T Nation

Ramping Weights

I have never really “ramped” my weights before. Usually I warm-up, do a few “feel sets” then get into my worksets via straight sets (with the same way).

Given the “new” information thats been floating around, I tried to implement this technique in all my lifts. When I say new, I mean its new to me. I’m sure many of you have ramped your weights either instinctively or have been taught to do so. In fact, it is my understanding that all the big guys do this and have had much success.

Back to my question. I have tried ramping the weight for a couple of workouts now and I can’t get to a higher weight vs. when I didn’t ramp. In fact the weight for my last set is lower.

Example: My max bench is 225

So I will go

Bar: 10-15 times
95: 5 reps (for feel)
115: 1rep
135: 5 reps (workset)
155: 5 reps (workset)
175: 5 reps (workset)
185: 4 reps (workset)

I will usually get 195 for reps if I just do “my way”.

The only thing I can think of is, I may be accumulating fatigue either by ramping incorrectly or because I accelerate each weight as fast as possible.

Any thoughts would be great.

MM

if you can lift more weight by taking a longer rest break between sets, then do so.

personally if my 1RM was 225 on the BB my sets would probably look something like this

barx12
95x8
135x5
155x3
185x2
195xgo until failure

for me, once i can hit a weight for 5 reps or more i will increase the poundage.

for example my incline DB presses today looked like this: (note i am not strong, working on it :P)

40x12
60x8
75x5
85x2
95x6- fail

next time i do DB incline presses i will try and hit the 100’s for 5 reps.

there are a crap load of ramping threads on these boards with much bigger guys then me who explain it, search for them, read them.

Your weights are spaced quite closely at the top, and not evenly.

The closest I ordinarily space them is about 10% the planned working weight but more often I aim for more like 10% of the 1RM.

Also, you’re doing more reps in the ramp sets than planned for the top set. I keep them the same.

So if the intent had been to go heavy enough for it to be 4 reps in the top set, with that being the 185 lb in your example, my progression until very recently for that would be (assuming as in your case a warmup is needed):

Bar: 10-20, or perhaps two sets of 10… depends on feel and the particular exercise.
75: 5
115: 3

The above weights not being explosive, just smooth.

145: 4
165: 4
185: 4, or 4+

As CT pointed out in the recent interview, being explosive on these latter sets, so they are not simply a joke. Which you are already doing. And as JaxUn said, allowing needed rest unless deliberately keeping it short and knowing this will reduce reps. However the fewer reps can still be as productive. They are different techniques but both valid: the shorter rest being suited principally for bb’ing, and longer rest being suitable either for bb’ing or for pure strength.

On the “until extremely recently” thing, I’ve started adding one cycle of DeLorme-protocol weights as part of the warmup.

So it would be, after the bar, the 75, and the 115,

70 for 5 (explosive enough to toss the weight well into the air, if safe)
100 for 5 (explosive, getting just a little air)
135 for 5 (explosive)

And then I’d do the sets at 145-185.

If wanting to have 5 sets in the ramp, rather than three, I’d have the weight split about evenly between 50% 1RM and the top set. So in this case, I’d first think, well, from about 110 to 185, which is 75 lb… OK, that is evenly divisible by 5 (if not, I’d adjust it a little)… okay, so 15 lb increments.

So I’d do 110, 125, 140, 155, 170, and 185 if wanting to make it 5 sets in the ramp.

Back to your ramp,

[quote]135: 5 reps (workset)
155: 5 reps (workset)
175: 5 reps (workset)
185: 4 reps (workset)[/quote]

… if what happened was that you were planning three worksets topping out at 175 for 5, but after the last one you felt that you were good for another and should do another, but were sure that the 20 lb progression you’d been following so far was too much and you thought you could likely get 185 for 5 as well, but 4 is actually all you got, there was nothing wrong with your general planning. It just didn’t turn out exactly as you hoped.

I’ve also recently started trying to incorporate ramping into my workouts but I’m still not sure if I’m doing it correctly. I wish one of the TN coaches would write a detailed article on the ins and outs of ramping. I’ve tried to gather info on it from threads like this one but it’s just dribs and drabs and I can’t seem to get a clear vision of how to do it correctly.

[quote]1morerep wrote:
I’ve also recently started trying to incorporate ramping into my workouts but I’m still not sure if I’m doing it correctly. I wish one of the TN coaches would write a detailed article on the ins and outs of ramping. I’ve tried to gather info on it from threads like this one but it’s just dribs and drabs and I can’t seem to get a clear vision of how to do it correctly. [/quote]

Which variant are you going for?

Thibs low-rep, small-weight-jump version or any of the others?

See! I didn’t even know there were variants! This is why an article on the ins and outs of it all would be a huge help. I tried it after reading Thib’s latest article. So what I’ve tried is something like 3 explosive reps - add 10 lbs - another 3 - add 10 lbs and so on. But he didn’t get into how much rest to take in between these ramping sets or how many to do. Have I don’t enough to prep my nervous system optimally? Have I done too many and am now too tired to get the most out of my actual work sets? I’d love some concrete guideline to experiment with and figure out what’s best for me.

Here is what i do, I warm up with things like face pulls and flyes just to get the blood moving.

Then its 135 2x10, 155 1x6, 185 1x4, 205 1x2, 215 1x1, then on to 225 for work weight.

get the blood where you need it then get a feel for the weights as you move up into your work weight.

I think it also is very relevant how many exercises per bodypart you are doing.

If only one, then I’d be likely to use closer weight spacing and more sets than if doing two or more.

I used a 5 x 5 scheme until I could bench about 245 x 5. Ramping is difficult when you don’t have much room to ramp.

When I did 5 x 5:

45 x 16
135 x 8
225 x 5
225 x 5
225 x 5
230 x 5
235 x 5

The next week, I would start with 230 and do the same thing.


Right now I do:

45 x 16
95 x 12
135 x 10
225 x 6
315 x 6
365 x 4
375 x 2

There was never really a secret formula for me. I just made sure I did enough lighter weight sets to make the heavy sets safer, and enough heavy sets to make progress. I think you may be making this more complicated than it actually is.

[quote]DOHCrazy wrote:
I used a 5 x 5 scheme until I could bench about 245 x 5. Ramping is difficult when you don’t have much room to ramp.[/quote]

Myself, I wouldn’t say “difficult,” as it is not that hard to use smaller but proportional weight intervals.

However, there is a lot less point, or often no point, when not having increased strength so much yet.

When a person is advanced relative to his starting point, not necessarily with weights that would be advanced for someone else, even a weight such as 70% of 1RM feels heavy. Not as heavy as possible, but it’s heavy.

Whereas if the same person is less far along and again the weight is 70% of the 1RM at this lower strength, it may feel rather trivial. For that matter 80% 1RM, while not feeling trivial, will feel like something that can be, and indeed can be, done without any ramp leading up to it. Maybe a basic warmup but no need to work up 10-20 lb at a time or what have you.

Interesting how different everyone’s style is.

Here’s how my flat BB goes,

95 x 10
135 x 4-5
185 x 2-3
260 x how every many

and then I’ll move it to Incline DB

25 x 8
55 x 3-4
95 x whatever

So, most of my other exercises follow in similar fashion, unless it’s something like DB laterals, which I generally only have one warm-up set for or a very condensed warm-up in addition.

Bill,

Thanks for your reply!

The 4 reps I got at 185 were because I failed. I planned on getting 5 and moving up but I guess that didn’t work out. The thing is, if I made bigger jumps I could get 195 for 5. I mean it would be hard but doable.

Following CT’s advice, I am not aiming for any particular number of sets. I think I haven’t figured out how to “jump” appropriately which is why I may be fatiguing. I usually take about 2 mins between sets, reason being I feel like its plenty and I want to take advantage of the CNS activation (the previous explosive reps). In that case, what kind of jumps would you recommend so that I don’t get tired before I reach my max set?

In the interview CT stated that he believed that worksets should start at 70%. Right now I am basically doing as many feels sets as I feel is necessary before that 70% mark. From there, I’ll make 10-20 lb jumps. I’m just having trouble finding that sweet spot where I get activated and not drained.

I kind of feel like 5 reps is a lot to ramp on. As I understand it, the closer you get to your max, the more fatigue you accumulate. In that case, wouldn’t making 10 lbs jumps towards the very end of the spectrum cause more fatigue than activate?

Any thoughts?

Thanks

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Your weights are spaced quite closely at the top, and not evenly.

The closest I ordinarily space them is about 10% the planned working weight but more often I aim for more like 10% of the 1RM.

Also, you’re doing more reps in the ramp sets than planned for the top set. I keep them the same.

So if the intent had been to go heavy enough for it to be 4 reps in the top set, with that being the 185 lb in your example, my progression until very recently for that would be (assuming as in your case a warmup is needed):

Bar: 10-20, or perhaps two sets of 10… depends on feel and the particular exercise.
75: 5
115: 3

The above weights not being explosive, just smooth.

145: 4
165: 4
185: 4, or 4+

As CT pointed out in the recent interview, being explosive on these latter sets, so they are not simply a joke. Which you are already doing. And as JaxUn said, allowing needed rest unless deliberately keeping it short and knowing this will reduce reps. However the fewer reps can still be as productive. They are different techniques but both valid: the shorter rest being suited principally for bb’ing, and longer rest being suitable either for bb’ing or for pure strength.

On the “until extremely recently” thing, I’ve started adding one cycle of DeLorme-protocol weights as part of the warmup.

So it would be, after the bar and the 75,

70225*.6= for 5 (explosive enough to toss the weight well into the air, if safe)
100 for 5 (explosive, getting just a little air)
135 for 5 (explosive)

And then I’d do the sets at 145-185.

If wanting to have 5 sets in the ramp, rather than three, I’d have the weight split about evenly between 50% 1RM and the top set. So in this case, I’d first think, well, from about 110 to 185, which is 75 lb… OK, that is evenly divisible by 5 (if not, I’d adjust it a little)… okay, so 15 lb increments.

So I’d do 110, 125, 140, 155, 170, and 185 if wanting to make it 5 sets in the ramp.

Back to your ramp,

135: 5 reps (workset)
155: 5 reps (workset)
175: 5 reps (workset)
185: 4 reps (workset)

… if what happened was that you were planning three worksets topping out at 175 for 5, but after the last one you felt that you were good for another and should do another, but were sure that the 20 lb progression you’d been following so far was too much and you thought you could likely get 185 for 5 as well, but 4 is actually all you got, there was nothing wrong with your general planning. It just didn’t turn out exactly as you hoped.

[/quote]

im with 1morerep…

http://tnation.tmuscle.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_article/thibaudeau_talks_training_1?id=3336540&pageNo=4

Detailed ramping breakdowns and rest periods and lots of other questions answered by CC and CT etc. Don’t just skim it READ it. Basiclly all you need to know about CT’s methods can be found in there.

I’m ramping with weight and reprange. For example…

Set 1. 10 - 12
Set 2. 8 - 10
Set 3. 6 - 8
Set 4. 4 - 6

If I can max out a set, I’ll add more weight. I’ll also try to add more weight every set. If I’ll hit a plateau on set 3 for example, I’ll do the same weight for set 4. Which then allows me to hit max. rep range on set 3 the next time and/or add more weight the next set.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
DOHCrazy wrote:
I used a 5 x 5 scheme until I could bench about 245 x 5. Ramping is difficult when you don’t have much room to ramp.

Myself, I wouldn’t say “difficult,” as it is not that hard to use smaller but proportional weight intervals.

However, there is a lot less point, or often no point, when not having increased strength so much yet.

When a person is advanced relative to his starting point, not necessarily with weights that would be advanced for someone else, even a weight such as 70% of 1RM feels heavy. Not as heavy as possible, but it’s heavy.

Whereas if the same person is less far along and again the weight is 70% of the 1RM at this lower strength, it may feel rather trivial. For that matter 80% 1RM, while not feeling trivial, will feel like something that can be, and indeed can be, done without any ramp leading up to it. Maybe a basic warmup but no need to work up 10-20 lb at a time or what have you.

[/quote]

This is exactly how I think to myself when considering ramping. I tried it and it just seemed silly with my top end being so low that I ramp up to it, considering that I could bang out 5x5 of 80% of 1 rep max with no warm ups (it wouldn’t be easy…but I do it all the time)

lately though, I’m thinking that I should ramp, with strength being my overall goal. I’m one of those guys that looks good naked but realizes how pathetically weak he is compared to where he “should” be and wants to be. (we’re talking 185 lbs…not 160 skinny for the haters) I think i need to get over the idea that ramping wouldn’t be enough volume and just do it for 6 months and then look back and laugh at my old one rep maxes.

[quote]Mr.Martian wrote:
Bill,

Thanks for your reply!

The 4 reps I got at 185 were because I failed. I planned on getting 5 and moving up but I guess that didn’t work out. The thing is, if I made bigger jumps I could get 195 for 5. I mean it would be hard but doable.

Following CT’s advice, I am not aiming for any particular number of sets. I think I haven’t figured out how to “jump” appropriately which is why I may be fatiguing. I usually take about 2 mins between sets, reason being I feel like its plenty and I want to take advantage of the CNS activation (the previous explosive reps). In that case, what kind of jumps would you recommend so that I don’t get tired before I reach my max set?

In the interview CT stated that he believed that worksets should start at 70%. Right now I am basically doing as many feels sets as I feel is necessary before that 70% mark. From there, I’ll make 10-20 lb jumps. I’m just having trouble finding that sweet spot where I get activated and not drained.

I kind of feel like 5 reps is a lot to ramp on. As I understand it, the closer you get to your max, the more fatigue you accumulate. In that case, wouldn’t making 10 lbs jumps towards the very end of the spectrum cause more fatigue than activate?

Any thoughts?[/quote]

First, ditto on Grinder’s recommendation of reading what CT and C_C had to say in that thread. Good discussion.

Second, I think it would make things clearer to be explicit that there is not just one way and one situation for ramping. Perhaps there are more than two, but the two that I think are important are the approach that CT is talking about – low reps, and really aiming for strength and improvement of neural recruitment – and volume. With the latter not being invalid for bodybuilding.

It sounds like you are aiming for the first type. If so, what CT describes is right on the money, as personal opinion. I’ll also add an example that is pretty well detailed from a post I did a while back on what I call the “Volkov progression,” after the Russian powerlifter that I am getting it from, via Pavel Tsatsouline:

[quote]Let’s say that you don’t have an exact target top work weight in mind, for example because you’ve never done this before.

If you don’t, start with about 55% of what you guess for your 1RM. The exact value is not important. Either for your estimate being exact, or the figure having to be exactly 55%. But shoot for about that.

Decide how many reps you want to be doing per set. I recommend 2 or 3, though Volkov did anywhere from 1 to 5, though most commonly 2 or 3.

All sets are the same number of reps, unless unintentionally unable to do that many in the last set.

Then add some modest amount of weight per set, the same amount each set. The interval Volkov uses is about 4% his 1RM but again this need not be exactly followed. For example, if that would calculate to say 16 lb, don’t worry, 15 lb would be fine.

End the sets when judging it unlikely that an additional increment can be handled.

Volkov does not do it, but if I think I probably can’t get another set with the full increment but could do so with a little less, I’ll make the last increment smaller.

So, example workout for estimated 500 lb 1RM. I pick this value for the sake of round figures. Let’s say you plan to do doubles.

  1. Very light warmup if desired.
  2. 275 for 2
  3. 295 for 2
  4. 315 for 2
  5. 335 for 2
  6. 355 for 2
  7. 375 for 2
  8. 395 for 2
  9. 415 for 2
  10. 435 for 2
  11. perhaps 455 for 2.

The article says nothing of Volkov’s rest times and I have no other information on it. I take about an hour for this, allowing 1 minute rest at the very beginning, then fairly soon 2 minutes rest, and pretty soon getting into 3 and 4 minutes rest. By the last couple of sets, 6 minutes rest.[/quote]

This is an example of the closely-spaced sort of ramping at low reps. Of course, having this close spacing results in higher volume. If one wanted less volume, solutions would be:

  1. Starting at a higher percent 1RM, as CT does, and/or
  2. Using bigger jumps overall, or using bigger jumps at first and then small jumps near the top.

Now, regarding rest, I don’t know whether CT would agree with allowing as much as 4-6 minutes on the final sets, as he has talked about CNS activation lasting for 3 minutes. For myself, it sure seems to last longer. For me, six minutes is a reasonable rest for the top set. And for sure we could find any number of powerlifters who would disagree that their best performance is after only 3 minutes of rest.

And secondly we have the volume approach to ramping, which could well be wider-spaced, as more than one exercise will be done for the bodypart if so. (Obviously, if wider-spaced and NOT doing another exercise, volume is less.)

There can be overlap between the two: I think the description I gave previously fits into that category.

A volume approach to ramping can also have no particular focus on acceleration and be at higher reps than 5. The weight interval chosen is usually something convenient, such as for a very heavy exercise adding a plate per side each time; or adding alternately a 25 and then swapping it for a plate; or adding 15 lb per side each time, etc. Again, I think a reasonable value is about 10% of the planned top work weight but many do it wider than this.

On the rest: for what CT is aiming for, he doesn’t want performance on the top set to be compromised. There is also a valid approach in bb’ing where gains are achieved by working as hard as possible with the muscle fatigued. E.g., in doing a DC-style three sets (what anyone else would call three sets, anyway) with about 30-40 seconds rest inbetween, all with the same weight, the second and third sets are certainly thought to (and do) add to gains, but most certainly performance hasn’t been fully restored – nowhere near it – and deliberately so.

So this does not mean that from the bb’ing perspective it is a disaster for the rest to have been short enough that a rep, or even more, was lost from what could have been done in the top set.

But from the standpoint of focusing on acquisition of strength, whether for that direct purpose or as the means of gaining size, as CT says you want to rest sufficiently so that performance is not compromised. (Though in my case, a 3 minute figure, for movements such as squat, deadlift, or bench, is not enough to achieve that.)

[quote]davidtower wrote:
Bill Roberts wrote:
When a person is advanced relative to his starting point, not necessarily with weights that would be advanced for someone else, even a weight such as 70% of 1RM feels heavy. Not as heavy as possible, but it’s heavy.

Whereas if the same person is less far along and again the weight is 70% of the 1RM at this lower strength, it may feel rather trivial. For that matter 80% 1RM, while not feeling trivial, will feel like something that can be, and indeed can be, done without any ramp leading up to it. Maybe a basic warmup but no need to work up 10-20 lb at a time or what have you.

This is exactly how I think to myself when considering ramping. I tried it and it just seemed silly with my top end being so low that I ramp up to it, considering that I could bang out 5x5 of 80% of 1 rep max with no warm ups (it wouldn’t be easy…but I do it all the time)

lately though, I’m thinking that I should ramp, with strength being my overall goal. I’m one of those guys that looks good naked but realizes how pathetically weak he is compared to where he “should” be and wants to be. (we’re talking 185 lbs…not 160 skinny for the haters) I think i need to get over the idea that ramping wouldn’t be enough volume and just do it for 6 months and then look back and laugh at my old one rep maxes.[/quote]

From the traditional-thinking standpoint of a ramp serving largely to become ready to handle the top work weight, there does seem no point to a ramp when the situation is that the work weight can readily be handled right off the bat.

From CT’s standpoint of using the ramp sets to accelerate the weight as hard as possible, there is a point then to the ramp sets as opposed to using the work weight throughout, even where for a given person that weight could readily be used right off the bat.

Bill,

Thanks for the detailed response!

Right now I’m basically trying to get down the general ramp CT explains in the interview. This means being explosive every set and working my way up to my top set.

I understand the concept of playing with the jumps throughout the sets. For example, you could do more sets with small jumps in the lower end of the spectrum to focus on explosiveness or vice versa for the limit strength zone.

So for me, I would just do a couple of feel sets till about the 70% mark. Like CT, from there I would increase by about 5% each set so it would go like: 70,75,80 and so on.

Obviously if you make big jumps, you may not have activated the CNS efficiently to go. But on the other hand, if you do too many small jumps, you will ultimately fatigue yourself before you even get to top set. Here where I thought it might be ok to ramp with 3 reps, being explosive with every set until you reach your top set. Then one would do 5 reps.

So my problem is either, my ramps are just not smart, or 5 reps is causing me too much fatigue.

Going back to my 225 bench:

Bar for whatever
However many feels sets before 70% I feel is necessary
135x3
155x3
175x3
195x5

Thanks,

MM

I think it’s a good plan.

You may need more rest before doing the last set. To have confidence, you could try 6 minutes next time, which should surely be enough, and then try backing down from there to learn what you need personally.

That could be better than the opposite approach of working up in time from an amount that isn’t enough and is causing you to not get your desired reps, repeatedly, workout after workout till you finally find the needed rest time.