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    Default Straight Sets or Reverse/Descending Pyramid?

    I've been using a reverse/descending pyramid set structure in my routine for a long time now. I do 4 sets per exercise as follows: 6/8/10/12. The weight reduces by 10% each set but the reps increase by 2. I originally moved to this structure as I felt that it would allow me to use heavier weights seeing as I dont have to stick with the same weight for all of the sets (as would be the case with straight sets). It almost felt as though I was lifting sub maximally with straight sets. Using Dumbbell bench press for example, with only having one true heavy set of 6 reps I'd be able to use at least 10 more pounds than I would when using straight sets, due to the fact that with straight sets I'm having to leave a couple of reps in the tank each set to make sure I manage to get them all on the following sets.

    My issue recently though is that I've started wondering if straight sets ARE actually the better set/rep structure, and I hope you guys can provide some input to help me clear this up. Sure, straight sets have you lifting a sub maximal weight (I.e. lower than what you're actually capable of), but perhaps they can help you to progress at the correct length of time. The problem I've sometimes had with RPT sets is that I manage to progress extremely quickly, almost to the point of being TOO fast before my form, joints, etc have been properly optimised. With straight sets I'd be using a specific weight for a longer period of time and 4 sets worth instead of just 1 set as would be the case with RPT.

    For example, making sure you get all 4 sets of 6 reps with a certain weight (straight sets) seems like it'd be a better indicator that you're ready to progress as opposed to just 1 set of 6 reps (RPT).

    If you guys could provide some insight as to which you feel is the better method it'd be much appreciated. Something is telling me that straight sets may be the better option but for some reason I just cant get over the fact that you're using sub maximal weights only to "keep a couple of reps in the tank" as opposed to pushing yourself as much as possible.

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    If your feeling is telling you straight sets are best then go with that. Here’s a variation of the straight set format I’ve used in the past.

    Say you do 3 sets of 10 for 100 pounds on each set of a lift. That’s 300 pounds in total tonnage.

    That’s a good way of training, nothing wrong with it and it works. But with some tweaking you could make the training more interesting as we know straight sets can get pretty stale at times.

    Okay, do 3 sets again but this time the weights will change on each set. First, start with a warm up set in which use 50-60% of the top weight which will be 110 pounds. Do for 8-10 reps.

    Now move on to the first main set and use 80% of 110 pounds which will be 90 pounds and do 10 reps.

    Second set do 110 pounds for 10 reps to near failure (I don’t believe in failure training as it leads to burnout and quick plateaus, instead stop when your reps begin to slow and grind).

    The third set drop down to 100 pounds for a final set of 10, again to near failure.

    Even though the weights are different for each set the tonnage is still the same (90+110+100=300) plus you’ve used an extra 10 pounds in the second work set.

    So you’ve staggered the sets which makes it more challenging since you go heavier in one or two sets than doing the same weight on each set.

    If you want more volume (more sets) use the same scheme but like this

    50-60% warm up 8-10 reps
    80% of top weight (prep set/work set) 10 reps

    100% top weight 10 reps to near failure
    90% of top weight (back off set) 10 reps to near failure
    90% of top weight 10 reps to near failure
    80% of top weight 10 reps to near failure (optional)

    Or you can do this

    Do your warm ups then do your top set for 2 sets followed by 2 back off sets

    Set 1 100% top weight
    Set 2 100% top weight
    Set 3 drop weight by 10% go for as many reps as possible
    Set 4 drop weight by another 10% go for as many reps as possible

    It just makes straights set a bit more interesting and challenging than doing the same weight on each set.



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