Just for a moment, forget about all those “Bro Science” rep & set schemes found somewhere that promise to work so well because they’ve been proved by experience.
You’re on a quest to get huge. Beast kind of Huge. Consistently kind of huge! That means a unique scheme won’t work for long: your body is adapting to the load progression and sooner or later you will hit a plateau.
Here are the only two trusted things you should rely on: Science and Yourself.
Carmelo Bosco, little known PhD in Physiology, Biomechanics and Sports Biology, was a pioneer of athletic strength/power testing and sport science, he worked and tested all kind of athletes, from volleyball players, to soccer players, to skiers, to bodybuilders. He has more than 150 international papers and sport sciences studies published all over the world and beside being a Strength Specialist consultant for the Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, he was member of the New York Academy of Science, the American College of Sports Medicine, international Society of Biomechanics and the American Society of Advanced Science.
Among his many researches he was one of the pioneers of what today has evolved into Velocity Based Training. Early in the 70s he monitored Power and Bar Speed with a Linear Position Transducer and combined the data with the electrical activity inside the muscles through an EMG. One of the training groups he studied was entirely composed by advanced bodybuilders and the aim of his research was to understand what is happening inside the muscles to determine the training parameters that worked best to enhance hypertrophy. 1)Carmelo Bosco Ph.D, La Forza Muscolare, Aspetti fisiologici ed Applicazioni Pratiche He came out with arguably the first and most advanced and specific training method based on autoregulation.
1. Henneman’s size principle: Muscle fibers are so lazy they are recruited from smallest to largest. So use a moderate to heavy relative load to engage the fast twitch fibers since the first reps and during the concentric part of the lift move the bar as fast as you can. The fast twiches are the most easy and eager to grow and you want to fatigue them as soon as possible to get them trained.
2. Let a specific Drop in performance stop your set 2)Gonzalez Badillo J, Marques M, Sanchez Medina L. (2011) The Importance of movement velocity as a measure to control resistance training intensity. Journal of Human Kinetics, V29A http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588891/ Stop your set after there is a clear drop in Bar Speed or Power through the set. That will be the only important metric describing fatigue and determine your rep number for the set. From many researches, hypertrophy need a speed drop of about 30 to 40% so usually the latest reps of each set happen around 0.3m/s.
3.Avoid Complete Rest between Sets. As a sign of that, check for a persistent loss in your performance from the very first reps. EMG from Dr.Bosco’s research revealed how muscles increase myoeletric activity in the attempt to maintain the same power output. That goes along with the Henneman’s principle, with augmenting fatigue, more fibers are required to maintain the same Power/Speed performance. Muscles need to work into a fatigued state to enhance the hypertrophic effect.
Table 1: Speed Chart for a Velocity Based Training Squat Session : you can see the drop inside the same set and the drop in performance from Set 1 to Set 3
4. Let a specific Drop in Performance stop your exercise.3)Sánchez Medina L, González Badillo J. Velocity loss as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue during resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep;43(9):172534. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213f880. PubMed PMID: 21311352 Once a 20 – 30% drop in performance from the start is visibile since you can cease the exercise. This will determine the total number of set. (see Table 1) Due to non complete recovery, fast twitch fibres won’t recover fast enough between sets. This in turn will lead to less muscles fibres actively contracting thus causing 2 main phenomenon: at first the performance will decrease and then the muscle and the CNS will require even more fibers. If you are working correctly the Set Average Performance will decrease from set to set. See Set Average Speed in Table 2.
Table 2: Bar Speed Data from a Velocity Based Training Squat Session
Figure 1 : The “Set by Set” widget is what you’re looking for to get informations about your performance and visually check the Performance Drop.
Figure 2 : Example of a good Squat Session to enhance Mass Building Effects in respect to the principles described above.
When Numbers and Data are available, like with Dr.Bosco you can have so many advantages: one of them is Quantification. and it allows you to leave “opinions” out of the weight room.
Strategies based on opinions are always outsmarted by those based on facts, provided numbers describing the fact are precise.
Also, by receiving Live and Instant Feedback you have the chance to learn how to tune personal “subjective” feelings to the “objective” feedback given by metrics.4)Randell AD, Cronin JB, Keogh JW, Gill ND, Pedersen MC. Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocitybased resistance training on sportspecific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):8793. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fee634. PubMed PMID:21157389
Some say athletes “don’t need numbers” to build and enhance their training performance. Many others lack awareness and can’t see the connection between metrics and how their body works.
When you focus and do train with a purpose, you have a strategy. Metrics then become the sum of all your efforts gathering correct technique, rest, nutrition, experience with your body and with your lifts. In other words, results are always driven by a correct strategy and periodisation.
Quality Metrics represent an objective support of a quality work. How many times did our mind try to trick ourselves: when we feel lazy we try the easy way, by the opposite, we are super tired because we come from a night asleep, we didn’t eat properly, we had family issues.. it doesn’t matter how big is the mountain, we climb it because we are not going to cease to fatigue….. except we end up overtrained or, worse, injured.
AutoRegulation and the set of rules originally proposed by Bosco are the best solution to customise training programs. Once with a Linear Encoder, now with a cheaper Strength tracker you can base decisions on numbers and your mind and your body will stop playing tricks on you. There is no “fixed” and Absolute scheme to the problem of Gains. They are all potentially valid you just need a reference to correctly progress them.
Don’t train maximally, don’t train minimally, train OPTIMALLY
Training is a constantly evolving demand for adaption! It is a continuous stressfull condition applied both to our bodies and to our minds. It requires infinite patience, strong passion and heavy constant grinding. What works now won’t be of any use tomorrow and if we’re looking for the only secure way to achieve our full potential we can only respect this and keep pace by constantly optimising our training schemes. Metrics are the beacon.
More useful Resources
● B. Mann Ph.D, Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of Velocity Based Training in Training Athletes
● Jovanovic, M and Flanagan, E. (2014) Researched applications of velocity based strength training. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning, 22(2)
● Jovanovic, M. (2014) Complimentary Training, How to create individualized exercise profiles in strength training, part 1. Http://complementarytraining.net
● Peterson MD, Alvar BA, Rhea MR. The contribution of maximal force production to explosive movement among young collegiate athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov;20(4):86773. PubMed PMID: 17194245
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Carmelo Bosco Ph.D, La Forza Muscolare, Aspetti fisiologici ed Applicazioni Pratiche|
|2.||↑||Gonzalez Badillo J, Marques M, Sanchez Medina L. (2011) The Importance of movement velocity as a measure to control resistance training intensity. Journal of Human Kinetics, V29A http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588891/|
|3.||↑||Sánchez Medina L, González Badillo J. Velocity loss as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue during resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep;43(9):172534. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213f880. PubMed PMID: 21311352|
|4.||↑||Randell AD, Cronin JB, Keogh JW, Gill ND, Pedersen MC. Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocitybased resistance training on sportspecific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):8793. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fee634. PubMed PMID:21157389|