Rep Schemes: Taking Lifting Seriously

So you’re a Body-Builder and deep in a program ..Looking for some more info.. Need a change-up?

Do you know what kind of lifter you are? Do you know what a rep is and why changing training styles is important? Below is some more detailed info on how to play around with rep schemes.

You must perpetually overload the muscle. This means that you’re talking yourself into lifting, pushing, or pulling something that seems heavier than you could ever want to lift– and it’s changing the look on your face as you do it– yet, you still do it– and as many times as possible.




Gains can be: Strength, Endurance, Muscle Size,  Body Composition, Skill, Speed/Power, etc.

You must shock your body- with movements that you haven’t done before, exercises you aren’t good at. You have to work on your weaknesses and imbalances. Think of yourself as one huge muscle.

You must diversify the style, speed, and duration of your movements, the kinds of exercises and planes and ranges of your motion, as well as when and in what sequence, and with what energy source.

Why is this all so important?

You have to break down muscle fibers so that when your body restores this damage and lays down new fibers – they are much more capable of meeting the demands of your movement, aka ADAPTATION

Same Muscle Group:

Working the same part of the body is attempting to control and use blood flow in the most efficient manner. The thinking behind this method is that you are capable of lifting greater loads as all of your oxygenated blood and energy is concentrated in the target muscles.

Opposing Muscle Groups:

This method is my personal favorite. It gives you an awesome feeling — what lifters call a pump– and you will feel in command of your anatomy, maybe even learn a thing or two about your body. Think of it as holistic lifting. ūüėČ

You train opposing muscles, so let’s say you are working on lower body.

1st set: Work the Anterior: Quadriceps with knee extensions – bilateral work, or pistol squats – unilateral work.


2nd set: Work the Posterior: Hamstrings with reverse hyper-extensions or leg curls taxing the muscles just opposite the Quadriceps.

Super Set: or Tri-Set:

The fastest and easiest way to increase the intensity and caloric expenditure of your workouts. Using the same example above, do exercises back to back without taking a rest. You will be fatigued for sure but burning fat and building endurance simultaneously.

For Tri-Sets, you do three instead of two without resting in between.


The most common training method of them all. After warming up:

1st set: Start with a load that you can complete 12-15 reps

2nd set: Increase load and shoot for about 8-10 reps

3rd set: Load for 6 reps.

This overloads the muscle successfully and works well for building lean muscle, strength and endurance.

Reverse Pyramiding:

This is the reverse of the above description. Always warm up first.

1st set: load for 6 reps max (meaning you can load for 1, 3, 4, etc)

2nd set: reduce load and push through 8-10 reps

3rd set: load for 12-15 reps.

This Rep Scheme gives your body the chance to lift maximum weight before fatigue sets in. It is a great way to get your numbers up. The more frequently you are able to maximize the lbs on the first set, the easier this whole routine will become and you will be lifting heavier than you thought you could in no time.

Drop Setting:

This is a really great Rep Scheme to wake up a certain muscle group that is just not responding in the way you would like. It could be genetics, or neglect, whatever the case, you’re ready to face it head on.

1st Set: Any exercise at your heaviest load but bearable. The load you can do for about 6 reps.

2nd Set: Reduce the load by half and do as many reps as possible. AMRAP. Depending on the exercise, it may be advisable to have a spotter present because this is very close to training to failure.

Optional Continuation:¬†Drop Setting to Failure: You can continue to decrease the weight and by any increment you like until it is the lightest it can be – and you can no longer move in the exercise’s range of motion.

Types of Training to Failure:

  • Set Assistance /Positive Failure

Any exercise any load, in the final reps a spotter assists you past a sticking point or muscle fatigue. By doing this it is a successful and positive way to not only overload the target muscle but complete the set. You can use a resistance bands on a pull-up as a form of assistance.

  • Negatives

This is the greatest way to acquire any skill/movement/exercise when strength held you back in your first attempt.

Ex. Pull ups. Hold yourself at the top of the bar and slowly lower. Rest and repeat. Soon the pulling motion will come much more naturally to you.

  • Partial Reps/ Pulses

However many sets of any exercise it takes to find yourself exhausted and target muscles fatigued. Continue going through sets getting through all reps at the original desired load, BUT by moving in pulses that cover only a portion of the full range of motion of the exercise.

  • Giant Set:

1st set: Any exercise with a weight that you can do for about 10 reps.

Pause for five seconds

 2nd Set: Do it again- and then again and again and again until you can only complete two reps of the exercise.

  • Pausing and Repeating:

This is another overloading method where instead of dropping the load, or doing partial reps aka pulses, you put the weights down and rest for 10 seconds and then repeating until you move. Failure, get it.




What Kind of Lifter am I?

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See Training Styles, How to Build a 6-week Program, High Intensity Variations, & Rep Schemes.

Each person has a different goal in mind when they train. While we are working with somewhat the same materials, we are not built the same, we do not have the same genetics, and we will not have the same results.

What works for one person may never work for you. You must be clear about what you want and if you have what it takes to work for that goal. 

Words to know: Load, Volume, Intensity, Strength, Power, Speed, Endurance.


Training Modes:

Training is certainly not limited to these four. And as much as I have categorized them for you, on any given day all four of these modes of training can be exercise in the same session.

Task-Oriented Training:

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This is to practice, learn, and create muscle memory– aka adapt and become better at something like, balance, jumping rope, pull-ups, handstands, etc.



Training for Weight Loss: This is to consistently be working on improving the composition, shape and strength of your muscles, organs and awareness of your body, as well as the general health of your physical form.


These are people who are choosing exercises with based on muscle presentation and ‘pop.’ They are sometimes very strong, sometimes have endurance, but upon competing and the traditional usage of the word “body-builder” their training objective is mainly aesthetic. This kind of lifting are not limited to competitors. Many everyday people train this way. They have different goals and body types among this group are all trying to attain a particular look by building muscles and burning fat around this muscle. ¬† ¬† ¬†

Total Body Conditioning:

These are people who may have been athletes earlier in their life or have found a way to balance fitness and activity into the demands of their work and familial responsibilities. They do not train one muscle group at a time as they are approaching fitness in a holistic way and incorporating all modes of fitness. Maybe it isn’t deliberate, but they just have a very nonchalant attitude towards fitness, or perhaps a short attention span and cannot focus on triceps and shoulders one day, and legs another, etc. Total Body Conditioning is the most flexible in terms of application and acquiring new patterns of movement.Image result for training fitness




Understanding [the] Body

Mind, Body, and Spirit: The Three Unifying Elements of Humans.

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Body: The body needs movement above all else.

Body: Your muscles are what give you the strength and ability to move, and complex movement like running, all the sport playing in the world, lifting enormous amounts of weight or just holding your body upright as an ocean wave tries to take you down, even something as silly as rolling onto your side when being tickled, and best of all self-healing.

Each muscle big and tiny are working together, sometimes with the same effort, and sometimes against one another in order to give balance and grace to your effort. Without movement, our blood would not circulate and we would have something called excessive coagulation. This would feel like muscle tightness and inflammation from lack of oxygenated blood, and worst of all the residual build up of toxins that aren’t getting naturally flushed out of the system.

Please see in the Foam Rolling section where I mention more information about the Lymphatic system. Anyone who has not been active for more than five years should begin with Foam Rolling.

The lymphatic system is the only system of the body that needs movement to work.

Its function is ridding the body of garbage with the help of key organs like kidneys and the liver. Much like an internal car wash, old cells that have already been regenerated, dead tissue, and toxic materials that are sitting in the blood stream are removed through urine or feces. All the lymphatic system asks from you in return is to move, i.e zumba, jumping rope, jogging, yoga, etc.

What does etc. mean? Anytime you are engaging in muscle contraction and/ or cardiovascular activity you are in effect going to engage the lymphatic system and flush toxins out of your body. Sound Good?  See Cardiovascular Activities.

There are two types of muscles:

The two types of muscles are fast twitch and slow twitch. What is a twitch? In order for a muscle to contract and create movement, also called work, it has to twitch and make energy. Fast twitch are called Type II, but these muscles are broken down into two additional subgroups: Type IIA and Type IIB. But let’s not get nuts.

Type II muscle fibers have a higher energy demand than Type I, as they only work in high intensity settings, however Type I muscle fibers create the most amount of energy as they have the time to use oxygen in that production process. Type II’s demands will undoubtedly give the best gains in strength, as well as burn more total calories, but could never compete with the endurance and energy output of Type I muscle activities. This is a really easy way to understand why some people are really great at sprinting and others are better at marathons.

Type I muscle fibers are slower and are used for low to moderate intensity and for long periods of time, like rowing, jogging, cycling, etc. You will read more about aerobic energy production in a later section, but the reason type I are excellent muscles for endurance training is because aerobic energy production is more than double the output of anaerobic energy production.

There are four kinds of muscle behavior/functioning:  the varying contractions and flexibility.

  • A concentric contraction is when you are shortening the muscle. When we ‚Äúmake a muscle‚ÄĚ to create a bulge in a bicep by curling our wrist towards the shoulder, we are contracting the bicep muscle concentrically.

  • An eccentric contraction is when a muscle becomes long and stretched but maintaining its activity. This can be represented in the down phase of a bicep curl. There is still a loaded weight in the hand and so the muscle must work to slowly lower even though the length of the muscle is stretching and becoming longer.

  • Isometric contractions are the static and low to mid grade muscle activity where there is no change in the length of the muscle. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine a muscle having to work, like your abs when holding a plank, or for example if you hold a dumbbell with arms extended in front of you no higher than shoulder height. The length of the muscles of the back supporting the arm do not change length, nor do the muscles of the arm and shoulder but they are active in their static hold.

The most important detail regarding muscle behavior and functioning is flexibility.

  • If a muscle is not flexible, it will not live up to its potential to be strong. It needs to be able to move and ‚Äúbreathe‚ÄĚ as supple flexible muscles have shown to.

  • Bones cannot move on their own, they can only do so as a direct result of the tightening or slacking of muscles. Stronger muscles naturally pull on the bones they attach to. Joints are made up of bones. You do not want muscles whether they are tight, or weak and long, pulling on your joints. This tension or lack thereof can compromise the stability of basic human movement, like walking, standing, or exercising.

Your muscles need rest: This is the same as the mind, if not properly rested, your muscles will change your overall well-being and mood. In order for your muscles to operate well, they must be rested and well hydrated.

Goals of the Muscle Body Connection:

  • You will feel stronger, more rested, and less stressed.

  • Your habits will begin to change as you have cleared your tissues from toxins.

  • Establish communication between muscles, increase circulation of oxygen for more balanced and confident movement.

  • You will begin to appreciate anatomy and biomechanics and learn more on your own so that you can continue to challenge your physical capabilities.

  • You can tackle greater life challenges based on what you have pushed yourself to accomplish physically.