July 06, 2015 | John Paul Catanzaro
Legendary bodybuilders like Tom Platz and Robby Robinson were known to lift heavy for high reps. That was one of the secrets to success back in the day. Select a heavy weight and just keep lifting it rep after rep until you absolutely could not lift it anymore. As the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, once explained: “It’s not high reps that work. It’s not heavy weights that work. It’s high reps with heavy weights that work!”
One of the more popular ways to implement this training philosophy in the gym is to perform 20 reps with a 10 repetition maximum (RM) load. In other words, you select a weight that you’d normally do 10 reps with, and through sheer determination, you squeeze out 20 reps. Just do 10 reps like usual, take a breath or two, and then proceed one rep at a time with short rests in between until you reach 20. It seems simple, but believe me, there’s nothing simple about it! This type of training is extremely tough.
Now if you’re trying this method for the first time, you can choose any exercise you like, but don’t go full out right off the bat. You won’t survive! You need to scale the weight back initially. Start somewhat conservative. You’ll make continual progress that way – not only will your work capacity improve steadily, but you’re less likely to get injured and you’ll go further in the end.
Let’s say your 10RM in the back squat is 225 pounds. Start with 185 pounds (or less if you wish) and go up by 10 pounds a week (5 pounds a side on the bar). If your 10RM is 315 pounds, then start with 225 pounds and go up 20 pounds a week (10 pounds a side on the bar). You get the idea. The point is that you want to start lower than normal and each time you train, do a little bit more.
If you follow this advice, you’ll do well. It’s better to start too low than too high. If you start too high, you’ll burn out quick. You’ll barely make it into the second or third week. On the other hand, if you start low and make small, incremental gains each workout, you’ll make progress for many weeks to come.
Tomorrow I’ll introduce a strength workout using the “20 reps with a 10RM” concept that takes only 20 minutes a week to complete.