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The 6up Method:A progressive overload system

Updated: Feb 15

I’ve re-written this intro probably half a dozen times now trying to outline what the 6Up method is, and every time it has sounded to complex and convoluted, and that is the exact opposite of what this method is. The 6up method was something I came out with out of necessity. A combination of boredom with training and a lack of constant progression forced me to rethink how I was approaching my current training in my offseason. I began to look at times during my training career where I was making the best progress and comparing it to what I was doing now. I have fallen into the trap that late-intermediate lifters will take longer periods of time to experience PRs. While this is true for 1 rep max’s, I let it encompass all of my training, foolishly. I found myself doing set and reps with weights I new I could hit hoping that the culmination of work would manifest itself it to measurable progress. I do think that this type of training is important at times, however during this period it was weakening my approach to training and dampening the fire to get into the gym. Looking back on my training I realized that I made my best gains when I was constantly trying to beat what I did the previous session, not the previous cycle. I also realized that this led to me getting beat up quickly as I became so infatuated with bathing the numbers I would sacrifice form for another rep or pound. Going all out on one set, and the last few reps being performed incorrectly, was not giving me a lot of practice with the movement either, so as the weights got heavier, I became less confident. I needed a method to remedy all of this while keeping the essence of what made me progress. The 6Up method solves this. Going forth I want people to understand that this isn’t a program, this might not be the best way for you to train, and this isn’t to be performed on every movement. This is simply a loading method used to push progress as fast as the lifter can, while avoiding injury.

The 6Up method, simply, is an auto-regulated progressive resistance exercises routine. This means that if you follow the rules of the method it will have you progress when you can, and pull back when you can’t. This program should be used with big the big compound movements that form the basis for any strength program. Deadlifts, squats, presses, and barbell rows all fit in this category. Bicep and leg curls are better fit for assistance work to complement these and do not need to be pushed as aggressively.

Time to get into the nitty-gritty of the 6Up method, and you’ll get to see why I chose this name (although I think it lame so I am open to suggestions). After your exercise is chosen you will perform 4 progressively heavier sets. You last set is a technical AMRAP. This means you stop when your form begins to break down. How this last set goes determines what you do next. This AMRAP is capped at 6 reps (hence the name). If you achieve 6 reps you are done with that movement. If you achieve 5 or less reps you will perform a AMRAP with the weight you used for your second set. This is again until technical failure, but this set has no rep cap. If you perform less reps on this set then you did last week, you are also done with the movement, and I would reduce volume and intensity on your accessories for that day. Its kind of like a choose your own adventure, except your choice is based on your performance, not what you want to do!

Okay, so you’ve made it through one session, what do you do on your next session. This again depends on what happened the last session. If you achieved 6 reps on your last set last workout you will increase the weight on all 4 sets, and repeat the process again. If you achieved 5 or less reps you will use the same weight and go for a technical failure, again capped at 6. If you fail to hit 6 again you will take your weight from your second set and do an AMRAP. The key this time is trying to beat last weeks AMRAP number. If you again fail to beat your rep PR at this weight you can either change do a different movement next week, or you can change the rep protocol, which will be discussed earlier.

Although this seems somewhat complicated when you lay it out and actually start to use the principles you will see its rather simple. Her are some examples how a few workouts may go! In this example I am going to use front squats. All of these sets are working sets done after warm up sets

Workout 1

Set 1:255x6

Set 2:275x6

Set 3:295x6

Set 4:315x4

The lifter did not get six reps so they now perform a 5th set, which is an am rap with their second set weight

Set 5:275x11

They are done with this movement for the day

Workout 2

Set 1:255x6

Set 2:275x6

Set 3:295x6

Set 4:315x5

The lifter beat their previous best but still did not achieve 6 reps on their final set, so they perform a 5th set again trying to beat their previous weeks AMRAP

Set 5:275x12

Workout 3

Set 1:255x6

Set 2:275x6

Set 3:295x6

Set 4:315x6

This week the lifter finally got 6 reps, so that means he is done with the movement for the day and gets to go up weight next workout.

Workout 4

Set 1:265x6

Set 2:285x6

Set 3:305x6

Set 4:325x3

Set 5: 285x10

This cycle continues until the lifter wants to move on from the movement or does less then his previous best twice in a row, for example

Workout 5

Set 1:265x6

Set 2:285x6

Set 3:305x6

Set 4:325x2

Because the lifter did not meet or beat his previous best he is done for the day and should reduce that workouts overall assistance volume. This is to provide a miniature reload that should allow him better recovery by the time the next workout comes around.

Workout 6

Set 1:265x6

Set 2:285x6

Set 3:305x6

Set 4:325x2

In this case however the lifter once again was unable to beat his top set AMRAP. Now that this has happened twice the lifter has two options. Option one is switching to a similar movement. In the case of the front squat this could be a Safety squat bar, a pause squat, a back squat or something similar. You would start conservative with the new movement at around 70% of your old predicted max from when you last pushed that movement. Option two is changing the rep protocol. Although this is named the 6up method, this can be used with any rep range. If hypertrophy is the goal sets of 8,10, or 12 may be more suited. If pure maximal strength is the focus a 4 or 5 rep range may be ideal, anything lower suggest peaking so a more planned out program may be ideal. They key here is taking the principles and adapting them to your goals at any given time. An example of a 10s protocol may be:

Set 1:225x10

Set 2:240x10




As you can see this protocol has more than enough volume to induce growth. Based on a a calculated predicted one rep max of 325 from set 4, you are getting 51 reps between 69 and 80%, which is more than enough work to encourage some growth.

The 6up method can be employed on one lift or multiple lifts you wish to bring up. Although it is not a program it can be intelligently put into a program for autoregualtrd and continuous progression. It can be used multiple times per week and even undulate between reps protocols depending on your goals and recovery capabilities.

As you can see the 6up method is simple once you understand the principles guiding it. It worked wonders for the lifts I tested it on and I am excited to get feedback from anyone willing to give it a try. Below I have written out a basic program outline showcasing how one may utilize this method in a complete program.

Stay strong!

Day 1-Squats

Squats-6up method

Stiff leg deadlifts-10up method

Single leg squats 3x12-15

Leg curl 3x12-15

Planks 3xALAP

Day 2-Overhead press

Overhead press-6up method

Close grip bench press-10up method

Pendlay Row-8up method

Dips 3x10-12

Lateral raise 3x12-15

BB curls 3x12-15

Reverse pec deck 3x12-15

Day 3-Deadlifts

Deadlifts-6x3@65 at a set each week until 8x3 then add 10-15 pounds a restart with 6x3

Front squats-8up method

Glute bridge 3x12-15

Leg press (4 count negative) 3x15-20

Hanging leg raise 3x12-15

Day 4- Bench

Bench press-6up method

Incline press-10up method

Close grip pulldown 3x12-15

Pendlay Row-12 up method

Incline BB extension 3x12-15

Hammer curls 3x12015

Rope pushdowns s.s facepulls- pick. Weight for each movement. Do your max reps each set alternating movements. Keep doing max reps until you reach 100 reps total for each. When able to do in 3 sets, increase weight.