Hail to the Dinosaurs!
Friday's email generated lots of feedback,
and lots of questions -- or rather, the
same question from many different readers.
So let me try to clarify things.
It all started when I wrote:
"I like to run two different set/rep
schemes for each exercise. For example,
you might do 5 x 5 in squats, or you
might do 5 x 3 or 5 x 2 or 5/3/1/ or
And that led to questions about the number
of warm-up sets and the number of working
sets from about 10 jillion different Dinos.
So here's what to do:
5 x 5
There are three basic ways to do the 5 x 5,
and they all work very well. There also is
an advanced option, that I will describe
for you after I cover the basic options.
You can do 4 progressively heavier warm-up
sets, followed by ONE working set with your
top weight for the day. This is the option
I usually do.
Or, you can do 3 progressively heavier
warm-up sets followed by TWO working sets
with your top weight for the day.
Or, you can do 2 progressively heavier
warm-up sets followed by THREE working
sets with your top weight for the day.
For all three options, the working set
or sets is performed with a weight that
makes you work hard, but not so heavy
that you fail to get five reps. The
idea is to get five reps, but work
darn hard to do it.
On all of these, you can do more warm-up
sets if you need them. The heavier your
working weight, the more likely it is
that you will want to do additional
warm-up sets. Also, older trainees tend
to need more complete warm-ups, so they
may wish to add some extra warm-up sets.
Start the warm-up sets LIGHT! I like to
begin at 50% of my working weight.
Also, note that you can make bigger
jumps from set to set with lighter
weights, and smaller jumped as you get
closer to your working sets. For example,
135 x 5, 185 x 5, 225 x 5, 250 x 5, 265
x 5 and 275 x 5 for your working set(s).
The advanced option is to do a series of
progressively heavier warm-up sets (as
many as you need), followed by 5 x 5
This is tough work, and you should only
try it if you are advanced -- and probably
only with one exercise per workout, not
all of them.
Do 4 progressively heavier warm-up sets,
followed by one working set of five reps.
Add weight and do a second working set of
Add weight and finish off with a heavy
single - not an absolute max, but a weight
that makes you focus and dig deep.
Note: the weight jumps on the working sets
do not have to be huge. 10 or 20 pounds (or
5 or 10 kilos) is about right for most people
on most exercises.
Do 3 or 4 progressively heavier warm-up
sets, followed by working sets of 5, 4, 3,
2 and 1 reps.
The single at the end should be challenging
but not your max.
Add weight on each working set, as outlined
in connection with 5/3/1.
5 x 3 and 5 x 2
These are the same as 5 x 5. Due to the
lower number of reps, 5 x 3 or 5 x 2 with
your working sets (after the warm-up sets)
works very well.
I hope that helps clear things up for
everyone. Remember, the idea is ALWAYS --
first and foremost -- to get well-warmed up,
mentally and physically, and then to work
HARD on your top set or sets -- but not to
work to absolute failure and not to go to
100% on your top singles all the time. Make
your training progressive, and work the
top singles in every couple of weeks or
every month or so. Don't go for them in
As always, thanks for reading and have a
great day. If you train today, make it a
Yours in strength,
P.S. Here are some good resources for hard
and heavy training:
a. Strength, Muscle and Power
b. Chalk and Sweat
c. Gray Hair and Black Iron
d. Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength
e. The Dinosaur Training Military Press
and Shoulder Power Course
P.S. 2. My other books and courses -- and back
issues of the Dinosaur Files newsletter -- are
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day: "In every
workout, start light and work up in weight
on each exercise. The warm-up sets prime the
pump for the heavy stuff." -- Brooks Kubik