T Nation

8x3 vs 5x3, 3x5 and 3x3


#1

What are the pros/cons of each?

When would you use one over the other?

Does the 3x3/5x3 lead to strength only with very little hypertrophy?

Would 8x3 result in more hypertrophy due to more volume? Would strength gains be worse/better or the same as doing a 5x3?

I know 10x3 and 8x3 are popular now and just wondering what the main differences are compared to a 3x3 and 5x3. I also know many believe that the greater the intensity (lower reps) the lower the volume. Some others also say that the less reps you do, the more sets you need.

This may seem a lot, but just wanted to start a discussion. Thanks.


#2

I’ve written on this topic a few times. Here is my response/a topic of interest.

"Honestly, I feel the notion of rep ranges has been a far greater detriment to training than benefit. Many seem to ignore that the intent of providing a rep range/effect explanation was more to explain about the impact of time under tension, which is really an entirely different animal for most.

3 reps is supposed to be in the power range of training. Well lets say I do 3 fast reps with 60% 1rm? Then yeah, I’m developing power. What about 90% of 1rm? Now it’s strength. What about if I did 10 sets of 3 with 75% and 1 minute of rests between sets? Now I’m developing hypertrophy. What about a weight circuit, where I do 3 reps of dips, 3 reps of chins, and 3 reps of kettlebell swings for 15 minutes? Now it’s endurance/conditioning.

Lets go back to that 3 reps with 90% set. Say I’m doing squats. On one set, I lockout each rep at the top and pause for a second before starting the next rep. On the second set, I don’t lockout at the top and immediately begin the next rep before coming completely to the top of the last one. Did both sets accomplish the same degree of strength/size development? They were both 90% of 1rm for 3 reps.

There are far more variables at play than rep range, and honestly, I think moving away from thinking in “rep ranges” and more in terms of how everything builds to the overall goal is a boon. I go by feel for the most part these days, and measure success as my outcome."


#3

I am way too dumb to think all of this through, which is why I’ve fallen head over heals in love with the Juggernaut method. You do 4 week cycles that center on RMs of 10, 8, 5, & 3. Everything is based on percentages and the volume is adjusted as percentage of max goes up. It borrows a lot (admittedly by the author) from 5/3/1.

There is literally nothing to think about for 4 months at a time. Hell, I even use 5 pros for an accessory lift per session.

Like T3hPwnisher said, there are a number of variables other than sets & reps to consider.


#4

One important variable is bar speed. If you read Louie Simmons he says that percentages, sets, and reps are just guidelines to help adjust bar speed.

Heavy, low reps sets move slowly, and build strength. You literally cannot do many reps before you fail. So do singles or low reps for several sets to get “quality” work in.

Medium weights, move quicker, and build power. Do Low reps and many sets to “practice.”

Low weights mean less force, so you do many reps. This leads to more TUT, “pumps” and hypertrophy.

I think this is why the Bill Star 5x5 workout is so superior to Starting Strength or Stronglifts where you lift the same weights over and over. Using different weights in your training, even doing the same lifts, allows for so different bar speeds and so much more variety.

The Juggernaut scheme does look like 5/3/1, just with numbers to guide you instead of percentages. 10’s or 70%, 8’s at 75%, 5’s at 80%, 3’s at 85%. You lift deifferent weights, which leads to different bar speeds and time under tension.

Most of the rep/set ranges you mentioned (8x3, 5x3) are pretty close to each other. Experiment with radically different schemes and you can really “feel” the difference. Try…

2 sets of 15 reps with a 2 count pause at the top and the bottom around 50%.

6 sets of 3 reps with 80%, moving the bar as forcefully and quickly as possible.

3 singles with 95%+

This will give you a better frame of reference.


#5

Spot on about the value of bar speed and how it’s just one more variable that needs to be accounted for. People talk constantly about DE days becoming ME days because even though the rep number remained low, someone put way too much weight on the bar and ended up making it a grind fest.


#6

To add on to what has been said, I think bar control, bar speed and consistency are very important in evaluating the quality of each rep. Quality should take into account how the rep feels and how it looks. High quality work is what eliminates variation across reps and can lead to more predictable results. I consider quality to be more important than quantity when building strength.

IMO, rep range isn’t that important compared to volume and intensity (assuming frequency is held constant). Volume and intensity compliment each other and traditional programs have phases that alternate focus between the two. There are many rep schemes to accomplish this. For example, in a volume phase a person can do 3x10, 10x3, 6x5 but regardless of scheme the intensity can’t be that high because it isn’t the main focus.

The volume phase sets the foundation to peak for maximal strength where volume must be lowered to compensate for the higher intensity. For an unconventional case like daily max training, volume and intensity are directly proportional since only singles are trained for the main work but it still has to be cycled on a smaller scale to manage fatigue.

If anything, rep schemes are good to keep track of progress, e.g., making PRs on a 5x5 weight or 5RM. If there were an ideal rep scheme for producing the most strength, everyone would be doing the same thing.


#7

lift-
do you get down with the volume phase/ strength phase /power phase, block periodization system?

Does anyone else have dynamic or speed days, where you lift weights fast? Or do jumps or something?

usmcc-
Chad Smith is a thrower, and I know he does all kinds of box jumps and stuff for speed and explosiveness. Is there anything like that in your program?

Sometimes I feel like everyone who is really strong does the same stuff, they just do it in different ways.


#8

A lot of good stuff being said in here.

I like choosing reps as an after thought. First decide the training goal of the lift (maximal strength, conditioning, practice/recovery etc) and then think about how much weight on the bar can help you achieve that goal. Obviously if you want to push up your 1RM and work towards peaking in the short term, doing sets of 12-15 isn’t going to help. Likewise if you want to just do some speed work, get practice in but allow some time for recovery, doing singles at 90% is going to just increase your work debt more, even if the bar is moving quickly.

So purpose/performance of reps -> beneficial bar weight -> a rep scheme that makes sense.

I’d also add that your total volume (ie absolute number of reps) you’re aiming for is another important factor. If you got 20 reps for your work sets of squats, 10 x 2 (reps x sets) isn’t probably the best idea to work with. If you want to slowly increase intensity from session to session low reps would work better. You could do 20 reps as 5 x 4 with 85% and then next time doing something like 3 x 3 with 90% and then 5 x 2 with 85%.


#9

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
lift-
do you get down with the volume phase/ strength phase /power phase, block periodization system?

Does anyone else have dynamic or speed days, where you lift weights fast? Or do jumps or something?

usmcc-
Chad Smith is a thrower, and I know he does all kinds of box jumps and stuff for speed and explosiveness. Is there anything like that in your program?

Sometimes I feel like everyone who is really strong does the same stuff, they just do it in different ways.[/quote]

Over the past year I’ve done Sheiko but put on only 20lbs for my squat because my form was shitty - my chest would always collapse for a max. That’s why I continue to emphasize quality over quantity. In addition to that, I thought a peaking phase was a waste of time unless for a meet so I kept running Sheiko 29/30/31 without really knowing how my maximal strength progressed. I learned the hard way that peaking regularly (going 95+% at least every 2-4 months for me) is a good thing because it gives me a slight break from all the high volume and helps me evaluate what worked. I got caught up in one aspect of training and overemphasized it, which I have done a lot in the past and hopefully learned from it.

Right now I’m running Smolov Base for front squat and bench and then will run a month of modified Sheiko to peak all three lifts. I plan to run a couple more mock meets to really nail down my peaking method for future reference. I expect the strength gained from front squatting to help both my comp squat and deadlift because I’m bringing up a major weakness. I don’t really run a power phase. Maybe some singles for deadlift if I have energy to spare during Smolov but that’s about it.

I do think it’s important to cycle high/low intensity and high/low volume. I’m not sure if the way it’s staggered matters that much since some programs have them increase/decrease together, some have them separated month-to-month, some week-to-week or even a mix. With Smolov the intensity gets cycled each week while the volume increases almost linearly each week. I would still consider it more of a volume phase. The clever cycling of intensity allows more work to be done. In general volume builds strength builds volume builds strength, and so on. It took awhile for me to really grasp that concept, lol. The point isn’t to go out and do a bunch of random rep ranges with no logical progression but rather to not shy away from certain ones because they all serve a purpose.


#10

I’m only an intermediate lifter, but I do westside obviously with two 2 speed days. But I myself am wondering whether or not I should use it at all because I am a very explosive lifter who can’t grind. I feel like it helps me work technique and teaches a bit more acceleration. I know my deadlift will go up if I do basically only speed work.


#11

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
usmcc-
Chad Smith is a thrower, and I know he does all kinds of box jumps and stuff for speed and explosiveness. Is there anything like that in your program?
[/quote]

Yes, he spends quite a bit of the book (Juggernaut 2.0) talking about explosive movements especially jumping. I personally prefer the Oly lifts for explosiveness and they are included too.


#12

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
Sometimes I feel like everyone who is really strong does the same stuff, they just do it in different ways.[/quote]

Pretty much.


#13

Speed/Power/Strength, it’s a continuum. I’ve watched videos of DE day with Louie Simmons in them and sometimes he has the guys do more of a strength-speed wave where the weights go up slower then what we’re typically used to seeing. Granted, the intent is to still make the bar move as fast as possible.


#14

I swear, in the past, I read that if you were an explosive lifter you should “grind” 2/3 of the time. The idea was to develop your weakness.

Then, I read a Dave Tate article last week where he said work you strength 2/3 of the time, and your weakness only 1/3 or the time. This seems less like beating your head against the wall I guess.