Commandment number 4: Ride the wave and climb the ladder!
Varying volume and intensity of effort gives better results than just trying harder
So friends, what do I mean by ride the wave? To explain let’s go back in time to early users of the set system of training. In the 1930s, lifting weights was more of a cult activity with uninformed people and sports coaches alike warning that lifting would make you ‘musclebound,’ slow and clumsy and various other disasters such as a strained heart, falling apart at 40 and turning into a fat ruin and so on.
The early bodybuilders trained their whole body in each workout, generally performing 1 set of many different exercises to make-up a workout. A few pioneers cut the number of exercises and instead repeated sets, performing 2 or even 3 sets per exercise. This increased volume of specific work led to bigger muscles and 3 sets of 10 repetitions became the favourite way to work.
Bigger work loads (volume) with heavy enough resistance (intensity) do stimulate muscle gains but also increase the chances of overtraining. Enter the Russians who, unlike the Americans, did not train for the body beautiful. Their focus was on lifting for gold medals at the Olympic and World championships and they experimented scientifically with their athletes, testing different types of training: Systems that did not improve the lifters were scrapped and those that worked were fine-tuned. They eventually came up with ‘wave’ training as one of the better ways to do things.
So, what is a wave? Say you do 5 sets of 10 reps with 50 pounds in an exercise, that would be described as ‘five sets across’ as every set is the same workload (but effort will increase as fatigue develops). To wave this you vary the weight or reps or both from set to set at random, for example 55lb x 10 reps, 40 x 10 reps, 55 x 8 reps, 40 x 10 reps, 50×10 reps.
Five sets across, as above, gives a workload of 2,500 lbs (reps x weight) but the wave gives a load of 2,290 lbs: Almost as much but note that sets 2 and 4 are much easier being 20 percent lighter and sets 1 and 3 are 10 percent heavier but set 3 has 2 less reps to perform. The Russians found that waving the effort involved up and down from set to set was easier on the lifters and gave better results than the ‘sets across’ system as the easier sets still added to the workload but were less tiring and the random variety was less boring mentally.
Another term used by the Russians (now imported to the Western world by ex-special forces instructor Pavel Tsatsouline) is Ladder training. For example, the lifter takes 50 percent of his maximum for 5 repetitions but only does 5 reps so it is easy. Next set 75 percent of maximum again for 5 reps-medium difficulty. The third set 100 percent done for 5 – a very hard set. Then you drop to 50 percent and repeat the process, ‘climbing the weight ladder’ for as many circuits as you need. Here, we find the lighter sets reinforce good technique and add to the workload done, while being much easier on the lifter than multiple heavy ‘sets across’. Yet, the variety of ladders often yields better results than the heavy routines.
How do we adapt waves and ladders for Parkinson’s people? We don’t need to! They both extract maximum results from the minimum effort possible that is going to be less tiring than most other systems of training.
The same or better results from workouts that are easier to perform?
Definitely worth a go!