High rep set to failure before the top set

January 2023 home Forums Training High rep set to failure before the top set

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    Peter dC

    Joe & Bryce

    A study reported by muscle-building researcher Jerry Brainum compared high-level bodybuilders with average college students, which resulted:

    “The study examined single muscle fibers. Since the type
2B fibers are the muscle fibers most likely to grow, it stands 
to reason that the bodybuilders in the study would have an abundance of such fibers or at least more of them than the other kinds of muscle fibers.

    The reality was that they showed a higher portion of types 1 and 2A fibers, with a complete absence of type 2Bs. [Eur J Appl Physiol. 103(5):579-83. 2008.] The bodybuilders had almost no 2B fibers.

    Therefore, optimal training for bodybuilders interested in size should emphasize the 2A power + endurance fibers, mean they need a mix of semi-heavy and lighter training to train both facets of muscle expansion: train both the power part of the 2As (myofibrils) and the more endurance part (sarcoplasm), not to mention the type-1 aerobic fibers to some degree.

    If we want both for growth, can be achieved with reps in the 15-to-30 range, or sets that last 50-plus seconds, for
 2A sarcoplasmic expansion + type-1 activation as well as 7 to 12 reps for more myofibrillar thickening.

    – Am I right?

    A key study based on Brazilian researchers found that bodybuilders can build more strength and muscle mass if before doing their usual heavier sets, they first do a lighter, high-rep set. [European Journal of Applied Physiology, March 10, 2015].

    The researchers had one group do a preliminary set of leg extensions to failure with 20 percent of their 1 rep max before moving to heavier sets. The other group did only standard sets with 75 percent of their 1RM. Rests between sets for both groups were 30 seconds to one minute.

    The results from the researchers: The men who started their workout with the light set built up more muscle strength than the men who trained their legs in the traditional way. The scans also showed that doing a set to failure with light weights resulted in a bigger increase in muscle mass.

    “We hypothesized that muscle failure (principally of [slow-twitch] type-1 fibers) and metabolic accumulation induced by prior exhaustive exercise would promote a greater global recruitment of type-2 [high-growth] fibers during traditional training sets and, thus, further stimulate muscle performance and adaptations.”

    Remembering the size principle of fiber recruitment, this is a way to make that happen more thoroughly and efficiently—the high-rep set fatigues the slow-twitch fibers like the earlier reps on a normal set, but with more precision. That can force more fast-twitch fibers to fire on the heavier sets after, exactly what we want for size.

    So what is your opinion if we do a 20-rep set to failure before the top set? Basically, would it make the size principle of fiber recruitment more efficient?

    Set 1: 20 reps to failure

    Rest: 30 seconds

    Set 2: top set 6-8 reps

    Rest: 90-150 seconds

    Set 3: Back off set 8-12 reps

    Rest: 90-150 seconds

    Set 4: Back off set 12-15 reps (optional)

    The issue I face is how to approach and activate the nervous system to be efficient in the top set of 6-8 reps before executing a set of 20.

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