Questions and answers related to reverse pyramid training and weight training in general. An ongoing work in progress. Subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to get notified on updates to the FAQ. Foresee a damn long read when all’s said and done.
Q: Is the +2.5 increase in the article kilos or pounds?
A: This gave me a good chuckle. If you don’t understand why, I can’t help you. But does give me an excuse to talk about something important, numbers and percentages. The latter is what matters. I’d advise the slow and cautious approach of not increasing weights more than 2.5% whenever a Goal is reached.
No need for microloading to ensure increases correspond to 2.5% on the dot. Just make sure the increase is in the neighbourhood of 2.5%. This translates to 2.5 kg or 5 lbs for most movements, and 5 kg / 10 lbs if you’re halfway decent in the squat or deadlift.
Occasionally, 5% is fine. Sometimes the only alternative (e.g. machines, dumbbells, etc). Personally, I’ve never made jumps higher than 5 kg.
There’s a golden exception when it comes to fractional plates. They are very useful for women. A female with some weight training experience may only be working with 20-25 kg in the overhead press. A 2.5 kg increase – the smallest jump possible made with regular plates – represents 10-12.5% increase in load. All things equal, this translates to a loss of 5 (!) reps between 20 kg and 22.5 kg. Why? Because you’re losing 1 rep for every 2.5% increase (assuming strength is unchanged).
- Goal: 8
- Overhead press 20 kg x 8
- Goal: 8
- Overhead press 22.5 kg x 3
Rather than working up from 3 reps to 8 reps, it’s wiser to use fractional plates and do jumps of 0.5-1 kg / 2.5-5%. Results will be superior for several reasons: higher quality AMRAPs, higher volume and less shoulder aggravation. In the example I used overhead press, but keep in mind this applies to all movements in which the load is low, say <50 kg.
Hey guys, want to buy your woman something useful for Valentine’s Day? Any day for that matter. Then buy her some fractional plates for fuck’s sake. And while you’re at it, pick up Beyond Brawn as well.
Q: I lose too many reps when I increase the weight, what should I do?
A: This question ties directly into the previous one. Let me counter with another question to see if you’re on board so far. You’re doing lat raises with a 10-kg dumbbell for 10 reps and a Goal of 10. What do you increase the weight to next week?
There’s two right answers to this question and neither involve weight increases. The first is “Nothing, because lat raises equals fuckarounditis and you don’t fuck around on RPT.” If that’s your answer, I’m pleased. Proud the way a father would be of his offspring when they’re excelling, greatness slowly shaping in front of his eyes. A tear rolling down his chin.
Second is also “Nothing.” Because there’s no jump small enough to handle the next set of dumbbells. Best case scenario, the next pair is 11 kg, meaning 10% heavier. Assuming strength is unchanged, that would put you at 11 kg x 6 next week – far too heavy for an assistance movement like lat raises. Worst case scenario, next pair’s 12.5 kg, or 25% heavier. This will result in a single.
So what do you do? In these situations, don’t have a Goal of 10, instead think ahead. If the next jump is 10%, i.e. from 10 to 11 kg, set a Goal of 12, to leave enough wiggle room for a set of 8 next week. If the goal is 12.5 kg, Goal of 18.
Used lat raises to demonstrate a point and hope it didn’t fly over your head. Think percentages, not kilos and pounds.
Q: Should I squat ass to grass or parallell?
A: Always squat as deep as your mobility allows, which for most people means ass to grass or close to it. Why settle for parallel, do you compete in powerlifting? No? Then use full depth and stop with this 90-degree bullshit, because that won’t turn out well.
How the hell do you judge parallel when IPF judges can’t get it right half the time? Good luck with that, hotshot. Know all too well how this plays out. With the 90-degree-mindset, won’t be long before you’re cutting depth to reach Goals, because that’s how bad your judgement is. If you even reached passable depth in the first place.
Excited about squatting because you’re gaining reps and pounds every week? In reality, execution is devolving week by week. Next thing we know, you’re on the QuarterSquatGang account looking like a total asshole. Worst case scenario, there’s a #leangains tag or @martinberkhan attached to the post. Fuck that. Go full depth and save yourself the embarrassment.
Q: I don’t like/hate/can’t squat, can I leg press instead?
A: Go ahead, do what you want. I’ll just leave you with this. As with everything tough, hard, requiring work, there’s legions out there blaming poor mobility for questionable depth or use of leg press as a squat replacement.
Also millions claiming a “slow metabolism” is why they’re fat. Both groups are full of shit. Unless you’re 6’4, odds are you’re just lazy and can’t cope with the 10-minute warm-up needed to reach full depth. Before I started squatting thrice a week (recently), I needed 20 minutes. Now I need 5 minutes.
I’m not built for squatting and don’t like it. Wish this movement felt as natural to me as it does for many others, but it never will. Wish I didn’t have to invest time in mobility. Wish my knees were a bit sturdier, etc., etc. None of these will ever materialise but that doesn’t keep me from squatting. And know for a god damn fact similar obstacles serve as excuses for just about everyone making them.
Here’s a tip, squat hard one a week (RPT), light twice a week if mobility is a concern.  You’ll soon find out it’s not and I was right all along.
Q: How long should I rest between sets?
A: 3 minutes. Study shows big differences between 1 and 3 minutes of rest and negligible differences between 3 and 5 minutes, so there’s your reason. Personally, I rest 3-5 minutes between sets and 5-10 minutes between sets of squats or deadlifts. In advanced or highly advanced lifters, I think performance benefits more from longer rest periods (>3 minutes). The aforementioned study used intermediate lifters which doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Q: Can I use close-grip dips for triceps?
A: Unusually common question. Probably because isolation movements for the triceps are a tremendous bore. And if you’ve long arms like me, every single one of them feels awkward.
The answer is “no” which actually means “do at your own peril”. Recently changed my stance in this question and here’s why. Starting out, it was no. As years passed and clients kept asking, no turned into yes. It can’t hurt, reasoning went, and I was right every time–until I wasn’t.
Don’t have an exact figure, but a disproportionate number of clients have hurt themselves after swapping pushdowns or triceps extensions for dips, weighted or unweighted. The most recent case came this week (Hi Jerry) and was the feather that broke the camel’s back. Occurred despite instructions not to go lower than parallel – as did every other case.
Dips is also the only movement I can think of where full range of motion (ROM) is ill-advised. That in itself is bad news, because you shouldn’t have to think about this shit when you’re training. Like you shouldn’t have to guesstimate whether or not you’re hitting depth while squatting. Everything that distracts from training hard, I don’t like. 
And those who’ve hurt their shoulders with dips are legion and includes many in my personal circle; several physique competitors, friends, 3 clients and two former girlfriends. Come to think about it, dips is the number one shoulder wrecker in my experience. 
Why I’m no fan of this movement. Unless used as primary movement in place of bench, it’s not a good idea to do dips RPT/AMRAP style when you’re already fatigued.
More coming soon. Post questions in comments and upvote those you’d like answered in Disqus. There’s a good likelihood I’ll feature some of them in the FAQ.
- When I say light I’m talking half of what’s used for RPT sets– multiple sets of 6-8. Think perfect depth, not effort.
- Another example: the 2s/4s-tempo nonsense, or anything tempo-related for that matter. What a useless modality. Who the fuck counts seconds when they’re lifting?Wonder if the people coming up with this nonsense even lift themselves. Highly doubt it. Had they, they would’ve known load determines tempo, not you.
- Worth pointing out that I’m basing this on a sample which includes a large number of ex-Athletic Fitness competitors. Athletic Fitness was big over here in Sweden, pre-CrossFit. Events included dips to failure. Fun fact: In Sweden, people call pull-ups chin-ups. This is because whoever started Athletic Fitness didn’t know the difference.