Last week was Part 1 of 5 Training Techniques to Shake Up Your Workouts. We covered two – Rest/Pause training and Ladders – out of the first five in that article.
Let’s get to the last three methods you can use for a change of pace, to get off the boredom-train, or to break through a plateau.
Total Reps Based on Speed
I’m not sure if there’s a more formal title for this method, but I first read about this training technique from Chad Waterbury used in his book Huge in a Hurry (obviously the target audience is men, but women can use the same workouts with success and not get “huge”. Overall, excellent book).
To employ this method, establish a total rep target based on your goal. For instance, let’s say your goal is hypertrophy, so a good total rep target would be 40 reps. You would start with your 10 rep maximum and achieve 40 total reps. Instead of doing the typical 4×10, you would stop every set when your rep speed slows down, and you take as many sets as needed to achieve 40 total reps. There’s no grinding out reps with this method, and this is a great change of pace for people who push every set to the limit. Whenever your rep speed slows down, you’re done with that set.
Here’s an example assuming 135 pounds is your 10 rep max on squats.
Squat — 135 pounds (10 rep max), target of 40 total reps
- Set #1 — 9 reps
- Set #2 — 9 reps
- Set #3 — 8 reps
- Set #4 — 7 reps
- Set #5 — 7 reps
In this case, it took you 5 total sets to get 40 reps. Remember, you stop each set when your speed on the last rep is noticeably slower.
You could also use this method if you’re main goal is increasing strength. You’d use a heavier weight and perform fewer total reps. We’ll go with a 5 rep maximum for this example and 25 total reps.
Here’s an example assuming 225 pounds is your 5 rep max on deadlifts.
Deadlifts — 225 pounds (5 rep max), total of 25 reps
- Set #1 — 5 reps
- Set #2 — 4 reps
- Set #3 — 4 reps
- Set #4 — 3 reps
- Set #5 — 3 reps
- Set #6 — 2 reps
- Set #7 — 2 reps
- Set #8 — 2 reps
In this case, it took 8 sets to get 25 total reps.
This is a fun method to use if you’re tired of pushing every set to the limit.
I learned about EDT (escalating density training) from Charles Staley. There are couple perks of EDT as Charles explains. “Motivation. When you do an EDT workout, you know when it’ll start, but more importantly, you know precisely when it will end,” and “Auto-Regulation: Forget about sets and reps. Forget about rest intervals. Forget about time under tension. I’m totally serious — all of these parameters distract you from the essential truth — that you need to do more work this time than you did last time.”
By now you’re wondering how to set up an EDT workout.
You superset two exercises. For this example we’ll pick push-ups and inverted rows. Begin with a weight (or variation) that allows you to complete 10-12 reps for each exercise. Next, set a timer for 15-20 minutes and complete as many reps of each as possible.
Here’s how it looks:
- 1a) Push-ups
- 1b) Inverted rows
Since you’re beginning with your 10-12 RM, you’ll be tempted to begin with sets of 10 or so reps. Charles recommends starting with half the reps possible; in this case 5-6 reps. As the set goes on and you accumulate fatigue, you can decrease the number of reps you perform. For instance, you may perform 5-6 reps for the first five or so minutes, but then you may have to drop down to 4 reps each. After a little while longer you may have to drop down to 3 reps, and then 2, and maybe even do singles the last minute. Add up your total for each exercise after the time period is over.
The next time you repeat the workout, you perform more reps than last time. Easy peezy.
Oh, and if you want a good lower body EDT workout, I like squats and leg curls.
RPT (Reverse Pyramid Training)
I’ve used RPT with great success, and I have to thank my good friend Rog Lawson for that; I’ve read about this training method from Martin Berkhan as well. Gaining strength is generally the primary goal with this type of training technique, but you can apply it to building muscle as well (just use a higher rep range).
Begin by picking a rep range, depending on the exercise; a generic rep range could be 4-6 reps with a strength emphasis. You’ll perform a total of three sets; at least with this example.
With this example, set number one should be a four rep maximum — a weight you can complete for four perfect reps, but no more.
For set number two, decrease the weight by 10%. You should be able to perform one or two more reps than the first set.
For set number three, you can either repeat set two or decrease the weight by another 10% and perform an additional rep than set two.
Here’s how it looks, and we’ll use a deadlift as an example.
- Set #1 — 185 pounds x 4 reps
- Set #2 — 165 pounds (approximately -10% set 1) x 5 reps
- Set #3 — 150 pounds (approximately -10% set 2) x 6 reps
Once you can complete six reps on the first set, increase the weight about five pounds and start back at four reps.
You can also use this method for higher rep exercises as well, using a rep range of 8-12, if you choose.
Need to shake up your workout? Use these five training techniques with your current program. Or, you can use them in these strength training workout templates.