T Nation

Bompa vs. Rippetoe For Beginners


Both Tudor Bompa and Mark Rippetoe are very well-respected coaches. However, they have different views on the training of the beginner.

Rippetoe recommends to start a beginner on 3 sets of 5 reps, his rationale being that you can strength faster on sets of 5 reps, because fatigue in the form of lactic acid doesn't build up, so each repetition is a quality repetition. Makes sense to me.

Bompa recommend a beginner start with high repetition sets of 15+ reps per set. The rationale is that tendons and ligaments need to be strengthened before you can increase the training intensity. Additionally, beginners can gain strength on as little as 40% of 1RM. So this makes sense to me as well.

So what are your thoughts on this? Which approach makes more sense to you, and WHY??


id go with bompa on this one..higher reps is generally better for begginers as anatomical adaption can occur..begginers dont much weight they respond better to volume.. as they get more accostumed to strength training increase the intensity..but many roads lead to rome


To me, Rippetoe's methodology makes more sense for beginners. This is because with high repetition sets, the likelihood of form degradation is higher than with low rep sets. Plus the fact that heavy loads x lower reps = better strength gains.


I've had the "benefit" of taking a few multi-year layoffs from weight training and I have started back both using higher reps and the sets of five reps type of training. From personal experience if I take a couple of months and do higher rep pushups, pull-ups, and deadlifts I am much stronger and more physically prepared than if I just start with the low to medium rep stuff.

Plus, I ache less in the joints and experience less stiffness when I get after the 5 reps or lower lifting. Of course, the argument can be made that I was two months into training when I lowered the reps so of course I'm more physically ready. I may have a tendency to get heavy too soon if I bypass the high rep activity. And maybe if the 3 x 5 is "easy" for some time it could have a similar effect as high rep lifting.

In deadlifting, I truly believe that I benefit from high rep work to start with. As I work to singles after a period of higher reps my form stays tight.

So I guess my vote is high reps at first for beginners for compound movements. I wouldn't do that for oly's since they are quicker and I wouldn't train for speed in a fatigued state.


I don't see why you should do 15+reps. Form is everything, so you need to be focused during every rep, doing one rep at the time. I just can't see how you can stay focused during 15+reps per set with a very low weight.

Besides, I hate going over 8 reps. Your tendons and ligaments can be strengthend with 5 rep-sets also. So why waste your time on endless sets, unless your goal is only to get strong tendons and ligaments or muscle endurance. But that's me. High-rep work has it's place.


A true novice makes strength gains by improving neuro-muscular efficiency. That's done by repetition as compared to traditional strength training.

I'm pretty sure Rippetoe and Bompa have different ideas on who they consider novices/beginners.


Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I understand both perspectives, and they both have good points.

I guess this brings up the question of how do we know that 15+ reps strengthens tendons and ligaments? Does it strengthen tendons and ligaments more than low rep sets? Tudor Bompa seems to think so.

I'm not sure if Bompa had meant for those 15+ rep sets to be taken to failure. If not, then I see how technique can stay clean even after 15+ reps, if the trainee is using around 40% of his 1RM.

Of course, as we know, a beginner can do just about anything, and that would increase his strength, endurance, and power all at the same time. Is it really an advantage to go down to 5-rep sets?


Lower reps and (relatively) higher weights help beginners with CNS potentiation and correct motor patterns when under heavy load, at least that's what I gather from Rip's stuff. And most "newbie" gains are just making the CNS more efficient, aren't they? Correct me if I am mistaken in either of these statements.


I've trained beginners with both methods and I have to say that it depends on the definition of beginner. For example, if someone has lifted weights previously (like in high school but their now middle aged or done some form of resistance training that is not T-Nation approved) then I find that fewer reps allows them to gain strength while focusing on the subtleties of their form (like keeping your elbows in when benching). For a person that hasn't even touched the pink dumbbells more reps (with very light weight) is better because it gives them more practice on basic elements of form (like don't round your back.)


Anatomical Adaptation, in my humble opinion, is a waste of time. You're better off following Rippetoe's advice...

Oh, and another thing, I could've sworn this was my own post. Seriously.


Now for the second part of my question: WHY? lol Why do you feel that anatomical adaptation a waste of time. Tudor Bompa was at first a world-class athlete, and then, a world-class coach and researcher, and he didn't feel anatomical adaptation is a waste of time. I'm not trying to argue against you. I just want to know your rationale.


Rippetoe and Bompa are rivals. It's hard to follow both if they have contadicting thoughts... So I might as well be follower on EITHER of them, but not both... I'm gonna have to pick Rippetoe. I love his books.

My rationale is something that is not scientific. It's just me picking which expert to follow...