Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why have we changed up the rep schemes?

Some of you may be wondering why in the world we've decided to switch up the rep scheme, making you do fewer reps in each set.  You may be thinking, "Hey, I'm not getting my money's worth here, since I'm only doing 3x3 of my favorite lift today!"  Or, "Is it really worth it to get out of bed early for 9 measly reps?"

Allow us to explain:

The volume of your training depends upon your training goal.  As you can see in this very colorful chart, when you're doing sets of 5's, you're training in the center-to-high end of the yellow band where strength is the main goal.  This is our go-to, default, preferred rep range.  The Monday-Wednesday-Friday crew is very familiar with this, and they've been working 5's for the majority of their training career so far.

What about the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday group?  Why have we been torturing y'all with 8's?  Because our goal for you as beginners is a little bit more focused on hypertrophy (muscle growth).  We want you to get some bigger muscles first, so that later you can recruit those muscles for greater strength.  In other words, "get swole."  Also, when you're first learning the lifts, it's good to spend more time under the bar to practice and pattern the movements.  So, you can see that your 8's put you in the range that will lead to this particular goal.

Now, after the first month of training, we'd like you to start using some heavier loads in order to increase the intensity and force your system (nervous, muscular, endocrine, skeletal, etc.) to adapt and grow.  So, the MWF will spend the next couple weeks working in the 3's. The TThS crew will drop down to 5's.  Both of these rep ranges put you square in the strength-building band, which is our goal (with a little power, too, as an added bonus).

Training with fewer reps means adding weight, aka "progressive resistance," or the "ultimate secret to strength training" as described so eloquently at the end of this article:  Why Adding Weight to the Bar is the Whole Damn Point:  "You must add weight to the bar. You must give your body something to adapt to. Without a reason, the body will never get stronger. It is up to you to provide the reason. And, of course, that reason should be heavy."

So YES, now's the time to, as they say, "go heavy or go home."  As educators, you know that the goal for any class is that students continually keep growing, improving, and progressing.  This type of periodized, planned work will advance your training and make you a stronger athlete, which is our goal for you.  You are not just "working out" -- which connotates just showing up to get sweaty for an hour, without any plan for longer-term improvements -- you are "training" as athletes with a specific goal and roadmap for getting there.

Feel free to stop reading here if you haven't already.  But, if you've persevered to this point, you may as well check out the tables below. . . .

The first (on the left) gives a more detailed, quantitative look at the continuum above.  Again, you'll see that with your 3x3's and 3x5's, you're all working in the sets/reps scheme that's best for a strength-building goal.  (However, many of you are getting barely enough rest between sets....) 

The second (right) helps you to predict your 1RM, or single-rep max, for a lift.  Let's say, for example, that your max set of 3's on deadlift is 150 pounds.  According to exercise scientists, 150# is about 93% of what you can likely pull for a heavy single:  161#!  (For women, this 1RM number might be lower, since females can often work at rep ranges much closer to their single-rep max.)  Cool, right?  Anyway, until we actually have a chance to test your 1RM -- which is not advised, obviously, for beginners -- you can at least get some sense of what your dream lift might look like! 

Feel free to ask us questions about anything you'd like to know more about. 

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