Adapting a training technique from Olympic Lifting for power training: The two rep set
Over decades of power training, I have found that there is a tendency to divide workouts into conditioning training using high rep sets with lighter weights and those where you work close to your one rep max to establish new PRs.
In the past couple years I have rediscovered one of the training approaches that was standard during my Olympic lifting days. That is using two rep sets with moderate weights to develop excellent lifting technique and maximum mobilization of force.
High Reps = Low power output and bad technique
If your goal is building maximum power output the last thing you want to do is any set above 5 reps. This has been one of the hallowed dictates of power training for decades.
The reason is that when you do a high rep set with a weight means that you will always be operating well below your maximum potential. If your one rep max is 200, doing many reps with 135 means that you will increase your muscle endurance, but only be operating at about 60% of your one rep capacity.
The other problem with high reps is that as you fatigue your lifting technique deteriorates. Just before failure your technique will be nothing but a crude approximation of a precise lift.
This means that your muscular contraction is way less than maximum, and the nerve signals to your muscles are mainly a struggle for survival rather than the precise execution of a complex lift.
I have used the term flop, thrash and puke to describe this type of lifting technique.
Two Rep Sets = Max Power Output and Excellent Technique
When you do two rep sets for one of the power lifts you can focus your attention on the two things that will help you become as strong as you can.
The first is precise execution which permits you to lift the weight with maximum mechanical advantage.
The second is maintaining your mental focus on precise execution so that you can train your body to put out maximum force throughout the lift.
This second point needs some further clarification.
When lifting a weight that is above 50% of your one rep max it is possible to breeze through it without any thought about how you are applying force. To train your body (central nervous system) to execute the lift with max force it is necessary to concentrate on maintaining whole body tension, maintaining proper body alignment, and applying force at the precise instant it is needed.
Power moves rely on fast twitch muscles that fatigue rapidly. One key to training them effectively is to do lifts that stress them but do not fatigue them.
Once fatigue begins to set in, execution tends to get sloppy.
Two rep sets for power training.
IMHO here is a sample formula for using two rep sets in power training is as follows:
Week 1: After your warmups select a weight that you can comfortably lift for 3-4 reps. Then use that weight to do 7 sets of 2 reps.
Fully recover between each set. This should be relatively fast since you are working below your limit. If you cant recover in 2-3 minutes, reduce the weights you are using.
Week 2 and beyond: begin with your weight from week 1, and then increase the weight 5 lbs (2.5 kilos) on the 3rd and 4th sets. You can drop back to the weight on set 1 for sets 5-7.
Week 3: more of a pyramid. Increase the weight again on set 5 then drop back on 6-7.
Over the course of several weeks you can increase the weight used on your top set with regular increases in sets 3-6. Always keep the weights used at a level where you can do two perfect reps.
You can continue using this program for up to 12 weeks since it is designed to keep you from hitting the dreaded plateau.
Doing 7 sets of 2 in squat and deadlift routines may fatigue you more rapidly than in the bench press. Feel free to cut the sets to 5 (or even 4) if the workload proves too much.
Also, if you come to a workout where you are tired or otherwise feeling sub-par, feel free to do all your sets of 2 reps with the weight you used at first. You will probably come back super strong for the next workout.
Again, emphasize perfect technique and performing all reps well within your capability. Dont try to force progress. Be patient!
For years I have spread the word that the kettlebell was first developed in the Russian army around 1860 when someone put a handle on a cannon ball. This week I found out that I had been peddling a wildly inaccurate version of fitness history.
An article in the New York Times indicated that the kettlebell actually dated from 1704. The device many of us know and love was first used in Russia as a counterweight on farm balance scales.
In those years weighing anything required stacking objects of a known weight on one side of a scale to determine the weight of the commodity on the other side of the scale.
Apparently, the serfs of 1704 began competing to see who could lift the most. The kettlebell was a handy thing to lift.
Now you know the REAL story.