I’ve done a bit more research on myself and looking at the studies.
Analyzing my bench press helped me decide the set up for this cycle. The reason I analyzed my bench is because it’s one of my slowest-to-progress lifts. I’ve maxed out right about 200lbs, and it’s been a few months since I’ve been able to add more weight or reps.
So my goal with this new scheme will be to focus on hypertrophy and strength. I especailly focused on the chest day variations, in order to really get my chest growing. I’ve chosen lifts that have been shown to recruit the chest muscle fibers in very specific ways. You’ll notice I don’t have any flat bench presses anymore, just declines and inclines. This will make it interesting at least, and based on the EMG data I’ve seen, should be most effective at growing a wider range of muscle fibers.
I ran some numbers in Excel with my old logs on bench press. Below is a simple graph over time showing my progression from 8/17/2011 – 7/18/2012. It’s nice to see, in the top blue line graph, that no matter what, I have experienced a nice linear progression in my bench. That means I am growing, and I am getting stronger. I am doing something right. At least most of the time!
It’s just that long, flat part at the top there…it’s taunting me. It’s a flat line, dammit!
You can see there’s a bit of variation, mostly due to volume changes across different cycles, but what I really paid attention to is where my biggest Delta Weights occured, and what I was doing leading up to the increase. That’s what I want to attain, the fastest growth possible based on what works for me.
Basically the most hypertrophy and strength gains I’ve seen were after I started doing ~ 3 sets of bench, within a 6 to 8 rep range (notice the big spikes at the 3/28/2012 and 5/9/2012 mark on the yellow graph).
Once I changed cycles and decided to lower the rep range to 4 to 6, I upped the weight significantly, but Delta Weight increased much slower, or not at all afterwards. In cycles with a higher rep range into the 10s and above, there was positive Delta Weight, but not as accelerated.
Less important detail: number of sets does not seem to figure in as much. I’ve gone from as many as 5 sets, down to 3, and there’s not much difference. So I’ll stick with 3 sets just for efficiency’s sake.
So, 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps. Let’s do it!
This is the best reason for tracking your progress, and bringing that friggin notebook to the gym. Every. Time. Only Idiots forget to bring their notebook to the gym! Quote me on that.
Below is a snapshot of what I have planned for my next workout cycle on chest days. It’s still a 3 day split. It’s simple, streamlined, and truly effective for me so far using this template.
I have a lower rep range of 6 to 8 reps for most big compound lifts. That is what I surmise will give me the greatest potential for accelerated size and strength, based on my observations. Isolations are thrown in at higher rep ranges, to stimulate mostly hypertrophy (i.e. size) and really burn out the muscle. Wha-BAM!
The other days are set up similarly, but I won’t show ’em to you until I’ve actually completed the cycle and the numbers are in, just to keep you on the edge of your seats!
I’m excited to see how it all works out!