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Same weight each set, or increasing weight?

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Old 12-18-2008, 02:33 AM   #1
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Default Same weight each set, or increasing weight?

I've seen where sometimes a person uses the same weight for each set of an exercise (like a 5x5 set of 90 lbs for bench press), and I've done some programs like BFL or NROLW where you add weight each set (like 75 first set, 80 second set, 85 third set, etc). On the latter, most programs seem to have the same reps each set (like 3x10), but BFL has varied numbers of reps (12, 10, 8, 6, 12 if I'm remembering right).

Can someone explain, or point me to anything that explains the benefits of one or the other?

Is there any benefit or sense in combining the two? (like maybe, 5x5 @ 75 lbs on BP, then 12/10/8/6 for DB fly, increasing DB weight each set, in the same workout) I feel like if I could understand the benefits of one vs. the other, I could plan workouts that match my goals. Thanks for any help!
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:41 PM   #2
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Well, I'm not an expert, but I think usually you first INCREASE, then DECREASE weight in progressive sets on a pyramid set.

So for example, you do a set at 5lb, 8lb, 10 lb, 8 lb, 5 lb, etc. The first two are considered "warm up", the middle is the "working set", and the last two are drop sets. You generally do a number of reps that is inverse to the weight...so you'd do 12 reps of a light weight, but only 8 of the heavy weight.

The point of this is that, once you've warmed up then burned out your muscles on 10 lb (to failure), you can usually still lift 8 lb with that muscle. So you essentially work yourself beyond failure at the 10 lb level by doing drop sets (a set with lighter weight) once you've reached failure on the heavier weight.

The benefit here is that you get both volume (lots of reps/sets) and intensity (high weight on the working set), thus working the muscle pretty thoroughly.

Hope that helps!
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:17 PM   #3
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See, I didn't even think of pyramid sets, thanks Amanda! I'm curious if there's a science behind all these variables, so I might know which to use and when. Or is it like splitting hairs to even ask this question? Do you just pick what seems to be giving you a good workout now, and do that till you're not making gains, then switch to something else? Do you always want to lift to failure?
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:19 PM   #4
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I think in the BFL book it talks about the benefits of increasing the weight then dropping the weight on the last set and doing a super set.

From what I've read of lowering the reps/increasing the weight, it is beneficial because it pushes your body and the point is to make it so your body lifts more than it think it can. Although that is my paraphrase.
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Old 12-18-2008, 10:08 PM   #5
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I'm interested in what you find out bc I do 1/2 pyramids, or the BFL plan you referenced. I do feel like I see bigger strength gains than when I was doing 3x12 on the same weight, for example, but that was also mostly on machines and now I am on free weights which is a whole different challenge. I remind myself of this when I'm hoisting those db's up in a bench press and try to keep them from going into their own little orbit and taking my elbows with them.
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Old 12-18-2008, 11:16 PM   #6
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Of the workouts I've done so far, I felt like BFL sets gave me the best workout, as far as feeling like I was really giving it everything I had and crying for my mommy on that last set, lol. I also saw visible results, where I just did not see that on NROLW at all. My strength went up with both programs, but that wasn't hard for me, still being in the newb category. Seems like every time I get rolling, I do something stupid and hurt myself (not with lifting, but enough to put the lifting on hold). I'm hoping to avoid that long enough to get past the newb stage in lifting this time! LOL on the DB bench...been there, too.
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Old 12-19-2008, 04:46 AM   #7
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Mandalinn I read about tht in the body for life diet with Bill Phillips. It really does work with the increasing weights and the decreasing amounts, but I really like how you explain it!

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Old 12-19-2008, 02:42 PM   #8
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Brat, you know, if people don't know you're my annoying big sister, they might not understand your witty little comments. DO go on about how brilliant I am, though.

Well, usually I can count on the big D to come to my rescue when I get utterly confused on issues like this, but it appears he is not taking the bait. So, I will just take my bad self over to the T-Nation and see what I can find for myself. I'm honestly just going there to READ. Really.
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Old 12-20-2008, 10:11 AM   #9
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As you know, different set/rep schemes (light weight/high reps), (moderate wieght/moderate reps), (heavy weight/lower reps) train different qualities because different muscle fiber types are used more in each of them. You also know that if you train the same way forever, you are going to eventually plateau. You need to train in different ranges to train all the fiber types and qualities to keep moving ahead and to reach your true potential.

There are different ways to do it and BFL style training is one such method. In this style of training you are going through different rep ranges for each exercise. Other methods, may mix up ranges within a workout but with different exercises such as low reps/heavy weight for main exercises and moderate reps/moderate weight for assistance exercises. Others mix up ranges within a week, such as many of Alwyns programs or like Heavy days/light days or Max Effort days -dynamic effort days. There is still good ole' fashioned straight periodization where you work primarily in one range for 4-6 weeks or so then work in a different rep range for the next block of training to focus on a different quality.

There are many ways and they all work. Some are better suited for different goals than others. The key is figuring out which one works best for you and your particular goals and that is not only a physiological question but a psychological one as well.
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Old 12-20-2008, 10:37 AM   #10
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I did a weight training class at a gym i used to be long to, we would do 3 sets, light weight for 12 reps, med weight for 10 reps then heavy weight for 8 reps
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Old 12-20-2008, 03:57 PM   #11
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Default Your goal is to challange your muscles!

What is most important is the TOTAL weight that you move in a specific time period not the number of sets or reps. Here is an extreme example to make a point... If you are working out and are able to curl 30 lbs 5 times in 1 minute then you have moved 150 lbs per minute. If you are able to take a 1 lb weight and curl it 60 times in 1 minute you are only moving 60 lbs per minute. But if you are able to take a 20 lb weight and do 3 sets of 10 in 1 minute then you are moving 600 lbs per minute (20 x 3 x 10) and are maximizing your workout.
Does this make sense?
It does not matter what order you do the weights in as much as it matters how much WORK you do in a given time period.

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Old 12-20-2008, 08:44 PM   #12
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D, thanks for the reply. Glad you're still around! So, what you're saying is, pick one, do that, then do something else. Or, shut up and lift? lol. I get it, I get it. I have been lifting, though. I was just curious why some folks use one weight, and use it, and use it, till it gets too easy, and some kinda work the percentages every workout. I might mix it up a little, just to test it out. I'm telling you, weight pulling dogs is SO much simpler than all this! (because there's only one exercise: pulling...lol) Anyway, great to hear from you!

Willow, thanks for sharing your experience. There seem to be as many ways to do this as there are personal trainers. I am just one of those fools that wants to know why!

Jay, thank you for the reply. That did make sense. I've heard that before, and will keep that in mind when planning my workouts.
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Old 12-20-2008, 08:52 PM   #13
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I was thinking, since i was told that lower reps, more weight builds muscle and more reps and less weight burns more fat, maybe doing the 3 sets with different wieghts and reps does both??? I dont know...lol
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Old 12-21-2008, 02:34 PM   #14
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That's probably the idea, Willow, if those are your working sets.
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Old 12-24-2008, 03:35 PM   #15
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well i definitely am getting some great tips from your question jamjam.(from the answers). i have some weights that are collecting dust.
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