Strength just makes everything easier, right, ?
We’ve all been told this…
“Strength is the cup.”
– Highly debated who said this, but probably Brett Jones or Eric Cressey
But how do we get stronger? Well, today we start, just like we did with power, by looking at the reps…
We won’t make you go through the hypotheticals of last week, and I think we will all agree that strength training lies somewhere in the ballpark of 1-6 reps. Since we did it last week, let’s look at what the NSCA has to say:
2-6 sets of 6 or fewer reps @ 85% 1RM or greater
Probably comes as no surprise, but we don’t FULLY agree with that. I mean, we really do, for the most part, but not always. Because training age.
But let’s go back before we go forward…
If you haven’t caught on yet, our programs typically start with a power block, which is paired with “core” and a mobility drill. We then progress on to a strength block, which is paired with a stability/motor control drill… We are not talking a 16 week block, but rather the breakup of our daily training program. It looks like this:
Sorry for the regression, but we just want to make sure we are all on the same page about where this stuff is on our programs…
Now let’s go back to training age. This doesn’t matter if we are talking about 16 year old freshman Johnny Football, or 40 year old Suzie Nomuscles (she’s real). If they are both beginners, we are not going to throw them into the ring of fire with low reps and high % of their one rep max.
What the hell is their one rep max anyways? We sure didn’t test it…
So for this reason, we may actually program their strength training with as much as 8 reps. Hell, think they need more, and think they’ll get stronger with that approach? I’m down to discuss it.
But for the purpose of this lesson, let’s agree on 1-8 reps… The higher end of reps may land us more on the hypertrophy line, but who couldn’t use that? It also allows our beginners, which more people are than they may think, to spend time with a few more reps working towards mastery of the movement.
Obviously there’s a fine line here. Our focus is on great movement with appropriate intensity, which leads us to…
Warning, déjà vu coming…
Remember our RPE scale?
@10: Maximal Effort. No reps left in the tank.
@9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep.
@8: Could have done two or three more reps.
@7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied.
@6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort.
Strength typically happens in the 7-10 RPE range, with the bulk of our effort spent around an RPE of 8, and VERY occasionally going to a 9. We typically save 10 for competition or testing, if there even is one.
Sound low to you? Why would we pick those, you ask?
Well, everything has a cost of doing business, as Dan John and Pavel frequently refer to in Easy Strength.
Play around in that 9 or 10 range too often, and there’s a good chance that the cost may be a bit much.
Outside of true strength athletes, most people are coming to us to move better, feel better, and look better. Naked. We don’t need to go above a 9 to accomplish that for most people…
Just like in our power lesson, we are going to use non-linear alternating periodization. Knowing that we program 4 phases to make up one block, let’s make a few rep schemes:
- Month 1: 8 reps / Month 2: 4 reps / Month 3: 6 reps / Month 4: 3 reps
- I commonly use this with beginners…
- Month 1: 6 reps / Month 2: 4 reps / Month 3: 3 reps / Month 4: 2 reps
- Hmmmmm… this one should look familiar. You’re currently following it!
- Month 1: 5 reps / Month 2: 2 reps / Month 3: 4 reps / Month 4: 1 rep
- Probably looks a lot more like your typical strength program
These are just a few examples, using only non-linear alternating periodization. There’s a lot of room to play here. We’ve just found this to work really well across the board!
What to do now?
Hopefully you took our advice and created your own rep schemes to pluck from for power. Now, let’s do the same for strength. The more that we systematize with our program design, the easier it becomes. When someone walks into our facility we are not starting from scratch. We simply go to our system and use what makes sense for the situation. Trust us, do this now, and you will save major time and headaches down the road.
Well, we’ve still got to look at reps, RPE, and periodization for our assistance work. This might not be as straight forward as you’re expecting. Then, next week, we have conditioning and loading strategies to go over, but that one’s a whole other animal… By the time we get there, this little thing at the top of your program days will finally make sense:
Let’s keep building the system…