides great analogies for learning the language, terminology, and paradigm of systems thinking.  "So, what is a system? A system is a set of things --- people, cells, molecules, or whatever --- interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time. The system may be buffeted, constricted, triggered, or driven by outside forces. But the system's response to these forces is characteristic of itself, and that response is seldom simple in the real world." (3.)  Therefore, when updating or modifying a training program, with the system’s thinking ability to observe stressors and analyze the dynamic data through a perspective of degrees in utility, the individual will have a robust advantage in periodizing adaptations.  Systems thinking also provides a clear vision of the parameters and variables that cause stress to the system will increase the potential capacity of resilience with the training program. 

There are many advantages to developing evidenced-based data-driven methods with dynamic perspectives from systems theory through the application of critical thinking towards developing strategies and tactics for optimizing desired outcomes.  The investment of time each week studying systems thinking, complex systems, dynamic systems, critical thinking, logic, or philosophy is exponentially valuable for improving cognitive capacities.  The dedication of time to enhancing intellect and critical thinking skills will do more than strengthen periodization or programming abilities. It will serve as a force multiplier throughout an individual’s life.

In summary, this theoretical framework has four steps: 

 Step 1: Perform a comprehensive needs analysis. 

Step 2: Identify and understand the resistance training principles, while integrating the needs analysis with the principles. 

Step 3: Identify and understand the resistance training variables and their interactions, with respect to the principles, and aligned with the need’s analysis. 

Step 4:  Learn the thinking in systems language and understand the systems thinking approach with feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, threshold capacities, and apply critical thinking in developing conceptual strategies for problem-solving and creating periodized training programs to optimally elicit the desired adaptation.



Reference List:

  1. Stone, M., Plisk, S., Collins, D. (2001) Training Principles: Evaluation of Modes and Methods of Resistance Training – A Coaching Perspective. Sports Biomechanics Vol 1 (1) p 79 – 103.

  2. Verkhoshansky, Y., Siff. (2009) Supertraining, 6th Denver: Supertraining International.

  3. Meadows, D., (2008) Thinking in Systems, A Primer. Edited by Wright, Diana. Sustainability Institute. London. Sterling, VA.

Foundational Concepts for Understanding Hypertrophy Posted on 14 Jan 16:29

Justin Swinney - January 14, 2020

     As of late, the word hypertrophy has gained popularity in the fitness industry.  Unfortunately, a majority of this new popularity is from online trainers and coaches with poor comprehension. Their lack of interpretation led to incomplete explanations, which fueled unnecessary assumptions by individuals in search of an operational definition.  The perplexity was recently brought to my attention by a conversation involving the odd but confident use of the word hypertrophy.  The unexpected statement describing their workout program, “I am doing a hypertrophy workout program.  It has heavy 3 RM strength days and light 15 to 20 hypertrophy days.” and I said, “Wait, hold on… Hypertrophy workout program with strength days and rep days.  Let me take a step back and ask what do you mean by “hypertrophy” workout program?”.  The next few seconds were silent and then the unexpected reply, “hypertrophy, you know, like a bodybuilder, more reps, to get pumped up and grow muscles.” I replied, “Well, since you know it means muscle growth, that is primarily correct.  How did you learn the meaning of hypertrophy?”.  The statement that I have heard numerous times before, “I found the workout on and Googled it.”.  I started to sense a little bit of uncertainty in the tone and said, “Would you like me to explain the term hypertrophy? I can provide a few specifics, and perhaps the information helps you in some way.”. 


     While some trainers have a thorough understanding and articulate their perspectives with clarity, other trainers attempt to gain attention by creating a mere intellectual mirage.  Individuals can’t know the author’s rationalization behind the search mediated material.  Collectively speaking, without prior specialized education in exercise physiology, it is nearly impossible to identify any limitations demonstrated with a conversation.  In general, the population spends the majority of their time at work or socializing with friends and family, not reading clinical studies, literature reviews, and textbooks.  Considering the time constraints, individuals rely on a trainer or an online fitness personality to provide them with practical perceptions of relative exercise information. The purpose of this article is to filter potential misunderstandings and provide a base description of the word “hypertrophy.”  Then build upon that base and delineate the specific categories of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  Finally, a summary of the information to aid in developing foundational concepts and helping confirm the understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy. 


     The word hypertrophy first appeared in the mid-19th century. The combination of the English term “hyper-“ denoting “beyond” or “exceeding” and the Greek term “-trophia” denoting “nourishment” was used in the medical literature to describe an observed adaptation of excessive growth (1.). The aforementioned etymology of hypertrophy supports the operational definition, growth from the increased size of cells. As a refresher from Biology 101, Cells are the smallest independently functioning unit of our biological system. Multiple cells make tissues, and multiple tissues make organs. Multiple organs make organ systems, and the symphony of organ systems is an organism. Humans are multicellular organisms with numerous pathways and feedback loops to react and adapt to stressors for survival (2.). In the context of this article, we focus on the adaptations of muscle tissue, more specifically skeletal muscle tissue, and not venture into the discussion of cardiac or smooth muscle tissue.


     Skeletal muscle’s integral connections of neuromuscular, hormone, energy, and nutrient balance is an amazingly complex subject. Modernization of equipment and tools used in the scientific process has produced more than an increase in the volume of clinical research. These new technologies have added complexities and richness to the collected data, accompanied by more intelligent and updated interpretations.  In recent literature, collected proteomics was able to significantly support previous thoughts regarding the existence of various types of skeletal muscle hypertrophy (3.)  While we still don’t have enough clinical literature to know the exact relationship between resistance training programming variables and their effects on the development of specific types of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  We have enough confidence in supporting the idea that skeletal muscle hypertrophy is not as simple as an increased cross-sectional area.


     Some of the underlying terms can be confusing, but I provide definitions and practical descriptions throughout the article to prevent misunderstandings. I begin by building upon the cellular definition, and skeletal muscle hypertrophy is the increase in skeletal muscle mass or volume. For accurate comprehension, it is necessary to reinforce the distinction between mass and volume to clarify the concept of muscle density. Mass is the measure of the amount of matter in an object, usually measured in grams (g) or kilograms (kg) and volume is the measure of the amount of space that a substance occupies. Density is the measurement that compares the amount of mass to the amount of three-dimensional volume.  If the muscle tissue increases in density, then the mass (weight) increased, and the volume stayed the same or decreased. If the muscle decreases in density, then the volume (three-dimensional space) increases, and the mass stays the same or decreases.  The SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) dictates these hypertrophic responses. Meaning, the specific stimulus imposed upon the skeletal muscle provides an experience of stress that demands a unique adaptation to efficiently tolerate similar future demands (4.). It is intriguing to contemplate the multitude of resistance training variables that modify the categorical response from skeletal muscle (5.). (Training Variables discussed in future work.) Considering that muscle tissue has the ability to individually modify its structure and composition (mass, volume, density), it is necessary to correctly highlight skeletal muscle’s hypertrophic categories: (1.) myofibrillar, (2.) sarcoplasmic, (3.) connective tissue. (6.) For this article, I provide a clear evidence-based description for each hypertrophic adaptation.


     Since connective tissue is rarely acknowledged in the discussion of hypertrophy, we begin by describing its importance. Skeletal muscle is wrapped in an extracellular matrix of connective tissue, fibrous fascia, that provides a structural framework from origin to insertion, creating tendons that attach the muscle to its bony attachment sites. The connective tissue contains nerves that carry central nervous system information to direct the muscles to contract and produce force, and the nerves also relay information back to the central nervous system for the brain and spinal cord to understand the current state of the muscle. It also contains blood vessels to supply nutrients and dispose of muscular metabolic waste products (7.). Muscle cells have a cylindrical shape and are referred to as muscle fibers (muscle cell = muscle fiber). These cylindrical-shaped fibers can be as short as ½ an inch or as long as 20 inches. (8.) Muscle fibers are rarely the entire length of the muscle and are typically arranged in a series end-to-end or overlapping each other in parallel. There is a specific organization of muscle cells to properly transmit their force of contraction laterally to the adjacent fibers. The phenomenon of lateral force transmission occurs between fibers through another type of fibrous fascia.  Muscular fascia is mainly composed of collagen fibers with some elastin fibers. Briefly, each muscle fiber is surrounded in its own fascia called endomysium, and those muscle fibers are divided into organizational bundles called fascicles, which is surrounded in another fascia called perimysium. Finally, the entire muscle is surrounded by a layer of fibrous fascia called epimysium. (9.) All three of the fascial layers blend and attach the muscle to bone. Muscular fascia extends beyond the origins and insertions, dividing specific muscles into groups known as fascial planes (fascial planes are groups of muscles enveloped by a thin aponeurotic sheet of fascia and bordered by the intermuscular sept). As this information has demonstrated, the fascial connective tissue plays an integral role in the structure and function of muscle tissue, which is why it is appropriate to provide this glimpse of kinesiology, for accurate visualization of the components of skeletal muscle in the discussion of hypertrophy.  


      Next, we venture into discussing the fraction of skeletal muscle hypertrophy that is the most directly related to the increase in force production capacity. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the increase in size or number myofibrils with an increase in the contractile units, sarcomeres, and contractile force generation. Myofibrils are contractile units that lie in parallel and extend end-to-end on the long axis of the muscle cell. The myofibrils contain even smaller contractile units called myofilaments. Myofilaments are composed of thick and thin filaments in a repeating pattern that is responsible for muscle contraction. The repeating pattern of thick and thin myofilaments is called a sarcomere. The sarcomere is known as the functional contractile unit of a muscle fiber. The sarcomere’s thick filament is primarily myosin, and its thin filament is primarily actin. They also contain regulatory proteins troponin and tropomyosin (10.). Please note, this is a very brief description of a contractile unit and is used to give relevance to the sliding-filament theory of a muscle contraction. “Contraction requires activity between two major protein filaments in the sarcomere: thick filaments of myosin and thin filaments of actin. According to the sliding filament theory, the interdigitation of these two filaments is the mechanism of force generation” (11.). The muscles contract as the myosin heads extend out and bind to the sliding actin filament. The process of sarcomeres shortening and cross-bridges forming generates the force of the contraction. (Note: on average a thick filament contains approximately 200 to 300 myosin molecules)  The increase in myofibrillar hypertrophy is significant for an individual that wants to improve a strength related skill. This relationship between myofibrillar hypertrophy and strength is widely known in the strength and conditioning community. When discussing periodization and programming, most strength and conditioning coaches categorize certain training variables with their resulting hypertrophy. Since sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is more voluminous and less related to force production, it is not the primary goal of adaptation in strength sports. But myofibrillar hypertrophy is directly related to the increase in force production capacity and strength. If an individual experiences myofibrillar hypertrophy, then the individual most likely will get stronger. But we must remember, if the individual experiences an increase in strength, then they may not have experienced myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy may have a causal relationship with strength, but strength doesn’t necessarily have a causal relationship to myofibrillar hypertrophy. (Note: Strength can increase by improving neural function, enhancing movement skill, mastery of lifting technique, and more.) Hopefully, this small slice of information is enough to mentally digest myofibrillar hypertrophy and prevent confusion in the upcoming section featuring sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.


     The last type of hypertrophy discussed in this article is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Historically, the term sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has been described as an increase in the fluid of the muscle that is non-functional and non-force producing type of hypertrophy (12.). Recently, Haun et al. provided a thorough description as “a chronic increase in the volume of the sarcolemma and/or sarcoplasm accompanied by an increase in the volume of mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum, t-tubules, and/or sarcoplasmic enzymes or substrate content.” (13.). Furthermore, it is a prerequisite to have a basic understanding of the ribosomes, nuclei, mitochondria, proteins, glycolytic enzymes, metabolic enzymes and a host of other intracellular components included in the category of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to discern the potential for practical application in periodization and programming (periodization and programming will be featured in future work) for hypertrophy.  Briefly identifying a few elements mentioned above, within the sarcoplasmic membrane-type complex, is a network of t-tubules perpendicular and parallel to the sarcolemma. Located adjacent to both sides of the perpendicular t-tubules is terminal cisternae. The combination of two terminal cisternae and one t-tubules is referred to as a triad. The triad invaginates the sarcolemma and delivers the factors for a muscle contraction. “Excitation-Contraction coupling requires a highly specialized membranous structure, the triad, composed of a central T-tubule surrounded by two terminal cisternae from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.“ (14.). The t-tubules store voltage-gated Na+ and voltage-gated K+, which participates in conducting an electrical signal (action potential) and the terminal cisternae that serve as reservoirs for calcium ions (Ca2+) used in muscle contractions (15.). Even though this is only a fraction of information regarding the underlying mechanisms and elements in the category of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, maybe it aids in organizing thoughts about skeletal muscle hypertrophy.


     This article highlights the importance of a thorough collegiate background in the studies of human science (anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, kinesiology, and more) for anyone who attempts to consider themselves evidence-based, data-driven, or scientifically motivated. In an attempt to give a basic understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy and not bore you with too many of the minute details, I briefly touched on a few of the critical elements in each section. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy can be classified into three distinct categories of (1.) myofibrillar, (2.) sarcoplasmic, and (3.) connective.  Each category features specific roles in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, but they all work incongruence to achieve the same overall goal.  In summary, this topic is an incredible phenomenon that I have been obsessed with my entire life, and I hope I have provided you with enough foundational information to begin your understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.


(1.) "hypertrophy." Merriam-Webster, 2020. Web. 1 Jan 2020.

(2.) VanPutte C, Regan J, Russo A. Seeley’s Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology. 9th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. 1-3 p.

 (3.) Haun CT, Vann CG, Osburn SC, Mumford PW, Roberson PA, Romero MA, et al. (2019) Muscle fiber hypertrophy in response to 6 weeks of high-volume resistance training in trained young men is largely attributed to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. PLoS ONE 14 (6): e0215267.

(4.) Baechle TR, Earle RW, Wathen D. Resistance training. In: Earle RW, Baechle TR, editors. Essentials of strength training and conditioning. 3rd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2008. p. 381–412.

(5.) Morton RW, Colenso-Semple L, Phillips SM.  (2019) Training for Strength and Hypertrophy: An Evidence-based Approach. Current Opinion in Physiology, 10 (2019), p. 90-95.

(6.)Taber C, Vigotsky A, Nuckols G, Haun C. Exercise-Induced Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is a Contributory Cause of Gains in Muscle Strength. Sports Medicine. 2019; 49:993-997.

(7.) Muscolino, Joseph E. Kinesiology: The Skeletal System and Muscle Function. 2nd Edition. Missouri: Elsevier Inc. p 380-448

(8.) VanPutte C, Regan J, Russo A. Seeley’s Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology. 9th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. P 151-191.

 (9.) Plowman S, Smith D. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance, 3rd Edition. Maryland: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a Wolter Kluwer business.  P 512-525.

(10.) McArdle W, Katch F, Katch V.  Exercise Physiology, Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance. 7th Edition. Baltimore, Maryland. 2010. P353-375.

(11.) Wisdom, Katrina M et al. “Use it or lose it: multiscale skeletal muscle adaptation to mechanical stimuli.” Biomechanics and modeling in mechanobiology vol. 14,2 (2015): 195-215. doi:10.1007/s10237-014-0607-3

(12.) Zatsiorsky VM, Kraemer WJ. Science and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd Edition. Illinois. Human Kinetics, 2006. p 47-66

(13.) Haun, Cody T et al. “A Critical Evaluation of the Biological Construct Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: Size Matters but So Does the Measurement.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 10 247. 12 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00247

(14.) Al-Qusairi and Laporte: T-tubule biogenesis and triad formation in skeletal muscle and implication in human diseases. Skeletal Muscle 2011 1:26.  doi:10.1186/2044-5040-1-26 

(15.) McKinley M, O’Loughlin V, Bidle T. Anatomy and Physiology, An Integrative Approach, 2nd Edition. New York. McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. p. 331-367.




Swinney Nutrition's Future... Posted on 24 Oct 16:39

In recent years there has been a considerable amount of research broadcasted on social media about health promotion, human performance, and physique enhancement. Although these discussions are entertaining, the majority of engagement is dogmatic and controversial. Unfortunately, conflicting opinions cause a division into factions and subjective interpretations of clinical studies. Additionally, this results in a substantial misunderstanding of research and inappropriate individual recommendations.  The general population’s focus on social media currency instead of professional qualifications has become a severe limitation in their understanding of foundational information.  Furthermore, compelling emails, messages, and requests display the need for a critical evaluation of current perspectives.  In response to witnessing the significant demand for guidance, future work will provide sound direction for a variety of potentially advantageous principles for achieving victory and sustaining the optimal lifestyle.

Swinney Nutrition - Behind The Brand Posted on 15 Nov 14:31

Swinney Nutrition

Behind The Brand

Swinney Nutrition is more than a brand. It is a purposeful and fulfilling lifestyle.  A lifestyle that emerged from the synergy of two generations cultivating champions and constantly pursuing an eager ambition for knowledge.  This lifestyle was inaugurated over 40 years ago, by Todd (Justin’s Father) developing interest for increasing strength, enhancing performance and the art of sculpting a perfect physique. Those interest rapidly became a passion that began his lifelong commitment to research, understanding and educating in the field of health, human performance, and nutrition.


Justin discovered his inherited passion at a very young age. Daily attendance of Todd’s early morning workouts and frequent enjoyment of bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman events was the motivation for initial enthusiasm. In a few short months, Justin could demonstrate perfect form on the exercises and recite training information and nutrition facts often overheard from his father’s conversations. By the age of four, Justin displayed textbook form on cue for Todd’s weekend educational seminars.  The overwhelming feeling of satisfaction created in those moments of a gym/fitness environment solidified the concept for his life’s ambition.


In the upcoming years, Justin read every book, magazine, and article he could get in his hands.  He steadily performed daily bodyweight exercises, played sports and made obstacle training courses anywhere he was allowed.  After years of continually asking for an iron weight set (barbell, dumbbells and weight plates), for his 10th birthday in November of 1993, he received the materials to build his dream.  The dedication rewarded success at an early age of 14, winning 1st place and pound-for-pound best lifter in his first powerlifting contest. The discipline continued through High School as Justin became a standout athlete and added more 1st place trophies to his collection.


Justin attended the University of North Alabama, where he received his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Health Promotion and Human Performance. While in college, he took advantage of having the ability to execute research on himself, his friends and clients. The scientific approach significantly rewarded Justin in bodybuilding and led him to win 2005 Knox Classic: 1st Place Middleweight Novice and Overall, then 2007 NPC Alabama State Championships, 1st Place Middleweights.  His motivated study, ability to comprehend and apply the research propelled Justin’s CHAMP Training and Swinney Nutrition business to become one of the most successful in the Southeast.  Over the span of both degrees, he compiled an extensive library of intelligence from hundreds of 1st place bodybuilding, figure, fitness, bikini and numerous collegiate and professional athletes for CHAMP Training and Swinney Nutrition,


In December 2008, Justin decided to open a private training facility. After ten years in franchised gyms and fitness clubs, using subpar equipment and surrounded with an environment of laziness and failure, CHAMP Performance Training facility was born. CHAMP was an immediate success and expanded into a larger facility within the first 18 months, then expanded into an even larger facility 12 months later. Justin steadily improved his facilities and continued purchasing number one ranked equipment, until it became the best. Having access to the best was necessary for achieving his goals and properly fueled his research. Over the last ten years, Justin’s private facility allowed him to accurately control variables while conducting trials and studies with many nutritional supplement ingredients and combinations. Finally, after five years of repeated test and measurements, Swinney Nutrition released the first product in 2013.  The response was breathtaking, and by the end of 2014, Swinney Nutrition products had shipped to numerous countries around the world.


The diligent application of tens of thousands of hours in practical application has rewarded Swinney Nutrition with superior methods and an unparalleled preparedness of products.  Our commitment to providing world-class nutraceuticals using premium ingredients and unprecedented formulas is our number one priority.  The monumental quest for wisdom will never end. We are committed to constant research and continual development of industry-leading products.  Swinney Nutrition will perpetually “Take Nutrition to the Nth Degree.”

Swinney Nutrition's Cyclone Cup Posted on 8 Sep 14:36

Swinney Nutrition's new line of Cyclone cups are perfect for your blending your supplements or meals on the go. Watch our video to see how to get the best use out of your cup!

Absolute Nutrition showcases Swinney Nutrition’s CHAMP P2! Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

Nathan and Justin on P2! Questions, comments or want more info? You can email Nathan at or Justin at

Posted by Absolute Nutrition on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cross Fit Performance Training Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

CrossFit CHAMP offers highly individualized fitness training in a motivating environment. We strive to create an environment that allows you to constantly exceed your previous achievements. At CrossFit CHAMP, everyone participates and everyone contributes to our members’ workouts. You will find that the first person cheering you on in your workout is the first person who finishes. You will become a part of something transcendent – a community of like-minded people whose collective goal is constant self-improvement.

CrossFit training by itself is effective because of its use of natural movements to achieve proven results. We believe that a positive attitude and constant encouragement from the community will allow you to realize results in a way that you’ve never experienced before. CrossFit CHAMP will make fitness fun again!

View our CrossFit Site at

Personal Trainer Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

A personal trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may also be performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements in physical fitness.

We at CHAMP are among the elite of personal trainers in the Huntsville and surrounding areas. We are the most educated, and our program get proven results fast. If you are wondering where to find a personal trainer, we have coaching and exercise programs that can achieve any personal fitness objective.

Motivation Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

What is your motivation to keep going? When you alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., what makes you get out of bed and go to the gym or go to work? Millions of Americans hit the snooze button and roll back over causing them to miss their workout and be late for work. Why is this you or not you?