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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 05-17-2009, 11:29 AM   #1
Justin Kim
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optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

I'm considering increasing the number of reps on those "heavy" WOD's (1x7 or 3x5 days) in an attempt to better increase my mass and strength. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say on this.

First, I have been doing Crossfit for a year and a half, I am in the best shape of my life and I will most definitely be continuing with Crossfit for the foreseeable future. Also, I believe my diet is good and I sleep well.

That being said, one area I have noticed slower progress than others has been in pure strength gains, in particular, in my shoulder press, squats, deadlifts, etc.

I picked up a copy of "The Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development" (yes, yes, I read all the discussion on these boards about this guy, but perhaps there is something in the content that is worth considering). In it, he talks about optimal number of reps for strength and mass gains.

Page 9, Table 1 shows the following relationships between the maximum number of reps in a given set to the training effect:

1-5 reps: Relative strength increases through enhanced neural drive.
6-8 reps: Optimal compromise of maximal strength and hypertrophy gains.
9-12 reps: Best hypertrophy gains leading to increased maximal strength.
13-20 reps: Strength-endurance gains and lower hypertrophy gains.

So basically, he is saying that a workout with reps in the 1-5 range results in relative strength gains with minimal mass gain while a workout with reps in the 6-12 rep range would result in optimal mass gain, with resultant gains in strength. He believes that all ranges of reps are appropriate depending on workout and goals.

In the Crossfit WOD's, for the major lifts, it seems like we are either at the 1 to 3 rep range on the heavy days or the 15 to 20 rep range on the metcon days. But it seems like we are missing the 6-12 rep range workouts that would be needed for mass gains.

So, I am considering increasing the rep range to 6-12 on days that call for 1x7 or 3x5 in the major lifts. Does it seem like this may help with overall strength/mass gains?

And as far as the notion of 6-12 reps being optimal for building mass, in Starting Strength (which I read well before I picked up the Poliquin book), on pages 294 and 295 (2nd edition), Rip/Kil talks about 5 reps as being a good number. Perhaps I could grab examples of programming from page 301 as a way to increase the number of reps in a heavy WOD?
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Old 05-17-2009, 11:31 AM   #2
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

If you can do 12 reps, then the weight isn't heavy enough for a 1x7 day.

Katherine
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Old 05-17-2009, 11:42 AM   #3
Troy Becker
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

Go for a new x-rep max.
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Old 05-17-2009, 04:03 PM   #4
Greg Pieris
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

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Originally Posted by Justin Kim View Post

Page 9, Table 1 shows the following relationships between the maximum number of reps in a given set to the training effect:

1-5 reps: Relative strength increases through enhanced neural drive.
6-8 reps: Optimal compromise of maximal strength and hypertrophy gains.
9-12 reps: Best hypertrophy gains leading to increased maximal strength.
13-20 reps: Strength-endurance gains and lower hypertrophy gains.
I think this is oversimplified. There's a big difference between single, doubles, triples and sets of 5 - to the point where strength athletes periodise their programming based around those numbers. This table lumps them into one category. There's a table in Practical Programming which provides an even better summary in my opinion...and I disagree from my own experience that 8 reps represents an optimal compromise. I made much better strength and hypertrophy gains from 5-6 reps.
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Old 05-17-2009, 04:13 PM   #5
Eddie Watts
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

everyone is different, so any form of broad strokes will bring different results.

plus on any given person, different muscles will respond differently to different rep ranges too.
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Old 05-17-2009, 05:55 PM   #6
Steven Low
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

If you want to gain mass....

Drop a few CF days... add in some heavy lifting and eat more

Rep range doesn't matter as long as there's enough volume and stress
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:20 PM   #7
Peter Williams
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

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Originally Posted by Steven Low View Post
If you want to gain mass....

Drop a few CF days... add in some heavy lifting and eat more

Rep range doesn't matter as long as there's enough volume and stress
I agree with Steven. The most important factor is diet, imo.
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Old 05-17-2009, 09:57 PM   #8
Alexander Kornishev
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

Check out MEBB, it works the best for me.
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Old 05-17-2009, 10:57 PM   #9
Greg Pieris
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

As for as strength and hypertrophy goes, diet is overstated. Provided you're getting enough calories, training programming and intensity is far, far more important. There is a 80% diet/20% training split commonly spouted, which is, in my respectful opinion, bollocks. Get enough calories and protein and the rest is largely (not exclusively) a product of what you do in the gym. I'm surprised people on this board have downplayed its importance.

5 reps allows sufficient intensity to induce the neural drive for strength gains, while producing enough muscular fatigue to induce . It's a very good balance. But other rep ranges are also useful when programmed currently.

My current programming is periodised and uses a range of rep ranges - 10 reps at the beginning of the cycle, down to doubles and triples when peaking. These numbers weren't arrived at by accident. They might produce slight variations in response between individuals or classes of individuals (in particular between genders), but the observations of coaches and writers over decades are accurate enough to allow broad application.

CFSB uses similar variations in rep ranges - and for specifically designed purposes.

When you're talking about body composition (ie adiposity), that's when diet becomes the biggest factor.
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Old 05-17-2009, 11:13 PM   #10
Michael Bruce Mailman
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Re: optimal number of reps on "heavy" days?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Kim View Post
I'm considering increasing the number of reps on those "heavy" WOD's (1x7 or 3x5 days) in an attempt to better increase my mass and strength. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say on this.

First, I have been doing Crossfit for a year and a half, I am in the best shape of my life and I will most definitely be continuing with Crossfit for the foreseeable future. Also, I believe my diet is good and I sleep well.

That being said, one area I have noticed slower progress than others has been in pure strength gains, in particular, in my shoulder press, squats, deadlifts, etc.

I picked up a copy of "The Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development" (yes, yes, I read all the discussion on these boards about this guy, but perhaps there is something in the content that is worth considering). In it, he talks about optimal number of reps for strength and mass gains.

Page 9, Table 1 shows the following relationships between the maximum number of reps in a given set to the training effect:

1-5 reps: Relative strength increases through enhanced neural drive.
6-8 reps: Optimal compromise of maximal strength and hypertrophy gains.
9-12 reps: Best hypertrophy gains leading to increased maximal strength.
13-20 reps: Strength-endurance gains and lower hypertrophy gains.

So basically, he is saying that a workout with reps in the 1-5 range results in relative strength gains with minimal mass gain while a workout with reps in the 6-12 rep range would result in optimal mass gain, with resultant gains in strength. He believes that all ranges of reps are appropriate depending on workout and goals.

In the Crossfit WOD's, for the major lifts, it seems like we are either at the 1 to 3 rep range on the heavy days or the 15 to 20 rep range on the metcon days. But it seems like we are missing the 6-12 rep range workouts that would be needed for mass gains.

So, I am considering increasing the rep range to 6-12 on days that call for 1x7 or 3x5 in the major lifts. Does it seem like this may help with overall strength/mass gains?

And as far as the notion of 6-12 reps being optimal for building mass, in Starting Strength (which I read well before I picked up the Poliquin book), on pages 294 and 295 (2nd edition), Rip/Kil talks about 5 reps as being a good number. Perhaps I could grab examples of programming from page 301 as a way to increase the number of reps in a heavy WOD?
Hi Greg.

You're doing Crossfit, so obviously you want to maintain your Metcon gains, but you also want to increase your strength. Rather then playing with rep schemes on Crossfits' ME days, (unlikely to make a huge difference) why not just do a strength based programme, such as CFSB or Crossfit Football? Seems a bit more effective then toying with rep ranges.

Crossfit is Crossfit, great for GPP but other programmes will get you stronger faster.
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