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"Doing more exercise with less intensity,"
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Ideal Rep Range and 15-15-15


Dr. Darden,

A few years ago you wrote about how to use fatigue testing to determine a trainee's ideal rep range based on a 20% inroad. Massive Muscles in 10 Weeks was one of the books that featured this idea.

I tested myself sometime in the 90's and by following the guidelines made a tremendous amount of progress. I tested at 6 reps in leg extension and using a guide number of 5-7 made much more progress than I ever did using 8-12 reps. I finally got to the point of using the entire stack plus 50 extra pounds on the Nautilus leg extension by staying with the 5-7 rep range.

Fast forward to just the last year. I've kept up with your writing on X-Force and the 30-30-30 and 15-15-15 techniques. I like the 15-15-15 better and I've done well with that method.

What are your thoughts on the ideal rep range with a 20 percent inroad being the best now that you've had the benefit of several years of experience? I think I remember a comment that X-Force seemed to get you to a 20% inroad faster than normal reps and that it's a good thing.

If a trainee seems to do better on fewer reps, as I did with my leg extension experience, is it possible or desirable to modify the 15-15-15 method to keep the overall time down? Yesterday I experimented with 15-5-15 followed by normal speed reps on chest press. I used a heavier weight than I had been using on 15-15-15 and managed around 5-7 reps after the last 15 second negative. I really liked the way it felt but that's not always a good indicator of whether a method is good or not.

If you were training someone like me, who tests in the low rep range on your fatigue tests from your earlier writings, would you consider modifying your current methods to keep the overall time under load down a bit and go heavier or am I just over thinking things?


David Sears
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Ellington Darden


Knowing your testing results, I think I'd lower the reps at the end to 5 to 7. So, you'd do 15-15-15, plus a final 5 to 7 reps.

Give that a try and get back to me.

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Ellington Darden wrote:

Knowing your testing results, I think I'd lower the reps at the end to 5 to 7. So, you'd do 15-15-15, plus a final 5 to 7 reps.

Give that a try and get back to me.


Dr. Darden,

I've gotten the resistance dialed in for several movements now and the 5-7 reps recommendation seems to be working well. I'm making steady strength gains hitting each body part once per week. Thanks for the advice!
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