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Optimal reps for strength training(16 posts)

Optimal reps for strength trainingPODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Jul 13, 2002 9:00 AM
What are the optimal reps for strength training to build strength? Also while I'm at it what about size? I have an idea but I'd like to know how close I am.

Nick Corcoran
re: Optimal reps for strength trainingszybki
Jul 13, 2002 1:09 PM
Well, I'm no expert, but I've been strength training for years (played football in college - linebacker). 3-6 reps per set for strength (tapering weight up using lower reps for about 6 weeks), then do a 1 rep max workout to verify strength gains, taper to a higher rep workout for a few weeks then repeat. 10-12 reps per set for size is the norm. If you're looking for max strength gains, you should include some plyometrics and/or jump-squats, push-press, snatches, cleans, etc. How's the rehab going? Best of luck.
Jul 13, 2002 4:37 PM
Thanks for the reply.

As for my rehab its been nonexistent but my memory isn't good. And sometimes words are on the tip of my tongue but I can't think of them. But other than that I can train as hard as I want and I'm fine. I passed the 3 month mark 2 Sunday's ago so I'm pretty much in the clear from here on out.

Take care,
Great progress, NickAllisonHayes
Jul 13, 2002 6:01 PM

I see a lot of progress in your posts. Your responses are coherent and on point. Keep up the good work. I am in yer corner and pulling for 'ya, my little Rocky Balboa. I hope your conversational speaking will soon improve too.

re: Optimal reps for strength trainingpeloton
Jul 13, 2002 3:51 PM
There's a lot of different answers to this one, Nick. In a general sense, I would say that 4-6 reps per set is generally acknoledged to be the norm for building strength. By strength I mean absolute strength, 1RM (one rep max). You are going to have to mix this up though. Different muscle fibers respond best to different training, so for best results you are going to vary your sets and reps between workouts. You may even do sets of only one or two depending on what you are trying to accomplish. One thing that is very important in making strength gains is to make sure that that 5th or 6th rep is to FAILURE. You couldn't lift that bar again if your life depended on it. Too many athletes decrease the reps, but could still do more after the set is done. Make sure the last rep you do is the last rep you could do. A spotter is invaluble in this type of training- You can't do it without one.

The old school bodybuilder philosophy is 10-12 reps for size. Don't buy it. If you want to build size, you need to increase your absolute strength, your 1RM. The muscles have increased in size to handle this larger workload. Lifting 10-12 reps isn't going to help you get to your best personal 1RM as fast as lower reps and more sets. Bodybuilders are looking to look big, not to just be big. The definition they have is what makes them look large. The higher sets probably helps many of them with this. A powerlifter who is much stronger has larger musculature than the bodybuilder. This is from the 1RM training they are doing. Size vs. definition.

Of course, all of this is useless without knowing what sort of strength you are trying to build. What is the goal here? The answer can vary so much depending on what the goal is. Otherwise, it is all generalizations.

If you have a lot of questions on this matter I would find a trainer in your area who is National Strength and Conditioning Association CSCS certified. This way you have a college educated professional giving you advice. Either that or go to you local university's kinesiology department. Most profs love to talk, and would be happy to help you. This way you get good info. Gym rats are notoriously misinformed on training and nutrition. There is also a lot of great info on the net if you can wade through the BS too.
re: Optimal reps for strength trainingWalter
Jul 13, 2002 4:03 PM
The advice here has been pretty good. If you want to increase max. contractile strength you have to lift heavy. Lifting heavy by necessity means lower reps.

As a personal rule I attempt a 1 rep max after I successfully complete a 3 rep set at 90% of my previous 1 rep max. That's my own formula and it has served me well these last 2 years as I've tried to get my squats back up to a competitive level. It may or may not work for you. The advice to find personal and informed advice is very good. Annonymous advice over the internet even well intentioned will not be of great benefit. The one thing I will tell you that you must do is religiously log your workouts. Go to a powerlifting or olympic style meet and when you see the guys who do really well I'll bet you anything they've got logs going back years. There's no guesswork in their routines.
Jul 13, 2002 4:52 PM
Thanks for the advice!

A log is one thing I've always meticulously kept. So its good to know I've been doing something right! :)

Nick Corcoran
Jul 13, 2002 4:51 PM
Thanks Peleton. Its nice not to debate the age old protein issue with you! ;)

As for my goals it would be to turn the size I have always had into strength. I've always been a very strong powerful guy with big legs. But when it comes to squatting especially due to a weakness in my glutes/hamstrings and poor form I've never been able to lift much more than 250 for my 1 rep max.

Nick Corcoran
My goalspeloton
Jul 13, 2002 5:03 PM
The protein debate- That would be great- except your are WRONG!!!!!!! :)

Squats are tough with proper form being critcal. When I was in high school I didn't do much more than you. When my form got better I was a couple hundred better than that though. Work on the form, and the 1RM will come up easy. For cycling though, your sport specific strength is probably right on the money. Look at the positives of what you got.
Best way to perfect squatsPODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Jul 13, 2002 5:07 PM
Not getting into the protein debate! :) Unless of course you want to start a new thread......... :P

But back to the actual topic!

So what would the best way to perfect my squatting technique be? I feel my sport specific strength on the bike is good. But I also feel in order to take my performance up a notch fine tuning my squatting and honing my strength will help me achieve this.

Jul 13, 2002 5:23 PM
The best way I have found to good squat technique is practice under the supervision of a good trainer. The trainer provides you with feedback, and you process immediately with real world experience. That is the best way that I have found to get good at squats. A mirror in front of the squat rack also helps for you to look at your own form. A lot of biomechanical deficiencies can be shown during the squat. A good trainer can pick up on musclular imbalances and flexiblity issues that are causing problems. It's hard to see a lot of probelms and know where they are coming from until you have been around a while. A lot of people get frustrated with the squat because of easily fixable issues that they just don't see. I know there is a lot I wish I knew several years ago.

I guess the problem is finding a good trainer. There are too many out there that don't know for themselves, let alone share with others. Hence, the recommendation I always give to looking for a properly trained trainer- ie- college, NSCA cert, etc.

I guess I could give you more about your squat technique, but it would be hard without seeing you in person. Any more info that I gave here would be a guess at best. The best thing that you could do is have your coach find you a qualified trainer to give you hands on advice.
Problem with trainersWalter
Jul 13, 2002 5:46 PM
Is that most of the ones in gyms are bodybuilder wannabes and the ones Peloton describes are few and far between. I'll not go into personal stuff here but I can still muster up a back squat that's pretty respectable. But I can't do much for you over the internet nor can anyone else. Talking about dropping hips and knees over toes won't help a whole lot. You need personal advice from someone who knows what's up.

There are some excellent videos available. An internet search under powerlifting should get numerous hits. If you can't find the right trainer that's a viable option.

Form is of utmost importance. Keep your weight light until your form is right. Make your warm-ups not just warm-ups but form practice as well.
Some of my experience which may or may not be worth anything...Leisure
Jul 14, 2002 12:28 AM
Personal advice also from someone who can see you doing it. It's hard to tell how poor your form is, even with a mirror, while you're in the middle of forcing up a heavy set.

Mine may not be the ultimate best advise because I never really emphasized legs much in weightlifting, but I would think structuring a dedicated squat workout for maximum strength for one rep won't help your cycling all that much.

A, you will build up anaerobic strength that can't operate for more than a few cycles up hill. After that, all the muscle mass you built up will just be dead weight.

B, if you're just jumping into it, sets biased towards maximum strength gain are the worst ones to learn good form from. You will have a harder time emphasizing your leg muscles well, just like Walter said.

C, from above, poor form is the best way to get injured. Even mild injury, like tweaking your spine or neck, will slow down your training.

I never did much leg training in the gym, I did weights for upper body and figured cycling was doing enough for the lower body. What leg workouts I did do were mostly in the context of helping my mountainbiking. I went with low weights, deep squats, and perfect form for 12 to 15 reps to maximize full range of motion strength that I could sustain for reasonable amounts of time. After a bit I added snatches, similarly with low weights and 12-15 reps to add explosiveness. It seemed to do good, as I felt I was able to charge harder up steep technical sections and recover more easily. Of course, I didn't vary my workouts much either, so it stands to reason I could have benefited more from a different workout regime.
Some good points.....Walter
Jul 14, 2002 6:10 AM
I used to competitively lift and am trying to do so again at least in regards to squats (a motorcycle accident in 93 pretty much eliminated the other lifts from my routine).

A big squat is fun and gives you a sense of accomplishment and even inflates my ego but doesn't help my cycling a whole lot. Though I don't feel it hurts it much either but it takes a little more warm-up time on the bike to really feel "loose."

I live in Fla and don't have to climb much. If you want to climb, big ole thighs and "guns" hanging out of your shoulders are just weight that needs to be carried up that hill.
Strength training being important in trainingPODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Jul 14, 2002 10:01 AM
Thanks for the replys. I would just like to touch on the following statement that was pointed at; pure weight training will only marginally help your cycling at best. I agree and if anything it could have a detrimental impact on it by hunkering you down with too much muscle mass which isn't utilized. It's like freaking huge body builders going to compete in a worlds strongest man contest and getting absolutely whooped. They have the size and quite a bit of strength, however they don't utilize it as much as they could.

This is why endurance cyclists only training in the weight room in the off season. From my understanding this is due to the fact that in the winter you build your strength base and from there over the off-season the strength gains in the gym on say the squat rack or leg press will be turned into useable on the bike strength since any unused weight will have a detrimental impact on performance. This goes for any sport and it is the reason why the best coaches in the world rely heavily on periodization programs. Through the use of phases to get the muscle mass, turn the muscle mass into strength, turn that muscle mass into power and finally take all those gains and apply them to the sport.

For myself however I see I am in bit of a different boat for 2 reasons.

1) Due to my accident I will not be racing so I have just over year to get into peak form for next years nationals.
2) Then I am trying to succeed as a track sprinter which requires huge ammounts of strength and power. All of which is gained during the off-season. However, during my season and correct me if I'm wrong I feel I need to rely heavily on maintenance workouts in the weight room to ensure I keep all the size and power. However, in the maintenance workouts I need to be careful to not just train for one aspect such as size, strength or power but cycle them constantly to ensure each is at the highest possible level.

I look forward to your replies!

Learn form..strength will followWalter
Jul 14, 2002 2:25 PM
If you have had success as a track sprinter but have difficulty squatting much more than 250# your deficiency is form. Squats will build tremendous strength in the muscles that track and field coaches call "core" (thighs, hip erectors, abs and glutes) but they must be done correctly.

Any big squatters in your gym? If so talk to them but wait for them to finish first. People who can muster up a big squat pretty well obsess over squats. In the gym if someone gets me started I can talk for an hour on just hip placement. (Kinda strange I know but I did use the word "obsess" didn't I) Anyways if there are some guys who can go over 500# that's who you want to watch and talk to. It's pretty well impossible to get to that level w/o proper form.

I would consider heavy squats an excellent lift for a velo racer but I'll freely admit there are any number of cycling coaches out there who can talk about lifting and riding more with more experience than I. One thing I do know is that squatting will not give you any "unusable" muscle. You're lifting not boybuilding and there's a world of difference. (Don't get me started)

Good luck and search the internet, there's good stuff out there.