“Whut?!” in a Scooby Doo-esque voice you might ask at such a headline, but there is a lot of benefit to be reaped in high rep ranges on medium weights when you’ve stalled on developing strength.
I learned this the hard way, of course, like most of the more esoteric knowledge I have acquired through my years of lifting.
High Rep Ranges for Strength
When you’re natural, in particular, one of the things you’ll quickly learn is that there isn’t much aggregate wriggle room or margin for error in training, dieting, or anything else.
Unless you have superhuman genetics or are lying about your natty status, you’ll have to be both vastly creative and have everything on point to achieve a high level of success.
Alternatively, you can just gear up — but even then, you’ll still have to put in the hard yards.
One appalling misconception surrounding strength sports is that athletes exclusively train in low rep ranges.
While it is immensely important to use heavy weights and follow a principle of progressive overload; hitting a lift in a one-rep max range of above 70% of your best is a great way to stall — and fast.
You have got to be more creative. “The little PRs add up to big PRs,” to paraphrase Larry Wheels.
And this is why, when I began to stall, I started to implement massive rep ranges on my accessory movements.
Don’t be afraid to do Romanian Deadlifts, for example, in the third portion of your lift where you’re weakest for high reps.
Likewise, as a finisher to my workout, I’ve done triceps extensions for sets of up to 100 reps.
Greg Doucette’s “train harder than last time” simplification of progressive overload comes to mind — all you need to do is keep in mind what you can do at lighter weights then go for AMRAP (As many reps as possible) PRs.
For the first few months of doing this for your accessory movements, you can break a total rep PR for almost every accessory movement of your choice. I’m not kidding; I can assure you that your total rep ability for lighter weights will be woeful in comparison with your working sets of above 70% of your one rep max.
By improving your total rep maxes at weights of, say, 40-70% of your one rep max, your main lift will increase tremendously.
As the load is also lightened, don’t be afraid to use partial rep ranges from time to time.
As I previously mentioned, I would Romanian Deadlift weights less than 50% of my one rep max for massive rep ranges in my weakest portion of the lift.
I am indebted to 900lb deadlifter George Leeman for this training insight — imagine the toll it would take on your muscles, connective tissue, CNS, and skeleton to throw around massive weights like that all the time?
No, take a step back, put your ego to one side, and lower the weight, but hit it hard — harder than last time.
Hammer the muscles where you are lagging the most for optimum success.
There are some exercises that are more taxing than others.
I wouldn’t recommend squatting 60% of your one rep max for sets of 25 week in week out as recovery would take way too long.
Big rep ranges should mostly be reserved for your accessory movements towards the end of your workout.
For example, on your deadlift day, you could do something like this:
Or, for Bench Press:
Heavy Bench (5×3), Close-Grip With Chains (3×5), JM Press (3×25), Tricep Extensions (3×30-50), Face Pulls (4×15-20)
Try implementing accessory movements with higher rep ranges on a new training cycle or sessions before a planned deload.
And try implementing this principle — with aggressive progressive overloading — each training session when you’ve begun to stall on your lift.