Bad Advice about Higher Reps Bad Advice about Higher Reps

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  1. #1
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    Default Bad Advice about Higher Reps

    by Mark Rippetoe

    As we get older, many of us go to the doctor more than we should. We ask the doctor about things doctors don’t really know much about, like diet and exercise. Doctors – having had no institutional training in either diet or exercise while at the same time feeling as though they must maintain their authority over all things physical – most usually just go ahead and provide advice about these things anyway.

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    "Since you can’t lift as much weight 10 times as you can 5 times"

    Did you mean to write it the other way around?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polishdude20 View Post
    "Since you can’t lift as much weight 10 times as you can 5 times"

    Did you mean to write it the other way around?
    You think you can lift more weight for a set of 10 than 5?

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    "Unless you’re a heart/lung patient, 5 reps won’t elevate your breathing rate until after the set is over, but a set of 10 will have your respiration rate elevated before the end of the set."

    Don't you get winded during a heavy set of squats or deadlifts? I sure do. Maybe I'm just a fat old guy though.

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    The fatigue problem: The fifth rep in a set of 5 can be technically as good or bad as the 10th rep in a set of 8 or 10. Provided that: As long as you dont go to mad RPE numbers. Then both can be fine.

    And that brings us to the point of "being as strong as possible" which is right in competitive or even recreational performance training - and wrong in health training for elderly: Elderly and even younger trainees who are training for health reasons dont have to get AS STRONG AS POSSIBLE. Which makes sense, as: Health simply /= "as strong as possible". I know that must be worlds collapsing with some people, but thats it. Let it sink in: "Being healthy is not the same as being as strong as possible."

    Why? Because as with all sports there is a clear inverted U-shape curve: you get healthiest with moderate training - no training and maximal training (too little and too much) is not maximally healthy.

    What "moderate" and "too little and too much" practically means is an empirical question. But certainly elderly people dont have to do sets of 5 in order to get maximally strong (in that, I agree with Rip completely that they get the job better done than sets of 10s) - because they dont have to be maximally strong.

    Practical example: Senior people dont need a squat set weight of 100kg to be adequately strong to stand up from the toilet seat (which is moving bodyweight and some clothes - ok, lets count only half of the pants´weight which are still down). They dont need to deadlift 150kg to pick up their grocery bag. No, 70 - lo and behold - even 40kg squats and 60kg deadlifts will serve those purposes fine.

    And for that, you can train with lighter weights, higher reps. Or just lighter weights (moderate RPEs) with medium reps.

    Because they dont need to get maximally strong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marenghi View Post
    The fatigue problem: The fifth rep in a set of 5 can be technically as good or bad as the 10th rep in a set of 8 or 10. Provided that: As long as you dont go to mad RPE numbers. Then both can be fine.

    And that brings us to the point of "being as strong as possible" which is right in competitive or even recreational performance training - and wrong in health training for elderly: Elderly and even younger trainees who are training for health reasons dont have to get AS STRONG AS POSSIBLE. Which makes sense, as: Health simply /= "as strong as possible". I know that must be worlds collapsing with some people, but thats it. Let it sink in: "Being healthy is not the same as being as strong as possible."

    Why? Because as with all sports there is a clear inverted U-shape curve: you get healthiest with moderate training - no training and maximal training (too little and too much) is not maximally healthy.

    What "moderate" and "too little and too much" practically means is an empirical question. But certainly elderly people dont have to do sets of 5 in order to get maximally strong (in that, I agree with Rip completely that they get the job better done than sets of 10s) - because they dont have to be maximally strong.

    Practical example: Senior people dont need a squat set weight of 100kg to be adequately strong to stand up from the toilet seat (which is moving bodyweight and some clothes - ok, lets count only half of the pants´weight which are still down). They dont need to deadlift 150kg to pick up their grocery bag. No, 70 - lo and behold - even 40kg squats and 60kg deadlifts will serve those purposes fine.

    And for that, you can train with lighter weights, higher reps. Or just lighter weights (moderate RPEs) with medium reps.

    Because they dont need to get maximally strong.
    Begging the question - Wikipedia

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marenghi View Post
    I know that must be worlds collapsing with some people, but thats it. Let it sink in: "Being healthy is not the same as being as strong as possible."
    Oh, yes, our worlds are collapsing. With your one post, all is undone. Pocky-clypse, Full of Pain. So sadness. Much tragic. Very cry.

    But, before you assume the mantle of Destroyer of Worlds, O Lord Shiva, you could bless us on the way out with a few answers:

    1. When has Rip, or I, or anybody else equated "healthy" with "as strong as possible"?

    2. Do the words "strong as possible" or "maximally strong" appear in the topic article? Or does Rip instead talk about getting stronger?

    3. How do you define "maximal training" or "too much training?" For that matter, how do you define "maximally healthy?" Do please be careful here, O Lord Shiva, because your words will get all the scrutiny and attention they deserve.

    4. Where is your peer-reviewed, properly controlled data to indicate that progressively increasing one's strength with heavy training causes an inflection point to the negative in either performance or "health" in populations? And what is the consensus of the data as to exactly where this inflection point will occur for any individual or population? At what point does practically achievable increase in muscle mass and force production for a Master actually worsen their health? You say it's "empiric," but those of us who actually work with Masters have never observed this inflection point, so we need to be enlightened. Please, please do share with us the abundant datayou have found in the literature showing that increasing strength in the Masters population using a rational program of progressive overload adversely effects their "health," morbidity, death rate, or any clinically relevant biomarker or fitness attribute. Yes, we all know overtraining is bad, but that isn't what we're talking about, so we'll be disappointed if you come back with that. Please back up your proclamations. We just can't wait to see this data.

    5. While you're compiling this voluminous literature for our edification, please consider the case of a lady I'm training, who is 66 yo and weighs 105 lbs soaking wet. She recently pulled 200 for a single, and 205 the following week. She is clearly more than 1 standard deviation from the mean for strength in her demographic. Somebody might even say she is "maximally strong" (but that person would be rather careless with his language, wouldn't he?). Her muscle mass, mobility, chronic pain, bone density, and affect have improved markedly with training. Where, exactly, O Lord Shiva, does she fit on your U-shaped curve? I'm interested, because her most recent medical evaluation shows improved bone density, excellent lipid profile, normal resting heart rate and blood pressure, excellent glucose tolerance, and an echocardiogram that demonstrates the hemodynamics of a 24 year-old girl. A rhetorically careless person might even say that in addition to being "maximally strong," she is also "maximally healthy." How can this be?

    6. That data on the inverse relationship between strength and health still compiling? U-curve still rendering? Yeah, I'm sure there are just terabytes of stuff that the rest of us just missed. So consider the case of another lady I'm training, who couldn't stand up from a chair two years ago. She can do that now. Should I have stopped training her? Should I have stopped progressing her loads and making her stronger beyond that point? Because...she's just fucked if I was supposed to do that. See, I still have her training for increased strength, and she is working at the very edge of her performance capacity. She should have reached that inflection point by now. Yet....her body fat mass is down, her muscle mass is up, and she no longer has advanced osteoporosis. She feels better, looks better, functions better, and her doctor is ecstatic with what the training has done for her. Where does she fit on your U-shaped curve? Please do clarify, O Destroyer of Worlds, because I'm so confused.

    7. Granting that being able to stand up from the toilet is essential, since when is it (or any other daily activity) the sole metric for whether somebody is strong enough? Help me out. You clearly know what strong enough is, and you must certainly have data to substantiate that sweet spot. Help us out. We've been waiting so long for The One who could settle the age-old argument, answer the age-old question: How Strong Is Strong Enough?

    8. Do you actually think that the ability to produce force is the sole beneficial impact of strength training?

    9. Finally, and this is key: Do you, O Lord Shiva, actually have any experience training older people? Have you ever had to assess, coach, and program this population, working around their limitations and disabilities, modifying their programs to fit their particular situations, working closely with their doctors, sharing in their triumphs and disappointments? Have you ever observed first-hand the effect of progressively training for strength that obtains for this demographic? Have these Masters ever come to your coaching practice, stiff and sore and beat up from the personal trainer who's had them on a high-volume, low-intensity program for moderate strength--as you, O Cosmic Kitchen Disposal of Untruth, have decreed? Have you ever observed their marked improvements in strength and fitness, their concommitant decreased soreness and residual fatigue, and their improved compliance and function when you switch them to a low-volume, hi-intensity program? Or does your extensive coaching experience with a Masters population run counter to these observations?

    Or are you, O Destroyer of Worlds, just talking out your apocalyptic butthole? Because that is phenomenon with which we are very familiar.
    Last edited by Jonathon Sullivan; 01-22-2017 at 12:16 PM. Reason: tone wasn't repentant enough

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Sullivan View Post
    4. Where is your peer-reviewed, properly controlled data to indicate that progressively increasing one's strength with heavy training causes an inflection point to the negative in either performance or "health" in populations? And what is the consensus of the data as to exactly where this inflection point will occur for any individual or population?
    Well, it won't be found here:

    In a study lasting nearly two decades involving 8,762 men aged 20-80 it was found that, “Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men, even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other potential confounders... Muscular strength was independently associated with risk of death from all causes and cancer in men. These findings are valid for men of normal weight, those who are overweight, and younger or older men, and are valid even after adjusting for several potential confounders, including cardiorespiratory fitness.”

    Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study

    TL;DR: Increased muscular strength trumped all other indicators of health and was the single best predictor of reduced mortality in a 18.9 year study involving 8,762 test subjects and categorizing them into low, middle, and upper strength groups. The stronger people proved harder to kill and no inflection point was found.

    If we imagine some yet-to-be-found inflection point of negatative health from increased strength does exist, the number of humans taking up barbell training that manage to reach that unicorn is too low to consider.

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    Thanks for you answers!

    You might have misunderstood some points I made, so Im trying to be more concise:

    - Training is goal-specific.

    - If the goal is reaching the maximum genetic abilities of one´s strength, then high intensity/workload in % of 1RM and high RPE is necessary. So sets of 5s and below are a requirement to reach that goal.

    - If the goal is reaching a markedly lower level of strength below the genetic capacity, then training with high % of 1RM and high RPE is clearly not necessary - and so arent our beloved sets of fahvs. Lower workloads and/or RPE can in these cases fulfill the goal with less undesired downsides.

    Well, thats already all what directly concerns the article.

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    Concerning the notion that maximum health is not equal to reaching the maximum individual genetically possible strength:

    - We can define "maximum health" in a variety of ways: low disease rates, high ADL scores or finally - all-cause mortality - are all valid markers.

    - Epidemiological (and even most RCT) data like Ruiz et al. cited above is helpful to get info about various relationships. However, it falls short in two ways: Of course improving strength levels form low levels to a certain level IS very beneficial for health, no doubt about it. But: such correlation studies dont investigate individual ratios of "current level/ maximum genetic level" and THEN look for health markers. And second: due to that, it cant identify people who are very near their individual genetic abilities/train at their max: they are such a small minority they wont generate any nocticeable changes in linearity of correlation graphs/ a point of diminishing health in general population studies.
    Bear in mind that you also wont find any infliction point in studies that are similarly designed (thats why those studies cant prove funsheet´s remark of the "yet-to-be-found point of less than optimally health" - it already has been found, more on that below).

    By the way, thats exactly the point where Sully´s example in point 5 just cant prove the point that an ABSOLUTE (or peer-group related) high level of performance means this lady is very close to her INDIVIDUAL level - and thus has very good health. It also cant investigate if training below her maximal capabilities (which, i will mention this more often in this post, very few people do anyways - and probably Sully´s client doesnt, too) would leave her even healthier. Thats the disadvantage of case studies. Example: a highly talented trainee can easily train and eat sub-par and have a nice 180kg (thats about 400lbs) squat - and is nowhere near his genetic limit. He is far away from his training capabilities either and just smoothly rides along. Someone who has lucked out in the genetic lottery can. And if he trains at his MRV or more general: his MR capabilities, then - and thats my point on that topic - that will not be optimally healthy.
    [There is a related open question in research: How important is the absolute level of fitness (in % of explained variance) - and how important is the change in fitness? This is interesting, because we know the starting level as well as the trainability of a quality are influenced by distinct sets of genes.]

    - Well, to be honest Im suprised that the notion "training for and being (close to) one´s genetic strength (and more general: athletic) abilities does not equal optimal health" stirs so much resistance. Theres a good body of research showing that this is the case. Feel free to search on pubmed for studies on orthopedic, immunological and cardiovascular outcomes of such year-long trainings. And be aware that those studies underestimate the negative consequences greatly as they often are performed on the most robust human beings who are training for their genetic maximum: auto-selected world-class-athletes, the few who survive the grinder and are left to be studied in research. Take the average Joe and results would be much bleaker. Ofc, there are very few recreational lifters who do that, but there certainly are.

    - Finally, Sully poses a very interesting question in the case of his second lady client: If your maximum genetic ability is so low that you have to train for it to fulfill even the most modest goals like picking up light groceries or even standing up - would that be not optimally healthy, too? In my opinion that is a question of goal priority: Lets say that (and I dont think in this case it is, because probably, as in beginners, the neurological system anyway prevents the full expression of her muscular/strength performance) training at her MRC (and I very much doubt she does that) would mean that in the long run, she would have a 5% higher risk of tendinopathy. Well, thats just pretty meaningless when otherwise she couldnt move which clearly is much more unhealthy than those long-term small negative odd ratios.
    A more drastic example would be a soldier preparing for combat: If training at his MRC lets him add 20kg more to his squat, but increases his arterial stiffness in the long run or leaves him with the consequences of elevated cortisol levels it can very well mean its worth it when those 20kg may save him from KIA. Its always weighing the consequences of different goals. Even the use of large-scale doping could be justified when we focus on the imminent survival rates of people with huge physical demands and high risks in case these demands are not met.
    The weighing of outcomes nicely explains the overwhelming positive net effect of strength training in a pile of research: Even if there are some negative consequences of strength training they are overshadowed by the huge health benefits strength training has in a previously untrained person of all ages.

    You just dont need a set of fahvs to reap those health benefits - because you dont need to be training at your maximum capacity for your maximum attainable level.

    I hope that I was able to express myself more precisely. Have a nice week.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marenghi View Post

    - We can define "maximum health" in a variety of ways: low disease rates, high ADL scores or finally - all-cause mortality - are all valid markers.
    All reasonable, if arguable. And yet, you cite NO DATA, as requested, that any of these surrogate markers are adversely affected by any degree of strength increase. At all. Zippo. Becuase...well, there is no such data.

    - Epidemiological (and even most RCT) data like Ruiz et al. cited above is helpful to get info about various relationships. However, it falls short in two ways: Of course improving strength levels form low levels to a certain level IS very beneficial for health, no doubt about it. But: such correlation studies dont investigate individual ratios of "current level/ maximum genetic level" and THEN look for health markers.
    So again, you're moving the goal post and trying to change the subject and create a straw man. NOBODY was talking about genetic potential. But since you brought it up: Please tell us how, should we wish to correlate strength near genetic potential with changes in "health," we are ever to prospectively determine, quantitatively, the genetic or performance potential for strength of any subject? Hmmmm?

    Ruiz et al remains a devastating refutation of your thesis, and you fail to rebut it.

    - Well, to be honest Im suprised that the notion "training for and being (close to) one´s genetic strength (and more general: athletic) abilities does not equal optimal health" stirs so much resistance. (Emphasis added)
    It doesn't stir any resistance, because nobody here ever asserted this equivalence. YOU cited this unasserted assertion, in your attempt to erect a straw-man argument.

    Theres a good body of research showing that this is the case.
    Uh-huh. Show us.

    (Buncha speculative gobbledeygook that utterly fails to address the point at issue.
    I hope that I was able to express myself more precisely.
    No. Not really, no. Not at all. But you wave your hands very nicely.
    Last edited by Jonathon Sullivan; 01-22-2017 at 08:23 PM. Reason: can't spell

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