Size matters not…except for when it does. Y3T, or “Yoda-3-Training”, is the brainchild of renowned bodybuilding coach Neil “Yoda” Hill. Hill — whose coaching pedigree contains names like Flex Lewis, William Bonac, and Zach Khan — developed Y3T as a means of growing serious amounts of muscle through brutish workouts centered around high repetition counts.
You may already know about Y3T, whether it was passed along to you by your workout partner or having stumbled upon it by mere chance. Either way, before you dive into any pre-written plan, you should be armed with the knowledge to succeed at it.
Is Hill a wizard in the weight room, or is Y3T more madness than genius? Here’s the skinny on how Y3T could help get you jacked.
- What Is Y3T Training?
- What the Science Says
- Who Should Try Y3T Training
- Nutrition for Y3T Training
- Sample Y3t Training Program
There are plenty of unverified templates floating around online that claim the Y3T name. However, you can only be sure you’re getting the tried-and-true version from the man himself. In a promotional article for Muscle and Fitness, Hill laid out how he designed Y3T and what, in his mind, makes it so successful.
Y3T is a nine-week training plan broken up into a trio of three-week microcycles. As you work through each of the three weeks, your focus in the gym shifts from low-rep compound lifting to high-rep isolation work.
- Week 1 contains mostly compound exercises performed with heavy weights and low reps.
- Week 2 is a mix of heavy compound training and some supplemental high-rep isolation work.
- Week 3 is almost exclusively isolation work and very high-rep, extended sets.
Make no mistake — when Hill says high repetitions, he means it. Y3T has you take multiple sets and exercises well beyond the 20-rep mark during its third week, ensuring that your muscles are burnt to a crisp by the end of each session.
In Hill’s words, the magic of Y3T largely involves inducing large amounts of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. For the uninitiated, hypertrophy — the biological process that generates muscle growth — is generally considered to have two distinct components.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the result of your actual muscle fibers thickening as a response to external resistance. Conversely, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is a phenomenon wherein the sarcoplasm (the fluid that fills the space within a sheath of muscle) swells and volumizes.
Hill notes that Y3T will bring about visual changes within a few weeks. However, much of what he conflates as legitimate muscle gain may be the result of localized and transient edema. Temporary muscular swelling is a common byproduct of intense resistance training, especially in new trainees. (1)
Further, Hill also endorses Y3T’s ability to induce growth by encouraging high amounts of glycogen to exist within muscle tissue, helping it to look more swollen and full. However, most research supposes that, even under extreme clinical conditions, high glycogen concentrations are temporary at best. (2)
However, a 2020 narrative review on the matter did acknowledge that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy may be possible in humans as a result of resistance training. The researchers noted that much more data is needed before it can be convincingly argued as something worth pursuing. (3)
So, does Y3T have the backing of the scientific community at large? Not exactly. Is Hill’s real-world industry expertise and decades of bodybuilding experience at the highest levels still worth something? It sure is.
Y3T probably isn’t the best choice for every single gymgoer on planet Earth. Still, Hill’s pain-inducing training style is popular in the ranks of serious bodybuilders the world over. You don’t have to own posing trunks or a pro card to give it a whirl, though.
Intermediate to Advanced Bodybuilders
Dedicated physique enthusiasts are among the best candidates for Y3T training. As a bodybuilding coach (and former competitor before a knee injury forced him to find a way to gain muscle without lifting heavy all the time), Hill’s approach to resistance training centers entirely on adding muscle.
Y3T’s overall design reflects that goal. A mix of heavy and light “pump work”, exercises pushed to their limit, and heaps of targeted isolation work all make Y3T a solid choice for muscle-minded gymgoers.
Note, though, that the sheer intensity of the program makes it somewhat inaccessible for beginners. When you’re just starting out, you’ve no reason to rely on intricate training styles or complex programs. You also might not be able to tango with the rigors of the work in a safe manner.
Those Looking For a Change
If you’ve got a few years of training experience under your belt, there’s no harm in giving Y3T a go, especially if one of your main goals in the gym is hypertrophy.
Hill’s approach to periodization isn’t groundbreaking. Plenty of popular programs begin by developing one quality or focusing on one area and shift toward different set or rep schemes later on. However, Y3T takes the concept of “high reps” about as far as it can go. For that alone, it earns points as a breath of fresh air in the gym.
Going to the gym isn’t about beating yourself to a pulp for its own sake. However, there’s something to be said for gritting your teeth and buckling down on a program that promises to make you question how tough you really are.
Since there are more ways to test your physical limits than seeing how much weight you can lift for one rep, you might consider giving Y3T a go if only as a barometer of your pain tolerance.
Hill promises that the culmination of each microcycle will be excruciating. There’s no shame in wanting to rise to that challenge, simply to see if you can.
As with any good bodybuilding program, you can’t expect to harvest the gains of Y3T if you slack off in the kitchen. Proper nutrition is key for all gymgoers, physique-oriented or otherwise. If you’re running Y3T specifically, you should have a specific game plan from the get-go.
Hill says that you should have had at least one full meal in your belly before embarking on a Y3T workout. This is likely of higher importance during Week 2 and 3 in particular, when the extremely high number of repetitions will require you to be well-fueled before you start.
Any heavy or intense training session might call for some mid-workout nutrition. If you’re working with extremely long sets of high repetitions, you have even more of a reason to get some intra-set calories in.
Although Hill notes that you should keep your rest times short during Y3T, you’ll probably still have enough time to sip on a sugary drink or eat a meal replacement bar that can inject some much-needed carbohydrates to fuel your next few sets. That said, it’s not mandatory.
Your approach to post-workout nutrition is the same under Y3T as any other training plan. To maximize your recovery potential, you need at least some protein in a reasonable time following your workout, and some carbs may help as well.
Diligence about your post-workout nutrition will also ensure that you recovery adequately and can proceed through the Y3T program without having to take a premature break.
Understandably, Hill’s Y3T training plan isn’t readily available online in full. That said, he has outlined a sample Week 3 that elegantly displays what he really means by “high-rep training.”
Below is an example of what the set-rep scheme for each body part might look like during the third week of a Y3T microcycle. Hill notes that true high-rep training also comes with a lower overall number of sets.
- Leg Extension: 3-4 x 12-15, followed by a triple drop set with 20-25 reps.
- Leg Press: 1-3 warm-up sets, followed by a triple drop set with 25-30 reps.
- Dumbbell Walking Lunge: 2 x 20-30 total steps.
- Barbell Squat: 2 x 20-25
Note: When it comes to technique, Hill recommends that you not lock your knees out on leg extensions to keep the load on the quads and help prevent injury.
- High-Stance Leg Press: 4 x 12-15
- Single-Leg Standing Hamstring Curl: 4 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
- Leg Press (with high foot placement): 3 x 20-30
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift: 3 x 20-25
Note: Hill advises that you actively tense your hamstrings and glutes before each set to increase muscular activation while you work.
- Seated Hammer Strength Row: 4 x 10-12, followed by a triple drop set with 15-20 reps.
- Dumbbell Row: 3 drop sets of 15-20 reps.
- Medium-Grip Lat Pulldown: 2 drop sets of 15-20 reps.
- Barbell Rack Pull: 2 drop sets of 15-20 reps.
Note: Hill emphasizes the importance of working with lifting straps during a back workout like this. You don’t want your grip to be a limiting factor.
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 x 10-12
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press superset with Incline Dumbbell Flye: 4 x 15-20 each.
- Smith Machine Chest Press: 4 drop sets of 15-20 reps.
- Cable Flye: 2 drop sets of 15-20 reps.
Note: Hill suggests that you avoid locking out your elbows on the pressing movements to ensure that the tension of the weight remains on your pecs.
- Push Press: 4 x 12-15, followed by 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 triple drop sets (nine total sets) of 20-25 reps.
- Incline Barbell Front Raise: 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
- Rear Delt Flye: 4 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
Note: Hill stresses the importance of the mind-muscle connection on shoulder movements. You shouldn’t be afraid to work with less weight if it helps you feel your delts more.
- Cable Pressdown: 4 x 12-15, followed by 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
- Dip: 3 sets to failure with the most reps possible.
- Overhead Cable Extension: 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
Note: You should minimize shoulder movement during these exercises as much as possible to isolate your triceps, Hill says.
- Barbell Curl: 4 x 12-15, followed by 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
- Preacher Curl: 3 x 20-25
- Straight Bar Cable Curl: 3 drop sets of 20-25 reps.
Note: To increase biceps engagement, keep your upper arms tucked to your sides and externally rotate your wrist as much as possible.
- Seated Calf Raise: 4 x 12-15
- Leg Press Calf Raise: 3 drop sets of 20-30 reps.
- Seated Calf Raise: 3 drop sets of 20-30 reps.
Note: Hill stresses that you shouldn’t bounce your ankles at the bottom of your reps, to prevent elastic assistance from the Achilles tendon.
When it comes to intensity, Hill’s Y3T plan isn’t for the faint of heart. While most intensity-based parameters for hypertrophy would have you slowing down or approaching failure approximately 80% of the way through your set, Hill says that you should hit that breakpoint much sooner in a Y3T workout:
“By approximately half way through [the set], you should be reduced to having to use rest-pause,” he says.
May the Mass Be With You
It’s hard to make a stronger endorsement of Hill’s Y3T training than simply recognizing what he’s done for an athlete like Flex Lewis. Lewis has won an astonishing seven consecutive Mr. Olympia 212 titles, along with various other accolades over the course of his career. When it comes to getting a career bodybuilder in stage-winning shape, Hill is a force to be reckoned with.
For the layperson physique enthusiast, the value of Y3T is less clear. The programming is extreme, the reps are high, and the prescribed intensity isn’t for the faint of heart. Further, many of Hill’s claims regarding the physiological effects of Y3T are yet to be corroborated by credible research.
That doesn’t mean Y3T isn’t worth a shot, though. It’ll burn like hell and probably teach you a thing or two about yourself in the weight room.
1. Damas, F., Phillips, S. M., Lixandrão, M. E., Vechin, F. C., Libardi, C. A., Roschel, H., Tricoli, V., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2016). Early resistance training-induced increases in muscle cross-sectional area are concomitant with edema-induced muscle swelling. European journal of applied physiology, 116(1), 49–56.
2. Hansen, B. F., Asp, S., Kiens, B., & Richter, E. A. (1999). Glycogen concentration in human skeletal muscle: effect of prolonged insulin and glucose infusion. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 9(4), 209–213.
3. Roberts, M. D., Haun, C. T., Vann, C. G., Osburn, S. C., & Young, K. C. (2020). Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy in Skeletal Muscle: A Scientific “Unicorn” or Resistance Training Adaptation?. Frontiers in physiology, 11, 816.
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