Power Building: The Rule of Three and the Rule of Six - PROGRAMMING: THEORY AND TACTICS - Explosive Calisthenics, Superhuman Power, Maximum Speed and Agility, Plus Combat-Ready Reflexes--Using Bodyweight-Only Methodsp (2015)

Explosive Calisthenics, Superhuman Power, Maximum Speed and Agility, Plus Combat-Ready Reflexes--Using Bodyweight-Only Methods (2015)




Not all of the Explosive Six were created equal. The skill-agility techniques—e.g., kip-ups and flips—may look incredibly sexy, but they can only be approached by an athlete who has the raw power to attempt them. What do I mean by raw power? Well:

· the leg spring to launch the body high enough;

· the midsection snap to tuck the legs up; and

· the shoulder and arm power to increase momentum (and forcefully push the body off the floor in some major steps).

You don’t build this kind of power by playing around with exotic flips and kips. You build it before you attempt the skill-agility work, by hard, consistent training on jumps and power pushups.


Even after reading these words, too many athletes will approach the jump/power pushup chains in the wrong way. What do I mean by this? Take jumps as an example. I mean they’ll try the easy jumps, then try the harder ones, all the way up to the Master Step, then figure that they’ve “beaten” the chain.

This is not how it works.

If you want to be an explosive athlete, you need to be working with the jump chain (or similar techniques) for your entire career. Do you imagine you have “beaten” the vertical leap (step 3) just because you can perform it? No way! Keep getting higher! Basketball superstars work with these exercises day-in, day-out with for years, trying get higher and higher, knowing they will continually build more power as they do so. The same goes for the power pushups. Linear improvement on these basics is the name of the game. Sure, move up through the steps, but don’t just blindly try and race to the Master Steps—that’s fairly easy. Your goal is to use these exercises as tools to continue building power and joint integrity throughout your entire career.

If the skill-agility exercises (the flips and kip-ups especially) are your racing vehicles, think of the basic power moves (jumps and power pushups) as your fuel tank. The more consistently you train with ‘em, the bigger and more turbocharged your vehicle. But no matter how much you try and work on the skill stuff without putting in the groundwork on power moves, your progress will suck. You’ll be like a speedster running on empty.


Consistent work on the jumps and power pushups won’t just increase muscle power—it’ll also improve the capacity of your muscles, soft tissues and even your bones to handle these forces. Athletes who haphazardly throw acrobatics into their training continually suffer twisted knees, bad hips, sprained ankles and foot pain. You can avoid almost all this if you commit a modest period of time practicing the jump chain, to condition these areas.

Likewise, I’ve heard of several cases where guys (it’s always guys) are playing about with handsprings, who break an arm, typically the radius in the forearm. This happens simply because the bones and soft tissues (the shock absorbers) just aren’t conditioned to high-power movements. The cure is simple: careful, consistent improvement in the power pushup series. I don’t want any of you hurting yourselves, okay? Prepare your bodies adequately before throwing yourselves around!


So enough with the lecturing, already. How should you program the basic power moves? I’ll say up front that I’m not a big fan of the complex charts and graphs you find in many plyo manuals. If you want to peruse those and apply them to the techniques in this book, go ahead. For me, I’m a much bigger fan of simple engineering—and I always teach my students two basic rules when it comes to programming power basics. Use these two elementary rules in your training, and I promise you your power will take off like a goddamn ramjet. These two rules are called the rule of three, and the rule of six.


When it comes to rep-ranges, my advice regarding the power exercises in this book couldn’t be simpler. I call it “the rule of three”.


If you are working for speed-power, never go over 3 reps per exercise.

There you are. It’s that simple. If you wish to progress through the Explosive Six power chains, when training on the various steps, you can use 1-rep sets. You can use 2-rep sets. You can use 3-rep sets. Never use more reps than that.

Why such low reps for speed? Remember that your body becomes better only by doing what you tell it to do. Try this thought-experiment: if you warm up well and perform ten non-stop squat jumps, is your body fastest on the first jump, or the last jump? Well, if you did your warm-up right, it’s fastest on the first or second jump. By the tenth rep, fatigue toxins have built up in your muscles, energy has been depleted, and that jump is the slowest jump. The same is true for all explosive power movements. Don’t waste your time teaching your body how to do slower movements. Quit after the first few reps, and you will teach your body to move with pure power!

Safety is another consideration. When you are exploring high-velocity moves—like jumps and backflips—your goal should be to perform them with proficiency (the P of PARC—page 264). Your goal should not be high reps. Using high reps on explosive exercises like these increases the likelihood of screwing up and making a mistake—which could lead to injury. You are more likely to make an error on rep 10—when you are getting tired and losing focus—than on reps 1-3.

So stick to reps 1-3!


Are 3 measly reps enough to force my body to adapt?

Yes. Think of it this way—some of the elite powerlifters and weightlifters become the strongest human beings on the planet on a diet of very low-rep sets. If they can use low reps to make their physiological systems change to build that level of strength, why shouldn’t it work for speed-strength? For sure, if you want to build muscle or endurance, you need more reps to force your body to adapt in the way you want. But for speed and power, three is enough.

The speed-strength used by Olympic weightlifters is not a million miles away from the kind of speed-strength needed in the Explosive Six. Olympic weightlifters often use low-rep sets for maximum power, just as you should.


But what if I want to build endurance? What if I want to look cool, busting out a dozen clap pushups?

And the answer to that is; well, if that’s what you want, you’re not working for speed-power, are you? You’re working for endurance, in which case, of course you should jack up your reps. But if you want speed, explosiveness, and quickness, stick to low reps—3 or less. If you want to move up the progressions as quickly as possible this requires building speed-strength, so stick with the rule of three.

If you want to impress folks with twenty reps of Superman pushups, that’s cool. But you’ve got to get to that step first, right? The best way is through low reps!


While the Rule of Three determines your rep range for your sets; the Rule of Six determines the total number of reps you perform for each exercise. To apply it, you just remember to use a total rep number which is a multiple of six.

This is a great way to approach your total number of reps per movement:


✵ Beginners should be looking at 6 working reps per exercise

✵ Intermediates should be looking at 12 working reps per exercise

✵ Advanced athletes should aim at 18 working reps per exercise

So how does this work? Simple. Let’s say you are working with squat jumps. If you are a beginner, you’ll be looking at doing six working reps of jumps in your workout. (A working rep means any reps you do seriously, after your warm up. For a warm-up protocol, check out page 295.)

Now, the Rule of Three told you that you should use 1-rep, 2-rep, or 3-rep sets. So some simple math tells us that we have at least 3 basic options for our training session. You could go:

6 x 1

Six sets of one rep would give you your six-rep total. This approach—performing “singles” as it is often known—is a great way to train explosives. It allows you to put maximum effort and concentration into each repetition. On the down side, you don’t get to exploit that rebound effect (see: Myotatic Rebound, page 41) which is so effective on some exercises. Also, a session of singles obviously takes longer than doing multiple-rep sets.

Here’s another option:

3 x 2

Three sets of two reps. Makes six again, right? (I think.) A classic session of “doubles” which will exploit some rebound, while allowing you plenty of focus and discipline. Tasty way to go.

Then there’s:

2 x 3

Two sets of three. Three rep sets (“triples”) are the bread-and-butter of many explosives athletes and coaches. Triples allow you to really get into a set, without losing focus too much. If you are doing lots of reps or multiple exercises, you always finish and get to the bar quicker, which is always a plus, right?

Then again, there are other ways you could go to get those six reps:

3 x 1
1 x 3

Three sets of singles, followed by a triple. Or:

1 x 3
1 x 2
1 x 1

A triple, followed by a double, followed by a single. This is one of many potential “hybrid” options.

So you can see from these examples, that there are plenty of roads to Mecca, my friend. There are lots of different options you can explore to meet your rep goals, as long as you follow the Rule of Three (for the reps in a set) and the Rule of Six (for total reps of an exercise).

The Rule of Three and the Rule of Six blend perfectly in explosives programming, giving you plenty of options.

The Rule of Six is time-tested. I’ve used it for hundreds of athletes, who all got faster and more explosive than they could have believed in their wildest dreams. Why does it work? Partly because it mathematically meshes so easily with the Rule of Three. Partly because it forces athletes to organize their explosives sessions systematically, where otherwise there might be chaos. It really does work—use it and you’ll see, stud.


Which of these rep-schemes is best?

They are all just as good! As long as you are using the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six, you are doing it right!


Which approach should I be using? Singles, doubles, or triples?

It’s up to you. Explore different reps and see which you prefer. They generally all work as well, but for psychological reasons, some athletes prefer singles, some doubles or triples. Have fun with it, and don’t forget—you don’t need to use the same rep-ranges your whole life. Hell, you can mix them up from session-to-session. Play with triples, singles, hybrids. Mix ‘em up! As long as you follow the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six, it doesn’t matter, kid. You’re winning!


Is 6 reps per exercise enough for beginners?

If there’s a question I hear all the time, it’s this—is it enough? Determined athletes always have this drive to do more, more, more! I admire that—hell, I’ve been there and done it myself. What you need to remember with explosive training in particular is that more is not necessarily better. Explosives are not meant to be cardio or muscle-building—they’re designed to stimulate the nervous system, not exhaust you. A certain amount of plyometric training will increase your strength, ramp up your speed, and reduce your likelihood for injury. But explosives take their toll on the joints, soft tissues and even the bones—and an excessive amount of it will actually increase your likelihood for injury. Don’t forget that most of you will be performing muscular or strength training as well as this stuff. Stick to low-to-moderate amounts of work performed well. You will find that you make progress. Just don’t overthink, and talk yourself into failing before you start.


How do I know if I’m a Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced?

As a rule of thumb:

You are a beginner if:

· You are new to explosive training;

· You are experienced, but coming back from a layoff or injury;

· You find the exercise you are working on extremely difficult to perform, even once (sometimes athletes who are tackling very difficult steps should consider themselves beginners)

You are advanced if:

· You can easily handle at least step 7 of the chain you are working on:

You are intermediate if:

· You do not fit the categories of beginner or advanced.

As with all generalizations, there will be exceptions to this. It doesn’t render the basic ideas invalid, though. Sometimes we have to think “fuzzy”.


How long should I rest between sets?

Rest as long as it takes you to get your breath back and get set up for the next set. This typically takes 10-30 seconds. (Thirty seconds, while waiting for the next set, is actually a lot longer than it seems when you just read it!) It should not take more than a minute—remember, you are not fatiguing yourself during your explosives work (the way you would during a muscle-building set). If you need more than a minute to really get mentally prepared, that is acceptable—as long as you don’t go over about three minutes, in which case you’ll begin to lose the neurological benefits of your previous set. When prepping for the next set, don’t just slump down on a chair, and never lie down. These things tell your nervous system to begin to change down through the gears. You don’t need to run around between sets, but stay on your goddamn feet, okay?

When you rest between sets of explosives, don’t sit or lie down. It slows your heart rate excessively and steps down your nervous system. Stay on yer feet.


Which explosive exercises should I perform?

Typically, you should spend most of your power training working with the jumps/power pushups you have reached in the chain. (To find out how to progress properly though the chain, learn the PARC rule in chapter ten). That said, all of the power movements are of value, and all can be used to generate linear improvement: you can jump higher, clap more times, etc. So you have the choice to use multiple exercises within your set/rep range if you wish.


Are the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six “set in stone”, or can I use different protocols?

Yeah, sure you can use other stuff! If any trainer or “guru” tells you that you can only follow his (or her) protocol, run to the hills. If you want to be really elite at bodyweight training—or any training—the truth is you will have to learn to train yourself. Unless you are a pro athlete, nobody is gonna be there, babying you from workout-to-workout. You’re going to have to master the art of self-coaching. Part of this is working faithfully with the protocols of others—to see if and how they work—but also eventually tinkering with those fixed protocols, exploring, experimenting, and coming up with your own stuff.

I advise my students to apply the Laws of Three and Six because they are simple, foolproof, and proven to give phenomenal results. They are the very best I have to give to you. It wouldn’t feel right if I gave you anything less. Does that mean that nothing else works, you can’t add reps, or that you shouldn’t experiment? Nah!


I’ve done my best to keep Part III of this book—the “how to” stuff—real simple. (Like me!) But we’re a lot of pages in so far, and if you haven’t picked up all the finer details yet—don’t panic. This stuff isn’t going anywhere. (Unless you picked this up on the bus while the guy next to you is asleep, in which case, read quicker.)

The most important concepts to take home so far are:

· The Explosive Six chains are not all equal: some are for building basic power (the jumps and power pushups), some are better classed as skill movements (the kip-ups, flips, and to a lesser degree, the muscle-ups)

· The basic power movements and the skill movements should be approached differently, using different programming tactics

· Power movements are essential and should form the backbone of your training—they make the skill movements possible

· Program power movements using the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six

If you’re paying attention—and I know you are—then your next question will be: how do I program/ train for the skill movements?

That’s up next, beautiful.