Q&A: Why don’t you use super high reps?

I had an e-mail from a newlsetter reader that told me about his experience with strength training for mountain biking. In a nutshell he had been doing 3 sets of 10 reps for all of his exercises for a long, long time. While he was concentrating on some good lifts like the deadlift and standing shoulder press he was not seeing much in the way of results.

He tried a new workout that had him do 10 sets of 50 reps and decided that the super high reps might be good for moutnain biking. After switching to 10 sets of 30 reps on his routine he started to experience some results. This led him to conclude that the super high reps might be a good way to train and he sent me an e-mail asking why I never use them. Here is what I told him…

Thanks for the feedback, your story is very interesting. I have heard of programs that do super high reps bit I have some other thoughts on it.

First, different set and rep schemes elicit different results. For example, doing 3 X 10 is more of a muscle building scheme, 3 X 5 is more of a strength building scheme and 10 X 30 works on local muscle endurance. While working on endurance would seem logical for an endurance athlete, I like to use gym time to get stronger. You need strength on the bike but you don’t train it enough on the bike to get it where it needs to be. Always turning everything you do into an endurance session will not produce a well rounded rider.

I know that you have experienced good results from switching to that set and rep scheme but you have to be careful about seeing some results and concluding that it is the best way to train. For example, if someone did no strength training and then started doing leg presses they would see results. That doesn’t mean that the leg press is the best way to train for mountain biking and if someone just stopped there they would miss out on deadlifts, single leg squats and other more effective exercises.

Your body adapts very quickly to the set and rep scheme you use so I think that what you are experiencing is that your body had grown so used to the routine that you were doing that it got stale and stopped improving. When you switched to a radically different set and rep scheme it shocked your body into adapting. This is why you would be better off sticking with the same main exercises and changing sets and reps every month rather than keeping the same set and reps all the time and switching exercises.

Again, it is hard to argue with results and perhaps your body responds very well to such an extreme set and rep scheme but in my experience you would be better off using gym time to get strong (using sets with less than 6 reps) and switching your sets and reps every month in a logical manner. While you are doing well now your body will adapt again and the next set and rep scheme you try will seem to produce great results. Doing some super high rep stuff wouldn’t be bad for a couple of exercises or for a change of pace every now and then but you will never get strong and powerful using that 10 X 30 all the time.

Thanks again for the feedback, let me know if you have any more questions…

-James Wilson-

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James Wilson
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson