T Nation

Improving Higher Rep Range Poundage


#1

I've been training relatively heavy (4-7 reps) for the past year or so because of my short attention span and focus, but lately I was considering doing higher rep ranges to give my joints some rest and to go a bit more hypertrophy orientated.

The last time I did relatively heavy dumbbell shoulder press, I used 40kg (88lb) dumbbells for 5 reps, so I estimated my 12RM to be around 36kg. After warming up, I did my first set. To my surprise I could only do 7 reps before reaching failure. So I rested for 3 minutes before trying again with a lower weight. I took the 32kg dumbbells and tried again. I could only do 10 reps. I reduced my poundage by about 35lb (2.2x2x8kg) and only manage to get 10 reps with it?

The same thing happened with my chin ups. Normally I would strap 25-30kg around my waist and do about 4 reps or so, but when I tried using only my bodyweight, I can only crank out about 12 reps (the last couple with flinging legs) before my biceps gave out.

One thing I noted is that the point of failure from when doing heavy weights and lighter weights is different. When I reach failure using lighter weights, there's more burning sensation whereas when I use heavier weights, my muscles just failed me. Does that mean that I don't tolerate lactic acid well? Is it something to do with my conditioning? How do I improve this? Or am I being silly and this is actually normal?


#2

If you don't give your body a stimulus, in this case high reps, it can't adapt to that stimulus. You've trained your muscles to be efficient at doing low rep sets, and that's what it got better at. Now it will get better at higher reps, if you stick with it.


#3

You're probably right, but I didn't expect my performance to be that bad. It's only going from 4-7 reps to 11-15 reps and I expected a 20% decrease in weight is more than enough for that. If going from a 350lb squat for 3 reps to bodyweight squats for 300 reps than that's kind of expected, since my endurance is really bad.

EDIT: I mean, I won't be able to reach 300 reps bw squat.


#4

So I'm guessing I should do both heavy and medium days in the same week? I normally do a 2-way split, so from what I've seen others do, I'm planning to do the following plan;

Mon - Heavy Split A
Tue - Heavy Split B
Wed - Rest/cardio
Thu - Medium Split A
Fri - Rest/cardio
Sat - Medium Split B
Sun - Rest

Thanks for making me realize that my intermediate threshold muscle fibers are quite weak. I guess the only way to improve my weak points is to continue training it and making it stronger lol.


#5

Modok, do you think this is a case of strength, endurance or CNS recruitment? I had thought that by training the largest motor units (through heavy lifting) we would recruit all of the smaller motor units; they come along for the ride so to speak. Or is the thought that they are used so quickly, in the case of a max effort deadlift for example where the body needs to switch to the large motor units immediately, that we really aren't training them we are just jumping from the small to the large? Is this why periodization programs which intentionally switch up the rep range are so successful?


#6

Hi Ive done pushups on and off for years , just getn back into , My question is , which will give me better muyscle development with pushups- increasing my reps or leave same but keep adding more sets? I am 3 x's 30 should I next go to 3x's35, etc... or 4 x's 25 then 5 x's 25 etc?


#7

Go heavier man, 30+ reps is too much endurance orientated for chest. Use weight vest, bands etc. You'll reach a point where you can't effectively add weight anymore so you should start focusing on bench presses and it's variations as well.


#8

This is certainly a valid approach= ie;"train each rep range regularly". Another would be to schedule periods with a specific focus (ex. your previous 5-7 rep range)and optimize the adaptation within that range. Follow that with another scheduled period with a different focus (ex. 10-15 rep range). If the later approach is used(on purpose or not); the switch can be very challenging. When I switch from a high to a low rep range the weights feel incredibly heavy. When switching the other way the sets seem to last forever and I'm struggling to catch up. If the change doesn't humble/scare me a bit in the beginning I know I didn't go far enough with it. I'm not suggesting one over the other, I have and continue to use both approaches.


#9

well I dont use weights since I dont have any nor afford memberships .. plus previous shoulder damage from car accident... I like the idea of the exercise bands and weight vest thank you ... Im not looking to bulk ,just muscley which I already am somewhat... so Im doing 6 sets total of 30 reps. adding more reps or sets isnt going to do anything but make it so I can do more?


#10

3 things you can do:

  1. Start training in a higher rep range.

  2. Use rest pause to get more reps out of a heavy weight.

  3. Like MODOK said, using a large spectrum of rep ranges regularly is a good idea.


#11

Yet another one... Must be a nest somewhere...


#12

Modok, thanks for the comment. I think that makes more sense than the thought that we would be recuiting from smaller to larger.


#13

With lower reps, you are reaching failure mainly due to lack of creatine phosphate being depleted. With higher reps, the creatine phosphate still plays a role, but lactate plays a big role as well.

It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. You could stick with training in the 4-7 rep range indefinately and be fine, or you could go to 15+ reps and be fine. Some people never go below 10 reps and get huge, while others never go above 8 and get huge.

Recently a host on a podcast discussed this a bit more in depth, but basically what he stated is that you gotta choose what you want to be good at. I believe a listener wanted to train max strength on pullups, but also try to do more reps at BW. The host suggested that he'd get better results by training one or the other. (either strength or endurance) For an athlete, it would be important to train in a range similar to the sporting events, and if you aren't an athlete then really anything from 1-30 reps or so makes sense.

I am in the same boat as you though. I tend to train in the 3-8 rep range, and have a much higher strength curve toward 3-5 reps, than higher reps. So if im using a rep calculator to predict my 15rm, i'll have to do less weight than predicted, and if i use my 15rm to predict my max or 3rm, i'll be able to do more than predicted.

Another observation is that for me, if im doing a given weight for 3 reps. I may be able to increase the weight by 5-10% and not notice a big difference. But if I were doing 15 reps with a given weight, just a small increase is very very hard. And I have friends that are the exact opposite, and can do 10 reps with a weight very very close to their 1rm.


#14

Another idea, which is similar to rest pause, is to use shorter rest breaks with heavier weights.

Say you normally squat 5x5 with 200lbs, and take 2:00 rest breaks.

Go with 190, and do 5x5 but only rest like 30-45 seconds. If you think about it, when you get to 200lbs again with that short of a rest, it is a HUGE increase in performance. But like I said, this is basically just a less extreme version of rest pause.


#15

Wow, some very good ideas and explanations here, I really appreciate your responses.


#16

I've experienced the same thing you described.

My conclusion is that I have poor "work capacity" because of how I had been training for a long time. Relatively low reps (5-8) with few sets per muscle group (ie: "high intensity" approach).

I think this is why some lifters include GPP in their programs. Some use sled drags or prowlers, but seeing how I don't have access to these and live in the inner city I've decided to up my training volume by cranking out a lot of sets but just stopping short of failure. I noticed whenever you take a set to complete failure that it's difficult to perform another similar set. By stopping 1-2 reps short of failure you can do seemingly countless sets.

Well, that's my plan... I'll let you know how it works out.


#17

I'm hoping one of you guys have some experience on the following.

I was lifting really heavy on bench the last 3 months. Working up to a 1 ,2 or 3RM each week. I got up to 305 and couldn't get the 3rd plate for over a month. So I recently tried a ramping approach where I work up to a 6RM on my top set. I've increased every workout since I started which looks like, 245, 250,255,260 all for 6 reps. My goal is to get up to 275x5 before I max out. The most reps I ever got for 275 was 2 reps.

Based on the #'s I was figured 315 would be very doable if I can get 275x5. After reading this thread, I'm thinking not necessarily since I may be getting stronger in the 4-6 rep range but not singles. Any thoughts on this?


#18

Depends on your muscle fiber layout IMO. It's a crapshoot unless you try it.


#19

Thanks for the detailed response. Very interesting and makes a lot of sense. I still lift the weights as explosively as possible to build power. I'll find out for sure if I break my old max in about 3 weeks.