Charles is here on a weekly basis to help you cut through the B.S. and get some real perspective regarding health and training. Please post feedback or questions to Charles directly in the comments below this article.
 
This week I thought I’d share a few strength training workout strategies I’ve never mentioned in print before. These ideas can be applied to almost anyone’s goals and almost any type of workout. Try them, enjoy them, and share them.
 

Adjust Work Sets to Your Exertion

Using the same load for all of your work sets is common practice, but probably less than ideal. Let’s run through a weight room scenario to explain why. Let’s say you’re warming up for 5 sets of 10 on the squat. You think you might be able to get 255lb for all 5 sets, but you’re not really sure, so you settle on 245lb instead. 
 
I’d suggest a slightly different approach. Tell yourself you’ll do the first set with 245lb, and then take it set by set from there. Allow yourself to use less weight on any given set if you need to. Using this strategy, let’s say you take 245lb x10, and it isn’t all that bad, so you go to 255lb for your second set. That was hard, but solid, so you take 260lb for the next 2 sets. But that fourth set wipes you out, so you end up backing down to 245lb for the fifth set.
 
Using 245lb for all 5 sets, your total volume would be 12,250lb. Using my suggested approach, the volume comes to 12,260lb. Looking at average intensity, using straight sets you end up with 245lb. With my approach, you end up with 253lb. It’s not earth-shaking, but over weeks and months the little things add up.
 
I believe this strategy will inspire most lifters to push it a little harder, since they know if they become fatigued on latter sets they have the option to use a bit less weight. Using a set-by-set approach also provides the possibility of hitting rep PRs, which helps with incentive. If you’ve always used the straight set approach, try my suggestion here. I think you’ll like it.
 
back squat to full depth
Adapting the weight on the bar for each individual set can increase your overall training volume.
 

Use Phase-Appropriate Rep Schemes

We all know progression is the name of the game, but does that mean adding weight, adding reps, adding sets, or all of the above? The quick answer leans toward “all of the above,” but digging a bit deeper, the phase of training you’re in (meaning, the goal you’re pursuing) helps to clarify even further.
 
If you’re training for muscular hypertrophy, lifting at least 65 percent of your 1RM is enough to cause muscle growth, provided that you take each work set close to failure. So in this phase of training, it’s okay to increase bar weight, but not at the expense of total reps, as volume is key to making size gains. In other words, just do as many well-executed sets, taken close to failure, as you can.
 
You should still pay attention to and attempt to increase overall volume from session to session if strength is your goal, but this must not be at the expense of bar weight. The weight is key to making strength gains. So shoot for new PRs in the 1-5 rep range first. Then if you can add more sets to the mix, even better.
 

Deload Smallest Movements the Least

I’ve written quite a bit about the importance of taking regular “deload” weeks every 4-6 weeks, but I haven’t discussed one detail a lot of people miss with regard to this strategy:
 
The biggest, most recovery-draining movements (squats, deadlifts, etc.) should be deloaded the most, and the smallest movements that require least recovery (curls, calf raises, etc.) should be deloaded the least. Personally, even if I do a super hard arm or calf workout, I’ll recover in 48 hours tops. The fatigue that results from working these muscles doesn’t tend to accumulate over time the way that it does for bigger movements. 
 
All three of these suggestions are relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but taken together and extrapolated over many months and years, they really add up. I hope you’ll try all three and let me know what you think.
 
Charles deadlifting 405 for reps
Approach each work set thoughtfully, instead of just following a predetermined scheme.
 

This Week’s Training:

Volume: 56,744lb (Last Week: 70,739lb)
 
Significant Lifts:
  • Goblet Squat: 100x10
  • Deadlift: 405x5
  • Military Press: 120x5
 
Another solid week. Monday was the end of my deload, and then Thursday started my new training cycle, which is a lower-rep strength block. I also recently developed an interest in Concept2 rowing. You’ll see I did 1500 meters of that on Saturday, which is a new twist for me. I’m still exploring and navigating my way through running, kicking, and the like. I expect it’ll take me a few months to integrate everything I’m trying to do with regard to training. 
 
Hope everyone is feeling inspired and working hard out there. See you next week with a post that will surprise a lot of you.

Monday, January 18, 2016

 
Bodyweight: 201.2lb
Volume: 9,741lb
 
Goblet Squat
  • Set 1: 35lb × 10
  • Set 2: 55lb × 10
  • Set 3: 100lb × 10
 
Power Clean
  • Set 1: 45lb × 5
  • Set 2: 88lb × 5
  • Set 3: 110lb × 3
  • Set 4: 132lb × 3
 
High Bar Squat
  • Set 1: 95lb × 10
  • Set 2: 135lb × 10
  • Set 3: 185lb × 5
  • Set 4: 225lb × 5
 
Seated Calf Raise
  • Set 1: 70lb × 10
  • Set 2: 70lb × 10
  • Set 3: 70lb × 10
 
Thursday, January 21, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 200.4lb
Volume: 26,850lb
 
Goblet Squat
  • Set 1: 35lb × 10
  • Set 2: 35lb × 10
  • Set 3: 35lb × 10
 
Deadlift
  • Set 1: 135lb × 5
  • Set 2: 135lb × 5
  • Set 3: 185lb × 5
  • Set 4: 225lb × 5
  • Set 5: 275lb × 5
  • Set 6: 315lb × 5
  • Set 7: 365lb × 5
  • Set 8: 385lb × 5
  • Set 9: 405lb × 5 (Video Below)
  • Set 10: 365lb × 5

 

 

Hack Squat
  • Set 1: 45lb × 10
  • Set 2: 90lb × 8
  • Set 3: 115lb × 8
  • Set 4: 140lb × 8
  • Set 5: 140lb × 8
  • Set 6: 140lb × 8
 
Standing Calf Raise
  • Set 1: 200lb × 8
  • Set 2: 200lb × 8
  • Set 3: 200lb × 8
  • Set 4: 200lb × 8
 
Friday, January 22, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 200.2lb
Volume: 19,133lb
 
Military Press
  • Set 1: 45lb × 10
  • Set 2: 65lb × 8
  • Set 3: 88lb × 6
  • Set 4: 110lb × 5
  • Set 5: 120lb × 5
  • Set 6: 110lb × 5
  • Set 7: 110lb × 5
 
Bench Press (Dumbbell)
  • Set 1: 100lb × 10
  • Set 2: 130lb × 8
  • Set 3: 160lb × 8
  • Set 4: 180lb × 8
  • Set 5: 160lb × 8
 
Pull Up
  • Set 1: 5 reps
  • Set 2: 5 reps
  • Set 3: 5 reps
  • Set 4: 5 reps
  • Set 5: 5 reps
 
Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)
  • Set 1: 50lb × 10
  • Set 2: 60lb × 8
  • Set 3: 70lb × 8
  • Set 4: 70lb × 8
  • Set 5: 70lb × 8
  • Set 6: 60lb × 8
 
Tricep Pushdowns
  • Set 1: 150lb × 8
 
Saturday, January 23, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 200.2lb
Volume: 1,050lb
 
Rowing
  • Set 1: 0.5 km in 0:02:08
  • Set 2: 0.5 km in 0:02:06
  • Set 3: 0.5 km in 0:02:05
 
Goblet Squat
  • Set 1: 35lb × 10
  • Set 2: 35lb × 10
  • Set 3: 35lb × 10
 
More Mindful Training Tips:
 
Photo 1 courtesy of CrossFit Empirical.
Photo 2 courtesy of Charles Staley.
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