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  1. #1
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    Questioning My Rep Ranges

    Hey everyone,

    So I know the power of progressive overload, and believe in constantly increasing reps/weight. I'm wondering however about the relationship between lifting to failure and reps per set. I assume most of you have wondered about it to. My topic is twofold. Let me explain:

    Let's say my goal is 3 sets of 8 of a given exercise.

    - Last workout on the exercise I did:
    Set 1, all 8 reps for 50lb
    Set 2, failed at 7 reps for 45lb
    Set 3, failed at just 5 reps, also for 45lb

    In the above scenario, for the next workout I probably would:

    - Increase the weight of Set 1 to 55 or 60lb and try to get 8 reps
    - Stay at 45lb for Set 2, since I didn't meet my target rep range
    - Either consider dropping the weight to 40lb so I can hopefully reach 8 reps, OR, stay at 45lb and hopefully get maybe 7 reps.

    So, is the above scheme correct/incorrect, and why?

    The second part has to do with questioning my rep ranges in the first place.

    - Again, let's say if I'm trying to do three sets of 8, and fail much before that on each set, what then should I do?:

    A - Lower the weight next workout so I can reach the 8 reps per set.
    B - Keep going to failure on each set and working up to the 8 reps per set.
    C - "Trick" my body in a way so that instead of 3 sets of 8, I set it up as three sets of 10, so that I'm failing much closer to that target 8 rep range.

    I know what some of you might say.. I'm getting too obsessive about this. However, many workouts I'll look at the reps I've written down, and most of them range between 5-9 reps, when my workout sheet might show rep ranges between 8-12.

    Maybe I train too much to failure? But #1, that's just what feels good to me, and #2, if I stop a set before failure it simply feels like I left gains in the gym.

    Any / all advice is much appreciated.
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  2. #2
    Clearly Irrational blue9steel's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by AndyMac499 View Post
    Let's say my goal is 3 sets of 8 of a given exercise.

    - Last workout on the exercise I did:
    Set 1, all 8 reps for 50lb
    Set 2, failed at 7 reps for 45lb
    Set 3, failed at just 5 reps, also for 45lb

    In the above scenario, for the next workout I probably would:

    - Increase the weight of Set 1 to 55 or 60lb and try to get 8 reps
    - Stay at 45lb for Set 2, since I didn't meet my target rep range
    - Either consider dropping the weight to 40lb so I can hopefully reach 8 reps, OR, stay at 45lb and hopefully get maybe 7 reps.

    So, is the above scheme correct/incorrect, and why?
    You failed to hit 3x8x50, if you are using a double progression scheme then you should leave the weight the same and keep working on it until you do hit 3x8x50 with good form. Looking at the rate of your fall off in strength, it might make more sense to drop to 3x8x45 and see if you can hit that first.

    If you're not using double progression then what are you using?
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    Registered User AndyMac499's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by blue9steel View Post
    You failed to hit 3x8x50, if you are using a double progression scheme then you should leave the weight the same and keep working on it until you do hit 3x8x50 with good form. Looking at the rate of your fall off in strength, it might make more sense to drop to 3x8x45 and see if you can hit that first.

    If you're not using double progression then what are you using?
    Thanks for the reply blue9steel,

    What I would wonder about with your suggestion is if I'm simply working hard enough per exercise. My thinking is, if I get 3 sets of 8, and each set is 50lb, then technically the only set that MAY reach muscle failure is the last one. You could even argue that the first two sets were just hard "warmups". Maybe that's not the correct thinking though, and that's why I posted. And I do understand that every set doesn't need to be taken to absolute failure.

    Oh, and my mistake for not mentioning that I frequently incorporate a Reverse Pyramid scheme per exercise, as it just makes more sense to me in order to optimize strength/stamina. So, often I will do 3 sets of 8,10,12 for bicep curls, for example. The strength fall-off is usually about 5lb between sets, but of course the reps are going up. For a straight set, as I originally posted, the fall-off isn't quite that, technically 2.5lb or something. I don't consider myself a BB expert or anything, but I have been making sheets and recording my numbers for a long time.
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    You should find a beginners program and run it for 6 months so you can get a basic understanding for programming.

    Fierce 5 in the sticky’s will work fine.

    This is a question a beginner would ask which is why I recommend a beginner program. There are many ways to program progression. You should start with the basics.
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    I like to get things simple as possible. My first set will be 10 reps this is warmup only, then 3 or 4 working sets and I like to pyramid. I increase weight with each set.

    My last set is the bread and butter set which is for 6 reps. If I don't get 6 reps the weight was too heavy. if I can move a weight more than 8 reps then that weight is too light and time to move up.
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    Originally Posted by AndyMac499 View Post
    What I would wonder about with your suggestion is if I'm simply working hard enough per exercise. My thinking is, if I get 3 sets of 8, and each set is 50lb, then technically the only set that MAY reach muscle failure is the last one. You could even argue that the first two sets were just hard "warmups". Maybe that's not the correct thinking though, and that's why I posted. And I do understand that every set doesn't need to be taken to absolute failure.
    Failure isn't necessary for progress.

    Oh, and my mistake for not mentioning that I frequently incorporate a Reverse Pyramid scheme per exercise, as it just makes more sense to me in order to optimize strength/stamina. So, often I will do 3 sets of 8,10,12 for bicep curls, for example. The strength fall-off is usually about 5lb between sets, but of course the reps are going up. For a straight set, as I originally posted, the fall-off isn't quite that, technically 2.5lb or something. I don't consider myself a BB expert or anything, but I have been making sheets and recording my numbers for a long time.
    Are you doing reverse pyramid, drop sets or some strange hybrid? Whatever you were trying to do, post that exactly and we can tell you what you should do. Frankly it sounds like you're making things complicated and confusing yourself. If you can't answer the question "did I do more than last time" then you have a serious problem.
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    Many of us, perhaps nearly all have wondered how best to play with rep schemes. Probably Milo of Croton debated that with training buddies over some cups of wine.

    Also how many days to train/rest, which exercises on which days, how to lay it all out, what to do if you have an unusually bad day (or good day), what to do if you fail, how fast to progress, go to failure or not, and a whole load of other questions

    That's why you shouldn't be surprised when someone (like me now, or shaneinga in previous comment) brings up the idea of finding a good program that's aligned with your goals and current training level, and running it as written

    Don't reinvent the wheel
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    Then other details will start to slot themselves into place.

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    Registered User AndyMac499's Avatar
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    Ok, so a few things...

    I've attached a sample of 2 consecutive days of my program. Simple, straightforward stuff. I think overall, my mindset about going to failure may need to adjust slightly. I know that each set of every exercise doesn't need to go to failure, and you probably don't want it to, but I just always want to progress and challenge myself. Period.

    Now, to address some comments...

    - Take a look at my sheets. I think you'll see I'm certainly not trying to "reinvent the wheel"

    - "If you can't answer the question "did I do more than last time" then you have a serious problem."
    Haha, well I know that. That's why, as I said, I believe in writing everything down and progressive overload.

    - "My last set is the bread and butter set which is for 6 reps. If I don't get 6 reps the weight was too heavy. if I can move a weight more than 8 reps then that weight is too light and time to move up."
    Ok.. so why not do the heaviest weight first, when you're at your strongest (after warming up of course)? And I assume you're not following that rep scheme for every muscle group. Sets of 6 on side laterals would be... well, not smart (no offense).

    - "You should find a beginners program..."
    Ok so frankly I get sick of hearing this on this forum. Do I still have many things to learn in the world of fitness? YES, of course(hence the original post). But I've been working out for 15+ years and making a lot of gains along the way. Just because I ask a question about rep ranges, sets and muscle failure doesn't make me a "beginner" .
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    Originally Posted by AndyMac499 View Post
    Ok, so a few things...

    I've attached a sample of 2 consecutive days of my program. Simple, straightforward stuff. I think overall, my mindset about going to failure may need to adjust slightly. I know that each set of every exercise doesn't need to go to failure, and you probably don't want it to, but I just always want to progress and challenge myself. Period.

    Now, to address some comments...

    - Take a look at my sheets. I think you'll see I'm certainly not trying to "reinvent the wheel"

    - "If you can't answer the question "did I do more than last time" then you have a serious problem."
    Haha, well I know that. That's why, as I said, I believe in writing everything down and progressive overload.

    - "My last set is the bread and butter set which is for 6 reps. If I don't get 6 reps the weight was too heavy. if I can move a weight more than 8 reps then that weight is too light and time to move up."
    Ok.. so why not do the heaviest weight first, when you're at your strongest (after warming up of course)? And I assume you're not following that rep scheme for every muscle group. Sets of 6 on side laterals would be... well, not smart (no offense).

    - "You should find a beginners program..."
    Ok so frankly I get sick of hearing this on this forum. Do I still have many things to learn in the world of fitness? YES, of course(hence the original post). But I've been working out for 15+ years and making a lot of gains along the way. Just because I ask a question about rep ranges, sets and muscle failure doesn't make me a "beginner" .
    15 plus years of exercising you really should have an idea of how to progress and how to program for lifting.

    If you come to bodybuilding.com and ask about exercising you will get a training answer.

    The answer to your question is learn how to train. Hence the follow a beginner program and learn basic linear progression. Once you have that, then you can move on to more advanced techniques.
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    Originally Posted by shaneinga View Post
    15 plus years of exercising you really should have an idea of how to progress and how to program for lifting.

    If you come to bodybuilding.com and ask about exercising you will get a training answer.

    The answer to your question is learn how to train. Hence the follow a beginner program and learn basic linear progression. Once you have that, then you can move on to more advanced techniques.
    I've repeatedly said I'm no expert, and I'm not. Case in point. Posting to a forum... which is supposed to be constructive and helpful. You've posted nothing of the sort, only answering my question with "learn how to train", which is not, as you say, a "training answer".

    I always try to show patience with this forum, but I suppose I shouldn't expect expert advice or anyone here who truly wants to help. I'm not going to lump all of you together, some do really try to help. Most don't.

    Have a good one.
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    Failure can be a tool in the tool box, but only use it sparingly.

    A few points.

    3 sets is too little volume for a staple exercise

    8 reps imo is a relatively useless target. If hypertrophy is the goal, you will benefit more from higher reps at a slower pace. The total duration should be between 30 seconds and 45 seconds in order to engage more fibers and to deplete all available atp without switching to oxygen.

    If strength is the goal, intensity should be a factor, and 8 won't be enough. 5 is really the max, or the sweet spot if looking for for both.

    Your concept that the first sets are warm up are inaccurate. They play a critical role in total accumulated volume. Whether training for strength or size, they're immensely important and over doing the first few working sets is robbing you of the volume you could have had.

    Hope this makes sense.
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    1) Unless you're in the later stages of lifting, obsessing about rep ranges is splitting hairs, and there is no general "best" range. The size vs strength deal with rep ranges is vastly overblown. It's like a brand new race car driver learning the ropes obsessing over mild differences in tire pressure when all he needs to do is drive the dang car. There's a time and place for hair splitting, but putting the cart before the horse in this instance if counterproductive.

    2) you need to vary intensity in your training or you'll stall out quickly and bang your head against the proverbial wall for weeks/months/years. Trying to hit the same weight after failing X times in a row is a sure sign to reset and work back up. Fatigue sets in and limits peak performance, and will continue to do so until you reset and/or vary your intensity to give your body a chance to adapt. You're not "tricking" your body, the process is actually fairly straightforward.

    3) I'm never against the pursuit of knowledge, but Unless you're just looking for answers to fill your curiosity on this subject, many of these questions will be answered as your actual training age increases (not how many years you've exercised). The previous advice you got about choosing a solid program from the get go will put that learning into practical application. These programs have varying intensity built in with progression and reset/deload protocols - systems and concepts a beginner has no place in nor is expected to know.

    Read up on Eric Helms training ebook: strength and muscle pyramid. He explains this system better than I, or anyone on this forum could.
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    Originally Posted by drudixon View Post
    Failure can be a tool in the tool box, but only use it sparingly.

    A few points.

    3 sets is too little volume for a staple exercise

    8 reps imo is a relatively useless target. If hypertrophy is the goal, you will benefit more from higher reps at a slower pace. The total duration should be between 30 seconds and 45 seconds in order to engage more fibers and to deplete all available atp without switching to oxygen.

    If strength is the goal, intensity should be a factor, and 8 won't be enough. 5 is really the max, or the sweet spot if looking for for both.

    Your concept that the first sets are warm up are inaccurate. They play a critical role in total accumulated volume. Whether training for strength or size, they're immensely important and over doing the first few working sets is robbing you of the volume you could have had.

    Hope this makes sense.
    Hi @drudixon, thanks for the reply,

    First, the two sheets I pasted are just a 1/3 of my total workout volume for the week. They are an example of what I would do on a Monday and Tuesday. I'm basically doing high frequency training- hitting the same muscles 3 times per week, with lower volume. So, for example, I usually end up doing 9-10 sets for quads, 12 for chest, etc. I've seen much more consistent gains this way.

    However, and the whole reason I created this post in the first place, as I've mentioned, I'm concerned that I might be focusing on failure overall too much, and because of this, my rep ranges are falling a bit short of what they should be for hypertrophy. That's all.

    - You must have not looked at my sheets I attached. I do sets much higher than 8. Besides, 8 reps is supposed to fall into the hypertrophy range, so I'm not sure why you're criticizing that.

    - As far as warming up goes, I never said I didn't do that. Of course I do. I'm pushing 40 man lol. Which again, please nobody get offended by me saying that, but I'm not 20 either . So yes, I fully warm up with range of motion moves and lighter reps to target the muscle(s) being worked, then go straight into my straight or Reverse Pyramid sets. There's no wasted lighter "half warmup" sets within sets stuff. Every set has a purpose- to build size/strength. Researching and learning from others is what I've tried to get better at, and I fully believe in Straight Sets and Reverse Pyramid. It just makes sense:

    caliberstrong.com/pyramid-training/

    aworkoutroutine.com/pyramid-sets-vs-reverse-pyramid-training-vs-straight-sets/
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    Originally Posted by daudi81 View Post
    1) Unless you're in the later stages of lifting, obsessing about rep ranges is splitting hairs, and there is no general "best" range. The size vs strength deal with rep ranges is vastly overblown. It's like a brand new race car driver learning the ropes obsessing over mild differences in tire pressure when all he needs to do is drive the dang car. There's a time and place for hair splitting, but putting the cart before the horse in this instance if counterproductive.

    2) you need to vary intensity in your training or you'll stall out quickly and bang your head against the proverbial wall for weeks/months/years. Trying to hit the same weight after failing X times in a row is a sure sign to reset and work back up. Fatigue sets in and limits peak performance, and will continue to do so until you reset and/or vary your intensity to give your body a chance to adapt. You're not "tricking" your body, the process is actually fairly straightforward.

    3) I'm never against the pursuit of knowledge, but Unless you're just looking for answers to fill your curiosity on this subject, many of these questions will be answered as your actual training age increases (not how many years you've exercised). The previous advice you got about choosing a solid program from the get go will put that learning into practical application. These programs have varying intensity built in with progression and reset/deload protocols - systems and concepts a beginner has no place in nor is expected to know.

    Read up on Eric Helms training ebook: strength and muscle pyramid. He explains this system better than I, or anyone on this forum could.
    Thanks @daudi81, for your informative post. It was very helpful.

    I agree about people getting a bit too caught up in the size/strength divide. There are other factors as well, such as muscle fiber types, tempo, rest periods..etc etc. Plus, let's say I did side laterals for 15 reps one workout with 20lb, then moved up to doing 15 reps with 25lb. Well then guess what, that means I got stronger .
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    Originally Posted by AndyMac499 View Post
    I've repeatedly said I'm no expert, and I'm not. Case in point. Posting to a forum... which is supposed to be constructive and helpful. You've posted nothing of the sort, only answering my question with "learn how to train", which is not, as you say, a "training answer".
    Actually he's got a good point, you do need to learn to train, and it's pretty much a never ending journey. You have two choices 1) Let an expert figure it out for you and follow their instructions 2) Start teaching yourself, realizing you're probably going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. #1 is much faster, which is why it's usually the recommendation. Your question was a pretty basic one, which is why a beginner routine was suggested.
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    Originally Posted by blue9steel View Post
    Actually he's got a good point, you do need to learn to train, and it's pretty much a never ending journey. You have two choices 1) Let an expert figure it out for you and follow their instructions 2) Start teaching yourself, realizing you're probably going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. #1 is much faster, which is why it's usually the recommendation. Your question was a pretty basic one, which is why a beginner routine was suggested.
    Haha, well this is starting to get a bit comical, honestly, so I'm afraid this will need to be my last post.

    1- In what way have I been "teaching myself" exactly? Apparently you've not seen the multiple websites showing that I've consulted with articles written by experts who know way more than I do. And, if I was trying to "teach myself" I certainly wouldn't feel the need to log on to a forum and seek advice, would I? Lol.

    2 - You say my question was pretty basic. Earlier you said "Frankly it sounds like you're making things complicated and confusing yourself." So, which is it?

    Anyway, I appreciate the helpful input from those who has wanted to help.

    All the best.
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