Combining Rep Schemes for Assistance Work

Hello CT,

I would like to ask if you have some good combinations of rep schemes for assistance work. What I mean is something similar to max growth clusters or a “mini” layer system, something where you have heavier sets first on a exercises and later some lighter. I am asking because you once said to me that you couldn’t just combine 2 rep schemes and that’s because your layer system article was published in 2015.
My training is based again more on westside barbell.

Thanks in advance CT!

Well it depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the assistance work.

In the westside system the assistance work is there mostly to build muscle via smaller, more targeted exercises. So really, anything from 8 to 30 reps can be used (or even more). I personally find that I do better with higher reps for deltoid and pectorals (I go as high as 40 repos per set for pectorals but most of my assistance work for chest is done for 15-20 reps).

Hamstrings respond better to lower reps if using a knee flexion exercise (glute-ham raised, leg curl) …so sets of 8-10 reps. For free-weight hip extension exercises (goodmorning, Romanian deadlift) I also like reps around 8, even 6. For hip extension on machines or pulley (reverse hyper, cable pull-through) I prefer sets of anywhere between 12 and 20 reps.

For upper back I focus ore on the quality of the contraction not so much n weight and the reps normally falls between 10 and 15.

For triceps and biceps I actually prefer shorter sets, 8-10 reps.

Okay thank you CT! Seems like you keep it simple and focus on the contraction (in this context of my question).

Yes. You don’t have to use complex rep scheme when doing assistance work Honestly, even when it comes to strength using “special” rep schemes is most psychological than physiological. Several set/rep schemes play a psychological trick that allows you to be more motivated, this train harder.

Take the 5/4/3/2/1 approach for example… the trick is that every set feels easier, despite being harder: you do a set of 5, then add more weight… it’s heavier, but hey it’s only 4 reps… then you add even more weight… yeah but 3 reps is nothing, etc. It always puts you in a confident mindset which helps you perform better.

Now don’t get me wrong some loading methods (clusters for example) do offer some physiological and neurological benefits but in my experience this is unnecessary for the assistance work during a strength-based program. It might in fact cause too much neural stress to the training.

A part of a training program doesn’t always have to be “cool” or “hi-tech looking” to work.

Thank you for your answer CT.
Yes I was “worried” about the fatigue too when performing the assistance work in a very demanding way.

What you said above fits very good to what you said in your log 3 about the preplin chart. It’s important to perform the right amount of work in the right training zones and that for strength it is not so important whether you use 4 sets with 6 reps or 6 sets with 4 reps. You also said that you aren’t a friend of smolov squat training cycle and that you believe the main reason why it’s work is because one performs tons of work in the right training zones.

I think with all the articles, training videos and social media posts it’s easy to get seduced to use to complicated stuff instead of “normal basic” things. Back in the day probably many old school lifters didn’t use the “fancy” new techniques and they were still incredibly strong. In my case i got seduced by your 5-4-3-2-1 density lifting tip and your max growth cluster tip :stuck_out_tongue: