Russ Howe PTI's Dropset City


Classic Size is an “old school” 12 week muscle building program. Here are all the details.


This article:

11 min read

The 1980s produced many great things.

Spandex. Bon Jovi. Rocky IV.

But something which often gets overlooked is the huge breakthroughs which were made in bodybuilding-style training back then. Honestly, this decade was RICH in popularizing some of the most effective training methods ever developed, and Classic Size is a program which celebrates this.

(as you can probably tell from the retro cover design!)

You’ll be taking on dropsets, rest pause sets, high reps, low reps and everything in between with this monstrous 12 week program which has been carefully structured to unlock MAXIMUM muscle building results for you.

Simply put, if you love the 80’s and you love building a jacked physique; you’ll love this program!

classic size


Periodization is a tool we use to structure our training routine in order to gain maximum results from it.

See, many people go to the gym and kinda make it up as they go along, and while a few folks get lucky, most people don’t see any results from this type of training.

I’m not a fan of this approach. I believe if you want to reach a goal then you should do it in the most effective way.

In the case of Classic Size, the overall goal is to improve your muscle size (hypertrophy) and strength.

Therefore this program has been structured using the classic linear periodization model. This might sound like gobbledygook right now but don’t worry, I’ll explain. This is a time-tested structure which has been shown to be highly effective for gaining size and strength, so it’s a perfect fit for a program like this.

With a classic linear periodization model, you will see that your 12 week program is broken into three 4 week phases. Your rep ranges will decrease as the weeks go by, starting in the hypertrophy range (8-15 reps) and finishing in the strength range (6 reps). You will see some great gains in size and strength because structuring your program in this manner allows you to “hang around” in each zone just long enough to reap results but then moves you to the next phase before any negative adaptations occur. (1, 2)

After 4 weeks we will re-start the classic linear periodization model and reap all of those results again, like this:

  • 15 reps
  • 12 reps
  • 8 reps
  • 6 reps
  • 15 reps
  • 12 reps
  • 8 reps
  • 6 reps
  • 15 reps
  • 12 reps
  • 8 reps
  • 6 reps
classic linear periodization for building muscle



Progressive overload is BY FAR the easiest way to build lean muscle.

It’s the process by which the body responds to our training, growing bigger and stronger in order to handle the stress it is being challenged with (or in our case, the weights we are lifting). (3)

Think about when you first joined a gym and performed a biceps curl. Maybe you used some 5kg dumbbells and your arms were sore for days. But eventually, those 5kg dumbbells became “easy” and you stepped up to 7.5kg dumbbells. That’s progressive overload.

And herein lies the “secret”…

One of the biggest benefits to classic linear periodization is that it basically FORCES progressive overload on your muscles, giving them NO CHOICE but to GROW!

You see, as your rep ranges decrease every week you will be able to handle greater resistance on most exercises. I’ve deliberately programmed you to work with the same block of exercises through the first phase so that a) you can see & feel your improvements, and b) you grow in confidence on each move as the weeks fly by.

And herein lies another “secret”… (!!)

When you arrive at the start of phase two and we bump our reps back up to work through our classic linear periodization model again, we also change to A NEW BLOCK OF EXERCISES! This provides you with fresh stimulus because you have a new set of challenges to master, and it also ensures you never stagnate.

Think about it, eventually you’ll reach a “ceiling” in terms of how much weight you can lift on a particular exercise. Most guys in the gym are stuck lifting the same weights they’ve been lifting for years, even though the results stopped long ago. We don’t want that! So I’ll be throwing you back into the lion’s den with a new bunch of exercises we ensure you CONTINUE to progress beyond the point where most people would simply get “stuck”.

And this controlled progression is just one of the key reasons why Classic Size is so effective. Heck, some of my clients have used this program for YEARS and continue to see great results from it. YEARS!!!

classic size


A debate has raged in the fitness world for decades about whether you should train a muscle “to failure” for better results.

I sit somewhere in the middle ground between yes and no.

You see, if you do not train a muscle to failure (i.e. you go too light and don’t challenge yourself at all) you will not build anywhere near as much muscle. However, if you go to failure on every set you’ll be wiped out 15 minutes into your f**king session.

So my advice is to train SMARTER and learn to balance your approach for maximum results.

Training a muscle to failure has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis by as much as 60% so it’s definitely something we should be doing, but we need to do it properly to see maximum results. (4, 5, 6)

As a guide, the last third of your set should be challenging – so if your rep target is 12 then the last 3 should be difficult. The majority of exercises in Classic Size will give you four total sets, which allows you to pack in some high quality volume and “set the stage” before going to true failure on the final set.

If you’re not sure you’ve arrived at proper muscle failure, don’t worry.

You’ll have another ace up your sleeve…

classic size


Muscle busters are every bit as cool as they sound.

These devastating techniques are designed with the sole purpose of guiding you to muscle failure and maximizing your results. Given than this program has a 1980’s feel to it, we will be implementing muscle buster techniques which were made popular back in the days of Livin’ on a Prayer.

Both of these methods are highly effective for boosting hypertrophy and you will be applying them in Classic Size to drive your results even higher! (7, 8)

Watch out for them in the program:

  • Dropset
    After completion of your final set, reduce the weight by about 25% and immediately continue squeezing out reps until you reach failure. See if you can get 10-15 more reps in total.
  • Rest Pause
    After completion of your final set, take a 10 second rest then go back in and squeeze our 3-4 extra reps at the same weight. Sounds nuts, but the body can recover by as much as 30% in just ten seconds!



By now you should be getting pretty excited about how much muscle you will be able to build with this program, but now let’s take things up EVEN MORE!

Like I said, I’ve left no stone unturned!

So let’s talk about training volume and training intensity. Training volume refers to the total number of sets each muscle receives per week, and training intensity describes how hard that work is.

And most people either completely overlook this aspect of their training, or they get it DEAD WRONG!

You see, if our training volume is too low then our muscles will not grow to their full potential. And if our training volume is too high we would be in the gym all day long and you’d notice there’s a definite “tipping point” where intensity completely dies and we’re just spinning our wheels.

(I’m sure you know guys who are always in the gym when you arrive, still there when you leave, never changing in appearance!)

So how do we get it just right?

Well, we use SCIENCE!

Take a look at the diagram below. We want to attack our muscles with enough total volume to maximize our gains, without ever straying beyond the point where intensity is lost or training becomes unproductive. “X” literally marks the spot!

Research shows we need to provide each muscle with around 12-18 sets per week to fully tap into the hypertrophy rewards on offer, and Classic Size has been carefully structured to land you within this so-called “sweet spot” every single time! (10)

That means there are no wasted workouts, no boring sets, and no pointless exercises.

Everything aspect of Classic Size, right down to its tiniest details, are geared around GETTING YOU THE BEST RESULTS!



Whenever I release a new program, one of the most common things I get asked is whether you can still get great results if your schedule means you cannot commit to following the exact structure...


If you can’t follow my preset training split, I recommend working through the program at you own pace instead; the only difference is you’ll take longer to reach the end (i.e. at x5 workouts per week it’ll take 12 weeks to finish the full program, at x3 workouts per week it’ll take 20 weeks).

Obviously, I’d love to you follow my EXACT structure so you can work through the program “as is”, but sometimes we need to adapt things to fit our lives, and this is something I factor in to every program on!

As you can see from the training calendar above, Classic Size is structured with x5 workouts per week. You will hit the gym 3 days in a row, followed by a recovery day, then another 2 days in the gym, followed by another recovery day. This training split has become a big favorite with my clients over the years, because a) none of them like taking continuous days off from training, and b) the first recovery day arrives just in time tohelp let you attack your remaining workouts with plenty of intensity!


A muscle building program needs a muscle building diet.

So I’ve designed one for you. Read it here.

However, as with all of my programs on, I’d like to give YOU the choice as to what body you’d like to build!

If your main goal is to build size I recommend pairing this program with the Classic Size nutrition plan (obviously). Meanwhile, if your main goal is stripping body fat then I recommend pairing this program with my Shred System diet plan for best results. I carefully designed this nutrition plan to get you lean AF, and you can adjust it as you work through Classic Size to carve an impressively ripped physique even though you’re lifting heavy weights in the gym! Simple!

You see, even though Classic Size is classed as a muscle building program, you can still use it your goal is to lose body fat. Your NUTRITION will determine whether you get bigger or smaller. I have male and female clients who use this program because they simply enjoy this type of training more than any other, so they match their nutrition to their desired result. (9)

Back to program main screen.


  1. Phillips M. B., et al. Tools and Benefits of Periodization: Developing an Annual Training Plan and Promoting Performance Improvements in Athletes. The Sport Journal (2020).
  2. Williams T. D., et al. Comparison of Periodized an Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Spors Med (2017)
  3. Krzysztofik M., et al. Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health (2019).
  4. Burd N. A., et al. Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise In Young Men. PLoS ONE. (2010)
  5. Burd N. A., et al. Enhanced Amino Acid Sensitivity Of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Persists For Up To 24 Hours After Resistance Exercise In Young Men. J Nutr. (2011)
  6. Burd N. A., et al. Muscle Time Under Tension During Resistance Exercise Stimulates Differential Muscle Protein Sub-Fractional Synthetic Responses In Men. J Physiol. (2012)
  7. Fink J., et al. Effects of drop set resistance training on acute stress indicators and long-term muscle hypertrophy and strength. J Sports Med Phys Fitness (2018).
  8. Marshall P. W., et al. Acute Neuromuscular and Fatigue Responses to therest-pause Method. J Sci Med Sport (2012).
  9. Josse A. R., et al. Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2010).
  10. Hammarström D., et al. Benefits of higher resistance-training volume are related to ribosome biogenesis. J Physiol (2020).

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