How to Self-Pace Your Microcycle Sets

06.05.2020 |

Episode #9 of the course Hack your workout: A self-paced system for core muscle and posture strength by John Robin


Welcome to Day 9 of our course!

As we near the end of our course, we can now turn from the specifics of each exercise to how exactly you can best complete them in each microcycle.


Session vs Set

Typical workout programs involve sessions. Usually, you go to the gym and complete several sets, taking 40-60 minutes per session.

But if you have the equipment for your workout at home, as laid out in Lesson 3, you have the option to work out by the set rather than by the session.

What order do you go in exactly?

I’ll share the strategy that I use, because it involves principles that can help you complete your microcycle in the ideal seven- to eleven-day period, without overdoing it on any given day.

The reason you want to complete your microcycle in seven to eleven days is to find your fitness “sweet spot.” Seven days is the minimum amount of time your muscles should have to recover from any given workout. Eleven days is the maximum, as they start to lose fitness after this.


Grouping Your Sets Together

I group my sets together to keep my microcycle time within this range.

Grouping together is helpful because it avoids overlapping the wrong workouts. For example, doing the bench press and overhead press one after the other is not recommended because they both work your chest muscles.

In addition, having to change the plates on the barbell and adjust the safety pins or move the barbell around, as you must do when switching from squats to overhead press, takes additional time.

My grouping strategy avoids all that.

Group 1:

Do one set of squats and one set of chin-ups.

Do this combination of sets five times to complete all five sets of each exercise in the group.

Group 2:

Do one set each of bench presses and one set of side leg raises.

Do this combination of sets five times to complete all five sets of each exercise in the group.

Group 3:

Do one set each of barbell rows, one set of deadlifts, one set of overhead presses, and one set of dips.

Do this combination of sets five times to complete all five sets of each exercise in the group.

Following this strategy, you will work your way through all five sets of all eight exercises on the microcycle sheet.

To pace yourself in your home gym and get these exercises done in the ideal seven- to eleven-day timeframe, you can break these groups down as follows:

Notice that each group is defined by repeating a combination of sets five times. For example, in Group 1, the first set of squats and the first set of chin-ups is one combination of sets, so to complete Group 1, you complete five such combinations of sets.

This means for all three groups, there are 15 combinations of sets total. If you chip away at your microcycle sheet one combination of sets at a time, then that means you’ll want to shoot for two to four combinations a day to finish your microcycle in the ideal seven- to eleven-day timeframe.

If you prefer sessions at the gym, you can treat each group as a session. Just be warned that Group 3 as a session is intense because there are twice as many sets in each combination, so you might want to break it into two sessions (i.e., do two combinations in one session, then the remaining three in the next), for a total of four gym sessions over the seven- to eleven-day microcycle period.


What about Stretching?

Typical workouts suggest that you stretch before and after a workout.

It actually doesn’t matter when you stretch. True, stretching before a workout helps warm up your muscles. It’s also true that stretching afterward helps cool them down.

But what matters most with stretching is how frequently you do it over a period of several days.

Your microcycle has 50 stretches from the five kinds of stretches repeated ten times. This helps you get in a great deal of stretching every seven to eleven days.

A good practice is to do one of each every day. This means you’ll get through all 50 stretches in ten days. If you’re able to complete a microcycle in under ten days, then on some days, do each stretch twice.

A great way to fit in stretches is to do one between sets. For example, if you’re tackling your workout at home by the combination of sets, then when you do a given combination, you can do one of the five stretches between sets. It might look like this:

• set of squats

• hanging bar stretch

• set of chin-ups

This is a good way to get them done in that time you’ve psyched yourself up to make progress on your workout.

If you’re doing your workout at the gym and using the groups to create sessions, that means you’ll have four gym days in the seven- to eleven-day period to complete a microcycle. You won’t want to do these gym days back-to-back, as you will burn yourself out. This means that you have non-gym days to rest, and that’s a great time to do stretching.

If you aim on these non-gym days to do each of the five stretches three times, then you’ll hit your 50-stretch quota for the microcycle sheet within the ideal seven- to eleven-day timeframe.


What about Cardio?

You can get in your cardio any time you like. If you’re using the 3:1:1 ratio of LISS to HIIT to VO2 Max, then in the seven to eleven days that it takes to complete a microcycle, you need to fit in one every two to three days.

It’s best to do cardio after you’re done all the strength exercises for a given day. Ideally, do it on a day that you’re not doing any strength exercises at all. For example, if you prefer gym workouts by the session, then on a few of your non-gym days, where you also do stretching, do one of your cardio exercises.

You’re all set now to figure out the best self-pacing using these strategies. Tomorrow, in our last lesson, we’ll turn to the final frontier: sustainable strength gains.

Stay tuned!


Recommended resource

A guide on workouts for beginnings by Nerd Fitness


Share with friends