T Nation

A Different Way to Ramp

I have been reading a lot of posts about ramping. That concept (under whatever name) has been around as long as I have trained which dates back to the early 80’s. I find that ramping works, but I have found the traditional model of ramping to be problematic in regards to fatigue. And I have learned of a more effective way to “ramp.”

Traditional Ramping example: Assumue you have properly warmed up and are focusing on your working sets. Lets use the bench press and lets say you are stopping about 1 rep shy of technical failure on all 3 sets. Your goal is something like 225x12 reps, then ramp up and get 245x10 reps and then ramp up and get 275x8 reps. Set 1 is 225x12 (could have got 13). If you add weight and go to 245 it is unlikely you will get 10 since you are spent from coming close to failure on set 1. Matter of fact if you stay with 225 it is unlikely you will even get 12 again. So the option is, drop the weight down on set 1 and leave more in your tank for sets 2 and 3 in order to be able to add weight. To me that is not as effective of doing it the way I learned a while ago. Let me explain.

In the early 90’s I was a young aspiring powerlifter and had a few meets under my belt. I used traditional ramping methods by increasing weight while decreasing reps as I progressed through an exercise. A powerlifter by the name of Tony Hardridge worked out at my gym and he pulled me aside and gave me suggestion…and it applied to bodybuilding and powerlifting. In just 8 weeks of using his model I hit PB’s on all 3 of my lifts (SQ, BP, DL).

Here was his theory and it worked for me (and seems to make sense too). To begin with warm up as you usually do. Lets say you are going to focus on that same goal of 275x8 for your top set. So you warm up and then do several weight acclimation singles leading up to 275. Example: 135x10, 155x8, 185x5, 225x1, 245x1, 255x1. Then your FIRST WORKING set is 275x8. Then REDUCE the weight by 92% (in this case it would be around 250 lbs) and add a rep, 250x9. Then REDUCE that weight by 89% and add a rep, 225x10.

Why those percentages? I don’t know…Tony told them to me and I didnt ask. But I do know the results. The results were simple. AS LONG AS I HIT MY NUMBERS ON THE FIRST SET, I WOULD ALWAYS HIT MY NUMBERS ON THE FOLLOWING SETS no matter how many sets followed. And the formula contines to work as you add sets. Every time you add a set, you reduce the weight by 92/89/92/89 but you also add a rep.

This is just some food for thought when it comes to “ramping.”

Seems like a neat way to do back off sets. Although isn’t the prescribed feel sets how basically powerlifters train? To me in a 12,10,8 set those are all working sets. Not that great for strength but still a good way to add size/volume.

FYI…
For powerlifting purposes it was designed to be 2 weeks of 6/7/8, followed by 2 weeks of 4/5/6, followed by 2 weeks of 2/3/4. Then it was 2 weeks of 1/2/3. And finally 1 week of singles…1 week off…then the meet. None of the sets leading up to the 3 working sets “counted.” They were either warm ups or weight acclimation sets.

In my example I added reps to make it more attractive to a bodybuilder…but as you can see the “reverse ramp” can work toward whatever your goals are. Its just a different way of looking at the ramping model and IMO I found it more effective from a fatigue point of view. I could handle more weight and maintain the same volume using this model.

One of the major set backs for me on ramping is the fact that training at home and having lessor equipment makes it more difficult to do it within a decent time frame.

Take for example, dumbbells and benching. If you have those crappy long barred dumbbells that you have to set up yourself (with all the fiddly plates etc) it can take some time to set them up each time you’re gonna do a set - it just isn’t very time efficient for hypertrophy training if you’re having to wait pretty long between sets.

So for me, I do minimal warm up, and pretty much start off with higher reps and work downwards with the same weight…it’s almost a necessity.

For bodybuilding, I think that ramping is way over-rated. So long as the muscle is fatigued under decent load/volume, then the job is done. I don’t care if I never ramped up to a max weight, if it takes about 2 max “normal” sets of 6-12 reps to fatigue the chest, why am I going to fret that I could have managed a few pounds more weight if it doesn’t even stimulate more growth?

Progressive overload with decent volume over time is the key to growth progress. Just because I never ramped “perfectly” isn’t going to make me “stall”. As long as I’m getting stronger in a rep range over time, that’s all I’m worried about…

And you say this is awesome for strength gains? I’m in. But first I need to ask: in your experience, is there anything I need to alter about this plan if I’m working a particular lift twice a week?

My bench press is horrific compared to my squat and dead. 275/405/450. I’m trying to get my bench up to 315 before the end of the year, so I’ll be working it twice a week. Four weeks hard and heavy followed by one week of deload or active recovery or whatever you want to call it.

I’ve been training like this for the past 8 weeks. My #'s are going up nasty.

Other than the exact percentages this seems pretty basic/traditional. I don’t really know many people who do 3 all out working sets going up in weight. Most, if they do that, will either start with their heaviest set and then do more sets with the same weight and lower it to get the same reps (like MODOK, and the routine “Big Beyond Belief”) or (like me and many others) they do a heavy set, drop the weight, and do a lighter set. Pretty much the same concept.

[quote]its_just_me wrote:
One of the major set backs for me on ramping is the fact that training at home and having lessor equipment makes it more difficult to do it within a decent time frame.

Take for example, dumbbells and benching. If you have those crappy long barred dumbbells that you have to set up yourself (with all the fiddly plates etc) it can take some time to set them up each time you’re gonna do a set - it just isn’t very time efficient for hypertrophy training if you’re having to wait pretty long between sets.[/quote]

How long do you rest between sets usually? I can get a new weight on my adjustable dumbbells within 60-120 seconds depending on the weight change.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
And you say this is awesome for strength gains? I’m in. But first I need to ask: in your experience, is there anything I need to alter about this plan if I’m working a particular lift twice a week?

My bench press is horrific compared to my squat and dead. 275/405/450. I’m trying to get my bench up to 315 before the end of the year, so I’ll be working it twice a week. Four weeks hard and heavy followed by one week of deload or active recovery or whatever you want to call it.[/quote]

275lb bench isn’t really “horrific” compared to 405 squat and 450 dead.

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

275lb bench isn’t really “horrific” compared to 405 squat and 450 dead. [/quote]
Yeah, you’re right. But it’s not exactly up to par either.

@Kingbeef: you’re a damn freek and your numbers have been going up nasty since I first saw you post, but if you’ve noticed an improvement in your progress since training this way then I’m definitely on the band wagon.

[quote]pumped340 wrote:
How long do you rest between sets usually? I can get a new weight on my adjustable dumbbells within 60-120 seconds depending on the weight change.
[/quote]

Now that I’m doing higher volume sets, I prefer to keep rest intervals down to just over a minute. I must have pretty rubbish ones compared to you lol.

My main point being that if you are doing relatively high reps anyway, then ramping isn’t very important for bodybuilding. Say you did 10 reps on your first set, and managed 7 on your second set, and 6 on the third, you’re still within the “bodybuilding range” for volume…

But I agree with what you said about it being a pretty standard way of lifting (the topic of this thread). I’ve utilised this method quite a lot in the past without even thinking about it - on low reps ranges, I worked up to a max load with low reps, then did one or two high rep “back down” sets (e.g. 8-10 rep max).

[quote]its_just_me wrote:
One of the major set backs for me on ramping is the fact that training at home and having lessor equipment makes it more difficult to do it within a decent time frame.

Take for example, dumbbells and benching. If you have those crappy long barred dumbbells that you have to set up yourself (with all the fiddly plates etc) it can take some time to set them up each time you’re gonna do a set - it just isn’t very time efficient for hypertrophy training if you’re having to wait pretty long between sets.

So for me, I do minimal warm up, and pretty much start off with higher reps and work downwards with the same weight…it’s almost a necessity.

For bodybuilding, I think that ramping is way over-rated. So long as the muscle is fatigued under decent load/volume, then the job is done. I don’t care if I never ramped up to a max weight, if it takes about 2 max “normal” sets of 6-12 reps to fatigue the chest, why am I going to fret that I could have managed a few pounds more weight if it doesn’t even stimulate more growth?

Progressive overload with decent volume over time is the key to growth progress. Just because I never ramped “perfectly” isn’t going to make me “stall”. As long as I’m getting stronger in a rep range over time, that’s all I’m worried about…[/quote]

Come one dude, how long does it really take you to set up some adjustable dumb bells or whatever…guarentee you it’s less than a 90 seconds…

Anyways, I probably rest 4 minutes or so between my heaviest sets on big lifts.

Edit: I didn’t read your above post, but still.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

275lb bench isn’t really “horrific” compared to 405 squat and 450 dead. [/quote]
Yeah, you’re right. But it’s not exactly up to par either.

@Kingbeef: you’re a damn freek and your numbers have been going up nasty since I first saw you post, but if you’ve noticed an improvement in your progress since training this way then I’m definitely on the band wagon.[/quote]

Even if it’s only because it’s something different, I still like it.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
And you say this is awesome for strength gains? I’m in. But first I need to ask: in your experience, is there anything I need to alter about this plan if I’m working a particular lift twice a week?

My bench press is horrific compared to my squat and dead. 275/405/450. I’m trying to get my bench up to 315 before the end of the year, so I’ll be working it twice a week. Four weeks hard and heavy followed by one week of deload or active recovery or whatever you want to call it.[/quote]

I don’t want to get blown up on here for talking powerlifting on the bbodybuilding forum. My point was that this style of “ramping” where your first “working set” is your heaviest and you progressively lower the lbs while increasing the reps could certainly apply toward body building.

For your ? about BP…if you can hit 275 (depending on your experience) a realistic goal would be 295 in 8 weeks. The key is starting with your goal and working backward. So goal is

WEEK 8: Max day= 295x1

WEEK 7: OFF or light bench only, no fatigue

WEEK 6: 285x1, 265x2, 235x3, 210x4, 195x5

WEEK 5: 275x1, 255x2, 225x3, 200x4, 185x5

WEEK 4: 265x2, 250x3, 220x4, 195x5, 180x6

WEEK 3: 255x2, 235x3, 210x4, 185x5, 175x6

WEEK 2: 245x3, 225x4, 200x5, 185x6, 170x7

WEEK 1: 235x3, 215x4, 195x5, 175x6, 165x7

Generally speaking…IF YOU HIT YOUR FIRST SET…you will also hit your other sets. Whereas if you reversed the order like most people do and start with the lighter weight first, you will most likely miss your heavy sets due to fatigue. ***Huge caveat is you MUST properly warm up but at the same time not fatigue yourself. So that means limited reps while gradually increasing the lbs. This is where singles on the way up come in handy.

Now this could apply to just about any rep scheme and just about any exercise such as military press, incline press, deads, squats, rows etc.

PS…if I was still competing I would incorporate a technique I learned from I-Bodybuilder. In the chest specs phase CT has you do some pin presses (lockouts) for several clusters PRIOR to the bench. Well I set the pins very high and only had to move the bar a few inches so I could handle a lot more weight than I could ever handle on the bench. But I didn’t fatigue myself cuz I think it only involved a total of 6 reps. Anyway, by the time I got to the bench my nervous system was so dialed in my hands were shaking.

While benching the bar felt like it was going to explode off my chest. I barely needed any warm up sets cuz I was already “warm” from the pin presses. The end result was I crushed my all time PB in the bench without even training for it. It was just kind of haphazard. It just felt so light I decided to max out and kaboom. Not to shabby considering I am 40+ years old and had not competed in over a decade. This is something you might consider doing prior to benching. It will fire up your nervous system and serve for the bulk of your “warm up” so you are banging out reps prior to your “working sets” listed above.

[quote]TheSwami44 wrote:

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
And you say this is awesome for strength gains? I’m in. But first I need to ask: in your experience, is there anything I need to alter about this plan if I’m working a particular lift twice a week?

My bench press is horrific compared to my squat and dead. 275/405/450. I’m trying to get my bench up to 315 before the end of the year, so I’ll be working it twice a week. Four weeks hard and heavy followed by one week of deload or active recovery or whatever you want to call it.[/quote]

I don’t want to get blown up on here for talking powerlifting on the bbodybuilding forum. My point was that this style of “ramping” where your first “working set” is your heaviest and you progressively lower the lbs while increasing the reps could certainly apply toward body building.

For your ? about BP…if you can hit 275 (depending on your experience) a realistic goal would be 295 in 8 weeks. The key is starting with your goal and working backward. So goal is

WEEK 8: Max day= 295x1

WEEK 7: OFF or light bench only, no fatigue

WEEK 6: 285x1, 265x2, 235x3, 210x4, 195x5

WEEK 5: 275x1, 255x2, 225x3, 200x4, 185x5

WEEK 4: 265x2, 250x3, 220x4, 195x5, 180x6

WEEK 3: 255x2, 235x3, 210x4, 185x5, 175x6

WEEK 2: 245x3, 225x4, 200x5, 185x6, 170x7

WEEK 1: 235x3, 215x4, 195x5, 175x6, 165x7

Generally speaking…IF YOU HIT YOUR FIRST SET…you will also hit your other sets. Whereas if you reversed the order like most people do and start with the lighter weight first, you will most likely miss your heavy sets due to fatigue. ***Huge caveat is you MUST properly warm up but at the same time not fatigue yourself. So that means limited reps while gradually increasing the lbs. This is where singles on the way up come in handy.

Now this could apply to just about any rep scheme and just about any exercise such as military press, incline press, deads, squats, rows etc.

[/quote]
I appreciate your response, but my main question was about working bench twice a week. Working off of the info you gave, I would assume a decrease in volume (from five sets to three) while taking 5lb steps would be optimal?

Also, when dealing with a planned-out weight progression like that, would it be best to stick with the prescribed amount of reps (235 is an EASY triple for me), or go for as many reps as possible and then add one each set for the prescribed amount of weight?

Again, thanks for your time. I’m excited about giving this a shot.

[quote]TheSwami44 wrote:
PS…if I was still competing I would incorporate a technique I learned from I-Bodybuilder. In the chest specs phase CT has you do some pin presses (lockouts) for several clusters PRIOR to the bench. Well I set the pins very high and only had to move the bar a few inches so I could handle a lot more weight than I could ever handle on the bench. But I didn’t fatigue myself cuz I think it only involved a total of 6 reps. Anyway, by the time I got to the bench my nervous system was so dialed in my hands were shaking.

While benching the bar felt like it was going to explode off my chest. I barely needed any warm up sets cuz I was already “warm” from the pin presses. The end result was I crushed my all time PB in the bench without even training for it. It was just kind of haphazard. It just felt so light I decided to max out and kaboom. Not to shabby considering I am 40+ years old and had not competed in over a decade. This is something you might consider doing prior to benching. It will fire up your nervous system and serve for the bulk of your “warm up” so you are banging out reps prior to your “working sets” listed above.[/quote]
I’ll definitely give this a try, as well. My shoulders always feel great after doing half-rep CGBP off pins, so I know exactly where you’re coming from.

Mite have to try this for some of my weaker lifts and see how it goes. Some neat thoughts on increasing volume and all.

[quote]kingbeef323 wrote:

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

275lb bench isn’t really “horrific” compared to 405 squat and 450 dead. [/quote]
Yeah, you’re right. But it’s not exactly up to par either.

@Kingbeef: you’re a damn freek and your numbers have been going up nasty since I first saw you post, but if you’ve noticed an improvement in your progress since training this way then I’m definitely on the band wagon.[/quote]

Even if it’s only because it’s something different, I still like it.[/quote]

So before this you were doing something besides hitting a heavy set and a lighter set(s)? What were you doing?

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]TheSwami44 wrote:

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
And you say this is awesome for strength gains? I’m in. But first I need to ask: in your experience, is there anything I need to alter about this plan if I’m working a particular lift twice a week?

My bench press is horrific compared to my squat and dead. 275/405/450. I’m trying to get my bench up to 315 before the end of the year, so I’ll be working it twice a week. Four weeks hard and heavy followed by one week of deload or active recovery or whatever you want to call it.[/quote]

I don’t want to get blown up on here for talking powerlifting on the bbodybuilding forum. My point was that this style of “ramping” where your first “working set” is your heaviest and you progressively lower the lbs while increasing the reps could certainly apply toward body building.

For your ? about BP…if you can hit 275 (depending on your experience) a realistic goal would be 295 in 8 weeks. The key is starting with your goal and working backward. So goal is

WEEK 8: Max day= 295x1

WEEK 7: OFF or light bench only, no fatigue

WEEK 6: 285x1, 265x2, 235x3, 210x4, 195x5

WEEK 5: 275x1, 255x2, 225x3, 200x4, 185x5

WEEK 4: 265x2, 250x3, 220x4, 195x5, 180x6

WEEK 3: 255x2, 235x3, 210x4, 185x5, 175x6

WEEK 2: 245x3, 225x4, 200x5, 185x6, 170x7

WEEK 1: 235x3, 215x4, 195x5, 175x6, 165x7

Generally speaking…IF YOU HIT YOUR FIRST SET…you will also hit your other sets. Whereas if you reversed the order like most people do and start with the lighter weight first, you will most likely miss your heavy sets due to fatigue. ***Huge caveat is you MUST properly warm up but at the same time not fatigue yourself. So that means limited reps while gradually increasing the lbs. This is where singles on the way up come in handy.

Now this could apply to just about any rep scheme and just about any exercise such as military press, incline press, deads, squats, rows etc.

[/quote]
I appreciate your response, but my main question was about working bench twice a week. Working off of the info you gave, I would assume a decrease in volume (from five sets to three) while taking 5lb steps would be optimal?

Also, when dealing with a planned-out weight progression like that, would it be best to stick with the prescribed amount of reps (235 is an EASY triple for me), or go for as many reps as possible and then add one each set for the prescribed amount of weight?

Again, thanks for your time. I’m excited about giving this a shot.[/quote]

OK I can only speak from experience so I won’t try to forecast what might happen if you are benching 2x per week. The program was designed to bench once per week. One day was bench + accessory lifts. One day was squat & accessory lifts. One day was deadlifts & accessory lifts. The 4th day was designed for lats/biceps/calves/forearms/abs…muscles that were not the primary movers for the big 3.

As far as the prescribed lbs/sets…well once again speaking only from experience, I was told to only use the prescribed lbs and thats what I did. And like I said, IF I hit the first set I always hit the following sets. There were a few times where I did fail on my first set though so this is not a foolproof program. But 90% of the time I did get my #'s and as a result I was able to slowly but steadily improve all my lifts. And looking back on it now, even though it was a powerlifting program I see it being very applicable toward the bodybuilding “ramping” model, but kind of in reverse.

OK then. I’ll apply my own little tweaks and let you know how it goes. I sorta ride the fence between bodybuilding and powerlifting, so this should be right up my alley.

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

[quote]kingbeef323 wrote:

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

275lb bench isn’t really “horrific” compared to 405 squat and 450 dead. [/quote]
Yeah, you’re right. But it’s not exactly up to par either.

@Kingbeef: you’re a damn freek and your numbers have been going up nasty since I first saw you post, but if you’ve noticed an improvement in your progress since training this way then I’m definitely on the band wagon.[/quote]

Even if it’s only because it’s something different, I still like it.[/quote]

So before this you were doing something besides hitting a heavy set and a lighter set(s)? What were you doing?
[/quote]

Ramping sets of 8 on most exercises only hitting failure on the last set. So If I was going to do 3 sets of dumbbell presses for shoulders it’d look something like:

8 x 65’s
8 x 70’s
9 x 75’s <–failure

The other thing I like about the style of training talked about in this thread is the nervous system potentiation and earlier recruitment of the higher threshold motor units, which makes the subsequent sets feel even lighter.