3s, 5s, & 8s: realistic sets & reps for long term results…

Alrighty then! No fluff, no bs, no hype. Sure, new years is just around the corner, but if you need that as an excuse to take a path on the road of self improvement, then you are not ready to roll anyway. Activity is fine, achievement is better. Here is the short and sweet on how to achieve noticeable, sustainable results, IF you are strength/weight training in some fashion. IF not, then why are you reading this? Posers, please move to the nearest exits, wannabes, go with them. Ready 2 Bs…c’mon on down, you are the next contestant on “gitterdone” workout edition.

Getting tired, sore, etc does not mean you are getting results. Results will be things you can see in the mirror, feel in your ability to perform, and hear from your friends that notice the difference. To verify them a skin fold caliper that can measure body fat is good to have, and a couple of litmus tests in core lifts, like a squat, press, and swings will also speak volumes about your return on your effort. (ROE) Too many people do all kinds of kamikaze routines that are incongruent with their nutrition and recovery and wonder why it doesn’t work. Let’s fix that.

1. Generally speaking, 25 to 40 reps in an exercise is the volume a person can recover from. Depending on the stage in the program, those reps can be divided into sets of 3, 5, or 8. Triples are great for developing strength without muscle growth. Rather the improvement is in the nervous system. So 8×3 in a pushup variation that is challenging will make you stronger but not “bigger”. at the other end of the spectrum, 8 reps represents, for “grind lifts” the muscle building rep range. I have tested this time and again, and have found sets of 8 better than sets of 10, 12, or 15. A person’s mind scatters in the higher rep ranges with grind lifts, the tension and body linkage suffers, and overall quality of movement degrades. 3 to 5 sets of 8 is PLENTY when trying to build muscle.3×8 good, 2×12 bad! 5 reps is the middle ground, half neural half hormonal (muscle growth is hormonal). 5 sets x 5 reps is a great choice here. Keep in mind the further your volume moves beyond 25 reps in an exercise, the better your nutrition and recovery needs to be in order to benefit. Thats means in my world a zone diet (look it up) at above maintenance calories (say 25 to 40%) Celery sticks and 10×10 in the barbell squat is a recipe for failure!

2. Most of the time, save the last 2 reps. For instance, say you want to do a 3×8 in the press to build muscle. Pick a weight you could do 1 set of 10 perfect reps with (that means you could ugly out 11 or 12) and use it 3 times. Ta da. Hard enough to make improvement..not so hard it kills you. Maybe your 3rd set you only make it to 7. That’s fine, when you nail 3×8 perfectly you can change a variable: weight, tempo, rest interval…or reps either 3s or 5s! NOT 9!

3. Ballistic Lifts: Kettlebell lifts lend themselves to higher rep ranges: KB swings, snatches, clean & jerks can be done in 5s, 10s, and 20s. Because they done twice and fast, you double the reps. Between 50 and 100 total reps is plenty. More isn’t always better: Progressive improvement in capacity is better.

Week in week out you will find that your ability will improve because you challenging yourself…not destroying yourself.
Next time I’ll talk about what exercises to do, for now, just remember: 80% of the time strength=3×8, muscle growth=3×8, and a little of both =5×5. Swings and snatches 5, 10, or 20 reps up to 100 MAX.

Published by Mario Hostios, Speaker, Trainer, Author

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