Here’s a breakdown of all the muscle building techniques used in this old school 12-week program.


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

8 min read

Many great things came out of the 1980s.

Bon Jovi, Rocky IV, and spandex to name a few!

And the advancements which were made in the gym weren’t too shabby either.

This neon-coated decade saw the rise in popularity of training principles like dropsets and rest pause sets, and here’s a 12-week program which celebrates those breakthroughs by combining these two battle-tested bodybuilding methods into a solid three-month routine, which has been meticulously designed to help you pack on serious muscle mass.

Program length: 12 weeks.
Frequency: 5 workouts per week.
Session breakdown: This is a classic bodybuilding-style program (leg day, chest day, etc).
Rep ranges used: Low, moderate, and high reps.
Muscle buster techniques: Standard sets, rest pause sets, dropsets and supersets.

Training Calendar

classic size training calendar

This is a classic bodybuilding program which follows a classic bodybuilding structure.

You’ll be training five days per week, hitting each large muscle group with one big workout (chest day, back day, etc) and working your legs twice.

One thing I will say about old school bodybuilding programs is that they weren’t the most flexible. By hitting each main muscle group once per week (a bro split) if you skipped a session that muscle group could go 10 days untrained, which isn’t ideal, so this is a program which is best followed exactly as written.

Doing so ensures every body part receives the corect recovery time to maximize muscle growth and training performance.

That being said, I always like to offer some flexibility with my programs, so if you are unable to train five days per week and can only train four times I recommend replacing your second lower body workout with an additional recovery day.

A Road Map To Results

bodybuilding program

While the two killer techniques which Classic Size is built around (dropsets and rest pause) take center stage, the underlying structure of the program lays the foundation for success.

If you take a look at the workouts section you’ll notice that Classic Size is split into three phases, with each phase lasting four weeks, and your rep ranges will change every week, like this:

Rep RangePhase APhase BPhase C
x15 repsWeek 1Week 5Week 9
x12 repsWeek 2Week 6Week 10
x8 repsWeek 3Week 7Week 11
x6 repsWeek 4Week 8Week 12

This structure is called Classic Linear Periodization. It is a training style most commonly associated with gains in muscle size and strength. (1, 2)

When we take into consideration the goals of this training plan, that makes it a perfect fit!

The reason it works so well is because naturally encourages progressive overload. As your reps drop each week, you will be able to boost the resistance you are using on most exercises. This is what forces your body to grow. (3)

Ypon completion of phase one you move straight into phase two, where you’ll repeat the classic linear periodization model with a whole new exercise selection. This is a crucial part of the program, because the change-up will keep your workouts feeling fresh, and prevent you from getting stuck on a particular weight.

Training To Failure


Classic Size is built around two old school bodybuilding principles.

Here’s how they work:

  • Rest Pause (RP)
    After completing your final set, rest for a 10-count then go back in and see if you can squeeze out a few more reps (same weight). Sounds nuts, but the body can recover by almost 30% in that short space of time!

  • Dropset (D)
    After completing your final set, reduce the weight by about 30% and immediately continue performing reps until failure is achieved.

The goal here is to achieve muscle failure (think about the end of your set where you are unable to perform another good rep; that’s what we want to achieve).

Training a muscle to failure will increase muscle protein synthesis (the anabolic response to training) by nearly 60%. This will lead to some impressive gains in muscle mass for you, so you can rest assured that “the burn” is worth it! (4, 5, 6)

However, I want to make sure you do it the right way.

Achieving muscle failure too often (i.e. every set) would leave you feeling gassed 15-20 minutes into your workout, whereas if you never reached failure at all (i.e. lifted too light) you wouldn’t achieve progressive overload.

Instead of making these common mistakes, I want you to train SMARTER.

Use your four working sets (x15 reps, x12 reps, x8 reps, or x6 reps depending which week you’re in) to focus on increasing the weight you lifted versus last time out, and then use your muscle buster technique (either rest pause or dropsets depending which week you’re in) after the final set of that exercise to ensure there is absolutely nothing left in the tank. (7, 8)

That’s how you maximize results.

The Hypertrophy “Sweet Spot”


Now it’s time for the final piece of the Classic Size puzzle.

  • Training volume
    The total number of sets each muscle receives per week.

  • Training intensity
    Effort level during training.

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


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