Hail to the Dinosaurs!
One of our readers asked the following
"I like the idea of mixing up set/rep
schemes in alternating workouts, but
5 x 5 and 5/3/1 are both low-rep power
What do you think of using very different
set/rep schemes, say 5 x 5 alternated
with 1 x 20?"
I assume he means using 1 x 20 for squats
or possibly deadlifts, as those are the
standard exercises for 1 x 20. So you
would do 5 x 5 in squat in one workout,
and 5 x 5 in squat in your next squat
workout. Or the same in the deadlift --
1 x 20 in one deadlift workout and 5 x 5
the next time you do them.
Here's my take on it.
I think 5 x 5 requires one particular
mental approach to training -- and I
think that 1 x 20 requires a different
I also think they stress the body in
significantly different ways.
So I prefer a program where you focus
on multiple sets of low reps by doing
5 x 5 or 5/3/1 or 5/4/3/2/1 for your
working sets -- and if you want to try
1 x 20 in squats or deadlifts, do them
in a different training cycle.
In other words, focus on one thing at
a time -- EITHER multiple sets of low
reps OR 1 x 20.
Now, some people are different. They like
more variety -- and they may do fine on
a program that mixes up the sets and reps
more than I like to do.
But here's another very important point
1 x 20 in the squat on deadlift puts some
serious stress on your legs and lower back.
That means that recovery time is very
If you train 1 x 20 in the squat, and you
are not fully recovered the next time you
train, you're going to adversely affect
every exercise that involves the legs and
That would include any type of Olympic
lifting or related pulls.
Presses (because the lower back stabilizes
your torso when you press).
And even heavy barbell curls (for the same
reason as presses).
It also means that the deadlift will affect
the squat and vice-versa -- which makes it
very hard to do 1 x 20 on both movements
in one program.
This is one of the reasons why the classic
1 x 20 breathing squat system has you go
hard and heavy on squats, and do just a
couple of other auxiliary movements where
you go lighter and easier.
The recovery issue is particularly important
for older trainees, where recovery and
recuperation are always critical.
If you DO try 1 x 20 alternated with 5 x 5,
do it with squats only -- and do squats once
a week -- and do 5 x 5 one week and 1 x 20 the
And for gosh sake, break into 1 x 20 smart
and slow. Don't make your first workout a
death march. Start light and build up. You
need time and practice for your body to
adjust to the higher reps.
So I hope that answers the question!
As always, thanks for reading and have a
great day. If you train today, make it a
Yours in strength,
P.S. Here's a great course for building
strength and muscle mass the old-school
P.S. 2. My other books and courses are
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day: "Focus on
one thing at a time. Master it, and then
move on to the next challenge." -- Brooks