Saturday, October 3, 2009

In Praise of High-Sets, Low-Reps

     This week, it seems that I've received an inordinate number of e-mails.  Most of them have been related to questions regarding my latest article at Mike Mahler's website.  (If you haven't read that article—see the post a couple below this one—be sure to do so; and make sure that you check out Mike's site.  He's got a lot of good stuff there.)  I've been too busy to answer all of them—but I'll be sure to do so by the end of the weekend (hopefully).
     Anyway, I received an e-mail earlier today asking me what the single greatest "approach" is for building muscle mass.  In other words, what kind of workout program seems to elicit the best gains in both building muscle mass and garnering strength gains.  I started to answer with one of the more popular lines from strength coaches (and one of the most redundant):  "The best workout program is the one you're not doing."
     Then I decided that was a bit of a cop-out.
     Truth is, I do have a favorite approach.  And that's the high-set, low-rep approach.  I'm talking 10 to 20 sets of anywhere between 1 and 5 reps.  Pick one or two exercises at each workout.  I also like to pair an upper body pulling movement with a lower body pushing movement on one day, then an upper body pushing movement with a lower body pulling movement on another day, then have a day reserved for arm training, calf training, ab training—you know, the small stuff.  I find this is about as good as it gets.
     Here's what a good workout might look like:
Day One
Squats: 15 sets of 3 reps
Wide-Grip Chins: 20 sets of 3 reps
Day Two
Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 20 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 15 sets of 2 reps
Day Three
Day Four
Barbell Curls: 20 sets of 3 reps
Skullcrushers: 15 sets of 5 reps
Ab Wheel: 20 sets of 5 to 10 reps (Okay, I know that the reps are a little bit higher here, but that's for those of you who are conditioned enough to handle it.)
Day Five
Day Six
Repeat with a different 5-day cycle of exercises

     Simple, but highly effective stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this!

    However, how would you program this? For an example with squats, do you start at 70%, do the 15X3, add 5-10 pounds, and repeat next workout? Or start at a higher percentage, do 5x3 and gradually build up to 15 sets? Or, similar to Hepburn, do 15X1 and gradually build that to 15X3?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.


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