The short and sweet Borge Fagerli guide to getting bigger and stronger

I have previously written a few posts about what I consider the optimal program and excessive volume, and I thought it was time to do another one. As more research is done, we are getting more information about what works for most people to build a muscle bigger and stronger – and on an individual level, I have a few insights on what will work specifically for yourself when the general guidelines don’t.

I don’t think it is very productive to get lost in the math of lifting, where some start looking at how much weight you are lifting in total (i.e. tonnage or volume-load as a function of reps x sets x load).

Tonnage or volume load doesn’t necessarily equate to hypertrophy.

Depending on various factors, it has been shown in research these last few years that regardless of load, as long as it is within the 40-85% of 1RM range, you will achieve hypertrophy on the last 5 or so reps of a set to failure.

I coined the term “effective reps” many years ago when I created Myo-reps (link to my free e-book), and other fitness authorities in the field have later adopted it or similar terms (e.g. stimulating reps) – see this article by Chris Beardsley of Strength and Conditioning Research and the accompanying image:

So from a mechanistic standpoint, you get equal growth from a set of 5 reps of 5RM as you will from a set of 20 reps of a 20RM, since you get 5 “effective” reps in both scenarios.

In practice, most people will notice that they get more growth out of certain rep ranges (as long as you don’t conflate the transient pump from higher reps with actual muscle growth).

As higher reps generate more fatigue (15-20+) and lower reps (1-5) will put more strain on joints and connective tissue, most people will gravitate towards the 6-12 rep range as a good compromise.

I would also add that picking exercises you enjoy doing will increase your gains, rather than sticking with some preconceived notion of what is the most effective.

Now, since going to absolute failure may require a lot more recovery time, you may be better off at 1 Rep In Reserve (RIR) as a general rule. You can easily compensate for the loss of effective reps by doing an additional set.

So e.g:
3 sets of 10 @ 10RM (5 effective reps per set) = 15 effective reps (in practice, you might get 10,8,7,6 reps due to accumulated fatigue)
4 sets of 9 @ 10RM (4 effective reps per set) = 16 effective reps (in practice, you might get 9,8,8,7 reps due to accumulated fatigue)
(or 1 Myo-rep set of 9 +3+3+2 @ 10RM = 15 effective reps) :wink:

Unless you are doing Myo-reps and taking advantage of fatigue, you would want to keep fatigue from set to set limited by having at least 2-3mins of rest between sets.

Powerlifters may do several submaximal sets at higher loads to get in sufficient volume without putting excess strain on recovery, so that they can work at higher frequencies (as strength is also dependent on skill).

Example: 6-8 sets of 1-2 reps at 3-5RM

The infamous Norwegian Powerlifting Frequency Project showed the best gains in both strength and hypertrophy from training each lift 6x/week – but this was also a high volume study where the 3x/week group spent 3hrs per workout in the gym AND they were elite lifters.

As each workout generates a certain amount of fatigue (both local and central, or peripheral and CNS as they are usually referred to as), there will be a dose-response relationship that looks like a bell curve vs. a straight line that just tapers off – i.e. as you go beyond the 4-6 set per muscle group range you may incur a host of negative effects.

This was shown in the German Volume Study where 5 sets outperformed 10 sets:

So although some recent work has shown better gains from volumes in the range of 30-45+ sets per week, it may only work for a specific subset (younger men in low stress environment) for short periods of time (6-8 weeks), most other research AND my own experience shows that most lifters get way more gains out of way less time spent in the gym in the long term.

Conclusion and practical recommendations

For most lifters, each movement or muscle group can be worked around 2-3x/week at 3 hard, or 4 moderately hard (1RIR), or 5-6 submaximal sets each workout, in the rep range you prefer – but for most people it will be in the vicinity of 6-12 reps.

I do think spending some time at both higher than 12 and lower than 6 reps is wise on occasion, though.

Let your instincts guide you.

If you don’t yet have any instincts, try a training phase where you go from 20+ reps down to 1-3 reps in a progressive manner, to get the needed experience.

Lifting closer to a 1RM with low reps will usually yield the best gains in 1RM due to the principle of specificity, and skill (practicing the test more often) plays a big role in the ability to display true 1RM strength.

If you for various reasons want or need to get in a higher weekly volume (which may or may not be necessary as you get more advanced, a point of contention I won’t dig into here) you would probably be better off increasing frequency instead of volume per workout.

If you’re not consistently getting stronger (improving reps or adding weight) AND generally feeling under-recovered, you should reduce volume, frequency or both.

This goes for all of you who for whatever reason are suffering from compromised recovery, whether it be:

  • sleep deprivation (personal experience from being a dad of a 1-year old who still wakes frequently through the night)
  • calorie deficits (planned diets or unintentional undereating)
  • poor stress management (work/study habits, not being able to say no, generally being a pessimist etc etc).

Hope you got something useful out of this, and let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.


Example of an upper body workout for someone who prefers low-medium reps (i.e. myself):

Bench Press:

2 sets @ 8RM – 1RIR (7, 5 reps)

paired with:

Face Pulls

2 sets @ 12RM – 1-2RIR (10, 9 reps)

I increase the load next time when I hit a given upper range in reps (7 reps for bench, 11 reps for Face Pulls in this case)

Loaded Pushups

2 sets @ 10RM – 1RIR (9, 7 reps)

paired with

Shoulder Pulls

2 sets @ 8RM – 1RIR (7, 5 reps)

OHP (delts have already been hit with Face Pulls and Shoulder Pulls)

2 sets @ 8RM – 0-1RIR (8, 6 reps)

paired with

Chinups

3 sets @ 8RM – 1RIR (7, 5, 5 reps)

Lat Rows

1 set @ 12RM – 1RIR

I will also auto-regulate volume by reducing sets if my performance drops (e.g. if I get 9 reps on the first set and only 4 reps on the second set), or stop all work for that muscle group if have regressed since last time (e.g. if I got 120kg for 6 reps on the first set of the previous workout and only get 5 reps this workout).

I may add in a set of arms if I feel like it, but contrary to popular belief – biceps and triceps actually take longer to recover than most other muscle groups and are already indirectly involved in pushing and pulling work, which is why some studies show no additional arm growth from adding e.g. biceps curls to a chin-up routine.

Written By Borge

145 Comments on “The short and sweet Borge Fagerli guide to getting bigger and stronger

  1. Iron de Paula Reply

    April 23, 2019 at 7:46

    Hi Borge, long time reader.
    So, for this population (average trainee, with a regular busy life) a frequency of 4-6 times per bodypart a week is overkill? Assuming low volume per session (2-5 sets) of course.
    Also, I was somewhat curious about your hint that advanced trainees may not need to go towards these higher frequencies. Can you comment a bit about it?

    • Borge Reply

      April 23, 2019 at 7:54

      I think someone with a busy life should be careful with frequency, as we have good data and experience showing how any training stimulus takes longer to recover in a high stress state – even if it’s just one set close to failure.

      So I would generally advise that an intermediate lifter stays in the 2-3x/week range (per muscle group, so this could be an upper/lower split 4 days per week), and spread the weekly volume across those workouts. I.e. I think 4 sets 2x/week beats 2 sets 4x week, and 3 sets 3x/week is probably going to be pretty close to 4 sets 2x/week but some may find it slightly more productive from a skill-based perspective (getting stronger).

      • Dave Reply

        August 21, 2020 at 3:55

        Hi Borge, writing you from italy. What do you think of working out only twice per week with 2 different full body routined for a small boned trainee? How would youbset it up? Thank. You

        • Borge Reply

          August 21, 2020 at 6:23

          Sure, that should work just fine.

          Set it up according to the recommendations in the article. I can’t really go into specifics or set you up a program without knowing anything about you, and I also can’t set up programs for free for everyone who asks – I’m sure you understand that 🙂

      • Roy Mohimi Reply

        October 5, 2020 at 10:13

        Hi Borge,

        I hope you are well, just wanted to pick your brains on how an intermediate lifter with a wife and two young children, who works in a warehouse 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and can only train 3 to 4 days a week can organise his routine to maximise growth as optimal as possible. I would really appreciate volume and frequency recommendations.

        Much appreciated.

        Roy

        • Borge Reply

          October 6, 2020 at 8:44

          Each muscle group every 4-5 days or so (if you train 3 days per week), so either a push-pull or upper-lower split. 2-3 sets per muscle group per workout.

  2. Rockman Reply

    April 24, 2019 at 1:25

    Borge which are the differences in terms of application between myo reps and dante trudel’s dc style?

    Dante’s approach is to failure and not autoregulate itself.

    Other differences?

  3. Ricky Reply

    April 26, 2019 at 3:19

    I love all the work you put out! I always go hunting in the comments for your back and forths with other people. Haha. But I have a quick question with regards to understanding research. If in a study it shows that x muscle csa increased by 5% what does that actually equate to in practice? Like if you had a 15 inch bicep. Does that mean you’ll see a .75 inch increase? I know when you measure your arm you’re measuring your tricep as well but I’m just trying to think of the simplist way to ask the question. Thanks again!

    • Borge Reply

      April 26, 2019 at 7:05

      It’s a very difficult question to answer, since – as you so correctly state – the arm is made up of more than just the biceps muscle. There’s also the brachialis, the triceps, the humerus, the skin and the subcutaneous fat layer. So a 5% CSA increase, which is an increase in the circumference of the biceps itself, wouldn’t necessarily register on the total arm measurement – since it is also a relative increase, i.e. if the original measurement was 10cm^2 a 5% increase would make it 10.05cm^2 and not push that measurement tape out to any visible degree.

      I seem to recall one study in women showing that an increase of 5cm^2 over a 6 month training program, which would be up to a 50% increase in CSA for some, translated to a 1cm increase in circumference. That’s the closest estimate I can give. 🙂

  4. Sascha Reply

    April 26, 2019 at 9:22

    Great article and good to see you writing again. It’s a rare combination of scientific understanding, real world coaching experience, and common sense that makes your work outstanding in this “industry”.
    Keep it up!

    Btw: Did you remove the large client testimonial page from your norwegian site? It was awesome and inspiring.

    • Borge Reply

      April 26, 2019 at 3:00

      Thank you for the kind words 🙂

      I removed the testimonials as to not clutter up the page too much, but working on new pages where I will put testimonials on a separate page instead of on the Coaching-page itself.

  5. Per Reply

    April 28, 2019 at 9:07

    Hey Børge. I had you as a coach back in 2015. You designed a 6 day full-body split, which i have followed since. I consider myself intermediate, but in the upper range for a few exercises. Will you now instead advise me to follow e.g the upper/lower split or flexible split? (from the myo-reps e-book) The question is whether I get as much benefit from the training with less volume? I will also add that i work as a 100 % fulltime nurse, with day and evening shifts.

    • Borge Reply

      April 29, 2019 at 8:51

      For 6 days per week, go with an upper/lower – especially if you have that type of stress in your life. Depending on work capacity and volume tolerance (i.e. whether you see a typical set as 10,6,4 or 10,10,9) – the latter may indicate you should do a push/pull/legs split, so lower frequency and slightly higher volume per workout. Gaining strength consistently from workout to workout is the best proxy for what to do here.

      • Per Reply

        April 30, 2019 at 3:55

        Thanks for answer Børge, really appreciate it. After reading your comment from Myoreps e-book: ” Are your gains in the gym the last few months or years, in line with the time and effort spent there?” you got me to put things in perspective. I have been training almost everyday for years, just taking days off now and then (rarely). I have been gaining for sure, but not enough for the time spent there. Depending on job and the shifts (Late–>early), which give bad sleep, my recovery varies a lot. But to the point: If i can get same results by reducing volume or frequency, i would really like to try that. I would prefer 5, minimum 4 days per week. Would you recommend upper/lower then? Monday-friday, weekend off repeat? Or should i go for the flexible program?

        • Borge Reply

          May 1, 2019 at 7:38

          Yes, also see other comments here, an upper/lower or push/pull 4 days per week is plenty.

  6. Jan Reply

    April 28, 2019 at 10:22

    Borge which are the differences between myo reps and Dante’dc rest pause?

    Dante’s one reach failure generally for 3 times.. and myo reps is autoregulated.

    But other differences?

    • Borge Reply

      April 29, 2019 at 8:49

      DC training chases fatigue, Myo-reps manages fatigue to get in more effective reps – that is the main difference. You don’t need to go to failure on Myo-reps, and proper fatigue management requires you to stay within 1RIR at all times – whereas failure is encouraged in DC training. Myo-reps also uses slightly shorter rest periods (3-5 deep breaths vs 10 in DC-training) to maintain the muscle activation levels high (as they tend to drop off when you go to 30sec rest periods).
      Generally speaking, DC training is used at lower reps (8-12RM) whereas Myo-reps is used at 12RM+ most of the time (although you can obviously use it successfully at lower reps, too).

      • Jan Reply

        April 29, 2019 at 11:08

        Normally how much times is required for lower down the activation of a muscle when we reach failure (or near to it)?

        If I remember correctly, with a 10″ rest, atp is recharged about 50%. ??

        So probably of you want to mantain an high activation, drop sets with no rest is the best way..

        • Borge Reply

          April 30, 2019 at 7:45

          Activation from the last set, if you approached failure, will subside after 20-30 secs and you will need to do more reps to get back up – but the same rules as stated above will apply, i.e. the final 4-5 reps of any set taken to failure (or 3-4 reps of any set taken 1 rep from failure etc) will be “effective/stimulating” so both strategies will work:
          10 +3+3+3+2 (managing fatigue, 1RIR, 15 effective reps) vs. 11+5+3 (reaching failure, 13 effective reps)

          – but as you can see, by managing fatigue you will most likely get in slightly more effective reps and also recover faster.

  7. Christian Reply

    April 29, 2019 at 10:44

    Hello and well met from Germany!

    I am a 36 year old father of 2 children, with one child still waking us up at nights on a more or less daily basis. So I am usually a bit sleep deprived yet I am still motivated to train and I really like to workout, yet the gains are coming very slowly. Arms for example basically have stopped growing after like 4-5 months of training and I started training like 16 months ago. Gotta admit though that I spent quite a lot time dieting since I was a fat slob at 1,87cm 100kg at some point 🙂

    So I am wondering what kind of full body workout you would recommend for my circumstances?
    I like the concept of full body since I can’t hit the gym more often than 3-4 times a week.

    I would love to put on more size, but yet I still like to get stronger. So naturally, I prefer barbell movements and body weight movements. Dips, Chin Ups, Benchpress, Rows, Military Press and stuff like that.

    Would you still recommend the modified push/pull for example which was published on t-nation in 2018?

    • Borge Reply

      April 30, 2019 at 7:46

      Stress and sleep deprivation -> lower frequency, so if you want to hit the gym 3-4x/week I would try the push/pull or upper/lower split depending on what muscle groups you want to focus on.

      Arms or any muscle group for that matter will not grow optimally while dieting, but arms are – as mentioned in the article – already hit indirectly from all the pushing and pulling, so you could actually try not training them directly for a while and see what happens.

  8. David Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 7:47

    Borge great article!
    Well done!

    I’m in the SSD group (Abel) and Hypercarnivore (Don) so in this last year I’ve follow a lot of your work!

    One thing that you ever not mentioned, do you think that myo reps are usefull with slower speed of movement?

    I use a slow cadence due to joints problems, so I can use less weight.
    Using a slower cadence (4-5 second up, 5-6 seconds down) I can train without pain, and for me is a good way to progress.
    Using this slow cadence I use lower reps, around 4-6 total, that permit me to use a TUT of 40-60 seconds.

    Myo reps with slow cadence, mantaining costant tension on the muscle, and without failure.. yes or useless?

  9. John Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 7:49

    Borge great article!
    Well done!

    I’m in the SSD group (Abel) and Hypercarnivore (Don) so in this last year I’ve follow a lot of your work!

    One thing that you ever not mentioned, do you think that myo reps are usefull with slower speed of movement?

    I use a slow cadence due to joints problems, so I can use less weight.
    Using a slower cadence (4-5 second up, 5-6 seconds down) I can train without pain, and for me is a good way to progress.
    Using this slow cadence I use lower reps, around 4-6 total, this permit me to use a TUT of 40-60 seconds.

    Myo reps with slow cadence, mantaining costant tension on the muscle, and without failure.. yes or useless?

    • Borge Reply

      May 4, 2019 at 8:49

      Yes. I do lean towards more explosive concentric and slower eccentric, but with Myo-reps I think the explosive concentric is less important.

      • John Reply

        May 4, 2019 at 3:37

        So I can use the same principle of myo reps with slow cadence?
        Basic guidelines
        Do the activation set with 1RIR, then
        Stopping the mini-sets always 1 rep before failure, and stopping the “global” set when I can’t repeat the same reps of the previous mini-sets.

        Probably with a slow cadence, something linke this:

        5 reps (activation)
        3-5 breath
        2 reps
        3-5 breaths
        2 reps
        3-5 breath
        1 rep
        Stop

        Is it right, or I’ve forgot/err something?
        I ask this because I dont know if with slow cadence the need for rest between mini set is the same, or something else would be different.

        Thanks Borge!

        • Borge Reply

          May 5, 2019 at 7:43

          Yes, that’s fine. The slower speed doesn’t change anything.

  10. Pat Reply

    May 5, 2019 at 11:53

    Long time reader, and very long time trainee 😉 Looking to myo reps to be a joint and fatigue saver. I train 4 days on an upper lower split using injury friendly compounds on a heavy/medium rotation and plan on incorporating myo reps. Would appreciate your critique on the below setup

    Push
    Floorpress 3×5-7 Alternated with Incline Bench for 3x 8-12 on medium day
    DB Bench 3×12-15
    Lateral Raise Myo Reps
    OH Tri Ext Myo Reps/Pushdowns Myo Reps

    Legs & Back
    TBDL 3×5-7 on Heavy Day 3×8-12 on medium day
    KB Swings 3 Sets
    Leg Ext Myo Reps
    Pulldowns/Seated Rows Myo reps
    Hammer Curls Myo Reps
    Calf Raises Myo Reps

    After 30 plus years of training I’m hoping one upper body strength move and one lower body strength move combined with myo reps allows me to continue training – Realistically as I’m in my fifties I hope to hold what I have gained in LBM.
    Some days are tight for time so I can split the legs and back workout into two days if need be.

    • Borge Reply

      May 5, 2019 at 1:45

      I know nothing about you, e.g. training age/level, your work capacity and volume tolerance, your power profile – so a training consult is beyond the scope of this comments section. I wouldn’t set a program up like this, but that’s just me. If you have my e-book you will see how I program Myo-reps from a meta perspective, that’s the best tip I can give you, and – if you keep getting stronger and bigger without any aches or pains, then that is your best indicator of how well the program is working for you.

  11. Pat Reply

    May 5, 2019 at 2:04

    Ok Borge, thanks for the reply.

    • Borge Reply

      May 5, 2019 at 3:14

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but I think the number 1 mistake people make is thinking that there is a program (or diet plan for that matter) out there that will fix everything. Not only do you need to do a lot of experimentation with the principles mentioned in the article, but you also need to monitor and adjust over time. When I’m working with a client, I will do 2 weeks of testing, then the remaining 6-10 weeks of just that – looking at how things are progressing and making the proper changes along the way. So showing me a random program with no further context is – as you hopefully understand – impossible to troubleshoot.

  12. Pat Reply

    May 5, 2019 at 5:20

    Yes, fair point re context and I fully understand.

  13. Denis Reply

    May 6, 2019 at 6:30

    Hello Børge, I’ve recently discovered your website and I’ve been reading your articles like crazy ever since.

    I’ve been on Push/Pull/Legs 2x a week for 3 years now and since you mentioned 6x a week full body split, I’ve been interested in it. How would you go about it?

    • Borge Reply

      May 6, 2019 at 6:42

      Most of the time, I wouldn’t recommend it – as it both requires you are at least intermediate-advanced with 2 years consistent training, and also that you have everything in your life in order (stress management, sleep, nutrition, hormones, health).

      But if you fulfill all these criteria, then you would simply divide the exercises and volume from your current split into the full-body split. Depending on how you feel and how progress is, you can consider adding volume here and there.

      So e.g. if you are doing 4 sets of bench press and 3 sets of incline DB press 2x/week currently (14 sets/week), then you would set up an A/B program of 3 sets of bench press for the A program and 2 sets of incline DB press for the B program (yielding 15 sets/week).

      • Denis Reply

        May 6, 2019 at 9:55

        Thanks for the reply, I’m gonna have fun with designing the routine.

        • Denis Reply

          May 7, 2019 at 7:22

          Hey Børge! I’ve almost designed the routine but I have a question regarding myo reps since you are expert on them. I’ll definitely use them on biceps, been also thinking about chest flys, medial/rear delts, shrugs and maybe on lats and some variation of rows. What do you think? What are the muscle groups you’d use them for? Thanks for answer.

          • Borge

            May 8, 2019 at 7:41

            They can be used for all muscle groups, but I’d prefer you have some strategic approach, here are some suggestions:

            – For the first 2-4 weeks of an 8-12 week training phase
            – Every 4-6 weeks of an 8-12 week training phase, for 1 full week
            – On selected exercises or workout days in the weekly cycle

            What I would recommend would require knowing more about you, but like I said to Pat, a program consult is beyond the scope of a comment section for a “short and sweet guide” to training 😉

  14. Robert Reply

    May 8, 2019 at 6:30

    Probably there is nothing wrong to use myo reps all year long.
    The principle of autoregulation is perfect with all different rep range, or more simple:
    Stick with same rep range and add weight only when you can hit you myo reps target.

    Simple

    Probably you progress slow.. but no one can tell that.

    But 100% if you are consistent with autoregulation and adding “stress” only we you can tolerate it.. you can hit you genetic potential.

    Sometimes we search the most complicated things, when the simple truth is under our nose.

    Thanks borge for your imputs.

    Simplicy is the highest form of complexity

  15. Michael Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 4:51

    Hey borge, good advices.
    I’ve read a comment in this article by John:

    Really is possible gain muscle and reach genetic potential use slow speed of movement?

    And if the answer is yes, how we can apply it to autoregulation in the SSD program?
    Now I’m in my 3rd cycle of ssd, but there is nothing to do, I need slow movement for not feel pain in my joints.

    Especially with clusters in week 7 and 8.
    How we can use slow cadence with cluster?

    I’ve ever think that for muscle growth, especially some techniques (like clusters) are absolutely necessary HEAVY loads.

    Thanks man, best regards from France

    • Borge Reply

      May 17, 2019 at 8:30

      If you reduce movement speed, every rep takes longer to complete – so nothing really changes, a slow rep equals 2-3 normal reps so you simply drop the rep count down to accommodate the slower speed of it.

  16. Mike Reply

    June 10, 2019 at 2:15

    Hey, Borge!

    Thanks for all the content. Really appreciate your perspective on longevity and quality of life. Question: will just a power rack, adjustable bench, and some dumbbells cover the SSD program? If there are some machine exercises, does the program have a list of substitutes?

    Thanks in advance for any guidance 🙂

    • Borge Reply

      June 10, 2019 at 4:44

      Yes, the SSD program works just fine with free weights, no need for machines.

  17. Alex Reply

    June 13, 2019 at 1:45

    Hello, Børge. Thank you for you articles and all the great guidance you provide.

    Do you still take online clients? I need some help from a trainer which knows that not all clients are young and good athletes. You’re one of the few people that I feel understands what toll the stress takes and how to adjust to that.

    Regardless of your answer, thanks again, Børge, for all your articles.

  18. elio Ricciardi Reply

    July 13, 2019 at 6:22

    Hello what do you think of this new leangains method?

    Monday
    * Overhead Press – 3 x 8
    * Row – 3 x 8
    * Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10
    Wednesday
    * Incline Guillotine press – 3 x 8
    * Upright Row 3×10
    * Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10
    Friday
    * Deadlift – 2 x 6
    * Squat – 5 x 10
    * Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10
    Saturday
    * Chin-Up – AMSAP x 5
    * Incline Guillotine press – AMSAP x 5
    * Upright Row AMSAP x 5

    Use 9RM for Saturday AMSAP sets.

    • Borge Reply

      July 14, 2019 at 9:15

      I haven’t seen Martin offer a new program recently, where did you see this?

      Looks like a program focused on shoulder development, since leg training is downprioritized.

      Not a big fan of Guillotine presses, although the incline is slightly safer. Upright rows is also high risk, and I just don’t think it’s worth it. Face Pulls are better IMO.

      • elio Ricciardi Reply

        July 14, 2019 at 12:28

        consultation I had with him. Does the volume look ok? I wanted to verify it with you.

        Thanks for your input.

        • Borge Reply

          July 14, 2019 at 2:22

          Well, regardless of what my article says and how this program aligns with that – the more important question is: does the volume work for you – i.e. are you getting stronger and building muscle? That’s your answer.

  19. Bart Reply

    July 25, 2019 at 1:46

    If I missed this, I apologize, but the assumption about effective reps, i.e., that there are potentially 5 up to failure, is based on what? Could you cite your source(s)?

    From a purely theoretical perspective, wouldn’t it seem more likely that each rep has an effective contribution. Perhaps with a 8RM weight, where the 8th rep is a contribution of 1, the 7th rep is 0.9, 6th is 0.78, etc. down to the 1st being, maybe 0.04 or whatever.

    It just seems odd, at least to me, that if I do 10×[email protected] weight the “effective reps” are 0 but if I do a single set of 10 with that weight, the “effective reps” are 5. It implies that one set of 10 is infinitely better than 10 sets of 4 with that weight.

    I should mention that I really like the idea of “effective reps,” but what I’m struggling to understand is whether 2 sets with 5 effective reps will really have the same effect (strength or hypertrophy) as 5 sets with 2 effective reps given that there seems to be plenty of people who think of volume in terms of “effective” or “hard” sets. With their accounting, 5 “hard” sets, i.e., those in the effective range, will consistently yield better results than 2 “hard” sets (in the effective range).

    Thoughts?

    • Borge Reply

      July 25, 2019 at 9:52

      It’s primarily based on Henneman’s Size Principle where you need to work to a certain proximity to failure with moderate and lighter loads for the mechanical tension to be exposed to all muscle fibers (the last 3-5 reps of a 15RM set in this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21986694).

      It’s a graded response which even varies between muscle groups, and not an on/off switch. Thus the premise of “effective” reps is just an estimate. There is likely a continuum to how much hypertrophy a particular repetition stimulates. Obviously, since training to near failure results in more hypertrophy than training far away from failure, reps that are closer to failure are more hypertrophic than reps that are far away from failure. However, this doesn’t mean the early reps don’t stimulate hypertrophy at all.

      For example, Goto et al. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15947720) had a group of subjects do sets of 10 RM, but stopping at rep 5 and resting 30 seconds. So, essentially a 5 RIR – at least for the first set.

      A second group did sets of 10 RM to failure. The group that did sets of 10 RM experienced three times the hypertrophy of the group that stopped well short of failure. The submaximal group still grew muscle, most likely because the fatigue induced by the short rest periods made the latter 5 rep sets be closer to failure.

      Then you have the Martorelli study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28713535) where one group did 3 sets to failure @70% of 1RM, roughly a 12RM for most people, a second group did 3 sets of 7 reps at the same load, and the third group did 4 sets of 7 reps.

      Hypertrophy was greatest in the group that trained to failure (17.5%). The volume equated group that trained well short of failure experienced roughly half of the hypertrophy of the group that trained to failure (8.5%), and the group that did only 3 sets well short of failure experienced very little hypertrophy (2.1%).

      This is basically a main confounder of the great volume debate raging on the interwebz currently – the subjects in these studies showing high volumes to be better than moderate volumes are highly unlikely to train to failure, and thus just compensating for lack of effort. If you’ve ever worked 1-on-1 with people in a gym setting you already know that most people end a set with more than 1 rep in reserve unless you really push them hard.

      Then again, that final rep to failure may also induce a lot of fatigue and require more time to recover than a set stopping 1-2 reps shy of failure, so that is a general rule of thumb I tend to advocate – unless you are only doing single sets with a low- to moderate frequency, then I think training to failure is a necessity to get any gains.

      Chris Beardsley wrote an even more extensive article, if you want to dig even deeper into this topic:
      https://medium.com/@SandCResearch/what-is-training-volume-286b8da6f427

  20. Bart Reply

    July 25, 2019 at 3:08

    Quite a thorough reply. Thanks so much.

    The Martorelli et al. piece you mentioned, in particular, is interesting. Strength increases were comparable across the groups and the change in peak torque was highest in the volume-equated, non-failure group. However, as you noted, hypertrophy was greatest in the to-failure group.

    These results would seem to suggest that “effective” reps may be a more appropriate way to think about work as a it contributes to hypertrophy rather than strength development, right?

    Then again, only so much can/should be extrapolated from a single study.

    Thanks also for pointing me to Chris Beardsley’s articles.

    • Borge Reply

      July 25, 2019 at 3:22

      Yes, strength can be achieved through skill, aka practice, and submaximal training may work very well for this.

      The Norwegian powerlifters dominate internationally (and also have the most rigorous drug testing regime, so you can take that variable out of the equation) – and their average training intensity is right around 75%, only reaching 90%+ in the final few weeks of peaking before a competition, with most sets done in the range of 1-4 reps. This way of training also allows for a high frequency, as they learned from the infamous Frequency Project which you have probably heard about – and knowing how some of the top lifters train the common practice is bench 4-5x/week, squats 3-5x/week, deadlifts 2x/week – just to give you an idea. If they were to train to failure and/or use higher %ages of 1RM more often, it would induce too much CNS fatigue and fail completely.

  21. Bart Reply

    July 25, 2019 at 9:05

    I apologize if you’ve addressed this in another article (if so and can point me to it, I would appreciate it), but I’ve been reading through Beardsley’s pieces and haven’t come across a recommendation for an ideal range of total effective/stimulating reps per workout or week either for maximizing strength or hypertrophy, appreciating that the optimal number will vary across individuals and also across muscle groups (and will likely vary over time for an individual based on other factors, e.g., amount of sleep, degree of stress, diet, etc.).

    I’m curious if there’s any consensus on a number that could be a jumping off point for testing whether greater or fewer effective reps per workout and per week should be prescribed, specifically for natural lifters.

    I seem to recall Thibaudeau recommends essentially 1-2 sets to failure (presumably, 5-10 effective reps per workout) for chest, back, hamstrings, and quads. He also recommends 3 workouts per body part per week, so about 15-30 effective reps per week. But I haven’t seen him cite any sources.

    Almost all of my experience is with Sheiko/Norwegian-esque approaches, and I find it difficult to convince people who routinely perform up to or in excess of 20 sets per body part per workout with essentially zero “effective” reps to switch to a single set of 5 to failure. But Thibaudeau seems fairly adamant that most natural lifters are doing more work than is optimal. That said, he may also be referring primarily to folks who do 5-6 sets with 6RM so the sets are something like 6,5,3,2,1. A back-of-the-envelope tally puts the effective reps of such a workout at a bit less than 16 (appreciating that the stimulating effect of a rep in a latter set once fatigue has been accumulated will not be as high as without it per Beardsley). That’s considerably more work than Thibaudeau recommends, but do studies support the notion that a natural lifter would be better off with, say 5-8 effective reps per body part per workout rather than 15-20 or vice versa?

    What are your thoughts? And thanks in advance. I really appreciate your feedback.

    • Borge Reply

      July 26, 2019 at 9:26

      I have addressed it in the very same article you are commenting on. 😉

      “For most lifters, each movement or muscle group can be worked around 2-3x/week at 3 hard, or 4 moderately hard (1RIR), or 5-6 submaximal sets each workout, in the rep range you prefer – but for most people it will be in the vicinity of 6-12 reps.”

      3 hard sets being 15 effective reps, 4 moderately hard being approx 16 effective reps and so on.

  22. Bart Reply

    July 26, 2019 at 1:38

    What a dope. Sorry about that. I went down the rabbit hole looking for an answer when it was sitting in front of my nose the entire time. Thanks again!

    • Borge Reply

      July 26, 2019 at 3:10

      No worries, you’re not the only one missing the forest for the trees in this whole volume debate 🙂

  23. Mathias Reply

    August 2, 2019 at 11:54

    Thanks for all the info. My question is this.
    In terms of volume and set/rep i’m gonna stick to your ebook recommendations But what i don’t understand is
    if i’m gonna do let’s say 3 sets of benchpress will o do 3 myo reps sets? or do i do 2 straight set and then a myo set?
    Are all the sets you recommend in your ebook supposed to be myosets? so for an intermediate you say 6-9 set per week. So you mean 6-9 myosets for chest, back so forth per week ? am i correct in my interpretation?

    • Borge Reply

      August 3, 2019 at 9:50

      Are you talking about the Myo-reps e-book? I gave my recommendations on page 50. I realise the recommendations there are higher than in this article, a consequence of further experience and reflections on the current research.

      1 Myo-rep set is approx. equal to 2-4 normal sets, if you look at the number of effective reps.

      If you only get something like 12+3+2 (due to low work capacity) – that would equal approx 9-10 effective reps and the equivalent of 2 hard sets.

      If you get something like 12+4+4+3 (and provided that you are within 0-1RIR on all sets) – that would equal approx 15 effective reps and the same as 3 hard sets (meaning, to failure).

      • Mathias Reply

        August 4, 2019 at 11:19

        Not trying to complicate things but trying to create my own routine and thought of this:
        would this structure for a routine be stupid or decent?

        Main lifts: 3-5x 3-5 (when i can do 3-5 sets of x5 reps i increase the weight on the. bench, squat,dead,ohp)
        accessory : 1-2 myo-sets per muscle group 2-4 times a week in a rotating upper lower split 5 days

        Thanks for valid information.

        • Borge Reply

          August 4, 2019 at 5:45

          Sure, it could work. Just keep in mind that you are only getting 3 effective reps per set when you do sets of 3, so you would need to do more sets to compensate if hypertrophy is your primary goal. For strength it would be fine, though.

          I also prefer to separate lower and higher rep training into different workouts. There’s no clear evidence of it, but the research looking at the mechanisms of hypertrophy would suggest that mixing stimuli may cause some interference effects.

  24. Michael Reply

    August 5, 2019 at 4:18

    Hi Borge, what do you think of Jason Blaha’s Ice Cream Fitness 2.0 program for beginners/novices?

    Also, do you have the link to your Myo reps book? Thanks.

    • Borge Reply

      August 5, 2019 at 10:07

      I have no idea what that program is about, so I can’t comment.

      The link is in the Myo-reps article, but here is the direct link: https://gumroad.com/l/fBIsl

  25. Teemu Reply

    September 3, 2019 at 2:09

    How do you count volume for legs? Quads and hams separated or combined? Do you recommend doing 3-4 sets per workout for legs overall, or something like 4 sets for quads and 3 for hams?

    • Borge Reply

      September 3, 2019 at 3:04

      “Legs” isn’t a muscle group. A muscle group is categorized according to function, so I would definitely separate quads and hams (and also glutes and calves). And the contribution of different muscle groups in an exercise varies a lot, but squats have been shown to be a poor hamstring exercise.

      • Teemu Reply

        September 3, 2019 at 5:56

        Thanks! That makes the most sense to me also. So a good lower body day should probably consist of 3-4 sets for quads, same for hams and maybe some for calves and glutes and abs too. Though in reality I never really train calves or glutes anyway to be honest 😀

        • Borge Reply

          September 6, 2019 at 9:14

          Depends entirely on the exercise. Squats and split squats/lunges hit the glutes, so you don’t need a lot of extra glute work. If you’re a hip dominant squatter (like the Westside guys) then you will also be hitting some hamstrings, so no need to add a ton of it. If you have A and B workouts, the A workout could be squats and leg curls, the B workout could be a hip hinge pattern (RDL is my favorite) with leg extensions or split squats. I don’t really train calves all that much either, I am satisfied with their size and even with a ton of volume and loading they barely grew 0.5cm in circumference so I figured it wasn’t really worth it 🙂

  26. Ian Reply

    November 5, 2019 at 11:40

    Great article. I was sucked into the entire idea of just adding more and more volume to my workout if a lift was stalling or just “eating more”. My lifts would continue on the same plateau or regress when implementing both. I then decreased volume and frequency and saw an immediate increase in strength

  27. Francisco Navarro Reply

    November 20, 2019 at 5:51

    Hey Borge. Great article! thanks. Do you believe you can get to your genetic potential with only 2x per week training? like a full body template with A B workouts?

    • Borge Reply

      November 20, 2019 at 8:13

      In theory, I definitely think so, yes. You can argue that you would get there faster with more training (frequency and volume), but on the other hand I see too many lifters overdo it during the early years – get various aches/pains or overreach/burnout and thus have to backtrack and restart progress…so I tend to err on the conservative side. I have clients making progress consistently over many months with quite conservative volumes – where their previous programming had only produced endless cycles of progress/stagnation/regression.

      • Francisco Navarro Reply

        November 20, 2019 at 9:53

        Thanks man! Yeah and I guess in some contexts it would be be better to only train 2x/week when life stress is higher or recovery is impeded for whatever reason. I like going to the gym right now because of my current schedule so I do 6 times per week but is a push pull legs split that takes no longer than 45min to complete and the gym is like 2 blocks from home do I don’t mind going but I wonder if there would be much of a difference if I did 2 full body workouts like monday and thursday. Sometimes I wonder if I would get the same or even faster progress since recovery wouldn’t be an issue. I think I may try it out just for shits and giggles to see what happens I’ve been training consistently for about 4 years now. plus like a year back when I was in college and progress is very slow. I’m not genetically gifted by any means so I maybe I’m not getting a very good ROI and maybe I should find other things to do with my time.

        • Borge Reply

          November 20, 2019 at 10:35

          There are pros and cons to all choices. Shorter, more frequent workouts allows you to do more “quality” volume, i.e. you are less fatigued from beginning to end with your current split. There could also be some advantages wrt blood flow which is notoriously poor in connective tissue and bone vs. muscle, so having more frequent spikes can be beneficial. Then again, a workout also induces a certain inflammatory response, and some people don’t have the recovery capacities to handle this inflammation within a certain time span – and start experiencing various aches and pains, water retention and swelling when doing daily training. So for them, a lower frequency of training is better.

          The only way to know is to try it for yourself 🙂

          • Francisco Navarro

            November 28, 2019 at 1:23

            Thank you for your wisdom I have finally decided to try out the 2x per week full body mondays and thurstdays. I’ll go back to my old gym which is a 10 minute drive but has the greatest equipment available. I’m a coach and a nutritionist myself and I’m more interested in efficiency and sustainability. I took the bayesian bodybuilding certification last year and I also bought the ssd program which is a goldmine. So I’m just going to follow my instict and go for it worst case scenario I’ll maintain what I got if it doesn’t work for me I’ll probably go for an upper/lower 4x per week. I’ll report in a few months to let you know how it goes. Looking forward for you opening a patreon or some type of blog Borge your wisdom is always inspiring.

          • Borge

            November 28, 2019 at 7:50

            Great, looking forward to hearing how it goes 🙂

            I’ll consider something like that, but atm I’m a Product Manager for the health supplement brand MyRevolution that I founded in 2006, so there’s not a lot of time outside that and having a few coaching clients.

  28. George Reply

    January 17, 2020 at 8:07

    Hi Borge! I’m looking into the idea of effective reps both yourself and Lyle seem to have really good insights and practical applications however, besides the idea of 5 hard reps towards the end of a set, is there a range of effective repetitions per muscle per week you’ve found to work best for people? Sorry if you’ve already addressed this!

    • Borge Reply

      January 18, 2020 at 10:40

      Yeah, around 15-25 effective reps per workout seems to be the sweet spot, and frequency will depend on how quickly you recover – 2-3x/week per muscle group for most people (slow-twitch generally recover faster, fast-twitch slower).

      • George Reply

        January 19, 2020 at 3:44

        Thank you for such a quick reply. With 15-25 effective reps per session in mind and using Incline 2x10rm 1RIR as an example, that would equate to 18 effective reps providing 2×9 repetitions are performed right? And providing that progressive tension overload is applied when possible and consistency/recovery isn’t an issue, someone would make incredible muscle gains? I’m trying to console this with all the recent jargon on volume. Also a quick question about counting volume. Do you think counting volume for smaller/assisting muscles on a 0:5-1 basis is a good idea? For example 4 sets of bench would equate to 2 in-direct sets for front/medial delt. Cheers, Borge!

        • George Reply

          January 19, 2020 at 12:47

          Hi Borge, just a follow up to my previous comment. I believe I got my math in-correct! I believe 2x10rm 1RIR would equate to 8 effective reps, seeing as 10rm = 5 effective reps however using 1 RIR it would equate to 4 repetitions, therefore 2 sets = 8 effective reps! Sorry my noobness. Just delving into this stuff.

          • Borge

            January 19, 2020 at 3:33

            2 sets of 10 @1RIR would indeed be 8 effective reps. Just to note that the 5-10 effective rep range is probably a good starting point and a great minimalist way of approaching training – in line with my article here.

            Counting volume for smaller muscle groups can be a complex topic, but anywhere from 0.5-0.75 is a good range. I would count 1 for front delts and 0 for medial delts on bench press (I think the former mainly works as a stabilizer for that particular exercise).

          • George

            January 19, 2020 at 6:25

            Thanks again for the reply, Borge, appreciate that you take the time to do so! One last go before I call it a day.

            Are you saying 5-10 effective reps per muscle per session is a good way to go as far as minimalist training is concerned with the 15-25 effective rep range being better suited for more moderate volumes? Cheers again!

          • Borge

            January 19, 2020 at 6:49

            I would say 15-25 reps is the maximal range.

  29. Steve Reply

    January 29, 2020 at 7:46

    Another solid article Borge! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

  30. Anton Antonov Reply

    February 1, 2020 at 10:39

    Hello, Mr. Fagerli. For the past year, maybe 80 % of my hypertrophy work is myo reps. Honestly the results which I got from doing that type of work vs. more traditional, straight sets work are pretty much the same , the only difference is of course my training time dropped down. So my question is do you think I miss something of not training in that ”magic” hypertrophy range (6-12 reps). Recent studies show that there is no difference between 8-12 and 25-35 rep range for muscle growth. Also I dropped the Big 3 for hypetrophy work because I think they are not so good for myo reps or any high rep work so I do them for strength in the 1-3 range. Have you ever seen someone training only with myo reps for hypertrophy? Also I want to thank you for all free information you spread through podcasts, articles and of course your book. Sorry for the long post but I just have no one around me training like this and there are no studies or experiments with myo reps so I just have this option. Thanks!

    • Borge Reply

      February 1, 2020 at 11:23

      You have pretty much answered your own question – you are seeing the same results with Myo-reps and drastically less training time, so of course, you can keep doing it – and yes, there are many who are training exclusively with Myo-reps for long periods of time. I think everyone with high ambitions has the fear of missing out, whether it be relationships, money, or training/diet. There is nothing to suggest that there is a “magic” hypertrophy range at all – or rather, if there is such a range it is more likely between 3-30 reps, not 6-12.

      • Anton Antonov Reply

        February 1, 2020 at 12:43

        Thanks for the quick answer! Wish you all the best!

  31. ERIC Reply

    February 25, 2020 at 9:08

    Hey Borge! Hope you are doing great in business and in life

    What do you think of a myo- rep/dropset combination for the 5-10 rep range? where the activation set is a heavy set and you do the myo rep series after droping the load 10% so something like 100kg*8+90kg*5,5,4 or something like that or do you think at that point doing something like straight sets or cluster sets would be a better choice?

    • Borge Reply

      February 25, 2020 at 9:17

      I don’t see how it would make a huge difference from just doing a regular drop-set, but feel free to try it out 🙂

  32. Jones Reply

    March 2, 2020 at 3:52

    Hi Borge. Loving the content on this blog!

    Question, for someone only able to workout saturday and sunday, do you think it would still be possible to reach their genetic potential? I guess something like upper/lower or push/pull would be ideal in that situation, and really go hard, or how would you set it up?

    Thanks!

  33. Junas Reply

    March 2, 2020 at 3:53

    Hi Borge. Loving the content on this blog!

    Question, for someone only able to workout saturday and sunday, do you think it would still be possible to reach their genetic potential? I guess something like upper/lower or push/pull would be ideal in that situation, and really go hard, or how would you set it up?

    Thanks!

    • Borge Reply

      March 2, 2020 at 4:03

      That is a difficult question to answer, but my fundamental belief is that there will be a certain genetic/hormonal limit to how big you can get and even though it takes more time, you should eventually get there almost regardless of approach. Having said that, there are guys/girls who get stuck at a certain bodyweight and body composition, and if we assume that diet and recovery (sleep, stress etc) is already taken care of, it may very well be that frequency and volume could and should be increased (gradually) to improve results. But most people can get there on minimalist approaches.

      Also check out Marty Gallagher, he is training regular people into nationally ranked powerlifters this way:
      https://www.ironcompany.com/blog/once-a-week-strength-training-part-1/

  34. Andrew Reply

    March 15, 2020 at 4:03

    Is the myo reps book or the band/bodyweight training book still available? My gym is closed because of coronavirus, and I’m looking for an effective way to train at home.

    • Borge Reply

      March 15, 2020 at 8:04

      Yes, the Myo-reps e-book is linked in the article on Myo-reps, and the bodyweight guide was posted in the Sustainable Self Development forum.

  35. STEPHEN Reply

    March 23, 2020 at 11:38

    Hi Borge. Hope you are doing well. Are you familiar with Gerd Gigerenzer’s work on heuristics and intuition? I came across him and it reminded me of what you’ve mentioned a couple of times about trusting your instincts. I have found that as I gain more experience I’m better off not following a very strict training program but a set of principles as I get caught up in the numbers and end up with various aches and pains. Gerd Gigerenzer made me re-think about the approach many evidence based practitioners take with their clients. An over-reliance on statistical data can be counterproductive in some cases. If you are not familiar with his work I highly recommend you check him out he is very scientifically minded but he’s got some unconventional thoughts and he seems legit here is a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixyFm_OoKlw . If you are familiar with his work I’d like to know what you make of what Gerd Gigerenzer thinks. Since there are studies not nececessarily on weight training that show that a simple intuitive approach model can outperform an optimization model when you don’t have a full picture and a lot of uncertanty. There seem to be some biological mechanisms engrained throughout evolution that can be quite powerfull. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Sorry for the rambling but you know how this is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixyFm_OoKlw

    • Borge Reply

      March 23, 2020 at 12:57

      Hi Stephen, I haven’t heard of him but I’ll check out the videos 🙂

    • Borge Reply

      March 23, 2020 at 1:17

      Oh, and I am a supporter of the intuitive approach, there are good studies showing how people are able to both choose the most productive rep ranges, exercises, frequency, progression model and rest period between sets – but I think many people can get too stuck in their own heads to really understand what intuition tells you. I know I struggled with this for a long time 🙂

  36. Frank Reply

    April 6, 2020 at 2:18

    Hi Borge, I hope you’re doing great. I have two questions for you:

    1) you mentioned once how some of your clients responded better to the first version of Myo-Reps: mini sets of half the chosen RM (e.g. 5 reps with 10RM) without the activation set. Can you briefly explain how they work? Load selection, volume of mini sets, how and when to progress them, etc.

    2) In light of the recent studies on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and volume ( https://www.strongerbyscience.com/sarcoplasmic-hypertrophy-relevant/), do you think there is still value in high rep training for someone who wants to maximize myofibrillar hypertrophy and/or just instinctively prefer moderate to low rep work?

    Thank you very much!

    • Borge Reply

      April 6, 2020 at 9:34

      1. I don’t think I ever said that clients responded better. It was, after all, the first version. I consider the current version to be the best. The first version was essentially just cluster training, using 10RM loads or heavier.

      2. Yes, I think hypertrophy cannot be maximized by training only with higher loads and lower reps, so higher rep training has its place for either 4-8 week phases, for 1 week intermittent use during a training cycle (e.g. every 4-8 weeks), or for use on certain exercises within a training cycle – all described in the e-book.

      • Frank Reply

        April 6, 2020 at 5:06

        Thank you very much Borge.

        I apologize for having misinterpreted your words, it is far from my intentions to spread false information about your work. I put a FB comment out of context, and I’m very sorry for that.

        By the way, I have both the two e-books and the SSD system, and I was indeed wondering if your thoughts evolved since then: hence the second question.

        Speaking of SSD system and lockdown, do you have a favourite way to add reps to bodyweight exercise for someone who sucks badly at high rep work in general? I can do harder variations but I can’t increase reps on the easier ones.

        Thank you again.

        • Borge Reply

          April 7, 2020 at 7:58

          No need to apologize 🙂

          A good way to add reps is to do several submaximal sets, i.e. if your current best is 1 set of 20, try doing 2-5 sets of 15 – i.e. you can either auto-regulate and stop whenever you can’t do sets of 15 anymore, or just do 5 sets and stay there until you get all sets of 15. It depends on your current volume, so if you’re only doing 2 sets I would try 3-4 submaximal sets – going straight to 5 sets will be quite a jump in volume. Then, when you’re able to do 5 sets of 15, aim for 5 sets of 16 etc. You can also have one day be added load and lower reps – especially if you’re intermediate-advanced.

          This progression should take you quite a while, and the gyms will hopefully have opened up by then 🙂

  37. Randy Rindfleisch Reply

    April 7, 2020 at 4:44

    Wouldn’t one be able to do entire sets of “effective reps” via isokinetic training?

    • Borge Reply

      April 7, 2020 at 5:01

      Theoretically, yes – but isokinetic equipment would allow you to work with a gradually lower resistance until it is practically zero (or whatever the lower threshold is), and I think the metabolic stress would increase recovery needs to a point where you’re essentially just doing a ton of “junk” volume. The research comparing isokinetic to conventional resistance exercise favors the latter, there is even some research showing that isokinetic training does not cause hypertrophy in some muscle groups.

  38. STEPHEN Reply

    April 12, 2020 at 10:03

    Hello Borge I hope you and your family are doing well during this tough times. Do you find fat grips useful? Since they would change the limiting factor from the prime mover to a secondary mover but I find they help when things start to ache since they limit the weight you can use on a few exercises. But one could argue that you would get 0 effective reps by using fat grips. I know you have said that it is not like the last 5 are 100 percent effective and the first 0 percent effective so I just wonder what you think. I just use them occasionally for curls and I don’t consider them a staple in my training but every now and them I use them. God bless you sir. Stay safe.

    • STEPHEN Reply

      April 14, 2020 at 12:18

      Also there is this cool group on FB called abbreviated training and I think you might be able to get a good following/customers lots of followers of mentzer and many other guys but they are not as dogmatic with 1 set to failure every 15 days or anything like that. most people do around 8-12 weekly sets in that group. A lot of members have home gyms and seem to be interested in efficiency and training sustainability. I am not an administrator or anything like that I just thought it would be cool if you joined. I’ll share this article here. PS here is the link of the group in case you are interested in joining. https://www.facebook.com/groups/501864470260846

      • Borge Reply

        April 14, 2020 at 12:25

        Thanks for the tip, I’ll have a look 🙂

    • Borge Reply

      April 14, 2020 at 12:29

      I think grip strengthening exercises are great, but I don’t think you should allow the grip to become a limiting factor – at least not intentionally. I.e. in exercises such as deadlift or RDLs, for most people the grip quickly becomes limiting since strength will increase faster in the big muscles involved in lifting the weight vs. the small forearm muscles involved in holding the weight. Grip strength also seems to be affected by more variables such as gender, age and genetics than strength in other muscle groups. Hence, I recommend using lifting straps in lifts or loading ranges where grip becomes limiting, whereas using fat grips can be a good tool for grip strengthening either indirectly or with dedicated exercises for that purpose.

  39. Eric Ramos Reply

    June 6, 2020 at 8:23

    Borge,

    Hope all is well. I have a question, for clarification purposes. You’ve mentioned that everything is already activated from the get go when it comes to heavier loads (8RM-10RM) and you’ve suggested clusters vs myo with those ranges (I hope I’m not butchering that)

    If the load is sufficiently heavy, wouldn’t every one of those reps then be “effective” and stimulating?

    So with 3*5 and a 8RM load, wouldn’t each of those reps be effective and stimulating enough for size?

    Follow up, if it is, then 3*5 fits the bill for your recommendation of 2-3 sets of done 2-3* a week?

    • Borge Reply

      June 8, 2020 at 9:16

      Yes.

  40. Gio Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 1:00

    Hi Borge, compliments for your professionality and competence.
    As said, if 5-10 effective reps for workout are enough to stimulate good strength increase, a [email protected] even for 5-6 days/week could be soustainable?

    • Borge Reply

      June 15, 2020 at 6:56

      That would probably not be sustainable for most lifters, unless everything is in order recovery-wise (stress, sleep, nutrition, circadian rhythms, and it should preferably be summertime).

  41. Gio Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 1:21

    This maybe because of too many repetitions and stressfull series…it’s important to understand also for other readers indeed….and if it were [email protected], could be sustainable for 5-6 days/week?

    • Borge Reply

      June 15, 2020 at 1:45

      Same answer, I’m afraid. I have done it and felt good on it, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it sustainable. You can get some nice short-term strength increases, but the connective tissue tends to suffer long term. I would perhaps try it for 3-4 weeks then scale back to a lower frequency and see if you can maintain gains.

      There are good reasons for the recommendations in the article, you know 🙂

  42. Gio Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 7:58

    So, for example, if one day with these sets one works bench press and bent rows…and the next day works overhead press and pull ups, they don’t conflict and it’s suitable every day alternating the two groups of exercises?

    • Borge Reply

      June 16, 2020 at 1:07

      There will be overlap with front and rear delts + biceps and triceps in this case, so I think a push/pull strategy would be better.

  43. Simon Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 5:52

    But would you always train with a 0-1RIR unless you’re deloading? For an advanced individual, even an intermediate it seems like it would be to fatiguing to be sustainable, what are your tougthts on that?

    maybe cycling your RIR troughout a block? for example: week 1: 3 RIR, week 2: 2 RIR, week 3: 1RIR and then either restart the cycle or doing a deload.

    I know that you are a fan of autorregulation in your training but it seems a little bit tricky to do if you train with a more strict schedule.

  44. Simon Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 5:52

    But would you always train with a 0-1RIR unless you’re deloading? For an advanced individual, even an intermediate it seems like it would be to fatiguing to be sustainable, what are your tougthts on that?

    maybe cycling your RIR troughout a block? for example: week 1: 3 RIR, week 2: 2 RIR, week 3: 1RIR and then either restart the cycle or doing a deload.

    I know that you are a fan of autorregulation in your training but it seems a little bit tricky to do if you train with a more strict schedule.

    • Borge Reply

      June 18, 2020 at 6:43

      You can feel free to vary RIR as you wish, it doesn’t need to be 0-1RIR or have a preset structure.

  45. Andy 000 Reply

    July 26, 2020 at 6:24

    Does 3 hard sets 0 RIR maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS) within that training session? James Krieger recommends around 6-8 hard sets for maximising MPS within a given training session, not sure about the RIR of his recommendation. Assuming that hard sets to him means 0 RIR, is it possible that when you are very close to you genetic potential, meaning that you could gain maybe 1-2 kgs tops if you train like a professional, that it might be possible, time efficient and superior to gain those last kgs by doing 6-8 sets but with lower frequency like only per week in order to maximize MPS? To rephrase the question, does maximising MPS (6-8 sets 0 RIR) in one session per week superior to submaximal MPS (2-3 sets 0 RIR) from 2-3 sessions per week for extremely advanced lifters looking to gain the last bit of muscle they can naturally gain?

    • Borge Reply

      July 26, 2020 at 8:50

      I think you get pretty damn close with 2-3 hard sets, yes – but some may need or benefit from more sets, the downside being that higher volumes also increase muscle protein breakdown and takes longer to recover from, so there will always be a trade-off.

      What frequency research we have seems to indicate that the sweet spot for most is around 2x/week or maybe once every 5 days, and comparative studies (volume-matched) indicate that 3x/week at a given volume (around 10 sets/week) is better than 1x/week – so 1x/week is probably borderline for some and too infrequent for some, depending on the volume.

      What muddles the picture is the use of PEDs in bodybuilding, even in those claiming to be natural and using prohormones (which are steroids that just haven’t yet been classified). Not only does it dramatically improve MPS at any given volume, but it also prolongs the growth response, extending it into a 7-10 day period vs. just 1-3 days for naturals. So for naturals it makes sense to maintain a more frequent anabolic stimulus, for drug users it’s just not needed.

      I would say that “you do you” is probably as good a recommendation as any when it comes to training, as there is a pretty significant correlation between what you personally enjoy doing and what is physiologically the right one for you – i.e. if you like training many sets and exercises for a muscle group, wait until you are recovered before training again – if you enjoy shorter and more frequent workouts, then do that.

  46. Andy 000 Reply

    August 5, 2020 at 11:16

    What about doing myo reps on bodyweight exercises like pushups with added resistance from bands and maybe weight vest? Or maybe bulgarians split squats or even squats with dumbbels, weight vest and bands combined? Could myo reps on those exercises with an activation set of maybe 10-35 reps close to failure build as much muscle as traditional gym exercises? If so does the same volume recommendations apply or are more sets needed?

    • Borge Reply

      August 6, 2020 at 7:30

      Yes, that would work perfectly fine. Research shows that sets to failure are equivalent in the 8-30 rep range when it comes to hypertrophy, so no more sets are needed – in fact, metabolic/high-rep work requires more recovery than lower rep work, so doing more sets would be potentially counterproductive.

  47. Francisco Navarro Reply

    August 11, 2020 at 7:18

    Hey Mr Fagerli thank you for your training wisdom. I just got a new as a trainer in a gym and spend 8 hours straight standing/waliking picking up gym equipment and showing how to perform exercises. I had been training Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays Upper/Lower fashion. I was wondering If I would be better off by going Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays But still In an upper lower fashion. In which you train each body part 3 times every 2 weeks or if I would be better off going to full body 3 times per week. I don’t generally do well with more than 2 times per week frequency per muscle group as aches and pains start to develop. I took the Bayesian bodybuilding PT course and bought the SSD system so I do have some knowledge but I need someone to talk some sense to me. I would really appreciate the advice. I hope you and your family are doing well during this crazy times. God bless you sir. Stay safe.

    • Francisco Navarro Reply

      August 11, 2020 at 7:18

      A new Job as a trainer*

      • Francisco Navarro Reply

        August 11, 2020 at 7:41

        Full body 2x per week I would also consider Mondays and Thursdays.

    • Borge Reply

      August 21, 2020 at 6:24

      Sure, try it out and see how it works.

  48. Simón Hernández Reply

    September 9, 2020 at 3:54

    Hey Borge, I have a question on a particular way of training. How much volume would you theoretically need to do when doing a set consisting on using supramaximal eccentrics. kinda like the ARX fit machines that you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeGK7xrU-hg it makes each rep of the set a maximal rep, in the concentric and the eccentric contraction. You could argue that each rep done with a device like that would be an “effective rep” so the volume needed to “optimize” the training stimulus would be lower.

    It is an interesting device but I would like to know your toughts on it as it would be interesting to hear someone that always tries to provide an objective point of view like yourself.

    The thing is that the guys behind that company are followers of the HIT crowd and that leaves no room for discussion.

    • Borge Reply

      September 10, 2020 at 6:16

      Yes, every rep would be a perfect rep, so 15-25 total reps would be a range to aim for normally – but this would also be a higher load and higher strain on all the contractile and connective tissues, so I would perhaps start with the lower end and go from there.

      • Simón Hernández Reply

        September 11, 2020 at 6:52

        Thanks Borge! cheers

        • Simón Hernández Reply

          November 25, 2020 at 12:47

          Hey Borge, I wanted to report back on this question.

          My original question came off because I use specific calisthenics/gymnastics strength movements for my upper body consisting of planche pushups, one arm chin ups, Front lever rows and pike/handstand pushups. Just in case you are not familiar, these movements get harder as you change the leverage and/or assistance with a non-working limb. For example on a planche pushup if you extend your legs further the bigger the torques your limbs have to deal with and thus, your muscles have to work harder, increasing intensity. The same with front lever rows. For one arm chin ups, you can do assisted one arm chins with your opposite arm. Finally with pike pushups you can vary intensity by changing how much feet assistance you use. That being said, you can imagine how each rep of the set of any of these exercises can be made with as much intensity as possible, even using an eccentric overload. It’s Just like the ARX machine I mentioned in my main question. However More than focusing on my exercise selection, I wanted to focus on the programming aspect of it.

          That being said, I’ve been testing how to program this “All effective reps” for some time and I wanted to tell you how I’ve been doing it and if you can provide some feedback that could be great!

          In some calisthenics circles, this method is being called accommodating resistance (AR). A little bit confusing considering that accommodating rresistance is already associated with the use of bands and chains in weight training but, anyway.

          I’ve been doing AR doing about 2-3 sets on average per exercise. The intention is to get 15-25 TOTAL reps (just like you suggested) per exercise/muscle group per session considering that the objective is hypertrophy.

          I use a frequency of 2x per week on a full body split.

          Also I use a RPE measurement to have some autoregulation integrated into these AR reps. How I apply it is that I use RPE for each rep I do on the set and the measurement is not based on the RIR RPE scale but more like on the OMNI RPE scale which uses a more subjective measurement that focuses on muscle exertion throughout (as you can’t really use repetitions in reserve with AR)

          Getting into how I split this reps is that you can decide to do the reps as continuous reps, as clusters/rest-pause or a combination of both. For example, 8 AR reps could be done as 8 straight reps, as 1/1/1/1/1/1/1/1 (8 rest-pause) or 2/2/2/2 (8 reps done in 4 rest-pause mini sets of 2 reps each) and tracking RPE so that the first weeks are of a lower effort on average when compared to a higher effort at the end of the mesocycle. In this scenario 2-3 sets would suffice (16-24 effective reps total for the worked muscles) I certainly wouldn’t do a big set of 24 continous reps. I wouldn’t go higher than 12 reps per set and that would be pushing it but I’m not sure

          The idea is to be aware of progress by tracking how much assistance are you percieving you’re using and tracking with video to corroborate it.

          So far, I feel like I did build some muscle using this approach and with a fraction of the time it usually takes me to train. I’ve been tracking my macros, weight and calories accordingly to be systematic about it.

          So,
          – what are your thoughts?
          – are the prescription guidelines reasonable?
          – for a bigger maximal stregth focus what would you consider?

          Beforehand, let me thank you if you even take the time to read this because I’m sure that you must be busy with other stuff, however any input would be great!

          I’m really interested to know if this system kinda makes sense because I’d like to do a research study with this method of training with my university (I’m a physical therapy studente) if it’s a reasonable approach and if it’s worth to even test it.

          Cheers.

          • Borge

            November 25, 2020 at 9:45

            I have been close to making a rule about not answering questions in the form of “what are your thoughts” as I already do that (share my thoughts) in the articles I write, and things get buried in comments section where I prefer to share my thoughts so that as many people as possible can get value from them.

            But since this is for a higher purpose (the more good research we can get, the better): I don’t see any problems with your approach and the plan seems reasonable. Most of the time, the best approach is to start with a general prescription and see how you do, adjusting volume and frequency according to how the body responds.

            Maximal strength focus involves keeping more reps in reserve and doing lower reps to minimize fiber type conversion and metabolic stress. So essentially cluster sets of 1-3 fits that bill. I would also keep volume low to enable a high(er) frequency, 2x/week being the minimum for maximal strength gains.

          • Simón Hernández

            November 25, 2020 at 4:41

            Oh, I get where you’re coming from. I actually have read a lot of the comments here and there are quite a few repeated questions. You could probably have a banner con top inviting others to use the search command (ctrl+f) to see if their question has already been answered. I thought this was a relevant question considering it was rather unusual. The thoughts were more in regard to it being reasonable for the research and I thank you for your input!

            That being said thank you so much Borge for your feedback!

          • Borge

            November 26, 2020 at 9:58

            I think not reading/searching previous comments is a built-in human feature, so I didn’t mean to imply that your questions weren’t valid. I guess there are just a few buttons that can get pushed after almost 25 years of publishing articles, and on this site where there’s just a few articles there are almost 1000 comments that I have responded to. Now imagine my Norwegian site where I have 100+ articles… 😀

  49. Eric Reply

    September 15, 2020 at 4:01

    Borge,
    How do you assess an individuals ‘volume tolerance’? Does it have anything to do with how they recover between sets. For example, if someone does a hard set(0-2RIR) of 8-15 reps, gets adequate rest of 2-3 minutes, but comes back to the 2nd set and only completes about half the reps of the previous set (ex. 10 reps on the 1st set, only 5-7 on the second set), does this imply anything about the volume, frequency that they should train at or their recovery abilities?

    • Borge Reply

      September 16, 2020 at 8:34

      That is indeed a low work capacity, and I would try a lower volume approach as a general rule – but there may also be benefits to increasing work capacity – e.g. doing sets across at 15-20 reps. I spent a few weeks earlier this year doing 5 sets of 20 reps in the bench press, only increasing load when I could get all 5 sets with 20 reps on every set. This also increased my top end strength over time.

      • Eric Reply

        September 26, 2020 at 3:20

        Are you keeping the same weight across sets? If I did 5 sets of 15-20, the first 2-3 sets would need to be like 3-4 reps in reserve to make it though at the same load.

        • Borge Reply

          September 27, 2020 at 1:20

          Yes, that is precisely the point. If you go to failure on each set (and reduce load to stay in the same rep range), you will increase fatigue dramatically and see a larger drop-off in strength from set to set – thus defeating the purpose of this.

  50. Bob Reply

    September 15, 2020 at 5:37

    Hi Borge,

    Just getting to this article after running down rabbit holes. I am 64 so an older lifter, who would like to gain muscle into older age and remain active. I workout three days a week, plus play sports 3 days a week on alternate days. Any advice on working out given the scenerio I have laid out. Not sure if you addressed older lifters, or not. Thank you!

    • Borge Reply

      September 16, 2020 at 8:32

      Hi Bob, research shows that older lifters can also gain muscle given the right balance between stress and recovery, so if you lift weights 3 days per week and play sports the other 3, there is only 1 rest day left. I would put the primary focus on proper nutrition and sleep, and moderate volume on each workouts to accommodate your recovery capacity. A general recommendation would also be to lighten the loads a little and do higher reps. A slower rep speed may also be prudent as the connective tissue regenerative capacity slows down with age.

  51. Maurice Reply

    September 26, 2020 at 8:37

    Hi Borge,
    my name is Maurice and I have been following your work for years.
    I am an old date bodybuilder from UK, with a lot of wear and injuries in my past.
    I was competing in the 90s, on the way of Dorian Yates!
    Now bodybuilding remains my passion.

    Given my age (63 yo), I would like to try your myo reps protocol, especially because I am attracted to the self-regulation of fatigue.

    But I ask you one thing: in order not to experience joint pain, I use a very controlled cadence, like 4-5″ for each phase of the repetition (10″ total per rep).

    This would lead me to do the first activation set around 5-6 repetitions, and I was thinking of doing the mini sets consisting of 1 rep.

    Now my doubts:

    1) due to the fact that my single repetition lasts like 3-4 “classic” repetitions, how could I keep myself away from collapse with 1 repetition in the tank, as you prescribe?
    1 rep in the tank, in my case, means 1/3 the rom of a single rep! ha ha ha.

    2) in the myo rep ebook, you recommend stopping when we are not able to replicate the performance of the previous minisets, in the last mini set. So if I made 2 minisets of 5, and in this one I get 3, I stop.
    Now, if I move slowly, and perform 1 mini rep per set lasting 10″, how can I understand how to self-adjust based on the above principle?

    3) maybe in my case a cluster set might works better? Any idea?

    Thank you. United in iron!
    M.

    • Borge Reply

      September 26, 2020 at 9:10

      Hi Maurice, good to hear from you!

      With the slow cadence, you would obviously not be able to stay a full rep from failure at any point, so you just have to feel your way to the fatigue management part. If any single rep in the Myo-rep series begins to grind, you stop there (the next rep would thus have a high probability of failing).

      Cluster sets are generally better with higher intensities (80-85% of 1RM), whatever rep count that translates into for you.

  52. Frank Reply

    September 27, 2020 at 4:55

    Hi Borge, I would like to ask you a somewhat unusual question, if I may.
    As I’m getting older, I’m trying to focus my efforts on developing power, as much as physiologically possible, since it’s one of the first qualities to decay with age.

    Is it possible to maintain or even increase hypertrophy in the process without interfering with this goal?
    Of course, I don’t care anymore about the maximum attainable level.

    I know it’s an abused cliché, but I’m thinking about 100 meters sprinters. They have beautiful physiques while being some of the most explosive athletes amongst all.

    Thank you!

    • Borge Reply

      September 28, 2020 at 7:57

      You need to be careful of extrapolating the way an athlete looks to the way you should train to look the same – sprinters often have a specific structure and physiology which makes them top level athletes when they adopt the correct training and nutritional habits. There is no guarantee or even a high probability that you will look like a sprinter just by doing more power training.

      That being said, you can do just fine with power training in your program, as long as you adjust the volume of both power and hypertrophy training – and perhaps consider different phases of each quality where the other is put on maintenance, or at least on separate days. How to set that up is, of course, individual 🙂

      • Frank Reply

        September 28, 2020 at 6:21

        Thank you very much for the reply Borge, and for the patience.

        I’d like to be clear that with the sprinters example, I was implying that it is possible to have a good amount of muscle mass and be explosive at the same time, not that power training will grant me Shawn Crawford’s body :).
        I’m sorry If I sounded pretentious.

        We know that *some* hypertrophy adaptations are detrimental to power development (https://medium.com/@SandCResearch/why-are-strength-gains-velocity-specific-after-heavy-strength-training-9b8d4dfd5618), but clearly not all of them: otherwise sprinters would be thin, I suppose.

        So basically my point was: is it possible to train in a way that would elicit only the adaptations useful for that goal?
        I was thinking about multiple clusters of low reps, high RiR, and/or using the minimum amount of volume that is necessary.

        • Borge Reply

          September 28, 2020 at 10:46

          Hypertrophy requires a sufficient volume of – despite its criticism by some in the field – “effective” reps. Hence my recommendations in the article. Power training requires lower volumes, higher speeds and lower loads. So training for power optimally does not train hypertrophy optimally, and vice versa. Life, she is full of compromises. I just think that if you try to half-ass both, you will most likely only get half-ass results. Hence my recommendation to separate it into phases, or at the very least – days – still stands.

  53. James B.F. Reply

    September 28, 2020 at 3:39

    Good morning Börge,

    I’m reading another time your myo-reps ebook, and every time I can see something that I’ve not seen the previous time.
    I think one of the most interesting and simple approach to minimalist training, with minimal time spent!
    Im using them, and I love it.
    Especially for the pump component.. damn.. HUGE!

    For my past as a HIT trainer, myo reps seems “high volume”, but in reality the fatigue is autoregulated (this is THE smart thing!!).

    One thing, if, at the end of the day we will arrive at our genetic potential, until we can recover and until we can gain strenght..

    Which are the advantages of myo reps compared to the classic “one set to failure” mentzer style?

    Because, if one set to failure x exercise is enough to stimulate growth, and in the long run end in the same place, why add more “effective” reps might be beneficial?

    Thanks
    James

    • Borge Reply

      September 28, 2020 at 10:54

      Hi James, and thank you for the great feedback 🙂

      I’m honestly not sure that a single set will get you to your maximum muscular potential. I can only think of a handful of trainers, throughout the world, in modern times, that got that way doing only a single set.

      Now, you can still get plenty muscular, and it is great for building strength – but pretty much all the research and practical experience tells me that if you are to do only a single set you should at least do it 2-3x/week.

      We also have sufficient evidence to say that managing fatigue is a much more productive strategy than chasing fatigue, but I guess if you are determined to do a single set, then failure may not only be viable but of a higher necessity just to make sure you‘re not leaving any gains on the table.

      So I guess the longwinded answer to your question is that doing a Myo-rep set adds that little extra volume that I feel confident will have a higher probability of triggering gains where a single set to failure – for most people – will not really do the job once you get to a certain training level.

  54. Ben Reply

    November 21, 2020 at 11:11

    Hey Borge, do you think that using ONLY myo reps for each exercise, and as “stand alone” technique, might be good for long term gains?

    What I mean: use only myo reps forever! 🙂

    For me it helps to save time, autoregulate fatigue, and do more work compared to steaight sets.

    Have you any clients who use myo reps since long time?
    And (especially for joint issues) use always moderate to high reps (like 50-70 seconds under tension)? Thanks

    • Borge Reply

      November 21, 2020 at 1:06

      I’ve gotten asked that question in the comments section on the Myo-reps article too many times to count 😉 yes, hypothetically speaking I see no reason why you can’t use Myo-reps indefinitely.

Leave a Reply to Michael Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *