T Nation

Sets and Reps Without Regret

Heya Manimals. I was wondering if any of you have ever attempted rep manipulation in a single workout. Say, hyper-thetically, that I did four sets of dumbell shrugs with the first set in the 4-7 range, the second in the 8-12, the third with lighter wieght to failure, and the fourth a one rep max. Anyone attempt anything remotely like this? Anyone care to? Tune in next post for more wacky hardcore fun. Lata.

“MB Eric: Welcoming you to his jungle, cause he’s got fun 'n games since 1523.”


A long time ago I tried a Jerry Telle routine (I think) that was like that. Don’t remember where I got it from - MM2K or early T-Mag perhaps? Anyway, basically you pile like 95% of your 1RM on the bar using only little plates and then do a huge drop set, increasing the TUT for each subset by making the reps take longer (ie, your first set is done explosively, second on a 3/1 tempo, and so on, until your last set is like superslow 10/10 reps). I think there were maybe six drops involved, and only one big drop set per bodypart. The theory is that you hit your FT fibers early, and as you fatigue you keep going lighter and lighter to work the ST. Total TUT for the set will be in the 2-3 minute range, but you still get some heavy, low rep work in the beginning. Try it! It’s fun. If anyone remembers this workout and can remember where from, please share.

In fact there is a training program that sort’ve relies on this principle. The program was designed by Fred “Dr Squat” Hatfield. It involves tri-setting 3 exercises. Pick one bodypart. The first exercise must be a heavy compound type movement, such as squats, bench press, shoulder press etc. The 2nd exercise is still a compound movement but a slightly different variation of the 1st for example: leg press, hack squats, dumbell incline press etc. The last exercise is an isolation movement…leg extension, flyes, laterals etc.
Now what you do is do the first exercise for a heavy set of 4-6 reps. Immediately move on to the second exercise and do a set of 10-12 reps. After this immediately move on to the 3rd exercise and do a set of 30-40 reps.
The idea is that with each set you’re hitting different muscle fibers so while your type IIA fibers are working in the 2nd set your type IIB fibers are recovering from the 1st. While your type I fibers are working in the 3rd set your type II’s are recovering. The theory is that you should be able to go through 3 cycles or 3 entitre sets of this continuously without any rest using roughly the same weight but I’ve found I need to rest at least a minute after the last exercise but I am very fast twitch and need more rest in between sets then most.
Make sure you’re using exercises that work the same bodypart, here are some examples…
Quadriceps: squat, leg press, leg extension
Hamstrings: Deadlift, Russian good mornings, leg curls
Chest: Bench press, incline dumbell press, flat bench flyes
Back: Bent over rows, pull-ups, pullovers
Shoulders: Seated military press, upright rows, side laterals
Biceps: standing barbell curls, preacher curls, lying cable curls
Triceps: close grip bench press, skullcrushers, tricep pushdowns.

Kelly, Ive done something like that in the past as well. Poliquin had an article early on called The Nausea Workout I believe. tough but very effective stuff. There is also some great slams/jokes about guys with skinny legs (directed at Tim Patterson in this article)

I use something similar from time to time. I’ve found it’s great for increasing size and strength at the same time, but requires a relatively high volume, and therefore must be planned accordingly. Here are the guidelines I use. 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps with about 3-5 minutes in between sets. 2-4 sets of 6-8 reps with 3-4 minutes in between sets (of course supersets may be used). 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps with 30 to 90 seconds rest in between each set. Obviously this is best for the prioritization of 1 or 2 bodyparts, with decreased volume for the other body parts being trained.

Whoa, Kelly, didn’t think anybody else really heard or used Doc’s Holistic Sets…they’re brutal mofos! I believe he suggests getting about 200 reps or so…of course, the Doc calls this a C workout and he only recommends one of these workouts every 14+ days or so, with A and B workouts in between.

MB, I think the question is “has anyone not done this”. Pyramiding, 6-1, waves, any powerlifting routine and most others involve sets of different reps on the same exercise. The other workouts posted above are more or less drops sets (varying TUT) and giant sets but I think MB was talking about different reps on one exercise. I like to simplify and personally think that the all singing, all dancing workout for max strength and gains is folly and prefer to focus 100% on all out size or all out strength workouts (although 6-1 and waves are very important for strength). For example MB, set one does nothing if it uses set 2 weight, set 2 is hypertrophy, set 3 is strength which I think compromises set 2 to some extent, and set 4 is endurance which compromises 2 and 3 (I guess it it could be speed although westside does this on a separate day, presumably along my dont try to do two things ot once/KISS lines). Also on the varying reps tip, I have something new I plan to try that consists of hypertrophy reps for lagging bodyparts and strength reps for others that I think will be a winner.

Heya Manimals. So, IF I were to attempt this, I would only use one or two exercises per body part in a split session deal? Thanks

"MB Eric: Will eat for food since 1929."


Yeah Timbo they are brutal. The holistic sets are mentioned in the I.S.S.A. training certification. Back in the early to mid 90’s there was a supplement company called Icopro. There was a little training brochure that came with the Icopro supplement line and this was where I first heard about this type of training. The first leg workout I did in this fashion probably took me less then 10 minutes to do but afterwards I stumbled into the dressing room and passed out. I’d say it’s definitely a good routine to use if you’re really short on time and want a great workout.

The Fred Hatfield “C” quad workout was the hardest thing I have ever done! A killer

i haven’t tried exactly what you’re talking about, but i’ve done some ‘reverse pyramiding’. basically instead of starting light and getting heavier, i do a thourough warmup, then go heavy (4-6 reps) on the first set and as the sets progress, i lower the weight and increase the reps & decrease the rest period. it’s a good change from the normal pyramiding scheme, and i always find that i am able to put up more weight in ALL sets than i would normally do in a traditional pyramiding workout.