Graduating From Single Set to Fail

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KenDowns
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Graduating From Single Set to Fail

Post by KenDowns » Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:02 pm

I'm approaching 6 months of lifting, and have gotten my advice and information almost exclusively from exrx.net website and forums. Thanks to everybody.

In the beginning, the best advice I found was on the website with its explanation of doing a single set to fail. I cannot understate how important this was for me as a beginner, because it eliminated all kinds of second-guessing and wondering about what to do. Everything was a single number: rep count. Less than 8, too much weight. More than 12, not enough weight.

Up until last week, doing five basic compounds, one set each to fail (or near fail for things like squats) would leave me wiped out. In the beginning I would sometimes conk out completely after a workout. But this past week I finally broke out of that, at the end of doing 5 basic compounds and 4 auxiliaries (my heavy day) I found I still had lots of energy and was itching to do more.

So I am wondering what the simplest next step is. I've seen discussions of 5 x 5 (if I understand that correctly) but that seems a big leap.

Is it as simple as just adding a second set to fail? Is there any advantage to making the second set more weight? Less weight?

Thanks...

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Post by NightFaLL » Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:21 pm

I think you should keep weight constant across the boards, typically.

I'd just simply add another set to each exercise and see how that feels - building up volume adaptation is really helpful when it comes to strength/size increases.

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Post by Jungledoc » Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:32 pm

This may be a slightly different direction than you were wanting to go, but I wanted to address the lifting to failure issue. I have gradually evolved my attitude about this until now I try to NEVER lift to failure. I want every rep to be as near perfect as possible, and every set to leave at least one in the tank. I think this is even more important for us old guys, but I think it's best for everyone.

Here's part 1 of a 5-part series of blogs by Jason Ferruggia (my current favorite training guru). These articles are really clear, and I think he is right on about this.

So yeah, add sets, go to "5x5" (and there are many different versions of this), Starting Strength (which is a 5x5 template) or StronLifts. But whatever you do, get away from lifting to failure.

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Post by Jebus » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:40 pm

You don't need to destroy your self every workout. It's about adding weight to the bar and for a begginer that should be daily (every training day).

As for your question, it depends on what your goal is, mass? Strength? Or both?

If your goal is strength, then raise the weight, lower the amount of reps and sets of 3-5 are good.

As you progress, your body will be able to recover faster then before, which is why you have more energy. Which tells me the weight your using is not enough to stress the muscles and cause adaptation.

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Post by nygmen » Sat Feb 05, 2011 10:35 pm

Sorry Doc, but this is guy can't even be serious with this...

Don’t ever let it get the best of you and start squirming and slowly grinding your way to the finish.

When you do that you’re fv(k.

Plain and simple.

Never do slow, grinding death reps. And NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training or have a partner assist you in getting the weight up.

Never, ever, ever? (Andre 3000 asks)

NEVER!!!

When you miss a rep you may as well take the rest of whatever training cycle you’re on off. Because your chances of going up next workout after a missed rep that actually came back down on you are pretty dismal. My advice would to take a week off and start something new.
I know everyone is different but give me a break. Take a week off because you miss a rep? $h1t most people would work out 3 days a year. I missed a rep just two weekends ago, and then hit a 3 rep PR the next session... insanity, I know...

Should you go to failure all the time? No Should you grind out a rep now and again, yes. If you weight until that 5 or 10lbs jump would be easy you'll never make progress after newb gains are gone.

Never use a spot????? Is this all just a tongue in cheek joke?

as to the OP:

Do more than one set

RAMP YOUR DAMNED WEIGHTS, if you can do 5 sets of the same weight for the same reps it is too light to make progress.

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Post by NightFaLL » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:08 pm

nygmen wrote:Sorry Doc, but this is guy can't even be serious with this...

Don’t ever let it get the best of you and start squirming and slowly grinding your way to the finish.

When you do that you’re fv(k.

Plain and simple.

Never do slow, grinding death reps. And NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training or have a partner assist you in getting the weight up.

Never, ever, ever? (Andre 3000 asks)

NEVER!!!

When you miss a rep you may as well take the rest of whatever training cycle you’re on off. Because your chances of going up next workout after a missed rep that actually came back down on you are pretty dismal. My advice would to take a week off and start something new.
I know everyone is different but give me a break. Take a week off because you miss a rep? $h1t most people would work out 3 days a year. I missed a rep just two weekends ago, and then hit a 3 rep PR the next session... insanity, I know...

Should you go to failure all the time? No Should you grind out a rep now and again, yes. If you weight until that 5 or 10lbs jump would be easy you'll never make progress after newb gains are gone.

Never use a spot????? Is this all just a tongue in cheek joke?

as to the OP:

Do more than one set


RAMP YOUR DAMNED WEIGHTS, if you can do 5 sets of the same weight for the same reps it is too light to make progress.
I wouldn't say that - I can squat 405 for 5x5, but if I did 315, 345, 375, 405, 435 I wouldn't get 5 on that last set, to give an example.

What's the point of me doing a set of 5 at 315 if I can get a set of 5 at 405? It's wasted energy, in my opinion.

If anything, you should be doing reverse-pyramid sets - start as heavy as you can get ~5 reps for, then go lower weight/higher reps.

No point in wasting energy up to your heavy set, it's just silly to do beyond weight accustomizing/warmup

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Post by nygmen » Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:59 am

NightFaLL wrote:
I wouldn't say that - I can squat 405 for 5x5, but if I did 315, 345, 375, 405, 435 I wouldn't get 5 on that last set, to give an example.

What's the point of me doing a set of 5 at 315 if I can get a set of 5 at 405? It's wasted energy, in my opinion.
Well to be honest, that ramp up is a bit much IMO anyway. Something like
225x9-12
315x6
365x2
405x5
455xas many as possible

Would be better. At least for me. (Well with my leg I have to start much lighter.)

And if you need more volume, I would drop to a widow...

I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of straight sets, and I feel like 9 times out of 10 it holds a newb back. But straight sets do have their place at times for volume purposes, so they shouldn't be written off at all. That's not what I'm saying.

Point is, OP needs more volume than he currently has, if not right now, he will soon.

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Post by NightFaLL » Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:36 pm

nygmen wrote:
Point is, OP needs more volume than he currently has, if not right now, he will soon.
Agreed

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Post by Ironman » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:06 pm

One thing I want to add, is that momentary muscle failure is part of high volume training. It's different than going to failure after you have fully recovered, which is taxing on the CNS.

I think failure training is good sometimes in bodybuilding. However for strength, I don't think it should be done very much. I never go to failure during a strength phase. Well, not intentionally anyway.

I have found switching between a high intensity, a high volume and a 5X5 type program to work very well for bodybuilding. You do one for a certain period of time, deload and then move to a different one.


Isolation stuff is kind of an exception. Going to failure with those shouldn't be a problem.

But yea, more volume is the key in this case, as others have said.

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Post by stuward » Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:44 pm

Regarding the 5x5, there were a couple of different schemes presented here. One extreme is what I'll call the Pavel 5x5 where you go straight across, the same weight for 5 sets. You might not get all 5 reps each set but that's OK. You keep at that weight until you do. Then there's what I'll call the Starr 5x5 where each set is 12.5% less than the following set. Neither is wrong. Both work. I've tried both and they're quite different and provide different stimulus.

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Post by Jungledoc » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:11 pm

nygmen wrote:Sorry Doc, but this is guy can't even be serious with this...

Don’t ever let it get the best of you and start squirming and slowly grinding your way to the finish.

When you do that you’re fv(k.

Plain and simple.

Never do slow, grinding death reps. And NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training or have a partner assist you in getting the weight up.

Never, ever, ever? (Andre 3000 asks)

NEVER!!!

When you miss a rep you may as well take the rest of whatever training cycle you’re on off. Because your chances of going up next workout after a missed rep that actually came back down on you are pretty dismal. My advice would to take a week off and start something new.
I know everyone is different but give me a break. Take a week off because you miss a rep? $h1t most people would work out 3 days a year. I missed a rep just two weekends ago, and then hit a 3 rep PR the next session... insanity, I know...

Should you go to failure all the time? No Should you grind out a rep now and again, yes. If you weight until that 5 or 10lbs jump would be easy you'll never make progress after newb gains are gone.

Never use a spot????? Is this all just a tongue in cheek joke?

as to the OP:

Do more than one set

RAMP YOUR DAMNED WEIGHTS, if you can do 5 sets of the same weight for the same reps it is too light to make progress.
Yeah, he's serious, and he's a very knowledgeable guy. What he said about taking the rest of the cycle off also puzzled me. I think maybe he means to start the cycle over.

I really think I do better if I just stick to planned progression, and always leave one in the tank. On 5/3/1 I'm always tempted to max rep out on the AMRAP sets. After really burning out, I'm not doing that.

I'm glad you can do OK doing a few grinders now and then, but I think most people are way better off doing 2 reps at 90% than a slow grinder at 99%, most of the time. Once you are over 80% or so, every rep is making you stronger. You just don't have to push it close to max very often.

I think sets-across are potentially fine for lots of people. If you are getting the weight into the strength range, you are progressing. I agree that sets of 5 across would end up being a bit light, and boring, but there are lots of interpretations of 5x5, like ramp sets 1 and 2, then 3,4,5 across (that's what Rip does).

And if by "use a spot" you mean have someone else help you lift your weight, then yeah, never is the goal. The spotter touching the bar defines a failed rep. What good does it do you if someone else lifts the bar? A spotter is there to help unrack and rerack the bar, and to be there just in case you drop it on yourself, or if you miscalculate and need help baling out. It's for safety, not help. If your spotter just helps a little, then why not just lift the weight that you can lift all by yourself? There just isn't any value in starting a rep that you can't finish with clean form.

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Post by KenDowns » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:45 pm

NightFaLL wrote:
nygmen wrote:
Point is, OP needs more volume than he currently has, if not right now, he will soon.
Agreed
Thanks for all of the replies. The quote above seems to be where I'm at, and I read JungleDoc's link first, and based today's workout on that.

Basic points I took away from this thread:

1) Time to increase volume

2) There are many options, and as always, it does not hurt to experiment. It's not like my income depends on this :)

3) As usual, there are different opinions.

4) Jungledoc's linked article mentioned injuries, which spooked me. I've always had the odd ache or pain besides DOMS, but they always went away - until recently. I've had a weird shoulder pain for four weeks that has not gone away and is not muscular. More on that below.

So I decided to try straight sets of 3x8-10, for no real reason, kind of picked that out of a hat. Tried doing 75% of my previous 1-set-to-fail weight, and this had me slowing down on reps 7-10 of the last set of all exercises, so I figured maybe I had a good starting point.

The largest difference I noticed was a much stronger specific feeling in target muscles, even on basic compounds. Often I could do a single set on the bench and not atually feel a thing in my pects. Today I did. Imagination? Auto-suggestion? The numbers will tell.

Well I'm getting verbose, so I'll stop here. The plan is see if I am able to make gains on the working weight over the next 2-4 weeks. I'll report back.

Oh, and that pain in my shoulder was not aggravated today, and is actually diminished since Friday. I strongly suspect I was straining something that was not strained today.

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Post by nygmen » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:03 pm

Jungledoc wrote:Yeah, he's serious, and he's a very knowledgeable guy.
I'll have to take your word for it. I'm too pressed for time to explore his writings right now.
What he said about taking the rest of the cycle off also puzzled me. I think maybe he means to start the cycle over.

I really think I do better if I just stick to planned progression, and always leave one in the tank. On 5/3/1 I'm always tempted to max rep out on the AMRAP sets. After really burning out, I'm not doing that.

I'm glad you can do OK doing a few grinders now and then, but I think most people are way better off doing 2 reps at 90% than a slow grinder at 99%, most of the time. Once you are over 80% or so, every rep is making you stronger. You just don't have to push it close to max very often.
lol, sometimes that 90% is a slow ass grinder too... Thank jebus for caffeine.

Serious note, I hear you and agree. You don't have to do it all the time.
And if by "use a spot" you mean have someone else help you lift your weight, then yeah, never is the goal. The spotter touching the bar defines a failed rep. What good does it do you if someone else lifts the bar? A spotter is there to help unrack and rerack the bar, and to be there just in case you drop it on yourself, or if you miscalculate and need help baling out. It's for safety, not help. If your spotter just helps a little, then why not just lift the weight that you can lift all by yourself? There just isn't any value in starting a rep that you can't finish with clean form.
See I think it is a perspective thing about this. The only rep I consider failed is on I can't move period, it injures me, or it doesn't work the target muscle.

Where this guy (and yourself I believe) are looking at things from more a PL'ing point of view were form is an integral part to performance, and I'm looking at it from a point of view of form is only relevant in that it makes your muscle grow and you don't get hurt, is where the disconnect really happens and why I thought this dude was a fruit cake.

I touch my chest with BB bench, but not on the smith, it isn't comfortable, both are valuable and make my chest grow... etc etc etc etc

I think my goals have me looking at getting stronger differently than his, and that is why I took exception to what he said...

fair points though.

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Post by Jebus » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:10 pm

nygmen wrote:lol, sometimes that 90% is a slow ass grinder too... Thank jebus for caffeine.
No problem, :lol:

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Post by Nevage » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:20 pm

I've never tried pyramid sets only ever done straight sets and changed rep numbers. How do you know what weight to use on each set? I think I'd do a normal pyramid with my heavy set last as I find my warm ups are usually lacking a bit in general and the second set feels the best.

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