uly 2011  Vol. 34 No. 9
A FRESH LOOK AT SETS + REPS
by Doug Daniels
Your set and rep selection is a cornerstone of your training, but I firmly believe most lifters use schemes that do not produce the best possible results. This month, I will take a fresh look at some of the most popular set and rep schemes to show how they can be easily enhanced to result in superior lifting progress.
To best illustrate my thoughts, I will break down a few of the most popular set/rep schemes, like the 5 sets of 5 reps, and "add weight while you cut reps." Each of these schemes can be made more efficient and, hopefully, more result producing.
I will begin with the "5 sets of 5 reps" scheme. One version of a 5 x 5 routine is to keep the same weight for 5 sets (warmup not included): 225 x 5, 225 x 5, 225 x 5, 225 x 5, 225 x 5.
Another version of the 5 x 5 involves an increase of the weight on each succeeding set, using the heaviest weight on the last or fifth set: 185 x 5, 200 x 5, 215 x 5, 230 x 5, 245 x 5.
If a lifter trains hard on either of these versions, he certainly can improve his strength level. On the other hand, if we take a fresh look at the faults of these schemes, the same lifter can easily realize better results with essentially minor changes.
In the first 5 x 5 version, where the same weight was used for all five sets, if a lifter succeeded with the fifth set with 225 pounds, what good were the first four sets? Those first four sets really provided little challenge or benefit to the lifter. In the case of the second 5 x 5 version, the last and heaviest set was the most beneficial. The four previous sets only tired the lifter out and decreased the amount he would be capable of on the fifth and final set. These two versions are arguably a waste of time and energy. Fortunately, the solution is incredibly simple!
A much more efficient 5 x 5 version for the same lifter could look like this: 200 x 5, 225 x 5, 255 x 5, 240 x 5, 225 x 5.
Under this more efficient version a lifter would max out weightwise on the third set with 255 pounds and then as his strength level decreases; he would drop the weight on each of the succeeding sets while maintaining a very high level of intensity. This freshened 5 x 5 workout now becomes much more intense and result producing. More weight is also lifted with the new scenario over the original, inefficient versions.
