Determining Your Ideal Rep Range

"Hi Coach,

"I am starting your Shotgun Training next week, but I got one concern. For the first shotgun I plan to do deadlifts, seated cable rows and bench press. Is this an issue if I follow with an incline bench press exercise as my weak point in the trouble shooting workout? Do you think 5x5 is an acceptable format, even though I would have trained using normal bench press in 8x4-6 the day before?"

"Thanks for your time.

Kind Regards,

My Answer: I got to tell you, when I saw your UK email, I thought you were one of those lottery scam/spams. You Brits having been sending a lot of those lately, enough to give the Nigerians a run for their money.

Anyway Alex, yes, it's perfectly fine to troubleshoot with incline presses. After all, you're looking to bring up weak points in either your physique or strength. The incline press is a common weak point among beginning strength enthusiasts, especially when you compare the poundages of people's incline press to that of the flat bench press. Physique-wise, most bodybuilders have problems filling out the upper pectorals, so the incline press would come in handy.

With regards to whether 5x5 is appropriate for the incline press, it depends on your goal. If you are looking for strength in that lift, then 5x5 is the way to go. If you are looking to fill out more in your upper pecs, then you may want to go with higher reps. To determine what's your ideal rep range for hypertrophy, do this before you even start the Shotgun Training:

Do a brief warmup on the incline press and rest 3 minutes. Determine your 1 rep max and perform it. Make sure you have a spotter with you. If you miscalculate your 1RM on the first set or two (or however many sets it takes), then make sure you rest 4-5 minutes between these sets.

Once you determine your 1RM, rest for 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, calculate and remove 20% of your 1RM weight. When your 10 minutes are up, perform as many reps as you can in good form. Make sure you lower each rep under a 4 second count (how quickly you lift the weight doesn't matter). Again, make sure you have a spotter to assist at the end of the set.

Take note of the number of reps you've performed. If it's 7 reps, then you have an equal amount of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers in the upper chest. If it's lower than 7, then you have a higher amount of fast twitch fibers. If it's higher than 7, then you have a higher amount of slow twitch fibers. The further away you are from 7, the higher the percentage of that particular type of muscle fiber.

Finally, multiply 15% to the number of reps you've performed. Subtract this amount from the number of reps you've performed. This is the lower end of your ideal rep range. Then add the 15% to the number of reps you've performed. This is the higher end of the ideal rep range for your upper chest. So for example, if you performed 7 reps with 80%RM, then 6-8 reps would be the ideal rep range for the chest. Perform this rep range when you do your incline presses on troubleshooting days.

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