T Nation

Rep Styles & Sequencing


CT a few thoughts here if you don’t mind - of all the rep styles out there what are the most effective & how should be sequenced (early during workout, late during session, mix it up):

Continuous tension 80% ROM, piston like form with a moderate-heavy weight (usually done to failure).

Pause on bottom, lockout on top

Deep pause on bottom, explode up

Heavy lifts off pins (or deadstop)

Super slow, focusing on every inch of contraction

Fast but controlled ecentric, explode turnaround point (“perfect rep”)

I’m sure there are many others. Psychologically, I prefer the lower rep deadstop style/off pins for the big compound movements and the piston like continuous tension on DBs and/or isolation.

Do you think certain styles create more gains (physiological) than others and should be used primarily. Or is it a case of mixing it up/doing different things at different times?

More and more I realize muscle gains come only after one becomes used to a movement (including rep style) & soreness more or less disappears (neural/strength first, hypertrophy second) which means endless reptition of the same thing day in day out -> thats the fastest path to gains.

Stay warm!


Each style has its own purpose and can be “best” for some things; either muscle growth, technical improvements, working on mind-muscle connection, strengthening key positions, improving your capacity to get tight.

If someone has technical issues or bad mind muscle connection it might be “best” to focus on rep styles or technique that fix these problems before thinking about what is the best rep style to maximize hypertrophy for example.


I totally agree which is why I don’t like to change my big movements often. A new study actually showed that you don’t start to build a significant amount of muscle before you stop getting sore.


Yes! Saw that on ergo log i think

Layers forever…lol…


mhm CT, but why do you like to change the small ones then ? If we do let’s say bicep and use in the first workout hammer curls the next workout preacher curls… barbell curls, cable curls… it is always a new exercises and we don’t "become used to the exercise where we will start to make the biggest gains ". You once said in one of your articles that the westside barbell guys change their exercises very frequently to get neural adaptions. But on the small exercises we only want to build specific a muscle ? So why do we change them frequently? The rotation for neural adaptions makes only sense with big exercises ?

So basically always focusing on the same big exercises however to follow the law of accommodation one needs to twist them from time to time for instance other rep scheme, other rep style, a slight variation in grip or range of motion.
This is true for building strenght and muscle since " training is to never adapt". Otherwise we couldn’t build more muscle or strenght because we wouldn’t get better if we always do the same thing.
Is this right CT ? (I tried to connect the different principles in my mind)


Really… then why can olympic lifter progress by basically doing the same thing over and over for years?

I think we create “laws” too easily. While I’m all for variations in loading schemes and methods (e.g. pauses, slower tempo, etc.) I do not believe that there is a need to change the big exercises often. If you train above 90% all the time, maybe. But then it is worth questioning if always training above 90% is that smart for normal individuals.

As for smaller movements, it’s more a matter of them not making a huge difference in muscle recruitment. If you do a preacher curl on a standing barbell curl, honestly it’s still a curl. The neurological component isn’t that great. I do not see a NEED to change smaller exercises more often but there is no harm in changing them often. Basically it comes down to staying motivated and some people like to vary things others like to stick to the same thing.


Although I train similar to westside,I’ve come to the same conclusion

I rotate main lifts,but stuff like shrugs,curls,high rep squats ect I can make progress weekly going for rep prs on different weights

The majority of lifters can always add a rep here and there,a few pounds for the same reps,so why not stick with what works?(unless you just hate to do the same thing 2-3 weeks in a row)


Is any of this related to the lifters experience level? For example a really strong guy lifting over 10 years doing variations each week for westside is different than someone trying the same thing who’s only been lifting a few years? Basically what works for advanced lifters doesn’t necessarily work for beginners.


That is true but I think it has more to do with how gifted someone is. Someone who is build to be strong can progress IN SPITE of a lot of variation… the problem is when that person or their coach believe that they are getting strong BECAUSE of the variation. The world class guys would have likely been just as strong on any program. I’ve trained a guy who bench pressed in the 500s without a shirt and without drugs. But that guy benced 315 when he was 14 and 365 for reps when he was 16. He could military press 315 when he was 18… guys like that can do anything an get stronger. Those who reach the world class level ARE like that and they can get strong as long as they train hard and don’t get injured.

I think that the need for variation has more to do with neurological/psychological profile. Someone who is high strung, extroverted and super competitive (like 99% of the top powerlifters are) will need more frequent changes.


Great recent video on thibarmy: most important thing for a coach is to EMPHASIZE THE PERFECT REP.

For me ramping (that mentality of being as explosive and treating each rep like its my last) & clusters/density(being able to reset in between heavy reps and fully engage the mind into eahc burst) are golden because of this.

It’s also why after doing this, hitting “failure” feels different…once the foundational perfect rep is developed I find myself hesitating to do junk reps/toss some weight around rather than treating each movement like a skill

You didn’t specify the optimal rep training style though coach…wonder if you can expand on that, what should we ingrain/automize when it comes to “perfect repitition style”?


Oh lol at the end…next video you describe…


It’s a series of 5 videos, be patient


Part 2 out…well my mind is blown

This is the opposite of the perfect rep (originally described where maximizing performance = maximizing power = maximizing muscle)

now i need a new religion :wink:


The “perfect rep” is optimal for performance and can stimulate growth by creating a lot of tension at the turnaround point. But when trying to target a slpecific muscle its not ideal.


Hi CT, I have a question regarding reps and sets hopping that this is the right place to post it :slight_smile:
Is lifting heavy (85%-95%) for low reps (say 3 reps) but for lots of sets (10 sets) is Strength or Hypertrophy workout style?


More gold, almost on a daily basis now :slight_smile:

I’d guess most older trainees (biological & training age) favor the performance style because it is more enjoyable and honestly less strenuous.

The top set blast you see it common with higher schoolers, younger guys or a very few select bodybuilder types…i know i might not be so eager to train daily if have to hit that true failiure point, especially on big exercises (squat to failure? no thanks lol)

Do you think the ramp and focusing on explosive/performance stuff are good ways to prime the CNS early in a workout, and therefore “handle” the later failure sets better? I’ve always preferred doing DBs, for example, to failure AFTER i’ve hit a main movement in ramping/strength skill fashion (e.g. following up strength skill circuit with 1 or 2 DB/isolation exercises done in the way you described, very good)

Vs. going straight into the 3 sets (3rd set being to failure) for the DB (or machine or iso exercise)

Basically: how to sequence a training session to make the most of the intensity/failure movements while still making it fun & not burn out trainee pyschologically


CT what’s your latest view on “ramping”. It was all about ramping a few years ago, CNS activiation, insulin sensitvity, hormones on top of better strength/performance and hypertrophy gains.

I haven’t heard you talk about this much, more the 2-3 warm up set then blast out. Even the strength skill are straight sets. Has it fallen out of your toolbox of golden methods?


PERSONALLY I still do ramping.

BTW the big problem with the internet and especially article is that you think you know what I’m all about from reading a few articles and forum posts. The truth of the matter is that i use all these tools with my clients and myself. It depends on the person and situation. I don’t stop using ramping because it’s not the subject of articles anymore. Simply because, how many articles can be written on ramping???

It was never ALL about ramping. It was a topic I covered at the moment because I can’t always cover the same subject. I can understand that the way the articles are edited can sometimes make it appear that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread (and its normal, we must create an emotional response for people to be motivated to use the method and get good results) and I can understand why someone might think that it’s all that I use. It never is the case. For example right now I have 20 online clients (I self imposed that limit on myself) and still some live clients despite my schedule. I all train them completely differently. Not only in the exercise selection, but in the style of training. The way I train each client could be 1-2 articles each… so only from my online clients I could write 20-30 different articles. That’s why people often think I change my mind. I don’t. But I don’t train everybody the same. There isn’t one Thibaudeau method or system (which actually makes it much harder to brand myself…from a financial perspective its not a good thing but I’d rather be poorer but intellectually honest than rich an dont do what I believe in). My ONLY principle is train to fix people’s weaknesses and do it in a way that is in accordance to their psychological profile.

Personally I pretty much always ramp up. Not always to a RM, but still ramping. With clients I use the ramping style when it fits their capacity, psychological profile and goal.

Right now I’m ramping up to a training max then doing 3 sets of 5, that is done for one lift per workout and my assistance work is some more for straight sets of 3-5 reps.


Mostly strength but you will get some growth out of it because of the volume.


Well i’m seeing some good marketing from the CT engine so lets get you honest & wealth :slight_smile:

Re: your current style, I’m doing literally the exact same (stumbled on that intuitively after the layers style became too demanding…so i would just replace the cluster with a 3x5 then assistance exercises instead of HDL).

The only drawback is sometimes I get “lazy” with ramping and end up hitting the top 2-3RM training max for weeks, never increasing poundages and my 3x5/5x5 work is with the same poundage. Because I get to that point where “performance is off” and I just don’t go for it. Instead of not caring about performance/grinding & going all out. Latter is not sustainable though and prob doesn’t add size/strength in the long term.

I’ll just believe that increasing explosiveness/performance while slowly adding weight is the way to go…besides dry muscle mass gains are so slow anyways so those one-off epic workouts are just a spike in performance, not necessarily in muscle/physique.

Do you still do complementary sets in between the main ramp exercise (face pull, chins, rows, rear laterals etc.?)