Stallone’s 1985 routine was built upon four key components. Here’s how they work.

Become War program overview

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

8 min read

Welcome to Become War.

This program uses a killer combination of supersets and tri-sets to help you shred body fat and add some quality gains in muscle mass over the next six weeks.

I designed this for beginner-to-intermediate level trainees who want to take their training to the next level. It quickly became a client favourite when I trialled it in my gym for a test run (as with all my programs, this was battle-tested in Powerhouse Gym before I release it on the website!).

Here is a quick overview of the program:

Program length: 6 weeks.
Frequency: 5 workouts per week (with an optional 6th).
Session breakdown: Upper, lower, arms.
Rep ranges used: High reps.
Muscle buster techniques: Supersets, tri-sets.


Russ Howe PTI supersets program

High Reps Done Differently!

High reps are awesome for building muscle.

They’re safe on the joints, you’ll recover faster between workouts, and it’ll spike hypertrophy just as much as lower rep work.

I don’t say this to bash lower rep work, of course, because I love that too! I say it to bring your attention to benefits that most people miss because gyms are packed with folks who stay exclusively in one rep range (usually 8-12 reps) for their entire lifting lives.

As such, they leave results on the table!

Back in 2012, researchers from McMaster University, Canada, discovered that training within very high rep ranges (20-30 reps per set) is just as effective for building muscle as training within low rep ranges (8-12 reps per set). This study rocked the fitness world where, up until that point, it was widely believed that heavier weights would always lead to more muscle growth. (1)

high reps vs low reps

Here’s more on that.

When this study published it changed the game for me. I began incorporating high rep phases into all of my clients’ training programs, and it’s something which has remained in place to this day because the results speak for themselves.

Of course, the headline of this section is “high reps done differently”…

When you look at your workouts you will see that I’m not giving you a traditional high rep set, but rather 3 exercises performed back-to-back. All three exercises will hit the same muscle (i.e. moving from an incline dumbbell bench press, to a flat dumbbell bench press, to a flat dumbbell flye), so instead of a tri-set of 12 reps you could easily view this as a monstrous 36 rep set.

This is a similar style of training to that used by Sylvester Stallone in preparation for Rambo IIHere’s more on that. That’s where this program got its name:

“In order to win a war, you gotta become war.”

Become War workout plan

Training To Failure

Whenever I’m working on the gym floor, people regularly ask “Hey Russ, how hard should I be training?” or “How heavy should I be lifting?”

Honestly, it’s not about the weight.

When you’re trying to build muscle it’s more about the feeling.

This is why I never write recommended weights on any of my programs, because no two people have the exact same strengths and weaknesses. All you need to do is take the target muscle to failure, i.e. the stage of being unable to perform another good rep.

At the beginning of a program you might find that 5kg dumbbells are enough to do this, but weeks later when you’re stronger you might need to move up to the 7.5kg dumbbells. The weight is not important, it’s what you do with it.

This forces the body to elicit a greater anabolic response to training, which results in more muscle growth (see below).


The graph above shows the results of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiology. Researchers had two group of trainees performing three sets of twelve rep sets on the leg extension, the key difference was one group used a weight which took the quads to failure but the other group didn’t. By the end of the program, the failure gruip reported significantly greater muscle growth. (2)

This becomes an even more important factor when we use high rep training. In fact, all of the studies which show high rep training to be as effective as low rep training for muscle growth instructed participants to take the target muscle to failure. (1, 3, 4, 5)

So in order to achieve failure, focus on the feeling rather than the number on the dumbbells. As a general guide, the last third of your set should be challenging. This will make sure you’re at (or at least close to) the point of failure (so if you’ve got a 36 rep set, everything beyond #25 should burn like hell).

If you’re interested in learning more about training to failure, my research breakdown has got you covered!

Russ Howe PTI tri-sets program

High Frequency Training

Another aspect of your workouts which I’ve optimized is the frequency with which you’ll hit each muscle.

If you take a look at the workout calendar (below) you’ll see that 2s & 3s uses an upper/lower/arms split. This allows you to spread the workload each muscle receives over the course of the week, rather than doing it all on one day (i.e. chest day, leg day, etc). You’ll train your upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, and arms on Wednesday, then hit upper body again on Thursday and finish the week with a second lower body session on Friday.

This will lead to better results.

Back in 2019, researchers from Norway published a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which compared the effects of training frequency with a group of powerlifters performing a squat bench press and deadlift program. They had one group performing three long workouts per week, while a second group spread the volume over six shorter workouts.

Astonishingly, despite performing the same amount of volume overall, the high frequency group increased muscle mass a whopping 10% higher than the other group! (5)

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