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Leave 1-2 Reps In Tank On Plus Set?

Hey all - I’ve got to believe this has been answered before, but I couldn’t find it with the search, so feel free to direct me to the answer elsewhere but here goes.

How hard should you push the plus sets every week? Is it true all out or should I leave 1-2 reps in the rank?

I’m on my 4th cycle through and I’ve been pushing them all out, to true failure (RPE 9.5-10) on all the plus sets, but I think I may be burning myself out doing that. The reason I say that is twofold - first, I’m feeling pretty banged up physically, even after a the 3rd cycle deload week. Second, I think my progress (particularly on DL) has stalled. In the 2nd cycle on my 3rd week plus set (1+) I did 460 x 5 and I probably had about half a rep left in the tank (RPE 9.5). In the 3rd cycle, on the same 1+ set, 4 weeks later, I could only get 465x4. I have no doubt in the 2nd cycle I could’ve gotten the 465x5, so to only get 4 was super frustrating. So that’s what got me thinking maybe I should dial back the plus sets to leaving 1-2 in the tank (RPE 8-9).

What do you guys think?

Personal experience: the only lift I ever went balls-out on was the bench. Squat, deadlift, even the press, I always leave a rep or two in the tank, especially if form is failing. I’ve never found bench particularly taxing on my system, so I’ll go until I know I couldn’t rack the next rep. The other 3 beat the crap out of me if I start grinding them week after week.

I usually aim to beat my previous rep record for that weight by 1. If it’s a really bad day and bar speed is suffering, I might just equal it and call it a day.

I believe you are supposed to be leaving 1-2 reps in the tank. You are going to technical failure, not all-out balls-to-the-wall failure.

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1 or 2 reps in the tank except in the week where you have a 1+ set followed by a deload, I am looking to lose a little bit of my soul that week.

The other thing I will note is there are times where your main work will be easier, that is where I look to really get pushed by the accessory work. It’s better that this is planned rather than being surprised the main work was easy on the day.


I am mostly in agreement with this. For bench, you can really push it as hard as possible and recover from that pretty easily. I also include OHP in this category, although it is easier to break form so you need to be a bit more careful. I think squats and DL’s are different. I usually don’t go for PR’s on heavy reps, because, as Dan John says, each rep past a certain point is really you max PR. You get to a point where the payoff just isn’t worth the risk/recovery, at least IMO.


This is very clever actually. (As you would expect from Dan John!) Is this from a particular book/article by the way?

I’m afraid I don’t understand it. Can someone point out what it means? Is it that after a certain number of reps you are actually doing a max effort but since squats is one of the lifts where you can to an extent still recover between reps you can go at it again and again intra-set or…?

This is from his Never Let Go book. I was looking for the exact spot in the book this morning, but couldn’t immediately find it. It says something to the effect of:
He was challenged to a max set of squats (maybe bodyweight on the bar, but can’t remember the exact amount). He set a “PR” of 30 reps. Then someone did 35. DJ then hit 50 reps, essentially with each of the last 20 reps being “PR’s”. His point is that a true “leave nothing in the tank” is a fuzzy thing that doesn’t have a lot a concrete value. He gives a similar anecdote of doing dips in front of girls, and doing several times more than his “max” for them.

I think Jim also implies this with his “PR” set vs “AMRAP” distinction. A PR can have many nuances: more than last week, a new PR for that specific weight, a PR for the amount of rest between sets, etc… while a true AMRAP has only one meaning, but is often not a useful tool.

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Yeah pretty much. See antiquity’s reply above.

Well if you can’t get 5 reps on any set, your training max is too high. It’s generally recommended that you can do your TM for 5 strong fast reps. Then after you do the 7th week protocols you should know if you need to reset your TM. I rarely go absolutely all out. I’ll have a certain rep count in mind or certain number I want to beat.If I hit that, I stop. Progress slowly is one of the main principles of 531.

As stated in the book - always leave some reps in the tank.