Monday, February 11, 2008

The Single Repetition Principle - Ditillo

It should be obvious to most of you now that to develop yourself to the limits of your physical capabilities will be a long and hard road to follow. It is not going to be easy to make yourself into a new, massively strong man. In order to fully develop your strength potential, you will have to learn to handle heavy poundages regularly in your training. Many shy away from this. They fear heavy weight. For them, the power rack will be of some assistance, since it will offer them protection from falling barbells and failures. But along with this assistance work, heavy poundages will have to be utilized in the regular barbell moves or else we will not be able to show our usable strength in an accepted manner. This is where the Single Repetition Principle comes into play. For, by using it correctly, we will be able to demonstrate our functional strength.

I feel that a regular increase in training poundages is necessary for continued progress. A trainee should strive to handle as much weight as he can possibly accommodate to, for the given number of sets and repetitions which are contained in the training regimen. There is no point in training for increased strength if you are going to persist in training with light weights. Strength comes from intense effort, whether in the form of low repetitions or single repetitions, it does not come from pumping out set after set with medium heavy resistance. This kind of training will only tear down your strength potential. And just because the bodybuilding champions look strong, this does not make them strong! This is why I have decided to speak about heavy singles in your training, because they are a sure measurement stick for you to understand where your limits, weaknesses and strong points lie and then the ability to correct these faults (if any) will lie in your grasp.

By using the contained information, most of you hard gainers will at last have a reasonable approach to your lifting and should realize regular strength increases with applied work and attention.

One only has to take a look at today’s powerlifting champions to see the physical limits of size and strength, concentrated in a single body. All these men look strong and are strong. This goes for the Olympic lifters also. There was a time a while back when the Olympic lifter could as an example of strength without muscular development worth speaking of, but today, due to improved methods of raining and the intensity of competitions you have to be both muscular and strong in order to win. Some of these men are carrying enough functional muscle on their frames to look almost inhuman! This is especially true of the heavier classes since this is where there is enough bodyweight to make up appreciable size. The lower classes have an athletic, well knit together look and such an appearance gives the impression of hidden strength and a look at the records in these lower classes will convince you of the truth of this. There can be no doubt about it, these men have somehow learned to find the right combination of much work and hard work and the result is an incredibly massive and powerful body.

What makes this so pertinent for this part of the book is that they all have used in one form or another, the Single Repetition Principle in their training. And by absorbing the training principles of these men the average strength seeker will be able to gain like he has never gained before, without the endless hours wasting away in the gym, seeking answers and not knowing exactly where to go or what to do.

In my own search for better and faster training methods, I came across many fallacies which most men hold on to in their training and for the most part, did not gain regularly because of it. I am not going to say that such training systems do not have their place, only that they, in themselves are not the complete answer. Just about any system we use will work, to some degree, as long as we work. So it would be wrong to assume that these methods are a complete waste of time. It is only that I have found a faster way, and I want to make this known to you for your own sake, that I make these negative comparisons.

The first fallacy I saw through was the notion that high repetitions and light weights could reduce fat and at the same time build muscle. Many lifters feel that if they go on a periodic “pump” routine, they will be able to train down some and perhaps go into the next lower class, thereby becoming lighter and yet almost the same in strength. Hogwash!

It just doesn’t happen that way. Your diet is the key to whether you are soft or lean. Your dietary habits determine how much muscle density you are going to carry. That along with genetics will eventually make you into your finished product. Try and remember that light weights will do nothing for you in developing physical strength. For if you try to exercise excess weight off, without continuing your strength schedules, you will wind up smaller, flabbier and a lot weaker and who needs this? In the long run you will be very disappointed.

The second fallacy I came across was that if you were underweight and you tried to build up using light training methods, with long and frequent schedules, just like you read in the magazines, that this would somehow transform into a superman due to all this excessive work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strength is not built from endurance training. Anyone with enough guts and determination can do set after set of light weights and high repetitions and get nothing out of it but a strong heart. If you are going after such a healthy condition, fine. But light and excessive work will not help you gain useful size or strength and if you think it will, think again!

The third and final fallacy was the notion that single repetitions are only a “test” of strength, they in themselves do not “build” strength. This is simply not true. There is not one Power or Olympic lifter who has ever made it to the top who has not utilized this method to some degree. You cannot properly prepare yourself towards competition without practicing singles because they are not going to ask to see how many reps you can get out with a given weight at the contest. On the lifting platform it’s how much you can do for one repetition that counts.

There are ways of incorporating this training method into your program which will enable you to use it with regularity and not go stale on it as so many of its detractors will moan about and bring your attention to. You simply do not do limit singles but do singles over and over with around 90 or 95% or your limit. By leaving this safety margin of 5 or 10% you reduce the possibility of going stale or of getting hurt.

I shall now ask the following question: “Why is this training method so valuable to the average trainee and how does it compare with other accepted theories?” To answer this we shall have to take look at what most of you are already doing in your training routines and then a fair comparison can be made.

First we have the “forced reps” method of training. This is when you have a helper who aids you to perform more and more repetitions with a weight which usually would limit your performance to only a few counts. Now this kind of training is very good, except for one point. For the man with low energy reserve it will be far to strenuous for continued use or continued gains. Hence it is unsuitable for most men who must work hard at their jobs all day. These men would never recuperate from this type of training. Training for “forced reps” is only for the gifted, chosen few. For the rest of us I feel that the only time we should try to force repetitions is in the comfort and safety of the power rack, because there you know you can’t get hurt by a sudden failure to finish a forced repetition.

Another method is the “cheating” method. This is where you try to move the weight by using other muscle groups to assist you. In my opinion all you get out of this is mild stimulation for a lot of muscle groups and shortness of breath. It makes no sense to take the stress off the very muscle you are trying to develop, does it? It is also possible to really hurt yourself from this exaggerated style of exercise performance. The cheating curl has hurt many a lower back!

The third old standby is the long respected method of “high sets and low repetitions.” A good example of this would be using 10 sets of 3 repetitions, using the same weight and trying to slowly get to where you can get 10 sets of 5 repetitions with this weight. Then you would increase the bar by maybe 20 lbs. and begin all over again with 10 sets of 3 reps. This gas worked pretty well for mw in the past, its main drawback is the amount of time such a schedule takes and the onset of training boredom doing the same number of sets and reps with the same weight each training session. Most trainees are too lazy to make the periodical weight increases which would make this system work pretty well. What happens is that they stay at the same sets, reps and weight too long and what happens is that the trainee loses interest and stops gaining.

Finally we come to the Single Repetition Principle. This system is valuable to strength lifters because it lets you know where you stand strength wise during any time of the year. You can gauge your overall strength condition by your ability to do a certain number of singles with a certain percentage of your weight limit. It is used by just about every top power and Olympic lifter in the country. This is especially true when they are peaking for a meet. Since you are not, you can use it with great regularity. All you need is determination and hard work.

When using the Single Repetition Principle in your training you should keep in mind the following pertinent facts: be sure that you get enough proper rest and recuperation into your work schedule since this heavy type of training places a great demand on your nervous system’s capability to respond with renewed vigor, workout after workout. Working with single repetitions is just about the hardest type of training you can do, save only the power rack. Remember this and try to get in enough rest and nutritional supplement into your schedule so that you will gave everything working for you for gaining and nothing holding you back.

You must also be sure that you are neither underworking nor should you be overworking. It is possible to train six days per week on this system without overworking. It is also possible to train for only three days per week, with an improper scheduling of these principles and you will be overworking to such a degree that you will be sure to fail, should you not try to remedy the situation by discussing this with someone who is in the know as to how to revamp what it is that you are doing so you can continue to gain once again. You must remember that training with heavy singles is very intense work. It will take a lot out of you both physically and mentally. Your muscles and tendons will be worked to the limit an the mental stress such training will place upon you defies description. But rest assured, with the application of this training system the way I am going to outline it here for you, it will be very hard for you to become overtrained and you will enjoy the success such training will bring you.

With this program I feel three or four movements per workout is best. Try it this way and see if it doesn’t react favorably on your system. Just be sure that your diet is adequate and you are resting enough between workouts and finally that the movements are the right ones for your particular aims and goals. I am sure after a short while of using this principle you will be able to judge just what is and what is not good for you, and a proper application of all pertinent information, you will know how to go about using this system and the goals will start to come quite regularly.

The following routines are used as models for you to pattern your workouts after. Feel free to make changes wherever you feel the need to. Remember: What we are trying to do is to work the particular exercise movements with a series of single repetitions with a weight close to your maximum. Ninety or ninety-five per cent is more than heavy enough. There are various ways to incorporate this principle into your lifting and I am going to list a few of them for you here and now.

One way is to pick a particular movement and do that twice per week. On the heavy day, you would do a set of 10 reps with 50% of your one rep limit. You’d then go to around 75% of your one rep limit and do a set or two of between 3 and 5 repetitions. These are the necessary warm-up sets. Now jump to 90% of your maximum and perform 5 single repetitions with this weight. Do each single as strictly as possible. Be sure to have a spotter or two in case you need them.

After 5 singles with weight, drop down to around 60 to 70% and gut out 2 or 3 sets of all the repetitions you can possibly handle. The key to progression here is to key to add a single or two to the heavy attempts with this 90 to 95% limit weight. It is then time to take a few days off and go for a new personal record in the lift. After doing so, simply adjust the training percentiles according to the new strength level and begin once again. On the other training day, I’d adjust the strength level to around 60% maximum and do between 5 and 7 sets of whatever repetitions are possible with this particular weight.

On such a schedule, I would do all the heavy single attempt movements on days one and five and I’d go medium heavy on days two and four. If Monday were heavy then Tuesday would be medium and Wednesday would be a rest day. Thursday would again be medium and Friday would be a heavy day, but for a different exercise movement. If I wanted to use this principle on the Bench Press and the Squat, then I would bench for singles on Monday Tuesday would be a medium squat day, and Wednesday would be a day off. Thursday would be medium bench day and Friday would be a heavy squat day. This way you are able to recuperate most efficiently.

You could also do your heavy singles on both exercises in one workout and rest for two days or maybe three and hit them both again with medium reps and sets. This way you would be training hard twice per week. It is really up to you just how many workouts you decide to undertake. The reasoning behind the training theory is sound, so whatever you choose will work.

The need for single attempts as a training medium cannot be overlooked because they teach you, just as the power rack teaches you, to fight against heavy weight. And this is a requirement for continued success in any strength. Some may argue that all that is necessary is medium heavy resistance and the strength will come whether you perform singles or not, but I beg to differ. What happens in most of those cases is that the lifter becomes proficient at performing many sets of three and five reps with a medium heavy weight and he also gains in muscle size and density from the work but his limit single and double attempts do not come to par with his repetition capabilities. It is far easier to learn to do more repetitions with a given weight than it is to lift a heavier weight for the same number of repetitions. This is where we have so many guys falling by the wayside. They can squat maybe four hundred for fine repetitions and fail with four fifty for a single! This is almost assuredly caused by training with many sets of low repetitions but very little single repetition work being done.

We who seek higher levels of strength development must admit to ourselves that the man who can lift heavier weight is stronger than the man who can do more sets, but with a lighter weight. The second man has more muscular endurance, but the first man has more strength. If you can overcome this hurdle then you will be one more step on the road to where you want to go. And if you use the heavy single repetition approach in your training, along with common sense and a correct combination if proper recuperation and diet, your strength level should come up quite fast.

The Single Repetition Principle is one of the hardest and heaviest training methods available for you to use. It takes a freedom from fear of heavy weights and it takes guts and determination to achieve your aims while using this system. It also takes a great deal of hard work. But we all know that you get nothing for nothing, so hard work is not a problem, is it . . .

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