T Nation

Number of Reps in Assistance Lifts


#1

Jim, I have a question about assistance lifts being generally prescribed a higher number of repetitions then the 4 main lifts.

It seems to me almost a rule in powerlifting that the main lift gets worked first for sets of 1-5 reps, followed by assistance exercises designed to help the main lift. Assistance exercises are usually always prescribed a higher number of reps per set then the main lift. Why is this? If the best way to strengthen a muscle is by stressing it with a lower amount of repetitions, then why is that method only used in the main lift?

In other words, instead of doing assistance exercises for 8-12 reps, why doesn't it make more sense to do them for, say 5 reps? Why are assistance exercises generally prescribed a higher number of repetitions then the main lifts if lower reps are more conducive to strength gains.

P.s.- thanks for introducing me to Left Lane Cruiser, love that band.


#2

Assistance exercises serve a different purpose than the main lifts. You are building muscle in the supportive areas. And the easiest way to do that is with a higher rep range.


#3

A number of reasons…

  1. Higher reps are better for building muscle (this one’s debatable but still).
  2. You’ve already done low rep work on the main lift; the assistance exercise should be a different stimulus.
  3. High rep work is better at flooding blood through the muscle, which is good for a number of reasons.
  4. Your joints will love you for not going heavy on every damn set of the session.

#4

also want to thank Jim for left lane cruiser !


#5

"In other words, instead of doing assistance exercises for 8-12 reps, why doesn’t it make more sense to do them for, say 5 reps? "

Assistance work (for example, in my gym assistance work is push-ups, dips, rows, curls, fat man rows, swings, single leg work, etc.) is done for 3 reasons (as stated in the book):

Provide balance to the body.
Size
Help you get stronger in the main lifts (and overall).

Assistance work are generally movements that don’t lend itself to lower reps, lighter weight. Then you have the whole issue of recovery, joint health. As I’ve said many, many times - not everything can be equal. Not everything is a squat or press. Some things are done for higher reps to promote the things above and not fuck up recovery.

But as I’ve said before - if people want to max out for 3RM on curls or rows or whatever the fuck article makes them change their mind this week - go ahead. I don’t fight this shit anymore because I can’t win or care to win.