Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Article Review: Are You Sabotaging Your Gains with the Wrong Rep Range

Jason Ferruggia wrote an article recently about building muscle:

Are You Sabotaging Your Gains with the Wrong Rep Range

Basically, the article boils down to this:

In drug-free trainees, sets of 3-8 reps (especially sets of 5) do more to build muscle than sets of 10-15 reps.

It's remarkably similar to Reg Park's 5 sets of 5, Bill Starr's 5 x 5 (ramping up to a max set of 5), Mark Rippetoe's 3 x 5 (three sets across), or Joe DeFranco's working up to a heavy set of 1-5 (with 5 recommended for weaker/starting guys). This isn't new advice. But it's good advice.

The article really shines in the comments. If you dig through the questions and Jason Ferrugia's answers, you see the rest of the advice:

- for older lifters (40+) do sets of 5-6 reps, but use a 10-12 rep max (65-75% 1RM).

- do extra sets, not extra reps, to bring up volume.

- do sets of 8-15 reps for direct arm work.

- do higher reps for accessory work.

- don't train to failure, but do up the weights regularly.

It's good advice, especially the repeated cautions about not training to failure regularly. The idea is to do the easy, good, high-quality reps and leave the shaky, grinding, form-destroying final reps in the tank. To go home worked out but not exhausted, and be better for next time.

The one caution I'd have is that for the older guys, you don't want to add too many more sets of 3-8 to bring up volume. I find in my older clients, especially the active parents, that additional volume is harder on them in the long run than additional intensity. I'd rather bump the weights up just a touch higher for their sets, and take a regular deload, than increase their overall volume.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who manages your training?

It's a simple question with deep repercussions - who manages your training overall?

Are you in overall command, sub-contracting out to a nutritionist for diet, a personal trainer for weight training, your cardio class instructor for cardio, your running coach for running?

Is your trainer in overall command, determining your diet, workouts, sports training, etc? This is rare outside of sports, but it's how, for example, the Precision Nutrition fat loss program works - you get a coach who tells you what to eat, when and how to train, and what to read or to do to reinforce your process.

This is an idea discussed in Muscle Medicine - the idea that you either find someone to manage your injury, or you manage it and contract out parts of it to different specialists.

This is something I think all trainers and trainees need to consider.

Considering just diet, skill training, and strength training:

As a trainer, your overall ability to impact your client's goals are limited by how much you control about your client's overall approach. If you control only their strength training, you have a limited ability to affect their results. If you control strength training and skill training (for sports or games), you have a larger ability to affect their results. If you control those two plus diet, you have the most ability.

As a trainee, the more coordinated your approaches are, the better results you'll get. Think of an old-era Soviet athlete in training - dieticians coordinate with the cooks for their food; coaches prescribe and supervise their skill training; their strength coach coordinates with all of the above to ensure their strength training matches their needs. It's all coordinated - nothing is lost in the gaps. If you're training yourself, you need to ensure nothing falls between those gaps.


A corollary to this is, as a trainee you are responsible for what you control. You are also responsible for selecting your expert help, and ensuring they communicate and coordinate with each other. If you take diet out of the hands of your trainer and you want to lose weight, you're going to limit your results. But equally, if you train hard with your personal trainer and then train hard with your yoga instructor and then train hard on your own, you're likely to find yourself grinding down.

It's one to think about - what have you taken control of? Can you better coordinate your various aspects of training, eating, and recovering? Is everyone on the same page, or more importantly, are you ensuring they are on the right page?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Squatrx on starting a process

Boris over at SquatRx posted a fantastic article:

Defining Your Next Step: A Process-Centered Approach To Life & Lifting

Just a quick quote before you click over:

"In the process of regaining control of your life and moving in the right direction toward finishing all the things you want to accomplish, a critical early step is to make a list of all the projects you wish to complete. Then, you must clearly define the very next step towards completing those projects."

It's great stuff and well-written. Please read it.
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