Volume sensitivity: 2 sets good. 3 sets bad. Your experience? Volume sensitivity: 2 sets good. 3 sets bad. Your experience?

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Thread: Volume sensitivity: 2 sets good. 3 sets bad. Your experience?

  1. #1
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    Default Volume sensitivity: 2 sets good. 3 sets bad. Your experience?

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    I am 58yo with relatively crappy genetics.

    And although I feel and look better and stronger than I have in years thanks to SS & BBP, no matter how I try to ignore it I can definitely feel that my ability to recover has definitely diminished.

    Dr. Sullivan states that us master athletes (such a diplomatic name) are volume sensitive. That's definitely my case. But I am surprised HOW sensitive.

    I am only about 2.5 months into my NLP. I am following the Basic 4-day Novice Type 3 Model (Mon: SQ, Tue: B, DL, Thu: SQ, Fri: P,DL) with the addition of chinup on Tue and Thu.

    I've noticed, especially on SQ days, a significant difference between doing 2 sets of 5 vs 3 sets of 5. After a few weeks of experimentation I've noticed the following pattern:

    The day after a workout with 2 working sets, I feel great and energetic with no muscle soreness at all.

    The day after a workout with 3 working sets (and often the day after that), I feel anywhere from tired to wiped.

    I am somewhat surprised that a simple 3rd set, just 5 more reps at the same weight, would have that much of an effect on recovery.

    ... On the other hand, 3 sets is 50% more reps than 2 sets. So it may not seem like much, but it is.

    A couple of questions for my fellow master athletes:

    1) Have you also experienced a similar response to 2 sets vs 3 sets volume?

    2) As long as I am making NLP progress, what am I giving up by omitting the 3rd set? Stamina? Conditioning?

    To put it another way, take two workout sequences for, say, beginner SQ:

    A: 175x5x3 ... 180x5x3 ... 185x5x3 ...

    B: 175x5x2 ... 180x5x2 ... 185x5x2 ...

    What is A giving up to B in exchange for less fatigue and soreness?

    Thank you in advance for your insights.

  2. #2
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    What are your current numbers on your lifts?
    What weight did they start at?
    What is your bodyweight?
    How would you assess your nutrition and sleep quality?

  3. #3
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    I assume the program you describe is in the BBRx book, but I'm not familiar. It looks to me like the SS NLP modified to split workouts and reduced to 2 "workouts" per week total. You don't list weights, bodyweight or anything, and you do complain of soreness, so I'd suggest the first 3 questions article (sleeping and eating, especially). If those are good and your form isn't the problem, the post-novice program(s) fit your desires - one top set with ramping or backoff sets for volume.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbrophy View Post
    What are your current numbers on your lifts?
    What weight did they start at?
    What is your bodyweight?
    How would you assess your nutrition and sleep quality?
    Legit question. I did not list my numbers because, frankly, I am just starting (10 weeks into NLP) and I was planning to have them go from 'pathetic' to 'pretty bad' before sharing them, but since you are kindly taking the time to help I will face the mild embarrassment.

    First my current body/nutrition/sleep:

    Height: 6'1", thin bones, built for LSD (long slow distance) sports (at which I was well above average).

    Body weight: I started 10 weeks ago at 152lbs (yes, I know) and I am now at 165lbs. Pretty bad, but when you consider my height even more so.

    Nutrition: Aiming for ~3,000-3,500 calories/day with ~200g/protein with the help of to 2-3 milk+whey shakes/day.

    Sleep: I'd love to sleep more, but I simply wake and can't go back to sleep up after 6 hours on average. But sleep quality for those 6hrs is good.

    Next my goals:

    As a scientist/engineer, I found Dr. Sullivan's BBPx (and Rip's SS and PP) arguments for the importance of strength at all ages, but especially as we get older, extremely convincing. I realized the importance of lean body mass and completely revised my fitness plan. That was about 10 weeks ago.

    My short-term goal is to reach 170lbs weight and 170x5x3 squat by the end of the year--one more month. (I am using the SQ as my key progress metric.)

    My medium-term goal (six months now) is 185lbs weight and 225x5x3 squat. Considering the late start (at age 58) and the unfavorable genetics I would be thrilled to get there.

    My long-term goal? Not sure yet, first I want to accomplish my short and medium term and then revisit. Of course, I would love to get to 200lb BW and 300lb SQ, but I have to be realistic.

    My progression so far:

    10 weeks progress starting from an untrained baseline (which only include 8 actual weeks of training due to travel one week and a bad cold/cough the other):

    SQ: 95x5x3 to 145x5x3
    B: 85x5x3 to 120x5x3
    DL: 85x5x1 to 175x5x1
    P: 45x5x3 to 70x5x3 (due to a past shoulder injury I am taking it really easy with the press)

    If these numbers were in kgs, I'd be estatic. Alas they are in good ol' pounds.

    Fortunately, what I lack in muscle genetics I make up for with grit, dedication, and a pretty good gray matter :-).

    There you go. This was not easy to share, but I am glad I did. Thank you again for your input.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnys View Post
    I assume the program you describe is in the BBRx book, but I'm not familiar. It looks to me like the SS NLP modified to split workouts and reduced to 2 "workouts" per week total. You don't list weights, bodyweight or anything, and you do complain of soreness, so I'd suggest the first 3 questions article (sleeping and eating, especially). If those are good and your form isn't the problem, the post-novice program(s) fit your desires - one top set with ramping or backoff sets for volume.
    Hi Johnny,

    Yes, the plan is in the BBRx book and it's pretty much what you suspect, the A/B workout with a split so I can focus on SQ on SQ days.

    I've read the first 3 questions article, and bought and read all of Rip and Sully's books, which are great.

    I've swallowed my pride and posted my numbers in a previous reply. As you can see, I am nowhere near the end of NLP. Quite the contrary, I am at the very beginning.

    Unfortunately, as much as I'd like it to be otherwise, I am paying the price for starting to appreciate the importance and benefits of strength training late in life.

    But better late than ever.

  6. #6
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    We all hit these points in our training. You will hit more. Your already ahead because you've started the process. The strength will come, just keep at it. In the above description of your 4-day split, are you adding weight to the bar over the previous workout for all lifts? Especially deadlift which you have scheduled on Tuesday and Friday. I'm asking as NLP is defined by placing more weight on the bar each time you do the lift as you, as a novice, can go through the SRA(stress-recover-adapt) cycle within 24-48 hours.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbrophy View Post
    We all hit these points in our training. You will hit more. Your already ahead because you've started the process. The strength will come, just keep at it. In the above description of your 4-day split, are you adding weight to the bar over the previous workout for all lifts? Especially deadlift which you have scheduled on Tuesday and Friday. I'm asking as NLP is defined by placing more weight on the bar each time you do the lift as you, as a novice, can go through the SRA(stress-recover-adapt) cycle within 24-48 hours.
    Thank you for the encouraging words and taking my question seriously.

    Yes, I am making slow (5lbs) but relatively steady progress SQ workout-to-workout.

    The program is working, and I am working at it.

    As far as the SRA cycle, BBRx suggests (and my body confirms), that past a certain age 24-48 hours may not be enough in some cases.

    I know it seems awfully early in the cycle for me to hit that point, but that's what seems to be happening lately when I go for 3 sets as opposed to 2 sets with the SQ (not so much with the other exercises.)

    With 5-6 min between sets I can usually complete the 3rd set. I actually enjoy the mental and physical challenge of pushing through and getting it done. In fact, I feel awesome when I complete that 3rd SQ set at a PR and it takes discipline to stop at just 2 sets.

    The issue is what happens the day(s) after the SQ workout:

    2 sets: feel really, REALLY, good. Fully of energy and ready for more. I am not sore at and I perform better at my job, mentally and physically.

    3 sets: feel tired and sore and I am not as productive at my work. A combination of physical and mental fatigue.

    I re-read the relevant section in BBRx and here's a quote: "For most Master Athletes the sets-across approach is one of the most difficult elements of the entire program, especially with regards to squats. ... fatigue from sets across bleeds over into other exercises ... " And apparently, it continues to bleed into the recovery phase.

    I am committed to my training and I want to maintain my enthusiasm and minimize the probability of injury.

    My conclusion based on the data, is that if I can continue to make progress in the SQ with 2-sets across, and feel great instead of wiped in the following days, that's the way I should go.

    Being relatively new at this, the one thing I am not clear about is what am I missing out on by not doing that 3rd set?

    All other things being equal, in the workout to workout progression below what is Master Athlete B leaving on the table by doing 2 sets-across instead of 3?

    A: 175x5x3 ... 180x5x3 ... 185x5x3 ...

    B: 175x5x2 ... 180x5x2 ... 185x5x2 ...

    Is it conditioning, endurance, slower progress?

    Thank you again.

  8. #8
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    If I understand this correctly, my hypothesis is you are simply not recovering enough to be rested for your squat sessions on Mon/Thurs from the Deadfiting on Tues/Fri. Here is what I would recommend before further alterations. Drop the Tuesday heavy deadlift. Even the basic SS NLP switches to 1/wk DL early in the programming. I'd like to see you try that to see if it can keep your Squat & DL LP going where you are going up in min 5 lb increments on Mon/Thurs and once per week min 5 lb increments on DL.

    Mon : Squat
    Tuesday : Bench, Chins
    Wed: REST
    Thursday :Squat, Press
    Friday : DL ; Chins
    Sat/SUN : REST

    Press may need to go up by 2.5lbs. If you have micro-plates use them for this. You'll need a set of micro-plates eventually so if you don't have them now you might as well get them.
    Finally can we get a video of your squat? And have you seen an SS coach yet?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandyG View Post
    Being relatively new at this, the one thing I am not clear about is what am I missing out on by not doing that 3rd set?

    All other things being equal, in the workout to workout progression below what is Master Athlete B leaving on the table by doing 2 sets-across instead of 3?

    A: 175x5x3 ... 180x5x3 ... 185x5x3 ...

    B: 175x5x2 ... 180x5x2 ... 185x5x2 ...

    Is it conditioning, endurance, slower progress?

    Thank you again.
    I'm 48, so this is a relative issue for me, as it is all Masters. Cutting a 3rd of the volume out of the Squat should be very limiting to the SRA cycle. By going to 5x2 you will run the risk of not generating enough stress to drive your LP further on squat. As I mentioned above it appears you are potentially stressing the system beyond the available recovery time in your programming by having 2 days of deadlifting heavy. Typically the 4-day split is run with a heavy/light or volume/intensity structure split between the two days of the main lifts. Often the Tuesday DL is an accessory lift like paused DL's or snatch grip. These are advanced novice or intermediate programs where gains are only made once /week. Like you noted above, you feel there should still be more to your LP and I agree where gains can come closer to a novice schedule. LP is shorter for Masters. And it may be time to consider shifting to advanced novice, but lets not go there without a fight.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandyG View Post
    If these numbers were in kgs, I'd be estatic. Alas they are in good ol' pounds.

    Fortunately, what I lack in muscle genetics I make up for with grit, dedication, and a pretty good gray matter :-).

    There you go. This was not easy to share, but I am glad I did. Thank you again for your input.
    Some words of encouragement for you.

    When I first I showed up at the gym and benched my 20 kg, before and after me you had the lads benching all sort, loading up plates and plates, bro-spotting and all of that, did I care? No, because I got better than my older self, benching 20 kg was better than the day before when I was benching nothing.

    Mind me, I'm a big lad, 240 on 5'11'', but I'm not in a competition with them, I'm only competing with my old self to get better, I'm in for the long run and I'm in no rush, I'll lift the big numbers when I'm ready for the big numbers.

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