The Ultimate Set and Rep Scheme

The Ultimate Set and Rep Scheme

One Set and Rep Scheme to Rule Them All

There are unlimited number of set and rep scheme combinations (see Jovanović 2020 1) for a comprehensive classification system. But I do have my favorite scheme. This schemes:

  • Allows you to address various objectives
  • Have enough of variations (i.e., don’t put all eggs in one basket) to provide robust stimuli in the case of missing session
  • Have enough of concentration to target specific qualities or rep-ranges
  • Have enough of spread to allow “embedded” testing (please see Jovanović 2022 6 ) for more info)
  • It allows intensification
  • It allows extensification/accumulation
  • It allows for strict and loose prescription (i.e., works and play; see Jovanović 2020 1 )
  • And most importantly, it is not damn boring, for example, like doing 5×5 sets across

Every time I have used this scheme, I have had success in both/either gaining muscle mass and/or strength while at the same time having more fun. I sometimes wonder why I do not use it all the time and why I keep forgetting about it.

Enter Wave Loading. There are, of course, different variants of Wave Loading 1, but these six (Table 1) are the most common. We can provide a fuzzy statement that Wave Loading schemes on the left side of Table 1 target hypertrophy, while the schemes on the right side target strength qualities. But we can also use similar dichotomous statement regarding assistance/auxiliary versus main lifts.

12/10/8 6/4/2
10/8/6 5/3/1
8/6/4 3/2/1

Table 1: Wave Loading Schemes

Waves come in waves (pun intended). This means that they are often repeated two or more times, e.g. 6/4/2/6/4/2 (Table 2). This repetition of waves allows for extensification and intensification of the loading. Various authors recommend increasing the weight (i.e., %1RM) across waves, but it is also reasonable to decrease the weight across waves, i.e., due to accumulated fatigue. It is thus up to you and the art of coaching how you want to play this out.

Wave Set Single Wave Double Wave Tripple Wave
I i 8 8 8
I ii 6 6 6
I iii 4 4 4
II iv 8 8
II v 6 6
II vi 4 4
III vii 8
III viii 6
III ix 4

Table 2: Wave Loading Types using 8/6/4 Scheme

Although Wave Loading schemes can use subjective ratings, like perceived reps-in-reserve (pRIR), to prescribe training load (i.e., 8 @3pRIR, 6 @2pRIR, 4 @1pRIR), it can be cumbersome to explore and find the loading/weight corresponding with that exertion level during the variable repetitions. This is more doable when the number of repetitions stays the same (e.g., 5×5), but very tricky to adjust on the fly when the repetition varies from set to set. For this reason, I opted for the percent-based approach to give some guidelines (or heuristic) in selecting the load. One can use pRIR as a safety/control mechanism to adjust the weight if the progression is too quick if the assumed reps-max relationship is really off/wrong, if there is too much fatigue build-up across sets (particularly when doing multiple waves), or due to variability in readiness for training (i.e., feeling really good one day, and feeling like crap the other; some athletes have these swings much bigger than others). For example, one can use 2-4pRIR for more extensive Wave Loading, and 0-2pRIR for more intensive Wave Loading schemes.

To make %1RM progressions that go with Waves Loading, I will use Linear/Brzycki’s model to map out the relationship between max reps and %1RM (Equation 1) (see Jovanović 2022 5). Please note that nRM stands for n-repetition maximum, or simply max reps.

\[\begin{equation}
\begin{split}
nRM &= (1 – \%1RM) \times klin + 1 \\
\%1RM &= \frac{klin – nRM + 1}{klin}
\end{split}
\end{equation}\]

Equation 1

Selected klin parameter value is equal to 33. Table 3 shows associated %1RM with nRM. Due to the linear nature of Equation 1, the difference between nRMs is constant and equal to 3.03 %1RM.

Reps 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
%1RM 100 97 94 91 88 85 82 79 76 73 70 67

Table 3: Reps-max table using Linear/Brzycki’s model with klin parameter equal to 33

What we need to do next is to utilize some type of adjustment of %1RM and use it as a form of progression and prescription. I have used reps-in-reserve approach (Table 4). Please make sure to differentiate the RIR method of progression/adjustment from the perceived RIR. For more information please refer to Jovanović 2021 2 and Jovanović 2022 3 4. Equation 2 shows how is this adjustment using RIR applied.

\[\begin{equation}
\%1RM = \frac{klin – (Reps + RIR) + 1}{klin}
\end{equation}\]

Equation 2

Again, due to the linear nature of Equation 1, the difference between RIRs (e.g., 5 reps @2RIR minus 5 reps @1RIR) is constant and equal to 3.03 %1RM.

Individualized klin value can be estimated which provides individual profile that can be used instead of the generic implemented here. This topic is covered in Jovanović 4 5). It is thus possible to individualize the whole Wave Loading schemes from this article.

Reps 0RIR 1RIR 2RIR 3RIR 4RIR 5RIR 6RIR 7RIR 8RIR 9RIR 10RIR
1 100 97 94 91 88 85 82 79 76 73 70
2 97 94 91 88 85 82 79 76 73 70 67
3 94 91 88 85 82 79 76 73 70 67 64
4 91 88 85 82 79 76 73 70 67 64 61
5 88 85 82 79 76 73 70 67 64 61 58
6 85 82 79 76 73 70 67 64 61 58 55
7 82 79 76 73 70 67 64 61 58 55 52
8 79 76 73 70 67 64 61 58 55 52 48
9 76 73 70 67 64 61 58 55 52 48 45
10 73 70 67 64 61 58 55 52 48 45 42
11 70 67 64 61 58 55 52 48 45 42 39
12 67 64 61 58 55 52 48 45 42 39 36

Table 4: Adjustment table using reps-in-reserve approach. Numbers in cell represent estimate %1RM to be used given the Equation 1

Now when we have an adjustment method in place, we need to figure out a progression table to be used to adjust the %1RM across multiple progression steps and waves. Approach taken in Table 5 utilizes RIR increments of 1 across progression steps, as well as across sets and waves. I have implemented 6 progression steps and will explain how you can use this in a few moments, just bear with me for a second.

Wave Set Step -5 Step -4 Step -3 Step -2 Step -1 Step 0
I i 9 8 7 6 5 4
ii 8 7 6 5 4 3
iii 7 6 5 4 3 2
II i 8 7 6 5 4 3
ii 7 6 5 4 3 2
iii 6 5 4 3 2 1
III i 7 6 5 4 3 2
ii 6 5 4 3 2 1
iii 5 4 3 2 1 0

Table 5: Progression table using Reps-In-Reserve method. Numbers in table represent RIR values used to estimate %1RM for a given wave and progression step

Applying the progression Table 5 to the 6/4/2 Wave Loading scheme yields an estimated %1RMs (Table 6).

Scheme Wave Set Step -5 Step -4 Step -3 Step -2 Step -1 Step 0
6/4/2 I i 58% x 6 61% x 6 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6
ii 67% x 4 70% x 4 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4
iii 76% x 2 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2
II i 61% x 6 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6
ii 70% x 4 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4
iii 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2 94% x 2
III i 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6
ii 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4 88% x 4
iii 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2 94% x 2 97% x 2

Table 6: 6/4/2 Scheme with assigned %1RMs

The same process can be applied to other Wave Loading schemes and you can find the result in Table 7. This table looks nasty, so please make sure to download the FREE PDF version at the end of this article. This PDF represents a designed print-ready version of Table 7 that you can print out, carry around the gym, and reference when needed.

Scheme Wave Set Step -5 Step -4 Step -3 Step -2 Step -1 Step 0
12/10/8 I i 39% x 12 42% x 12 45% x 12 48% x 12 52% x 12 55% x 12
ii 48% x 10 52% x 10 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10 64% x 10
iii 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8
II i 42% x 12 45% x 12 48% x 12 52% x 12 55% x 12 58% x 12
ii 52% x 10 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10 64% x 10 67% x 10
iii 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8 76% x 8
III i 45% x 12 48% x 12 52% x 12 55% x 12 58% x 12 61% x 12
ii 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10 64% x 10 67% x 10 70% x 10
iii 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8 76% x 8 79% x 8
10/8/6 I i 45% x 10 48% x 10 52% x 10 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10
ii 55% x 8 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8
iii 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6
II i 48% x 10 52% x 10 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10 64% x 10
ii 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8
iii 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6 82% x 6
III i 52% x 10 55% x 10 58% x 10 61% x 10 64% x 10 67% x 10
ii 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8 76% x 8
iii 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6 82% x 6 85% x 6
8/6/4 I i 52% x 8 55% x 8 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8
ii 61% x 6 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6
iii 70% x 4 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4
II i 55% x 8 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8
ii 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6
iii 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4 88% x 4
III i 58% x 8 61% x 8 64% x 8 67% x 8 70% x 8 73% x 8
ii 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6 82% x 6
iii 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4 88% x 4 91% x 4
6/4/2 I i 58% x 6 61% x 6 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6
ii 67% x 4 70% x 4 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4
iii 76% x 2 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2
II i 61% x 6 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6
ii 70% x 4 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4
iii 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2 94% x 2
III i 64% x 6 67% x 6 70% x 6 73% x 6 76% x 6 79% x 6
ii 73% x 4 76% x 4 79% x 4 82% x 4 85% x 4 88% x 4
iii 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2 94% x 2 97% x 2
5/3/1 I i 61% x 5 64% x 5 67% x 5 70% x 5 73% x 5 76% x 5
ii 70% x 3 73% x 3 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3 85% x 3
iii 79% x 1 82% x 1 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1
II i 64% x 5 67% x 5 70% x 5 73% x 5 76% x 5 79% x 5
ii 73% x 3 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3 85% x 3 88% x 3
iii 82% x 1 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1 97% x 1
III i 67% x 5 70% x 5 73% x 5 76% x 5 79% x 5 82% x 5
ii 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3 85% x 3 88% x 3 91% x 3
iii 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1 97% x 1 100% x 1
3/2/1 I i 67% x 3 70% x 3 73% x 3 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3
ii 73% x 2 76% x 2 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2
iii 79% x 1 82% x 1 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1
II i 70% x 3 73% x 3 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3 85% x 3
ii 76% x 2 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2
iii 82% x 1 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1 97% x 1
III i 73% x 3 76% x 3 79% x 3 82% x 3 85% x 3 88% x 3
ii 79% x 2 82% x 2 85% x 2 88% x 2 91% x 2 94% x 2
iii 85% x 1 88% x 1 91% x 1 94% x 1 97% x 1 100% x 1

Table 7: Wave Loading progressions table

How the Hell am I supposed to use this?

Now that we have outlined progression tables across 6 progression steps, as well as progression across waves, the natural question that follows is how the Hell we are supposed to use this? Let me walk you through multiple case scenarios and the heuristic rules you can use.

Before utilizing percent-based approach outlined here, one need to have 1RM tested or estimated (i.e., using iterative approach) to the working weights can be calculated. I have covered hows, as well as pros and cons of those approaches elsewhere 1 and will not repeat them here. Will thus jump right to the percentages.

Let’s say you are doing a single wave using the 6/4/2 scheme, on a first/main exercise once a week, over a 3-4 weeks period. This is your hard or intensive session (Table 8). In this case, you can step back from Step 0 using the third wave (III in Table 8). This is the most intensive wave scheme and we can do it as a reference point or archetypal scheme.

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References

  1. Jovanović, Mladen. 2020. Strength Training Manual: The Agile Periodization Approach. Independently published
  2. Jovanović, Mladen. 2021 Load-Exertion Tables And Their Use For Planning – Part 1. ComplementaryTraining.Net
  3. Jovanović, Mladen. 2022 Load-Exertion Tables And Their Use For Planning – Part 2. ComplementaryTraining.Net
  4. Jovanović, Mladen. 2022 Load-Exertion Tables And Their Use For Planning – Part 3. ComplementaryTraining.Net
  5. Jovanović, Mladen. 2022 Load-Exertion Tables And Their Use For Planning – Part 4. ComplementaryTraining.Net
  6. Jovanović, Mladen. 2022 Load-Exertion Tables And Their Use For Planning – Part 5. ComplementaryTraining.Net

I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grew up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »
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