Dr. James Fisher and Dr. James Steele: Workout Nihilism vs Workout Optimisation

Dr James Fisher and Dr James Steele with Werner Kieser and colleague
Dr James Fisher and Dr James Steele with Werner Kieser and colleague (Photo courtesy of Kieser Training)

Dr James Steele is an Associate Professor in Sport and Exercise Science at Southampton Solent University (United Kingdom). James teaches across both exercise physiology, biomechanics, and research methods, is an active researcher and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on a variety of areas relating to health and fitness.

Listen to my previous episodes with Dr Steele here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Dr James Fisher is a Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Sports Conditioning and Fitness at the Southampton Solent University in the UK. He is the lead author on 2 of the most important papers published in Evidence-Based Resistance Training.

Listen to my previous episodes with Dr Fisher here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Early January 2018, I took a flight back to my homeland (UK) to visit the James’s over at Southampton Solent University for the most gruelling workout ever, a meat feast and some very engaging and intellectual conversation.

Here’s the workout routine they put me through:

  • MedX Knee Extension (1 timed-static-contraction maximum force output test following by 3 drop-sets to failure)
  • Z-Bar Bicep Curls (3 drop-sets to failure – on the third set, I had to ask for a bin incase I puked … )
  • Chin-up (Single-set-to-failure)
  • Chest press (Single-set-to-failure)
  • Dips (Single-set-to-failure)
  • Chest press (Single-set-to-failure)
  • MedX Lower Back (Single-set-to-failure)

This episode is an in-person 3-way podcast. Unfortunately, I did not have any microphones and we ended up using VoiceRecorder (which is pretty decent) on my iPhone 7 to record the podcast. The sound quality is okay but it might be a little difficult to listen to if you’re dealing with other noise. Next time I do an in-person interview, I’ll bring microphones or and/or use a Zoom H6!

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The role of effort in resistance training
  • Are multiple sets not-to-failure just as effective as single-sets-to-failure?
  • How to motivate loved ones to exercise
  • Workout frequency
  • The value of supervision
  • Workout nihilism vs workout optimisation
  • When is more volume more effective?
  • The value in resting between exercises
  • … and much more

Listen below:

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Enjoy a round table discussion with world class exercise experts? Check out my round table interviews below with Drew Baye, Ryan Hall and Skyler Tanner or click here (Part 1 and Part 2) for show notes:


This episode is brought to you by the Resistance Exercise Conference – The Science and Application of Strength Training for Health and Human Performance. You will learn from the top strength training researchers, connect with exercise professionals from all over the world, get a workout from an expert trainer and get inspired, rejuvenated and focused on your strength training business.

You will get the chance to chat with guys like Dr James Fisher, Luke Carlson, and Jim Flanagan. I will be attending with many of the Corporate Warrior listeners and I’d love to meet you in person. The resistance exercise conference will be held on the 9th and 10th of March 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at The Graduate Hotel.

I’m very excited about this and have wanted to attend for years. Sign up now at ResistanceExerciseConference.com, get 10% off your entry fee and $50 off your stay at the Graduate Hotel (normally $160 per night) with promo code corporatewarrior10 and I look forward to meeting you in person!

Quickly! The Graduate Hotel discount is only available till February 9th 2018

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Get a FREE high intensity training progress google sheet and podcast transcripts with guests like Dr. Doug McGuff, Drew Baye, and Skyler Tanner – Click here

Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned

  • Andrew May

    Good discussion guys.

    Getting the public interested is a funny one. My wife was uninterested in my diet until I started dropping tons of weight and then jumped on board….now I’ve stripped away most of the fat you can actually see the gains, still maintaining and building on 6 mins a week (hypo-caloric diet too) and suddenly she’s joining in. Lead by example. Her form’s not great, I don’t think she’s really hitting failure but she’s getting results and that’s the important bit. I don’t get bored of my routine but I’ll need to mix it up a bit soon I can tell.

    Conversely, people are infuriating. My mum is in her 60’s and has lupus and arthritis . Medication has helped her to pile weight on, she asks how I lost weight, doesn’t follow my advice. Buys an elliptical (I know…) it gathers dust. Another older relative has diabetes, still eats sweets, cakes, drinks wine every day gains weight, does no exercise but has medication and a medical alert bracelet so that’s ok(!)

    Some factors that I feel play a part in stopping people getting involved is more “emotional” or social than anything else. I have never been in a gym, “sports people” aren’t my cup of tea, I’m not competitive and I guess I’m an introvert in many ways. I can’t be the only one that feels this way. My wife used to go to an all female gym for related reasons, I’d imagine that there’s a great many woman and also men that feel insecure around others or have body issues that help prevent them from taking action. There’s of course a hell of a lot of what you could call bloody laziness too. Changing my body over the last nearly two years has changed me in so many ways, I just st want to grab people and say “start now, just do it. In two years you’ll be a different person” radically changing my body composition has made me, I say this with no hubris: a better person.

    Taking a different tact it could be argued that the best way to influence public health is to draw up an ironclad report on how much money the NHS would save from widespread adoption of effective resistance training and ride it up and down the commons (easier said than done!) or to get Mosley or whoever to do a popular documentary on the BBC (again easier said than done).

    • Andrew May

      Urgh, didn’t realise there was a recent Mosley show. “Dumbed down” is being kind…

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thanks for this Andrew. Totally agree and you’re not alone. Motivating partners, loved ones and the general public to participate in exercise let alone resistance training, is a huge challenge and a mystery.

  • enlite

    Interesting talk ! With respect to number of sets per body part the ten sets that Brad and his peers recommend just gets lost on me to be perfectly honest . Recently i had a workout which consisted of negative pull ups ( supinated grip ) along with laterals and tricep work , pull ups were 20 second reps in succession until failure occurred at the 9th rep . What else did i do for my back , nothing because it simply isn’t necessary as my entire torso was smoked . The soreness that it generates days following the workout is profound from the lats ( the whole back actually ) the abdominals biceps and even the pecs ! Ten sets per body part taken to utter failure just seems a little silly for lack of a better word . In my experience 3 to 4 good hard sets per body part ( with standard cadences e.g. 2-4 ) is plenty given that those sets are taken to utter failure . If you do pure negative reps with very slow cadences such as 20 sec or more i would say one set followed by a static hold and slow lowering is enough .

    • Kamen Stranchevski

      Hi Enlite, I agree with you completely. Actually even 3-4 hard sets per bodypart may be plenty, depending on the person, execution, intensity etc. Last December, I visited Mint fitness in Brighton, UK. I did a workout on the ARX OMNI machine there. 4 exercises, done with rest in between as we also had a conversation going, five reps each on average…so not even a typical workout. And guess what, if one ever try such an equipment, sets, reps and numbers really start to feel like very very vague terms to say the least. I realised, that quantity of effort is really very poorly defined with typical metrics like these. That was the reason, I suggested to Mr. Schoenfeld, in his interview section, to perform his next study on a next generation machine like ARX and to have his terms redefined. At least, he will have some really quantifiable data for sets and reps that way.
      Cheers!

      • enlite

        Yeah you’re right effort can be very poorly defined as a metric for sure but as one gains experience in their training you’ll know how hard you’re pushing yourself . Mike Mentzer said that 2 sets per bodypart in terms of bodybuilding application may be enough and he very well may have been right . I think Mike Mentzer was spot on with the notion that we should be trying to determine the least amount of exercise required to produce the desired results , not to see how much exercise we can tolerate .

        • Kamen Stranchevski

          Agreed! In fact that is one of Mike ‘s advice that, I employ in my training (with a little twist) and works for me.

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Great back and forth both. I’m chuffed (really pleased) to see the blog fostering productive discussions like this. I agree with you both.

  • Malcolm Dick

    Awesome podcast as usual Lawrence, to me it just reinforces that one should just do what works for you! In the end if it is working for you, just keep doing doing it, and don’t beat yourself up to much with cadence and sets etc

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Cheers Malcolm. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Rob H

    Hi James, James & Lawrence – great podcast guys! As much as I love the work of guys such as Brad Schoenfeld, James Krieger, Menno Henselmanns etc, I do feel that their approach sometimes sacrifices too much in the way of efficiency for those last few percentage points of potential ‘gainz’. I really like your approach as you strike a great balance between using the latest research to inform optimum stimuli and recovery whilst tempering it all with what I would call a ‘real world’ implementation.

    Particular take-outs for me were: a.) twice per week, full-body, going to MMF is basically all we need (funnily enough the exact same conclusion reached by Wayne Westcott as well as the recent BBC documentary ‘The Truth About Exercise’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09qjl7d/ad/the-truth-about-25-getting-fit) The experiment done in this programme backed up Stuart Phillips’s research that load is not important as long as MMF is reached: although after the experiment was done all the volunteers on the programme preferred going heavy, as I believe Stuart Phillips’s guys did too. b.) I totally agree that taking enough time to recover metabolically between sets is important: otherwise this becomes your limiting factor and then you are training your conditioning more than your musculature. I used to try and rush through each work-out but now I take my time a little more (maybe 2 or 3 minutes between exercises, so that I am able to really go for it on the next set.) And c.) 9 or 10 sets a week per body part also sounds good to me: I will usually hit each body part with 4 or 5 sets (consisting of various different exercises) on each of my 2 weekly workouts.

    As I’ve said before: I don’t actually believe Brad is your enemy James! I think you guys have much more in common than what you may disagree upon:and even your disagreements may be more down to your different definitions of terms such as ‘effort’, ‘intensity’, etc. Cadence of course can make a huge difference in terms of how many reps can be performed in one set. Whilst I no longer actively measure cadence and just go with a relatively slow, smooth, controlled approach (maybe a 3/3 cadence): clearly going to the ‘super-slow’ 20 second reps mentioned by enlite below will massively ramp up intensity, and as he says will consequently require a much lower volume. One fly in the ointment though: Brad Schoenfeld mentioned in one of his podcasts that his research has shown that the absolute number of reps per set is important: since the total number of contractions/ extensions the muscle makes influences hypertrophy, but I haven’t heard that anywhere else – although Brad would no doubt point to the fact that most bodybuilders (with their genetics and drugs of course!) train 8-12 reps per set..

    A couple of other points to highlight from that BBC documentary – I’d strongly advise that everyone download the free Public Health England ‘Active 10’ app: which automatically tracks how much ‘brisk’ walking you do each day. Very useful! In addition to my Monday and Friday full-body HIT workouts, I’m also going to throw in 1 x weekly 3 x 20 second all-out sprint session on Wednesdays. I haven’t done this for a few months (I was doing 5 or 6 x 20 second intervals once per week but it was extremely intense and very difficult for me to keep it going consistently!)

    • enlite

      I find it interesting that a man of science Like Brad claims to be using very unscientific claims like most bodybuilders do thus and so .

    • enlite

      I feel that training the same exercises twice per week amounts to overkill ( especially if done to complete muscular failure ) as it doesn’t allow enough recovery and overcompensation time . Now if the routine is being split upper body / lower body i think that two weekly workouts are fine .

      • Rob H

        Hi Enlite, do you know I am split right down the middle on your comment above in that I can see the benefits of both sides. I was doing exactly as you say for a few weeks (ie 1 x full body workout per week) to allow full recovery and to be as fresh as possible for my next workout. All well and good. But then along comes Wayne Westcott and he makes an excellent point that going twice per week exerts a metabolic effect that basically carries through the whole week :plus much more importantly for me: the mental aspect. I found that I felt fully recovered after 3 or 4 days and was then basically feeling a bit ‘low’ because I couldn’t work out. Being able to train twice per week gives me a real mental boost which to be honest I need in my life! Talk about an endorphin crutch eh? So whilst I agree that you are technically correct, I prefer to sacrifice a little bit of complete recovery in order to get that mental boost.. Swings and roundabouts eh? (I would add though that like Wayne, I have scaled back the extent of my workouts a little bit since resuming twice per week to maximise recovery – but it does seem that I am maybe able to take a bit more volume than others..)

        • Rob H

          Oh and I forgot to mention, whilst I train full body twice a week, the exercises are quite different. On Fridays I go with heavier dumbbells/ free weights at home. Mondays is bodyweight only with parallette bars, chin up bar, push up stands etc. But both workouts are performed 1 set to failure, 10-15 sets total with a controlled cadence. Not that I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger or anything, so what the hell do I know?! Just trying to keep on learning..

          • enlite

            10 to 15 total sets taken to failure is an awful lot of sets to be doing in a workout , your talking about 20 to 30 total sets to failure if the workouts are performed twice per week . I would say to hack away at the inessentials as Bruce Lee would say and condense your workouts as far as amount of exercises that you’re performing . But again just make sure you’re keeping a progress chart of your workouts and make assessments according to that .

          • Rob H

            Hi Enlite, yes you are probably quite right – the thing is despite my best intentions I get into the flow and keep wanting to push it that bit further – once the endorphins are flowing I do find it difficult to keep it short… I do keep a very detailed Excel progress chart though, so as well as feeing that I am recovered, I also make sure I can either squeeze out an extra rep (or even ½ rep, getting past my previous sticking point) on each of my weekly ‘heavy’ workouts, and when I reach 10 reps then the next week I will add another 0.5Kg to each side of the dumbbell/ barbell and work my way up from 8 reps again.. If I plateau then I will either shake things up with different exercises or take a bit more time off..

        • enlite

          I would say that you should definitely chart your progress as far as weights and reps go in order to determine what’s happening so you can assess your progress . Vague feelings such as you feel recovered doesn’t really tell you much to be honest and keeping a progress chart will enable you to better track and make assessments .

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thanks Rob for this awesome contribution to the podcast and post. This is really useful to myself and other readers and listeners, a great summary of the findings within the episode.

  • Greg P.

    The most interesting comment I heard was about rest intervals between exercise, namely that short rests or “rush factor” training doesn’t seem to impact the cardiovascular benefits of the workout. Not what I would have expected.

    Rush factor training can certainly turn the workout into a thoroughly miserable experience; Arthur Jones used it to great effect to impress skeptics by demonstrating how puke inducing a nautilus workout could be. (Then again, CrossFit metcons use the same approach to summon Pukie the Clown….). If the only real benefit is a little more time efficiency, I’m not sure it is worth the discomfort.

    • marcrph

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6513767
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7942554

      The above is why I point out that resistance training, even circuit style/rush factor/big 5/ does not condition the cardiovascular system to desirable levels. All should demand their programs improve their cardiovascular conditioning properly. Testing methods should be standardized by HIT to enable data/graphs/power point to SHOW/PROVE improvement. Why has HIT failed to do so?

      The worrying about the last miniscule improvement in hypertrophy is silly….when the more important matters….are silent….reminds me of an ostrich putting it’s head in the sand.

      • Greg P.

        Marc,

        Just to be clear, I’ve never been an advocate of the idea that one or two short HIT strength sessions per week represent all that activity that someone needs to be healthy and fully develop all aspects of fitness. I do think HIT is a time efficient way to maintain adequate levels of strength and muscle mass. I think people should also make an effort to incorporate some amount of physical activity in one’s daily life, because there is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that this is associated with better health and longevity. And, as part of that program to be more physically active, a certain amount of structured cardio (using some mix of long steady activity at easy to moderate intensity, and some amount of high intensity interval work) is probably a good way to cover your bases, especially if your work day is otherwise quite sedentary.

        When it comes to cardio, however, I personally have trouble figuring out just what the recommended minimum dose should be.

        Your first reference supports some other studies I’ve seen that HIT style training sometimes fails to show much in the way of cardiovascular improvement. The second shows that elite endurance athletes, who spend many hours each week training at a very high level of cardiac output will see substantially altered heart structure, as an adaptation to that prolonged exposure.. There is a lot of space between those two extremes. For most people, using the kind of training volume and intensity used by elite endurance athletes is just out of the question. So how much less can you get away with and still achieve what you call “proper” cardiovascular conditioning?

        Since you are a vocal advocate for proper cardiovascular conditioning, I am curious to know what you recommend or prescribe for cardio? What activities should be done? How long should the sessions last? What exercise intensity should be used? What should be measured to establish that the desired outcomes have been achieved? More generally, what test results demonstrate that someone has achieved a proper level of cardiovascular conditioning?

        • marcrph

          @disqus_EujMb1cdYl:disqus

          I more or less agree with your 1st paragraph.

          ——————————————
          “When it comes to cardio, however, I personally have trouble figuring out just what the recommended minimum dose should be.”
          ———————————————–

          Is it not sad that credible information is not dispensed HERE? It seems everyone has an agenda other than a healthy cardiovascular system. The information is not here….nor on any HIT site that I’m aware of.

          As regards your 3rd paragraph……the references speak for themselves….circuit training doesn’t work to improve fitness because of one missing component….improve VO2 max ie……VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be used by the heart, lungs, and muscles during exercise.

          As regards your 4th paragraph…I’m for healthy lifestyles. The heart is the most important muscle……but HIT refuses to seriously consider it. BTW….Heart disease is the # 1 cause of death.

          “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.”

          I have few recommendations for you….I’m only a hobbyist….who most like will not return here….I’m sure most would consider me a “troll” or worse. I was dismayed to hear the latest podcast research information…and…. light weights for more reps would get good results….REALLY….everyone knows that already.

          Questions….?????
          do u feel good? all the time?
          Do u get out of breath?
          Are u tired after a days work?
          do u have lots of energy?
          Do u sleep well?
          Are u overweight?
          Many more self analyzing ????

          Cardiovascular conditioning is personal….do enough for your needs.
          I always do cardio after resistance training.
          I have an Assault bike…..I like 30 minutes daily at a pace that I can sing if I choose. why?
          One day a week I do a hard interval……Yeah I know….HIIT is sexy….but….all serious efforts at CV conditioning will incorporate moderate CV conditioning…..Mr. TABATA learned this.

          I’ve got a poor man’s ski Erg…..2 light resistance bands hooked to my Nautilus OME. Furthermore, I really like my homemade oscillating KB swing with revolving handle and loading pin…….Tricky! I go back and forth on each.

          I don’t want to spend money on expensive and unnecessary VO2 max lab tests. When u are in shape…u know it. Can’t fool yourself.

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Interesting discussion gents. Marc – I’m open to the idea of challenging the HIT = cardiovascular improvement paradigm. Any thoughts on potential guests who may hold a counter view?

          • marcrph

            @ lneal87

            LOL….You will lose that challenge! Be careful what you ask for!

            Kenneth Jay! His “Cardio Code” book is wayyyyy! wayyyy ahead of everyone else!

            https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=kenneth+jay%2c+circuit+weight+training%2c+cardio&&view=detail&mid=A758CA2BD84F0800D58BA758CA2BD84F0800D58B&&FORM=VRDGAR

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Marc – I don’t care about losing. I care about learning 😉

          • marcrph

            Then Kenneth Jay is the one must interview.
            Please…..let us ….have a question or two to ask these guys!
            Open it up!

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Got it. I’ll consider reaching out. I poll the audience for questions on Facebook.com/CorproateWarrior and twitter @LawrenceMNeal, so if you want to be notified when I poll, follow me on those.

          • Greg P.

            Lawrence:

            Here is a link to a recent study which caught my attention, and makes me more receptive of the warnings that Marcrph has been giving:

            https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180108090132.htm

            The Senior author, Benjamin Levine, seems to have impressive credentials and has been involved in several studies on the effect of exercise on cardiovascular health and aging. He also has written some mainstream media articles promoting the importance of cardio, so he might be receptive to another outlet for his message.

            He does seem to advocate a LOT of cardio for those seeking optimum health (at least 4 to 5 days a week), so he would definitely be a counter point to the minimalist approach that you tend to follow.

          • Greg P.

            Also, as mentioned below, Kenneth Jay would likely be an interesting interview. I don’t recall if you have had Martin Gibala on yet. He is a strong proponent of interval training, and might have some unique insights.

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Thanks. Trying to get Gibala on!

          • marcrph

            ” Any thoughts on potential guests who may hold a counter view?”

            Phil Maffetone

            Scott Alexander

            Martin MacInnis

            Martin Gibala

            Izumi Tabata

            Dr. Al Sears

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Thanks! I will add to my list

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            It’s not trolling if you’re criticising the information. I encourage that. That’s called learning :D. It’s trolling when you’re attacking people on the blog on a personal level, which so far, I don’t think you have so we’re good.

          • marcrph

            @lneal87:disqus

            How do you tell someone their view(s) are wrong, and their book/information is misleading without that person taking it personal? Human nature is just that, and as such, my remarks will be seen as a personal attack. Furthermore, group peer pressure can develop to bullying of other’s ideas, unless it is understood by ALL that emotional arguments do not translate to facts, and counter logic/ideas accompanied with facts and logic are welcome. I’ve clearly done that with a cardiovascular conditioning argument. No one yet has come up with any facts or evidence contrary to what I have stated. I have practically destroyed the idea of “Global Metabolic Conditioning” using resistance training as a stand alone protocol.

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Marc – fair point. Curios – what drives you to continue to comment about this? I mean that with no judgement. I’m just trying to understand your intentions. Since I’m assuming that you’ve been probably writing about this point on various blogs for a LONG time.

          • marcrph

            @Lawrence Neal,

            This will not tickle your ears! I’m a long time Nautilus fan. I’ve read much of AJ’s and Darden’s writings. My mother gave me a copy of Darden’s “How To Lose Body Fat” (the old version) many years ago. In college, only the football athletes had access to “the” Nautilus machines. I was getting a healthcare degree at the time and finally got access to a full line of the “Nautilus blue” machines. I did the only laboratory backed study at that time on training with Nautilus machines 3 times weekly versus blood level CPK enzymes tests done daily. The answer was not pretty for Darden’s books at that time. Enough about me……I’m sure none here could care!

            The dogma of Mentzer’s consolidated routines and SuperSlow were deviations from Jones’ original writings. A lack of critical thinking at that time by HITers led some down pathways that were not beneficial for healthy everyday living. For many physiological reasons, a resultant lack of wind, poor flexibility, and average strength gains gave others the idea that these deviations of HIT were for fools, even though abbreviated routines from years prior to AJ never excluded stretching, normal diets, running and numerous other physical activities. Then, along came a “Doctor” who promoted SuperSlow done weekly with a handful of exercises. Let us also mention a washed up bb/magazine writer who rehashed isometrics at various positions even though he never trained anyone of note….care to check me out? Folks….global metabolic conditioning is junk. No one of note believes BBS is the way to train. I got fed up when I discovered my total lack of cardio-respiratory conditioning from these deviations of minimal training routines. And now the worst….HIT has a person who parrots AJ and Darden….and changes his views like the wind changes directions….who has zero qualifications….and makes statements that can not be backed up. To quote: “The best piece of “cardio” equipment you can buy is a barbell or a pair of adjustable dumbbells.” And you……Lawrence…..do not address this on ANY interviews….. Where are U? What are your intentions? Do you just want a story? FYI….Gibala’s work was not done on 3-5 SS machines. Dr. Fisher states above: “Cardiovascular conditioning: I think more people should be aware of doing SOMETHING that get’s them out of breath.” Call him out….Mr. Neal.

            I’m gone!

  • Greg P.

    Also meant to comment on the discussion about the difficulties of training to failure. My personal experience is that if I am using enough weight, failure is pretty obvious, and does not involve a huge amount of metabolic distress or muscle burn. That only occurs when using a constant tension approach with lighter load and longer times under load. Then distress can be significant, and the point of failure can get a little fuzzy. I also agree that many will equate the level of distress with the intensity of effort, which maybe isn’t accurate?

    I can see an argument for using lighter loads and longer time under tension if you have joint issues. But otherwise, I would rather go heavier, and just get it over with. And if the metabolic stress from that approach isn’t satisfying enough, add a drop set with short rest, or do a second set after a bit longer rest.

  • Julien

    This was a very relevant and refreshing discussion. If people , and especially the elderly, would know the benefits of resistance training and can actually know how it feels, that would change so much for the better.

    -About the last part of Greg P.’s comment:
    I’ve been doing just that, adding drop sets/2nd sets when I am not satisfied with the metabolic stress/discomfort/muscle burn I am getting when going to MMF with a relatively high load.
    But doing that I keep find myself overtraining/overreaching( physically/mentally drained for days). So I will stop doing that. Don’t know if this is too much volume for me or the fact that I am going to failure too often(by adding second sets to failure).

    -I wonder if James&James have any thoughts on that. Is training to failure doing more bad(recovery wise) than good(adaptation wise)? some researchers believe so. I have seen review papers arguing against training to failure all the time for this reason. A shame I can not find the review paper right I am thing of now.

    -I am also wondering if we are just a rare kind of highly internally motivated individuals or if higher load is just a better way to go for the general pop.

    – Lastly I am not sure how researchers in some studies claim they have their participants reaching MMF on 3-5 sets, while matching the repetitions of the earlier sets. I am really sceptical of claims like this. And I know I have heard one of the James saying this as well some time ago, when watching one of the videos of participants doing a workout.

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thanks for this Julien. I think the overtraining is a very personal thing and only something you can discover by going on how you feel and perform. I’d also assume it’s highly variable from week to week depending on life stressors. I’ll see if team James wants to contribute on this bit, but no promises!

      • Julien

        I should add Lawrence , the term overtraining is more often replaced by the term overreaching nowadays, which seems to be closer to what people ( and I) usually experience and is more of a short term thing. I should also add that I am currently in a hypocaloric diet that is obviously hampering recovery for me, but I don’t have any other stressors going on. However, I also experience this when not dieting.

        Some high volume proponents( and papers such as this: https://tinyurl.com/ycmg738j) argue that , I quote: ”failure training causes a disproportionate amount of fatigue”.
        This added fatigue(therefore prolonged recovery) supposedly isn’t worth it because the gains of failure training are slightly better at best. Thus, less failure training allows for more volume/frequency apparently.

        My own thoughts align with James x2 , but also that failure training requires much more attention to recovery and more on how you feel, because performance is a difficult indicator of overreaching imo. I know from my own experience and a previous anwser from J.Steele that performance can vary a lot depending on a lot of factors. Hell I have even gained significant amount of muscle without much strength gain on paper.

        • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

          Interesting. Thanks for clarifying Julian. Did you see Dr James Fisher’s comment at the top of this discussion?

          • Julien

            Saw James’ comment, his point is clear. Going to failure is a threshold stimulus for further adaptations, but requires you to pay attention to overall volume for not overdoing it.
            I recently listened to the Menno Henselmans episode and he also gives the same argument about disproportionate fatigue of failure training, preventing you from doing more ‘weekly volume’. So now we go back to the age old debate. Now is time for more research instead of meta-analyses as James states.

  • James Bear Fisher

    Well I’m glad so many people have commented on this and that it’s prompted intelligent discussion. Lawrence asked me to check this out a week or so back but finally here I am.

    Training to Failure: I think this is probably the best way to reach a threshold but yes needs to be done with care to avoid overreaching and/or overtraining. I’m OK with training to failure if people do give their body adequate recovery or reduce the volume of their workouts sufficiently. E.g. training 3 x / week might only be 4-6 exercises. 2 x / week might be 8-12 and 1 x / week you might manage more if you so desire. They are very approximate by the way so don’t quote me on that.

    Cardiovascular conditioning: I think more people should be aware of doing SOMETHING that get’s them out of breath. I think a high-intensity interval session can be a good thing if done correctly. The evidence around strength training and CV adaptations is known (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822112) – “In <12 weeks, 2 x / week, <30 mins ~9.7% increase in VO2"… yes I know this was circuit style, and no I don't think that was the determining factor – see our 2012 review. We also have more data coming soon so watch this space. I wonder if this might be more geared around duration or frequency through. If you do a single set of squats to failure your breathing and heart rate go through the roof, but a single set 1 x / week might not be sufficient to make significant cardiorespiratory adaptations. Doing this for 3 sets, 3 circuits, or 3 x / week is possibly better for a CV effect. Yet to be researched effectively. Of course Gibala's work at McMaster might something to look at, for very low volume exercise, high intensity exercise.

    Further down the line Rob H and enlite have an interesting discussion about frequency. I think it's likely most people DON'T need to train more than once per week. I personally like the metabolic kick, and know I recover well enough most of the time to do so. Splitting these up is definitely an option – I think people need to learn from their own bodies. I think recording the workouts is good, but not essential – you end up chasing micro-data and looking for increases that aren't real. If we carried on making gains then people would be bench-pressing 1000s kgs, etc.

    Finally, remember the Mosley show is not targeted at you guys, it's targeted at people who don't even much of this in their vocabulary!

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thank you so much for taking the time James. Great contribution! Please can you or someone explain the difference of overreaching vs overtraining to me! 😀

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