Mirror Time!

For the past two months of our Beast Building program, we've been focusing mostly on strengthening the nervous system and the muscles, at the expense of balanced muscle growth for aesthetic appeal. That's okay. Let's face it, heavy basic lifting will build a ton of overall mass, but it can lead to unbalanced development.

Why? Because by using mostly compound multi-joint movements, we tend to concentrate on our strengths more than on our weaknesses. And this, of course, is because your body is built for survival, not for looking good on the beach.


Built for survival, not for looking good at the beach.

When you're doing a set of bench press, your body doesn't "know" that you want to build big pecs, it only knows that you've got a big-ass piece of iron poised precariously above your chest and if you don't lift it, it'll crush your ribcage and you'll die.

In the interest of survival, your body relies on the muscles best suited to do the job. If your triceps and deltoids are stronger than your pectoral muscles, then these will take on more of the workload and will be more stimulated to grow than your chest.

So Phase III of the Beast Building program will be the mirror phase in more ways than one. First, it'll be a mirror image of what we've been doing up until now: the training program we'll use will be the opposite of the other phases (less frequency, more volume per body part, higher reps, more intensive techniques, less rest). It'll also be the mirror phase because this is where we train to look good!

The Training Split

As I mentioned in the previous parts of this program, when you're training mostly for muscle growth, you hit each muscle group less frequently, but with a higher training volume and more oomph. Conversely, when you're training for neural improvements, it's best to increase the frequency of training each muscle group while lowering the daily volume.

Since this phase focuses only on maximizing muscle growth, each main muscle group will be hit once a week, but with more volume (around 12-16 sets per muscle group).

To make the most of this program, we'll use an antagonist split with alternating sets. This consists of training opposing muscle groups in the same workout, alternating one set of each of those antagonists. For example, if on Day 1 you're training chest and back, the first exercise pairing might be incline dumbbell press (A1) and weighed chin-ups (A2). In that case, you'd alternate one set of A1 (press) with one set of A2 (chin-up), kinda like this:

  • First set of A1
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • First set of A2
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Second set of A1
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Second set of A2
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Third set of A1
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Third set of A2
  • ...and so on.

The weekly split then becomes:

  • Day 1: Torso (chest and back)
  • Day 2: Lower body
  • Day 3: OFF
  • Day 4: Arms (biceps and triceps)
  • Day 5: OFF
  • Day 6: Shoulders (front/lateral deltoids and rear delt/traps)
  • Day 7: OFF

The advantages of this type of split are as follows:

  • Ensures balanced development of opposing muscle groups. This reduces the risk of injury while maximizing aesthetic appeal./span>
  • Allows for greater neural activation of the worked muscle group. Contracting a muscle after its antagonist has been contracted increases neural drive, thus maximizing muscle fiber recruitment. This leads to a greater force production potential, and more growth stimulation./span>
  • Minimizes reciprocal inhibition. When you fatigue a muscle group, it won't "resist" as much when you're working its antagonist. For example, when doing a curl you're not only fighting against the resistance but also against the triceps' partial activation. If you fatigue the triceps, they will be more fatigued, and thus won't create as much opposition to the biceps./span>
  • Increases training density (more total volume done in less time) without affecting the recovery time for each muscle group. This favors the onset of an anabolic state conducive to muscle growth.

The Methods Used

Each session will include 3 exercises for each of the targeted muscle groups. The first movement is the basic lift, which we'll do relatively heavy. After all, forceful contractions stimulate muscle growth, and we want to be strong, not just look strong. Not to mention that heavy lifting increases myogenic tone, which will make your muscles look much denser and harder, even at rest.

The first exercise pairing is fairly heavy, using a 7/5/3 wave loading pattern for 6 total sets (one set of 7, one set of 5, one set of 3, one set of 7, one set of 5, one set of 3).

Our second exercise pairing includes the main assistance movements, and it's still a major lift, not an isolation drill. For this one, we'll use a reverse pyramid for a total of 5 sets. Two sets of 10, two sets of 8, one set of 6.

The last pairing is the finishing touch, the isolation work aimed at making sure the targeted muscle groups are properly stimulated. For this pairing, we'll use a special training technique. Depending on the movement, it could be regular reps to failure plus added partial reps, double contraction reps, or iso-dynamic contrast reps. Three sets are performed for this pairing.

The Program

This is a program recommendation. You can make substitutions as long as they're in line with the philosophy of the program (in other words, don't replace bench press with cable crossovers).

Day 1: Torso

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Low-Incline Dumbbell Press 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
A2 Weighted Pull-ups With a Close Parallel Grip 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
B1 Bench Press, Wide Grip 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
B2 1-Arm Dumbbell Row 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
C1 Pec Deck Machine: Regular Reps + Partials 3 10-12 1 min.
3 x 10-12 full reps, then partials for the last half of the movement to failure, then partials for the first half of the movement to failure.
C2 Straight-bar Pulldown: low Double Contraction 3 10-12 1 min.
Pull the handle down to the low position, bring it back up halfway, pull it down again. This is one repetition.

1-arm dumbbell row

1-arm dumbbell row

Day 2: Lower body

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Front Squat 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 2 min.
A2 Romanian Deadlift 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 2 min.
B1 Close-stance Snatch-grip Deadlift Standing on a Platform 2/2/1 10/8/6 90 sec.
B2 Walking Lunges, Long Steps 2/2/1 10/8/6 90 sec.
C1 Leg Press, Full Reps Plus Top Partials 3 10-12 90 sec.
3 x 10-12 full reps, then partials for the last half of the movement to failure.
C2 Lying leg Curl, High Double Contraction 3 8-10 90 sec.
Lift all the way up, lower back down halfway, lift back up. This is one repetition.


Close-stance snatch-grip deadlift from platform

Day 3: OFF

Day 4: Arms

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Close-Grip Preacher Curl 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
A2 Close-Grip Bench Press 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
B1 Incline Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
B2 Decline EZ Bar Triceps Extension 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
C1 Wide-Grip/Elbows in Preacher Curl: Regular Reps + Partials 3 10-12 1 min.
3 x 10-12 full reps, then partials for the last half of the movement to failure, then partials for the first half of the movement to failure.
C2 Rope Cable Pressdown: Low Double Contraction 3 10-12 1 min.
Pull the rope down to the low position, bring it back up halfway, pull it down again. This is one repetition.


Incline dumbbell hammer curl

Day 5: OFF

Day 6: Shoulders

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Push Press 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
A2 Barbell Power Shrug 6 7/5/3/7/5/3 75 sec.
B1 Seated Dumbbell Press With a Hammer Grip 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
B2 Upright Row 2/2/1 10/8/6 75 sec.
C1 Cable Lateral Raise: Regular Reps + Partials 3 10-12 1 min.
3 x 10-12 full reps, then partials for the last half of the movement to failure, then partials for the first half of the movement to failure.
C2 Rear Deltoid Machine: Peak Double Contraction 3 10-12 1 min.
Lift the weight to the peak contraction, bring it back up halfway, lift it again. This is one repetition.

Cardio and Abdominal Work

I can hear it now:

"Can I do cardio with this program?"
"Is HIIT okay?"
"Can I still work my abs?"

The answers are: yes, yes, and yes, as long as it's not at the expense of your goals for this program.

When it comes to cardio, understand that the more you do, the harder it'll be to put on a lot of muscle. This 12-weeks program is not a fat loss program. It is a muscle growth program. If your main objective is to lose fat and get ripped, this is not the program for you. To grow you need nutrients in excess of your body's basic needs. To optimally lose fat, you need to create a deficit.

Both goals are therefore mutually exclusive. You can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, especially if you go from a shitty diet to a great one. In that case, simply moving from junk with low protein to a high protein/high quality food diet will allow you to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, at least for a while. A proper supplement protocol can also increase your chances of gaining muscle while losing fat.

Stan McQuay

You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, for a while.

But if you want to gain a large amount of muscle you must not lose a significant amount of fat. Ergo, everything you do to lose fat (caloric deficit, tons of cardio, etc.) will drastically reduce your chances of growing new muscle. Since the whole purpose of this system is to grow as much muscle as we can, then excessive cardio is kind of a dumb thing to do. In fact, doing cardio more than twice a week will dramatically and negatively affect the benefits of this program.

As far as abdominal work is concerned, feel free to add some form of abdominal work to every training session. Either at the end (in which case I like to use abdominal circuits) or staggered between sets of the planned exercises.

Supplements to Enhance this Phase

As I said in the first two parts of this series, supplements are not necessary to progress. However, when properly used, they can drastically enhance the efficacy of a training phase.

In Phase 3, our final phase, the goal is maximum hypertrophy. We still want to use the basics (Flameout®, Surge® Recovery, and Metabolic Drive®), which I consider to be concentrated nutrition rather than supplements anyway.

With this phase, it's highly beneficial to modulate Testosterone levels in order to maximize growth. The two supplements to use to do this are Alpha Male and REZ-V. I recommend using both of these products slightly differently than what it says on the label. Rez-V™ should be taken first thing upon waking up, on an empty stomach. You take the whole daily dose at that time. So you should ingest 3-4 capsules as soon as you get out of bed.

Alpha Male® is the opposite: you should take it all at night, so that you'll mimic the body's natural Testosterone production rhythm. Take 3 to 4 capsules before going to bed.

Adding magnesium to the stack would also prove extremely effective. 1-2g taken in the evening and at night is the best strategy (90-95% of all hard-training individuals are deficient in magnesium, and that really has a negative impact on recovery, insulin sensitivity, and Testosterone levels).

I'll say this once more (slowly this time, so that the losers who noisily state that these articles are just paid advertisements will maybe understand). You don't have to take all these supplements in order to grow. But if you're serious about reaching your potential, consider them very useful weapons for doing so.


As I mentioned in part II, this whole series is designed to be used as a 12-week program, and that is what will give you the best possible results. However if you only want to use this third phase as a stand-alone, fine. Understand that most of the gains will be in the hypertrophy department. So if you're interested in maximizing both your strength and size, do the entire program, and don't forget to get those nutrients in to grow!

Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.