Working up to Max Weight

Hi there!

I am Karim from Germany. I've read many articles from you at
I have a question. I couldn't find any answers on the internet.

I am training for muscle size performing usually 3 sets at 8-12 reps. My question: I increase the weight with each set, performing the last set at maximum weight. So I do just 1 set with maximum weight on a particular exercise.

Do you recommend increasing the weight with each set until you reach maximum weight or would you perform each set at your maximum weight?

I am looking forward to your response.

Kind regards,

My Answer: Either way would be fine.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.  If you're new to weight training, then the first method would be appropriate.  Working up to your max weight is less taxing on your body.

However, if you've been training for awhile, then you should perform each set close to max weight.  I don't believe in training at max weight all the time, because you're going to overtrain if you trained to failure on every set.  Your nervous system gets fried from doing that all the time.

So if you're shooting for 3 sets of 8 reps, then use a 9 rep max weight.  If you get through the 3x8 at 9RM easily, then up the weight a little bit for your next workout.

You can have the best of both worlds by alternating the 2 methods.  For one workout, train close to your max weight on every set.  Then for your next workout, increase the weight on each set until your last set is the max weight.  By alternating the 2 methods, this allows you to train hard, then pull back and actively recover.  You will gain strength much more quickly if you alternate the intensity.


Adam S said…
James: I think you may have written the reverse of what you meant. You said to use a 7 RM weight for three sets of eight. But that's impossible (or at least confusing). A 7 RM weight is the weight you can get 7, and only 7, reps with. You can't do 3 sets of 8 with that weight. (You'd be lucky if you could get 3 sets of 6 or 7 with that weight) I think you meant to say that if you are doing three sets of eight, use your NINE RM weight--that is, the weight you can do nine reps with.
James said…
Ah good eye Adam. Yes I meant 9RM. I will correct the post.

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