Ask Mike Reinold Show

Should We Be Always Using 3 Sets of 10 Reps?

On this episode of the #AskMikeReinold show we talk about set and rep schemes that we can use for both injured and healthy people. The key is knowing the difference and when to mix it up! To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to mikereinold.com/askmikereinold.

#AskMikeReinold Episode 236: Should We Be Always Using 3 Sets of 10 Reps?

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Transcript

Student:
We got Zach from Tennessee. What’s up everyone? Do you think the stereotypical three sets of tens can be bad for a patient and even more bad for our profession as a whole? I understand that dosing is always dependent upon whether you want to target strength, endurance, power, et cetera. But the number 10 seems to be in that middle ground of, is it for strength, or is it for muscular endurance? Do you think three sets of 10 is ever appropriate, or do you think that there could be more specificity and intent behind dosing for PT?

Mike Reinold:
All right. I’m hesitant to start this one off, but… All right. So, Zach, let’s talk, let’s talk. And this isn’t Zach’s fault, right. This is a good question from Zach here. So I think it’s a really good question about sets and reps and dosing. I want to get Diwesh’s opinion here on some of the strategies that we use with set and rep schemes and stuff like that. But can I just comment first on, “Do you think three sets of 10 can be bad for the patient, or even more bad for our profession?” If you do three sets of 10, physical therapy will end the world. Super dramatic, a super dramatic thought process. And look, it’s not your fault. I almost feel like on social media right now, this is almost like reverse fear-mongering or shame mongering. Right? Is that a phrase? If not, it should be.

Mike Reinold:
It’s almost like people are shaming people into thought processes. Right. Into thinking these sorts of things. But man, are we getting this worked up that three sets of 10 is putting our profession behind? To me that seems very overdramatic as to some statements that I think people are probably making on social media that I think are really confusing students and new grads. If this is the thought process that we’re doing damage to our profession by doing three sets of 10. If you do nine, we’ll survive. If you do 10, we’ll all die. Right. That’s how you have to kind of think of it, about that concept. So Zach, I’m not trying to be down on you. It’s not your fault a little bit here, but I see this, this is the shaming that’s going on on social media about some of these things. And there’s always some appropriate ways to do things.

Mike Reinold:
So I want to get some of the other PTs opinions on here because I’m clearly… I guess you know my opinion, right. But I want to get to some of the other PTs thought on that concept. But first, let’s answer a little bit. So Diwesh, tell me a little bit about some of our methodology in the gym with set and rep schemes. And he’s talking about strength, endurance, power. This always cracks me up. As if, 10, you’re only getting strength, but then 12, you’re magically getting endurance in the muscle. Right. That cracks me up. It’s just like two is to kind of rest. But tell us a little about set, rep schemes and some of the concepts behind them, and how we individuate them at Champion.

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah. So I think Zach obviously laid out the different realms that you can start targeting if you’re doing these rep and set scheme, right. I think in school, you kind of learned that three sets of eight to 10 is hypertrophy, and three sets of five is strength, three sets of three or five sets of three is power. Right. Well, we got to realize that it’s all in this sliding scale. Right. You’re going to get power to some degree by doing three sets of 10. Right. You’re going to get hypertrophy by doing five sets of three. Right. So there’s this big sliding scale that we got to keep in mind that it’s not so black and white. Right. So I think I would start with that.

Diwesh Poudyal:
As far as how I kind of dictate my programming and my long-term progressions or periodization, I look at my inverse relationship between volume, intensity. Right. And then obviously some of the other factors such as frequency, tempo, stuff like that, time on retention, all that stuff kind of comes into play. But I would say a good program gives you the wide variety of maybe three sets of 10, three sets of five, five sets of three, three sets of 15. Right. It all kind of depends on what you’re trying to target and that specific timeframe of your program. Right. So we typically break up our programming into four to six week blocks. Right. If you’re doing three sets of 10 every single month of training, you’re not going to get better. Right. You’re inducing the exact same response every single month.

Diwesh Poudyal:
But now if you go three sets of 10, let’s say on a front squat, one program. Right. You kind of hammer that realm for a little bit. And then you transition to something that’s a little bit more higher intensity, right, meaning more weight on the bar. And maybe we try to go for four sets of five to induce a different response. Right. You’re probably going to have better outcomes for strength, for stability, whatever it is that you’re trying to build. So just keep in mind that it’s all on this big sliding scale, and don’t be stuck in this big black and white kind of thing saying three sets of eight always gets hypertrophy, three sets of five always gets strength. Right. So be willing to kind of change your programming on a phase by phase basis to get what you want out of it.

Mike Reinold:
And you know what I really love about what you said there too, Diwesh, too is that it’s… I think this is some of the issues, again, that we’ve gotten in trouble with our profession is that I’m one of the people that says we can’t do three sets of 10 forever. I just recorded a presentation for APTA CSM that’s going to be virtual this year. And that was one of my slides is we can’t do three sets of 10 forever. That’s a very important point, I said forever, right.

Mike Reinold:
You can do three sets of 10. Right. You can definitely do three sets of 10. We just can’t do it forever because we have to challenge the body, we have to challenge the tissue. But there’s often a reason why we select that set/rep scheme that has to do with tissue capacity and their ability to do some of that stuff. I’d actually love to hear maybe Dan or Dave, or something. Talk about those sorts of things because there’s a… I mean, you have somebody with an acute injury, we’re not doing five sets of three. Right. Because that would imply that the tissue can handle maximal load. And oftentimes we’re not ready for that. So I’d kind of like to hear your thoughts on that. But Mike, what you got?

Mike Scaduto:
Oh man, I was just going to say I think Diwesh had a great answer there. And you touched on it, but you can do three sets of 10. And I think this goes back to, we have to look at the training age of the athlete, or if they’re injured, kind of where they are in the injury spectrum. You can do three sets of 10 for a pretty long time and just linearly load them with weight, and I think they can still get a lot better. If we have someone who’s relatively young and has never trained before, if they’re working at three sets of 10, you can linearly load them for months. Just add weight and they’re going to continue to get stronger. So I would say you definitely can do three sets of 10 for quite some time and still see some progress.

Mike Reinold:
I like it. Dave, what do you… Or Diwesh, did you have a follow up on that?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah. Sorry. I’m going to let the other PTs go real quick too, but just to kind of build on Mike’s points, I think that this is pretty important. I think training age is a huge, huge factor that we got to keep in mind. Right. And Mike touched on this real quick, but I just want to quickly say a lot of times for my younger athletes or people that haven’t been training super, super long, I’m probably not taking them to sets of three or four. Right. Because their baseline strength and their baseline ability to handle forces is just not quite there. So I’m typically keeping them in three sets of 10, three sets of eight, maybe bring them down to sixes. But that’s typically my stopping point, then I’ll just kind of recycle and then go back up to maybe 12, 10, eight, something like that. But I just wanted to quickly throw that out there that not everyone is three sets of 10, but not everyone is also three sets of three eventually. So.

Mike Scaduto:
Yeah. Absolutely. And maybe we’re talking about younger athletes or junior athletes, I don’t think… A lot of times, they don’t have the intent to do five sets of three because they don’t understand the level that they’re supposed to be working at. What an RPE scale is, or whatever we’re using, Reps in Reserve, they just don’t understand that. So I think they don’t get a whole lot out of working maybe in that lower rep scheme because they just don’t know how to load it up appropriately.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. I’ve definitely seen people finish up their fifth or sixth rep when you’re trying to do a heavy load, and they’re not even challenged. And you’re like, hey, we’re not doing the right load here, you don’t have the right intent here. But I hope just even at this point in the episode, Zach, that you realize here that set/rep schemes are fairly complicated. Right. I mean, Diwesh just gave you a whole day’s course worth of set and rep scheme concepts in a five, quick minute answer right there, but you see how complicated it is. And there’s no wrong answers. Right. There’s just different ways to do it. I don’t know, does any of the PTs… I’d love to hear your thoughts, I see Dave raised his hand. I’d love to hear your thoughts on tissue capacity and the ability to load because I think that’s why PT got in a rut of three sets of 10 a little bit. It was for a reason. But what do you think, Dave?

Dave Tilley:
Yeah. I mean, that’s the biggest glaring thing here. I think we’re all kind of dancing around it, but the type of stimulus in the athlete or the person you have in front of you who is rehabbing and has a limitation in tissue capacity is very different than the person that Diwey sees, who has someone like a performance or an athletic quality bottleneck. Right. We’re really the lowest common denominator as like a ligament’s capacity to tolerate load for pain or someone’s tolerance to loading for low back or something like that. Isometrics are a perfect example. Three sets of 10 of isometrics, you could do that every day, maybe twice a day, because it’s not really hard at all on the tissue. It’s very, very low stress. But you couldn’t do three sets of loaded dumbbell movements because maybe that’s going to be too much on the tissue.

Dave Tilley:
And I think oftentimes we don’t know really about where the proper dosage comes on the strength, conditioning applications research to physical therapy because of tissue limits. And I’ve talked to Tim Gavin about this, but we don’t really know where the workload science falls on what’s the ligament going to handle versus what a human can handle. So I think that’s important. I always try to teach the students that when you look at the programs that we write for physical therapy in the gym, it look completely different than what Diwey would do with a baseline template, but it’s pretty much all targeted at the tissue. Right. It’s like I’m trying to do as much different types of low back loading in different vectors as I can do, and hopping and jumping. I’m just stressing someone’s back as much as I can. Versus in a program, it’s very, very widespread, really different qualities you’re trying to approach. So I think you can’t just copy/paste strength conditioning literature 100% on physical therapy because there’s a lot of different factors that go into tissue quality.

Mike Reinold:
What’s up, Dan?

Dan Pope:
Thought that was really good. One last thing I will say is that if you start looking through the literature that we have on certain pathologies and how you rehabilitate it, oftentimes they use three sets of 10. And when I’m developing a rehab protocol, I usually look at some of the literature to see what previously exists to help these folks. And then you can apply that as a bit of a template, and then just try to manipulate different variables you need to. The reps, the loads, whatever it is, to match where that person is. But I use three sets of 10 as a baseline if that’s what the medical literature has shown to be effective for certain types of pathology. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, that makes sense. I like it. What you got, Lisa?

Lisa Russell:
Just thinking through. I mean, a lot of the masters athletes I work with, right, the… I don’t know, 40 plus athletes.

Mike Reinold:
Nice. Lenny, we’re masters. I like that.

Lisa Russell:
Convincing them to find a time in their day to actually do strength work like PT level muscle activation, actually get your glutes to function kind of strength work at home. The amount of equipment they have or the load that they can place on themselves at home, I’m not going to… Doing a lower than three by 10 doesn’t make any sense. Right. They’re not going to get any kind of change. So I mean, I guess that’s where it, for that kind of group of people, I feel like I’m usually like, “Depending on how much resistance you can give yourself, do 10, do 15.” You’re trying to make your muscle tired. You’re trying to feel something by the end of it. And not necessarily just you have to do three sets of 10 and that’s all you’re going to do. I feel like that’s not the high school, college athlete, high-performance athlete, right. That’s your everyday active person.

Mike Reinold:
I like that. It’s kind of funny too. So Nick Esposito and I were just talking about this, one of our strength coaches at Champion. We were modifying some of our programs for home workouts. Right. Just assuming that people don’t have a lot of equipment, a lot of weight, right. And one of the things you do is you increase your reps. Right. You increase your reps if you don’t have as much load. So if we’re trying to get to failure, or near failure, or something like that, it’s about load plus reps. And that’s kind of the concept of why blood flow restriction training helps to an extent too is that you get to failure faster, or easier, or however you want to say it. So kind of keep that in mind as well.

Mike Reinold:
So look, lots of good stuff, Zach. I mean, again, sorry. I think conceptually here, set and rep schemes are complicated, but it’s super important for us to understand so we can manipulate to benefit the people as best as we can. I think I want to end it with this. I think this isn’t about Zach, this is about everybody else that’s on social media. If you’re educating through negativity in what people are doing wrong, and that’s your education style on Instagram and stuff like that, I think you’re the one doing a disservice to our profession. Right. So you got people like Zach wondering if he does three sets of 10 if all of a sudden he’s shamed our entire profession. Right. That’s because of the stuff we’re seeing on social media.

Mike Reinold:
So just call to action, man. Can we please educate on what we’re doing and the things that we think we should do, and not the things we think we shouldn’t do. Right. And I know that’s just a mindset type thing, but let’s focus on the positive things that we can do. Because your social media posts, your words, man, they impact people. Especially students and new grads that are younger than you that are just learning here. We got to be really careful what we say. We see so much conflict, so many people that are just so confused as to what to do. It’s because of some of these messages on social media. So please, please, please stop telling people that three sets of 10 is bad for our profession. Right. Because that’s absurd. That concept’s absurd. And you shouldn’t be saying stuff like that.

Mike Reinold:
So a little off tangent. If you got to this point in the episode, you probably still like me and us, so. Or you probably agree with us to an extent right here, but seriously, I just think that it’s super important for our profession right now. I just want to see more positivity with our educational style. Anyway, sorry. My bad. But anyway, awesome. Good question, Zach. Thank you for stimulating us. That was awesome. We appreciate it. If you have more questions like that, we’re here to answer sincerely and authentically based on our research and experience that we’ve been through. So hopefully we can help you as well. Do you have a question? Head to mikereinold.com, click on the podcast link, fill out the form and ask the question. Hopefully you guys still listen to us after us just getting these answers in right here. You still enjoy us. If you do, please, we read them. Give us a review, rate us on iTunes and Spotify so we can make this even better. And we will see you on the next episode. Thanks.