Mel Siff Talks Repetitions and Resistance Training Extract from Supertraining

Published: 27th June 2009
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Dr Mel Siff discusses some resistance training fundementals, as taken from his yahoo group at, the best of which can be also seen at This is an extract from his landmark textbook - Supertraining.


Siff MC Supertraining 2000 Ch 1.1.1

The regimes of resistance training classically used to produce strength,
power, muscular endurance or muscle hypertrophy may be summarised in the form
of Table 1.1 of recommendations based on research and experience (Note that
this table refers to dynamic and not isometric training regimes).

This scheme, however, does not take into account the complexity of the
phenomenon of strength or the other strength-related qualities of
neuromuscular performance, such as strength-speed, explosive strength,
flexibility-strength and strength-endurance.

It is the major objective of this book to investigate the scope of sport
specific strength training in far greater depth than implied by the
generalised scheme of Table 1.1 and thereby enable the exercise professional
to apply this information in practice......

TABLE 1.1 This table summarises all the intensities, reps, sets, durations
and tempos that traditionally are considered to produce qualities such as
hypertrophy, power and strength.

Later in this text, it will be shown that the effective and safe prescription
of resistance training should begin with an understanding of force-time and
related curves concerning the patterns of force production in sport and
resistance training (this is what I call "Biomechanics as an Ergogenic Aid".)
On this basis we can identify several major objectives of strength
training, namely:

* To increase maximal or absolute strength
* To increase explosive strength (large force in minimal time)
* To increase the Rate of Force Production
* To enable the muscles to generate large forces for a given period
* To enable the muscles to sustain small forces for a prolonged period
* To increase muscle and connective tissue hypertrophy

The summary of training approaches given by Table 1.1 may be adequate for the
average personal trainer or coach dealing with the average client or lower
level athlete, but it needs to be expanded upon to take into account the
objectives stated above. In particular, it needs to distinguish between
methods concentrating on neural adaptation versus the different types of
hypertrophy and muscle endurance. This is done at length in later chapters.

Methods involving a large training volume (many repetitions) are referred to
as extensive methods and any phase which relies on a high volume of low
resistance training is referred to as an extensification or accumulation
phase. Conversely, high intensity, low volume methods are known as intensive
methods and a phase comprising this type of training is referred to as an
intensification phase. The early stages of training usually begin with an
extensive phase to lay the foundation for the greater demands imposed by the
subsequent intensive phase with heavy resistance and few repetitions (Fig
1.3). In fact, the long-term training system known as periodisation is based
on cyclically alternating extensive and intensive phases of exercise chosen
to timeously enhance given components of fitness such as strength,
strength-speed and strength-endurance (see Chapters 1.14, 5.5 & 7.5)......

The traditional approaches to strength conditioning usually regard the
following variables as the most important in a weight training programme:

* magnitude of the load
* number of repetitions
* number of sets

Training programmes based entirely on these variables, however, are seriously
incomplete and limited in their long-term effectiveness, especially as a form
of supplementary training for other sports. Factors such as the following
must also be taken into consideration:

* the type of strength fitness required
* the type of muscle contraction involved (isometric, concentric, eccentric)
* the speed of movement over different phases of movement
* the acceleration at critical points in the movement
* the rest intervals between repetitions, sets and workouts
* active versus passive rest/recuperation intervals
* the sequence of exercises
* the relative strength of agonists and antagonists, stabilisers and movers
* the development of optimal static and dynamic range of movement
* the strength deficit of given muscle groups
* the training history of the individual
* the injury history of the individual
* the level of sports proficiency of the individual.

The last-mentioned factor is of exceptional importance, because the advanced
athlete responds to a given training regime very differently from a novice.
For instance, the exact sequencing of strength, strength-speed and
hypertrophy means in a workout or microcycle is of little consequence during
the first weeks or months of a beginner's training, but is very important to
a more experienced athlete. Moreover, loads as small as 40% of 1RM can
significantly enhance the strength of a beginner, but have no strengthening
effect on an elite athlete...


Mel Siff

Mel Siff
Author of Supertraining
Author of Facts and Fallacies of Fitness

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