There is nothing better than feeling that deep burn and the sensation of completely exhausting a muscle.
However, should you really train that way all the time?
The concept of pushing the envelope every session is tempting and realistically you have a couple of options:
1 – Stop one or two reps before failure (RPE 8-9), then do an extra set with the same weight as before for more total volume.
2 – Do as many reps as you can and have a spotter help you complete the last rep, thus increasing intensity and mechanical fatigue/damage.
There have been plenty of studies over the recent years that have looked at studies that equate volume but differ in intensity, vary the amount of training days/frequency along with some other factors too (hopefully you will find the links to the studies and some other great articles below).
One thing that has become apparent is that for each individual there is an optimal balance between intensity and volume, too much of one works for a short period of time (2-3 weeks) but then starts to yield diminishing returns and requires more back-offs/deloads.
You want to stimulate the muscle to create the need for an adaptive response, that’s the bottom line.
What would this look like in terms of sets/reps in a workout?
A1 – Main Compound Movement – 8×3 – RPE 8-9
B1 – Accessory Movement – 3-6x4x6 – RPE 8-9
B2 – Accessory Movement – 3-6x4x6 – RPE 8-9
C1 – Isolation/Weakpoint Movement – 3×8-12 – RPE 8-10 or 3xFail
Using either a Pull-Push-Legs split on a 3on-1off rotation or perhaps a 4 day Upper/Lower Split.
^^ You could perhaps work towards failure on the last exercise as this would be weak point/isolation training.
Why no specific % of 1RM?
That answer is simple, it’s because not everyone can lift the same in relative terms of their 1RM. Some people might hit a 5RM with 87% of their 1RM wile others might only manage 80% at a push. This can be because of how they are neurologically wired or just down to the fact that they are massively strong and lifting far more absolute weight. Thus RPE is a better way to program your lifts.
***Let the weight dictate the reps.***
Take this info and do some digging yourself, then try applying it for a 3-6month training cycle, feel free to use the workout structure above or create your own. You will find that the longer you can stick with a small progression/overload the longer you will progress in the long run. There’s no sense in throwing every extra technique in to your training until you need to do so.
^^ This link will give you some more info on RPE.