Loading Patterns

Question

What’s your opinion on how many loading patterns you can run back to back? I’ve done really well on 2 that I tried, but came up short on 2 of them too.

How many can you run, without burning out?

Answer

For MOST people, using a percentage based loading pattern works really well.

Much of that is due to its precision: For many, its the first time they’ve been given a weight to lift, reps to perform and sets to accomplish. On that score alone, their performance usually improves dramatically.

That’s not true for everyone though, and truth be told I’m still trying to understand why.

The short answer to your question though about how many can be successfully run back to back is… it depends.

If the stress in your life is low, you’re eating well, sleeping well and everything else is in line – I’ve done 5 in a row, and had excellent results.

Understand, however, Murphy is bound to show up at some point – especially over 6 or more months of using these.

You might miss a rep here or there. You might get hurt, or other life and family demands might take you away from your scheduled workouts.

I would say for most, 2-3 loading patterns in a row is a realistic estimate. That’s around 3-4 months or so of very intense loading though, so it’s probably best at that point to take a break.

Herein I think is the real value in my answer: If you have to stop (for any reason), working with 80% of your 1RM for say, 5 sets of 5 is the preferred strategy.

I’ve always found 80% is heavy enough to keep 90% of your strength gains (provided a certain volume threshold is met). Importantly though, its not so heavy as to burn your CNS out.

Some people can’t quite manage 5 reps with 80% though, but there’s an easy solution: Perform 5 sets of 3, and keep adding reps as the weeks roll by until you can perform 5 sets of 5.

At that point, you can increase intensity to 85% of 1RM, and reduce volume by moving to 3 sets of 3.

Tripling with 85% of our 1RM should allow for a reliable estimate insofar as your 1RM, so it’s easy to see where you’re at, before making your next move.

Most people can reliably count on 10lbs a rep. So if you’re benching 300lbs for 3, your true 1RM should be very close to 330. The same goes for the squat and deadlift, provided reps of 5 or less are used.

From there, I simply scale back 5-10lbs to be conservative, and base my new loading pattern off of 320 or 325.

So although I can’t give you a simple answer, I can give you a plan to keep gaining while more or less being on cruise control. Keep working with 80-85% of your 1RM until your situation becomes more manageable, and you’ll be in great shape for whenever you’re ready to rock and roll again.

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Coach Rob Regish

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to Superhumanradio.net for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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