T Nation

Poliquin wisdom?

I found this on Poliquin’s site and Poliquin seems to have written it. In his example, a trainee starts to fatigue at 5 sets of an exercise. The next week he ups the weight less than 5% and fatigues on his second set, whereupon Poliquin says, “You have become stronger…terminate the exercise”!

Did Poliquin really write this? In all his muscle magazine articles, I’ve never read him advocate this drastic a reduction in volume. Is it only for women, or does he regularly train his male atheletes in this way?


"To prevent overtraining, cut back first on sets, not intensity

The body is very well equipped to not overtrain by intensity-it will simply not allow the body to lift a weight that is too heavy. It is not well equipped to deal with excessive volume. This is why I believe that if an individual has not fully recovered from a workout, first try cutting back on the number of sets, not the intensity. It is generally a mistake to reduce the weight when a trainee is tired; instead, just decrease the number of repeated efforts performed at that load.

Let’s say you perform the following workout on Monday:

Monday: 5 sets of 4-6RM
Set 1: 100 X 6
Set 2: 105 X 6
Set 3: 105 X 5
Set 4: 105 X 4
Set 5: 105 X 4
Terminate exercise; move on to next exercise

Saturday you decide to increase the starting weight to 110 pounds, since you know you can comfortably do 105. Now your next workout plays out like this:

Saturday: 5 sets of 4-6RM
Set 1: 110 X 6
Set 2: 110 X 3
Terminate exercise; move on to next exercise

You have become stronger (110 X 6 Saturday versus 105 on Monday), but on the second set there was a major loss in your ability to repeat the effort. Therefore, to maintain a high quality of training stimulus, the athlete must immediately terminate that exercise after the second set.

If you adhere to the critical drop-off point, by the following Thursday (the next workout) you should be stronger because you will have sufficiently recovered. In contrast, the standard approach to handling a similar scenario that I see in colleges all over the United States is as follows:

Saturday: 5 sets of 4-6RM
Set 1: 110 X 6
Set 2: 110 X 3
Set 3: 100 X 6
Set 4: 100 X 6
Set 5: 100 X 6
Terminate the exercise; move on to next exercise

If an individual continues lifting after reaching the critical drop-off point, the individual recovery will be taxed so harshly with low-quality work that you will most likely regress again during the next workout instead of being stronger!"

I re-read the page and is by him, and seems to apply to all atheltes, regardless of gender. It’s from “Modern Trends…”

Still, I don’t know how this strategy fits with his approach of significantly upping intensity and cutting volume 60% every 4th week.

Anyone have any ideas?

it makes sense to me. i always cut volume if i feel overtrained never intensity.

Nothing surprising here. This is standard procedure.

But this is not cutting volume when you feel overtrained, it’s not a PLANNED cutting of volume.

With this approach you might find yourself doing 5x6-4 and get

Week#1) 6,6,5,5,4
Week#2) 6,3
Week#3) 6,5,3
Week#4) 5,4

Increasing intensity but the workload progression could be totally screweed up.

Brian, I don’t understand what you don’t get? If one cannot make a lift at a certain intensity that they should be able to, then more than likely they need to recover longer therefore terminate the exercise at that point, rest up another 4-5 days and then come back to the exercise again. At this point, the person should be recovered.

I guess what I’m saying is that if a person does this on the fly, he could be alternating between a 5x5 and 2x5 approach and workload progression will go out the window.

You could hit the iron hard one week, compensate with HIT-style the next, try to go higher volume again and fail. Your muscles aren’t getting a a constant stimulus, and you could actually be stringing overreaching along toward overtraining.

Unless Poliquin is saying, when you try 5x5 but get 5 reps and then 3 reps on the first two sets, you’ve hit your max on the program. Change routines.

Note that Poliquin only says “for some reason you’ve missed the lift.” He doesn’t say it indicates that you’re overtrained.

I’m going to de-lurk…again!

“Still, I don’t know how this strategy fits with his approach of significantly upping intensity and cutting volume 60% every 4th week.”

“Anyone have any ideas?”

I think this is what Poliquin is getting at :
On the second workout, if you hit the first set stronger, and then hit the “critical drop-off”, terminating the set will hopefully allow you to fully recover(from lack of volume allowing hormonal recovery) so that the third workout you will be able to nail all or most of your sets.
Hope this helps.

Alex, I think you may be right.

In which case, if the early failing on an exercise doesn’t characterize the whole workout, you would still cut the volume to 60% and significantly increase intensity every 4th week.