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Dropping Size When I Want to Bulk Up - Periodization

Hey Dr. Bell, I need your help. I’m 6’1, 208 pounds. I have been lifting for two months doing 5x5 sets every other day. I’ve always had big arms and then all of a sudden in the last 2 weeks, I have dropped a size. I don’t want to go backward. I haven’t lost strength, just size. What should I do? Thanks, Tanner.

Dear Tanner,

Typically, I require a lot more information to perfect a Program Design than you have provided me in your question. However, two months of performing 5x5 sets every other day gives me some insight.

Recognizing that Dr. Selye’s theories on Adaptation states, that after 21/2 - 3 weeks on the same stimulus “staleness” will occur. You are about 6 weeks past the point of Staleness.

Try this instead, start today with one week of what Dr. Tudor Bompa calls “Active Rest.” Pick any other exercise activity, other than Strength Training for one week. Then come back to Strength Training using the following Periodization Cycle. You will do 5 “Microcycles” of 3 weeks, each for a total of 15 weeks before your next Period of “Active Rest.” You can continue your Frequency of every other day which I assume means 3 days/week, but change your Intensity and Time as follows:

















15 RM

12 RM

10 RM

8 RM

5 RM


3 sets

4 sets

4 sets

4 sets

5 sets


RM = Repetition Maximum – meaning you will perform precisely the target number of Reps. For Example, 15 RM means you will perform precisely 15 Reps before Concentric Failure. If you can perform more than 15 Reps, increase the weight in your next session.

The Program Design above is designed to give you the best of both worlds of size and strength increases. Also, keep in mind that a lot of cardio can decrease size. You also did not mention diet. The IFPA has a lot of articles on nutrition and a variety of nutrition courses to help you be your best.