T Nation

First Try at Low Reps/High Sets

Hello All,
I am looking for some input on my first try at doing more sets with less reps. I was doing 4 sets. The first was a warm up. The second two were heavier weights and done to failure (usually at 10-15 reps). The last set was done with low weight, and done to failure. I have been doing this for about 2 and a half months and have been getting some results. Then again, I just started lifting in January, so anything was bound to give results.
Anyway, instead tonight I just finished with 8 sets of five reps each. I would progressively increase the weight in the first four sets, and then keep that heavy weight on the last four sets.
I guess what I am wondering is if not feeling as tired afterward is normal. In some ways, I don’t feel like I even really worked out. I am so used to my muscles being really tired and it hurting to lift. But from what I have read and heard here, pain is not always a good indicator.
Did I do something wrong?
Should I have been using a heavier weight on the last sets?
Anyway, some input would be great. Thanks!

Jamey Russell

Soreness isn’t an indicator of progress. What you’ve expirienced is common when working with lower reps.

If you get all the reps in your worksets - bump the weight up. If you’re unable to get them all, like 5/4/4/3, then stick with that weight until you do.

Taking a light/off week after 4-6 weeks of steady low-rep work is also a good idea. Read the article “Back Off And Grow” by Jack Reape.

[quote]slotan wrote:
Soreness isn’t an indicator of progress. What you’ve expirienced is common when working with lower reps.

If you get all the reps in your worksets - bump the weight up. If you’re unable to get them all, like 5/4/4/3, then stick with that weight until you do.

Taking a light/off week after 4-6 weeks of steady low-rep work is also a good idea. Read the article “Back Off And Grow” by Jack Reape.
[/quote]

Thanks a lot for that encouragement. I wanted to find out from someone who had done this before whether or not this was to be expected. The whole experience was very interesting. I was used to being exhausted after each exercise and needing to take time before moving to the next one. This time I found that I was jumping right from one to the next with mainly just water and bathroom breaks in between. The end result was that my workouts were about the same length, but I was less achausted and was lifing more consistently with the low rep workout.

If you dont feel tiered, it doesnt mean you havent worked hard. Just be careful that you dont go overbored since you feel enegrized. burning out your nervous system is a big concern.

[quote]UB07 wrote:
If you dont feel tiered, it doesnt mean you havent worked hard. Just be careful that you dont go overbored since you feel enegrized. burning out your nervous system is a big concern.

[/quote]

Cool. Thanks for that advice too! I never read, until I got here, that the nervous system was something that was getting trained as well as your muscles.

I am learning a ton just from being part of this community for a scant few weeks. Thanks a ton!

Jamey

P.S. Are there indicators that I can read in my body which would let me know that my nervous system is being overtaxed?

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:
P.S. Are there indicators that I can read in my body which would let me know that my nervous system is being overtaxed?
[/quote]

Well, the usual symptoms include:

  • lack of progress (for a longer period of time, not just one bad workout)
  • loss of appettite
  • lack of desire to train
  • disturbed sleeping habits (either not being able to fall asleep, or feeling sleepy all the time)
  • twitching in some muscles (for me it’s most notably in legs)
  • twiching around the eyes
  • increased sensistvity to sunlight or head/cold

Please note that you can overtrain with excessive volume (too much too often), but also with excessive intensity (too heavy too often).

I hope this helps.

That’s really interesting. I say that because I took a light week last week and got lots and lots of sleep. I got ten hours one night and was still tired. This was after a couple of weeks of hard training and a retreat weekend that I ran when I got no sleep. I was frustrated with myself for sleeping so much and not working out, but it sounds like that’s exactly what I needed to do!

Thanks!!

Jamey

Keep the same weight for all sets. You may not feel tired enough becuase your first four sets were cake. Use your six RM for all sets… Or what ever weight you finished with start with next time.

[quote]Todd S. wrote:
Keep the same weight for all sets. You may not feel tired enough becuase your first four sets were cake. Use your six RM for all sets… Or what ever weight you finished with start with next time. [/quote]

Hmmm… Todd, thanks for the advice. Can we get some more input on this? This is not what CS Sloan says in his artical “Train Longer, Not Harder”

http://t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=459792

He says to use warm up sets, even though they may be easy, unless I misunderstood the artical…

Thanks Todd!

Jamey

Jamey,

For comprehensive information on the topic, I would recommend the following article by CW:

The Science of 10 x 3

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=547470

This second article shows you a way to efficiently incorporate the multiple set/low rep scheme into your training routine:

The Waterbury Method

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=534922

Give it a try!

[quote]michael2507 wrote:
Jamey,

For comprehensive information on the topic, I would recommend the following article by CW:

The Science of 10 x 3

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=547470

This second article shows you a way to efficiently incorporate the multiple set/low rep scheme into your training routine:

The Waterbury Method

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=534922

Give it a try![/quote]

Thanks Michael,

I liked the Waterbury method especially because I work out at home (a must with five kids … never know when I will be needed!) and I have limited equipment. The exercises listed here are ones which I can do with all the equipment I have, and the one or two I don’t have equipment for he provides a substitute exercise. Awesome…

One additional quesiton… what is the best way to find your RM? I have been lifitng “blind” for about four months now and figure it is time to get an idea what mine is…

Jamey

I’m also doing the Waterbury method and love it. To find your RM just find a spotter and start piling on the weight. As a general rule he says your last rep of the last set should be hard to complete. If it is not add more weight, if you can’t do it then drop some weight.

In other articles Chad has said to not do warm up sets. The reasoning is that in real life you don’t do a warm up before you use your body.

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:

I liked the Waterbury method especially because I work out at home (a must with five kids … never know when I will be needed!) and I have limited equipment. The exercises listed here are ones which I can do with all the equipment I have, and the one or two I don’t have equipment for he provides a substitute exercise. Awesome…

One additional quesiton… what is the best way to find your RM? I have been lifitng “blind” for about four months now and figure it is time to get an idea what mine is…

Jamey
[/quote]

Finding your RM’s is tough without a good spotter… I would just and pick a weight you are confident you can do all sets for the given reps, then if you hit all the reps in all the sets increase the weight for the next workout. This will also be a good start for you since its a drastic change in your training so even if the weight you pick for the first couple of workouts seems a little light you can really focus on your form and you will still see some good gains as your body adapts to the new training.

Low reps is awesome for building strength, i myself do 5x4 for the past month and have had great improvements in strength.

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:

P.S. Are there indicators that I can read in my body which would let me know that my nervous system is being overtaxed?
[/quote]

Yes, there are several.

as mentioned, sensitivity to sunlight
also;
weakened immune system (ie you get colds very easily)
NO motivation
Less hunger/desiver to eat
no progress in the gym.

These symptoms are easy to spot but many ignore them completely and go on with what they do until they decide to stop going to the gym all together.

if you manage CNS fatigue, it wont be a big problem.

also, a bak-off week is a good idea.

do higher rep stuff, play sports, go swimming, cycling etc. durring this week. its not a week to sit on your ass, but a break from what you are doing to allow for a stronger return.

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:
P.S. Are there indicators that I can read in my body which would let me know that my nervous system is being overtaxed?
[/quote]

I also remember reading somewhere if you hands start shaking continuously during a workout your taxing your CNS too much.

If anyone knows different please correct me.

La’
Redsol1

Eat like a monster. High quality and quantity. P.W.O. replenishment is a must.
To find a real 1 rep max, you realy should have a spotter or two.