12 May 2009

*To Do Reps, or Not to Do Reps? That is the Question.

Oh my.

Anyone who knows me knows that I look at a set of 12 in the same way most people would look at a three mile run- unpleasant as hell, horrifyingly boring, and yet, not all that difficult. I've trained with every possible set and rep scheme, ranging from 100+ reps to pure singles, and everything in between. I find myself, however, tending toward the extremes, doing 20+ reps when going light (usually on bodyweight exercises), and then sticking to 1-3 reps on everything else.
If you have to do high reps and low weight to get ripped, someone needs to inform this Bulgarian he's fucking up.
When loading weights for sets of 1-3 reps, I typically keep my poundages between 90-100% of my 1RM (one repetition maximum), and never drop below 85% of my 1RM. Why, you might ask? Wouldn't that fry my CNS(central nervous system)? Would that be *gasp* OVERTRAINING?

The simple answer is no. Not at all. And fuck you for using that word in my presence.

The Bulgarians are notorious for stomping throats and breaking hearts in Olympic lifting competitions, and have dominated that sport for decades. Over the last 40 years, their workloads and workout volumes have increased exponentially, to the point where they now train 6 days a week, for 6-8 hours a day. They split their workouts, like Louie Simmons' Westside program, into speed and power sessions, but fully 70% of their workouts are conducted with poundages at 80% or more of their 1RM. (1)

Well, wait a minute, you might be saying. You do single-only workouts all the time! the Bulgarians only max on 1.05% of all of the total lifts, and only train at 90%-100% of their 1RM 7% of the time. Well, yes, my grasshopper, but I don't do the Bulgarian routine. No one with a job or life outside of Bulgaria does that routine. I merely posted their workout volume to show you that the human body can take a hell of a lot more punishment than Hany Rambod or Joe Weider seem to think, even in the face of empirical and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.
Bulgarian Olympic Weightlifter Ivan Stoitsov doesn't look overtrained to me.
So, we know you can get strong and muscular doing low reps. I highly recommend cutting rest times down on low rep sets to increase hypertrophy (hypertrophy is increased as the muscles must recruit more muscle fibers to combat fatigue) and to stay lean. I like this method immensely, especially given the fact that people who take long rests often stand around jawing far more than they lift, which is annoying and pointless. Is this method ideal? Science says no. For me, I'd rather go into the gym and lift brutal amounts of weight than fuck around on a cable machine doing triple drops for 6 sets of 12, but that's a matter of motivation for me. I know that if I go into the gym and REALLY get after it, I will either grow or die trying. Thus, I suggest you try the low rep method, shooting for 20-30 reps per exercise, and see where you stand after 3 months. If you're not considerably stronger and more muscular, I will eat my fucking shoes.
Throwing a 242 lb stone over a high bar might seem like reps, but it's really singles with REALLY short rests.

1) Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1995. p.97.

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  1. Awesome post - answered some questions I had about your reps too. Thanks!

  2. I really enjoy reading this blog and am just recently trying to add some concepts put forth by you in my own training.

  3. Hey Jaime, i sent you a PM on Ironsport.com forum, but for some reason, its not letting me send it, if you could shoot me an email at aftertheeulogy25@yahoo.com, i got some questions about Chaos and Pain and such, thanks