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Maximum weights for maximum mass and strength!

Maximale Gewichte für maximale Masse und Kraft!

What do the following people have in common: Charles Poliquin, Mike Mentzer, Brooks Kubik and Steve Justa? Aside from the fact that they all work in the fitness industry and are exceptionally strong, all of these men know the power of single repetition training with heavy weights. Contrary to popular belief, single repetition training, when done correctly, can be a very effective way to get more muscular and stronger.

You don't believe me? Then I ask you how many people with thin arms you know who can bench press 200 kilos and deadlift 250 kilos. I'm guessing not too many. People who can move impressive maximum weights have not achieved this by spending a lot of time doing high reps and light weights. Of course, you can get more muscular without being strong.

There are countless bodybuilders who are living proof of this. But why would you want this when you can have both? Is single repetition training the ultimate training program to get more muscular and stronger? No, it's not the holy grail of training. No training system is suitable or ideal for everyone.

However, single repetition training, when done correctly, is a very effective way to get stronger and more muscular. Let's take a look at different ways in which single repetition training can be used effectively and see how you can incorporate single repetition training into your training program.

Rest Pause Training

I learned the benefits of Rest Pause Training (RPT for short) years ago from Mike Mentzer. Here's how it works. You use your maximum weight for one repetition of an exercise (1RM weight) and perform several repetitions with 10 to 15 seconds rest between each repetition. Once you can no longer move the weight with proper form, reduce the weight by 10% and continue in the same manner.

Here's what Mike had to say about his experiments with RPT: "I increased by at least 10 kilos per training session on every single exercise until I had increased by 66% on every exercise. My muscle mass also increased, of course."

As effective as Mentze's approach to RPT training may be, I've found that it's best to take a gradual approach, especially if you haven't used low reps and heavy weights before. For an exercise, start with your 3RM weight - the maximum weight you can perform three clean repetitions of an exercise with - and perform sets of one repetition with one minute rest between sets. Once you can perform five single repetitions with one minute rest between each repetition, reduce the rest intervals to 45 seconds.

As soon as you can perform five single repetitions with the reduced pauses, reduce the pause intervals again - this time to 30 seconds. Work your way down to 15 second pauses. As soon as you have reached 15-second rests, increase the weight by 5% and start again with 60-second rests.

By changing the intensity in cycles, you will be able to use an RPT workout over a longer period of time without risking overtraining. In addition, the gradual increase will help you avoid potential injuries.

If you're trying to break through a plateau with an exercise like deadlifts, try training deadlifts in RPT style three times a week. Take a day off between training sessions and perform five single repetitions per training session. If you want to train the whole body using the RPT format then train each muscle group twice a week.

Cluster training

Charles Poliquin describes "cluster training" as one of the most effective methods for increasing strength. This form of cluster training is basically a higher volume version of RPT training. Here's how it works:

Pick a weight that is 90% of your 1RM weight and perform five single reps with 10 to 15 seconds rest between reps. After you have performed these five single repetitions, rest for three to five minutes and then perform five more single repetitions in the same way. Repeat three more times for a total of five sets.

This is a very brutal form of RPT training that cannot be performed regularly. Many athletes will need at least two days rest between workouts and most will probably not be able to perform this protocol more often than every five days. I would recommend that you try the RPT protocol described above before attempting cluster training. I would also recommend that you approach cluster training gradually.

Start with your 3RM weight and rest one minute between repetitions. As soon as you can do 5 single repetitions with 60 second rests, reduce the length of the rests to 45 seconds. Gradually work your way down to 15 second rests and then increase the weight by 5%.

The "dinosaur training" approach to single reps

One of my favorite strength training authors is Brooks Kubik. Brooks has done a lot of research, experimented with many programs, talked to many other exercisers and found out what works best for himself. This is something all exercisers should do.

Here's what Brooks says about training with heavy single reps:"...heavy single reps have made me more muscular and stronger than any other combination of sets and reps I've ever tried. I know they have allowed my good friend Greg Picket to build his upper arms to a circumference of 46 centimeters of rock hard muscle at a height of 170 centimeters."

Here's what Brooks recommends regarding a workout with heavy single reps:

Start each exercise with a light single repetition and progressively increase the weight with each set. Perform a total of five sets, the first three of which are basically warm-up sets. The fourth set should be heavy and the fifth set extremely heavy. In other words, the last repetition should be a max repetition.

Brooks advises exercisers to gradually approach training with heavy single repetitions. He recommends a 5 x 5 (five sets of five reps) protocol for three months and then a 5/4/3/2/1 protocol for another three months before moving on to multiple sets of heavy single reps.

Here's the way I recommend using Brook's single repetition protocol. Perform five single repetitions in a progressive manner, perform one repetition with your 3 RM weight instead of a max repetition on the last set. In the following week, use your 2RM weight for one repetition and finally, in the third week, perform one max repetition. Over the next three weeks you try to increase your 1RM weight before dropping back down and then working your way up to a new max repetition.

The Rock Iron Steel approach to single reps

Steve Justa, author of the book "Rock Iron Steel: The Book Of Strength" has an excellent approach to single repetition training. Similar to Brooks Kubik, Steve has built up his knowledge through his own experiences and the experiences of other trainers.

As for single repetition training, here's what Steve recommends: take 70% of your 1RM weight on one exercise and train every day. Yes, that's right, seven days a week, my friend. Take one minute rest between sets. Do three reps on the first day. Do five reps on the second day, seven reps on the third day, and so on. Add two repetitions per day until you reach 15 repetitions on day seven. Start the whole cycle again in week two, using 2.5 to 5 kilos more weight.

Steve recommends that you test your 1RM weight once a month and stay in the 70% range. If you can't or don't want to train every day, Steve recommends performing 30 single repetitions at 70% of your 1RM weight every other day. Increase the weight by 2.5 kilos after each training session in which you have performed 30 repetitions. Test your maximum weight every two weeks and stay in the 70% range.

I think Steve's approach is great, but I would change a few things. Instead of doing single reps every day, I would do single reps five days a week. Increase the number of single reps in each training session by one repetition instead of two. So on day one you would do 3 single reps, on day two four and on day three five.

On day five you will do seven repetitions. Take the weekend off and start the following Monday with eight single repetitions. Work your way up to 12 single repetitions on Friday. At this point, increase the weight by 2.5 kilos and start again on the following Monday with three single repetitions.

If you want to perform multiple exercises per training session, such as the three powerlifting exercises during a training session, Steve recommends that you perform four repetitions for each exercise on each day or a massive 25 repetitions for each exercise on every other day. Again, stay at 70% of your 1RM weight.

For daily workouts, I think four reps per exercise is fine. However, I recommend that you take two days off every five days for a mental break. As for training sessions every other day, I think 25 reps is way too many to start with.

Start with ten single repetitions per exercise and increase the number by five more repetitions per week until you have worked your way up to 25 single repetitions over the course of several weeks. At this point, test your 1RM weight and start again with ten repetitions and 70% of your new 1RM weight.


Well, there you have it - four very effective training protocols for using single reps. At this point you may be wondering which one you should use. In my opinion, Steve Justa's is one of the best approaches to start with. By using only 70% of your 1RM weight, you can train more frequently and use a higher volume.

I like the fact that Steve's approach treats each training session as an exercise rather than an effort where you go all out. I think Mike Mentzer style RPT is also effective, but it's too easy to burn out on this program. For that reason, I wouldn't use it for an introduction to single repetition workout. However, I think this is a program that the experienced should try for a duration of 4 to 6 weeks at some point in your training career.

The cluster training protocol described is even more brutal than RPT, so you should only venture into this approach if you already have several months of experience with heavy single repetitions. I also like Brooks Kubik's program, but I would use this as preparation for your max weight for one repetition.

In other words, you should first do Steve Justa's program for a few months. Then you can move on to Brook's program and follow it in the manner described in this article. After following Brook's program for several weeks, you should go back to Steve's program.

Regardless of which single repetition program you use, you should focus on multi-joint exercises. Design a program around these exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck. Avoid or at least minimize the use of any isolation training.

Rather than giving you specific example programs, I prefer that you create your own programs based on the information provided in this article, your training knowledge and your personal goals.


By Mike Mahler

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