A hypertrophy workout focused on pyramid-style sets to maximize strength and muscle growth
Building a strong, sculpted body doesn’t require hours spent working out—just an expert approach. And with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, seasoned trainers Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese have compiled their best, most efficient techniques into 30- to 40-minute resistance-training workouts to help you craft a powerful, perfectly defined physique in just 60 days.
Throughout the entire 60 days, you’ll focus on Stabilization, Strength, and Power to rapidly build, sculpt, and refine your physique. Combine this training with proven portion-control nutrition-the way Sagi and Autumn do in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel-and you’ll build a body that’s strong, chiseled, and defined.
As I embark on my own 60-Day Journey with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, I will be reviewing each workout as they present themselves in the program calendar. I will add my own insights and observations about the workouts; the comments I make are my own as an Independent Certified Personal Trainer and do not necessarily represent the Celebrity Trainers or Beachbody. Full disclosure, I am also an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and a distributor of this program and all other Beachbody products. I hope the information I provide is beneficial in your personal fitness journey.
One of the best things about The Master’s Hammer and Chisel program is the variety it offers, both at the macro level by mixing up the order of individual workouts to avoid hitting plateaus, and within each workout by using a variety of protocols that build strength, muscular endurance, power, speed, balance and agility.
Total Body Hammer is all about muscle Hypertrophy (phonetically: Hi-per-tro-fee) or muscle growth. Folks graduating up from the Body Beast program will be eager to get into this workout as it’s the first that really resembles some ‘Old School’ lifting. Not that the workouts that you’ve completed so far haven’t been challenging – they’ve been tough, they’ve made you sweat and they’ve pushed your muscle endurance to the limits with isometric and plyometric drills; but this one promises to be different.
Hypertrophy is the process of enlarging skeletal muscle fibers by applying increased levels of tension through resistance training. Depending on your current level of training, it may take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks for obvious signs to present, so be patient. If you’re new to this style of program, you may notice results much faster, that’s a common phenomenon for previously untrained folks.
Hypertrophy goals are best achieved using low to medium repetition ranges while progressively overloading the the weight. To achieve the same outcome, Total Body Hammer uses a modified reverse pyramid protocol. The workout consists of three Rounds, each Round has two parts made up of three exercises each. The exercises are grouped to target three major muscle groups in each round.
As they say the “Devil is in the Details” and the key to this workout is the scheduling of sets and rest periods within each round. As mentioned, the round is broken down into two parts, each part will consist of three exercises, each exercise is performed for three sets.
Use the same weight, but decrease the reps each set: 1st set 10-reps, 2nd set 8-reps, 3rd set 6-reps. Select a weight heavy enough to challenge you through all 3 sets. The concept behind the reverse pyramid is that you’re able to provide greater force production on the first set – as you progress, your ability to generate the same level of force diminishes – so fewer reps.
Key to this protocol is minimal rests between sets and minimal rest between exercises, the idea is to keep the muscles under tension throughout the entire round.
Write it down
Tracking your progress is very important, knowing what you’ve lifted and the reps you’ve completed will help you move forward and challenge yourself with this program. Team Beachbody offers printable workout sheets, they make following the program sequence and recording your progress a piece of cake. You can find them at Team Beachbody under the “Get Fit” menu, item: Workout Sheets.
The execution is straightforward, put your bench in the flat position, select your weights, lay back and position the weights on either side of your chest. You’re going to press straight up keeping the weights level and the relative distance between them the same, focus on squeezing your chest as you push the weights up and exhale on the exertion. The emphasis of this workout is hypertrophy (muscle growth) so heavier weights and low reps are the key. To maximize the benefit of the press, don’t set the weights down between sets – hold in the starting position for the brief pause between sets. This brief hold will keep your muscles under tension and will make the successive sets a more challenging, however safety should always be your primary consideration, if you feel unstable or cannot control the weights, set them down in between sets. You’ll know if you’ve selected the correct weight if the last 3 reps of the last set are difficult to perform.
As you press up from the bottom of the squat, focus on the larger muscle in the butt, the Gluteus Maximus (or ‘glutes’), at the top of the squat pull your hips forward, draw your shoulders back, keep your abs drawn in and squeeze your glutes. It sounds like a a lot to remember, but it will actually come as second nature. This is a total body workout and bringing stabilizer muscles into play throughout the full range of motion will give you more bang for your buck. As with the bench press, hold the weights between sets to maximize the time under tension, finish the pyramid as prescribed.
Congratulations! You have just completed the first half of Round 1, before moving on to Round 2, you will complete another full set of these three exercises. I personally find this is a good opportunity to increase your weights and push yourself a little harder.
Execute the move by lowering your arms out, slightly bending your elbows as you open your arms. When you feel the stretch across your chest, return to the starting position keeping the slight bend in your elbows as you come back up. Your Anterior Deltoids (front shoulder muscle) are a primary helper in this move, if you go too heavy you may feel it first in the shoulders, remember the target muscle in the incline fly is your upper pecs, be mindful of this and choose your weights accordingly.
Step back with one leg while bending the forward or supporting leg. As you step back, focus on maintaining a 90 degree angle in the supporting leg as well as creating a 90 degree angle in the lowered leg. Stop when your rear knee about an inch off the floor, at this point you should have three 90 degree angles; the two formed by each leg and one formed from your torso and thigh. Return to the standing position by extending your hip, pushing up through the heel of your supporting leg and bringing your rear leg back to the starting position.
Of course there are alternatives to a strict pull-up without assistance as shown below. If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar or are unable to perform a full repetition of an unassisted pull-up you can use a properly secured resistance band or a pull-up assist device – check out the discussion of these alternatives in the Iso Strength Chisel workout.
Position your forward leg so as you drop down into the squat you’re achieving a 90 degree angle in the forward knee, the ball of your back foot should be on the bench, this will force you to focus more on balance (as opposed to laying the top of your foot flat on the bench). The further your front leg is from the bench the more this move will target the glutes; maintaining the 90 degree angle in the bent knee will emphasize the quadriceps.