**A. The basics
**B. Stalling and Resetting
**C. What to do after Rippetoe
**D. General Questions
*****1. How much weight should I use?
*****2. What about sets and reps?
What about sets and reps?
Question - Can I add sets or exercises to this program? I think I should do more.
You can do anything you want to do. You can squat on a swiss ball, you can bench monkeys wearing pantyhose, you can pick your nose and wear a cockring, it doesn't really matter to me. However, if you decide you're going to add a bunch of stuff to the program, chances are good you will screw it up.
Why am I so confident? The fact that you would ask a question like this indicates that you lack experience with weight training because, if you were experienced, you wouldn't ask this question in the first place. You'd simply adjust it as your experience dictates.
Give the base program a shot for a few weeks before you start screwing around with it. It is designed so that initially it will be a bit easy, but as time progresses and you set several PRs (personal records - i.e. you are lifting more weight now than you were a few weeks ago), the program becomes very very challenging. You don't need to add more sets or exercises to the program yet.Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 113-114, Practical Programming
Question - Why lower reps on the main exercises and higher reps for the accessory exercises?
The discussion of "why 5 reps for the main exercises" is covered in the "Why only 5 reps, doesn't that build strength and not mass" question.
Why 8 reps (or higher) for the accessory exercises?
Because there is no reason, on a program such as this, to do heavy 5-rep sets on dips and chins and hypers and curls. Your heavy work is done with the big 5 exercises. Give your joints a break, and help promote conditioning and overall development by going a bit higher on your accessory exercises.
Yes, that means you shouldn't be maxing out on your curls
Why 1 set of deadlifts, 5 sets of powercleans and 3 sets of everything else?
The "3 sets, 5 reps of everything" is a basic starting point for newbs which works for most major primary exercises. 3 sets creates enough of a stress on the body so that homeostasis is disrupted, yet the workload remains tolerable, even for someone who is unfit and untrained. For the novice, 5 reps generally allows for the best possible mix of consistency in strength and exercise execution, as well as fatigue production.
However, it is recommended to do 5 sets, 3 reps apiece, of power cleans, rather than 3 sets of 5. The reason lies in the nature of this specific exercise and it's technical nature. Fatigue is not the primary goal during the clean, rapid force generation and technical accuracy is. Because the exercise is the most mechanically difficult exercise to perform and it involves a tremendously large # of muscle groups, even moderate fatigue of the supporting musculature can have a prominently adverse affect on the trainee's ability to perform the exercise at all, let alone correctly.
Lower rep sets are more appropriate once the trainee is able to perform the exercise with a base level of competence. Unlike most standard exercises in bodybuilding and strength training, fatigue is NOT the goal. Exact technical accuracy in exercise execution is far more important and fatigue is neither beneficial or even appropriate. Sets with lower repetitions, such as 1, 2, and 3 reps per set, are more successful at ensuring the lift is worked properly and that force generation is even and consistent.
Deadlifts are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Of all multi-joint exercises, deadlifts may possibly be the easiest to perform correctly with the least amount of instruction. Aside from a few pointers about back position and grip, the exercise is, technically, incredibly easy because it is so natural. The 3 primary muscle groups used in this exercise, the glutes/hips, the thighs, and the back, are the 3 largest and most powerful muscle groups in the body. Additionally, the exercise is performed through what amounts to a somewhat reduced ROM and the hips and back are held in a mechanically advantageous position. As a result, tremendous poundages can be hoisted, sometimes by even the rankest of novices. Since this exercise is performed AFTER squats, and since squats can fatigue many of the same muscle groups, only 1 working set of deadlifts is required to achieve an appropriate training affect, and for most novices and even many intermediates, only 1 working set of deadlifts will be required to maintain steady progress in the exercise.
Question - Why do 5 reps for a set, doesn't that only build strength, not mass? Can't I do 8 reps per set?
The general idea that 1-5 reps builds power and strength, and 6-12 reps build muscular mass is a pretty widely held notion. Arguably, this statement is correct in many cases. However, we must once again consider our target audience. The untrained novice will be able to maintain better technique and more even and consistent force production with less reps in the same set because fatigue will become less of a factor (as will the lack of the almighty Jane Fonda burn!) Strength is built with 5 reps, and for a novice barbell trainee, strength is all that matters for his development because it leads rapidly to mass accumulation (assuming diet is in order).
Granted, the newcomer wants 'teh big bicepts' and wants to get a pump like Arnold and wants a rippling 6-pack, and he wants to do all this while doing easy exercises and eating chocolate cake. Unfortunately, that is not possible, and in order for a novice to build his musculature, he MUST develop a base of strength before moving on to "specific hypertrophy work". The heavier weights that 5 reps per set allows means that the trainee will be able to more effectively load his skeletomuscular system. Since a newb really doesn't lift with anywhere near what his true strength and recovery would allow due to lack of motor skill and conditioning, the lower reps and heavier weight will do far more for him than "the pump" ever could.
Will this program work if you use 4 reps instead of 5? yeah, probably. What about 6 reps per set instead of 5? Again, yeah probably. Even 8 or 10 reps will work because, after all, we are talking about a newb here, not a highly trained athlete with specific goals. Novices tend to suffer significant form breakdown after several reps, and 5 allows for a relatively brief, though challenging and productive set. many novices suffer severe form breakdowns on the last reps of an 8-rep set. Technique and lack of motor skill are the primary culprits, and anytime you reinforce poor form by repeating it, as an 8-rep set frequently does for a novice, then you are setting the trainee up for failure.
"Everything works, but some things work better than others."
It is Mark Rippetoe's opinion, and the opinion of countless knowledgeable and successful strength coaches, that somewhat lower reps (4-6) and the resultant base of strength that is developed will do more for a novice than higher reps and the "pump effect".
In other words, 8 reps will probably work just fine, but in the long run, you won't progress as fast as you would if you worked the program as it is written, with sets of 5 repetitions.
Since Mark Rippetoe probably doesn't own stock in "5 repetitions", and doesn't stand to benefit financially from promoting 5 reps instead of 8, it would be wise to accept the experience of someone who has been training for over 3 decades, and has been coaching youths for nearly as long. 5 reps per set isn't magic, nor is it voodoo. It is, however, effective, especially for novice trainees and as such is the recommended rep scheme for the majority of exercises.
Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 118, PP
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