The Repetition Continuum: Part III

This is the last part in a 3 part series on the Repetition Continuum. To review parts one, click HERE, and for part two, click HERE.

 

Our RC discussion is nearly completely. We’ve come a long way, from learning about the different hypertrophy types, to understanding what causes muscle damage and therefore compensation. Now we’ll put it all together and look at some repetition schemes that will help you get to your goal.

 

If you recall from part II of our series, repetitions start at the left with lower reps and more strength/power and progress to the right with higher reps and more hypertrophy/endurance. We have to take this into account when deciding what rep ranges to use for our program. Let’s look at one example. Say you’re a college sprinter (our someone who wants to be faster in general) and you want to put together and weight training and sprinting program that will help you get faster. First we look at what makes a good sprinter. Number one, you must be lean and have some decent muscle mass, but not be bulky. Number two, you must be powerful, because the more force you can produce into the ground, the more reaction you get from the ground, the faster you can leap from leg to leg, therefore the faster you will be. Knowing these two characteristics, we know that we need to keep the reps low to moderate. The majority of our work should be in the 3-5 rep range, for strength and power, with accessory work in the 6-8 rep range for some lean mass. Here’s how it might look:

 

SUPERSET:

Hang Clean              3 sets, 5 repetitions

Plank Circuit           3 sets, 30 seconds each

 

SUPERSET:

Trapbar Deadlift     5 sets, 5 repetitions

Chinups                    5 sets, 5 repetitions

 

SUPERSET:

RFE Squat                3 sets, 8 repetitions

Weighted Pushup   3 sets, 8 repetitions

Farmer’s Carry        For Distance

 

Notice that for our power exercise (hang clean) and our strength exercises (trapbar deadlift and chinups) we are staying with sets of 5 and not doing any more than 25 total reps for the exercises. For our accessory work we bump up to sets of 8, again staying under 25 total reps, using moderate weight loads and short rest periods. Our sprint training will look much the same. Since we are trying to be a sprinter and not a long distance runner, we don’t want to mess with miles. A program may look like this:

 

5         50 meter sprints

4        100 meter sprints

3        200 meter sprints

 

Again, nothing long with rest periods of 8-10 times the sprint time, so if it takes 6 seconds to run 50 meters, you rest for 48-60 seconds.

 

Next, let’s look at a soccer player. In soccer, you need speed also, but that’s not your primary goal. Here we also need endurance with a proper amount of strength and power. A soccer player may have a similar build to a sprinter, but generally has less muscle mass. The more muscles mass you have, the more oxygen your body requires, which can be a problem when you’re trying to sprint around for the length of a soccer game. So we need to develop power but also endurance:

 

SUPERSET:

Kettlebell Swing           3 sets, 15 repetitions

Plank Circuit                 3 sets, 30 seconds each

 

SUPERSET:

Deadlift                         3 sets, 5 repetitions

Chinups                        3 sets, 5 repetitions

 

SUPERSET:

RFE Squat                    3 sets, 12 repetitions

Pushups                        3 sets, AMGRAP (As Many Good Reps As Possible)

Farmer’s Carry            For Distance

 

Instead of hang cleans for pure power development, we inserted kettlebell swings, which is a great exercise to develop power, but one that you can also do for reps to enhance your endurance. We also bumped up the reps on our accessory work to get in a little more muscular endurance as well. Conditioning for a soccer player would stay with shorter distances but have significantly less rest. Tempo runs would be great here, which include sprinting for a certain distance, then walking a certain distance:

 

TEMPO RUN:

Sprint 100 meters, Walk 100 meter. Repeat 5 times adding 1 round a week

 

Shorter rest periods will allow for better development of your oxidative energy system (long duration) while also helping with the anaerobic systems (short duration).

 

Hopefully these examples have been of some help. Plugging in the right reps or right distance or right rest periods for your goals is important, so keep an eye on it and remember to KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid!

The Repetition Continuum: Part II

hypertrophy

 

Last time in our RC series we talked about muscles fiber and motor unit types and how the work relative to getting stronger or getting bigger. For a review, HERE is a link to the article to get you caught up.

 

So we have a general understanding of the different types of hypertrophy (myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic). This time we’ll look at how we accomplish each type of hypertrophy through different forms of resistance training, sets, reps and so on.

 

There are 3 main pathways to hypertrophy, each of which will develop myofibrillar (stronger) and sarcoplasmic (bigger) to a certain extent. Each pathway can be linked with a certain number of reps, or time under tension, to help accomplish the goal you are shooting for:

 

1) Progressive Tension Overload

This is basically a fancy way of saying “put more weight on the bar”. This form of training tends to lend itself to more myofibrillar (stronger) hypertrophy. To accomplish progressive overload effectively we need to keep our repetitions and duration low. You are looking at 1-5 reps for strength gain, or less than 10-15 seconds for speed work. Isometrics and eccentrics also fit into this category, inducing myofibrillar hypertrophy.

 

2) Muscle Damage

 

When you perform an exercise, there are 3 different types of contractions that will happen while performing the exercise: eccentric (lengthening), isometric (static) and concentric (shortening) contractions. Eccentric contractions are the type that will cause the most overall damage to a muscle. Between 5-12 repetitions is where this will take the best effect, causing mostly sarcoplasmic (bigger) hypertrophy. This rep scheme gives you the best time under tension for this type of hypertrophy.

 

3) Cellular Fatigue

 

Cellular fatigue is pushing your muscles to the absolute max to induce total fatigue. These rep schemes typically include anything from 8 – 20 repetitions. Anything after 20 reps will be considered endurance, or aerobic based.

 

Now you have a general outline of what type of repetitions you should be doing for your goals. If your goal is to get as strong as you can, it’s probably not a good idea to do sets of 15….stick with 3-5 repetitions. Conversely, if your goal is to get as big as you can be, you need 8-15 repetitions per set to hit the sweet spot.

 

So you see, the RC starts at the left with short duration, small repetitions for strength, and works its way to the right with longer duration, high repetitions for hypertrophy and endurance. This should give you some idea of where to go with your next workout.

 

For part III of this series, we’ll look at what a couple of programs would look like depending on your goals.