Repetition Work – Jim Wendler

Repetition Work


Last week, I wrote about dynamic bench work and how you shouldn’t just kick it to the curb. I listed several different dynamic cycles, and there are approximately 5,000 more that have been written about. The whole purpose of the article was to revive the dead and bloated dynamic bench press. I talked about how doing the dynamic bench press really showed me how slow I had become. In approximately three weeks, I got all my speed back. For the next three-week cycle, I am going to concentrate on doing repetition work. Replacing dynamic bench with repetition work first came to light when Joe DeFranco wrote the article “Westside for Skinny Bastards.” He had been using this template for years and with great success. The response that Joe has received from his athletes and athletes who have used a similar system, has been outstanding. What has also been outstanding is the barrage of emails and calls that Joe gets about the article. That always makes me laugh. Anyway, because of my respect for Joe and the possibility of his involvement with the Italian Mafia, I’m going to reprint Joe’s thoughts on the repetition method. Also, this makes my article longer and makes me look smarter. Here is a direct quote from Joe’s article: Repetition upper body day. I've substituted dynamic-effort days with repetition days for the upper body. This may be the biggest change from the traditional Westside template. I've also found it to be one of the keys to success for muscular growth in my younger athletes. Simply put, dynamic days just aren't that productive for weak, skinny bastards! Remember that this modified program was put together for athletes who lack muscle mass. Well, the repetition method is an incredible way to elicit muscular hypertrophy. Compared to a smaller muscle, a bigger muscle has a better chance of becoming a stronger muscle. Packing on some muscle mass by means of the repetition method lays a great foundation for the more advanced dynamic days to come. I even substitute dynamic days with repetition days for my NFL football players during the initial stages of the off-season. This is because repetition work is easier on the joints following a grueling season, and it's a great way to pack on any muscle that was lost during the season. And here is a sample template from his article: Repetition lift. Work up to three sets of max reps, and rest 60 seconds between sets. Choose one of the following exercises: * Barbell bench press (max reps on 95 lbs, 135 lbs, 185 lbs, or 225 lbs) * Regular push-ups, bar push-ups, or suspended chain push-ups * Bodyweight dips * Dumbbell benches on Swiss ball, flat bench, or incline bench What this all comes down to is this—instead of doing a dynamic effort workout, you are going to replace it with high rep work. Listed above are some of the exercises that Joe uses with his athletes. I’m going to give you a few more that I’ve used on myself and with other lifters. Plus, I am going to give you some parameters to help guide you in picking weights, sets, reps, and rest periods. Barbell bench press Workout #1: Pick a weight (approximately 50–60 percent of your max) and perform three sets of as many reps as possible. * For your first set, you should go all out. * For the second set, expect about a 20 percent drop off in terms of reps. (I got this from James Smith and Mark McLaughlin, and they got it from Supertraining.) * On your third set, expect another 20 percent drop off from the second set. * Rest for five minutes between sets. Workout #2: Pick a weight (approximately 50–60 percent of your max) and perform three sets with the last set to failure. * For your first set, you should get 15 reps. * Your second set should be around 12–15 reps. * For your third set, go all out and try to get 20–25 reps. * The first two sets should not be done to failure so try to leave two reps in the tank. * Rest for 34 minutes between sets. Workout #3: Instead of doing eight sets of three reps, simply switch the set and rep parameters to three sets of eight reps. * Use the same weight, chains, and bands set up that you would normally use. * Rest for 2–3 minutes or whenever you feel ready. * Use whatever grip you want. Workout #4: The Old School—three sets of 10 reps with 60 percent of your max. * Between sets, talk about your loose Z-suit (sorry Ed!) Workout #5: The 5 x 5—there are many different interpretations of how to do a 5 x 5 program so do whatever you want. * Straight loading: pick one weight and perform five sets of five reps at that weight. * Pyramid: making even jumps in weight, progress to a heavy set of five reps. Dumbbell bench press/incline press/floor press Workout #1: Warm up and choose a dumbbell weight so that you can get approximately 15–20 reps. * For the first set, all out! * For the second set, all out! * For the third set, all out! * Rest for five minutes between sets. * Note: Add up the total amount of reps that you did for that particular weight and try to beat that record next time you perform the exercise. Workout #2: Do a 3–5 set of 10–15 reps. * This is nothing fancy, and nothing is to failure. * You can do straight sets or pyramid up. * This is perfect for those who want to take a little break but still train. 2-board, 3-board, floor press, reverse bench press (any max effort movement) Workout #1: You can do any of the barbell bench press workouts that were listed above with any max effort movement. Workout #2: Take your latest max from one of these movements and perform 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps with 60 percent. Others Workout #1: Bodyweight dips * Perform three sets to failure, resting 3–5 minutes between sets. Add up the total amount of reps done and try to beat it the next time. Workout #2: Weighted dips * Perform progressively heavier sets with a dip belt. Work up to a max set of 8–12 reps. Workout #3: Bodyweight push-ups * Use the same protocol as with bodyweight dips. Workout #4: Weighted push-ups * There are many ways to do this using chains, plates, bands, a weight vest, or a partner on your back. Just do some reps and figure out a way to track the loading! Workout #5: Board press combo—try to use the same weight for all sets. * Set 1: regular bench press for 15 reps * Set 2: 2-board press for 15 reps * Set 3: 3-board press for 15 reps * Set 4: 4-board press for 15 reps * Set 5: 5-board press for 15 reps So now that we’ve brought together the dynamic bench press and the repetition method, let us hope that they can coexist. Here are some main points that I wish everyone takes home and puts in their hope chest. * Cycle for three weeks. Do some kind of dynamic training for the bench press for three weeks and then switch to the repetition method for three weeks. * Be careful with the repetition method and going to failure. Don’t try to kill yourself and be sure to evaluate your recovery. * Enjoy the pump. * Be creative with both methods. * Don’t get caught up with rest periods. Just lift the weight Copyright Elite Fitness Systems 2006