Start Heavy, Finish Light.
Have you ever thought about your rep ranges and why you do them for particular exercises? Do you think about the order of your exercises? Do you struggle to create your own training plans because you’re worried you will do it wrong?
As a rule of thumb, people will use:
1-6 Reps – Strength Training
6-8 Reps – Strength and Hypertrophy Training
8-20 Reps – Hypertrophy Training
This isn’t to say that you can’t build strength or hypertrophy using other rep ranges, but one rep ranges is often used within a training session. Some people may only want to gain muscle, in which case the feeling of the muscle is often prioritised whereas people who place more of an emphasis on strength tend to worry about moving the weight from Point A to B.
This begs the question though… Why not do both? At the start of every body part session pick a compound exercise (E.g. Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, Bent Over Row.) Then train the movement between 1 and 6 reps. This will be your base exercise for the next few weeks where you will try and beat the weight each session for a prescribed number of reps, this will be totally up to you. This is not about getting a huge pump, but more about building the strength of muscles and tendons, as well as recruiting as many muscle fibres as possible.
Your second movement can then move up in the rep range where 6-8 reps can be used which will compliment your first. Although there is still and emphasis on strength, pick another compound exercise which you can go heavy on but also feel a good contraction in the muscle. Because you have used so many muscle fibres during your really heavy sets, it should be easier to feel the muscle working.
From here out the job is to garnish your strength work with lots of sets. Anything above 10 reps will work pretty well, no longer worrying about the weight but trying to feel the muscle contract each rep. (Tip: Hold EVERY contraction for 2 seconds. You may not be able to do as many repetitions, but you will be able to target individual muscles better.) Rep ranges up to 50 or even 100 can be used here in superset/circuit style training if you really want pound your muscles into submission. Isolation exercises are probably better used here to target the muscles and ensure any supporting muscles don’t tire before your intended ones.
With this in mind a typical chest session may look like this:
A1 – Flat Barbell Bench Press – 5 Sets: 3 Reps
B1 – Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 Sets: 8 Reps
C1 – Cable Crossover – 4 Sets: 12-15 Reps
D1 – Feet Raised Push Ups – 3 Sets – AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
D2 – Feet on Floor Push Ups – 3 Sets – AMRAP
D3 – Hands on Bench Push Ups – 3 Sets – AMRAP
D1, D2 and D3 should be performed one after the other with 20 seconds rest between each exercise and a 2 minute rest after D3.
By starting really heavy in your workout, it gives you the best possible chance of moving as much weight as possible. Using weights that are under your 5 rep max will achieve this. By then moving further and further into the realms of hypertrophy work throughout your session, you are able to move a lot more weight than if you finished with your heavy compound exercises. This method will also massively help if you are trying to bring up a weak movement up to par, so then when you change your main compound movement; you are able to use others with more weight also.
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Written by Andrew Farrimond.
Found it interesting? Read Andrew's previous article on " SummerShredding "
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