#TACTIX :: Power, Hypertrophy, and Burn: What’s the Perfect Split for Weight training?
From Muscle Beach to your local gym, there’s an age-old question:
What is the proper weight-training split?
Your YouTube “experts” or local gym unwarranted advice-giver guy (every gym has one, I swear) might tell you, “just go as heavy as possible for as many reps as possible!”. Lifting until failure (inability to do another rep) is okay, once in a while, especially if you’re trying to calculate your one rep max. However, lifting until failure consistently for every exercise and every workout is a one-way street to a litany of injuries and ultimately, no longevity.
And longevity is the name of the game, isn’t it? Being a strong, healthy, fit and, “ripped” as possible for as long as possible.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most common training splits and their applications.
Just as the name implies – this kind of rep range/scheme is designed to build power. Before we examine a little deeper, be mindful that this kind of training is NOT conducive to a full workout. Power rep ranges should only be utilized for the main lifts, which will, for most plans, be the squat, deadlift and bench press.
The idea here is to find a weight that you can do for 3 or 4 sets of 3 to 5 reps. You should not fail during these sets. You should keep 1 or 2 reps “in the tank”, or “reps in reserve”. You then rest for 2 or 3 minutes before jumping into the next power set.
You can do this with roughly 75% of your one rep max. For example, if you can bench press 275 pounds, 75 percent of that is 206.25. Let’s call it 210 for convenience’s sake. So you’d then do around 210 for 3 or 4 sets of 3 to 5 reps.
This is a great way to build power and strength, and these splits are sometimes referred to as “strength splits”. If you’re looking to compete in powerlifting competitions, or just simply want to build your one rep max on any of the major lifts, this is the way to go. Just remember to supplement with isolation work.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this term. Hypertrophy training is basically training to increase muscle mass. This is common for all lifters, but particularly bodybuilders. 3 or 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps, although many will argue that 8 to 10 is the “sweet spot”.
It goes without saying that since you’re increasing the rep range here, the weight should decrease, however only slightly. You should still be working hard – these sets should be challenging, but once again, still away from failure if possible. If you’re pushing yourself and moving up in weight, as you’re supposed to under the terms of “progressive overload”, it’s okay to fail out from time to time, just to know where you stand. Knowing your one rep max is key. Once you know that number, you can take 60 to 75 percent of it, and work within that hypertrophy range. Just remember, once your reps drop below 5 or 6, you’re now strength training.
There are certain professionals, mostly bodybuilders who believe in very high rep ranges for “trouble spots”. Rear deltoids and calves, in particular, seem to respond to 15, 20, even sometimes as high as 30 or 40 rep sets. These sets bring an all new meaning to the phrase “feel the burn!”.
It should be noted that “muscular endurance training” is typically prescribed around 15 to 20 reps. Unless you’re an experienced lifter looking to fine tune some things for the stage, do not go above 20 reps. Also, as you may have guess, the weight for your sets decreases substantially.
For bodybuilders, these rep ranges are great for getting the much sought-after “pump”. In other terms, this is pooling the targeted muscle with blood, which often make it look fuller for hours after your workout.
If you’re a marathon runner, or just simply do not wish to put on a lot of muscle mass, this may be the range for you. However, be aware that a novice lifter will definitely start to put on a little mass with any weight training at any range.
50% of your one rep max at 15 reps for 3 sets or so, and you’ll understand “no pain, no gain”. That said, if you’d like to do “burnout” sets at the end of a weight training session, go much lighter than 50%.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
So, what’s the answer to the question posed above? What is the proper weight-training split?
All of ‘em.
More specifically, if you’re looking to put on lean muscle mass and be the envy of “beach season”, aim to combine these rep ranges in your workouts. For example, let’s say you’re doing chest day. Your routine should look something like this:
- Barbell Bench Press – 3 to 4 Power Sets for 3 to 5 reps at 75% of one rep max
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 to 4 Hypertrophy Sets of 6 to 12 reps at 60%-75% of one rep max.
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 to 4 Hypertrophy Sets of 6 to 12 reps at 60%-75% of one rep max.
- Low to High Cable Fly – 3 Hypertrophy Sets of 6 to 12 reps at 60%-75% of one rep max followed by one Burn set of very light weight for 40 reps.
- You can also substitute this final Cable Fly Hypertrophy set for a “burn” exercise. Just decrease the weight and increase the reps. So perhaps 40% of one rep max for 3 sets of 15.
Don’t hesitate to experiment with schemes and rep ranges and see what your body responds to best. What works for you may be different than what works for someone else. Couple these principles with your nutrition, consistency, rest, and hard work and you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve.