The “4 X 7” Model of Periodization Using Body Weight Training

June 7, 2011

I’m going to do something I haven’t ever done before on this blog.

I’m basically going to do half a post, then send you over to another site to get the rest of the info. I’m not an expert on this subject and just want to guide you in the right direction. If you think “4 X 7” means 4 sets of 7 reps, then you would be mistaken. It is referring to something quite a bit different than that.

[I learned about 4 X 7 periodization from my buddy Ryan. I had a beer with him earlier this year in Seattle and he told me of his plans to move to Malta. I thought he was crazy until I saw some of his photos. This place is amazing!]

What is the 4 X 7 Model of Periodization?

The 4 refers to 4 distinct workouts…

  • Workout 1: No Intensity
  • Workout 2: Low Intensity
  • Workout 3: Medium Intensity
  • Workout 4: High Intensity

These 4 workouts are done 4 days in a row. The “7” refers to how many times this 4 day cycle is done. So over a period of 28 days, this 4 day cycle is done 7 times.

Where Did I Learn About This Funky Workout System?

Back in 2009 I was closely following an emerging blogger named Adam Steer. I liked his blog because he talked about many Eastern Philosophies ignored by many of us in the West.

I learned things I had never seen mentioned in typical “fitness magazines”. Adam teamed up with Ryan Murdock (inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2006) In late September of 2009, they released a groundbreaking body weight course—> I was so committed to learning what Adam and Ryan were teaching that I cancelled my gym membership…breaking a 17 year streak of paying monthly gym dues.

I Led a Private Blog  for People to Learn the Program With Me

Over 200 people decided to ditch the gym Oct, Nov, and Dec of 2009…and learn Ryan and Adam’s body weight program along with me. I posted every day for 90 days and we all did the program together. Out of the 200 who started the program with me, only 46 made it to the end.

It was a tough program, but every single person in that private blog group who finished the program loved the results.

No Rest Days Using the 4 X 7 Method of Training?

You do a workout every day, so no true rest days. Here’s the cool thing…the “No Intensity Days” and “Low Intensity Days” are almost better than a rest day.

I sometimes trash Yoga, but Ryan had us doing “Prasara Yoga”. This was a complex high level program we were doing.

The first two days of the cycle, prepared our bodies to perform at a higher level when the intensity was increased. Adam and Ryan call this, “Releasing the Parking Brake”.

[In February of this year, Ryan and his wife met me and my girlfriend for lunch on the Seattle waterfront. This was before Ryan moved from Canada to Malta.]

Learned About His New Project Over A Hefeweizen

So Ryan is an extremely brave and adventurous guy. We were eating some delicious Seattle seafood, drinking beer, and having a great time…then he told us that he was moving to Malta. I think my girlfriend asked him what Malta was like. Get this…he had never been to Malta!

That is nutty, but cool at the same time. I don’t have that in my DNA. Very funny! Then he told us about a massive project that he was launching in June…

Adam and Ryan Launching a Body Weight “Game Changer”

They are releasing a master product called Shapeshifter...but have set it up to where you can add “plugins” to create a custom program.

Want to do body weight and resistance band training? They will have a resistance band plugin. It will be one master program with various plugins. Supposedly they will add more and more plugins over time for people to create any program that suits their needs.

I can’t wait to see what this looks like (the program isn’t for sale at this time).

Get a Free Shapeshifter Sample for the Next 24 Hours

Bottom line…I believe in what Adam and Ryan are doing here.I was pleased with their first big program, but this is supposedly going to blow that one out of the water.

My only complaint about the last program was the quality of the videos. Ryan told me they hired a guy who works on major motion pictures to film Shapeshifter. You can see how impressive this looks, by checking out their free sample workout…

Click Here to Get a Sample Shapeshifter Bodyweight Workout

Note: My passion is training with weights, but I plan to buy Shapeshifter (not for sale yet) and follow the program once every other year for 3-4 months to get past sticking points.

After I completed their previous program…I came back to the gym weaker in a few lifts…but then blew past my personal best.

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Kris - Health Blog June 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I’ve never really tried out bodyweight-only programs, but Crossfit relied pretty heavily on those kinds of exercises.

Never tried this sort of periodization technique either, have been looking for something new in my routine and I might try it out 🙂

Sam- Look Like An Athlete June 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I am really intrigued about this Shapeshifter program. Bodyweight Exercise Revolution was impressive so it only piqued my interest even more.
I used to do weight training along with yoga some years ago and was really impressed with how lean my body looked so knowing that they’re incorporating a type of yoga in this sounds fun.

Nathan - Nathan Strength Fitness June 8, 2011 at 12:21 am

Dang, this looks pretty intense.

I’ve never done bodyweight training before (I always thought it was “soft”) but I was definitely wrong. Since I’m cutting now I might just have to try this out to spice things up.

Janos - Bodyweight Exercise Tips June 8, 2011 at 1:53 am

Rusty, this is great news. I’ve been waiting for a while for something new and revolutionary to hit the bodyweight market. This “modular” system sounds like it will be just perfect. Please keep us all updated on how it progresses. I’ll grab the sample right away.

Ahmed-LivingNotSurviving June 8, 2011 at 2:38 am

Funky system, but looks interesting and effective! I’ve always thought bodyweight workouts are the thing to have down for those days when you just don’t feel like a gym workout but still need a short boost!

Edward June 8, 2011 at 4:20 am

Hi I have been a long time reader ( love the blog ) and I would really appriciate it if you could help me with some of my questions. My goal is to have a stuart pilkington body or like ryan reynolds. I have been working out for like 6 months and the results are good but I am not satisfied. First is that I have no chest muscles, I recently read in your facebook on that chest mass with push ups and I am gonna start doing them then when I am in the gym I am gonna only include incline dumbell presses. How long does it take get a really good chest also how many reps, set and rest time should I do to get a good chest. Second is that I am not satisfied with my obliques ( I know I have some fat covering my lower abs and obliques ) but should I still include side planks, lying leg rises and plank, or drop it or include something else( I wanna have that v as cristiano ronaldo ) , to get a good abs and obliques?? Hehe sorry if I am asking to much but my last question is how can someone get a longer torso? I have seen some people with really short and blocky bodies but I asked them what their workouts look like and the only thing they do is stay in the gym and nothing else, no swimming or running. Some sports does change the appearance of someones body like for example a swimmer, they have this long and toned body with good v and obliques, soccer players like cristiano ronaldo have good obliques , probably becuase of the running they do and good set of abs, but for some reason is cristiano the only player with really big lats Should i include swimming to get a longer torso and to tone my body and what can i do to avoid getting a short and blocky body, for example whats exercies causes it?? To summeraze everything short, how many reps, sets and resting should I do to get really good chest muscles, for example like ryan reynolds, should continue with my ab workouts, include something or stop doing it, should I swim and sprint to get a long and lean torso and what causes it that someone has that short and blocky body?? Thanks for everything //// Edward

Raymond- ZenMyFitness June 8, 2011 at 5:04 am

Thanks Rusty I had a quick look at the videos the workouts look impressively tough, the sought you’d expect from martial art experts.

Yeah it’s not my style of training I would do but I appreciate the high level of fitness it could take you to and I imagine it would be a good workout to do when I’m travelling.


Jeremy - The Self Health Atlas June 8, 2011 at 7:20 am

This is a fascinating way to introduce content to clients. I like the way these guys think outside of the box. I do believe that fully interactive online exercise programs are well on there way.

Jeff - Get This Ripped June 8, 2011 at 7:35 am

Hey Rusty,

This sounds like a very interesting program. Do you think that the 4×7 periodization method will also work in a workout routine with weights?

Boris - Body Apple Fitness June 8, 2011 at 8:25 am

Very interesting way of doing workout, i can definitely see it being pulled of in practise. I worked out 6 months with purely bodyweights and it’s almost as good as with weights. Only thing i don’t like is that pistols gets way to easy to fast so it’s hard to find a bodyweight exercise which can strengthen your legs. Plyometrics are good here but still doesn’t beat a good heavy squat or sumo deadlift or clean.

Mike - Fitness Contrarian June 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Hey Rusty,

My passion is lifting weights too. But it is always a good idea to take a break and change things up.

I down loaded the free (Shapeshifter) videos yesterday and they look like a fun and interesting way to train.

Thanks for the info.

Best – Mike June 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm

This looks really interesting. Can you customize to focus on the areas you want to develop or overall goals like fat loss vs mass building?

Von June 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I’ve never seen this type of workout program before. For only 46 out of 200 people to make it all the way to the end, that sounds like some really intense stuff!

John Sifferman June 8, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I’m really excited about Shapeshifter, too. Adam and Ryan told me about it back in December – been eagerly awaiting it ever since. And the free program is outstanding – quite a value and well-worth looking into from anyone even remotely interested in fitness.

@Jeff, re: the 4×7 protocol – Yes, it’s universal and can be applied to weight training, too. The key is moderating your level of effort/intensity on each training day. Most people can expect to set PR’s every four days in their main lifts if followed properly.

Kelly-Fitness Overhaul June 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I have been following Adam & Ryan for around a year now and really like their stuff. I am just coming off of a body weight style of training for around six months or so.

I was itching to lift weights again!

I will definitely get Shapeshifter when it comes out even though I won’t try it out for close to a year. Even if I don’t follow it 100%, I know that I will learn a ton from it. I like to learn the philosophy behind the training more than just following it blindly. I guess this is why I love your Visual Impact routine so much. You do a great job of teaching why you train a certain way to achieve certain results.


Troy - Cube.Dweller.Fitness June 9, 2011 at 1:18 am


The closest I’ve come to trying 4×7 approach is via Crossfit. I’ve either done their workouts or spent the time to do some of my own programming. It takes a ton of work (for me anyway) to design new workouts that vary in intensity and muscle groups.

The approach helped me a few years back in two ways: revitalizing my motivation to keep working out and breaking through some strength plateaus I had hit with more traditional approaches.

I’m looking forward to seeing the workouts from ShapeShifters, got the links but this week has been hard pressed for time.

Josh edwar ericsson June 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I am a huge tea drinker ( green tea ) and I am trying to get rid of estrogen out of my body and I was wondering if Green tea raises your estrogen levels?? I have read some articles saying that it does and some that it doesnt so I dont know what to believe, also I am a growing teen so I dont wanna stunt my growth becuase of me drinking tea. Please answer me as fast as possible ( I know that you are really busy so dont rush it , take your time ) 😀

Trent June 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Hey I signed up on the link yesterday, but I have been unable to open it. Is anyone else having these problems?

Romain June 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Hello Rusty, I am 23 years old 5’8 and 140 pounds with about 15 percent body fat. My Goal is to be 150 pounds with 7-8 percent body fat. How could I do this. I am considering buying your visual impact but i’m not sure if it can work for skinny-fat people. Any ideas of what I can do.? Also by going from 140 to 150 pounds and a body fat of 15-8 percent about how much lean muscle mass would I be gaining?

Romain June 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Also I read in your blog numerous times that you only need the right amount of muscle for the lean look, being that i’m 5’8 140 pounds with around 15 percent bodyfat what is a good body weight or about how much lean muscle mass is the right amount for me approximately? Thank you again.

Devin June 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

While I do realize the benefits of these type of routines with regards to losing body fat. I`m still skeptical as I feel people can have better results lifting as heavy as they can with proper diet, your body isn`t just going to explode into body building status. There is no such thing as toning!

Andreas June 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

Excellent change to your daily routine.

il-maltija June 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

The last thing I expected when opening your blog was to see a picture of my home country! Viva Malta 🙂

Just wanted to let you know that you have maltese followers too, thanks for all the great info!

health club June 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

Very exciting to try mentioned above Shapeshifter program.

Robin June 15, 2011 at 8:17 am

Love the concept of no and low intensity workouts on ‘rest days’. This is something to try out for sure, want to focus more on the alternative ways of training and nutrition (fasting, Eat Stop Eat style). Many thanks for this heads up!

Mike - Fitness Contrarian June 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Hey Rusty,

I really like all of Adam and Ryan’s body weight workouts. I’ve been following them for over a year now and can’t wait to checkout their new videos.

I love lifting weight too but it’s always a good idea to take a break and change things up with some body weight training.

Best – Mike

Frank Fuller from Fat Fighting Formula June 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I can personally attest to the effectiveness of bodyweight exercises. I’m not sure if you’ve experimented with Tabata or not (or if it can be used in the 4×7 system), but it is absolutely killer. A mere few minutes and I feel more exhausted than if I actually did a weight lifting routine. I made a post on my own blog about bodyweight exercises including my bodyweight routine that I used to drop 10% bodyfat (fatfightingformula…burn-fat-without-equipment/)

Riley June 17, 2011 at 1:47 am

Crazy that someone would move to Malta without ever being there! Anyways this is a neat article even though I believe weight lifting is generally more beneficial (when done correctly) then body weight exercises.

fitnessfreak June 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm

hey rusty,
I found this pic of a guy who’s got a ripped physique, he bears an uncanny resemblance to you, well he actually looks exactly like you in the above image (the one with the Seattle skyline in the background)

Ria June 21, 2011 at 3:18 am

hey Rusty and everyone else!first of all i want to say that i stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and i’ve been hooked ever since!your articles and general knowledge have been really eye opening!now on to my questions,which are irrelevant to your current article but i just thought to post here since it’s your more recent one.i’m 25 years old, 63 kg, 1.65 m. and my goal is to lose body fat and get lean.i want to get rid of my love handles and body fat is found on these two areas.:
nutrition questions: for the past 3-4 weeks i have been eating really clean 5 days a week with taking my only carbs through fruit and vegetables.and my overall portion sizes are very controlled.the sixth day is a cheat day which means i eat like there’s no tomorrow :-p(carbs,fat,chocolate…etc for like 8 hours in order to work as i read) and the next day is a fast day where i drink only water. i have already seen results but i would really love your input on this coz i don’t want to impede my try by doing something that i can you think the cheat-fast day combo would work?it’s supposed to accelerate your metabolism and rise leptin levels.and it’s also good for psychological reasons.
also, i love cherry tomatoes with my salad so i eat around 6-7 cherry tomatoes daily with salads ( two with every salad) through the day.but i’ve heard that they contain glycogen and they are not recommended to someone who wants to lose body that the case?do you think i should avoid them?i eat a lot of green vegetables though.

training questions: my workouts are mostly hiit.
2 days : weighlifting with really short to non rest between sets( 20-25 minutes) and then 20 minutes steady tempo cardio
1 day : bodyweight exercises with really short to non rest between sets ( 20-25 minutes) and then 20 minutes steady tempo cardio
2 days: hiit running 20-25 minutes.
1 day : steady tempo cardio (50-60 minutes)
rest day

what do you think of my workouts? since my goal is to lose body fat and get really lean, do you think it’s a good one? any suggestions are welcome of course! i’m really really sorry for the huge message,i know i’m being a pain but please rusty and anyone shed some light here.i’d hate to see ignorance cover my determination.:-)

ps: sorry for any mistakes,english is not my mother language.

jay June 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

Hey Rusty,

Im a 14 and a half year old skinny teenager (6ft, 138 pounds). I was wondering if u think visual impact muscle building is a good idea for me. (I wanna look good, but also get stronger). The problem is I only have adjustable dumbbells (1-55), a chinup bar, and an adjustable bench. Can I still do the program(even if i have to adjust it a bit)??

Zabin Bashar

Srdjan - Bloom to Fit June 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

You can do a A LOT of positive things with those tools man. Visual Muscle Building is a great program that anyone can benefit from. Let me know if you got any questions and I’d be glad to help out.

I’m a HUGE fan of bodyweight training and I use it regularly in my routines. I think the true definition of ‘strength’ is the ability to manipulate your own body weight and that’s exactly what this type of training helps accomplish.

Trey June 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

That’s an interesting workout routine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a program that didn’t have any rest days built in.

Working out is a necessary thing these days. Unless you are going for a very specific kind of result, like body building or triathlon training, I’ve begun to wonder if all the different routine variations are better than any other.

The fittest and most cut guys I know do hard physical labor all day and don’t eat like hippos. I wonder if I can start a farm and get guys to pay me to do chores and call it a workout.

Leo June 26, 2011 at 6:15 am

@ Devin
you’re totally wrong
You can indeed become too big than you want too, it happens all the time to females and males too. In fact there are many males on the web who lost muscles on purpose because they wanted to be more slender and less bulky.

Also there’s no such a thing as “toning a muscle” but there’s such a thing as “toning the body”. Toning means adding tone and it just describes the combination of loosing lot of fat and just gaining a little extra muscles so that you look defined and firm without looking big.

Riley June 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Hey Rusty,

Been reading your stuff for about a month or two now and have made some great strides by incorporating some of your suggestions (managed to drop from 165lbs to 135lbs), but now I’m kinda’ stuck.

I like being 135, but I don’t like the fact that I’m floating around 25% body fat. I’d like to be around 18-20%. I’ve got my diet and workout listed up on my blog, so I won’t extend it any longer than I have to, but I want to know if there is anything I can do to try and drop the last ~5% to lean down. Thanks!

alex July 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

This idea of progressive training with no rest days is what I’ve been trying to do last few years. Sometimes, the day after 2 high intensity days in a row, my body needs to rest, also I need to workout something to feel better for the next training day. Excellent description.

Healthy Waist July 13, 2011 at 3:49 am

This is fantastic Rusty! Some years ago I used to do weight training along with yoga and was really fascinated with how lean my body looked so knowing that they’re incorporating a type of yoga in this sounds fun.This “modular” system sounds like it will be just perfect. Please keep us all updated on how it progresses. I’ll grab the sample right away.Thank you for sharing! Keep it up buddy! 🙂

Michael July 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

Scott Sonnon’s CST 4×7 protocol usually follows a template like this if you wanted to incorporate it in your training regardless of what modality you use

“No” Intensity- Joint Mobility/Intu-flow (a free version of beginner version is on Youtube) Mostly rest and very light exertion (Rate of Perceived Exertion) RPE 1-2

“Low” Intensity- Compensations (Prasara Yoga or any kind of yoga, Mobility, or some sort of active stretching) RPE- 3-4

“Mod”Intensity- Strength training (Weights, Clubbells, Kettlebells, bodyweight etc) or lighter version of whatever you do on High day at a moderate heart rate. Good day to practice skills/movements RPE 5-7

“High” Intensity- Metabolic Conditioning (Tabata, Tacfit , Crossfit, Sprinting Interval Training, or some sort of sport) High heart rate or could be strength training with higher reps or weight RPE 8-10 (All out with good technique…but don’t puke!)

Michael July 14, 2011 at 11:23 am×7 Adam Steer posted this back awhile ago, if anyone is interested.

Eduardo July 19, 2011 at 9:38 am

Yes, with bodyweight exercises one can train seven days a week just changing the intensity. There’s no problem.

Anyway, i think that placing the low/medium/etc intensity days as consecutive is more of a personal choice. Perhaps you prefer to follow a lower body/ upper body routine or take two hard consecutive days or whatever you like ….

The philosphy would be: do as much as you can without overtraining.

Nice post!

Brad Pitt Workout August 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

An another effective, impressive and fantastic post. I am just loving your posts…

Bob Burns September 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm


Did you try to fast before the workouts, just like Rusty is explaining in one his videos? I am planning on implementing that but I heard it gives some true results.

Also try that protein shake each morning within 30 minutes of waking up. I just started doing that this week so I’m still yet to see the results from that.

Also cardio is VERY important. You need to do after each and every workout. I workout 4 times a week @ the gym and then I also run outside on Sundays in the morning.

Another factor is to workout in the morning. This is the best time to burn off the fat quicker as you will be working out on a calorie deficit right off the bat.

Hope this helps.




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Liporidex September 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Wow, what an awesome post. I’ve been working out and involved in health, fitness and nutrition for the last 25 years. In the last 8 years, I’ve returned to my roots – pushing myself and other I train with into more “non-standard”, functional workouts.

I’m going to get a group of us together to try this. I’m particularly excited to put our spin on the low/no intensity days. A lowered intensity Muay thai sparring session sounds pretty cool!

Boost your results over diet/exercise alone

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Luke Cage - Fit Switch October 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I think body weight training has always gotten the back burner, but actually some Kung fu masters I’ve studied under in China do nothing but bodyweight and their level of performance and strength is quite surprising!

Renita January 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

Rusty, I just finished listening to your interview with Craig Ballantyne. Decided to come over & check your blog out and when I saw your picture of Malta I knew where it was. My husband & I visited Malta and toured the harbor around Malta on one of those boats. We loved Malta and would like to go back some time.
I am not into body building but I think you have a great blog. It looks very nice, is very inviting and is easy to read.

merle February 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Love all the comments, I think body weight excersise rock! Especially if you don’t have any equipment @home !

Destiny February 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I’m sorry, not to sound skeptical, but exactly where do you pull your research and evidence from your articles, besides personal experience? I like to cast a broad net to gather up fitness information and then filter out the bad advice, and I have some views conflicting to yours, only theirs has multiple research studies quoted that I can follow up on, and you do not- primarily on the methods of eating. I’m trying to lower my body fat percentage from twelve to about ten so I can better see my abs, and I’m on P90X; I don’t want to waste ninety days of effort by not eating correctly.

casas prefabricadas May 10, 2012 at 8:26 am

Love all the comments, I think body weight excersise rock! Especially if you don’t have any equipment @home !

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