by Dave Thomas
CPT-NSCA, USAW, RKC
Our programming is split isolated for a reason, so that you can apply unconfused focus to whatever we have you perform that day. As such, when we program a first tier to be centered around a challenging barbell movement, the idea is to perform your sets with attention to detail and focus on improving that movement.
Here are a few ways you can get more out of your first tier.
Adhere to Reps and Load
Ideally, the most productive day is to settle into a percentage and make it repeatable for all five rounds. Say, for example, we call for a 5 x 3 @ 85% on deadlifts and your 1-rep max is 400#. This means that you would perform five working sets of 340# x 3. You will have a more productive strength day if you perform 340# x 3 for all five rounds, then if you wasted working sets on weight lighter than that, just so you can have a single, heavier final set.
Meaning, don’t undersell your first and second set because you are targeting a massive fifth set. Be consistent.
If you want to finish with a single heavier set that is slightly above your working weight, that’s totally cool, just do so after you have completed the five sets.
Lastly, perform ALL of the reps as prescribed by the board. If the board calls for 5 x 5, perform 25 reps. Not 20, not 23.
Follow the 2-Minute Rule
If you do not need at least two minutes between your sets, you’re not going heavy enough. Period. Those who finish a first tier in under ten minutes have accomplished very little. There is no benefit to be had from speeding through a strength portion of the workout. Given that your second tier will typically allow for pace and conditioning, be patient and watch all the positive things that happen to your body, energy and metabolism from providing it the stimulus of strength training.
Don’t be in such a hurry because you think you’re not burning fat. Besides, that’s your diet’s job, anyways.
Have a Threesome
The ideal set-up is to pair up with three people, even four. This leads to proper pacing and typically challenging yourself to more than you might perform on your own accord. When I watch people workout with other people, after the initial shock they must meet someone new or engage with another human, it always leads to productive, valuable training. This is not to say you partner up with someone and lift irresponsible weight, but when you hold yourself accountable to another human being, you tend to be better at what you’re supposed to do. It also provides a natural rest cycle of around two minutes, the time we are looking for.
Warm Up More
There are two kinds of sets. Warm-up sets and working sets. Working sets are game time, the actual workout. Your five sets where you will improving. Spend as much time as you need on your warm up sets working up to proper weight. Never count an easy warm-up set as a working set. Ever.
If you are performing working sets before we start the clock, you’re doing it wrong.
Track Your Weight
Without knowing what you lift every single time you come into the gym, you are aimlessly throwing darts. By simply buying a small journal and tracking your progress, you would notice that on your last 5×5 squat day, you performed 165#. Accordingly, you’d go up to 170 or 175# on the current day.
“But, what if strength is not a goal of mine?”
I can already hear those of you jogging in place between your sets asking this question. I would counter with, what if you hate vegetables? You don’t just not eat them or avoid things that are good for you simply because you don’t like them. When has the weak human being evolved to be at the top of the chain? Show me that, and I will start to respect that question.
No one’s telling you that you have to turn into the strongest person in the room. We too often think in polars. You don’t have to be obsessed with something to do it and get benefit from it.
Holler with any questions in the comment section of the Facebook post, and happy strengthening.
Dave Thomas is an owner and coach at Performance360 in San Diego, CA.