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Why not always autoregulate volume?

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  • Why not always autoregulate volume?

    As I research RPE more I have more questions. One of my questions is why should we do programs with a prescribed number of sets and reps (e.g. 3x5, 5x5, etc.) instead of using some form of autoregulation for volume? Just like we can't always hit a certain percent of a max, we can't always be sure that 5x5 is the right amount of volume on a given day. On one day 5x5 might be perfect, but on another, it might cause way too much fatigue. So why not always use fatigue sets or repeat sets etc? That way we go in, warm up to our initial goal and then drop the weight 3-5% and keep doing sets with that weight until it reaches the same goal RPE as the initial set. On one day we might need 2 sets to get there, but another day might take 4 or 5 sets. Either way, we autoregulate the volume just like we regulate the intensity. I don't know, I'm just thinking through this stuff and using a prescribed rep/set scheme is starting to seem as silly to me as using a set percentage of a max from weeks or months ago.

    On the other hand, tomorrow I plan on doing OHP for [email protected], -20% 165x5x5. And I enjoy that type of scheme because it guarantees a weight that feels good for 5x5 so I am pretty much guaranteed to get some decent volume. It would be silly to do fatigue sets with something that is too light (low 70%). So maybe that's the difference? Fatigue is useful for RPE 8-9 but with lower RPE's it just becomes silly because we'd be there forever? In order to use fatigue sets tomorrow it would make more sense to do something like [email protected], 5% fatigue. What do you guys think?
    Last edited by JurisSquatter; 03-03-2018, 02:20 AM.
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  • #2
    I have struggled with the same thing. I think early in a training cycle it makes more sense to do lower intensity / high volume work at a prescribed number of sets. However, towards the end of the cycle, I think using fatigue sets could make sense after finding your e1RM with a set @ 9. I usually end up doing less volume with fatigue sets, but later in the cycle that is probably okay.

    I have also struggled with finding my e1RM via 1 @ 8. 5 @ 9 is much clearer to me. I still very much believe in using 1 @ 8 to practice with the heavy weights, but I can't really use it as a guidepost for determining the weight on the bar for subsequent sets.

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    • #3
      Yes, I honestly feel like I'm floundering these days. These past couple weeks I've taken in so much new information about RPE etc. that I find myself changing my program every day. As of right now, I decided I'm just going to focus on losing some inches off my 44 inch waist and do the best I can at maintaining or gaining strength. Today I tried the [email protected] thing for squats. I did 315 and that felt pretty heavy but I have done 390x1 as a max before so I thought, let's try 340x1 today and that felt heavy too. My problem is that everything feels heavy! LOL I ended up sticking with the 315 as my [email protected] and doing 5x5x250 which was light but still got me sweating. I don't know, I've busted my ass and grinded plenty of sets to get a 390x1 squat (6ft1 with long ass legs make the squat a real monster for me) and all I really got from it is a 44 inch waist and some tighter clothes. I like BBM's focus on proper volume and intensity instead of the constant grind but I have yet to find the right balance for me. I guess that's what everyone is trying to find when we get down to it. Whatever.
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      • #4
        I hate to do an appeal to authority here but there must be a reason that RTS now prescribes set volume and doesn't do fatigue sets anymore even though they invented them.

        But the way I see it auto regulating and intensity and volume is overkill because when you autoregulate the intensity alone you are already autoregulating the intensity of ALL of the volume. 5x5 at 80% of [email protected] should feel the same whether it's 250 or 405, so it shouldn't feel like a grind if you are having a bad day or trivial if you are having a good day.

        Another scenario: say you are to work up to @8 and repeat until you hit 9. If you are having a bad day you might hit @8,8.5 and then 9 so only 3 sets. Or you could be prescribed 4 sets across @8, a daunting prospect when you are having a bad day, but if you are honest with the RPE you will reduce the weight as soon as you hit 8.5 and can reduce the weight all the way til the end if you need to. I don't really mind the RPE increasing on presses, but I've found that on squats or deadlifts if I hit 8.5 already on my second set, and I've determined that I had enough rest before and it's not a technique issue, than I can probably expect the rpe to increase another half point each set, so in order to correct and get back down to @8 for the third set I might have to go all the way down to the weight that would have originally been @7 and then maybe reduce that again to keep the fourth set @8. If I allow myself to creep to @9 then I am toast, and will need an @6 weight to correct to @8.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by neandrewthal View Post
          I hate to do an appeal to authority here but there must be a reason that RTS now prescribes set volume and doesn't do fatigue sets anymore even though they invented them.
          Agreed. I read that RTS decided to use prescribed sets and reps because it made it easier to know how to make changes to someone's program. And, like you, I am not hesitant to adjust weight on the bar in order to maintain a certain RPE and to ensure I get the prescribed reps/sets. That's really what RPE is (to me) when its boiled down to what I actually do at the gym. I think its invaluable and I definitely prefer doing that to using a specific weight no matter what. If the weight is too heavy (or light), why not adjust? I guess the thinking is that you failed to lift the weight because you weren't properly recovered and therefore doing more work will just dig the recovery hole deeper? I think RPE allows a lifter to make every workout a productive one based on what they can do on any given day, and to think that the failure to lift a goal weight requires you to start all over again at the beginning weight and work your way back up to the same place over several weeks/months in hopes of lifting it this time just wastes a lot of time. But all this is new to me, what do I know?

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          • #6
            Some thoughts: You should know you e1RM for every lift and have a target weight for your worksets. As you work up to that weight, you can make adjustments as appropriate for the day. I find it easy to make adjustments if I'm working up to multiple reps @ 9. I can't do it for 1 @ 8, unless I were to really grind through that 1 rep. Thus, I don't usually make any adjustment based on how 1 @ 8 feels. 1 @ 8 always feels heavy. I just continue with the planned back-off sets. I then monitor how I feel on those back-off sets. I will take weight off the bar if the RPE creeps up over 9. I don't usually make adjustments otherwise as some fatigue is expected.

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            • #7
              For me, finding [email protected] is pretty easy, which makes calculating 80% for 5x5 very easy. I also find it easy to find the correct weight for multiple reps @9 with the supplemental lifts. The hardest thing to consistently hit for me is selecting the correct weight for multiple reps @8. I don't know why.

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