T Nation

Programming Hard 5s?

I read about this method in one of the recent threads and I like it because of its simplicity. But I have a few questions.

  • What % of 1 rm are you supposed to be using?
  • How many “hard 5s” sets? Just in case, should you use a lower weight on the 2nd set or just hit failure sooner?
  • Are you supposed to hit failure? Are you supposed to complete all 15 reps or it is okay to fail on the 3rd/4th rep of the third set?
  • When would you progress in weight?
  • What kind of exercises does it lend well to?

Thank You

I don’t really use percentages. For two main reasons:

  1. Strength fluctuates not only day-to-day but even hour to hour (it normally peaks twice during the day, 3 and 11h after you wake up). So what represents 80% one day at a given time could actually be 85 or 75% on another day and time.

  2. While there is an average rep number that can be done with a given percentage of your 1RM, it’s just an average. Some people can do a lot more reps than they should be able to do at certain percentages and others will do less. For example, at 85% the “average” maximal reps is 5. At my peak I was barely able to hit 3 or 4 reps at 85%. Not to mention that some of these percentages will change based on the lift.

The number of reps you can get at a certain percentage depends on your muscle fiber make-up (slow-twitch dominant will get more reps, fast-twitch dominant people, less) and on training experience. For example, people who train mostly with super low reps will suck at moderate and high reps and will have to use a lot less weight than the theoretical average. On the other hand, those who trained mostly with high reps will not be able to add a lot of weight as they decrease the reps.

Furthermore, because the hard 5s use very short rest intervals, the weight you can use will be impacted by your recovery capacity.

So I could tell you that in you should use 75% in reality it will work for around 70% of the population IF they are on a good or normal day (it could still be too heavy if they are not well rested, training in a suboptimal state, lacked food, etc.).

If you are dead set on using percentages all I can do is give you a range 70-80%.


Thank You, but what about the other points? @Christian_Thibaudeau

It’s 3 sets… but it can be seen as one rest/pause set of three 5 rep mini-sets.

You do 5 reps / rest / 5 reps / rest / 5 reps / end of set

That’s it for that exercise.

Since it is designed to be used on big compound movements, and that I recommend NEVER hitting failure in big compound movements, yes you should complete all 15 reps. But that 15th one should be hard. If you misjudge the weight and by rep 13 or 14 you know you will not succeed with the 15, you can finish the set as a 4th mini-set.

When you know you could have done 1-2 more reps in that last set.

Big lifts, compound movements.