S&P Forum, critique my workout method, please.


White Belt
Nov 7, 2005
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I have a very logical approach to the way I exercise. Since I study exercise science, specifically resistance / strength training, particularly for muscle balance and health, I have taken a drastically different path than that of most S&P forum-goers. I've since read Urban's Soapbox, and had some different ideas floating in my head, and want to see how people in here think generally, if it's not just exactly what Urban has in his Soapbox.

Specifically, I want to know what people find "wrong" with my workout methods, and why.

On each set, I push my muscles until they can go no further safely. For instance, on a bench press, my last rep is the one where I don't think I could get another one all the way to full extension. I usually have to inhale and exhale three times on that last repetition just to get the weight all the way to the top. So, I don't choose the number of reps I'll do; I do as many as I can.

So, since I can't do anything on my target muscles for a few minutes, I tend to go do lift with muscles that have nothing to do with the muscles I just burned out (active recovery). As such, I like to do bench presses and one-arm rows back to back. As such, I pick muscles I want to strengthen that don't conflict with each other, rather than espouse the classic powerlifter movements.

More specifically, I pick muscles that have balance issues between them, since they don't usually conflict with each other even in compound movements. As discussed in this thread, one should keep a balance of strength between antagonistic muscle pairs, such as the biceps and triceps. Now, chest and lats are diverse muscles and don't always work opposite of each other, but...well, it's the best I've got.

Also, I feel that starting a set with a muscle that isn't fully recovered isn't training it properly, since endurance fibers recover faster than strength fibers, hence I'd be doing more endurance work when I'm not so interested in it. So, with the idea of assistance lifts, I wouldn't want to do them right out of barrel after the main lift. Perhaps I'm being too nitpicky. This is one of those things about the strictness of my logic on sets.

Anyway, my method works well to make use of downtime, hence allowing for a maximum number of sets within the 45-60 minutes maximum, before you start to get overtraining symptoms. So, when I see about lifting for deadlifts, bench press, and squats, it seems fine, just that all that downtime in the middle, when I could be lifting something else, seems like a waste. Again, my strictness on how I start my sets may be limiting me here.

Please let me know what kind of misconceptions I've got going and how I can make improvements based on the general spirit of the forum.
Strength, yes. I've gotten gains from doing this. I know it works, but I've been so inconsistent in general that I can't give you anything in the way of time periods. Only recently have I been able to stay somewhat consistent, but with a couple of injuries I sustained, I had to start over this past week. :(
So you always go to failure? Maybe that could have something to do with your injuries?
If your numbers are going up, you shouldn't ask questions like that.
If they aren't, you should stop doing what you do.

Pushing myself to the max everytime I lift has been hard on progress for me. The way my own progression goes is a bit like some kind of unplanned periodization. I add 1 rep every workout (3 fullbody workouts/week) for exercises of which rep range is 8-12. I add 10 pounds when I reach 12 reps on those exercises.

On the other hand, I add 10 pounds every week on the exercises for which I have a fixed rep number. When I plateau for 2 workouts in a row, I switch to a slightly different exercise (DB Bench to NEutral grip DB Bench or vice-versa) or I switch rep scheme (3x5 to 3x8-12 or vice-versa).

I do this because it works for me. As long as it will work, I won't stop doing this. Even if some PHD owning strength guru would give me deductive proof that I lift wrong. What matters is whether or not your lifts go up. The rest is just talk.
Not to be a smart ass, but I think you missed the part in class where they said fatigue, not failure.
Thankfully, my training has had nothing to do with my injuries. The only time I've been injured was when I was trying something experimental, not thinking things through, and when I pushed myself as far through failure as I could, causing my neck to seize up and give me tension headaches.

Now, I know the difference between fatigue and failure. Failure being what I do now, where I can barely get the weight all the way up, and fatigue stopping at the point where I can still do a couple of clean repetitions. However, where did you guys learn that failure is a bad thing? Can you make reference? I'm interested to read why it's bad, why it causes the CNS to burn out.
You didn't provide enough information, such as number of sets, rest between sets, do you superset with an antagonistic exercise, total volume lifted per muscle group, and percentage of your 1 rep max lifted for your main exercise. In general I like working antagonistic muscle groups, but I keep my volume between 30-50 reps at the 80% range of my 1 rep max. I don't feel I gain as much strength if I lift to failure every time in the gym.
I just read your post again and I think you mean that you work the antagonistic muscle group between sets, so you do perform supersets. I really like this, it not only gives a good workout, it also makes the best use of your time.