Sets and Reps # 2: Training for Max Strength
The first sets and reps blog was last year and I looked at the classic 5×5 protocol. Check it out here if you missed it.
This piece is all about training for max strength. I certainly hope I’m preaching to the converted when I say that this is pretty much the most fundamental physical quality you can develop in your athletes, and underpins everything from power, endurance and obviously strength endurance. If you still need convincing on this check out the work of mike stone and co who’ve demonstrated it time and again.
That said I’m also a BIG believer in earning the right to progress to training for max strength. There does need to be some accumulation of volume before athletes progress to training for max strength.
In reality, training for max strength depends on your training history. There isn’t a “this is better than that” type approach, it’s all about what’s right for that athlete or group.
To illustrate this take an elite level power lifter and compare them to a 3 year resistance trained female football player (or which I train a few!).
The power lifter may train for max strength using a protocol of 10-12 single reps working up to 95% or above for 6/7 sets.
The football player may need just 3 working sets of 3 reps. This is the difference between the athletes and not the sports.
Note the word NEED in the sentence above.
What do they need to achieve the training goal? We should be giving them the minimum dose they need to get the desired adaptation right? Of course! Then they go home and rest of play their sport, that’s smart training. More often than not in strength and conditioning programmes we don’t get chance to do 10 sets of any single exercise so it’s more of what will get the job done.
I coach performance athletes from many sports and pretty much all of them fit into more of the football player type model rather than the power lifter.
Here’s just some of the protocols we tend to use with our crew (all working sets):
3-5 sets of 3
4 x 4
Honestly, the numbers aren’t important, it’s the intensity that is. Keep the reps less than 5 when appropriate and push the intensity.
Working at or above 85% for the athletes relative max for that rep range is crucial. For example if their 3RM is 100 look to work at 90 or above for 3’s for the working sets.
Failure of reps is not a good idea so make sure you speak with the athletes before they get into the session and discuss specific loads. Whether you chose to set these in advance is your choice as coach. This is a big part of our job.
For me it’s not always a good idea, you might underestimate or overestimate. Take advantage of your contact with them and use your coaching skills and knowledge of the athlete to get the best from them daily.
Warm-up sets are important, do these and then get to the working sets.
Super setting is generally going to happen in s&c programmes. Yes it’s going to compromise true max strength gains but if that’s all the athletes know it’s all relative. We need to do more work and max strength is rarely, if ever the only objective.
Don’t water things down by putting in more than 3 major physical goals in the programme. Use compound movements and stick to the principles above and you have a good chance of developing some good strength gains.
Notice their has been no mention of specific exercise selection here.
How do you train for max strength in your environment? What value do you place on it? Let me know by leaving a comment below 🙂