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Old 02-08-2009, 07:37 PM   #1
Ryan Whipple
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Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

The recent CFJ article about CrossFit Strength Bias raised a question I'd like to address seperately.

What are people's opinions about straight sets vs ascending sets? I've seen remarkable gains on an SS style routine with straight sets. However, the article says they are harder to recover from. I think that in terms of training philosophy, they break down like this:

Sets Across: Highest volume at highest possible weight. The stimulus is to perform at a relatively high intensity throughout

Ascending Sets: Lower volume with a higher last set. The stimulus is to produce a greater max effort while fatigued.

As much as I would like to do less total work at the gym for strength gains, I'm afraid it seems to me that sets across should have the greater all-around results. Does anyone have experience to compare the two methods?
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:04 PM   #2
Robert Callahan
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

I think you are correct in your assessment that sets across will give the greatest gains for strength. The reason they recommend ascending sets in CFSB is the ability to recover. When you are doing a power lifting routine (SS) you are working out three days a week and should be eating like a mad man. This means you have ample of time to recover from each and every workout. In CFSB though you are blending the heavy lifting with high rep sets, metcons, and some gymnastics work. This means your ability to recover from the heavy lifts will be effected. In order to compensate for this you use ascending sets which allows you to hit your goal or PR weight in order to force adaption, but then stops there so that you are able to recover and get stronger. So essentially when getting stronger in the context of CF ascending sets can be very useful because sets across can be too taxing. Hope that makes sense

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Old 02-09-2009, 07:08 AM   #3
Steven Low
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

Robert nailed it. In addition, overall less CNS fatigue (I think) as you are not moving as much heavy weights. Avoiding CNS fatigue (volume of heavy lifting & going to failure too much) is important because it is limiting during workouts and in consecutive workouts.

There's actually more variations on sets than that, but I think that covers it for these two in particular.
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:13 AM   #4
Robert D Taylor Jr
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

In the article they said hit a PR go home. That's hard to do with sets across as well, but it was emphasized.
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:15 PM   #5
Jacob Cloud
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

Haven't read the CFSB (yet), but I'll toss in the thought that if you're having recovery issues with, say, 5x5, or even 3x5, I've personally found decent strength (not size, of course) results with 3x3 sets across as well. It's quite possible to have high intensity, low volume, with sets across if your recovery isn't up to par for one reason or another.
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:01 AM   #6
Ed Haywood
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

In the other discussion thread, Jeff said that age was a major factor in the comparative effectiveness of the two methods. They started the CFSB trials doing sets across, and noticed that the teenagers were progressing but the older guys weren't. When they switched the adults to ascending sets, they started progressing. The most obvious difference between the two groups of athletes would be their ability to recover.

This jibes with my own recent experience trying to integrate extra squat work into the CF WOD. The SS model of 3x5 at 5RM across, combined with the full WOD, was just too much to sustain linear progression for very long. While my spirit is 20, my carcass sometimes reminds me that it is 44 and has to be coaxed along. If I were doing SS without the WODs, I think I could have tolerated sets across better.

It's also worth noting that the SS 3x5 sets across is for novice lifters, while CFSB ascending sets are for intermediate and advanced athletes. With novice lifters, recovery would be less of a factor relative to learning the movement, and the weight used for sets across would be significantly lower than genetic potential. As your 5RM climbs into intermediate range, the total tonnage lifted on sets across of 5x5 or 3x5 would be considerably more. Doesn't Rip also say that 3x5 sets across must give way to more complex programming once you become an intermediate lifter?

Last edited by Ed Haywood : 02-10-2009 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:03 AM   #7
Ryan Whipple
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Haywood View Post
In the other discussion thread, Jeff said that age was a major factor in the comparative effectiveness of the two methods....Doesn't Rip also say that 3x5 sets across must give way to more complex programming once you become an intermediate lifter?
These are good points. I just wasn't expecting them to (apparently?) apply to me at 22 with a 200 lb squat.
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:11 AM   #8
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

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I just wasn't expecting them to (apparently?) apply to me at 22 with a 200 lb squat.
Who says they do apply to you?
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Old 02-10-2009, 10:49 AM   #9
Joshua Murphy
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

+1 for this discussion. I just finished a SS cycle and found that as the weights progressed, the straight across was extremely demanding (duh). I had planned to do something similar to CFSB anyway, but now that it is templated, I will give it a shot. I am actually looking forward to the ascending sets (and of course getting my metcon back).
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:53 AM   #10
Ryan Whipple
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Re: Sets Across vs Ascending Sets

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Originally Posted by Ed Haywood View Post
Who says they do apply to you?
A panel comprised of...me. I'm not claiming authority here, other than right now I'm the only coach I have. I'm basing this on my observation of others' results that many people increase their strength-to-weight ratio on programs like SS, whereas I gained about as much weight on my body as I put on my squat, bench and deadlift. Perhaps this is because I was so underweight to begin with. Either way, based on my last week of training, I can't imagine increasing strength quickly and linearly very much more in the near future. The slower pace and variety of CFSB has caught my interest. Maybe I just need a break, and then returning to a novice program would do me a lot of good.
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