What's the difference between three sets of ten repetitions and three sets of ten repetitions? On paper—nothing. But in practice—to put it bluntly—it can make or break your chances of success.
Much of what The Original 21-Day Shred and it's suite of SHRED SERIES programs (unless noted) are built around the idea of "failure training." What that means is that you're going into the gym and approaching every set and every rep of every exercise with everything you've got in the tank. Easy enough, right? Well, not so fast.
Does this mean you grab the heaviest amount of weight and just start tossing things around? No. The first step will be to find that weight where you are maintaining healthy, comfortable form while performing the exercise. So how do I know where to start? Guess and test... Guess and test.
We are all built differently—based on our physiological makeup and our current physical activity level—different body parts will be at different levels of strength. For example—I naturally have a very strong back, but my chest and shoulders are significantly weaker. Part of that is because of the actual differences in the muscle groups in the human body. Some may be connected with how I'm physically built, but the fact that I've surfed and swam for many years have naturally strengthened my "pulling muscles."
Once you've tried a weight for an exercise and needed to stop at 10 repetitions, congratulations. You've reached "perceived failure" or "perceived exhaustion."
The following two tricks are about more than just going through the motions. You can do three sets of ten reps and really not do much work at all. Or, you can do three sets of 10 reps pushing beyond your max--and that’s where you’ll see the biggest gains.
Now, for the training tricks:
The first is something called "rest-pause." How this works is—after you've reached your perceived failure, drop the weight for 2-5 seconds then immediately attempt to complete a few additional repetitions. The "rest-pause" will help you tap even deeper into the muscle fibers.
How often should I use "rest-pause?"
Failure training itself can be very demanding on the body. That said, if you’re completely new to this, it might be best to hold off for a couple weeks into the program. Then, starting in week two or three, try using rest-pause for one or two sets of your exercise of choice per workout. You can work your way up to several sets—let's say 1 for every other exercise—trying not to exceed 5 or 6. Then, take a complete break from rest-pause for 2-4 weeks—this is where listening to your body and how you feel will be key. If you're lethargic, overly-sore, or even getting cold or flu like symptoms—you've gone way too far.
The second trick is called "strip setting."
This is very similar to the “rest-pause” method, however, instead of resting with the same amount of weight—you will be reducing the weight by 5 or 10 pounds. For example—if you complete 10 repetitions of dumbbell curls with 25-pound dumbbells, you will drop down to 20-pound dumbbells and continue for as many more repetitions as you can get. This method will also allow you to go deeper into the muscle fibers.
How often should I use “strip-setting?”
This is strategy that places a high-demand on the body—it’s suggested that you follow the same protocol for strip sets as you would rest-pauses, however, not in the same workout. Another option would be to mix and match the rest-pause with strip-sets, but do not exceed 2 sets for beginners, or 5 or 6 for more advanced athletes.