6. What do you like about working with ATS?
There is a lot I like about working with ATS. An important thing to me is how the coaches are constantly checking in to see how my training is going.
They are always willing to answer my questions. All on top of great programming that I have a say in, and is a collaborative effort between my coach and I, not just a set programme that's given out.
7. Would you recommend ATS to someone? If so, why?
I would 100% recommend ATS, and I always do. The coaching is great for all levels, and the coaching knowledge they have is invaluable.
Everyone at ATS is very friendly and the gym is a great environment to train in. Whether you're new to training, or have been lifting for years.
8.Fun story or anecdote from your time here?
There have been many fun and funny moment at ATS. There have been numerous times I've miscalculated the weight I should be lifting and had to get saved by spotters!
Doing synchronised RDLs with another client, and taking the training outside in the summer when the sun is shining. The music in the gym is second to none!
A common issue people have with split squats, is they get a stretch, sometimes pain in the rear elevated hip. This is almost always down to them being too far forward from the elevation, and it causes their rear hip to go into too much passive extension. Which tugs hard on the capsule, giving you that gross stretch pain.
This photo, of a client, who wasn't having the pain, however the position is the one that can cause it for some people. The green line on the picture designates ideally where to put your rear femur.
Another reason people can get rear hip pain, is that they're trying to push through the back leg to aid the movement. This is very common in this extended position, since it's super easy to just turn on that back quad a little, to try scissor your way out of the gross-ness of split squats. So be wary that this may be causing you the pain, and if it is just do a few reps less, or possibly drop the weight being used until you have full control again.
In my last article, I talked about the use of RPE (rate of perceived exertion) for making better training decisions with regards to weight on the bar. Now I'm going to touch on how to use that in conjunction with fatigue percentages to regulate the amount of sets/reps in your training.
So, what is "fatigue percentage" and how does it relate to your training? It's a percentage, normally between 0-12% that you take off your top set of the day, based on how much you took off, determines how many sets you do in the rest of your workout. The total sets should also fit within your goals for the relative mesocycle. To expand a little more on the numbers, you essentially want to take off a larger percentage if you want more volume, and a smaller one if you want less. This is because you are going to be aiming to reach the same RPE as your top set, but with the new weight you dropped down to. For example, if your top set of the day is 3 reps @9RPE you work up to 100kgs for your 3 reps. Then you drop 4% which moves you to 96kg or for rounding in plates 95kg (I tend to round to the closest number rather than always up or always down). You then repeat your 3 reps at 95kg until 3 reps at 95kgs gets to a 9RPE at which point you stop.
The auto regulation is quite clever in that, dropping a lower percentage will mean you're closer to your top set weight, and will then get less total sets in before the RPE is equal to your top set. Whereas dropping more weight, allows for more sets before the difficulty increases.
Let's plan another example workout:
Competition Squat x7@8RPE, 6% fatigue drop.
Let's say you work up to 125kg for your top set of 7. We then take 6% of 125kg, which is 7.5kg, drop the weight to 117.5kg and then repeat sets of 7 until it feels like an 8RPE.
Bar x 10
Bar x 10
60kg x 5
100kg x 5
115kg x 7 7RPE
125kg x 7 8RPE Top set
117.5kg x 7 7RPE
117.5kg x 7 7RPE
117.5kg x 7 8RPE We stop here.
As in my previous article I'll go through the pros and cons of this method and then I'll share my opinion on it.
Let's start with the cons, one problem a lot of people have with this approach is that, given enough rest time between sets you could possibly never get to the same RPE as your top set. While that is possible, I'll say that unless you have all day to train for example if you're a pro athlete, then yes this does present a problem. There is however a set of rough guidelines for how long each bracket of fatigue drop should take.
So, the pattern being, the bigger a percentage drop you do, the more subsequent sets you'll be doing and hence the longer it should take, but the top end shouldn't really take more than 35 minutes. I If you are taking longer than that, you probably need to shorten your rest periods.
Another major point we have yet to cover is how do we decide how much lifting to do throughout the week? Again, there are some rough guidelines to work with in terms of total weekly fatigue percentage.
These are good guidelines for how much your total fatigue percent drops should add up to over the week, based on what kind of training stimulus you're looking for. Five percent over three sessions in the week for example, would add up to 15% total fatigue, putting you in the recovery/low stress bracket. These are not perfect and as with the intensity guidelines, I encourage you to make your own tweaks along the way. You might even be one of the few who may need to venture into the very high volume bracket to create sufficient stimulus, equally you may find that the 18% is still too high for you to have an easy time and recover so you might tweak the percentages slightly to suit you. All this information is to try and help you make better training decisions.
I'm going to wrap up with the positives. Similarly, to the intensity guidelines, I think these are great for self-coached lifters and people looking to dial in their own training, past doing cookie cutter programmes (any programme with a totally fixed set/rep scheme and no flexibility). Most people have heard of 5x5 and 5/3/1, these are good examples. Especially if you find yourself either not feeling much training through many cookie cutter programmes or if you find yourself consistently struggling to complete them, or just getting injured (there are many variables that can contribute to injury, but for now I'm just referencing inappropriate training volume as the cause).
In summary, the concept of individualising volumes in training is nothing new, however hopefully I've presented it in a way that is both easy to assimilate and apply to your own training. As always if you have any questions, comments, or feedback please leave here or contact me @atsapproved.
Although the idea of using RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is not a new concept, it's resurgence in the powerlifting and strength training community, is largely due to Mike Tuchscherer at Reactive Training Systems*. For those who may be unaware, RPE based training is where you determine the weight used for a specific lift or set of lifts, by assigning it a number out of 10 in relation to how difficult it was, and you judge that difficulty by how many reps you could have done.
credit to Reactive Training Systems
I think it's very useful and does, like anything, have pros and cons. So, I'm going to expand on both then give my general opinion as both a coach and a lifter.
Let's get the negatives done first, one of the biggest criticisms of RPE based training is that it requires a very objective view of one's own lifting and very much requires you to check your ego at the door. It can very much be misused on both ends of the spectrum, for example constantly under loading weight and being extremely reluctant to really push. As well as being overzealous and kidding yourself that the single you just ground out for 1 rep was an 8RPE. There is very little I can say to counter these points, only that it’s an issue with the lifter rather than the system itself. Both will stall progress in that if you under-lift constantly you won't get anywhere, and if you over reach frequently, you will eventually auto-regulate through injury.
To further expand on the under-lifting point, a lot of people don't like the idea of 'wiggle' room and feel that if they have a X reps and Y% in their programme, they just have to hit those numbers in the gym. I do understand where they're coming from, it would be very easy when things get tough to under-lift but again, your own objectivity needs to come into it. This is a lot less of an issue when you work day to day with an in-person coach or trainer. They are another set of eyes on how things are moving and how it compares to how you normally operate. There will be times where you may be unfocused and feel awful, but the weights are moving great and there is no noticeable performance drop off, in which case nothing needs changed.
Where I believe RPE based training takes it to the next level over purely percentage based, is when people are self-coached. One issue I and people I've talked to before have had is, what happens when you can't do the prescribed weights? You're programmed work for the day is 3 sets of 3 at 88% of your 1RM. What happens if you do your first rep and it's awfully slow and there's little to no chance of you getting another one, let alone two reps? Do you drop the weight and complete 3x3 at a lower weight? If so, how much do you drop? These things aren't covered in a lot of programmes, however if we changed the annotation from 3x3@ 88% to 3x3@ 8RPE it allows you to make a much better choice. As you were working up, things not feeling great, you can just complete 3x3 at a weight that you could’ve hit for 2 more reps.
On the back of that, lets transition into the positives. The general theme of RPE based training is to make better training decisions. For those that are hard wired for percentages, like everything good in this world, there's a chart for that.
Columns indicated reps, rows indicate RPE. Credit to Reactive Training Systems, Mike Tuchscherer.
Certainly for me this tied a lot of loose ends together, for example you can instantly start translating your favourite set rep schemes into RPEs and see how they compare. It's not all about having to tone things down either. The system is equally useful if you're feeling great and demolishing weights. Working up to a specific intensity rather than pre-set weight percentage means that if you crush your top set, you don't have to stop there. Keep working up until it meets the specific intensity parameters. Another slightly more advanced nuance where RPE shines, is that you can build your own RPE scale specific to you. Let's make an example of someone who has a lower back injury, and wants to avoid anything that would place anything above minimal amounts of shear forces on the spine. Just for catch up, shear forces are unaligned forces pushing one part of a body in one direction, and another part of the body in the opposite direction. Think tearing a piece of paper. If you were trying to avoid these in the squat for example, you'd be looking to stick entirely to high bar position and avoid any chest fall. So you could cater your own RPE scale to include that, so an 8RPE might be “could definitely get 2 more reps with no chest fall”.
So if you find yourself frequently missing training reps using straight percentages, you may want to give RPE based stuff a go. A simple way to start would be to not change anything straight away, and just reference the RPE chart, and start practising rating your lifts whilst sticking to your regular programme. Just do you lifts as normal, but as soon as you re rack the bar think about how hard that set was, how many reps did I have in the tank? Then compare it versus the percentage conversion chart and see how it holds up! As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know either here or @atsapproved.