Saturday, March 30, 2019

The 3 x 3: Oh, How I Love Thee! - By Rick Rignell


Whenever I’m looking for a quick, simple, metabolically challenging workout, I usually turn to the 3 X 3.  If you’re not familiar with it, a 3 x 3 consists of a multi-joint leg exercise, a multi-joint upper body pushing exercise, and a multi-joint upper body pulling exercise.  Examples of each of the three categories are listed below:

Multi-Joint Leg: Squat, Leg Press, Deadlift

Multi-Joint Upper Pushing: Bench Press, Incline Press, Military Press, Dip

Multi-Joint Upper Pulling: Row, Pulldown, Chin Up, Pull Up

The three exercises are performed in 3 cycles with as little rest as possible between exercises.  In other words, do a set of squats, then go immediately into a set of bench press, then immediately to a set of rows.  Then it’s right back to squats and so on until all three cycles are complete. As far as reps go, you’ve got some flexibility.  A common recommendation is to start with 15-20 reps on the legs and 10-15 on the upper body. If you hit muscle failure on each set, your reps then may end up looking something like this:

First Cycle: Squat = 20, Bench = 15, Row = 15

Second Cycle: Squat = 15, Bench = 12, Row = 12

Third Cycle: Squat = 12, Bench = 8, Row = 8

You can keep the weight the same on each set, increase it, or decrease it as necessary to hit the desired rep goals.  My personal preference is to keep it the same for all three cycles and of course, the number of reps completed on each cycle will decrease.  Regardless, I take each set to the point of muscle failure (or very close). My current favorite 3 x 3 routine is performed entirely on Hammer Strength machines as follows:

V-Squat: 15, 12, 10
Iso Horizontal Bench: 8,6, 4
Iso Rowing: 8,6,4

I prefer slightly higher reps for the lower body and slightly lower ones for the upper.  I take the V-Squat within 1-2 reps of muscle failure ( prefer not to get stuck at the bottom of a squat movement), and take each upper body set to failure. During the third cycle, I go to failure on the upper body sets, rest 20 seconds, then go to failure again.  Then, if time and energy permit, I do this “finisher”:

Using one pair of dumbbells, complete 3 cycles of the following exercises non-stop:

  1. Biceps Curl
  2. 2-arm Shoulder Press
  3. Single-arm Shoulder Press
  4. Negative Hammer Curl
  5. 5 Push ups

Specifically, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, press both overhead, alternately press each, lower both with a hammer grip, then set them down and perform five push ups.  Repeat the cycle 2 more times. Some colleagues and I learned this finisher at an outstanding strength and conditioning clinic at Michigan State University a few years back, and chose to name it “MSU Upper Body Finisher” out of respect.  I highly recommend the 3 x 3 workout. Use whichever combination of exercises and reps best suits you, and get after it!

Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

This site does not provide medical advice. We assume no liability for the information provided in NaturalStrength articles. Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Copyright © 1999-2019 NaturalStrength.com | All Rights Reserved.