Load doesn't matter...or does it?

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy Research' started by Bryan Haycock, Jul 3, 2012.

  1. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    Not quite sure what you mean by: "If you normally work with 5RM loads"? That's a non-specific load; your actual 5RM load will vary on an hourly/daily/weekly basis depending on what you have been doing.

    I'm also not sure what you mean by: "Working true 2RM or even 4RM might take some learning"?

    Surely your 'true' RM for any rep range is whatever you manage when you test it? It won't necessarily be your RM in an hour, tomorrow, or the day after that. We train to drive adaptation to the imposed stress; we are hoping that our RM for any rep range is increasing but we don't know that it is for sure until we test it again. Sometimes accumulated fatigue will mask the effects of adaptation and we won't see increases in our RM's unless we allow time for the fatigue to dissipate first.

    With a standard HST cycle, you train with loads that are sub-maximal for any rep range for most of the time. At the end of a cycle it is usually possible to find new improved RMs. Your level of fatigue accumulation is lower than it would have been if you were pushing for every last rep in every session. That in itself is a good indicator that load is driving the adaptation and not fatigue.
  2. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    With all respect, I haven't noticed strength dropping considerably, unless I did something stupid and worked very close to failure recently enough. Then yes, my 5RM could drop to 4RM or even 3RM between bouts. All in all, without hitting the failure spot and assuming sleep/food is fine, my 5RM from previous w/o is at least my 5RM on subsequent w/o. This can be explained by my relatively low training age, where progress comes easier.

    Meaning: according to this calculator, having done 77 kg x 5 I can do 80 kg x 4, not 2 like I did twice, and 3 reps a week later.
    I can explain that to some degree by accumulated fatigue and CNS stress, but more so by lack of considerable amount of training with doubles and triples. On the same note, if a person got used to benching 100 x 10 with great form almost to failure, doesn't necessarily mean he can bench 117 x 5 without first getting used to training at lower reps. AFAIK this is called SAID, or specific adaptations to implied demands. Body learns best to perform a specific task we're putting it through. Well, this is a contrived example, as a person training on HST would do both 10's and 5's regularly, but for a person not following HST and working mostly in the 8-10 reps range this is more so.

    Couldn't agree more.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  3. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Here's a recent posting by Blade:
    If it's true, then it's like a breeze of fresh air for me grinding on 5RM weeks to get the job done 3 times a week. I could spend Mon & Fri doing the normal 5RM stuff, and spend Wed "recovering": pick a 6-7RM weight and assume it's my 5RM, i.e. stop at 5 reps.

    p.s.: this got me thinking... what if I don't decrease the weight, but decrease the reps from 5 to 4 on Wed, as a means to recover?
  4. Joe.Muscle

    Joe.Muscle Active Member


    Do you mind linking to Blades article?

  5. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

  6. Joe.Muscle

    Joe.Muscle Active Member

    Thanks for the link!
  7. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    So when you say "If you normally work with 5RM loads", you mean you that you're used to working with sets of 5 reps at an RPE (rate of perceived effort/exertion) of 10, whatever that load might happen to be on the day.

    The fact is though that you can't always easily gauge accumulated fatigue, so even though you feel that your recovery is good and that your sleep/food etc. is all spot on, you still might be more fatigued than you realise compared to your previous session.

    One way for you to test for this is to do a set with the load from your previous workout as your first work set; if you manage 5 reps with that, increase the load for your remaining work sets and see how you get on. Sometimes the same load will 'feel' much heavier than it did on the previous session due to neural fatigue factors. This test will help you to prime your CNS and psychologically you know you lifted that same load for 5 reps the previous session.

    If you find you can't manage 5 reps with the load from the previous session then you know you have some kind of accumulated fatigue taking its toll. In that case, stick with that same load and bang out your work sets with that. Try again the next session. If the first set of 5 goes up without too much of a problem, add a bit of weight to the bar for your remaining sets and see how you get on.

    I question your use of the SAID principle with your benching example. Your muscles don't care about reps. They care about how much work you ask them to do and for how long (TUT). Try doing 5 slow reps with the same load you can just manage for 5 fast reps. It's not happening.

    I suppose a considerable amount of training with doubles and triples might make you better at lifting max doubles or triples than if you mainly trained with max sets of 5, but not necessarily so. Once you are experienced enough to maintain good form for a max set of 5, it should carry over well to 3RM, 2RM and even 1RM attempts.

    As a case in point, many powerlifters do not test their 1RM in training because of the greater chance of injury and the high level of fatigue induced from such attempts. It is much more likely that someone would train with a load around their 5RM for triples so that their form would remain as consistent as possible.

    What might be happening in your case (if we rule out fatigue etc.) is that your form is altering a little with the heavier load and you might be consciously (or subconsciously) moving more slowly. It is inevitable that you will move more slowly as the load on the bar increases but you might be exaggerating this a little through a fear of getting hurt. The trouble with any true RM attempt is that your form will usually start to break down for the last rep or two, depending on how many reps you are doing. A less efficient bar path takes more energy to complete a rep so further reps are harder.

    NB. Not all rep/load predictors use the same numbers.

    Reps 1 2 3 4 5
    Brzycki 100 95 90 88 86
    Beachle 100 95 93 90 87
    Dos Remedios 100 92 90 87 85

    As %ages of 1RM
  8. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    I don't like that from the start, looks as though I were warming up or dropping working load, and assuming first set is my RPE 9-10 (otherwise I would have known to move up), I'm guaranteed to have emptied the tank for that movement. It's probably doable, but doesn't suit me mentally. I'm trying to use another self-regulating measuring stick (when my ego allows): wait till I can perform 2 sets x 5 with a given load with sufficient rest (3-5 minutes) without getting very close to failure, and then I know I can move on to next weight (on next w/o).

    Maybe you're right, I'll wait till I'm experienced enough to check that.

    Yup, one good thing about the HST calculator is that it calculates the average of 3 different formulas.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  9. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    I didn't mean that you did that test every session! :) If you did it once then you would see whether the same load that you managed for a max set of 5 the previous w/o felt easier/the same/harder. It just might be an interesting experiment.

    In any case, once you are working with ~5RM loads they remain effective for longer than you might think. I reckon that a true 5RM load can produce an effective PS response for a month or so of training before RBE starts to slow things up a lot, though you might have to increase volume along the way as you get more conditioned to the load.

    In your case, what I would have done would be to use your new 5RM of 77.5 kg (170 lb) for two more weeks, rather than increment the load further—there's plenty of time to increase the load again on your next cycle. I would use that load for triples so I could maintain pretty good form for all reps and aim to do 5 sets (or however many triples required to match, or slightly increase on, what you were doing for 5s). That way I would be managing fatigue better each session.

    The thing with the rep calculators is that the numbers they spit out may not be accurate for you. Some of this is down to individual anthropometry and some to CNS control. People do vary quite a bit. I find I can beat 1RM calculators based on a 5RM for some lifts but not others. As you gain experience you will find %ages that work best for you.
  10. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Been there, done that. Repeating loads 5 reps x 2 sets for 2 weeks have done nothing seemingly good for me. If I was lucky, strength didn't eventually drop. I've found that if I don't grind struggling with a new weight (not necessarily until failure) I couldn't make progress for that cycle. True, strength isn't a goal of HST, and muscle can grow even if heavy load stays the same (confirmed that), but you still have to feel the new load, no matter what, to progress on traditional type of weight training. As we already know, there's no need to excel at a given load without adding to it :)

    As for the triples... they may be good for muscle growth (assuming 5RM ensures 100% full fiber activation from first rep), but not so good for CNS training. I'd probably be stuck with 77,5 kg longer than necessary if I didn't push harder. This cluster thing may be good for folks close to their genetic limits.

    BTW, today I incline-benched 77,5 (170 lb) x 5 x 2 (RPE 9 on set 1, RPE 10 on set 2), so this time I'm ready to hit 80 (176 lb) on Monday. I'm not expecting 5 reps, 4 would be good.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  11. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    I see. But that doesn't fit with what you said in an earlier post:

    I thought your problem was that you couldn't perform 2 sets of 5 reps with ~5RM load? You managed 5 reps and then 2 reps! If instead you did 5 x 3 x ~5RM you would be reducing the fatigue from the initial set (as well as subsequent sets), enabling you to get more work done with a heavy weight. It works for most people.
  12. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Hm, maybe I should try that cluster thing on Monday with 80 kg (176 lb). But how will l know I can't do at least 4 reps if I don't do at least 3 first? :) See, if I decide to stop at 3 even though I knew I could gripe and do 4 but it'd be RPE 10, and then after a rest do 3, rest, 2, over (knowing my endurance)... my muscles would be happy for more volume (3+3+2 instead of 4+2), but my CNS probably wouldn't have had the required level of exhaustion to grow. We can't neglect CNS, it's that guy moving the heavy ass weight. Our muscles grow as a side effect of that. Just my thoughts, though.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  13. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I don't even understand what the heck you are talking about anymore. CNS is only partially responsible for strength, muscle cross sectional area is the primary determination of strength. I'm not really sure why you think that fatigue is necessary to train the CNS anyway. The CNS does not "grow" it simply becomes better at doing a lift. There is an upper limit on that, which is why you need to grow more muscle in order to get stronger, which is why you do not need fatigue to grow stronger, which is why we train the HST way in the first place.
  14. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I agree 100% with Totentanz. I am not sure exactly what you are concerned about with loading and such. It seems you are over analyzing load and such and even making some faulty assumptions. The nervous system is not a major concern. Just lift with progressive load and stimulate hypertrophy. Over thinking rep ranges and loading will just make you crazy.
  15. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member


    Like Totentanz and Sci have pointed out, you are surely here because you want to grow muscle, yes? If you are trying to maintain mass while getting stronger (ie. getting stronger but not bigger) then that is a different problem and will require more high RPE reps in your workouts.

    I'm finding it very curious that you think you can't manage more than a couple of triples with your 5RM load. Why not use 170lb and try to get 4 or 5 triples? 170lb is closest to your current 5RM. See how it feels as you get through the sets. If you start to struggle on the third rep of any set, do doubles from that point. Take 3 mins rest between sets if necessary. (I take 5 mins between really heavy sets if I feel the need.) Aim for between 10 and 15 total reps. Get yourself fired up. Do what it takes! :)
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  16. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Well, because fatigue signals the accumulation of by-products of chemical activities to some degree, and exhaustion of CNS to another. This is what HST FAQ book says, anyway: "Methods based on fatigue/exhaustion (training to failure and rest/pause stuff) are really methods of increasing strength."

    Anyway, I'm going to include that cluster rep thing at due time. When I stop progressing, that is, that would be one way to continue making progress.

    Come on, that's nitpicking! :) On a side note, my CNS certainly does grow drastically for a limited time when I see a pretty enough girl.

    Probably what I said about the decreased effects of cluster sets on CNS exhaustion is absurd, excuse me this thinking out loud. CNS does get exhausted from a different plane, otherwise one would be able to do triples with 5RM load forever.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  17. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Thanks, guys. If "everyone" wanting to gain more muscle seems to be doing those cluster sets sooner or later to achieve more volume as gains come by harder and harder, then what the heck, I'll be doing that too when the time comes. It would certainly take more than my current 1 hr. 10-20 mins for the full body.
  18. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    A very cheerful posting, thanks :) I'm worried that if I change what seems to be working it would screw me up, it's like a paranoia. I will definitely consider cluster sets when I stop making any progress.
  19. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    Are you sure you're not just a contrarian?
  20. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    Clustering is wise, because it manages fatigue without rigidly sticking to some specific rep numbers for sets.

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