When it comes to rep schemes, there are so many combinations advocated by the strength-training crowd. What’s best? 5x5? Heavy triples? Ten sets of three?
“The pyramid concept of increasing weight and decreasing reps from set to set within a particular exercise is not new, and yet surprisingly many beginners tend to go straight to a particular weight and lift until failure for set after set,” says Simmons. “Instead, try building towards a high point in the exercise—a weight that you hope to lift in the 2-4 rep range cleanly. The rep counts might look like this: 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. The weight should gradually increase with each set as the reps go down. The amount of weight you increase per set should depend on the lift. Obviously, if you aim to finish the pyramid at a 500-pound deadlift, you will need to make bigger jumps in the weight from set to set to get there than you would to finish with a 315-pound bench press.”
And if you want to see where you belong on the strongman continuum, Simmons advocates a slightly different approach. “Periodically—maybe every 4–6 weeks—tweak this strategy to test your one-rep max. If you want to simulate a powerlifting meet, finish the pyramid with three single-rep attempts, each increasing towards your new personal best. Using the 500-pound deadlift max attempt as an example, your workout might look like this: 135 pound for 12, 225 for 9, 315 for 6, 405 for 3, 435 for 1, 465 for 1, 500 for 1.” Looks easy enough, right?
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