I had a question posed to me about a certain type of training, well, more specifically singles training.
The question revolved around being able to build decent levels of muscle mass (hypertrophy) and strength with only singles training. While you may assume the latter is a given, adding muscle with just singles doesn’t seem too logical considering the standard recommendations for building muscle is 8-12reps at 60-75% or 1rm.
What is the major difference?
The total volume or load lifted.
Lets say we have a lifter who does 4×8 on squat with with 75% of 1RM and that is 75kg, that will give a total load of 2400kg. Sticking with this example that would make our lifters 1RM 100kg in the squat, now you wouldn’t really be doing reps with your true 1RM, it would more likely be a top set or perhaps 3 singles at 90-95%. I trust you can see the dilemma.
2400kg vs 270kg… Almost 10x less volume from singles training. Even if you were to count in the sets leading up to these 3 singles you would still find the overall load to be too low to stimulate any meaningful growth.
The person who asked this question likes training with singles, they just feel right apparently. Given the major differences in total volume, what is there to do?
You have a few different of options available to you to help you increase the overall volume:
– Density Training
– Back Off Sets (Pretty similar to density training)
– Increase Training Frequency (Daily maxing with 90% will do for most people)
This was also known as EDT or Escalating Density Training. You would usually get two exercises are perform them one after the other with no rest for a set period of time, such at 8min for example, thus leading to a fairly large amount of volume in a short period of time, now when it comes to doing this with singles it gets quite fun.
What you need to do is one of the following:
– 30 singles as fast as possible – 85% of top single for the day
– *8min AMRAP – 80% of top single for the day (I personally would use 3 or 5 reps for this)
– 20rep set – 1 set of 20 reps with 60% of actual 1RM, once you hit all 20 reps without stopping add weight.
*The timed AMRAP can be for any length of your desire, just keep it the same for at least 7 workouts at a minimum, 14 is better. After that number of workouts you can feel free to change the total length of the set and adjust the volume accordingly too,
Back Off Sets:
These are similar to DT in the way that you will be using a percentage of your heaviest single for the day, but they differ because you will do the prescribed number of set/reps, for example you might do 3×5 @ 85% of daily RM or 3×8 @ 75% of daily RM. I would stick with the rep range of 15-25 for the total number of reps for your back off set and adjust loading accordingly.
Increase Training Frequency (Daily maxing with 90% will do for most people):
As this suggests you will be training on a daily basis, meaning you may not need to have the DT or BO sets, though a short 5min DT set wouldn’t do you any harm. The general idea behind increased frequency is to accumulate volume over the course of the week. Now, when it comes to the reps I personally would advise 1,2,3 reps for the daily maxes so that you can have those days where you go a little lighter and set some new rep PBs (this helps mentally as well as physically), but if you want to stick with only singles then you will need a Daily Minimum that you work up to each day on the single rep, this is usually 80-85% of 1RM.
You will find daily singles training can feel easy some days and brutally hard on others, you will need to listen to your body and learn to push when you feel strong and back off when you only just hit your daily minimum. Always go for good reps that have a decent amount of speed, if you start losing excessive speed it’s time to call it a day.
So using the info above what sort of workout might you design?
Not sure? Here is an example based on the deadlift:
Warm Up – 1×10-20 – Bar or Light Weight (to get the juices flowing)
1x180kg – daily minimum 85%
*Rest as needed, but not too long.
Density Set – 7min AMRAP – singles – 80% of today max (160)
You can then choose to stop there or do a pressing movement in the same fashion. The overall workout might not last longer than 30-40min, if you amange to get it int he 30min mark for two movements and you then have the luxury of begin able to train twice per day then come abck in the evening for your second workout.
Workout pairing would be as follows:
Squat/Pull (Squat – Chin Up)
*Hinge/Push (Deadlift – Press)
*Loaded Carry – This can replace a deadlift day, squatting daily is very doable, but deadlifting daily can be very taxing on your nervous system, if you start to feel the bar getting slow then I suggest you replace the hinge with perhaps a Kettlebell Swing or Loaded Carry for reps/time or distance.
There you have it. A way you can do the training you enjoy while also being able to build muscle and all this is because of the extra volume you will accrue over the DT/BO sets.