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Ideal reps and sets for maintaining strength

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  • Ideal reps and sets for maintaining strength

    Interested in refocusing my goals for a while and wish to halt my progress in the gym and simply maintain what I have. There are plenty of articles all saying the same generalizations. Maintain same heavy weights, but decrease volume. Use compound movements primarily. I can't find anything more specific.

    Here's my idea: 2 workouts a week, 2 main lifts each with the following setup
    1x1 (this one will be near my theoretical 1RM)

    I would probably put squats and bench on one day, deadlift and overhead press on the other.

    In the past, I have followed my main lifts with a couple assistance exercises with light weight at 5x10. According to what I've read, this volume should go down, but since I'm using lighter weight, I'm not sure if that's really necessary.

    Opinions? Alternatives? I'm looking for something that will easily fit in a 12hr rotating shift schedule (7 days a week too).

  • #2
    Yeah, I would agree with the general recommendations of reducing the volume but keeping up the intensity.

    It looks like you're headed in the right direction. Keeping in the lower rep ranges will ensure that you're not stimulating muscle growth to a significant degree (assuming that you don't want to stimulate growth if you're maintaining).

    Looks like what you're doing will work well for maintenance.
    My nutrition/fitness/critical thinking blog:


    • #3
      I lift twice a week.

      Monday = Deadlifts, Back, Chest

      Thursday = Legs, Shoulders, Biceps

      3 sets on each muscle group with 5 repetitions as close to max as possible.

      Tabata Sprints and planking on Saturdays.

      No burn out and an incredible rush every time. The trick is to lift hard and heavy with decent tempo thus maintaining a short and intense workout. When I leave the gym my body is literally shaking.

      And people shake their heads because I only spend about 20 min there.
      Last edited by ilovesteak; 06-22-2013, 04:21 PM.
      "It's true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may be the antichrist."


      • #4
        I my main concern was actually if I had enough volume on the main lift (especially for the smaller muscle groups associated with the bench press and overhead press). The protocol I laid out has me essentially lifting my max just one rep per week. Granted, that rep is going to be very challenging, but still. I definitely spend more than 20 minutes in the gym, but that's mostly due to my volume in the assistance work. I utilize compound movements in that as well, so I require more rest, so my workouts can get lengthy. But I presume that without increasing the weight, the exercises will become easier over time, decreasing my required rest.

        Here's an example: I estimate my deadlift max to be 360-390 and my overhead press max at 125. So once a week, I would lift as follows:

        This then followed by assistance done at some arbitrarily chosen light weight:
        Front squat 3x5
        Rows 3x5
        Dips 3x5

        The 3x5 is a significant reduction from my previously stated 5x10 that I usually do. Between the main lifts, the assistance, and the fact that I'm doing this just once per week, I just want to make sure that I haven't cut back too much.


        • #5
          I work about 12 hours a day, 4 days a week, sometimes 5, so I also lift by two sessions, usually twice a week, I read program tips from the only people that matter, big strong people, Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Dave Tate, Louis is what I came up with and I love it so far, I had to calm myself down because i kept adding things worried if my Tris, or shoulders would get work, well A heavy bench works the shoulders and tri's and Heavy press works shoulders and tris so I shut myself up. This with warmups keeps my workouts at an hour ( warmup, lift, stretch foam roll) I work my entire body, and stay strong. I do 5 reps one week, then 3, then 1, pretty much following Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 program, don't worry about volume etc, it's there, the set and reps are ideal for strength, the high reps are for assistance muscles to get strong.

          Week 1, day 1: Squat 5 x 5-10, Bench 5x5, Row 5x8-10
          Week 1, day 2: Squat 5 x 5, Press 5x5, Pull ups 5x8-10 ( add weight if possible for a good 8)

          Week 2 day 1: Squat 5x 5-10, Dead 5x5, Dips 5x8-10 ( heavy )
          Week 2 day 2: Squat 3x3 ( heavy), Press 3x3, Pull ups 5x8-10

          Week 3 day 1: Good morning 5x5-10, Bench 3x3, Row 5x8-10
          Week 3 day 1: Squat 3x1, Press 3x1, Pull up or chin up 5x8-10

          Week 4 day 1: Squat 5x5-10, Dead 3x3, Dips 5x8-10 ( heavy)
          Week 4 day 2: Squat (back to 5x5 with heavier weight), Press ( etc), pull ups or rows

          It's spread out more but you hit everything, despite thinking you may not, all that matters is, did you list more weight than last time, if so, awesome, if no, try harder, if you aren't feeling it that day in the gym, who cares chalk it up to an off day and try your best and hit your numbers, you have so little exercises its a shame if you can't bring it to each one of them.


          • #6
            Check out HIT. Easily could maintain with only 2-4 20 minute training days PER MONTH doing the big five. Strength maintenance is quite easy to achieve once you have put in the work to build it.


            • #7
              Well, actually it doesn't matter if I lifted more weight than last time. That's the point of wanting to maintain. The thing I want to know is why your program, along with other suggestions put the setup at multiple sets of 5 reps. While I'll also have a set of 5 reps and a set of 3 reps, I'm doing this without any logical reasoning. I just have a feeling that it's necessary. But if I want to maintain what I have, then I need to lift at near max weight. It's not just about lifting to near failure, but the actual weight should be as high as possible. This is where my set of 1 rep come in. Am I wrong? Or is a challenging 5x5 setup (as you seem to outline) all I need to maintain. As a matter of fact, I would think lifting for reps until near failure would be detrimental to recovery since I would be going on a more severe caloric deficit to aid fat loss, which is the whole reason I want to halt progress in the gym for the time being.

              BTW, I used to believe that a heavy bench was enough to hit the tris, and it probably is for my purposes, but personal experience tells me that a heavy bench doesn't translate well to pushups in a military test. However, once I added volume in the form of dips as assistance, my tris got noticeably bigger. Again, not necessarily going to do anything for pushups, but it's probably better than just a heavy bench.

              You mention Jim Wendler. In case it wasn't obvious, his 5/3/1 was the inspiration behind my setup. I love how that program is so effective at delivering PRs over and over again, but I need to stop all that to focus on rebalancing everything. My quads are really tight, I have two hip muscle injuries, I need to strengthen my TVA (which I never had the motivation to make time for when following the 5/3/1 program), and I want to lose the fat, which has been too slow because my caloric deficit was very mild.

              HIT? Not going to happen but maybe once a week. That would interfere with recovery even more. Though I guess since I failed to mention that I was decreasing the calories, I shouldn't blame you for the suggestion.


              • #8
                You only need one set at high intensity. And read again. I actually said 2-4 per month. Really one time every other week would likely do the trick.

                I know I can maintain on 2x per month and leaning out. I've done it.
                Last edited by Neckhammer; 06-23-2013, 08:37 AM.


                • #9
                  Sorry, I misread it as HIIT, as in interval training. I didn't even think you referring to weight lifting. Still, I don't think everyone is the same and going to be able to maintain on just 2x/month. Besides, if there's any progression I can manage to squeeze out despite the more aggressive caloric deficit, I'll take it. But that will need at least once per week for each lift.


                  • #10
                    ^To each their own for sure. But for context I'll say I'm male 35 and weight 160lbs and my lifts are about where yours are. Well you can see em in the "whats your workout today" thread, but it was done on low volume HIT protocol.


                    • #11
                      Now I see what you mean. Not sure if I'd be able to handle lifting to failure right now, no matter how infrequent. It was just today (squatting) that I learned that my hip injury hasn't really improved, and I took it really easy on all activity this past week. I think I've come to the conclusion that my lack of activity was the cause. My hip mobility seems to be steadily declining. I had only 245 on the barbell and my max is theoretically over 300, yet I could only manage 1 rep before caving to the pain. I'll hopefully figure it out.

                      To leave the fitness category for a much protein were you eating for muscle maintenance? How about your other macros?


                      • #12
                        Ahh, that sux. Hate when an injury sets you back, but really if the movement HURTS then you gotta either go really light or cut it out completely. Better than ending up with something long term.

                        I fall in the 60/20/20 ( f/p/c ) sort of profile. Not a big counter myself, but I'd say I hit 100-120g of protein on average. I just make sure to have meat at the center of each meal with plants as garnish/flavor so to speak. I prefer fruits over starch as a general rule, but thats just a taste preference. Probably still do a potato with dinner a couple times a week though. Almost always do a 16-24 hr IF.