Mutant Strength Workout For An Ordinary Human Being

deadlift
Photo credit: muscleandfitness.com

You may recall that yesterday, I said that I felt I needed to change up my weightlifting routine now that I’ve finished week 6 of my 5×5 workout plan. I’m really struggling with the weight for hack squats and deadlifts, and am concerned that just adding weight week over week is going to result in my getting hurt or just not being able to accomplish the required 5 sets at 5 reps per set.

I’ve considered three options:

  1. Doing what I’m doing now but not increasing the weight.
  2. Returning to a more traditional bodybuilding routine and working with lighter weights, less sets, and more reps.
  3. Adapting the Hugh Jackman “Mutant Strength” workout, which splits the difference, sort of.

I decided on option 3 but it requires a bit of explaining.

Hugh hadn’t done much direct strength work prior to training with me. He mostly worked in the 8-12 rep range. I always encourage low, 1-5 rep heavy work to stimulate myofibril hypertrophy. Then after the heavy work is done we move onto the higher rep schemes to encourage sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. By increasing your strength with the low reps, you increase your capacity with the higher reps, so I always plan heavy sets of the compound movements. The combination of the two styles brings the best gains.

That’s a quote from Jackman’s trainer David Kingsbury on how he got Hugh in shape for the 2013 film The Wolverine. If you’ve watched the movie or had a look at the featured image above (hard to miss), you can see that the results were pretty outstanding.

But I’ve got nearly 15 years on Jackman and I’m turning 61 years old in less than 2 weeks. Am I crazy to think that I could replicate his results by mapping my workout to his?

First of all, I have no illusions that I’ll end up looking like “the Wolverine,” and I am not going to strictly follow the “Mutant Strength” workout.

Kingsbury took Jackman through who knows how many rounds of 4-week workouts. As you can see if you click the links for Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4, Hugh lifted 5 days a week and he performed many different types of isolation and compound lifts. I probably wouldn’t have the time to do everything he did in just an hour.

So I’m going to keep the exact same lifts on the same days as I do now. That is, starting next week, I’ll do Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday, Workout A again on Friday, then Workout B on the following Monday, and so on.

The image below is the 4-week cycle for Jackman’s training. Everything is based on percentages of Hugh’s working 1 rep maximum (W1RM). There’s a handy 1RM calculator on the same page as the story.

wolverine workout plan
Courtesy of Bodybuilding.com

Referring to the image above, you can see that Week 1 is Hugh’s 5 rep week. For each lift, he starts out with set 1 at 5 reps lifting 60% of his W1RM, then for set 2, it goes up to 65%, and then for sets 3 and 4, it increases again to 75%.

Week 2 goes heavier and each set only requires 4 reps.

Week 3 is the heaviest week, requiring only 3 reps per set and sets 3 and 4 have Hugh lifting at an amazing 90% of his W1RM.

Then, for Week 4, the weight dials down dramatically, and the reps go up to 10 per set for all 4 sets.

Kingsbury says:

Once the first block of four weeks is complete, add 5-10 percent to your working 1-rep max. Increase 5 percent if progress is slow, and 10 percent if you can reach your target reps comfortably. Use this rule to plan each new four-week block.

Unfortunately, a block of 4 weeks won’t work for me if I use my standard 5×5 progression. Here’s why.

Week/Reps Monday Wednesday Friday
1: 5 reps A B A
2: 4 reps B A B
3: 3 reps A B A
4: 10 reps B A B

If I kept my workout progression like this, I would always have only one B workout in the 4 rep and 10 rep weeks, meaning only 1 occurrence of deadlifts, shoulder presses, and curls on those weeks.

Since I’ve just completed a six-week progression of lifting heavy, and moving from one block to the next, I’d like my A and B workouts to occur in different rep schemes, here’s what I’m thinking:

Week/Reps Monday Wednesday Friday
1: 10 reps A B A
2: 8 reps B A B
3: 5 reps A B A
4: 4 reps B A B
5: 3 reps A B A

Five week blocks seem a lot more workable for me given how I want to use them.

female weight training
Photo credit: Simplyshredded.com

So starting next Monday, I’ll do the same lifts, but much lighter, lifting 4 sets of 10 reps per set for everything. The next week, the weights get a little heavier and the target number of reps per set lower to 8. Then in week 3, the weight gets still heavier and I shoot for 5 reps per set, then 4 reps the following week, and really heavy weights and only 3 reps per set by the last week of the cycle.

Week 1 and Week 5 both have an ABA workout progression, so Week 1 of Round 2 starts with BAB, thus shuffling the workouts so they shift round by round.

Of course, I won’t know how this will work through even just one round until I’m actually into it, but the system seems sound and I want to give it a shot.

Here’s how next week will look for Workouts A and B. I’ve based all the percentages on my 5 rep max for this past week. I needed to make some minor adjustments to the specific weights but other than that, they’re pretty close to Kingsbury’s plan. I won’t know until I’m actually performing each one if I’ve made the weight too light or too heavy for 10 reps over 4 sets.

Week 1

Workout A

Barbell Hack Squat 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 115lbs/52.16kg
Set 2, 10 reps 135lbs/61.23kg
Set 3, 10 reps 160lbs/72.57kg
Set 4, 10 reps 160lbs/72.57kg

Barbell Bench Press 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 95lbs/43.09kg
Set 2, 10 reps 115lbs/52.16kg
Set 3, 10 reps 125lbs/56.69kg
Set 4, 10 reps 125lbs/56.69kg

Barbell Bent Over Rows 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 95lbs/43.09kg
Set 2, 10 reps 115lbs/52.16kg
Set 3, 10 reps 125lbs/56.69kg
Set 4, 10 reps 125lbs/56.69kg

triceps extCable Triceps Extension w/Rope Attachment 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 45lbs/20.41kg
Set 2, 10 reps 55lbs/24.94kg
Set 3, 10 reps 65lbs/29.48kg
Set 4, 10 reps 65lbs/29.48kg

Overhand grip pull up (bodyweight) 4×5-8

Workout B

Barbell Hack Squat 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 115lbs/52.16kg
Set 2, 10 reps 135lbs/61.23kg
Set 3, 10 reps 160lbs/72.57kg
Set 4, 10 reps 160lbs/72.57kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 75lbs/34.01kg
Set 2, 10 reps 95lbs/43.09kg
Set 3, 10 reps 105lbs/47.62kg
Set 4, 10 reps 105lbs/47.62kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 125lbs/56.69kg
Set 2, 10 reps 150lbs/68.03kg
Set 3, 10 reps 175lbs/79.37kg
Set 3, 10 reps 175lbs/79.37kg

Barbell Overhead Press 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 45lbs/20.41kg
Set 2, 10 reps 50lbs/22.67kg
Set 3, 10 reps 55lbs/24.94kg
Set 4, 10 reps 55lbs/24.94kg

Barbell Curls 4×10

Set 1, 10 reps 45lbs/20.41kg
Set 2, 10 reps 55lbs/24.94kg
Set 3, 10 reps 65lbs/29.48kg
Set 4, 10 reps 65lbs/29.48kg

Yes, I know. They are a lot lighter than what I’ve been lifting for the past 6 weeks, but remember, I’m doing 4 sets at 10 reps per set, not 5 sets of 5 reps each.

I looked back in my workout log to last March when I was working with barbell lifts doing 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps per set, and discovered:

barbell bench press
Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com

Barbell Bench Press

12x 90lbs/40.82kg
8x 90lbs/40.82kg
7x 90lbs/40.82kg

Barbell Bent Over Rows

11x 100lbs/45.35kg
9x 100lbs/45.35kg
8x 100lbs/45.35kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlifts

15x 100lbs/45.35kg
11x 100lbs/45.35kg
11x 100lbs/45.35kg

So, if I’ve made my weight estimates correctly, I’ll still be lifting at 4 sets of 10 reps per set for three of my big barbell exercises heavier than the last time I tried them using a bodybuilder style workout.

Now, just for giggles, I’m jumping to Week 5 in my schedule, the heaviest week at 4 sets of 3 reps per set:

Week 5

Workout A

Barbell Hack Squat 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 170lbs/77.11kg
Set 2, 3 reps 195lbs/88.45kg
Set 3, 3 reps 215lbs/97.52kg
Set 4, 3 reps 215lbs/97.52kg

Barbell Bench Press 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 130lbs/58.96kg
Set 2, 3 reps 150lbs/68.03kg
Set 3, 3 reps 165lbs/74.84kg
Set 4, 3 reps 165lbs/74.84kg

bent over rows
Photo credit: sportsscience.co

Barbell Bent Over Rows 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 130lbs/58.96kg
Set 2, 3 reps 150lbs/68.03kg
Set 3, 3 reps 165lbs/74.84kg
Set 4, 3 reps 165lbs/74.84kg

Cable Triceps Extension w/Rope Attachment 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 70lbs/31.75kg
Set 2, 3 reps 80lbs/36.28kg
Set 3, 3 reps 85lbs/38.55kg
Set 4, 3 reps 85lbs/38.55kg

Pull ups 4×5-8

Set 1, 5 reps (bodyweight)
Set 2, 5 reps (bodyweight)
Set 3, 5 reps (bodyweight)
Set 4, 5 reps (bodyweight)

Workout B

Barbell Hack Squat 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 170lbs/77.11kg
Set 2, 3 reps 195lbs/88.45kg
Set 3, 3 reps 215lbs/97.52kg
Set 4, 3 reps 215lbs/97.52kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 115lbs/52.16kg
Set 2, 3 reps 125lbs/56.69kg
Set 3, 3 reps 145lbs/65.77kg
Set 4, 3 reps 145lbs/65.77kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 190lbs/86.18kg
Set 2, 3 reps 215lbs/97.52kg
Set 3, 3 reps 235lbs/106.59kg
Set 4, 3 reps 235lbs/106.59kg

Barbell Overhead Press 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 60lbs/27.21kg
Set 2, 3 reps 65lbs/29.48kg
Set 3, 3 reps 75lbs/34.01kg
Set 4, 3 reps 75lbs/34.01kg

Barbell Curls 4×3

Set 1, 3 reps 70lbs/31.75kg
Set 2, 3 reps 75lbs/34.01kg
Set 3, 3 reps 85lbs/38.55kg
Set 4, 3 reps 85lbs/38.55kg

So at Week 5, when I’ll be lifting the heavier weights for only 3 reps per set, most or all of my lifts in the third and fourth sets will be heavier than what I’ve performed this past week. I should, if all goes well, exceed my performance, albeit at 4 sets of 3 reps per set instead of 5 sets at 5 reps per set (in most cases).

pullups
Photo credit: confitdent.com

I’ve left the pull ups much as they are now except that I added a set so this exercise would match the others.

As Kingsbury recommends, after I finish a round of, in my case, 5 weeks, I have the option of adding 10 percent to my working 1 rep maximum if I’m comfortably reaching targets, or only adding 5 percent if my progress is slow.

I’m pretty excited to try this out and see how my body changes again, given that I’m shaking things up a bit. Of course, it could all be genetics, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

Earl Nightingale

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3 thoughts on “Mutant Strength Workout For An Ordinary Human Being

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