Tag Archives | workout variations

How About Doing One Set To Success?

One Set To SuccessWe’re all familiar with the advice of doing a set ‘to failure.’ There’s nothing seriously wrong with that advice. The principle is that if you push yourself until you can’t perform another rep it will ensure you gave 100% effort to the exercise.

But achieving 100% effort will always be unprovable. How can you know it was not possible for you to do 1% or 2% more if you had done something different? Better breathing. Better grip. Better concentration. Better form. Maybe your 100% was really 84% of what your were capable of. If you’re overtraining your 100% effort might be 47% of your ability.

In fact, we did some testing on different ways to perform sets. In the free report, Workout Variations Revealed, we show how timed sets with a countdown actually worked better at squeezing maximum intensity out of weightlifting trainees than one set to failure did.

But Here’s The Big Issue

The reality is, the objective definition of a productive exercise is that it forced your target muscle(s) to perform at a new peak output. That’s what progressive overload is all about. Progress.

There is no point doing regressive overload. Regressive overload will not trigger new muscle growth. Sitting in the dark never triggers a deeper suntan. Lifting below your peak capacity does not trigger new muscle growth.

Let’s say the last time you did your bench press you lifted 150 lbs 9 times in 30 seconds. That means you lifted 1,350 total lbs in a half minute, which is a rate of 2,700 lbs per minute. That’s a clear and objective measurement of your intensity.

Your ONLY goal on your next bench press workout is to exceed 1,350 lbs in 30 seconds. It doesn’t matter if you go to failure or not. It doesn’t matter if you “feel” strong or not. It doesn’t matter if it leaves you “pumped” or not. It doesn’t matter if you are sore the next day or not. What matters is whether you progress past 1,350 lbs in 30 seconds. Or not.

One Set To Success

When you make these simple measurements of your performance you can engineer exact goals for your next workout. You know going in to the gym what one set to success will need to be. For every exercise you perform you have an objective goal that you can have complete confidence in.

Over time, this is a foolproof way to make progress at the limits of your ability. The numbers don’t lie.



The Best Forearm Exercise

A few years ago we wanted to examine what exercises would be most helpful for serious arm training. As always, we used a numbers approach. We used a group of volunteers to test over a dozen arm exercises to determine which ones generated the highest intensity of overload.

By ‘high intensity’ I mean, the total weight lifted per unit of time. So if one biceps exercise allowed the trainees to lift, on average, 1,250 lbs per minute but another biceps exercise generated 2,840 lbs per minute it was deemed the superior exercise.

After all, the biceps is always attached at the same two points on the bones and it always contracts in the same direction so if one exercise imposes twice the intensity, what reason would there be to use the lower intensity exercises?

Anyway, at the end of the testing there was a clear winner for the forearm flexor muscles that move the wrist. It’s an exercise you rarely see used in the gym but it had the highest intensity by a clear margin. It’s a wrist curl behind the back. Here are some photos of three ways it can be performed.

The Best Forearm Exercise

You have to have someone place the bar in your hands or perhaps take it off a rack if it’s at the right height.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 11.21.18 AM

Alternatively, you can just place the bar in a power rack and then you don’t need a spotter.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 11.21.26 AM

You can also use a low pulley, but remember the weight on the stack is likley not the real weight you are lifting after if runs through a few pulleys. Still, if you always use the same machine you can ensure progressive overload.

There isn’t much range of motion in this exercise so it’s a minor point as to whether you use a full range, partial range or a static hold. The most important thing with this exercise – and indeed any exercise – is to calculate the intensity so you can increase it on future workouts.

Static Contraction trainees know their intensity because they always do 5-second holds and the weight must increase for higher intensity per 5-seconds. Power Factor trainees can calculate Power Factor and Power Index numbers to monitor their momentary and sustained intensity. Most full-range, conventional trainees just train blindly insofar as intensity is concerned.

One More Thing

I can’t leave you not knowing the antagonistic exercise to this one. The highest intensity exercise we tested for the forearm wrist extensors was the seated barbell reverse curl. Here’s a photo.

OK, Popeye, go have some fun in the gym experimenting with these.