Renaissance Periodization, known as RP, is commonly associated with its cofounder and Chief Sport Scientist, Dr. Mike Israetel.
They initially rose to fame due their diet app. From this app, their entire brand was built and they have grown into a major production.
When it comes to various fitness, weightlifting, and bodybuilding companies, RP is one of the most popular. In addition, Mike Israetel is very active on YouTube and conferences and is some-what of a fitness star himself.
Well, it was recently announced that they would be releasing their RP Hypertrophy app. As RP and Dr. Mike are known for their own non-traditional methodology for programming, I wanted to take a closer look.
In this review of RP Hypertrophy App training, I use my education and experience to assess if the app really offers a unique and effective means to increase muscle growth, or if it's just reinventing the wheel.
Who I Am: Why I'm Qualified To Write This
My name is Garett Reid and I have been in this industry for over well over 10 years. I have earned my Masters in Exercise Science as well as hold several high level certifications and accolades including:
- Master in Exercise Science
- Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- Certified by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN)
- Vice President of NSCA Strongman SIG (Special Interest Group)
- Published in the NSCA COACH journal
To be clear, I have been in the gym for over 20 years and have seen the rise of this industry which includes both the good and bad.
Along the way, I have witnessed the way some fitness brands will use various marketing techniques I have seen with Mad Muscles. As such, I will be able to differentiate what the truth is; is Mad Muscles a good app!
I'm then going to give you some info on another app I use and love, Dr. Muscle.
In A Nutshell—Honest Review Of RP Hypertrophy
The RP Hypertrophy app uses the same methodology they teach to walk you through a mesocycle. After you put in your information, you simply input your workout as you progress and it tells you what to do next.
While the app has had a lot of interest, I feel it has issues that makes it hard to justify it's high price tag. Some of the main issues include:
‧ Minimal help, if any, with choosing exercises
‧ A methodology that's built of theoretical ideas (no hard evidence)
‧ Overly complicates muscle growth
‧ No strength aspect or home gyms options
What Makes My Review Different
Many of the reviews I've seen praise the RP Hypertrophy app but fail to mention specifics why.
They will say it has "such and such" features but fail to mention how that actually helps them achieve their goals.
Further, as mentioned, Dr. Mike has a decent size following in social media. He's a very charismatic guy who is genuinely very likable. As such, I feel like it may cause his fans to be bias towards the app.
While I do find Dr. Mike entertaining and enjoy hearing his thoughts, I am not a "fan" in the traditional sense.
Finally, the reality is the methodology that RP Hypertrophy uses is based off more technical issues. The average lifter just doesn't have the education to determine of what is being said is correct or not.
RP Hypertrophy App: A Quick Overview
RP Hypertrophy is different than any other app I've used in several ways. The first thing you must understand is it does not provide a personalized program.
Rather, it requires you to input the information of your current program. It then helps you set up a mesocycle and then guides you through the following weeks of training.
To do this, it uses it's own methodology to apply progressive overload. This basically consists of autoregulation to determine if you should add more sets.
The second way it stands out as an app is it's not actually an app. RP Hypertrophy can only be accessed through the website once you purchase a membership. This means you can access it through your phone by going to their website.
Overall, the app seems to be run pretty smooth and does a good job of guiding you. This is not the issue.
The primary issue relies on the principles and theories by which its methodology us built off along with some functional issues.
Functional Issues With RP Hypertrophy App
So now let's get into the issues I saw with RP Hypertrophy App. Before I get started, this will be a tad longer than other reviews, and a bit more technical.
As such, I broke down the issues into two sections:
- Functional - Basic problems I found with using the app.
- Programming - More technical issues I have with the actual science behind the programming and methodology.
We'll start with the functional.
Only Determines How You Progress Your Program
I was very surprised by this. RP Hypertrophy app does not include any personalized programs.
We'll get into the "28 Presets" below in more detail but for now, know they are not full programs.
There's also a "auto-fill" option for exercise but it too presents many issues; we'll discuss below as well.
You just need to know that if you're expecting help with planning your program in terms of exercises, this will give you very little help.
What the app does is it guides you through your existing program. This is important as the value of this app lies solely on the methodology it uses to do this.
No Widgets, Basic Tools, And Lacks Fundamental Variables
There are no helpful widgets in this app; things like plate counters and such.
However, there's the one that caught me off guard was; no timer!
This may seem small but realize just about every other app I've ever used has these little widgets.
It just furthers highlights what you get, or don't get with this app.
No Rest Periods?
I guess you don't need a timer as there's no rest periods even prescribed! This was a big shock to me.
Rest periods are one of the most fundamental parts of a program. However, it's missing!
There isn't even instructions such as; "When you feel ready."
Not much else to say about this other than again, another feature that you won't get with this app.
The Presets Are Confusing & NOT Filled Out
When setting up your mesocycle, you have two options:
- Choose a preset template
- Create your own
I choose to use a preset but it was more complicated than expected. With a name like "preset", you'd think it's a ready-to-go program. It's not.
Rather, they are preset templates. When I looked at the options, I was met with more confusion. Some names of the presets were:
- Whole Body 4x
- Upper Body 4x
- Lower Body 4x
It looked like this:
I know what a 5 day Upper/Lower split looks like but have no idea what a "Upper Body 5x" is.
Once chosen, you must fill out your exercises using a drop-down menu for the exercises.
There were plenty of choices so I don't see finding your exercise an issue; you just need to know what exercise you want to do.
This is not an issue for an advanced lifter who knows what to do. In fact, I might like something like this.
However, if you're someone looking for more help with design, this is not for you.
The Auto-Fill Gave Questionable Exercises & Programming
Now you also have the choice to choose auto fill. I was curious so I checked it out.
I saw many issues with this such as:
- Repeating exercises
- Exercises with similar biomechanics back-to-back
- Odd exercise order
In addition, the exercises would change every time you choose that option, even if your information was the same.
All of the issues makes me think the auto-fill option really is just randomly selected.
Requires Intermediate Knowledge
If you have never heard of a "mesocycle", this app isn't for you.
This issue will immediately close it off to a large portion of people as it requires an intermediate level of knowledge in terms of training.
In order to set your program up appropriately, you should have been training for some time and have a basic understanding periodization and programming.
Not For Home Workouts Or Calisthenics
This isn't so much a drawback as RP is built for gym use. However, just know that if you plan to only use bodyweight exercises or bands, this is not for you.
In fact, I saw RP answer this themselves in a question on one of ther Facebook advertisements.
Technical Programming Issues With RP Hypertrophy
Now let's get into the technical side. Many people will label RP Hypertrophy as an amazing app. However, I feel this may be in part due to the reputation of RP and Dr. Mike Israetel.
As Dr. Mike is a charismatic figure who also holds his PhD, the audience will automatically think that his programming is correct.
While I like the RP gang and Dr. Mike, I'm also able to read their programming from an educated background. RP is known to use theoretical ideas and they often get into (friendly) debates with other leading exercise scientists.
In other words, the general public doesn't have the education required to determine if RP Hypertrophy uses appropriate programming.
Remember, the value of the app rests on this variable.
MV, MEV, MRV...Overly Complicated
If I could use one word to describe my issues with RP Hypertrophy, it would be "overly complicated" (Ok, two words!)
Throughout using the app, and learning the process by which RP programs, everything just seemed to be, well, complicated.
It started off by requiring to learn new vernacular such as:
- MV- Maintenance Volume
- MEV - Minimum Effective Volume
- MRV- Maximum Recoverable Volume
- MAV- Maximum Adaptive Volume
I purposely didn't define these as that's the point. You need to learn what all of these mean in order to understand their training methodology.
Sure you can learn it but that implies you want to learn an entire system to use an app.
This over complication is found in just about every aspect of the programming.
Therefore, I won't list it all here but rather talk about it as we go through some of the issues.
Why The Obsession With Sets?
One of the main tenets of the RP method is to increase sets rather than load for progressive overload.
This whole debate is way too nuanced to fully break it down.
But in short, yes, I would imagine increasing sets would work. In fact, when we learn about progressive overload, increasing sets is one of the ways to implement it.
However, you can also:
- Increase load
- Increase reps
- Decrease rest
All of these have been used for years with great success.
This just brings into question why the sudden fixation on sets? Why not use a mixture of all three?
If you're able to perform 5 sets to failure in the 8-12 rep range, you would be able to increase the load and stick to 3 sets.
There are several issues with only increasing sets including:
- Possibility of too much volume
- Increase time in the gym
- Mitigate strength gains
Imagine if you added 2 sets to 3-4 exercises. That' an increase of 6-8 sets for your session. That's an additional 10-15 minutes. Do it again and you can now see how adding sets can become time consuming.
In order to prescribe future workloads, RP uses four different indicators (again, it's complicated). These four indicators are:
- The pump - Rate how good of a pump you received
- Disruption - Word to define general fatigue, strength loss, etc
- Joint pain - Exactly as it sounds
- Performance - Is your performance improving? Decreasing?
For one, that's a lot of indicators.
Reading their explanation, you learn that each indicator is for a slightly different use. For example, "the pump" is for adding sets within the session.
We'll discuss the validity of these indicators below but the main issue is they're all highly subjective. There are also other variables that can manipulate them such as;
- Hydration status
- Too much pre-workout
In other words, it's up to a person to be able to read their body, along with all of the other variables that could effect their "reading".
This is hardly a fool-proof approach, especially when these dictate how you will adjust your program.
Is The "Pump" Really Cell-Swelling?
The "pump" is one of the primary indicators that the RP Hypertrophy app uses to indicate how much volume is being done:
- Low Pump- Need more volume
- Moderate Pump- Good amount of volume
- Extreme Pump- Maybe too much volume
As we mentioned above, there are many different variables that can alter this.
Regardless, I'm more concerned with Dr. Mikes correlation with the pump to whats known as "cell swelling" and its effect on hypertrophy.
Cell-swelling is a real phenomena where a muscle will be come engorged with blood, metabolites and other fluids from high-intensity training.
Research has found that this actually has hypertrophic properties that we at once did not realize.
However, while cell swelling is definitely a good thing, no literature has ever measured how much cell swelling is needed for growth, or even if more is better.
So while cell-swelling is definitely a real thing, there are a lot of assumptions made by RP. For example, a small pump means means you should increase volume?
Why Not Just Train To Failure?
In his videos, Dr. Mike speaks about how training to failure is good as it gives you a good pump.
Therefore, instead of chasing the pump, why not just be sure to train to failure?
I question how you wouldn't have a good pump after training 3 sets to failure in the 8-12 rep range; especially with multiple exercises hitting the same muscle.
I feel the "chasing the pump" is a simply a novel way to stand out but isn't really providing any new stimulus.
Instead of just saying "train to failure", we're saying "train until you get a good pump".
In reality, lifters have always gotten a pump, even when not looking for it.
However, "train to failure" is one of the most basic tenets of lifting and so can't really be sold as novel. Remember, you're paying premium money for an app based on this.
Don't Fix What's Not Broken: Too Much Optimizing?
Optimal is great. However, it's not the end-all for training.
What I mean is it's nearly impossible to train at 100% efficiency at all times.
During many of videos I watched with Dr. Mike, he'll say something like "...maybe you're growing but you could grow more."
If something is working, why change anything? You learn fast that growing at optimal rates is not sustainable.
In reality, we can only grow so much. This is why we will use the smallest loads available when implementing progressive overload.
I should also mention that part of their "optimizing" is getting a better pump.
So Much Complexity Is Only Appropriate For Advanced
All of the talk on optimization is only important for a small percentage of people.
When beginners start to train, it literally doesn't matter what they do, they're going to grow.
Beginners, and to a lesser extent intermediate lifters, are so far away from their genetic max, growing is easier for them.
On the contrary, once an advanced lifter starts to get near the genetic max, they need every little "hack" to grow.
One of the greatest examples is a study from Gentil (Gentil, et al. 2016) He had two groups of people run side-by-side.
The only difference between these two programs was that one study included isolation movements and the other didn't.
At the end of the training, both groups had the same amount of growth and strength gains!
Point being is a program doesn't need so much adjusting and perfection to work; again, overly complex.
While it may seem more advanced, which technically it is, it's likely unneeded and more expensive.
Performance Trumps Everything (Or Should)
As I was watching on of Dr. Mikes videos, he said something I agreed with; if your lifts improve but you didn't get a great pump, don't worry about the pump.
And that got me thinking. Performance is always the number 1 indicator!
Let's say your pump is amazing, but you see no performance benefits, what are you supposed to do? Change nothing since you're getting a great pump?
No! You would need to change something.
On the contrary, if your pump sucks but you improve, your pump doesn't matter either. You're not going to chase a pump if you're already improving.
All that to say, we know if you're getting enough work done in the gym dependent on if your numbers are improving.
If they are, keep going. If they're not, change something.
Yet again, just keep it simple.
Is Cell-Swelling Better Than Volume?
Another thing to consider with "the pump" is it comes secondary to volume.
Dr. Brad Schoenfeld was one of the first, perhaps the first, to talk about "the pump" in scientific literature.
However, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld has released numerous articles clearly showing that volume is the number one regulator of hypertrophy.
In fact, he even did a study which two programs performed the same volume (Schoenfeld et al. 2014) :
- Body-builder type workout
At the end, both groups had similar increases in muscle hypertrophy. I would imagine these groups would have experienced different levels of "pump".
On that same note, if a person isn't experiencing a good pump and does another set, they're ultimately just doing more volume.
Is their hypertrophy from the extra pump or from the extra volume?
All this goes back to the over-arching idea of it being too complicated. Measure your volume one week and increase the volume the next week.
What are we trying to do? Get a pump or add volume?
I would say add volume as there's a plethora of studies that show volume is king.
I've seen zero studies that defend the idea you need more of a pump for optimal hypertrophic gains.
Again, this is what you're paying premium pricing for.
RP Hypertrophy For Bodybuilding
Do I think RP Hypertrophy will work for bodybuilding? Yes I do. In fact, RP Hypertrophy is specifically built for bodybuilding.
While I think the method is overly complicated and comes with a high price tag, it will work.
The prime issue is does it offer something unique enough to justify a high price tag.
RP Hypertrophy: My Final Summary
I really wanted to like RP Hypertrophy app. It's clean and I know it was developed by experts. And at the end of the day, I'm sure its going to work.
However, I personally found the entire process more complicated than I like.
Further, a lot of what he talks about is all theoretical and I would say unneeded.
We know that to grow you need to increase volume overtime. I don't think we need the addition of all these other indicators.
Still, there's hardly enough evidence to say the program is built off of proven science.
At the end of the day, hypertrophy training is relatively easy for most people. You need to:
- Increase your total volume
- Work to failure
- Measure performance gains
Only the most advanced need to worry about adjusting their program on a session-to-session basis due to the amount of pump they received in a workout.
This begs the question; what does RP Hypertrophy offer then?
I feel it's a fairly expensive program that uses a highly theoretical methodology that's unneeded to help you walk through your current program.
Will it work? I would assume so.
Any program that is promoting increasing volume and training to or near failure is going to get results.
Therefore, the real question is; do you want to pay premium price for something that can be done for much simpler and cheaper?
A Simpler, More Effective App: Dr. Muscle
Another app that was built by true fitness experts using advanced methods is Dr. Muscle. However, using it is more effective and applicable for the large majority of people.
The app is Dr. Muscle and truly is like a trainer-in-your pocket. Here is why I believe Dr. Muscle is the superior app.
Walks You Through Every Step
One of the starkest contrasts that exist between RP Hypertrophy and Dr. Muscle is the guidance.
Unlike RP Hypertrophy, you will never have to guess what you need to do. Someone who has never been to the gym can effectively start using Dr. Muscle immediately from day 1.
This includes from the initial set-up to your first workout and every progression thereafter.
If you're looking for an app that will tell you what to do, Dr. Muscle is it.
Truly Personalized Programs
Another stark contrast is Dr. Muscle truly is personalized.
Upon downloading, you are asked a series of onboarding questions, similar to a professional trainer.
It's AI system then builds a legitimate program for you. These programs look just like something I would build for my clients.
Further, I know these are truly personalized as I've altered my information to see how Dr. Muscle reacts. Every time I have, Dr. Muscle will adjust the program to adapt to the new criteria.
Adapts To Your Progress
Dr. Muscle doesn't just produce a program for you and let you go at it.
Rather, it will actually adapt your performance as you grow. Taking into account things like how you feel and intensity.
Again, the AI system takes these things to make any adjustments if necessary.
In addition, it will alter exercises as you progress to provide new stimuli for continual growth.
Use Methodology Backed By Science
Another stark contrast.
Dr. Muscle uses a methodology that's based off sports research including:
- Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): Type of autoregulation used control proper intensity. Studies show it's highly effective at fatigue management and progression (Impellizzeri, 2004).
- Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP): A method of altering volume and intensity on a daily basis. Studies show it may offer superior benefits to other forms of periodization (Zourdos, et al. 2016).
- Rest-Pause Sets: A type of special set that uses shorter rest periods. Studies have shown it can produce significantly greater results in strength and muscle growth compared to traditional training (Karmifard, et al. 2023)
RP Hypertrophy Vs. Dr. Muscle: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Dr. Muscle||RP Hypertrophy|
|Who is it designed for?||Trainees who are looking for a quality program that they can follow to build muscle and strength while improving body composition||Those solely interested in bodybuilding|
|Set-Up Time||Simple and straightforward that takes less than 5 minutes. Simplistic goal specific design.||Fairly complicated
Need to have your program on hand to input exercises
|Program Design||AI designed by leading muscle building researchers creates a baseline program from your information including training experience.
Monitor each exercise using your effort and ‘reps in reserve’ to adjust loads depending on actual performance.
Suggests adjustments and rest ‘de-loads’ based on your individual progress.
Can run forever
|No pre-written program
No personalized programs
Only helps you run your program with their methodology
|Home workouts available?||Yes||No|
RP Hypertrophy Vs. Dr. Muscle: Summary
Both RP Hypertrophy and Dr. Muscle are premium apps. Both are also created by PhD holders who have an advanced education.
However, that's where the similarities stop. Below is a summary of why I think Dr. Muscle is the superior choice for the vast majority of people.
- Dr. Muscle guides you every step of the way.
- Dr. Muscle can be used by anyone, anywhere and for any purpose
- Dr. Muscle only uses solid science to build it's training methodology
I've used both apps and I can tell you that I see Dr. Muscle providing me quality guidance for a very long-time.
Verified Reviews for Dr. Muscle
FAQ: Free trial, cancel anytime & more
How much is the RP Hypertrophy app?
RP Hypertrophy app hs three options for subscriptions:
- Monthly: $34.99
- 6-Months: $199.99
- 12-Months: $299.99
Is the RP hypertrophy app worth it?
In my opinion it is not. It doesn't have enough guidance or personalization for beginners and intermediate lifters. At the same time, it doesn't offer anything really that unique for advanced lifters.
When is RP Hypertrophy app coming out?
The beta version is currently out now.
My Take On RP Hypertrophy App
I feel like there are major issues with the RP Hypertrophy App from two fronts.
The first is the functional side. A recap of the issues include:
- No personalization
- Knowledge needed to set-up
- No prescribed rest
- Repeating exercises when auto-filled
- No widgets such as timers
The second front are the flaws and weaknesses in its methodology. This is important as this is what you're essentially paying for:
- Over complicated
- Built of theory rather than hard science
- "Reinventing" the wheel
In summary, I don't think that RP Hypertrophy is worth the price it's listed at, at least right now.
This is the beta version so perhaps in the future they will remedy some of the issues. Still, as I have issues with their methodology, I only see a price decrease making it worthwhile.
For a more mature hypertrophy app, I recommend Dr. Muscle. It has a risk-free trial and a free plan. So if you're not sure which one if for you, it only makes sense to try it out.