Received this question from a blog reader regarding strength training set and repetition protocols:
Hey, I've been performing one all out set of 8-10 reps on all of my exercises, going as heavy as I can on each set for that range of reps (8-10 rep max weight). Typically, what I'll do is rest about 60-90 seconds, reduce the weight by about 25-30 percent, and then perform a 2nd set, trying to get the same number of reps I got on the first set with the heaviest weight.
I've made pretty good progress like this over the last 5 months, but I feel like I'm ready for a bit of a change. Can you recommend any alternative strength training set and repetition protocols?
James from Erlanger, KY
Sure thing. If you've been performing single set to muscular failure protocols, I great way to change things up is to perform multiple sets of lower repetitions. My favorite multiple set protocol, which you can easily apply because you already know what your repetition maximums are for a number of exercises, is the one half your rep max + 1 protocol. Here is how you might apply this over a 4 week cycle (rest 2-3 minutes between sets):
Week 1: 4-5 sets of 6 reps using a 10 RM resistance *you are using a 10 RM here, so one half of your 10 RM (5) + 1=sets of 6 reps
Week 2: add 6% to your week 1 weights and perform 4-5 sets of 5 reps (this is your theoretical 8 RM)
Week 3: add 6% to your week 2 weights and perform 4-5 sets of 4 reps (this is your theoretical 6 RM)
Week 4: add 6% to your week 3 weights and perform 4-5 sets of 3 reps (this is your theoretical 4 RM)
At this point, you could either take a deload week before going back to a single set to muscular failure protocol OR start again at week 1 using a weight that is 5 lbs. heavier than your first cycle. Also, I should point out that you wouldn't want to use this type of multiple set protocol on every exercise in your workout, unless you are only performing 3 or 4 total exercises, which, in this case, would be fine. What I typically like to do both personally and with my clients is to use this type of multiple set protocol for 1 main exercise at the beginning of a workout, and then use 1 or 2 sets of moderate reps (6-10) for the remaining exercises in a workout, but, keep in mind, I am usually implementing 8 or 10 different exercises. Like I said before, if I was only performing 3 or 4 exercises in a workout, I very well might use the multiple set protocol for each exercise.