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Saturday, 18 October 2008

10 x 3 OR 5 x 6 still equals 30

I have been having success (if success means being unable to walk or move my arms) with a different approach to training.

In the past I have 'trained to failure' which means only just being able to get the last rep out with superhuman effort. Training like this is painful, can leave you physically exhausted and put you off going to the gym. All that effort is too much to face when you are already tired.

There is another school of thought that says you should never train to failure because of the stress it places on your body and your mind. Instead you do the same amount of work with more rest.

Theoretically, if you lift a weight 10x for 3x sets you are putting a 30x load on your muscle. If 10 is the maximum you reps you can achieve before you fail, then 3 sets is plenty.

You put the same amount of load on your muscle if you do 5x reps for 6 sets with exactly the same weight. Only now you don't feel any stress or strain because you have plenty left in the tank.

With this approach, you may choose a slightly heavier weight to start with, and do more sets. I have been doing 5 reps x 8 sets. (Here's a handy hint - write the number 1 through 8 in your training diary and cross off the sets otherwise it is too hard to keep track of where you are up to). Sometimes the last set is a bit tough but nothing like the burning, quivering, lactic acid nightmare of lifting until you can't lift anymore.

It almost feels like cheating because you don't feel like you've worked hard at all. But you will know about it the next day (and beyond). It is especially good if you have an injury or an exercise that causes you pain of one sort or another because if you lift this way you don't get to the point when your dodgy knee or shoulder starts to hurt (in a bad way).

I have also been just doing one exercise for each body part. So lower body was just deadlifts, back extensions, abs and box squats. Upper body was chest press, bicep curls, skull crushers and military press (no back needed as it was still sore from those deadlifts). Quick and easy!

Try an experiment. Give yourself a light day when you halve the number of reps you are doing at your current kg/lb weight, double the sets then add a couple more. See if you don't curse me the next day when you can't blow dry your hair.


  1. This comment has to do with your last post - I have been going through a similar situation right now - evaluating the 'rules' I live by - it was encouraging to read that post - thankyou!

  2. I can never blow dry my hair anyway so lets go :p

  3. Hi Katie, Lovyour blogs!!
    I'm a new blogger and a 48 yr old soon to be figure competitor. I have added you to my watching list. Hope you will check my blog out
    regards Cathy