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Two ways to train strength: The method of maximum repetition and the method of repetitions in reserve

When we talk about strength training , there are two ways of working most used today: the method based on our RM, or maximum repetition (which is the maximum weight that we can move in a single repetition) or the RIR method (Reps In Reserve or Repetitions In Reserve) or effort perception method.

Work force according to our RM (maximum repetition)

When we talk about strength training based on the calculation of the RM , we are referring to the RM of the so-called multi-joint exercise : bench press, military press, deadlift, barbell rowing and squat .

Perhaps the biggest problem we can find to calculate our respective 1RM is the impossibility of having a partner to supervise us and can hold the bar in case of failure of the corresponding survey.

Why is it necessary to have an assistant? If we are going to calculate our 1RM, we must bear in mind that, if we underestimate our abilities, we can find that we have loaded too much weight in the bar, so we can have a scare and that the bar will come to us and crush us ( especially dangerous moment if we are doing bench press and the bar falls on the sternum or ribs).

How to calculate our RM?

To calculate the 1RM of each exercise , it is necessary to previously carry out a series of warming up (with one or two series will be valid) and the so-called approximation series. If we are newbies , the heating series can be performed only with the weight of the bar, and in this way we will also internalize the mechanics of the exercise that we are going to perform.

Once we start our series of approximation, whose number should be between three and five series, the way to add the weight in each series I recommend that it is rather conservative to avoid mishaps and that in the subsequent routine that we establish working in function of our 1RM , we can stagnate very soon. Therefore, the progression we will see depending on our sensations but always lowering the weight a little: if for example we had a 1RM bench press of 80 kilos, my recommendation would be that we started as if we were only able to lift 70 kilos (or even 65, with 10-15 kilos below).

In addition, the training method based on the calculation of the 1RM is a very variable method , since we will never have the same conditions in two different trainings : the time we have slept, the quality of that rest, what we have eaten, the level of fatigue accumulated during the day, if we find colds … The variables that will influence our daily 1RM are almost endless, and therefore we will find that our 1RM on Monday will be, almost certainly, different of our 1RM on Saturday.

RIR method to work force

The RIR (Reps In Reserve) method is based on the particular perception that each one has of the effort, so it is essential that anyone who wants to train based on this method is totally honest and gives 100% every workout and do not “skip”.

This is a method that at the beginning will cost us time and effort to master, especially if we start working conservatively to not over-train or underestimate our capabilities and carry more weight than we can move correctly and safely.

The method of repetitions in reserve is to take a weight with which we are able to perform X repetitions in an exercise (for example, a weight with which we can perform 10 repetitions in the bench press) and set a number of repetitions below those ten, for example seven. In this case we would be working with an RIR = 3(leaving us three repetitions in bedroom). We could continue working with the same weight until our RIR was equal to 1, that is, we could perform only one more repetition of those performed (we do eight repetitions when we could have made nine).

As I say, at the beginning it will be difficult to get used to this method, but it is certainly much more reliable and accurate to quantify our volume of workoutsthan the 1RM method. In addition, a particularity with respect to the 1RM method is that the RIR method of strength training can be applied to multi-joint movements as well as isolated movements (for example, a biceps curl).

Method of the 1RM Vs RIR Method: Which is better?

From the point of view of the complexity of each method, the one that is easiest to apply and least risk is (especially for the most inexperienced) is the training method based on the perception of the effort , since although we are not familiar at the beginning and we can err in this perception, it is easily adjustable the weight with which to work and we will not need the help of a companion that holds the bar at home if we can not carry out the survey.

One of the arguments that can weigh most against the 1RM method is that when we calculate that weight, we calculate it for the entire training cycle, without taking into account that not every day we will be in the same physical condition of rest , that we can have colds or general malaise … Although one way to solve this point would be to have the help of an encoder , which will measure the speed of lifting in several repetitions and we can calculate our 1RM very roughly and without need to have the help of a partner.

If the encoder was an exorbitant expense for our pockets ( those of the Beast brand are around € 250 ), we can choose to use the Powerlift app , developed by Carlos Balsalobre and whose cost is really affordable for all budgets (although the snag that has is that for now it’s only available for iOS).

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