Muscle Factor Training – a new paradigm

Muscle Factor Training

A New Paradigm

You may be familiar with the old adage – heavy weights / low reps build strength & size, light weights / high reps build endurance.  This belief about the effects that different numbers of repetition have on the body has been repeated for many, many years.  I started lifting weights in 1982 and it was accepted as truth at that time.  This belief is even accepted wisdom in the exercise physiology community.  The exercise physiology textbook in my library, published in 1996, states, “Performing an exercise between 3-RM (repetition maximum) and 12-RM provides the most effective number of repetitions for increasing muscular strength.”(1)  The bottom line is that there is little to no debate as to the effect different numbers of repetitions have on the body.  If you want to increase strength and size, heavy weights and low reps is the universally agreed upon prescription.

From a practical perspective this has resulted in most or all resistance training programs recommending heavy weights and low reps exclusively.  Basically every strength training or bodybuilding program recommends repetitions of 20 or less.  During 15 years of following popular strength training literature I can recall only 2 instances where reps higher than 20 have been discussed and in only one of those instances was it even seriously recommended as a viable training method.

In the first case, in the early 1980s or so a professional bodybuilder (Johnny Fuller, if my memory serves me correctly) revealed that he preferred to train using 32 repetitions for most or all of his exercises.  At the time this was used as an example of the recommendation that each trainee needs to find what works best for him/herself, but I don’t recall that the article recommended such high reps for anyone else.  Nor did any follow on articles I ever saw suggest that trainees might experiment with reps in that high range.

In the second case, Muscle and Fitness magazine ran a few articles in the late 1980s about 100 repetition training.  This series was run after one bodybuilder in particular revealed that he used 100 reps for brief training periods a few times a year.  After that series of articles, I don’t recall ever hearing about this type of training again.

So, while the adage says heavy weight/low reps build strength and light weights/high reps build endurance, I do not believe that high rep strength training is commonly used or seriously considered as a viable training method by most trainees or their coaches.  It isn’t commonly recommended to those who are most interested in increasing strength and/or size, nor does it seem to be a part of the serious endurance athletes training methods.

Since the adage says light weights / high reps building endurance, and increasing endurance is a goal of endurance athletes, I began wondering why high rep strength training was not commonly used by endurance athletes.  Even though the primary goal of endurance athletes is to improve endurance, heavy weight / low rep strength training is what is most often recommended to them.  The reason strength training is believed to be beneficial for endurance athletes is that it increases the amount of force produced during contraction, resulting in an increase in power output and, presumably, endurance performance.  What about the second part of the adage though?  The part that says light weights / high reps build endurance.  One of the muscle factors contributing to power output is fatigue resistance.  Increased resistance to fatigue is just another way of saying that the muscle’s endurance increased.  I reasoned that if high rep resistance training really did increase endurance then perhaps it might be a beneficial training method for endurance athletes.  With that thought in mind I started searching the available research to see what had been done on this topic.  I found some exciting and surprising research for us to review.  Let’s get to it.

Heavy weight/low rep vs. medium weight/medium rep vs. light weight/high rep

The first thing I wanted to know was whether research supported the belief that heavy weights / low reps build strength and that light weights / high reps build endurance.  After all it wouldn’t be the first time that someone discovered that conventional wisdom was not completely accurate.  I thought it best to be sure.

The classic research on this topic was conducted by Thomas DeLorme in 1945 (3).  DeLorme’s research indicated that heavy weights do indeed build strength while higher reps build endurance.  DeLorme is even credited with the axiom that heavy weights / low reps build strength and high reps / light weights build endurance.  Quite a few other research studies on this topic have supported DeLorme’s findings hence the reason it is now accepted as conventional wisdom.

This is not to say that DeLorme’s original axiom has gone unchallenged though.  Several research studies (4,5) that have found that the primary adaptation to either high or low reps is an increase in muscular strength.  So even though it is accepted today that heavy weights / low reps builds strength and light weights / high reps builds endurance the fact is that some research has challenged this belief, suggesting that high reps primarily build strength, not endurance and resulting in conflicting data on the topic.

In 1982 two researchers from the University of Kentucky set out to resolve this conflict (6).  Specifically, they wanted to determine the effects of three different resistance training protocols – heavy weights / low reps (6-8 reps), medium weight / medium reps (30-40 reps), and light weights / high reps (100-150 reps).

They recruited forty-three untrained, healthy subjects and trained them with the bench press exercise three times per week for nine weeks with one of three training protocols.  The low rep group performed 3 sets x 6-8 reps maximum, the medium rep group performed 2 sets x 30-40 reps maximum, and the high rep group performed 1 set x 100-150 rep maximum.  Resistance was adjusted as needed to ensure each subject stayed in the appropriate rep range through the training program.

Before training began each subject was tested for their individual 1 rep maximum (1-RM), relative endurance and absolute endurance.  Relative endurance was determined by the maximum number of bench press repetitions they could complete with 40% of their 1-RM and adjusted as 1-RM changed, while absolute endurance was measured by how many reps could be completed with 27.23 kilograms.

At the end of the study all subjects were tested again for maximum strength, relative endurance, and absolute endurance.  All three groups improved maximum strength and absolute endurance.  The heavy weight / low rep group decreased in relative endurance while the other two groups increased relative endurance significantly.  The results of this study are shown in table 1.

Table 1:  Percent changes in max strength, absolute endurance, and relative endurance following strength training at three distinct repetition ranges

Training Group

% Change in Max Strength

% Change in Absolute Endurance

% Change in Relative Endurance

Heavy weight /

low rep

20.22

23.58

-6.99

Medium weight / medium rep

8.22

39.23

22.45

Light weight /

high rep

4.92

41.30

28.45

As can be seen from the data in table 1, the results of this study support DeLorme’s axiom.   Heavy weight / low reps do build strength, while light weights / high reps build endurance.  However, in contrast to DeLorme’s axiom, note that all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in maximum strength.  And all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in endurance, with the exception of the relative endurance of the low rep group.  So while low reps increase maximum strength more than do high reps and high reps increase endurance more than low reps the point is that resistance training significantly increases both strength and endurance.  The researchers commented on this same point.

“The reader should note, however, that with the exception of the relative endurance task for the high resistance low repetition group, all training protocols demonstrated significant improvements on each of the three criterion tests.”

Anderson and Kearney’s research went a long way to resolving the conflicting data on DeLorme’s axiom – heavy weights increase strength the most, high reps influence endurance the most, but all resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance.

In 1994 Stone and Coulter modeled a study after Anderson and Kearney’s study with the exception of using a less extreme rep range for the high rep group (7).  Stone and Coulter had their subjects perform either 3 x 6-8 reps, 2 x 15-20 reps, or 1 x 30-40 reps.  The results of this program supported the findings of Anderson and Kearney.  Strength and absolute endurance increased for all three groups.  The low rep group improved strength more than the other 2 groups and the high rep group improved endurance more than the lower rep groups.

The bottom line is that while DeLorme’s basic axiom is generally supported by this research, the fact is that resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance but to varying degrees depending on how many repetitions are performed.

What about alternating rep ranges?

The studies cited above have compared one rep range to another, high reps vs. low reps for example.  In every study researchers had subjects perform just one rep range and in each case heavy weights / low reps increased strength the most.  What the researchers never examined was how a program of multiple rep ranges compared to a program consisting of a single rep range.

In 2004 a group of researchers tackled this very question in a fascinating study of varying combinations of high and low rep training (8).  This group speculated that a combination type program that included both low and high reps would be more effective than a periodized program consisting of single repetition scheme during each training period or phase.

To test their hypothesis they recruited 17 untrained subjects, divided them into two groups, and then trained each group twice per week for 10 weeks.  Subjects were tested for maximum strength and muscular endurance pre- and post-training.  The first 6 weeks of training was designated as phase 1 and both groups trained exactly the same during this phase. Workouts consisted of two exercises (leg extensions & leg presses) for 3 sets x 10-15 reps.  At the end of this first phase of training there was no difference between the groups; both had significantly and equally improved strength and endurance.  This is not surprising since both groups trained exactly the same during phase 1.

During the final 4 weeks of the study, both groups conducted 5 sets x 3-5 reps of each exercise.  One group, the combi-type group, added a single set of 25-35 reps following their final low rep set.  At the end of the training program the combi-type group had increased their strength 58% more than did the other training group (14.7% vs. 9.3% respectively).  The results are displayed in table 2.

Table 2:  Set and rep ranges for 2 training phases and percent change in strength following phase 2.

Training Group

Phase 1 training

Phase 2 training

% Change in strength after phase 2

Strength type group

9 sets x 10-15 reps

5 sets x 3-5 reps

9.3 %

Combo type group

9 sets x 10-15 reps

5 sets x 3-5 reps,

1 set x 25-35 reps

14.7%

In their discussion of these findings, the researchers wrote,

“This suggests that the combi-type regimen caused a larger increase in dynamic muscular strength than did the strength-type regimen when combined with the hypertrophy-type regimen in a periodized fashion… This effect appears to be inconsistent with the classical principle operating in resistance-exercise training, in which low-repetition protocols are used for muscular strength and low-intensity, high-repetition protocols are used for muscular endurance.  Sensible combinations of high- and low-intensity protocols may therefore be more important to optimize the strength adaptation to resistance training.”

There were also significant differences in endurance between the two groups.  During phase 1 both groups increased endurance with no significant difference in the percent change.  However, the combo type group’s endurance continued to increase during phase 2, while the strength type group’s endurance decreased 4.2%.  The results are displayed in table 3.

Table 3:  Percent change in endurance following each phase of training and total percent change in endurance.

Training Group

Change in endurance, phase 1

Change in endurance, phase 2

Total Change in Endurance

Strength type group

28.5 %

-4.7 %

24.3 %

Combo type group

20 %

18.8 %

38.2 %

In summary, this study found that a combination program consisting of heavy weights / low reps and light weight / high reps was more effective for improving both strength and endurance than a traditional periodized training program consisting of a single rep range during each training phase.  This is truly a fascinating finding.

What Does All This Mean?

What are we to make of all this data on low and high rep strength training?  Based on this data I suggest that the evidence supports that resistance training consisting of a combination of reps is superior to a more traditional lower-rep strength training program.  While I’d like to see more research on this topic this data is enticing enough that I strongly recommend giving a combination of low rep / high rep training serious consideration.

Personally, I adopted a combination high and low rep program in 2007.  At that time I had been strength training consistently for 25 years (I started in 1982) and had tried pretty much every training program that had come down the pipe.  Changing to a combination program was the single best change I’ve ever made in terms of increasing strength.  Despite being in my mid-40s and many years past my prime I was able to increase my strength to the level it had been at during my mid-20s.  Too bad I didn’t discover this 25 years earlier.

What explains the results of a combination program?  What physiologically is happening within the body that produces such large strength gains?  Why does the addition of high rep training – training that has been conventionally viewed as endurance training – to a traditional low rep program produce greater gains in strength than a low rep program only?  I pondered this question for about a year until I finally arrive at the muscle factor model as the physiological explanation.  I believe this new model for how muscles function during exercise and how they adapt to exercise explains why a combination program is superior to single rep range training.  Based on this I chose the term Muscle Factor Training to describe combination training.

If you would like to try muscle factor training I suggest starting with the following. In addition to the low rep training you are already doing, add:

  • one set of 20 reps (range of 17 – 23 reps)
  • one set of 40 reps (range of 35 – 45 reps)

For example, let’s say your current training program includes 4 x 8-10 reps in the bench press.  You would replace 2 of those low rep sets with 1 set of 20 reps and 1 set of 40 reps.  Your new bench press program would look like this:

  • 2 sets x 8-10 reps
  • 1 set x 20 reps
  • 1 set x 40 reps
 

Summary

The old adage is that heavy weights / low reps build strength while light weights / high reps build endurance and a review of the research shows that the adage is basically true.  However, while that adage is basically correct it does not reveal the complete picture.  Strength increases from reps as high as 150 but if you are only doing one rep range then lower reps increase strength the most.

A combination of both high and low reps – what I call Muscle Factor Training – has been shown to increase strength significantly more than a traditional low rep, periodized type training program.  For those who are most interested in maximizing muscular strength and size this finding is significant and should be seriously considered when designing a strength training program.

Reference:

1.  Katch, Katch, McArdle, Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, 1996, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 427

2.  Muscle Limit Performance, Muscle Contractility

3.  DeLorme, Thomas L., Restoration of muscle power by heavy resistance exercise, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1945, 27:645-667.

4.  Stull G, Clarke D., High-resistance, low-repetition training as a determiner of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(2), 189-193

5.  Clarke D, Stull G., Endurance training as a determinant of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(1), 19-26

6.  Anderson T, Kearney J., Effects of Three Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength and Absolute and Relative Endurance, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1982, 53:1, 1-7.

7.  Stone WJ, Coulter SP., Strength/endurance effects from three resistance training protocols with women, J Strength Cond Res 8:231-234.

8.  Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, Kizuka T, Ishii N, Takamatsu K., Muscular Adaptations to Combinations of High- and Low-Intensity Resistance Exercises, J Strength Cond Res, 2004, 18(4), 730-737.


Comments

Muscle Factor Training – a new paradigm — 76 Comments

  1. Pingback: Muscle Factor Training – a new paradigm | Training Science

  2. The question of the ideal level of weight and number of reps is one that particularly interests me.

    I am 72 years old, and two years ago began strength training because I became aware that I had lost a lot of strength through age-related sarcopenia. Until recently I was following the traditional high-weight and low-reps formula as explained in McGuff and Little’s ‘Body by Science’. I have done pretty well on this regime, regaining quite a lot.

    However, in recent months I realised that I was not making further progress, and in any case was not enjoying the workouts. Fortunately, I became aware about this time that there was a school of thought which argued for lower weights and more reps, so I began to try this alternative. At present I am using 20 to 40 reps.

    Everyone’s experience will differ, of course, but I have found numerous benefits in this type of training. In the first place, it is much easier to maintain good form while doing the exercises, and thus (I believe) both improving the metabolic effect and reducing risk of injury.

    Second, I find that I am gaining strength again, as measured by the number of reps achieved.

    Third, I find the workouts much more satisfying and enjoyable, which is an important factor.

    The idea of combining two types of routine is an interesting one and I may experiment with it in due course.

    Here are some other article and papers that I have found useful:

    The Effect of High Rep Training on Strength and Size. (Also on this Training Science web site, p. 301.)

    Drew Baye: A Few Thoughts on Training Volume

    Clarence Bass: Intensity, What is It?

    Sandee Jungblut: The correct interpretation of the size principle and its practical application to resistance training

    • Michael,

      I’ve been talking to Clarence Bass for the past 2 months about the hypothesis that no matter how many reps a person does as long as they train to failure they will activate all their muscle fibers. Clarence believes, as does Jungblut and Carpinelli, that this hypothesis is true. Based on all the available research I don’t believe it to be true. It appears to me that Dr Carpinelli failed to examine the full body of available research as there were a number of studies that contradict his hypothesis that he failed to cite or discuss in his paper. While I suggest there is benefit in light weights / high rep training I don’t believe it replaces heavy weight / low reps. I think a person has to do both, has to do a variety of reps, in order to train as many muscle fibers as can be trained.

      Cheers,

      Rich

      • I have to respectfully disagree with Rich. But first lets clarify, “all muscle fibers” do you mean all types of fibers- fast twitch, slow twitch. Or do you mean all muscle fibers in a particular muscle?

        We all know when you lift a weight the body uses the slow twitch fiber first then as things get heavier the fast twitch fibers kick in. If you’re going for 3-5 RM the slow twitch fibers wont be of much help, however if you lift in your 25-30RM, the slow twitch fibers will do a lot more work before the fast twitch fibers have to kick in.

        When I am lifting in the zone, I use a shorten range of motion, and slightly slower speed, until I get to that point where the FT are kicking in at that point I also speed up the movement.

        Training in the lower reps is more about the CNS. If I have an inexperienced lifter and I want them to activate as many fibers as possible it makes much more sense to take them to failure with high reps then have them lift under 6 reps.

  3. Rich

    What reason did Clarence give you for rejecting the research that convinced you about muscle fiber activation and failure training?

    Omar

    • Omar,

      Clarence and I discussed my paper Intensity or Effort. I contended that the research I cited in my article clearly showed Dr Carpinelli’s interpretation of the research cited in his paper to be inaccurate. Clarence was unpersuaded, though he didn’t spell out his reasoning. We left it at agreeing to disagree.

  4. What about the order? Ascending or descending in term of % of 1rm? On what basis do you suggest a descending order? A Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (DeLorme ascending pyramid technique vs Oxford descending pyramid technique) suggests (slightly) the opposite.

    • Hi, Freebo.

      My logic for recommending heavy weight/low reps first, followed by lighter weights/higher reps later is this. It requires the most energy and effort to activate the largest of the fast twitch fibers so it seems reasonable and most effective to me to train those fibers when your energy levels are the highest, enabling the heaviest weight to be lifted and training the highest number of fibers.

  5. I also agree with performing to heavier sets first for the reasons Rich mentions. I also think it is much safer because it is harder to maintain safe form with a heavy weight. It seems logical to lift heavy when your concentration is freshest and you have as many fresh motor units as possible available to help control the load. IIA and IA motor units do fire off along with IIB when lifting very heavy weights too (though they don’t burn out during those sets of course) so I think it makes sense to not burn them out with high rep sets before handling weights that are challenging to control.

    I know the HIT guys like to go to failure with moderately heavy weights, which should sequentially burn out the motor units from slowest to fastest as the set moves along. Dr. Art De Vany has a similar approach, in doing a light weight for about 15 reps, followed by a moderate set of 8, and finally a heavy set of 4 with no rest between sets. I think the HIT approach does not take advantage of the benefit of bearing heavy loads and I think that De Vany’s approach is not as safe as lifting a heavier load first.

  6. Hi Rich,

    I would like to get your input on some modifications of the setup you provided above.

    Due to a busy schedule, I always work out first thing in the morning. My workouts are brief (about 30 mins) but frequent (usually daily), consisting of full body circuits composed mostly of the fundamental multijoint exercises, done for several rounds. Having become used to this routine, I can skip the warmup and still work out with reasonable resistance (TUL about 45-75 seconds per set) without undue risk of injury. As time is at a premium for me, I don’t want my workouts to become any longer.

    When taking over the descending rep scheme prescribed above (starting with high resistance in all exercises on the first round of the circuit, then gradually lowering it while the workout progresses) that might mean either higher injury risk, or having to add some warm up activities. Both are unacceptable for me, the latter due to time constraints.

    I see the following alternatives: I could either turn the rep scheme around into a descending pyramid (in terms of intensity). This would negate the need of a warmup, and make my training even safer than it is now. But as you already stated, it might also result in less effective recruitment of the most powerful fibres as there is already some exhaustion from the previous high-rep work. In order to minimize this effect, I could take care not to drive myself too hard on the first one or two rounds, but this would then decrease the effectiveness of the high-rep work – a true quandary.

    Another idea would be to daily rotate rep ranges between heavy, medium and low, and stick to one exclusive rep range per workout. On the heavy day, I’d have to reduce volume slightly to make room for warmup to be completed in the available time frame. Chad Waterbury’s program “Huge in a Hurry” is set up like this.

    What is your take on both ideas? Or would you suggest something completely different?

    Thanks,
    Florian

  7. I was trying this out; however, I find it hard to judge how hard to push on a 40 rep set without going to failure — how do you determine if you’ve fatigued your muscles enough during this final set if you’re not using failure as a measure?

    • Vanner,

      I suggest that with experience you will quickly get to the point where you will know that you are a rep or three away from failure. I don’t think there is anything wrong with training to failure but I don’t do it all the time either. Training to failure on high reps sets is useful early on for helping you gain the experience to gauge your level of effort.

      • Thanks Rich, I’ll experiment a little more. Most of my focus is in the 6-10 rep range which is very easy to judge due to the higher loads.

        Do you see any reason not to split the rep ranges over the course of a week using full body workouts (3-5 exercises); similar to daily undulating periodization?

        Workout A: 2 sets x 6-8 reps
        Workout B: 1 set x 20 reps
        Workout C: 1 set x 40 reps

        • Vanner,

          My personal preference is to train all the reps in one workout in order to give my muscles more recovery time between workouts. While you are fatiguing different subsets of fibers with workouts A, B, and C, there will still be some overlap – some fibers will be worked during all three workouts.

          That being said, some periodization research has found that doing as you suggest, using varying reps on different days, produced superior gains versus programs that varied reps over a period of weeks (such as 4 weeks of 6-8 reps followed by 4 weeks of 9-11 reps followed by 4 weeks of 12-15 reps).

          • Ah yes, I can understand your perspective on recovery. I personally am looking to gain strength without feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck within the subsequent days after a workout.

            One way I’m going to try and reduce DOMS and CNS fatigue from workouts is by not training to failure and limiting the volume in any single workout by spreading it out over the week.

            Based on the excellent research you’ve provided, I believe this strategy should meet my needs.

          • Speaking of recovery, I had an interesting revelation about 10 years ago. For the first 20 years that I lifted weights I got sore following every workout. Like most folks, if for some reason I missed a few weeks of training (it never happened often but it did occasionally happen) then I would get very sore after my first one or two workouts. But once I was back in the swing of things and training regularly I would still get sore following every workout. I didn’t get as sore, but there was always a noticeable level of soreness 24-36 hours following any workout. I thought that it was normal and that it indicated I was training hard and growing.

            Then an interesting thing happened when I changed to once-per-week strength training. Not only did a once-per-week program produce the best gains of any program I ever followed, I also stopped getting sore. Wow!, what a revelation. No more soreness, yet I’m improving like never before. I puzzled over it for a few weeks and finally was forced to admit that the soreness I had been experiencing for the previous 20 years was my body’s way of telling me that I had not fully recovered from my workouts. I was training each muscle too frequently and my muscles responded by getting sore. Instead of being a sign of a good workout, soreness was an indication of incomplete recovery. Once I began allowing my muscles sufficient time to recover they no longer got sore from my workouts. Ten years later nothing has changed – I still don’t get sore if I allow my muscles sufficient recovery time. At first I sort of missed the soreness but today will candidly admit it’s kinda nice not being uncomfortably sore for 2-3 days after every workout.

          • Hi Rich.

            did you just say you do strength training once a week? Woah. Norm is 48-72 hours of rest per muscle group, so how do you explain a near double rest time?

            Also, what do you do the rest of the week?

            thanks!

          • Hi, Kevin.

            Yes, I strength train only once per week. My back story is that I’ve been lifting for 34 years and during that time I have tried a wide variety of training routines and methods. The two best discoveries I ever made in terms of improving my results were a) decreasing from lifting multiple times per week to only once per week and b) adding one high rep set per exercise. I made the best gains of my life when I moved from multiple strength workouts per week to one strength workout per week. I wish I had discovered it in my 20s instead of my 40s.

            The 48–72 hour norm you mention comes from studies done on people on complete bed rest (hospitalized). Unfortunately, the results of these studies were wrongly believed to apply to normal, healthy individuals, most often expressed as the “72 hour rule”.

            The other days of the week I cross train. Through the years I’ve cycled, run, rowed, hiked, played racquetball, played basketball, roller bladed, and climbed.

  8. Am thinking about trying it but am a bit confused.

    Lets say I do 5-7 exercises per workout, do I have to do a high rep set for every single exercise or only for the last low-rep exercise ? I still haven’t tried it, but I feel like doing higher-reps sets for every single exercises will burn me out really fast and I will suffer in the other sets.

    • Ahmed,

      I do a high rep set for every exercise. However, I’m also following an abbreviated workout that consists of just 8-10 different exercises so a high rep set after each exercise is not excessive for me. If you are doing significantly more total exercises then I suggest adding a high rep set after the primary exercie for each bodypart. For example, let’s say you do bench press, incline press, and flyes for your chest. In this case I would only add a high rep set to the bench press exercise only.

      Rich

  9. I am curious as I haven’t seen anything posted about it in regards to strength training, What are your thoughts, and is there any data you have found that has your basic weight set plus the addition of a variable resistance ( kinda like power lifters do with the addition of chains on the bench bar to vary resistance as you lift)

    I am curious as I have decided to experiment a little with this method on bench and bicep curl.

    I found that without resistance I can lift 175 on bench 4 to 5 times ( all the weight plates I have unfortunately) but only 140 with the resistance ( it equaled out to about 190 at full lift)

    and on curl I can do 1 set of 4 reps with degrading reps per subsequent set. at 120 but can’t do even one set/rep with variable resistance at 60 pounds, but can do multiple sets of 5-7 reps at 50 pounds with variable resistance.

    what benefits does this have, can it activate different/variable muscle fibers in the continuum in one exercise rather then have to vary weight sets and reps?

  10. I would have to disagree strongly with doing the heavy sets first. Your muscles are most dangerous when they are the strongest, in terms of injury. Doing the light set first obviously is a great warm up. And the notion that you will not activate all of your muscle fibers is absurd. It is not like I HAVE to lift 200lbs in a bench press for 5 reps. If a muscle group is pre-fatigued, 160 may do the job the you would need 200 to do if you do the heavy set first. It seems more like ego is pushing the idea of doing the heavy sets first. I have bad knees. I would rather fatigue my body with a lighter weight in squats, and then NOT need quite as heavy a weight for a 4 or 5 rep heavy set. It is less ego satisfying, but makes more practical sense.

    • Great post Martin. This is similar to what myo-reps is about. Plus the experience of the lifter plays a huge roll. An elite lifter can fire the FT fibers almost at will, while an more novice lifter does not have that ability. But you can still hit those fibers if you take them to failure in high reps.

      • Hi, T-Bone.

        What research supports your claim that elite lifters can fire the FT fibers almost at will but the novice lifter does not have the ability to fire FT fibers?

        Cheers,

        Rich

        • That was a bit of hyperbole. Sorry I wasn’t saying a novice can’t express their FT fibers, I was saying in general an experienced athlete is better at it, and I exaggerated greatly, to get my point across.

          However as an example, think of a sprinter’s CNS on his first day vs the day he breaks the world record.

  11. Lol. Well, I guess I will not be on the cutting edge. Doing the longer lighter set first makes too much practical sense for me. It is a great warm-up and a great injury preventer. No putting muscles through too high an intensity when cold. I just re-started working out 5 weeks ago to deal with my blood pressure. I of course chose lower weight and higher reps. This was producing nice results, muscle and blood pressure wise. I then tried a follow on set of low and medium weights on various exercises. My first set range is 25-50. Neither my mind nor my muscles liked a low rep range 2nd set. A medium range felt great with my muscles and my mind.

    The split rep range is a great concept. Thanks for posting about it. I think it and I are going to get along well. Even if I am doing it backwards.

  12. I tried your suggestion for benchpress…

    2 sets x 8-10 reps
    1 set x 20 reps
    1 set x 40 reps

    …applied it to all my excercises and I love it!!

    There is only one problem. My 4 sets of barbell benchpress (each to failure) look like this:

    70kg x 9 reps
    65kg x 9 reps
    40kg x 17reps
    15kg x 40reps (!)

    I pause 60 seconds between sets. The positive movement is explosive, the negative is slow and controlled. As you can see, I cannot even lift the normal (20kg) barbell 40 times in the end because the chest is completely exhausted.

    Is it supposed to be like this? 15kg represents about 20% of my 1RM.

    Thanks for your great advice!

  13. Lubecke just ran a study showing an actual decrease in mass despite a strength gain. Wasn’t sure what to think now. Strength up but size gains suppressed. Diversity has a write up on it.

  14. Hello Rich,

    Would you like to share your workout routine?
    Do you workout only once a week?

    Do you think smaller muscles like biceps and triceps also need a week rest?

    Regarding high reps, Mr. America winner Doug Brignole claims he gets very good results using only high reps, the first set even 50 reps. Low reps didn’t do much for him he said in interviews.

    Interesting discussion!

    • Paul,

      I do a full body routine, once per week, consisting of:
      Sit-ups
      Pull-ups
      Rows
      Bench press
      Shoulder press
      curls
      tricep extensions
      Cleans (as in clean and press, but without the press)

      I do one heavy set of 8-12 reps and one high rep set of 30-40 reps on all exercises except the sit-up.

      I lift once per week.

      During my first 20 or so years of lifting I always did multiple workouts per week. For those 20 years I mostly worked out twice per week per bodypart but there were periods where I did a three times per week full body program. It was only by happenstance that I tried once per week and was delighted to discover how big of a difference it made for me.

      My belief is that all muscle cells need about the same amount of time to recover and grow, whether those muscle cells are found in smaller muscles or larger muscles. As best as I have been able to tell it doesn’t seem to matter the type of muscle cell – slow, intermediate, or fast – they take about the same amount of time to recover.

  15. Hi Rich,

    Thanks for sharing your routine, interesting that once a week training works good!

    I was wondering if the high rep set for example with the bench press doesn’t hinder the other exercises like the shoulder press?

    For pull-ups do you use a resistance (assistance) band for the second set?

    Is there a reason you don’t squat or deadlift?

    How many warm-up sets do you do?

    Is it possible to still make progress for you after many years of lifting, or do you use some form of periodization?

    Here is an interesting article from Doug Brignole about using high reps for muscle growth, I would like to share it: http://www.labrada.com/blog/workouts/whats-the-best-resistance-to-use-for-muscle-growth/

    Thanks for your information and keep up the good work!

    PS: Sorry if my writing is a bit lousy, I’m from Holland and English is not my native language. 🙂

    • For me, the high rep sets didn’t have much of an impact on the follow on heavy sets. When I initially added high reps it hindered the weight I could use on subsequent exercises (high rep bench press slightly decreased the weight I could press on my heavy shoulder press set). But I quickly adapted and the hindrance went away.

      I use an pullup assistance machine at the Y for my high rep pull ups.

      I did squats and/or deadlifts for about 28 years. I have (in the past year) moved to cleans because I wanted to add dynamic exercise to my routine.

      I don’t do any warm up sets. I warm up with the sit-ups.

      I started lifting at age 20 and have been very consistent with lifting since. I have made 2 discoveries during my life that have had significant impacts on my training. The single most effective training modification I have done in 30 years of lifting was to adopt a once per week program. I did that in my early 40s and made better gains with that program than anything I had ever done previously. The 2nd change was going to a mixed rep program of both heavy weight/low reps and light weight/high reps. When I added the light weight/high reps to my program my strength increased beyond what I had been able to lift in my early 30s.

      • Rich,

        Interesting information, I normally work out twice a week, doing also a full body routine. Perphaps I give your routine a try!

        Don’t you think a warm up with some lighter weights is necessary before the heavy work set though it’s only to “prime” the nervous system?

        When I do for example 2 or 3 reps with the same load as I use in the work set, I feel much stronger then starting directly with a heavy set. Curious to your thoughts about this.

        • I haven’t look at the research on the effect of warm-ups in at least 20 years…but as I recall, a warm-up set was shown to be beneficial in the manner that you describe – priming the muscles and making them stronger for the first heavy set. So, I don’t have anything against warm-up sets and even used to do them during my first 10 years of lifting. I just don’t do them anymore because I really didn’t see a difference for me.

  16. Tried your routine as I wrote on the February 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm above.

    The upper body lost mass and strength, but the legs gained mass and definition.Any idea why this could be the case?

    I love this training, It is the hardest training for legs only second to PITT force. The results however, are mixed.

    • James,

      Whenever someone starts losing size and strength then the first two things I look for are:
      1. Are they overtraining?
      2. Are they undertraining?

      Overtraining, in my opinion, is the primary reason a hard working trainee loses strength and size. Undertraining is also a possible reason but I believe more overtrain than undertrain.

      If the loss of strength and size follows a change in the training program then it’s reasonable to assume a cause-and-effect scenario where the change in the routine caused the loss of strength and size. This doesn’t mean other things couldn’t be responsible for the loss of strength and size but the first thing to look at is whether the new program is the cause.

      In your case, I would experiment with the program – decrease the volume of work to see if that makes any difference in your results. If you decrease volume and then start regaining your size/strength then you were likely training beyond your body’s ability to recover. If cutting back has no effect, go the other way and increase volume.

      Training puts a stress on muscles. Muscles respond to that stress, they adapt and gain in fitness and capability. If you are stressing your muscles and their response is to get weaker and smaller, then most likely the volume of stress is inappropriate (either too high or too low).

  17. I wonder if the success of this, and other non-orthodox workout schemes, are nothing more than staleness busters. You workout using a 5 set 8-12 rep scheme. It works for a while, then it stops working. It gets stale. Your body becomes too accustomed to that workout. Then you go to an 8×5 scheme, and it works for a while, then goes stale. Then you go to a 3×20 scheme. I think it is all about change. You can’t just do the same things all the time and expect it to work. You have to make changes every 6 to 8 weeks. Maybe every 3 to 4 weeks.

    • You absolutely have to change what you are doing every single week. Whether its set, reps, or weight something has to change ( increase ). If all 3 variables stay the same then you will maintain your current strength and size ( if you’re at your desired physique and strength then there’s nothing wrong with this, you’ve made your goal! )

  18. Can’t help but notice that combo-type group was simply doing more work — they added an extra high-rep set. So all of it could simply mean that more intense work resulted in more gains. It is possible that replacing that extra set with 2 another low-reps sets would result in even more strength growth.

    Without others reproducing these results, and disproving alternate explanations, this can not be used as a proof that adding high-reps is beneficial for strength training. There are just so many ways how these results can be interpreted.

    • Cant’ believe this wasn’t mentioned until the final post…and that post killed the thread! I agree, I can’t understand why the study developers thought that was reasonable study design. Of course adding work added to results. Even the website owner in his implementation suggests swapping out low rep sets for the high rep sets in a current program. How the study designers did not think to do this is irresponsible and invalidates and conclusions that can be gleaned from their research.

      • brak,

        No study is ever perfect. I don’t have a PhD so I am not qualified to definitively say if the study design is fatally flawed. That being said, I can tell you that I’ve been lifting for 30 years and added high reps to my program about 5 years ago. The addition of the high reps was one of the two most effective and productive things I’ve done in 30 years of lifting. It works for me. I believe it will work for most trainees.

        • Drawing conclusions from single case, especially personal experience, is even worse than (clearly) flawed study.

          How do you know you wouldn’t gain exactly as much without adding those high-rep sets? Maybe in your case you were not recovering enough (common case for dedicated athletes), and these easy sets only helped because overall amount of weekly load was reduced — in which case not doing them at all would help gain even more.

          Or vice versa, maybe they increased load and that was what you needed, since you didn’t say if you just added them or replaced some other exercises with them.

          Or maybe you are right and little extra endurance is what been holding you back.

          Or maybe what you mean by “works for me” is merely a feeling that you have become better, not backed up by numbers from your workout diary which would clearly indicate increased progress. This is also very, very common.

          Or maybe some unrelated change that you didn’t notice was the real reason for improvement.

          Have you found other people that feel high-rep sets helped? Have you additionally found a clear lack of people who tried them and got nothing? That would be a bare minimum for even suggesting that “it works”.

          • Eugene,

            Without knowing any details of my 30 year training history you have understandably brought up alternative reasons as to why the addition of high reps may not have been the reason for the improvements I experienced when I added them. I’m not going to take the time to respond to each point you made, instead I’m going to leave it at “We are all an experiment of one.” I’ve tried many, many different training programs over my 30 year lifting history and after years of experimenting to find out what works for me personally, I believe I have done so.

            The only way anyone will discover if the addition of high reps will be effective is to try it, just as I have.

  19. Great response, Rich. I agree entirely. Although it may be heresy in a training science site, the fact is that most exercise studies are flawed, inconclusive, or subject to competing interpretations. In the end, you’ve got to figure out what–if anything–works for you. It’s really easy to criticize and snipe: that’s why the internet is packed with so many trolls (not that I believe Eugene is a troll). But actually taking the time to digest what the research seems to suggest and then to it apply it is a lot harder. It helps to document the effect of different regimens, as Eugene suggests, but I don’t know that you didn’t, and a subjective sense that something is working should not just be dismissed. After all, even if you carefully document gains from a new method, you probably couldn’t be sure that confounding variables weren’t affecting what the diary is showing. With regard to other people’s experience, I would note that a standard bodybuilding routine over the years involved ramping to a top set and then finishing off with one or two high rep “down sets” to or near failure. Many bodybuilders did this and claimed good results from it. I also had a friend who was a powerlifter (and who looked like a bodybuilder) who structured his routine the same way and swore by it. Now, I guess I’ll get accused of spouting mere anecdotal, undocumented evidence. And you know what? The accuser would be right! So what?

    • Adam,

      It just isn’t exercise science – it’s most research. No study is perfect, at least none of the many hundreds that I’ve read over the years has ever been perfect.

      In the years that I’ve been doing this I have encountered a number of people who are quick to point out weaknesses in studies – especially studies that challenge dearly held beliefs – and then to imply that those weaknesses invalidate the research. My question for those folks is always “what perfect research did you rely on to create your current training beliefs and methods?” I’ve yet to have anyone respond with a body of perfect research supporting their beliefs. Usually the truth is that their beliefs are founded on a combination of personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and maybe a few studies which are invariably less-than-perfect.

      As one of my Professors said to me many years ago during a spirited discussion on the validity of a research study, “Rich, you have to believe something.” He was exactly right – we all decide what it is we are going to believe. Those beliefs can be formed from the best available information or they can be formed based on other factors. For me, I chose to base my beliefs on science & research. I acknowledge and recognize that no research is perfect but, for me, research is materially more reliable than the alternatives.

      All that being said, each one of us still has to determine if something works or does not work for us individually. At best, research studies can only tell us what works for the majority – it never tells us what will or will not work for us individually or how well something will work for us individually. There is too much genetic variation across the human species for any research to definitively tell each and every person what will and won’t work for that person.

  20. so do you mean when your once a week full body work out is done will you still be able to do some kind of exercises ie. cardio or boxing training would this jeopardize my body building progress.thanks

    • Generally, most other forms of training won’t jeopardize your bodybuilding progress. However, if you engage in extensive aerobic training you could retard your bodybuilding progress. When I say extensive aerobic training I’m talking about very large amounts of endurance training such as marathon running or training for the Tour de France. There is some evidence that long distance running reduces the rate of strength and size gains.

  21. Mixing the sets, i.e. low weight/high reps, and high weight/low reps makes sense to me.

    Here’s my question: Do you think that this concept can be extended to sport specific training? For example, train running, cycling, rowing, etc with both high resistance/low reps and low resistance/high reps in the same session? Would this be advantageous? For instance, Before my 100 mile bike ride, I’d do a set of max effort short uphill sprints on the bike.

    Love your site and viewpoints.

    • Hi, Erik.

      The concept applies to most sports. In fact it was running that helped me figure this stuff out. I have both ran and lifted weights since the early 1980s. As a runner I spent a lot of time studying run training programs and I noted that all running programs are built around three core workouts – sprints or hills, tempo runs, and long distance runs. Several generations of run training have shown that runners that train using all three types of workouts perform better than if they don’t use them regularly. Physiologists have attempted to explain why it’s necessary to include all three types of workouts in order to reach maximum performance by preaching that it has to do with the body’s ability to process oxygen, using words like aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, and running economy. My physiological explanation is a bit different – I suggest it is because different muscle fibers are being trained at the varying power outputs required by the three workouts.

  22. Hello Rich,
    I’m a bit of a novice so please excuse me if I’m somewhat ignorant…
    I’m not sure I’ve got your suggestion, isn’t the low rep exercise is low rep because it is the maximum weight you can use for this many times?

    I didn’t see (perhaps I missed it?) where you said the weight should be changed so I pressume it stays the same. If so, then how can I do 40 reps for what I couldn’t do more than 20?

    Thank you very much!

    Ah, and also great site!

    • Anders,

      No matter how many reps are being done, I’m assuming the trainee is using a weight that prevents them from doing more than the goal number of reps. So, if I wanted to do a set of 8 reps I would pick a weight that would allow me to complete 8 reps but not 9. In other words, I would pick a weight that was my 8 rep max weight. If I wanted to do 20 reps I would pick a weight that allowed me to complete 20 reps but not 21. Same with 40 reps – pick a weight that allows me to do a max of 40 reps.

      Of course, I’m estimating the weight for each set. The weight I chose for 8 reps in a particular exercise might be a little too light and I end up being able to do 9 or 10 reps with that weight. That being the case, I will add a little weight on my next workout.

  23. Hi Rich,

    I have really enjoyed your articles about Muscle Factor Training. I just came across a new study which seems relevant within the context of widely differing rep ranges:

    http://www.ergo-log.com/at-failure-set-with-light-weights-before-your-regular-sets-more-muscle-strength-more-muscle-mass.html

    The results are almost too good to be true: a high-rep preexhaustion set about doubled strength and size gains within the given timeframe.

    The researchers hypothesize that this effect is due to type I fiber burnout during the preexhaustion, and subsequently increased type II fiber recruitment during the work sets. This sounds convincing, at least to me.

    However, when putting these ideas into practice I find that working out at 20% of 1RM can be quite difficult: Some exercises cannot be scaled down that much (especially if they involve bodyweight, like pullups, pushups, squats, dips), and also it is hard to reach “true” failure.

    But when a higher resistance is selected for the preexhaustion set, the focus on type I fibers will probably be less selective, and therefore it is doubtful whether the desired effect can still be achieved.

    What are your thoughts about this? Would this study make you reconsider the workout sequence which is usually recommended (heavier weights first)? A penny for your thoughts!

    Greetings from Germany,
    Florian

    • Hi, Florian.

      Thanks for letting me know about that study. I haven’t seen it previously and am interested in reading the full text. My initial impression, not having read the full text, is that we now have 2 studies showing that a combination of high & low reps & weights causes a greater increase in strength than a program consisting of only heavy weights/low reps.

      Also, I do not concur with the hypothesis that the effect could be due to type I fiber burnout during the high rep set and the subsequent increase in type II fiber recruitment. First, I question whether there is much fiber I burnout. Muscular failure probably occurs somewhere around 40-50 reps when using 20% 1RM in the leg extension. If so, then a set would take about 2-3 minutes or so to complete. That would be too short of a time to fatigue slow twitch fibers. Instead, I suggest type IIA fibers (intermediate fibers), which take 1.5 – 5 minutes to fatigue, are the primary fibers being worked during sets of 2-3 minutes.

      Finally, as to exercise order, it’s interesting to me that one study added high reps after the heavy sets and the other study did the high reps prior to the heavy sets yet both studies showed significantly greater increases in strength due to the addition of the high rep set. My conclusion is that either method works. But we don’t know if one works better than the other. My thought is that it requires more mental intensity to perform the heavy sets so I would tend to do those first when my brain and enthusiasm are the highest.

      • Dear Rich,

        Thanks for the detailed answer. Your analysis makes sense.

        In the past, I have followed the heavy-light setup whenever combining different rep ranges in one workout. This also made more sense to me because I didn’t want my performance on the heavy sets to suffer from previous lighter sets.

        After reading this study about a week ago however, I have experimented with a light-heavy sequence, and at the moment I like this setup very much. It is time-efficient because no warmup is necessary, and it also places more priority on the high rep set – I feel that the mental energy I previously needed to attack heavy weights can also be expended very productively on the mental toughness needed to push a high-rep set through till the very end, regardless of the burn.

        Also, I have lowered the resistance on the high-rep set even more, and I’ve found that I can even do 60-70 rep sets and end them on “true” concentric failure (which means that I really cannot lift the resistance another time, and it’s not just lack of pain tolerance or boredom compelling me to finsih the set). As a reward, I get a kind of “runner’s high”, caused probably by the release of endorphins to make the prolonged burn more bearable. According to the hypothesis of the researchers about selectively hitting the type I fibers, going too light should not be a concern at all, but according to your above qualification, I might have to reconsider.

        Once more, thanks for setting up this great website, and replying to all the comments. I look forward to any new articles on resistance training!

        Greetings,
        Florian

  24. Hi Richard,

    Do you think it makes a difference whether one chooses to combine higher and lower reps in the same workout, or whether one alternates between different rep ranges in subsequent workouts?

    For several weeks now I have been following the first approach, and have profited concerning both strength and size.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, as the saying goes.

    Still, I’d like to experiment with the latter setup because of psychological preferences (I love doing one set to failure type stuff) and time efficiency.

    Are you aware of any evidence that would make one of these approaches clearly superior to the other?

    Greetings from Germany,
    Florian

    • Florian,

      My personal choice is to combine the two into one workout. I do that so that, overall, each whole muscle has additional time to recover. That being said, it may not make a difference. I’m not aware of any research that has been done on the topic so it comes down to personal experimentation to see which one works best for you.

      Cheers,

      Rich

  25. Thanks for your quick reply. I have done some workouts now working with high reps exclusively, and they have felt quite invigorating. I’ll see how it goes, I can always go back to the combination approach.

    Greetings, Florian

    • Florian,

      Please let me know how it goes – I’m very interested to see what your results are.

      Cheers,

      Rich

  26. Rich,

    I am extremely interested in your science based results. I have begun instituting a program based off of some of your findings. I would love to learn more. Do you give clinics or anything like that?

  27. Rich,

    Back in the late 80’s I did that 100’s workout as it was called under the direction or Rory Liedlemeyer. He learned about from Jeff Feliciano. I made great gains on that program especially in in my most resistant body parts. After having read your article, I have been inspired to add high rep sets. I am doing one set of 7-12 reps, followed by one set of 30-50 reps, then one set of 60-100 reps for each body part. After years of stagnation I am surprised to see my 7-12 reps sets increase every workout! Thank you for your blog.

    • David,

      You are very welcome. I had forgotten Rory’s name until you mentioned it. I recall the articles in Muscle and Fitness about him and 100 rep sets. Thanks for the reminder.

      Rich

  28. It seems that the protocol you are describing and advocating here is essentially reverse pyramid training (RPT), which seems to be very effective for all aspects of muscle development.

    • I disagree that the protocol I recommend is similar to reverse pyramid training. In 30 years I have encountered very few (one or two) strength programs that advocate reps above 20 and most advocate no more than 15 reps. (I am not including warm up sets – I am only referring to “work sets”, those sets done to elicit a training response, not the sets done to “warm” the muscles by doing a high rep set and a low intensity of effort.) No matter how you arrange the rep scheme, multi-set workout programs that do not exceed a maximum of 15 reps in a set are not, in my mind, the equivalent of a program that includes work sets of 30-40 (or even higher) reps.

  29. This is an old post, but I like it. I recently began experimenting with it in regards to bodyweight training with a few small tweaks. I love contrast training. Explosive -> Heavy. I also like this. So I combined them.
    For chest:
    3 Plyo-Pushups (currently Aztec for me)
    Rest 10-20 seconds
    5-6 One-Arm Pushups
    Repeat 1 more time (2 total sets)

    1 set of 20 Pushups
    1 set of Pushups to exhaustion

    I’ll do this 1-2x weekly depending if I have an event coming up. This can be used with virtually any muscle group.

    Have a good one, and thank you for the great post.

  30. Hello Rich.

    Thank you for this very interesting article. It appears that my experience in the iron game is somewhat similar to yours.

    About 10 years ago, when I was 49, after spending a long time in various four-day, every-exercise-twice-per-week programs, I switched to a three-day-a-week, each-lift-once-per-week program. Three work sets per exercise using the “standard” rep ranges (4-6, 8-10. It was, without question, the best training-related decision I ever made. I had stagnated, not surprisingly, on the twice-per-week regimen, even losing strength in some instance. Almost immediately in the new program, I began to feel more energized and began again to make progress in terms of strength. Plus, benching once per week instead of twice has, in and of itself, probably saved my shoulders. I have continued to do sets of 4-6 or 8-10 reps, although in recent months I have been doing more higher-percentage, lower-rep work. I have no doubt that I am better off now than I would have been had I stayed with the twice-per-week routine.

    I look forward to giving your program – adding a high-rep set – a try. I find your reasoning to be well founded and quite persuasive. Hopefully, after some time, I can report back that it has provided a positive spark to my workout regimen.

    Cheers.

  31. Rich
    I read an article stating that muscle can recover after 48 hours, and any rest thereafter is plain rest (wasted time). They were advocating the ability to train that muscle again after 48 hours. Meaning that one can train full body 3 times a week (6 days, 1 day rest) It is because of DOMS that people train the same muscle after several days, not only because it hasn’t recovered. A youtube clip demonstrated how training one muscle group many times per session once per week was not as effective as doing less sets (per week) but training them more frequently. So, one might do the same amount of sets training one muscle group 2-3 times a week as one all out session in a day, but quality improves when training less volume, coupled with more times per week, its likely to stimulate faster gains. What do you think?

    • Greg,

      The belief that muscles recover after 48 hours is based on research on bed ridden people and was, improperly in my view, extrapolated to apply to healthy, normal people. There has been scant research examining the rate at which muscles, or people, recover from training. Of the research that has been done, it has indicated that a) recover does not always occur in 48 hours – harder training takes longer to recover from and b) not all people recover at the same rate – some recover very quickly (hours) while others take much longer (multiple days) to recover. My personal experience from 30+ years of training is that it takes me much longer than 48 hours to recover.

      Rich

  32. I loves this idea. It parallels running in that it demontrates the fallacy perpetuated by some mixed martial arts trainers who errantly think HIIT training is superior to long slow running, much in the same way it has long been touted that high weight low repetition is superior. Superior fitness, I believe, is achieved by training across the full spectrum of intensities. MMA fighters who don’t train for endurance are obviously vulnerable to a strategy involving stretching the fight out to a bonk.

    I think perhaps the common factor across the spectrum, whether it is muscle training or aerobic training, is growth hormone release and that determined by level of accumulated stress. You can reach HGH release a lot faster with high weight low repetition (HIIT), but that doesn’t mean you can’t eventually accumulate enough stress in high rep/low weight sessions (long slow runs).

    The question arises, how much of each produces a similar stress result? I’ve delved into this idea with my running. I’ve discovered a relationship between the amount of running at various heart rates with the release point I feel with runner’s high. I can tell when I’m nearing this point* with a pressure I feel in my head that I must push through, then I can sense my running becoming a little easier. I noted these times and added about 33.3% more time for continued elevation of HGH, after which HGH release tends to taper off.*

    Of course nothing beats actual scientific measurement of HGH with accumulated running time at various heart rates, but I evolved an equation for my own use that suggests the amount of time required for equivalent stress/release across the intensity spectrum of running.

    time(%HR) = 120 min * (1/2)^ [(HR%-0.65)/0.06]

    In other words, the amount of stress or HGH release in 120 minutes of running at 65% HRmax (runner high at 90 minutes) geometrically halves every 6% change in HR/HRmax. e.g. 120 minutes at 65%, 60 minutes at 71%, 30 minutes at 77%, 15 minutes at 83% and 7.5 minutes at 89%. (The latter two are intervals, so sum the time spent at intensity only.)

    Maybe the author can relate this idea to weight lifting.

    *see chart on this page tracking HGH release through a run described in the article. http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2016/08/growth-hormone-may-rise-300-percent.html

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