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The Workout Philosophy

We have systematically designed the Apollo 28-Day Challenge workouts to get you incredibly strong and lean while requiring just three total body workouts per week.  These twelve workouts over the course of the next 28 days will yield extraordinary results and forever redefine your approach in the gym.  An industry myth exists that you can’t gain muscle and improve strength while simultaneously shredding body-fat.  Our Apollo Challengers have consistently proven that this just isn’t true.  We have repeatedly seen Challengers shed 20+ pounds of fat and build 5+ pounds of muscle in just 28 days.  

Time is everything to you.  We understand that every minute in your day matters.  Rest assured we’ve made every second in these workouts count.  Each exercise, set, and repetition was intentionally selected to achieve a storm of specific muscular and hormonal responses.  Expect to perform exactly what’s outlined in the workouts to achieve optimal results.  No less and no more.

The exercises selected are demanding yet they don’t require any more than your basic strength equipment.

Adjustable Utility Bench
Complete Set of Dumbbells (5lbs-100lbs+ Ideally)
Adjustable Cable Column with Rope and Single Handle

The Apollo Challenge workouts utilize very specific exercise physiology principles to achieve maximum results. We elaborate on the specific intentions of each method and workout days in the the posts below.  Don’t feel restricted if you don’t understand some of the terminology.  However, it is critical for you to understand the importance and execution of the tempo and technique outlined for each workout.

Undulating Rep Scheme

This is the foundation of the Apollo Challenge Workouts as it will propel you to continued gains.

Learn more about the Undulating Rep Scheme here.

Tempo

Learning to emphasize your training “tempo” for every exercise will improve your awareness and exhaust your muscles and ensure you achieve maximum results.  You’ll notice tempos listed by each exercise in the Apollo Challenge workouts.  It’s intended for you to be mindful of every repetition during your workout to maximize your results.

Learn more about Tempo here. 

Pump Method : Day 1

Day 1 is a 12 repetition day using a 1-0-1-0 tempo. It is designed so you fatigue your muscle at the conclusion of each individual set. It’s often described as going for the “pump”.

Learn more about Day 1 here.

Go for the Burn : Day 2

Day 2 is an 8 repetition day using a 4-0-1-0 tempo.   It is designed for you to induce muscle micro-trauma which will encourage muscle tissue growth.

Learn more about Day 2 here.

Time to Go Heavy : Day 3

Day 3 is a 5 repetition day using a 1-0-x-o tempo.  The “x” represents explosive.  You will create as much power as possible during your lifts to see significant strength gains.

Learn more about Day 3 here.

Weight Selection

Selecting the appropriate resistance is essential for continued strength gains.

Learn more about Weight Selection here. 

Workout Flow

The workouts are designed in a total body format.  An upper body exercise is paired with a lower body exercise to provide adequate rest for the working muscles yet still keep you active to optimize cardiovascular benefits during training.  No sitting around waiting for the next set.

 

Exercise Videos

We have provided comprehensive instructional videos for each exercise outlined in the Apollo Challenge Book.  You can find the directory of workout videos here or on our YouTube Channel (make sure you subscribe to stay updated on new videos and make it easy to pull up the videos when you are at the gym).

 

Special note on technique:

Your emphasis on technique is the separating factor between getting results and getting wrecked.   In other words, I want you to make the quality of your technique paramount .  I can’t overstate the importance of mastering the technique of each exercise.  Your either controlling the weight or the weight is controlling you.  Executing each rep with absolute control in regards to tempo (speed) and the path of each exercise will vault your strength and size to new levels.  This control should remain the same from the first rep to the last rep.  Total focus is requisite to this objective.  If you fail to maintain technique, you will shift the exercise intention from training specific muscle fibers or muscle groups to stressing supporting soft-tissue structures or muscles and is a recipe for chronic pain or injury.


References:

Schoenfeld, Brad “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and their Application to Resistance Training.”  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Volume 24, Number 10, October 2010

 

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Undulating Rep Scheme

undulating-rep-scheme-graphic

The Apollo Challenge utilizes an undulating repetition scheme throughout the week to forge muscle and strength gains and further leverage the sports science concept of muscle confusion. Undulating means “wavy” and is best reflected in the chart above.

The intention of an undulating cycle is to vary the type of stress imposed on both your muscle and nervous system to capitalize on strength and muscle growth in shorter time windows.  You really can gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously.  You just have to put forth a very calculated effort as outlined in the Apollo Challenge Book.

Muscle Confusion

Muscle Confusion is a commonly used yet often misunderstood fitness term. You can think of the “confusion” component as adding variety.    Training variety places new or different stresses to your muscles so adaptations (growth in size and strength) occur on a regular basis.  The concept is to challenge each energy system weekly for the ultimate effect.  Creating variety in your training provides new stimulus for your muscles to adjust to and the effect is continued adaptations (growth) with the same movement.

Unfortunately, the variety offered in many “muscle confusion” protocols use an exorbitant amount of new exercises as an attempt to create new stimulus.  While this certainly removes boredom it’s unlikely to measurably improve performance as the user is unable to optimally perform each exercise well enough to appropriately load it.

We’ve found that a variety in load (weight used) and amount (number of repetitions) in a limited scope of exercises over a limited period of time is superior to exercise variety.  This method allows you to improve your technique throughout the four weeks of the Challenge so you may load with maximal weights by the conclusion of the Challenge.  We’ve listed the most critical details to follow while implementing this technique:

  • Resistance via precise weight selection “How Much”
  • Repetition scheme “How Many”
  • Speed in the form of tempo “How Long”

The key is to create specific and new challenges to your muscle so you may best use your body’s different energy systems to engage your muscles in a way that will provide continued strength and volume gains.  Check out the following pages to understand how you will utilize these techniques throughout your 28-day challenge.

Pump Method: Day 1  [12 Rep Day]

Micro-Trauma: Day 2  [8 Rep Day]

Maximum Force: Day 3  [5 Rep Day]

*Training variety places new or different stresses to your muscles so adaptations (growth in size and strength) occur on a regular basis.  The concept is to challenge each energy system weekly for the ultimate effect.

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Exercise Tempo

Tempo is a critical component of the Apollo Challenge workouts.  It is imperative that you understand the importance and execution of the tempo methods outlined for each workout as they are different for each day of the week.

You will realize results relative to the quality of work and effort you put in.  Training with a conscious effort to maintain the prescribed exercise tempo during each lift and following the outlined number of reps and sets all contribute to the undeniable intensity of the Apollo Challenge workouts and will produce significant results.  Learning to emphasize your training “tempo” for every exercise will improve your awareness and exhaust your muscles in the intended way.

You can learn more about the different tempo’s for each day here:

Tempo Explained:

The tempo of a given exercise can be divided into four phases. The order of tempo is listed below using a tempo of “4010”

  1. (4) The time (measured in seconds) spent during the eccentric (lengthening) muscle action. Example: Lowering the dumbbells during DB Incline Press.
  2. (0)  The time (measured in seconds) spent during the end point/range of motion of the exercise/lift.  It’s at this point where the muscle is at it’s greatest length during a movement.  Example: The lowest position of the dumbbells when performing theDB Incline Press.
  3. (1)  The time (measured in seconds) spent during the concentric (shortening) muscle action. Example: The time spent while pressing the the dumbbells up during theDB Incline Press.
  4. (0)  The time (measured in seconds) spent during the finishing point of an exercise where the muscle is at it’s shortest length.   Example: Pressing the DB’s up during the DB Incline Press.

The workout table below reflects the tempo for  the Incline Bench Press on day 2.

Exercise Sets Repetitions Tempo (Seconds)
DB Incline Press 3 8 4010

Phase 1 Eccentric (Muscle Lengthening)4010 | The first number (4) represents the time spent in seconds while performing the eccentric phase of the bench press.  Eccentric means muscle lengthening and is a muscle action.  Emphasis on eccentric strength will unlock your potential to improve your strength and make massive gains!

Advantages of Eccentric Aspect of an exercise.

  1. The ability to induce high levels of stress to generate growth.
  2. Improved control during a movement to provide a stable base to perform the concentric aspect.

Phase 2 Eccentric (Terminal Length)4010 | The second number (0) represents the time spent at the lowest point of the eccentric phase.  In other words it is the the point where the muscle is at it’s longest.  Typically time spent here is uncomfortable to execute for anything longer than ½ a second.  Time spent here is great to overcome a plateau because it forces you to contract without the benefit of momentum.

Advantages

  1. Improved muscle recruitment to perform the concentric aspect.
  2. Muscle growth.

Phase 3 Concentric (Muscle Shortening)—4010 | The third number (1) is the time spent contracting (shortening) the muscle in the concentric phase  The weight or resistance is the limiting factor in executing the recommended speed.  1 second is commonplace for the movement.  Slowing it down has it’s benefits for growth and neuromuscular control.  This can labeled numerically in seconds or with the use X to represent EXPLOSIVE, i.e  if a tempo prescription indicates a 10X0 you will explosively move the weight as fast as you can in the concentric phase.

Faster Speed Advantages

  1. Power
  2. Speed

Slower Speed Advantages

  1. Greater muscular tension
  2. It can help overcome plateaus

Phase 4 Concentric (Muscle at it’s Shortest Position)—4010 | The fourth number (0) is the time spent at the completion of a movement (when the muscle is at its shortest).  Time spent here maximizes stress across the fibers.  It’s a great opportunity to maximize muscle tonicity (muscle tone).  It’s important to note that it can be performed with an emphasis on contraction or an emphasis on the rest.  That is dependent on your intent and how hard you “squeeze” the muscle.

Advantages of Emphasis

  1. Maximize the number of muscle fibers used.
  2. Maximize the fiber stress.
  3. Heightened muscle contraction for increased tone.

It can’t be overemphasized how important tempo is to your strength and mass gains while following the Apollo Challenge.  Make sure that you truly understand the concepts of tempo before you begin your workouts.

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Day 1 : Get Pumped Up

workout_1_page

The Apollo Challenge requires just three workouts per week with one day of recovery between each workout.  Workouts are labeled Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of each week.  An ideal training regimen would take place on Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.  Each workout was intentionally designed using a scientific method proven to elicit a specific response.  Please execute the workouts as outlined to maximize your results!  Day 1 is often thought as the most challenging because it is your high-rep day.  You will be performing the greatest amount of work volume of on these days!

Day 1 is a 12 repetition day while using a 1-0-1-0 tempo for each rep.  It is designed to fatigue the targeted muscles by the end of each individual set.  This is the effect most people will describe as feeling your muscles “pumped” up.  This approach induces cellular swelling with the intention of stimulating anabolic (growth) responses to muscle tissue by increasing protein synthesis (accumulation of protein) and decreasing proteolysis (breakdown of proteins).  The success of this method relies heavily on ideal weight selection, high effort and technical execution.  You should select a weight that exhausts your muscle by the time you reach your final repetition.

dumbbell_bench_press_b1

We consider Day 1 a high volume and high intensity workout.  It is the most challenging of the workouts due to sheer volume.  This challenge is best overcome with a determined mindset.  Bring your best effort and you will reap the rewards.

Make sure to crush it on Day 1 to maximize your muscle gains and set yourself up for success in your Day 2 and Day 3 workouts.  These work together in sequence to produce maximum results.

Day 1 is the hardest workout each week, you should feel a sense of accomplishment after successfully mastering your Day 1 workouts.  This will set you up for success both physically and mentally for the week knowing that you dominated this beast of a workout.  You should leave a successfully completed “Day 1” workout feeling that the hardest part of your week is behind you!

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Day 2 : Feel The Burn

The Apollo Challenge requires just three workouts per week with one day of recovery between each workout.  Workouts are labeled Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of each week.  An ideal training regimen would take place on Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.  Each workout was intentionally designed using a scientific method proven to elicit a specific response.  Please execute the workouts as outlined to maximize your results!  Day 2 requires serious focus on the tempo of each exercise you perform to benefit from the “time under tension” theory as well enhanced neuromuscular control

Day 2 is an 8 repetition day using a 4-0-1-0 tempo.   It is designed for you to induce muscle micro-trauma as the lengthened tempo forces you to resist gravity for an uncomfortable period of time. This method of micro-trauma occurs in the form of small tears in the muscle tissue (sarcolemma, basal lamina) and supportive connective tissue.  This approach stimulates a positive inflammatory response to the tissues.  White blood cells travel to the damaged tissues where a barrage of growth factors are released.  This response induces muscle cell proliferation.  Muscle cell proliferation is better known as muscle growth.  This method relies heavily on your effort and control during the four second eccentric (lowering) phase of each exercise.

Maintaining focus on lowering the weight will be the most challenging aspect of Day 2.  Accept the fact that your muscle is going to “burn” and that you’re going to experience some short-term discomfort to achieve the results you desire.  Day 2 will challenge your ability to maintain focus during each repetition.

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Day 3 : Time To Lift Heavy

The Apollo Challenge requires just three workouts per week with one day of recovery between each workout.  Workouts are labeled Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of each week.  An ideal training regimen would take place on Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.  Each workout was intentionally designed using a scientific method proven to elicit a specific response.  Please execute the workouts as outlined to maximize your results!  Day 3 is the time to lift heavy.  It requires you to accurately select weights that best challenge you within the realm of acceptable technique.

100lb_dumbbells_bw

Day 3 is a 5 repetition day using a 1-0-X-0 tempo.  The “X” represents explosive.  I want you to create as much power as possible during the concentric phase of the lift.  It is designed for you to generate more force production by maximizing motor unit recruitment. Motor unit recruitment is defined by the accumulation of myofibrils (the contractile element/part of the muscle).  Your ability to recruit your fast twitch muscle fibers will propel you to new strength gains.  Its success relies “heavily” on ideal weight selection.  The weight must be heavy enough to maximize motor recruitment of the intended muscle groups yet, not so heavy that your technique erodes.  This day is all about getting stronger.  I want you looking forward to setting new 5-rep personal records on Day 3 of each week.  

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Weight Selection

We all want to be the strongest guys at the gym, to put up the “big weights” and show that we are powerful, virile men.   Good news, The Apollo Challenge is designed to get you there!  In order to achieve life-long results and not just a one-time showing  you will have to be smart in your approach.   The Apollo Challenge workout program relies on appropriate weight selection to maximize results on each given training day.  The goal is to fatigue the intended muscle(s) by the completion of the prescribed repetitions.  Weight selection is critical to establish a pattern of progress from workout to workout.   Going too light won’t provide enough stress and the risk of going too heavy can produce compromised technique leading you into leveraging your soft tissues in a manner more likely to induce injury than muscle growth.  Injury (muscle or joint) is the single largest deterrent to strength gains.  Consistent, intentional training is the key catalyst to strength gains and increasing muscle mass.  Injury eliminates consistency as it’s impossible to build a habit of health if you’re not able to complete the work.

Before we explain weight selection, it is important to understand the intention of our time in the gym so you can make informed decisions.

You Are The Only Competition

It is important to develop a “compete with yourself” mindset. Competing with others at the expense of your body is a reliable recipe for failure.  Sport is about winning, training is about staying healthy and setting both short and long-term goals to achieve lasting results.  Keep your focus in the gym on training and not making a sport out of an exercise.  Remember these three C’s to reinforce self-awareness throughout your training:  Conscious, Critical, Control.

Be Conscious of Exercise Intention

Be conscious of exercise intention.  Exercise intention is understanding exactly what muscle(s) you’re supposed use in a given exercise and how to influence them to your favor. This is a form of deliberate practice which is the opposite of mindless lifting.  Pick up the weight, decide exactly how it should be performed, and how many repetitions.  This habit alone will move the needle forward. Thinking about each muscle involved as you activate them has shown to increase muscle activation and training effect.[1]

Be Critical

Be critical of your movements and time in the gym.   The more you perform an exercise with consciousness and control in mind the better you’ll become at critiquing your movements.  You will easily recognize small adjustments that are unnoticeable to the eye of your training partner.  This is an on-going process.  Refine, Refine, and Refine.  Master your body.

Maintain Control

You should be dictating the speed of the movement keeping your tempo in mind.  Understanding control minimizes the use of momentum to produce force.  Momentum typically leverages soft tissues and joints and reduces muscle tension, you should be in control of the weights not gravity.  The Apollo challenge emphasizes tempo and repetition schemes to induce specific muscle stress in return for a specific response as listed below. [2]

12 Rep Day “Go for the Pump” 1010 Tempo to induce cellular swelling and stimulate growth.  It’s essential you fatigue the muscle each set. See the Day 1 Article for more
8 Rep Day “Go for the Burn” The 4010 Tempo is used to cause stress to the muscle in the form of micro tears eliciting a beneficial inflammatory response to stimulate growth. See the Day 2 Article for more.
5 Rep Day “Heavy Day” The 10XO is used to maximize strength gains by stimulating your nervous system to recruit as many motor units as possible to move heavy weight.  “X” represents explosive. See the Day 3 Article for more.

Weight Selection Guidelines

When selecting a weight for each exercise, the idea is to control the weight and produce stable and consistent force.  Each repetition should look the same with an inevitable decrease in speed during the onset of fatigue.  We will allow fatigue to affect speed but it must not affect technique.  Your weight choice should challenge your thresholds but should not compromise your technique.

Please note the following guideline to be “general ” as individuals vary greatly in muscle fiber make-up (fast or slow twitch) and it’s for this reason to expect a variance.  Never attempt to perform a movement with a weight you can’t handle and always ask for help from a professional when attempting to push yourself.

12 Rep Day Choose a weight that will exhaust you by the end of each set. Start lighter than you would expect and then select a higher weight if you find the previous set was not challenging enough.  Make sure to track your weights in your Apollo Challenge book so you can refer back to them to choose weights for the following workout.
8 Rep Day Choose a weight that is roughly 5-10% heavier than your 12 Rep Day. Realize that this day has some different exercises which you will have to set a new baseline on.  The weight should be challenging and exhaust you by the end of the set.
5 Rep Day This is your heavy day. Choose a weight that is 10-15% heavier than your 12 Rep Day. You will be surprised how much weight you can move on these days. This weight should be very challenging and should exhaust you by the end of each set.

Keep Your Training History

 The Apollo Challenge book and workout pages are designed for you to record your weights as you move through each set.  This allows you to set targets each week to exceed and progress from the previous workout.  

Don’t be afraid to micro progress.  Adding 1 ¼ lb and 2.5 lb. plates (often magnetic) to dumbbell exercises is a great example of micro-progression.  Progress is not linear.  For example, your strength gains in weeks 1 & 2 are likely to be much greater than in weeks 3 & 4. This is due to neuromuscular adaptations that spike immediate improvements in motor unit recruitment.  You should consider a 5-10lb. increase on a dumbbell exercise a significant gain.  

Finding a great Training partner is an invaluable asset as they provide accountability, support, and motivation.  Don’t be shy about getting someone started on the same mission as you.  It will ultimately benefit you both.

If you are ever in doubt when performing an exercise or selecting weights, always seek the advice of a professionally certified trainer.  Hiring a trainer to guide you through the first couple workouts is a worthwhile investment if you are new to weightlifting.


References:
[1] Snyder BJ, Fry WR. Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(9):2394-400.

[2] Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(10):2857-72.