T Nation

Pre-Determined Set/Rep Ranges

Question for the group folks, hopefully not a dumb on [if it is, sorry in advance].

Pre-determined set/rep ranges like 8x3, 5x5, 3x10 etc use the same weight for each set. The object, as I have read from various authors here is to keep the weight the same until all reps can be competed THEN the weight goes up. For example, the 5x5 for a bench press may keep say…200’bs on the bar till all 5 sets are completed with 5 reps each. I understand this, and have been using this strategy for the last year.

Would this not be a pre-exhaust strategy? In order to actually complete a full 5x5 with a weight, the first set or two would probably have several more reps that ‘could’ have been completed…but weren’t. This to me, in my very limited knowledge of the subject, equate to warm up sets. Perhaps a little more than warm up sets, but the full potential wasn’t reached, though I’m not talking about every set to failure. Would all the fibers possible still be firing up for maximum effect?

Wouldn’t it be ‘better’ to do the first set to ‘almost’ max effort so to speak? In other words, lets take a 5x5 again. The first set of 5 is achievable but with great effort while still maintaining good form. The other four sets are less than the target 5, but each set is still a great effort with still maintaining good form. When the first set of 5 is reached, the weight is then upped and the exercise worked on till the first set is again up to 5 then upped again etc.

Wouldn’t this be ‘more’ effective as each set is giving it all you can while still maintaining good form? It seems to me that it would take more effort overall which equates to more fibers being recruited.

Or would the overall volume possibly not be high enough?

Appreciate your thoughts. Thank you and have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

You are coming around to a thought that a lot of people reach. Something along the lines of “Those first 2-5 sets didn’t do shit, it’s these last 1-2 that are what’s hard and what makes me grow”. Multiple work sets are needed for beginners but when you get more and more in tune with your body the way most people end up training is several warmup sets and then 1-3 all out sets. Watch any of the pros train and do say incline press. 135x12 225x10 315x10 405x8 455x6. How many sets was that? For most that’s 5, but did 135-315 really challenge him? 455x6 and maybe 405x8 are work sets, the rest are just warmups.

And now using your example, if you want to stay in a 5x5 template and do a top set of 5 first(hopefully you warmup some at least) and then say sets of 4,3,3,2 are those other sets doing anything more that the set of 5 didn’t? If you believe they do stay with them, I just don’t think the benefit of going to failure/near failure 4 extra times is worth the drawback(slower recovery).

Depends on your goals strength level and the goal of the program. I’ve read many of these authors programs and they dont’ always say do this until you can do all 5. If they do many of them have the next session with heavier weight less reps or lighter weight and heavier reps.

If your building muscle you have to realize your more concerned with the damage and the recovery of the damage. This process is a micro and macro cycle. So while you may be able to recover fine from one workout going as hard as you can on all 5 sets over the course of a few weeks you will to begin to burn out. The design of many of these programs is to not burn out through the training period. If you want to go all out you may have to try somethign more similar to Poloquin where he rests on the 4th week.

I also noticed you said you’ve trained this way for a year. Your taking 6,8, and 12 week programs and running them for more than triple that, thats not what they were designed for. Different body parts will need a month here and there of recovery, maintence, growth, and exhaustion. Programs are outlines for you to accomplish these goals but you have to apply them timely intelligently.

Last but not least you may have to change your rest periods at times. With a full muscular rest if you do your 5 rep max, you will be able to come close to your 5 rep max on the next set. So you can use more weight on your first set, but you can use more on your remaining 5.

So to answer your question, it may work it depends on your body and what its conditioned to do right now.

First off, I want to say I appreciate everyone that has commented in this and my other thread. It really has helped in several areas, and also raised some other questions which is a good thing as its giving me some additional experience.

Here is another question for Scott mainly, but anyone/everyone feel free to comment as well;

Scott,

In this and the other thread you’ve commented on, in regards to really only needing 1-2 movements per body part with 1-2 sets for each to really get some growth on, You’ve commented that it can be hard to get people to think in these terms, however you’ve given me some good info to chew on here.

It raised this question; would it be a viable idea to incorporate both strength and size rep ranges in one. For example, in benching do 2 sets of say 3 reps heavy for strength and then finish up with 2 sets of a much higher rep range [anywhere from 6 to 15] with a lighter weight for size/pump etc. If so, do you think 2 sets in each range would be idea or sufficient?

Not suggesting do it this way for every exercise, but more for the bigger compound lifts for a body part, either in TBT or split. Good idea or bad?

Thanks again.

[quote]TRAJJ wrote:
It raised this question; would it be a viable idea to incorporate both strength and size rep ranges in one. For example, in benching do 2 sets of say 3 reps heavy for strength and then finish up with 2 sets of a much higher rep range [anywhere from 6 to 15] with a lighter weight for size/pump etc. If so, do you think 2 sets in each range would be idea or sufficient?

Not suggesting do it this way for every exercise, but more for the bigger compound lifts for a body part, either in TBT or split. Good idea or bad?

Thanks again.[/quote]

I’ve found this to be a really effective way to add some volume, basically because it doesn’t negatively impact your heaviest set/sets.

There’s a popular 5 x 5 routine floating around the internet and these forums by Madcow that uses this approach. On Fridays, you do 4 sets of 5 reps on squat, ramping the weight up each set, then do a a heavy set of 3 reps. You finish by decreasing the weight for a final set of 8 reps. You do the same for bench and rows.

Great routine, but the basic concept can be applied to most routines that utilise low reps. Your bench press example sounds perfect - warm up to one or two very heavy sets, followed by one or two lighter sets to increase the volume. Far better than trying to squeeze in the volume before the heavy sets.

Whilst I used to agree with what Scott is saying, I have recently returned to a 5x5 program and seen great gains. I no longer believe that any 1 method will work forever.

Shugs recently had an article discussing this.

But to answer your question, I believe that if you can do all sets with designated reps, then the weight is too light. For a 5x5 I use a weight that I can strongly hit a 5 the first set, and may have been able to do 6.

The reps will lower as I get to the 3rd set and beyond, but as has been pointed out, there is more benefit to busting your arse and not hitting the magic number.

So a 5x5 for me will usually look like 5,5,4,3,4.

5x5 has worked for many many lifters that is without a doubt, my question is are those sets of 4,3,4 doing anything extra(and worthwhile) to cause growth?

There isn’t a real certain answer to this it’s just opinion so don’t take it as argumentative at all.

I use the ultra scientific method of if my body has seen 225x5, doing 225x4 isn’t anything new, it’s not a reason to adapt. That’s how I see it, if someone else feels that overal fatigue and cell damage is more of an important factor that’s fine, results are what matter to me. More than one way to skin a cat, but in terms of progress load to me has the most limitless potential so that’s where I attack. More than one way to skin a cat yes, this is just my favorite.

For the past 3 months I have been doing the following routine for the big three lifts, and have seen steady improvements…

6 sets of 6

  1. try to hit 6 reps each set, but never go higher than 6
  2. once you can get 6 reps on the first 3 sets, the NEXT workout you increase the weight
  3. follow a strict 2 min rest between sets
  4. keep track of completed reps each set. the next workout, if on the same weight still, you should improve by completing more reps at least, that is getting closer to 6

this is just something i’ve made up myself that seems to work well

[quote]Scott M wrote:
5x5 has worked for many many lifters that is without a doubt, my question is are those sets of 4,3,4 doing anything extra(and worthwhile) to cause growth?

There isn’t a real certain answer to this it’s just opinion so don’t take it as argumentative at all.

I use the ultra scientific method of if my body has seen 225x5, doing 225x4 isn’t anything new, it’s not a reason to adapt. That’s how I see it, if someone else feels that overal fatigue and cell damage is more of an important factor that’s fine, results are what matter to me. More than one way to skin a cat, but in terms of progress load to me has the most limitless potential so that’s where I attack. More than one way to skin a cat yes, this is just my favorite. [/quote]

I would say the sets of 4,3,4 are doing MUCH more than the 5,5 cos although the 5,5 are tough, it’s the 4,3,4 that you’re really busting your arse on.

It looks like two schools of thought here;

On one hand, after the general and specific warm ups, some feel that the first 1-2 sets are the actual ‘work’ sets and beyond that isn’t necessarily needed. On the other hand, the later sets are the actual work sets.

With this in mind, in scenerio one I would imagine that weight is added to the bar when the first set reaches the desired rep range whereas in the later scenerio weight isn’t added until the rep range has been met for the last set.

Perhaps in the range of 3, maybe 4 sets it isn’t much of an issue either way???