What Are Microcycles? | Jim Stoppani's 12-Week Shortcut To Size

Microcycles are the backbone of the 12-Week Shortcut to Size program. It may sound like something a kid rides in the driveway, but it’s actually the science behind the shortcut.

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The Shortcut to Size program is based on microcycled periodization. Research shows it’s most effective for strength gains and increasing muscle size. The Shortcut to Size is a 12-week program composed of 12 one-week microcycles. Each microcycle lasts one week, after which you change rep ranges and weights. The constant cycling creates muscle confusion, forcing your body to adapt to the new rigors.

Sometimes, with longer periodization programs (where you stick with a certain rep range for 4 weeks or more), your muscles grow accustomed to that rep range.

If you use heavy weight for 3-5 reps for several weeks, it trains your muscles to be stronger, but it’s not the best rep range for building muscle growth. Microcycles give you the best of both worlds.

Microcycles allow you to reap the benefits of one rep range without losing benefits of the other rep range. There are no extended periods where you’re not building muscle or gaining strength!

The rep ranges for Shortcut to Size are based on science, so abide by them! Choose a weight that allows so you can complete the reps. As you go through each stage, you’ll be stronger, so increase your weights by 5, 10 or 20 pounds from phase to phase.

Choosing your weight at each microcycle is a little bit hit-or-miss. Some experts want you to use a percentage of your 1-rep max (1RM), which works for some trainees. The problem I find with it is that, depending on the type of athlete you are (whether you have more muscle endurance or muscular strength), the numbers might not be an accurate reflection of true strength for a given rep range. For example, guys with a lot of muscular endurance can typically lift heavier in the 12-15 rep range than a 1RM percentage prediction.

So, it doesn’t always work out. I’d much rather you guys find the actual weight that limits you to 12-15 reps in Microcycle 1, rather than using math to predict. Use that first set to decide if you need to add weight in the second set, or decrease weight to stay in the 12-15 rep range, or keep things consistent if you hit the mark and can complete all 4 sets for that desired rep range.

You will up the weight between each microcycle, but there are various factors that determine weight increases.

Those with high muscular endurance won’t add that much more weight.
Those with high muscle strength may add more weight to each set.
Most people can jump up 5-10 pounds when shifting from the 12-15 rep range of Microcycle 1, to the 9-11 rep range of Microcycle 2. Some people may even have to add less weight. Figure it out, try what you can, and expect to see a big increase in mass and strength each week.

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