Create: 07/03/2010 - 01:15
A Few More Tips for the Beginning Master Lifter. By William Duncan When it comes to sets and reps, Iâ€™ve done it all â€“ pyramids, drop sets, doubles, triples, sets of four, sets of five, even sets of ten. And what did I learn from all this? Anything works if you put in effort and everything works for a season. So Iâ€™ll throw some ideas your way and do with them what you will. There will be a broad range of training ideas and youâ€™ll have to weigh the alternatives. OK, take Joe Pussgut (that is a monicker that a friend and training partner in Oregon used to describe out of shape middle-aged guys who would show up in the gym once a year). Well, Joe shows up one day while Iâ€™m squatting; kind of skulks around; and when Iâ€™m finished my set and out of breath, Joe asks the question, â€œWhose routine are you using?â€ Now that tells me that Joe has money and has been reading bodybuilding magazines, but itâ€™s also a legitimate question. Joe goes on to say, â€œIâ€™m new here. Do you know anyone I could lift with?â€ You may remember several weeks ago a video that got posted on PowerliftingWatch.com about the powerlifter and the other guy. The annoying bot kept questioning the powerlifter to the point where the lifter would respond that â€œ(so and so) is a p*ssy.â€ Well Joe is about to cross into that territory. Anyway, I look at Joe, take a few plates off the bar, and say, â€œGet under here and show me what youâ€™ve got.â€ If Joe says something about squats being bad for your back or something about how much he pushes on the 45ï‚° leg press, the conversationâ€™s over. On the other hand, if Joe actually gets under the bar and attempts to lift the weight â€“ whether successfully or not â€“ I will proceed. My perspective is that Joe (or you) needs to understand that you canâ€™t always do everything at the same time (kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly); you can get in shape, build strength, or train for competitionâ€¦but not all at the same time. If youâ€™re just starting out with strength training and youâ€™re in your 40s or 50s (or older), you probably want to sneak up on the weights. The biggest mistake I make (as in â€˜Iâ€™ve done this more than onceâ€™), is go too heavy, too fast. Remember that I said Iâ€™m inconsistent in my training, so Iâ€™m always trying to â€œget into shape (wink, wink, nod, nod).â€ In an amusing, yet painful, attempt to combine my love of lifting with my need for cardiovascular conditioning, Iâ€™ve come up with something I call â€œCrossFatâ€ (no, not CrossFit â€“ donâ€™t make that mistake). In old school terms, this is like a superset of high-rep/low weight squats, benches, and deadlifts for time. Even watching it is not for the squeamish. Bottom line â€“ my advice (ugh, the word gives me cold chills) is to take a month (3 workouts a week for three weeks) and focus on light weight and getting good form developed. I think I mentioned a system called Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.). This system is based on the work of a guy named Prilepin, who suggested that there is an optimal range of reps, sets, and weights in training. I donâ€™t read Russian and am suspicious of translations, so I donâ€™t guarantee that Iâ€™m applying this â€œcorrectly,â€ but I think my suggestion is consistent with Prilepinâ€™s idea that as training weight increases, the total number of repetitions will have to decrease in order to manage recuperation and avoid injury. If I were starting over (after a meet or after a layoff), Iâ€™d consider doing a month of two sets of 12 reps or three sets of 10 reps in each of the competition lifts â€“ squat, bench press, and deadlift â€“ not counting any warmup. Now, how much weight would I use for these sets/reps? Iâ€™d say no more than 50% of my previous (or calculated) one rep max (1RM). Iâ€™d do all three in one workout, and do other lifts â€“ hip sled, leg extensions, leg curls, lat pulldowns, you know what Iâ€™m talking about â€“ the other days I train. Remember, you asked for this (i.e. my opinion). If itâ€™s me, for real, Iâ€™d probably just jump in with 8 sets of 3 or 12 sets of 2, but I donâ€™t want anyoneâ€™s estate suing my tushy off after someone keels over in a gym with a printout of this article nearby (buyer beware â€“ you get what you paid for). Since I tend to work in 12 or 16 week training cycles, after a month of â€œconditioning,â€ Iâ€™d start training for real. Please pay attention here (if you pay attention at all) â€“ it takes longer for us to recuperate, so if you overtrain and end up with strains, pains, or tears, youâ€™re screwed. If you are OCD and see numbers and shut your brain off, youâ€™re also screwed. My guess is that you have not made it to middle age by being stupid, so donâ€™t start now. Prilepin suggests a total of about 24 reps for the 55%-65% of 1RM range; about 18 total reps for the 70%-75% range; 15 for the the 80%-85% range; and under 10 total reps for the 90+% of 1 RM range. These are estimates, not legally binding. For me, I do a month of conditioning (below 70%), a month in the 70-80% range (normally 6 sets of 3 or 9 sets of 2); a month in the 80-90% range ( 5 sets of 3 or 6 sets of 2); and two weeks in the 90+% range (2 sets of 3, 3 sets of 2, or 4 singles). Those are my numbers. Now, when I start training for a meet, I tend to work squats and deadlifts once a week (or once every 10 days to 2 weeks for deadlifts), but upper body twice a week (my bench sucks, so I need the extra work). I will do one big lift per workout and add auxiliary work when I take the extra time (this largely depends on if and who I have as a workout partner). Since I currently work out in a shed in my back yard, I tend to get in and get outâ€¦squats Monday or Tuesday, benches Wednesday, and deadlifts on Saturday or Sunday. I donâ€™t live in the gym (but I do live in a van down by the river â€“ just kidding), so I do what I do and get out. For me, thereâ€™s a wife, three kids, two dogs, a mother, one or more jobsâ€¦you get the idea. I lift and leave. I also compete in spurts (excuse me, I mean seasons, starting in May and ending in October), so I actually use meets to train for meets.